Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Diggin' now... David Byrne (h/t Brian Eno)

OK, first, yes these two songs are from the David Byrne AND Brian Eno album, 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts', so maybe the title of this post should be 'Diggin' now... David Byrne and Brian Eno.' But it's not, because it's mostly about Byrne. So, moving on.

I've been slowly getting into David Byrne. I've loved the Talking Heads for a while, but I always thought I should dig into the Byrne catalog. After I saw this talk (embedded below) he gave on how architecture -- from CBGB to opera houses -- influence how one creates music, I set out.

The problem is, it's not particularly easy, mostly because the guy was -- and continues to be, to a lesser extent -- prolific. Byrne has released eight studio albums, 12 soundtracks, four live albums, 14 singles and one remix album. The first question I had to tackle was, where do you start? The next problem was the fact that near the end of his Talking Heads days and since, Byrne has done a lot in the realm of experimental music. He's cut clear across, rock and roll, new wave, experimental pop, so-called rock operas and even, as some people call it although I hate the term, art rock.

What that means is it takes a bit more time to get into some of this stuff, especially a record like My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which I'll talk more about in the next paragraph. It's not all 100 percent easily accesible, and he works in a lot of nontraditional song forms, uses heavy sampling and few vocals at times and just generally creates music that would cause some to wonder what they're listening to.

But I like that stuff. So, I started with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, an album that, believe it or not, was released in 1981 (!). Most every voice on the album is a sample, and the thing was put together with analog technology, not pieced together digitally like a lot of people with an Internet connection and a laptop can do these days. On top of that, according to liner notes, they'd do things like use a normal drum set, but instead use a cardboard box for the bass drum, or a frying pan for the snare.

What's crazy, though, is how great it sounds. The music flows, it's put together well and you'd never know it was made in a time before most people could really even fathom what a computer could do. Making use of all the samples -- which I've read were synchronized with the instruments through trial and error -- and having it sound so great is even more impressive.

This is one Byrne album I keep going back to. The songs above are the first and third tracks on the album, respectively, titled 'America is Waiting' and 'Regiment'. Check them out, and then check out the whole record. And check out that speech (it's only 20 minutes) too.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Russia's Medvedev [hearts] Vinyl

I came across this post from the Washington Post's Reliable Source blog today and knew I had to post. How often, on a day the U.S. government raids a Russian spy ring (SERIOUSLY) can you also fit the Kremlin's own Dmitry Medvedev into a blog post about vinyl records?

Answer? Never.

But that's what we're up to here. Apparently, when Medvedev was in Washington for his powwow with President Obama, he sent out a few members of his staff to do some crate digging in the wonderful shops D.C. has to offer.

Why, you ask?

Apparently Medvedev and I have similar (and similarly awesome) taste in music. He's a big fan of Duke Ellington, B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, among others. In sum, the Medvedev staffers dropped $150 at Washington's own Som Records. I don't know what's more amazing to me about this story though. The fact that Medvedev, who is 44 according to The Post, is into vinyl enough that he'd send staffers out during a diplomatic trip to Washington specifically to a record store. Or, on the other hand, that somewhere between working in the Kremlin and sitting atop the Russian oil monopoly Gazprom that he developed such great taste in music, although Wikipedia says he was a big Black Sabbath (!) and Deep Purple (!!) fan in high school.

Anyway, I don't have much else to say on this, mostly because I can't believe it actually happened. That, and I really wish it would've been Vladimir Putin who was over here crate digging by proxy -- I wonder what kind of vinyl he likes to spin after a long day out riding horses on the Russian countryside.

[Photo cross-posted from Post story.]

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Diggin' now... Gang of Four

I had never heard of Gang of Four -- the rock band, not the leftist political faction comprising, you guessed it, four Chinese Communist Party officials of the same name -- although they may share some political tendencies if not musical stylings.

But an NPR: All Songs Considered podcast I was listening to the other day introduced us, and it was great. The program was about great first tracks on an album, and the song above, 'Ether' was featured. It's the first track of Gang of Four's debut album, Entertainment! and it's great.

It's a bit hard to believe it came out in 1979. I remember the hosts talking about how it was received, with its political lyrics -- the rest of the album gets more overtly political, while this song is lyrical in its protest. But the point remains. And the way it makes use of the bass to drive the song, the way the beat is super-jerky, making you uneasy, kind of like its lyrics:
Trapped in heaven life style (locked in Long Kesh)
New looking out for pleasure (H-block torture)
It's at the end of the rainbow (White noise in)
The happy ever after (a white room)
Dirt behind the daydream
Dirt behind the daydream
The happy ever after
Is at the end of the rainbow
Dig at the root of the problem (Fly the flag on foreign soil)
It breaks your new dreams daily (H-block Long Kesh)
Fathers contradictions (Censor six countries news)
And breaks your new dreams daily (each day more deaths)
Dirt behind the daydream
Dirt behind the daydream
The happy ever after
Is at the end of the rainbow
White noise in a white room
White noise in a white room
Check out the whole record. It's worth it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Severely neglecting doesn't even begin to describe it. But I realize I've mostly just stopped dealing with this blog lately. There are a few reasons why, and I'll detail them here.

1) The World Cup. For two weeks I haven't slept past 7 a.m. and have watched more soccer than I ever thought possible. My focus has shifted, and this blog has taken a back seat to the World Cup.

2) Broke. Crate digging is expensive.. that kind of explains it.

3) Moving. We're moving back to Minneapolis July 8, which means there have been job-hunting, job-leaving, freelance-writing-conversations, apartment-hunting, sublease-hunting, and other move-related things to take care of. I hope to also have a few posts on the area here before I leave.

All that said, I am not finished with this blog at all. I have a few draft posts that I just need to make worthwhile and kind of get back into the swing of things. I hope to, in the next week maybe, get back into this thing.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Flaming Lips DSOTM clear vinyl vs. the CD

I've been a big fan of the Flaming Lips' version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon since I first heard it on my clear vinyl copy from Record Store Day -- all vinyl color confusion aside.

But in coming back to Minnesota, I was quite excited to bring my CD copy of the album back and drive around and listen to it at a very high volume, as I like to do here and there.

But when I finally got a chance, the only word I had was disappointment. Every sound and part of a song which I loved before seemed flat. It was like I was hearing the top 10 percent or 15 percent of every song and sound rather than the full range the artists intended (both the original Dark Side of the Moon record and the cover are great records, sonically speaking.)

But anyway, it was a disappointment, to find that certain parts of songs or sounds in any given track on the Flaming Lips' version of that classic record just were not the same on the CD version playing in an automobile. But at the same time, it really got me thinking about the difference between CD and vinyl in the first place.

The first time I really noticed the difference was when I was in Indianapolis with some of the other inters listening to Bob Marley's Exodus on my stereo. It was on CD, initially. Then I remember I had it on vinyl, so I put that on. Going from one to the other, with the exact same songs, really shows the difference and makes it infinitely clear why vinyl is so superior.

This experience with the Flaming Lips' version of DSOTM was just the latest incarnation of this reality. If anyone doubts the superiority of vinyl over the MP3 or CD, I challenge you to listen to a CD or MP3 on a stereo system and them listen to the same music on vinyl on the same system. The difference is ridiculous. And that's why we love vinyl.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Diggin' now... Tame Impala

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- I have been witholding a post on this band, Tame Impala (great name), until I was able to really give a listen to their record, Innerspeaker. Too often, I think, I get recommended a new album or band, and I take a listen and I'm instantly sold, and proceed to sing their praises all over the Internets and in real life, too.

So, I first listened to this band and loved their album. Then I came back to Minnesota, burned the record to a CD and kept listening to it. Conclusion? It's great. There's this weird sense of Animal Collective-ish sound, with some more traditional rock, and some moment where I swear it's what the Beatles would sound like if they were still making records as their former selves come 2010.

Anyway, I've chosen two songs here to show what they can do. First is 'I Don't Really Mind' which is the last song on the record. Go ahead, try and tell me you don't love that drum beat. The second song, 'It's Not Meant To Be' I think shows a good cross-section of the sound. It mixed the sample-ish, dreamy-type sound with the things that make for a great rock record and the result is something that's truly worth a listen and, I think, is likely to end up on a lot of 'Best of 2010' lists come December.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Going going, back back, to (Minnesota)

That's right, folks. Headed back to Minnesota at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, landing right at 7:30. Really looking forward to getting back. Word is there's a record fair in Minneapolis' Lyn-Lake area Saturday morning (awesome). Also, really looking to spending some time at various Cheapos around the cities, not to mention Electric Fetus, Treehouse Records, and everything else (friends! family!) that makes the Midwest -- mostly Minnesota -- just grand... I believe god's country is a fair description.

Above? Two videos to mark the occasion: Notorious B.I.G.'s "Going Back to Cali" and Minneapolis' own Atmosphere's homage to, you guessed in, Minnesota (and the Midwest, too.)