Tuesday, May 31, 2005

While the Gallagher Brothers predictably ape the rock cliches of their elders, Damon Albarn's Gorillaz goes bananas.

Russell, 2D, Noodles, and Murdoc "Feel Good Inc." about their new record.

On August 14th, 1995, Oasis and Blur, the two biggest bands in England (that week), put their money where their cockneyed mouths were. Both groups, famous for both their dramatic rivalry and their distinctly British music, Britpop, found it necessary to prove which was the more popular band. The marketing forces behind Blur and Oasis decided to release a first single from their respective upcoming albums on the same day and let the public chose. Whoever debuted on the charts at #1 would be crowned England's favorite sons.

Unfortunately, Oasis chose "Roll With It" from What's the Story Morning Glory?, undeniably the weakest single from this hit-heavy record, while Blur picked The Great Escape’s "Country House,” a playful, catchy song that carried along the semi-political message about excess. Granted ...Morning Glory would go on to sell more records than The Great Escape but ultimately, the better song, Blur's "Country House" premiered on the pop charts right above "Roll With It."
This victory would go on to haunt the Gallagher Brothers--Noel and Liam--for the rest of their careers. Never would Oasis experiment with their sound and risk offending fans, gambling with the top of the charts--the #1 slot was/is too precious to them.
On the other hand, Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, would go on and reinvent himself from album to album. In the last half-decade, Albarn's output screamed of creative restlessness, displaying his admirable been-there-done-that eclectic thirst.
While Oasis sang about looking back in anger, it seems that Albarn has decided not to look back at all.


Sounds like a bad idea, right? Create a fictional band of musical gorillas, animate them as a cartoon and then record that fictional band's album with a rotating cast of musicians including De La Soul, Neneh Cherry, MF Doom, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and Dennis Hopper. You need to give credit to Albarn for not only doing this successfully once (with the self-titled debut), but for producing a sequel that comes close to impressive. Combining the genres of trip-hop, rap, funk, punk, dance and pop, the Gorillaz's second album Demon Days is an admirable and interesting mess. The record, led by the hit "Feel Good, Inc." (currently being used by Apple for their new iPod commercial), is a spastic, danceable soundtrack for people who both liked the concept of Josie & the Pussycats and also use words like "zombie" and "doomsday" while discussing politics. Albarn's side project revels in the dark side of the force but never loses its sense of humor (a cartoon band of gorillas discussing the dangers of a loaded weapon in the household, anyone?).

Having a sense of humor is something the Gallagher Brothers would know very little about. Don't Believe the Truth, their sixth record of laughable re-creations of yesteryear's hits, doesn't warrant all the fanfare behind their big comeback (by the way, didn't they release an album just a few years ago?). After listening to this sub-decent record, I can only wonder when these songs were actually written; are they leftovers from the Definitely Maybe sessions? There hasn't been an ounce of change in the Oasis aesthetic since 1993. This kind of stagnancy is baffling.

Furthermore, at this point, the cliché lyrics ("...I'm at the crossroads waiting for a sign/My life is standing still, but I'm still alive") and nasal-heavy vocals of Don't Believe... are plainly irritating. Will Lou Reed please file a suit against Oasis for the royalties to "Mucky Fingers" (And my God! Why would anyone let Noel sing? His vocals on "Mucky Fingers" make me want to break out into a homicidal rage)? Where are Mick Jagger's writing credits for 'Lyla," a track that comes so close to the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighter Man" that it should have been listed as a cover? Oasis focuses on giving their fans exactly what they want, half-heartedly supplying the demand. In fact, this testament to laziness sounds like there was barely any effort involved in creating Don't Believe... (I mean, when was the last time you broke a sweat over using a photo copy machine?). Perhaps we need to accept that the Beatles-redux shtick was great for two albums (Definitely Maybe and What's The Story Morning Glory?) or maybe we should make peace with the fact that Oasis had two great album in them (and a handful of singles), declare the load blown, and then move on to another band that is at least trying to hold our attention. And a band like Albarn's Gorillaz does just that. While not a classic, astounding album, Demon Days entertains the listener. It's experimental without being off-putting. Fun and silly without being ridiculous. It's no wonder wall of sound but it is another victory, thus leaving the score at Albarn-2, Gallaghers-0.

Friday, May 27, 2005



They hold swords during photo shoots. This band is probably not joking around.

I have been listening to their glorious Dawn of Victory all morning and I am a) in the mood to slay a dragon, b) watch Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, or c) go to a local costume store and buy a long flowing "tress" (this word can only be used in reference to metal band members) and leather pants, and then walk around like I have to go make #2 really bad.

Incorporating flutes, fiddles, a children's choir and actor Christopher Lee into their repertoire (It's true. Count Dooku guests on their song, "Unholy Warcry"), Rhapsody is not a conventional metal band. In fact, tagging them as metal seems a bit short-sighted. I would say they're closer to achieving the rarest of prog-metals (oooh, it just got worse, didn't it?), adding guitar solos that intertwine with ominous organs and doomsday operatic choirs. Just listen to the drama and shredding found in songs like "The Mighty Ride of the Firelord" and "Triumph For My Magic Steel" (I couldn't make these titles up)--you will feel like you're flying, naturally, on Pegasus. They film their videos outside ancient castles and feature a flying dragon on almost all their cover art. When I listen to Italy's premiere metal band on the commute into work, I may as well be a knight in shining armor galloping on my noble steed called the B Train on my way to slay the man-eating corporate dragon, saving humanity from the evils of the soul-sucking routine. But then I get to my desk and think, who am I kidding? And then I spend my day looking for near stuff on eBay.


You tell them that they have shmootz on their face.

Firstly, the members of this band are not mere mortals. They are obviously Norse gods (in truth, they refer to themselves as "warriors"). Their names are Perspicacious Protector, Cosmic Antagonist, Preternatural Transmogrifyer, and Transcendental Protagonist, which I'm sure are all a bitch for telemarketers to pronounce.
With the flying saucer sound effects that open this album, you know that Lost Horizon's latest opus A Flame To The Ground Beneath is an other-worldly experience. This second recording is a new age metal journey that feels both molten hot and ice cold at the same time. Preternatural's vocals are insanely range-errific climbing to the highest banshee shreiks of a woman in pain. Their mission (from their website): "Our wish is to help all those whose existence have gradually turned to complete misery through the interference and affection of extremely negative powers in different shapes, that through, among other things, misleading, corruption, confusion, indoctrination, rottenness, creating of guilt and fear, have poisoned the individual. The ones who are victims of lies, stupidity, primitivism, blindness, limitation, weakness, self-destruction, low self-esteem, goallesness, etcetera. Those who have fallen into the darkest abyss and stumble in darkness."
Start with me, dudes! Start with me!

While listening to Lost Horizon on my way to work, I sometimes imagine that I have a laser gun and a glowing laser sword that can slay the evil doers who bump into me before I've had my morning coffee. I am merciless.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Keren Ann (her last name, which she never uses, is Zeidel) is almost stereotypically, impossibly French when we meet at the Lovely Day Cafe, located in the West Village of Manhattan. She is mysterious and evasive, sexy and defiant, passionate and intriguing. I am even slightly intimidated by her European ennui, feeling intrusive for simply doing my job and asking questions (when I ask her where she grew up, she teasingly answers, “Didn’t you get the press kit?”), but the tension in the distance she places between us also makes me want to immediately run home and write her love letters. Ultimately, her feistiness is affecting and alluring.
Keren has suspecting hazel eyes, a gaze that questions your intentions when it’s fixed upon you. When I make a joke, she doesn’t smile or laugh--she smirks, almost mischievously. None of the questions I ask are interpreted superficially, and no response given bears a confession. To what she was like as a child, she responds: “Memory is subjective. We remember what we want to remember. For example, I remember being mute, sitting along for hours and hours in my room, drawing, but who knows if that’s what I was really like.”

The Paris-based singer-songwriter, born in Israel and now commutes between apartments in Paris and New York (she also speaks fluent Hebrew), writes music that defies any present-day influences. Her two domestically released albums (her first two French-only records are available on import from Europe), Not Going Anywhere and Nolita, both resonate from an unanchored limbo where the softness of Nick Drake, the sexiness of Bridgette Bardot and Francoise Hardy, and the heroine-chic of Nico still resonate as vibrantly today as they did thirty years ago. Songs like “Chelsea Burns,” “One Day Without” and “Sit In The Sun” linger in the air like a trail of smoke emanating from a freshly extinguished cigarette. Her live performances are unprecedented in their gentleness, creating a calm so serene that you can, in fact, hear your own thoughts. Keren usually sits on a stool with an acoustic guitar, smiling throughout her set as if the songs were gifts she was opening for the first time, only to then selflessly hand them over to the audience. “I once read a bad review that said my show was too intimate,” Keren Ann says. “Some nights I play and talk to the audience, but most nights I just play. I don’t always feel the need to speak with the audience to make contact. The songs do that for me.”

Unlike Not Going Anywhere, a strictly-Anglo affair, Nolita alternates between lyrics sung in both French and English. “I do what feels natural,” she says. “It’s the flexibility that comes with being multilingual.” I confess to Keren that while I cannot understand her lyrics, I don’t feel like I have to; her songs still feel very much like love songs despite their unknown themes (her press release informs that “Que n’ai-je,” the first track on her latest, is actually about a woman being followed by a stalker, while to me, it sounds essentially like the epitome of seduction).
Do you consider yourself a romantic, I ask her? “I cannot be romantic all the time,” she responds, managing to even make this denouncement sound romantic. “Sometimes I feel jetlag or mehlan-collie”--her pronunciation makes it into two separate words-- “and I am not in the mood to write anything positive about love.”
Our allotted time for the interview is over and Keren Ann and I leave the cafe, both realizing that it’s about to rain. Do you find the rain to be depressing or calming, I inquire as she lights up her cigarette? “Well,” she inhales, “it depends on how I’m feeling that day.”

*** Download Keren Ann's gentle "Right Now, Right Here" here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Scary, Ginger, Sporty, Baby and Posh, together again in perfect harmony.

"Tell me what you want/
What you really, really want..."

The bounce. The pep. The unprecedented marketing power of...er, Girl Power. In 1996, London presented the world with the Spice Girls, the adolescent girl's example of empowerment, a simultaneous commercial success and guilty pleasure, the arbiters of their culturally significant faux "philosophy," and most importantly, every man's X-rated fantasy (the not-so subtle context of "if you wannabe my lover/you gotta get with my friends" made you wonder how we allowed this song to become popular with 12-year-old girls"). The Spice Girls were everything to everyone. Fun for the whole family. That is, until the group imploded from within eventually leaving the Spice rack empty.

Now, with their reunion happening only four years after their break-up, have they gone away long enough to become a nostalgia act? Or does their final album "Spice Girls Forever" now sound like a threat?

**** We interupt our ridiculous attempt to intellectualize the Spice Girls with this news ****
The Spice Girls reunion was just a rumour.

Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.

In case you were wondering, my Favorite Spice Girl Award goes to Mel B, aka Scary Spice. As the only African American in the group, I related to her minority status--sometimes I also feel like a black woman surrounded by buxom white women. Moreover, she wore glasses which made her geek-hot. And default outfit-wise, she never wore gym clothes or expensive evening wear - the occasional leopard and/or camaflouge print is really all you need.
If this is what it's like to be Scary, then get me to the haunted house.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Grandaddy "The Sophtware Slump" - Quite possibly one of the most luscious, sublime Falsettocore albums recorded to date. This concept album about a humanoid, aka cyborg, named Jed developing emotions feels very futuristic, yet very Modesto, California. A pretty significant feat when considering that lead singer, Jason Lyttle, is coincidentally from Modesto, California but is actually not from the future. Twinkling the Pavement with synthesizers and laser sound effects, "The Sophtware Slump" went on to make Grandaddy one of the finest Youngish bands in the indie rock circuit.
-- Highlights: "The Crystal Lake," "Chartsengrafs," and "So You'll Aim Towards the Sky."

The Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin" - While everyone went ballistic over "Yoshimi Vs The Pink Robots," it was really "The Soft Bulletin" that projected the Lips into the mainstream awareness. Moreover, it justified the band as a major label offering--up to now, people were all "wha?!?!" to Wayne Coyne's band releasing album after album on Warner Brothers Music. Now, they were all like, oh ok. Cool. Like, now we get it.
And while "Yoshimi" abandoned the Flaming Lips' early aesthetic for a more glitchy, digestible sound, The Soft Bulletin traverses beautifully between psychedelic experimentation and accessible, sweetened songwriting. Many cite this Falsettocore record as a misstep and the selling-out of a group that had remained true to its values for so many years. Wayne Coyne totally thinks those people are being silly goosees. Tee hee.
-- Highlights: "Waiting for Superman,"Race for the Prize," "The Spark That Bled."

Built To Spill "Perfect From Now on" - Doug Martsch's marching band is the closest any Falsettocore collective has come to Neil Young's jammy, raw flavor. "Perfect From Now On" was also BTS's first major label release on Warner Brothers Music (seems like someone in WBM likes men who sing a bit like eunuchs) but despite the label's involvement, their third album was a bold and vivid release, focusing on the construction of epics as opposed to short, radio-friendly compositions (the shortest song is five minutes long). Additionally, Martsch is almost as curmudgeonly as Neil Young is reported to be; the Boise, Idaho indie guitar hero will not do any interviews in person and much prefers to take his sweet-ass time in making his music. The follow-up to the lukewarm last recording, "Ancient Melodies of the Future," released four years ago, is still in limbo and Martsch himself doesn't know its status (and no upcoming release date has been announced for Built to Spill's big return). Bonus Falsettocore stat: Built to Spill will perform a 20+ minute version of "Cortez the Killer" live in concert, which kinda feels like over-Cortez-kill to me (yuck, yuck).
-- Highlights; "Untrustable/Part 2," "I Would Hurt A Fly."

Mercury Rev "Deserter's Songs" - Much like their trippy brethren the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev abandoned their sloppy, noise-heavy past for an orchestra Woodstocked sound. Featuring a band member named Grasshopper, the Rev whipped out their ethereal bag of hippy tricks and therein established themselves as a premiere Falsettocore collective with a regularly revolving membership. "Deserter's Songs" garnered critical acclaim amongst the people who can tolerate whiney-in-a-good-way men and if it had not been for the band's fascination with unicorns and wizards (on their new record, "The Secret Migration") Mercury Rev would still be popular with listeners who are not still playing Dungeons & Dragons.
An urban myth circulating amongst music fans posits that Mercury Rev's lead singer Jonathan Donahue could be Wayne Coyne or that Wayne Coyne could be Jonathan Donahue. If either one of these possibilities turned out to be true, this could possibly cause the universe to explode, killing everyone in it.
--Highlights; "Opus 40," "Godess on the Hiway," "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp."

Monday, May 23, 2005


Here are some things that I am interested in getting as presents:

I have a lot of friends that are lawyers. They can afford this.

This is also nice for those that are independently wealthy, or are mooching off wealthy parents.

I wouldn't expect you to get me this.

I don't care much for this this but if you happen to get it, I wouldn't return it.

I'm interested in reading this and it is affordable!

I would definitely remember this present.

OK, now I'm just getting selfish but it is my birthday, right?

This is not considered a present. I want to be clear about this.

Of course, one of these would do just fine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It's me.


BBS: First off, Phil, I'm really touched that you're here with us today.
Phil Collins: Wow, the years have been kind to us, haven't they?
BBS: I was just going to say that you really look fabulous. Lost a little weight. Am I correct?
Phil: Ha ha. Yes, I did. I've been doing some pilates.
BBS: Wonderful news. Just simply wonderful. So, you're touring again, I hear.
Phil: Yes I am and I cannot wait to get on the road again. Just remember; if you come to my show there is no jacket required.
BBS: Ha ha. Nice self-reference, Phil. When I look at your list of tour stops...they seem a bit unconventional.
Phil: Well, I do have fans in Budapest and Croatia. In fact, I massive in Croatia. Almost God-like. It's a known fact that Phil is the most popular name there.
BBS: I see you're also playing Israel.
Phil: Yes, I am. And I can't wait because Jews are so fun.
BBS: Let's talk about your career. Why cover Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" out of all the songs you could have done?
Phil: I remember hearing that song for the first time and thinking, blimey, I need to cover this song. My wife thinks it sounds a bit cheesy and there's a very good chance that she's right. But I can't help it. I believe in love so much it hurts my very bald head.
BBS: Speaking of which, you put out a compilation of love songs appropriatley entitled "Love Songs, a Compilation." How do you come up with your album titles?
Phil: An excellent question. For the Tarzan soundtrack I called it the "Tarzan Soundtrack" because that's what I was feeling at the time. "But Seriously" was supposed to be "Butt Seriously" but the label thought it was a type-o and presumptuosly corrected it.
BBS: My favorite songs of yours are "I Wish It Would Rain Down" and "Against All Odds." Could you tell me what those songs are about?
Phil: "I Wish It Would Rain Down" is about a frustrated weatherman that regularly predicts rain showers but never gets it right. "Against All Odds" is about my pet cat, Victoria, that ran away from home and her "coming back to me [was] against all odds."
BBS: Powerful.
Phil: Yeah. And she did never come back.
BBS: I'm so sorry.
Phil: To this day, I still feel the gaping hole.
BBS: Perhaps we should move on then to the rumored story behind "In The Air Tonight" about witnessing your close friend drowning to his death. We've discovered that the song is indeed about the divorce from your first wife, Andrea. How did the rumor come about and even become so popular that even Eminem referenced it in a song called "Stan?"
Phil: Should I be asking for a percentage of the Eminem's royalties?
BBS: Why did you pick the name "Genesis" for your band?
Phil: Exodus sounded too heavy metal and no one wants to go see a band called Leviticus. I mean, imagine that; hey New York! We're Leviticus!
BBS: I guess you're right. And Deuteronomy....?
Phil: I can't stand the thought of being abbreviated to "Dute."
BBS: Is your success a suprise?
Phil: I mean, I am bald...
BBS: I didn't want to bring it up but you seem pretty comfortable with it. You are on all your album covers....
Phil: Sex sells. Ha ha.
BBS: Ha Ha. Yes. Indeed....one of the most haunting memories of my youth is the video for "Another Day In Paradise" with the montage of all the poor and homeless people interspliced with you singing the song with a great deal of passion.
Phil: Yeah, that was the director's idea. I was fine without the poor people but he insisted. He said something about "altruism." And I said, what the bloody 'ell? And he said, Look it up. So I did. I can't recall what it means.
BBS: My final question is are you aware of the Postal Service cover of "Against All Odds?"
Phil: It's wimpy as hell and makes my song sound like a heavy metal track. Geez. You'd think a group of fellas who deliver our mail would have some balls.
BBS: Phil Collins, the man, the legend. It's so nice to have you here.
Phil: Thanks for taking the time to speak to me. It's so nice to thave have a conversation with someone who is not a crying middle-aged housewife asking me to sign her chest.

Monday, May 16, 2005


At 12:40 AM, Regina Spektor, the Russian-born, doe-eyed pianist and songwriter, returned to the Bowery Ballroom stage for her encore to a half-empty audience. It seemed that some of her fans—albeit, the not-so-devoted ones—weren’t able to muster enough strength to stand for more than two-and-a-half hours. After all, she had been performing since 10:00. “Why didn’t you tell me that I was playing that long?” Spektor asked incredulously, as she flipped her ropey red curls from side-to-side like a nervous schoolgirl caught doing something inappropriate. “I can’t believe you let me go on for that long!” Spektor’s publicist would later inform me that Regina genuinely has no sense of time and that playing for nearly three hours seemed like five minutes to her. Nonetheless, three hundred people still remained in the darkened New York venue waiting for more, and Spektor, the consummate performer, was more than happy to oblige.


The day I meet Regina Spektor, she is wearing a tutu over her jeans for no apparent reason other than she likes to wear them (in fact, when I ask her for the logic behind the accessory, she plainly states, “’cause I like ‘em.”). Upon introduction, Regina is disarmingly eccentric, recounting the previous night when she had been introduced to the music of Iron Maiden. “It was sooo scary,” she recounts with a slight, but noticeable Russian inflection, “but also so exciting. Afterwards, I was afraid to walk home by myself.” Spektor alternates between using “wow” and “amazing” in every other sentence, as if the minutiae of daily life was actually quite miraculous. Picking at her apple cinnamon nut muffin and sipping coffee with soymilk (“My Chinese-medicine doctor told me that dairy gives me strep throat”), Regina is an incredibly unassuming presence, weary of any artistic praise. Her humility is surprising considering the other artists she’s already been compared to: Billie Holliday, Björk, Kate Bush. Sarah Mclachlan, Ella Fitzgerald, Tori Amos, and, in lyrical content only, Tom Waits.
Having grown up in Moscow, Russia, the land of bootlegged cassettes, Spektor’s introduction to rock consisted of, bafflingly, Queen, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. It was not until recently that she was exposed to the music to which people attribute her influences. “People would say, oh, you sound like Joni Mitchell. And I would say, uhh, who’s Joni Mitchell?” Her third album, and first for a major label, Soviet Kitsch is a stirring collection of short-act plays set to dramatic piano accompaniment, incorporating classical structures, ragtime nuances and klezmer essences. In songs like “Carbon Monoxide” and “Chemo Limo,” the Russian import inhabits her own lyrics like they were studio apartments, living in them until they become autobiographical confessions. “I am a songwriter,” Spektor says. “There is the word ‘writer’ in that term. People forget that.
There is no real ‘I’ in my music,” Spektor continues. “An actor can take up any role and win an award for it. While a musician can sing from the perspective of a wife beater and suddenly that musician is inciting violence.” Spektor takes another bite of her muffin, looks up to me, and says, “Wow, this muffin is really amazing.”


With her cello and drum accompaniment no longer on the stage, Regina Spektor got up from her piano and stood alone with just a microphone in hand, gripping it with the same caution of handling valuable china. For her last song, she cooed an a cappella version of “Reginasaurous,” the closest song in her catalogue to an autobiographical statement.
“If I was a philosophy, I’d be Reginasentialism/And if people spoke using quotes of me, they’d say a Reginaism/If I was a religion, then my church would surely have a schism/There’d be Regewish and Registian and Regislam and Reguddist and Reginatheist/ But they’d still be friends.”
When she left the stage, we were all converted. At least, those of us who were still hanging around.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Or if you need to see a larger version of this image (and of course you do), click here

Yes, this book was actually written. For 318 pages, we are privelaged to read (from the blurb) "this moving and poignant autobiography, Yanni shares with his readers the story of his immense success, but also of the failures along the way. He tells the story of staging three career-defining concerts at The Acropolis in Athens, and the toll it took on him; his relationship with his father; his intense nine-year love affair with Linda Evans, and the exhaustion and depression that made him leave Linda and quit music altogether-before his eventual renewal and return. Yanni, In Words is more than just an autobiography. Woven through this text is a variety of lessons he's learned, including working through pain, keeping an open mind, and his discoveries about the creative process-and how anyone can access it. Yanni, In Words is the story no one knows and millions have been waiting for."

According to one review of this book, Yanni was once in a "rock" band where he allegedly did large amounts of crack cocaine. This is a mental visual that boggles the mind and defies my very concept of the world I inhabit. In fact, it even inspires me to invent a time machine so I would be able to see the long-haired dark angel of dentist music doing lines of blow off a pocket mirror. What I would give to watch him dust off the residue coke from his signature moustache. "Uhhh, that's flour," he would say. "I was just cooking. Now let me play you my latest opus inspired by the Greek God, Zeus!"

It is my birthday in two weeks. I know for one that the Yanni memoir would be the present that never stops giving. Unbeknowest to me, I am one of the millions that has been waiting for Yanni's story especially when it gives me the torrid details of his love affair with Linda Evans. I mean, lucky guy! What a score! Did you know Yanni was a champion swimmer in high school? Way to go, guy! Not only did you dominate the musical equivalent of impotence but you swam like a total tadpole! But wait...check this: "When I left we had some beers and celebrated the loss of my virginity and having beaten my brother at something important...Now that I was a man, there was only one problem. I like sex. A lot. But I didn't have enough money to keep going back..A brothel was my only option and I couldn't afford it."
YAN! T.M.I.! Yikes. Like, c'mon, bro. Don't even go there.

Another section of the book adresses the critical disdain. It turns out that Yanni is aware of music critics hating his music. Poor thing. With a mullet and a back catalogue of soft core soundtracks...how does he get up in the morning?
"Sometimes I'd like to say to a reviewer, "If you think my music is boring, great. Now let's go to your house and you play the music that you think is not boring." And maybe when he does that I'll go, "You listen to this?" I'm certain we'd both have a good laugh--and connect as human beings."
I'm pretty sure when Yanni says "connect as human beings" he means "doing a lot of crack cocaine." If that is indeed true, then I know many music critics who would love to "connect with Yanni."

Bonus Trivia Question: Does Yanni have a last name?
Answer: No. He does not. Yanni is simply Yanni.

Bonus Trivia Question Two: How many copies of "Yanni Live At the Acropolis" are on sale at Amazon.com?
Answer: 219.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


God lives in America.
After considering the overall ruby shade of our great country from the last Presidential election results, there's no doubt that He plays a great role in our politics and our lives. Church attendance is at an all time high, while, paradoxically, in Europe, it's at an all time low (perhaps they have better coffee and therefore have less to pray for). And as proven with the recent success of the multiple Christian Rock tours, bringing 80,000 holy adolescents to a barren mud-field to headbang for Jesus, the Lord is on the mind and as well as on the iPod.

It seems odd to consider Jesus as a musical inspiration when you realize that he's neither a girl that broke some guy's heart nor an addictive drug that the songwriter can't break away from. Jesus is sometimes a point of controversy, sometimes your homeboy, and for many, the example of how to conduct your life (on the rare occasion, his image can even be found on toast). Throughout the history of rock, though, there has always been two ways to approach the "son": one is with reverence, like the music of Sufjan Stevens who sees Jesus as his co-pilot, and the other is with jabbing irreverence, as heard with Ben Folds, who considers Jesus to be a passenger just riding alongside with the rest of us in Business class.

With their respective new releases, Folds' Songs for Silverman (not to be confused with the Jason Biggs/Jack Black disaster "Saving Silverman") and Stevens' "Illinois," both musicians capture the essence and spirit of America in all it's broken and confused religious glory, or lack thereof. On the standout track, "Jesusland," Folds swoons his glorious layered harmonies over biting, editorialesque lyrics conjuring a conversation he would have with Jesus about the bereft condition of his modern-day disciples. "Down the tracks beautiful McMansions on a hill that overlook a highway/with riverboat casinos and you still have yet to see a soul," Folds sings in his near-falsetto, coping an angelic sincerity. The drum brushes gallop alongside the prancing piano making this into a dance song for people who like Gershwin.

Ultimately, Silverman is a fine album but not Folds' strongest. It seems that Folds has decided to tone down his humor and as a result, comes off as occasionally schmaltzy. But defiantly and laudably, song after song, the Chapel Hill piano man ignores all trends, writing music that could have just as easily fit on the radio in 1978 when songs were dripping with honey and cynicism was nowhere to be found. "Give Judy My Notice," "Landed," and "Trusted" each tells a narrative of a broken man with seeminlgy insurmountable emotional issues to resolve. And with his distinct and sweet harmonic instincts, Folds always fools you into thinking his music is upbeat but don't let the geek-drenched irony confuse--with his recent realization that faith alone will not get you through life, he's just a scared as you are.

Illinois, Stevens' second album in his 50 States series is a potent masterpiece. Like Folds, each song tells the story of a character confronting his or her personal conflict and questioning whether there is a larger encouraging answer to this metaphysical journey we call "life." One song ("Casimir Pulaski Day") is about cancer and prayer; another is about a mass murderer and the ability of the average person to relate to one ("John Wayne Gacy, Jr"), whereas a third is about Superman, or Jesus--the intention is confusing. Stevens can be either literal or metaphorical. He keeps us guessing like that and he's still not telling (in interviews, he tries to answer religion-centric questions ambiguosly). Lyrical interpretations aside, Illinois is a wonderous album full of Broadway-production gospel, distintive and festive instrumentation (yes, there are sleigh bells on "Praire Fire..."), orchestra-folk that pierces and penetrates like the bittersweet moments when you realize that all will be okay and also not okay at the very same time. While the album may seem long (at 22 tracks and 79 minutes, Illinois is an experience) it's sensational throughout, a sublime effort that never falters. Sufjan's gentle and tender voice is both soothing and seductive, perfectly suited for this godly album.

Ben Folds and Sufjan Stevens, two exemplary and prolific musicians, are both songwriters and narrators. An anomaly in a world of unsubstantial lyrical content and sometimes random word associations. They are like great authors of post-modern literature; Folds acting as a Jonathan Lethem, getting his dork on while frosting it with a heightened vulnerability. Stevens, reveling in an awareness of mortality, religion and technology, positions himself as a devout Don Delillo. Two men, out of time, making music that captures the essence of our country today when God is both everywhere and nowhere.

One questions, the other praises. But ultimately, both acknowledge the presence.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


BBS01: So what's up?
TheAdwiz: Not much. It seems that this new workplace of mine has a firewall.
BBS01: Firewall? That is so 1998.. ( ;
TheAdwiz: Yeah, but that means I can't use Instant Messenger.
TheAdwiz: It's not funny. That totally bums me out. I never realized how much I use IM until I didn't have it.
BBS01: Yeah, well, everyone uses it. That's kinda lame that you can't. ) :
TheAdwiz: Thanks 4 rubbing it in.
BBS01; Well, just think of all the work u can get done now.
TheAdwiz: Whatev. I feel like everyone will 4get about me.
BBS01: They may. It's a possibility.
TheAdwiz: You're not helping the situtation. This is hard enough as it is. I feel so withdrawn, so lost.
BBS01: You know, I'm sure your grandfather didn't use IM when he fought the Nazis during WWII. I'm sure the starving children in Africa don't use IM.
TheAdwiz: Therefore...?
BBS01: Ahem...So I guess this explains the format of our discussion here...
TheAdwiz: I'm trying to recreate an Instant Messenger experience. Please don't ruin it.
BBS01: K. So, why is there a firewall?
TheAdwiz: They claim 4 security reasons. I'm not buying it.
BBS01: As you shouldn't. U know, u were never a good IMer anyway. Always leaving mid-conversations, responding with one word responses...
TheAdwiz: I'll change. I swear. I can be better.
BBS01: It's 2 late. This is karma. If you don't use your IM properly, the firewall taketh it away.
TheAdwiz: I'm not getting any sympathy here.
BBS01: Nope.
TheAdwiz: U suk.
TheAdwiz has left the chat.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Now serving at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame; Robert Frippucinno.

The very rare Sup Horse


I am proud to report that the Sup Party that happened this past Thursday was a smashing success. 350+ in attendance and five bands that rocked our collective house of...er, rock.

Please check out their respective websites and go see them the next time they play. Their recorded music cannot represent their live shows properly.

1. Pela
2. Soft
3. The Natural History
4. My Best Fiend
5. The Bluffs

In addition, please check out Music For Robots, a great and consistent music blog run by pretty amazing and unpretentious guys.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Today we are commemorating Yom Hashoah, the Memorial Day for the victims of the Holocaust. It's an ominous day especially for those of us who have living proof in our families (my mother's parents both have numbers tattooed on their arms), sharing with us tales of both survival and suffering.
This year, though, is the 60th Anniversary of the end of the war, six decades of regeneration, healing, and re-populating. It has been more than a half century since the world ended one of the greatest atrocities in history. Today also serves as a grim reminder that our living testaments will not bear witness for much longer. There will come a time when the Holocaust will feel as distant as the Spanish Inquisition or the Pogroms. The past will become just a reportage of second hand accounts.

Shana is in Aushwitz as we speak, participating in a group of 18,000 Jews walking down the path of what was the Aushwitz death camp, from the notorious entrance to the terrifying gas chambers. I can't imagine the emotional intensity of re-enacting the march of hundreds of thousands of Jews as they experienced their last moments on Earth.
This time, though, Shana and her 18,000 friends are marching as a defiant statement that we, the Jews, will never disappear regardless.

Many people have a very hard time both digesting and understanding how the Holocaust happened but genocide and ethnic cleansing is still happening today in places around the world. Perhaps, one day, our children will ask us about the Sudan, wondering how that went on during our watch. Are we, myself included, too passive and apathetic and only recognize this unfortunate habit in hindsight? A day like this reminds me of that.

Somewhere in Poland, there is a march of the living, walking side by side, surrounded by ghosts and spirits. There's a massive group of people looking to each other for comfort, promising to never forget, whether or not there are survivors left to remind us.

But it's like my grandfather once said, it's one thing to never forget. It's another thing to always remember.

[click here to learn more]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

M.I.A. @ Coachella

M.I.A. @ Coachella
Originally uploaded by Vidalia.


Nowadays, Maya Arulpragasam is anything but M.I.A. In fact, some would argue that the Sri Lankan rapper/performer seems to be everywhere, having appeared on magazine covers almost a half year before her debut album Arular had even been released, performing to the Blackberry-inclined at Austin’s SXSW, taking the Coachella audience hostage from the reunion-heavy headlining fair. Much to the despair of vinyl junkies and the music trendsteratti, M.I.A. was no longer their secret and would go on to get write-ups in publications ranging from the New Yorker to Seventeen Magazine.
Major labels even delayed the album from its initial release so they could buy out Arular from the smaller label, XL/Beggars therein making it an indie/major label co-release. After a persistent import of British-flavored hip-hop promising to be the next mainstream sensation, it seemed that Arulpragasam was actually delivering the quids.

“New Yah, qwie-it duwn, I need ta’ make a sowwhn.”

The buzz was deafening. You could hear it like the trumpeting horn samples blaring throughout her defiant song “Bucky Done Gun.” M.I.A. was to play her first show in New York at downtown's Knitting Factory and the atmosphere was electric. It’s hard to imagine that the now-dismissive cynics were once the then-bananas crowd mouthing every lyric to every song that had yet to be released to the public. “I don’t understand how people know my album already,” said M.I.A. incredulously, “it isn’t even out yet.”

M.I.A.'s skin is coffee dark. Her exotic presence straddles the cusp between accessibly cute and dangerously sexy. The slight bags under her eyes suggest that she is not used to the demanding touring schedule, conducting interviews, posing for photo shoots, and taking a few moments to be an actual human being (as she inhales the plate of sushi that is set before her). M.I.A. is a 27 year-old art school graduate who never intended to make music, never mind the aforementioned buzz. Her back story is very familiar to those in-the-know -- with one Google search, you'll find out that Arulpragasam's father is a wanted Tamil Tiger terrorist/commando (whom she named the album after), that her politics are slightly and perhaps unintentionally controversial, and that she is dating the dj du jour, Diplo. There is a gold machine gun charm hanging from the chain around her neck. I ask her about her military aesthetic, her reported political involvement. She passionately responds, "politics doesn't belong to Bono. That's naft. Politics belongs to the little kid skipping along to school and his whole world changes when a bomb drops on him in the street or when his father is shot while shopping in an open market.
"It seems that people my age don't want to talk about politics," M.I.A. continues, "and when I do talk about it, it's such a bloody big deal. Should it be so abnormal for a pop artist to talk about the state of the world she lives in?"

"Qwit beatin' me like you Ringo/You wanna go? You wanna win a wahr? Like P.L.O. I don't surrendo."

Arular is perhaps one of the oddest and most original albums in recent memory. Rife with nearly indecipherable lyrics, the thirteen songs found on M.I.A.'s debut are spastic, challenging and confrontational. They are arcade game soundtracks punching holes in the air, sometimes sounding as innocent as the work of a child who had just discovered an electric keyboard, while at other times, the songs pound from the speakers like a remix collection of third-world battle chants (like the one heard on "Hombre"). Laser gunshots thrust out from the background while the beats stumble like xeroxed copies of live percussion. M.I.A. sing/raps defiantly from the corner of her boxing ring; "I'm a fighta/Nice, nice fighta/I'm a solja underworld ("Pull Up The People")." Arulpragasam sees herself as a champion for controversial causes and she's not even hesitant in embracing that role.

I ask her, we live in a post-9/11 world. Do you feel that Muslims are being oppressed in our current climate?
"No. I just think the story needs to be told from both perspectives. I think I've managed to do that. If you want people to talk and communicate, then you have to inspire the dialogue. Of course the initial reaction is to jump on a suicide bomber and say, that's so wrong. But that's not what it's about. I know it's wrong. You know it's wrong. But why do people go to these desperate measures? If someone is going that far, that they want to die to get heard, well, then it seems obvious that they're not being heard. That's it.
"Terrorism is a method. We can't fight it. Ultimately, it's about getting heard. Not everyone has the freedom of speech and the media in the West is so much more sophisticated. We have the advantage to inspire communication and we hardly use it."
M.I.A. then leans forward and reveals to me that a few years back, her cousin had killed himself as a suicide bomber. Needless to say, I am caught off guard. This is not the typical backstory you hear during an interview with a musician. "He was so clever and so sweet. Just a normal kid. It blew my mind when he did what he did. And I couldn't understand it living in London, surrounded by people who couldn't think of the world as a whole, obsessed with their own depressions. My friends would say, I don't have any opinions because it's not my place to comment. And I'm like, of course you should have an opinion. This is your world. And this apathy--their apathy--inspired my lyrics."

“Ya ya heeey, woy oy ee he hay yo.”

M.I.A. chants from the stage and the crowd joins in, waving their hands in unison. A huge grin bursts forward from her face as she realizes that her propoganda has penetrated the most difficult of audiences. With only a back-up dancer (Cherrie) and a dj behnd her (Diplo), M.I.A. commands the stage with a seasoned MC's presence. The video screens above flash images of tanks, machine guns (like the her necklace) and grenades. M.I.A. is here to present her revolution.
And while it can be argued that her message is misguided and dangerous, one thing is for certain: M.I.A. is everywhere.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


- They Do Not Make Men's Pants In My Size
- Listening But Not Hearing (Or Am I Hearing But Not Listening?)
- Visine Is Nothing But Water And Salt
- My Life According To Phil Collins
- Calling You Back Requires A Great Deal of Effort
- Where Is That Funky Smell Coming From?
- Turns Out That There Is A "Free" In Freelance
- Instant Messenger, Smooth Operator
- Trump
- And I Know You From Where...?
- Saving A Buck Or Two
- The Complete Idoit's Guide to Arye
- My Life By Bill Clinton
- Commando
- After the Circumcision
- Alternate Side of the Street Parking
- Make Yourself More Comfortable
- Sweet
- I Could Really Use A Cup Of Water
- This Song Is About Boredom
- Who Am I Kidding?
- Alan Thicke, It's Not Always About You
- In Defense of the Upper West Side
- If Karaoke Was A Sport ( I Would Be Dwight Gooden)
- Another Book By A Jewish Guy With Glasses