Don't let the barriers you have built to define who you are blind you from appreciating the unfamiliar.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Black Keys- Tighten Up

The Black Keys have a sound that is reminiscent of the early blues recording. They sound as if they were performed in a dark basement through a tin can. They are a two piece, guitar and drums, but they sound much bigger than a two-piece. Dan Auerbach uses a loop pedal, so he is able to lay down one dingy, distorted guitar riff after another. They find a way to use some of the best parts of old blues and still make it sound fresh.

Their videos are usually low-budget and comical and usually involves some sort of fight or violence. This video is no exception. What I like about this video is lip syncing kids. And they really found some good kid version look-alikes. Share/Bookmark

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ke$ha - Your Love is My Drug

SNL Performance

This is the second set of videos for Ke$ha (check this first post for my ranting).

Last month, Kesha was on SNL and performed the song you see above in full neon body paint under a blacklight and it is amazing. The giant keytar in the background is also amazing.

The music video just came out this week and features clips of Kesha in the neon body paint. It also features a hallucinogenic desert scene that is an obvious homage to the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. The first half of the video is kind of boring, but the second half is great. I am not sure why they didn't do the animation throughout. Maybe to match the fact that the verses of the song are kind of boring but the chorus is rockin.

Here is a clip from Beatles' Yellow Submarine so you get what I mean.

Ke$ha - Tik Tok

Simpsons Parody of Tik Tok

Other links when Fox gets mad that they aren't getting their fraction of a fraction of a cent for making Simpsons relevant again and they delete the video.

I don't normally do this, but I am going to have two days of Ke$ha.

Today I am posting Kesha's biggest song Tik Tok along the the amazing Simpsons intro-parody and tomorrow I will post the new Your Love is My Drug video with the SNL body-paint performance.

I am not exactly sure who Kesha with a dollar sign is supposed to be. There are elements of vapid pop star, bold pop art, music industry superficiality, and feminist expression. Kesha is caught somewhere between Lady Gaga, Peaches, and Christina Aguilera. The first time I heard Kesha was on NPR, the second time was on Saturday Night Live, and the third time was on a ground breaking episode of the Simpsons where they changed the song and the opening sequence to parody of a Kesha video.

The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live are two of the gatekeepers of pop culture and Kesha broke through in less than a year. Kesha may not be doing anything as controversial as Lady Gaga or Peaches, but she is changing the face of pop music in ways we won't really see for years to come.

Kesha doesn't seem to be another auto-tuned, corporate music tool, but that is where she got her start. She got hired on by major pop producer Dr. Luke because of a demo tape of songs she wrote. She did backup vocals and music video appearances for best of the worst: Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and Flo Rida. But beyond being Barbie filler, she has also co-written several songs.

Kesha was getting some exposure, but it was Tik Tok that changed everything. Tik Tok got noticed on MySpace and the record company started pushing it. It was released as a single and reached top ten status in several countries. In the US, it has broke into mainstream.

The Simpsons have had the same theme song intro for nearly 20 years. This season they aired the a pardoy of the Tik Tok video with Lisa playing the part of Kesha, supported by loads of secondary characters. It not only boosts the status of Kesha, but also boosts the relavancy of the Simpsons. Share/Bookmark

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Styx - Mr. Roboto w/ Kilroy Was Here

Sci-fi Music Videos Week, Day 5, Styx - Mr. Roboto

Intro film

Mr Roboto

Mr. Roboto is part of a concept album released by Styx called Kilroy was Here.  The concept is explained in the short film that goes with Mr. Roboto.  Its truly amazing and you should watch it first.  Styx used to start every show with the 10 minute film.

The story line is that the world has been taken over by a group called the Majority for Music Morality, who aren't concerned with money or power, just making sure no one can listen to rock and roll.  The authoritarian powers imprison not political agitators but rock stars. This has to be the best scifi music project ever.  Also robots walk around cursing in Japanese (I guess Japan became a superpower because they build the best robots?).

The music video for Mr. Roboto picks up where the film leaves off.  Dennis Deyoung plays Kilroy, the imprisoned rock star who kills a robot and takes his suit to escape.  He escapes to find the rock and roll dissident Jonathan Chance so that they can bring down the anti-rock government together.  Mr. Roboto is about Kilroy's search for Chance and then the unveiling as he reveals he is not a robot.

Oh and I am not sure what "the modren man" is, but I know he likes to wear purple. Share/Bookmark

Friday, May 21, 2010

2Pac - California Love (part 1 and part 2)

Sci-fi Music Videos Week, Day 5, 2pac - California Love

Part 1 - Beyond Beyond Thunderdome

Part 2 - Tiki Torch Dance Party

Both of these videos are California Love.  The first is the original release and the second is a remix, but the first video has a to be continued ending that leads into the second, but videos have little else in common.

The first is an homage to the 80s post-apocalyptic classic Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome starring Tina Turner and everyone's favorite anti-semite Mel Gibson.  This video also has some star appearances.  In the beginning you will see pre-Rush Hour Chris Tucker and the godfather of funk, George Clinton.  Then, dance party in the Thunderdome! Its pretty unique for a rap video. The second is your standard dance party rap video.

California Love is one of the best rap dance songs of the 90s and easily the most famous 2pac song.  The song came out and went to the top of charts, but it was while 2pac was still in prison for a sexual assault charge.  When he got out, 2pac was at the height of his career.

However, the mid 90s was not a good time for musicians at the height of their career.  Only a couple months after Kurt Cobain of Nirvana died, 2pac was almost killed in an robbery in New York that has long been suspected to be part of an feud between East and West Coast rappers.  2pac survived, but two years later, months after Brad Newell of Sublime died, 2pac was shot again and this time he was killed.  Many implicate Notorious B.I.G. along with other East Coast rappers like Sean "Puffy" "P. Diddy" "Puff Daddy" "Diddy" Combs in the shootings, nothing has ever been proven.  A year later, when Notorious B.I.G. was on West Coast turf, he was gunned down and killed.

Now, its widely suspected that Death Row Records founder Shug Knight orchestrated the murders of both 2pac and Notorious B.I.G.  Several cases have been brought against NYPD officers that worked for Shug Knight, but nothing has stuck. Share/Bookmark

Thursday, May 20, 2010

David Bowie - Space Oddity

Sci-fi Music Videos Week, Day 4, David Bowie - Space Oddity

Bowie is the grandfather of scifi inspired rock. Ever since Bowie's second album, Space Oddity, and the song with the same name, Bowie has had a scifi bent. The album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a concept album about an alien who is bringing the news of Earth's impending demise. Even though all of the songs have a scifi theme, none of the video follow the theme.

This video is great for several reasons. You get to see young Bowie, clean cut and crooked teeth. Space Oddity introduces the character Major Tom. Major Tom pops up in later songs, like Ashes to Ashes and in other artists songs, most notably the song Major Tom (Coming Home) by Peter Shilling.

In the video, Major Tom is floating around in space craft. You know it is Major Tom thanks to the giant name tag on his chest. Major Tom all of a sudden falls through space, but of course he is saved by two beautiful girls. They take him back to their space bed to spoon with Bowie.

You've probably never heard this version of Space Oddity before. This was the original version on the album. You are probably more familiar with this recording that came out with the release of the Aladdin Sane album.

You can compare the original with this version:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Darkness - I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Sci-fi Music Videos Week, Day 3, The Darkness - I Believe in a Thing Called Love

This video is campy 70s scifi goodness. A David Bowie-like singer circa-Ziggy Stardust sings in falsetto while battling a tentacle monster with his laser guitar. What more could you want?

This song is The Darkness's one hit. Its fun, sounds like Queen, and gets stuck in your head. Share/Bookmark

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sigur Rós - Untitled #1 (Vaka)

Sci-fi Music Videos Week, Day 2, Sigur Rós - Untitled #1 (Vaka)

Vaka truly illustrates the potential of the music video as an art form itself.

Sigur Ros is a prolific Icelandic band that you have probably heard in a movie, if you have heard an album. They have a very distinct sound, ethereal and atmospheric with very high-pitched vocals. Jónsi Birgisson sings both in Icelandic and Hopelandic, a nonsense language made up of syllable from the Icelandic language.

They started on Iceland's most well-known label, Smekkleysa (Bad Taste). It's a label started by the Sugarcubes, Iceland's indie gods from the 80s who helped shoot the lead singer, Bjork, to international fame. Iceland is a tiny island nation with a population smaller than Minneapolis, but they produce a lot of good music.

The video shares the sullen beauty that is exemplified in the song. School children bundle up to go outside and play in the flurries of ash of nuclear winter. Wearing WW2 style gas masks, they throw ashballs and make ashmen. The video ends a young boys mask falls off and he slip away.

The ending is very peculiar for a music video. The song ends nearly a minute before the end of the video, and the rest is done in silence, as if giving priority to the video and not the song. However, I don't believe this is the case. They are giving priority to the experience. The music and the visuals are interwoven to create a new work that conveys a new message and elicits a different emotional response. The absence of sound in the last minute is no longer silence, but a part of the song and completes the final product, the music video. Share/Bookmark

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeasayer - Ambling Alp

Sci-fi Music Videos Week, Day 1, Yeasayer - Ambling Alp

Yeasayer is an experimental Brooklyn band with obvious world music influences. They have just released their new record Odd Blood. It is about time. It has been nearly three years.

This video is an homage to Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 film, Holy Mountain. If you have never heard of it, check out the trailer here.

Holy Mountain is amazing and all sorts of messed up. Supposedly, the cast meditated together for 3 months before the shooting and were on psychedelic drugs for at least one scene. John Lennon and Yoko through in some money for production which doesn't surprise me because the movie is like a visual interpretation of one of her songs.

You could argue that this video isn't exactly sci-fi, but avant-garde or surrealist. To you I say, shut up and watch the video. Share/Bookmark

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nine Inch Nails - Closer

Nine Inch Nails: Closer (Uncensored) (1994) from Nine Inch Nails on Vimeo.

After watching the new Trent Reznor project How to Destroy Angels, I had to post this video.

Closer is Nine Inch Nails most well-known song and probably the most well-known video. Even though both the song and the video were censored, it was on heavy rotation on MTV in the mid-90s.

How Nine Inch Nails made it to the mainstream is still a mystery to me. The 90s was not a good time for electronic music. The glitz and glam and the plastic, colorful shallowness of the 80s was being rejected. The rough singer-songerwriter and the garage band were kings of the 90s as grunge exploded. Perhaps thats how Nine Inch Nails made it into hearts of angry teens of the 90s.

Whether you like their aesthetic or not, Nine Inch Nails kept synths alive in the 90s. The only other electronic music going on was the techno/house/electronica raver scene, but that music never really made it to the mainstream. While that era of electronic was important, most of it was repetitive and formulaic, with some notable exceptions (Aphex Twin is one).

This video is reinterpretation of the stop-motion short film, Street of Crocodiles, inspired by the art work of Joel-Peter Witkin. Check them out and you can see what I am talking about. Share/Bookmark

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to Destroy Angels - The Space in Between

This video caught my eye earlier today. Its a little gothy and unsettling but its a pretty great video with convincing special effects that don't in the way.

The song starts off slow and then the vocals come in. I thought, "there is something vaguely familiar about this music," but I couldn't place it. As the video goes on, there are morbid scenes of two people bludgeoned to death and one of them singing. After a couple minutes, I recognize what the song reminds me of, Nine Inch Nails.

Part of me thought, "hey its another goth/industrial through back band trying to be Nine Inch Nails, but at least there isn't a white guy poorly rapping in the background." (ala Evanescence)

The other part of me though, "wow, they guys do Nine Inch Nails really well." The songs sounds like it could have come from the golden era of Nine Inch Nails, off of Downward Spiral or even The Fragile. Those were two albums that got me through years of teenager anger and depression. I wore out and re-purchased the Downward Spiral CD three different times.

So, I finish the video and check out the bands website. Yeah, well in case you haven't guessed already...its Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails and his wife is singing.

After a few listens I just had to dig out Downward Spiral and listen to it again. Last year I bought the vinyl version of the Downward Spiral for more money than I wanted to admit spending. I listened it once and thought, "why did I spend so much money on a record I probably will listen to once and put away." [you get to hear a lot my thoughts in the post today]

This was a turning point for me in the realm of buying vinyl. In my late twenties, I don't find myself listening to Nine Inch Nails as much as my late teens, but Downward Spiral is still a vital album to my musical identity. Downward Spiral was on my list of albums that are important to me and I felt obligated to buy it. It was at that point I realized that I was truly turning into a vinyl collector, and I was ok with that.

Well I am glad to know my fears about never listening to the album again were unfounded. A year later I have found a time in my life that I just need to listen to Downward Spiral and it was just sitting there waiting for me. Share/Bookmark

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quadron - Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton is a like a video interpretation of an Adbusters magazine. Or maybe a four minute G-Rated ad for American Apparel. I am not exactly sure what is going on here, why this woman is going through hoops named after life stages or why someone is dressed up as the Nobel Prize in Literature. There may be some po-mo symbolic reason for everything, but I don't get it.

What I do get is that this video is that this video is beautiful. I love the vivid colors on the drab scenery and the amazing costumes made out of paper. The art direction in this video is stellar.

Quadron's a Denmark duo that just released their first album this year. I have read a couple reviews that compare the music to early 60s R&B, but I don't hear it in this song. You can hear it in the instrumentals in some of their others songs (check their myspace). I think the music has a distinctive late 80s/early 90s R&B sound, especially the bass beat underlying ever song and the singers vocal style. I know I am splitting hairs, but there is a big difference. What do you think? Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lazer Crystal - Love Rhombus

Lazer Crystal - Love Rhombus from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Lazer Crystal is a trio from Chicago doing this new fangled electro/synth/pop stuff fueled by the resurrection of 80s electronic music. But they are more than just band playing old Roland Juno's on tape machines. The music sounds like a moog having sex with drum machine in the alley behind a video game arcade. The video looks like an Apple ][ getting high with a VCR in Andy Worhol's basement.

Lazer Crystal is more 80s than the 80s. This video is an excellent example their hyperreal 80s-ness. I am pretty sure the glorification of the 80s is intentional. This song is from their album MCMLXXX, the roman numerals for 1980. MCMLXXX is their first album, but a handful of the songs are from the EPs that came before. I love the song Hot Pink BMX and I play it everytime I DJ. Love Rhombus is a slower, gothier song. Check out their dancier stuff too. Share/Bookmark

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Finals are almost over....

I will be back full time on Saturday. Share/Bookmark

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jeff Mangum performs Neutral Milk Hotel songs after a decade of silence

I keep this post brief.

Last night, Jeff Mangum performed at a benefit show in New York at the Le Poisson Rouge for Chris Knox of the Tall Dwarves. He sang five Neutral Milk Hotel songs and he sounds just as amazing as he did 10 years ago.

Neutral Milk Hotel is my favorite music. I found Neutral Milk Hotel a year after they stopped playing and I have waited a decade to see Jeff Mangum perform. Last year, he traveled around with member of Neutral Milk Hotel and people from the Elephant 6 Collective. I saw them in Chicago, but Jeff Mangum was only playing one song, Engine. It nearly killed me. I am sure five songs would have ended my life.

I am just going to post every video that gets uploaded in the next couple days. If you know of a video that is not posted up here, please email me or add it to the comments. I will also list articles at the bottom.

Set list:
1. Oh Comely
2. Baby For Pree/Where You'll Find Me Now
3. Two-Headed Boy (pt 2)
4. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
5. Engine

[click below for the videos and links]


Small Black - Despicable Dogs

Dispicable Dogs on Vimeo

Small Black (check out their blog) is a two-piece from Long Island who has been touring with Washed Out with a self-released EP that has been getting some hype.  They have the lo-fi summery synth sound that is all the rage right now (see this Jacuzzi Boys video).  There is something really peaceful about this song.

This video is a beautiful slice of the life of an aging surfer.  The guy with the handlebar mustache is the lead singer's uncle Matt.      Its reminds me a lot of Darren Aronofsky's stunning film The Wrestler from 2008.  Its about a washed up professional wrestler who can't give up the professional that is killing him.  Its the best film from 2008.

If you haven't seen the wrestler, you may have seen the 2009 movie that basically stole the script from the wrestler, inserted a country music singer, and gave the story a sappy, happy ending.  That movie was called Crazy Heart.  Well, this video is like a real-life version of the Wrestler or Crazy Heart, but doesn't rip-off either films. Its beautiful in its own way. Share/Bookmark

Friday, May 7, 2010

Teddybears - Cobrastyle

YouTube version that the stupid record company won't let you embed

Believe it or not, but this group started as a black metal band called Skull. They were part of the Swedish metal scene and they reinvented themselves in early 2000. In order to set themselves apart from their roots and the rest of the Swedish grindcore bands, they chose the name Teddybears.

Cobrastyle has been around since 2004 and you have probably heard it somewhere. Its been in television shows, movies, advertisements, videogames, corporate shopping background music, and sports games in between clips of 2 Unlimited's Get Ready for This and Techtronic's Pump Up the Jam. It is one of the most recognized songs that you don't know who sings and you don't know the title.

Other than being inserted as the background of every form of mass entertainment, there is another reason that you recognize this song. Cobrastyle is the result of mixing several songs from 80s artists like Sugar Hill Gang and Fine Young Cannibals. Kid Rock refenences some of the same songs in his song Bawitaba.  So even if its possible that you haven't heard this song, you have heard the songs that make up this song.

The video is a great commentary and on the excesses of rock and roll of the 80s. Its a documentary style Spinal Tap-esque video with giant teddy bear heads. Its funny with great references to famous rock and roll scandals. I also love that they are playing an Atari game that is 8-bit. (Atari is only 4-bit for those of you not nerdy enough to know.)

I now this post is sounding negative, but I am not anti-Cobrastyle. There is a reason that this song is so ubiquitous, its catchy and fun. Its a mix of styles and time periods. While there is a lot of 80s elements in this song and video, it doesn't sound or look like the 80s at all. Its unique in a familiar way. Share/Bookmark

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Finals Week(s)

Its finals weeks.  I will be back everyday on May 15. Share/Bookmark

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge

YouTube version:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a divisive band in rock. Like U2, they have a huge following with millions of fans and with An international following, they can pack a stadium in almost any country. However, as their careers have progressed, their music has become less and less interesting. Well, because they are so well-known, it is hard not to have an opinion about them, so they end up becoming a love/hate band.

No matter your opinion the the Chili Peppers, it is hard to deny that this earlier song is still good. And it hard not to like this video.

Gus van Sant, the director of Drugstore Cowboys and Good Will Hunting, also directed this video. It won Viewers Choice Best Video and Breakthrough Video at the MTV Music awards and deservedly so. There are so many great images in this video. Notably, the guitarist solemnly playing against a fake desert backdrop, Anthony Keidis walking around LA and interacting with peeple, and the final scene of Keidis running heedlessly toward the camera in slow motion while an atomic explosion expands in the background. This was a very influential video and traces of its impact can be seen all throughout the 90s. Share/Bookmark