Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Might As Well...

Artist: Van Halen
Song: “Jump”
Rating: A+++

Ever wonder what David Lee Roth meant when he said "Might as well jump"? I reject the kill-yourself-to-stay-alive theory that seems rather popular. I'm taking a higher route and speculate that Roth meant "might as well ROCKKK THE FUCKKK OUT." Happy New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bipolar Badass

Artist: Ozzy Osbourne
Song: “Bark At The Moon”
Rating: B+

This Christmas, I was given Fargo Rock City, a memoir of sorts by Chuck Klosterman on heavy metal music. Friends of mine would rave about Klosterman - “Any self-anointed music journalist needs to be familiar with his works,” one said – and after the first three chapters, I can see why. He’s funny. For a writer, to be funny is to be really good. I’ve come to the conclusion that being funny might be my only shot at byline recognition, as you can tell by the attempts at humor that crowd this blog (see Bing Crosby below).

Klosterman is beyond funny though, as one can tell by his serious analysis of heavy metal. He makes the argument that there is quality artistic expression creeping underneath the sludge riffs of his beloved genre and he uses ole’ Ozzy as his shining example.

According to Klosterman’s book, Ozzy’s lyrics were pointedly focused on themes of weakness and despair. He writes: “(‘Bark At The Moon’) was about losing control of one’s personality… There is almost always an unintentional metaphor to Ozzy’s rock.”

Being the curious reader I am, I immediately Youtubed “Bark At The Moon” and found Ozzy playing mad scientist suprisingly charming. Maybe this is because my generation and I would never think of “Bark At The Moon” as anything other than the daunting final challenge of the first Guitar Hero game.

But watching this video, I almost wonder if Ozzy was actually attesting to a more classical struggle within: the battle of two personalities vying for the same brain. I mean, isn’t it obvious? We watch a frightened Ozzy stumble about in a hallway of eyeball-bleedingly bright rooms (presumably the rooms of his harried mind) and then quite suddenly, he’s being chased by his much hairer, almost frightening alter ego.

Werewolf Ozzy is very cool, barely cheesy. The only exception is that bit at the end, after a well-rested Ozzy looks back at his castle treatment center and there’s fucking Werewolf Ozzy looking back. Ozzy flashes it a smile and moves on, and then the camera does a DOUBLE TAKE ON WEREWOLF OZZY as if we hadn’t seen him four seconds earlier.

I was expecting (and would’ve preferred) a Thriller-esque surprise ending.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Crosby Show

Artist: Bing Crosby
Song: “White Christmas”
Rating: B-

Sorry Bing. Just because you’re a black and white legend doesn’t make you invulnerable to criticism. Sure, your song might have become another Christmas staple, but is anyone rushing out to buy the Blu-Ray edition of the actual White Christmas movie, as featured in this video here? Surely not!
Be thankful that “Santa” here is giving you anything higher than a D. That fox, Rosemary Clooney, is earning your soggy ass bonus points tonight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top Vids of '08: #3

Any decent blog has to have some kind of "Best-Of-Year" list. Never wanting to be a blog that strays from the beaten path, I bring you...


Artist: Kanye West
Song: “Flashing Lights
Rating: A

I know how frustrating this video is, being that it ends on a cliff hanger, cuts off before the end of the song and will come off as boring to some, especially when compared to other ultra-creative works that came out this year. But when this gorgeousness dropped, all I could say was “Damn Ye.”

Its honey and sugar cinema, flowing gorgeously with West’s flow and hey, the cinematography is pretty great too. It’s inspired my own abduction-by-centerfold fantasies too; who wouldn’t mind getting kidnapped by va-va-voom honeys? Rita here is my video vixen of the year.

Top Vids of '08: #2

Artist: Santogold
Song: “L.E.S Artistes”
Rating: A

I’ve got a primetime mind and the day hasn’t come when it’s not hankering for some violence! But I like it with a side of iconography and message. Santogold and her two dancer hoods (who apparently go wherever she goes; they even showed up onstage with her when I saw Santi live) are the opening eye candy, but right before the viewer tires of seeing them, the video takes an exciting upward shift in terms of placement and meaning, it’s the sloppy pork n’ beans to be served up alongside one of the best songs of the year.

What’s Santi getting at here with the crimson-less carnage unfolding all around? I’ve got my wordplay theory: the senselessness of violence. Can you dig it?

Top Vids of '08: #1

Artist: Justice
Song: “Stress”
Rating: A+

Is it so wrong that two of my top three videos are for songs that dropped last year? I guess the artists had to give directors a little bit of time to illustrate their efforts, but I’m so damn happy Justice picked this song out of its impressive catalog for production. The unrelenting horror flick throb was a risk, as was documenting a ragtag group of cross-bearing, mean-spirited Parisian thugs who can escape from even the thickest of situations (I won’t ruin the surprise, but let’s just say when you shit all over the living room, Daddy isn’t going to stand by idly.)

The looming doom and gloom of these beats are effortlessly melded into the story craft. The direction is excellent, the cinematograpy is superb and the dark finality of it all makes for a wildly beautiful portrait of anger. It’s one of those rare videos that augment the song and the artists to its needs, including a self-depreciating “D.A.N.C.E.” cameo!

Should we root for these destructive protagonists or wish the worst upon them? Good luck achieving the latter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fate Grab It, Real Snape

Artist: The Young Knives
Song: “Terra Firma”
Rating: D+

Absurdism is the name of the game in this plain-faced visceral jaunt from Brit rock trio Young Knives. It’s the kind of video musicians would put out to entice foolhardy bloggers into hours of hard analysis, copies of The Republic in hand. I’m no student of philosophy by any means, but I struggle to know where to even begin to seek out a message among off-colored fruit, empty expressions, replicated rabbits and very-much-alive boas. I understand that some bands just like to have fun, but if that’s what Young Knives are going for here, they’re falling a bit short of delivery.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Roe: 93.3's 2008 Hometown for the Holidays winners!

Originally published in Colorado Music Buzz, December 2008

Backstage at the Aggie Theatre, hours before the release show for Roe’s new album Letters and Lights, bassist Nick Daniluk drops a bit of a bombshell: “This album saved the band. It got to a point about a year ago,” he says, “where we all kind of sat around and were like, ‘Well, we’re kind of ready to go our own ways, or start playing something we all want to play.’”

The end seemed inevitable. Back then, the group’s original four members – vocalist/keyboardist Jake Espy, vocalist/guitarist David Anderson, drummer John Breeding, and Daniluk – considered each other associates rather than friends. The four had struggled to find their desired fifth, a lead guitarist in touch with Roe’s sound and approach. Playing tracks off their 2006 release, Frame By Frame, had gotten tiresome.

Something had to be done, so last winter, the Pop/Rock outfit disappeared from the scene and buckled down in the studio. It was time well spent. The group finally found their missing guitarist in Jake Breeding, John’s brother. The band also took time to revise their songwriting process, using a group-based effort when working out new tracks (Espy had written six of Frame By Frame’s seven tracks.)

The five mapped out nearly 30 tunes using their new method, but they won’t deny that some painstaking breakups along the way helped get the creative juices flowing. “It’s so interesting how you can be so much more in touch with your emotion when you’re sad and depressed then when you’re happy,” says Anderson. “That’s when, I think, true writing comes out.”

“Some of the songs on this record did span outside of relationships,” Espy adds. “’Coming Down,’ the first song on (Letters and Lights,) I wrote about how I struggled with certain aspects of my religion. David wrote ‘Excuses’ about friends, and one of David’s songs is about his uncle, who was going through a really hard time. Outside of the first layer, it seems like a lot of our songs are about relationships, but that’s not necessarily what it’s all about.”

It’s easy to make that impression with Letters and Lights, an album of crooner Rock n’ Roll that swings between autumnal acoustic offerings and bold carnival rides of rhythm and guitar. Just be careful when tossing out comparisons to The Fray. “We get that cause we’re a Colorado piano band,” says Daniluk. Espy adds, “They really thrive on that smooth sound. We’re more raucous.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Clay & Fire

Artist: Bloc Party
Song: “One Month Off”
Rating: F

What is Bloc Party trying to say here? I’m struggling with this one just a bit too much for my own good.

Is the band unhappy about militarism encroaching culture? Or, conversely, are they making a statement about the consequences dealt in a fairy tale lifestyle?
Then there’s the obvious answer: maybe they just get a kick out of burning down Ray Harryhausen’s unsettling world of clay.

Go to town, I say. But be a little stylish about it; no shitty clip-on explosions and “vaporizations” please. It’s unlikely any clay animator will ever be able to capture the Harryhausen’s aesthetic (the ghastly Hansel and Gretel skeletons attest to this), so why not just hire clay animators to make a similar clay world?

In the probable case of a reasonable budget, it would’ve been better just to go with simple animation, seriously, because Harryhausen’s world simply was not built to be kicked down so easily. Half this video is footage of trees and forests and other nice things digitally aflame, but even when we are treated to some crafty images of fairytale carnage, it looks sloppy. Little Miss Moppet getting fragged is the visual equivalent of a gut punch and the castle carpet bombing is the knee to the face.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Artist: Sigur Rós
Song: "Glósóli"
Rating: C

I was quite ready to dump a D rating on this video, because the music of atmospheric architects like Sigur Rós really shouldn’t be pegged into a particular image, but into the imaginations of millions. It’s expansive and endearing in that sense, no need to limit it to a movie.

For me, it’s melting polar ice caps and bare winter wastelands- beautiful, but hauntingly so. I was somewhat disappointed with the children-existing-on-an-island concept, which was quite boring up until the 3:50 mark. I cannot spit on cinematic magic with a below-average rating, no matter how dull the build-up might be.

But the fact lingers: these guys shouldn't be making music videos. Even then, they know they can do better.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crawling on the Planet's Face

(Be patient. It will load.)

Artist: The Strokes
Song: "You Only Live Once"
Rating: A+

The end of everything really can come any day now. Pretend as much as you want otherwise, but one big explosion would do it. Maybe it'd be a nuke, or a hydrogen bomb. I guess a massive biological weapon could do it too. World War III would last for a few days. Or maybe it’ll be unexpected, like some kind of flesh-eating nanobots, a meteorite.

The possibilities are endless, I suppose, but I hope someone has enough foresight to build a chic satellite containing every little facet of the former existence of those “tiny insects called the human race.”

And I hope this music video is playing on it too; these are the sounds of Earth. This song is synchronized gorgeousness, fitting for this video in so many ways: the emotional stirring, the exciting aesthetics and the straight-forward moxie.

I love this song and I love this video. It’s stunning. The transitions work perfectly. The use of imagery makes me understand that notion of being “reeled in” that movie critics so often toss out in reviews. I suppose it’s worth mentioning this isn’t the only version, but with something as majestic as the art above, why would you even want to click that link?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

CD Review: 10-4 Eleanor

Originally published in Scene Magazine, December 2008

There a couple of reasons I enjoy 10-4 Eleanor’s latest recording.
I’d like to reflect on the nostalgia sparked by its floppy disk jacket boasting the Galaga fighter ship or write out pretentious musings on the meanings of the track titles, but the music of Words is deserving of all attention.

Try as I might to keep from stuffing underground darlings like 10-4 Eleanor into a genre, Words is a smattering of subgenres: here a little surf punk, there a little skate punk. The difference is in the riffs.

There’s no mistaking a West Coast influence in “Celebrity Taxidermy!” which wields Offspring-styled, boogie board guitar. But then there’s the loosey-goosey grime of standout “Dressed To Impresstevez,” aggressive in the way your average skate punk track ought to be. Its barreling riffs are rough, but not to the point where its delicious melody gets buried; 10-4 Eleanor prevents that happening on any of the tracks.

No, these gutter punks have a superb understanding of fun, never really seeking to make a point but rather to get asses moving. “Massive” is a catchy bundle of hooks that doesn’t thrash like the tracks that come before it, opting instead into a merry dish of dance. The closer, “Midwestern Hearts,” is a bit of a downer though, its midtempo acoustics underlining the misery-able vocals.

The rad CD jacket might scream gimmick band, but the 17 minutes of homely punk goodness within will convince you otherwise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Test of Time takes another

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
Song: "C.R.E.A.M."
Rating: B-

Remember the 90’s? I don’t but I do.

My own experience was a rise into adolescence that has pretty much smeared by years of stimulant use. Everything I can remember from that decade is in still frame images; it doesn’t move and the sounds and other senses associated are made up in my head. A walk to school, a snowball fight, Genesis and Super Nintendo, sitting in the living room with Dad listening to the Pixies and Michael Jackson.

Off the top of my head, that’s it. I don’t really remember anything otherwise.
But there’s always the discovery of hidden memories in objects and pictures and videos. I see them, and presto, I’m back in 1994, a second grader drinking Hi-C in the greenbelt behind my house, wondering where it all goes from here. This video has a similar effect, even though rap music was not allowed into the home and disliked by all my friends.

I didn’t even get into Wu-Tang until last year, however. This song is associated with 3:00 a.m. drives across town, a college junior/senior sipping out of a used water bottle, wondering where it all goes from here. Same shit, different decade.
There’s obviously some conflict of emotions when I watch this video. It’s a timeless song, but a video that’s very obviously aligned with style of hip-hop videos back then: rappers dropping rhymes with their respective armies in the background, slum landscapes, appalling graphic effects and grainy video and not single damn smile to be seen. These are not images that have withstood the test of time, considering the bizarre top-ranked hip-hop video these days. How far we’ve come.

Most hip-hop videos back then didn’t even attempt to set the bar, but don’t discredit the style. An undeniable cool is tied to the 90’s style, and there’s a certain flow to the images that I like. Look at that. I’m getting caught up in my own generalizations. I don’t want to dislike this video, I admit.

You want some real positive criticism? Right here: In this video, Wu-Tang gives a subtle finger to the big money style that was also a popular style at the time. There’s that fabulously cliché scene near the end, with the boys sitting around the table of champagne and money bags, casually tucking cigars into their mouths while sneering at the camera. That’s C.R.E.A.M. for ya kid.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dressy Bessy crank out album, hit the road

Originally published in Colorado Music Buzz, November 2008

Lounging in his hotel room in Memphis, John Hill remarks that this is the first time Dressy Bessy has played the city. But just because they were lucky enough to get into town early doesn’t mean they’ll be seeing much of it.

“I always say that if you want to see a city on tour, it takes like about half dozen times coming to that city before you actually see that city,” guitarist/vocalist Hill says over the phone, adding: “Yeah, (the show’s) tonight. We have a fairly late load in… I might actually have to leave here in a couple of minutes.”

It might be their first visit to Memphis, but the Denver-based power-pop collective is no rookie when it comes to the national tour. They’ve even developed their own strategic approach to their current tour: drop the album, then hit the road. Stopping by a few unfamiliar spots doesn’t hurt either, as Hill has discovered.

“The last week we’ve been more or less in the south. We’ve never been down there, thought we’d try it,” he says. “We’ve had good turnouts and actually have fans out in these places we’ve never been… It’s definitely worth doing, but it’s kind of hard. You don’t make quite as much money and the shows aren’t quite as big.”

Hill adds that most fans probably haven’t had a chance to pick up their new full-length, Holler and Stomp, which the group dropped last September before kicking off the tour with a show at Monolith.

If anything, most fans might not even know Dressy Bessy was still cranking out new material; it’s been three years of little-to-no activity since the release of their last album. Hill, who also plays guitar with The Apples In Stereo, notes that his work with the Apples (who released a b-sides compilation earlier this year) took up a fair share of his time, but the group never entirely stopped operations.

“It wasn’t like we we’re really taking a break, we just took a little bit of time off really.” Hill says.

Even when they weren’t entirely active, Dressy Bessy learned new lessons.

“We’ve immediately learned that we won’t wait so long in between records anymore,” Hill says. “We are finding that we have to break new ground in some areas, because the music industry changes so much and has been changing so quickly in the past three years.”

The industry might be subject to change over the years, but since Dressy Bessy took shape in 1998, the sound has retained some similar qualities since Hill and lead singer Tammy Ealom founded the band: short boppy pop powered by catchy hooks.

“When Dressy Bessy started, Tam and I were both listening to and fairly well-obsessed with 60’s pop,” Hill says. “A lot of those songs are 2 minutes and 10 seconds, just quick in-and-out, fairly simple, maybe some complexities. That’s kind of where Dressy Bessy started and then, I dunno, it’s changed a little bit over the years as far as our sound. But the basic root of it all, the kind of quick pop song with the quick hook and kind of get-in and get-out… that kind of stuck with us.”

Even then, Hill maintains, there’s more to the music than its sugary surface.

“A lot of times we get lumped into this bubble gum pop, which is fair enough, but if you read more into the songs, most of the songs are about Tammy being pissed off or something,” Hill says. “Everybody ends up thinking ‘Oh, she’s just La-Dee-Da!’ But almost all of them come from some conflict she’s had with somebody or something, it’s just hard to read into it.”

Hill says Ealom took a different approach in creating Holler and Stomp.

“Tammy approached this one in a much different way, where it was more of a beats-first kind of thing, whereas normally she’d approach it in the opposite way,” Hill says. “It is a little bit of a departure from the last two records in that the last two records we went into a studio and just banged it out, and had a deadline, which when you record an album and you don’t really have a deadline, you just work and work and work.”

There’s also the linear notes message from a very special fan: the quirky mop-haired Missourian who claims to have attended at least one show every day for the past commonly known as Beatle Bob.

“We’ve known for him, gosh, like 10 years maybe. He always comes to our shows in St. Louis, and then occasionally we’ll see him at South by Southwest and things like that,” Hill said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

His Name is Magic Cyclops

Originally published in The Rocky Mountain Collegian, November 13, 2008

The man isn't interested in talking.

"You don't see me," he mumbles, scurrying past the Collegian reporter, a duffel bag under arm. "Not here."

He, a lanky pale figure who could pass as the Unabomber's protégé in his black hoodie and baseball cap, makes his way to the tiny stage in the corner of the room. Out of the duffel bag comes a mic stand, a vocal effects processor with built-in pedal and a MacBook with a "Regular Joes for McCain-Palin" sticker slapped on the monitor's back.

The sticker is somewhat ironic in a dive bar like Surfside 7, the only joint in town that proudly blasts the likes of Slayer and Turbonegro over its speakers and where piercings hang from bartenders' every appendage.

He turns on the microphone: "Test, test, hello, hello."

He toys with the processor, suddenly sounding like Alvin the Chipmunk: "W-w-whoa dude. I'm high on drugs."The bored female bartenders laugh. A small tweak in the controls and his voice drops into the hulking tone of a "60 Minutes" anonymous source: "I sound like a sexual predator."

Eyeing the bartenders, he adds a flirty purr to his monstrous baritone: "Hey there little boy. You like candy?" Pleased with this pitch and the responding laughter, he disappears into the kitchen behind the pizza counter.

Fifteen minutes later, a strange character swaggers out, bearing a black muscle shirt. His eyes are tucked away behind dark tea shades, while his long black hair is held to the sides of his face by a neon purple and blue bandana baring a single word: "MAGIC." He introduces himself: "It's legally Magic Cyclops. Legally."

One eye, one dream
Consider Cyclops to be many things.

"Magic Cyclops is the ultimate performance artist," says Nate Clark, sound engineer and production manager at the Aggie Theatre, who claims to have been a Cyclops fan since his earliest performances. "He's a musician, a character, an actor, a hero and a villain."

In less esoteric terms, Cyclops is the "Weird Al" Yankovic of Fort Collins, minus the direct parodies and PG rating -- he once told a heckler, "If I wanted any lip from you, I'd unzip my pants." He alternates between musician, with a berth of original songs, and professional disc jockey, never straying from an 80s sound.

"I've just always kind of been into music. Ya know, your Def Leppards, your Journeys," Cyclops says. "New music is crap. I enjoy what most people would call bad music nowadays."Then there were the heroes of the decade -- Hulk Hogan and other professional wrestlers -- who had a considerable impact on his life as well. Cyclops had sported a "HOGAN" headband up until this year, realizing that his idol "was the biggest douchebag on the planet."

But when pressed for details on his newfound hate, Cyclops ponders, retracts.

"I have been watching his celebrity wrestling lately, which is making him seem a little less douchey. I still think he wants to date his daughter and I kind of find that a little 'insane in the membrane,'" Cyclops says, drawing the classic "coo-coo crazy" signal with his finger. "Although if I had a hot daughter, I'd probably want to date her. Can I really condemn that? I dunno."

Sipping incessantly from a mixed drink, Cyclops says his hometown of Davenport, Iowa had a bad habit of inbreeding. He admits the possibility that his own mother and father might have been a little too close on the family tree.Cyclops often uses the words "unfortunate" and "sadly" in describing his early years.His impoverished upbringing, for example, left a permanent mark. BBC programming on PBS was the only entertainment he had access to as a child, manifesting in the British accent that he has never shed. The peer torment that followed never entirely faded either.

But escape was found in the music and icons of the times, the very subjects Cyclops clings to today. He recalls various babysitters taking him to concerts around Iowa and lesser-known acts like Mr. Mister and Centro-matic inspiring his decision to pursue a music-making career.

His arrival in Fort Collins was, at first, nothing more than another stop in Cyclops' 2000 nationwide tour. But when his car broke down, he says he decided to make Fort Collins his new home. There wasn't much back in Davenport, except some serious gambling debts.

Hot hits
Tonight at Surfside, Cyclops is doing the DJ thing.He greets the pooling crowd: "Time to get wicked. But first, I'm gonna play my theme song."

He turns to his MacBook and unleashes it, a startling 20-second blast of high-pitched wailing on the crowd. Just another Cyclops "hot hit."

"You know, a lot of people are just astounded and amazed, so much so that it causes them to get very angry," Cyclops says of his music's reception. "I could only imagine it's what, you know, your Stones, your Beatles, your Michael Jacksons had to go through in the early days."

Ben Prytherch, bassist with local band Motorhome, recalls an early Cyclops performance at Surfside that sparked such anger in one patron that he wrote a letter to the bar declaring he'd never come back.

"It used to be Magic Cyclops versus the audience," Prytherch says. "It was really fun watching a lot of people getting really angry."

Most Cyclops fans are of the "love-to-hate" variety, taking delight in the camp and comedic edge of his music, regardless of the artist's original intention. But it's hard to believe he meant anything else, considering song titles such as "Rainbow of Pain" and "Wrath of (Chaka) Kahn." There's also his most popular release, "Teen Pregnancy Don't Do It," a Casio keyboard ballad that's part song, part public service announcement. When asked about the inspiration behind the song, Cyclops refers to "growing up in Iowa, hoping that I didn't get the ladies pregnant."

"I saw most of my high school class had sons and daughters that are almost as old as I am now," Cyclops says.

There are very few specifics when it comes to the song-writing process for Cyclops.

"Like every musician, I just write about stuff," he says. "Stuff inspires me. Some days I'm over there at the Wal-Mart, and I'll see something like a muffin top. That inspires me. And then I'm like, going to get milk or something, and then a minute later, I'm like 'Oh, that'd be a hot hit, Muffin Top.'"

Most would argue Cyclops' talents are more concentrated in his stagemanship, particularly his air guitar antics. Earlier this year, Cyclops won the Denver Regional Air Guitar Championship, earning a trip to San Francisco to compete in the U.S. Air Guitar Championship in August.

"I picked the death sentence spot of going first," Cyclops says. "No one's ever advanced to the second round going first."

There's always next year. Cyclops says his steady performance schedule has kept him conditioned, and he eagerly anticipates the chance to redeem this year's mistake.

"I'm not like your average DJ; I lip-synch, I air-guitar, air-drum, it keeps me in the realm. It's like practice," he says. "And sometimes, late at night in my room, I'll kick on some Colt, put on my BVD's and rock it on out."

Expect a sizable showing of talent on Nov. 22, when Cyclops opens for 12 Cents for Marvin at the Aggie Theatre.

The man behind the Magic
Cyclops declined to give or confirm his supposed "real" identity for this article. While Cyclops will insist he is who he is, there is another personality behind the one-man show.

"He's not like Magic Cyclops at all," Clark says. "He's just a guy, a guy that loves punk rock, indie rock and music in general... nothing like Cyclops. Cyclops is an asshole, a prima donna."

"I see him around town," says Dayton Hicks, bassist with local band Arliss Nancy. "He's a nice guy -- kind of an introvert, I guess. He does his own thing."

"A lot of people, I think, mistake him for a complete goof-off," says Darren Radach, instrumentalist with Motorhome and Glove Trucker. "But he's one of those guys who, if he continues to take it as seriously as he does, could end up being on Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live. He's got that kind of talent and that kind of conviction in his comedy."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

CD Review: Project Moonbeam

Originally published in Scene Magazine, November 2008

Immersive at best and boring at worst, progressive rock is often considered decades past its time, particularly when based in the synthesizer style that gave nerd bands like Rush an unexpected place in pop culture. As cutting-edge as it was then, listening to Project Moonbeam’s self-titled debut makes it pretty obvious that some sounds are best left on classic rock radio.

The man behind the Moonbeam is Loveland musician Chris Fournier. Project Moonbeam, as he writes in the liner notes, was a three-year learning activity to get his high-end music studio, Earth Shaper Audio, “understood and operational.” Fournier self-produced the final product, and considering the elegant layering and flawless effect placement, it’s apparent that he has learned much. However, the music itself doesn’t quite hold up in comparison.

It’s not that the pedal-heavy guitars or poky rhythms feel a few decades late, it’s just that there’s little fun to be found in listening to the same tawdry track over and over. Project Moonbeam’s album has a tendency towards that: an intergalactic assortment of rising Satriani solos melded together with crunchy riffs (“Air,” “Quarkz”) and soft-shelled keyboard melodies (“Depths Unknown,” “Man I Was”).

Also to be stressed is that in this day and age, drum machines are only permissible when they’re buried deep in the audio layering and don’t resemble a drum machine whatsoever, a rule that Fournier has regrettably chosen to break in “Reality Is.” The opening electro-percussion kick in that track caused me Baltimora flashbacks. For that, I say shame on you Project Moonbeam.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My band is no ripoff

I had a good laugh when it happened to Avril Lavigne.
I can't remember a more exaggerated smirk pooling on my face then the time it happened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Probably the best musical ripoff to ever take place? Well, that'd be when Nickelback ripped off themselves. Nothing will ever fucking top that.

But for one of my favorite bands of all time to get hit with that painful accusation of plagerism? Say it ain't so!

I'll let you read the article for the details, but basically this guy is charging that the riff off of The Hives' "Tick Tick Boom" is lifted off of a track he put together in the late 90's. This story ends with a sigh of relief though; take a quick listen to the opening sections of both tracks and it's easy to tell that, while the riff is indeed somewhat similar, it's clear these are two completely different songs. Chalk up another for the Swedes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Live Review: Santogold, Mates of State, Trouble Andrew

Note: I didn't happen to take the video, that honor belongs to YouTube user adventurefit. I'm sure he/she won't mind a few more views, right?

I traveled down to Denver’s almost-intimate Gothic Theatre for a three-act show earlier this October: pseudo-rock group Trouble Andrew, indie rock duo Mates of State and then headliner Santogold.

While its structure and acoustics might not be much different from several other Denver venues (it has an odd similarly to The Ogden Theatre in that the standing room sections is divided into thirds while special VIP high rises line the walls), the Gothic generally showcases college radio acts and as such, typically draws a young and eccentric crowd. The sound carries well in the Gothic’s high hall, but to really watch the show is to stand in the front section. There, one’s ears can surf on the finest timbre while dancing with the crowd.

Opening act Trouble Andrew was undoubtedly the weakest act of the night, barely rousing the crowd members out of their stand still positions with their quirky downbeat skateboarder jams. Lead singer Trouble played up a strong stage presence, talking with the crowd and promoting the acts that were to follow. But it couldn’t excuse the fact that Trouble’s pitch couldn’t keep in tune with the backing guitar or bass melodies, and he constantly struggled with his intervals. I was particularly disappointed to listen to the offbeat live version of “Chase Money”, a song where Trouble’s uptempo delivery flows perfectly with the mellowed out melody. At the Gothic, however, he could barely keep up.

Following Trouble Andrew was Mates of State, a band I had only experienced a couple of times prior to the show, never really forming much of an impression. They did a decent live show, the two never moving from behind their microphones and Casio keyboards. Harmony is an essential in the music of Mates of State, who put forth forward energy throughout their set, their songs often lapsing into one another. Their set, which kept a fluffy up-tempo dissonance, was a stark contrast to the previous moodiness, throttling me into a bubblier attitude. By the end of this set, I was dancing along with the erratic nigh-nonmetric fills.

In the moments before Santogold took the stage, two schoolgirl uniformed dancers wearing oversized sunglasses high-kneed their way on, exciting the crowd with a minute-long synchronized stiff dance. They’d flank Santogold for the rest of the night, purveyors of minimalism in a setting that flickered between drone dub and jungle dance beats.

Santogold’s standout performance was “LES Artistes”, a fan-favorite track that builds off a mixed meter electro-percussion beat, eventually blooming into an orchestral synth chorus. Santogold nailed her vocal accentuations, allowing me a newer pleasant access to the hope-under-stress emotions I was filled with during my first listen earlier this year.

The only disappointment of the show was a decision to perform a bare-bones version of “Lights Out”; Santogold turned a song that has pretty pop chorus and succinct guitar riff into an acoustic solo vocal performance of the opening verse, and then promptly transitioning into the next song’s melody. When an artist performs a stripped-down version of their song, he/she owes it to their fans to make sure it sounds good without a backing beat and the other six-sevenths of the song.

She closed out the set (excluding her unspectacular encore) with jungle blaster “Creator”, inviting up some colorful characters from the very front up on stage to dance along with her. Santogold navigated through the crowded stage fairly easily, dropping each verse with a smile on her face and an occasional laugh at one goofy guy she stared down during delivering the final zipping verse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reject Responsibility!

Artist: Tom Waits

Song: "I Don't Want To Grow Up"

Rating: B

Ok, I fucking hate videos that get some guy and dress him up and have him run around like a moron, like the devil in the first minute of this video. It'd be the death knell for this unusual video for a song that feels a little run-of-the-mill. But damn, I laughed when Tom Waits emerged from the curtains onto that tiny stage. He's a kind of weirdness all artists going for avant-garde should study before they even put their pencils to the stanzas.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Xiren undergoes strange journey in 08

Originally published in Colorado Music Buzz Magazine, October 2008

Considering the scams, bus crashes and wedding vows, 2008 has been a monster year for singer-songwriter Xiren, real name Daryl Xiren Kenny. And it’s not over yet; he believes his new album, Trip-R, could be the breakout recording he’s been seeking since his move from Detroit to Denver 12 years ago.

“When we look back at all the great records that were ever made, the people making them knew that they had something special at the time, and it’s a little bit of that feeling,” Xiren says. “We’ll see if there’s any legitimacy in that.”

His fifth original recording, Trip-R swings like a designated hitter, wielding supersonic sensibility and aggressive theatrics and a theme of “rock n’ roll revenge.” It’s a style similar to that of U2, a group Xiren “holds up on the pedestal.

Besides the music, there’s the Irish heritage he can identify with; Xiren’s father is an Irish migrant who gave him the Gaelic middle name he goes by now. Perhaps above all, however, Ciren admires the international supergroup’s humanitarian efforts. It’s why he works charity into each of his concerts: the Trip-R release party last month donated a portion of the tickets sold to The Chanda Plan Foundation, a group dedicated to making Eastern physical therapy available to those with physical disabilities.

“There’s so much self-promotion in music,” he says. “Your name and photos are on flyers and marquees, and my god; it has got to be about something else.”

Being kind to the world doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be nice in return. In May, Xiren journeyed into India to participate in an organized tour with ten other artists from around the world. What he’d find there, however, was “a relatively well-executed scam of some level.” It was discovered that the promoter running the show had created his own record label, taking on several identities with various cell phone numbers and email addresses, and had barely booked the artists; Xiren says his two shows were booked at a flea market and a tiny bar. He says the company that had set him up with the tour via contest, Sonicbids, had assured him that he’d was partaking in a legit operation.

“They obviously didn’t vet the client at all,” Xiren says. “There’s no selection process, no background check, no credibility check. Pretty much anybody can sign up. They start taking independent artists’ money and literally offer nothing. I think it’s possibly the biggest fraud perpetuated on the independent music community today.”

Things looked to be on the up upon his return with a nationwide tour with his backing band. Three weeks in, a devastating bus crash scrapped those hopes and left ruined equipment scattered across a Midwest highway.

It also shook up several band mates to the point of resignation, and Xiren is currently seeking replacements. He says those interested should check out his Jack-o-Launch show at Pumpkinfest in Aurora on October 12 and catch the band after the show.

Life’s been much better to the man lately; besides dropping Trip-R, he married his long-time girlfriend in August. But looking back on the year, he says the hardships had their place: “It’s like Jane’s Addiction said: ‘Sometimes to realize you are well, someone must come along and hurt you.’”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Artist: Passion Pit

Song: "Sleepyhead"

Rating: B+

Look at me ma, I'm cruising like a madman on the blogosphere, playing up bands like I know what I'm doing.

I admit, I don't really know what I'm doing. I put on this facade, but any sharp-eyed internet reader will know I pulled this creative flip book-box vid from Stereogum. At least I've got the gall to admit it. I am a responsible, respectable blogger who delivers nothing but the truth and full disclosure to all three of his readers.

But I'm going to give a go at generating blog-buzz too, just because I read about it all the time so I'd like to at least fancy myself as someone who's taste and writings actually influence the market.

So, yeah. Passion Pit. Based out of Boston. They're like a tangy MGMT with an extra layer of sugar added on top. Besides making fun songs, it looks like they'll be stacking together a strong collection of music videos, considering the crowd they worked with for this video.

This video is cool-looking, synchs well with the music without trying hard or even being 100% on time. You know you've got a good video on your hands when you can get away without perfect synchroization. I also like the flip book effect in this video; might not be entirely original, but again, it's doing so WITH CUBES! Who else has done that? Maybe many, but none come to mind. I challenge you, dear reader, to prove me dumb.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rocky Mountain Electro-Emo: The Epilogues debut review

When I told a friend I’d be reviewing the Epilogues’ debut album for Scene, she caught me by surprise with her fawning: “It made me fall in love again… and I’ve never been in love.”

That’s a special kind of passion, no doubt. But for me, The Beautiful, The Terrifying is more like a post-breakup medicinal, good for any lover without a warm body to cling to: heavy on the synths and the woe, it starts off with ache-breaky melodies before transitioning into danceable “loving-the-single-life” synth rock.The Epilogues must have studied some arty encyclopedia on somber electronica in preparing their debut, as their sound draws a wide variety of comparisons. Singer Chris Heckman’s vocals have a coolly punch, comparable to those of Morgan Quaintance of Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Openers “King Arthur” and “Hurting You” especially reflect this. And like DIOYY, both sail on an unmistakable electro-emo beat and catchy chorus. It’d get repetitive if not for a few gems of different color: standout track “On The Radio” rides on a sullen Radiohead-esque synth line as Heckman muses on the complexities of escape. “Caroline” is a similar slow-burner about desperate jealousy lined with throbbing mental images of exes embracing new lovers.

Comparisons aside, there’s a fair chunk of dance amidst the bleakness, particularly apparent in “The World is Yours” where rampant hooky guitar breakdowns remind us that it’s okay to move on.

Ultimately, this heart hasn’t been moved, but I’ll be keeping The Beautiful, The Terrifying handy for the next time some girl breaks it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Favorite Archduke

Band: Franz Ferdinand
Song: “Darts of Pleasure
Rating: A

Franz Ferdinand is going to be up there along with Radiohead and Queens of The Stone Age and a couple of others that I'm forgetting as one of the defining rock bands of the naughties. If we are so lucky as to have electricity 20 years from now, “Take Me Out” will be spun on classic rock stations for decades until the inevitable nuclear holocaust. They are fun, the music is original and catchy and they’re videos are all top-notch.

I admit, the main motivation behind charting up a video that’s just barely out of date is a sudden excitement for the band’s upcoming album, Tonight. Seriously, take a couple of listens to their new single, “Lucid Dreams”, spread out over several days and you’ll be just as hungry as me.

But I digress. This video is another golden chunk of Ferdinand video magic, stocked with color and clever shadowing techniques and absolutely super sweet editing. Lead singer Alex Kapranos has a face made for fronting a band and I’m so glad he doesn’t mind getting his goof on for these superb pieces (his entrance at bar practice with the single second shot of his bug-eyed glare makes me smile.)

Final points go to the mouth cam shots interspersed throughout. Kapranos probably isn’t much of a mouth breather, but for this video, I’m glad he’s letting his jaw hang loose; it makes for a fun ride.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

BOOM Money

Artist: Cadence Weapon
Song: “Real Estate”
Rating: B

I don’t know much about finances, but I’m still a student. A student who’s eagerness to learn is fueled almost entirely by a fear by a dark future devoid of much of the luxury I so thoroughly enjoy today. I’ll admit; without some financial support from Mom and Dad, this blog would not be before you today.

So, I’m doing as much as I can to learn about why the recent Wall Street implosion was as significant as it is and what I need to do to prepare for a future that no one can really predict. So bless the lord above for artists like Cadence Weapon, whose latest video hams up the bleak reality of things, all while he spins lyrics from the point of a view of a negligent real estate broker. The beat is catchy and the vocals/lyrics flow so superb, that is, whenever Cadence isn’t dropping that nauseatingly-repetitive chorus.

In conclusion, this is a decent video; cheesy, but not unbearably so. Cadence has got a new look, and be it in a business suit or chilling poolside with models, I like it. Maybe it’s the hair. It's obvious that Cadence isn't spinning a story here, but I've got to admit , I would've liked to see a few desolate faces of business execs and daytraders, burned by a few greedy business decisions

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Special Local Edition Music Video review: The Black Apples

BAND: The Black Apples
SONG: "20 Years At Sea"


The audio quality isn't perfect and this is, in fact, a video made by a good friend who has gone off to LA in pursuit of a career that won't ebb away at his soul. But most importantly, this was a Fort Collins band that I got the opportunity to interview earlier this year. They dropped their new album earlier this fall- "Enjoy!"- only made 100 copies and I couldn't make it to their farewell show (they too have flocked to LA for similar reasons, the idea being a record deal) and my sister somehow screwed up and got me a copy of another band that is good in their own rights, but The Black Apples are something special mark my words.

This video is fun, and actually quality for being filmed by a college student. Can't give it a perfect grade, because of the audio, but I will say this song is aural magic. The main reason I'm posting it is because I'm immediately taking advantage of their "super up-and-coming" status. Four years from now, when their first national release takes college radio (followed by commercial radio by at least the second album) by storm, I'm going to get the claim to major cool status and boost this blog by three more readers. Also, check out their other catchy-and-cool-as-hell songs.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Getting Better

I'm feeling down.
The day has been long and unproductive. I've been racked with guilt for making bad choices, the wrong choices. Instead of exercise, I take an extra hour of sleep. Later, I half-ass my way through a paper and an article, projects I put off for gratifications that left me just as quickly as they came. Recognizing this, I make a half-hearted pledge to do better in the future. Whatever.
At the end of the day, I don't do the assigned readings and tell friends I'm too sick to go out and socialize. It's one bad choice after another, but some days a guy just doesn't want to step out of his shitty dirty box, a comfort zone with a carpet of crumpled paper and coins and crumbs.
To ward off guilt and shame before bed, the keyword is "deformities." There's a million to choose from, but three or so usually will do. I can look at these people/human things/genetic disappointments and remind myself how good I have it. I don't feel very sorry for these people; they'd probably be just as terrible as me if they had all of life's greatness at their fingertips. That is what I tell myself as I lie down.
Tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Wired put out a fascinating article on the resurgance of the music video that I just had to blog about. Notice, if you so please, that there is heavy emphasis put on videos from indie artists. YouTube has fueled the coming of a new music video era, evidently, and I'm lovin' every minute of it.

It's a fairly fine selection (I highly suggest checking out Keith Schofield's awesome 'Toe Jam' video at the bottom of the list), but I would have to lodge my one complaint with the inclusion of Matthew Cullen's 'Pork and Beans'. I like the song, but damn, did he really have to go with a viral star-studded collection of internet celebrities (or their lookalikes) for a music video? I don't want to see all that shame bagged together in one scooping... ugh, come on Wired, you know you could've done so much better.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Indie Effects

Artist: Radiohead
Song: “House of Cards”
Rating: B

It’s probably the most-talked about music video of the year, a year where music videos almost, sadly, feel passé. But then Radiohead goes and pulls something slightly cool like this and everyone jumps onto YouTube to watch and enjoy.

I like this video. It’s cool and it fits the song well, and it really is something different from everything we’ve seen before, even with all of the CGI that floats along the music visual highways.

I really like the part, say about 1:20 into the video, when Thom’s head starts dissolving slowly. It’s pretty. Ultimately though, I can’t give this video an A; the scratchy rendering parts irritate me to no end.

BONUS: Watch the behind the scenes video, it too was pretty cool.

Friday, September 19, 2008

shut up shut up shut up

Artist: The Ting Tings
Song: “Shut Up and Let Me Go
Rating: D-

There’s so much to dislike about this video from catchy British duo, The Ting Tings. From the trippy, if not nauseating, triangle montage (a trick ripped straight from one of music’s more classic music videos), to the queasy color schemes and graphic slices to the retarded fight sequence halfway through.

Seriously, this video just sucks. It synchs up, but it’s horribly boring and naïve for a band who’s songs sound pretty damn good, so its a shame this video does it such terrible justice. I'd also like to comment on the desperate lack of sexual energy between Jules De Martino and Kate White (who is actually really hot), despite their obvious attempt to achieve that kind of tension to the level of The Kills. It just ain't happening here in this cut-and-paste craptastrophe. I give this video a low grade based on its massive lack of appeal. Really, there’s not much more to say.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sit Outside and Dream review

Originally published in Scene Magazine, September 2008

CD: Sit Outside and Dream
Artist: WoolEye

Ever since Hendrix rocked 20 arms on the cover of Axis: Bold As Love, Hindu imagery has been psychedelic rock’s colorful totem. But don’t let the Tridevi on the cover of WoolEye’s latest effort fool you; the trippiness comes in bits and pieces.

While the far-off space guitar is present in a handful of tracks, Sit Outside and Dream is dominated by a boppy jazz rock sound, heard across the synth landscapes and hooky keyboard. What lifts WoolEye above the archetypal fusion four-piece is a willingness to dabble in genres far outside their range without compromising their jazz-based approach. Most of the time, it works.

Try the neon bluegrass sound of “Cherokee Bill” – though the lyrics feel uninspired, there’s something surprisingly fun about the rocking electric piano and guitar bridges.

The Technicolor techno-pop of “New York Spinnit” is aural deliciousness. The succulent synth keys bubble when mixed with vocalist Michael Rouse’s rock n’ roll drawl. It’s speedy and clever and catchy as hell. “Tune For The Sun” is another überfun stretch with vocals and piano embracing an Elton John elegance.

Occasionally, the genre-bending polish wears off and leaves the listener with a failed experiment - the stiff dub rock of “Snapback Fission” - or peculiar contemporary rock that takes way too long to pay off - the itchy “New Dawn Plowing”, which takes off about four minutes in, when the instrumentation picks up on that psychedelic flavoring mentioned earlier.

But you gotta give it to them; Sit Outside and Dream proves that as long as it fits, it doesn’t have to belong.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The iPod effect

Artist: Silversun Pickups
Song: “Well Thought Out Twinkles”
Rating: C-

I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing the Silversun Pickups take the stage at the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheatre this Saturday, in between Vampire Weekend and DeVotchKa. It was a gorgeous concert, but then again, every show you see at Red Rocks tends to be a chunk of splendor. Lead singer Brian Aubert, between songs: “This is probably the prettiest venue we’ve ever played.”

I loved the Pickups live; they thrashed to the beat and each performer seemed to have character (the crazy drummer, the shy bassist, the cool slick-haired guitarist/vocalist) but it is rather unfortunate that they couldn’t bring the same aesthetic to this video. I do realize it came out in 2006, so maybe they were just playing to the visual style of the time: washed-out figures rocking out to raw music, a style undoubtedly born of those quickly tiresome iPod commercials.

I watch this video, and that’s all I can think of- iPod commercials. C’mon guys, this is a pretty badass song. I suppose I’m glad they could’ve done worse; it’s scarily easy to picture the guy-chase-girl story that permeates some of the videos of some of the better songs out there. But this isn’t much better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Common Anomaly

Originally published in Colorado Music Buzz, September 2008

It’s hard to tell if Nick LoFaro is joking when he lays out the pre-show ritual for his band, Common Anomaly.

The others laugh, but no one attempts to refute, so I let my guard down. “We don’t really try to drink any substances or drink or anything like that, but we all slap each other in the face before we go on stage,” LoFaro says, laughing.

This, they tell me, lounging in the parking lot behind the Aggie Theater, is just the typical brotherly love of the Common Anomaly family: Vocalist/guitarist LoFaro, synth keyboardist Ian Walsh, bassist Sean Joyce, and the true brothers of the pack, vocalist/guitarist/occasional violinist Paul Simmons and drummer Adam Simmons.

Listening to their style of catchy cruising garage rock, it’s not hard to imagine these five pelting one another till the energy is right.

But this isn’t screaming-mad music. The roots of Common Anomaly are actually set in the acoustics, beginning a year ago when LoFaro and the Simmons brothers first took their act to the stage.

“It was basically tailored to fit a small acoustic venue,” Adam noted. “A drum set would be a little too overpowering for that, so we did everything on a Jambe and acoustic guitars.”

The addition of Walsh “plugged our asses in”, as LoFaro describes, “to a huge sound scheme” and “a huge attitude and a lot more depth to a lot of our songs, which were originally very earthy at first”, while Joyce, who moved from Chicago to join the band in July, rounds it all out. While keeping a regular routine of shows in FoCo and Denver, these up-and-comers plan to start recording immediately at The Farm, a barn studio owned by FoCo musician Jonathan Alonzo.

The band says “family” is the term to describe the group’s chemistry, and expect it to be essential to churning out their debut album.

“(Family) gives you the opportunity to tell each other when we’re off or when we suck, or when we’re doing really well,” LoFaro says. “It’s flat honesty, hard love and good s#!t.”

I'm a Cat Cowboy

Artist: MGMT
Video: Time To Pretend
Rating: C

It isn't easy giving a less-than-stellar grade to the video of a song you happen to like, but I'm determined to remain firm in my writing. This smattering of clip art and cheesy computer graphics, brought to you by the boys of MGMT, does not deserve anything above a C+ (I took away half a grade because those assholes don't let users embed their video, and using a hyperlink is just so outdated these days, really.)

I'll admit, I got teeny tiny goosebumps early on into the video, when the drums kick in and we're treated to a sea of (who I'm guessing to be) Andrew VanWyngardens smashing away while lead singer Ben Goldwasser muses on. And the video plays along quite nicely with the song's concept of an imaginary life of excitement and meaning. Seeing Goldwasser (or maybe VanWyngarden... you can barely tell the fucking difference between the two) surf along the colorscape brought a smile to my face.

But trippiness is a little cliche, and because this song had so much potential, I believe the director just got lazy and scrambled on some "ironically cool" effects, synched it up with music, and the only real filming took place on some beach, where a group of ignorants dressed up like savages battling crab monsters (that released several hundred dolphins upon explosion, apparently) and riding giant cats.

And the constant barrage of images, ugh, it makes me a little queasy. Child psychologists, know this: the video for "Time To Pretend" is the kind of shit instills attention deficit disorder into 6-year-olds.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


ARTIST: Deerhunter

SONG: "Lake Somerset"


It'seasytocallthisshitbutiguesstheressomethingadmirableaboutdoingsomethingdifferentinthecasedressinguplikearetardaretardjayreatardandmakethisvideobutimonanothersugarbingeicantpeelmyowneyesoffanotherwinfor thefoggyfrontlinesinsideandalliguessthisvideoreallyisapersonificationofiraqortherussianinvasionofgeorgiaorthepeoplethatgotrunoverbyfranzferdinandshorsewhenhewasassasinatedbutidontcarethethingseemstosaywithhisgrufflookimjustgoingtosithereanditmypizza.

The Nerve Magazine writes:

“I wanted a video of a turtle eating a piece of pizza. A few days later I received a link to youtube in my e-mail,” Cox says. What he saw was a man dressed in a turtle suit eating pizza for almost four minutes. That’s it.

TLDR: Random makes not a good music video.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Your Money or Your Life

BAND: Adam & the Ants
SONG: "Stand and Deliver"

There are two reasons I cannot put this video at that treasured “A” grade, as trite as they might seem:
#1- The audio only really synchs with Adam Ant’s yapping jaws during the chorus.
#2- Somehow, this video pops into my head every single time I hear it. It kind of ruins the original mental imagery I had going originally (it involved spaceships.)

But who am I to care? The song is fucking fun, and the video almost lives up to its energy. I get the giggles every time Adam peers at me through the computer screen with his full-on goofiness. And there’s no denying the nostalgic charms of the early eighties production values.

For one, what the fuck is going on when Adam flies through the window during the King’s dinner? There seems to be at least five stand alone slow-motion sequences in this video, and that’s the only one that feels necessary throughout the “highwayman” bravado. During the slo-mo, our hero looks a little like Adam, but Adam mingled with a bit of bat DNA or some such shit. I cannot help but smile at that. Bravo!

BONUS: I highly suggest checking out Young Knives’ “Stand and Deliver” cover if you like fun.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Marrow Melodies

What kind of creature is this, you ask?

Known in most parts as "Carnivorous vulgaris" (others debate the true classification being "Eternalii famishiis"), this canine subspecies is particularly notable for it's extravagant and often ill-fated methods of capturing prey.
Never before has this figure's bone structure been assembled for display until now. Follow the link and see the assembly of other rare and interesting creatures in their entirely bare forms.

Best of luck beating back the nightmares.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Wolfmother's breakup

So, if one hasn't already heard, the Zeppelin-rockin' boys down under, Wolfmother, has split. I, for one, couldn't be more heartbroken.

For me, this is the end of the Wolfmother I fell in love with on a plane ride from Australia.
Instead of movies, we had the option of listening to music, and on the Austrlian artist page, Wolfmother was prominently featured. My talks with folks from down under further sealed the deal that Wolfmother was probably the hottest rock band to be rolling around the country at the time, even to the point where Aussies were getting sick and tired of the "bloody" riffs of this trio.

While a break-up of the original lineup might not mean the complete end of a terrific sound, I find it hard to think that Andrew Stockdale will be able to continue Wolfmother, as he plans to do, without commandering the musical direction. Again, if that direction will be for better or worse, it's hard to predict. I remember reading that Stockdale has a passion for those long, sweeping epics that only work so often for my own ears.

I thought Wolfmother had a great sense of timing when it came to those drawn-out tales of discovery and adventure ("Colossal", "Mind's Eye", "Where Eagles Dare"), but for their shorter, catchier stuff ("Woman", "Joker and the Thief", "Love Train", "Pyramid"), they were fucking incredible. The riffs would reel in my head for days, the sweet delicious meshing of Stockdale's brawny tiger drawl and the fast-tracked heavy-settled guitar was just so much fun.

It wasn't until the three split that I discovered quite a bit of unaccounted hate sprawled across the internet. You'll hear it come mostly in one arguement: They're nothing but a Led Zep/Black Sabbath cover band who's sound is entirely tired and unoriginal.
And I frankly feel that's horseshit. I'll admit, there's definitely a classic rock vibe to their sound, but they make it feel modern, their first album was hard-hitting rock n' roll with crisp riffs and a knock-you-on-your-ass mentality, and what is so unoriginal about that? I maintain that these guys were doing their own thing and they were having a helluva time doing it... until recently I suppose. It seems pretty obvious that drummer Myles Heskett and bassist Chris Ross were quite pissed at Stockdale for reasons we will only learn of years and years from now, and even then those just might be rumors.

I look forward to seeing what each band member has got up his sleeve for future productions, but I worry nothing will ever achieve that classic feeling that debut album had. And to think... it'll be a couple years at least before we get a taste... that's a harsh realization right there.

Iowa-based Euforquestra sets up camp in Fort Collins

Originally published in Scene Magazine, August 2008

The men of Euforquestra are Colorado boys at heart.

Guitarist Mike Tallman takes on the tone of a giddy 80-year-old when he looks back at the summer vacations at his father’s cabin in Routt National Park.

“I spent pretty much every vacation as a child going up to that area and just spending a couple of weeks every summer getting away from everything,” Tallman recalls. “People tend to enjoy life to the fullest in the mountains.”

Among other reasons, a longing for purple mountain majesties inspired the Afrobeat ensemble to leave their home state of Iowa and settle down in Fort Collins, where the living is cheaper than Boulder and life functions without the big-city frenetic of Denver.

Despite the apparent excitement, the decision to move didn’t come easy to the seven twentysomethings who have spent the past five years carving their worldly beats in Iowa City.

Tallman spent his high school days in Des Moines, alongside keyboardist Eric Quiner and drummer Josten Foley. The three teamed with another buddy on bass to form Euforia, the funky rock predecessor to Euforquestra. Following graduation, the group took to Iowa City, where they crossed paths with percussionist Matt Grundstad and tenor saxophonist Ryan Jeter.

Other members would come and go as the years rolled by, but latching on for the long haul was alto saxophonist Austin Zalatel and bassist Adam Grosso. When the lineup began to resemble what Tallman describes as a “rock-band-orchestra kind of thing,” Euforia became Euforquestra.

The group has established a sizeable following in Iowa City’s community, largely attributable to Camp Euphoria, an annual musical festival on the edge of Iowa City that Tallman and the boys have been putting on since the summer of 2003.

It’s with the same eager nostalgia he expresses towards the mountains that Tallman talks about the music and arts of Iowa City: “I see it as a kind of an oasis among the cornfields out here.”

He describes the music scene as a tight-knit community, where competition takes a backseat to companionship. Each bar serves a specific set of genres. Then there’s the University of Iowa, a sizeable school that is always pumping in fresh faces and new listeners.

It’s the kind of environment that every band looking to break big would desire as a starting point. So why would these guys leave it all behind to start anew in the average-sized Fort Collins?

“Fort Collins has a very similar feel to Iowa City; it feels like it moves at the same speed, a really laid back place.” Tallman says.

Tallman adds that the group feels there’s a better market for their funked-up sound in the Western region, particularly in the jam band haven that is the West Coast. But don’t stick them with the label; Euforquestra is a rhythm-heavy flash pan of world music, seasoned with vocals from all seven members, and as a result, the music pulls from a wide variety of genres: jazz, bluegrass and rock, to name a few.

But there is always a familiar Afrobeat sound; their top influences include Fela and Femi Kuti, Steel Pulse and Burning Spear. And the one disc that never strays far from the tour van’s CD player? Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars’ definitive Living Like A Refugee.

“I can’t even count how many times we’ve listened to that entire album in our van,” Tallman laughs. “Over the course of one tour, we’ll listen to that album like twenty times.”

While Euforquestra has performed in Fort Collins in the past, their residential debut will be a cannonball entrance. Besides several August shows, including a Bohemian Nights performance at NewWestFest on August 16, Tallman expects the group to begin laying down tracks for a second album by October. So much for a transition period...

“It’s gonna be hard to leave,” Tallman said. “But just like anything, it’s turning over a new leaf. When one thing ends, something else begins.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Otem Rellik puts on a show

During her opening act at a small gathering in a middle-of-nowhere house in Fort Collins, singer-songwriter Danielle Ate a Sandwich interrupts her own show.

Without stopping her sandy ukulele solo, her voice acquires pronounced perk: “Hey, its Otem Rellik!”

Her listeners follow her gaze to peer over their shoulders at the rapper, one Toby Hendricks, a husky 25-year-old who sports an unkempt chinstrap beard that dribbles out of his trucker hat with redneck finesse. Faced with a room of eyes, he shoots a smile and a wave before taking a seat near the back of the room. Attention then returns to Danielle, whose performance continues as if nothing’s happened.

But something has happened; Otem Rellik, the white guy whose experimental brand of electronic hip-hop has put him among Colorado’s “best kept secrets”, has just walked into the building. He’s the biggest name playing tonight. This is the guy whose gone on tour in Europe when the other acts still dream of booking a bar gig in Denver.

Despite this, the expected Kanye-bravado is absent; Hendricks looks like he’d rather go unnoticed, at least until he is safely behind a mic.

“He’s a quiet kid,” says Braden Smith, who signed Hendricks to his label, Denver-based Ponowai Flora Records, in 2006. “I wanted to get (his music) out there more than himself.”

“Toby is probably the most harmless guy I know,” adds friend Jonathan Alonzo. “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and I think it was kind of surprising, because it was like ‘Oh, he’s the hip-hop guy, he’s probably got an ego.’”

True to the quiet nature that his friends and associates speak of him, the soft-spoken Hendricks has few comments to offer about his upbringings, unless music is somehow involved.

He says he has enjoyed growing up in Fort Collins, the city where his love for music was cultivated.

“Back in the day, it was mostly Public Enemy and N.W.A.,” Hendricks says. “I grew up listening to whatever my brother and my older brother listened to.”

A decade later — after a “ska and punk phase” in middle and high school — Hendricks said a friend introduced him to the synth-stocked sounds of Anticon, a San Francisco hip-hop label.

“It was so much different than the hip-hop I was currently listening to,” Hendricks said. “It turned me on to a lot more experimental stuff, not just in hip-hop but in indie rock and electronica and everything.”

Hendricks lists the entire Anticon lineup as his influences, specifically citing Doseone and Sole as artists who sparked his interest in using cold, crunching electronics as a backdrop to fast-paced rhymes. Discovering Anticon “opened the doors” for Hendricks.

“The more I listened to it, the more I wanted to make something,” Hendricks says, adding that he was eventually compelled to purchase a Casio keyboard and a TASCAM four-track recorder one afternoon in 2003. “I just tried laying out songs the best way I knew how. I was just like ‘What can I do with this?’ with no expectations whatsoever.”

Where he might have relied on expectations to drive him into furthering his art, Hendricks had his experimentations.

A particularly rousing session on the World Wide Web introduced Hendricks to circuit bending, a practice in which musicians rewire electronic devices to generate new sounds. Inspired, Hendricks began to explore the innards of his Casio, toying with wires and rerouting circuit points. The result: a weird lo-fi piano machine with every key purring displaced pitch. Hendricks says he isn’t entirely satisfied with his first creation.

“It’s kind of hard to work it into music… you’re trying to have a chord progression or something and you have a really weird, out-of-tune Casio,” he says.

Regardless, Hendricks has made a hobby of circuit bending, a pastime that has powered him through three EPs and five albums; he’s manipulated everything from Speak & Spells to talking-string dolls to achieve his musical mischief.

Smith admits that Hendricks’ brouhaha was a little off-putting in his first listen. Smith, who performs under the moniker Ancient Mith, first met Hendricks after a performance at the Larimer Lounge in late 2006. Knowing of Smith’s label, Hendricks handed him Petrified Human Project, his then-latest recording.

“I got like six or seven CDs that night, and seriously, that was the only one that was worth a shit,” Smith says. “I didn’t even like it at first… then I gave it another listen and was like ‘Yeah, I need to get a hold of this kid.’”

Hendricks signed onto Ponowai Flora Records later that year, working closely with Smith to improve his melodies and musical connectedness to produce his most recent album, Chain Reaction Robot, which dropped in March 2008. When asked what appealed to him about the music, Smith points to the lyrics, which Hendricks barely brings above a mumble as he softly pours his words into the mic.

“I don’t think Toby’s music is for everybody, I really don’t,” Smith says. “But I think there’s a realness and a emotional connection. I’ve even learned from watching him in that sense of taking just absolute personal issues and just airing them, whether they be the stupidest smallest thing, or just the biggest thing.”

The critics haven’t entirely agreed.

In his semi-approving review of Chain Reaction Robot, Rocky Mountain Chronicle music critic Elliot Johnson dug at the rhymes of Otem Rellik: “…his subject matter is obsessively confessional (i.e. anyone who uses the word “emo” as derogatory, which is most everyone who uses the term, will run from this album after Track One.)”

Hendricks remains entirely vague about the experiences and situations that inspire his lyrics, even with the curious journalist. His simple answer: “Most of the stuff I write about is generally about bad things.” But he takes offense at being labeled as “emo”, even when it’s directed at him offhandedly.

“There’s so much associated with that word, and a lot of it is negative to a lot of people,” Hendricks said. “Tupac made emo music according to what emo music is. His lyrics are emotional, but he’s making gangster rap, so why would you call that emo?”

It’s about 1:22 a.m. back at the house, and Otem Rellik is making preparations.

Most of the crowd has petered out, but the few who’ve stuck behind watch as Hendricks arranges his magical table of wire-crossed gizmos: two circuit-bent Casios, an iPod, a drum machine, a row of pedals set to distort and echo with the turn of a knob, a Speak & Spell and one disembodied doll head at the bottom of the mic stand.

“I’m not one for hip-hop, but Toby really makes me like it,” says friend and fellow musician Marty Albertz. “It’s his style. He’s not at all musically trained, so everything he’s doing is different.”

As Hendricks introduces himself to the crowd, his fingers hover above the various gadgets, which gleam like fluorescent fairies in the darkened basement of the house. And even now, behind that safe and warm mic, his bashfulness is showing; his eyes keep to his table, directing his fingers with clockwork precision, stabbing and twisting and dialing and flipping as he sings along with the melancholic fuzz he’s creating.

Here, among friends and dedicated friends, including a fawning girlfriend, one has to wonder why Hendricks has such a hard time with eye contact. This is, after all, his place to be.

“At a (concert) venue, you don’t know the people and they don’t know who you are. Half the time it’s just people going there to drink, which generally is a crowd of people who aren’t even into what I’m doing anyway,” Hendricks said. “House shows are definitely more appealing to me: more relatable people there, and they’re more fun, generally a lot more fun than playing at a venue.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Folk meets coffeehouse rock: Guitarist Josh Dillard draws influence from darker days

Originally published in The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Josh Dillard had to laugh.

He stood in his Cleveland apartment one winter morning in 2003, and while brushing his teeth, he began laughing.In an hour or so, he'd be in the post office, and in the next couple of hours, he'd be delivering mail.

By the time he returned to his apartment, some 13 to 14 hours later, exhaustion would bar him from working on the one thing he had come to Cleveland to do: music.The irony of it all hadn't yet driven him entirely insane, but right then, Dillard couldn't help but laugh at his situation, a time he recalls as one of the darkest in his life.

Dillard, today, is a soft-spoken 27-year-old CSU graduate with a degree in social work. These days he serves with Timberline Church and CSU's Campus Navigators, yet finds plenty of time to practice his craft. His weapon of choice is a Gibson 45, and when combined with his feathery-bare vocals, he has produced a coffeehouse acoustic sound that has defined his first album, "The Kate EP."

While he says his sound isn't original, "The Kate EP" has fared successfully for Dillard since its release a full year ago, drawing an audience and recognition from Fort Collins' local music scene. This Saturday, he'll be appearing at Everyday Joe's for a 7:00 p.m. performance. While Dillard has enjoyed the emerging success, he says he owes much of it to those darker times in life.

"Sometimes, we don't seek the things we need when we live comfortable," Dillard said. "We need to be challenged before we realize it, before we look into ourselves."

Running down a dream
Six months prior to his giggling-toothbrush revelation, Dillard had completed an unfulfilling freshman year at CSU.

"I had completely set my mind on leaving school to pursue music," Dillard said. "We were young, na've."

With his best friend Dan Graeve alongside him, Dillard dropped out and took to Cleveland, floating on dreams of bringing together a band and signing with a label. There, he and Graeve conspired with Dillard's cousins, forming Beggars & Thieves. Mere months into existence, Dillard's group quickly fell apart.

"(Graeve) left pretty early. Probably three or four months after we moved out there, he went back to (CSU)," Dillard said.

It was the beginning of darker days for Dillard. Graeve's departure, he says, got him thinking about his own existence, bounded to Cleveland by a year-long lease, taken up with the long hours of various odd jobs which included the role of mailman.

"After three months at the post office, it just got too hard," Dillard said. "I was living by myself, not seeing anybody, working crazy hours … I decided I needed to get out."

In the summer of 2003, Dillard made his way back home to Fort Collins, were he worked for a year and a half before returning to CSU. With a degree in one hand and his Gibson in the other, Dillard said that he has turned his attention to the art of sharing.

"I try to use the small Gibson I have as a vessel to love people, to help people get into the music," Dillard said. "When I'm playing an instrument to just share an experience, I just hope someone could grab onto a little bit of wisdom from a trial I've gone through."

Dillard said he is also focused on his church and the Campus Navigators, sharing his beliefs with others. Cleveland, he says, pushed him closer to God, and he's considering a future as a missionary.

"I've gotten a lot closer to Christ," Dillard said. "I've had a greater passion to know him personally, to share him with others, and I'm continuing to see that grow within me."

And while Dillard says his beliefs have influenced his music, he refers to various life experiences as his music's foundation.

Sharing is caring
His folksy acoustic sound is influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon, while his lyrics are born out of experiences of both light and dark natures. The entirety of "The Kate EP," for example, centers on a previous relationship of Dillard's.

But there's a certain responsibility in writing about oneself, he adds.

"I think a struggle for a lot of musicians is, for a lack of a better term, self-clarification," Dillard says. "It's easy for music and art to be about the artist, when it might have much more value from sharing that experience with someone that might gain from it."

Dillard is currently writing music for a future album, and hopes to start production by the end of winter. As for the future, Dillard has some sense of where he'll be heading with his music. All it took was a year in the heart of rock n' roll.

"The winds have changed since the beginning, my focus has shifted," Dillard said. "Music is no longer a priority of making a label, no longer the end-all-be-all. I've found other things in my life that mean a lot to me, and I always want those things to be a part of my life."

Music of Dillard's album "The Kate EP" can be heard at Dillard's MySpace page and is available for purchase off of iTunes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Christina Dietz Tries On Different Fittings in New EP

Originally written for Colorado Music Buzz
The first time Christina Dietz played the role of street performer was on a “delicious” summer afternoon in Laguna Beach, where the blue ocean chortled endlessly from across the street.

It was a picture-perfect setting, but a less then comfortable situation for a 14-year-old girl who would need to loop her five-song set list — a collection of lovey-dovey tunes she had written herself — across the span of three hours. However, the attitude and atmosphere somehow clicked, and Dietz’s passerby audience put her up $200 in donations by the end of the day.

“My sister just had her first job at Cold Stone that day, and she was heartbroken when I came home with $200 from playing all day,” Dietz says, speaking from her Monument home. She adds, with a laugh: “She had made, like, $20.”

It’s a cherished memory in the present day life of the pale-skinned 18-year-old singer-songwriter. Dietz said that day inspired her to pursue music and continue performing throughout the streets of her native home, Orange County, until moving to Monument two years ago. Since moving to Colorado, Dietz has risen from the streets to the stages with a slew of performances across Colorado venues (and a few back home on the California coast during the winter.)

This July, however, could prove to be Dietz-less. The guitarist will be heading out to California to meet up with her new producers, Craig Zarkos and Anthony Catalano, and begin preproduction for her new EP, Let’s Just Kiss. Dietz and Zarkos have been close acquaintances for years, but it was only recently when Zarkos and his new friend Catalano approached Dietz about putting together a new, sweeter-sounding set of tracks. For her, approaching the new album has meant honing the fundamentals.

“I want to sharpen my voice as much as possible before I record.” Dietz said. “It takes a few hours of a capella practice every day. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good for me, it’s like my vitamins.”

It’s also meant rethinking her sound; Dietz is looking to depart from her former acoustic style and slip into something more comfortable.

“I’m really inspired by European burlesque, cabaret, theatrical music,” Dietz said. “It’s something I’ve always been curious about… that whole atmosphere, burlesque girls and their little songs and dancing.”

The title track of the album is a mystical mix of alluring backing strings, corrosively catchy vocals and a psychedelic electric guitar solo to notch. So far, it’s the only track off the new EP that Dietz has laid out, as she plans on recording the rest of the album in August. She expects Let’s Just Kiss to be available for purchase by the beginning of September and hopes that when people take a listen, they’ll come away impressed.

“I think it’s going to be different,” Dietz said. “I don’t know if that’s too much to say, but I personally haven’t heard this special sound that I’m going for. I just want to create something that’s so special that people can’t really quite tag it.”