Latest Blog Posts

by Corey Beasley

15 Nov 2010

“Heart Cooks Brain,” the second track on Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West, reveals the band’s rhythmic genius, the strength of many of its finest compositions. Drummer Jeremiah Green has always been an integral component of the band’s success (which is why it was so distressing to many fans to see him momentarily depart for personal reasons circa the 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News). Here, Green lays down a stuttering, hip-hop influenced breakbeat backbone for frontman Isaac Brock’s spiraling guitar work and cyclical lyrics. Yes, that’s even a bit of turntable scratching you hear in the distant reaches of the mix. That subtle bit of atmospherics—combined with Green’s head-nodding beat—hints at the musical eclecticism that marks the Modest Mouse catalog.

Still, slight genre-blurring aside, “Heart Cooks Brain” finds its place cemented squarely in the center of Modest Mouse’s songbook. A Brock riff that scales up and down the neck: check. Imagistic lyrics about despair and loneliness: check. A tight rhythm section enviable to any other band playing music: check. The song opens with—as any superfan would hope for—some harmonics, with Brock yelling a few feet away from his microphone, “A slow walk / It’s landmines”. Other than that moment of increased volume, Brock and his band keep things toned down here. It works: “Heart Cooks Brain” is about yearning, absence, and the dullness of depression, and the band’s right to play it close to the chest.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

12 Nov 2010

Klinger: Well, Mendelsohn, this marks the third double album in a row here at Counterbalance. Once again, the rockist love for the grandiose statement carries the day. Are you feeling fatigued? Aggravated? A little too eager to drop the word “sprawling” into the mix?

Mendelsohn: There are so many different ways I could go with this but for right now, I’m going to stay on topic: I’m sick of the double disc. Also, “sprawl” is a great vocab choice. I’m going to use it in a sentence. The Clash’s London Calling is an epic, sprawling disc that will leave you sprawled out on the floor as your mind tries to wrap itself around the sprawl of genres this British band touches on in the course of an hour plus. That last use of “sprawl” might be a bit questionable, but I challenge you to use it in one sentence three times.

My problem with double albums is that they go on too long. While my writing may not always reflect the following statement, I’m a firm believer that if you can say something in three words, there is no reason to write an entire paragraph. I think the same thing applies to music. If you had sent London Calling to the chopping block and came back with a solid 40-minute record, would it be any less great?

Klinger: Sure, you could make a brilliant 40-minute album out of the tracks on London Calling. But then it wouldn’t be London Calling. I’d be hard pressed to find a wasted moment on the album.

Would The Godfather have been better without that whole bit where Michael goes to Sicily? I reckon it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re looking to get from Point A to Point B, then you need to keep the plot moving. But at their best, double albums can be as much about the journey as the destination.

by Jake Cleland

11 Nov 2010

A couple of days ago, I was chatting with this girl over beers about indie music. She was telling me that indie has gone from a philosophy to just a loosely defined category, and I realised the same thing happened with punk music. When I tried to tell her this, she told me she had no idea what punk music was. Needless to say, the date went poorly after that, but on the train ride home I started thinking: is indie the new punk?

First, we have to start with a definition. Indie literally refers to a band that records, produces, and releases its material outside the major label cabal, so already from that definition you can see how close it is, ideologically, to punk. You probably have a slightly different definition, but I transposed this one from what is traditionally agreed makes a film indie, though in both cases we know there are more elements. Twilight is technically an indie film, but when you think of indie films, you’d have a hard time putting it next to Brick or Clerks or whatever your favourite indie film is, yet they’re all still independently produced.

In 1975, the youth of the two greatest cities of the Western world, London and New York City, were trying to reconnect with rock’s new spirit. Their solution was punk. The music was loud, fast, and aggressive, but also simple. In a 1995 interview, Joey Ramone of the Ramones said “We wanted the kids to feel they could go out and do this too.” The kids felt isolated, but they had a lot to say, and now they had the avenue to say it. This accessibility was lost by the time the ‘80s rolled around. The three chords that were the backbone of punk were replaced with complicated solos and greater emphasis on technical aptitude. The elitism was restored to music. Then came the Millennials. Told they could do anything, that they were all delicate little snowflakes, unique, filled with potential, they ignored the obstacles and the unreality of becoming a famous musician and took up instruments anyway.

by J.C. Sciaccotta

10 Nov 2010

In the not-so-distant past, the roundtable of NPR’s All Songs Considered sat down to discuss the ‘80s. What was at times a thoughtful discourse on the much-maligned decade more often than not devolved into a bunch of aging hipsters laughing at synthesizers. At one point, a panel member (I can’t recall whom) brought up Tears for Fears. Immediately, Bob Boilen (the host) recoiled in disgust. After some coaxing from the forgotten panel member, he reluctantly began to spin “Head over Heels”. Before the synth-laden opening bars of the song could even give way to the first verse, he hit the faders, gasping, “I can’t even get past the damn opening keyboard!”

Nineteen eighty-five was 25 years ago. I wasn’t even born yet, but given my childhood worship of Marty McFly, that’s still pretty hard to believe. To many, Back to the Future is about the only thing worth celebrating from that year (the Goonies and The Breakfast Club notwithstanding). Yet seemingly lost on pop culture historians is the anniversary of another massively successful piece of pop art celebrating its first quarter-century: Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair.

by Sean Murphy

9 Nov 2010

Anyone who was born before Y2K cannot be unmoved by the announcement that Sony has ceased production of the beloved Walkman (Begging the question: they were still making them? I admit rocking mine into the late ‘90s past the point where I was getting ridiculed by senior citizens on airplanes; teenagers just looked at me like I had been transported from a time machine, or in character for a movie about the bad old days).

Let me stand up and be counted: if I wasn’t the last American to get an iPod, I was definitely closer to the end than front of that long line. I love my iPod; in fact I’m listening to it right now (so there).

So I’m not preparing to deliver an impassioned screed about how much better everything used to be. I endorse old school on many levels, but I’m on record (recently) advocating the inevitable—and often welcome—advancements technology are providing us in terms of the toys we love and the content they provide. As I have stated recently: “We can—and should—linger long on the myriad advantages and benefits [consumer electronics have] brought us over this past decade. E-mail and e-books alone have already saved entire forests, not to mention being environmentally-friendly upgrades over costly and inconvenient manufacturing and transportation processes. Remember when portable music meant a portable cassette or CD player that ran on short-lasting and expensive batteries? Now we have tiny, rechargeable devices where we can stores thousands of songs that are available wherever we roam. There are literally dozens of other examples, and not many of us would savor reverting back to the way it used to be.”

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article