December 26, 2007

10 Best Concerts of 2007

This year I found that I couldn't put together a proper list of albums that I liked. There's probably a correlation here between getting an iPod, but I think I also downloaded a lot less music this year. There were a whole lot of great shows that came through the Bay Area, so here are 10 of my favorites. There's not much importance to the ranking of these shows, except for two certain Frenchmen towering above everyone else...

1. Daft Punk, Greek Theater (Berkeley)

A show of inconceivable proportion. I've never seen a crowd lose its mind like this before. I've never lost my mind like this before. This is an already legendary tour, and with good reason.

Daft Punk - Television Rules the Nation / Crescendolls

2. Akron/Family, Enchanted Broccoli Forest (Stanford)

Akron/Family had the power to unite the frat boys and kinda-hippies of Stanford campus. Who knows how great a feat this really is, but the band rewarded the crowd with a high-energy, uncompromising set that ranged from blues to prog-rock to hip-hop.

Akron/Family - Ed is a Portal

3. Black Lips, Popscene

This had all the elements of the 90's punk show that I never went to: excessively loud guitars, distorted vocals and a lot of jumping around. The most fun show out of all. (that's because Daft Punk sublimates the category of fun)

Black Lips - Boomerang

4. The Field, Rx Gallery

Time to pour one out for the now-defunct Rx Gallery. This tiny venue had its off nights, but when The Field played it was packed with people ready to dance. This was definitely the best night I had there.

The Field - Everyday

5. Wu-Tang Clan, AT&T Park Parking lot for Rock the Bells

They had to play before dusk so Rage Against the Machine could go on last, but gave a great performance anyway. Ghostface Killah and Method Man were the brightest lights.

Wu-Tang Clan - Rushing Elephants

6. !!!, Mezzanine

Frontman Nic Offer wears a particular look on his face while he's on stage. It just says: "I know we kick ass." It's hard to argue with him, especially with a rowdy hometown (Sactown) crowd behind him. !!! turned Mezzanine out, which is no easy feat.

!!! - Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard (A True Story)

7. Plaid, NASA Ames Research Center for Yuri's Night (Mountain View)

It's pretty awesome to see anyone play in an airplane hangar over 18-foot tall speakers, let alone IDM royalty. Plaid's songs are headphone-friendly, but they make them a lot more danceable when they play live. They're coming back in January to Mezz...

Plaid - Tan Sau

8. T.I.T.S., Elbo Room

This was a severely hard-rocking show, bringing together metal, punk and post-rock. I can't see this SF band not blowing up once they get a chance to tour the country.

T.I.T.S. - Mystery

9. Liars, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

The Civic Auditorium is imposing, but Liars showed that they can translate their sound, and Angus Andrew's stage antics, to the big stage without flinching. Rock music would be a lot more boring without them.

Liars - A Visit From Drum

10. Giant Skyflower Band, Hemlock Tavern

Hypnotic waves of sound from these local guitar-worshippers made for one of the year's pleasant surprises - this sounded nothing like their record.

Giant Skyflower Band - The Archangel (Hurray for the Beast)

December 17, 2007

Taxin MCs like the internal revenue (Five Deez)

I ate at a Japanese restaurant this weekend where they were showing taped anime on TV. The sound was off so I couldn't really follow what was going on, but since these were shows grabbed from [adult swim] I got to see some of those great bumpers, which reminded me that they're what I miss most about cable TV. One of these bumpers was giving shoutouts to some of the music they'd been featuring. There were some recognizable names like Madlib, but then they flashed up Five Deez, a name I hadn't heard for a while.

Five Deez - Blue Light Special

This song was big for me sophomore year of high school after I heard it on KZSU. It's a pretty subdued song, the beat is very awesome. Some of the guys in Five Deez helped out with the music for Samurai Champloo, and it says here that they are working with a bunch of hip-hop artists in Japan. That's cool to see them doing well, I wonder if it would be possible for these local groups to get so big internationally if not for the internet.

December 11, 2007

We're famous yall

Google "gza birthday" and Hey! Student's the number one result. Sweet!

K back to work: here's a Justus Köhncke track off of the Pop Ambient 2006 compilation. Follow that link to view the soon-to-be-legendary HEY! STUDENT JUSTUS KÖHNCKE PRONOUNCIATION GUIDE. Capsule review: Most of Kompakt's catalog is meant for the dancefloor, but Pop Ambient practically lulls the listener to sleep. Put this track on and drift off...

Justus Köhncke & Heimermann - Albatros

December 10, 2007

"God Gave Us Life, Nigel" "Sure Did" (Half Man Half Biscuit)

Achtung Bono, HMHB's tenth and most recent (2005) album

British punk bands do not come more caustic than Half Man Half Biscuit! Lead singer Nigel Blackwell has bile to spare, and obscure British entertainers bear most of the brunt - "99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd" anyone? Of course this wouldn't even be worth listening to if the music wasn't good, which it is if you like the sound of Brits messing around with horrible recording equipment. (Which I do.)

HMHB's songs really are full of crazy British culture references but the band's website has a follow-along guide for the perplexed. Here's a direct link to the page explaining the two songs below, which come from the band's debut LP.

Half Man Half Biscuit - God Gave Us Life [Back in the D.H.S.S. LP, 1985]

Half Man Half Biscuit - Fuckin 'ell It's Fred Titmus [Back in the D.H.S.S. LP, 1985]

December 9, 2007


"Post-GWAR rape"

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing obscenity personified - GWAR. For those of you unschooled in this extraterrestrial rock piece, a brief background, taken directly from the band's website:

Eons ago, there existed an elite group of chaos warriors who ravaged the galaxy with a boundless hatred of all things alive. They were called the Scumdogs of the Universe, and they grew in might and fury, the greatest weapon in the arsenal of their cosmic Master. But they became too powerful, and too defiant, and for their cosmic crimes were banished to the most insignificant planet in the universe...the seething mudball known as Earth. Millions of years passed, and they slumbered, until the pollution of your world de-thawed these creatures from their ageless coma...and now they stride the Earth, living gods, dedicated to one goal, the destruction of the human race, and the eradication of existence itself! Wait- that’s two goals!

The day started just like any other day, completely oblivious to what I was about to witness. My friend Matt and I took a train from Grand Central NYC to New Haven, CT, where the band were to play the last show of their tour. The opening bands were your derivative heavy metal/thrash rock groups, and it was at this point I began to wonder if all this was worth it. Finally, at around 8:30 PM, GWAR came on stage, and they immediately began their assault. The music was never important, which is mindless thrash metal, but their performance, that was a different story. The only way to put it was that Matt and me were brutally raped by GWAR, visually, sonically and physically.

The following highly offensive events occurred, in no particular order:

1) The Pope dressed in Nazi garb was decapitated and sprayed blood all over the audience.

2) A figure with Hitler on one face and Jesus on the other was decapitated and sprayed blood all over the audience.

3) Don Vitto from "Jackass" shat a blue substance all over the audience (I particularly got a deadeye shot in the face), and was then disemboweled and sprayed blood all over the audience. He then gave birth to Bam Margera, who jizzed over the audience.

4) President Bush was decapitated. He sprayed blood everywhere also.

This was also my first real "moshing" concert. I got kicked in the head a couple times by body surfers that seemed to come out of nowhere, and traded elbows with people who got a bit too rough. Oh, and I had a sincere belief that I was going to die once the barricade between the band and audience broke.

Once the show ended, which was around an hour and 15 minutes later (but seemed like 30 years later), I didn't know what to think. I was drenched in an assortment of green, red and blue liquids, while my face was completely green. My body was bruised and spent, but I realized that what I had witnessed was a unique experience, one that defies definition and can only be given justice if seen. I was offended, for sure, but I knew that if one of the band members had a cuttlefish for a penis, than none of this could be taken seriously. GWAR raped me, for sure, but it was rape with meaning.

December 8, 2007

More Boom Bip

I saw Boom Bip at the Elbo Room in SF last night. It was a difficult show for him to pull off, there were two other guys with him on stage, and they were creating all the music live. It's a challenge for these electronic dudes to put on a good "live" show, because it would probably sound best if they just stood in front of a laptop and played their songs through the PA. Credit to Boom Bip for being a little more ambitious than that.

I can't say it was a smashing success, though. The crowd wasn't totally feeling it, and "Coogi Sweater," which should have brought the house down, was the worst sounding song of the night. Still, these two songs that I'm posting were great.

Boom Bip - The Pinks [Sacchrilege EP, 2007]

Boom Bip - The Move [Blue Eyed in the Red Room LP, 2005]

December 7, 2007

Alive 1997002 Alive [Daft Punk]

Pyramid of Life

Daft Punk. The electronic act even the indies can dig. Show up to any hipster party, and you're bound to hear "Harder Better Faster Stronger" or "Around the World" sandwiched between Animal Collective and Broken Social Scene. Daft Punk, simply put, make music for the masses. If you had the distinct pleasure of attending one of their shows this year, you would see that those in attendance were of all walks of life. Daft Punk's music, unlike most electronic acts, is so simple and pure, that it is able to transcend definition and become loved and enjoyed by all, because, hell, it gets your body moving. Efficiently created, their music perfectly blends well chosen samples to create bliss for your feet and soul.

So now Daft Punk have released "Alive 2007," which chronicles the extraordinary live tour they put on this year. I will be the first one to say that I think Daft Punk's predecessor live album "Alive 1997," is my favorite Daft Punk record after "Discovery" (which is one of my favorite records period), so, needless to say, I had high expectations for "Alive 2007."

Let me start out by saying that both live albums are different in their approach but are both defined by Daft Punk's gift of controlling crowds and generating momentum. "Alive 1997," which was made just when Daft Punk's career was taking off, is a 45 minute live album built from three tracks off "Homework:" "Da Funk," "Rollin' & Scratchin'" and "Alive." However, the tracks are manipulated to the point where they are beyond recognition, creating a unique 45 minute piece that stands out on its own. It's no wonder that "Alive 1997" is only one track; splitting it up would be a crime.

Flash forward, 10 years later. "Alive 2007" is different in its approach, drawing upon three albums worth of material to create another seamless piece of music, though the tracks are defined far more and the songs more recognizable. However, because Daft Punk's music is sample-based, it's quite easy to blend parts of tracks together, which is exactly what the group does for "Alive 2007." Much like "Alive 1997," Daft Punk have created a new piece of music with "Alive 1997," splicing and dicing parts of the many songs in the group's canon to create the ultimate Daft Punk mix.

So which one is better? Can't make that decision yet. I remember being floored at Daft Punk's concert in August in Brooklyn, blinded by the sonic and visual bliss that emanated from that omnipotent pyramid. However, while Alive 2007 is all glitz and high production, Alive 1997 is just flat out raw, and perfectly exemplifies the simple power of Daft Punk's music. So both records are great for their own reasons, but are meant to accomplish the same goal: to rock your body. And isn't that all we should ask in music?

Daft Punk - Around The World / Harder Better Faster Stronger [Alive 2007 LP, 2007]
Daft Punk - Face To Face / Short Circuit [Alive 2007 LP, 2007]


It can take quite a while to sort through piles of music, especially when they're buried on my computer in zip form. I'm glad I opened up this one, though - remixes of Aphex Twin by a guy named 100dBs. Aphex + Ultramagnetic MCs? Aphex + "Drop It Like It's Hot"? Doesn't get much better for me.

It might be totally gratuitous to link to this post again, but I already posted some Aphex jams a while back. If you like the "Drop It Like It's Hot" mashup, the original AFX tune ("Alberto Balsalm") is available there.

100dBs - Drop Alberto Like It's Hot

100dBs - Poppa Large In The US

December 6, 2007

Indie Rock Suckfest - Jamaican show

Desmond Dekker, 1985. I love this photo

Before my life as a globetrotting mp3 blogger I was a humble student at Northwestern University. I fell in with a group of vagabond DJs at the campus station, WNUR, who had a show called the "Indie Rock Suckfest." The name was not exactly of our choosing, as I shall presently explain. WNUR definitely had some good people, like Will Butler of Arcade Fire fame and Justin, but as I imagine happens with a good many college radio stations, there's a glut of people who were not just pretentious but mean. When one of my friends first signed up for the show, it was left unnamed on a master sheet in the station's office. As the story goes, a malicious WNURite scrawled the epithet "Indie Rock Suckfest" next to his name, and he kept it as a mark of insurgency against the WNUR power structure.

I promised one of the Hey! Student faithful a mix of Jamaican music, so I'm posting a selection from one of the best shows I was part of, an all-Jamaican show that aired October 13, 2004. Our slot was from 2-3:30am, so when we got three or so phone calls for this show, we were pretty stoked. (This was an improvement, by the way, from the decidedly unglamorous 3:30-5am slot.) The chunk I'm posting has some of the all-time greats represented, namely Desmond Dekker (leading off), Lee 'Scratch' Perry (second) and Jimmy Cliff (at the end).

Indie Rock Suckfest - Jamaican show (excerpt)

Hey! Student Cliffs Notes Vol 1


In which we "blog" about something "new"! Ghostface Killah's new album is out. Supreme Clientele [nb: 2000 Ghostface album] is in my head right this second so it's kind hard to fit more Ghost in there. Still, there are a couple of good tracks off of The Big Doe Rehab, which you'll find below.

This is an opportune time to mention The World According to Pretty Toney, Ghostface's new book. If you're intrigued by this in any way, I *highly* recommend watching this related video featuring Ghost on a throne offering words of wisdom.

Ghostface Killah - Yolanda's House [The Big Doe Rehab, 2007]

Ghostface Killah - Killa Lipstick [The Big Doe Rehab, 2007]

December 5, 2007

Faceless Music is Pure Music [Burial]

Dan has already expressed the importance and greatness of Aphex Twin. Apart from pioneering ambient techno, skittery beats and all around beautiful rythmic and melodic contrasting, Aphex Twin is well known for his anonymity. Rarely speaking to the press, living in bank vaults and occasionally showing up to play the odd live show, Richard D. James relishes his introverted personality. This allows Aphex's music to stand on its own, without his audience attaching the artist to the art. In a day where image is everything, and where "video killed the radio star," this is quite admirable. Another artist of great talent that has also chosen this path of anonymity is a man named Burial.

According to sources, only five individuals outside Burial's family knows he makes music, not only increasing the artist's mystique but, just like Aphex Twin, allowing listeners to purely focus on his music. Burial's music is a beautiful blend of two-step/garage and ambient techno, crafted using rudimentary electronic instruments. Heavy reverb, pitch-controlled vocals, and aching strings, all propelled by a steady two-step beat, Burial's music is haunting and beautiful all at once.

I've posted the track "Ghost Hardware" from Burial's latest album, Untrue, which is already on my list for top albums of 2007. In listening to Burial, I leave you with one very important thought: it's all about the music.
Burial - Ghost Hardware [Untrue LP, 2007]

I'm gonna go put on my rubber chicken suit (GTO's)


GTO's are weird girl-pop band from the late 60s. They were a kind of supergroup put together by Frank Zappa. I heard this song on Northwestern's station, I think, and couldn't get it out of my head for days. Finally I gave in and searched for "i'm in love with the oo oo man," and lo and behold - a post on WFMU's Beware of the Blog with mp3s for the whole album. Sweet!

GTO's - I'm In Love With the Ooo-Ooo Man [Permanent Damage, 1969]

December 3, 2007

Hey! Sister

Rae and Ghost

WOW it's been a long time since I posted. Well this one goes out to my sister, who recently had to spend close to two months at school without any music when her Mac died. How is that even possible? As a college student I didn't do anything but listen to music... come home from class, listen to music. Walk to class, listen to music. (Particular songs for varying lengths of walks) Get ready for a party, listen to music. Come back from a party, listen to music. Anyway, she dealt with it bravely, and when she came back for the holidays I hit her off with a whole bunch of CDs that I had ripped in glorious WAV format. However I neglected to pass along one album which would have really augmented her knowledge (which is what college is all about in theory) so I will do it right now over the internets:

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx [1995]

This is a fundamental album in hip-hop, can't live without it. And she also asked for this:

Why? - Rubber Traits EP [2006]
removed per request

Why? put out the best indie rock record of 2006, Elephant Eyelash, and this EP has one of the better songs off of that album, "Rubber Traits," plus "Dumb Hummer" which is worth downloading this EP alone. OH YAH, MoveDigital is back, three cheers for VC funding yo!