May 31, 2007

Your Name (Dropping)

Olafur Eliasson - The Weather Project [installation] (2003)

Vivek Shraya - Your Name (mp3): Toronto's unsigned talent Vivek Shraya revives magic in a new collection of songs perfect for summer exercise on an electronic beach somewhere outside the realism of city life. This track remembers to stretch before proceeding to sprint with an unbridled energy but careful eclecticism characteristic of the whole album's synthy bounce from The Beatles ("Fevered") to Nine Inch Nails ("Chemistry") to the Scissor Sisters (throughout). It even runs into Sara Quin (of Tegan & Sara) out for a summer jog in a yellow jumpsuit that looks a bit like Gwen Stefani. The album "If We're Not Talking" was released just this month [check it out here].

May 27, 2007

A Self-Important Bout of Whining


I clearly owe this person an apology. Many of my posts are "self-important bouts of whining", but he was particularly offended by this bout about Summerfest. In an attempt to articulate my annual disappointment rather than excitement at the announcement of our state's preeminent music festival lineup, I must've recklessly portrayed myself as some sort of ignorant zealot with malicious intent... in order to so dramatically offend a local music-mind that I've never met or interacted with.

A consequence of putting ideas into a public form is that they spiral out into the universe, take on lives of their own, and spout unattended meanings. Blogs are unique because the format is inherently inane, selfish, and controversial. No format has more freedom or more reach - a potentially blasphemous combination. The manic frequency of posts is bound to include an incorrect fact or an emotion at the peak of a mood swing. But there is a Comments section for rebuttals.
I even deliberately prefaced my remarks with my deep appreciation for Summerfest and brought the ideas with the opposite of mal-intent. Regardless, I misstepped and was slapped with an example how nasty the faceless internet can get.

Examples of statements I think are a bit unfair:
+ That I've self-appointed myself as "the arbiter of musical taste for everyone".
+ That I hold myself up as a "model music lover".
+ Than I think I'm in "possession of the only "proper" way to consume and enjoy music".

+ That I bear a "dreadful burden to be the keeper of the knowledge that is "the art of music"".
+ That what the post "actually says is that [my] taste and the tastes of [my] fellow indie rockers are superior to all others".

That I suggest that "the art of music is contingent on what is current and hip".
+ That I think I've found a "mythical "pure" form of expression and consumption of music that is unsullied by commerce".
+ That my account was "incredibly self-centered and insulting" [OK, maybe a bit self-centered with the potential to be insulting.]
+ "Thusly the post is an elaborate bout of whining about how Summerfest doesn't cater to his musical preferences" [OK, I agree with this one.]

Damn. I was just sayin is all...

Some of these insults I sip with a curious irony because I don't really consider myself to be an "indie rocker" nor am I a gang leader of any tribe of wandering teen hipsters. I don't roll up my jeans into capris or over-hype the latest trendy import on MTV2. I'm unfortunately not even particularly cool. I'm just a lonely twenty-something who likes to listen and write about music after a long day of work. I write much less about homogeneous frat-indie than many other music blogs, I work to digest songs beyond posting promotional PR, and I don't use the word "indie" as synonymous with Pitchfork's top 40. But maybe my writing paints a different and unintended picture...

I seriously apologize for what this person thinks I am and especially that I've so grossly mis-chosen my words to have misled him to feel this way. Though I stand behind my critique, it's sad that these issues can pit us against each other instead of engage us in a conversation. We seem to share some similar taste. I really enjoy his blog - there is currently a nice write-up of a gentle set by the Wailin' Jennys.

Feist - So Sorry (mp3)

May 24, 2007

Synthetic Organism 2 (SO2): The Siren Mole

Patricia Piccinini - Exallocephalla Parthenopa vs Vombatus Ursinus [Siren Mole vs The Wombat] (2001)

Alec K. Redfearn makes music that laboriously flushes out molehills; that sprays folk dirt until it becomes wet and darkened with thought. This excavation is a slow, irregular, and tortuous job. But Alec demonstrates that the intensity can also dance to the deeply echoing cadence of instruments used to collapse the soil. Perhaps these hymns inspired Patricia Piccinini's synthetic "Siren Mole" to leave obscurity for the suburban luxuries of the Melborne zoo, vehicular transportation, and even skateboarding.

Alec K Redfearn and The Eyesores - Mole (mp3)

May 22, 2007

5/26 JustSayin Showcase ft. Chris Garneau & Track a Tiger

So, the blog is going to step OFFLINE and into reality this weekend for the first JustSayin Showcase featuring Chris Garneau (of Brooklyn) and Track a Tiger (of Chicago). The show starts at Madison's Cafe Montmartre at 9PM for only $5 (in support of the artists). This is hopefully the first of many with the goal of pairing intriguing indie artists who've been featured on the blog and bringing them to Madison for a live show. Stop by to support indie music and your local music blogs!

Looking back, Chris Garneau was first introduced in an Indie Conversation with Meg Baird and continued in a confrontational second post here. Track a Tiger was an instant late-night favourite last year and continued to inspire with the new album a few months ago (oddly paired again with Matthew Barney's art). And both made my Best of 2006.

This Blogotheque Take-Away Show (les concerts a emporter) is an exciting preview to this weekend's showcase. Chris will be accompanied by four other instruments, but still remain understated and soaked in a similar aroma of dark, earthy wine.

Chris Garneau - Between the Bars (Eliott Smith cover)

May 21, 2007

Oppossum: Deceased May 7th 2007

Damien Hirst - Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purposes of Understanding (1991)

Damien Hirst's glass tanks famously explore the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living. His scientifically organic preparations attract us like flies or children to roadkill - a fascination that wrinkles dangerous with age and somehow fades away. But tucked deep in the lush arboretum, about a half mile down a windy trail marked "Do Not Enter", exists a poignant local rival in the form of an above-ground animal graveyard [exact location in the Gallistel Woods].

Fresh animal specimens in various levels of decay lay protected from predators under broad metal screens tacked down with makeshift stakes. Each of the deceased is carefully marked with a tag detailing its demise, the latest explaining... Opossum: Roadkill - May 7th, 2007. Small creamy maggots ooze out of its furry eye socket and collectively make the sound of digestion itself. Whoever constructed this hidden shrine knew that is the sound we usually bury. It brings death to life with an real intimacy that's absent while reading the obituaries, where goofy posed smiles just seem out of place atop the little one-inch squares of decaying flesh.

Loney, Dear - A Few Good Men (mp3)

May 19, 2007

Mangled with Confusion

Jenny Saville - Closed Contact (1996)

You weren't supposed to leave. And these songs are two halves of the consequence. One half still orders one too many specials and seizes violent blasphemy. It eventually comes to rest mangled with confusion, wrought with anger, and rotting a bitter stench. The other half still sits politely beside and tries incessantly to understand. It picks the skin around its fingernails red and always goes to bed unfulfilled. Both would like you to come back and tell them what they're doing wrong. Or that you don't mind.

Meg Baird - Do What You Gotta Do (mp3) [more]

The 1900s - You're Supposed To Be My Friend (mp3) [more]

May 16, 2007

The Selection of Selfish Genes

The Cactus Project - Laura Cinti (2002)

The transgenic "Cactus Project" supplemented the Bolivian Rebutia Donaldiana cactus genome with human genes expressing hair. While the process was heavy on laboratory science, the plants grew in a museum exhibition with an enthusiasm usually hidden within the lengthy blocks of black and white text that define scientific journals.

If you like your genes shaken and not stirred, Madison's own The Selfish Gene is SPIN's Artist of the Day today! Activate a cascade of gene-centered altruism to help SPIN naturally select them as of Artist of the Month... click "RATE" near the bottom of the page and boost their survival fitness. Favorable traits to select for include a voice like Brit Daniels, robust guitars, cooperative harmonies, popular appeal, and an upbeat attitude. Richard Dawkins would be proud.

The Selfish Gene - Autopilot (mp3)

May 13, 2007

Declaration of a Killer

Mark Bain - Acoustic Sound Gun (2004)

It was hard to wake up today. Perhaps because I've spent the last five years contributing to the deaths of over 3,000 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis. And some mornings my brain hurts a little more than other mornings. Especially when I awake from dreams where 425 billion dollars is used to creatively construct consciousness and character instead of destruction and terror. After those, it's hard to wake up to the morning news.

It has simultaneously become harder to fall asleep while pondering how to explain to my unborn grandchildren that I was not a supporter of war, even though I financially supported it and didn't take any significant action to stop it. And then I realize I must first find a way to explain this discrepancy to myself. When politicians don't know how to take concrete actions on a subject but want to take a stand, they issue a declaration. So I'll sign onto Bjork's declaration that we should start standing up and making more individual declarations. At least until we can figure out what else to do.

Bjork - Declare Independence (mp3) [From Bjork's new album Voltra]

May 10, 2007

JustSayin... Summerfest 2007 Indie Preview

Julee Holcombe - The Messenger (2005)

So, let's chat about the "The World's Largest Music Festival". The annual Milwaukee music spectacle is scheduled to sprawl out on the summer lake shore for ten days of solid songs from June 28th-June 8th. But as previously mentioned by a commenter, the event seems yet again to be a hollow charade of a summer music festival. An aging corporate strategy dressed in a music festival's screen-printed clothing. A beer festival with nostalgic background music. A state fair in a league of national music festivals. And even if you're uncomfortable extending your critique that far, the line-up is just not very exciting.

Marcus Amphitheater
6/29: Def Leppard, Styx, & Foreigner

6/30: Fray & OK Go

7/2: Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd)

7/3: John Mayer & Ben Folds

7/4: Tool

7/5: Bon Jovi

7/8: Toby Keith

It’s difficult to be critical of Summerfest because it’s absolutely a community resource with a rich history - and its efforts are certainly valuable and need to be recognized. Most of us have had great experiences on the grounds and there will be more this year. But when comparing Summerfest with other large summer music festivals… it misses the mark (of the current state of music) year after year.

Other Festival Examples: This year's Coachella Festival includes buzzed headliners Bjork, Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, Air, Damien Rice, Hot Chip, Regina Spektor, The Decemberists, etc (too many to mention)... Washington's Sasquatch Festival promises a deep roster including Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire, MIA, Polyphonic Spree, Blackalicious (and tons more)... Chicago's young Pitchfork Music Festival boasts a lineup that includes Of Montreal, New Pornographers, Klaxons, Cat Power, Clipse, Iron & Wine, Grizzly Bear, and Girl Talk... even Tenessee's traditionally jammy Bonnaroo has plenty of diversity to choose from. Plus, ALL of these festivals have a second and third tier of quality independent musicians.

I disagree with the common excuse that Summerfest is just trying to be too many things to too many people (which sounds like a self-attributed job interview weakness that proclaims "Unfortunately, I'm a perfectionist"). Summerfest often seems like only one thing targeted at one type of person: A money-maker targeted at the lazy music consumer. When primary motivations become ticket sales and catering to corporate sponsors – the music (and music lovers) are the first to be compromised. And the consequences are obvious in the lineup... Following are three observations that demonstrate safe choices and an overt de-prioritization of the art of music.

1) The Majority of the Lineup Has Peaked

In order to stay relevant, a festival needs to showcase acts with new ideas who are advancing the current music scene. But the majority of Summerfest’s acts have already peaked - and there is an obvious overemphasis of 80s/90s music.

+ Pre 1970s: Buddy Guy, BB King
+ Late 1970s/1980s: REO Speedwagon, Def Leopard, Styx, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult, Lindsey Buckingham, Roger Waters, Heart, Family Stone Experience, The Wailers, WAR, Bon Jovi, Peter Frampton, The New Cars, INXS

1990s: The Goo Goo Dolls, Sister Hazel, Social Distortion, Wierd Al Yankovic, The Black Crowes, Reel Big Fish, Bob Weir & RatDog, Live, G Love & Special Sauce
Four years ago: Papa Roach, Sum 41

2) The Indie Scene is Strangely Absent
Indie music can offer a fresh, thoughtful, underground, and more experimental edge to a festival. Economically, the indies are usually cheaper and come with a strong second and third tier of high quality acts at a lower cost and higher intensity than most bands on the Summerfest bill. This seems to me to be the biggest difference between Summerfest and other large summer music festivals.

+ Some indie exceptions in this year’s lineup: Shiny Toy Guns, Wolfmother, Silversun Pickups, Built to Spill, Lupe Fiasco, Spoon

We can’t forget the "Emerging Artists Series" at the US Cellular Stage. That's right, the indie acts are playing on the US Cellular sponsored stage. And they're just "emerging" artists… they haven't made enough money yet or attracted the attention of the forty-year-old drunks.

3) The Stale Repetition of Acts
It's impossible for me to accept that the Summerfest can't book any fresh acts and needs to book the same bands every year. Yet, most of the bands in the lineup have already played Summerfest before and many just last year! With Summerfest's built-in crowd and automatic draw of drinking debauchery, it could be great opportunity to surprise crowds with good new music instead of relying entirely on the same safe 90s hits.

+ 2007 artists who played Summerfest just last year: The Goo Goo Dolls, Guster, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult, Blue October, All American Rejects, Phil Vassar, The Fray, Violent Femmes, & Jack’s Mannequin. Ben Folds (as great as he is) not only plays Summerfest every year, but performs nearly the SAME SHOW.

Maybe when Milwaukee asserts Summerfest as the “World’s Largest Music Festival”, it really does mean its physical size. But if the music is ever going to live up to the grandiosity of this moniker, it needs to be organized less like a safe downtown revitalization project and more like a music festival. With art it's not enough to aim at comfortably pleasing the masses, it's necessary to take risks to impress them.

2007 Summerfest Lineup (so-far):

June 28: Violent Femmes, Say Anything, Jack's Mannequin, Wolfmother, REO Speedwagon, Phil Vassar
June 29: Def Leppard, Styx, & Foreigner, OAR, Shiny Toy Guns, Silversun Pickups, Sugarland, Blue Oyster Cult, Sum 41
June 30th: The Fray & OK Go, The Goo Goo Dolls, Rise Against, Sara Evans, Lindsey Buckingham
July 1st: Sister Hazel, Built to Spill, Big & Rich
July 2nd: Roger Waters, Heart, Social Distortion, Ne-Yo, Family Stone Experience, Femi Kuti, The Wailers
July 3rd: John Mayer, Ben Folds, Brett Dennen, Buddy Guy, AFI, Wierd Al Yankovic, WAR
July 4th: Tool, The Black Crowes, Plain White Ts, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, All Four Original Members of Asia
July 5th: Bon Jovi, The All American Rejects, Spoon, Umphreys McGee, BB King, Bob Weir & RatDog
July 6th: Augustana, Chevelle, Morris Day & The Time, Peter Frampton, Dashboard Confessional
July 7th: Live, Papa Roach, El Gran Combo, The New Cars, Guster
July 8th: Toby Keith, Lupe Fiasco, Blue October, G Love & Special Sauce, INXS, Brian McKnight

May 8, 2007

I Suppose I'm Alive

Weng Peijun (Weng Fen) - Staring At The Sea [No 4] (2003)

Writing without conflict is narration and conflict without meaning is melodrama. This track wears conflict realistically like the rest of us, more like everyday socks than stiletto heels. The folk familiarity heats our toes while trapping country dust and concerns to scratch against our skin on the daily walk home. Its pleasant cotton and argyle harmonies are as exciting as we usually get, until the carefully woven structure begins to unravel and the cold seeps in. Even then, the end of the track is little more dramatic than the stillness of disappearance. It seems strange to be comfortable in a humble fabric whose consequences are present, real, and inevitable throughout - but this is the conflict that is our reality. He said, pointing a gun at a baby.

Utah Carol - Come Back Baby (mp3) [the album "Rodeo Queen" is released this week]

May 6, 2007

I Believe In You. Your Magic Is Real.

Untitled [from The Concrete Jungle]

While you rake the aluminum can remnants of your weekend into piles on the lawn, be inspired by YACHT to arrange them into proud pillars of public art. Madison-native Jona Bechtolt has piled his inspirations into the shape of a new album called "I Believe In You. Your Magic Is Real" (out this week). It's packed as firm as a sandcastle by the sea and with the whimsy of its spot in the sun. The simple beats bring dance out of the club and into the real world where moves are best when they can be executed with a cherry Popsicle in one hand.

YACHT - See A Penny [Pick It Up] (mp3)

YACHT - Hock-It [Remix] (mp3) [From the other 2007 release "Our Friends In Hell"]

The Blow - Parentheses (mp3)

May 4, 2007

A Ship Sailing On Dry Land

Julee Holcombe - Feast of the Newlyweds (2005)

This song is sung in a shadow, slouched low in an overstuffed chair, and in between sips of an impairing can of late-night grandiosity. Its tragic intimacy takes off its shoes and socks, but then proceeds to cut its toenails right in front of you. Instead of acknowledging your discomfort, it defends its rights and then can't understand your movement towards the door. But imaginary superpowers crumble next to the powerfully honest vulnerability of asserting them. Though its truth is exactly converse to its delusion, it is grapplingly present and deeply attractive in its authentic struggle with unattractiveness.

Thee More Shallows - I Can't Get Next To You (mp3):

Thee More Shallows visits Madison at Cafe Montmartre on Thursday, May 17th at 9PM.

May 3, 2007

Bedclothes Day

Alexandre Singh - The Economist / Esthetic Moon (2006)

When the Dali Lama is in town, it seems a mistake to be caught in bedclothes or argument or routine. I imagined him floating down King Street in a cleansing aura that parted riffraff with meekness. I took a new path to work to attempt the same, contributed positively in my morning meetings, and answered the phone with a nicer tone. When I closed my eyes, I could feel his consciousness trying to communicate a patient perspective on headaches.

Of course I was aware that this was just my knowledge of his presence creating these calming feelings in myself, but I was also aware that this was the beauty. I could do the same imagining Pamela Anderson or Jesus. It felt like like why they call a day "Earth Day" or "Jelly Bean Day" or "Secetaries Day" to make us pay attention. But it felt more like if I had called the days those things, like noticing my lunch today and declaring it "Peanut Butter Sandwich & Cheez It Day" to cast a positive mood on the rest of the unbuttered minutes. And it felt like this song.

In actuality, DL's lunch next door at the Madison Club caused quite a rukus. State workers rushed to the window to view a caravan that rivaled Hillary Clinton's and took turns guessing what he would choose eat (I agreed it would probably be a steak).

Bishop Allen - Rain (mp3) [Bishop Allen visualized by Aubrey Edwards]