Sunday, January 31, 2010

From Italy

As some of you may know, I am studying abroad this semester in Siena, Italy.
Conor has stepped up and is posting again and I hope that there will be plenty of new posts by possible guest bloggers in the near future. I have only been here a week and I have found out that internet is not as prevelent or as cheap as it is back home. It has made my blog posting difficult but I will continue to post as best I can from inside the medieval walls of Siena. I will also go out of my way to share with you the musical adventures and knowledge that will undoubtedly be passed on to me in the months to come. Until then, I think it is fitting to listen to postcards from Italy.



Listen:
Beirut - Postcards From Italy
buy Beirut

Sunday Shuffle: Das Racist and Wallpaper

This week the Sunday Shuffle brings you the musical debauchery that is Das Racist and Wallpaper.

Just by reading the title of the song, Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, one can assume one of two things. This is either a really bad song or that this is a really amazingly bad song. I am not sure which it is yet. I do know however that the main chorus is not only catchy and stupid but it is also what makes the entire song. Lines like "I got that taco smell, I got that pizza butt" are a testament to the lyrical genius that the Queens based group delivers. Whether you grow to love it for the sheer novelty of the subject matter or you hate it because of the incredibly stupid but carefully crafted lyrics, I dare you to not get this cheesy (har, har) song stuck in your head for months.

Das Racist - The Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (Wallpaper Remix)

buy Das Racist

Friday, January 29, 2010

Music in A Foreign Land: Four Tet

Well it happened.

I am officially abroad. I flew into London last Friday morning and met up with a couple of college friends. That night we found out that Four Tet was playing a show at a club called Fabric in the middle of London. This is that story.

It was eight at night. We were filled with homemade food and were drinking a menagerie of local beverages when we were informed that Four Tet was playing a show in London that night. I immediately proceeded to try to find a way that we could go. Information of the website for the Fabric venue had little details and we had all thought that the show would probably be sold out. The only time that we could find on the site was 10:30. So we assumed that is when the band would get on. After a hilarious tube ride to Fabric we all showed up ready to witness an epic show by Four Tet. This is where we encountered the first of many setbacks of the night. There was a 15 Pound cover charge to get into this club. Reluctantly we all paid the cover charge and proceeded to work our way around the three story massive complex that was Fabric. On each story there was either a dj or a live band playing along with at least one bar per level. It wasn't long until we figured out that Four Tet was not scheduled to play until 1:30. We made our way to the front door, which was getting increasingly more crowded by the minute. The bouncer said that once we left we would not be allowed to get back in. So we decided to dance and wait it out until Four Tet would come out.

The drinks at the bar were expensive and before the end of the night I would watch my friends spend over 50 Pounds on drinks alone. After dancing on every level we checked our clocks and we had about another hour to go until Four Tet came on. The place was completely packed. Lines at the bar would mingle with the dancefloors. We made our way to a stage and caught the last two songs of a really good live band. However, even after following them into the crowd dancing and singing along with them, we still had no idea who they were.

We made our way to Stage 2 (maybe) around the time that Four Tet was set to play. At the beginning of the set we decided it would be a good idea to go up on stage. We started a movement because not only was our group on stage but almost the entire stage was filled with people from the crowd. On this stage was a Guido-esque guy who was completely smashed. He kept trying to dance with the girls in our group and was quite frankly being a pain. Well, it wasn't long until we saw the bouncers come up and grab the guy by the neck and bring him into the backroom. The guy was trying to swing at the bouncers and eventually three more bouncers had him subdued and carried him off the stage and inevitably out of the club.

We were all not anywhere near completely sober and we had no idea if we were listening to Four Tet or not. I am guessing the latter because I would have recognized Four Tet. We tried to get out of the club seeing that we had all been dancing and screaming for about four straight hours. Getting out of Fabric was an adventure in itself. My friend and I made it out fairly quickly only to find a line going down a couple of blocks outside of the club. There was a russian girl trying to talk her way in to the club stating that she had been there for "two hours and a half". When that didn't work she tried to jump over the gate, the bouncer responded with a palm in her face and pretty much throwing her back over the barricade.

Finally after another 30mins our entire group had made it out. Since the tube doesn't run at night we had to take a night bus to our stop. We picked the right bus but unfortunately this bus would not ever get to our destination. About three or four stops from our dropoff point a fight broke out upstairs. (London has double decker buses-remember?) Anyways, apparently two girls got into a catfight and one of them punched the other in the face. The other women responded by pulling out a knife. The police were called and one of the women ran off the bus before the cops came. We ended up on that bus for over an hour. Finally another bus stopped and we were allowed a free ride to our stop.

We got off and proceeded to walk to our hotel. We must have been a motley looking crew. One person was so intoxicated that they were singing about trolls, One person went looking for cheap chinese food while kicking shredded paper saying it was snowing, One person was barefoot, and I was leading the group in a jetlagged, drunk, and confused stupor.

I never figured out if we saw Four Tet or not.
I do not think I will ever really know.

I do know that London is crazy and I had a very memorable night.

Have a listen to what we WOULD have heard if we did hear Four Tet.


Four Tet -Plastic People

Buy Four Tet

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Album Review: Beach House's "Teen Dream"

Since the release of their 2008 album, Devotion, the Baltimore-based duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, better known as Beach House, have been riding a wave of popularity that has shown virtually no signs of receding. While at the time of its release the album received generally good reviews, it was a mere ripple in the year defined by the respective releases of then up-and-coming Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend. It was not until the indie outlet Grizzly Bear took the band in as their own (dare I say, cub) that the ripple began to gain some momentum. The duo opened for a number of Grizzly Bear’s shows over the past year, with Legrand also offering backing vocals on their popular track “Two Weeks.” Continuing in this vein, Legrand collaborated with Grizzly Bear on “Slow Life” off of the New Moon soundtrack. As their popularity grew, so too did the expectations for their upcoming release Teen Dream, in stores this week as their first album off Sub Pop Records.


To say that the album is a disappointment would be absurd, but to call the album “this year’s Merriweather Post Pavillion”, as a number of music sources have, would be more so. If anything, the album will go down as the bands first release after one of the shortest spanning periods of musical puberty in recent memory. Teen Dream shows Beach House displaying infinitely more control over the fog of swirling organs and keyboards, muted guitar, and near-inaudible percussion which defined Devotion. Influences on Legrand’s singing style have clearly shifted, making any comparison drawn between Warhol Superstar Nico a thing of the past, likely to be replaced by comparisons to mid 70’s Stevie Nicks. While the ethereal fluctuations of Legrand’s voice were at times lost in the haze of Devotion, on Teen Dream Legrand is very much the driving force of the album. With the music consistently following one step behind, the listener is able to trust the singer as she gently pulls them by the hand into a world which she alone has discovered.



Recorded in a converted church in upstate New York appropriately named Dreamland, this is a place any person who has ever experienced otherworldly fantasies will feel oddly familiar with. The guitar riff which introduces the opening track “Zebra” welcomes the listener into this Teen Dream, simultaneously preparing he or she to be thrust into the sparkling, confusing “Silver Soul”. From there, a lonely groan of an organ carries into the albums third and arguably most memorable track, “Norway”. Other notable stops include “Walk in the Park”, whose Vampire Weekend undertones are hard to ignore, and the track “Used to Be”, which best showcases Grizzly Bear’s chamber pop influences on the band. A highlight in the latter half of the album, “10 Mile Stereo”, flirts with shoegaze, yet never abandons Beach House’s signature sound.
Yet, it is their adhering to this signature sound that will turn many off to this album. While the music of Beach House is undoubtedly breathtaking, all too often this type of music is called out for “all sounding the same”, and in some ways that claim is warranted in this case. One can only live in a soothing, dazzling, dreamlike state for so long—we eventually have to wake up. But as with any good dream, one snaps back into consciousness wishing only to have the chance to return to whatever world their mind had created. Teen Dream is no different, creating an opportunity for listeners to not only appreciate the maturing of an up and coming band but also enter into a stunning sonic landscape which (as with any album worth listening to) will grow on you if given enough time. Legrand reiterates this on albums closing track “Take Care” when she sings “It's no good unless it grows”, just as she releases the listener back into the world of conscious thought.
Buy Teen Dream here, and check out the band playing "Zebra" on Fallon below.






Listen: Beach House - Zebra

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Shuffle: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros


So while this post series is usually Eli's business, with his traveling abroad this semester it looks as though I will be taking the reigns, so to speak. This week, my computer brought up a band I've only just begun to listen to, Edward Sharp & the Magnetic Zeros, led by Alex Ebert, former lead vocalist of the band Ima Robot.

After taking a number of emotional blows (girlfriend leaving/joining Alcoholics Anonymous), Ebert created the character of Edward Sharpe, who (in Eberts own words) "was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind....but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love." What followed was the 2009 release "Up from Below", which features up to 10 people playing instruments ranging from accordions to hand claps, creating an album with a very late-60's feel. All the songs are catchy as hell, with the clear standout being the 6th track, "Home", which is basically what Johnny and June Carter Cash would've sounded like if Johnny didn't always have such a somber tone..check it out below



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti benefit show: Sun Cut Flat @ TT The Bears 1/20


Nick Lattanzi, an up-and-coming Boston based musician whom this blog has previously reported on, recently joined with a number of other local musicians--Isaac Hasselkorn, Erik Kramer, Cary Liptak, and Devon Fisher-- to form the band Sun Cut Flat.

Their first album, Running of the Bulls, was released a few months back and absolutely deserves to be heard. Sticking true to their independent roots, Lattanzi and the rest of the members of Sun Cut Flat have put the album up for free online, check it out here. Those readers familiar with Lattanzi's previous work will, likely within the first 15 seconds of the albums opening track No Good Man, note a departure from his previous solo albums Paxamericana. and Shiny Car!. With Running of the Bulls, Lattanzi has not so much put his singer-songwriter complex in the back seat as he has allowed his songs to be added to by his backing band.
For those in the Boston area, check out Sun Cut Flat tonight, Wednesday January 20th at TT the Bears in Cambridge. As if seeing the band wasn't enough, all proceeds from the show will go towards the Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund. More info on that show (directions, etc) can be found here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Arcade Fire supports Partners in Health

As mentioned in the previous post, indie outlet Arcade Fire have strong ties with the island nation of Haiti. Looks like they also support Partners in Health, too. The following is a statement released by Régine Chassagne and husband Win Butler, the founding members of Arcade Fire:


Friends,

Haiti needs your help in her darkest hour.

We just got off the phone with our friends at Partners in Health. Most of the medical infrastructure in Port-au-Prince is down.

Since Partners in Health's clinics are in situated the surrounding areas and haven't been damaged, they are mobilizing their resources towards the capital, setting-up field hospitals to treat the injured on the ground.

Also, Paul Farmer (the founder of PIH) is at the UN and has access to the best information on where to direct the money... so for the moment if you want to help, we suggest sending funds to:

www.pih.org


+ donate.pih.org/page/contribute/haiti_earthquake?source=ea

rthquake&subsource=homepage

Please be generous as time is of the essence.

love,
Win and Regine

p.s.
these photos convey some of what is going on:

+
www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/01/earthquake_in_haiti.html


Great to know the support is this widespread. Also, check out this post I wrote almost a year ago about Dr. Farmer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

Hey all Happiness readers, it's been a while since my last post and for that I apologize. Unfortunately, I am not here today to write a post about any new music or the like (although there's plenty I do have to write about, eventually..). More importantly, I am writing concerning the recent earthquake in Haiti. The following is a letter I put together to distribute around where I live, and I figured I'd put it up here as well. PLEASE take a minute to read it over, and please consider donating towards the cause.

Dear friends, relatives, and neighbors,

As many of you know (and many of you have so graciously supported), I have spent a great deal of time in the Dominican Republic both providing health care for Haitian refugees and working on construction projects such as houses and hospitals for these people whom the Dominican government has a tendency to ignore. Today I write to you again for your support, although it is not for any trip in which I will be participating. Rather, I am writing on behalf of those who will be working on disaster relief projects in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, which was recently struck by a major earthquake.

Haiti, already the poorest nation by far in the Western Hemisphere, has no infrastructure of which to speak. They have no disaster relief services or building codes, limited communication with the outside world, and hospitals that are understaffed, underfunded, and overrun with sick Haitians. This earthquake has razed many buildings, including at least one hospital, rendering the nation largely incapable of responding to a tragedy of this magnitude. They are depending on outside support, primarily from the United States, to fund rescue operations and begin what will surely be a long process towards recovery.

Since my work in the Dominican Republic, I have been involved primarily with two organizations. The mission statement of one of these organizations, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, is as follows:

“To work with the people of Haiti in their non-violent struggle for the return and consolidation of human rights conditions in Haiti, pursuing legal cases, and cooperating with human rights and solidarity groups in Haiti and abroad.

More information about the Institute can be found at www.IJDH.org.

****The other—and certainly the one who is in need of the most support given the circumstances—is called Partners in Health. They work to offer health care and provide disaster relief for the poor around the world, although the majority of their work is conducted in Haiti. This organization was founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, a recognized leader in the field of preferential health care for the poor, and whose work deserves as much recognition and support as possible. It is on his behalf and on behalf of Partners in Health, an organization I personally trust and support, that I write to you today. Please take a moment and visit www.pih.org for more information about the organization and to donate towards their cause. Online donations are accepted, as well as checks with "Haiti Earthquake Relief" in the memo line mailed to Partners In Health, P.O. Box 845578, Boston, MA 02284-5578.***

From my experience, it is not that people are unwilling to give, it is that they are unsure where to begin or where their support will actually go. I assure you that this organization, along with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, are worth supporting and will put your donations, no matter the size, to good use. Of course there are hundreds of other ways to support the voiceless in Haiti, all of which I encourage you and your friends/relatives/neighbors to consider. Together their voices can be heard instead of ignored, and together we can answer the Haitian people’s plea for support. I thank you in advance for your support.

Sincerely,

Conor Smith

Email: Csmith9129@gmail.com


I guess some tunes can't hurt, eh?

Here's a link to Grammy award winning Haitian musician Pras Michel's myspace, as well as a link to the Rhapsody site for Haitian rapper, Wyclef Jean. Also, here's a link to Wyclef's blog as well as his twitter- both are quite active right now.

Also, check out "Haiti" by Arcade Fire, off their 2004 release Funeral. One of the members of Arcade Fire, Régine Chassagne, is originally from Haiti. This song has been described as an elegy to her homeland which, in 2004, she describes as "wounded". One wonders what she would say now. Chances are we will hear quite soon, as the BBC music news reports they are in fact in the studio with music producer Markus Dravs, with an album scheduled to drop in 2010 as well as a followup tour.

Here are the lyrics..with a translation of the French parts.


Haiti, my country wounded mother I’ll never see.
My family set me free.Throw my ashes into the sea.

My cousins never haunt
the nights of Duvalier.Nothing stops our spirits.
Guns can’t kill what soldiers can’t see.

In the forest we are hiding,unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

All of the deaths do not form an army,
soon we will reclaim the earth.All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haiti, never free,
have no fear to sound the alarm.Your children are leaving,
in those days their blood was still warm


And here's the link to all twitters about Haiti, and a bunch of real time photographs. Also, give via phone - text "HAITI" to "90999" to give $10 directly to Red Cross for disaster relief

At right is a photo I took on one of my trips to the Dominican of a few young Haitian refugees living in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican. Plus, the video for Arcade Fire's "Haiti" is below, courtesy of Youtube.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Humpday Covers Presents: Daniel Mustard

This week on Humpday Covers we are featuring a man by the name of Daniel Mustard. Never heard of him? Perhaps you have walked by him a couple of times on the way to work and simply never gave him a notice. Daniel Mustard is (was) a homeless man that was hired to talk on a promo for Sirus XM's Opie and Anthony show. Little did they know he could sing. Next thing you know Mustard is equipped with a guitar and produces the one of the best covers of Radiohead's Creep I have ever heard.  Mustard just doesn't sing the lyrics, he lives them.




Or if you want to download the song:


Creep (Radiohead Cover) - Daniel Mustard

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Shuffle: Adem

This Sunday Shuffle my music library randomly selected a song by the artist Adem. Adem (pronounced AH-dem) is a UK indie artist that I really know very little about. I first heard about Adem through some cover blog that was stationed somewhere near London. Adem has put out three albums, his most recent being an album titled "Takes" which features cover songs from 1991-2001. The track that came up on shuffle came off of this album. The Aphex Twin Cover To Cure A Weakling Chile/ Boy Girl Song features gentle melodies that sound familiar and calming, perhaps its the xylophone or maybe the gentle voice? All I know is that I was hooked with this song and I bought the "Takes" album because of it. I was pleasantly surprised that he also covered songs by Breeders, Pinback, Yo La Tengo, Smashing Pumpkins, and Bedhead. There is not one reworking that I do not like, Adem makes them his own.
Have a listen!


Listen:


To Cure A Weakling Chile/ Boy Girl Song (Aphex Twin cover) - Adem

Buy Adem's "Takes"

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