Archive for the “Pop Culture In Review” Category

I get this feeling often when I finish a book. Inspiration and ambition is high. Documentaries affect me in a very positive way. The same is true as I just finished watching the Documentary about George Harrison named Living in the Material World. Its an outstanding film following the life of who I consider to be in my top 4 favorite Beatles.

Although the driving force of the Beatles was Paul McCartney and John Lennon, George Harrison wrote some of my favorite Beatles songs. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Something, and Here Comes the Sun were all Harrison tunes.

His impact on the world and those around him stretched far beyond his time in the Beatles, though. Watch the film and see for yourself.

If you are looking for another good documentary, you can’t go wrong with the following list. Each one is spectacular.

Fistful of Quarters – The King of Kong
Exit Through the Gift Shop
George Harrison – Living in the Material World
Riding Giants
Bob Dylan – No Direction Home

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I had a little side bet with Woody last fantasy football season on who would win our second head to head game. If I won, he would send me a couple CDs and some Tastykake treats, and if he won I would send him something authentic to the west coast and some CDs (I was thinking Mexican candy would be appropriate). Well, I won, and was on my way to riches.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t wait too long to eat them. All but one of them were fine, or at least they looked fine. I’m thinking that something must have happened with the change in pressure when they are flown across the country to compromise the structural integrity of the packaging. Or maybe this was just a bad batch of kakes. Whatever the case, I was truly disappointed in Tastykake. Can you tell why?

It doesn’t look quite like the picture on the package, does it? I always looked forward to picking up a few of my tasty favorites whenever I visited my home in Philadelphia, and I have spread such high regards of these kakes that they have become something of a legend in my personal circles, but now I might have to take a step back and re-evaluate my relationship with Tastykakes.

I really like this picture for 3 reasons that have nothing to do with the disgusting Tastykake in the foreground. On the coffee table I have a bottle of Miller High Life, there’s a little Casio synthesizer, and our dog Abby is photo-bombing in the top right corner. That bitch always gets me.

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Jen and I rode our bikes to see Devo last Friday night at the Del Mar Race track. It was like the kick-off for the bachelor party weekend where we could still hang with our lady friends before the trek out to the desert.

The Del Mar Racetrack is a pretty cool place that is very well known in Southern California. It is especially popular in the summer months when they have events like the horse races (opening day is a huge one), the fair, beer festivals, and the many concerts that usually follow the aforementioned events. I have now seen Cake, The Flaming Lips, The Beach Boys, and Devo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It usually costs $6 to get in the gates, which means that you can see brand name bands at generic prices! I saw Cake for $6. I saw The Flaming Lips for $6. Just make sure you get through the gates before the last race takes place because if you come after that last race, the price inflates to 300+% of the original price. Jen and I got there late last weekend and shelled out the full $20 each to see the show.

My guess is that when I mention Devo, you are all thinking about Whip It and funny hats. Although this is what gave them their place in the lime light, they are far more than that. They have a new(ish) album out called Something For Everybody and it is fantastic! Their music, being of the nerd electronic variety, is pretty popular now and I would guess that if they weren’t middle aged and MTV actually played music videos, they would be big golden god rock stars. Check ’em out!

They are such nerds! I love ’em! If you like the song, get their album. It’s a rockin’ good time!

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I promise that I will post once a year, at least. It is 2011, I think.

I am not dead, nor in jail or a mental facility. I have not been hospitalized, nor acquired any major disease. I do not have writers block or lost my fingers in a horrible typing accident. I am still living in an apartment with Jen in Cardiff by the Sea, 92007, and not in a van down by the river.

Where have I been? Well, you’re a very inquisitive crowd, internetters. The following is not at all an explanation:

I remember hearing the songs Billy Liar and Los Angeles, I’m Yours back in 2005 on WPRB in Philly. I immediately went to Princeton Record Exchange and bought Picaresque and the Billy Liar single. Although I thought they were amazing, my enthusiasm was not shared by the masses as they reached a peak of 135 on the US charts. Since then, they have been on a steady incline releasing epic albums like The Crane Wife and Hazzards of Love. Their new album has started at the no. 1 position.

Jen & I went to see The Decemberists on Sunday night at The House of Blues in San Diego. Mountain Man opened up for them. They both were great.

Mountain Man is a 3 woman a cappella group that is a bit mellow, although perfect for an opening act. And seeing The Decemberists renewed my appreciation for every album they’ve released in the past decade plus. The reason for their tour, the release of their newest album The King is Dead, is probably my least favorite album. A few songs have a hint of country swagger and twang, and that’s enough for me to steer clear. Perhaps the twang is only in my head, but whenever I hear it I can’t help but picturing the belt-buckle-holding, 10-gallon-hat-wearing, mustache-ride-ready, line-dancing genre that would be a tragedy to lose to a band like The Decemberists. Their next album will be interesting to see where they find themselves.

They started with the song The Infanta from Picaresque and never looked back. They played at least 4 or 5 from that that album, and moved all over the place, only touching on The King is Dead. Colin Meloy was amazing, and came out for 2 encore performances. Just great all-around show. For this, they get a highly prestigious award, my thumbs up of recognition.

Although, as many artists and enthusiasts know, with a no. 1 upon release album, comes the loud and obnoxious fans that try to yell over the music at a performance. These people only go because… umm… I don’t know why they go. But you know who you are. That’s all I’ll say about that. The feeling is bittersweet. You want to see success for the talent that you’ve enjoyed and watched grow, but you’ll now be surrounded by people who unintentionally molest the greatness into a tainted shell of what it once was.

Anyway, thanks for a fantastic show. See ya around.

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On Sunday evening I traveled north to my old stomping grounds for a concert with Jen, Drew and Heather. Rogue Wave was playing, and after discovering their song “California” a while back, it seemed like it would be a show I’d like. Besides, it’s not a bad place to catch a show, whaddaya think?

There were 2 stages with somewhere around 6 bands. I caught 4. Here’s the line-up, and an overall review:

The Whigs – This band was pretty good as far as straight up rock goes. They had elements of punk and grunge which made sense why they drew an enthusiastic crowd. These are the reasons, however, as to why I found them fairly ordinary. I only caught the last couple songs of their set, though, so in fairness I give them a 3 and a half of 5.Rating: ★★★½☆

Rogue Wave – The reason I went to this concert (or at least initially) was to see these guys. I was truly disappointed with them as a live act. Their stage presence is non-existent. I really enjoy their recorded stuff, so maybe they are better off sitting in a studio without the pressure of entertaining a live crowd. The sound was treble heavy, and there was no real distinction in the catchy riffs that make their recorded stuff special. It sounded like all five members of the band were struggling to be the center of attention.
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

The Silent Comedy – Wow, these guys are intense. Brothers Joshua and Jeremiah Zimmerman are the foundation of the group. Jeremiah explains their sound way better than I ever could:

“It’s electric blues rock played with folk instruments,” says Jeremiah. “Like a tent revival and a hoedown but happening at a whiskey bar.” Think O Brother, Where Art Thou? set to an experimental-rock soundtrack.

Their sound is one of a kind, and will make you want to stomp your foot. If you are into handlebar mustaches, dusty trail hats, and waistcoats, you will love these guys.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Have you heard their song “Home” yet? You should check it out. The band is great, and the lead is a great live performer. This is freak folk at it’s peak, sounding a lot like Devandra Bernhart with a better beat. Make your own opinion though. Here’s the video:
Rating: ★★★★½

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Jen introduced me to these guys a couple of weeks ago and holy shit, they have some awesome covers. Pomplamoose is the name, and I highly recommend going to youtube to check them out. They do a great version of Micheal Jackson’s Beat It and Beyonce’s Single Ladies, along with another number of great tunes.

So I had no idea of who Lady Gaga is, but really enjoyed the Pomplamoose version of the song, so I figured that I’d do a little research about the Ga to the Ga. After looking into the phenom for about 20 minutes I came to the conclusion that I have never seen a larger load of dump in my entire life. If you find yourself looking into what people are listening to today and come across Lady Gaga, run, don’t walk, to the bathroom, drop your trousers, and take a shit. Pick it up. Squeeze it between your fingers. Maybe paint the mirror with it. That’s what listening to Lady Gaga is like. You will be disgusted with yourself, the generation of people that endorse this kind of music, and with what passes as art in 2010.

So here is Pomplamoose covering Lady Gaga’s Telephone. With Jack Conte’s absurdity on the drum kit, and Nataly Dawn’s mellow jazz reaching dangerous levels of extremely adorable, this is a duo that has potential to put out some fantastic music.

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If you have been following Beck’s Record Club project, you know that his 4th installment has been shared in it’s entirety. Much like the clean-up hitter in baseball, the coveted 4th slot has knocked one out of the park. This time the artists are covering INXS’s Kick, and it is obvious that the audio and video recording has reached new levels of fantastic with the experience gained.

Record Club: INXS “Guns In The Sky” from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

I’ve just recently been really into St. Vincent, She/They have been getting plenty of rotations on the turntable lately, so it was especially cool to see Annie Clark pop up in Beck’s Record Club. If you haven’t heard her stuff before, definitely go check it out. She’s an incredibly talented musician, bound to do great things.

So either I could tell you about each song, and lose you in the thicket of boredom, or I could just share this stuff with you. So take a hit and take it in. It’s some really good stuff.

01 – Guns In The Sky

02 – New Sensation

03 – Devil Inside

04 – Need You Tonight

05 – Mediate

06 – Loved One

07 – Wild Life

08 – Never Tear Us Apart

09 – Mystify

10 – Kick

11 – Calling All Nations

12 – Tiny Daggers

If you want it all, do me the favor of downloading the entire album in one handy .zip file to save my server and your time!

ZIP – Beck’s Record Club – INXS Kick
(right click, save as)

And if you’re still wondering how good it is, here’s what you think:
Rating: ★★★★★

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It’s been too long since I’ve reached out to my tens of Destroyed By Madness friends out there. OK, so tens might be stretching it a little. Most readers happen across my blog by typing in some seriously strange keywords in Google. The most common is a variation of the words princess, disney, and whore. That’s right, whore. The variations sound a lot like, well, I’ll just take today for example. We have slutty disney princesses, whores disney princess, and of course real disney princess slutty. Another major term that is used to find my blog is the word mohawk. There is no doubt that in either case, I have a more than slightly disappointed reader at the other end of the terminal. One that is either sitting in a dark room wearing nothing but his underwear and a mickey mouse hat, or one with a wallet chain, both left unsatisfied and disappointed with Destroyed By Madness.

But that’s not what this post is about. It is about CocoRosie, and the amazing show I saw the other night at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. They played a variety of songs from all their albums, focusing mainly on their newest release, Grey Oceans. You can find my initial review here of that album. I gave it 3.5 stars. I’m fully willing to change that to 4 or 4 and a half after seeing them do it live. The combination of one sister, Sierra, a classically trained opera singer, keyboardist, and harpist, with Bianca Cassidy, the freak folkist, manipulating many different kinds of electronic, usually toy, instruments (see Circuit Bending), and they work perfectly together. Although not engaging with the crowd through words, you really could feel the passion in their music. It was a perfect showcase of everything that I love about smaller crowds with an ideally eclectic band.

The cherry on top had to be the near show-stopper, human beat-box named Tez. He is a guy that does things I never thought possible using only his voice. The bass, you can feel in your bones, and his beats are perfectly shaped rhythms that move your body. If you are at work, beware of the f-bomb drop. Check out a little something I found on YouTube…

So the point of my rambling is that that if you are ever presented with the opportunity to go see CocoRosie, don’t be a slouch. You can be confident that you are in for a wild ride.

CocoRosie presented another wonderful thing to me as well. I know you are saying “WHAT!? The show sounded like some kind of overwhelming awesome that another wonderful thing is just TOO MUCH!” I do understand what you are saying, but nevertheless, it’s true. Near the end of the show, the one and only Jen came up to me to say “hi.” I was awkward, and weird when she did as I was caught completely off-guard. But what that “hi” has evolved into has been coffee, dinner, swing dancing, and a lot of long overdue great conversation. So if you are reading this, Jen, thanks for the “hi.” Seriously.

Earlier that afternoon, I had a feeling that I would see Jen. I usually don’t get premonitions, and when I do, if I do, I usually don’t notice them. But this one hit me like a ton of bricks. I know, you’re saying that it’s a no-brainer, going to see a mutually enjoyed band later that night, you might run into her. But I say nay to that. NAY! I did not know the CocoRosie concert was that night until about 8:30 pm when I decided to go on an impulse. In fact, I was supposed to go to a Devo concert with my roommate which I reluctantly turned down.

All in all, it was a fantastic night filled with great live music, human beat-boxing, and coffee with an old very special soul.

Maybe I should start listening to those premonitions more often….

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CocoRosie released their fourth studio album this month, Grey Oceans. Here’s the background: CocoRosie consists of two sisters, Bianca “Coco” and Sierra “Rosie” Casady, and are known in the oddball-hipster music circles as a freak-folk duo. I’ve reviewed CocoRosie’s first album La Maison de Mon Reve when blogging with the fine people of iGenius. iGenius no longer exists and, for those who do not know, was the blog before Satan spawned Destroyed By Madness. Here’s what I had to say about CocoRosie’s first album:

Let’s see how far my small audience is willing to stretch into the folk, blues, indie, weird experimental music world. Let me first start off by telling you that I enjoy this album, a lot. It’s interesting, it’s catchy, it’s weird. There’s no getting around it. I’m not sure if I like it because of its eclectic weirdness, or some other reason. If you just want a taste of CocoRosie, then the song I would highly recommend as an appetizer is “By Your Side” from the album La Maison de Mon Reve. If you can hold that one down, then dive into “Terrible Angels,” the first track on the album. Its a completely different sound than the first, but equally good.

Some of the tracks just don’t work, though. The ideas are all noble, but in most cases, poorly executed. I can’t really say where this album falls on the radar in terms of history of the band, as this is the first album that I have been exposed to. But an album with this kind of unrefined indie something, in my opinion, can only lead to an even better album a few years later. I’d be interested to see if that has happened yet.

Since then, I have become a larger fan of the oddball style of CocoRosie. Some will give the freak folk creation credit to Devendra Banhart, but he ain’t got nothin’ on these two sisters. The reason that I included the last review in this one is partly due to laziness, but also due to nearly everything written last time holds true for this new album. I bought the vinyl last weekend and haven’t taken it off my turntable since then. It’s a great album from start to finish that has shining moments of catchy indie folk songs interspersed with experimental tracks that instead of being just plain weird, are the eddys in the river that keep you circling in anticipation for what will flow past next.

Between a classically trained opera singer, beaten down indie folk, electronic, and the wounded sound of a children’s toy piano, this is a fun place to turn to. So, if you are looking for something spectacularly different than anything else out there, pick up the new CocoRosie album.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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I haven’t covered an album in a while. It makes sense that I should write something about an album that came out mid 2009.

hombreloboThe Eels have done it again, but I like this album more than others in their catalog. Not necessarily because it’s ground-breaking in any way. It actually follows their very Eels formula with degressive riffs, and scratchy vocals. But, it is a little less mainstream and a little more lo-fi raw, like a continuation of Souljacker but with lyrics, however simple, of substance. The album is called Hombre Lobo – 12 Songs of Desire, and I enjoyed the album enough to buy it twice, first on vinyl then digitally.

I’ve listed what the word Desire means to me in previous posts. This album is a bounce to and from heartbreak for Hombre Lobo (or E), admiration of the woman who left, self-doubt, longing and the struggles that go on in his lonely head. All he wants to do is forget his senses and stand for something, but in the end, make no real decision at all. And he does it with the simplest words and easiest rhymes. Take it in for what it is. Simple, easy, and true.

The Eels have been putting out music for a decade or more now, but if you haven’t gotten into them by now (or him), you won’t go out and get this album. But never fear, chances are if you are reading this, you will get the album in the mail within the next couple of days.

There is an EP containing a few of these songs, that also has his cover version of Bob Dylan’s classic Girl From North Country. I had to get it. Its a great song, and a great cover of one of my all time favorite songs. And it’s what made me decide to pick up Hombre Lobo instead of End Times, his most recent album released in early 2010. I might review that one next, while comparisons are fresh.

Because I enjoy the Eels, I am going to give the album a (unusually only if you don’t) high rating.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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