Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Morning

Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
Bone Thugs N Harmony - Crossroads

E.L.O. - Mr . Blue Sky
Michael Jackson - Hold Me
Animal Collective - Summertime Clothes

Prince - Rasberry Beret
the Decemberists - the Soldiering Life

Prodigy - Breathe
TV on the Radio - Golden Age

R. Kelly - I believe I can fly
Sly & the family stone - if you want me to stay

Rancid - I wanna riot
Ra Ra Riot - Dying is Fine
Toots & the Maytals - Reggae Got soul
Nicole Atkins - Together we are both alone

Blur - Song 2
the Black Keys - When the lights go out
Sirsy - Revolution
Sirsy - Sorry Me

Ace of Base- All That She Wants
Rush- Limelight
the Avett Brothers - Murder in the City
the Avett Brothers - If it's the beaches
Aretha Franklin - Think
My Girl- The Taj Motel Trio

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reviewing Pitchfork: So Many Dynamos "The Loud Wars"

What am I reading? In this new series, I'll be analyzing music reviews from the highly influential website Pitchfork. The majority of Pitchfork reviews are at times slightly esoteric and ridiculous, but they're unfortunately taken as gospel by some due to Pitchfork's stature in the online music news realm, sometimes even elevating the profile of mediocre acts and lowering the profile of other bands that deserve exposure.

So what? The music review is a fickle thing. Often influential, reviews are written by a particular person with particular preferences during a particular moment while they are in a particular mood. Being in a good mood or being into a certain genre of music while writing a review may lead to a reviewer giving an album a higher rating than it deserves, or vice versa. The problem is that in this day and age, when many people tend judge albums by the numerical ratings reviewers give them, music reviews have a bit too much influence and can often be misleading.


Let's start with Pitchfork's recent review of The Loud Wars by So Many Dynamos. Reviewer Paul Thompson, on his way to awarding the album a mediocre rating of 5.5, makes two points that really stick out.

1) Regarding the similarities of the album to music of the late 90s D.C. scene, Thompson writes: "So, yeah, if you'd walked into Melody Records circa summer 1999 and heard The Loud Wars, you wouldn't have batted an eye. And that's just it; The Loud Wars is formula, and it's not even really the Dynamos' formula to use, so when the songs fall a bit flat, it's hard to know whom to point the finger at."

"It's not even really the Dynamos' formula to use"? Whose formula is it, then? Has the late 90s D.C. sound been copywrited by the bands that were part of it? And since when is taking influence from other bands a crime? One can imply from the review that Paul Thompson used to have an affinity for bands like Q and Not U and The Dismemberment Plan, so he should be able to tell the difference between those two bands' breakthrough efforts and The Loud Wars; while they share some musical similarities, sonically they are of a different age.

Perhaps this is just Thompson's version of tough love. Earlier this year, Pitchfork writer Ian Cohen reviewed The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's s/t debut (an album by another band that at times wears its influences on its sleeve) and said, "The Pains of Being Pure at Heart simply made a slyly confident debut that mixes sparkling melodies with an undercurrent of sad bastard mopery, and you're just being a dick if you think the past has some kind of patent on that. That's just the way good pop music works." One would also assume that the past has no patent on mixing angular guitar work with a breakneck rhythm section, either.

2) Continuing, Thompson says about the album: "The Loud Wars runs on amicably enough...and you'd be hard up to finger a bad tune here, but it's all about the same: the same reference points, the same too-busy-by-half arrangements, the same emphasis on proficiency over depth, the same defensively bummed out lyrics, the same slightly sour melodies, the same sense that you're dancing through some kind of dread that's hard to place a finger on."

If it's hard to actually identify a bad track on the album, why the 5.5? Because it's "all about the same"? Okay, let's look at that for a second. "The same reference points"? If other bands can use "the same reference points" and not be penalized for it (again, see The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), then why can't So Many Dynamos? "Proficiency over depth"? A glance through The Loud Wars' CD booklet reveals the large amount of thought the band put into the album, especially musically (for example, some of the melodies in the album are melodies from older So Many Dynamos songs played backwards). "Too busy"? Songs like "Friendarmy" and "The Formula" have some rather spacious bridges and "New Bones" slowly builds for over four minutes before getting busy. "Defensively bummed out lyrics"? While some of the album's lyrics may fit this description, it's not true in all cases (for example, "Artifacts of Sound" features discussion of the current state of music without any self-deprecation attached). Thompson just seems too willing to dismiss this album as a "throwback" despite his admission that none of the songs are bad.

In sum, Thompson should not have penalized So Many Dynamos so much for taking cues from their musical influences. Admitting that it's hard to pick out a bad song on the album should make it clear to the reader that the album is, at the least, a solid, consistent effort from a band that happens to take some influence from music of the past. Really, the 5.5 rating seems to stem mainly from Thompson being "over" this late 90s D.C. scene that The Loud Wars reminds him of, and little else.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ambient Signal - 6/23/09 - Extended show!

WRPI 91.5fm! for webcast
Tuesdays 6-8pm

Extra Special Extended show this week! 6:30 to much new music! Some of it was even good! I hope you enjoyed, and I might have an extended show next week too!

Purple is new music

Bright Eyes - Devil in the details
Annuals - Springtime
The Velvet Teen - The Raining Curtains
Mum - Prophecies and reversed memories
Denali - Everbody Knows
Forget Cassettes - Instruments of action
School of seven bells - My Cabal
Stars - Your ex lover is dead
Sigur Ros - Milano
Grizzly Bear - All we ask
Dirty projectors - Two Doves
Ethan Rose and laura Gibson - Sun (Of PDX Pop now! 2009)
Portland Cello Project - Beat (Health, life, fire)
Alexa Woodward - Spoon
Low Anthem - To Ohio (Reprise)
Deertick - Houston, TX
Ohbijou - Black ice
Regina Spektor - Laughing with
Deradoorian - High Road
Sunset Rubdown - Dragon's lair
Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
Phantogram - Mouthful of diamonds
Foreign Born - Vacationing People
Tiny Vipers - Dreamers
Those Darlings - Red light love
Love is chemicals - Let me come down
St. Vincent - Laughing with a mouthful of blood
Phenomenal handclap band - All of the above
Phoenix - Armistice
Busdriver - Scoliosis Jones
Deastro - Kurgan Wave Number One
Mint Chicks - Hot on your heels
Tiny Masters of today - Skeletons
Viva Voce - The Slow fade
So many dynamos - Glaciers
The Field - Everybody's gotta learn sometime
Bon Iver - For Emma
Menomena - Let's all unite
Neva Dinova - Dances fantastic
Daylight's for the birds - For Now
Montag - Grand luxe
Orenda Fink - Leave it all
Son lux - Raise

Monday, June 22, 2009

Starting with the Portland Cello Project

Portland Cello Project - Por Una Cabeza
Portland Cello Project - Violet
Elvis Costello - The Crooked Line

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Concrete Jungle
Geraldo Pino and the Heart Breaks - Shake Hands
Mighty Shadow - Ah Come out to party
The Derek Trucks Band - I wish I knew (How it would feel to be free)

Desmond Dekker - Music Like Dirt
Desmond Dekker - Licking Stick
UB40 - Red Red Wine

Shandileer - Luv Up
Taxi - Frenchman
Sergio Mendes - Sambadouro
Sergio Mendes - Senhoras do Amazonas
Tom Jobim & Elis Regina - Aguas de Marco

the Black Keys - Have Love Will Travel
the Decemberists - the Sporting Life
Geraldo Pino & the Heart Breaks - Let's Have a Party
Rootsman - Miami Vibes
Antibalas - Gabe's New Joint
Bob Marley & the Wailers - Ambush in the Night

Bob Marley & the Wailers - Who the Cap Fit
the Black Keys - Strange Times
Kitchener - Gimme the Thing
the Derek Trucks Band - I'd Rather be blind, crippled and crazy

Kitchener - Sugar Bum Bum
Bob Marley & the Wailers - Stir it up

Kitchener - Pan in A minor