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Entries in Music (28)

Monday
Sep242007

Crap music reviews (which is to say, music reviews that are crap).

Superfast stream-of-consciousness “reviews” just so I can get these things off my desk (yes I still buy a lot of them fuck off) k thnx bye

 

 

 

 

 

 Feist - The Reminder

Although I have a general order prohibiting singer-songwriter records from my home and hand drive, I listened to Feist’s previous record, Let It Die, quite a lot in my Sony days, and bought this one because it appears ceaselessly on my friends’ last.fm pages.

I thought it was mostly crap on the first listen, but it’s advanced to Quite Good by the second. Many of the songs will find more or less permanent residency on my iPod and assorted playlists for sunny weekends and yuppie wine nights. It must be said, though, some of the sparser, slower bits like “The Water” and “Honey Honey” are among the worst Sarah Mclaughlin songs ever made.

Top Tracks:

“I Feel It All” (Download)
“My Moon My Man”
“Past In Present”
“1 2 3 4”

 

 

 

 

 

Pet Shop Boys - Can You Forgive Her? (US Maxi-single)

Discovered this in the Used Rock/Pop section of Amoeba Records. I don’t know that it’s actually hard to find, but I’ve been collecting PSB singles for years and never come across it.

“Can You Forgive Her?” — the single itself — remains a top tune, and its sonic preposterousness has only helped it age, really. The circa ‘93 remixes, however, including a couple by Faithless’ Rollo… well, the less we say about them the better. There is one true gem on this, though, and it’s the Johnny Marr remix of “I Want To Wake Up,” a song released on PSB’s 1987 album, Actually.

A lot of people don’t know this, but Johnny Marr has done quite a lot of work with Pet Shop Boys. He played guitar on several tracks from Behaviour, provided guest vocals and guitar on “Up Against It” off Bilingual, and played guitar on nearly every song on Release — not to mention the several PSB collaborations with Marr’s other group, Electronic. 

Marr’s remix of “I Want To Wake Up” is probably more dated than the “CYFH?” remixes on this disc, but it’s such a perfect snapshot of the sonic style of the age. He took an unremarkable ’80s dance-pop track and housed it up with diva vocals, electric pianos, ’90s techno drums and his own funky guitar licks. It sounds like it could be on PSB’s Very, the record from which “Can You Forgive Her?” was taken, or even on Electronic’s Raise The Pressure, Marr’s disaster of a pop-house album with New Order’s Bernard Sumner. 

Top Tracks:

“Can You Forgive Her?”
“I Want To Wake Up (1993 Remix)” (Download)

 

 

 

 

 

The Chemical Brothers - Life Is Sweet (US Maxi-single)

 Another find in Amoeba’s used bins. This one stuck out at me not only because I don’t have it (I have almost all the Chems’ CD-singles), but because this one features a remix by DAFT PUNK! How did I not know about this? Anyway, the remix is okay, I guess. You have to go in remembering that DP made this in 1995 and not ‘99 or ‘05. It sounds like one of the filler tracks on Homework — which is still pretty good, I suppose. Still, it was a bit of let down after I was so excited in the store.

The other mixes are by the Chems themselves, and most would make good fodder for breakbeat DJs as not one of the versions utilizes the original Tim Burgess vocal track. Nothing classic by any means. Elsewhere on the disc is a “Leave Home” remix called “Terror Drums,” which is pretty cool as it basically strips out all the rhythm bits of “Leave Home” and replaces them with a new drum jam over which the sirens and other synthy bits call out. B-side “Chico’s Groove (Mix 2)” makes for good, groovy background music for a hipster cocktail party.

Top Tracks:
” Life Is Sweet (Daft Punk Remix)” (Download)
“Leave Home (Terror Drums)”
“Chico’s Groove (Mix 2)”

Garbage - Absolute Garbage + Tell Me Where It Hurts (UK Single)

Well, if Garbage have actually called it quits, they went out with a shitload of great songs. They’re one of those groups I’ve always loved and have been listening to since the beginning, but they’re also one of those groups I forget how much I love until they come out with a new record. 

This compilation is sequenced in chronological order, which is very cool because it begins with “Vow,” which means the first words the world heard from Shirley Manson (unless you count that footnote band she was in) were “I can’t use what I can’t abuse.” Everything holds up very well except “Special,” which perhaps always did have a bit too much a everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style of production anyway. The new song, “Tell Me Where It Hurts,” is alright. It’s kind of like “Special” crossed with “The World Is Not Enough,” which is certainly a decent genetic base. The single comes with a fun B-side called “Betcha,” which is obviously a demo but it’s a catchy dance number in which Shirley sings these words, playfully riffing off the grotesque Pussycat Dolls:

Bet you’re glad your girlfriend’s not a bitch like me

Bet you’re glad your girlfriend’s not a cunt like me

and

Bet you’re glad your girlfriend doesn’t cheat like me

Bet you’re glad your girlfriend’s not a slut like me

Interestingly, Absolute Garbage omits the singles “Subhuman,” “The Trick is to Keep Breathing,’ “Androgyny,” “Breaking Up the Girl,” “Sex is Not the Enemy,” and “Run Baby Run.” That’s alright, though, because all those songs are fucking terrible. With the exception of “Cherry Lips,” Garbage picked all the wrong singles for beautifulgarbage. However, “The Trick is to Keep Breathing” is marvelous and one of their best ever tracks. I suspect it suffered from commercial fatigue in the imperial Version 2.0 era. Additionally, “Run Baby Run” is possibly the best song off Bleed Like Me, which I know isn’t saying too much, but I think it stands up against all the rest and should have been included on Absolute Garbage. It was just born too late.

The other “new” song on this Best Of is “It’s All Over but the Crying (Remix).” I barely noticed this song on Bleed Like Me, but this version has quickly become one of my favourite Garbage songs. Seriously, it’s way up there on my last.fm list

Top Tracks:

“It’s All Over but the Crying (Remix)” (Download)


 

 

 

 

 

Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36

This is what I get for reading fucking Pitchfork. Basically, this is a DJ mix of all Villalobos’ own new material, released exclusively in this mix series. That’s cool and everything, but only if the music’s any good. That’s a bit harsh. If you like really clicky, monotonous, teensy tiny minimal techy music, then you would probably like this. To me, it just sounds like a bunch of old Macs crashing and starting up over and over again. 

Top Tracks:

They are all the same.

UPDATE: Pitchfork have reviewed this album and given it a staggering 8.7 out of 10.

Do you know what Pitchfork gave Daft Punk’s Discovery when it came out? A shameful 6.4!!!

BITCHES.

Saturday
Sep222007

Underworld live, Hollywood + NYC 2007

Stepho, Ginny, Sam, Megan, Jonah and myself met at my place on September 9 in preparation to see Underworld live at the Hollywood Bowl. The odious Paul Oakenfold was to open, so we took our time in getting there, making sure to arrive just after the disgraced DJ finished his set and thus protecting our delicate aural passages from his fierce horribleness. 

I’d seen Underworld five or six times previous, but the Hollywood Bowl gig was particularly intriguing. Known for their epic, high-energy performances, Underworld was routinely praised as one of the best live acts of the ’90s. If you’re not familiar with the Hollywood Bowl, imagine the lengths of two football fields sort of wrapped in a curve, forming an enormous amphitheater. Originally designed for orchestras, you’re meant to sit on benches or in fancy boxes and not really dance much at all.

I expected a moodier, slower set — something along the lines of what the band’s actually wanted to do for years — and I was pleased to receive just such a performance. Underworld opened with “Luetin,” the best track off their last album, A Hundred Days Off. It’s a slow-building, darkly hypnotic track that set the mood for the first half the show, which included new Oblivion With Bells songs “Crocodile,” “Beautiful Burnout” and “Glam Bucket.” All of them are top tracks, with “Glam Bucket,” in particular, being the most worthy addition to Underworld’s intimidating legacy of live anthems.

As regular readers of this blog already know, I lack the command of language needed to describe for you just how fucking gorgeous this song is. As such, I’ve decided to break innumerable copyright laws and let you hear “Glam Bucket” for yourself. Just don’t tell anybody.

Following “Glam Bucket” and a bit of improvisation and elements of “Lenny Penne,” Underworld crashed into a second hour full of hits including “Cowgirl,” “Born Slippy NUXX,” and “Two Months Off,” a song I hate on A Hundred Days Off but usually enjoy live. 

It’s interesting. Universally agreed to be their weakest album, A Hundred Days Off was rather well represented at the Hollywood Bowl performance. Besides “Luetin” and “Two Months Off,” Underworld also played a version of “Mo Move,” complete with apocalyptic tribal drum breakdown in the middle. Previous “Mo Move” performances on previous tours included lyrics from “Mmm…Skyscraper, I Love You” or “River of Bass” thrown in for added hyphocity, but this version was all instrumental, which worked better than the vocal album version. I think it’s really impressive how the band have continued to develop concepts from an album a lot of people quite vocally disliked and turn them into something which the crowd doesn’t just enjoy, but indeed, something they genuinely desire. In that respect, I suppose A Hundred Days Off is kind of like Daft Punk’s Human After All, another album nobody liked until it was retooled for maximum christ-raping intensity. 

I was a little disappointed that Underworld didn’t play more of the internet-only, live-only tracks they’ve been performing at various festivals and one-offs around the world; songs like “You Do Scribble” and “JAL To Tokyo.” These tracks are completely insane, largely drum ‘n bass numbers and thusly not danceable in any practical way, so they’d have worked nicely in the Hollywood Bowl. 

Throughout the evening, I moved up and down our row to “vibe” with each of my friends for a song or two. This was really fun, especially because Underworld is a band that I’ve basically forced into everyone’s brains over the last few years. Sam and Ginny were already fans, but that Jonah, Stepho and Megan enjoyed the show so much was hugely vindicating. I mean, I was so evangelical about Underworld, I promised friends that when the band finally returned to LA, I would buy their tickets and happily eat the cost if they could truthfully state they didn’t think it was awesome

I brought with me a bottle of exquisite and absurdly priced champagne, given to me for my birthday by friend Timo, who is this fantastic German fellow who refuses to buy clothes anywhere in the US but in New York. I love him a lot. We finished off that bottle as well as another, cheaper one we’d brought, so Stepho and Ginny volunteered to run to the Hollywood Bowl’s booze kiosk and buy more (it’s a brilliant fucking venue, I tell you). Underworld launched into NUXX with a furious, driving beat and I imagined the girls dashing up the hill and back to our seats as fast as possible, which it turns out was exactly what they did. We popped the cork and drank a third bottle of champagne while the band finished off “King of Snake” and concluded the show with the sublime “Jumbo.”

As expected, a fabulous show. The full setlist (as best I’ve been able to determine): 

01. Luetin
02. Ambient improvisation.
03. Crocodile
04. Improvisation.
05. Juanita (Very slow, dark version — excellent)
06. Improvisation.
07. Beautiful Burnout
08. Glam Bucket
09. Lenny Penne/Improv
10. Cowgirl/Rez
11. Two Months Off
12. Mo Move
13. Small Conker and a Twix
14. Born Slippy NUXX
15. King of Snake
16. Jumbo (Encore)

The fun didn’t stop there, though. Just a few days later, I boarded an aeroplane for New York City to see Underworld again, this time in Central Park. That’s just how I roll.
The Central Park show was one of the most incredible nights of my life. Certainly, the music was tip top, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was for the first time seeing my favorite band with my oldest friend, Kendall. He and I have been friends since we were sixth grade Boy Scouts in Singapore, and we’ve been devoted Underworld fans for what has to be more than a decade now. Circumstances were such that Central Park was Kendall’s first Underworld show, so the experience was just all kinds of gushy sentimentalism.

This Central Park venue, which I think is called the Rumsey Playfield (?), is the perfect environment for live electronic music. It’s outdoors, only about as large as a couple of basketball courts, so you can’t really get too far away from the stage even if you tried, and equipped with numerous beer and Red Bull kiosks. Also, portable toilets.

The Centeral Park show was completely different than the Hollywood Bowl performance, despite actually including many of the same songs. The energy of the crowd was upbeat and infectious. Everybody wanted to dance, and everybody was ready to get crazy. After a forgettable set by DJ James Holden, Underworld took the stage and opened once again with “Luetin.” The crowd dug the song but desired BEATS, and Underworld took their cue and dropped the immortal “Dark Train,” which many of you may remember from the “baby-on-the-ceiling” sequence in Trainspotting.

It was an amazing, amazing version, and really brought Kendall and I back to the old days. The rhythm bits played for ages, mixing in bits of live-only jam “Shake That Higher” and building up to a crescendo that never came — fake out! All the sound fell out for a very tense moment before the famous “Dark Train” keyboard riff filled the space, and people just freaked the fuck out.

As it’s the new single, the band of course played “Crocodile,” which the crowd seemed to love despite its mid-tempo nature. But with that out of the way, Underworld turned the hyphocity up to level HYPH0C17Y. They played many of their most intense, driving songs, and really intricate and expansive versions, too.

See for yourself:

01. Luetin
02. Dark Train/Shake That Higher
03. Improv
04. Pearls Girl (so insane, one of the most insane songs around)
05. Improv
06. Beautiful Burnout
07. Two Months Off
08. Rowla (One of the hyphiest songs ever made by anybody)
09. 5 Foot 5
10. Glam Bucket (Somehow even more awesome than in Hollywood)
11. Improv
12. Rez/Cowgirl (Brilliant version)
13. Small Conker and a Twix
14. Born Slippy NUXX (Naturally)
15. King of Snake
16. Jumbo (encore)

The crowd was united as one beast of beats, with everybody cheering at precisely the same moments, whenever new layers were introduced, whenever transitions occurred and whenever breakdowns broke down. I don’t think we stopped jumping up and down once the whole time, unless you count the numerous times we stopped jumping up and down to exchange money for goods and, occasionally, services. Throughout the evening I called and txt’d more or less everyone I know with a mobile phone, and received all kinds of congratulatory and envious txts in return. I wish I still had them, it was glorious.

Following the show, we all wandered Central Park and, later, some of Manhattan in a post-Underworld trance. We jumped from bar to bar, saying hello to friends like Brendan & Mariah, and just having a generally wonderful night.

Thursday
Aug302007

E-lebrities.

From SPIN

Tuesday
Mar282006

E-mails I write at work.

I’ve just seen the Daft Punk large for next week and it uses artwork from a very well known, previously released album. Enclosed is the proper artwork for this new release, so please fix.

Additionally, and I know this is very nerdy, but both James and I agree this is worth addressing. The LCD Soundsystem “Introns” artwork you’re using for the promotes is the iconic album artwork for the artist’s ultra famous debut record. As such, using it for this remixes and b-sides collection makes us look like n00bs. Our last highly dubious (and n00bious) intern couldn’t be bothered to find more diverse assets, which is why this happened. If this product ever comes up again, I’ll probably send new assets.

Yours in deep nerdery,

andy khouri
music department / sony connect

Friday
Dec232005

X-mas memories and Underworld.

The office xmas party was fun but weird. The boss kept feeding us tequila shots and while I expected people to fall over themselves and slip on each others’ puke, the evening remained pretty tame. The party was at the Mayan, which I haven’t been to since a warm summer night back in 1998, one of the best nights of my life.

I was 18 and living alone (pre-cat, even) in an apartment in Valencia, just hanging around waiting for school to start in a couple of months. I spent most of my time back then just driving around Los Angeles in the middle of the night in my then-new car and talking into a tape recorder. I happened to hear on the radio that my favorite band ever, Underworld, would be playing a show at some place called the Mayan and that it would be one of just three US dates they were playing to test out material from their forthcoming album. Also, the show was to be that night.

After one navigational and logistics obstacle after another, I got my tickets and made it to the Mayan in time, but only to be horrified by the fact that the best standing room was in the 21+ area. As you are probably aware, the Mayan’s ground floor is split into two levels, the upper of which being more ideal for concert-viewing and is accessible by two stair cases— which were both protected by large menacing security guards. As I was at the time really nerdy and didn’t like to dance (as opposed to now, where I am merely just really nerdy), the thought of being stuck in a crowd consisting largely of fat ravers and unable to see the band I loved so dearly filled me with a nameless dread. I decided I would not — could not— go down like that.

I hovered around the staircases for thirty or so minutes while the DJ played and the mutants danced, and when one of the security guards glanced in the other direction — possibly to kick someone out for trying to stab someone else in the eye with a glow stick — I stealthily dodged behind him, slid up the stairs like a ninja and found myself a comfy spot against the railing in remarkable Batman-like fashion. 

I say this with all seriousness: at the time, I definitely considered myself to be one of the coolest men to have ever lived. 

I was standing next to a gorgeous girl who like me was able to recognize what songs Underworld was playing in spite of their dramatic but glorious live improv/remixing. Tragically, she was with a boyfriend who clearly wasn’t into that kind of music and just sort of stood behind her and patted her hip every now and then to show everyone he was hitting it. I still remember precisely what she looked like, and I occasionally fight the urge to post a Missed Connections ad on craigslist about her. But I digress. 

Underworld were amazing. I’d never seen or heard anything like it, and what solidified in me was an almost spiritual understanding that even after leaving LA almost two decades before and living and traveling around the world, the city itself was welcoming me home. My true home. I mean, god, it was magnificent.

Last night at the Mayan, at the Sony xmas party, an ’80s cover band played. 

They’re called the Spazmatics. 

Yeah….