Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Walkmen- Heaven

You know, in the same way that the comparisons made about Wolf Parade and Destroyer to David Bowie never ring true, I never really saw the U2 influence on The Walkmen. Sure, both bands made music that had a big sense of drama and emotion to it, but only U2 could really be called anthemic.

Until now. Heaven, the new album from The Walkmen, is anthemic...but does it sound like a Walkmen album? Does it matter?

Heaven is the first time The Walkmen have allowed themselves to be so obvious about who they're working with. Meaning that the bright, full sound of producer Phil Ek and the vocal contributions from Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes are as clear as day. Odd to think this was the same band who blended the vocals of the otherwise grating guy from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! so well into one of their songs on their last record that I don't think many people even noticed him. But I digress. The clear-as-day Fleet Foxes influence, aside from the times when Pecknold is singing, is in the way Hamilton Leithauser is approaching vocals this time out. When I saw The Walkmen open for Fleet Foxes last year, he seemed to be trying out a new more powerful style, belting out lyrics and holding onto notes until your heart shook with the full sound of it. This is definitely fully realized on tracks like 'Heaven' and 'The One You Love', and it's hard not to get swept up in their energy and pull. Leithauser's singing may have been rough, and a sticking point for some, in the band's past but on Heaven he sings his heart out.

While The Walkmen may not always sound like The Walkmen on Heaven, the attempts to simultaneously grow and mature their sound are all successes. Song for song, it'd be tough to find a record in the band's discography that can match Heaven. Lisbon comes close though its surf and ethnic flourishes felt self conscious, whereas the variety on display here—from the claustrophobic-and-yet-anthemic 'The Witch', to the solo acoustic ballad 'Southern Heart', to the charging arena rock guitar slashes and clap-a-long drum beat of 'Heartbreaker'--is dizzying even as it all manages to cohere.

In tipping their hat to their classic rock and contemporary influences, The Walkmen have stumbled on a way to make a mature, dad-rock/contented-family-life record just as thrilling and richly rewarding as their previous albums with the aforementioned flourishes and stripped down production style. It may not perhaps grab you as closely and emotionally as their other albums, but like a surprisingly stylish hand-me-down suit from a Grandfather, you know someday you'll grow into it. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Destroyer- Thief

Dan Bejar has always been gifted when it comes to lyrics, but an appropriate musical backing for his early Destroyer records seemed like an afterthought. The City Of Daughters album is held back by short grating instrumentals and the overall sense he's being obtuse and clever just to be obtuse and clever; his albums before that were rough and forgettable things, semi-obscure and best left that way. Streethawk: A Seduction, then, is considered his first true success, a rich record with purposeful and catchy songwriting, though I think this praise also belongs to Thief. Released the same year as the breakthrough debut of The New Pornographers, Destroyer's Thief can't help but sound like a reaction to that band. Perhaps it merely inspired Bejar to care more about melodies and hooks. Either way, sprinkling some classic rock and singer/songwriter influences on his music produced a record that contained songwriting and melodies as beguiling and original as the lyrical voice always had been.

What promise was hinted at on City Of Daughters and earlier is, here, finally achieved. Some have suggested that Thief is also a reaction to Bejar's lack of success, but it's be hard to tell if he's serious or not with his criticisms and witty abstractions on tracks like 'Destroyer's The Temple' and the Pink Floyd nodding 'To The Heart Of The Sun, On The Back Of The Vulture I'll Go.' I always get the feeling Bejar is more interested in how words sound together and the kind of feelings and imagery they can evoke, so any meaning in his songs is up to the listener. Yet there's enough commentary and witticisms about the music business, cryptic as they might be, that he must be attempting to say something, a goal few or none of his other releases share, making Thief a bit of a unique bird for that reason alone.

If there's a chief weakness to Thief, it's that whenever the band gets up to roaring energy on rockers like 'Canadian Lover/Falcon's Escape' and the surf-pop sounding 'City Of Daughters', they always merely smolder when they should burn. I'm not sure if this is the same band used on the Destroyer's Rubies and Trouble In Dreams albums, but by that point the Destroyer band was capable of burning with the best. Thief, on the other hand, feels detached and half-committed: are these songs of sincerity and energy, or irony and apathy?

It could be that this question doesn't matter when applied to Destroyer, yet there's a nagging notion in the back of my head that knows, as much as I like Thief, it's a dress rehearsal for Streethawk: A Seduction, an album superior in every way because it's more relaxed and fun. Bejar has something to prove on it, whereas on Thief he merely has something to say. This could explain the album's weak second half, the anti-climactic title track, and overall lack of focus (those pointless instrumentals and experimental tracks from City Of Daughters still rear their heads), yet I'll still stick up for Thief as the first wholly enjoyable Destroyer album, one that has something to say and says it well more often than not.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beach House- Bloom

Dream-pop is a genre label that I find overly vague and yet also dead-on. Even as it applies to a wide array of bands, it paradoxically fits them all, too. Beach House's music, for instance, seems perfectly encapsulated by the term: it's dream-like, to be sure, suffused with spacious atmospheres and a floating feeling, and it's pop-y, too, because the songs are pretty and catchy.

Bloom is not as immediate and catchy as Teen Dream, but in terms of sheer dreamy atmosphere, no other record they've done matches it. Bloom seems patent-made to be treasured forever with its ancestors, like The Cocteau Twins' Treasure, by people who enjoy gray, rainy afternoons and spend a lot of time alone. The atmosphere and feeling of Bloom is what I imagine Zoloft or cough syrup highs are like, a sort of half-awake reverie; a physical sensation of floating in mid-air as if in a pool of water.

I've had a tricky time falling for this record, chiefly because I think the band are just on a plateau after Teen Dream and have let some of the sharp hooks and melodies slide in favor of the aforementioned atmosphere. However, I have to say, while this band's albums may require more patience than usual, they always pay off. The first few times I listened to Bloom, I thought it was half-finished and lazy. The songs are all longer than four minutes (the shortest one, 'The Hours', is one of the better songs, by the by) and the whole thing required a conscious commitment to listen to on my part instead of the endless replay-ability of Teen Dream and Devotion.

Now, though, the slow burn of tracks like 'Lazuli' and 'Other People' sound less like lazy coasting and more like a confident band maturing further in how they write and structure songs, easing into effortless songwriting style that takes a few listens to reveal itself. This is the level The Walkmen reached with the underrated You & Me, and The National hit with the (slightly) overrated High Violet. Not to mention, there is a lot to be said for basking in the intoxicating glow this band offers. If Bloom isn't as impressive and immediate as Teen Dream, it's still damn impressive, and nearly as good. It just takes some time to, uhm, bloom.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bill Doss (1968-2012)

My first reaction when I read that Bill Doss had died was to text a friend with the news, mentioning that I hoped the band had finished their new album already, or that they would at least go on to finish it without him. A new Olivia Tremor Control record is long overdue, seeing as how they've been 'reunited' for a few years and their last true album was in 1999, but I was still a little bothered that my main concern seemed to be the music and not the man.

However, I think that's how Bill Doss would want it. He and most of his generation, comprising the indie/underground scene of the 90s, were all about the mystery and anonymity of bands. I want to mourn the man but I don't really know him, so it's a strange mixture of feelings. I feel sad but for what, exactly? Well, I suppose I'm sad because this must mean the end of Olivia Tremor Control. It's hard to imagine the band going on with only one creative leader.

Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart, in fact, were the perfect musical foils. Doss favored the poppier end of the spectrum, and the music he made with The Sunshine Fix and The Apples (In Stereo) is a testament to this. Hart, on the other hand, was into the psychedelic and experimental end, making most or all of the tape collages and weird sonic elements in the band's sound. Sure, there was always a host of other musicians and friends involved, but Olivia Tremor Control was, at its core, Doss and Hart.

The band usually sounded like two record store employees fixated on the late 60s/early 70s psychedelic/pop scene, but their music never conformed to slavish devotion and imitation. If Music From The Unrealized Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle sounded like the best lost album of 1968 that never existed, it also sounded like the best lost album of 2008 that never existed, too. Indeed, it's easier to hear newer psychedelic/60s influenced bands  as being more influenced by the groundwork of Olivia Tremor Control than the actual bands of the past. I recently discovered Campfires, for example, whose music is a lot closer to the early lo-fi days of OTC than anything Pink Floyd or Cream ever did.

OTC's music was often about dreams and surreal situations, so much so that I assume Doss was purposefully focusing on things that transcended death and reality. Oddly, Will Cullen Hart announced he had MS a few years ago, so you might assume it was he who wanted to do transcend, or even, as I briefly thought, that it was he who had died. It's easy to explain my confusion since we know so little about the two, it's easy to confuse them. And since we know so little about their personal lives, it's impossible to know what the cause of Doss's death was.

And so I suppose without the explanation for the end of his story, and indeed without any part of story of the man besides the music he left behind, Bill Doss's music must stand in eternity for him.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Beatles Rock Band (Wii)

One of the reasons I love films like Pink Floyd's The Wall and Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same is that they allow me to experience the music of bands I love in a different way. By which I mean, instead of it being a pure audio experience, now there's a strong visual component to go with it. The next logical step, then, is also adding something interactive to the music of bands you love...thus, Rock Band.

I played through the story mode on Medium doing the bass parts, and in spite of my almost-total lack of rhythm, I did just fine. Anyway, it turns out that Paul McCartney is more of a melodic bassist than a rhythmic one. Indeed, playing through all these songs as the Macca gave me a new appreciation for his style. Few bands, even those who make music that sounds like the Beatles, use the bass in quite the same way Paul did.

The progression of the story mode, going through various eras of the band's career, is a brilliant and simple way to structure what would otherwise be a boring endless jukebox of scattered songs that get more difficult as you go. Speaking of difficulty, I did find this chronological approach to make my bass campaign wildly uneven in terms of how hard songs were, though how much of that is due to the bass parts being weird (see above) or my own inept-ness, I suppose I can't say.

What also makes the story mode so unique are the introductory videos to the various eras, as well as the generally colorful, interesting, and psychedelic visuals during songs. Some of these are a bit boring and simple, but inspired sequences like the one for 'I Am The Walrus' make up for it. For what it's worth, I loved the ending animation with the elephant and the sprouting flowers; the way it's followed by credits and a post-credits encore song is the perfect capper.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ducktails- Landscapes

There has never been a better time for nostalgia than the present day. There are so many ways to access the past: classic videogame emulators, YouTube accounts dedicated to obscure shows, commercials, cartoons and so on, to even things like entire websites and blogs dedicated to nostalgic topics, such as the Angry Video Game Nerd On or the Nostalgia Critic videos on About a year ago, I had a deep descent into nostalgia thanks to a motherlode of VHS tapes my parents let me take from our old family collection. Among them were many shows and movies taped off of cable TV, the commercials and station identifying bumps giving me a window into culture from my barely-remembered youth.

I would wager my generation may be the most nostalgic of all, simply because of how soon we became nostalgic, and how soon someone of our music reflected that. By my college years in the early 00s, it was already a thing to hang out, drink, and play old videogames. For whatever reason, the 'chillwave' music made by Ducktails, Washed Out, Toro Y Moi, and others gives the listener a nostalgic feel, and seems like it could only exist here and now, and only appeal to people like me. It brings to mind the glorious aspects of being young in the 80s and 90s without any consideration given to all the bad and serious stuff from those decades which rose tinted glasses help us glaze over. "Glaze" is a pretty good term to describe the music of Ducktails. After all, even the more traditional indie rock instrumentation on Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics seems suffused with a half-baked predilection for effects pedals and cheap production. He could have something better than a used 4-track, but he keeps hocking it for weed money.

Landscapes represents the purest distillation of pre-Real Estate Ducktails, in which vocals infrequently appear, and when they do, they are either earnestly bizarre ('Spring') or sound dribbled from the mouth of someone on strong cold medication ('House Of Mirrors'). This is a lazier, giving-less-of-a-fuck time for Ducktails, bringing to mind the kind of music someone just-serious-enough about music would make while bored, stuck in town during a college Spring Break at their parents' house. On one hand the purposefully shitty/cheap and Casio sounding beats of 'Landrunner' and 'Welcome Home [I'm Back]' are true to the nostalgic, "I made this with a bunch of instruments I took from my parents' attic" spirit of the Ducktails project, but on the other hand, if this guy can afford so many effects pedals, I bet he could afford real drums.

Wait, wasn't that sort of what Ducktails III ended up sounding like? Hmmm, yeah, I suppose so. In which case we arrive at why I love Landscapes in spite of its accidental or willful incompetence. It takes many a productive stoned afternoon and vision to produce tracks like the Boards Of Canada-esque 'Deck Observatory' or the shimmering guitar showpiece 'Wishes', and I admire any man who has one or both of those things. Stoned afternoons and vision, I mean. Ducktails III may be the better overall record, and Ducktails II is an underrated lo-fi classic, but neither has the perfect ability to incite nostalgia in me, or to approximate what it's like to spend your days playing 8-bit Nintendo games while eating Count Chocula and drinking cheap beer at a friends' apartment.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Centipede Hz Album Cover

Can we all please please please agree that this is the worst album cover in recent memory? I mean look at this shit. It looks like an acid trip as illustrated by an 8th grade computer graphics class in 1990. It raises more questions the more I look at and/or think about it. Questions I'll now pose and sarcastically answer.

Q: Was that font taken from an early Super NES game? Possibly one developed in America and made to look like what the people of 1991 thought 2011 would be like?
A: Yes.

Q: Could this be an elaborate hoax meant to scare off new fairweather Merriweather fans?
A: Nope, it's been too long and no new cover art to replace the hoax.

Q: If a thousand elephants were taught how to paint and also given conditioning so that they had anxiety attacks whenever they heard any kind of electronic sound, would one of them eventually paint something resembling this cover?
A: I think we both know the answer to that.

Q: Is the childish, borderline willfully-bad, and inept design of this cover indicative of how little of a fuck the band must give about their image or being considered serious artists?
A: Most likely, but I still might like the album, so I could be wrong.

Q: Based on the 'Honeycomb'/'Gotham' single from earlier this Summer, do you think they might have lost it, or do they still have it?
A: I'll answer that when I figure out if these two songs are god awful attempts to sound experimental or the next interesting step from a band reconciling their newfound status as indie leaders with their weirder, wilder, more druggy, and obscure past. Right now I'm leaning toward the latter.

Q: Follow-up question: are you on drugs right now?
A: No further questions, please.

All fooling around aside, I'm excited about Centipede Hz though its cover is ugly.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Beach Fossils- Beach Fossils

As we become older, I'd like to think our tastes mature. Sure, I may still get a laugh or three out of Dumb & Dumber or Billy Madison, but most of the time I gravitate toward more thought provoking and, I guess, intellectual fare. At the same time, paradoxically, I think as we get older we end up wanting more and more of the things we love and are less inclined to give a chance to entirely new experiences. As a high schooler, I felt like my musical journey would last the rest of my life. Now, 10 years later, I feel like I'm on a plateau, resting during a smoke break.

I've been taking an extended hiatus from Whiskey Pie, you may have noticed, and took that time to listen to music without thinking of it in terms of whether I would write about it and what I would say. It was a return to that high school era of open discovery, come to think of it, though in this case it was less about reading reviews than it was blindly downloading interesting looking stuff from this blog, Shoegazer Alive 5b. Discovery, yes...pure musical discovery; no thought given to something beyond whether I liked it or not.

"Liked" is crucial to me because when I like something, I stick with it, and keep returning to it, even if I never feel anything particularly strong about it. Often I come to love something out of bloody minded repetition, and Beach Fossils is definitely one of those cases. I've been listening to them off and on since the Fall and woke up a few days ago realizing I was addicted to their stuff. There are so many bands I would have given up on right off the bat if I had a deadline looming and needed to write a review that day and thus didn't have time to let it grow on me. Beach Fossils, and their self titled debut more specifically, grew on me. Like an addiction.

Anyway, getting back to the opening...

I currently find myself in a period where all I want to do is listen to retro influenced indie rock bands, whether it's more psychedelic leaning ones like Woods and The Black Angels or more jangle-pop influenced ones like Real Estate and Twerps. Beach Fossils split the difference by being both vaguely psychedelic and vaguely jangle-y, with a distinct 60s surf influence. Meaning what, exactly? Well, lots of reverb, lots of tap-able and/or clap-able rhythms, lots of melodic bass lines, lots of tom-toms and lo-fi drum machines (at least that's what it sounds like on 'Golden Age') , catchy but not cloying hooks, and a hazy sense of semi-stoned, nostalgic satisfaction. Or sardonic, feigned indifference, depending on the song.

Beach Fossils is a solid 4 out of 5, B-level record. Yet I'm not giving out scores anymore and here's a good example why; this is the sort that I could easily see a lot of people, like I did, keeping it around on the floor by the record player, listening to it here or there until it goes from an interesting listen to an obligatory listen, the kind you can't seem to get out of your head for days, if not weeks, on end. Scores are too definitive for so changeable a feeling as how much I like something. Right now, to me, Beach Fossils is at least as good as Rubber Soul. It is an album full of songs as much as it is atmospheres, the sort of headspace you want to re-visit. These are songs and atmospheres, yes, evoking faded memories of Summer vacations spent on humid porches and air conditioned living room carpets, playing whatever the current Nintendo console was or talking about girls (or boys) you were going to ask out that year. It's modern and yet nostalgic, inessential and yet indispensable.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

11 Stray Thoughts

1) The new album by Beach House, Bloom, is pretty good even though it feels more like a slightly different sequel to Teen Dream than the next step in the band's evolution. Don't get me wrong, it's almost as good as Teen Dream. Perhaps the best parallel is Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac; both are great, but the former came first and felt newer/fresher even if many prefer the latter.

2) After spending most of their career using as little instrumentation as possible, and falling more often than not on the dour side of things, The Walkmen have recruited producer Phil Elk and guest Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes to help them expand their sound. The result is arguably the band's best record yet, Heaven.

3) The titles of the new Beach House and The Walkmen albums should be switched. Heaven should be a place of relative stagnation but enjoyment (more like how Beach House's new one feels), whereas Bloom is more fitting for the by turns majestic and uplifting Walkmen record.

4) You should immediately go listen to all the Felt that you can. Such an underrated, under-known band.

5) I've slowly become addicted to Beach Fossils. Their new single, Shallow/Lessons, is fantastic, and I'm definitely anticipating their forthcoming sophomore record with increasing impatience.

6) The Horrors and The Drones are also underrated and under-known bands. The Horrors's Primary Colours sounds like a combination of Liars and My Bloody Valentine. The Drones recorded Gala Mill at the titular mill in an isolated area of Australia, and the atmosphere of that environment permeates these songs. The Drones sound most to me like the rock guitar side of Sun Kil Moon and the impassioned side of Nick Cave combined with bare bones, distorted Spiderland guitars as engineered by Steve Albini.

7) Bardo Pond's 'Back Porch' and 'Tommy Gun Angel' kick incredible amounts of ass.

8) The Days Of Wine & Roses by The Dream Syndicate is a perfect amalgamation of Velvet Underground and The Feelies-esque jangle-pop.

9) Sufjan Steven's Age Of Adz gets better with time.

10) How I Met Your Mother is my new favorite sitcom. Imagine a modern version of Seinfeld, with all the wit, neurotic characters, made up words and terms, and odd misadventures that implies, but actually much better than that comparison makes it sound.

11) Predator 2, as with Ghostbusters 2, is an unfairly maligned sequel to a classic film.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Whiskey Pie's 1st Annual Baddest Motherfucker Ever Award

I'm pleased to announce the first installment in an award series for Whiskey Pie, the Baddest Motherfucker Ever Award. The BMEA will be awarded every year on St. Patrick's Day shortly before I have my first drink, and it will be given to whomever I consider the Baddest Motherfucker Ever.

This year's recipient, and possible contender for all future years this award is given, is the legendary Keith David, he of badass look, imposing physical size, and incredibly badass voice. You may know him as the black guy from more than a couple John Carpenter movies...or possibly as the "ass to ass!" evil guy from Requiem For A Dream...or possibly as a character in any number of voiceover roles in videogames and animation, such as Captain Anderson in the Mass Effect games and Goliath in the Gargoyle cartoon from the 90s.

What clinches it for him this year, and possibly every year in the future, is that he is a badass with an intellectual side, a creative side; a soft spot, if you will. I knew he had an amazing voice but it never occurred to me he'd be a great singer, too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 47

This week is a very distracted, scatterbrained one due to the lovely Spring in Ohio right now. Just watch it ya schmucks, I got nature to oggle.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Captain Beefheart On David Letterman

This is one of those bizarre video clips you find online while looking for live videos on YouTube. This isn't as much of a trainwreck as some other infamous Letterman interview videos, taking its time for the sheer surreal-ness to catch up to you.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Modest Mouse- This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About

Like a strange parallel to Billy Corgan, Isaac Brock's creative stock keeps falling to new lows with each successive album and news item. Thus it's refreshing to return to the man's earlier days, when he made music that sounds good in record stores, instead of now, when he makes music that sounds good in Hot Topic and Starbucks.

The band's debut, This Is A Long Title Which Is Annoying To Repeatedly Type Out, is still arguably their best album, based solely on how perfectly it demonstrates everything great about what this band used to be, as well as a perfect entry in the great road/travel album pantheon. It's hard to imagine a band like Cymbals Eat Guitars existing if not for this record, since it more or less laid down the blueprint for expansive, almost-jammy indie rock. Interestingly enough, Isaac Brock produced the first Wolf Parade album but not their third, Expo 86, which is that band's most expansive, almost-jammy sounding.

 This Is A Long Drive... also marks one of the last times Brock screamed instead of just yelling in that affected voice like he does now. Hip music fans know that going from screaming to mere yelling typically marks the point where an artist is mellowing in a lame way. See also the way Frank Black/Black Francis didn't scream for years until the Pixies reunited. How this will bode for Animal Collective will depend on their next album, I suppose. But I digress.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lizzy Mercier Descloux- Press Colour & Mambo Nassau

I've been meaning to write something about this awesome chick for a good month now, shortly after my friend Richard discovered her and hooked me up. There is certainly music that sounds similar to the two albums from which these videos come, Press Colour and Mambo Nassau, yet at the same time, nothing else in music history sounds like her. She's a unique specimen, like Captain Beefheart or Richard D. James, very much of their respective times and musical eras and yet timeless, too.

While it's true that Press Colour could be classified as no wave/post-punk/new wave, in varying degrees depending on the song, I can't say I know of anything from any of those scenes that sounds like 'Hard-Boiled Babe' (which I think might actually be from another project she did, though it's included as a bonus track on Press Colour, so nyah!).

On a side note, I don't have a single critical thing to say about either album. They're brilliant, endlessly listenable, and seem to appeal to damn near everyone I (or Richard!) know.

Similarly, her cover of 'Funky Stuff', as well as most of Mambo Nassau are right out of the funky music being made by nearly everyone in the early 80s, bringing to mind Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, and even Parliament/Funkadelic....and yet, they sound very little like those, either. On 'Funky Stuff', Lizzy sounds like a bouncing cheerleader, or maybe a French version of Deborah Harry of Blondie on uppers and pixie sticks. Then there's a track like 'Milk Sheik', a sort of fairground/carnival/festival ditty, the sort you might hear in some place like Frankenmuth, Michigan or at your local German-American oktoberfest-style event.

Now, I know 'Funky Stuff' is a cover, but I can't help but feel it's a fine title. I admire and appreciate songs that tell you exactly what they are before you hear them, like 'Feedback' by the Grateful Dead (consisting of the band making feedback and noise), Daniel Johnston's 'Chord Organ Blues' (a blues song played on and about a chord organ) or even 'Billy's Tool Box' by Medeski, Martin, & Wood, in which drummer Billy Wood toys around with his available drums/percussion for about half a minute.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Grateful Dead

You'd be hard pressed to name a more cult-like, divisive band than The Grateful Dead. I feel like, whether or not you're a fan, it's one of those ways you know you have a true musical connection with someone if their opinion lines up with your's.

I happen to be a sort of recovering closet Grateful Dead fan. I suppose Animal Collective talking about them in the press and using the first ever authorized Dead sample on the song 'What Would I Want? Sky' gave me courage to finally admit it, though I think I had long since accepted and embraced my love for the band. It was round about the time my manager at my current job said he loved his parents' vintage vinyl copy of one of their weird 60s/70s albums (Blues For Allah or maybe Aoxomoxoa based on his description).

Still, their live shows are definitely where it's at when it comes to Deadhead-dom, even as fine as Workingman's Dead and American Beauty are. You'll rarely come across a fan who doesn't think the band's best material was during their first decade-or-so, spanning from roughly 1966 to their 1975 'hiatus' year. Not that all Dead post-'75 is dreadful, but it certainly gets less compelling as it goes, at least in my opinion.

This live show, I'm about to link below, is only the second set of this night's concert, and demonstrates only about half of the band's variety, missing some of the bluegrass and country/folk influences of releases like the live-with-studio-over-dubs Europe '72. Hmm perhaps versatility is a better word than variety, then. Anyway, this set opens with 'They Love Each Other', which I'm more familiar with in a slower, funkier setting from the legendary show on May 8, 1977. I like this leaner, cleaner, R&B-ier version even better...reminds me of what Credence Clearwater Revival or even 1969/1970 era Velvet Underground might do with it. And as for this insanely long performance of 'Dark Star', well, there's a part around the 28 minute mark which is as experimental and abrasive as anything you've heard before. As anyone who's cool enough to listen to Live/Dead knows, this band actually had some noisy shit going on from time to time--by which I refer to the aptly titled seven minute track 'Feedback', every bit as dissonant and groundbreaking as anything off White Light/White Heat. Or Animal Collective's first few albums.

Oh, anyway, here's the link to show, man. Just remember you owe me a dimebag and some rolling papers next time I see you:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 45

Illness can't stop episode 45 from happening, though it did cause me to stop halfway through after a coughing fit. Yay!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jim O'Rourke- Bad Timing

A friend of mine was over a few nights ago. As per usual, he had his acoustic guitar in tow, absentmindedly fiddling with it as we talked and listened to music. He sometimes plays along with whatever I'm playing though usually it's too electric/weird to match well with an acoustic. Jim O'Rourke's Bad Timing popped into my head as a great record to play along to, since it's an instrumental album centered around O'Rourke's deft playing, sometimes with ornamental orchestral backing. Hearing my friend find his way into the chords and melodies, adding his own style to the songs along the way, was one of the best moments of pure music I've ever experienced.

Like Eureka, Bad Timing is a rather unassuming piece of music, pleasing enough on first listen but not so mindblowingly good as to keep it on top of your list of stuff you want to listen to everyday for weeks. Every time I come back to these records, though, I'm filled with an increasing sense of wonder at the timelessness of the music, as well as the care and loving grace put into the playing.

Neither Eureka nor Bad Timing have any of the abrasive/experimental elements that mark most of O'Rourke's other work as solo artist, collaborator, improviser, bandmate, and producer, yet they are not obvious attempts to shill to the mainstream. Eureka has a very cinematic feel, some songs lingering in the same section for longer than is normal for a pop song, suggesting some unseen onscreen action is taking place while the soundtrack kills time until the scene changes. Bad Timing is more about sheer chops and lyrical playing, reminding me of Nick Drake's complex Pink Moon guitar style and the flamenco flourishes of Sun Kil Moon's Admiral Fell Promises.

The story goes that Jeff Tweedy was obsessed with this album, driving around Chicago while listening to it incessantly, leading him to invite O'Rourke to play with him at the Noise Pop festival in 2000. This in turn led to Wilco's experimental period from roughly mid 2000 to the release of Sky Blue Sky in 2007. Bad Timing might not be as important and influential to my life, or to the life of my friend, but it remains a unique and rich listening experience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jackie Brown

I remember reading somewhere that Quentin Tarantino saw Jackie Brown as his "old man" movie, and I've always wondered what he meant. It has far less violence and pop culture references than his normal  fare, but other than the lengthy run time, methodical pacing, and older actors/actresses, Jackie Brown has always struck me as a 'hang out' movie more than anything.

'Hang out' movies are, to me anyway, the sort of films where the the overall plot is subservient to getting interesting characters together to do and say interesting things. They may be criminals, drug addicts, murderers, losers, etc., yet there's something oddly compelling about them all the same. 

They're bad people in good ways, perhaps. 

These are people we wouldn't mind hanging out with, for certain.

I guess what I ultimately mean is, everything memorable about films like The Big Lebowski and Clerks is due to the characters and things they say/do than any kind of plot or big important movie-style commentaries on, I dunno, guilt, man's own inhumanity to man, capital punishment, and so on.

The best scenes in Jackie Brown are top flight 'hang out' movie material. Robert DeNiro and Bridget Fonda are my kind of people: they lounge around a beach house smoking pot watching TV, drinking in the early afternoon, rambling about their pasts, saying incisive things (paraphrasing Bridget Fonda on Samuel L. Jackson's character: 'He moves his lips when he reads, what does that tell you?') and randomly deciding to fuck.

Still, there's something naturalistic about every interaction in this movie, from the way the two ATF agents (one played in wonderful eccentric style by Michael Keaton, who at one point eats a steak wearing a black leather jacket, which is worth infinite points on any critical scale) working with Jackie have an awkward semi-argument about the color of a shopping bag, to the way you know Max is falling in love with Jackie by the way he simultaneously falls in love with the music of the Delfonics, to the look and sound of genuine empathy and disappointment when Samuel L. Jackson's character kills Robert DeNiro's character near the end.

I guess that's a spoiler, but if you're really upset about that, you've missed everything I just said. You could go read the Wikipedia entry for this movie and get the entire plot and it would still be a delight and a pleasure to watch based on the performances and writing. I just love all the little details in the locations and set designs, too. Pay particular attention to Jackie's apartment.

Like the best 'hang out' and cult films, Jackie Brown improves with every subsequent viewing as you surrender to the familiar flow of the pacing of scenes and the rhythm of the conversations, DeNiro and Fonda's a sort of stoned, pleasant apathy, Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson's a tense, hypnotic, oddly calm game of wits.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tennis- Young & Old

A Few Thoughts (Unedited) Posing As A Review Of The New Tennis Album, Young & Old

1) I found out today at work that I didn't get the assistant manager job I had more or less counted on getting because I've been there the longest and worked the hardest of all the applicants. But this is a cruel, unusual universe that I inhabit, and I've long since adapted to survive as the life-long-loser. For some reason the lyrics "we could be good but we don't live the way that we should" from this album seemed especially apt today. Especially after I spent most of the day playing loud, noisy shit like The Black Angels and Flux Information Sciences with the bass and treble cranked.

2) One of my good friend recently moved to Kansas to pursue further schooling. He and I are fans, if not advocates, for Tennis. In a recent email to me, he summed up how he felt about this record thusly: "I listened to the new Tennis album; it is kind of different from what they did before, but I still think it is a good sophomore album." Pat, I couldn't have said it better myself.

3) I all-too-frequently go through periods of time where I feel an overwhelming apathy and negativity about a lot of things in my life. I end up listening to the first two Velvet Underground albums, when I normally only regularly enjoy their last two (post-Lou Reed VU isn't really VU, man). People try to cheer me up and, while it kind of annoys me because I wish people would commiserate instead of playing the "glass is half full" card so soon, I know, deep down, that they're right. In the same way, then, I know that I was wrong to underrate the first Tennis album when I reviewed it, and I also know that I'm right in declaring Young & Old a good sophomore album.

Oh wait, he just said that.

Um, let's see here.

4) Young & Old is smartly (and perhaps rightly) similar enough to their debut, while making some changes, to succeed mightily. This is especially key since this only follows Cape Dory by about a year, and I'd have been more than pleased if they'd turned in a similar-but-equally-good sophomore effort instead. But no, Young & Old still has a pleasant retro early 60s rock/pop sound with a little less overt surf influence; less sailing/nautical imagery, too, though travel as a concept still features prominently, such as on, you guessed it, 'Traveling.' 

5) Think of a slightly more fleshed out, full-band sounding version of Cape Dory with some new instruments and textures, and you've pretty much nailed Young & Old. It beefs up Tennis's sound in a way similar to The Shins' change from the classicist indie-pop of Oh, Inverted World to the power-pop, more muscular sounding Chutes Too Narrow.

6) I was watching a Beach House video earlier and it once more occurred to me that the reason my (male) friends and I react so strongly to bands like Tennis, She & Him, and Beach House in that we all want women to promise the kind of poetical romance and dedication that normally only men will sing about and/or offer their partners. I know I'm always on the other side of the losing equation, pining after women or wishing they would never leave my side...and then here's a bunch of women in amazing bands singing those same things to me. If that makes me sound pathetic and creepy, I suppose it will have to. I love Young & Old but I've been programmed to, I think.

7) I love that every song on this record is between 3:02 and 3:45 in length. Tennis are a very three minute song kind of band. I respect such inadvertent consistency. Their next release should be a concept album about the number 3, or maybe do it like i by the Magnetic Fields and have every song start with 3. Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 43

We get back to basics, and don't let illness keep us down, in this three segment episode.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammy Awards

I feel that the awards this year...

Ha ha, just kidding! Nobody with a brain gives a shit about the Grammys. Like every other award show, even ones with respectability like the Oscars, there is so much nonsense in the entire principle of a small group of the population voting on art and those somehow ending up as the ostensibly official awards given out by our culture at large. Besides which, there is so much behind-closed-doors hanky-panky going on that it's even easier to fix the awards than it is the Super Bowl.

Anyway, an award is not a democracy, people! Award committees are not representatives voting on your behalf, that you elected! Stop complaining like these awards really matter. American culture has become so disparate and vast over the past 50 years there's no way the Grammys can encompass all of that. Take a look at the nominees for Album Of The Year this year and tell me that that isn't a narrow fucking range of all of the music that came out in whatever weird time frame the Grammys cover each year.

On a side note, I didn't feel like I "won" because Arcade Fire won the top award last year (partially because it's their weakest record, mostly because I don't consider myself as on their side in anything, really, except for being creative vs. being dead). Though some saw it as a validation of my subculture, I didn't. I'm not really strict hipster, for starters. But I digress.

Anyone who really cares about music, and not the business/fame side of things, wouldn't waste their time watching it or reading about it. Anyone who really cares about music, and not the business/fame side of things, would know that there were any number of amazing albums from any number of years the Grammys have been around which didn't get nominated for anything.

But I digress.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2007

Weekly Whiskey will be a day late this week due to some personal stuff. I figured I would just go ahead and post my top 10 albums of 2007 and then talk about them tomorrow in the next Weekly Whiskey to finish off this long-running 2007 retrospective series. Anyway, for now, here's the list. The reasons behind the choices, and rambling to spare, come in video form tomorrow!

1) Panda Bear- Person Pitch
2) Sunset Rubdown- Random Spirit Lover
3) The National- Boxer
4) Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
5) Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
6) Battles- Mirrored
7) Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha
8) The Field- From Here We Go Sublime
9) Field Music- Tones Of Town
10) Animal Collective- Strawberry Jam

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cloud Nothings- Attack On Memory

Could it be said that an album can be great for the producer's body of work but not spectacular for the band? This thought had never occurred to me until listening to the new Cloud Nothings record, Attack On Memory. Steve Albini is a notorious, equally hated and loved producer, generally in indie rock and its similar genres. I haven't heard something he produced in awhile that really struck me as great work for him, as if he was killing time and saving up money to fund the next Shellac record.

But I think Attack On Memory works as well as it does because of his production style. He makes what would otherwise be a mediocre post-hardcore indie rock album into something at times akin to Bedhead, and at other times a parallel-future version of Slint that went on to record after Spiderland. The production is so key to my enjoyment of the album that it reminds me a lot of similar otherwise-mediocre albums elevated by their production, Walk It Off by Tapes N' Tapes and Some Loud Thunder by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

As for Attack On Memory itself, I think it only occasionally rises above the level of especially good workmanlike takes on post-hardcore indie rock (the dynamics, man, the dynamics!). Kind of like Slint sometimes, kind of like Polvo. Kind of not as good as either, with vocals that sometimes sound like screamo bullshit, and other times like Blink 182 style "punk" rock.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I feel like I must've written about Alien before, especially for the Halloween themed posts I used to do, but nope. Never the original anyway. Which is odd, because along with the Terminator series, it's probably my favorite film series. I even love and appreciate the flawed-or-downright-awful entries, like Alien: ResurrectionAlien Vs. Predator: Requiem and Terminator: Salvation.

On a side note, if odd numbered Star Trek films are always the bad ones, I think subtitled instead of numbered Alien and Terminator films are always the bad ones. This is why Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines is only half awesome and half awful, because it has a number and a subtitle. Hmm, wait, Terminator 2 had a subtitle, too. But I digress.

All I really want to do today, since so many others have covered this movie exhaustively in so many other reviews and essays of the film, is talk about how I think H.R. Giger's design for the adult alien creature is the most original in any medium, ever. Certainly Star Trek and Star Wars have some great ideas, even some that aren't humanoid. Yet Giger's alien, based heavily on his painting Necrom IV (above; which inspired director Ridley Scott to contact him in the first place), is so nightmarish and, well, alien looking, that even now, having seen the shit out of these creatures in well lit shots in other movies, the original Alien film has the power to transfix and terrify me. Even when I can frame-by-frame an HD version of it, it still isn't quite clear in enough of the frames to get a really good idea of just what the hell it is.

I would rant about how CGI ruined movies like this for me since for some reason my brain knows the monsters aren't "real" yet old, primitive practical effects in the first three Alien films still creep me out...even stuff like John Carpenter's The Thing is still creepy for this reason...but I'd just be ranting. You should still go check out some more of Giger's stuff, if only his published sketches/designs for the series and other movies he worked on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 41

The triumphant(?) return of Weekly Whiskey (after only one week off, give a break!) sees us discussing changes to Whiskey Pie, the last entry in our 2007 retrospective series, and then rambling about Skyrim for awhile. Also starring intermittent beer burps.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hobo With A Shotgun

There are some movies which transcend normal ratings of 'good' or 'bad' in the same way that, say, the sugary sweet pop music of bands like Hanson and 1910 Fruitgum Company transcend such metrics. In the case of something like Hobo With A Shotgun, I think it transcends any kind of critical scores simply because it quite literally is-what-it-is: a movie about a hobo with a shotgun. The premise alone is enough to make you want to watch it, and if you do, you know what you're getting into.

A movie made because someone won a trailer contest for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse double-movie, Hobo With A Shotgun is an exploitation film through-and-through. I will give this movie genuine thinking man's/art film credit for the overly saturated Technicolor style and also for taking its sweet time to get the titular weapon into the titular character's hands, and all along both playing to and against type, as often bowing to cliches and tradition as it does upsetting them. There's a scene where the hobo wants to buy a lawnmower for $49.95 from a pawn shop, and we see a rack of shotguns on the wall behind him for the same price...but he doesn't end up buying either. Well, kind of.

This film's particular genius lies not in the dialogue, which in all fairness will offer a couple of in-joke gems for you and your friends who watch it with you ("Welcome to fuck town!" is my pick of the litter), but in how creative it is with its violence. At a certain point in films like Tokyo Gore Police and, I don't know, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, the violence becomes so over the top as if to be almost ballet-esque. Hobo offers up some gems, such as a scene where one evil dude plays 'Disco Inferno' while his even-more-evil brother uses a flamethrower to immolate a schoolbus from the inside, children and all. Cleverly, this image wraps back around when (spoiler!) said evil child-murderer gets his (spoiler!) package shot off by the titular hobo and presumably bleeds to death in a phone booth, the school bus representative of death and/or hell as it appears from nowhere to take him away.

There's also a part near the end where a chick stabs a dude with the broken off bone sticking out of her arm...yeah.

All that said, my friend Richard, who suggested we watch it, admitted later if he was watching it alone he would've given up 1/3 of the way through. I don't really know what that says about him or this movie. I said earlier that 'good' or 'bad' don't apply, and I think that's true. Hobo With A Shotgun is certainly an entertaining movie, and I doubt that anything you'll see, outside of Tarantino or Rodriguez's Grindhouse contributions, ends as seemingly abruptly and borderline-carelessly as this film. Imagine if Terminator or Aliens ended right after the big evil baddie was finally offed, with no epilogue, and you've got the right idea.

But damn if it wasn't entertaining, at least to me. Richard may've fallen asleep off and on during it, but:

1) he was in the process of moving that weekend and we were both pretty tired

2) he and I are both creaking up on 30 and thus becoming old men who fall asleep at 11, even on Fridays

3) he didn't enjoy it much, as I just got done saying, so perhaps for some people sleep is preferable to watching Rutger Hauer get stabbed by ice skates (did I mention this film is a Canadian production? and has a brief appearance by Ricky from Trailer Park Boys as well as some obvious accents?) or chew on glass to make money from a sadistic cameraman who I assume is a satirical reference to the deplorable but-I-bet-at-least-one-person-you-know-has-seen-them Bumfights videos.

I want to close by saying that this movie is as transformative for Rutger Hauer as any of his more critically respected roles. I would never have known it was the guy from Blade Runner if I hadn't accidentally confused him with Dolph Lundgren for the first 40 minutes and looked up the movie on Wikipedia to make sure I wasn't crazy. No, I wasn't crazy, just confused.

Actually, that might be a a better way to end this, and a good way to sum up my reaction to the movie: I wasn't crazy about it, but I was certainly confused. I more than a few times laughed out loud at the sheer spectacle and absurdity of it all, never knowing where it was going to go next. At least it was an entertaining kind of confusion, like when you first see Commando and can't decide if it's the cheesiest 80s action flick ever or the greatest. Well, can't it be both?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Scott Walker's Nite Flights/Climate Of Hunter

Scott Walker is one of those cult artists you discover via one means or another and afterward you wonder why he's only a cult artist. Assuming you aren't aware of him and you have Netflix, you can't do much better than watching the documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man as an introduction to his music. Even if you don't end up digging his stuff it's still a fascinating story of a man whose career saw him moving between pop stardom, increasingly experimental baroque/orchestral vocal pop music, sellout-ish slum work that he still won't allow to be re-printed, and finally, over a period of 28 years, producing one album per decade that were among the most unique, arguably innovative, and experimental records of their (or any) era.

Well, that's not technically true. If I'm going to count the 70s I have to cheat a bit, since he didn't really release an album then. Rather he contributed four tracks to the last album by The Walker Brothers. Since his material is so unlike the rest of the album's songs, it's almost best to consider his material an EP and listen to it as such. But I digress.
Despite its 1978 release, Nite Flights is predictive of certain aesthetic trends in 80s pop music, by which I mean, the digital sounding instruments and distinctly 80s album cover (which is vaguely Peter Gabriel-esque thanks to being designed by the famous Hipgnosis team). In some sense you can posit it as existing in the same school as 70s art/experimental pop by the likes of Brian Eno and David Bowie. Both appear in the 30 Century Man documentary discussing Nite Flights and the latter went so far as to cover the title track. Walker was likely influenced by them as well, since the first song, 'Shutout', bears a searing guitar part highly reminiscent of Robert Fripp's playing on Eno's 70s solo albums. This is the most 'normal' of his Nite Flights tracks though Walker's oddly processed vocals, sounding half robotic and half human, keep things from being a bit too predictable.

'Fat Mama Kick' is where we first hear what Walker had been keeping inside all those years after the commercial failure of his last genuinely artistic record, Scott 4. It's also the most obvious bridge/jumping-off-point from this album to the rest of his career, pointing pretty clearly to his next release, Climate Of Hunter. It may not sound as timeless as his other beloved work, bearing obvious 80s sounding elements, but the oblique lyrics and at-the-time shocking dissonance of the other sonic elements make this quite unlike any other 70s/80s music out there. Plus that weird burbling keyboard line makes me smile for some reason.

Though as accessible as 'Shutout', the title track has such hypnotic delivery of such impenetrable-but-sparse lyrics that it seems like Walker might have used William Burrough's cut-up technique to randomly jumble words and phrases together into a seemingly coherent whole despite the randomness. Well, as they say, the human mind is designed to look for patterns and order in all things, and 'Nite Flights' is thus an eternal puzzle. I'm sure it means something; it makes me feel something when I hear this song but I sure couldn't explain what that is. As Walker's music becomes more abstract and hard to define, it also becomes more personal and difficult to discuss. You really just need to go to YouTube and listen to these songs.

Especially since up next is 'The Electrician', which quite humorously was released as a single(!). I was so astounded by this song when it came up in the 30 Century Man documentary that I thought I might've accidentally fast-forwarded past something. Seemingly a few minutes before, they were talking about the Walker Brothers reunion in the 70s and how Walker was at a low point artistically. And then...well here's the lyrics that floored me:
drilling thru
the dark hip falls
kill me
kill me
kill me
if i
jerk - the handle
you'll die
in your dreams
if i
jerk - the handle
jerk - the handle
thrill me
thrill me
thrill me

Keep in mind that this is all set to a backing of abrasive repetitive strings that give way to a soaring orchestral melody that harkens back to his 'classic' late 60s records. We can now see this as the last time he would do this sort of music, and I have to wonder if it was his way of either bidding farewell to it or throwing the audience a bone for making it through the desolate atmosphere which surrounds this orchestral section on either end. Those desolate atmospheres with abstract, stunning lyrics, oddly enough, don't really point to his next album, Climate Of Hunter, as they do his next albums after that, 1995's Tilt and 2006's The Drift

Even at its most experimental, Climate Of Hunter is in many ways more accessible and 'pop' than his material on Nite Flights. Rather than the musical direction picking up from 'The Electrician', it's as though he picked up from 'Shutout' and 'Nite Flights' instead. Which could've produced a throughly brilliant work except that, oops, this record was made in the 1980s and thus has that hideous 80s production style and flat/digital drum sound that make me wince. Were it recorded immediately after Nite Flights or with a different record label, Climate Of Hunter would undoubtedly be more interesting. Walker's lyrics may be as brilliant as ever, but unfortunately, by and large Climate Of Hunter is one of those cases where something sounded cutting edge and weird upon its release but seems dated and flat when heard today. 

Now, I did refer to this album in the first paragraph above as being one of "the most unique, arguably innovative, and experimental records of its (or any) era", and I still mean that. It doesn't mean it's a particularly great record, besides which, the state of creativity in 80s music, pop or otherwise, was so abysmal that it's still, at the very least, more interesting than most of its contemporaries. Keep in mind that in 1984 former creative contemporaries of Walker's had been all but subdued by the contentment and lack-of-ambition which infected many former innovators in their transition from the 70s to the 80s. In Bowie's case, he became one of the embodiments of 1980s vaguely danceable pop music (that said, ironically, I think 'Let's Dance' is the best song Bowie ever did). In Eno's case, he retreated entirely from his astonishing 70s art/experimental pop records into enjoyable-but-forgettable ambient albums and a flourishing career as producer. In Walker's case...well, he tries to have it both ways. I doubt any other album from the 80s has guest appearances from Billy Ocean and Mark Knopfler...and a free-jazz saxophonist (Evan Parker).

All of this is a long way of saying, Climate Of Hunter has aged poorly but not as poorly as other 80s music. In 2012, it's not enjoyable as pop music (as some of Bowie's 80s material is, say) and it's not weird/experimental enough (as Tom Wait's 80s material is, say) to qualify as anything other than a curio from a fucked up decade. Perhaps a better way of saying it would be, Climate Of Hunter sounds like other 80s music in the broad sense, but very little 80s music really sounds like it where it counts, in the details. It's a record you might listen to a couple times and file away, now having an idea of how he got from there (going further back to his 60s stuff) to here (his nightmare-like soundscapes from his more modern work).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Important Announcement

By now you've noticed that there was no Weekly Whiskey episode this week, and that in general, Whiskey Pie has been seeing progressively less and less content over the past few months. There are many reasons for both of these situations though I'll spare you all the very personal ones that don't relate to the blog or my writing. Feel free to invent your own, too. I'll get to the point of this announcement in a bit. Just allow me some reflecting and explaining where I'm coming from first. Oh, allow me to go ahead and say "no, I'm not shutting down Whiskey Pie." Though the notion did cross my mind a few times over the past couple weeks.


I'm tremendously proud of the work I've done on Whiskey Pie over the past four years. I know it's a cliche, but I can't believe it's really been that long. I started this in...2008? Really? It's still a little surreal to me to think I've been semi-consistently updating a blog for longer than I went to high school or college. It's not even so much the fact I've stuck with this blog for so long, it's that I can look back on 90% of the writing I've done for this blog and I'm still pleased with it. I had written about music for six years, off and on since high school, before starting this blog and I really don't think I managed to produce quality work on a regular basis until I was doing Whiskey Pie.

The irony is that I think since those wild days of high school/college papers and pre-Whiskey Pie were more fun, for lack of a better term. This is something that occurred to me when I was editing Annotated Whiskey: Collected Pie Volume 1 (available now from Amazon!), too, though at that point it felt like  this was a positive change. Certainly my writing has become more polished and professional since starting Whiskey Pie, but it had also lost some of that spark of personality and "fun" in the bargain. My reviews now are perfectly fine. And that's the problem.

Well, that's two problems.

Problem one is that I don't want to be a review writer. I always thought of myself as a critic more than a reviewer, and I think my writing has become more formulaic and studious while all the "fun", personality, and criticism ends up in videos or my Essay stuff. I'm sick of putting scores at the bottom of my reviews and it's something I've wanted to get rid of for a long time. I want to be a critic, not someone doing to music what a meat inspector does when grading beef.

Problem two is that I don't ever want to be "perfectly fine" with my writing. I haven't been pushing myself or trying new things for far too long. I keep thinking back to the first version of my review for The Walkmen's Lisbon. I wrote a quick, rambling draft of it while very drunk one night and ended up scrapping that entire thing because I felt it was too personal and uninformative. I thought back to the shit I used to turn in to my editor at my college paper, and while it was a damn sight better than most of the writing in there, it was still the archetypal "angry young man who hates everything except weird/obscure music" kind of writing. I was never happy with my writing back then but it felt like so much more of a creative act with interesting results than it does now. The review I wrote of A Hundred Miles Off by The Walkmen was written under the same circumstances as my first attempt at Lisbon and I like it much more than the eventual polished Lisbon one because I wrote it to help explain my feelings at the time. It was as much a music review as it was self expression. But more importantly, I wrote it because of what the music made me think and feel. That was what I really wanted to express, not just that I was feeling confused and fucked up at the time.

I've been re-reading Lester Bangs as of late and it's got me to thinking about why his writing still resonates with me. It's ultimately because he's an amazing writer. Bangs could be writing about anything and it would still be good. He resonates with me not because he's a music nerd (he was) or that he's a better writer than 99% of the other music journalists/critics in history (he was). Rather it's because he put his passion and personality into his writing. I don't want to write like Lester Bangs, however, I want to write like Greg Lytle.

I don't know that Lester Bangs's reviews are especially useful to decide if you want to go buy Fun House by the Stooges, but then again, it's 2012 and you can go to YouTube and listen to damn near any song, ever, or download entire discographies of bands in an hour or so via torrents. I can inject more of my personality (or perhaps I should be using the more literary term, "voice" here) into my writing because I don't need to be a professor lecturing students about the latest Band Of Horses record. Anymore when it comes to music, the worst that can happen is you wasted three minutes listening to Adele on YouTube and deciding you'd rather stick with hardcore punk instead or some damn thing. I don't think the original version of my Lisbon review would've helped you understand what it sounds like or how it's different from their other records, but maybe it would in its own strange way. Also, those are things you can easily remedy on your own. Anyway, what I can do is give you my perspective on it, even if that ends up being a rambling piece that references how The Walkmen sound like The Band, though I've never actively listened to The Band, so The Walkmen sound more like my idea of what The Band sound like...but I digress.

I've been increasingly stressing myself out with Whiskey Pie, making myself feel bad because I don't update enough or that the Weekly Whiskey videos are always thrown together at the last minute. Yet in the midst of all this self-abuse it occurred to me that the videos felt more real and honest than my writing did. My videos look and sound like the work of someone who overcomes crippling self-doubt and apathy to talk out loud to a Macbook for 20ish minutes every week because that's what I'm driven to do. It's part of my passion (or my sickness, I suppose). I have to make videos where I talk about Frog Eyes and Animal Collective albums because...I have to. Since I live alone and have no pets, I must reach out to the Internet for therapy.

Yes, writing about music was a kind of catharsis for me, but it hasn't been for a long time. Especially over the past year, it's become more like an obligation or a chore. I found myself writing reviews about albums I normally would skip over only because I felt a kind of duty to put a score to something, not because I had anything I particularly wanted to say about said albums. Writing, or anyway writing like I have been, feels like a job to me, a job I increasingly put less time and energy into because I don't care much about the final product. I feel like I have all these artificial conceits and constraints I put on my writing for Whiskey Pie, and I don't need to. I could've said everything I had to say about the Wild Flag record from last year in two paragraphs but since it was a "review" with a score attached I had to come up with more to say.

I also often want to write about things that aren't music related yet I keep them off here because, hey man, Whiskey Pie is about music and music only, right? Well, it doesn't have to be. The blog may not be named after me, and it may originally have started with a second co-creator way back in 2008, but now Whiskey Pie should be thought of more like...the blog of Greg Lytle instead of a blog that I write for. I won't be writing some LiveJournal shit, though, so don't worry. Anyway...

Whiskey Pie is going to change. I'm not going to redesign the site because I can't be bothered, but everything else is going to change. Here's a handy list!

1) No more scores. I think the strict five star system is still the best bet if you must use a scoring system of some kind. But I don't have to, so I won't.

2) Content about other subjects! I did sometimes dally in videogames and movies in the past, but expect more of that and more other stuff, too.

3) I'm not going to differentiate between different styles of writing any more. I will still often be doing what read like reviews of albums, but sometimes I might just write about one particular aspect of an album, or one memory I associate with it, and so forth. I may write Essay-style pieces, or things in between a review and an Essay. One day it might be a couple paragraphs, the next it might be something super long about great albums to get drunk to.

4) Weekly Whiskey is sticking around but it will change, too. Since I broke my promise and took a week off before the planned break after episode 52, I guess I just need to bring changes to the show gradually as I've been doing.

5) I can't promise any kind of consistent update schedule. I will still be releasing a Weekly Whiskey video every week, but otherwise, I need to mentally free myself of worrying about what I'm writing and when it's good enough to finally post. If I'm feeling apathetic and uninspired, as I have been lately, I need to just let sleeping dogs lie, as it were. Whiskey Pie should be a...celebration, not an obligation.

6) I'm not going to try to "keep up" with new releases this year. By the end of 2011 it became apparent that I was reviewing albums out of sheer obligation because all the sites I read were doing reviews of them. So I did my reviews like punching a clock even if I didn't have a lot to say about them. Ironically enough, then, I had a lot I wanted to say about Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy but I never did a review because my points were more like social criticism and open ended questions than the usual review writing I do. Without a score attached, though, I'd have posted a "review" in an instant. But I digress. I will still be doing a numbered "best of" list at the end of 2012, so never fear. Some traditions never die.

I guess that's it. Comment or email me if you wish. I will probably talk about this a bit more in the next Weekly Whiskey video.

-Greg Lytle

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 40

We celebrate turning 40...with a long, rambling bitch-and-rant sessions before talking about a couple 2007 albums.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Random Thing: Time Lapse Animal Collective Studio Video

Welcome to a new series I'm starting this year for Whiskey Pie, Random Thing. It's an easy and lazy name, I admit, but it's the only one that seems to apply. Basically, there are times when I want to write about something for this blog and it doesn't seem to fit into any of my other series, we are. Random Thing is going to be just that: random things that spark my interest that I want to write about. They'll still usually be music related. Usually.

The video linked above is...well, you can go read the Pitchfork news story for that. I'll wait.

OK, back with me?

I think any hardcore, nerdy music fan eventually becomes fascinated with recording studios, specifically, recording sessions that take place in them. Yet "the studio" as a kind of myth is key to a lot of music nerd-ery, from people writing entire books about recording sessions for famous albums to people buying equipment off of eBay because it was supposedly used by such-and-such band on such-and-such song or record.

It's strange, then, that I've never been all that interested in studio stories. I don't really know what I thought Animal Collective looked like when they recorded because it never occurred to me to wonder about such a thing. Certainly I read up on albums and I enjoy studio stories but they aren't something I actively seek out or fantasize about.

All the same, this video is oddly fascinating to me, mostly because it's kind of shown me that it's somewhat useful to seek out those stories. I never would've thought Animal Collective recorded a lot by playing live in the same room, since their music sounds so precise and exact that I thought it must've been sculpted a sound at a time by one member at a time. This casts new light on Strawberry Jam and makes me reconsider it as a piece of music yet again. This video also helps explain why Animal Collective are such a great live band because recording this record must've been as long and grueling as the practice sessions normal bands go through before heading out on tour.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 39

A sun-enhanced version of Weekly Whiskey this week. As promised in the video, I should return with consistent written content (after taking a two-week-ish break from writing) within the next couple days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Weekly Whiskey Episode 38

A casual, rambling episode thanks to holiday laze and a slow time of the year for new releases.