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Wednesday, Jun 4, 2008
Lykke Li - "I'm Good, I'm Gone"

It’s refreshing to see a deluge of female singers from JayMay to Anna Ternheim who scale back their own physical beauty in the presentation of their music. For Lykke Li, one can easily see why the presentation works to counteract both her youth and coy, cutesy vocals. Personally, I don’t mind the twee caste to her voice or even the toybox clatter of the song’s random percussion. If I were an artist worried about my image, I don’t think you could do much better than this video’s whimsy and menace. I included the Deborah Harry image, because, minus the Giger sadism, Lykke Li’s beauty has the same blown back, tight, restrained, almost hypoallergenic cleanliness. Her eye contact throughout the video is complicated; there’s a palpable caginess in the way she looks into the camera. At times, punching her shoulder forward, it can be downright aggressive (she’s sometimes throwing actual punches). But couched in her flowing clothes and kung fun pop and locking, she simply lights up the screen with confidence, something frequently done literally by framing her face as the peak point of light.


Honestly, the video is almost too packed with great images, as if directed by Tarsem Singh trying to beat a deadline. Director Mattias Montero manages to actually work joyfully and provocatively with surrealism, a video tack that is so overused as to make actual reality the only alienating image remaining. Populated by mental patients swimming on hospital (or maybe gymnasium) floors and old people standing open mouthed in some mix of the Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” video and the church zombies of 28 Days, it’s a rowdy and joyful ode the beat of one’s own drummer. The drummer, in this case, happens to be a frosted female bodybuilder with a Zorro mask on, reinforcing Li’s “don’t fuck with me just because I got a sweet set of pipes” mantra. Because of it’s density, it’s endlessly entertaining to replay; each time I watch the video I notice something about the life breathed into office casual wardrobe, some sexy gender bending or a flash of a scene that evokes The Shining. All in all, a great video that rises above many would-be comers in style and technical proficiency.


Tagged as: lykke li
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Wednesday, Jun 4, 2008

This clip taken from a 1981 documentary titled Imagine the Sound is a rare document of one of the avant-garde world’s greatest piano players, Cecil Taylor. Most footage that has been released of Taylor is of him with one of his illustrious bands - known for blowing the hats of and outraging any devout be-bop player and/or critic. But the reason this video needs to be revealed is because it gets down to the very core of Free Jazz in it’s essence.


With Free Jazz, many times people will claim is just a series of random notes or a giant wall of noise. But in fact, its anything but these absurd claims. As not only jazz music, but other genres of music have seem to have lost the true meaning of “improvisation” - Taylor reminds them that it is a reaction to feeling and emotion. This is something that can’t be taught within our school systems and only those that stretch to understand it, will be satisfied with its rewarding attributes.


Watching Taylor from the director’s point of view above the piano shows him nearly talking to the piano. He’s having a conversation with it rather than just playing it - sometimes there are moments of silence, at others its as if the room just crowded and the conversation picked up. Unfortunately, the representatives of the jazz world in 2008 (see Wynton Marsalis) are taking us so many steps back, that jazz in the mainstream world is becoming obsolete - its being talked about like classical music is talked about, as if its an art form that can be taught in schools.


There are remaining soldiers out there such as David Ware, 8 Bold Souls, Matthew Shipp, and even some of the veterans such as Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, and even Cecil Taylor himself. We must place them outside of the realm of the term “jazz” and bring them in with our alternative world. They should be playing with the slew of avant-rock bands out there creating a buzz, to an audience that would actually give them a chance. Free Jazz is still as free as it ever was, it just needs to take that freedom down a different road.


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Monday, Jun 2, 2008
by PopMatters Staff
Aimee Mann's new record, @#%&! Smilers, releases tomorrow in the U.S. She takes a moment to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
A German movie called The Lives of Others.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Josephine in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Basil and Josephine Stories.


3. The greatest album, ever?
Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
The original Star Trek TV show.


5. Your ideal brain food?
Gefilte fish.


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Friday, May 30, 2008
Fans can’t be faulted for nostalgia, which begs the unanswerable question: if the gory backstage drama had not pushed them apart, could Veruca Salt have continued to make it work?

Not sure if any band quite captures the waiting-to-exhale extended moment of semi-innocence that was the mid-90s (you know, the post-grunge, post-Reagan/Bush, pre-9/11, pre Bush/Cheney era when casual Fridays were infiltrating offices everywhere and music—as always, for better or worse—reflected the times in a sort of holding pattern that mixed ennui with an always unfashionable optimism) than Veruca Salt.


To recap: what was the appeal of this band? Irresistible melodies? Check. Smoking hot, sexy singers (who also played better than passable guitar)? Check. Utterly ingenious band name? Check. Glorious debut album title? Big check. Most folks recall “Seether”, as well they should; it was their big hit and a truly infectious piece of pop perfection. But as anyone who did—and still does—worship at the altar of American Thighs, it needn’t be belabored that Veruca Salt was most assuredly not a one-hit wonder. Among the better moments, “Forsythia”, “Number One Blind” and especially the almost-too-good-to-be-true “All Hail Me” (how about another shout out to the days when music videos were actually capable of being almost as great as the songs that inspired them?). All in all,  pretty ideal fodder for a one-and-done minor masterpiece.


But the dream was not dead, yet. A tide-us-over EP, Blow It out Your Ass It’s Veruca Salt, featuring the delectable “Shimmer Like a Girl”, found Veruca Salt poised for real superstardom—for whatever that’s worth. Their shot at glory came in ’97 with the (once again, brilliantly titled) Eight Arms To Hold You (incidentally, the working title of the Beatles’ album Help!), which had the addictive single “Volcano Girls”. The rest of the album wasn’t terribly shabby, either, but, it seemed (unfairly? impossibly?) their moment had already passed. And so, while the album didn’t do badly, it didn’t quite put them over.


What happened next is truly difficult to believe, particularly if you saw the doe-eyed adoration Louise Post and Nina Gordon obviously had for one another—as late as ’97 during interviews (check out youtube): a combination of bad blood, ambition, stolen boyfriends and terrible timing resulted in best friends on the wrong side of that thin line between love and hate, not to mention rock and roll cliché. Gordon set off on her own and in the summer of 2000 released Tonight and the Rest of My Life, while Post pulled a David Gilmour and retained the brand name. Almost simultaneously, the “new” Veruca Salt put out Resolver (another Beatles reference and another incredibly inspired album title, particularly considering the content within).


The results, predictably, separated fans into two camps: those who thought Tonight and the Rest of My Life successfully proved that Nina Gordon was the true talent in Veruca Salt, and those who felt that she sold out. Conversely, there were fans who insisted that the new albums made it clear that Post was the soul of the band and the one who rocked. Even in 2000, it was immediately obvious to me which album was superior (Resolver, by far)—Post picked up the banner and crawled with it. Time has been less kind to Gordon’s overly polished, ultimately safe and brazenly ambitious (not in the good sense of the word) project, while despite—or because of—the considerable warts and rough edges of Resolver, it retains an immediacy, daring, and furious venom that eight years has scarcely cooled off.


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Friday, May 30, 2008

I have to say that this has been one of those weeks where I fantasize about having enough money to wall myself away from the world and do drugs and desserts until I die.  So today, I was trying to remember something/someone music-related that made me laugh when I recalled this interview with O.D.B. on MTV where he pulled up to the welfare office in a limo to pick up his check.  I’m not going to parse out the man’s ethics late on a Friday when I’m counting the seconds until my first Mexican Martini.  But he was a hilariously interesting character, both for having more aliases than a C.I.A. passport and in his fairly adamant refusal of most social graces.  His lyrical abilities had a miraculous Wesley Willis quality about them, somehow managing to penetrate our reality from a galaxy far far a way and usually delivered like a gravel mouthed old dude yelling from a cracked cellar door.  And just to make myself smile that much wider I absolutely had to dig up my favorite Dirt McGirt couplet:


“You can call me dirty, and then lift up your skirt
And you want some of this dirty, god made dirt and dirt bust yo ass”


How did this work?  The lyrical rhythm is pausing and parenthical (oh yeah, and dirty bust yo ass, son), but it still sounds amazingly stammered out.  A great man has been taken from us while my list of ungreat ones that should go in their stead remains ignored.  I guess God needs all the good people to work in the Angel mines.


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