January 30, 2008


Brix Smith

I can't believe I haven't posted any Fall tracks yet. This blog's title is a reference to The Fall. The picture marked "Patron Saint" is of The Fall's lead singer Mark E. Smith. Here's a brief introduction to the band. Start with a semi-crazed frontman who doesn't really sing, he just speaks into the microphone. The stuff he says makes sense in an abstract way. Come to think of it, the whole band is pretty abstract - the songs are usually just four bars of some sort of primal rock groove played over and over, with only slight variations.

The backing musicians have always been treated as expendable commodities. The Fall has been around since 1977, and they've literally lost track of everyone who's played in the band, such is the frequency and flippancy with which musicians are dismissed. Not that MES cares much about his public perception. His most famous quote about the band runs: "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's a Fall gig."

The other often-cited quote about The Fall comes from John Peel, who described the band's sound as "always the same, always different." This just means that the band's songs are built around repetition. The Fall is ruthless when it comes to pounding out a rhythm over and over -- the songs only need to stop when Mark E. Smith is done talking. The band's gone through different styles over the years but the idea is always the same: "repetition repetition repetition," to quote a verse from early single "Repetition."

So here's my "desert island" Fall track. It's a version of "L.A." from a Peel Session, which means that it's a live in-studio performance. It has everything you could possibly want from a Fall song: a punishing rhythm section, nonsensical ramblings from MES, a guitar "solo" that I could probably learn to play in 2 minutes and vocals from Brix Smith, then-wife of MES. (Her run with the band, and Mark, pretty much translates to its peak in the 80s.) Song for song, I think the best Fall album is This Nation's Saving Grace. "L.A." is on that album, but this version is so much better that I usually skip it now.

The Fall - L.A. [The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 Box Set]

January 29, 2008

Love you all the time [Beach House]

Photo by frankie two thumbs (flickr)

My music listening habits tend to ebb and flow, with a constant of a few groups (The Fall and Broadcast, say) augmented by other, slightly more fleeting obsessions (Akron/Family, as much as I love them, fall into this category). Every so often I get blindsided by something so great that it hijacks my playlists and demands to be listened to at every waking moment. Right now that group is Beach House, a two piece band from Baltimore that is coming out with a new album shortly (Devotion), as well as a tour that sees them play San Francisco.

Beach House plays a kind of dream-pop, but their songs are built around drum machines and synthesizers instead of epic guitar distortion. It's clear that the songs on their debut album were recorded without a lot of production, but the new track here, "Wedding Bell," adds live drums and some fancier guitar work. Highly recommended, if you haven't already listened to this on hipper blogs already!

Beach House - Saltwater [Beach House LP, 2006]

Beach House - Wedding Bell [Devotion LP, 2008]

January 18, 2008

I feel space [Black Devil Disco Club]

ni idea

I made a passing reference to these dudes, or dude, a while back on the blog, but now it's time to finally post a track. Perhaps a lost Italo classic from 1978—the story might be true, but who cares—this is just some straight up space disco. Please be patient as it takes about a minute for the elements (synths) of "The Devil In Us" to fall in to place. The (synth) hook that makes up the refrain is a pleasant contrast to the otherwise dirty sound (of synths). Another hit from Lo Recordings.

Black Devil Disco Club - The Devil In Us [28 After EP, 2006]

Black Devil Disco Club - On Just Foot [28 After EP, 2006]

January 16, 2008

The most bloggish post yet [Ultramagnetic MC's]

Jose Canseco doing a Charlie Hough impression. This got him laid up in the hospital, for real

I feel sort of bad that I posted about Kool Keith's proclivity for referencing baseball players without delivering the goods. Hey! Student readers deserve better! Anyway, here are two more tracks off of The Four Horsemen, Ultramagnetic MC's 1993 album. More on that in a moment.

Ultramagnetic MC's - Two Brothers With Checks (San Francisco, Harvey) [The Four Horsemen LP, 1993]

Ultramagnetic MC's - Saga of Dandy, the Devil & Day [The Four Horsemen LP, 1993]

So here are the baseball players that Kool Keith mentions in "Two Brothers With Checks (San Francisco, Harvey)":

  • Thurman Munson
  • Bucky Dent
  • Sparky Lyle
  • Joe Morgan
  • Ray Fosse
  • Charlie Hough

Pretty old school. Ray Fosse is now a TV commentator for the A's, I wonder if he knows his name got dropped on a classic rap album. Even Ced Gee gets into the act here, blurting out "Montreal Expos!" He couldn't have picked a better team, as far as I'm concerned.

Galarraga was my favorite player, but only while on the Expos

Now it's time to pick a long-standing bone about Ultramagnetic MC's. I've posted tracks off of The Four Horsemen, which hasn't received anywhere near the (retroactive) acclaim of their first album Critical Beatdown. I need to quote this piece of inane "criticism" posted to pitchfork when that album got re-released:

But despite Keith's reputation, Ced Gee is the source of the album's most insane, digitalk-quantum gibberish, spouting lines such as, '[Ced's only notable line on the album].' Ced's rhymes are so 'approximate,' in fact, that they should be studied in seminars alongside general relativity.

Yeah... but no. What kind of nonsense is this, claiming that Ced is better than Kool Keith? Enough bitterness though. Enjoy these tracks, especially "Saga of Devil, the Dandy & Day," which is probably the best rap song about baseball of all time.

Walt Weiss yall

January 14, 2008

Dissertation-ready rap [Kool Keith]

Kool Keith as Black Elvis

In high school we had an assignment to analyze a song from pop culture using the literary terms such as irony, synecdoche and so on. I've often thought it would be possible to break down Kool Keith's rhymes in a similar way, except using an even more high-falutin, academic vocabulary: "well, you see, what Keith is actually looking for in 'Mommy' is to reconstruct his fragmented postmodern identity." Yeah right!! Those thoughts, if you have them, are for thinking not saying. Although it might be possible to write a coherent essay on why Kool Keith is the Andre Breton of rap, that would be the most laughable endeavor imaginable, both from the perspective of the music and academic worlds.

Kool Keith is generally thought of as an insane person, but his talent is undeniable. He's lasted so long by adopting a lot of different styles over the years. He has no respect for so-called hard rappers: "You're basically a hamster. You might as well get a Habitrail, spin on your wheel." (For full effect, it helps to read this in his voice) I like his material from the early 90's the best, partially because that's when he was dropping the most number of references to somewhat obscure baseball players like Dave Winfield, Ray Fosse and Charlie Hough. When can I hear my Walt Weiss rap?

Kool Keith - Mommy [The Cenobites LP w/ Godfather Don, 1993]

Ultramagnetic MC's - Checkin My Style [The Four Horsemen LP, 1993]

January 10, 2008

FUNKY FUNKY STUFF [Lizzy Mercier Descloux]

no pictar needed

This song is seriously great. I think it would very easily find its way onto a CD called "disco 101" or something similarly cheesy. I love her tossed-off, almost ecstatic vocal style on this track. Her screams at the end of the song sound improvised, I hope they were. See how I used all caps in the title? That's blog-speak for "this is good." Sharp eyed readers will also note the switch to [brackets] instead of (parentheses). This is a calculated move to enhance the blog credibility of Hey! Student. This is 2008, we study the internet and adapt.

Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Funky Stuff

January 8, 2008

Non-weak Latin American rock (Los Látigos)

Take us seriously... please?

A lot of rock from the Southern continent is pretty appalling. (Café Tacuba, El Kinto and all of Brazil are excepted.) Every time I was living in Argentina and heard a half-good song from a local group I would pick up the CD at the local entertainment/TV store megaplex, thinking I was about to find some hot band to brag about to folks back home. In pretty much every case I would think the single was still pretty cool, but the rest of the album would be of such poor quality that I'd forget the band altogether.

The one - one! - exception is Los Látigos, who are actually good, beyond their main single "Luces Sensacional." Like basically every other South American rock band, they play a very poppy style of rock, but these guys have two things going for them. First is a sense of irony that's admittedly somewhat underdeveloped (they did title their album Hombre) but which makes them seem like towering cynics in comparison with the rest of the Argentine rock landscape. Most importantly, they have catchy rock songs that don't suck! Let's call them the Argentine Killers, and I really do mean that in the highest sense. As much as music designed to make teenage girls lust after the lead singer (I see you there, guy) can be awesome, this music is awesome. Really.

Los Látigos - Luces Sensacional [Hombre LP, 2003]

Los Látigos - (Un) Amor Toda la Vida [Hombre LP, 2003]

January 6, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2007

While Dan is having difficulty providing his top 10 albums of 2007, I must give him props for being able to list his top 10 live experiences of last year. I was lucky to even make it to a concert in 2007! However, I share his exuberance in Daft Punk, which I saw in Brooklyn during a hot night this past August, and man, did those guys kill. Their Alive 2007 live CD would be jockeying for best album of the year, if and only if I wasn't a purist and didn't count recordings of previously released material in my top 10.

I have done my best to provide my top 10 albums of 2007, and must disclaim (as I do every year), that top 10s are only so effective as each year there are thousands of albums released that never gain media attention and therefore cannot qualify for all those "best ofs". Yet, culling from the music I did listen to in 2007, here goes my top 10, in particular order:

10) Gui Borrato – Chromophobia (Kompakt). Along with labelmate the Field, Brazil-native Gui Borrato has reaffirmed the supremacy of Kompakt in the electronic music world. No longer relegated to Germany’s electronic music scene, the Cologne-based label is finding exceptional talent across the world, diversifying itself from the microhouse sound it was founded on. Chromophobia is one of the more sonically colorful pieces of music to come from Kompakt, filled with vibrant sounds and clean production. “Mr. Decay” starts the album in high gear, crescendoing and decrescendoing its individual sonic parts to create a work that ebbs and flows beautifully. Elsewhere, album standout “Beautiful Life” is a blissful track filled with sound that allows little room for silence, building itself up and subsequently cascading over and over, again and again.

Gui Borrato - Beautiful Life [Chromophobia LP, 2007]

9) The Field – From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt). His approach microtonal and minimal, the Field (aka Axel Willner) is one of the most promising and unique electronic music artists today. From Here We Go Sublime, Willner’s debut LP, is minimalist in its composition, built from a series of repeated samples that are usually no longer than two seconds each. Much like minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley, the Field’s works find solace in slight changes in tone or beat, ultimately creating highly structured, entrancing music. Look no further than the album’s title track, where small unrecognizable snippets of the Flamingos’ doo-wop classic “I Only Have Eyes for You” are repeated until the full sample drops halfway into the song. From then on the sample is slowed and manipulated until it becomes unrecognizable once again. Genius.

The Field - From Here We Go Sublime [From Here We Go Sublime LP, 2007]

8) Matthew Dear – Asa Breed (Ghostly International). Asa Breed is a reaffirmation of Matthew Dear’s status of electronic music’s new renaissance man. Already having established himself as one of the few American techno artists that can compete with those of Europe, Matthew Dear has created a stirring and emotional electronic pop record with Asa Breed. His songwriting and vocals both equally promising and genuine, Asa Breed is a record that, for the first time, finds Dear in the spotlight. Standout track “Deserter” is filled with reversed guitar work, heavily reverberated percussion and simple synth lines, all of which are anchored by Dear’s plaintive vocals and lyrics. A very promising start to Dear’s electronic pop persona.

Matthew Dear - Deserter [Asa Breed LP, 2007]

7) Justice – Cross (Ed Banger Records). Call 2007 the year of Daft Punk. In addition to generating well-deserved fervor from the Frenchmen’s Alive 2007 tour, electronic music saw a steady stream of groups pop up that were students of Daft Punk’s now classic French house sound. Justice is the best of bunch. Cross is a what Human After All should have been, filtering rock’s greatest elements, from crunchy guitar work to pounding kick drum beats, through house music. Standout tracks include the positively rocking “Let There Be Light” and 80’s flashback that is “DVNO,” which is guaranteed to cream your acid wash jeans. Best party album of 2007.

Justice - DVNO [Cross LP, 2007]

6) Efdemin – Efdemin (Dial). Along with Pantha du Prince’s debut, Efdemin has shined a light on newcomer Dial, a Berlin techno label distributed by the always venerable Kompakt. A stirring collection of stripped-down techno, Efdemin is filled with sparse percussion generated from clean snare hits, charming bell work and dry kick drum beats. “Knocking at the Grand” starts the album beautifully, encapsulating chiming bells with a thick, clean beat that is simply hypnotic. Elsewhere, “April Fools” is an equally mesmerizing composition that builds slowly until all of its entrancing elements, from its chattery beat to its indecipherable Boards of Canada-esque vocalwork, crash together in harmony. One of best electronic music releases of 2007.

Efdemin - Knocking At The Grand [Efdemin LP, 2007]

5) !!! (Chk Chk Chk) – Myth Takes (Warp). Much of Chk Chk Chk’s work up until Myth Takes was difficult to separate from all the other DFA-esque, no-wave revival dance rock groups that have saturated today’s underground rock scene. However, with Myth Takes, Chk Chk Chk have crafted arguably the finest dance rock album to date, and not a moment too soon with the unfortunate demise of Out Hud. The tracks dense in production and the groove locked and loaded, Chk Chk Chk’s latest work flat out rocks. Standout tracks include “Must be Moon” a bass-propelled workout about a one-night stand and “Heart of Hearts” a fuzzed-out rocker buoyed by killer male-female call-response vocal work and wobbly synths.

!!! - Heart of Hearts [Myth Takes LP, 2007]

4) Panda Bear – Person Pitch (Paw Tracks). Much media has been generated around Animal Collective drummer Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) and his album Person Pitch, a work that finds itself canonizing and modernizing the deeply reverberated, harmonic sound of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Smile. Much like those two seminal works, Person Pitch is filled with a myriad of unique, idiosyncratic sounds, washed in reverb and melded into highly addictive, chantlike melodies. While Animal Collective is a group similarly focused on the power of repetition in music, Panda Bear’s work is far more buoyant and optimistic in sound. The tracks on Person Pitch are undeniably catchy and hypnotic, and will most likely bury themselves into your head and never leave for weeks. Some standouts include “Bros,” a twelve-minute, multi-staged piece of absolute harmony, and “I’m Not”, a track washed in sounds played backwards and stereophonic vocals, highly reminiscent of Spiritualized’s early work.

Panda Bear - I'm Not [Person Pitch LP, 2007]

3) LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (DFA). With Sound of Silver, James Murphy has broken free of the “dance-rock” label his persona and label are so often given. LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut, although filled with the now dance-rock staple “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” and synth-rock workout “Trials and Tribulations,” was disposable and indistinguishable among all the other numerous dance-rock albums. However, with Sound of Silver, James Murphy has taken a significant step forward and created a sonically and lyrically complex album that is stronger and more vibrant than its predecessor. His breadth more impressive this time around, James Murphy can get the groove going (“Get Innocuous!”, “Watch the Tapes”, “Sound of Silver”) as well as generate genuinely sincere moments (“All My Friends,” “Someone Great,” “New York I Love You”). One of the great surprises of music in 2007.

LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver [Sound of Silver LP, 2007]

2) MIA – Kala (Interscope). Much like LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver, Kala is a work more complex and developed than its predecessor. With Arular, we were introduced to MIA’s unique vocal stylings and guerilla production, all wrapped around catchy pop structures and reggae/two-step rhythms. However, with Kala, MIA has completely branched out and developed her now even more unique sound. Her production more raw and lyrics more fierce, MIA draws upon her varied cultural background to create a work filled with multiple musical influences. “Bamboo Banga” is propelled by a strong jungle beat and Bollywood vocals, while “Jimmy” is a beautiful love song rooted in disco sounds and italo-disco synths. Elsewhere, MIA spits bile on the slow-burning, fuzzed-out “20 Dollar”, cops a Clash riff on anti-capitalist anthem “Paper Planes,” and channels her inner hip hop star on the Timbaland-produced “Come Around.” If anyone thought MIA was a one-dimensional, Kala proves them wrong, illustrating the artist’s striking range as well as deep knowledge of world and pop music.

MIA - Paper Planes [Kala LP, 2007]

1) BurialUntrue (Hyperdub). Burial’s sophomore album ferments his status as not only one of the brightest faces in dubstep, but in electronic music. With Untrue, this notoriously anonymous artist has created a musical work that conjugates both despair and aching beauty, much through the use of sonically modulated voices that bleed through crackled found sounds, broken melodies and propulsive two-step beats. As a result, Untrue is a highly cohesive work where each piece can be seen as a story with personality and character, even though there are no intelligible lyrics to be found. “Ghost Hardware” aches all over, as lost female voices are muscled by a powerful, snare-propelled rhythm, while “Etched Headplate” plasters indecipherable words of love across somber strings and snapping beats. Untrue is undoubtedly a landmark piece of electronic music and will bring much-needed attention to the nascent genre of dubstep. Sleeper hit of 2007.

Burial - Archangel [Untrue LP, 2007]