Mixed Media

New Music From Around the Blogs: Franz Ferdinand, Joanna Newsom, Saul Williams, DJ Excel

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 5:04 PM EDT

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Franz Ferdinand finally have a complete song for us to listen to at their website, although they want your e-mail address for the privelige. "Lucid Dreams" hums along pleasantly enough, at the tempo of "Take Me Out" but without the brain-seizing hooks. Hey, I think I can embed their player, so you don't have to go here. (For fans of: Gang of Four, Buzzcocks, songs that mention Ithaca)

Via No Words comes good news for everyone into harps and stuff: a new Joanna Newsom song! Granted, in this working version of "Heart to Task," the recording is terrible and I think you can actually hear someone sneeze. Unfortunately, proving the rabid intensity of Newsom fandom, the bandwidth limit has already been reached for the mp3, but you can still stream it here. (For fans of: Björk, CocoRosie, Narnia)

After the jump: Niggy Tardust puts feathers in his hair, and DJ Excel makes Baltimore mellow out.

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Video: Proposed Quantum of Solace Theme Song

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 10:21 PM EDT

Bruce Falconer has already noted the head-slapping meaninglessness of the new Bond film title, and it looks like somebody took his idea and ran with it. Via Cinematical, it's UK comedian Joe Cornish, who has put together a theme song he's offering to the producers of the upcoming Quantum of Solace, although they may be put off by the opening line's reference to star Daniel Craig's "great big man tits." Is that hyphenated? Best of all, it's in the style of David Bowie. Hilarious, although Cinematical points out the real QoS theme will be handled by Jack White and Alicia Keys, which could end up being even funnier.

R.I.P. Isaac Hayes

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 7:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hayes.jpgSome commentators are saying it's a shame that young people know Isaac Hayes only as the voice of South Park's "Chef," but I don't know, at the very least it might be a way for Comedy Central-watching tweens to discover the soul legend. Hayes, who passed away yesterday in Memphis at the age of 65, was able to dabble in self-parody on South Park only because he had such a profound influence on music, almost single-handedly creating an entire genre of sexy, edgy funk. Entertainment Weekly's piece on Hayes rightly calls the theme from Shaft the "hippest track ever to win the Academy Award for best song," and NME points out the album was the first by a solo black artist to top both the R&B and pop charts. To date, it's estimated his music has been sampled in over 200 songs, by artists from Snoop Dogg to Portishead; blog Hip 2 Da Game has a partial listing. [Edit: The Fader's blog has a link to a mix from DJ Wonder including original Hayes material and tracks that sampled his work, check that out here]. I've included a few videos from artists who sampled Hayes and the source tracks after the jump.

Honestly, looking around for these YouTube links, I've had Hayes' music on all day, and I'm wondering why I haven't been listening to it all the time: the extended instrumental jams are groovy and hypnotic, incredibly forward-looking. "Look of Love," after its long central instrumental section, breaks down to a beautiful flute solo, and finally features Hayes singing "don't go" under a majestic echo, his voice seeming to move off to a great distance, until it finally disappears.

Segments of Olympics Opening Ceremony "Faked"?

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 6:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-olympics.jpgSorry, the incredibly awkward shots of President Bush getting to his seat were all too real. However, it turns out that a climactic moment of the elaborate, 15,000-person-employing Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday was a clever bit of CGI. The jaw-dropping shot of sequentially-launched fireworks in the shape of footsteps heading towards the "bird's nest" stadium was "a 3-D graphics sequence that took almost a year to produce," conceived as an antidote to the smoggy skies which would have obscured actual footage. Not to act all smart or anything, but while watching the ceremony I noticed that not only did that segment have the slightly-hyperreal look of a Pixar film, but also, who could be filming it? Apparently that was also a concern: the Olympic committee was worried about the safety of a helicopter pilot who would have been forced to follow the route of the fireworks.

Various news organizations are reporting the footage was "faked," although that seems a little harsh, since the committee came clean rather quickly. The segment in question was just so well done (and perfectly timed) that most people were taken in, and from what I can tell, they actually did launch those foot-shaped fireworks, so the CGI bit was more like a diagram of something really happening, which seems less sinful, somehow.

After the jump: but I thought I was immune to Olympics Fever!!

Top Four: Music (Not) to Skate To

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 7:55 PM EDT

badly-drawn-boy-250x200.jpgOk, I admit it: yes, I'm in my 30s, and yes, I still skateboard. Whether this makes me incredibly brave, incredibly stupid, hopelessly juvenile, or the coolest old dude on the block is completely debatable.

Skating is an aggressive sport that can be brutal on your body, so I've always thought that it lends itself to fun, aggressive, loud, or energetic music. But I'm amazed at some of the sad, dreary music I hear being played at skateparks. Here's a sampling of what I've heard:

Who's the Closed Country Now: NBC Withholds Olympics Until It's Damn Well Ready

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 6:55 PM EDT

mojo-photo-olympicslogo.jpgFirst revelation: it turns out the whole world doesn't arrange stuff according to America's prime time TV schedule! Who knew? The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing kicked off at 8 a.m. Eastern Time, and one would imagine that NBC, understanding the demand for immediacy in the decentralized internet age, would broadcast it live, right? Nope. At the time of the ceremony, NBC was broadcasting a cooking segment on the Today show. For the billions of dollars they paid for the rights, they're going to get their money's worth, and that means the opening ceremony will be delayed 12 hours so American audiences can watch it after dinner, with what I can only assume will be a whole lot of commercials.

After the jump: your desire for immediate access to information makes you a criminal!

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New Music: Keane, Jay-Z, Annie & Sam Sparro, M.S.K.

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 5:50 PM EDT

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British popsters Keane have always seemed like Coldplay imitators, and since Coldplay are just U2 imitators, we're talking a pretty washed-out copy. But on Keane's new song "Spiralling," they take a crazy left turn towards '80s synth pop and Billy Squier beats, and it's kind of intriguing. They're offering up a 256kbps mp3 of the track on their website in exchange for your e-mail address, which isn't such a bad deal, I guess.

Jay-Z continues to use his recent feud with Noel Gallagher as creative fodder, dropping a line about "that bloke from Oasis" into a new song the rapper debuted last night in an appearance at Kanye West's show at Madison Square Garden. The track, "Blueprint 3," is pretty awesome, although it too sounds like it stole the rhythm from Billy Squire's "The Big Beat." What's going on?

After the jump: Australian pipes beat Norwegian pipes, and asteroids beat Earth

Pop Culture Debate Seems to Favor McCain

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 4:10 PM EDT

I know, what with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears taking over the presidential race, we're all a bit sick of trivialities being injected into the campaign. But aren't you just a little curious about the candidates' favorite movies, music, TV shows? Well, Entertainment Weekly did the tough job of tracking down Barack Obama and John McCain's answers on various pop culture topics, including the first movie they saw, which onscreen president they admire the most, and all sorts of completely useless and irrelevant questions. What emerges kind of confirms my suspicions: personality-wise, Obama is kind of boring, and McCain has a pretty good sense of humor. For instance, for favorite TV show, McCain said Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm while Obama said M*A*S*H and The Dick Van Dyke Show, two programs that you could use to torture me if you thought I was a terrorist. Now, I get the sense that Obama is cooler than he's letting on—didn't a Riff reporter uncover his admiration for The Wire?—so maybe he understands the ridiculousness of the exercise enough to feed milquetoast answers to the public. But it is Entertainment Weekly, not Reader's Digest. Anyway, after the jump, see the candidates' answers in a variety of categories.

Top 5: Stoner Metal

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 7:26 PM EDT

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My good old Honda motorcycle is pretty reliable, if a bit beaten-up-looking, but it does need its regular tune-ups almost as much as its owner needs his sit-ups. When I dropped it off at the shop yesterday, the guys there had a classic album from Monster Magnet on the stereo, a band who, along with Kyuss and Sleep, basically invented stoner metal, a sludgy genre inspired by both '60s psychedelia and '70s hard rock. I haven't been anywhere near weed in, like, 15 years (I know Jonathan Stein doesn't believe me, but it's true!) and yet I still love the music's combination of rumbling weight and melodic complexity; here's five classic tracks to zone out to from the genre's mid-'90s heyday. They're enjoyable even if you're not on the, er, Pineapple Express.

Tape of Beatles Chuckling Sells for $23,000

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

mojo-photo-beatlesbw.jpgA recently discovered reel-to-reel tape of The Beatles "chatting and laughing" during a recording session has sold for $23,446 in an online auction. Okay, it's also got pieces of songs, including "I'll Follow the Sun," and "I Feel Fine," but still. The man who found the tape wished to remain anonymous, revealing only that he had found the tape in his father's attic in northern England. Two lessons here: 1) Record everything you do, whether it's just chatting with your friends or having a snack, then distribute the tapes to friends and relatives with storage, and 2) Go up to your parents' attic right now and look for treasure.