2011 - %3, December

Review: "Det Haster!" by Casiokids

| Mon Dec. 5, 2011 6:00 AM EST

TRACK 2

"Det Haster!"

From Casiokids' Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen (Polyvinyl)

Liner notes: This loopy Norwegian quartet brings a playful tinge to synth pop, crafting delectable fun from analog blips, chunky beats, and Ketil Kinden Endresen's dreamy voice.

Behind the music: Known for spirited live shows, Casiokids have incorporated shadow puppets and animal costumes into the act. Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen, their first proper album following a 2006 singles compilation, translates as "the revelation over the mountain"—a supposed reference to Dr. Tarzan Monsoon, a fictional adventurer who discovered a hidden rainforest.

Check it out if you like: Electronica mavericks such as Devo, When Saints Go Machine, and New Order.

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Y La Bamba's Mariachi Makeover

| Mon Dec. 5, 2011 6:00 AM EST

Y La Bamba (photo by Alicia J. Rose)Y La Bamba photo by Alicia J. RosePortland indie band Y La Bamba doesn't serenade you at restaurants or feature a trumpet, and its members don't sport matching embroidered tuxedos. Its resemblance to a mariachi band is more subtle: emotive lead vocals, a plethora of stringed instruments, an accordion, songs of lament. Though her music is now rather folky, lead singer Luzelena Mendoza's past reveals an adoration of traditional Mexican singers whose influence on the band is undeniable.

"When I was a little girl I loved mariachi and the conjuntos and all the little trios and singing at church," Mendoza fondly remembers. It's hard to imagine Mendoza, six feet tall with striking tattoos scrawled across her shoulders and neck, as a small, pious child. But as she continues to resurrect memories, the picture comes into focus.

The singer grew up in sheltered Mexican communities, first in Michoacan and later in California and Oregon, and her list of childhood favorites sounds like a classic Latin jukebox medley: "Ramón Ayala, Los Madrugadores, Los Panchos, Los Dandys, Los Caminantes, Pedro Infantes, Pepe Aguilar, Javier Solís." During Mendoza's teenage years in the US, R&B entered her repertoire and prompted her to develop her voice. "I would sing along with mariachi stuff in the background because I loved the way it felt."

The reason she was entranced with Mexican singers in the first place? "I was born into it." Her dad was a fan of the accordion and someone who "always wanted to be the center of attention and sing his heart out." But her parents haven't always been supportive of her career path. "They didn't really know how to accept who I was. It's not like I'm half-Mexican or something—it was the real fuckin' deal. To see something like me come out of something that strict and thick and beautiful," she explains, referring to her conservative Catholic upbringing, "they were like, who is this?"

She pushed onward, dabbling in punk rock and working as a body piercer before creating Y La Bamba with fellow Portlanders in 2003. Mendoza writes most of the band's songs, dipping into legends and stories as much as her own personal experiences. Recently, for instance, she wrote a song called "Lamento de Madre," which juxtaposes her own mother with the famous Mexican legend of "La Llorona," the crying woman, whose wails of grief over her children's deaths plagued waterways in Mexico and Central America.

18 Drinking Songs to Toast the End of Prohibition

| Mon Dec. 5, 2011 6:00 AM EST
Folks chugging at a bar in Raceland, Louisiana, September 1938, nearly five years after the end of Prohibition.

Monday marks the 78th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which officially ended Prohibition in the United States. On December 5, 1933, the federal government brought to a close a 13-year era deeply scarred by Mafia power grabs and draconian law enforcement measures…and all the American people got for it were some cool movies, an HBO series, and this stupid T-shirt.

To commemorate the abrogation of the "Noble Experiment," here's a round-up of the best songs about getting tanked, pie-eyed, crapulent, and loaded. Some tracks are mellow and emotional, others are noisy and visceral—all are guaranteed to put you in the mood to party like FDR just got into office. And, no, Blake Shelton's "The More I Drink" will not be appearing anywhere on this list. Ditto, that damn Jimmy Buffett song.

1. The Rolling Stones, featuring Buddy Guy, "Champagne and Reefer": In this killer jam from Martin Scorsese's 2008 concert film Shine a Light, the Stones and Buddy Guy take a Muddy Waters favorite out for a spin, riffing on the simple pleasures in life: women, dope, and gallons upon gallons of white sparkling wine.

2. The Gourds, "Gin and Juice": In 1996, the Austin alt-country outfit released their endearing reinvention of Snoop Dogg's 1994 hit. The Gourds' cover is a gleefully down-home toast to hard debauchery and buzzed driving, as well as a bizarre hat tip to thug rap.

3. John Lee Hooker, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer": George Thurogood and the Destroyers might have the better-known, monologue-heavy rendition of songwriter Rudy Toombs' classic, but John Lee Hooker is John Lee Hooker. So enjoy the man's definitive style:

Book Review: 420 Characters

| Mon Dec. 5, 2011 5:00 AM EST

420 Characters

By Lou Beach

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT

"It says 'shit,'" observes my six-year-old, spotting Jonathan Lethem's cover blurb: "Holy sh*t! These are great!" And they are. Rendered as Facebook updates in 420 characters or less, these thought-provoking vignettes from illustrator Lou Beach are funny, poetic, touching, sexy, twisted—scene-and-character sketches replete with bumpkins, criminals, angry teens, truckers, boozers, bimbos, animals, and sentient objects. Best savored one or two a day, like a New Yorker cartoon calendar.

Mitt Romney: "Stuff the Ice Chest"

| Thu Dec. 1, 2011 6:30 PM EST

This fun-with-Mitt Romney video is, hands down, the funniest thing I've watched in the past month. Enjoy: