Tuesday, March 02, 2010

This Week's Reviews: AA Bondy, Lights, Cub Country

Another decent week for music. I love this A.A. Bondy record. If you like the ultra-slow/quiet indie country stuff, you'll want to give it a listen.

Those hoping for a girl version of Owl City should check out Lights. She's from Canada. I'm sure you can guess how I feel about that.

And here are the links to my reviews:

A.A. Bondy - When the Devil's Loose
Lights - The Listening
Cub Country - Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Alkaline Trio Show Review / I am Not a Stripper

Alkaline Trio

In the Venue
February 24, 2010

I was not hired as a stripper for last night's Alkaline Trio show, despite what the band may have thought.

Going to concerts is infinitely more difficult once you have kids. Despite having to make some complicated babysitting arrangements, I thought I had everything worked out so I could check out Alkaline Trio, one of my long-time favorite bands. As it got closer to showtime, however, plans got disrupted a bit and I thought I might miss it. And the last thing I wanted was to drive to the club just to have to turn back around because it was already over. Then the light bulb turned on--though I had never met him, I had the tour manager's cell number!

I texted the following:

"Carlos, this is Spencer from In This Week. Has Alkaline gone on yet?"

This seemed like a pretty straightforward question. But I guess I was wrong.

"Are u the stripper?"


I responded that fortunately, for everyone's sake, I was not.

With no further response from Carlos, I headed to In the Venue, hoping I hadn't missed the show. Though I tried to concentrate on just making it to the venue on time, I couldn't help but wonder what Alkaline Trio would be doing with the male stripper they were apparently expecting.

When I got to the club, I was happy to see that the band had just started. The boys were pounding through "Dine, Dine My Darling" from their new record, and though they were playing in front of their usual heart-and-skull backdrop, something didn't seem right. What was with all the balloons and party hats? It turns out, rock stars have birthdays, too.

Matt Skiba was happy to celebrate his 34th birthday with his Salt Lake City fans, especially because it meant plenty of birthday shots between songs. He handled the liquor just fine, but he really got thrown off his game when, five seconds after starting a new song, the house music came on (Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison," no less) and his band abandoned their instruments. His face lit up when the band's crew delivered him a Batman cake, with candles blazing. His joy turned to a bit of fear when he saw the male Hot Cop approaching him for a lap dance.

"I saw a cop on the stage out of the corner of my eye," Skiba said after the encounter, with a smile. "I thought I was getting arrested for swearing or something. I didn't realize it was Officer Sexy."

After the impromptu birthday celebration, the band returned its focus to music, rocking through eight albums of material. The largest chunk came from 2003's "Good Mourning," including "We've Had Enough," "One Hundred Stories," "Continental," and "Fatally Yours." But the definite highlight of the night was "Nose Over Tail" from the band's debut EP, when Matt Skiba shouted "I want to make it really," and the crowd enthusiastically responded in unison, "I'd love to rub your back."

Sounds like the end of a great birthday. Stripper or no.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

New Reviews: Temper Trap, Story of the Year, Surfer Blood

The Temper Trap - Conditions (Highly recommended)
Story of the Year - The Constant
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast (Pretty good, worth checking out)

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nikola Sarcevic

For almost a year, I've been kicking around the idea of a music blog that only features albums that are good from start to finish. I still haven't gotten around to it. But if I had, this record would be on there.

Though there are a few lesser moments in the middle, Millencolin singer Nikola Sarcevic sure put out a great debut solo album in 2004, Lock-Sport-Krock. The bookends, "Lovetrap" and "Vila Rada" are the best moments.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Vampire Weekend is for Smart Kids, Bouncing Souls is for Dummies

I just finished writing my record reviews for the week when I noticed something interesting. I was using Google Documents to the type the thing and I clicked the word count tool to make sure I had met my guidelines. Each of my reviews was about the same length, but the reading level was quite different.

My Bouncing Souls review--a punk rock record by a band that I absolutely love--is written at a 6th grade level.

The Vampire Weekend review--a good album by a band that sings about diplomats' sons and other WASP-y things, and who drives me a little bit crazy--is at an 11th grade level.

While I'm not bothered that I generally write like a 12-year-old (come on, it's rock 'n roll, not rocket science), it's weird that you have to write like a 16-year-old to talk about a snooty band that college kids like.

And now that you're so curious about these incredible reviews...

Bouncing Souls
Ghosts on the Boardwalk

In 2009, The Bouncing Souls celebrated two full decades as a band by releasing a new digital track each month. "Ghosts on the Boardwalk" serves as the proper album release, and also shows that the years have been kind to the New Jersey foursome. Songs about throwing toilets off the roof or falling in love with a buddy's mom have given way to more introspective tunes, but the invincible punk rock spirit remains. That's not to say they've lost all their immature ways. On the cleverly titled "Badass," they simply shout all of the things worthy of being deemed badass, including, among others, "Black eyes! Muscle cars! Metal!" More than just documenting the 20th year in their career, "Ghosts" is a solid reminder of what an amazing band The Bouncing Souls have become. And the great songs just keep coming.

For fans of: NOFX, Rise Against
Rating: 4 of 4

Vampire Weekend

Expectations have always been extremely high for Vampire Weekend--in 2008 they appeared on the cover of Spin Magazine, before they had even released a record. Fortunately, their debut was successful in both living up to the hype and delivering undeniably catchy tunes about yachts and ivy league colleges. Wisely, Vampire Weekend stay on the same course with "Contra." Afro-pop beats are plentiful and singer EzraKoenig's voice floats beautifully above his polo shirt and plaid shorts. The band pushes their boundaries a bit with the herky-jerky rhythms of "California English" and the electro and falsetto-infused "White Sky," without straying from its strengths. These college kids are smart.

For fans of:Ra Ra Riot, Ramona Falls
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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This Week's Music

the xx - the xx (Recommended)
Reel Big Fish - Fame, Fortune and Fornication
Chuck Ragan - Gold Country (Recommended)

And an added bonus...

My interview with Reel Big Fish singer Aaron Barrett

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Week's Music

I'll save you the trouble of reading the reviews. Here's the lowdown:

As usual, there' s a couple of great tracks on Alicia Keys' record, Snoop Dogg doesn' t have much to say other than that he's a extraordinary lover, and Robbie William's album is a snooze fest.

Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom (Recommended)
Snoop Dogg - Malice N Wonderland
Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Best of the Decade: 27-55

I don't why this has taken me so long to post. Wait, I do. Laziness. Here are some more records I loved in the 2000s, in really no particular order:

27. The Hives - Veni Vedi Vicious (2002)]
28. Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself (2005)
29. Evan Dando - Baby I'm Bored (2003)
30. The Kooks - Inside In Inside Out (2006)
31. Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Movement (2006)
32. Mike Doughty - Skittish/Rockity Roll (2004)
33. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Like Bad News (2004)
34. Motion City Soundtrack - Even If It Kills Me (2007)
35. MXPX - Panic (2005)
36. New Found Glory - Coming Home (2006)
37. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
38. Postal Service - Give Up (2003)
39. RX Bandits - The Resignation (2003)
40. Say Hi to Your Mom - Impeccable Blahs (2006)
41. Styrofoam - Nothing's Lost (2004)
42. Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends (2002)
43. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006)
44. Up, Up, Down, Down... - Girls' Names EP (2006)
45. Yellowcard - Underdog EP (2002)
46. Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell (2008)
47. Alkaline Trio - Maybe I'll Catch Fire (2000)
48. Bouncing Souls - How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2001)
49. Akon - Freedom (2008)
50. The Killers - Sam's Town (2006)
51. Brand New - The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me (2006)
52. Bruce Lee Band - Beautiful World (2005)
53. Does It Offend You, Yeah? You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into (2008)
54. The National – Boxer (2007)
55. Fanfarlo – Reservoir (2009)

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Best of the Decade: 1-26

Taking on a whole decade wasn't easy, but here's a stab at my favorite albums of the 2000. I didn't have any real rules when I put this together, other than only selecting one album from any given artist. I didn't worry about choosing records that were the most important or critically-acclaimed or whatever. Mostly, their the albums I spent the most time listening to or that have additional meaning for me. Also, I didn't put a whole lot of time into the actual numerical rankings.

I wrote the little album descriptions for IN. I certainly would have written them differently had I only done this for my blog. But it took so long that I don't want to go through that again, especially since I'm not getting paid.

And, without further ado...

  1. Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003) Death Cab became the poster band for indie rock, thanks to this absolute masterpiece. From the opening rock of “The New Year” to the yearning closer “A Lack of Color,” every note is perfectly placed.
  2. Nada Surf - Let Go (2003) Though they disappeared after their '90s novelty hit "Popular," Nada Surf quietly reemerged with a spectacular collection of understated songs about fruit flies, roller coasters, and Bob Dylan.
  3. Daft Punk - Discovery (2001) With "Discovery," Daft Punk morphed from talented knob-turners to larger-than-life robots. The duo successfully blurred the line between human and extraterrestrial, and more importantly, made all life forms dance.
  4. Samiam - Astray (2000) I didn't know that punk rock could song so sad, so utterly hopeless. Samiam was emo before emo, in a good way.
  5. Kylie Minogue - Fever (2002) Every track here is a dancehall masterpiece. Perfect.
  6. The Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004) The Arcade Fire proved two things with their debut album: A) With great songwriting, rock music can sound just as good with violins and accordions and B) Sad songs never go out of style.
  7. Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American (2001) After perfecting meandering atmospherics on their first two records, Jimmy Eat World took a more direct approach on “Bleed American.” Every song was direct and finely crafted.
  8. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free (2004) Who would have thought that one of the decade’s best rap albums would come from a white British guy? Mike Skinner's concept album about losing and rediscovering love and his 1,000 British Pounds infinitely expanded hip hop's borders.
  9. The Format - Dog Problems (2006) – When it comes to a breakup, there’s nothing worse than deciding who gets to keep the dog. This Arizona duo tries to mend broken hearts with pop rock songs that flirt with rock opera.
  10. The Strokes - Is This It? (2001) With their leather pants and tight jeans, The Strokes were the antithesis to all things nu-metal. Though they seemed like they were from some indeterminable place in history, everyone knew that time was cooler than the now.
  11. Bad Religion - The Process of Belief (2002) When co-founder Brett Gurewitz came back into the fold, Bad Religion found a renewed vitality, writing some of the best punk rock songs of their three-decade career.
  12. Millencolin - Pennybridge Pioneers (2000) Swedish punks Millencolin took the art of California skate punk to the next level on their third LP, mixing in just enough rock ‘n roll to blaze new trails.
  13. Streetlight Manifesto - Everything Goes Numb (2003) Former Catch 22 front man Thomas Kalnoky singlehandedly raised ska from the dead with incredibly catchy horn lines, speedy punk rock guitar, and his raspy, rapid-fire vocals.
  14. Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003) "Hey Ya!" alone was enough to make this double disc great, but track after track of wonderful absurdity is what made it amazing.
  15. Pedro the Lion - Control (2002) With this concept record about righteousness and infidelity, David Bazan solidified his spot as one of the best storytellers in indie rock.
  16. Matt & Kim - Matt & Kim - (2006) Who needs guitars, anyway? Lovey dovey couple Matt & Kim make delightful dance punk with beat-up keyboards and a three-piece drum set.
  17. Weezer - Green Album (2001) Though Rivers Cuomo hides his heart on this one, the hooks were just too huge to hide.
  18. Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak (2008) TAuto-tune was already played by the time Kanye put it on his record, but he found a way to use it not as a gimmick, but as a tool to turn his broken heart into robotic steel.
  19. Dashboard Confessional - Swiss Army Romance (2003) Chris Carrabba may be responsible for spawning hundreds of lousy copycat bands, but it’s a small price to pay for this heart-on-sleeve emo-fest. This is the real deal
  20. Saves The Day - Stay What You Are (2001) This is how an emo record is supposed to sound—soft, loud, nostalgic, slightly hateful, and more than anything, sincere.
  21. Blind Pilot - 3 Rounds and a Sound (2008) The album rarely rises much beyond a whisper, giving it a hauntingly beautiful aura. Here’s hoping that the follow-up will be as impressive as this debut.
  22. Bishop Allen - The Broken String (2007) For “The Broken String” no instrument was off limits, even if no one in the band really knew how to play them. The record’s simplicity and eagerness is matched only by its memorable tunes.
  23. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) He takes low-blow shots at his mother, dreams of killing his wife and shoving her body in the trunk, and inspires fans to do the same. In 2000, Eminem was both musically crazy and real-life crazy. The crazy ones always make the best music.
  24. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (2006) Silversun Pickups’ first LP picks up right where Smashing Pumpkins’ “Gish” left off, with nasally vocals and fuzzy guitars. The band skillfully gives each song the room to wander to its destination.
  25. Iron & Wine - Woman King (2005) By this point, Sam Beam had already released plenty of gorgeous country tunes, but adding dirty Appalachian rock into the mix opened up an entirely new side of Iron & Wine.
  26. Hot Hot Heat - Make Up the Breakdown (2002) At the turn of the century, indie bands were hell bent on making kids dance. Hot Hot Heat easily made the best dance-rock record of the decade.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Nine of '09

Here are some of my fav discs from the last year of the decade:

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
The perfect mix of jangly guitars, fuzzy synths, and lo-fi grandeur. Just keeps getting better with repeated spins.

Phoenix - “1901″ [MP3]

2. Weezer - Raditude.
Weezer's best record since The Green Album. Perfectly poppy, with just enough punch.

Weezer- If You're Wondering if I Want You To

3. Matt & Kim - Grand. Rock 'n roll's smiliest couple grins from ear to ear as they pound their drums and keyboards. All attempts to refuse dancing are futile.

4. David Bazan - Curse Your Branches.
Former Pedro the Lion breaks up with God. Satan rewards him with the most compelling lyrics of his career.

5. Silversun Pickups - Swoon
. Everyone compares them to early '90s Smashing Pumpkins. I don't see the problem. Who didn't love Smashing Pumpkins back then?

6. Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came from the Shadows.
This Wyoming trio makes punk rock fun again, a la The Vandals, Screeching Weasel, or The Queers.

7. Telekinesis - Telekinesis!
This is the kind of indie rock that car commercials can't get enough of--oft soft, oft rockin', always about to be heartbroken.

Telekinesis - "Coast Of Carolina" [MP3]

8. Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You.
Ms. Allen is a spoiled brat celebrity, so much that's almost impossible to resist.

9. Dan Deacon- Bromst. This frenetic noise jumble may drive you batty, but if you can survive the insanity, it's a great ride.

And the Next Best Nine...

10. Say Hi - Oohs & Aahs
11. Strung Out - Agents of the Underground
12. Passion Pit - Manners
13. Left Alone - Left Alone
14. Iron & Wine - Around the Well
15. Bon Iver - Blood Bank
16. Banner Pilot - Collapser
17. Jimmy Eat World - Clarity Live
18. Prodigy - Invaders Must Die

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of The Decade Coming Soon

I'm putting together a little Best of the 2000s list for IN. I figured I'd include 10 or maybe 20 of my favorite records of the decade. I wasn't too worried about choosing the "best" music, just the stuff that's meant the most to me. As I started browsing through my iTunes, the list quickly ballooned to over 50--and that was with me being picky. Anyhoo, I have to take a second to think through how I want to present it, but it should be ready soon. I think I'd forgotten how many albums I've fallen in love with in the past 10 years.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Music for Those Who Hate Christmas

If you cringe at the thought of going out in public during the holidays -- not because you hate throngs of people, just the horrible Christmas music -- I have good news. There is some holiday music out there that doesn't suck. It truly is a Christmas miracle!

Christmas Remixed:1 and 2 - Various Artists. Old classics by crooners like Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin get remix treatment from Dan The Automator and friends. It doesn't take long for these old tunes to get old-school funky.

The OC Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah. Not only does this record include the best Christmas song of the past decade--"The Christmas Song" by The Raveonettes--it also proves that Wham's "Last Christmas" stops sucking when it's performed by Jimmy Eat World.

Maybe This Christmas: Volumes 1 - 3. The biggest indie stars of the mid-2000s--Death Cab, Coldplay, Pedro the Lion, and more--share their take on both traditional and original Christmas tunes. The auto-tune on Copeland's "Do You Hear What I Hear" sounded absolutely groundbreaking in 2004.

Songs for Christmas - Sufjan Stevens. This five-disc box set began as a yearly mixtape for Stevens' friends. Filled with both classics and his own songs, Sufjan's acoustic guitar, banjo, and sometimes full orchestra, make this an indie Christmas classic.

Oi to The World - The Vandals. Don't worry, Christmas haters. With hits like "A Gun for Christmas" and "Hang Myself from a Tree," The Vandals make sure that everyone has something to sing about during the holidays.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm in Love with Rihanna + This Week's Album Reviews

I'm in love with Rihanna (though I don't really like the new bowl cut she's rockin'). Not only is she gorgeous, but I can't get enough of her voice. Her chorus on Jay-Z's Run This Town is the best part of his new album and I still want to stand under her umbrella-ella-ella-ay.

I checked out her new album this week. It's okay-good, but after getting beat up by Chris Brown, she's more interested in making fight music than mega hits. Can't say I blame her.

Rihanna - Rated R
Miike Snow - Miike Snow
NOFX - Cokie the Clown

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Record Reviews - Letting Up, Dashboard, Joshua James

Sooner or later I'll get back to blogging. Until then, here's this week's record reviews:

Letting Up Despite Great Faults - S/T (Highly recommended)
Dashboard Confessional - Alter the Ending
Joshua James - Build Me This

Letting Up - In Steps [MP3]

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Monday, December 07, 2009

This Week's Music Reviews

Interview with New Found Glory
Raveonettes - In and Out of Control (Recommended)
Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster
Wyclef Jean - Toussaint St. Jean

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Monday, November 23, 2009

In this week in In This Week

Here's what I had to say to my hanging-around-bus-stops-and-looking-for-something-free-to-read audience this week:

Feature: Christmas Gifts for Music Lovers
Review: Fanfarlo - Reservoir (Recommended)
Review: Megadeth - Endgame
Review: Why? - Eskimo Snow (Recommended)

These Hands - Why

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Weezer Raditude

So here's the deal. Ever since Pinkerton (or maybe The Green Album) every Weezer fan has asked, "When is the good Weezer coming back?" After three straight sub-par releases, you'd think we'd just give up. Oh, no. We always just think it's going to be the next one.

But it happened. Despite its unfortunate name (coined by Dwight from The Office. Really.), Raditude is really good.

Over the years, I've spent more than a healthy amount of time trying to figure out exactly what it was on those first two albums that's Weezer's been missing since. The easy target is always the lyrics. Sure, Pinkerton had plenty of awesomely introspective moments, but really Rivers Cuomo has always written boppy, non-serious tunes.

The bigger problem has been the music. The Green Album was solid start to finish. But it was like Cuomo had taken all the heart out of the songs. Just simple, straight forward chords, and catchy choruses. But no personality. Nothing that made the songs uniquely Weezer. It's gotten worse ever since.

The Blue Album
had its harmonica ("In the Garage"), finger picking ("Surf Wax America"), and best-basslines-ever ("Only in Dreams)." Pinkerton was all over the place. Crazy guitar solos, moog, "El Scorcho." It was perfect. (And, more importantly, is just as good today.)

Raditude is still a far cry from their first two records, but the songs are really solid. (The only dud is the bunch is "In the Mall.") They do a great job of mixing things up--hip hop, Bollywood, The Cars--even if they're all just standard pop songs.

So, the old days are gone. But Good songs are good songs. Weezer fans have stuck around because all of their records have at least had a few of 'em. Fortunately, we finally got record full of 'em. Hooray.

Weezer - The Prettiest Girl in the Whole World [MP3]

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Recent Bookworm-isms

I am certainly no Traci The Librarian, but I've been quite the little reader lately. I offer my recent reading list as a help to those who are looking for something to read, but who know absolutely no one who reads books, and therefore, have no choice but to trust my horrible taste in literature.

Longshot by Lance Allred
The subtitle (The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA) pretty much says it all. If you are curious about polygamy, college basketball and/or the horrible, horrible way Rick Majerus treated his players, you should find this pretty interesting. I'd highly recommend this one.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
I've read much of Nick Hornby's stuff and this pretty much falls in the middle. The story keeps you interested throughout, but doesn't really have much of a payoff. I don't regret reading this, but wouldn't have been sad had I missed it. (I highly recommend his young adult novel "Slam!" Think "Juno" from George Michael's perspective.)

Punk Rock Dad by Jim Lindberg
is the (up until a few months ago) lead singer of Pennywise. So of course I needed to check it out. Not extremely well written, not always interesting, but as opposed to Juliet, Naked, really comes through in the end. You can help but feel for a guy when he gets recognized by a checker at the grocery store, only to have a basket full of tampons, men's hair die, and enemas in his hand. Fatherhood (and adulthood in general) can be hopelessly uncool.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
The Lost Symbol is exactly the same as the DaVinci Code, which was the same as Angels & Demons, etc., etc. But why mess with a winning formula? The only surprise was that I spent a chunk of the book wondering if Dan Brown is actually gay, given his extremely detailed description of the antagonist's physical appearance and showering routines.

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
I spent the first chapter thinking this was going to be the first Klosterman book I didn't like. Fortunately, he quickly turned things around. A great collection of random essays on Kurt Cobain vs. David Koresh, The Unabomber, and why Weezer fans hate all new Weezer albums, it was like this book was written just for me. So if you're me, you'll love this one.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New Reviews: Tegan & Sara, Avett Brothers, Steady Machete

Tegan & Sara - Sainthood
The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Steady Machete - Riots

The Avett Brothers played Letterman the day we were there.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

David Bazan and Say Hi

David Bazan

Tonight's show was amazing. But, believe it or not, the best moment was performed by neither of these bands. The highlight came from the high school kid standing in front of me with the big, boofy 'fro.

During David Bazan's customary Q&A session, the kid raised his hand and shouted to David, "Do you have a beard for your name? I mean, do you have a name for your beard?" Obviously embarrassed, he turned to his friend and said, "Oh, man. Memory FAIL!"

Thank you, failblog, for your contribution to pop culture.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

CD Reviews: Tiesto, Paramore

Tiesto - Kaleidoscope
Paramore - Brand New Eyes

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recent Reviews

Pearl Jam - The Back Spacer
Funnest Pearl Jam album in many years. Still not amazing. I am, however, in love with The Fixer [MP3].

Jay-Z - The Blue Print 3
Jay's getting a bit lazy, but the girls (Alicia Keys, Rihanna) do a good job. Check out Run This Town (feat. Rihanna, Kanye) [MP3].

Lymbyc Systym - Carved By Glaciers
If you love ambient, lo-fi electronica, I'd highly recommend this one.

fun. - Aim and Ignite

Lead singer of The Format is good, but not as good, without his old band.

The Used - Artwork
The Utah emos are still angry, but not angry enough for my taste.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: David Bazan Curse Your Branches

David Bazan
Curse Your Branches

For years, David Bazan (formerly under the name Pedro the Lion) has been weaving stirring tales of man’s relationship with God. But these are no hallelujah Christian rock songs. The fictitious tales tend to revolve around fallibility of both parties and are filled with constant questioning and disappointment.

Topically, his first full-length solo release follows a similar pattern. There’s just one big difference. For the first time in his career, Bazan himself becomes the main character. “Curse Your Branches” chronicles, both painfully and beautifully, Bazan’s own questioning, doubts, and beliefs.

Lyrically, this is the best piece in Bazan’s stunning catalog. He sings of losing faith in front of his wife and daughter, his family fasting for his salvation, and drinking to stop thinking about all of it. The only drawback is the countrified arrangements take away from the amazing weight of the message. And with so many solo versions of these songs floating the internet, it’s hard not to yearn for the stripped down performances.

Nevertheless, a nearly perfect release from one of rock’s most engaging songwriters.

For fans of: Pedro the Lion, Death Cab for Cutie

Rating: 4 of 4

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Review: Matt & Kim at Club Sound

At the Johnny Tightlips show on Saturday night, friend Brian and I were talking about how much cleaner and generally less disgusting bars/clubs are now, thanks to the new no-smoking laws. I spoke too soon. Last night I found that Club Sound/In The Venue is just as sweaty and gross (and a bit smokey) as ever. Nevertheless, I had a great time at Matt & Kim.

Matt & Kim
Club Sound

So many choices on Monday night. Should I give into my late-90s nostalgia and head down to Orem for Blink-182? Or should get my boogie on to Matt & Kim in Salt Lake? Since I’d seen both bands before, and have been impressed by both, the tie breaker went to my dancing heart.

Though I’m sure that Blink was filled with plenty of spectacle, power chords, and pooh jokes, I have no regrets about choosing Matt & Kim. I'm guessing the 300 or so fans sweating to death in the unventilated Club Sound would agree.

The set was short and sweet, lasting just under an hour. Despite the brevity, the smiling duo managed to play the majority of its two-album catalog as well as throw in a fist-pumping rendition of the made-famous-by-hockey "Hey Song" and the greatest song ever written--that's right, "The Final Countdown."

With so many great songs, it's hard to pick favorites. However, both the rapid-fire instrumental "Cinders" (played in double time as a reward for "such a great crowd") and the heartfelt "Light Speed" were outstanding. "Daylight," the set's closer, was also welcomed with shrieks of delight.

Matt & Kim's second most endearing quality (right after their perma-grins) is their gratitude. No matter the size of the venue or the length of the set list, they play as if it was their most important gig and they thank the audience profusely for their support. The usually-silent Kim even took the mic to offer her sincere appreciation to the ever-growing Salt Lake City fan base.

In many ways, Kim managed to steal the show. In addition to her incessant drum pounding, she lent vocals to "Lessons Learned," threw in a few keyboard notes on "Turn This Boat Around," and showed off her Beyonce bootyshake during a couple of between-songs dance parties.

There was not a dull moment to be had and every face in the crowd left sweaty and almost as smiley as the band itself.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Redbox Reviews

I'd say Traci and I watch maybe one DVD a month. We make it to the movie theater about once a year. We nearly went into movie overload in Utah's Dixie.

Taken - I really liked it. Traci was thoroughly disturbed and hasn't stopped thinking about the teenage prostitution industry ever since. We both agreed that it was okay for the friend to die, because it was her fault for trusting a Frenchman in the first place.

Confessions of a Shopaholic - Don't get Traci started on the inconsistencies between the book and the movie. (She still enjoyed it.) I loved the cameo appearances by Detroit Pistons Bad Boy John Salley. I went out and bought myself a green scarf immediately after.

Knowing - Traci HATES Nicolas Cage. I only rented this one because I thought Traci's dad would like it. (It turns out he'd already seen it.) I knew I had made a bad choice when I was waiting for the DVD to vend and the couple behind me said sarcastically, "We could always get 'Knowing.'" I turned and asked if it was that bad. "We haven't seen it, but our friends said it was the worst movie they've ever seen. But you may like it." Turns out they had pretty smart friends.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Say It Ain't So

What happens when you combine my two favorite things--8-bit music and Weezer tunes? I become a very happy boy. If you don't know what 8-bit music is, this will be a great introduction for you. If you don't know who Weezer is, well, you're an idiot. There, I said it.

The full album is available for free download here.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Week's Music Reviews


The Lemonheads - Varshons. Only interesting for established fans.
Iron & Wine - Around the Well. A b-sides record that's better than most A-sides.
So Many Dynamos - The Loud Wars. Emo boys meet prog.


Laura Gibson - For those who love trees and girl music.
The Dear Hunter - For those who love dungeons and dragons.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Music Reviews Monday (on Wednesday)

I reviewed new albums by Rancid and Bowerbirds this week. I'm posting my full Phoenix review here because I think this is an album you should really check out.


Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

On the opening track of their fourth album, French quartet Phoenix name-drops 19th-century composers like it's hot. Hey, whatever gets the party started, right? The record begins like an open invitation to the indie dance floor. "1901" has all the jangly guitars and fuzzy synths and "Fences" has the requisite disco beats and falsetto vocals.

However, the album is not just about booty shakers. "Love Like a Sweet Sunset Part I" is a slow-building instrumental shoe gazer and its sequel, "Part II," adds soft, lyrical melody and Thomas Mars' hopeful tenor.

The rest of the tracks throw in a bit of everything -- swelling orchestral grandeur, driving bass lines, and bright vocals. Over the album's 10 tracks, the band never misses a beat. This is easily one of the most enjoyable releases of the first half of 2009.

Stream Most of the the Album Here

For fans of: Rooney, Air
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Since I know that 95 percent of you skip right over anything I post about music, I'll keep this short. I review at least three new albums every week for IN. If you're keeping track, that equals a buttload of music. Here are some links to the last few weeks of reviews:

311 - Uplifter
Eels - Hombre Lobo
Taking Back Sunday - New Again
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown
The War on Drugs - Wagonwheel Blues
Jimmy Eat World - Clarity Live
Telekinesis - Telekinesis!
Ben Harper & Relentless7 - White Lies for Dark Times
The Aggrolites - IV
The Rentals - Chapter 1: The Story of a Thousand Seasons Past

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Monday, June 01, 2009

CD Review: Strung Out Prototypes & Painkillers

Strung Out
Prototypes and Painkillers

So Cal punks Strung Out give fans much more than just the odds-and-ends on this compilation disc. In addition to old demos and cover songs, “Prototypes and Painkillers” makes a home for 17 year’s worth of material that has ended up on various split 7 inches, Fat Wreck Chords samplers, and limited edition CDs.

Had the band been a bit more discriminate in their 25 song track listing, they easily could have put out a 12-song album to rival any of their studio releases. As it stands, the record has plenty of polished moments, while still showing just how far the band has come since their early days.

“Protypes” also shows how many great songs the band wrote in the early 2000’s. Standout tracks “Don’t Look Back,” “Your Worst Mistake,”and “Lost Motel” all came from the “An American Paradox” sessions. The album also features a very impressive acoustic reworking of “Velvet Alley” from “Paradox.”

Though is album is intended for long-time fans, there’s plenty for those Strung Out newcomers to get excited about.

Strung Out - Lost Motel

For fans of: 10 Foot Pole, Guttermouth
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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CD Review: The Thermals Now We Can See

The Thermals
Now We Can See

What’s awesome about the Thermals? Oh, so much. Hutch Harris’s deadpan vocal delivery and pounded power chords. Kathy Foster’s 1-2-3-4 drums and cool synth lines. And most of all, the band’s youthful irreverence.

What’s wrong with “Now We Can See?” The passion seems to be missing. Though the songs are pretty good, they are devoid of the righteous rebellion that makes The Thermals so great. That’s not to say this album is a throwaway. “I Let it Go” and “Now We Can See” are great, catchy tunes. “When We Were Alive” is a fuzzed-out punk rock gem and “When I Was Afraid” is perfectly moody.

Harris’s lyrics also continue to impress. One of the highlights comes on “When I Died,” when he sings “The earth was too hot/The air was too thin/I took off my clothes/I took off my skin/I crawled to the sea/That was calling for me.”

But much like tracks “At the Bottom of the Sea” and “Liquid In, Liquid,” the album struggles under a heavy weight of resignation. Let’s hope these 30-year-olds get over their musical midlife crisis.

The Thermals - I Let it Go

For fans of: The Hold Steady, Against Me!
Rating: 3 of 4

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CD Review: NOFX Coaster

It's been a long time since I've subjected you to album reviews. Here comes a bunch.


I like NOFX for the same reason I get sucked into CSI:Miami—even if you only check in once every couple of years, the story still makes sense. You get an hour of entertainment and then you’re free to get on with your day.

With their 13th studio album, the band also celebrates their 25-year anniversary (and encourages fans to use their CDs as coasters). This NOFX episode is all about singer Fat Mike’s raging alcoholism and drug abuse. Fortunately, these addictions haven’t dulled his razor-sharp wit. He jokes about going to the bar at 6:00 a.m. (“First Call”), forgetting all the good times (“I AM an Alcoholic”), and asking Tegan or Sara (he’s not sure which) where he can score pills (“Creeping Out Sara”).

The rest of record contains standard NOFX fare—hating corporate America (“We Called It America,” “Suits and Ladders”) and Jesus (“Blasphemy,” “Best God in Show”). There is, however, a rare moment of sincerity (“My Orphan Years”) when Fat Mike laments the passing of his parents.

After 25 years, NOFX are enjoying the best of both punk rock worlds—musically they’re tighter than ever and socially they still act like 15-year-olds. Here’s to another quarter century!

NOFX - Creeping Out Sara

For fans of: Lagwagon, Pennywise
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sorry Holland, I Guess I Don't Need You Anymore

In Holland and Belgium (and I'm guessing throughout Europe), instead of fast food restaurants, there are little snack shops on corners that sell French Fries or "frites." The best are the Vlaamse Frites (Flemish Fries) and they come topped with your choice of ketchup, curry ketchup, peanut sauce, mayonnaise, or patat oorlog (potato war)--which is the combination of all of those things. Though it took a while to get used to, mayo became my topping of choice.

There are times when I just want some frites so bad, and regular fries and crappy American mayonnaise just don't do the trick. The only solution is a $500 flight to Amsterdam. Until now.

Belgian Pierre Vandamme just opened up a Frites and Belgian waffels shop (Bruges Waffles & Frites) across the street from Pioneer Park in downtown SLC (336 W Broadway). He hand makes the fries and the waffles himself and they are absolutely amazing. Traci and I ate there tonight and she just about died from delight from the waffle covered in Belgian chocolate.

It was delightful. Lekker. Heerlijk. Zalig. Go there. And invite me.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

David Bazan: Live @ Chelsea's House

David Bazan

House Show
Salt Lake City

In musical terms, “an intimate performance” usually means a show in a small club with a couple hundred people. I don’t know what you call it when you and 24 other people get to see an artist play an hour-long set in a friend’s living room. I guess if you’re a David Bazan fan, one word comes to mind—heaven.

David Bazan (the artist formerly known as Pedro the Lion) is down to the last three days of a six week house performance tour. A few months back, Bazan posted an open call to would-be show hosts on his website. The requirements were simple: have a house that would fit 30-50 people, live on a street with ample parking and neighbors that won’t call the cops, and have a chair for David to sit on while he plays his guitar.

A delightful Salt Lake City girl named Chelsea answered the call. Tonight her downtown loft became the best venue in town, filled with adoring fans sitting cross-legged on her floor. Bazan arrived at the house around 7:30 with his guitar in hand. He spent a half hour enjoying a few beers and mingling with the house guests and then took the
stage—er, the corner of the room—around 8:00.

Surrounded by seated adorers, Bazan strummed softly and bellowed mightily. He played a handful of songs from his back catalog, but saved the majority of the set list for material from his forthcoming album, “Curse Your Branches.” The record looks to be Bazan’s most introspective to date, revolving around his break with his Evangelical Christian upbringing.

In usual Bazan fashion, he paused after every few songs to allow time for questions. The group was quick to respond. Queries ranged from usual concert fare—favorite records, bands and such—to his thoughts on God and his religious family. Bazan thoughtfully responded to each inquiry and, at times, seemed so engaged in the conversation that the songs almost became an afterthought. And that was just fine.

The evening was about more than just the songs. The setting was perfect, the artist engaging, and the music gorgeous. This is how live music should be.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reviews: The Prodigy, Bon Iver, Say Hi, Dan Deacon

You'd think that getting paid (um, very little, but still...) to listen to music would be the best job ever. But I sure have to sift through a lot of junk to get the good stuff. This week was a crazy exception. Not only was everything I listened to good, but it was all stuff I'll actually put into regular iPod rotation and highly recommend.

The Prodigy
Invaders Must Die 

In 1997, The Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” was hailed as the album that would finally bring techno to the U.S. masses. With the band’s rock feel and reverse-mohawked dancer Keith Flint, they had all the pieces in place for the takeover. But despite the album’s sheer awesomeness, The Prodigy hype didn’t last long. 

“Invaders Must Die” brings the band back from the dead. Producer/mastermind Liam Howlett goes straight for the jugular with this one, dishing up huge backbeats and piercing synths. Even without the whistles and glow sticks, this is a quintessential rave record. 

Absent from The Prodigy’s last release, Flint and emcee Maxim return to shout punky phrases throughout. Though their delivery on the hokey “Colours” is lacking, their performance on “Omen” and “Take Me to the Hospital” give the group the rebellious spirit it’s been missing lately. The album’s title track is its best and just gets better the louder you play it—the true sign of a great rock song.   

For fans of: Chemical Brothers, Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Rating: 3.5 of 4

Bon Iver
Blood Bank

Though it is just four tracks, the follow up to Bon Iver’s magnificent debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” is plenty hefty. The EP begins softly with Justin Vernon’s heavenly humming and acoustic strumming.  The lyrics are instantly haunting, grabbing on and never letting go. (“Well, I met you at the blood bank/We were looking at the bags/Wondering if any of the colors/Matched any of the names we knew on the tags.”)

“Blood Bank” never moves much above a whisper. On “Babys,” Vernon’s falsetto quietly rises above the repeating piano chords and backing strings. The lyrics make little sense on their own (“Summer comes to multiply, to multiply”), but as the overdubbed also vocals multiply and multiply, the song manages to find plenty of meaning.

The closing track, “Woods,” is the only song on the EP that would have seemed out of place on “For Emma.” Filled with layers AutoTuned vocals (which is a bit strange, what with every hip hop artist on the planet using the trick right now), the song sounds like Beach Boys being overtaken by indie music-loving robots. Which, in case you were wondering, is very cool.

For fans of: David Bazan, Iron & Wine
Rating: 3.5 of 4

Say Hi
Oohs & Aahs

Eric Elbogen, the one man band who is Say Hi, writes and records all of his music at home in his Seattle apartment. This is noteworthy because the greatest thing about listening to Say Hi (or Say Hi to Your Mom, as the band was previously named) is that it instantly makes you want to go home and record your own album.

“Oohs & Aahs,” Say Hi’s sixth album, is yet another collection of simple, heartfelt tunes driven by Elbogen’s sleepy vocals and ridiculously great lyrics. The album begins a picture of late night public radio (“On the dial somewhere between the high 80’s and low 90’s FM/Eloise plays the first Violent Femmes for those awake from twelve to 2 a.m.”) and ends with waiting for kiss that never comes.

The instrumentation on the record is a bit broader than on previous releases. The guitar chord melodies find companionship with timpani drums and keyboard horn lines (“Ooh ooh ooh” and “Dramatic Irony”) and there’s even a little dancing to be had (One, Two…One”). The sullen numbers are still the best, however, with “November Was White, December Was Grey” at the top of the list. I want to write an album right now. 

For fans of: Postal Service, Mobius Band
Rating: 3.5 of 4

Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon creates his ultra-spastic robo-music by harvesting the organs of old Commodore 64s and Ataris. The 8-bit bleeps and bloops, combined with vocals sped up to dog whistle pitch, don’t really lend themselves to radio play or mainstream attention. However, on “Bromst,” Deacon somehow finds a way not only to make these sounds palatable, but downright inviting.

Sure, if you’re not a big fan of repeated noises, there are plenty of tracks here that will likely throw you into a seizing fit. But if you can hang on until track four, you’ll be treated to Deacon’s masterpiece. “Snookered” is eight minutes of awesome. What begins with gentle taps on a xylophone eventually morphs into a chaos of keyboards, vocal samples, and drums, all swirling together in a beautifully choreographed slam dance.

Not every track is quite as rewarding, but the album certainly doesn’t lack for imagination. “Wet Wings” takes a tribal chant and turns it into a hypnotic drone, “Red F” is a straight forward synth dancer, and “Slow with Horns” illustrates what happens when a piano ingests speed. Congrats, Mr. Deacon on reigning in your craziness and making a great record.

For fans of: Colon Open Bracket, Girl Talk
Rating: 3 of 4

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Review: Matt & Kim Grand

This is easily the album I've been most looking forward to in probably the last two years. Any time I experience this much anticipation, I am scared to death to actually listen it, for fear my expectations will be dashed. I was really worried about this Matt & Kim record because I loved their debut so much. Though "Grand" is not quite as good, it by no means a disappointment.

Matt & Kim

Matt & Kim are easily the happiest couple in punk rock. Matt delightfully pounds away at his keyboard as he shouts snarky lyrics and Kim never stops grinning at him from the drum kit.

“Grand” picks up where their 2006 debut left off, with the low end of the synthesizer buzzing away and the drums pushing the pace. However, the duo has also expanded their musical palette a bit. “Daylight” is the band’s most adventurous piece to date, adding symphonic hits and drum breaks to the simple piano riff. The string-driven “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare” also shows another dimension to the band’s arranging abilities.

Matt & Kim’s strongest suit is still the fast stuff. “Lessons Learned” is simultaneously totally punk and completely gorgeous, and the frenetic instrumental “Cinders” is enough to throw a person into a dance-induced seizure. It’s nice to see that Matt & Kim can grow up a bit without getting old.

Cinders - Matt & Kim

For fans of: Mates of State, The Rentals
Rating: 3 of 4

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

If You Got a Problem, Yo, I'll Solve It...

I have spent entirely too much time thinking about Vanilla Ice over the past few weeks. I did the interview, went to the show, wrote the review, and dreamed about him last night. Ugh. But before I allow myself to think about something else (probably the upcoming Boyz II Men concert in Wendover), here's just a few additional notes from the show.
  • The show itself was only 'meh.' I think Vanilla Ice forgot it was supposed to be a '90s show. It would have been a lot cooler if all he did was come out and rap over a recording of "To The Extreme." Sure, it would have been even better if he would have done the Running Man, but that's probably too much to ask for.
  • MC Hammer finished his set, predictably, with "U Can't Touch This." He then came out for an encore, but everyone had gone home. (It was already past 1 a.m. and he'd already played all three of his hits. Why stick around?)
  • Because the place was empty and we had press passes, we were among just a handful of folks hanging out backstage at the end of the show. I talked to Vanilla for a second (he was as nice in person as he was on the phone) and Hammer was polite enough to pose while I took a picture of him with Rich and all his friends.
  • We were in the "meet and greet" room at about 1:30 a.m. Right before the artists were scheduled to come in, one of the show folks said that those with just Media Passes (which is what we had) would have to leave because the All Access pass folks had paid to be there. One girl said she had paid $200 for the chance to meet Vanilla Ice. Why?
  • The best get-ups of the night were the handful of skinny white kids who showed up wearing gold or silver glittery Hammer pants and no shirts.
  • The worst part of the event was the tagline, "Dress '80s." Uh, these guys were popular in the '90s,
  • After being baffled by who was actually putting on the show, I found out it was a guy who I worked with at LoveSac--Sac Man. Yes, he worked as the LoveSac mascot.
  • I got home around 2:15 a.m. Thus making it my latest night out in, I don't know, seven years?
I'm going to bed now. Hopefully I won't have to dream about Vanilla Ice anymore and I got back to dreaming about being forced to go another mission, like I dream every Thursday after stake correlation meeting.

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Ring the Bell…School’s In, Sucker/Yo Vanilla, Kick it One (More) Time, Boyyy

MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice

McKay Events Center
February 27

MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. Together again. The best part of the one-night-only event was not having any idea what was going to happen. Would it be great? Would it be awful? Would it matter?

I headed down to the show with my buddy Rich. Of course he’d prepared a mix for the 30 minute trip from Salt Lake to Orem, consisting of tracks from both MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice’s greatest hits albums—he’d downloaded them the night before. He said he’d also watched the “2 Legit to Quit” video about a dozen times in the last 24 hours and was thoroughly convinced that MC Hammer was, in fact, “blessed with two hype feet.”

Rich’s excitement was palpable. This struck me as curious, seeing that he is only 26 (which would have made him seven when “Ice, Ice Baby” went #1). He had an explanation. “I remember playing kick the can or something on our street and hearing my friend say, ‘Slice like a ninja, cut like a razorblade.’ It was the coolest thing I had ever heard.”And that’s when he became a Vanilla Ice fan for life.

I would guess the majority of the 8,000+ people in attendance (most of which were in the 18-22 range) were also trying to grab a hold of some sort of intangible nostalgia. Or maybe they were intrigued by the novelty of two one-time pop icons sharing the stage together for the first time in nearly two decades. Maybe they just wanted an excuse to wear neon t-shirts and makeshift Hammer pants.

Go White Boy, Go

By the time Vanilla began his set, the crowd had already been waiting for three hours. The second Mr. Van Winkle entered the stage (through a 10-foot blowup Grim Reaper) and began spewing lyrics, the delay was immediately forgotten.

Backed by a drummer, DJ, and a dancer dressed in a Santa Costume and clown mask, the Ice Man began his set one of his newer tracks. Enormous applause. He moved on to another new track. Applause. When he began the third new (a.k.a virtually unknown) song, the crowd’s goodwill had just about run out.

And that’s when he finally took it back to the old school. When he shouted the lyrics to “Ice, Ice Baby,” it was like he was being backed by a 7,000 person choir. (Take that, Mo’ Tab!) He invited Hammer on stage to smile and wave during “Play that Funky Music White Boy” and then rocked through “The Ninja Rap” and “Stop that Train.”

For Vanilla Ice, this show wasn’t some grand comeback and it certainly wasn’t 1990. It was pretty much his average 2009 rock show, with loose interpretations of a few old songs thrown in. But he had a great time, the crowd had a great time and we all got to yell “Go ninja, go ninja, go ninja, GO!” together. What more could we ask for?

Turn This Mutha Out

Hammer’s approach was the complete opposite. It was tight and it was all business. The only piece of equipment on stage was his microphone; he and his posse needed the space to do what they do best—dance. Hammer’s still got the moves and, most importantly, the pants.

While Ice’s performance was about emotion, Hammer’s was about entertainment. The former rapper/current Christian minister pop-‘n-locked his way through all of his greatest hits, each with its own choreographed dance. (One of the dozen or so teenage dancers was his 14-year-old son, who certainly inherited his dad’s skills.) Hammer used his soundtrack hit, “Addam’s Family Groove” to let each dancer show off their solo skills. While this was cool, with the huge age between artist and dancer, it felt like it should have been called “The Hammer & Kids Show.”

The highlights were obvious: doing the “2 Legit” hand gestures, singing along to “You got to pray just to make it today” and watching Hammer do the typewriter with 200 fans shoved onto the stage with him. When it comes to performers, Hammer is the real deal.

Was this a great show, musically? Heavens no. Was it one for the memory book? Hell yes.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Review: Andrew Bird Noble Beast

Andrew Bird

Noble Beast

While certain bands (The Ramones, Nirvana) make young, aspiring artists believe they can grow up to be rock stars, Andrew Bird makes even professional musicians feel like they will never be good enough. On his fifth full-length album, Bird again shows his undeniable musical craftsmanship.

Much like its predecessors, "Noble Beast" quietly transports listeners to an easy-listening heaven, where its inhabitants pad around in slippers and smoking jackets. Bird's only weakness is his quirky wordplay. Fortunately, the combination of his soothing croon and beautiful acoustic guitar/violin interplay make it easy to overlook his history class lyrics. (On "Tenuous" he sings "From proto-Sanskrit Minoans to porto-centric Lisboans." Huh?)

Standout "Anoanimal" manages to pack all of the album's wide dynamic range into just one track. Broad violin strokes compliment staccato guitar notes, bells and bass drum fill in the empty spaces, and the song slowly rises into a grand crescendo. What else would we expect?

05 Tenuousness - Andrew Bird

For fans of: Rufus Wainwright, The Decemberists
Rating: 3.5 of 4

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Lily Allen It's Not Me, It's You

Here's the deal, I'm pretty sure that I'm in love with Lily Allen. It just happened so suddenly. Sure, I felt fine about her first album, but the second I heard "It's Not Me, It's You," well, the deal was sealed. Here's my review for this week's IN. I'd recommend this album to anyone who's a sucker for pop music.


It's Not Me, It's You

With all of her tabloid exploits and Myspace confessions, Lily Allen's music often takes the backseat. What a shame. Witty, brash, and eccentric, Allen has all the right moves for a celebrity. But what's most impressive is how she packages her over-the-top personality into brilliant little pop songs.

On "The Fear," Allen is able to both poke fun at her superficiality and revel in it. "Life's about film stars and less about mothers/It's all about fast cars and passing each other/But it doesn't matter cause I'm packing plastic/And that's what makes my life so f***ing fantastic."

With the help of collaborator Greg Kurstin, the songs are catchy, but not weightless. One moment Allen is a dancehall diva ("Everyone's At It"), the next she's the sweet girl next door ("Not Fair). Though the album loses a bit of steam at the end ("Who Who'd Known," "Chinese"), Allen shows she's got plenty to offer.

For fans of: Kate Nash, Natasha Bedingfield
Rating: 3.5 of 4

The Fear - Lily Allen

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Review: Akon Freedom


I've been mentally searching my record collection for precedence of liking an artist like Akon. I generally steer clear of R&B and I'm certainly not a huge supporter of 35-year-olds freakdancing underage girls (or Tara Reid) onstage. But there's something about Akon. I've tried to ignore the temptations, but I just can't help loving this record.

It's easy to get sucked in by a catchy single. "Freedom," however, cranks out hit after hit. The album starts off with the excellent "Right Now (Na Na Na)," before launching directly into the mid-tempo "Beautiful," featuring the silky vocals of Colby O'Donis and Kardinal Offishall. Oh, but it doesn't stop there. "Keep You Much Longer" is yet another dance floor anthem. By this point in the album, I want nothing more than to make lots of money and find eternal love in the back of a club.

"Freedom" has all the obligatory guest appearances--T-Pain, Young Jeezy, Wyclef Jean--but Akon proves he's plenty capable of being the main attraction. He's becoming the king of laid-back cool, effortless laying down millions of great love songs. Makes me want to get my freak on.

For fans of: Chris Brown, T-Pain
Rating: 4 of 4 (That's right, all 4)

Akon on Last.Fm

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Record Review: Fall Out Boy Folie a Deux

Fall Out Boy
Folie a Deux

What do you do when you’re the moment’s biggest name in rock ’n’ roll? Whatever you want, of course. But rather than Motley Crue-esque debauchery, Fall Out Boy opt for Sgt. Pepper-like overindulgence. There is not a thread of cohesion to be found on "Folie a Deux." The record jumps from Memphis Soul ("I Don’t Care") to piano balladry ("What a Catch, Donnie") without warning or apology. And, as if there weren’t enough going on already, pointless cameos from Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, The Academy Is, and Gym Class Heroes are crammed into the remaining crevices.

Not surprisingly, the band is at its best when it sticks to its strengths. "The (Shipped) Gold Standard" and "(Coffee’s For Closers)" are great, mid-tempo emo tracks. And, whether or not you think he is a complete wanker, Pete Wentz is still a great lyricist. Though he’s always been a pro at irony, the hints of sincerity are most effective. On "Gold Standard" he writes "You can only blame your problems on the world for so long/Before it all becomes the same old song."

"Folie a Deux" may be completely overblown, but at least it errs on the side of levity. Rather than getting dragged down by the sorrow or dramatics of their peers, FOB is clearly having a good time. But why? Patrick Stump sings it best on the album opener, "No one wants to hear you sing about tragedy."

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