Mixed Media

First Listen: TV on the Radio - Dear Science,

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 7:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-tvotr-dearscience.jpgNo, that comma is not a misprint, although the verdict is still out on the capitalization of "on" and "the." Jeez, I know I'm not a real writer, but come on, TVOTR, get with the grammar program. Are you guys like those Midwestern sign-makers who put quotes around things for emphasis, advertising "clothes" for "sale"? I mean, even Panic at the Disco dropped the exclamation point!

Honestly, though, I'd forgive this band almost anything. I'd say they're tied with Queens of the Stone Age for highest ratio of music quality to cover art crappiness, for instance. But in TV on the Radio's short career, they've been incredibly ambitious, combining a creative experimentation with astute social and political awareness in a way that makes them kin to fellow-airwave-referencing combo Radiohead. But while Thom Yorke and crew produce expansive, soaring tunes that can carry across a field, TVOTR have always aimed inward, towards sonic density. Their 2006 release, Return to Cookie Mountain, took the dark themes of their first album, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, and dove even deeper, but on Dear Science, they seem to have come to terms with some inner turmoil and returned to the surface.

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Mercury Music Prize won by... Elbow?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 6:30 PM EDT

Well, yes. mojo-photo-elbow.jpgUK rockers Elbow have won the Mercury Music Prize for their album The Seldom Seen Kid at a ceremony concluding just minutes ago in London. The annual award, judged by a committee of critics and industry types, is given to the best album by a UK artist that year. As I covered earlier, Radiohead's In Rainbows was the odds-on favorite to win, and by "odds-on" I mean actual odds, since this is England, after all. Elbow were tied for third-most-likely-to-win with dubstep mystery man Burial, whose Untrue brought that underground movement to the masses in a way similar to what Roni Size Reprazent did for drum 'n' bass with New Forms, which won the prize back in 1997. In any event, Elbow were apparently quite surprised, with lead singer Guy Garvey calling the award "the best thing that's ever happened to us." Better than, like, being born? Wow. The band have a middling level of fame in the UK but are barely known over here. So, what's the deal?

Tigh/Roslin Ticket Will Provide Strength and Purpose in Defeating Democrats Cylons

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 7:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-caprica.jpgThe presidential campaign has officially headed for outer space. As all of MoJoBlog as well as everyone everywhere is currently discussing, John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for VP was kind of kooky. But it all makes sense if you're deep in Battlestar Galactica fantasyland: sci-fi blog io9 has a breakdown of the McCain=Colonel Tigh/Palin=President Roslin "meme," as they call it, noting the similarities aren't just physical: Col. Tigh was tortured by the Cylons, and Roslin was Secretary of Education (I guess that equals PTA).

Now we already have a Tigh/Roslin campaign website, which is mostly amusing just for its visual nose-thumb at McCain's site, although the idea of Roslin winning "Most Likely to Airlock a Cylon" in the Miss Caprica beauty pageant is pretty amusing. Unfortunately, io9 says we can't laugh about it any more, since "it took less than five hours for the meme to go from funny to tired." Gods damn it! Can we still be amused by Palin's resemblance to Tina Fey?

Slow Food Wrap-Up: Is Dinner Enough?

| Mon Sep. 1, 2008 1:51 PM EDT

slow_food_nation_sf.jpgOn Sunday night I attended a six-course feast at Camino restaurant in Oakland. The $125-dollar-a-plate dinner—a benefit for the West Oakland food-justice nonprofit People's Grocery—came at the end of Slow Food Nation, the San Francisco Bay Area's weekend-long celebration of all things local, seasonal, and delicious.

The mood was jolly, the dining indulgent. From the spongy, triangular nettle-cake appetizers to the flaky peach and blackberry handpies for dessert, the plates just kept coming out of Russell Moore's (formerly of Chez Panisse) open kitchen. Once the diners—an older, mostly local crowd—were seated, epi loaves (long rows of linked baguette rolls shaped to looks like a stalk of wheat) were placed directly on the table, no plates necessary. Soon after, the wait staff brought out fire-roasted squid served with plump, fresh chickpeas. Then, onto the soup course—a cool gazpacho of sweet tomatoes. Hearty fish paella, which had been roasted over the open fireplace in three massive terracotta pots for hours, came steaming out next. Even after that thick, creamy rice dish, few of us could resist the rosemary-scented roasted pork and homemade sausages that arrived for our fourth course. Beans from People's Grocery's Sunol farm made for a perfect pairing—crisp veggies and piquant meat. An organic salad with fresh ricotta preceded the aforementioned handpies.

Just as we were finishing dessert (and ready to burst), Brahm Ahmadi, executive director of People's Grocery, presented a seven-minute video. While we digested our enormous gourmet dinners, we learned about West Oakland, a community of 30,000 where there are zero grocery stores but 53 liquor stores. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death. And an estimated $30 million worth of business leaves the community each year as residents must go elsewhere for food.

We knew coming in that a portion of each ticket would go to People's Grocery, but I got the sense that even after Ahmadi's presentation, most of us diners still felt a world away from the 'food desert' outside Camino's doors. After a cheer for Camino and People's Grocery, one woman called out, "Support businesses in neighborhoods you're scared of!" An awkward silence followed.

God Understands Irony, A Postscript

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 3:41 PM EDT

We're not claiming God's a Democrat, but it's clear She doesn't respond to Republican wingnut raindances.

First the Good Lord sent a tropical storm to bungle a meeting of global warming deniers in Florida. Then She conjured up Gustav to threaten to delay Bush's speech at the RNC.

Last night, God flat-out denied ex-pastor (and ex-meteorologist) Stuart Shepard's entreaties to rain on the Obama parade. In the Focus on the Family video clip shown below, the group's digital media director encouraged viewers to pray for rain during Obama's speech at the DNC. Not just "torrential rain," but "network-cameras-can't-see-the-podium rain, attendees-can't-walk-back-to-the-indoor-arena-without-wishing-for-hip-waders rain."

Watch the raindance here:

Roundtable Review: Trouble the Water

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 6:47 PM EDT

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A few days before Hurricane Katrina struck land in New Orleans three years ago Friday, 24-year-old rapper Kimberly Rivers Roberts bought a camcorder for $20 on the street. With her husband Scott, she started filming her neighbors—most of whom didn't have the means to leave—and their preparations to ride out the storm. She kept filming until the levees failed, even as the water rose and her friends sought safety in their attics. Two weeks later, Kim and Scott returned to document the destruction, and join some 20 friends in the back of a truck to begin the long trip to dry land. Kim and Scott's footage, along with archival materials including recovered recordings of 911 calls and video of inmates trapped in the Orleans Parish Prison, makes for a film that is at once journalistic and deeply personal.

Four MoJo staffers watched Trouble the Water Tuesday night and discussed it via Gchat Wednesday morning. Read the conversation here.

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Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:25 PM EDT
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Hillary Clinton's Music Strikes a Minor Chord

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 1:16 AM EDT

mojo-photo-hillary.jpgWhile Senator Hillary Clinton's speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Denver struck an energetic, unifying tone, the music used in her tribute video and walk-on offered an interesting counterpoint. The video, narrated by Chelsea and played before her speech, kicked off brightly and energetically, with a couple of rock tracks that were considered edgy when they first came out but have since settled into the classic-rock pantheon. First we heard The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," which is based entirely around rising, pulsing major chords, in the upbeat "Louie Louie" style of the time. Then we segued into Lenny Kravitz' "Are You Gonna Go My Way," a track whose funky minor chords in the verses give way to celebratory major chords in the chorus. Next up, Tom Petty's "American Girl," whose chorus kicks off with major chords but then steps briefly into melancholy territory, with a few minor chords expressing a certain nostalgia.

Did Facebook Just Endorse Obama?

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 8:47 PM EDT

This past weekend I finally decided to launch myself a Facebook page. I was going about my business setting up my profile, editing my information, importing pictures, re-editing my information, and so on until I was ready to begin inviting friends. So I found an old buddy, clicked "Add as Friend" and this popped up:

voted%20ican.png

I didn't notice at first. But then I saw it... look again at the words I was required to enter.

"voted ican"

Usually we're just asked to type randomly capitalized jibberish, but here we have an incredible promotion of civic engagement. How responsible of Facebook. Thank you, Mark.

But wait—"ican"—that reminds me of something... Seriously, did Facebook just endorse Obama?

Merge Records's 20-Year Anniversary Collections to Remind Us of the Greatness of Merge Records

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 4:23 PM EDT

mojo-photo-merge.jpgIf you look up "Indie Record Label" in the dictionary, does it have a picture of North Carolina's Merge Records' logo there? Yeah, I know, "what's a dictionary." The legendary imprint will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall with a set of subscription-only specially-curated compilations, which, as Idolator put it, are guaranteed to open the wallets of nerds worldwide. The first CD will be curated by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Junebug director Phil Morrison, while celebs like Jonathan Lethem, David Byrne an Amy Poehler are lined up to take charge of future discs. You can start ordering them on September 8th, and they're limited editions, so set your alarms, my fellow nerds.

The label's 20-year existence is bookended by two bands who are symbolic of the "indie culture" of their time: Superchunk, whose music Merge was formed specifically to release, and Arcade Fire, whose two recent full-lengths were the label's greatest financial successes by far. But they've released a lot of other fine music in the interim. After the jump, some Merge-tastic videos from a few of my faves.