Wednesday, March 29, 2006

First Impressions

Currently listening: Josh Ritter’s The Animal Years.

Street date: April 11.
i-know-the-boss date: March 28.
Awesome-media-job factor: 14 days.

First-listen standout tracks:
“Girl in the War”
“Monster Ballads”
“Good Man”
“Here at the Right Time”

Free downloads:
"Girl in the War" and "Thin Blue Flame." Do it.

Already in WXPN heavy rotation:

Most unexpected fun:
“Lillian, Egypt” (for the chorus, which goes: “La di di da da, da da da da da.”)

Best maybe-biblical reference:
“Girl in the War” (for the lines: “Talkin’ to God is Laurel begging Hardy for a gun” and “Paul said to Peter, ‘You gotta rock yourself a little harder.’”)

Outta left field:
“Thin Blue Flame,” a rambling, raging 10-minute epic, famous among Ritter fans for making him “go electric.”

Will lull you to sleep, but in a good way:
“Best for the Best”
“One More Mouth”

Most interesting to see what he does live:
“Lillian, Egypt.” This one used to really cook in concert, and for some unexplained reason he kinda slowed it down on the album. Sounds good anyway, but still, a bit of a head-scratcher.

Buy it?
Yes, definitely. April 11, you’re all over it. I know the boss, and he won’t let you down.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Item 2 Completed!

Benthoven here with a followup on Mugshot's post on video game music. Having been thoroughly hooked on The Advantage's outstanding remixes of classic 8 bit beats (Ducktails! Castlevania! Goonies!), I decided to pursue the subject of video game music further on the Internet. I eventually stumbled upon the following interesting item.

Basically, some very tech savvy types (i.e. nerds) decided to take The Advantage's concept and flip it on its head. Take popular songs from bands like R.E.M., Led Zeppelin, and the like, and remix them using the original audio synthesizer software from the old 8 bit Nintendo.

Some standouts from this selection of "beep-bop" hits?
  • "The Final Countdown" by Europe
  • "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
  • "Closing Time" by Semisonic
All in all definitely worthy of your consideration, if for no other reason than to appreciate the flexibility of the NES as a musical instrument.
You can download the album here. (for free!)
Or peruse the original forum posts that led to its creation by going here. (also free!)
And when you do, feel free to comment on what songs you liked or which ones you think would sound cool given the 8 bit treatment. (comments cost extra!)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Live or dead?

Went to see Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins at the First Unitarian Church Sanctuary this week. It was great, she was gorgeous, the crowd was enthusiastic, the show was wonderful … and yet …

Something was missing.

Maybe the sound wasn’t great, maybe the harmonies were ever so slightly off, maybe the guitars were a little muddled.

Or maybe, just maybe, Jenny Lewis is one of those artists who happens to sound better on record than she does live.

I remember thinking something similar when seeing Rilo Kiley live last year. It was great, but for whatever reason, this is just one band that does a little better with a little studio oomph behind them. That’s not to say they need to be polished. But some bands are like that.

It’s a weird sensation, to be sure, especially for a music junkie. Who else can cite a band they’ve seen that they liked, but not as much as on record? Let’s make a list.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wizard Rock hits Philadelphia

Snobs and condescenders beware: I am about to rave about a teen band that writes music about a series of children's books.

Even if you don't like the books by JK Rowling or the Warner Bros film series, if you have an ounce of whimsy or a sense of humor - you should keep an ear out for Harry and the Potters.

Harry and the Potters are two kids from the Boston area that write indy rock tunes with lyrics about the Harry Potter series. The spiel is that they write VERY catchy music (if it were about anything else aside from Harry Potter they'd still be legit) and have been able to achieve immediate media recognition (stories on MTV and in Rolling Stone Magazine) by using the children's series as their lyrical inspiration. The best part is that their allusions to JK Rowling's universe are quite clever. The delighter is that they rock live and have tremendous energy.

I attended the Harry and the Potters show at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia last night with the only friend I have with the courage to give a band called Harry and the Potters a chance. After an atrocious opening performance by fellow Bostonian's Uncle Monsterface (great name though!), the wizard duo jumped on stage and charmingly introduced themselves "Hi, I am Harry Potter" "and I am Harry Potter too" "We're Harry and the Potters."

From the strong opener "Voldemort can't stop the Rock!" through "Stick it to Dolores," it was clear that the Potters were there to rock hard and often. As a two piece (guitar and keyboard) they relied on pre-recorded drum and rhythm sections which is fine by me - the Flaming Lips have been doing the same thing for years and the Potters each have better voices than the guy from the Lips.

They played a lot to the kids in the crowd "no death eaters here, the POWER OF ROCK has driven them away!" - but their inter song banter was sharper than most veterans and more impressive since they stayed in character the whole evening. Surprisingly the crowd was more "teen" than "kid," and there were a lot of adults - whatsomore, EVERYONE seemed to know all the words. The Potters were also very nice. I spoke to Paul (aka Fifth Year Harry Potter) before the show about a new track the band is working on and he was very personable.

Overall it was a great performance, and definitely worthy of Pitchfork's recognition as "the third best show in America."

More info about Harry and the Potters can be found at the band's website,

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Elvis Costello meets the Kinks in Israel?

So I just returned from Spring Break (woo!!!) in Israel (huh?), where I spent a week travelling in the Holy Land and soaking in all its sunny goodness. One of the highlights of my trip, aside from my several stops at the local shawarma spit for a tasty snack was the discovery of what I think is a brilliant talent.

I was watching soccer on Israel's Sports5. Between games they have random in studio performances from up-and-coming local artists. They mostly underwhelmed me until a particularly geeky looking (think:Buddy Holly) dude named Shy Nobleman started rocking out to his single "Girlfriend." It features some of the most hysterical lyrics I've heard in a long while.

Some of the gems included:

"She gave me ice cream, it felt really nice, but now I am so fat, that I feel terrible about my looks"

"During high school, i hated all the girls in my class. They were so nasty, I thought I was gay."

"Girlfriends are not easy to find. Said my father. Girlfriends are not easy to find. Said my mother. Especially the pretty ones. My grandma laughed at me, laughed at me, laughed at me. "

They really hammed it up and rocked hard too. The next day I went to the local Tower records, and it turned out that the sales guys there love the guy, they'd had Shy and his band in for a record signing a few days earlier, and gave me an autographed copy of the album!

What was most surprising was that the album is consistently good. Lots of moog, every late 60's British power pop trick in the book, consistently funny self deprecating lyrics, and a great upbeat approach.

You can download or watch the video for the single "Girlfriend" at

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

on avery island

so recently ive been listening to again- repeatedly- neutral milk hotel's aeroplane over the sea on vinyl. i had a visitor in my lair here in shallow alto this week, and we played the record for pretty much 36 hours straight before heading in to berkeley (sorry for the not callin freeden- twas a lady so shit was real you know) for some sun, lunch, and, of course, amoeba.

while i was off in the tapes, said female friend delivered the goods: nmh's older album, on avery island, and on wax for 10 bux new no less.

ive always heard this record pales in comparison to aero, and i expressed as much to jeski. her response was brilliant tho, if obvious- what DOESNT pale in comparison to aeroplane over the sea? nothing, really, so, given how much we'd been listening to magnum and co. all weekend, it seemed worth the plunge just for historical perspective, and now on avery island is mine.

my advice: make it yours as well.

that album is incredible. the songs have the same rolling, spooky vibe to them, with more focus on the pop and speed of jesus christ from the old album then on the more funereal numbers. still, those sombre ballads are here to, and theyre every bit as astounding as te ones on aeroplane.

the main difference, truly, is in the production. the acoustic guitars JUST DONT sound like acoustics, because they are so completely overdriven, the result- concious or not- of some shitty ass recording gear. but believe it or not the horns are there- er, really horn, its normally just a trombone, but the effect is pretty similar to the later songs we all know and love. in a way, the album is even more impressive when you realize how young and unpolished the project is, how bad the production is, and yet how ambitious and succesful in its realization.

apropos, ive started the book in the 33 1/3 series about aeroplane over the sea, and we'll see what i learn. if its anything good, ill holla at you dog.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

At the End of the Day

It has been a nostalgia-filled week for me. Last night, I went with Mandolin to see Les Miserables at the Forrest Theatre in downtown Philly. I last saw it when I was about as young as Gavroche, and the production was exactly the same, at least from what I remembered. (Lowender pointed out to me that all productions probably are.) Everything, down to the kinds of voices each character had, were just as I had remembered them from the live and recorded versions, even though most of those involved when I originally heard it must be long gone.

I have no shame in my appreciation of Broadway and its ability to create a standardized, musically whole and dramatic experience. What's more, the songs in Les Miserables are filled with terrific pop melodies, and the tunes from the different numbers are actually interrelated in a meaningful way. Hearing it and seeing it again brought back memories, just like hearing the Advantage play the Nintendo Bubble Bobble theme earlier this week. And like any good indie-rock record, the musical itself is top-heavy, with most of the high quality hits coming in the first half of the play.

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Snobbery or ignorance?

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm no snob when it comes to music. But as I sit in my classroom listening to Sonic Youth's 2002 masterpiece Murray Street, I'm reminded of the annual Spring Fling concert at the University of Pennsylvania, where I saw the band last year. I remember a huge uproar in the weeks before the concert about the choice of Sonic Youth to headline Fling -- after all, SY was not a "big name" like Ben Harper of Dave Matthews. (Never mind that Sonic Youth has been in the business for decades and could drop songs out of their ass that are better than the best of those other guys. See, I'm no snob.)

So this year, with O.A.R. chosen to headline the concert, I'm reminded that many Penn students have yet to grow up. It's fine if they don't like Sonic Youth (even though many hadn't heard of them), and, I guess, if they really like O.A.R. more, but to say things like
Penn finally got a "decent" band
for Fling is as sickening as the fact that Penn students actually formed a group last year protesting the choice of Sonic Youth because they hadn't heard of the group. Am I a snob, or are these kids ignorant?

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Get an Extra Life

This past weekend's visit to Berkeley, Calif., sparked a personal pop renaissance. Trips to Amoeba with Stark and FriedOreo led to the purchase of a few gems — among them, Mandy Moore's Coverage (yes, I got it because of an XTC cover — "Senses Working Overtime") and a different kind of covers album — a self-titled album by a band called The Advantage. (Their first album was called Elf-Titled. Ha. And they include a member of one of Stark's favorite bands, Hella.) Not everyone knows what it's like staying up till 2 a.m. trying to beat Gannon for the 40th time that month on the Legend of Zelda, but I do, and the Advantage's rocking versions of classic 8-bit Nintendo themes show that the band knows its music AND its Nintendo. Songs come from games including Mega Man 2 (Flash Man), Bubble Bobble, Castlevania, Bomberman, Goonies II, Super Marios 2 and 3, and Zelda.

Bubble Bobble brings back memories.

What about you? Post what you think are the best video game themes -- from the classic Nintendo to the Okama GameSphere. If you said it's Magnet Man's level from Mega Man 3, you win in my book. But other responses may be valid.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Purple Prose

Hot damn.

Who knew Prince was such a good sideman?

As previously teased, last night Eye went 2 see Prince—erm, Xcuse me, Ta’mar with special guest Prince—play Philly’s Electric Factory. The show was scheduled 2 start at 11:59 p.m., which makes it that much cooler. And it was, needless 2 say, sold the hell out.

Now, there R some who would say it wasn’t a Prince concert.

But Eye don’t need 2 hear “1999” and “When Doves Cry” 4 it 2 B a Prince concert.

True, he didn’t play “1999” or “When Doves Cry.” Or “Raspberry Beret.” Or “Purple Rain” or “Diamonds and Pearls” or even “Batdance.” He teased with a couple chord riffs, but other than that, not a single Prince song was played the whole night.

“This ain’t my show,” he told the crowd. Indeed, the stage belonged 2 the Paisley God’s new protégé Ta’mar, a soulful chanteuse with 1 of the strongest sets of pipes Eye’ve heard in a long time. She wailed through a nearly 2-hour set of plenty of originals (new 2 us all, obviously) and smokin’ covers. “Don’t Stop Till U Get Enough.” “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Even “Play That Funky Music.” A couple others Eye’m not remembering right now, as well. Her voice was solid and well-showcased.

But despite outward appearances, this was a Prince show. He was perched stage right with a microphone, a slew of guitars and a wash of guitar effects pedals, and he spent the night wailing away on lead guitar. Nearly every song featured at least 1 or 2 searing solos, giving Ol’ Purple Eyes a chance 2 show off his instrumental skills (not 2 mention some hot backing vox).

The rest of the band was rounded out by a couple backing singers, a weighty bass, standard keys, and an industrial-looking woman whacking the fuck out of the drums. Seriously, girl was amazing. Drums might not’ve even been miked.

After cutting loose 4 nearly 2 hours, they cut the crowd loose just B4 2 a.m. Some were unhappy about paying 50 bucks 2 not C Prince play his hits—at midnight. But as far as Eye’m concerned, the chance 2 C him playing lead guitar and sing backup—4 an artist he obviously admires, not playing songs he’s sick and tired of playing 4 the millionth time, and so clearly and plainly having a ton of fun—is 1 of the best concert experiences Eye could ask 4.

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