Monthly Archives: July 2013

Haim

Haim

Mrs. YHT and I have a few new game. It’s called the Soundcloud comment game.

Here’s how you play:

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B.I.M.A.

BIMA

One of the things that made me fall for Girl Talk was how doted-upon Gillis’ mushups seemed. For a while he was averaging an album every two years (if you’re reading this, Greg, my friends and I are spending the last week of August at the beach, and let’s just say we wouldn’t be sad if a new Girl Talk album was released in between now and then…), and I imagined him spending long hours in front of a laptop, working late into the night to perfect transitions and find ways to squeeze more and more music into each minute. That density — the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of musical quotations and juxtapositions — is key to my perception of Night Ripper, Feed the Animals and All Day as labors of love. They’re like candy-coated musical rainforests that fans of pop music can relish hacking through.

As much as I love this approach, I’m enjoying the Bon Iver Mashup Album for the opposite reason. Or perhaps just a seemingly opposing reason…

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Dead Fame

Dead Fame

Do you like Labyrinth?

Of course you like Labyrinth. That was a stupid question. Here’s a better question: Haven’t you always wanted to be, like, in the movie — especially the scene where everyone gets dressed up masquerade-style and a 39-year-old David Bowie seductively serenades and slow dances with a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly?

Of course you have! Another stupid question. I’m just going to stop asking questions and let you know that your freakiest, Jim Henson-addled dreams are about to come true this weekend — twice.

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A Capellooza

Fat Amy

So Mrs. YHT and I ummm… sorta… kinda… maybe… [looks around nervously] watchedPitchPerfectagain.

It’s not our fault! It was on HBO, we were bored, one thing led to another and yadda yadda yadda… another notch on the ol’ TV cabinet. Bing bang boom.

I don’t know what to say — it’s not like we were big into a cappella groups when we were in college. We certainly weren’t in any. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I think I’m safe in speaking for both of us when I say we wish we had that kind of talent…) Pitch Perfect is just such an all-around feel-good exercise, with outstanding one-liners, some solid vomit humor, a healthy sense of self-awareness and a dynamite final routine that raises goosebumps even when I’m consciously trying to suppress them.

Ditching Pitch for a moment, there is one type of a cappella performance I can enjoy without feeling the need to equivocate, but you won’t see a movie made about it anytime soon. I’m talking about isolated vocal tracks from classic songs. I love when these hit the interweb, as Marvin Gaye’s from “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” did earlier this week. They’re so revealing and personal. You can picture the dark-grey foam of the recording booth’s sound-proofed walls… you can hear the bleed from singers’ headphones, bringing you amazingly close to what it would have been like to stand next to them as they sang… It’s also fun to wonder whether they know, ya know? That they’ve made something special. That the take they just did was a keeper, destined to become a piece of history that will live on in people’s hearts years after they’re gone.

Vocals from newer songs don’t have the same effect on me (I think the portability of vocals in the remix/mashup era takes some of the thrill out of it), but give me the vox from a 30 or 40 year old hit that I’ve heard 30 or 40 times and I’m one happy camper. Just for fun, I thought I’d hold a mini A Cappellooza by sharing Gaye’s brilliant “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” vocals and two other isolated tracks that are definitely worth a listen.

In each case I’ve posted a YouTube video of the isolated vocals and the full version of the song below. Enjoy!

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St. Vincent

St. Vincent

An optimistic Friday post for y’all:

Certain people, places and things just bring out the best in you. Have you noticed that? Certain friends make you want to be better friends to your other friends. Certain activities inspire you to draw from wells of courage and generosity that you aren’t normally able to draw from. President Obama likes to quote a related turn of phrase from Lincoln’s first inaugural address — the “better angels of our nature” line — and while the original context may have been Civil War-level heavy, I encounter simple, everyday applications of the sentiment all the time. Music’s a great place to look.

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WRIR and Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume 3

Commonwealth of Notions Presents

“Where we go I don’t know but I’m not scared of that hole.”
— Lobo Marino

Well hot damn. WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume 3 kicks off tomorrow, and I thought I’d check in quickly before the whole shindig begins.

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Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes

Every so often I’ll feel pangs of regret for having waited so long to start writing about music. It usually happens when I hear a song or album that reminds me of a specific time in my life, either because of its release date or because I went through a period of concentrated listening.

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On Fridays, We Wear Pop Music

Popular

I don’t know about you, but things have been pretty heavy in my sector lately. (My sincerest apologies for the Vague Declaration of Distress. The VDoD is one of my least favorite Internet behaviors, but Internet whining ranks even lower, so I’ll stop at “things have been pretty heavy in my sector lately.”) In an effort to lift spirits and welcome this weekend with open arms, I’d like to share with y’all kind folks some of the poppy obnoxiousness that I’ve been (almost completely shamelessly) enjoying between moments of weightiness.

[Point of Parliamentary Procedure: The title of this post not does indicate that this will be an every-Friday thing. Like the .gif above (YHT’s first embedded .gif, I believe, which is shameful in its own right), it’s a reference to Mean Girls. If you do not know the script of Mean Girls well enough to derive meaning from this post’s title, please do the right thing and lock yourself in a room until you have the dialogue memorized like a civilized human being. Thanks.]

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John Vanderslice

Putting a face to a name is always nice, and I’m thrilled to finally have a set of images to associate with the words “Tiny Telephone.”

I can’t remember how I first heard about John Vanderslice’s Mission District-situated studio, nor have I ever been there, but in the last few years, it’s been built up in my mind to the point where it’s become a place of real significance to me — a pulsing, glowing thing on the other side of the country, where special stuff is made with analog equipment and integrity.

Much of that building-up came from a pair of conversations I had with the gents from Pretty & Nice. All the way back in April of 2011, I was talking to the Boston-based group about this awesome place in San Francisco where they were going to mix their next album, and they sang the studio’s praises again when I interviewed them last month, a short time after that (spectacular) album finally saw the light of day. On both occasions, when they spoke about Tiny Telephone, there was something elevated about their speech, like they enjoyed the taste its name made each time they said it. If I were to extrapolate a bit, I’d guess that enjoyment came not from delight in name-dropping but from a genuine sense of pride at being associated with a place that shares their values. Attention to detail. Respect for good equipment. Love of analog.

As for me, I’d guess that the enjoyment I get from saying/typing “Tiny Telephone” comes from a different place, though I think it reflects just as well on the studio.

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Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to close out the long holiday weekend in patriotic fashion by going for a run with The Most Americans’ self-titled debut full-length, which is a collection of songs that get stuck in my head with abnormal frequency. I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about why they stick to my brain so effectively (I even asked the band about it when I interviewed them a few weeks ago), and here’s what I’ve settled on: The Most Americans excel at creating capital-M Moments.

Certain lyrics, harmonies and transitions stick out/shine/demand your attention, making them exceedingly easy to remember and — more to the point — hard to forget, like I had a highlighter in hand the first time I listened and involuntarily singled out certain snippets. The perfect blend of vocal textures when “So sad to not be in love” is sung in “Two Dreams.” The utterance of the title lyric in “Cassius.” I look forward to these spots when I start listening, and they bubble up well after the album’s done. That’s because real, dyed-in-the-wool Moments never really go away — they float at the periphery of your consciousness, ready to zoom back into focus whenever they’re given an opening.

You know who else knows how to make a Moment? Laura Mvula. Her debut full-length Sing to the Moon is chock full of ’em.

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