31 July 2007

"I went to a professional, he asked me some questions and sent me to a doctor."

Van Morrison Caravan

The National Fake Empire

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Down Boy

Panda Bear Bonfire of the Vanities (from the Take Pills vinyl single)

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23 July 2007

"The sun is always setting just a little further west."

Okkervil River have steadily become one of my favorite bands with a steady stream of spectacular content, mastering the balance between quality and quantity. They put on a spirited live show where their version of folk-punk really shines largely courtesy of their charismatic front man and songwriter, Will Sheff. Aside from his howling and leg kicks in the band's most electrified songs (it's easy to mistake them for a straight up rock band when they really get going), Sheff can also write a fragile ballad in the tradition of his folk idols like Van Morrison and John Prine. Sheff is also a critic (both music and film) so I hold him on a pretty high pedestal in terms of musicians who are the total package. Last week I got to talk to Sheff on the phone and lets just say I wasn't let down. The man is articulate, intelligent and most of all humble. We got to talk a lot of the band's new record, The Stage Names, which I've loved from the start but gets better with every listen. When the record comes out on August 7th, I beg you to pick up a copy. Here's a little bit of my cover-story feature on Sheff and the band:

After completing his masterpiece, 2005's Black Sheep Boy, in rural Indiana, Okkervil River front man and songwriter Will Sheff decided he needed a change of scenery if he was going to tackle the task of a writing a worthy follow-up to the majestic and mythical LP. And where better to bunker down than Brooklyn, New York, where like-minded buzz bands The National and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah crafted their similarly anticipated, post-break out albums as fickle fans braced for a let down. But on his pilgrimage, Sheff encountered a bit of metaphysical inspiration courtesy of American poet John Berryman.

"On a whim I decided to stop in Minnesota to visit the Washington Avenue Bridge [the site of Berryman's 1972 suicide]. I had a really profound experience standing there trying to imaginatively leap, and get into Berryman's brain at the moment. There's a lot to say about standing in the last place a person stood while alive," says Sheff on the phone from a Brooklyn bar. "I love John Berryman and I was reading him a lot while I was doing Black Sheep Boy. I think Berryman influenced how I wrote that album in some sort of weird way." Read more...

Sheff provided a lot of insight about the record and his songwriting and I hope some of that came through in the piece. Also, if anyone is interested I do have our entire interview transcribed and I'd be happy to let anyone read it.

This is the last song on the album, "John Allyn Smith Sails" about John Berryman and we ended up talking a lot about this, much of which ended up in the article.

And for any huge Okkervil fans, here's a really lo-fi live recording of Will playing album opener "Our Life Is Not A Movie or Maybe" solo. Good for obsessives, but again, the sound quality is not the best.

Okkervil River Our Life Is Not A Movie or Maybe (Will Sheff solo)

and the studio version...

Okkervil River Our Life Is Not A Movie or Maybe

Pre-order The Stage Names and receive access to a free album download

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"You know who it is."

Lately I've been...
Let's call it summer vacation. Anyway, it's over.

The High Strung
Get the Guests
Buy it

Problem is, you've heard this all before. A band with a familiar sound comes to a certain precipice, whether it be on their debut or four albums into their career, where a long fall to mediocrity is only one slip away. But more often than not, the slip isn't even required. Instead, the band – maybe once on sure footing and comfortable in its close associations with other acts – stands by too idly as the ground under them, their foundation, crumbles beneath their feet. To become too comfortable in a style frequently tread is all but a death-wish; instead of garnering emotion from a listener, the sounds hardly elicit a stir and rather than ambition, we hear apathy. And it stings all the more sharply, -- no, rather, the dull ache intensifies -- when it's easy to assume that apathetic re-treading was far from the band's modus operandi. Instead, by walking again the beaten path, one may cross the dangerous distinction between a warm, inviting reverence to influence and flat out bringing nothing new to the table. Read more...

The Slip
Buy it

The prospect of a make-over leaves one anxious and excited about the reinvention looming and for better or worse, shows a healthy dose of proactive revision. Results may vary, hopefully toward progression and growth, less successfully resembling regression or more ambiguously in the form of a lateral jump. Intent must also be taken into account, especially in regards to bandwagon hopping; although Linkin Park's emo make-over did result in a platinum record, in terms of forging new ground, there's something still to be desired. In the case of the Boston, Massachusetts trio The Slip, Eisenhower represents a largely lateral maneuver from Phish-style progressive jamming toward a more easily digestible form of indie-rock. And while the aim is obvious and the prog-rock exploration is trimmed of its fatty excess, the album's cohesion is thrown askew by an unbalanced and unexciting jumble of poor poetry and an interminable lack of commitment to stylistic flow. Read more...

Bird Flu (Diplo remix)
M.I.A. XR 2

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01 July 2007

"Overdone, overdrive, overlive, override."

As soon as "Watch What You Say to Me" dropped, I knew I had to post on it, first because Hov actually sounds alive, which is a feat in itself. Apart from actually flowing, the Jigga Man managed to drop a little bit of knowledge on some young ones who might be getting ahead of themselves (*cough*). Nonetheless being as I am, I procrastinated on a post and Breihan beat me to it. No surprise there; and it's not even a race because frankly, we're not in the same league or playing the same game -- I shouldn't even bother. So I figured I'd sit with the track for a minute and I still found it worthy of mentioning. That said, the entire album has leaked by now and it's exactly the inconsistent mess everyone thought it would be, but the most important thing going on doesn't have anything to do with T.I. or T.I.P.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Wayne's been jabbing and gabbing like a child itching for attention. It's sort of like that teenager talking big game on his older brother/father/father-figure before stepping on the basketball court even though he knows he's going to get his rear end handed to him. And just like that situation, it's not necessarily about talent or hunger, it's just that this man was playing before you stood up. Besides a magazine interview which he later apologized for Wayne came hardest in his version of Beyonce's "Upgrade U" where he pulled the line "I'ma boss, your man is just an employer, mami," which came pretty blatant. Now of course this is still fairly reserved but there have been others and it's clearly a situation of buildup. Whether it was a nudge over B's beat or not that finally put him over the edge, Jay finally sounds mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore -- at least not in complete silence.
In "Watch What You Say", Jay warns sternly, "I hear you baitin' me lately" and then promises "sooner or later I'll take you up on your offer and put you all in your place like I'm replacing your father," which is a pretty obvious reference to Birdman and the creepy Daddy complex Weezy has going on. Carter Sr. wraps it up by mentioning that his DNA is "in your music," which may or may not be a play on the Shawn Carter/Dwayne Carter thing. It all remains pretty subliminal and I'd say Wayne's far from getting Ether'd but with all of this bubbling, lets just say I'm more amped than ever for I Can't Feel My Face and Tha Carter III just to see how far W.F.B. is willing to take this. Jay acted his age, played disiplinarian and issued a firm warning shot, but at the same time I wonder if he has what it takes to take it to the next level. I'll part with a nice allusion from another Lil' Wayne rival, Gillie da Kid, and ask, "When did it become cool for Danielson to disrespect Mr. Miyagi?".

T.I. ft. Jay-Z Watch What You Say To Me


But while I am making a hip-hop post, can everyone PLEASE explore the greatness that is The Hood Internet. They are single-handedly keeping mash-ups relevant and these are perfect for summer. Genius, ya dig? My favorite so far:

TV on the Radio / UGK I Was An International Player (ABX)

Oh, and yessir...

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