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Archive for February, 2010

Really at this point, the idea of New York Governor David Patterson suspending his campaign should be anything but news.  I mean, for the last few weeks the New York Times has been beating on him like he owed them money, with the news that he helped to suppress a sexual assault beef with one of his top aides just being the most egregious of the revelations.  However, somehow this is news because, well, it’s David Patterson, and he doesn’t seem to live in a world that is ruled by the same laws of reality that the rest of us are.

While there never was the one big bombshell that the times had promised (I was expecting nothing short of drugs, dead hookers, embezzled campaign funds, and maybe a male mistress), the cumulative damage ultimately proved to be more than enough to finally bring the Governor’s reelection campaign screeching to a halt.   Although, it is worth noting that there are those in political world and the media who are calling for a little more drastic action than just that and actually resigning before his term expires.  However, all indicators would point to the Governor serving out the remainder of his term and not seeking reelection.

The following comes from today’s New York Times article on the matter;

Mr. Paterson is expected to make the announcement Friday afternoon. It would end his campaign less than a week after it officially began, with an angry speech at Hofstra University on Long Island.

As he prepared for the announcement, some newspaper editorial writers were demanding something more than an end to his campaign: they were calling for his resignation. That only added to the increasing sense that it would be nearly impossible for him to run the state and the campaign with the abuse case in the background.

Even though I don’t doubt that the thread on the Governor’s abuses of power will continue to be pulled in coming months, it looks like a bizarre chapter in New York’s political history is going to soon be drawing to a close.

UPDATE: According to the New York Times, everything that we thought Patterson was going to say has been said.  As expected, he vowed to finish his term.

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Tegan & Sara “Alligator”

If you’ve read this blog, it’s probably not news to you that I really enjoyed Tegan & Sara’s last album Sainthood (though I recently was with a lady friend who accused me of being girly for liking it). All of the songs were such tightly spun pop-masterpieces that any one of them easily could have been released as a single.  Well, the sisters Quin haven’t exactly been testing that theory with a whole flood of videos, but at least the ones that we have gotten have been of a high quality.  The video is a fun, if somewhat sparce, semi-arctic affair that really fits the tone of the song.  Give it a watch and then, as always, head over to the band’s MySpace page or their official website for more music and information on where you can see them live.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Before I get started, I wanted to acknowledge the fact that this review is certainly going to have to come with a “better late than never” heading.  But, well…  better late than never!   Now, on with the show.

Surfer Blood first splashed (pun oh-so intended) onto the scene last year with power-pop meets indie-rock tunes like “Swim,” that couldn’t help but draw notice from the musical community.  The fact that the band was the one good thing to come out of West Palm Beach in the last twenty years didn’t hurt either (I kid the Floridians).  The expectations surrounding the group, comprised of four  young musicians fronted by lead singer John Paul Pitts, came from the intriguing mix of fuzzy-as-fuck distortion and humming guitars and the crisp and powerful hooks that Pitts enthusiastically belted out on that lead single.  The result was a track that the music geeks could feel like belonged to them but that listeners could still pump their firsts to on the radio.  A pretty deadly mix to be sure, but the question on many minds was; what would the album sound like?

Well, turns out that the album would sound just as promising and well-executed as that very first track.  There some pretty damned impressive displays of musical knowhow on nearly every single track, but what’s most impressive to me is the way in which the young band is able to create subtle variations in what it is that’s enthralling from song to song.  The opening track aptly-titled “Floating Vibes,” for example, reminds me of some of my favorite 1990’s alt-rock with it’s powerful guitars and dark but breezy lyrics like; “When you wake up in the morning, and you hear that awful applause, put in your fuckin’ napkin, and watch it dissolve.”  Let’s just say that I’m a sucker for any sizzling diss that I can’t help but chuckle at.  Meanwhile, though, an instrumental track like “Neighbour Riffs,” with it’s thick and groovy bass guitar, reminds of some of my favorite Pavement or Dinosaur Jr tunes all without a single word being uttered.  Like I said, there are subtle differences between the two, but they achieve similarly positive returns in each instance.  To me that’s nothing if not impressive.

Something else that is on display on Astro Coast that I can’t help but find endearing is an impish sense of humor. Song titles like “Fast Jabroni” and “Slow Jabroni,” the name of the band and the album’s cover art, as well as lyric-upon-lyric buried into the tracks are all examples of this, and it almost plays like a series of easter eggs sprinkled across the LP waiting to be discovered by listeners who care to pay attention to detail.  In the great tradition of this hazy alt-rock, these guys aren’t taking themselves too seriously, they’re just writing some big hooks, some kick-ass riffs, and having a blast while they’re doing that.  That light-hearted approach seems to spill over into the music and it only enhances it further.

While the competition is tight, my favorite track on Astro Coast is probably the beachy “Take It Easy,” which I feel as though would have been equally comfortable on a shitty 1960’s surf-movie soundtrack as it is here in 2010.  It’s also probably the perfect literal example of the laid-back nature that I enjoy so much in the music as Pitts sings in the chorus; “I wish I could do whatever it takes to get along” adding “then we should just take it easy, or we will both be sorry.”  The lyrics, like the album as a whole, on the surf just seem to be so light and relaxed, but if you look for just a second longer you see that there’s an almost disgruntled sense discomfort simmering right there beneath that glossy surface.  And after all, isn’t it that ability to convey some deeper emotional state and all the while tricking the listener into singing and dancing along that’s the staple of great music?  More often than not on this debut, Surfer Blood is able to climb to that plateau with what seems like relative ease.

However, as I said at the outset, the track that is mostly likely going to be the gem for most listeners is “Swim,” and it’s certainly not tough to see what people enjoy about the tune.  Pitts’ voice echoes powerfully throughout the track, and sometimes you may even lose track of what it is that he’s saying, but the people who aren’t pumping their fists along with him when he powerfully booms “swim to reach the end” will probably be few and far between.  Additionally, there are some elements of this song to be found here and there in other tracks.  Portions of “Twin Peaks” play with a similar ear-bleeding veracity, though on the whole the song is mostly a more mellow experience.  But even the tracks that are content to be build upon a more laid-back groove, such as “Anchorage” and “Slow Jabroni,” display that same knack for crafting a tight and enjoyable song.  That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment when you take into account that both of those tracks stretch on for well over six minutes apiece.

All of the young bands out there should be pretty pissed at Surfer Blood right now, because they have set the bar pretty damn high for debut albums in 2010.  I’m half-kidding 0f course, but it’s nonetheless pretty impressive the way that Surfer Blood was able to take some of the best of pop music, 90’s alternative rock, surf rock, and the current afro-pop craze and blend it all into a debut album that was so well-executed and self-assured. Expectations were pretty high for Astro Coast, and somehow the band was able to deliver.  All that remains to be seen now is how broad an audience this exciting new band will be able to reach before the year is out.

SCORE: 4.3 out of 5.0

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Oh, the rambunctious Vampire Weekend kids, just always getting into shenanigans (I feel like I may have misused shenanigans there).  Here is the latest video (courtesy of Spinner) to come from their awesome album Contra, and you may notice that it features some unconventional personalities like the RZA (aka Bobby Digital) and Jake Gyllenhaal.  The song is “Giving Up the Gun,” and is one of the stronger tracks on a very strong album (check the HItV review, which I am too lazy to link to, for more details on that), and the video is suitably weird. After checking out the fun videos for songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Cousins,” I guess that’s something I should come to except from the band.  Weird and fun.  A wonderful combo.  Check out the band’s MySpace page or their official site for more details about where and when you can see the super-popular ivy-leaguers live.

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Okay, so speaking of trade paperbacks that are coming out…  If you went to some place that happens to sell comic books today, you probably saw the hardcover for Mark Millar’s much-ballyhooed Kick-Ass prominently displayed on the shelves.  The book, which in full disclosure I have never read a single frame of, has become something of a phenomenon.  Millar’s work has always been on the flashier side.  His work in Marvel’s Civil War, Wanted, Ultimate X-Men, and Old Man Logan were all pretty much “event” series that demanded the attention of even casual fans, so perhaps it was only a natural that this latest series practically left fans foaming at the mouth.  In fact, the book even spawned a film adaptation before the first volume was even finished from underrated director Matthew Vaughn (who you might have noticed previously adapted Neil Gaiman’s Stardust).

The series, which features art from John Romita Jr, is supposedly a Millar book through-and-through, as it combines hyper-violent action pieces with more everyday characters and some wickedly profane humor.  If you somehow, like me, haven’t read it yet… well, it’s basically almost mandatory that you go out and do so.  The book is now available in hardcover volume one form everywhere.  If you would like to find out a little more beyond what I’ve told you, the best places for such investigation are Mark Millar’s official website, or the official website for the book’s publisher Icon, which is a division of Marvel.  Oh yeah, and in case you haven’t seen it yet (and don’t mind some minor spoilers), below is the trailer for the upcoming Kick-Ass film.  Enjoy both.

UPDATE: Perhaps after I’ve read the trade I bought today, I’ll post some thoughts in the comments section.

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Garth Ennis has made an entire career out of pushing the envelope when it comes to his story-choices.  Hell, Preacher alone was both awesome and risque enough all in itself to list Ennis as an all time great comic writer. Ennis own twisted and particularly take on the zombie-genre, Crossed, has been around for a while now, but it has been steadily good since the very first issue.  His sheer willingness to push the perverse violence to the very edge of reason (perhaps even beyond) may turn off some more narrow-minded critics, but has also served to great a more terrifying and disturbing read than anything that I have ever seen printed.

You may be asking yourself why I’m choosing to highlight this now, considering that the series is about to roll into the eighth issue later this month.  Good question, two answers.  Answer one, another oversight on my part.  I kept meaning to throw something up, but just would continue to forgot or be way too lazy.  Answer two, the trade paperback for volume one is coming out soon, the cover art for which you can find by going to the books’ publisher’s website at Avatar Press.  Perhaps what has me most excited about all of this is despite the fact that I’m pretty positive that I read numerous times that Crossed was going to be an eight issue limited run, the trade is being called Volume 1, which would lead me to believe there will be more issues on the way.

If you haven’t checked Crossed out yet, the trade due out sometime in April is a wonderful time to do so.  Should you find it’s your cup of tea, and somehow you haven’t read Garth Ennis work before, than you might want to track down titles like Preacher, Battlefields, and The Boys while you’re at it.  There’s also an “official” website kicking around, though it doesn’t look like it has been updated since November of 2007.  Just in case, here’s that for your viewing pleasure as well.

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Lissie “In Sleep”

I realized when looking back over my year-end lists somewhat recently, that there was one particularly glaring oversight on my part.  That, of course, was that I left Lissie’s fabulous EP Why You Runnin’ off of my “best EPs of 2009” list.  Her brand of spirited country-rock proved to make for one of my very favorite releases last year, and one that I’m still listening to all these months later.  Above (thanks to Under the Radar for the heads up) is a live performance video for an unreleased song by the title of “In Sleep,” which has all of the gritty down home elements that I absolutely love about Lissie’s music.  Heck, the video itself seems to be drenched in a haze that really fits the material.  Hmmmm, unreleased track…  a full length LP to follow perhaps?  Let’s hope so.  To hear more of Lissie please head to her MySpace page, and for the love of everything sacred, buy Why You Runnin’ for yourself!

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