Mixed Media

New R.E.M. Sounds Kind Of Like Old R.E.M.

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 3:52 PM EST

R.E.M.And I mean that in the best possible way. The legendary combo's new album, Accelerate, comes out April Fools' Day, but via Pitchfork comes a just-released single and video, and it's got a little of that old R.E.M. magic. While the intro kind of inverts the start of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go," the rest has that wistful sound R.E.M. patented: "And you cry and you cry," sings Michael Stipe, and Mike Mills does that awesome background thing, "ay-ee-iy-yiy!" Kind of makes you want to get out your dusty copy of Murmur and put it on the hi-fi. Anyway, the video's after the jump.

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Six Words, Six Months to Come up with Them

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 8:55 PM EST

How lovely. Six word memoirs.

I know. Me, too.

Had to be a crappy ad gimmick or college drinking game, but it's not. It's addictive and sadly beautiful when not slyly sexy or funny or enigmatic. The good kind of enigmatic, not the annoying kind usually meant just to show off.

From SMITH magazine, bathroom reading that may spoil us all for the dreck we usually settle for in...you know...there. No one can resist the challenge. Check this and this and this and this....

I'll never sleep again until I pull this off. And realize I'm depressed by the truth I've managed to tell on myself. Here's a taste (from Ron Rosenbaum's site, above):

Torchwood: A New Approach to Sexuality on TV?

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 5:24 PM EST

mojo-photo-torchwood.jpgThe BBC hit series Torchwood is a spin-off of a spin-off, really: an extension of the new Doctor Who series that is itself only vaguely related to the classic long-running original. Torchwood's creators were apparently inspired by the still-underappreciated Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that used elements of fantasy as illustrations of (and counterpoints to) the characters' lives, and on the surface, the shows have a lot in common: Doctor Who attracted fans as much for its winking humor as its geeky sci-fi, and on Buffy, the satire was built in.

Torchwood has also followed in Buffy's footsteps in another way: towards the end of the latter show's run, two of the female characters fell in love, and their relationship evolved into the most fully-realized same-sex couple on television at the time. In Torchwood, a secretive X-Files-type agency is led by a mysterious (and apparently immortal) guy named Captain Jack Harkness, and he's typically courageous and handsome. He also appears to be gay, or at least bi: his romantic entanglements are with men, whether it's the cute office guy or the interstellar co-conspirator.

Is Lucy Liu the New All-American Girl?

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:50 PM EST

LucyLiuresized.jpgLast month ABC premiered its new Sex and the City-ish show Cashmere Mafia, starring Lucy Liu as Mia Mason, a high-powered publishing executive in New York City. Not since Margaret Cho's All-American Girl (also ABC) has an Asian American been featured as a main character. But All-American Girl was criticized by some for exploiting stereotypes for laughs, and Cho and network executives argued over just the right formula of "Asian-ness." After the whole debacle, Cho spiraled into various forms of self-destructiveness, and the show was canceled after one season. That was 1994.

Over the past few decades Asian Americans have been slowly eking their way into casting rooms and onto sets in Hollywood. (Think Lost, ER, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Entourage, Gilmore Girls, etc.). Exposure is a good thing, but Asian Americans for the most part are still relegated to ancillary roles.

New Music: The Duke Spirit - Neptune

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:47 PM EST

mojo-photo-neptune.jpgOkay, I have to clear my head of all that Grammys negativity by talking about something good. The Duke Spirit hail from Cheltenham, England, a "spa town" off in the west by Bristol; it's a little isolated, and their sound is too: a kind of throwback to '90s grunge with a liberal helping of Queens of the Stone Age-style riffs. Their first album, 2004's Cuts Across the Land, was an underappreciated gem of fuzzy, bluesy rock, made even more unique by lead singer Leila Moss' chiming voice. Critics compared them to PJ Harvey or Patti Smith, but more than anything they reminded me of Salt, another underappreciated female-fronted hard-rock band who had a minor hit in '95 with "Bluster." In any event, The Duke Spirit seemed mysteriously, intriguingly out-of-sync.

Grammys Ceremony Like a Terrible Curse That Ruins Even Good Ideas

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 4:45 PM EST

There's been a lot of post-Grammys snark around the interblogs, and of course there were a million things to hate about last night's broadcast. So here I am, trying to think of a "Top 5 Good Things About the Grammys" post; you know, "accentuate the positive" and all that. But I can't do it. Every time I think of something halfway decent that happened on the seemingly endless broadcast last night, I remember something that disqualifies it. Take, for instance, Kanye and Daft Punk. A funky, jazzed-up combo performance by the eccentric rapper and the French techno duo, followed by a heartfelt ode to Kanye's mom: what could go wrong? But the imitation Daft Punk pyramid looked like it was made out of cardboard, and its goofy game-show-reminiscent opening-up to reveal the duo in their light-trimmed suits just looked cheap. Right afterwards, Kanye sang his heart out, but they had to accompany his performance with a laughably cheesy projection of a slo-mo angel; did they think the "MAMA" shaved into the back of Kanye's head wasn't going to be a big enough clue?

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Striking Writers Reach Tentative Deal

| Sat Feb. 9, 2008 5:49 PM EST

mojo-photo-strike.jpgHey, TV might be coming back! Hooray, TV! Union leaders and production companies have reached a tentative deal that covers online streaming: writers get $1300 for the rights to stream a show, and then 2% of the revenue. That's something, right? Guess it depends on who's counting revenue. They also get residuals for downloads, and if certain thresholds are met, they get one of those fruit bouquets. Not really. The New York Times called negotiations "sometimes heated"—ya think?—and Drudge has linked to Nikki Finke's dramatic (and endless) minute-by-minute timeline of the events this weekend. Okay, fine, but all we need to know is that Conan and Colbert and everybody have already invited their writers back, to start on Monday. Not that their efforts to waste time haven't been amusing.

Photo: LA Times

Neato Viddy on the Intertubes: Dance Lessons With Khris Khaos

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 5:49 PM EST

Okay, lately the Riff's been all super-serious, and commenters are starting to get mean. So in an effort to lighten the mood, and perhaps also help out those of you planning to hit the clubs this weekend, I present: Learn How to Dance for Women with King Khris Khaos, the King of Style!

Obama Musician Endorsement Update!

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 5:04 PM EST

It's Obama-rocker-mania!Just when you thought it might end with the Grateful Dead, more musicians are coming out for Obama. First up, Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst spoke at an Obama rally in Omaha on Thursday (hmm: Obama, Omaha; Obama, Omaha), telling the crowd of 11,000 Nebraskans (and maybe Iowans) that he predicts Nebraska Democrats will caucus for the Illinois senator. He later apparently performed that annoying "When the President Talks to God" song at an event downtown.

Moving on to less whiny (and less youthful) musicians, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon tells Wonkette that she's supporting Obama, even though she admits that it's hard to distinguish him from Hillary, policy-wise. Wonkette points out that Obama is eight years younger than Sonic Youth's bassist.

And in "anti-endorsement" news, John Mellencamp has been asking the McCain campaign to stop using his songs, and they finally agreed, reports the AP. Mellencamp was an Edwards supporter, naturally; perhaps he can come along when Howard Dean tries to broker that deal. Ain't that America?

Music News: Winehouse Sings Via Satellite, Neil Young Gives Up, Timbaland's On the Phone, Beck Admits to Nonsense

| Fri Feb. 8, 2008 3:39 PM EST

News - Feb 8


  • Amy Winehouse, denied a visa to come to the States for the Grammys on Sunday, will appear on the broadcast via satellite from London. Winehouse actually used the phrase "raring to go" in a statement.

  • Neil Young either got up on the wrong side of the bed, or has given up all hope for the future of mankind. Introducing a film in Berlin on Friday, he told the audience that "the time when music could change the world is past." Some of us are so cynical we'd make a joke about that time not existing ever, but we got up on the wrong side of the bed, so we don't really care.
  • Hello, Timbaland calling: the super-producer has announced a deal with Verizon Wireless to create a "mobile album," available only on the carrier's service. And you thought mp3s sounded bad! A Verizon spokesman managed to keep a straight face while calling the deal "a marriage of promotional opportunity and a large distribution platform," but I bet he was doing something funny with his fingers behind his back.
  • Beck has confirmed that some of the lyrics on his seminal 1995 album Odelay were "scratch" lyrics, i.e., nonsense meant as a placeholder during the recording process. "We just grew attached to them," said the singer. So you're telling me those years I spent on my dissertation trying to parse "mouthwash jukebox gasoline" were a waste?