I was as guilty of underrating Big Boi's contributions to Outkast as everyone else. Sure he dropped great verses, but their big singles often felt like Andre joints. This album may not end the debate, but it's a hell of a retort.
Recently he's been popping up on blogs, dropping ridiculously good tracks that sporadically promised to be on his long delayed solo album. 'Shine Blockas', with an always fun guest spot from Gucci Mane ("I make music/I make movies/I got Tyler Perry's cell") was the first one to catch my attention, but soon enough 'Shutterbugg''s goofy but awesome talkboxes and his verse on Janelle Monae's 'Tightrope' were enough to move it up to the top of the most anticipated albums of the summer.
The full thing, currently streaming from his MySpace or Some Kind of Awesome does not disappoint. It's consistently entertaining, creative, and fun while still being accessible. He wrings the most out of the guest spots, even the potential disasterpiece of the 'Follow Us' rock chorus gets used decently. But he never gets overshadowed, this is Big Boi's record and every track serves as a reminder of the insanity that he had trouble getting it published.
Think about that while you listen to it: he had to leave his label because they didn't have any interest in this. And people wonder why the recording industry's dead.
When Howard Stern flew the terrestrial radio coop for satellite, it left a gaping, 4-hour hole in the morning programming of hundreds of radio stations around the country. In LA, the hole was filled by Adam Carolla, the former host of flash-in-the-pan MTV hit (and radio show) Loveline*. Ultimately, Stern's shoes proved too big to fill, and his show was canceled after three years. Now, after a year of tinkering with the podcast format, Carolla has reconstituted the cast and crew of his LA show in an internet-only forum.
The Adam Carolla Show is produced each evening, and is available the next morning for download. It is a direct pirate assault on the morning drive-time talk show, complete with news segments, guests, and yes, advertisers. But like the morning radio show, it is also completely free.
Regardless of the quality of the product, the concept itself is audacious, and, as far as I know, one-of-a-kind. There is no podcast-only product like it; a well-produced, well-staffed, long-format, radio quality production with no radio outlet. Yes, This American Life produces a long format radio show that it sends out as a podcast, but it has the backing of a radio station and is also broadcast over the radio. Yes, Planet Money produces a high-quality, enjoyable radio show, but they produce less content in a week than Carolla does in a day.
And like Stern before him, Carolla has used the opportunity to unshackle himself from the FCC to great effect. Only unlike Stern, he doesn't have a $100 million dollar safety net under him. For all the great content we can get from the internet these days, people still struggle with ways to make it work as a viable revenue stream. Carolla has thrown himself out there, and I think it will be fascinating to see if he can succeed.
*As always, his participation in "The Man Show" is to be forgiven and ignored.
I had but one disappointment last night, as the Yankees won the 2009 World Series in front of their home fans in their new ballpark. And that disappointment was with the person who decided that the song to play as the Yankees dogpiled on each other at the mound was "We Are The Champions" by Queen.
"W.A.T.C." belongs to the era of embarrassingly literal music lyrics that was the 80s. The aughts are almost over, person making music decisions at Yankee Stadium! If you aren't going to get with them now, you never will. This is the song that should have scored the moment.
When I was in high school, when people asked me what kind of music I liked, I'd smugly respond, "Everything... except rap and country". This is because I was a huge prick who thought they knew everything, much like all highschoolers. Now, of course, I realize that response was code for 'music they play on rock/classic rock/alternative stations'. I soon understood the idiocy of discounting entire genres, but very little country music ever really connected with me. Probably a kneejerk reaction to the formative experience of seeing Garth Brooks, at the height of his Achy-Breaky Heart fame, at the Houston Rodeo. That kind of shit can scar you for life.
Off and on I've been using Pandora to find new music in the folk/indie/alt-country vein, and by far the standout has been Jersey based outfit The Roadside Graves. Aside from their great name and oddly striking album art, they've got the potential for greatness. Songs like "West Coast", "Family and Friends", and "Song for a Dry State" are phenomenal, but thus far, the rest of their material hasn't been able to live up to their promise: I'd find it hard to disagree with Pitchfork's score of 7.5 for their last album. But they have a new album, "My Son's Home" coming out soon and I have high hopes.
The real talent their lyrics have is the combination of more traditional mythologizing of America while at the same time being relatable. And they do it without whitewashing the history of the South, a rare feat for even alt-country. For example, the opening of "Song for a Dry State": Gonna pass by the roadside graves / Ignore the crosses and the flames. Their topics are hardly new, but their singer's melancholy is a real gift, and his voice makes almost anything seem tragic.
Unfortunately they seem to mostly play New York and Jersey, which is a shame since I think they could get a real fanbase in Austin. But we've got a pretty strong Jersey contingent of readers here, so check them out if you get a chance!
My relationship with Adam Carolla as an entertainer has entered a third stage. When I first saw him on Loveline, I thought, "Hey, this guy is kind of funny, in an obnoxious sort of way." Then came the abomination of The Man Show, where I thought, "Hey, this show is retarded and offensive in a not-funny sort of way!" And that was that. The Man Show was cancelled, and Adam Carolla took a radio hosting gig in LA.
But then came his legendary appearance on one of the very first Bill Simmons podcasts, with his movie pitch for Pedif-Isle. (Part one is here, part two is here.) Adam Carolla was back on my radar. So when his radio show was cancelled and he started his own podcast last week, he became part of my bike commuting routine. Sorry, Teri Gross of Fresh Air: I no longer have time for your pedestrian antics.
His guest list has been spectacular. Simmons, Joel McHale of the Soup, Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane, and Jimmy Kimmel have all delivered the goods. This is what The Man Show might have been like if they were allowed to swear and, you know, actually be funny.
My favorite moment so far has been Adam's take on Seth Macfarlane's brush with death. Seth was booked on the flight that went into one of the towers on 9/11. Only, he overslept. He talks about racing out the door, and his driver breaking all kinds of traffic laws trying to get him to the airport on time. To which Adam responds (not actual quote, but the general idea): "But now you have the perfect excuse to be late everywhere you go. If you ever show up late to anything and somebody gives you grief, you can just say, 'Let me tell you about another time I was late.'"
Podcasting is the killer app that will, once and for all, finish off the premature, half-retarded child that is satellite radio. I already listen to my iPod way more than I listen to free radio. Why would I ever pay a subscription when there is already an abundance of high quality free product delivered over the internet? Plus, its only a matter of a few years before cars have internet built-in, making the iPod download an unnecessary step. (In fact, when that happens, terrestrial radio better watch its back, too). Carolla might not be as funny as Howard Stern, for example, but he sure is cheaper.
I fucking love Christmas music. Next to the egg nog, the food, and the presents, it's the best thing about Christmas. Seriously. Christmas music is awesome. And I'm not talking about all the Jesus crap. The good, fun, Christmas music. I refuse to let the Christians take the fun out of my Christmas. I embrace the commercialism, the consumerism, and the drunken revelry for the holiday. Plus it's cool to give presents to people I care about. Even if they tell me not to.
This is one of the reasons that I was absolutely giddy when I saw that Weezer had cut a Christmas EP this year. Seriously, Weezer. Christmas music. How could that not be awesome?
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here
That's right. Drunken carolers going around to rich people's houses, serenading the with song. What did they want in return? Some goddamned figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer (aka my Mother's egg nog).
In the words of Ira Glass: "[Christmas] was celebrated the way we celebrate New Year's Eve now. [...] Roving bands of toughs went from door to door, demanding drinks and making threats. There was riotous noise making, massive public drunkenness. You can understand why these rich guys just hated it."
Thank you Rivers Cuomo, for singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with the enthusiasm that makes me believe that Weezer is actually a roving band of toughs.
And it doesn't stop with wonderfully rambunctious secular Christmas music. Tracks 2 through 6 of the EP are: O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, The First Noel, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and Silent Night.
Those are some goddamned religious Christmas songs. To be sung with reverence and solemnity.
Nobody let Weezer know this. They turn these downers into upbeat poppy/angry feel-good and drink some 100 proof egg nog fun songs. (Alright, Silent Night is still kind of downbeat, but I can't stop rawking out to Hark! and The First Noel.)
Christmas With Weezer is a digital-only album. It can be purchased from Amazon or iTunes for less than five dollars. It's awesome, and you should go buy it. You should go buy it right now. Because I want a "Part 2" next Christmas.
It is tempting to say that Kanye West has officially jumped the shark with "808s and Heartbreak", but that isn't right. I firmly believe that Kanye can go back to creating fun, catchy, and interesting music. No, he didn't jump the shark: this is Kanye's "I'm Keith Hernandez" record.
It makes sense, right? The Ye gets widely ridiculed for his ego, but if
you actually listen to him rap you know that the ego is a thin sheet of
ice covering the sea of his insecurity. For just one example from his music: on his last record,
"Graduation", the entire last track is Ye whining that Jay-Z, who gave
him his break as a producer on 2001's "The Blueprint", doesn't give him
the respect he deserves. And he is notorious for flipping out on his blog, most famously at an Entertainment Weekly
reporter for giving his "Glow In the Dark Tour" a B+. His response?
Yo, anybody that's not a fan; don't come to my show. For
what?! To try and throw ya'll two cents in? Ya'll rated my album shitty
and now ya'll come to the show and give it a B+. What's a B+ mean? I'm
an extremist. It's either pass or fail! A+ or F-! You know what, fuck
you and the whole fucking staff!!!
Now, I don't know this to be fact, but I'm betting I'm not too far off base in saying that the West does not take criticism well. Obviously this is part of the territory: you don't make it through the inevitable years of rejection all the way to the top of the music business if you don't believe in yourself. But Kanye is an extremist: it's either an A+ or an F-. He has given himself an A+.
So maybe there were people in Kanye's life that were telling him, "Hey, Kanye, are you sure you want to do all the beats with just an 808 drum machine? Part of the appeal of your last three albums has been the great production values on the music tracks," or, "Kanye, your raps are hot but you are not a singer, are you sure you don't want to just rap and bring it a guest vocalist to do the melody?" But Kanye just said: "Fuck you, I'm doing this whole album with the drum machine and an auto-tuner. You get an F-."
Let's hope he got that out of his system, because "808s and Heartbreak" is terrible. I didn't believe it until I listened to it, but it is true: he uses the auto-tuner on every track. Every single one. And it is already annoying halfway through the first track.
But it isn't just the auto-tuner. Kanye and his auto-tuner show up on the third track off of John Legend's "Evolver", called "It's Over", and that track is sizzling (ps: Listen to "Evolver" by John Legend). On "808s", it is the whole package that fails: the auto-tuner is horrible, the beats are limp, and the lyrics are rote. I can't believe the same guy who brought us "The way school need teachers/The way Kathy Lee needed Regis/That's the way I need Jesus" is now bringing "How could you be so/cold as the winter wind when it breeze, yo".
Okay, Kanye. We get it. You can do whatever you want. You are Keith Hernandez. But this time, you get an F-.
I love Christmas. There, I said it. I love it. I love putting up lights, and the presents, and singing the same goddamn songs every year. And I love that I get to enjoy it without all the going to church and believing in Jesus. Christmas for me is like eating frozen yogurt instead of ice cream: all the fun and the flavor, none of the guilt!
But I do have sympathy for those of you that get a little tired of the same routine year in and year out, especially now that the routine starts around Labor Day. I get it - I don't want to talk about Christmas before Thanksgiving anymore than you do, but here we are. In fact, bitching about how early the Christmas season starts is one of my most treasured Christmas traditions. Here are my top five:
1. South Park's Christmas episodes. Specifically, the Mr. Hanky hosted Christmas specials with all the incredible music numbers. Cartman singing Silent Night. Hitler in hell, sobbing and singing O Tatenbaum in German. Mr. Mackey singing the Carol of the Bells. It is not Christmas until I hear "Hark hear the bells/Sweet silver bells/All seem to say/Ding dong mkay".
2. Watching people try to make it through the How the Grinch Stole Christmas drinking game. It has one rule: take a drink whenever the word "who" is used in any form (all the Who's *drink* down in Whoville *drink*). It's the alcoholic Christmas version of the gallon challenge.
3. Bitching about how early the Christmas season starts.
4. Putting up Christmas lights in my window, and then leaving them there until the tape wears out and they fall down or Suzi threatens me with a knife.
(I'm just kidding. Suzi would never threaten me with a knife. Suzi is all about blunt force trauma.)
5. The songs from A Colbert Christmas - The Greatest Gift Of All
That's right, after last night, my list as officially been re-written. Sorry, Miracle on 34th Street. Your plot never really made any sense anyway. Why does the post office keep all those bags of mail? Where do they store them? And why would they pay a dozen different mail carriers to bring junk mail to a courthouse? Isn't in the holiday season? I thought the post office was inundated with work! It makes no sense! Did you have the same writers as this season of Heroes?
A Colbert Christmas features musical performance from Colbert, Toby Keith, Feist, Elvis Costello, John Stewart, John Legend, and Willie Nelson. Any guesses who my favorite was?
Toby Keith singing "Have I Got a Present For You". How fantastic was it? After it was done, Suzi said: "I couldn't tell if that was a joke or an actual Toby Keith song."
Separate church and state/That's what some lawyer said/Well I think it's time we separated/Him from his head!
But my favorite lyric of the night went to Colbert and Stewart singing about Hannuka...Channukkah...(hold on let me look it up)...Hanukkah!
JS: We have latkas... SC: What are those? JS: Potato pancakes. We have dreidels... SC: What are those? JS: Wooden tops. We have candles... SC: What are those? JS: THEY ARE CANDLES!
I want that to be my ringtone. Every time somebody calls me, I want to hear John Stewart scream THEY ARE CANDLES! over and over again. I might never answer my phone.
If you want to watch the entire special, I wholeheartedly endorse that. But really, this was about the songs. They were written by David Javerbaum, a Daily Show producer, and Adam Schlesinger, a founding member of Fountains of Wayne. That's right - some of the best Christmas music I've ever heard was written by a couple of Jews. Their mothers must be so proud.
As someone who earns his weekly paycheck from spinning prose, and who is extremely opinionated when it comes to entertainment, I find it extremely frustrating when I have difficulty expressing my thoughts as to why someone should take in some sort of media.
This, however, is where I am with This American Life. This radio show, syndicated weekly on National Public Radio -- and available as a free, yes FREE, podcast via iTunes. So, maybe you should just go to the website and listen to an episode. That's a pretty lame recommendation though.
In the words of host Ira Glass, "each week on This American Life we choose a theme, and bring you a variety of stories on that theme." These stories can be fiction or nonfiction, and they run the gamut in style and presentation -- lots of journalistic documentary, some short fiction read by soothing voices, some stand-up comedy, and some David Sedaris (who is a genre and entity unto himself).
If you become a regular listener of the show, chances are you'll choose a favorite contributor. Mine is Sarah Vowell. Mainly because I think I'd like to marry her, if the opportunity presented itself. She's quirky, dorky, funny, and into history. She wrote a book (Assassination Vacation, which I should do a Read: about at some point) where she told of her adventures in historical tourism focusing on the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations.
It's often difficult to recommend a starting point for the show. I have my favorites -- the last segment of Episode #74, Conventions, in which a man meets the love of his life at a convention center in San Francisco -- he's at a computer convention (for Steve Jobs' NeXT), she's at a psychiatric convention... and they just happen to live in the same building in New York City.
Episode #125, Apocalypse, is all about the Rapture. Yes, that rapture. The evils of bar codes, the religious right, and a group of born-again Christians who are working in conjunction with some crazy orthodox Jews to breed a red heifer.
Episode #107, Trail of Tears, in which Sarah Vowell and her twin sister Amy trek across the country, along the route of the sad march of the Cherokee people. The Vowell sisters are 1/32nd Cherokee, grew up in Oklahoma, and have no love for Ol' Hickory. None at all
And yes, I've liked more than three episodes. I've also disliked quite a few. I've never really bin a fan of the annual Thanksgiving Poultry Slam series, aside from one piece about a photographer who took a series of portraits of chickens.
So don't take my word for it, give it a listen. I'm even going to recommend a starting point. Episode #168, The Fix is In, an hour about an international price fixing conspiracy. It's entertaining, tragic, funny, and scary -- it's got the FBI *and* Japanese businessmen. Give it an hour, and then, hopefully, keep listening.
One of the problems with having friends who are very Internet savvy is that, anytime I discover something cool floating through the series of tubes, I run the risk mockery. "Wow, Jesse, you just found this? I already looked at, was sarcastic about, and dismissed this internet fad 6 months ago. Here's something else you might find interesting. It's called fire, it's the latest thing."
My friends are jerks. But I will, nonetheless, continue to stumble through this barren Internet landscape and run back to show you all anytime I find some particularly shiny rock. Today's shiny rock? This:
There are "artists" kicking around the nets that post original work in this format, but composing an original piece in Mario Paint is an exercise in futility. Who with any ability to actually write a piece of music worth listening to would use this as their medium? And who would want to listen? No, the true Mario Paint geniuses are the ones that interpret popular music in this limited format.
I call it the Karaoke Effect. Nobody wants to hear assholes in a bar sing an original composition. It would be terrible. But I'd rather watch four drunk girls stumble through Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" than actually listen to the real thing. The same is true with these songs: most of the best Mario Paint compositions are based on terrible, terrible music. Take On Me? What is Love? And yet, the same song composed with toy boats and power-ups from the Mario series is hypnotic.
Even better? Every once in awhile at the karaoke bar, a really good singer shows up and actually gives a performance that can be enjoyed on its merits.
I'll admit, it's possible that I've listened to too much Top 40 radio. Maybe after hearing the same song over and over again, the bloodied and useless corpse of my sense of taste for music is no longer there to tell me when something is shitty or if I just like it because I've heard it 25 times in the last 3 days, and I've adapted like a part some horrible Darwinian experiment. That being said, I'm pretty sure this song is awesome.
Unfortunately, I can't embed the video, but click here and listen, then come back. I'll wait.
Okay, now pretend I didn't tell you what the name of the song was, and you were hearing it on the radio for the first time. Do you know what he is saying in the chorus? I didn't. And not only that, it seems like he doesn't either.
My dugget. My duggy? My ducket. My doggy? My dougy. My ducky?
Okay, but now you know he's saying "My Dougie." What the hell does that mean? Usually, my first stop to solve any slang mystery is the venerable institution of the Urban Dictionary.
"The term "dougie" derives from the name of 80's early 90's Hip Hopper
Doug-E- Fresh. The term "dougie" means to have a cool or hip stlye.
If we are going to go out tonight I need to go home and get dougie before we go."
Hmm... I'm not sure I buy that explanation. And Wikipedia is strangely silent on the topic.
Thankfully, there is no end to the resources available on the internet. And, for the first time in its recorded history, the authority on this topic is "Yahoo! Answers":
"teboz@s got it...mayne if u aint from
Dallas(D-Town stay down mayne 214) u aint gon kno wtf we talkin
bout....chek them dances up in youtube...all yall sayin its cuz of
Dougie Fresh got dat isshh wrong...lol
D-Town Stay Down
Webb Chappel Reppa!!!!
tha chick from dallas should kno wut i mean wit all those lil tags i put up there^^^^ if not she aint down"
Aha! Um, glad we got that sorted out. Well, at least from this it is clear that the reference to Doug E. Fresh is a misguided attempt by white people to make sense of this song. Further down the rabbit whole we go... to the second entry at the Answers page:
"I'm from Dallas which is where the song originated. A "dougie" is a
style of haircut that boys have. So thats what it is reffering too. I
know a song can be made about anything. But that's why the dance kinda
resembles a guy rubbing his hair and lookin in the mirror with his
PS: I tried calling the phone number that flashes up in the video (If you want to try for yourself, it is 214-329-1854), and got Lil Wil's voicemail. He wasn't able to take my call right now, for which he apologizes, but he is busy in the studio working on his next album. Also: FRESH.
Nicole Atkins, your reign of terror as my listen recommendation is over. (Your time will come, too, Blood Meridian. Just wait until it's beach season.)
It isn't that I don't listen to music, because I do. It's just that I listen to the same stuff over and over again. Sometimes I'll go months without updating the music on my iPod shuffle that I use when I'm biking to and from work. I have a really high tolerance for that. So it makes sense that I'm recommending the new Flight of the Conchords album, since I've already heard all of the songs on it through their TV show.
That's right, Flight of the Conchords had a TV show on HBO before their first US album was released, or even before you knew who the hell they were. Somebody at HBO should definitely get a raise for finding these two guys and realizing the awesome potential. FotC is a two-man folk-parody novelty band, or something like that. This is comedy for people who really pay attention, because Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement don't seem to mind if you actually notice they are being funny. Understated is, well, an understatement. Their comedy is not so much dry as it is parched.
Really, I want to recommend the TV show, but it isn't coming back for season 2 until January of 2009. Gah.