Archive for October, 2011

Two-year Das Racist Recap

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

It can be difficult to talk hip-hop because so much of it tip-toes the half-step freefall into garbage.

Das Racist utilizes their strengths of cultural references and humorous slackerdom. Paired with unique music and refreshing, non-sterile rhymes, Das Racist has proven to be a contemporary leader.

Most internet literate folks have heard Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. But 2010 provided the releases Shut Up, Dude (March) and Sit Down, Man (Sept).  And “Ek Shaneesh” (from Shut Up, Dude) illustrates perfectly who these guys are.

“I am a pick-up truck. I am America. I am America. I am a pick-up truck.”

Honest, observant and bluntly hilarious, these guys are what contemporary hip-hop should be. After generations of recycled braggadocio, Das Racist brings a fresh, observant, careless air to a music that was formerly self-centered and boring.

One of my favorites from Sit Down, Man.

And if you’d like to put their pop-culture knowledge to the test, enjoy “Shorty Said”

With all this rollover hype from 2010, I was skeptical of their September 13, 2011 release, Relax.

And though the album is not “break doors down” great, it’s pretty damn good. Here are my two favorite tracks:

Power 

“You probably think this song is about you, you vain.” Who raps about Carly Simon? These guys do.

Though “Power” has a guest rapper who throws out the obligatory language about genitalia and such, the other 90% of the song hits perfectly.

And “The Trick” settles things down with an anthem of satisfaction-

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these things happen…

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

A year ago, I was living in a shoddy East Austin apartment stilted above a garage with two exceptional people. From October 2010 till I shipped out earlier this year in May, we had a good stretch. Shit jobs, late nights, frozen pipes, putting bets on the house and drinks on the arm… pretty much doing everything we possibly could to distract ourselves from what loomed ahead.

During this time my roommates, Jon and Dylan, found time to record the album Trout. To open this magnificent record, Jon asked me to read some lines from Charles Bukowski’s “The Laughing Heart” (three lines were kept).

Since the album is a collection of folks purposely focused on goofing around, Jon thought it’d be humorous to give the opening some tongue-in-cheek weight. Poetry was decided the best way to go about it.

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Here’s Tom Waits providing us with his complete (and much better) reading:

“That’s a beauty you know?”

Sometimes an album/artist will have a similar tone or feel as a novel/author. For instance, years ago while reading Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to BrooklynRequiem for a Dream) and listening to as much Lou Reed as I could, the two became partnered. Velvet Underground will always be my soundtrack to Selby’s literature.

And there are times when Waits’s sound feels like the musical brother of Bukowski’s print.

So you can imagine what kind of topsy-turvy world I awoke to the morning this ad began running on Hulu.

These things are foreseeable but disappointing nonetheless. Bukowski probably didn’t wear denim a single day of his adult life.

Also, oddly featured in the ad was a table boat.

Believable Women

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

When dealing with matters of love, family, intimacy and the like, I can’t take many male singer-songwriters seriously. Most of the time, I simply don’t believe them. In regards to some muzak that I’ve been unfortunately unable to escape, do I really believe that all they, the male singer-songwriters, want in life is to share banana pancakes with their wife in the morning?

And lines like “Times Square can’t shine as bright as you” make me believe the author should focus on writing Hallmark cards instead of music. Also, what kind of person lovingly compares their partner to Times Square? There’s a fraudulence about these songs that end up cheapening real intimate moments.

The weight of the responsibility for such cheap moments doesn’t lie solely on the muzak, but it isn’t improving anything either. No matter.

What does matter is honesty. Honest work includes imperfections in the artists themselves, their relationships and the world at large. Ignoring this unignorable part of life shouldn’t be tolerated.

Yet, I hear many people give these males with guitars passes for being “more intelligent” than your other (read: female) pop-stars because they might be more hands on with their music or… god knows what else.

Getting away from the prevalent and negative, here are some women whose words are forthright and emotions aren’t suspect.

Alynda lee Sygarra

of Hurray for the Riff Raff

Too Much of a Good Thing

HftRR are based out of New Orleans and I was fortunate enough to see them three times in the short time I lived in Austin. Though she’s small in stature and her voice soft, when Alynda is on stage, the audience silences themselves paying her their undivided attention. Her demeanor doesn’t demand that at all, the audience is just that responsive. That intrigued by her. The rooms are anxious to listen.

The next track appropriates a few of my favorite Daniel Johnston lines.
Is That You?

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A song that I haven’t stopped singing for over a year now-
Slow Walk

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A favorite among my friends-
Daniella

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Nina Nastasia

In mid 2004, I was given an mp3 CD with albums I had missed from Animal Collective, Wilco, TV on the Radio and Nina Nastasia. Being the most scaled down and bare-boned music on that disc, she interested me immediately.

Her voice gives an indication that she’s too familiar with Life. How it can be drudging, frustrating, doleful and all around sad. Yet she provides hope for those searching, finding that place and/or person that can temporarily cure you of the enormous, incurable world issues that continually lurk overhead and homogeneous people that prod you day-to-day.

Though she was mic’d the time I saw her, she didn’t need it. Casually backing away she projected a volume that gripped ribs and suspended breath. With the drummer not present, she simply strummed two chords and told this moving story icing me with “It’s your life to make a wreck.”
Late Night

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It’s hard not to say “playful” about this next song.
It’s a Dog’s Life

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I know this isn’t the Muzak that you’d hear walking into retail store or while reluctantly sitting in a Chili’s pounding ridiculous amounts of chips and salsa to take your mind off of being in a Chili’s, but how do you respond to someone whose favorite music is muzak? On a lighter note.
Judy’s in the Sandbox

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“A dance we weave beneath our skin
I keep you in me where the breath had been”
Counting Up Your Bones

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Jolie Holland

Jolie Holland is lovely. She’s only the second person I’ve ever described as such. For instance:
The Littlest Birds Sing the Prettiest Songs

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She’ll say a little…
Do You? and Damn Shame

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And she’ll say a lot,

Mexican Blue

But you’ll believe her either way.

Emiliana Torrini

Holding this unique fatalistic, yet cute, personality Emiliana Torrini provides a different tone. She’s sharp, dark, and attractive.
Thinking Out Loud

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If there was a different approach used in the production, this song could’ve crept its way into the top 40. I’m not at all unhappy about how it turned out though.
Heartstopper

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The women of Broken Social Scene were so important that I have to include at least one of their solo tracks. Here’s my favorite from Emily Haines.
Our Hell

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And because I’ve ALWAYS dug Keely Smith’s voice.
The Lip

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And because I love funk, here is my favorite female funk track-
Carrie Riley & The Fascinations
Super Cool

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Women can tell stories that men cannot. Their perspective on relationships, life… anything is rarely presented in a manner that doesn’t come off like a cover-girl-pop harlot. And when a woman like Nora Jones, Feist, Regina Spektor, Alicia Keys, or anyone who isn’t garbage-pop does surface, her work is contorted to fit the tastes of 12-year-olds in an attempt to compete commercially. (See Liz Phair or compare all of the above’s pre-breakthrough to post-breakthrough albums to verify.)

The industry does make it slightly harder to find adult women who make music for other adults. But we’ve got to keep looking, hope this helps.