The Riff - October 2007

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 6:09 PM EDT

Swedes and Aussies and, uh, Chicago-ites, oh my!

Kylie Minogue – "2 Hearts"
In which the Aussie star vamps it up over a swinging beat, and you watch nervously to make sure she doesn't fall off that piano

The Hives – "Tick Tick Boom"
In which the Swedish combo find themselves enlarged and installed in a museum as a high-concept art piece that takes its revenge on the museum for some reason

Lupe Fiasco – "Dumb It Down"
In which the Chicago rapper lets his complex lyrics take center stage, since there's not a whole heck of a lot else going on in this video

Robyn – "Handle Me"
In which the underappreciated Swedish songstress gets, uh, boxed in, wocka wocka

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Tuesday's Suffused With Music News Day

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 1:50 PM EDT

mojo-photo-lilwayne2.jpg

  • Lil Wayne was arrested on Friday night after a concert in Boise, Idaho, of all places. Officers were acting on a marijuana-possession charge from 2005, after Wayne failed to show for two court hearings. A spokesperson for the rapper called it all just a "clerical mix-up," which is code for "too stoned to remember our court dates."

  • Elvis Costello will perform at Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday party, to be held at New York's Beacon Theater on October 25th. Bill had the Rolling Stones and Christina Aguilera last year, apparently, so who knows what that signifies. Tickets start at $250.
  • Moby has finished work on his new album, to be called Last Night and released in 2008. He calls it "more electronic and dance-oriented" than his recent work; with only about every third Moby album being listenable at all, maybe we're about due for a good one, right? The diminutive producer will also be launching a club night called "Degenerates" in his hometown of New York starting this Thursday.
  • Andy Summers tells the AP that the reunited Police might record a new album, saying he sees it as a "challenge, to make an absolutely brilliant pop album at this stage of our career." That, and not killing each other in the process.
  • Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 10/08/07

    | Tue Oct. 9, 2007 12:02 AM EDT

    This week, I already covered the Detour festival so none of that can go in here, and on most of my drive down to LA I passed the time with French lessons, so I didn't delve into a lot of new recorded music, I'm afraid. Thus, the presence in the Top Ten of a TV show, some new stuff by people I've already covered, and a lot of hyper beats, cause when you're driving up the Grapevine and heading for Hollywood traffic, you need tunes that keep you on your toes.

    Timberlake10. Justin Timberlake – "LoveStoned" (Justice remix)
    (mp3 via Bridging the Atlantic)
    One of the most underwhelming tracks from the Trousersnake's album is turned into an epic disco megajam by the reigning kings of electro, and the fact that this doesn't come out sounding like Jamiroquai is a tribute to everyone involved. Instead, it's somewhere between the French duo's own "D.A.N.C.E." and classic Boney M, with totally up-to-date production values. What's not to love?

    Weeds9. Weeds (Monday nights on Showtime)
    Maybe this is a new tactic for TV shows: jump the shark immediately and get it out of the way. This dark comedy has always walked a very thin line between ridiculous melodrama and finely-honed satire, and at the end of last season, with everyone in a zany predicament, you had to wonder if it was just turning into a soap opera with pot. But this season, the writers seemed to remember that the show isn't called "Weed," and it's not really about drugs, it's about the weed-y people: flawed, scarred, not like everybody else, and barely keeping up on the payments for their "little boxes made of ticky tacky." For instance, a recent moment where a cancer survivor revealed her scarred breasts had surprising pathos, even though it was in a sex scene with Matthew Modine.

    mojo-photo-tt-jayz.JPG8. Jay-Z – "Blue Magic" (from American Gangster, out Nov 8 on Island Def Jam)
    (Stream at the Island Records site)
    Hova's surprise return to the music biz turns out to be a concept album based on the Frank Lucas biopic of the same name, and the lead single has an urgent intensity that we've come to expect from one of our greatest rappers ever. He addresses the complicated topic—drugs and dealing—with complex lyrics: "Blame Reagan for making me into a monster/Blame Oliver North and Iran-Contra/I ran contraband that they sponsored." So, everybody out there who doesn't like gangster rap: is it okay if it's about a gangster movie?

    Look ma no hands7. Arcade Fire – "Neon Bible"
    (crazy interactive video thing that you can watch here)
    Well, the secret Arcade Fire website turned out to be an interactive video for the title cut from the Montreal combo's critically-acclaimed album. What, you were hoping for an Arcade Fire remix album produced by James Murphy? Who gave you that idea? Anyway, this song wasn't my favorite from the album, but the video is a lot of oddly creepy fun: you can do stuff to it! Go click around!

    Goose6. Goose – "Bring It On" (from Bring It On on Skint)
    (listen at their MySpace here)
    While this track is over a year old, I just can't escape it these days; it keeps turning up in DJ mixes all over the place, and seeping into my brain. The multi-part harmony in the chorus elevates what could be typical hoover-y blog-techno into something that just plain rocks. Go, Belgium. Apparently they started out as an AC/DC cover band, so there's that.

    Nine Inch Nails Leave Universal

    | Mon Oct. 8, 2007 6:21 PM EDT

    mojo-photo-nintrent.jpgAfter Radiohead announced last week it would sell variably-priced digital copies of its new album through the band's own website, without the help of a record label, many predicted this would be the death knell for the music industry, since any artist with an established following could easily follow this model. Well, apparently another shoe has dropped: as expected, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor has posted a message on his official website that he has left Universal and is now a "free agent, free of any recording contract with any label." Reznor has been outspoken in criticizing his label and has even encouraged fans to download the music illegally, so the move comes as no real surprise.

    Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor: two idiosyncratic, anti-establishment musicians whose always-tenuous relationships to the music industry have just now reached a logical conclusion, or the leaders of an inevitable and snowballing trend that will turn the entertainment industry upside down? All eyes on inrainbows.com this Wednesday...

    All Bryan Adams Is Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

    | Mon Oct. 8, 2007 5:46 PM EDT

    mojo-photo-bryanadams.jpgBryan Adams is set to headline a concert to promote peace in the Middle East. The show will take place October 18 on Israel's West Bank, and will be broadcast via satellite to London, Washington DC and Ottawa. The objective of the concert is to collect one million signatures from Israelis and Palestinians demanding that their leaders finalize an agreement on a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.
    - NME

    Milli Vanilli have decided to reunite in order to help bring together North and South Korea, the Riff has learned. The duo, who disbanded in disgrace after it turned out they did not sing on their Grammy-winning album, explained in halting, heavily-accented English that the objective of their concert, to be held in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, is to undo nearly 60 years of post-war tensions. "We think we can handle it," said Rob Pilatus, "if 'Girl You Know It's True' doesn't bring them together, what will?"

    It has also been revealed that Limp Bizkit will perform a series of concerts in Spain to bring an end to the conflict with Basque separatists. Speaking to a group of officials in the Basque language of Euskara, lead singer Fred Durst explained that the group's musical history can be read as a metatextual companion to the conflict's history, wittily punning on song titles like "Break Stuff" and "Re-Arranged" in ways too complex to be translated into English.

    Not to be outdone, beloved saxophonist Kenny G is planning to headline a concert series to promote good things and help stop bad things. The concerts will be broadcast via satellite on all channels at all times forever. Their objective will be to stop people from doing bad things, and finalize agreements on how to do more good things. The performances will continue, says G, until the objective has been reached.

    Live Review: Detour Festival, Los Angeles

    | Mon Oct. 8, 2007 3:52 PM EDT

    Say you're the LA Weekly, and you like the Coachella music festival a lot, and you want to throw a slightly smaller, edgier version of the multi-stage concert. Where could you have it that's even more deserted than a polo field in the middle of nowhere? Why, downtown Los Angeles on a weekend, of course. And so, Saturday saw the streets around LA's City Hall fill with hipsters and music, and me with a camera.

    Scissors for LeftyFirst, I stumbled across the Bay Area's Scissors for Lefty, who seem to have painted themselves gold for the occasion. It's still pretty early in the afternoon and with the crowds still a bit thin, that seems like a lot of effort. But the band are putting just as much energy into their performance, and like a quirkier, buzzier Strokes, they're livening up the early arrivals.

    Cool KidsOver at the main stage, Chicago's Cool Kids are testing the limits of the sound system with some bass-heavy '80s-inflected beats. With their cardigans and Beastie Boys references, they're not only a throwback to a kinder, gentler era of hip-hop, but perhaps approach a new level of MIA-style cultural (re-) appropriation. Who knows. Either way, the duo are themselves evidencing a new fashion trend: the return of day-glo. Everywhere I turn, kids are wearing fluorescent-colored sunglasses, pink and yellow baseball caps, a traffic-cone-orange dress. If only I'd kept my pink Culture Club T-shirt…

    Shout out LoudsSweden's Shout Out Louds are doing anything but over at the side stage; when the bassist grabs castanets, you have no problem hearing them. Their bright, upbeat tunes are tempered by lead singer Adan Olenius, whose Robert Smith-style laments over lost love start to seem a little too self-indulgent, and I begin to sympathize with whoever dumped him. But "The Comeback," off their 2005 album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, is a great tune, even if it's lamenting lost love.

    AutoluxI hear Mexican disco-punkers Kinky make a noisy entrance down the street, but I'm sticking around for Autolux (right). With the stage standing right next to the Morphosis-designed CalTrans building, it's an unlikely opportunity to see two of LA's great modernist projects at the same time, and the band acknowledge this by dedicating a song to the structure. But most of the time they stick to the music, and while the guitar fuzz brings easy comparison's to My Bloody Valentine, the 'Lux seem more interested in bending and twisting the notes than flooding them in distortion. It's an experimental set, even for them, and they seem off their game a little.

    RaveonettesPerry Farrell is helping his new band, Satellite Party, cover Jane's Addiction songs over on the main stage, but I'm on my way to see The Raveonettes (left), who end up being my heroes of the festival. Stuck on the smallest stage, and in front of a minuscule but enthusiastic crowd, the Danish duo (accompanied by a tom-and-snare drummer) knock every song out of the park. Their reverb-y rock is definitely retro, but like the White Stripes, they use the restrictive palette and genre conventions to great effect, and songs like "That Great Love Sound" reach a kind of epic grandeur. The crowd, such as it is, goes nuts.

    mojo-photo-dt-teddybears.jpgSwedish big-beat combo Teddybears are super late arriving on the main stage, but this is where everybody is, and when the band emerge in their bear heads, the cheers are deafening. "Different Sound" and "Cobrastyle," with their reggae-style toasting, are crowd-pleasers, but the drummer seems to be having trouble keeping time with the drum machine, and besides, Justice are about to start on the side stage.

    mojo-photo-dt-justice.jpgIt's the biggest crowd of the day for the French techno duo, but that's still not saying much; there's probably only a couple thousand people here at best. But with glowsticks at the ready, there's a kind of techno fever sweeping the crowd, and as the lights go down, people are rushing madly towards the stage, screaming how much they love Justice. Weird. The duo open their DJ set with the fanfare from "Also Sprach Zarathustra," blending it into their bass-heavy hit "Let There Be Light," and people are dancing with such abandon I'm being knocked off my feet. But when the set swerves into cheeky references to early rave music, the crowd seems underwhelmed. Los Angeles experienced the excesses of rave culture a little more intensely than Paris, I think, and a track like "Short D*** Man" (that in France might be considered a "lost classic") is just played out in LA. But people stick around, and cheer the set's every transition.

    Sadly, prior DJ commitments pulled me away from Detour before Bloc Party's headlining set, but as I walked back to my hotel, brief echoes of their music would bounce off the buildings and find me. People were lined up for some fancy club, a taco stand was doing brisk business, and the air, a comfy 70-ish degrees as always, was sweet with the promise of another Saturday night in LA.

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    Friday? Sigh, Music News Day

    | Fri Oct. 5, 2007 3:07 PM EDT

    The Wu

  • The Wu-Tang Clan announce they've cleared the first-ever legal Beatles sample, and then get shot down by, well, everyone, since it turns out the track actually "reinterprets" the sample, which makes this what we call a "cover." But the song's still great.
  • Arcade Fire pull a Radiohead, as it were: the band have launched a cryptic website, beonlineb.com, that announces something interesting will happen on October 6th. Hey, that's tomorrow! Rumors are swirling that it's a Neon Bible remix album of some sort ("beonlineb" is an anagram of "neon bible"), possibly involving tour mate James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.
  • The Sex Pistols may record new material in the wake of their live reunion tour. The band will play seven dates in the UK as well as a special radio show in Los Angeles, and are reissuing "God Save the Queen" on Monday.
  • A federal jury has found a Minnesota woman guilty of copyright infringement for using online music sharing services and fined her $222,000. Wired's "Threat Level" blog has the list of the 24 tracks that each cost Jammie Thomas over $9,000; it includes Vanessa Williams, Goo Goo Dolls and Richard Marx.
  • Le Concorde, Ready For Zach Braff

    | Thu Oct. 4, 2007 8:47 PM EDT
    concorde.gif

    Visions of teen flicks with happy endings dance in my head when I listen to Le Concorde's EP, Suite. The lyrics are sweet and romantic, and the songs have titles like "I Want You Back" and "Lullaby for Dollface." This is music for someone who just broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, you know, at the junior high prom.

    In fact, the music is perfectly suited for a soundtrack to a romantic comedy. I can just see the montage now, of a new, young, and happy couple going on their first string of dates together, while Le Concord's "Break You Like a Promise" is playing in the background. "Lullaby for Dollface" could easily have been featured in Zach Braff's uber sentimental Garden State soundtrack in place of that wispy Iron and Wine song, "Such Great Heights."

    Le Concorde's music earned the band enough credibility to headline a 2005 CMJ (College Music Journal) showcase performance. Their website fills you in on lots of personal details (Honestly, it was more than I needed to know) about founding member Stephen Becker's journey (earning a PhD, getting a divorce) toward making "Suite." Becker describes the music as "a love—approaching obsession—with the finest details of the sonic sculpture."

    New (-ish) Music: Siouxsie - Mantaray

    | Thu Oct. 4, 2007 5:28 PM EDT

    mojo-photo-siouxsie.jpgWas it really almost 30 years ago that Siouxsie & the Banshees, along with their buddies in The Cure, defined what it means to be goth? Just imagine: if they had decided to wear orange instead of black, how different the club scene would be today. Fashion choices aside, the Banshees, like Blondie, always seemed subsumed under the sheer force of their singer's personality, and their music naturally evolved towards pop, with the success of "Peek-a-boo" the greatest evidence of that transformation. But even that was 20 years ago. Does Ms. Sioux survive the transformation into a one-name persona?

    Well, thankfully, her voice is as unique and captivating as ever. Check out "About to Happen," where she struts and teases her way over a beat somewhere between the retro-rock of Wolfmother and the glammy electro of Goldfrapp: "Tension mounts / about to blow." "Here Comes That Day," with its trumpets and loping beat, could be straight out of the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse school of updated R&B, but in Siouxsie's hands, it takes on a kind of vampy, cabaret-style appeal. That cabaret sound emerges full force by track 5, "If It Doesn't Kill You," where you can almost see the well-dressed patrons in a smoky lounge, drinking martinis as Siouxsie drapes herself over a piano.

    Mostly, though, the sound is definitely current, but still idiosyncratic: it never tries too hard, and despite Siouxsie's longtime absence from music, there's nothing desperate about Mantaray. There's also nothing that urgent; if you never cared about Siouxsie and the Banshees, you probably won't discover yourself falling in love with Siouxsie now. It's the way of the world: a solo record, 30 years after your band helped ignite a whole movement, will probably be a more sedate, professional affair. But if that's a given (and considering how embarrassing these late-career "returns" can be), Mantaray is often very good, both as a tribute to Siouxsie the image, and as a purely enjoyable listen.

    Mantaray is out now on Decca.
    MP3s: "Here Comes That Day," "Into a Swan," and "If It Doesn't Kill You" from Nine Bullets

    Video: "Into a Swan"

    "Here Comes That Day" live on "Erasercuts"

    Chart Beat: iTunes' Top Ten Singles

    | Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:34 PM EDT

    BritneyAnd now, we turn with the usual trepidation towards those thermometers up the wazoo of our nation's zeitgeist: music sales charts. What are we buying, how sick are we? Let's take a look at today's iTunes top ten songs, and for added multimedia enjoyment, open up your iTunes program and listen to the 30-second excerpts of each song. It's 1/6 of a song, for free!

    1. Britney Spears – "Gimme More"
    Well, as I've said before, there are good things about this song, but none of those things involve Britney Spears. The track's climb to #1 seems to be evidence of some sort of scientific breakthrough: no matter how far an American celebrity dives down to the quantum level of supposedly career-ending debasement, the axiom of "no publicity is bad publicity" still holds true. It's a unified field theory of celebutards!

    2. Soulja Boy – "Crank That"
    Still hanging around near the top of the charts, I still believe this is a hit only because of the "youuuuu!" part. It's not bad, there's just so little going on: some inoffensive steel drum noodling and a car-commercial-style orchestral stab. But people sure like saying "youuuu!" along with it.

    3. Kanye West – "Stronger"
    Mr. West apparently not greatly damaged nor greatly assisted by his goofball SNL performance; still a great song.

    4. Feist – "1234"
    Does everyone at Apple touch themselves when this kind of thing happens? "Look, we put Feist in our commercial and turned the song into a hit! Our power is unlimited! We are so pretty, so very very pretty!" Well, I resisted Feist's charms to no avail: I now love this song.

    5. Timbaland – "Apologize" (feat. OneRepublic)
    One of the three tracks on Timbo's new album to feature alt-rock dudes in an ill-advised crossover attempt, this isn't even the worst of them. It's still pretty terrible though: a maudlin emo ballad laid awkwardly over a D-level Timbaland beat. You apologize.