Recycled Mid-Summer Snark

…from Tumblr, n’est pas.

…I think it finally happened. I think this video makes me feel Old.


I mean, I get that the video tells a story of a lonely girl who finds acceptance someplace unlikely, and that it’s Sweet And Stuff — that’s besides the point. Each microgeneration is, in part, defined by how they tell that very story.

…but I don’t get it.

1. I guess it’s now totally, completely fine to decide “okay, we’re gonna sound like New Order or The Cure” and have that be the end of it. This song is “Just Like Heaven”, and nobody cares.

2a. This song smacks of aching, saccharine, cardigan-earnest…is this twee? Did the whole ironically-aping-the-’80s thing find some kind of bedfellow with twee? I guess twee is the pop-antidote to post-electroclash hipster-disaffection?

2b. …is “twee” a word people even use anymore? What about “electroclash”? Why do you people like Lady Gaga so much like 2003 never happened??

3. Is this video about Furries? Am I old because I see this and I think “furry party oh shit let’s see some YIFFING”? Am I making a totally dated reference, or did they miss the boat with the costumes?

Don’t Call It A Comeback…

…mostly because this, too, is born of recycled content.

But, for the superfans, some pointless analysis: networked microblogging sites and short-a-vowel content hosts (e.g., Tumblr, Flickr, and Twitter) have largely displaced and obviated the personal blog (Web 1.x version) by providing a streamlined interface for simple tasks alongside an infrastructure for community formation; “do one thing, and do it well”. On the flipside, having not logged into WordPress for some embarrassing span of months, I was broadsided by its revamped Dashboard that seems inspired by Facebook’s ever-growing bloat of buttons-and-sidebars.

…is this a “duh” thing to most net people? Honestly I came here to make friends and yell about music and maybe trick some people into seeing the Goatse dude again. How tame, the Rickroll. Anyway, here’s some HEALTH that I quite fancy.

...not that the lyrics are at all discernable anyway.

Tracks like this remind me why I’m so smitten with the shoegaze aesthetic: the genre’s greatest successes somehow wrench a gorgeous, compelling frailty out of layer upon layer of disorienting noise and texture. Pitchfork compares it to My Bloody Valentine, and not without justification. I’d point to the Jesus & Mary Chain, if only because the violence that shapes both these bands was easier to find in the latter. A hair I split, mostly for my own satisfaction.

Enjoy.

[ keepin’ the recycleables comin’ ]

I wasn’t as happy with this review for the new M83 album as I’d like to be. While it’s pretty insightful and decent about its prose, I shoehorned it into an unkind, reactionary stance, and didn’t have the time (or courage) to recast it in a more satisfying way. It’s a problem reviewing albums by bands that I’ve already decided to love: such loyalties, in the context of would-be journalism, inspires a compensatory sternness.

With that qualification, more stopgap content!

[ sally shapiro // disco romance ]

More recycled Soundcheck content. Look, I’ve just moved to NYC. I’ll be going to plenty of shows real soon. I’ll have proper content on here in a bit. I swear I’m good for it.

**********

 

Johan Agebjörn, the proverbial wizard behind the curtain, is a dude who keeps it real: in spite of Sally Shapiro’s rapid rise to musicblog prominence, his personal website has refreshingly candid Top 10 lists devoted to his heroes and inspirations. While a catalogue of his favorite classic Italo Disco tracks comes as no surprise, experimental pioneers Aphex Twin and Squarepusher (and even his top ten drum machine sounds) get their shoutouts too. Agebjörn remains explicitly aware of his roots, and Disco Romance benefits immensely from his respectful and detail-oriented hand.Few “modern” albums so successfully assert a retro authenticity: snares and handclaps ring out into a snow-damped soundscape which is at once expansive and hushed. Precise synth stabs and driving basslines provide an anchor without overpowering the mix, exemplifying the muted crispness that points both to the album’s eurodance origins and to the analog warmth of Agebjörn’s ambient-informed production. The album’s diffuse, lo-fi haze is, in effect, its savior: were this album treated with modern studio gloss, it would immediately parody itself. The production even manages to save “Anorak Christmas” — a Scandinavian twee-ballad reworked into a disco Christmas carol — from a campy death.

Ironically, if anything threatens to intrude upon the album’s windowside introspection, it’s the very vocals that initially inspired the project. At its most sublime, Shapiro’s down-soft voice disperses like frostbreath, echoing into the perpetual background of keyboard choirs and strings. However, at times it rasps with inadequately compressed sibilance, growing downright punishing at bop-out volumes. Disappointing, given the attention paid to the instrumentation: one would figure that if Agebjörn is willing to saddle tracks like “Jackie Jackie (Spend This Winter With Me)” with front-and-center dramatic monologues, his treatment of Shapiro’s touted vocals would follow suit.

As passionate as Agebjörn is about Italo Disco (very), it bears noting that most of his musical output falls in the minimalist, ambient vein: in spite of the driving bass and the punchy snares, the album’s tone remains pensive and wistful; it explicitly conjures a sense of wind-blasted solitude. Simply, this isn’t dance music. Disco Romance is less a dancepop album than an ambient tribute to Italo Disco. Granted, ambient tracks don’t modulate a half-step or drop a vocoder to get in One More Chorus, but pop songs rarely stretch out to six minutes without growing unforgivably dull.

Ultimately, though, the album supersedes such concerns as the minutia of musical history and genre lines. In the same fashion as would-be cratemates Air & Stereolab, open celebration of Sally Shapiro’s connection to past electronic acts amounts to retro-driven remodernization, rather than self-dating graverobbing. For all the perverse joy Disco Romance affords hair-splitting historians, it offers significantly more as a well-composed electronic album than an anthropological study; rare are the albums that so effectively inspire emotive contemplation and foot-tapping in equal measure.

[100 Words on This Will Destroy You]

…though, truthfully, I’d have said a good bit more had I the space.

*********

This Will! Destroy You?

The band’s first full-length album finds them experimenting with more varied instrumentation, though often at the cost of overall songcraft. While the band strives to their familiar celestial sweep and crash, the album lacks the strong thematic development necessary for satisfying instrumental rock. Even if E-bow drones and laptop flourishes are welcome additions to their sound, they’re not justifications for songs unto themselves: without adequate grounding in musical tension, dynamic shifts seem obligatory, and instrumental risks come across as gimmicky.

But, I nitpick: ultimately, This Will Destroy You amounts to an ambitious, rewarding album, occasionally plagued by stagnation and inconsistency.

*********

(Originally written for Soundcheck Magazine. Feel the shoehorn.)

Whither soccer moms?

Can I be serious for a moment? Usually I use this space to yell about music, but did you kiddies also know that Auntie Rachel has a degree in yelling about politics? It’s true!

 

Sorry to whomever I stole this from.

Guys. Don’t Laugh. I’m serious.

As is my duty as a blogger, I’m going to talk about something seemingly insignificant that will turn out to be Of Importance. And as anyone who has heard of the internet knows, Facebook is the thing the kids are on about these days.

Facebook has its creepy, all-knowing finger on the pulse of… basically everything. So it would seem natural and beautiful that Facebook would try its hand at helping The Kids stay involved with politics. Among its pursuits to this end: a near-daily poll on (sometimes) relevant political issues. Usually, it’s an opportunity for thousands of people to yell about Ron Paul or cheer on Barack Obama. But this poll really caught my eye (excuse the screenshot):

MS paint 4 lyfe.
(results current as of 2/10)

 

There are lots of implications I could draw from this, but for not-wasting-your-time purposes, I’m going to stick with what was most striking to me, besides the glaring grammar error in the title of the quiz.

Facebook is doing an interesting thing by asking us this question: by breaking down “liberal” and “conservative” into categories describing the social and the fiscal (notably, “moderate” was not thrown into the mix, which itself has implications, but not ones I’m going to discuss now), Facebook is not only taking away our comfy party labels, but is asking us to know what the hell we’re talking about.

And here is where we come to the eyebrow raiser, at least for me: the category “Fiscally liberal, socially conservative” was only entered by 3% of respondents. Now, I don’t have data for this, really, but I do know this: “Fiscally liberal and socially conservative” describes –we’re told by the teevee and the politicians– the largest and most special-est group of voters in the country.

Yes, here are your NASCAR Dads, Soccer Moms, Security Moms, swing voters, and really what I would imagine to be a huge percentage of Americans. Often described as moderates, these are people who, for instance, cain’t abide by no homos, but who depend on social programs like Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, and so forth. These are blue-collar workers whose livelihoods rely on subsidies and tariffs, but who feel that abortion should be outlawed or restricted. (Heck, it’s even what some people would consider the “most Christian”– that is, being charitable and providing for the poor, but legislating what you feel is immoral or ungodly– and indeed of the few Facebook respondents who chose this category, many of them expressed this belief.) That’s a lot of people. Now, it could be that this elusive demographic belongs almost exclusively to an age range not really represented on Facebook, but I think the answer is a little less statistically improbable than that: to have only 3% of respondents identify this way shows what seems like a deep misunderstanding of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” as they relate to social and fiscal issues.

And really, I think the misunderstanding here relates to mainly to fiscal matters. The media do a great job of distilling for us what liberals and conservatives believe socially- conservatives love Jesus and hate The Gays, whereas liberals hate fetuses and love violent video games- as America (The Book) puts it, “the bichromatic rainbow that is American political thought.” “Liberal” and “Conservative” have thus become highly charged words, and we’ve come to feel as though it’s a tiny act of bravery to label ourselves as either one. Certainly, each group feels as though its label has been perverted at the hands of the other group to become a “bad word” in the media and the political sphere. So we all know where we stand socially- or at least we know whom to hate. But because of (what I perceive to be) a general lack of real discourse on most of our media outlets, coupled with the fact that Democrats and Republicans in our government often generally agree on fiscal issues, fiscal beliefs aren’t sexy, and aren’t important. And when “Liberal” and “Conservative” have taken on the definitions they have, suddenly someone who is only familiar with the terms as they relate to polarizing social issues might have some trouble extrapolating that to his or her fiscal viewpoints.

So, then, the least desirable option is going to be the least represented. Those of us who identify as either “socially liberal/economically liberal” or “socially conservative/economically conservative” have already come to terms with being called these things. And those of us who described ourselves as “socially liberal/economically conservative” feel okay about it because we know “conservative” sounds like “saving” and, hey, saving money is good. But if you know that “Liberal” means “the opposite of how I feel about deeply polarizing things” and you don’t have a good sense of how to apply it to fiscal matters, then you’re not going to be so quick to label yourself “Socially conservative/Fiscally liberal”.

I could go on and on. And I’m not calling the Facebook generation (as loath as I am to call it that) stupid- just lazy, and with a larger burden to be proactive. While I do feel that the media and our representatives in government have their hands in simultaneously dumbing down and polarizing our political landscape, I think the ultimate onus is on my generation. Kids, get off your asses and learn about what you believe. Only if you really understand what you believe can you really stand for anything. If you don’t bother to learn, you’ll always be a member of a percentage to be thrown around by pundits and political candidates, and hell, bloggers.

 

 

 

 

let’s dish.

[Insert amateur blogger’s uncared about apologies for not updating, “shit has been busy”s, and the like here.]

Actually, most of the recent news here in the Fortress of Suckitude (Heh, you like that, kid? No, not very good, is it?) has been actual-life-and-not-really-snark-except -to-the-extent-that-snark-is-all-around-us-related. And also Magic: The Gathering-related. But we ain’t here to tell you about our sweet new Wurm-Elf decks. We just wanted to let you know that the (literally tens of) people who visit this page are still in our daily thoughts.

As far as music goes, basically all we’ve got is that Lyn-Z, darling of Azizsucks Google Analytics and frustrated 15 year olds everywhere, has married a douchebag. No, really, I’m sure he’s a nice guy. His band is unspeakably terrible. They are seriously like Simple Plan plus screaming a lot. And Lyn-Z has publicly ridiculed Simple Plan. But love, I suppose, can make you do strange things. Hell, I write in this blog. But seriously folks, we really have no news. And we especially have no news about Matthew Bellamy*.

Oh, and I guess Chad Kroeger did a Rob Thomas. I’ll let you figure out what that means because my eyes and ears have just about reached their shirted-Kroeger saturation point. He’s just been too shirtful lately. But ladies: he straightened his hair!!!

dreamy!

We just can’t stop blogging about him. Can you blame us?

 

But even more than we like bitching about terrible music; more even than we enjoy gettin’ all Jean Teasdale in your shit, we like writing about good things. And I’ve not got much to say. So I’ll peace out. Hope you all are well.

 

 

 

 

 

*Refer to my last post. We’ve since made a compact to mention one or both of those individuals (Lyn-Z or Matt Bellamy, that is) in each and every post to keep the sweet, sweet hits pumping into our e-veins.