Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let's See Some ID

Someone who works for the company that manages the building in which I work asked me in the elevator today what my title is at the firm. Struck me as a rather strange question. When I told her that I'm a lawyer, her head dipped and her hand waived, as if to say, "Never mind." She explained that she had assumed I was something other than a lawyer because she's seen me going up and down the elevators a lot and I look young.

Not sure whether I should feel insulted or complimented. Probably a bit of both. Maybe it's time to dust off the suit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Ugly Duckling of Marks

Caught an amusing article in the Times today about -- of all things -- the semicolon. So tickled I was that I sent a message to the writer. I've got a love for words and (dopey as it may sound) punctuation marks -- except the semicolon.


Very amusing story about the subway semicolon sighting. That ad caught my attention yesterday, although what got me thinking wasn't the semicolon. Instead, I was puzzled as to why the ad didn't encourage riders to place their papers in recycling bins; seems the more advisable thing to do.

As for the semicolon ... it's just such an ugly, asymmetrical punctuation mark. A lack of aesthetic appeal is a much bigger impediment to its use than any other attributes ascribed to it. Text should flow, and it should be pretty. Pretty and semicolon just don't go together.

BTW -- I would have posted this as a comment to the story, but comment posting seems to have been disabled for that article.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holy Bloody Crap!

Holy crap!

So that was what I fired off to a few friends upon learning that My Bloody Valentine is reuniting for a series of shows in the U.K. next summer. And then I read that they've got a couple of albums slated for release, including one later this year. (Yeah ... this entry was started a couple of months ago and then neglected, like quite a few others. The talk of a new MBV album by the close of 2007 turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking.)

It felt as if I'd stumbled upon a Christmas present one month early. It's been a rather crummy few days, but reading those snippets of news put a quick smile on my face.

MBV holds a very special place in the pantheon of my memories. I can remember many a somber night during college and law school when the sounds of Loveless in a darkened room nurtured me from restlessness into a peaceful slumber.

When I fired off that e-mail, I was hopeful that MBV would extend their tour to the U.S. But quickly thereafter, the inspired me shoved aside the practical me. Why sit around and hope when you can make things happen? After all, London is but a six hour flight from thought to reality. So I hopped online and bought a pair of tickets to see MBV at The Roundhouse on June 23, 2008.

It's good to have moments such as those to remind you that you're alive.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Looking Like You Sound

And speaking of stylish ... here's a tasty nugget of beautiful kookiness from a singer named Jihae.

If the song serves up a dollop of erotic tension, then the video whips that dollop into a plateful. I've read that Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame) is a fan, so perhaps he had something to do with the video. Then again, from the looks of her website, Jihae seems to be quite the visual artist herself. So maybe she didn't need the assistance of Gondry's imagination.

A co-worker who walked into my office as I had Jihae's album playing remarked that Jihae sounds like Cat Power. I'm pretty sure she didn't walk in while I was listening to "Black Pearl" (the subject of the video above), because "sultry" doesn't come to mind when I think Cat Power. But her observation is a sensible one with regard to the acoustic tracks on the album.

Of Danes and Happiness

What led me to Dri and Virb was The Fashion, a stylish (naturally) band from Copenhagen. Could there be any other sort of band from Denmark? (Completely off topic, but I saw an amusing, insightful piece on 60 Minutes about how the Danes are apparently the happiest people around, mostly because they set attainable/realistic expectations. I'd venture a guess that the Swedes are not far behind.)

Can't quite figure out why I find the Scandinavian aesthetic so appealing. Then again, what's the point, right? I mean, it's like trying to convince someone that a monochromatic Rothko painting looks interesting. Either you see it or you don't. More to the point: either you feel it or you don't.

The young folks from Scandinavia (and even the not-so-young) have a way of oozing an unconscious air of coolness. Take a look at the video for "Solo Impala," which is an impressive display of creativity. These kids from Copenhagen do "Lower East Side" better than the Lower East Siders.

An Occasional Dose of Saccharine

I've been on quite the musical roll lately. Probably why there's been such a profusion of posts in the past couple of weeks. I've already written about a good number of new discoveries, but there are several others to write about -- if for no other reason than to remind myself years later how I came to know them.

First up is Dri, a/k/a Adrianne Verhoeven -- an indie pop songstress from, of all places, Lawrence, Kansas. (Not so strange, I suppose, given the Saddle Creek crowd from Omaha and her connection to it.) I'm particularly proud of this find, because it ain't easy finding much about her online. I stumbled upon her after being directed to Virb while searching for information about another band. (Virb's quite the discovery in itself. It's like a more aesthetically pleasing version of MySpace.)

Dri is definitely more poppy than I typically go for, especially these days. But she fits nicely with some of my all-time favorites, such as Saint Etienne and Mono. Like Sarah Cracknell (of Saint Etienne) and Siobhan de Maré (of Mono), her voice conjures up memories of Dusty Springfield, as do her doo-woppy rhythms.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yes, I Like Rock Music

I don't quite get it. British Sea Power's third album, Do You Like Rock Music?, was released stateside Tuesday to much fanfare but also some criticism -- some very pointed criticism. A perusal of the capsule reviews at Metacritic suggests that most critics give DYLRM? high marks. But there are also a number of critics -- most notably, the one from Pitchfork -- who mock BSP for what they perceive to be a misguided grappling for grandeur. It seems Pitchfork guy sees a band reaching for stadium rock when it's barely capable of parents' basement rock. On a scale of 1-10, he gave DYLRM? a U.2, whatever the hell that means. (Cheeky commentary on DYLRM? being derivative of U2, I suppose.) Methinks Pitchfork guy doth focus too much on the whimsical album title.

How could anyone who hears BSP think U2, whether in a literal or conceptual sense? When I listen to BSP, I hear more shoegazer pop than MTV pomp. (Okay, I have nothing against U2. "Pomp" just seems to flow well after "pop.") I think I finally understand the rampant hostility in the indie rock world toward Pitchfork.

Just as puzzling are the comparisons to Arcade Fire. While at Youtube pulling up the video above, I came upon the following comment: "God, tey [sic] are so ripping off Arcade [F]ire using like instruments and sounds." (I have a sneaking suspicion that this commentary emanated from the depths of the San Fernando Valley.) The comment would be nonsensical even if it were given the most generous of interpretations. Surely she doesn't mean that BSP has pilfered the Arcade craft by using two guitars, a bass and a drum set to make sounds. My guess is that she finds similarity between the wah wah infused sounds of BSP and the falsetto swirls created by Arcade Fire on songs like "No Cars Go." And, you know, I suppose there is similarity. Such keen ears she has. But that's as meaningful as saying Italian pasta is a ripoff of Chinese noodles because they both use flour. (Um, wait a second ...) Actually, it'd be more like saying Chinese noodles are a ripoff of Italian pasta. (BSP, after all, released its first album before Arcade Fire.)

All beside the point, really, because I love DYLRM? I must confess, though, that I was rather disappointed upon my first listen because none of the songs grabbed me. But upon a second listen in a darkened room, the waves of soaring melodies came alive and swept me under.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Make It Plain

Saw another thought-provoking episode of American Experience on PBS, which is definitely one of my favorite shows. The episode was about Malcolm X.

I can't quite remember why, but I chose to write about Malcolm for my 7th grade research project. Pretty sure there's still a copy of By Any Means Necessary lying around at my parents' place.

I wonder why it is that I'm drawn to "tier 2" icons more so than "tier 1" icons? I find Malcom more interesting than MLK. RFK more so than JFK. And, sure enough, in this election cycle, I favor Obama over Clinton.

Just as I wondered a couple of entries earlier whether I'd be a Feist fan had she already been a pop phenomenon when I discovered her, I wonder whether my preference for "tier 2" over "tier 1" icons would remain the same in a vacuum? Or is my preference merely reactionary -- a necessary byproduct of my aversion to the mainstream and the obvious?

Liking something because others hate it is perhaps just as pitiful, if not more so, than liking something because others love it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pronographic, yet cute

And speaking of the French ...

My new favorite band of the moment is The Teenagers -- a scraggly, potty-mouthed trio of Frenchmen who do camp with style. Who would've thought that a song -- "Homecoming" -- about pseudo-incestuous love between high school step cousins could be so amusing? And danceable? I mean, how can I find a song with this as the chorus to be so endearing?

[boy] I fucked my American cunt
[girl] I loved my English romance
[boy] I fucked my American cunt
[girl] I loved my English romance
[boy] It was dirty, a dream came true
Just like I like it, she's got nice tits
[girl] It was perfect, a dream came true
Just like a song by Blink-182

But my favorite track is "Starlett Johansson." It's a song about ... well, it's obvious, no? So obvious, yet so clever.

Thanks to The Teenagers, I now know that Scarlett is half Polish, half Danish. Born in 1984. Got her start on Broadway at 8. Don't even have to read her Wikipedia entry anymore.

Maybe I'll Be at the Grammys Next Year

Speaking of Apple-feueled celebrity ...

The moment I heard the soundtrack to the MacBook Air commercial, I knew I'd be making a new music purchase. The song is "New Soul" by Yael Naïm, a French-Israeli singer/songwriter. Damn catchy. Makes you wanna grab a trumpet and go skipping along the sidewalk.

People Like Me. People Really Like Me.

So Feist is apparently performing on the Grammys tonight. After all, she's up for:
  • Best Female Pop Vocal for "1234"
  • Best New Artist
  • Best Pop Vocal Album for The Reminder
  • Best Short Form Music video for "1234"
I'm quite happy that she's become so popular, even though popularity is typically a quality in music to which I have an allergic reaction. Given the indie nature of the music that I tend to enjoy, commercial success is often a tricky matter. But I feel no discomfort with Feist's success -- although the ubiquity of "1234" is a bit annoying. (Definitely not my favorite track on The Reminder. That would be "I Feel It All.")

She's done it with integrity. The Reminder is a natural progression from Let It Die, her relatively obscure first album. Fans of Let It Die don't listen to The Reminder and think, "Huh? What happened?" (Unlike, say, when a fan of Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like a Bird" listens to "Promiscuous Girl." Talk about selling your soul. But I'm sure the millions help her sleep easy.)

I do wonder, though, whether I'd be a Feist fan now had I not discovered her well before the catalytic iPod commercial turned her into a pop phenomenon? Good thing I caught her at the rinky dink Knitting Factory way back when and don't have to deal with that hypothetical.