Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dead Poet, No Punchline


Dorothy Porter died very recently and I've been thinking about her all week. Once upon a time I read her Wild Surmise and it hit me in a way that felt very real. As if it was something personal. That book in particular, it really got to me; it still does. Afterwards, I carried around a little fantasy of meeting her in person one day, of letting her know how much her work had meant to me. We lived in the same city, it turns out – the same suburb, even. It was bound to happen eventually.

Now, this all seems overwhelmingly stupid and pointless and self-absorbed of me.

The words aren't right, but for sheer feeling I'm thinking of the music around the last line from that Neil Young song: "what a killer..."

...

Monday, December 15, 2008

To save us time, Rage / Roundup @ mid-December / Totally Haiku

(I'm working THREE jobs
for the next month or so. Whoops.
But next year, just wait...)

"Freakish dance" motif:
genuine weird, or just pop?
Great song anyhow

Arrangement dull, tune
dull, and video is dumb.
She's wearing no pants!

There's a mood and feel
and a sound, too: all sort of
1984

Simple but smart clip
surprises, gives slow burn song
time to grow on you

This is better than
you think it is. Sarcasm
is in its right place

Synthesizers are
here to stay. English strange-pop.
Thanks, 80s Bowie

Classic hiphop sound,
excellent rapping. Clever!
Also, great band name

From sounds-like-Outkast
who's this? Intriguing...


& in case I was
unclear above, yes I do
like The Fear. --Thoapsl

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I am too busy to discuss music videos. In lieu:

So I was all like "yeah sure, I know it'll be tough" and hey: nobody ever said it would be easy to make a living, playing the harp. But this was the worst gig ever. First I sold all my clothes for a curtain, and it doesn't even cover my boob. Then I tripped over and lost my shoes. And my harp is so slippery I keep on dropping it and busting strings, and it's not even a full-size harp. Also the lighting technician sucks.
No wonder that stuck-up Joanna Newsom bitch never writes me back


i take it back i take it back! i love you j-n, you are awesome!
or should i say, you ys awesome, lol


--(Thoapsl disavows actually writing any of this)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sometimes you don't notice something for six months

and then you see it on a wall somewhere


and it makes you grin.

On a mostly unrelated note: here's something I read today. It's either irrelevant or in bad taste to mention it in the same post as the pic above, but who cares?
(Non sequiturs are still awesome, right?)

--"Topical Is Not Under Your Skin" Thoapsl

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rage Roundup - @ November 2008, Part II

and here we continue, with

PART TWO: or, Okay Then, Go On & Convince Me That "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" Is A Masterpiece Of Pop Avant-gardism, Go On I Bloody Dare You

(& apologies for the several non-embedded youtubes here, by the way - you'll have to follow the links. Why, oh why do they decide to disable embedding? Why? What, exactly, are they hoping to gain? Those lousy dirty bums, why I oughta...)


It took me weeks to actually grab this. Three times I watched, listened, and left it: "ah, it's sort of interesting, but nah... it's just another dull dance song". It grew on me, though. Every time I listened, another interesting little complexity of the arrangement revealed itself. This is not your typical piece of bland, doofy dance; the melody seems slight at first, but it's bizarrely addictive. The video is smartly done, too. It's visually arresting (great colour, striking compositions) without actually meaning anything. But that's cool; there's a subtle sense of humour about the whole thing. I can't escape the sense that one way or another, this is good stuff.

The Datsuns at their best are a superb live band: the first time I saw them, I practically swooned at their awesomeness. But they're in a weird place right now, like all the surviving groups of the early-00s New Rock wave. Have they lost their way, a bit? If a band does quite well, but after several years they still don't make it to huge success despite big expectations, do they have a crisis of consciousness? Or, maybe not...
Anyhow, this is a good & interesting new Datsuns track. It's a heavier sound again, after their last album went down some unexpectedly folky/acoustic/experimental avenues (they were going for a bit of a Zeppelin III angle, I assume). Hard rock'n'roll is a very difficult genre to be in (especially in today's zeitgeist). Even if you're as excellent & inventive as the Datsuns, there's a certain inevitable stylistic monotony that it demands. Balancing that-what-makes-it-rock with good songwriting and musical interest is a tricky task. I think they do a reasonable job here, though; it veers dangerously close to The Hives, but they keep the melody up. The Datsuns may never again do anything as brilliant as MF From Hell, but who could? Either way, this is a fine piece of rock (& hopefully too, a good sign of things to come).

I heard this a few months ago - being the musical trend-butterfly that I am, I looked up their myspace after a genuine musical pulsereader talked them up in a street press article - and now here's a proper release out. This is good. It's basically 1967 Cream, but that's not a bad thing; it plays like a more laidback, ego-lite version of Wolfmother. Less bombast, more cool. (However: now that fame and ambition have destroyed Wolfmother, will these guys be next? Or will their casual self-assurance and apparent modesty see them through? Stay tuned...)
The video is quite nice as well. Stop motion watercolours could be too-obvious psychedelia, but somehow it's not. Very nicely done. If they can put together an entire album that's this good, they really might be a next Wolfmother.

Is this a lone single, or the lead for an imminent album? The publicity is certainly slick and important; youtube only has a teaser, while the full video is hosted in quicktime at its very own website...
AIH are an easy band to hate, but I've always had affection for them. I saw them play at Melbourne Uni a couple of times when they were still fairly unknown, and their inventiveness and sheer fun impressed the hell out of me at the time. They've changed an awful lot since then (in mood, in tone, in lineup); but their musical sense for a pop hook is even stronger. With this track, they're continuing to move away from their indie chamber-pop origins and further into modern electropop. It's easily the slickest production they've ever used. And that's not a bad thing, necessarily... because it is still a good, irrepressibly catchy tune. I like the lead vocal; the singer does something that too many pop singers forget, which is to put some emotive expression and play into the words. The "beep beep" backup vocals are a bit daft; luckily, for the most part they're so processed that you don't even notice them as voices. But by the time the breakdown "you got that beat" line kicks in... are people going to snigger, or is the rest of the song strong enough that they'll just go with it? The more I listen the less it bothers me, so maybe it'll do fine. A lot of people are going to absolutely hate this song, but I'm not one of them. Yet.

This is the eeeepitome of what's going on right now: dancey electropop that melds faux-80s synthstalgia with millenial French house. The guitar tones here are especially "oh yeah, it sounds just like that old Daft Punk record..." - not that that's a bad thing. It's a pretty decent track, even if it camouflages its lack of songwriting with some pretty transparent production tricks (multiple breakdowns, rising back up from silence with the sound muffled, repeating things over and over with only slightly different vocoder lines). But they manage to chuck in a synth-guitar solo; that's kind of cool.
The "old VHS tape" video is amusing, even if the modern sound fx production on the track soon kills the illusion. This clip is great, actually: it's one of those things that perfectly captures what people think they remember about the 80s, even if the (anachronistic) mashup is totally 2008. I'm just old enough to think about the 80s with a mixture of both nostalgic fascination and horrified remembrance, so the zeitgeist's current 80s kick is pretty weird for me.
Yeah. Definitely a bit weird.
 
ps: "Don't be on with her" - what does that actually mean? Any suggestions?

Just was always an excellent song, but Ronson's rearrangement really brings out its funky, hooky elements (as Ronson is wont to do). It's a fun cover tune - good enough that it's not even pointless - but it's really worth it for the clip. The original Radiohead video was a total classic, and this "cover" video is a wonderfully affectionate parody. It wouldn't mean much if you don't know the original, but it's hilarious if you do.

This is astounding. Seriously, if you played this to someone fifteen or twenty years ago - or even just ten years ago - would they believe that it was simple, mainstream pop? Sure, it holds to a relatively conventional verse-chorus structure, but I'm sure that everything aside from the vocals would have seemed completely insane (or at least, hopelessly avant-garde) for pop, only a decade ago. The lack of explicit harmony in the verse, the unconventional and relentless percussion, the sinister chromatic movements underpinning the chorus... listen up, people, this stuff is nuts! Producers like Timbaland have spent the past several years fostering an unprecedented acceptance of experimental rhythms and harmonies in pop, and we should all be freaking amazed at their success.
Why does this song strike me in particular, though? Mostly, I think it's because the music here is so especially strong, and the melodies in particular. The harmonic tension in the chorus is brilliant; the bridge is quite good, too. And the video is very striking: Beyoncé and two dancers, dancing on a bare set, filmed only in black & white. It's an oddly-choreographed dance (ie, odd for mainstream pop; ie, dance moves that a stripper probably wouldn't do) and it's filmed with very few edits (except for a few intense jump cuts near the end). The camera zooms dynamically while the lighting pulses black-and-white in the background. This is not a typical video. (It's also a hell of a lot better than the video for Beyoncé's other single of the moment).
Do you believe me? It's all true, I swear.

til next time...
-the Musical Thoapsl

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rage Roundup - @ November 2008, Part I

Okay, waiting a month between Roundups is possibly a bad idea. Too many interesting clips back up; and who can be bothered to read a post that's longer than half a dozen clips?
So, okay then. This post is hereby broken in two, and I'll put the second half up later in the week.
If you're wondering, Part Two is better...

PART ONE: or, Melbourne Defeats Sydney

She has a very awkward name, and her debut single was genuinely interesting (if a bit naff). But her subsequent singles were dull & unremarkable ballads; she was aggressively marketed into the "female-singer-songwriter-mainstream-but-quirky-but-not" niche to within an inch of my good will. So I lost interest. Which was a good thing, because it left my expectations for this new single so low that I heard it and thought "oh yeah, this is kind of all right".
Miller-Heidke really should be terrible - she still hasn't lost the aura of being manufactured, and her "ooh how quirky" affectations still seem insincere - but somehow this is actually a pretty neat song. Maybe it's the self-effacing lyrics; maybe it's the catchy, dancey production. (Earlier Miller-Heidke singles were all pianos and natural drums, but this is processed & synthy dance-pop; it's an interesting change of direction). That said, there's also a lot to find annoying here. The verse melody sounds like it was clumsily rewritten to include more notes; the chorus is a little weak, and the whole thing doesn't stand up so well to repeated listens. It sounds a lot like somebody got their hands on an industry track destined for some throwaway starlet, but then re-arranged it with a few "quirky" flourishes to suit Miller-Heidke's sensibility (and to hide the fact that it was originally written for someone who couldn't actually sing). Recipe for a crossover hit, or worst of both worlds? The video has a fat guy pretending to mow a lawn, so I'll leave it up to you.

An indie track with genuinely "bad" singing, but I mean that in a good way (think of a voice like Thurston Moore, but with less confidence). The vocals are a defiant challenge: if the audience won't stand vocals like this, you aren't interesting enough. But the music itself is quite good. It's dominated by plangent, artsy, circular guitar work that actually is a little like Sonic Youth (though without the distortion or intensity). The sound has more of a '90s-ish, heroin-bubblegum feel. I got excited because I think I recognised where the video was filmed (a rooftop in Carlton, woo Melbourne), but I've never even heard of these guys before; I'll have to check them out.

Apparently this is a side-project of someone from Field Music, but I haven't listened to Field Music much so I can't really comment on the connection. It doesn't matter, though: this is excellent. It's a fantastically snappy, dark, punchy piece of music. Piano chords have very rarely sounded so... metal? It's the drums that sell it, I think. The production is more Berlin Bowie than 80s MTV, but the snare sound is intense. It's a fairly unique arrangement of sounds all over; there's very little around at the moment which sounds anything much like this. The songwriting matches it really well, too. There's a wonderful construction of tension & release: the verse melody builds a powerful, sinister crescendo, but then the chorus vocals are suddenly soft and almost monotone. Excellent stuff.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure I completely dig the video. It's certainly compelling, but the narrative isn't as clear as it might be; what happens at the end? (I liked the musical typing, though.) Check it out anyhow, this single is great.

These guys get more interesting with every release. I thought I had them pigeonholed at their first single, but each successive release has been more inventive and unexpected. It reminds me a little of Pomomofo's recent single Island: as with that tune, although I was unsure & equivocal when I first heard it (read my last roundup), the music grew on me like something shocking. Now, I absolutely love it. There's a lot of stuff that sounds sort of like this floating around at the moment - it's all falling under the vague new label "new rave", more or less - but Late Of The Pier are particularly intriguing. I think it's all part of an interesting late-00s evolution of something that probably began near The Rapture's House Of Jealous Lovers-mode dance-rock: a synthesis of angular, jerky electric guitars (think Franz Ferdinand, or you could even think of The Strokes) with electrosynth 80s-revival squeal (which is everywhere, but you can probably trace the popularisation to Daft Punk's Discovery album). History and influences are beside the point, though. What's important is that this tune is dynamic, catchy, and never boring. There's some intensely rhythmic (and really clever) musical non-sequiturs arranged here, to a level that, in parts, is vaguely like a punk version of Yes. (Listen to the guitar riff after the second verse vocal comes in, at about 1:30 - it's totally prog, and I mean that in a good way. Not to mention, the guitar solo at the end..!)
If there's a obvious weakness here, it's the "it's just a line" chorus; the doofy drumbeat might not have been the best choice. The video is quite neat, though. It gets a lot of momentum from the dynamic visual as it rotates around on an axis, twisting gravity and crashing the singer through surfaces at every corner. It's rare to see a video which matches rhythm and visual as well as this.

Where did these guys come from? Apparently this is one part of an entire concept album, which could be worthwhile. But what I think is interesting here, apart from the good tune, is the similarity of their sound to Fleet Foxes'. It's not a profound similarity (these people are nowhere near as good, for a start), but there's a similar shared template of country-hall vocal harmonies over rhythmic, folkish instrumentation. Just a coincidence, or is it an indication of some broader, new-alt-folk-thing coming along?
(answer: probably not?)

As with their last single, there's something kind of... strange... about the new, poppy angle that CSS are taking here. But while the last single was guitar-heavy (almost grunge, or at least mid-90s alternapop), this is closer to the old CSS sound. There's a greater focus again on the dancey synths, but the feel is much brighter now; the 80s nostalgia is deep and colourful. There are still some weird, squelchy touches to the sound, but it's like their last album ate a whole lot of sugar and decided it would be more fun as a kid than as a grown-up. Maybe success has cheered them all up? Either way it's a great, catchy pop tune, even if the lyrics don't make a whole lot of sense. Lovefoxxx's Brazilian accent still sounds fantastic. I guess if I'm listening to the sounds and enjoying it, they must be doing something right.

Oh man. Oh, man. This is just... oh, man. I must be the exact opposite of whatever the target market for this is, presuming it exists. To me, this sounds like one of the most horrific, cynical grabs for a quick hit that I can imagine. It's an Australian guy (apparently he makes country music) singing in an American accent (so, yeah, apparently he makes that sort of "Australian" "country" music), singing about cricket and forty degree weather (which is fair enough) in an utterly insipid and insincere voice. The lyrics list a few stereotypes without actually saying anything. The music is creatively bankrupt: it's canola. The video is cheap and obvious. Everything about this is obvious. If you can read the title, you already know exactly what it sounds like. This is a music single for people who only listen to talk radio. This is seasonal wallpaper music for people who like the idea of wallpaper. Apparently, he's from Sydney. So there you go.


What do you think? A bit mean, that last one? Is Thoapsl in a bit of a grump? Wait a few days and we'll see whether Part Two fares any better :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A long and tiring week

"You have ten questions," she said.
"Don't you mean twenty?" I asked.
"No. Ten."
"Why ten?"
"It's the shortest number," she replied, "all the other ones take forever."
That's true, I thought. But I didn't say so aloud. Rules! Always with the rules, she is. Damn her and damn her tongue.
"Damn you and damn your tongue! Is everything a game to you?" I asked.
(I might have been a bit loud. I was trying to let a little frustration slip through in my voice - but subtly, yeah?)
"No. Everything is not a game."
"Yeah? Badminton?"
"Yes. It's a sport."
So she didn't know what she was talking about. Honestly, I wasn't too impressed with any of her answers. But it was a sunny day - can you believe that? And I was soaking wet from arm to ankle. This was a worry.
"Do you realise what this looks like?" I asked.
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Yes. Really."
I wasn't sure if she really was really sure, though. She looked a bit shifty that second time. You know how sometimes you have to say things more than once? It was a bit like that. Yeah.
Anyhow, it was time to close things down. To think. Like a brick through the windows of her argument, you know. And there were all these vegetables I was trying to carry with me, too; it was kind of difficult. Not that I'm complaining. I mean, I'm not complaining or anything. Heck no.
"So," I said – there might have been some pointing involved, too – "if you're right, then why do I keep running out of ice cubes?"
"Right about what?"
"Aha! You just asked me a question! Does that mean I win?"
"No," she told me. "And that's why I still have all your old Metallica albums. Now hand over the vegetables and get out of here."

So it's like, every week it's something like this. Forget about it.
Next time I'll bring something sharp.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Is Out Of Context


MENA, AR—After an extensive three-month-long search, the Polk County Sheriff's Department located missing 9-year-old Joshua Meyers in an abandoned home, rescued the child from his captors, and returned him to his loving parents, the still bound and gagged boy imagined Tuesday.


So, check this: surely, the most disturbing article ever published by The Onion. Onion jokes have explored similar territory before, but this particular example is freaking hardcore. The final paragraph, especially...

I mean – wow. Really. This shit is crazy.

This Friday Is Out Of Context Thoapsl Says: A dream is not a traum.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Horsypocrisy?

Here's a question. Is it hypocritical to simultaneously hold the following two opinions?

1. HORSES ARE SCARY AND I DON'T LIKE THEM
Seriously. They're big – bigger than a human! – and they have big heavy hooves with which to kick. You can't trust an animal that you couldn't take one-on-one in a fight. (See also: bears). People try to use horses for transportation and they get kicked at or thrown off, all the time. If you're kicked or thrown off, you're likely to break your head. Horses are unpredictable, nasty, wild, flighty beasts which will hurt you as soon as look at you.

Also, they bite. They smell bad. They aren't very smart. And they leave crap everywhere.


2. HORSERACING IS CRUEL AND SHOULD NOT BE
Now, you take an animal and dress it up in bondage gear. You "break" it psychologically, because that's the only way it will accept another animal sitting on its back. You make it run around in circles, hitting it repeatedly. If it falls over and breaks its leg while you're doing this, you kill the animal, because it's cheaper to kill it than to let it heal and be lame. The justification for all of this? You can make money, by gambling on which horse will run fastest. (Not fastest in general, but fastest over a particular distance and under various unnatural conditions).

The usual reasons we do things to other animals – food for sustenance, clothing for warmth – are relatively justifiable, at least if you accept an essential superiority of human need. But horse racing? How is this not sickeningly cruel, unusual and unnecessary?


- Sunday Night Thoapsl

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Snowblind (Not Snowblind)

in lieu of actual content (but don't bug me, buddy, I been busy): a real simple, nifty idea.

Eerie, no? I hope something actually comes out of this. I'd play it.
Discovered for me by someone who doesn't have a website.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rage Roundup - @ October 2008

Back again, like it never left. Except for the fact that I was out of the country for weeks & weeks, so I haven't done one of these Rage posts since August. But like whatevs, man, who wants to dwell on the past..? And more to the point: what interesting new singles were on Rage this week? Not counting the latest Fleet Foxes single, because if you aren't aware by now of how awesome they are then you haven't been paying attention to me. Or to, um, Pitchfork, or to any of the other thousands of folks singing their praises this year...
No, let's start instead with Josh Pyke.

I keep on expecting to dislike Josh Pyke – he's too MOR, too wishy-washy, too nice, isn't he? – but it's not always easy. He keeps on making songs like this: disarmingly simple at first, but they're built from deceptively strong structures and great arrangements, good lyrics and subtle hooks. The video is fairly dull & twee, but it's well edited so as to intensify the song's momentum (and that's an incredibly useful thing for it to be doing). Once again, this is disconcertingly good stuff from Pyke...


Other singles from this band have suffered from a common indie affliction : monotonous dynamics and a complete lack of tension. But this tune, luckily, has some real momentum to it. It's largely due to a not-especially-original songwriting move – tension from slow-falling semitone chord changes – but there's enough interesting music built around it to keep me satisfied. The bridge between descents is actually great. In fact the arrangement is really very good overall; it sounds like it'd be especially crowd-pleasing live. Like the Wild Beasts' video (see below), the visuals are all variations on a simple visual effects trick; as with the music, however, it's the subtleties of the arrangement which avert monotony. It should be repetitive and unsatisfying, but instead it works really well. Good stuff. 


(Don't be fooled by the first 30 seconds of the clip, btw, it's not what it seems).
I love Deerhoof. I saw them live shortly after their Friend Opportunity album came out, and it was one of the most enjoyable and musically impressive gigs I've ever been to. They're probably be an acquired taste... but go on, make an effort. I say they're worth it.


Dude NBA JAM. NBA JAM. Pomo indeed. I think there's probably an air of trying-too-hard about all of this – the chorus which shouts "you're just an ad for yourself", the werewolfs, the early 90s arcade game references – but there's still something fundamentally decent about it. The synths are great, and the song is energetic as hell. It might be the vocals which are grating on me; they're more shouty and abrasive than they need to be. Or maybe they're not quite tuneful enough. But I think this is some worthwhile stuff here, anyhow – worth checking out.


I'm pretty sure I can guess the producers' rationale for teaming these two together for the new James Bond theme: Alicia Keys is perfect as a modern, credworthy version of Shirley Bassey, while Jack White channels the rockout ballsiness befitting Mr New Seriouser Bond. It doesn't quite work out that way, though. For a start, they're both singing here, even though Jack White has the most un-Bond-theme-like voice since... well, at least since Duran Duran put the nail in Roger Moore's coffin. Maybe it's me, but I just can't get into this. The horns sound tokenistic and unnatural, the lyrics are uninspired, the volume has no climax & vice versa... and Keys' wordless duel with the guitar solo made me cringe. And I'm the kind of person who sometimes likes scat.
Aw, maybe it'll work okay when it's being played over silhouettes of naked women and lava lamps. Casino Royale was pretty great, right?


Eagles Of Death Metal are kickarse fun. I'm not even sure why. It's a weird musical mix, this latest single; the vocals are in parts almost falsetto, the guitars are a fuzzy punch to the head, the percussion is bouncy and the tune a doot-de-doo, the attitude is dense rock'n'roll but it's filtered through this whole weird, post-ironic LA attitude thing... how does it work? It does. Maybe it's the mo.


I came across this and snarfed it off theirspace a while ago – in fact, looking it up just now, that was almost a year ago! But whatever took them so long, they've finally got around to making a video clip & single out of it. It's a catchy song with great momentum and a clever loopy structure; they even chuck in an unexpectedly good saxophone solo at the end. There's nothing particularly original going on, but it's all good and it's all interesting. As for the video: running around Tokyo has become a real 21st century video cliche now, huh? I guess it makes sense: you're a young band, you go and tour Tokyo, you're all like "wow! tokyo is awesome!"; how could you not want to run around the streets filming yourself? And to be fair, the video isn't all Tokyo. And the Tokyo stuff even has funny costumes and dancing, so it's not utterly dull or self-indulgent. Actually, there are a lot of neat visuals here: footage of the band playing, clever graphic cuts between black and white sets, and some great vision of the drummer which looks like it's in slow motion but isn't. Very neat.


This has a lot in common with the sort of meandery indie crap that I tend to dislike (exhibit A, bland vocals), but somehow there's enough of an edge to distinguish it. It's a good song: nice drumming, pleasant organ, a bit of dynamic variation (the lack of which is often the achilles' heel of unpolished indie bands); it's hooky. The unexpected structural turn near the end really builds it well, too. Good songwriting and worth paying attention to, I reckon.


Well, kudos for not taking the boring title route. (In a week when at least two bands release singles titled "Heartbreaker", this is a more kudos-worthy feat than it probably should be). Luckily, the music is also not boring. The vocal has its patchy moments, but episodes of ragged intensity nicely offset the twee falsetto segements. There's some nice drumming and some neat guitar patterns; bit of a post-punk feel to the whole thing. Interesting stuff, if they turn out to have more than one musical trick in their future. Their video, though, takes one visual effects trick and runs it all the way home. Luckily, it's a pretty neat trick; and it's enough.


The lead single from their new album, which has been garnering some odd reviews... but the more I listen to it, the more I think I really like it. The main difference from their earlier albums is a cleaner, more polished production sound. This might seem at odds with the Drones' edge and intensity, but it's because they've maintained that same shredded intensity in their performance that the music doesn't feel obviously "cleaner" or sanitised; it's just easier to hear, and (sonically) brighter. I guess that does make for a subtle change in the emotional direction, an inevitably greater emphasis on their sardonic rather than suicidal aspects... but it feels natural enough to me that I'm not too bothered. The songs are still excellent; of which, however, this is not the finest example. Although: Middling Drones still equal Excellent Most Anyone Else. As always it's Gareth Liddiard's voice which makes it, but the rest of the band are great too.
And as for the video – a bit dull and cheap, you reckon? I'm still not sure if the animation really works, even if it is an homage to ancient Greek pottery art. It's not as interesting as the stock footage montage they used for Jezebel, that's for sure. But then Jezebel was a substantially more impressive song overall, to be honest...


Ten songs is probably an appropriate limit at which to conclude, I think. Too much to write and/or read about, and I have no time besides. Any opinions?

-Musical Thoapsl

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Is Out Of Context


Hey, Jemaine from Flight Of The Conchords has allowed a beard on his face. See here for the context. I especially like the audio book excerpt...

This Friday Is Out Of Context Thoapsl says: A chord is not a disagreement.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What I Did On My Lunch Break


Dentist came in slinking, low and sneezy. I've been talking to your teeth. That's what she said, I think like I'm pretty sure. So okay? Your teeth are good. Very good. No decay, or, other bad things of any descrip', it's all sweet without the bad sweet. No cavities. Nothing else. I looked at the whiteness and it shone, it shone like gold. Smooth and supple. I leaned in close and the mirror reflected only perfection. Like, honest. The saliva glistened. Alive. The calcium was so firm and solid, the structure so perfect, the balance! Oh lord the balance was sacred. Like geometry of pyramids, or crop circles or broken angels tinkling into a whiskey bottle. Oh it was delicious. Your teeth are awesome. Seriously, I love them. I think about them at night. I lie there in the dark, and there's something that feels so right. I curl up under the blanket and I'm going to recommend no change to your current dental regimen. Perfection is. Don't worry about it, yeah. Your teeth are awesome.

Okay'm, I said. No fillings then.

No way man, said dentist. I lifted her fingers out of my mouth and collapsed next to the chair. That's okay, I was sleepy anyway. The next morning I caught my teeth writing a farewell letter, or it might have been a suicide note – I didn't read it more than once. I tossed it into the fire and showed my teeth the back of my hand. How dare you! I said. It was a rhetorical question. If you wrote it down, you wouldn't even put a question mark at the end. My teeth started weeping. I found them hiding in the attic later that night. It was pretty dark, but I'm pretty sure that's who it was. They seemed kind of busy, so I decided not to disturb them.

The next day, the dentist was back in my mouth again. I tried to remove her fingers but it wasn't as easy this time. There were more of them, so it took longer. So maybe it wasn't less easy, it was just more, like time-consuming? Whatever. Totally sick of the dentist. I told her, seriously, I'm pretty sure this consultation was over a short while ago. But she was all like yeah but, housecalls and chalk dissolving in milk and there's teeth cancer going around, kids want the pox but the sick shop was all out so they gave them the teeth cancer instead. At a discount, though? I went to the shop but then my lunch break was over so I had to stop

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Out Of (The) Loop(s)

Hoo-hah.
It's been a while, huh? But here am I, finally back in and/or at my home. Detravelled and unenholidayed. Utterly prepared to type, once again. So what happened while I was gone? Apparently: economic disasters, sporting triumphs, weather, &c. There was some music, I think? I've been feeling kind of weird, all week.

And now it's October. The octopic month. This means that I have only a few months left of 2008 in which to finish writing that great epic novel of mine, find a real job, eat something really delicious for lunch...

Wait a minute, it's already half past two in the afternoon! Too late for lunch!
TOO LATE!

No worries. And speaking of where I am: I'm actually in two minds as to where to go with this blog from here. I certainly don't want to abandon it, but I'm not sure I can give it the attention it really needs while I'm still trying to finish my aforementioned book. ("Great epic novel" = possible misnomer). But if I don't use this blog to actually (and regularlydo something, then it will never be the kind of blog which people actually read. The lazy blogger's catch-22.

Solution: attempt to continue with both endeavours. Just as before. But prioritise the book, because it needs to be finished before 2010 in order to preserve my pride and sanity.

Interpretation: no actual or apparent change.

Hey, am I using this blog entry to talk myself through a personal life matter? That's not what blogs are for! Hecks. What do we say to that sort of malarkey, jungle lady?
Damn right.

--Thoapsl needs a better-sounding pseudonym

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rage Roundup - @ 8 August '8

Possibly the last Roundup for a little while (for some hints as to why, read this). But let's live in the moment, okay? Check this:

End Of Fashion put out several nice tunes three or four years ago, so it's nice to see them back. Their old stuff was fairly standard-sound MOR pop-rock (like Powderfinger with more Perth, I guess), but the songwriting had some interesting turns to it. A sound that was conservative enough for commercial airplay, hooky enough for some pop interest, and (barely) edgy enough to flirt with indie cred. Not much has changed. Odd lyrics, though – "I get so fussy when I'm on my own..." – a very unusual perspective for a pop song to illustrate, huh? The lyrics mesh a little uncomfortably with the video, which is a second-person view of the lead singer apparently torturing a captive, Hostel/Wolf Creek-style. It's unclear whether it's trying to be genuinely creepy or a light-hearted lampoon; by turns, it's both. The song itself is pretty decent, but the arrangement is sort of relentless. With more variation to the dynamics it could have been much more effective, I think.

I've been plugging these guys to everyone I know for a while now, because the two records they've released this year are both utterly, awesomely great and wonderful. This is the first video of theirs I've seen. Actually, I think it's a really bad choice for an opening single – for me, this is one of the (relatively) worst songs on the album*, and it also gives a misleading impression of their sound. While they technically do sound a lot like this, acoustically speaking, the "feel" here is not typical. This song has a very choral feel to the arrangement – or it's almost like a round, or a medieval children's song – while most of their other tracks are stylistically closer to early-70s folk-pop. That might sound pejorative, but it isn't; what makes Fleet Foxes so great is the way they transcend all their various sort-of-sounds-likes to create something so unique. They remind me a lot of the Beach Boys at their weirdest and most baroque (Feel Flows, Surf's Up, Cabinessence, etc). But that's a terrible example to use, because most people are only aware of the surfy-boy-pop versions of the Beach Boys, and if you talk about the weird-baroque-artsy Beach Boys then they're justifiably confused. Anyhow, Fleet Foxes' instrumentation is more stripped-back than anything from the Wilson brothers. The mood is folkier, too; there's a stronger purity of intent.
The video is a cheap claymation – reasonably compelling, but nothing too spectacular. Listen to the music, and then listen to some of their other songs, and then listen to it again.

*PS: there's a bit of confusion going around about the title of their debut album. I think it was originally supposed to be entitled "Ragged Wood", and that's what a lot of journalists called it in early reviews. However, it was released as "Fleet Foxes", self-titled, and "Ragged Wood" is just the name of one of the tracks. Their EP released a month or two earlier is called "Sun Giant". So now you know.

Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward, they're the original odd couple. Or not. But they are unexpected. It turns out that Deschanel can sing with a very appealing croon; her intonation is almost country-style, oddly enough. Her voice is probably a little weak overall, technically speaking, but it's well-served (and the weakness well-disguised) by the arrangement. (And don't mistake me here, it's a voice as good or better than the majority of indie vocalists). The music is quite different from M. Ward's usual stuff, but that's to be expected because Deschanel wrote it. Actors who do music are generally disrespected, so it's Ward who's lending Deschanel the marketable indie cred; but Deschanel probably deserves the lion's share of the respect, given that she's shouldering all the songwriting and the bulk of the performance. It's genuinely nice music, too. The arrangements & production help it along a lot, but it's essentially a very fine tune (and not too generic, either, which is a nice surprise).
It's also a nice video. Deschanel looks great, of course; but if you find her annoying, you can still enjoy watching a goofy series of Deschanels being violently killed (and turning into ghosts). It's light stuff, but it's very pleasant.

I wrote about these guys' earlier single a few weeks ago – Numan-esque new-rave synthy-dance-pop, it was. But this is really something else: a much more avant-garde sound, dense with percussion and full of squelchy, almost P-Funk-ish synth choices. The songwriting is distinctive and clever, and the music even contains a section which morphs from 4/4 to 6/8. There's no more obvious way to proclaim your musical ambition than to change time signatures, right? So they're not techno kids trying to make dance music, they're actually artsy-indie kids trying to make electrish party music. Good to know. They're doing a pretty good job here, in fact; the melody is very strong, the rhythm is addictive but not obvious. Overall, it's catchy and it's a lot of fun. They even called it "The Bears Are Coming" – how great a title is that? More songs like this and fewer like their last single, I'll be a fan for sure.

Now this is interesting. Initially I thought the chorus refrain was annoying, but weirdly compelling... and now I've watched the clip a few times, I'm finding that the compel increasingly overwhelms the annoy. Similarly: the video might at first seem like a really lame attempted satire, but it also becomes more intriguing over time. The surreal visuals and the disconcertingly obvious costumes, the humourous tropes alongside some genuinely sinister content & soundtrack – it's ultimately really effective. The highly produced sound here is very different to their earlier, guitar-heavy stuff, but it might be a worthwhile new direction yet. On the other hand, their last couple of singles were pretty terrible, I thought. So I guess I'm not sure. But I do really want to keep watching this...

I don't think I actually like this, but there's something a little addictive about the chorus. Also, I read an interview with the band where they admitted to all being too young to have actually played Street Fighter 2, which is some kind of horrific; maybe that's why I feel weirdly curious about them (down, down-forward, forward, punch). And the other thing I found rather interesting was the way their lyrics actually reference what they want the audience to do:  "Rip the tune off the compact disc and drag-drop into your favourites playlist / Convert to MP3 and give it 5 stars in your iTunes library" – those are the actual lyrics, no kidding, and it goes on with lines like "set this track as your default ringtone" for a couple more verses, too. Wow. I mean, really, as far as lyrical strategies go this is relatively unprecedented, right? Seriously, wow. So are people younger than 22 really not freaked out by lyrics like that, even just a little?

Aw, they've been around for a little while and now they're starting to go a bit mellow? Slightly emo? Is it serious? Quite possibly, I guess. I still like their sound a lot and this is a pretty decent tune anyhow, to be fair; but it certainly doesn't have the same edge that their earlier singles did. Here's hoping they regain their composure. (Or hecks, if not a composure with the exact "same edge" as before, then at least a more forthright composure/edge than this... either way, I reckon they can do better.)

Ah, so now it's the band of the other guy from The Last Shadow Puppets, eh? An interesting piece of skittery '67±'08 psych it is, too. Finely crafted and musically deft, though it's perhaps a little too long-winded & repetitive (trying too hard to be "epic", maybe?) for it to make for a good pop single. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Overall, the song is oddly intriguing; the lyrics probably aren't as good as they should be, but that's okay. You know what? I think I like it.

Is it ironic to call a song "Repetition Kills You", and then make it annoyingly repetitious? I very much liked the Black Ghosts' earlier clip, "Any Way You Choose To Give It", but this is far less interesting (musically or visually). Ah well, there you go... bloody ironists.

Lyrics in a language other than English, that's always interesting. Though I'm still a little freaked out by the fact that she's now married to the President of France, to be honest. Or is it the President of the French? I shouldn't even mention her husband, I assume he has nothing to do with the music. Which is quite nice, by the way: the tune is extremely catchy, and the music itself is charmingly, tastefully arranged. Bruni has a beautifully expressive tone of voice, too. If this song marks the general tone & standard of modern French chanson pop, then it's a real shame we hear so little of it outside France. And the video is clever & pretty, too. Sweet stuff.


I think that's about all I have the time and/or inclination to write about for the moment. The director's cut of this post reveals that I also liked "Days Of Joy" by Mirror House Antics, and "Hungry And Down" by the Kill Devil Hills. Both of whom work within fairly well-established genres (2006ish pop-post-punk and rockish-bluesy-country-death, respectively), but who both still manage to put unique and worthwhile new spins on those sounds. Pretty much, anyway. Okay, so they're both a little derivative and they're not really all that unique, but they're also both still sharp & newish enough to be well worth a listen. Truly.

I'm about to be late for something, so I'd better stop now. The next post may be posted from another continent, or from October (possibly both). You'll see.

-the Musical Thoapsl

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Collapse!


No, not really a collapse. Not precisely. But hey, you remember how I mentioned in my last post that things were probably about to get "somewhat hectic" for me, "for the next week or so"? Yeah, so I was totally right about all that.

And what's more... right now, there's less than a fortnight until I go overseas for a month. So it looks like it'll be staying quietish around here for at least six weeks. But, hey hey! Look out October! When I'm back, things will be more frequent & regular than ever, I promise. And in the meantime there should be at least one or two more posts before I leave. And maybe I'll even be able to post direct from my overseas holiday, who knows? You will, eventually.


PS: That's one cool picture up there, huh? Although maybe more of a swoon than a collapse, now I'm looking twice. It's apparently by Austin Briggs and I found it here, at  Today's Inspiration – it's a blog all about 1940s-60s illustrations. I came across it just the other day, and it's got some really superb stuff. The perfect background for Mad Men?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Total Geek (Art) Moment


Joe Chill is The Black Glove.


(and I totally figured it out, like, three weeks ago. Whoop)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rage Roundup - @ 18 July '8

Likely to be a little light on posting for the next week or so; things are somewhat hectic for the Social, Working & Other Thoapsls at the moment. Nothing may be out of context for a while. I could write a post about The Dark Knight, but everybody has already seen it and/or posted a review on their own blog already, so there's not much point. If you haven't seen it yet and you still need convincing that you should... well, your ability to withstand pop buzz is epic. However, in this particular case it is misplaced. The Cinematic Thoapsl assures you that, while the movie is not utterly flawless, it is still genuinely excellent. It's an intense thriller with masterfully-constructed story and at least one great performance. And it's probably got, like, subtexts and stuff, if you like.

Wait a minute, this post was supposed to be about new music on Rage! Okay then. There has been some interesting stuff on Rage. So:

(this is not precisely the actual clip above, btw – "embedding disabled by request", but hey people now why request that, people why?)

I thought MGMT were going to be one-hit wonders (that one hit being Time To Pretend), but this is really great. The music has a really interesting, exceptionally now feel to it. You can hear some of the familiar 80s influences (or at least, 80s childhood nostalgia half-memories?) that are floating quite prominently already through the zeigeist of '08, but MGMT are creating something very else out of it all. The tune is pop-melodic and the structure is catchy, and yet the rhythm is in 6/4; it's an unusual and risky choice. But MGMT mash a 4/4 disco stomp against the rhythmic lilt of a superimposed waltz melody, and it works brilliantly. There's an eccentricity to the whole MGMT project that's a bit like Ween, or maybe Beck at his most anti-commercial. The more I listen, the more I like it.
The video reflects the audio quite well, in that it takes a lot of 80s-ish effects and costumes, but then it mashes them together in a very late-00s way; you couldn't possibly mistake the final product for genuine 1988. That's a good thing. Not to mention: the climax has two motorbikes flying through space, and then crashing out of an exploding moon. Now that's how you make a video truly spectacular.

I keep on expecting these guys to do something really excellent, and they keep on releasing almost-not-really-somethings like this. It's just all so familiar, so safe, so much English-manboy-pop. They open with John Lennon mellotron chords, for goodness' sake. It is possible for this sort of thing to break out of the mold – look at the ever-interesting Mystery Jets – but this isn't that. Could it be better?

Expectations – Cut Off Your Hands
Didn't they do this already, like last year? Maybe even twice? But on Rage this week there seemed to be a slightly new version, musically as well as visually. Hmm. Well, it was pretty good the last two times. It's still pretty good. But it makes me wary, when a band re-releases a year-old minor hit rather than take a chance on something new...

This is the first single from their forthcoming second album, and it sounds notably different to their earlier stuff. They've taken a really interesting direction here (trying to avoid this?) – rather than follow their first album's synthy danceparty-rock, they've instead gone further over into guitarland. In fact, in the right ears this sounds an awful lot like 90s alt-grunge. I almost want to say Veruca Salt, but I'd better not. (There's definitely something in the air along these lines, either way... eyes out for the grunge/90s-alternative revival of 2010, & you read it here first). It's still got the familiar CSS wanna-dance-wanna-fight-woo! feel going on in the verse, but the chorus feels a little anaemic to me. I'm not sure it all works quite so well in a more guitar-heavy context. So, what will the rest of CSS album #2 sound like? (Perhaps they truly are tired of being sexy?)

Hmm. Were Pnau fooling me into thinking they're really good, what with great recent stuff like Wild Strawberries, only to switcheroo around into some dull commercial dance, here? I sure hope not. Hmm... but on second & third listen, this actually isn't that bad; in fact, it's not too dull at all. Pnau have real songwriting chops, and although this is much less "immediate" than their other recent singles it's still quite decent. Although it remains perilously close to dull commercial dance. So, don't say I didn't warn you.

Asia Argento sings now? Well, better Argento than Jennifer Lynch, I guess. It's an odd song, this one; all the ingredients are good, but I think the central hook is just a little too repetitious and weak to hold the entire song together. There's a lot about this which I like, but when listened to as a whole it becomes strangely frustrating. Half-baked, perhaps? It's a pity; if there was a nice bridge somewhere, or more & deeper variations on the basic riff, this could have been really excellent.

An acoustic side-project by the singer* from a hardcore screamo band named after a porn site probably doesn't bode so well, you might think. That was what Thoapsl thought (typically judgmental and thoughtless, of course), but this is actually a real neat song. If it had slick modern production, it would probably sound like some kind of epic rock power ballad – the melody is strong enough to carry a feel like that, if it wanted to – but the natural acoustic/live feel is much better. It may be just a sonic trick, but it gives the sound a much more "honest" feel; and in particular, the drums sound great. There's a reasonably interesting visual construction to the clip, too.

*his real name is Dallas Green – get it?

Once again, not an actual orchestra. Also, the song is a fairly meh ballad-wannabe, which is disappointing. What's up, guys? I liked your last single! Oh well, I live in hope. Better luck next time.

Now this is an interesting number. For a song titled "Violator", it sure sounds friendly and welcoming; there's a real peppy bounce to the arrangement. It's another song that's sort of Ween-like, in its melding of uncomplicated pop songcraft with off-kilter production and dissonant musical flourishes. It includes enough unexpected weirdness to be both pleasant and interesting, so I figure it's worth a thumbs up. But the video lets it down – it's mostly a dull mish of alt-90s visual effects. And the whole thing is overshadowed by the singer's utterly hideous & appalling haircut.

If there's any theme to the songs of this post, it's got to be 90s revivalism. It's coming, people. Don't say you weren't warned.

This tune has a pleasantly sweet, country-ish chorus that's a lot like most of Bowditch's past releases, but the verse! The verse is a splendidly offbeat parcel of intensity. Every time I hear a new Clare Bowditch track I'm surprised at the clever songwriting and neat arrangements, so I should really stop being surprised. This is great stuff; the use of horns and subtle background vocals near the song's end is particularly fun & inventive. The video is cheaper than it deserves, but it has a nice sense of humour and it's well put together. Splendid.

I'm finishing up with this one purely because Clem Bastow wrote in Inpress that it sounded "like Gary Numan playing Dance Dance Revolution", which I thought was flippin hilarious and also fairly accurate. Just imagining the expression on Numan's face, the cool intensity as he builds towards a high score... Anyhow, the song is alright, I guess. It's not always fair to criticise a song just because it's very derivative. (And as long as we're talking derivatives, these guys also sound an awful heck of a lot like Grafton Primary, too... so?). I was unborn for the first Gary Numan, but I'm too cynical for these particular ones; and hey, whatever, it's all cool.

And that's enough for today. And who says you can't begin sentences with grammatical conjunctions? Losers, that's who.

-the Musical Thoapsl

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yes, There Is Kate Beaton

My new favourite webcomic.
Her stuff is an interesting mix of strips based on her life or on historical events, with some pure absurdity thrown in as well. At first the art seems amateurish, but I think her line work is actually really good; her grasp of facial expressions is superb, and she's great with all the visual "acting" which makes this sort of stuff work. She's clever and she's funny, etc... *swoon*. So what are you doing over here, reading this crappy, amateurish blog of mine? Go to Kate Beaton, go now!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Is Out Of Context

The context is: this review is not actually out of context at its original home, which is the page of Amazon customer reviews for the Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. For some reason, this product has been singled out for ridicule: practically all the customer reviews (and there are more than 200 of them) are completely absurd. Some are weak, but some are totally hilarious. Here's another one I really liked:

(& thanks muchly to here for pointing it out to me.)

How did this happen in the first place? Was it just because the product is absurdly overpriced? I think it's amazing the way internets spontaneously produce stuff like this. There's something deeply fascinating about group behaviour that manifests for no particular reason. Especially when it's genuinely spontaneous, like this, and not just somebody's marketing strategy.
Fantastic.

This Friday Is Out Of Context Thoapsl Says: A revue is not a comment.