Monday, March 30, 2009

unknown (guilty) pleasures ...

Look at these tools. How can anyone possibly get behind a band like Maroon 5? That would be my knee-jerk reaction to M5, but truth be told I've become quite fond of their tune 'Sunday Morning' off their 2002 LP Songs About Jane (listen to it, it's undeniably great). It's easy for pretentious music folk to write this band off thanks to their over-produced neo-blue-eyed soul that sounds like it was perfectly tailored for a pop radio crowd that digs Panic at the Disco and other such garbage. I probably would have done the same, except that I've heard some of M5's songs, and I like them. That said, I know nothing past their first album because I haven't been keeping up with the hits stations, so they could seriously suck now. But the 4 songs I know from their first, via Pop Radio in the Wes-tech weight room c. 2003-2004, are awesome. Maybe the recent this group gets little respect from the Pitchfork crowd is the lead singer, Adam Levine. I mean, look at him, what a d-bag, right? I think his (unfortunate) appearance on so many hip-hop singles has paradoxically really hurt his cred (he thinks he's hard!). But he can sing, and his voice has a weird uniqueness that I kinda like (but not in rap songs). Just check out 'Sunday Morning' a Stevie-style jam with a straight-up Sir Duke style horn intermission. Levine isn't the most talented white soul singer around today (see Jim James) but he's got his own thing. And the songs are great. Does it help the bands cred that Songs About Jane was originally an indie-release in 2k2 that didn't get well known until 'Harder to Breath' and 'This Love' blew up in 03-04? Should this matter? Is it okay for me to like this band, or should it make me feel guilty? I think Maroon 5 strongly represents my ongoing personal struggle to accept music just for how it sounds and how much I enjoy it, regardless of what the alt-press says or how mainstream it is. Here goes ... I like Maroon 5.

... that wasn't too bad, was it?

Great beard sighting

I'm virtually positive I saw Glen Hansard, leader of The Frames, star of Once, walking through NoHo today. It was a little after 9 pm, and I was walking west on 3rd Street, near Sullivan Street. All of a sudden I saw Mr. Hansard, or a doppleganger of his, walking towards me coming from the other direction. Not only did this guy look exactly like Glen, but he was wearing a very Once-esque outfit, some sort of baggy folksy street-busker ensemble. I guess the latter observation might detract from the cogency of my claim, given the proclivity of Village-folk to where ridiculous clothes. However, I stand by my conviction, because the resemblance, especially his expression, was uncanny. He just had the sad, distant look in his eyes (see picture) that he kept on repeat throughout the movie. 'Mr. Hansard' was not alone, walking alongside him was a pretty young thing wearing black sunglasses (at night!) under a wide-brimmed black hat. She definitely wasn't Marketa Irglova, but then it wouldn't have made sense if she were, now would it?

Taking this opportunity to plug Once: good movie, but the songs in it were actually fantastic. That was the part of the movie I didn't expect to like.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

... I shouldn't have left you with a dope rhyme to step to

'I'm Confused' by the Handsome Furs. Video of the day. Stick around until the end, that's the best part. Great song, too. Watch this, and it's pretty obvious why I have a crush on Dan Boeckner.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pogue mahone

Special St. Patrick's Day edition. Top 5 songs from the Pogues. Keep in mind, all of my selections are from either the 2nd or 3rd Pogues album, mainly because I don't know much of their later stuff. Also, what I have heard of the later stuff tends to kind of suck. Here goes:

5. Turkish Song of the Damned - Although the Pogues 2nd LP, If I Should Fall From Grace With God occasionally comes off as overly commercial and party-friendly, the album's stylistic excursions shouldn't be overlooked. Here Shane MacGowan and co. dabble in Middle-Eastern music. However, rather than appropriating the sound, they integrate it seemlessly into their punkish brand of Irish traditional, resulting in a rousing, anthemic rave-up.

4. The Broad Majestic Shannon - If you peak ahead on this list, you may notice that 'Fairytale of New York,' the Pogues biggest hit, is absent from my list. The reasons of this are 2-fold: first, it already hit-up my best of Christmas list. Second, 'The Broad Majestic Shannon,' from the same album as 'Fairytale', shares a near identical melody, but is, in my opinion, the more emotionally poignant of the 2 songs. "The last time I saw you was down at the Greeks', there was whiskey and soda and tears in her cheeks." MacGowan beautifully melds the gorgeous tune with a tale combining memories, past love, and the Irish countryside. So much better than a Christmas song with a string section and a piano solo.

3. Dirty Old Town - Writing this entry from my hometown of Ithaca, this song currently holds extra meaning for me. Although not penned by MacGowan, its mix of reverent nostalgia with hopeless disgust is perfectly suited to the thematic stylings of the Pogues. Its lazy tempo, minimalist instrumentation, and stellar MacGowan vocal performance lend it additional emotional resonance. There's no better song to play while driving around your hometown on a slow Tuesday afternoon than this one.

2. The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn - Might as well say it: this song is about getting wasted, and there's no better song about getting wasted than this one. What's amazing is how MacGowan is able to convey this simple theme through a mix of mythological/religous allusions and perverse imagery. Check the following lyrics: "Do you remember that fell evening/ When you heard the banshees wail?/ There was lazy drunken bastards/ Singing 'Billy's in the bowel'/ They took you up to midnight mass/ And left you in the lurch/ So you dropped a button in the plate/ And spewed up in the church." Of course, MacGowan's characteristically brilliant musings are accompanied by an ebullient, uptempo traditional Irish melody that goes extra heavy on the penny whistle.

1. If I Should Fall From Grace With God - Not just the best Pogues song, but one of the greatest pop songs of all time, in my humble opinion. Let's start with the music: a full on, punk-rock speed assault of snare drum, accordion, fiddle, penny whistle, and probably some guitar, congealed into an incredibly hooky approximation of what a great garage rock song would sound like if performed by a group of Irish traditionalists. Shane MacGowan snarls and spits out each verse with vengeful menace, and is joined at the end of each verse with a chorus of "Let them go, boys!" that sounds exactly like it's being sung-along by a choir of drunken regular at an Irish tavern. And goddamn, those verses. Read straight from the lyric page, they might sound like anti-Christian, xenophobic rants. However, when growled by MacGowan against the gloriously stirring musical backdrop, they come off as general declarations of righteous defiance, inviting you the listener to pick your own target: "If I should fall from grace with god, where no doctor will relieve me, bury me beneath the sod, where the angels won't receive me!" The icing on the cake is the electrifying 'banshee' scream MacGowan uses to punctuate the end of each verse. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Monday, March 2, 2009

New crush

Courtesy of the pitchfork's newest 'ADD' segment, I've got a new huge crush in the musical world. Meet the blond one in the Vivian Girls (that would be the one with the guitar front and center). Now I know that probably every indi-rock head/ altbro on the planet probably has a crush on this chick by now. I, however, was somehow under the impression that all the members of this band were, well, homely (really tripping over myself trying to be PC right now). This is great because now I can really start to get into their undeniably catchy tunes. I wish I wasn't a chauvinistic pig, but I'm just trying to be straight up here. However, this places the blonde Vivian in direct competition with my other current faves:

Neko Case - Debatably attractive, but she's a flaming red-head and just dropped a killer new album.

Beth Murphy- Cute, bony, occasionally bespectacled keyboardist for Times New Viking whose girly bangs and tank top wearing make me swoon.

and finally ...

Sue Tompkins - Life Without Buildings sparkclub enchantress who I've never actually seen a reliable picture of. But just listen to the way she sing/shouts/coos "No details, but I'm gonna persuade you, the right stuff!" I go dizzy every time.