evilhippo: hippo (6 [yay])
( Feb. 13th, 2011 10:29 pm)
Psh, I knew the Arcade Fire sold out this year. What else does an Album of the Year Grammy mean, right?

A moment of silence while I re-contemplate my taste in music. Also, to decide which of my hats looks tastiest (mercifully when I made that bet I excluded the hat on my head, which happened to be my favorite). Frak, they won over Lady Gaga, I mean... what? I figured my hats were entirely safe!

I'm going to pretend that this has some bearing on my life and go to bed happy. (But man, I wasn't even watching the Grammys and it was tedious.)

P.S.: This photo was mostly for the benefit of the winner of the bet, but... the brown one looked tastiest, and I haven't worn it in a while (plus it's not fuzzy, nor is it my Sherlock Holmes hat).
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So, as most of you are probably aware, [livejournal.com profile] apple_pathways and I have an ongoing musical battle going on, in which we challenge each other to come up with playlists for random things. She tripped me up pretty badly by asking for my favorite holiday songs, and I (apparently) caused just as much trouble with the current challenge: New Year's resolutions, the musical! At least three songs you yourself would be willing to sing in response to "What is your resolution this year?

A Prologue, Three Resolutions, and an Epilogue )
Ladies and gents, you are probably all tired of me talking about music but this one is [livejournal.com profile] apple_pathways' fault so you can all blame her instead. She challenged me, and I just cannot leave a challenge unanswered, especially when it comes in the mail:

This inadvertent cam-whoring brought to you by my camera batteries being dead.

Unfortunately, asking me for holiday songs is a bit like asking normal people what their favorite polka is (probably something by Mucca Pazza) or what the best sort of long-neck lute is (the bouzouki).

I had to do some real soul-searching on this one, guys... )

...but here are my answers. )

[livejournal.com profile] apple_pathways actually did this properly, and came up with a a lovely little list, plus it's totally worth it for the bonus video. And if any of the rest of you want to take up the challenge, feel free!
All right, All Songs Considered have already done their Best of 2010, so I figure it's completely fair of me to start on my list of Best Albums of 2010. (Also, my upstairs neighbors are having a very noisy party so it's not like I'm going to be sleeping anytime soon.) Normally I don't do this because I think it's kind of obnoxious and I always leave something out and I feel like I'm being all Pitchforky Hipster but this is the year I stopped reading Pitchfork (and I didn't even notice--I think my brain just stopped processing their stuff around the time they started retweeting every single thing MIA said, and I've just now visited the site for the first time in months and it's all about the Tron OST and there's a giant Apple ad at the top and I still hate the writing. If this is what indie looks like now, how am I supposed to know what's cool?).

This is also the first year that most of my top albums have also been on the Billboard Charts. Obviously this is because I've stopped reading Pitchfork and am no longer in touch with the obscure things I need to listen to in order to stay cool. (My pet theory, which I much prefer, is that only baby boomers and pretentious indie hipster music nerds spend money on music anymore, so it's much easier for weird things like The Age of Adz to chart.)

So, without further ado, I present to you a list and then a series of the sort of wall-o'text paragraphs you've come to expect from me.

The List of 2010 Albums I Own )


Which brings us to the main event: My Favourites )

The party upstairs still isn't over, so I'm going to go sulk with my headphones on. In the meantime, if there's an album I missed or you want to challenge my opinion on any of these, have at it!
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It's been about two months since I got my hands on Sufjan Stevens' Age of Adz. It's also about a month before I can conscionably start on my Best Albums of the Year list, which was going to be the pretence for weaving the tale of the ridiculous backstory I have in my head for this album. But then I saw this video of him performing on Jimmy Fallon and I'm not sure whether Sufjan just Jossed my Age of Adz headcanon or if I'm partially right and he has willingly subjected himself to possession by an evil spirit but isn't fighting it.

I should probably back up a bit here, because even as far as pretendy funtimes conspiracy theories go this one is out there (which is probably why I enjoy entertaining the idea). This is the sort of stuff my brain churns up when I'm bored... )

Dear artists of all sorts: this sort of thing is what you get when you cultivate a somewhat elusive and mysterious persona and then have a public existential crisis in plain view of a bored English major who will deconstruct anything. Just saying. Especially if the album you release afterwards is complex and interesting. And creepy, guys, creepy.
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It seems to be about time for me to get off the whole travelly-thinky-talky go-round for a bit. I will try to do this with as little pointless, gripe-y chatter about work as possible.

As such, I wanted to bring Save the Words to everyone's attention, because 1) words! adorable, adoptable words!, 2) it's November and if we're pounding out words we might as well give some a leg up from obscurity, and 3) go to 1, repeat.

I've adopted sinapistic, in part because it sounds kind of foreboding, and also because I like mustard. I mean, really, where can you go wrong with a foreboding-sounding word for "consisting of mustard"? Plus it's going to be a challenge to use to casually. "The Sunparlour Players are champions of pursuits both musical and sinapistic"? I'll have to think about it.

I also recommend "piladex." I had no idea there was a word for "a game in which an inflated bag is hit with hands to be kept aloft". It'd be a shame to lose a word that useful! For now I'm limiting myself to adopting only one word, though. At least until I leverage sinapistic back into common parlance.

I also owe [livejournal.com profile] apple_pathways a meme response:

1. Reply to this post and I will assign you a letter.
2. List/upload five songs you love that begin with that letter.
3. Post them to your journal with these instructions

I was given the letter S for sanity, which is, as always, questionable:

1. Summertime Clothes - Animal Collective
2. Scythian Empires - Andrew Bird
3. Sleeping on the Roof - The Flaming Lips
4. Seven Swans - Sufjan Stevens
5. Shortly Before the End - OK Go

I only changed each of those numbers about three times (I keep finding more I want to include! What of Sax Rohmer #1? Samson? Scenic World? San Francisco! Santa Fe! Starálfur! Some Fantastic! (I'm going to stop looking at my library now, because this is getting bad.) But hey, I managed to do it without including any songs from the Suburbs. That felt like cheating for some reason.

Also, I have an ulterior motive for number five up there. I kind of want an excuse to talk about my odd fascination with Of the Blue Colour of the Sky. Because, all right, OK Go is like, the one big-name band I knew before they were famous. I was stalking They Might be Giants, it was 2002 or so, and they were opening for them, and they always hung out outside the venue, being friendly and liberal with the hugs and so I adored them. Also their music was pretty good. (Hello, My Treacherous Friends was one of the main songs on the soundtrack to my high school existence.) By their second album I was kind of over it, though, and I let the internet have its way with them. I basically wouldn't have ended up with Of the Blue Colour... if I hadn't had a bunch of emusic downloads left at the end of last month. And... and... strangely, even though it is nothing like what I originally liked them for, I think it's actually a better album than either of the previous ones. I don't necessarily want to hard-wire it into my life, but it comes together as an album wonderfully. It's like, after all this time, they've finally hit their stride with making an album, rather than just clever singles and videos. (Am I already working on my Best Albums of 2010 list? Maaaaybe. Is it easier than last year's? Heck yes it is. Darnit, 2010.)
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evilhippo: hippo (112 [menacing])
( Sep. 18th, 2010 07:28 pm)
Finally, I have a full weekend to work with! And by work I mean... not work at all. As such, I have done basically nothing today, and this is good.

A good part of Friday was actually spent fanmixing (link does not include mp3s, but if you'd like them, all you have to do is ask). It turns out what I need to do is set out to do one thing (which was "Illogical Songs that Would Drive Sherlock Holmes Crazy"), and then eventually a list of songs for something entirely unrelated will sketch itself out in my notes instead. In fact, other than the Solar System Mix (which originally included some extra-playlist material in the form of MC Hawking songs), all of the fanmixes are made entirely from songs that happened to be on my iPod during lunch on Friday, while I sat in the shadow of the Chase building and laughed silently to myself about things like Moriarty bouncing around to Succexy in his socks, giggling about calling Sherlock, in someone else's apartment while they were strapped to a bomb. (That thing about me and inappropriate public laughter? Still a problem.)

On a related note, I am tired of all of my music, my "play things only once a month" playlist is down to 41 songs and I don't want to listen to them, I have a bunch of spare emusic downloads lying around for this month, and it's still another couple of weeks before my Sufjan Stevens preorder pays off in the form of mp3s. So, I'll ask my approximately bi-yearly question: What should I be listening to right now? I'll take anything, honestly. I mean, today I discovered that I actually kind of like Florence + the Machine... something I figured out after everyone else in the world. Dunno how I managed that, but it happens. Either that, or I wasn't properly prepared for this kind of music until after Hazards of Love convinced me that maybe My Brightest Diamond was worth listening to. I've never been very good at music sung by girls. (Okay, I like Dog Days Are Over, but some of the tail end of Lungs is kind of too... whatever the word for that constant forward momentum of polished earnestness in pop music is. Like if it rolls forward with enough of a wall of sound-and-vocals and is mastered loud enough the emotion will be there. There probably isn't a word for that, but that's what it is. Makes me feel vaguely like I'm being manipulated. Also, I apologize for feeling like I have to qualify I every statement I make about any artist that's been on the VMAs because otherwise I can't be a proper hipster anymore and no one will respect my obscure and ironic taste in music.)

If that wasn't enough run-on sentences strung together and you're still hanging in here: I have a random idea that's been lurking in the corners of my brain pestering me at inopportune moments, so, for my benefit and yours, I am kicking it out into the ether to fend for itself. Simply put: a bunch of unrelated heroes get together for a swingers party to trade their sidekicks out for a week. I... admit that I have a bit of a thing for crossovers and exploring the nature of 'secondary' characters and putting people in universes they don't belong in, but I'm sure it'd lead to some quality adventure. (And I say 'hero' here not necessarily in the 'super' sense. We all know which pair I have in mind, because John Watson paired up with Fox Mulder or something would be just as fun. His fascination with eccentric brilliance would probably be mitigated into morbid curiosity.) It's certainly nothing I can do by myself because, let's face it, if I manage to put down more than a thousand words in a month we're doing really well. So, anyone want to have fun with this with me? I'll take a hero, you take a hero, we throw a bunch of sidekicks in a hat, see what we end up with. Doesn't have to be anything major, or even anything made of words, but... well, I'm just throwing it out there. (And I mean, look at my example. I am obviously incapable of thinking outside of the Holmes/Watson archetype at the moment. My alternate comparison was going to be Watson and House, I mean... give my brain some exercise here, since I'm obviously too out of shape for leaping mental fences at the moment. My only excuse is that I only recently started to think about how Holmesian Mulder and Scully were, so they're still in the wrong box in my brain's file system.)
So, "Best Albums of the Year" lists seem to be on a similar timeline to "Christmas Season," in that they start happening months before they're necessary or anyone's in the mood for them.

As such I will not be doing one. This is more about the problem I've discovered. See, this is the first full year that I've had an active emusic subscription, and that is due in part to the joy I had last year downloading everything in sight from all the more obscure best-of lists (though I'll admit, I only stray "obscure" in lists as far as Dr. Ladysounds, and John Allison's taste hasn't quite jived with mine since Of Montreal started releasing really crazy crap okay the rest of the list is fine I just hated Skeletal Lamping. The rest of the lists I tend to read are just technically "indie").

But guys, see, here's the problem. Pitchfork is super-busy sucking up to...actually, I can't figure out what Pitchfork is up to, but their "Best of the Decade" thing was tear-jerkingly bad and things like All Songs Considered's list cover everything I already have. There is no way, guys, no way at all, that I already own almost all the best albums of the year. Recommend me something I probably missed! Recommend something everyone else missed! Recommend... anything. Seriously, even if it's backwards and in Albanian. I need new stuff!

In return, I have loved these albums this year, though I don't expect them to make any of the obvious lists: Bruce Peninsula's A Mountain is a Mouth (worth it for Inside/Outside, and the rest of the album lives up to it) and La Stada's self-titled EP (worst drawback to this: it's just an EP. Sigh. I hope they don't let me down like Tacks, the Boy Disaster did and release just one really good EP and then disappear.) And who am I kidding? I'll probably do a list at the end of the year anyway, because already there are like, five other albums I want to mention and that detracts from the point.

And the point is to tell me what to listen to. Please.
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evilhippo: hippo (58 [yip yip])
( Jul. 20th, 2009 08:53 pm)
I think I've recovered enough to write this. I was basically headachey and dead all day today, which is unfair because I even made a special effort yesterday to avoid all the pot and cigarette smoke that'd been giving me headaches the rest of the weekend. Goshdarnit. Anyway! Sunday wasn't quite as epic as Saturday, but it did have its moments.

1:00 (A) The Mae Shi--So, Saturday I was all "You know what's weird? The Bowerbirds being all popular, that's weird!" and then Sunday started with the Mae Shi, who had just broken up/were in the process of breaking up/were basically two separate bands between the start and end of their set. It was pretty boring through the first three songs, and I almost left to listen to Michael Columbia until they pulled out a parachute, threw it into the audience, sang a song, took it back, and then gradually turned into a hip-hop act that was actually very entertaining.

1:45 (C) Frightened Rabbit and (B) Dianogah--The original plan was to check out Frightened Rabbit and then go hang out at Dianogah. I did the opposite. Dianogah was actually quite good, but definitely not the sort of thing you can stand around listening to (it's totally headphones on, spacing-out productively sort of music). Frightened Rabbit was marginally more interesting live, and their Scottish accents and happiness to be there were good enough to keep me from wandering off.

2:30 (A) Blitzen Trapper (maybe 2:40 (B) The Killer Whales?)--So, honestly I don't remember what I did during this set. I think I caught about four Blitzen Trapper songs, and I was kind of nonplussed, so I wandered to the B stage and was even more nonplussed with the Killer Whales. I don't really remember anything they played, and part of this might be that I was under a tree behind the sound tent and the acoustics there were terrible.

3:35 (B) Women--The problem here, really, is that there wasn't much I'd heard of/had an interest in hearing on Sunday morning, so I did a lot of sitting. I'm certain there's a very strong difference between the Killer Whales and Women, but I honestly couldn't tell you. I did get some vegan curry with lots of veggies at this point, though, which was really delicious and came with the most hardcore and biodegradable spork ever. (Btw the food rocked. I also had a really wonderful spinach pie and some iced coffee horchata, and non-dairy ice cream of deliciousness. I mean really, what the heck kind of festival food is that, even? Other than the spinach pie (which had feta in it), I was vegan all weekend and I don't regret it for a moment, except I did kind of want ribs, but Robinson's always smells good.)

4:30 (B) DJ/Rupture--By most accounts, I should regret not going over to see the Thermals, but I heard a bit of their opening and they sounded like everything else (this is also why I didn't go see Fucked Up, but I don't regret that either), so I went over to stage B for DJ/Rupture, and I don't regret it, because every one of us was dancing. I don't think I mentioned my goal of dancing through an entire set at Pitchfork, but this set accomplished it with flying colours, and so I'm happy. I also realized I'm endlessly fascinated by DJing (I was pretty sure of it after hanging out at the techno stage at the festival I went to in Logan Square, but this pretty much cemented it).

5:30 (B) Japandroids--Kind of meh. I stayed for a while just because I was over there. They had a lot of energy, but it really just wasn't my thing, so I went to get ice cream and then wandered around Flatstock. If I wasn't going to Hillside this weekend and spending more money, I think Flatstock would've bankrupted me because oooh so many pretty posters.

6:30 (A) M83--I was going to watch Vivian Girls, but the crowd was just too massive for me to hang around at the B stage when I knew that Grizzly Bear was going to be next. I do regret not seeing them; M83 was good, but not exciting. In hindsight, I probably could've wound my way into a decent-enough spot for Grizzly Bear even if I'd been over at Vivian Girls, but as it was, I got to meet a very nice guy who was sharing his tarp with people and had a nice long sit in the grass.

7:25 (C) Grizzly Bear-- ^_______^ When people toss around the factiod that "Veckatimest is the most collaborative record [of theirs] to date" I want you all to know that it really, actually means something. I think everyone sang lead on something. The only person who wasn't habitually switching instruments was the drummer (and I mean like, switching: guitar to recorder to omnichord, bass to clarinet to flute). Their monitors kept breaking and buzzing and they kept going anyway. And they were fantastic. I love them more than I did before.

8:40 (A) The Flaming Lips-- I suspect Wayne just wasn't that into us until about halfway through the set, after we were done showing our displeasure at his disinterest in whole "Write the Night" idea. Personally, I thought he did much better with the things they hadn't played recently, and I imagine part of why they said they'd do the fan-request thing was that they were under some sort of assumption that Pitchfork-type fans would vote up obscure songs rather than knocking out a greatest-hits list. They're obviously going for a different direction, and man, I mean, I don't blame them. Most of their mainstays are from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin, which are, at the least, seven years old. (I actually could've sworn that Yoshimi... came out in 1998/9, along with everything else I loved in high school, but apparently I was off by a bit. Somehow, this makes me feel even older.) Anyway, despite a lukewarm beginning (I think the crowd was tired and wanted more pandering and less showiness, which was silly considering it was the freaking Flaming Lips, and what you get is explosions no matter what) they put on a good show. I kind of wondered how, with all the balloons and confetti, the festival kept its carbon footprint small. I wonder how many green energy credits they had to buy to offset it...

All in all... not quite as solidly amazing as Saturday, but definitely a Sunday well-spent. Even if I was braindead all day today, and probably will only recover in time to die yet again this weekend at Hillside. (Woo!) Now, if only work wasn't in a state that makes me really wish I could come in this weekend and iron out all the little disasters crashing together...

There are also a grand total of three pictures over at my Flickr. There would be more, but I really hate most crowd pictures and every picture of any band looks the same, so you can have balloons, confetti, and sunset instead.
I laid down to go to sleep last night and instead ended up listening to Regina Spektor's new album for the second time. (I'm a bit behind. I heard it first yesterday, at work of all places, because one of the new(ish) clerks had it on his mp3 player. I'm... not even going to get into how bizarre that sort of thing is, compared to the state of my office this time last year.) I really enjoyed it, and attempted to lay there and write about it on my iPod, but the nonsense the auto-correct turned everything into made the whole thing a losing battle. And so I got up this morning, listened to it again (because I'm really enjoying it), and read some reviews.

Now, I'll admit to feeling very superior when Pitchfork blasts something that I like and feel I can defend. But it turns out that just about everyone else dislikes this album too (from a critical perspective, which I understand, as someone who sat through classes in which "critic" had about sixteen differently-shaded meanings we were expected to be able to "deconstruct" and apply and practice, is completely different from any sort of logic or appreciation). However, most of those reasons have something to do with over-production, which I'll concede is true (vey true), and not the fact that Regina Spektor basically needs to "grow up." (Dear Pitchfork: This entry wasn't supposed to be about how much I hate you sometimes, but man, you know, keep up these nonsense vitriolic reviews that you're known and loved for, and I'll egg your offices someday. I know where you live. Also you still haven't hired me.)

That paragraph got away from me.

The point I'm attempting to get to here is the way Far resonated with something at least ten years old in the back of my mind. A lot of otherwise-indie bands have put out really good (in a "Holy crap, this is really accessible and easy to listen to, yet still rewarding" way) albums this year. I'll admit I completely don't understand why some of these suddenly-accessible albums are out to rave reviews (Merriweather Post Pavilion and Veckatimest, for example), while others are getting slammed for being too pretty or over-produced. (Kudos to the Decemberists for being the only band this year to completely break that debate by releasing a concept album.) On one level, yes, Far sounds more like 90s girl rock and Lilith Fair (I'm pretty sure I've referenced Lilith Fair at least four times this year, and that's four times more than I have at all in the past decade, I think...) than it does garden-variety Regina Spektor. But what's really wrong with that? Listening to it last night, I pictured myself back in high school with Stunt. And I stared thinking, you know... I think these are the gateway albums. Someone somewhere is hearing Regina (or Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear) for the first time with this and will one day work their way backwards to things like Oedipus and Reading Time With Pickle (or Bees or Knife or you know, I could just capitalize about anything here, considering these bands' catalogs), just like I started with One Week ten years ago and worked out and around from there (to much better music). I like the idea of a cycle like that, that just kind of renews itself going on and on, bringing more and more people into the fold. (This says nothing of the "decline" afterwards, when no one is happy because the old fans miss the old stuff and the new fans don't like the old stuff and there aren't enough middle-of-the-road "I like everything!" people to keep things going...) For one it helps devalue stupid indie/hipster pretension that says you need to be with bands from the beginning. If anything, I sometimes miss finding a glossy, pretty band that's being played on the radio and then working back to the rough gem earlier stuff.

I'm not sure I've made my point here, but what I want to say is this: There is nothing wrong with making an accessible album. I remember all the old fans (who I was very afraid of at the time) being confused at why the Barenaked Ladies would put out something like One Week. I remember Moxy Früvous being interviewed about it for whatever reason, and saying something like "Sometimes, you just have to get some radio play." I don't think that's necessarily the point, but there's nothing wrong with giving people a door. Most people are used to things that are tailored to sound pretty and kind of homogeneous. I will raise my tiny useless hipster-rock fist and shout "You haven't sold out until you're on a major label! Release whatever the heck you want with as many producers as you want! Just don't let anyone else make you do it! Also while I'm shouting at all of you, if some of you are going to record lo-fi things as a genre stop making an effort to make it sound worse because I don't have the patience to try to enjoy it!"

In conclusion: Good albums this year are good. QED.

P.S. Yes, I can sit here and go "Actually, Stunt is an awful comparison to Far because One Week was like almost nothing else on the album and there isn't really a stand-out single on Far, which is probably why all the critics are being teeth-gnashy. But whatever, Far doesn't have the same sort of throwaway tracks Stunt did, either." But music is complicated anyway, and that's why no one writes anything about it that makes sense. Also I have a sense that, in the last few years, Regina's popularity has kind of snuck past me and I don't really know how or why or how many other people have heard of her now, so what I'm basing this all on is probably wrong anyway because I'm assuming she's still the semi-obscure indie darling I think of her of and not, say, the person who was randomly playing over the credits in one of the Narnia movies.

Anyway! Guys! Bad albums reviews/ratings are for bad albums! Not for albums that throw you off because they don't sound like the old stuff! Tell me that dolphin imitation didn't make you smile! (Pitchfork, you are exempt from that statement because I know it didn't make you smile, and I know you don't have a real heart. Also, the highest track rating you've given lately is to a song that is basically ALL AUTOTUNED. What the crap?)
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evilhippo: hippo (77 [lightbirds])
( Jun. 22nd, 2009 08:56 pm)
Tonight's Question of the Night:

Is it acceptable to totally trash a band's album, and then turn around and shower them with praise for their live show?

Thankfully this question is mostly moot, because I never got around to posting my absolutely horrible, unhappy thoughts about The Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca. Well, okay, I was mostly just nonplussed. There is always at least one album every year that everyone else likes, a lot, that I just don't get. It's just... this time around, this album sounds exactly like the album last year that I didn't like that everyone else did. In fact, I'm at least partway convinced that Bitte Orca is a secret follow-up to Vampire Weekend. Down to the vocals (that would be good if they weren't so affected)... only with noisier backup and more girls. So, basically my main gripe about Bitte Orca is that everyone is going "Oh, new! Groundbreaking, different indie rock!" and I'm going "... Are we sure this isn't Vampire Weekend*?"

Anyway! It's probably obvious that I am much more entertained by big ideas, even if they're not executed perfectly (coughHazardsofLovecough). And the Dirty Projectors just... are kind of a medium idea. But here's the thing that makes me a hypocrite.

They rock live.

I am going to hold at least part of this to the magic of the Pritzker Pavilion, because when the sound people nail the sound (which they totally and fatally failed to do for St. Vincent), it's fantastic. But you know what? The Dirty Projectors are tight. To the point that I suspected them of lip syncing (until there were a few hiccups with the percussion, and I had to concede otherwise). It was a good, good show. There were a few weak songs, especially Stillness is the Move. I strongly suspected that this song was ironic, but seeing it performed, it... isn't. They preformed it, really and truly, as a summertime, girl-shouty, Mariah Carey-sounding pop song. And on stage, it looked and sounded a lot like something that would happen at a sleepover karaoke party. (There was a bald guy and his toddler son, though, who zoomed back and forth in front of me during this song, and the kid was pounding on his father's head so happily I couldn't help but enjoy it, too.) Other than that, though, the girls were far, far better than the guy singer. And it was good.

So, here is my prescription: If you're at a festival or something, and the Dirty Projectors are there, see them. Otherwise, if you buy one of their albums, I recommend getting a good set of speakers and about an acre of land. Set the speakers on one end of the yard, turn them up good and loud, and then sit on the other end of the yard. I think the issue I have with Bitte Orca, and their other albums, is that the music needs a lot of space. Not because it's particularly intricate, but because it's thick, and packed into headphones or small speakers it just sounds boring; like Vampire Weekend, but without the aggressive attempts at listenability.

*Obligatory Disclaimer: I don't hate Vampire Weekend. In fact, I liked them enough to legally own their album. I just didn't find it to be anything particularly exciting or fantastic the first time around. Just upbeat and easy to listen to. Also, in order to make Bitte Orca, I think Vampire Weekend would've had to ingest a lot of odd drugs and pretty much ditch the whole accessible music aesthetic.

And Edit: And, despite my complaining, I'm glad this isn't as bad as it could've been. It always throws me when something like that happens to someone I just saw--even if I saw them from a few hundred yards away.
evilhippo: hippo (107 [snob])
( May. 1st, 2009 10:22 pm)
Once upon a time, when Set 'Em Wild Set 'Em Free leaked, I had the brilliant revelation that the album would sound really good on vinyl. This was also around the time that my mom was getting into some of my music, and so I thought "I'll kill two birds with one stone! I will get my legit copy of this on vinyl, and have it sent home for my parents to enjoy until I get a proper record player."

The album arrived at home yesterday, and after a bit of cajoling, I talked my parents into putting it on tonight. I'd already sent my mom the mp3s, and she'd given it a fairly favorable review, so I figured maybe my dad would like it too. But, as I was talking to my mom tonight, I kept getting weird vibes. "Your album is playing. It's a little dirgey, but I'm sure I'll like it after I listen to it about 10 times, just like everything else you've introduced me to. :)" She kept commenting on how deep the guy's voice was, and how depressing it was. "Well, I guess it is a bit slow at times," I said. My dad compared it to Black Sabbath, and said something about the occult. "I guess all criticisms are valid," I thought, and said "I think they're a little too... hippie, to be occult." I couldn't figure out why they didn't love this album as much as I did.

Then I got a call. My mother was apparently too overcome with laughter to continue our conversation online. Through giggles, she explained that the album was a 45. They'd listened to the entire album at 33 1/3. The entire album. "I kept telling him that was how it was supposed to be! Dirgey! You agreed it was dirgey! Who makes a 45 LP?" And it's true, I could not have predicted this. I am not all that experienced at at being old-school, and so I don't know that it's non-standard to have a full-sized album play at 45 rpm. Though, I admit, if I put something on and it sounded like a record playing at the wrong speed, I'd probably change the speed, regardless of whatever arty, experimental nonsense I suspected the band of. My parents are old! Old enough to have an extensive record collection! They're supposed to know better than this.

On the plus side, I got them to promise me slow-speed Akron/Family mp3s, so I could enjoy the album just like they did.

Edit (Days later): The surprise moral to this story, now that I've thought of what this situation must've been like, is that my parents must have a lot of tolerance for my eccentricities, and respect for my taste in music, to sit through an entire album on the wrong speed. It makes me feel kind of loved.
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evilhippo: hippo (116 [music])
( May. 1st, 2009 09:48 pm)
All right, I am a complete sell-out hipster and an embarrassment to myself, but if anyone else is going/wants to go to the Pitchfork Music Festival this summer, I could use the company. I'm going now because Beirut is going to be there and that officially puts it over the number of bands I can stand missing, even when music snobs and hipsters are involved.

I officially offer you a free spot on my couch and my Chicago expertise, and some pancakes, if you want.

Seriously. If anyone is considering going, I need someone to protect me from the hipsters. And, I mean, we're all supposed to see the Flaming Lips before we die, and Beirut is awesome, and so is Grizzly Bear, and I suspect I may actually learn to like The National if I see them live. Plus all the people I have no interest in/have never heard of, who may turn out to be cool.

I promise I'm actually a happy-go-lucky concert-goer, and not the sort of downer music snob who doesn't enjoy anything anymore (that's who I want you to protect me from).

Anyone, anyone?
I think I'm through shouting uselessly into the ether for now. Instead, I am crawling through Craigslist looking for things to do with my time (other than sitting around trying to figure out what to do with my time).

I am probably going to put in a profile for this, because I remember almost doing the 24-hour plays at the UofC once, and almost signing up for these particular 24-hour plays once before, so it's about time I actually, you know, threw my hat into the ring. The main problem is coming up with a witty enough profile. This is hard when I haven't done any actual, substantial writing for two years now (two years!) Any suggestions? I don't know... at least tell me that I'm cooler than some of the people on the list right now? I have to hope that at least one or two of them are cooler than me, because just about everyone agrees that I need more friends in the city, and I'd like them to be less the office-bound type.

There's also a music blog trying to get off the ground here. Considering a significant number of Pitchfork writers already seem to be from Chicago, I am officially interested in working for a different music blog because the people from Pitchfork annoy me. The bonus, of course, is the hope that I'd get advance copies of CDs and get into concerts for free. I can BS my way around indie music with the best of them for that. (And I just added like, six concerts I want to go to to my last.fm list, and I'm thinking, you know, it'd probably be good to have someone subsidize this addiction, so I can afford to pay for taxis on the way back from the shows that run until 1:30 in the morning, after my bus stops running).

The best news of the day, by far, is that my mandolin should be here by the end of the week, which means I can (almost) safely sign up for the next session of lessons. I'm just kind of torn between whether I want to potentially embarrass myself by taking Mandolin 2 without taking the semi-required in-between class. And I'd mostly be doing it because the last instructor I had went a bit too slow, and I want to get more out of the 8 weeks than just a few more chords. And I want to prove to myself that I can still study and practice and get good at something when it's challenging. I just have to hope I don't get myself laughed out of the class (or gently talked-down-to by the prof afterwards).

WTB some self-confidence?

Don't think this means I've forgiven you for screwing me over, University of Chicago. I will never forget.
evilhippo: hippo (40 [ellipses])
( Mar. 26th, 2009 06:03 pm)
Goshdarnit, two bits of musical bad news at the same time today.

1) I will not have my new mandolin for another month yet. I may cave in and cancel my order, and resign myself to wandering the streets of Chicago searching for something with a good story behind it. Goshdarn you, Washburn! At least be honest about how far you're backed up on orders! Apparently there are still people who were supposed to get theirs by Christmas. Grrr.

2) They moved the Mountain Goats/John Vanderslice concert out of the church, and into a place with seats. Last time I saw JV there were seats and I hate concerts with seats. No one stands up and dances, the crowd is dead and it's also harder to find a good spot. I mean, sure, the church would've had pews, but people have to squeeze together on pews so it's more personal... and it's a church. How much cooler can you get for an acoustic show? But noooo, let's move it to the fairly pretty restored theatre that is lovely except it's designed for movies and not concerts. I mean, sure, there isn't really dancing at most concerts anyway, but a mass of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, bobbing their heads is still better than a mass of people separated by armrests and refusing to sing along because comfortable chairs discourage singing or something. Grrrrr! If I am allowed to stand in the aisle the entire time, I will. Look at how tiny these people look. Look at how no one is standing! Man. I do not want to sit when I could be standing in a crowd staring in awe up at John Darnielle. (Oh well, at least I'll get to see him. I'm still trying to decide whether he'll effectively counteract Neil Gaiman's nefarious writing-mojo black hole.)

And I'm sick. I was talking to a borrower on the phone today, and my voice just kept cracking and disappearing and now I'm sniffly, have no voice, and I'm sore all over. I think it probably sounded like I was crying... it's not often the borrower gets to sound like the emotionally stable one. Siiiigh. At least it was sunny today, otherwise I'd already be holed up in bed and refusing to move until tomorrow.
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evilhippo: hippo (74 [closer look])
( Mar. 21st, 2009 10:00 pm)
My dad recently got into flickr. Most of the stuff he's posted has been novel for its "wow, this is old and on actual film" quality. But this set makes me want to write a pseudo-steampunk novel about Youngstown's further-burnt-out dystopian future. Screwing with my mind even more, those photos are from 1998. My mind immediately rebelled against how old they looked, and then I remembered... 1998 was more than ten years ago. Yikes. (It's also amusing to think of my dad still being chased out of places by the police while I was in 8th grade).

I didn't give much thought to Beirut's new EP, but upon second-listen, Zach Condon's vocals over electronic music is just as haunting and (now that the Balkan sound is a little broken in) somewhat more novel. Also, man, guys, I feel old because I'm officially at the point that some of my favourite musicians are younger than me. Sure, Zach is only a year younger, but it's all downhill from here.

In regards to the BSG finale... I think I cried mostly because the show was over, and I was going to miss the characters. But... ) That aside, though, I have a feeling re-watching the finale at any point in the next few months would just make me notice everything that didn't quite line up and ruin what afterglow I have. Someday I'll go back and re-watch the whole series. And I'm totally glad I was keeping up with the show as it was going along, rather than only finding out now. I'm kind of disappointed that most of the set pieces being auctioned off are way out of my price range.

P.S. It looks like my dear favourite St. Vincent is riding high on SXSW propaganda (well, I still put value in a favorable mention in the NYT). I wish I'd talked to her long enough two years ago that she'd remember me, so I could give her a hug if I go see her in June.
I love days like this. I slept in until nine, lazed about for another few hours, then set out with the intention of returning my library books and getting concert tickets. I returned the books and then remembered (noticed, really, since it was obvious) that the St. Patrick's Day parade and things were going on, so I wandered over to see the giant crowd... which was just as full of obnoxious people as I thought it would be. I reaaaaaally don't like drunk midwesterners. Like, at all. So I'm not entirely sure why I thought wandering through the crowd would be fun, except that I like crowds, and I apparently like making bad decisions so...

After that I decided that I should make sure the river was properly green and then go to the grocery store. It was, and there were some pirate-flagged canoes paddling along with the police behind them. I'm hoping it was a boat-chase, and even if it wasn't, I'm going to pretend anyway. From here, I decided I should go up to Wicker Park instead and get the tickets to the Dr. Dog show at the Double Door. This will make it three concerts for me in April and May (Mountain Goats/John Vanderslice and the Bowerbirds as well), and I must say, though the Dr. Dog tickets were impulsive based completely on my lunch Friday, during which they came up on my iPod and I went "Gosh, they're not the best thing ever but I bet it'd be really fun to see them live," I'm really looking forward to this spring now. Each one of the three concerts is also at a venue I've never been to, which makes it even more fun. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've been anywhere more than twice... and the only place I've been to twice is the Beat Kitchen. I'm not counting the Millennium Park amphitheater, since I eat lunch there and so it totally doesn't count as a venue. Even if two of the best concerts I've ever seen were there. The only thing that would make my spring better, concert-wise, would be if Sufjan Stevens decided to exist again (though I've heard rumblings of a new album? About time!)

Actually, this is also the very definition of why Ticketmaster is dead to me. I could have sat at home today and paid them 8 dollars to reserve my tickets for me, dooming myself to the Thursday show. Instead, I got to go out on a pleasantly sunny day, wander around Chicago, and get my tickets for face-value at the venue itself, nabbing some of the last Friday tickets, and figuring out where the best place to stand would be in the process. I don't know why someone who lived in the city would do it any other way (and I still hope that Ticketmaster dies because $8-12 surcharges on $12-15 tickets is just DUMB).

Somehow I ended up in Lincoln Park after the Wicker Park sojourn, and so I bought my groceries about half the city away from where I usually do. I also made the colossal mistake of wandering through Whole Foods while I was effectively starving. Everything in there looks so delicious. I'm glad it's expensive enough that my aversion to overpriced food kicks in, otherwise the $65 I spent on groceries today would've easily been $120. However, in my wandering I determined that Whole Foods actually must use the same produce supplier as Hyde Park Produce because they, too, had champagne mangoes and apples on sale. For twice as much, of course. I ♥ Hyde Park Produce... locally-owned, cheap, and no matter how hard I try to confuse google's walking directions, less than half a mile away (that was my attempt to make it understand that you can cut across some of those brown areas and go in the back way. It obviously didn't work).

Food in hand, on the half-mile walk from Trader Joe's to the North/Clybourn red line station, I realized that the reason I'd been so productive today was that I had originally intended to do my taxes. Or work on my lesson plan. I'd feel bad that I didn't accomplish either of those things, but man, today was nice. I probably walked three or four miles total, I had actual food for lunch, and I also took a nap when I got back from my adventure. The first nap I've taken in months that took place while it was still light out.

Oh, and I didn't mention it, but I saw flowers yesterday, guys. Growing out of the ground. I was so happy. There are robins around now, too. Spring makes me so happy.
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evilhippo: hippo (108 [baffled])
( Mar. 3rd, 2009 07:59 pm)
Still scared. (Tally for refs is at 50%. Several non-responders. Nervous.)

Also, it's safely been ten years since I heard of Moxy Früvous, and probably six since they broke up, and I still know what Murray Foster is up to. Man my high school obsessions were hardcore. (Somehow most of them look younger now than they did last I saw of them. Suspicious.) Oddly, yes, Great Big Sea came up at lunch today.

Anyone have any podcasts to recommend? I've rediscovered their magic, but so far I haven't made it much past NPR and the BBC.
Guys, things like the Black Cab Sessions make me so, so happy. I mean, seriously, I find musicians so fascinating when they're playing in odd places. It's proof that they can play (and holy crap can that violinist play). Also, bonus points for Death Cab for Cutie in a cab. It's also occasionally supremely strange to see the faces behind some of the odd voices I adore so much. Like the guy from Sunset Rubdown? I don't know what I was picturing, but it wasn't nearly as normal-if-mop-topped as he actually is. (And if that isn't enough music, there's also concerts a l'emporter. I read it in French, but you don't have to.) Why do these awesome things only seem to crop up in Europe? I mean, seriously, if I had a little handicam or something I would totally try to recruit musicians to wander around Chicago with me playing beautiful music. I'll get a pirate ship, anchor it out on the Point and invite people out for parties or something. Where is your culture, Chicago?!

In other, fantastic news, after much waffling I went ahead and ordered myself the mandolin I've been drooling over. It's not the gorgeous $3,000 one that I've been drooling over for longer, but methinks I'll have to work my way up to that one anyway. Blue Remy! You will be here next week!
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I have worked so much overtime in the last two weeks, I can afford to do one of several things:

- I can buy myself a mandolin. (I want blue Remy! Blue Remy would be awesome!)
- I can go to Bonnaroo. (Seriously, does anyone want to go? Because I aim to do at least one music festival this year.)
- I can adopt this adorable cat that I've been admiring for days. Though this brings up issues with future moves, and things with the landlord and Sirius now, doesn't she have the cutest cat smile ever? She looks like great trouble fun. (I have yet to get off work early enough to go see her.)
- Buy myself a record player... If I ever manage to decide how far I want to travel into audiophile territory, because that's a slippery, slippery slope. I also need good speakers. This would turn into a much more massive investment than my current overtime could cover.

Of course, my indecisiveness and unwillingness to spend money pretty much means I won't be doing any of these things. Unless someone wants to go to Bonnaroo! Or if I get over my fear of ordering a musical instrument online. But really, guys... music festival. Who wants to go? I'll bring my Blue Remy! (... I have a lot more overtime in my future.)
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