Monday, November 27, 2006

Sound by Its Cover: Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas

by Nate Seltenrich
Mon, Nov 27, 2006 at 4:58 PM

Who's had enough of Sufjan Stevens? This is the guy who claimed last year that he was making an album for each state in the country. The project allegedly began with 2003's Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State, though there was no word of it then. Stevens waited until 2005 for the release of Illinoise to expose -- or drum up -- the ploy, and the rock press bought it big time, bolstering sales of the record and helping the sprawling, pretentious, and sometimes irritatingly twee tome to place high on many year-end lists. Whaddya know: no progress on the project in 2006. At this rate, Stevens won't be done until 2101. But don't go searching for the fountain of youth: He's already conceded it ain't gonna happen.

Buried within this admittedly talented and prolific, yet inconsistent, songwriter is the heart of a fraudulent salesman -- one who pens album titles like Come on Feel the Illinoise and song names like "The Black Hawk War, Or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, Or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience But You're Gonna Have to Leave Now, Or, 'I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue to Fight ...'" Are we supposed to find that funny? Clever? How 'bout ... uhhhh ... stupid?

Stevens' penchant for kitsch manifests itself most blatantly in his album covers: cutesy, stylized collages designed to appeal to hipsters who thrive on nostalgia and don't like to feel they're being marketed to. Stevens himself, at 31, probably falls squarely into that demographic. The cover of his latest, Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs for Christmas, is a doozy. Now everyone can have his or her very own ten-year-old daughter! Pretend she brought the drawing home from school and post it on the fridge! Creativity is a great thing, but not when so obviously contrived. If Sufjan were to spend less time crafting his image and more on his songs (he could start by not releasing every damn thing he's ever written), maybe he'd be worthy of the niche he's carved out. Without having listened to his cheery (or is it cheesy?) new holiday record, we confidently rate it AH-25: Appropriate for Hipsters over 25.

This Week's Top Spins at Live 105

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, Nov 27, 2006 at 4:58 PM

People still listen to Incubus? When will Evanescence go away? Here are the top spinning songs on Live 105:

Red Hot Chili Peppers "Snow (Hey Oh)" (Warner Bros.) My Chemical Romance "Welcome to the Black Parade" (Reprise) Incubus "Anna Molly" (Epic) Muse "Starlight" (Warner Bros.) The Killers "Bones" (Island/Def Jam) Evanescence "Call Me When You're Sober" (Wind-Up) Snow Patrol "Chasing Cars" (Interscope) Silversun Pickups "Lazy Eye" (Dangerbird) The Killers "When You Were Young" (Island/Def Jam) Tool "The Pot" (Volcano)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

MP3 of the Day: Brian Glaze's "Oh My God God"

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Nov 22, 2006 at 4:58 PM

Bay Area songwriter Brian Glaze is remarkably well-rounded despite being a one-man outfit. Another fierce talent to sever from the ever-rotating lineup of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Glaze launched his debut, Let's Go to the Sea, earlier this year on Birdman Records. His style doesn't stray from the psych-pop sensibilities of his former association, but Glaze always keeps the melody coherent under the haze of distortion and far-off cosmic wanderings. Case in point: "Oh My God God".

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bay Area Music Headlines

Tue, Nov 21, 2006 at 4:58 PM

British rapper phenom Lady Sovereign has a horrible experience in SF and throws a temper tantrum, then decides to smoke a fat spliff. Link to Lady Sov in the SF Chronicle ::::: Sean Lennon gets testy at Aidan Vaziri's inept questions in an interview with the Chronicle. :::: Live show review: Rolling Stones may never return to SF. Link to Chronicle story ::::: Live show review: Lou Reed explains why he hates out-of-tune guitars, and why you should've been there to see this rock legend. Link to Oakland Tribune story on Lou Reed ::::: The Oakland Tribune rates the 25 greatest Bay Area guitarists. Link to Trib story ::::: Jay-Z has been busy lately, with his new album and a just-released documentary that is part of his partnership with the UN to raise awareness of the water crisis in Angola. Looks like Beyonce has been "changing" her man. Link to Contra Costa Times/Associated Press story--Oscar Medina

Raider Hater Mr. Lif on "Yo! Football Radio"

Tue, Nov 21, 2006 at 4:58 PM

There a few things that Boston-born MC Mr. Lif is passionate about. One is smashing wack MCs. Another is NFL football. Lif will show his prowess at the former on November 28, when he rocks the Independent in SF along with Bay Area stalwarts the Coup. Lif demonstrates his expertise on the latter weekly on Yo! Football Radio , available to download through his Web site.

A lifelong Patriots fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of football, Lif cohosts the show each week with friend and Bears fan Jason Griffin, who records broadcast show in Chicago. Each week Lif calls up Griffin via a phone-patch, and they compile an in-depth analysis of each week's games. Lif contributes no matter the circumstances; twice he's called in while touring Europe to offer his insights on any and all NFL teams.

"I don't know what's wrong with the Raiders," Lif says. "First of all, they need to get rid of Art Shell. And then they need to commit to getting a quarterback that can play. Teams that can go through the season with a bad QB are just living a lie."

Lif launched Yo! Football Radio during the fourth week of the NFL season, and it has been going strong since. Each week the number of people downloading the show has increased, he said. And every week, the show itself gets bigger. He has added "correspondents": Oakland icon Davey D to speak on the Raiders, NY MC J-Live to represent the Giants, fellow Def Jukie/MC Alaska to champion the Jets, etc. Boston crew member and Perceptionist Akrobatik has been a guest, and Lif's father has called in twice. "I can't wait until I get back off in December so I can do some more shows with my pops," Lif said.

So who does Lif hate more, wack MCs or Colts' QB Peyton Manning? "Manning unequivocally," he said. "I know MCs jibber-jabber about nothing and do more damage to moral fiber of society, but every time I hear about Manning, I want to throw up. I hope he NEVER wins a Super Bowl. He and the Colts have just seriously damaged the integrity of the NFL. I want the entire Colts organization to fold up and roll off into the ocean."

Yo! Football Radio can be downloaded through MrLif.com. E-mail the show at yofootballradio@gmail.com. Mr. Lif, the Coup, and Blue Scholars will perform at the Independent on November 28. Doors open @ 8:30 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $13. -- Jesse Ducker

Hip-Hop Group 75 Degrees Touts New Holiday Song as the Second of Its Kind

by Rachel Swan
Tue, Nov 21, 2006 at 4:58 PM

Were it not exciting enough to discover that karamu -- from Lionel Richie's lyric We're gonna party, karamu, fiesta in the 1984 hit "All Night Long" -- refers to both a vigorous style of dancing and a special feast held during Kwanzaa, this morning we found a special treat in our inbox, courtesy of the Bay Area hip-hop band 75 Degrees, a group whose Wikipedia definition would probably include the phrase "Sly and the Family Stone of hip-hop." 75's new "Christmas Classic" is a special gift to the Bay, featuring an interpolated sample from the Dragnet theme song and an inspirational rap from emcee Rick Bond (who shouts "Feliz Navidad, tricks!" between verses). In this morning's e-mail, Bond enjoined fans to "download the track, burn it, forward it to friends, drop it on a mixtape, spin it on your radio show, spin it during your club set, add it on your MySpace, post it on the streetlight pole in front of your house if you can," adding that this is the second Christmas/Kwanzaa/Chanukah song ever released by a Bay Area hip-hop artist. Can anyone name the first?

MP3 of the Day: Planet Asia's "Thick Ropes"

by Rachel Swan
Tue, Nov 21, 2006 at 4:58 PM

Lest you think no backpacker emcee would dare swap metaphors for rap battles, stickups, and sexual conquests, or fixate on the size of his nuts, meet the Bay's own Planet Asia. Known as a freestyle kingpin, this guy's got a "fuck you, pay me" approach to the rap game, which comes to the fore in his latest, The Medicine -- an album that combines flowery underground beats (courtesy of Dilated Peoples emcee/producer Evidence) with raps that err on the thuggish end of the hip-hop spectrum. Asia's long been on the verge of national stardom, and rarely bothers to hide his commercial pretensions. Still, the emcee's infectious. He's got a knack for coming up with lines you'd like to claim as your own, like the cute Freudian slip he uses to charm R&B vocalist Jonell on "In Love with You": I'd like to take you out and eat ya / I mean take ya out ta eat and teach ya. Though Asia's highly stylized rap persona usually surpasses the substantive content of his lyrics, The Medicine is nonetheless a likeable, addictive album. It's worth checking out if you're an underground head with a sweet tooth for badasss caricature. Stream "Thick Ropes" or check out the video at YouTube.

Monday, November 20, 2006

MP3 of the Day: The Mall's "Advantage Out"

by Nate Seltenrich
Mon, Nov 20, 2006 at 4:58 PM

At 1:51, "Advantage Out" is the third-longest song on the Mall's debut full-length, Emergency at the Everyday. The longest is the drawn-out untitled closer, which clocks a full two-and-a-quarter minutes. That oughta tell you something: The Mall doesn't write "songs" so much as choppy segments of a whole (a mere twenty-minute whole, in this case). One-to-two-minute noise/math-rock blasts don't exactly get the chance to spread their wings. Instead, the Mall layers melodic keyboards on top of drums on top of guitars on top of distorted, distant vocals on top of noise, then chops it all up. This hyper, condensed mix can be alternatingly grating and irresistible. "Advantage Out" tends toward the latter, but offers hints of the band's penchant for squall.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sneak Review: Jay Z's Kingdom Come, out November 21

Fri, Nov 17, 2006 at 4:58 PM

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly three years since Jay-Z set the streets on fire with his special blend of braggadocio and irresistible character. It's also hard to believe that the hip-hop state of affairs hasn't changed much since then. Which is why the title to Jigga's latest offering, Kingdom Come, might sound pretentious, but then again, how bad would Jay suck if he were modest?

The title comes from one of DC Comics' greatest story arcs, where a self-exiled and graying Superman living in Midwest farm country comes out of retirement to - what else - save the world. Well, presiding over Def Jam isn't self-imposed exile, 37-year-old Hov isn't a graybeard, and this album won't be saving the world. For the first time in forever, a rapper is actually acting his age.

At 37, Hov doesn't feel the need to rehash the hos and hustlin' motifs prevalent in his previous works. The swagger is still there, but this time around the topics are business ventures and good credit. The defining track says it all - "30 Something." With smoothed-out beats provided by the incomparable Dr. Dre, Jay offers a new flow never charted before - Grown Man Rap. He sets precedent by saying, I'm young enough to know the right car to buy, yet grown enough not to put rims on it. We aren't exactly dealing with the same jiggaman immortalized in "Big Pimpin'."

Jay gets introspective on women with the track "Lost Ones," wherein he presumably provides insight into his relationship with Beyonce. I don't think it's meant to be, for she loves her work more than she loves me , says the man who once said I thug 'em, fuck 'em, love 'em, leave 'em, 'cause I don't fuckin' need 'em.

Booty-shaking club anthems are nonexistent this time around. The only track with some semblance of the rap chart mainstays is current single "Show Me What You Got," and even that's going far. This is a party jam for the lavish lifestyle, not those who sport throwback jerseys and bling-tastic grills. Roc-a-Fella producer Just Blaze's stunning display of drumwork doesn't emphasize bass, and this is what they would play at yacht club parties if they had more soul. There's also a few holes in Kingdom Come, like "Do U Wanna Ride"'s lackluster production by Kanye West, but whatever.

Hov may regress to his old ways with a dedication to pole dancing in "Anything," but he's taking strides to redefine his character.

Kingdom Come will be released November 21. -Link to Roc-a-Fella records

-Link to Jay-Z video

-- Oscar Pascual

MP3 of the day: Tussle's "Second Guessing"

Fri, Nov 17, 2006 at 4:58 PM

San Francisco four-piece Tussle understand something fundamental to music: rhythm. They will be bringing that rhythm to Oakland's Uptown this Sunday when they open up for female punk rock legends the Slits. "Second Guessing", is a track off their just released "Telescope Mind" album that shows them stretching rhythm to its sonic limit. Steering away from their earlier forays into dub and moving into no-wave/post punk territory, Tussle have made vast improvements with their new direction. "Second Guessing" starts off with a rubber band bass line and short, clipped repetitive drums which move at a steady pace and then interlock with tightlipped syncopated percussion. The drums just clear space for ensuing layers of skeletal, moody synths and bizarre sound percussion (buckets, bicycle wheels) which ends up giving the whole thing a junkyard disco feel. This formula persists throughout this track and the whole record with just enough variation and subtlety to keep the listener engaged mentally and physically without burning you out; it is essentially dance music with headspace. Tussle here are treading the same ground that bands like Esg and Liquid Liquid did in the NYC downtown scene of the '80's, (Sal Principato of Liquid Liquid guests on the album). What makes the track and the album so enjoyable in spite of its obvious predecessors is its refusal to be anything else than what it is; which is music to make you move. Remove all the overburdened analysis and what you're left with is a fat slab of thick cerebral funk. -- Oscar Medina



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