In this edition, Kanye reacts to a broken heart by putting tarps on all his furniture, Pitbull steals an Italian techno track and makes it even better, Chad Vangaalen lets his freak-folk flag fly, The Streets returns with a delicate ballad, and Brightblack Morning Light whisper something about the spirit of the Buffalo, or something.
1. Kanye West "Love Lockdown"
I'm not immediately loving this song like I (and everybody else) did with "Stronger" and "Good Life," for instance, but I'm definitely fascinated by it. Musically, this is about as minimal as possible, just three tuned bass drum noises, joined later by simple piano chords and what sounds like African percussion. It's nowhere near as leftfield as M.I.A.'s triple-time African drum tribute, "Boyz," but it's still pretty crazy, and the video's dreamlike imagery only adds to the strangeness.
2. Pitbull "Krazy"
Didn't I write a while back about how dance beats are taking over hip-hop? Well, this is the most extreme example yet: a few years back, Italian producer Frederico Franchi put out a storming track called "Cream," whose simple, wobbling melody and thudding breakbeat made it totally infectious. (It was one of the first tracks featured in an epic Simian Mobile Disco DJ set I wrote about last year.) Along comes Miami rapper Pitbull to put some raise-the-roof lyrics over the top, and you've got one of the most fun (and unlikeliest) hits of 2008.
After the jump: Canadians croon, Mikey Skinner hits the skids, and hippies hypnotize me.
Lots of people have mentioned the loveliness of the Obama campaign logo, with its stripey field, rising sun, and handy reminder of the first letter of the candidate's name. While I've already spent some time analyzing and mocking the McCain campaign's terrible design work, something occurred to me watching another one of his angry mobs rallies on TV yesterday: his "logo," a shaded 5-pointed star, is nothing but a Zapf Dingbat. Zapf Dingbats, for the un-font-obsessed, was one of the original "symbol" fonts; instead of letters, typing on your keyboard gets you various shapes and doodads to spice up your PowerPoint presentation--snowflakes, squares, check-marks, and yes, stars. So, which letter do you think one must type while using the Zapf Dingbats font to create McCain's star, my friends? That's right: his crack team of designers came across this patriotic symbol by typing shift-O.
After the jump, the Zapf Dingbats character map, just as proof.
I've been doing pretty well this election season, emotional-stability-wise, but today, I'm starting to get really pissed. With the tacit encouragement of the candidates, McCain-Palin rallies are turning into lynch mobs, astonishing examples of the real consequences of pushing Rovian campaign tactics that far. Whether or not Obama is dominating in the polls, this kind of stuff makes me furious and terrified, and I'm not sure I'll be able to watch the debate tonight without being physically restrained, or my TV might end up out on the sidewalk.
Oakdale, California's Brett Dennen understands. His new album, Hope for the Hopeless (hey, that's me!) comes out October 21st; his label, Downtown, has a free mp3 of the first single, "Make You Crazy" (that's also me!), whose lyrics acknowledge that the "lies just to get you/spies just to get you" are "enough to make you go crazy." Thankfully, its sunny samba rhythms have the calming properties of a nice caipirinhanot too sweet, but tasty enough to help you forget why you were about to blow your top over some planted pseudo-redneck at a Palin rally. And is that Femi Kuti in the background? Why yes it is. Ahhh, that's better.
Is this, finally, the last sign of the impending apocalypse? Or are things going to get even worse? Artist Mark Quinn has immortalized model Kate Moss in actual 18-carat gold in a sculpture on display at the British Museum in London. No, it's not solid gold, but weighs "about as much as the supermodel herself," which means it's worth around 2.5 million bucks, even melted down. Elevating the low and immortalizing the ephemeral are of course standard tropes in art (and even on the Riff!) but it sure seems like pushing the insanity envelope has really taken off in sculpture lately. Here are some of the more jaw-dropping recent three-dimensional examples of why our culture is in a hedonistic free-fall. Needless to say, many of these links will not be safe for work.
If you're having second thoughts about that bold Sarah-Cuda hunting bow purchase following Palin's mediocrity in last night's veep debate, you may consider trying the Obama Belt on for size.
The belt is made by unionized laborers, and fashioned from recycled "pot metal"—my personal favorite. It's yours for just $100, 100% of which goes toward "swing state initiatives" in support of Barack Obama. For the über-Obama supporter, or as New York designer Elise Mogensen says, "For all those Jay-Zs out there who want theirs to be extra-special," belts in sterling silver ($800), 14k gold ($9,800), 18k ($14,500) or platinum (market price) are available upon request.
Ridiculous? Maybe. But with the economy in the tank and gold gaining favor, it might actually be a good investment, not to mention the "vintage" value it will have accrued 50 years down the road.
Oh, MySpace, how I hate you, let me count the ways. Your layout is nonsensical and counterintuitive, making even the simplest tasks an exercise in frustration. Your 96kbps streaming mp3s sound crunchy and terrible, and start right up at unexpected volumes when you click over to a profile. Your culture of friend-accumulation feeds a fame-for-being-famous culture that's making our children morons. But you got slightly more tolerable this week, after retooling your music player widget and announcing MySpace Music, which is basically an agreement with major labels to allow streaming of full songs and albums on the MySpace site. This has been mostly Imeem's zone for a while, although as this article in Time comparing the services points out, MySpace will get music directly from labels, while Imeem relies on fans to upload songs. So I guess Imeem will continue to be the quirky place to find old Cure songs, while MySpace will have the inside scoop on brand new music, like, say, the new Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul, which you can listen to in its entirety right now over here.
Ohio-based Lakota Industries introduces the Sarah-Cuda, a pink camouflage crossbow for "women who face the challenges of adversity and demonstrate the courage and strength to survive in today's world, yet have the caring heart and tenderness of good wives, mothers, sisters and daughters."
Sounds like her, too!
10 percent of Sarah-Cuda proceeds go to the National Association for Down Syndrome.
The Duhks (pronounced "ducks") have a style that's hard to classify: They describe it as a blend of "Gospel, Celtic, Old time, Zydeco, Country, Latin, French-Canadian and sheer Rock & Roll." Sure, the band was nominated for a Grammy in a country music category, but as anyone who has heard them knows, they're hardly boot-in-your-ass CMT stars.
Country or not, one label that applies is "green." As claw-hammer banjo adept Leonard Podolak explained to me after one recent show, even musicians need to pull their environmental weight if we're going to solve our society's sustainability problems.
To that end, the band—which spends 75 percent of their time on the road—has invested in a biodiesel van to reduce their environmental footprint. (Podolak acknowledges that biofuels are not a perfect solution, just the best they can do for now.) The band is also spreading their message through Green Duhks, their sustainability project. Environmentally-minded fans can join the "Flock" and support The Duhks Sustainability Project by purchasing a "very limited edition original art poster" printed with recovered ink on 100% recycled paper.
"We've forgotten what is sacred in this fast paced world," sings Sarah Dugas. "We take, and keep taking, without thinking of what we're given." It's true, and it's not just her sirenic voice that's got me convinced. Here's "Fast Paced World," the title track of The Duhks' latest album:
Allo, le Riff. I just got back from a quick little DJ tour of Canada, eh, and on this jaunt I had the opportunity to play in Montreal for the first time. Turns out Montreal isn't unlike San Francisco, strangely at odds with North America but not quite European, culturally vibrant but chock full of homeless, except there they ask for change in French. In addition to Paul's Boutique and tasty Portuguese grills, one of my happiest Montreal discoveries was CISM/89.3 FM, the radio station of l'Université de Montréal. I'm not sure why it was so good, exactly; perhaps its focus on musique en français works as a kind of limiting factor allowing a wider creative freedom within that zone, or maybe French music in general is just really awesome right now. But there was something uniquely Quebecois about CISM's playlist--with Paris obsessed with the latest fashions in dance music, CISM is a happily grungy alternative, shifting between soaring indie rock, wobbly dancehall, avant-garde electro and bouncy hip-hop. My French is terrible, but the DJs' Quebec accents are strong enough to be amusing even to the uninitiated, which is a little bonus bit of entertainment. Thankfully, the station is actually kind of professional, with some solid production and a good compressed sound. Moreover, if you don't catch the name of that last song, they include archived playlists on their website for your convenience. Of course I wouldn't be telling you this if they didn't have a high-quality online stream: go to their website and click "écouter en direct." Alternately, after the jump, check out some of the Quebecois artists I heard over the course of a couple days' listening.