Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Blue Bloc Party

Kele Okereke is exhausted. In fact, he’s already yawned several times since we sat down to dinner a mere ten minutes ago at Ballato’s, a quant, home-style Italian restaurant. But you can’t blame the lead singer of Bloc Party for being this tired. After all, he and his band mates, Matt Tong (drums), Russell Lissack (guitar), and Gordon Maokes (bass) are in the process of reacquainting themselves with that voracious beast also known as promotion. “I did an interview with Cosmo in my sleep last night,” Tong jokes. “They put these headphones on my head and we just did the interview in my dreams.”

Inarguably, Bloc Party is one of the hardest working rock bands today. One particular award-winning magazine cover story even focused solely on the support efforts of the band, rather than on the Partiers themselves. Two years ago, when they premiered their live act for American audiences at Austin, Texas’ SXSW festival, I caught the then buzz-worthy act five times - by accident. Quite frankly, the 24-hour Bloc Party people were unavoidable, even performing in the girls’ department of an Urban Outfitters. “Oh, that weekend was a disaster,” says Okereke. “That week was the lowest point in our respective careers. Afterwards, we were all like, this is awful. Is this what touring is like?”

Despite the fatigue and the demanding schedule, it takes pretty drastic measures to keep the four members of Bloc Party inactive (or apart). Had it not been for the unfortunate circumstances of Tong’s sudden collapsed lung late last year, the London foursome would even be “unofficially” touring right now with the unlikely headliners Panic! At The Disco (tonight, in San Jose, California, Cobra Starship takes the honor of opening for the emo band instead). But what else would you expect from a band that starts their new record off with the line “I am trying to be heroic, in an age of modernity?”

Listening to the polished, sophomore record A Weekend In The City you’ll hear an articulated expression of these mixed feelings: exhaustion and elation. The stomping-yet-sparse first single “The Prayer” asks, “Lord, give me grace and dancing feet, and the power to impress, let me outshine them all,” while in the opening “Song For Clay (Disappear Here)” Kele’s earnest, if imperfect, voice laments, “So I enjoy and devour flesh and wine and luxury, but in my heart I am lukewarm, nothing ever really touches me.” Now whether you see the latter line as characterization or not, you would be hard-pressed not to read it as allegory. “There’s much more at stake here with this record,” Tong says. “Sonically and lyrically. It’s a real departure from Silent Alarm and I hope that people are accepting of that.”
Throughout our interview, the drummer is accommodating and attentive. Despite Kele’s propensity to answer questions first (the singer even teasingly prompts Tong every so often by asking, “How about you, Matt?”), Tong still pays close attention to his frontman’s comments. Unlike our dinner, though, the cohesive and lucid Weekend is inherently a collaborative effort. Every instrument, every note is forthright and distinguishable. The once-post punk band now prefers to be past punk, focusing on their pop-centric tendencies. Matt and Kele attribute this new sonic depth to Jacknife Lee, the producer responsible for a string of recent rock hits (Snow Patrol, U2, Editors). “Actually we collaborated with Jacknife because of his rich history in dance music,” Tong clarifies, which comes through most in the albums’ drum sounds, with sharp precise treatments that almost recall a drum machine at times.

Thematically, the record is influenced, as Kele says, "by the living noise of a metropolis.” “These are songs desperate to understand the meaning that pulses under the moments of our everyday: there are bursting with tension, paranoia, sadness, love and an intense need for reason as to how city life has become so displacing,” he states on the Bloc Party website. Coupled with this interview, it also sounds like a hyped band going through a midlife crisis. “I really believe that as a band, we have yet to really fulfill our potential,” Okereke says. “In the coming years, we’ll hopefully reinvent ourselves many times.” And if A Weekend In The City is a product of that inner-conflict, the band’s insatiable need to be unpredictable, then Bloc Party’s career will assuredly prevent the yawning on our end.

Bloc Party - "I Still Remember"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I made a bet with myself. Which I do more often than you think.
Because making a bet with yourself isn't as bad as making a bet with someone else. You don't win, you don't lose. You win and lose at the same time. I congratulate myself on winning while simultaneously wishing myself a "better luck next time." The experience balances itself out.

Minotaur Shock - "Someone Once Told Me It Existed But They Never Found It"

Friday, January 26, 2007


The sentiment is beyond cliche in rock music already but no matter how many times I hear it-- "everything is going to be okay"--it still comforts somehow. Sure, it's hokey and it's quite possibly the laziest attempt at lyric writing but then again, how can you not relate with the occasional feeling that nothing is ever going your way, or, paradoxically, that you should never be afraid. Sometimes, simplicity just hits home.

I'm From Barcelona - "Ola Kala"

Monday, January 22, 2007


Neon Bible

The Arcade Fire
Neon Fire
(Merge Records)

Arcade Fire’s rapturous debut was titled Funeral but it’s actually their newest release Neon Bible that sounds like death. From the opening song “Black Mirror” until the concluding “My Body Is A Cage”, the Montreal collective effectively inspires a feeling of ominous gloom. It’s possible that this band even has crossover potential in the Goth market. But regardless of their frequent references to mortality, depravity, and war, Neon Bible is an inspiring record. Elaborate orchestration and a seemingly towering church organ (which plays prominently on “Intervention”) create an oceanic largeness that could almost put the ears in risk of drowning. And while in the past many have solely attributed the Arcade Fire’s unrestrained art-rock to the Davids’ (Bowie and Byrne) respective influences, this record commendably broadens the palette borrowing from the zany angularity of the B-52’s (“Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”), the poetic misery of Nick Cave (“Ocean of Noise”) or, yes, even the hoarse protest of Bruce Springsteen (“Antichrist Television Blues”). Toward the end of Neon Bible, during a reworked version of the Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go” (which initially appeared on the band’s debut EP), singer Win Butler yelps, “let’s go,” but warns a few seconds later, “Don’t know where we’re going.” Nevertheless, the journey's worthwhile even when it sounds as menacing as this.

Thursday, January 18, 2007



This past weekend, the New York Times Book Review ran a review of Calvin Trillin's newly released book About Alice, a slender recollection of his life with his recently deceased wife Alice. Judging solely from the review, it's obvious that Trillin had an intense love for his spouse, but more importantly, Trillin's memory and attention to detail is uncanny (although he admits that his wife contested many of his memories). He internalized the minutiae if it had anything to do with Alice and this short book is proof of her lasting impression. And as I stood in the kitchen hovered over the weekend paper, I admired his detailed retention, even envied it.

Four years ago from that Saturday, my own father passed away. And in those four years, I have realized how much I didn't know. As I read the review of Trillin's book, this became more apparent. There are gaps in the knowledge of my father ranging from the obvious, like what was his favorite color, what day of the week was he born, to the hidden, like, was there ever a time when he'd felt embarrassed by me?

It's an incredible thing to have those answers, to have someone in your life that you can access 24-7. A father, or a parent, is always available, constantly on call. If you need to talk at 4 AM, all you have to do is pick up the phone. But when that accessibility is taken from you, that's unnerving. This is not simply a denial, this is an abolition of a right. Some people, like my mother, are frustrated by this (understandably so) but sadly, over the year, I've come to accept it. I think of my father on a daily basis, like the other day, when Shana jokingly called me obsessive compulsive (Dad took out the garbage or started the laundry moments after the Sabbath ended almost as if he'd been racing with a zealous housewife elsewhere). But thinking about dad always feels too passive, too easy like an acceptance. Missing someone seems more passionately active, and as the years pass, I feel like my ability to be an active emitter of pain is dissipating. I resent that intensely.

In the kitchen, in what was his kitchen, I thought about the questions I would ask him if he were still here. I imagined that I was writing a book about our time together, the first time I can recall a solid memory of my father like when he drove me to playgroup, or how he bought me a strawberry milkshake from Carvel every time he went to the neighboring tailor.

Trillin writes, ''I was walking through an airport to catch a plane back to New York when, apropos of nothing, the possibility that things could have gone the other way in 1976 burst into my mind. I could see myself trying to tell my girls that their mother was dead. I think I literally staggered. I sat down in the nearest chair. I wasn't in tears. I was in a condition my father would have called poleaxed. A couple of people stopped to ask if I was all right. I must have said yes. After a while, the pictures faded from my mind. I walked to the gate and caught my flight to New York.''

Trillin and I are different in that I never imagined life without my father. It was unfathomable (sometimes, it still is). I thought, Dad had always been there to save me and would continue to do so forever. When someone offers to take care of you selflessly, it's normal to take advantage. I took advantage of my father's love and kindness like it was my job. My father would joke that he needed nothing from me in return because ultimately, his gift was seeing his family happy and privileged. And so, I remained the focus of his attention until he was no more.

In retrospect, I realize that perhaps this is why I still have those unanswered questions. All throughout our time together, he made me believe that I was his life and I believed it. I was the focus of our collective attention. And the more I think about it, I'm certain that he would have no difficulty writing a book of our life together, describing the minutiae of my childhood, or answering the questions like the ones I'm having such great difficulty resolving.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I am so stressed right now
Where is my landlord?
Pick up phone!

Using all caps means
probably something urgent

Who doesn't have a freakin'
answering machine these days?
Radio Shack!

Waiting for the beep but
there is no beep to wait for
Hang up?

Ring, ring, ring, ring,
still ringing, ring, ring, ring
No voicemail in 2007?

Everyone has voicemail but
My grandparents don't have it
"What's the internet?"

Call one more time, still
ringing. Can I sleep on your
couch soon?

Take a deep breath, No
sense in getting aggrevated.

Andrew Bird - "Scythian Empires"

Amy Winehouse's voice could make a grown man cry. I only know this because I came nearly this close to tears last night during her American live debut at Joe's Pub in New York. The British soul singer is almost as talented as her liver is tolerant. In between sips of Amaretto Sours (or, more accurately, gulps), she belted out her time-resistant songs with a charming, shaky confidence.

The sophomore record Back In Black isn't coming out until March but it's great enough to hunt down now.

Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"

[Snob Disclaimer: Certain blogging elitists feel that I am "so 6 months ago" (more accurately, I am so 31-years ago). And while that may be true, if you were to look at a random elitist blog, let's say, hypothetically, you would notice a quote from "Rehab" as that random blog's header. Welcome to six-months ago. How do you like the weather?]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Hollywood Reporter that HBO is currently developing a reality show with rapper Kanye West to air later in the year. The series is being developed and produced by Larry Charles, the mastermind behind Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Borat.

The Kanye West Show
Premise: Kanye will team up with a socially inept accountant named Goldberg as his side kick.

Episode One: Kanye buys a gold, diamond-encrusted Jesus necklace but Goldberg casually mentions to West that Jesus was Jewish which then causes the rapper to give the Jesus necklace to Goldberg. The accountant proudly wears the necklace to synagogue that weekend to show off to his community but the offended rabbi bans Goldberg from services. In the meantime, Kanye converts to Judaism inspired by Goldberg's history lesson and begins attending services at the very same synagogue Goldberg was expelled from. Seething with jealousy, Goldberg leaves his family to travel cross-country and win the affection of Pamela Anderson, who kissed West in the "Touch the Sky" video, because he assumes that that would probably make Kanye equally jealous. Hilarity ensues.

Episode Two: Goldberg accidentally picks up Kanye's phone but still offers to take a message from Jay-Z. The hip-hop moguls tells Goldberg that he "needs a sample." Goldberg assumes that "a sample" is a new drug on the streets and so he calls his friend in the CIA to have Jay-Z investigated in an effort to keep Kanye from getting entangled in drugs. Meanwhile, Kanye hears word on the street that Jay-Z is already working on a new record and he's taking meetings with producers. Kanye desperately wants to produce the whole thing himself, and so he runs over to Jay-Z's office to win him over with a box of powdered jelly donuts because Jay loves powdered jelly donuts. Hours later, the CIA agent shows up to Jay's office to discover powder all over the two rappers' faces. That night, Goldberg watches the news and sees his boss and the Jigga being taken to jail on drug charges. He also finds out that Jay hired Timbaland instead.

Episode Three: Goldberg decides that it's time for him to familiarize himself with his boss' music and so he downloads College Dropout and Late Registration from iTunes. As Goldberg listens to the lyrics, he translates with his Hip Hop Dictionary that Kanye has never completed university and this upsets him so much that Goldberg enrolls the rapper back into community college. While visiting the office of registrar, Goldberg registers Kanye for a Feminism course on a whim.
Meanwhile, Kanye is out dating two women at the same time but works diligently to prevent them from discovering one another. Somehow, Kanye is able to convince both girls that he is unable to devote his full attention to them because his mother is very sick.
Later, when Kanye finds out about Goldberg's plan, he refuses to go back to school but Oprah convinces him that this would be a great publicity move and could also serve as a positive example for young kids everywhere.
On the first day of class, Kanye attends his Feminism class to only discover that the two women he's been juggling are both his classmates. Moreover, they discover together that Kanye's mother is in perfect health when they see Momma waiting for her son outside of school to give her little boy a ride home.
For the rest of the semester, Kanye is used by the professor as a visual aid for "what's wrong with men" and Oprah no longer takes Kanye's calls.

Episode Four: Goldberg actually does Kanye's taxes.

Episode Five: Kanye tells Goldberg that he's having beef with Eminem. Goldberg doesn't like to see his boss stress so he tells Kanye that he will handle it. Kanye is very appreciative.
Despite the fact that Goldberg himself does not eat meat and dairy together, he selflessly organizes a Bar-B-Q with bowls of the candy-coated chocolates as dessert. Goldberg borrows Kanye's address book for compiling a guest list for the Beef and M & M's party. Goldberg accidentally invites the rapper Eminem for the event along with many others. Slim Shady is confused by the invite but attends the party nevertheless which eventually leads to confrontation ("What do you mean I wasn't invited?) and a shoot-out. The day after the barbecue, Goldberg understands why you're never supposed to mix milk and meat together.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Last night I woke up with an intense pain in my abdomen.
Whenever I feel a pain that intense, I try to blame it on someone. Surely, someone is responsible for this--why would I subject myself to this sort of thing? But alas this was no one's fault so I blamed the penne a la vodka I had for dinner.

So now I'm lying in bed with an intense pain in my abdomen and I hate a barely-alcoholic pasta dish (or as my mom call it, "noodles") that has no idea that I am hating it. So it's a waste of a cold shoulder even though there are some leftovers in the fridge and I can go to the fridge and tell the penne a la vodka how much I hate it. But I don't think that this would make me feel better and moreover, it would make the penne a la vodka sad.

Nevertheless, it's 4 AM and I'm finding out just how flexible I really am. I'm bent over in a shape that I'll call the Pretzel Fetus Knot. I wish I could, you know, go to the bathroom. Yes, go. But I'm not feeling it. I don't need to. Which, of course, is the worst. When you have an intense, jabbing, sharp pain in your stomach but there's nothing you can do about it.

Now I have a dilemma. Should I assume this stomach thing is serious or should I assume it's passing, no pun--I swear--intended? I would hate to be the guy that thinks it's serious when its not because that would make me a hypochondriac and my grandfather survived the Holocaust. This is just a sour tummy.
But I also don't want to belittle it if it's a kidney stone, or a gall bladder. Either option is possible. And then I remember that there are some toxic liquids in our liver and I'm concerned that maybe some of it leaked. And then I hear Britney's "Toxic" playing in my head and I'm not amused by myself.

I stumble into the bathroom and take some Pepto.
Pepto takes too long to work. So I take some Tums.
My stomach reacts with a growl.
I ask my stomach what it wants.
I want to know what's wrong, it says back.
How should I know?
Aren't you in charge?
Apparently not.

I lie down and stare at the ceiling for a little while longer. Somehow I fall asleep.

Two hours later, I wake up again to another sharp pain, or a contraction (hmm...male pregnancy?). I encore with my best Pretzel Fetus Twist yet (bravo!) and wonder if I have an alien in my stomach trying to get out. Sure, it only happens in the movies but I'm pretty sure that the guy in the movie that had an alien burst forth from his stomach also assumed that aliens only jump out of people's stomachs in other movies. I turn on the TV and see a commercial for that Wayans brother movie with the midget pretending to be a baby and I understand that I have yet to truly comprehend pain.

The next morning, I call my friend Stevie who is a gastro-something. I explain to him my symptoms ("sharp abdomen pain, mostly on the right side"). He rules out pregnancy right away, which gives me great relief. But not in my tummy.
Do you have a fever or the chills, he asks.
"No, I say."
Are you able to get out of bed?
I get out of bed. "I guess so."
I think you just have gas. And your body isn't releasing it.
How embarrassing, I think. Unreleased gas...?
I hope that none of my organs smoke. Then I imagine my small intestine lighting up a Parliament Light and my other organs yelling "Noooooo!" This imagery makes me laugh.
Stevie recommends that I drink some coffee and let nature run its course.

And as I hang up the phone, and start grinding my coffee beans, I thank my stomach for only having gas because, as Stevie once casually mentioned, surgery isn't fun.

This cup of coffee was a particularly enjoyable one.

Monday, January 08, 2007



Craig B, yes, just “B,” would rather you didn’t know his last name so he could “keep some anonymity.” During our interview, the lead singer of the Glaswegian epic rockers Aereogramme further reveals to me that he is a self-proclaimed “miserable sod.” “I have high hopes for humanity but humanity keeps on letting itself down,” he says, “So maybe I’m not miserable, just realistic.”

Seemingly, Craig’s pessimism, excuse me, realism does not make him the ideal drinking partner, but it does make him an incredibly poignant songwriter. Aereogramme’s fourth full-length release My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go is an unrepentantly heartfelt and sincere record but not that there’s anything wrong with that. “Is that a bad thing?” Craig asks about his sincerity. “Considering the fact that [the members of] Aereogramme have been working part time jobs for seven years, there has been nothing but heartfelt and sincere motives behind every release.”

The hardworking purveyors of genuineness—Craig, alongside drummer Martin Scott, bassist Campbell McNeil and Guitarist Iain Cook—formed Aereogramme in 1998 and produced a series of critically acclaimed records (A Story In White, Sleep and Release (both on Matador), and Seclusion) that expertly combined soaring distortion with vulnerable melody. But it’s only with their newest and somewhat-tempered effort that the band completely realizes it’s potential. The ten wounded songs on My Heart…, like “A Life Worth Living” and “Nightmares”, hauntingly evoke angst, frustration and inner-conflict (“this silence that I know so well/my only friend/my bitterest opponent”) but the sprawling “Living Backwards” penetrates foremost with a crunching conclusion that feels cinematic. “That was the main idea we had for this album,” Craig reveals. “ We decided to link each song with a specific film reference, and so when you listen to “Trenches”, we hope you get an idea of World War II, and if you listen to “Running Man”, you hopefully get a sense of an 80’s Schwarzenegger flick.”
I have no idea if he’s joking or not.

But then again, when I ask Craig about his ultimate ambitions for Aereogramme, he answers, “I just want to sell enough to make a living for the band and the label. That’s all. An Xbox 360 would be nice [too] but I’m not holding my breath.” Maybe he wouldn’t make such a bad drinking partner after all.

Aereogramme - "A Life Worth Living"

Friday, January 05, 2007


My top ten records of 2006 in no particular order...that is, if you still care about 2006 because God knows it's so last year (and so is that joke).

If you're looking for short, pithy write-ups on each respective album, please follow the links to my Jane Magazine blog below. I would write the detailed entries again but truthfully, I can only do pithy once.

Ten Silver Drops

Secret Machines
Ten Silver Drops

It's pretty uncool to like this band.

Black Holes and Revelations
Black Holes and Revelations
(Warner Bros.)

It's even uncooler to like this band.

The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade
(Warner Bros.)

Now I have something to talk about with all my teenage friends.

Writer's Block

Peter Bjorn & John
Writer's Block

Including this album gives me more cred because it's not even available in America yet.

Show Your Bones

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Show Your Bones

The best album with "Bones" in its title since Rush's Roll the Bones. That's a fact.

Return to Cookie Mountain

TV On the Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain

I'm still not completely sure if I love this album or not but the fact that I've thought about it enough warrants its inclusion.

The Warning

Hot Chip
The Warning

A revenge of the nerds you can dance to.

Somewhere in the City

Tobias Froberg
Somewhere In The City
(Cheap Lullaby)

Synonymous with chamomile tea.

Begin to Hope

Regina Spektor
Begin To Hope
(Sire Records)

Quirky and eccentric meets graceful and stunning and then has twelve babies.

State of the Ark

The Ark
State of the Ark
(Rebel Group)

This over-the-top record makes 70's glam rock look straight in comparison.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I'm back but still somewhat busy.
I'm going to get back into the pattern, the swing o'things, but I have still have a lot of outstanding assignments to complete. And when that happens, I'll be all yours.

In the meantime, a week back, A friend expressed some disappointment that I haven't really been "bloggin" of recent but rather recommending songs on a daily basis.
And you know what? She's right. So I promise big things for this blog in '07. After all, this is my fourth year as a Bringer of Sincerity and I should reward the faithful fellow Sinceritors for bringing it back with me since '03. That's right---way before Justin ever thought of bringing anything back (including, sniff, sniff, Cameron's toothbrush), I was there bringing, broughting and brooghting.

EMO SOMMELIER NEWS: My second Emo Sommelier column is now up on the Idolator website. Please enjoy. Part II comes tomorrow.

Oh, and how rad are those sneakers?