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.
Sure, Apple's done a good job advertising the ubiqituous iPhone. But according to Advertising Age, Barack Obama's done a better job advertising…Barack Obama.
At this year's annual National Advertisers' conference, hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-service vendors chose Obama as Marketer of the Year, besting Apple, Zappos, Coors, and Nike. The presidential hopeful was honored for his hugely successful web-based campaign, which has utilized Facebook , MySpace, and outreach sites such as voteforchange.com.
Said Advertising Age:
Just weeks before he demonstrates whether his campaign's blend of grass-roots appeal and big media-budget know-how has converted the American electorate, Sen. Barack Obama has shown he's already won over the nation's brand builders.
Obama garnered an impressive 36.1 percent of the vote, compared to second-place Apple's 27.3 percent. As for McCain? He walked away with just 4.5 percent of the vote.
When McCain's VP pick showed up on Saturday Night Live this weekend, was it funny or excruciating? Either way, SNL won—drawing the show's highest ratings in 14 years.
Palin's brief performances yielded a couple chuckles—after Alec Baldwin went off on an anti-Palin rant, she responded with "I must say, your brother Stephen is my favorite Baldwin."
But most of the humor heavy-hitting came from Amy Poehler, who did an Alaskan rap while Palin bobbed along, and Fey. Indeed, with her exaggerated Alaskan twang, wink, and smirks, Fey made for a far more entertaining Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin.
First webcomic xkcd tossed off a funny about a virus forcing YouTube commenters to listen to their comments out loud before posting them. (Apparently there are those who believe hearing oneself sound ridiculous will stop one from using asinine words—clearly not true.) Then YouTube actually debuted something similar: Audio Preview, a non-mandatory feature that might make comments more coherent.
Still, there's no guarantee. Annoyed by X number of spelling mistakes, all or no capital letters, or extreme punctuation? Try YouTube Comment Snob, a program that lets you censor the comments you deem idiotic.
If all of that isn't web-nannying for you, check out Google's new drunkmailing prevention feature: Mail Goggles. Requiring you to answer five math questions before you can send an email, the program can be set to watch your back for whatever hour you tend to stumble home. (Its default is Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.)
Sure, I'm as guilty as anyone. All of us here tend to get all whipped up into a frenzy every time something silly about Palin pops up over at HuffPo, for instance, but come on, doesn't that say "Arts & Culture" up there under "The Riff"? Commenters (and even other MoJo contributors!) may find this arty little blog a lightweight intrusion into their serious non-profit matters, but I say we take a breather from the campaign and focus on what's really important: what M.I.A.'s been up to. OMG, she's got a wee Arulpragasam in the oven! The singer confirmed her pregnancy to Pitchfork, naturally, over the weekend, saying she's "creating a baby," assumedly with the help of her fiancé Ben Brewer. By the way, not only is Brewer the singer for New York band the Exit, he's also the son of Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman. Hmm, is M.I.A. pulling a McCain, marrying up, for a little bit ofoh, damn, sorry, I promised I wouldn't talk about politics.
Back to M.I.A.: while the singer grabbed headlines when she appeared to announce her retirement onstage at Bonaroo in June, she emerged from this brief hiatus on Saturday at a Diesel-sponsored shindig in New York to do a few numbers as well as her part in T.I.'s amazing "Swagga Like Us." The party, which also featured Franz Ferdinand and N.E.R.D., was apparently the hottest ticket of the year, with thousands (!) of partygoers reduced to tears when they couldn't get in. Vulture's roundup of the event positively oozes with self-satisfaction at being one of the lucky V.I.P.'s who made it inside, but I admit I'm secreting massive amounts of jealousy. Ahem.
Lately McCain and Palin (McCalin, if they were a celebrity couple) aren't the only leaders fanning the flames of prejudice among their constituents.
Mississippi's Exhibit A: Republican Sen. Roger Wicker's "zany" ad bashing Democratic rival Ronnie Musgrove for being supported by, (of all people!), The Gays. Who apparently all look like Village People, as imagineered by Walt Disney. (Oh, and cows also support Musgrove. We don't know why.)
Anyway, you can catch the rather surreal video here:
According to Fortune magazine, more than one Halloween mask retailer has claimed they can correctly predict who will win the White House. Spirit Halloween, the largest seasonal Halloween vendor in the US, says Bush outsold Kerry two to one in 2004, Gore sold 14 percent fewer masks in 2000, and Clinton masks won with 71 percent in 1996.
We decided to update Fortune's presidential mask findings for 2008 thus far; here's what we found.