Funkadelic – Funkadelic

I am a strange lad. It is true. I have come to accept that I will never be normal. With that, let it also be known that I love funk. I love funk from it’s earlier stages with James Brown, I love it when it was in full force in the years of the P-Funk, and I love its reverberations in early rap and early Michael Jackson. I love funk. When I listen to funk I start to move like my Caucasian self normally wouldn’t. I spend hours on end studying for tests while listening to funk and the mornings after, my neck is sore from all the movement, but I’ll keep doing it.

Funkadelic’s self-titled Funkadelic certainly isn’t a new album, but a couple weeks ago it was new for me. I felt I had to support my funk craze with more albums so I went to Amazon and perused some Funkadelic listings until I ultimately decided to purchase Funkadelic. I am quite happy with my purchase. Most only know Funkadelic for their album Maggot Brain and its single “Maggot Brain”. In this song you will find some guitar licks the likes of which the world may never see again. It’s fantastic. Few truly desire a full length Funkadelic album. Well, this strange lad does. I love listening to something that I will probably never understand for its context or inspirations. I love it for the way it moves me and the way it moved the people who played it first.

It is certainly no Parliament album. While Funkadelic was a side show for the more famous Parliament, the two bands don’t run the same way. Parliament gets me bouncing in a much more funky fashion. Funkadelic moves me with an intricacy of improvisation and good feelings. It’s more similar to a Jimi Hendrix album in some ways.

Funkadelic is also no Maggot Brain. I can’t decide which album I like more, but the comparison comes down to whether I like one song so much (“Maggot Brain”) or if I love the album in its entirety. Funkadelic as a whole is a great album. It does not relinquish its funky origins, yet it toes the line of psychedelic rock a lot more closely.

Whether or not you will appreciate funk as much as I do, I don’t really care about. The important thing to get out of all of this is that I like Funkadelic’s Funkadelic. Give funk a try.

Funkadelic Funkadelic

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Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

Again, many months ago I was looking for some new music to listen to, became frightened of writing about it, and waited until now to post about it. A healthy schedule? Probably not. Anyway, what (or rather: who) I discovered was Kurt Vile. I decided to randomly move into the Pitchfork.tv waters and see if my internet at this encumbering school would allow me to watch music videos for once. This story would end right here if the videos didn’t work, but fortunately they did. I stumbled upon Kurt Vile’s performance in Pitchfork’s rooftop series, “Don’t Look Down”.

Hailing from Philadelphia (one more reason for me to like him), Kurt has a pension for ridiculously good acoustic guitar work, extremely laid back sounding yet emotive lyrics, and dawning a long unkempt pot-head mane. After being instantly wowed by the performance on a rooftop of Philadelphia on an obviously cold winter night, I decided to purchase Smoke Ring For My Halo on Amazon. I actually ended up liking the performances of the songs in the videos better than the recordings on the album. In the album I can only assume that it’s just a solo work, but the rooftop performances had a quite skilled full band and I liked that format better. Don’t get me wrong, the album is very solid. I do like both forms that his music has taken, but I definitely enjoyed the full band more. But besides the format issues, Kurt’s raw music is thought-provoking and contemplative. It’s a nice listen.

The important thing to get out of all of this is that I like Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo even if it’s not as good as the videos in my opinion (which you should definitely see).

Kurt Vile Smoke Ring For My Halo

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Iron and Wine in concert

Rather than bore you all with another ill-informed “album opinion”, I’ve chosen instead to bore you with a mostly irrelevant episode of my musical life. Well maybe not wholly irrelevant since I gave my opinion of Iron and Wine’s kiss each other clean a couple months ago, but irrelevant because it’s me.

Last night I had the opportunity to see Iron and Wine in concert. Despite an extremely rude, talkative, and drunk crowd at the Cleveland House of Blues (I saw the two buildings!), the show was awesome. They didn’t play any of their songs the way they appear on the albums; I actually liked that a lot. Their new arrangements were refreshing and still close enough that you could sing along and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Also, on several occasions they opened up some of the songs to some incredible jam sessions. Their saxophone player was phenomenal. Every musician on stage (it’s a 12 person band) was able to display exceptional improvisation. Sam Beam and his band truly own their music.

If the opportunity to see Iron and Wine live wasn’t enough, the group I went to see the concert with and I decided to wait around outside his tour bus until he boarded it. Yes. Yes, I know, that sounds like the epitome of crazy fandom. If it’s any consolation, there were two completely normal married couples waiting with us who we happened to bond with well. And no, that bond wasn’t just due to our shared psychopathy. In the end, we determined that all Iron and Wine fans are really nice (the Cleveland House of Blues audience were by this logic not fans). Anyway, after hours of waiting (makes us sound more crazy) Sam Beam made his way out of the building. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met for five minutes about to make his way onto a tour bus on a relatively freezing cold day of Spring. He even pretended to care about my one friend’s ramblings about the tube amps he makes in his free time. Truly though, the guy was very cordial and I was quite surprised by his altruism.

Crazy fandom aside, the important thing to get out of all of this is that if you’re ever given the opportunity to see Iron and Wine in concert, do it; it’s awesome. And if you can wait a little while to meet Sam Beam, he’s a great guy to meet.

Sam Beam signing my ticket. Cell phone camera. His beard overtook technology and made the picture appear darker (at least that’s what I want to believe).

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Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine

As if I could really conjure an excuse for such a lack of posts, I will offer at least one. I was frightened. Truthfully I just didn’t want to write an opinion about an album when I believe my ability to do such is so…lacking. I decided it better to wait a couple of days before I wrote the post so that I could analyze the album better. Well, days turned into weeks, and then weeks turned into months. Those months rolled into years and then those years into centuries. Fortunately we develop time machines in the future, so I decided to crawl back into the 21st century to write this album opinion. The Bureau of Time Travel allowed me this opportunity, because they determined that my blog posts will have little consequence on the fabric of time – nobody actually reads this nor will lives be changed by doing so.

If I’m going to be honest I only actually like the two singles on this sophomore album by Toro Y Moi. His style is addictive, evocative, and addictive (yes, I said addictive twice, but I was having a hard time coming up with another “-ive” word and I’m severely lazy). It’s almost a nod to 80’s style whilst shaking my bones with effective Rhodes piano usage. I love me some good Rhodes piano (yes, a break from my usual, semi-formal banter). But besides the singles “New Beat” and “Still Sound” the rest of the album leaves me estranged. I just can’t get all the way behind it. I want to, but I guess I’m not indie enough.

Time travel aside, the important thing to get out of all of this is that I like (at least) two songs in Toro Y Moi’s Underneath The Pine.

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Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Not only are you blessed (or cursed) with two album opinions in one day, but I’m not going to write boring crap about my boring life and my boring obsession with contemplating the validity and inconsistencies of my blog writing. Wait…crap.

When I listen to Radiohead in my dorm, I am at peace with the world; I see shooting stars in the sky and I know that Radiohead is the greatest band to grace this earth…not. I’m no Pitchfork writer who while spending nights in a VW bus waiting for the 22nd Radiohead tour date this year, uses listening to Radiohead as an aphrodisiac for wild role-playing as Radiohead band members pleasuring each other. Disturbed? Yeah I guess that went a little too far, but the whole shooting stars bit can actually be seen in a review of one of their albums (I’ll let you do the hunting to find out which one). I am, however, called a hipster if caught listening to Radiohead through my speakers. Is this claim unfounded? Probably not.

Is The King of Limbs the best Radiohead album yet? Unfortunately, while every successive Radiohead album has achieved some very rare ability to out-class its predecessor, this one just isn’t that special. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not seeing any shooting stars. It’s a little bit on the short side, and while I applaud their cutting some weaker songs from the album, I still enjoy a fuller experience. The album’s first single, Lotus Flower is one of my favorites on the album. Like many of the tracks, it is quite stripped down driven very strongly by that distinctive glitchy drumming in strange time-signatures. Yorke employs his well developed falsetto and the minimal guitar work for a 3-guitar band compliments the song well. Even more interesting is the video for this one which is basically Thom Yorke carelessly dancing like a maniac for the camera while singing. I’ve been told that his dancing is actually quite accomplished, but I can barely get past the lunacy it seems to portray. But kudos to him for not giving a flying [expletive].

The vocal effects in the album are also very enjoyable, especially when Yorke comes in from the background with an effect like a troop of trombones.  For whatever reason, though, Separator takes the cake for my top pick of the album. It’s much more reminiscent of the Radiohead we knew before. I love it when the guitars fade in and prance around in that Jonny Greenwood style.

But the important thing to get out of all of this is not what songs I like, how disturbing my mind can get in deprecating Pitchfork, how obvious it is that I’m just trying to cover up my hipster obsession with this band, or even how much I don’t know about music as evidenced by when I try to comment on it, but it’s that I like Radiohead’s The King of Limbs.


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Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Yes, yes, I know; the world came to a staggering halt because I have neglected to write a blog post for several weeks. No, the music industry was not silent for that time, I was just sufficiently lazy. And no, despite some of your hopes and dreams, this blog is not a dead one. And yes, I’m done answering unspoken sentiments now.

In addition to my extreme laziness, I was also well behind the eight-ball in my purchase of Cut Copy’s Zonoscope. I had to contemplate how much money I would like to put into this silly blog and whether or not I wanted to purchase this CD, because it had not shown up on Grooveshark yet and I have deadlines to make. The great self-substantiated metaphysical debate was settled eventually, I splurged, and now I am here giving you my unappreciated two cents about the album.

I was fortunate enough in my life to never live in the 80s. I was saved from that mundane existence by a mere four days. So, I have nothing to offer you in first-hand experience pertaining to the supposed “death of music” that occurred then. This is what I have always been told; that music died in the 80s. But despite that fact, it is extremely evident that a very large assortment of artists recently are playing with many 80s music devices. Cut Copy, however, ends up doing this well. You can really think nothing but 80s when you hear this music, but in some strange gesture, the music sounds surprisingly current as well. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, [popular 80s character specifically in the entertainment business].

When I first listened to the album (albeit substantially later than the release date), the clouds opened up in grimy north-western Pennsylvania and Spring finally dabbed its toes in the metaphorical water to see if it really wanted to come back to this wretched place. I know I won’t be fortunate to experience this beauty in full for quite some time, but it was nice to feel warm outside again and to listen to Zonoscope as a sort of sound track. The songs were remarkably Spring-like and I couldn’t help but slink along like a Jet (West Side Story reference achieved) snapping my fingers and pounding my thighs to the catchy beat in “Where I’m Going”.

So if you’re looking for some fun and you actually liked 80s music, check out Cut Copy’s Zonoscope. If you don’t and you didn’t, but you want some spring music jive to, check it out for that reason. If neither of these two reasons apply, then you’re quite possibly Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Street reference achieved (not as rewarding or exciting as West Side Story)). Regardless, the important thing to get out of this is that I like Cut Copy’s Zonoscope.

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Iron and Wine – kiss each other clean

A CD arriving in the mail is about as close to ecstasy as my straight-edge lifestyle will allow me. But if anything, Iron and Wine’s kiss each other clean is more like a joint of marijuana making me sink deeper and deeper into my seat moving into a lying down position. Some occasional acid flash back will fly in with a couple funky grooves intertwined in this new album by a notoriously “chill” band (yes, I did flog myself 40 times with a cat-of-nine-tails in penance for using the word “chill”, but unfortunately, I’m remiss in finding a better term both in perfect definition and connotation).

I prevented myself from reading Pitchfork’s review of this album before I write this entry for my own sense of honor so that whatever I say in this review is actually an original thought of mine. I could not prevent myself from looking at that menacingly powerful numerical summation of opinion Pitchfork likes to wield like a flaming sword striking down the weak and knighting the strong into eternal musical criticism adulation. I was shocked to find that number to be so low. Yes, a 7.7 isn’t exactly a flunked album by Pitchfork standards, but surely they must realize what rules they’re breaking (at least by what expectancies I have of Pitchfork).

Pitchfork’s “best new music” albums are usually a select few that either come out of nowhere, or have been marinating in the Pitchfork news for quite a good deal of time. The numerical rating has thus far been a product of a positive correlation between the amount of hype Pitchfork puts towards an artist or album and the number from 1 to 10 (with decimals (why don’t they just go a scale of 1 to 100 already and quit looking like pricks?)). For example, the Pitchfork staff had been drooling over Kanye West for close to a year over his new work and his inclusion of Bon Iver on his new album, and the result was a 10.0 album by Pitchfork’s standards. Yeah, it was a good album, but I can’t see 10.0. The ironic thing is that Pitchfork condemns hype from any other source.

All that to say I was surprised that this album received a 7.7 despite the hype. Do I really care? Well, a little bit.

What do I think? I like the album. I like Iron and Wine’s perseverance in the melding of their own style, but I also like their progression into an album that is just a little bit different. I may not agree with what I can only see as dualism that Sam Beam is talking about in the final lines of “Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me”, but will I keep listening to the album? Yes, I believe I will. The important thing to get out of all of this and my ramblings of animosity towards Pitchfork contradictory to my rather unsafe reliance on it, is that I like Iron and Wine’s kiss each other clean.

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