Everyday Robots

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Damon Albarn, probably most famous for being the cartoonishly british voice of the Gorillaz and the more humble half of the Oasis V. Blur battle of the 90s, has released his first solo album. It is so small and quiet, the only thing that really sticks with you are the voices — both the hypnotic samples he includes and his own iconic croon. Lucky for him, that East London accent is a treasure.

This album doesn’t sound anything like the Gorillaz, so if that’s your thing (your only thing) then this whole album will probably be pretty disappointing. In fact, Albarn replaced any hip-hop sensibility he might have with pure pop melodies. This album seems more like a return to Blur’s softer sensibilities. But even when Blur took it slow, tracks like End of Century or  Tender always swelled into something big:

Albarn’s solo album, Everyday Robots, does no such thing. Ever. Tho whole thing is as calm as a gloomy London afternoon (I would guess). The joy comes from finding out what a Brit-Pop pioneer and 90s alt-rock vet like Albarn has to say about modern pop music. The answer is not much, but it’s still a joy to hear.

Of course, Albarn isn’t the only alt-rock legend to step down from his pioneer pedestal. A lot of the solo projects going on these days are unfairly dismissed as vanity projects. I happen to quite like them. Some of my favorites are Ben Gibbard’s Former Lives, which was apparently recorded over the course of a few years. Some of it using Rock Band.

I also think that Radiohead’s drummer, Philip Selway, has a gem of an album that’s been overlooked, unfortunately. 

Of course, there is also Thom Yorke, whose solo album really isn’t great. But Thom Yorke not being great is still more interesting than most things out there. He also contributed a great song to one of the Twilight soundtracks, which is not available on Spotify, and you have to buy the whole soundtrack to New Moon on iTunes if you want to own it. Luckily, there’s Youtube.

We Can Thank Twilight for These 4 Awesome Songs

The truth of the matter is, great movie soundtracks are seldom accompanied by great movies. Batman Forever, Romeo + Juliet and even Garden State are all not that great. The first two are basically just long music videos. But they do have great soundtracks.

The same clearly goes for the Twilight movies, which deserve at least some credit for revitalizing the lost art of using movies to sell music. So here are 4 songs that I think are awesome and came from some of the twilight soundtracks.

Meet me on the Equinox – Death Cab for Cutie

Hearing Damage – Thom York

Heavy in Your Arms – Florence and the Machine

What Part of Forever – Cee Lo Green

The best music, the best movies.

While talking with a friend of mine, I realized that much of my musical taste is stuck in 2011. Finding new music is overwhelming and I’ve pretty much given up on looking. Over the course of 2013, there were a few albums that I managed to stumble upon that I loved, namely:

“Muchaco” by Phosphorescent

“The Civil Wars” by The Civil Wars

“Trouble Will Find Me” by The National

“Reflektor” by Arcade Fire

“Modern Vampires of the City” by Vampire Weekend

And for some strange reason 2013 was the year I finally began to come to terms with Radiohead’s “The King of Limbs,” but mostly just this song:

As far as movies are concerned, I loved “The Way Way Back”

“Mud”

and “Blue Jasmine”

I also saw “Once Upon a Time in the West” for the first time. It’s streaming on Netflix right now, and it’s amazing. It’s the best western I’ve ever seen, and possibly one of the best genre movies period.

I’m more than open to suggestion for other things to consume.

Elliott Smith

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I heard Elliott Smith for the first time when I was a senior in high school. If I’m completely honest with myself, I latched on to his stuff because he was from Oregon and he was interesting. My appreciation for his music came later.

One of my favorite songs of his, Waltz #2, was written about extensively today in Slate, so I thought I’d shine some light on what I think is another one of his best songs, Waltz #1.

Ten years ago today Elliott Smith died. I’m usually not a fan of the cult of personality that surrounds deceased musicians, but I am a big fan of Elliott Smith. So I figure it was at least worth a blog post.

If you’ve never heard any of his stuff, it’s never too late to give him a try.

Also, here is a great Ben Folds tribute to Smith from his album Songs for Silverman.

Arcade Fire’s worst music videos

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So Arcade Fire released their new single, Reflektor, last week. It’s pretty awesome, and the interactive music video that goes along with it is pretty sweet as well. Unfortunately, the standard music video that came out with the song’s release is not so awesome. In fact, it’s kind of lame.

It’s a trend, you see. AF will release an amazing album, followed by well selected singles that are accompanied by terrible music videos. Like, really terrible.

The non-interactive video, the one directed by Anton Corbijn, is certainly not their worst, but it’s still pretty lame. The big bobble-head thing seems pretty neat, but the driving around in the truck with Win Butler’s painted on burglar’s mask is not. The song is explosive and brooding, the video is not. It doesn’t reflect, if you will, the feeling of the song very well.

So, in the spirit of celebrating their upcoming album, and the subsequent terrible music videos that will likely accompany it, here are my five least favorite Arcade Fire music videos.

5. 

Possibly my favorite AF song. The video starts out as a pretty cliche indie video from the 2004-2006 period with all the 2D marionette stuff  (see Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse) but this one has particularly shoddy animation and stops making sense part way through. Mostly, it just irks me that such a great song got such a mediocre music video. It also makes me miss their  violinist, Sarah Neufeld, who is noticeably absent from Reflektor.

4. 

There’s an interactive version that’s better, but this is also quite lame.

3. 

“Let’s just play the song and walk around a neighborhood.”

2. 

I don’t even understand this. Like at all. High school CAD project, maybe.

1.  

But this, this is truly embarrassing. All the others were made when they had the excuse of not having money. This came after a sold-out Madison Square Garden concert and a grammy. It embarrasses me.

Oh, what’s that you say? What’s my favorite Arcade Fire music video? Well this doesn’t really count because it’s not an official music video, but it’s still my favorite.

 

 

This whole stupid Miley thing

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Miley Cyrus was on the homepage of CNN’s website today. As The Onion so gracefully pointed out, that’s very stupid. I haven’t actually seen the thing she did that everyone seems to care about, but I have seen the numerous Buzzfeed posts filtering through my twitter feed. Something about “twerking” and teddy bears, I gather.

For some unexplainable reason, all of this reminded me of something Richard Condon, the guy who wrote The Manchurian Candidate, wrote after Kennedy’s assassination.

You see, after Kennedy was killed in Dallas some people looked to Condon’s book to explain what motivated Oswald. They wanted to believe that he was a disturbed man on the outskirts of American life, brainwashed by other governments.

Condon disagreed.

He argued that  the purpose of his book was in fact to show that the “brain washing” was happening right here on our own soil:

“I meant to show that when the attention of a nation is focused upon violence—when it appears on the front page of all newspapers, throughout television programming, in the hundreds of millions of monthly comic books, in most motion pictures, in the rhythms of popular music and the dance, and in popular $5 novels which soon become 50c paperbacks; when a most violent example is set by city, state and federal governments, when organized crime merges with organized commerce and labor, when a feeble, bewildered set of churches cannot counteract any of this and all of it is power-hosed at all of us through the most gigantically complex overcommunications system ever developed—we must not be surprised that one of us bombs little girls in a Sunday school or shoots down a President of our republic.”

Condon was probably wrong about the motivations of Kennedy’s killer, but his thoughts are still interesting. Just swap out “violence” for “reckless behavior.”

The bottom line is, this shouldn’t have been at the top of CNN’s homepage, or any homepage for that matter, because it’s simply not surprising.