Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The song that's been hanging me up the past few weeks, the one that stops traffic for me every time, is Chanel's "My Life (Haji & Emanuel Remix)." I got it from eMusic, off the scintillatingly titled Ultra Weekend 2. It is a house record that was originally released in 2005 but apparently got large last year. I adore house music but don't follow it with any real degree of ardency. This track exists in my life because I am a list freak; it placed 48th on the remixes list Mixmag ran in its year-end issue (whose Top 10 tracks I wrote about here). Those are the parameters, and if you simply cannot believe there's anymore to it than that, you know where the exit is. The rest of you should stick around. We have a lot to talk about.

Moments in love:
0:01--the entry of one of those blippy riffs that the post-electrohouse brigade (by which I mean Get Physical Records) have made hay with over the past few years, only as we'll see soon enough, it's been so juiced up it's ready to burst all over your hands--raised in the air, duh.
1:16--rising-siren whooshing synth begins worming its way up the mix, which now contains our star, Chanel, overdubbed a few times, chanting "My life" and "Want, you, in" in alternate patterns while the blip-riff has been abetted by its friend, the synth string section; the rising-siren is our alert that Something Big is about to happen, probably an explosion. Definitely an explosion.
1:25--Chanel's lead vocal jumps up: "I want you in my life!" The very soul of hopeful-sounding medium-sized-voiced almost-divas who transmit passion and authority without clobbering you over the head with it, because that's what the beats are for, resides in this utterance. There will, of course, be more, you lucky devil.
1:48--another synth-string overdub joins in, playing an extra note, a cue for that extra twitch that will keep us on the dancefloor, because we now have something to prove to the song.
3:03--the beat drops out so the full weight of the plainspoken lyric can settle over us like New Year's confetti: "It's not like me to be this way/But my love for you . . . "
3:08--Chanel's voice, filtered, pitched up a couple octaves, computery, joins her for the line, "'s got me so confused." Beat falls like meteor. Technology, yes.
5:37--the breakdown/buildup's been going on for about a minute. There's one tiny overdub of Chanel, like her singing along with the backing vocal, that occurs here, our signal that the mantra-spell is going to break. Even more than the chord surge, we're on alert now.
5:50--"Always in my life," with a little space echo--shall we testify now?
6:00--she's off now, confining her vocal fillips to slight variations w/melisma, the wannabe singing in the shower, the dancer punching through and around the available spaces, expressing herself, the act outweighing what's being expressed.

This record is eight-and-a-half minutes long and I always want to play it twice. In a world where (GRATUITOUS BITCHING ALERT) the motherfucking Arcade Fire gets taken seriously, don't you owe yourself something resembling actual pleasure?

Friday, February 23, 2007

• Antibalas, “Beaten Metal” (Anti-)
• Gui Boratto, “Beautiful Life” (Kompakt)
• Hug, “Birds” (Kompakt)
• Inspectah Deck/Mathematics/Raekwon, “Rap Burglars” (Nature Sounds)
• The Pierces, “Boring” (Lizard King)
• Pole, “Warum” (~scape)
• Pre, “Dude Fuk” (Love Pump United)
• Raekwon, “Treez” (Nature Sounds)
• Scharpling & Wurster, “The Auteur” (Stereolaffs)
• The Stooges, “The Weirdness” (Virgin)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I've always been a fairweather moviegoer, so I have no horse in this year's Oscar race. I saw The Departed (entertaining despite the fact that Leo has such an irritating case of the sniffles the entire time I wanted to throw cough drops at the screen) and that's about it. I enjoyed Dreamgirls a lot, though Joshua Clover's recent post gives me pause, the first negative thing I've seen on it that's done so. Etc. So I come to Oscar coverage pretty much cold. That's one reason I got so much from Entertainment Weekly's new preview issue. I'll admit, I only bought the issue because I'm in it (giving the Frames album the C- it deserves)--but even given my own proclivity for polls and year-end awards, I do forget how much fun it can be to read up on stuff like this outside my particular bubble.

Specifically, I was richly entertained by "Oscar's Secret Ballots," in which three anonymous MPAA members, a screenwriter, an actor, and a producer, divulge their votes in the big categories. This stuff is hilarious, because each participant plays almost exactly to type.

Unsurprisingly, the screenwriter comes across as the smartest of the lot. He (all three are identified as men) gets off the best lines: "The Queen is okay if you want to see a movie about a dull woman." Or, "Borat 'was not a triumph of movie writing. It was a triumph of performance art that somebody stoof off to the side and filmed,' he says." And he seems to like movies as things to watch rather than as things to give him prestige.

The actor, on the other hand, says wonderfully pompous things like, "If a film accomplishes what it sets out to do, then it's a great film. Then there are varying degrees of things that contribute to whether it's a masterpiece" and "To me, the best picture is a movie that you can look at in 50 years and say, 'Wow, that's a great film'" (thanks, Sherlock) and "When actors are in a sudsy film of mediocre subject matter, it's not their fault, but I discount the work." I love Uplift Humanity types. They're so much fun to talk to, and they're so convincing when it comes to their standards of the Great and Good applying universally.

The actor does nail The Departed, though: "A TV movie with a great cast"; "Jack was miscast, Leo was miscast, and I don't know what Matt Damon was doing." Harsh, maybe--I did enjoy the movie--but not inaccurately so. (He's also right that Mark Wahlberg was the best thing in it, though that's hardly news.)

The producer, though--wow. His favorite movie is Babel, which no one whose opinion I respect liked (in fact, one person whose tastes are almost a negative litmus test for me hated it too, even more convincingly than everyone else), which looks awful from preview to positive reviews to Message Movie Oscar Nominee status, and which he "found thought-provoking, brilliant filmmaking. . . . When I saw it, like when I saw Crash last year, I said, 'This is the best picture I've seen.'" The ghost of Stanley Kramer surely haunts him.* Even better are his comments below Best Actress, for whom he chooses Helen Mirren. "Meryl Streep was really, really good, but to single out somebody from a comedy as Best Actress isn't something I would do. There is a depth of characterization in a drama that more typifies what an Academy Award performance should be." Ah, the ol' "quality and prestige have always been and will always be the exact same thing" fallacy. Good to know people are still falling for it.

*Actually this is kind of bullshit because the sum total of my Stanley Kramer knowledge is stray clips from TV as a kid that I barely remember and the various trouncings he got at the hands of Pauline Kael. There's a reason the subhead of this blog is "schmusic" and not "schmovies."

Just got an email about Jesus & Mary Chain's "reunion." Wait--this is the same band that ended its long-exhausted lifespan less than a decade ago because people stopped caring (for good reason too--one of the most overrated bands in history, Psychocandy is scintillating on paper and dull as shit to listen to, just like England likes its rock bands, and it was downhill from there) and suddenly they're, what, legends or whatever-the-fuck? What's the catch this time, they're only going to play songs from the first two albums and employ the same hairdresser as they did in '85? I can just imagine the kinds of cheers that will greet the inevitable Hope Sandoval guest spot during the dust-fest encore. "That album didn't suck or anything!" the crowd will convince itself. "None of them did!" Because, you know, that whole nobody-gives-a-shit-anymore thing was a mass delusion.

Friday, February 16, 2007

No one's asked, but this is my favorite single of the year so far.

Everybody else is doing it, so why can't I? The full list of recent 33 1/3 pitches is up, 449 strong, and as the comments show, a lot of folks are weighing in on what they'd like to see chosen. I'm going to go the opposite route: Here are 25 albums that weren't pitched I'm surprised weren't and/or would love to have seen proposed:

The “Chirping” Crickets (“a ’50s Rubber Soul”--Greil Marcus; also, Buddy Holly is a great figure and would be great to read about in detail outside of a straight-bio context)
The Genius of Ray Charles (a friend was going to pitch this before choosing something else, but it seems wrong to me that there isn’t a single Ray pitch here)
• Moby, Play (if someone else had done Sign and I hadn’t already written one, this is the one I’d pitch: the story of rave and the dot-com boom and bust are all here)
The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (the interviews with Trevor Herman and Jumbo Vanrenen alone would be incredible)
• The Grateful Dead, Live/Dead (lotsa Dead pitches but not the one probably more responsible for induction into the cult than any? Weird. Also, that mail-order box from last year makes things even easier.)
• Black Flag, Damaged (kind of blindingly obvious, isn’t it?)
• Green Day, Dookie
• Rancid, . . . And Out Come the Wolves
• Jimmy Cliff et. al., The Harder They Come
• Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors
• Incredible Bongo Band, Bongo Rock (another one I’d have pitched had I not etc.)
• Eric B. & Rakim, Follow the Leader (no one pitched any EB&R albums, wtf)
• The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die (ditto)
• The “5” Royales, Dedicated to You (though Ed Ward probably ruined it for everyone with his untoppable Stranded essay, just like Simon Reynolds ruined a slew of postpunk albums with Rip It Up and Start Again)
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (ditto Toure’s Rolling Stone piece)
• Funkadelic, The Electric Spanking of War Babies (the last days of P-Funk, who could resist? Or remember, for that matter?)
• Tricky, Maxinquaye
• Willie Nelson, Stardust
Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band
• Van Morrison, Saint Dominic’s Preview (divorced, searching, hungry, rambling--not his best album, but a lot more interesting at this juncture, surely, than Astral Weeks)
• Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup
• Big Youth, Screaming Target
• X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
• Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thursday, March 8, 7 p.m.
Sonic Boom General Store Presents
33 1/3 Reading V. 2
Michaelangelo Matos (Sign 'O' the Times) and Douglas Wolk (Live at the Apollo)
will be reading from their books in the 33 1/3 series

Sonic Boom General Store is located in Fremont
3416 Fremont Ave. N

Friday, February 09, 2007

• Bvoice and Khz, “Gain Zero” (Pro-Tez)
• Christian Dittmann, “Agua De Piedra” (Rrygular)
• Deerhoof, “+ 81” (Kill Rock Stars)
• The Field, “Everyday” (Kompakt)
• Ghostface Killah/Mathematics/Raekwon, “Maxine (Remix)” (Nature Sounds)
• Mario & XM, “M203” (Defrag)
• Neko Case, “In California” (New West)
• Pantha Du Prince, “Steiner Im Flug” (Dial)
• Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, “Song For David” (Ubiquity)
• Trans Am, “First Words” (Thrill Jockey)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My new column for Idolator, Project X, premiered today. Every other week, I'll be analyzing, critiquing, or something-else-ing a different Top 10 list. This one looks at Mixmag's Top 10 Tracks of 2006.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Best spam subject-line aphorism I've seen in ages: "Our love is torn by miles."