Sunday, July 31, 2011

Childish Gambino: "Be Alone" / "Lights Turned On"

I don't want WKMR to be just another would be "tastemaker" blog - which is probably fortunate since I have like zero readers as of this writing - but instead I'm more interested in engaging in dialogue regarding the direction of pop culture, for better or worse.

Speaking of direction, what's going on with Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino in 2011?


Admittedly I've only heard the two part I Am Just a Rapper mixtape, which is a year old now, but these two new tracks (second one below) seem to be taking the uncertain, self deprecating rhymes of last year in an unwelcome new direction.  The couplets are as clever as ever, but the chorus and backing track on both of these tunes come off like a third string parody of Kanye's emo rap.  The generic R&B crooning and even more generic dance beat - sounds like it came off the Rihanna reject pile - are both major turnoffs to these ears.  I'm really hoping this shit isn't representative of CG's upcoming Camp album.  There are enough sell out rappers trying to land a single on the increasingly irrelevant Billboard Top 40 as it is.

Throwback 1974 || Grand Funk: "Bad Time"

I first came to this song via the Jayhawks version, from Tomorrow the Green Grass.  I knew it was a cover from the beginning, but either I never picked up on the fact that it was a Grand Funk composition or else I took note of Mark Farner's writing credit at first and then promptly forgot.

I initially considered the Jayhawks version as a candidate for Killer Covers, but in the end I decided that the only thing I prefer about the Jayhawks rendition is the vocals.  Otherwise they don't add enough of their own to consider it a superior cover.  Compare the two below and decide for yourself.

BONUS: The Jayhawks' version:

Half Assed Reviews for Half Assed Films || "Sucker Punch"

Uhhh... no idea why I thought there might be any redeeming value in this movie, yet I rented it anyway.

OK, I do know why: Zack Snyder has only really impressed me once, and that was way back on his first film, Dawn of the Dead, one of the better horror remakes in recent years (hint: the best remakes are the ones that take the general outline of the original and fashion a brand new story around it).  Watchmen was also well done but stuck so close to the comic book that I have a hard time singling Snyder himself out as worthy of commendation.

What I was expecting out of Sucker Punch was something akin to the stylized, one off appeal of 300, a movie I enjoyed looking at (as opposed to watching) once but have never felt the urge to revisit again.  Instead, Sucker Punch is the absolute ultimate in fanboy pandering, which could be a good or bad thing depending on whether you are, in fact, a fanboy or just one of the disgruntled wallflowers that wish the geek brigade would use their newfound power within the zeitgeist to demand better quality, instead of just trading in the intellectualism that made them geeks in the first place for more explosions and PG-13 T&A.

Clearly I am in the bitter, latter category.  And yet, I've acknowledged that I'm occasionally down for a mindless action flick, as long as it delivers on some level (ditto for horror and comedy; I'm willing to forgive terrible plotting and characterization as long as they come through on the kills and jokes, respectively).  The problem with Sucker Punch is that, while it is indeed mindless, it doesn't really deliver on the action.

Jill Barber: "Tell Me"

Jill Barber doesn't seem to be getting the same mainstream accolades as the likes of Adele, Duffy, etc.  Not sure why that is, but it may have to do with her sticking to the jazzy side of soul/classic pop - slinky, seductive strings instead of swinging, seductive beats - or it could be that Barber initially started off as a pretty standard singer-songwriter type and is now seen as jumping on the bandwagon, but either way it's hard to listen to her new album, Mischievous Moon, all the way through and not feel like she's riding the crest of a creative wave not really seen in the genre since Norah Jones' initial breakthrough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Opeth: "The Devil's Orchard"

I had mixed feelings about Opeth's last album, Watershed, digging the musicianship but questioning elements of the songwriting.  It was one of those albums that, opening track "Coil" aside, I didn't find many things egregiously at fault with, but at the same time I appreciated more as an object than as a feeling, organic collection of music.

THIS has me a bit more stoked.  One of the things I liked most about Watershed was the cover of "Bridge of Sighs" on the deluxe edition, and this upcoming single off of September's Heritage is all the more promising in that it hints at a full blown redirect into 70s prog.  That's something I can get on board with.

KILLER COVERS || Voivod: "Astronomy Domine"

Nothing against Pink Floyd - even their early psych period - but there's just something about Voivod's icy, precision technicality on this version of "Astronomy Domine" that kills.  It's a valid cover: while it is in fact pretty faithful to the original, it does trade in Syd Barrett's hazy, drug fueled psychosis for an antiseptic menace that is more immediately threatening than the Floyd rendition.  What really sells it is Voivod's complete mastery of the loud/quiet dynamic; Michel Langevin's rollercoaster drumming in particular steals the show.

Top 10 Most Useless Genre Labels

I've been thinking a lot lately about the subject of "labeling" music, ie. attributing genres and sub-genres to a particular band or piece of music for categorization purposes.  This is something that nearly every musician feels obliged to hate, though I would argue that, in order to discuss their work intelligently, some form of short hand is necessary... one can't reasonably be expected to launch into an impromptu, 400 word review every time they want to describe an artist's music, and even if they were to do so, saying a band plays "angular riffs" with "clean, melodic leads" and "a propulsive backbeat" in lieu of, say, using the substitute term deathcore, does little to place said band in context with contemporary trends in music.

Let's face it: the real reason an artist gets belligerent whenever the subject of what genre they play comes up is because they like to believe that they're inventing a brand new sound, a wheel that may look like other wheels but is nonetheless one that they invented sans influence, ostensibly out of whole cloth.  Well, fuck that, if it looks like a wheel, drives like a wheel, and the tread is usually worn thin by the third or fourth time you take it out, it's a goddamn wheel.  We're not going to invent brand new nomenclature to describe the same shit every time some asshole gets their skinny jeans in a bunch.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mastodon: "Black Tongue"

As much as I love when a band edges away from mainstream acceptance and tries something more experimental, more progressive, I have to say I only really appreciated Mastodon's previous effort, Crack the Skye, from more of a cerebral perspective... I never fully embraced it as a repeat listening experience.

Which is why I'm pretty thrilled to hear this new track from their forthcoming The Hunter.  Having proven they can get ponderous with the best of them, it appears Mastodon is finally getting back to their roots a bit, as evinced by both "Black Tongue" (below) and the recent Adult Swim outtake "Deathbound".

Washed Out: "Wicked Game"

I thought about using this Chris Isaak nod to inaugurate the site's Killer Covers theme, but it's not decidedly superior, just different.  This was recorded for a Sirius session, but I don't have satellite radio so I just stole it off 40 other blogs instead.

THROWBACK 1999 || Tom Waits: "Hold On"

Alright, July being a month filled with vapid summertime releases that I have no interest in covering here - to wit, new LPs by 311, Incubus, 3 Doors Down and Sublime - it seems as good a time as any to kick off the Throwback series. Since the aforementioned new releases might already lead one to believe we're still living at the turn of the millennium, let's go with something from 1999.

1999 was kind of a transitional year. Nearly all the commercially successful grunge and alt rock bands that ruled the decade had either imploded - Soundgarden, Faith No More, Gin Blossoms, White Zombie - or had taken a nose dive in album sales... Stone Temple Pilots, Collective Soul, Bush, Third Eye Blind, etc.

On the other hand, 1999 was the Year of Napster; many youth who would ordinarily have been fussing over the Next Big Thing were instead fleshing out their existing discographies, downloading old stuff that they'd never got around to buying and just generally catching up on the classics. Yep, it was the era of compilations and greatest hits records, the remix collection and the covers album... a period in flux that the record business never really recovered from.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend Nachos: "Black Earth"

Weekend Nachos: not a lot of interesting background on these guys floating around. They do maintain a blog but it basically just serves to post tour dates and sell you merch. I guess they need all the help they can get since they seem to bounce from one record label to another with every new release.

Weekend Nachos - "Black Earth" by brooklynvegan

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse: Roast in Peace

I swore to make a point not to report on stories that everyone would hear about one way or another, but Blabbermouth has a rather hilarious take on Amy Winehouse's (still very, very mysterious) death.

Basically a bunch of washed out hard rock & heavy metal stars use the occasion of Ms. Winehouse's demise to remind kids that drugs are not cool... never mind that one of the stars in question was once declared dead for two minutes following an OD of his own. Guess Amy's real party foul was not shaking it off and hopping right back on that night train.

Anyway, no one that hypocritical could possibly be serious about it, so I like to view Blabbermouth's eulogy comp as a sort of impromptu wake roast, probably the best I've seen or heard since 1987's classic Amazon Women on the Moon:

PS. Fun Fact: 1987 was also the year Nikki Sixx had his infamous OD, which means society was this close to Henny Youngman dancing on Sixx's grave.

Handsome Furs: "What About Us"

Apparently Wolf Parade wasn't synth-y enough to take advantage of the current retro-new wave craze, so Dan Boeckner pulled the plug on that band and turned his focus to Handsome Furs instead... you know, the whole "indefinite hiatus" thing. OK, that was crass and cynical; the truth is Boeckner has realized the one thing that all these "disco punk" groups can't fathom, and that is that synthesizers should always been accompanied by gratuitous nudity. If nothing else, just for symmetry.

Foreign Legion: "Son of a Gun"

Largely AWOL over the past decade, San Jose hip hop duo Foreign Legion are coming back hard this year with Night Moves, their first full length since 2002's Playtight. "Son of a Gun" is not quite my favorite off the record - that would be either "Victory" or "Fresh Air" - but it's no slouch and, more importantly, there's an official video for this one. Videos are good: CMT knows this, MTV does not.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We Are Trees: "Teenage Heartbreak"

We Are Trees are finally following up last year's debut EP Boyfriend with the appropriately book-ending Girlfriend. Not much info about this band floating around - Bandcamp and Facebook list totally different members - but suffice to say they are a band of indeterminate membership playing lush but lo fi indie pop from Virginia Beach ("Beast Coast" in the band's own nomenclature). Other than that, for right now the music will just have to speak for itself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Frank Ocean: "Novacane"

A Katrina refugee, Frank Ocean - no relation to Billy - relocated to LA in 2005, later meeting up with and joining the Odd Future crew. In keeping with the atypical lyrical obsessions of that collective, "Novacane" is a suitably trippy rumination on numbed senses, chemically induced or otherwise.

FRANK OCEAN [Novacane] from nabil elderkin on Vimeo.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Common & Nas: "Ghetto Dreams"

Now this is a collabo. The upcoming Jay-Z / Kanye album may be highly anticipated but personally I wouldn't be surprised to find it filled with commercial crossover tracks that benefit Kanye more so than Hova. "Ghetto Dreams" sounds like the polar opposite: Nas drawing Common out of his normally mellow shell to throw down on some raw, street shit. This almost sounds more like an old Kool G Rap & DJ Polo cut than a 2011 Common joint, which makes it all the more surprising that it's being showcased on Common's upcoming The Dreamer, The Believer rather than a new Nas album.

Common - Ghetto Dreams feat NAS by Nasir Jones

Mumford & Sons: "Home" (Live on KBCO)

Is this band still relevant? Kidding. Although it's hard to believe in hindsight that when I first heard these guys on local college station KUT - what? 18 months ago? - I thought that Frightened Rabbit had sanded off their rough edges and were making a bid for commercial airplay... for whatever that's worth.

Mumford & Sons - "Home/Untitled" (Live on KBCO) by

Reboot! If Hollywood can get away with it...

Time out.

New plan.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that it's going to take literally years to plow through every great song released between 1990 and whatever Foul Year of Our Lord it happens to be when I finish... so basically what I did was reformulate my strategy, lease the domain name with the intention of turning this into an honest-to-God real website, and then sit on the domain for months before I finally succumbed to incompetence and just pointed Blogspot to the domain name without a trace of redesign whatsoever.

Christ, what an asshole.

Anyway, here's the deal: from now on this blog's primary focus is going to be on new releases, but with frequent looks back at classic material from the past (other blogs that do something similar quite well include Tiny Mix Tapes, Metal Underground and - probably the best example of this blog's original intentions made superfluous by someone doing it better - Every Great Song Ever).

I also wanted to start getting into covering other media as well as music, but I don't really feel like juggling multiple blogs (not to mention domain subscriptions), so expect coverage of movies, literature and (possibly-but-rarely) television to pop up here and there as well (I don't game).

I also plan on doing the occasional editorial piece where I soapbox my opinions on the direction of modern culture, so look forward to dreading those...

All that said, music is the art form that I consume the most - by a pretty wide margin, actually - so if WKMR comes to be known as a "music blog" I'll get over that pretty quick.

Hell, at this point I'll obviously take any readership I can get on whatever Faustian terms they insist upon. Bloggers can't be choosers, and Christ only knows I'm panhandling on the fringes here.