While actual album release dates are even less relevant now that nobody has any money to spend on CDs, it's a good excuse to check out some new music. "New" is a relative term, though, when you're dealing with 30-plus-year-old combo The Cure, whose 13th studio album, 4.13 Dream, sounds kind of old. Nothing against old Cure, of course, and there are a few moments on the album that echo the dreamy landscape of Disintegration, for instance, like 6-minute album opener "Underneath the Stars," and jaunty single "The Only One." But as the UK Sunday Timesput it, there are too many moments here that are "wearyingly over the top, and scary, too." Just in time for Halloween!
Atlanta's Deerhunter are only a few years into their noise-rock career, but their new album Microcastle has the assured edginess of Sonic Youth. Single "Nothing Ever Happened" plays with fire: a vocal harmony in the chorus whose notes are only one step apart. It could be grating, but instead it's hypnotic. Pitchfork gives it one of its best reviews of the year, with a 9.2 out of 10 score on the Forkometer and comparisons to Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. They even say the album may be "a reason not to slit our throats before President Palin decides to nuke the world in 2017." Erp.
It's poster parody pandemonium! We've already remarked here on the Riff about the cool design both coming from and being produced for the Obama campaign; one of the most iconic images so far is Shepard Fairey's red-and-blue "Hope" poster, whose graphic simplicity references classic propaganda just enough to be cool. The poster's design has become enough of a touchstone that parodies have been popping up, but I didn't realize quite how many: via BoingBoing comes this link to a page featuring a whole slew (89, in fact) of takes on the red-on-one-side-blue-on-the-other design. Some of these are obviously made by angry Republicans, who did nothing but change the "Hope" to a "Nope" and call it good. But my favorites are so nonsensical, they're oddly inspired: The Soup Nazi, over "Soup," of course; Amy Winehouse over "Dope"; the Pope over, uh, "Pope." However, this page did seem to miss a version that appeared during San Francisco's recent leather-themed Folsom Street Fair, whose cheeky reference to the "Obey" posters that made Fairey famous was suddenly appropriate in a whole new way. Yes, Mr. President, I've been very naughty. See that one after the jump.
Via Towleroad comes word that 49-year-old singer Morrissey will release his 9th solo album, to be called Year of Refusal (or maybe Years of Refusal?), early next year, calling it his "strongest" album yet in an interview with BBC Radio 1's Janice Long. (That's apparently the cover art to the right.) Perhaps more intriguingly, the outspoken lyricist is writing his autobiography, partially to clear up some of the "silly and really extreme" misquotes attributed to him over the years. What could he mean? As the Guardian points out:
Like when Morrissey allegedly announced that he wished George W Bush dead? Or when he allegedly wrote that he "[understood] why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence"? Or when he allegedly told NME that "the higher the influx [of immigrants] into England the more the British identity disappears"?
Oh yeah, maybe those. The Guardian also observes that Mozza's Wikipedia page is more than one-quarter controversy, including such topics as "Music Industry Feuds," "Accusations of Racism," and "Arguments with Political Leaders." God bless him.
Is it just me, or has a kind of eye-of-the-hurricane feeling descended over the presidential campaigns? While waves of economic chaos build around us, the competing teams at the center seem almost in a sort of stasis, with Obama holding his position and McCain unable to break out of his. Inside this calm oasis, the colorful flowers of ridiculous YouTube videos may flourish, and indeed, this week has seen quite a bloom.
Vlad and Friend Boris "Song for Sarah"
If you've wondered what it's like to be on the receiving end of the Palin Gaze from across the Bering Strait, well, a couple of Russians are here to tell us all about it, and it turns out they're gazing right back. Longingly. Could this video be a Borat-style hoax? The Russian words in the title seem to be straight from a phrasebook: "Very nice. Excellent. And you? Not bad." Plus the misspellings in the subtitles ("teliscop"?) are a bit farfetched, although I do remember the now-demolished Hotel Rossia on Red Square had a large permanent metal sign in English in its lobby that spelled "is" with a "z" in every instance, so who knows.
From The Landline comes this quick trio of potential attack ads in the style of famous directors that the McCain campaign might be interested in trying out. There's your standard John Woo action thriller parody, which is cute, and a quick Kevin Smith bit, which is like ten years out of date, but they saved the best for last: a brief take on Wes Anderson's directorial style. Futura titles, quirky old soundtrack, and, well, a penguin: gotta love it. (The Anderson part starts at about 2:20.)
Barack Obama has gotten a lot of grief about his campaign's vaguely presidential seal. But shortly after he attended an event in Toledo, Obama was accused of taking his enthusiasm for heraldry too far.
On the October 15 broadcast of his radio show, conservative personality Bob Grant complained that there was something funny about one of the flags on Obama's stage:
What is that flag that Obama's been standing in front of that looks like an American flag, but instead of having the field of 50 stars representing the 50 states, there's a circle? Is the circle the 'O' for Obama? Is that what it is? Did you notice Obama is not content with just having several American flags, plain old American flags with the 50 states represented by 50 stars? He has the 'O' flag. And that's what that 'O' is. Just like he did with the plane he was using. He had the flag painted over, and the 'O' for Obama.
Oh, the hubris. Not content with his already dubious demipresidential seal, Obama has now designed his own standard. Will no one stop this egomaniac? Or, as Grant said: "Now, these are symptom—these things are symptomatic of a person who would like to be a potentate—a dictator."
The gravel-voiced Grant, a pioneer of the angry talk radio format, had a point. All of these O doodads seem vaguely Napoleonic. But Grant, who once referred to New York Mayor David Dinkins as "the men's room attendant at the 21 Club," is famous for sharing his first impressions with listeners before checking for offensiveness or, well, accuracy.
Wrong again, Grant; it turns out the offending banner ruffling behind the junior senator from Illinois was, in fact, the state flag of Ohio.
In this edition, Japanese dream-pop, dubstep new wave, Icelandic drum festivals, stoopid fresh Baltimore rave jams, and a tribute to Michael Jackson. No, I'm not making any of that up.
1. Shugo Tokumaru "Parachute" (from the album Exit on Sony BMG)
This Japanese singer-songwriter has apparently been making his delicate, '60s-influenced ditties for a while now, but his work is finally starting to be available in the US. "Parachute" evokes psychedelia without getting too crazy, even though it sounds like there are about 100 different instruments being played here.
2. Version Big-Fi "Blue Monday" (New Order cover)
Dubstep's synthetic take on the traditional reggae rhythm creates menacing, apocalyptic sounds perfect for our anxious times; oddly enough, "Blue Monday's" abject grief is a perfect counterpoint. While versions of the omnipresent "Monday" are a dime a dozen, this is something special, although not without precedent: New Order's own brooding cover of Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On" for a John Peel session proved the band had a reggae streak themselves. (mp3 download at versionbigfi.com)
3. Björk & Thom Yorke "Nattura" (single)
Shouldn't they just have called themselves, er, "Byörke"? Anyway, somebody let these crazy kids loose in the drum closet, and not surprisingly, the resulting tracks makes Radiohead's recent output sound like High School Musical. I can't even discern a time signature: 2/4 alternating with 7/8, maybe? But the song's purpose as a charity single for the environment echoes its weirdly compelling urgency: in Björk's world, Nature is not cuddly seals and pretty flowers, but a rumbling wave of unfathomable forces that will overwhelm us if we don't step lightly. (purchase on iTunes or listen while watching vintage Björk footage here)
Was that convincing? Because it was a lie. Sure, there have already been enough leaks of this to flood a low-lying country, so this whole "official release" thing is a bit anticlimactic, but yes, the new G N' R song, the title track from the album Chinese Democracy, will be delivered to radio tomorrow. It's also been posted on the band's Imeem page, which means I can do this:
Bob Barr! Just kidding, it's Obama. Okay, for you youngsters out there, Eminem is the name of a rapper who had some very famous songs back in, uh, a 3-year period between 1999 and 2002. Since then, he's been like the Axl Rose of hip-hop, lost in the wilderness, emerging from hibernation only to toss out an album featuring a political protest song, "Mosh," that was compelling if a little too angry, and did nothing to help out that Kerry guy back in 2004. Watch it after the jump. Apparently he's working on a new album, to be called Relapse, produced by Dr. Dre and set for an early 2009 release, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Em was over in the U.K. chatting with BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe when he mentioned he's voting for Obama; he admitted that he "can't get too political because I don't know enough," but offered that "Barack would be a breath of fresh air, to get in there and actually get what's left of the Bush administration out the door." Seriously, did anybody think he'd be all about Sarah Palin?
Metacritic is a pretty cool service, tracking down and averaging reviews of all sorts of pop culture output for our convenience. Movies, DVDs, games, TV shows, and music, Metacritic logs 'em all, grabbing reviews from all corners of the press and converting grades or ratings to a 100-point scale. For the busy culture afficionado, it allows for straightforward, easy inspection of critical reaction. For instance, Wall-E and Man on Wire currently top their movie list for 2008, and that makes sense: one's a popular hit, and one's a critical favorite. In 2007, their "Best-Reviewed Albums of the Year" served as a good jumping-off point in analyzing the year in music, but this year, their list has kind of gone off the deep end. After the jump, the Metacritic Top 20 (with score averages in parenthesis) and why it's a little weird.