Welcome back to the "staff picks" shelf at The Riff. Six tracks got some love from our editors today. Don the headphones and join us for a listen:
1. "Blue Trane," John Coltrane.
Gary: I went to the Facebook pages for Obama, Clinton, and McCain this week, hoping that their musical "faves" might give me some keen insight into their platforms. Well, when he's not playing basketball, writing, or "loafing with kids," Barack Obama listens to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, and the Fugees. So in honor of Obamamania, I'm listening to Coltrane's "Blue Trane," a 50s jazz classic.
2. "Think," Aretha Franklin.
Gary: And to answer your burning question, Hillary's into U2, Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin, and the Rolling Stones. (McCain left the music queston blank. Booooring.) In honor of Hillary, I'm listening to "Think," the song Aretha belts out in The Blues Brothers.
3."Your Belgian Things," The Mountain Goats.
Kiera: MG front man John Darnielle is sick. Don't worry, he told his fans on his blog this week—it's nothing too serious, but it's gnarly enough that he's canceled some shows. In his honor, here's one of my favorite old MG songs.
5. "Blackbird," Sarah McLachlan's cover of Paul McCartney.
Laura: The first time I heard this beautiful song, I thought for sure Sir Paul had lifted the lyrics from an old gospel ditty. They have that same haunting, hymnal quality. I was wrong, but the tune does have a noble backstory: Paul McCartney wrote it in honor of Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement. This deserves a listen in honor of the anniversary of Dr. King's death.
6. "Free Man," The Ethiopians.
Laura: iTunes calls The Ethiopians one of Jamaica's best unsung classic Rocksteady bands—and then files it under Reggae, which could explain why. Rocksteady, if you don't already have the genre in heavy rotation, is a sliver of a music niche from the late 60s that bears the same relationship to reggae that Latin does to French. Leave me a comment if you need that explained. Either way, I dare you to listen to it at your desk without a goofy head bob or two slipping past the office filter.
You know, when Björk isn't decking journalists or inspiring revolutions, she actually makes music, and continues to hire ground-breaking artists for collaborative efforts. A recent NY Times feature looked into the making of the video for her new single, "Wanderlust," and while the song is (perhaps intentionally) a bit aimless, the video is a hypnotic combination of elaborate puppetry and eye-popping computer graphics. The best part of the Times feature is the interviewer's hysterics after the San Francisco-based director reveals matter-of-factly that he was inspired by a nature walk whilst under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. I know, Times gal, it's sooo crazy! What's actually crazy is that a Björk video gets a 6-figure budget in this day and age. I'm assuming she made a loan to her campaign? Watch "Wanderlust," and some classic Björk videos in which glorious Nature plays a major role, after the jump.
[Update: a reliable source got in touch to say that the interviewer wasn't shocked at the mention of drugs as much as she was surprised that the apparently mild-mannered directors had indulged. Okay, fine. Also, I forgot to mention that the "Wanderlust" video was filmed in 3D, and a DVD version complete with 3D decoder glasses will be out April 14th.]
While Brits themselves may be lying back and dramatically fanning themselves over their embarrassment of festival riches, the US is just starting to get a taste of "festival mania." The announcement last month of Outside Lands, set for San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and featuring Radiohead, Beck and Wilco, was just the latest addition to a growing trend of large-scale events. It's hard to believe that just ten years ago, the American summer music festival sure seemed dead in the water.
Wow, it turns out that the ease of typing stuff and posting it on a web page and a day dedicated to hoaxes combine perfectly to produce a veritable maelstrom of comedy good times. Here's some of the April Fools yuk-yuks speeding through everyone's favorite series of tubes today:
This via Idolator: Rock FM in New Zealand thought it would be hi-lar-ious to spend the day advertising a fake Foo Fighters concert in Auckland. The DJs, who have apparently been living under rocks, expected "around 50 listeners" to turn up to the venue, where they would be treated to a Foo Fighters album being played on a tape deck. Instead, throngs of alt-rock-deprived Kiwis left their jobs and homes to get to the show, forcing the station to come clean.
NMEposted an actually rather amusing (if somewhat geeky) story about Amy Winehouse being scheduled as a guest star on British sci-fi TV series Dr. Who, portraying "an evil scientific genius rogue timelord" who "enslaves entire planets." Not much of a stretch, wocka wocka. Gigwise piled on with a story about Winehouse licensing her hairdo to a wig company who would dub the hairpiece "The Wino." Leave... Amy... alone!!!
And finally, the Brown University Daily Heraldreports a campus bookstore will be renovated to make it "a little less gay." Ha?
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Edward B.
Actually, to be honest, there's no proof of any Kryptonite contamination, but attorney Marc Toberoff may turn out to be Lex Luthor. He just won a case against Warner Bros. on behalf of the heirs of Jerome Siegel, one of the co-creators of Superman in the original Action Comics issue 71 years ago. Varietyis reporting that this might put the franchise on hold:
Like any self-respecting homophile dance music enthusiast, I've always liked Madonna. Er, let me put it more specifically: I've always liked her music. While her mining of the underground often seems to slightly misunderstand it (see "Vogue"), she's one of the few artists who have combined massive success with consistent boundary-pushing. Partly as a result of her continued search for hot new producers, her output has remained compelling, even 25 (!) years after her first album. 2003's American Life was a bit of a disappointment, but 2005's Confessions on a Dancefloor brought producer Stuart Price to the foreground for a brilliant distillation of contemporary dance music styles. Anticipation is high for her 11th studio album, Hard Candy, set for release in April; cover art (left) and the first single ("4 Minutes") are out now. What's the verdict?
What I wouldn't give to have seen this. Apparently, Kansas is the first known location for Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie Brüno, the "sequel" to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and the expected run-ins with the local populace have started to hit the news. Dateline: Wichita, and the amazingly-named Mid-Continent Airport (like, why not just call it "Bumfuck Airplane Place"?). The Bruno people got permission to film inside the airport, reportedly claiming to be from German TV, as one does (although Brüno is supposed to be Austrian). Things seemed fine, until they turned their cameras on, according to the Wichita Eagle:
The film crew tossed off their coats and did some "kissing" and "fighting" in the hallway leading to the security area at the airport. The security officer called his chief. His chief watched the live security surveillance and reported that no laws were being broken. "At that point, we didn't feel like we had any law enforcement issues," said [assistant director of airport operations Brad] Christopher, who was dealing with the situation that day. But it was "inappropriate," he said. Christopher asked the crew to leave, and the crew left peacefully. "We felt like we were deceived, lied to about the intent and what their true intents and plans were for this film," Christopher said. He said several other locations in Wichita were also targeted.
So, other than "kissing" and "fighting," what, exactly, was inappropriate?
Welcome back to the "staff picks" shelf at The Riff. R.E.M.'s new album, Accelerate, is due out on Tuesday, April 1. In preparation for this event, Kiera's selections this week (numbers 2 and 3 on the playlist) both have to do with the storied Athens band.
1. "Red and Purple," The Dodos: Their March 18 release, Visiter, combines sort of a punk attitude (using shoes outfitted with tambourines) with, the band would probably hate me for saying so, pretty melodies, that I want to keep listening to.
2. "Orange Crush," Editors: A mellow cover of R.E.M.'s classic. The Editors are British. Do they even have Orange Crush over there?
Happy happy joy joy. Wal-Mart has lost its claim that it alone owns the smiley face. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the websites Walocaust and Wal-Qaeda have the right to spoof the company's smiley-face logo. It's not the first time the chain has wrangled over possession of the vapidly feel-good '70s icon; in 2006 a French businessman who claimed to have invented it tried to block Wal-Mart's attempt to trademark it. (The real creator of the smiley actually appears to be this guy—and not Forrest Gump, either.) The store won that round, saving us from the disaster that would have been Freedom Smileys. But at least the French smileys would have been allowed to unionize.
I'm always stoked when artists put out a capellas from their songs (for easier DJ tricks and mashupping), and it's even more fun when you get the individual instrument tracks, all split up for your amateur-song-rearranger pleasure. This "here, take it all" attitude is still kind of rare, weirdly enough: you'd think every artist out there would take advantage of the free "wikimixers" out there on the off chance of coming up with an even more awesome version of their song.
Well, at least Spanish-French singer Manu Chao gets it. He's sponsoring a remix contest for his latest song, "Politik Kills," which in its original version is a loping reggae number, complete with Chao's typically hypnotic guitar work, although the first thing I might do is take down the level of the vocals which are a bit on the polemical-lecture side for me. But no biggie. Eighteen new versions have already been posted on his website, including dubby ones from Chris Blackwell and Prince Fatty, as well as a shuffly south-of-the-border style mix from Mexican Dubweiser & Kinky. Watch a fan-made video for the original after the jump, and check out the remixes and download the individual tracks here.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user thetripwirenyc.
Please donate a few dollars to the Mother Jones Investigative Fund! We're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and we rely on YOU to support our fiercely independent reporting. Your donation is fully tax-deductible, and it takes just a moment to give. Thanks!