Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mid-Week Special: The Bird & The Bee Xmas Cover

Today I'm killing a few birds with one stone. This post kicks off my month-long post-a-thon of Christmas covers by rock bands and other nontraditional styles. It also gives me an opportunity to talk about one of the weirder yet great artists I've recently added to my music library: The Bird & The Bee.

Consisting of Greg Kurstin and Inara George of Los Angeles, The Bird & The Bee are an electronic pop duo that released a self titled album last January. It was a tiny little pop gem of sorts, with melodies that were very sugary but not quite saccharine and witty lyrics to go along with them (see titles like "F*cking Boyfriend").

When I first saw their cover of "Carol of the Bells" on iTunes I had been looking for it, because that is one of my favorite Christmas songs, but I couldn't find it for free anywhere. Imagine my surprise then, when this week's free download of the week was in fact "Carol of the Bells" by The Bird & The Bee. Just when I start to completely lose faith in the iTunes store, they find one tiny little thing to keep me checking in every now and then. Check out the track, and be ready for more to come.

The Bird & The Bee - Carol of the Bells

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Before the Weather Outside Gets Frightful...

Fall Quarter at Northwestern ends in a little under three weeks. I've pretty much finished everything up until I take my finals, so I haven't really had any real work to do and it's felt prematurely like the end of the year. The weather also hasn't gotten too horrific yet. It's been consistently in the 30s, but for the Chicago area in November that's pretty good. There hasn't been any big snowfall, though we've seen a bit of snow in the past two weeks. None of it is sticking, and no amount that is actually recordable.

I have officially begun my Christmas shopping for this year. I always end up making a list that I lose multiple times before getting all my gift shopping done, but who cares, I always have fun going and shopping during Christmas season. It's the one time of the year where I do not dread a long excursion to a mall or other shopping center. Being on a college campus means I've got a little bit of a weird distance to travel for buying stuff, but it's still very fun for me because I love this season and Christmas.

Going with those end of the year type mentalities, I decided to make a mix of songs with the months of the year in their title. I think it's a pretty diverse array of artists, and an enjoyable little playlist. Enjoy:

mewithoutYou - January 1979
Bright Eyes - Happy Birthday To Me (Feb. 15)
Rogue Wave - March
Gillian Welch - April the 14th(Part 1)
Elvis Perkins - May Day!
Bright Eyes - June on the West Coast
The Decemberists - July, July!
Rilo Kiley - August
Earth, Wind, & Fire - September
Be Your Own Pet - October, First Account
Guns N' Roses - November Rain
Weezer - December

I enjoy how this list will lead in to my Christmas music stuff for the month of December. Things to look for in the coming weeks:

1. Early review of Jason Reitman's new film Juno that I caught a preview screening of in downtown Chicago a little while ago.

2. Year end album and movie lists for 2007.

3. More alt-rock christmas covers than you can shake a stick at.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson Overreacts a Bit

Over the weekend Manchester United lost at Bolton Wanderers for the first time since 1978. Their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, got sent from the manager's box into the stands during half time for some delightful comments to the referee in the tunnel.

After the game, Sir Alex made some comments during a press conference that just don't sit well with me. The idea that lesser teams should be treated differently by referees because they are not as storied or as championed as Manchester United is absolutely insane. When two football teams step out onto the pitch, they become equals. They are foes for ninety minutes, but they are equal under the laws of football. That idea gives smaller teams a fighting chance psychologically, that they are protected in the same way the other team is even when they're facing some of the best and most expensive players in the world. Hell, the entire structure of the FA Cup is based on the idea that every English club team can earn the opportunity to play against any other team, from a semi-pro team all the way up to the Premier League. It seemed a bit irresponsible for a coach to believe he and his team are above another squad that isn't having one of their better years in the Premiership.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mid-Week Special: Thanksgiving Thoughts

Another year, another Thanksgiving, another Dallas Cowboys game on national television. My thoughts don’t exactly all have to do with the games today, but here are some ruminations I’ve had for a little while:

What the hell was with the intro by the Cowboys Cheerleaders on Fox? I understand that Dallas has been billed as “America’s Team” for the past twenty years, but does anybody really believe that? Did anyone believe that when it was first said? A game at Texas Stadium is an NFL tradition, but the better game to me has always been the Packers-Lions game. It’s a division rivalry, the attitudes are much more akin to a college game in its intensity, and even when it’s a blowout the game is more fun to watch.

Also, I keep seeing the trailer for Last Christmas. Why do the studios think America needs this same style movie with the same actors every year? If you see a family dramedy once, you've seen it enough times.

I'll be compiling some year-end lists really soon, but I have to get out and see a lot of the holiday movies before I can make my film list. This year was a pretty damn good one for movies, so it should be a fun holiday season for anyone that wants to see the movies that will get attention come February.

So, in celebration of Thanksgiving, here’s a little track for any last minute shoppers. This is my first holiday away from home, and I can imagine a lot of college kids not going home over this break going to get some food at the last minute. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The Clash - Lost in the Supermarket

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The A Cappella Manifesto

I've been at college for a few months, and as such have had ample exposure to a genre of music that is limited almost exclusively to college campuses: A Cappella. A few weeks ago, I attended a long a cappella show called "Best of the Midwest" which was an attempt to display some of the best college a cappella groups around the area of Northwestern. There were groups from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern's own Purple Haze performing. During that concert, I got to thinking about the genre and its place on campus.

Ever since I've known people in college, I've heard about a cappella groups. These bands of all-male, all-female, or coed undergrads would dress thematically, choreograph kitschy dance moves, and sing versions of your favorite pop songs, replacing all the instrument parts with other voice parts. A cappella groups are not a modern invention: a simple check of Wikipedia provides us with the information that the first one at a college was founded in 1909. However, those were all "Glee Clubs," groups that sang barbershop songs, choral standards, and other music reserved for its own genre. With the development of vocal percussion and beatboxing, colleges saw a drastic rise in popularity of a cappella groups as they became able to cover modern pop songs as they were released. Now there are over 1,200 groups in the US spanning every kind of university, and involving every kind of gimmick imaginable. Here at Northwestern there are male, female, coed, Jewish, and Indian groups, and I'm sure there are others out there I don't know about. There is a huge movement in music for recording a cappella, with specialized producers who help groups put out CDs. Groups try to get their songs on Best of College A Cappella, or BOCA, compilations, to get their group recognized nationally. These CDs are purchased almost exclusively by college students, but this is one of the only ways that the music trickles down into high schools.

So what's my beef with a cappella? I don't have a major one, I'm just curious as to why it's so popular, so revered, and so quirky. I mean, my best friend is in an all-male a cappella group here called Freshman Fifteen. I've heard them, they sing great, they have a good time, they put on a good show. I'm just not really sure why there's such a big mystique to the whole genre, and why it is isolated almost exclusively to colleges and universities.

The Good

There are things I like about a cappella; in fact there are a lot of things. I really enjoy listening to cover songs. I have a ton of them in my music library, and I think you can tell a lot about a band by the types of songs they cover live or in the studio. Elliott Smith had a huge catalog of live covers he performed, with tons of songs by the Beatles (and the individual members), Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and more. Hearing cover songs makes you appreciate the songs you love in a different light. Maybe you'll enjoy an acoustic version, or a live version done by another of your favorite bands. That only works to a point though, because sometimes artists reach too far and cover songs that really should never be touched, like Counting Crows reworking of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" or Ben Folds' very, very late to the party take on "Such Great Heights."

Obviously, the best thing for these groups to do is to try and write something original, or to make a medley of something that you would never hear in this context. The best part of the Best of the Midwest concert was a group singing an original song called "Facebook Stalking" that was downright brilliant. Here's another group from that concert that did a great job making something original and completely out of line with every other group in America:

Also, it's impossible to ignore that some of the singers really have fantastic voices. Northwestern houses one of the best theatre schools in the country, and a great music school, so we have a plethora of voice majors and theatre majors with great voices that perform in a cappella groups.

The mystique that surrounds a cappella could have something to do with getting into one of these groups. At places like Northwestern, where there are tons of people with great voices, getting into one of these groups legitimates your voice and your talent. It is a pat on the back and a helpful "you can sing well" to people that make it; it designates them as worthy of pursuing singing, and as a better singer than a lot of other people at their particular college.

Our nationally notable groups include Purple Haze and Thunk, who have appeared on BOCA albums along with the "best" a cappella groups in the nation.

The Bad

I guess it's with that note that I'll start with my gripes. I'm not really sure what makes an a cappella group "great." In my mind, the barometer for categorizing a cappella groups looks something like this:

<-- choral/formal -- music focused -- balanced music/humor -- humor focused -- chaotic batshit insane -->

By the classical definition, an a cappella group is one without instruments, only using voices. I treat that as the most formal type of group, and I'm associating it with choral music, because there are groups that dress formally and perform some strict choral music.

I'll attempt to define these groups with videos of groups I know pulled from YouTube at some points:

These groups sing choral arrangements, don't sing as many modern pop hits, and are closer to the old Glee Clubs that used to be at colleges and universities. I'll be honest, when I hear a group do a choral song, it is a refreshing break from the overly ironic sets that every other group tends to put on all the time.

Music Focus
These a cappella groups tend not to do funny choreography, and are much more intent on a tight, musically sound performance. They're the ones that are known to sound really great, usually make the BOCA compilations, and do well in national tournaments. As far as groups on Northwestern's campus go, the quintessential group for this category is Purple Haze. They recieve university funding, they go on trips, they record albums (although that's becoming much more commonplace for all groups), and they draw the biggest crowds:

If you see a group that makes especially ironic music choices, like something by Alanis Morisette or Sixpence None the Richer, but they aren't joking around the whole time, chances are you are watching this type of group. To me, this is the best kind of group, because they sound great, are focused on making their voices work together and blend very well, but are still laid back about their performances and look like they're having fun. These kinds of groups are incredibly hard to find, because they tend to fall about one degree one way or the other. The closest I've come to finding a truely balanced a cappella group is Indiana's Straight No Chaser (which unfortunately chose to name itself after a Theolonius Monk song that references IU's party reputation). Here they are performing a Christmas song, which is a good idea of a standard

Humor Focus
This type of group does a lot of skits between parts of their set, invent little funny parts to their songs, and are very irreverent. They take a hit in their musical ability because of their attempts at being relaxed and funny, but they are still entertaining to watch. This is pretty much the group my best friend is in, and I hope they don't take offense to this classification. It's nothing against their musical ability, they are just geared more towards humor:

Chaotic Batshit Insane
I know of one group at my school that fits this bill. They're called the X-Factors, and when I saw them basically half of their group came onstage naked. They yell, they run around, they jump, and they sing pretty well. People laugh at what they do, and most of their show is watching what they do instead of listening to them sing. As far as all the comedy and rambunctious stage attitude goes, the only people who are going to find that funny are people that know the performers. If an a cappella group goes to another school, or to a high school, and tries to replicate the antics in front of anyone that isn't their friend, the humor just isn't going to work. Skits and jokes from these kinds of groups are pretty much inside jokes to friends of the group or to members of the university, so people outside that range just won't be able to have as much fun.

A lot of groups tend to have the same repertoire as well. They've all got songs by Michael Buble, can sing Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", have a nostalgic 90s pop song up their sleeve, a Pat Benatar or other 80s song, and so on. It sometimes gets to the point where you don't know which group you're listening to if you close your eyes.

And not to be sexist or anything, but all-female groups just lag behind the quality of the coed and all-male groups. It's not because they don't sing as well, I've heard far more female soloists that sing fantastically, but it's an issue of the parts. All-female groups don't have the bottom end that the other two types do, and can't fully fill out their sound. They sound partially empty, and its a symptom of their own group design.

The Ugly

Okay, now I've just got some things that bug the crap out of me about the songs, the groups, and the genre at large. First off, go check out this list on Wikipedia. It's of the "notable" a cappella groups throughout the country. Notice anything peculiar? Essentially half of those groups are from the Ivy League, which is complete bullshit. There's no way in hell those groups are all notable, especially when a blog like IvyGate can take a bunch of groups and pit them against each other in a poll of the "Worst A Cappella Group in the Ivy League."

No matter where these groups fall on my makeshift scale, 99% of them do the following things:

1. Coordinate their dress with some kind of specific article of clothing or a set of colors, not unlike a sports team.
2. Have some ridiculous name that tries way to hard to make a pun or be clever.
3. Cover songs that are meant to be witty, ironic, or nostaligic choices.

You know the groups I'm talking about. These are the ones that dress all in black and red, sing N*Sync and Backstreet Boys while winking at the crowd the whole time, and are called the "One Hit Wonders" or something like that. We all hated that genre of music back in the 90s, and anyone who is pretending that those songs were legitimately good contributions to the history of music shouldn't have gotten in to any college or university.

General pretention really eats at me with these groups. It's so much better to see a group having fun than for a group to call itself the "best" or "premiere" group on campus and look down on the others. Here, it's obviously Purple Haze that does that, and they've even got their own little quirky, semi-intentional choreography to go along with their smug attitude and polished smiles. We call it the "Purple Haze Bounce." Take a look:

It's not that they don't have the chops. They are without a doubt one of the best blending and sounding a cappella groups I've ever heard, but in my mind no amount of talent over the rest gives you the right to act superior than anyone else.

Also, the very fundamental part of college a cappella is representing pop/rock songs with only voices. So they're trying to replace instruments...with a sound that can in no way equal how good the instruments sound on a record. It's as though the style of the genre is setting itself up to be worse than the original. Good a cappella groups will realize that they shouldn't just imitate the instruments with their voices, and just sing the song as a a blend of voices, but too often I hear the background simply attempting to be the instruments on the track, and the vocal percussion doesn't help.

Beatboxers in a cappella groups are either trying to be one of two people: Matisyahu, or this dude from a French talent search show:

In either case, they just aren't as good, and sound like really bad background drumming that you would find on a karaoke track.

The End

Okay, so I ripped on a cappella a lot this whole time, but I don't hate the whole thing. I think that since I'm in college, I'm just exposed to so much of it, that it's hard not to get fed up with how similar the vast majority of these groups are. There have only been a select few breaths of fresh air in the whole first quarter of college in a cappella for me, and the other 90-ish% has been so blandly similar that I'm at the breaking point. Like I said towards the beginning, my best friend is in an a cappella group, so I go to a lot of these shows. I enjoy going to them, I want to support my friends, but I really think something needs to change in this genre so that every group you go to see is not doing the same types of things and having almost the exact same successes and failures.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The First Year End Lists...

Stylus Magazine has closed its doors. As of October 31st, there have been no new articles on their site, and in an effort to close things out, they put up lists for their best albums and singles of the year. Granted, they were closing and everything, but there were still TWO MONTHS LEFT in the year. I don't know if any great albums will come out before the end of 2007, but it sure did seem really really early to post a best of...

The list is very, very indie, espeically in the top 10. There are some mainstream, obvious choices here and there, but I really like when lists are written by a person and are "favorite" lists of the year, not an attempt to show the "greatest" releases from the year. The "greatest" album for me really has to be In Rainbows if not only for its release style. It will be the most influential album of the year simply because of the release strategy Radiohead employed. People will always know what you're talking about when you mention that album to them, and for that engrained recognition it should be the greatest album of the year.

Once we get into December, I'll start posting about my favorite films and albums from this year. Until then...I'm really really busy with this thing called college, so my posting has started to get much more scattered. In January we have delayed rush for frats, so I might be a little M.I.A. then as well, but I'll do my best to post about concerts and movies I go to.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mid-Week Special: Desperado Revenge covers Get Up Kids

Okay, ever since I went to see my favorite band Daphne Loves Derby play a couple weeks ago, I haven't really stopped playing their music. That happens to me a lot when I see concerts; it was the same when I saw the Hives at the beginning of school in September. On that note, I'm going to put up another, much shorter cover that they did, but in a different way than the live Third Eye Blind cover I posted a while ago.

Kenny Choi, the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for the band, has had a bunch of solo side projects inbetween Daphne projects. So far he's created Wolftron, Desperado Revenge, Sorry About the Fire, Des Rev (it's different from Desperado Revenge), and cameraphone. This particular cover of the Get Up Kids' "Overdue" used to be attributed to the band as a whole, but is now apparently classified as being a Desperado Revenge song. While the music he makes with Daphne Loves Derby is my favorite, I do like some of the stuff he does on his own. If you check out the Wolftron purevolume site, you can find a free EP called Activate that is the best example of the progression of Kenny's solo work. I remember the first time I saw Daphne Loves Derby live; I went with my dad, and the first thing he said to me after the show was he would be counting down the days until the lead singer went solo because it was his show. While I definately don't agree with that statement having seen the band progress in its live form to be more complete musicians and depending on each other more, I can totally see Kenny doing solo stuff on the side between records for the band.

Here's the cover, along with the original by Get Up Kids. Enjoy:

Daphne Loves Derby - Overdue(Get Up Kids cover)
Get Up Kids - Overdue

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Raiders Fail Me Again...

Yesterday saw my beloved Raiders attempt to win a game against the Chicago Bears. They had this crazy idea in their head that a 6-3 lead with a little over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter would win them a game. After the defense knocked out Brian Griese, Sexy Rexy Grossman came in to save the day for Chicago, tossing 2 TD passes and the Bears escaped with a 17-6 win.

So, the defense completely broke down, letting Grossman toss a monster pass to Berrian downfield to set up the go-ahead touchdown. I already knew the Raiders were horrible, so the loss isn't really what's on my mind. I'm thinking about what will happen now that Grossman won another game for the Bears.

I don't really think that Grossman is going to save the Bears' season, help them make the playoffs, or take them to another Super Bowl, but imagine if he did. What would Chicago fans have to bitch about? The defense is nowhere near the dominance of last season, or any other playoff season they've had. If the Bears make the playoffs this year, it will be because of the power of their offense, namely Rex Grossman and Berrian. They've never been a powerful offense, but I just think that if Grossman could cobble something together, the city would still kick him back down into the gutter. They seem unsatisfied with just winning; the team has to do it with style and grace or it doesn't matter. Compare that to the attitude of the Raider franchise: do whatever you have to do, break whatever limbs you must, just win the goddamn game. Al Davis doesn't give a shit about style, he just wants to win games, and win a championship. Chicago will probably lose next week because of a horrible performance by Grossman, but for now the city should let him enjoy a brief moment of happiness. They've almost never given him any breathing room, comfort, or security in his job, and now that they don't really have a legitimate shot at being a great team the fans need to back off for once.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mid-Week Special: B-sides from The Killers

In the summer of 2004, I learned about a Las Vegas rock band called The Killers. They had released a couple songs in the UK, and had just started getting radio airplay for a song called "Somebody Told Me" which was a fantastic dance rock gem. I gathered everything I could about the band, and then went to my favorite music festival in the Bay Area the first week of June. Opening the entire festival on a small side stage at 12:30 was none other than the Las Vegas men themselves, playing seven songs off of their upcoming debut album Hot Fuss.

When the album was released that summer, I saw the band play an in-store release party at a Virgin Megastore in downtown San Francisco, met the band, and finally got to listen to an album full of their songs. It was nothing short of amazing to me. I still have trouble skipping a track when I'm listening through Hot Fuss. It was like the second coming of Duran Duran, only a hell of a lot better.

Now I look at The Killer's and see a lot of missed opportunites and wasted promise. Why grow cowboy moustaches? Why get in feuds with bands like The Bravery? Why get arrogant about your next album? Why shift from 80s tinged dance rock to Americana? Sam's Town is not a wholly terrible album, but it is a colossal misstep for a band that rose to prominence with such a different genre of music. I'm not saying that creative growth or bands stretching outside their comfort zone is wrong, but this particular case really did not work for me.

Anyways, The Killers have a b-side album called Sawdust coming out soon, so I thought I'd post a few b-sides I have from the Hot Fuss days that will be available on the disc. My favorite song by the band is still "Under the Gun" which I think is a fantastic whallop of a track. Here's hoping the third album is a little shift back to their synth-filled 80s rock and less of the down home Springsteen impersonations on their sophomore effort.

The Killers - Under the Gun
The Killers - Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll
The Killers - Who Let You Go

Monday, November 5, 2007

What the F@#*!?!? - The WGA Strike

In just a little under four hours, the Writer's Guild goes on strike in Hollywood. What does this mean? Well, in the event that the strike last for a few months (and the last time the WGA went on strike in the early 90s it lasted for about half a year) it would mean that all of your favorite television shows would run out of new episodes right around the time of the winter break. That means The Office, The Daily Show, 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, Heroes, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, Lost, CSI, and all the others that TV depends on to make any kind of ratings will go away for the new year.

What exactly is the dispute about? Mostly, it's over money from digital technologies. The writers want more residuals from DVD sales, as well as money from On Demand content such as NBC's system that lets viewers watch any episode of select shows streaming on their web site.

For movies, it's meant a huge rush to complete scripts for blockbusters on time. Go check out the news over at /Film with the link to your right, the news there about new movies rushing to meet the deadline has been massive in quantity. I don't know about you, but a lot of those films getting rushed into production don't look so good. Transformers 2, Justice League of America, and a bunch of others don't look to be very good. Also, people like Paul Haggis have frantically finished their scripts so that films like the new James Bond movie can start production. Who wants to rush a script with as much potential as that one? The studios are preparing to empy the vaults on delayed films should this strike delay production for more than a few weeks. I'm worried that after 2008 all we'll see are films that have been shelved for a couple years because of how horrible they were.

After watching The Office and Heroes the past two weeks, I'm really worried about what will happen to those shows if the writers strike for too long. Heroes is just starting to pick up in excitement for this new season, and The Office has a huge head of steam going for it right now; it's essentially the best written show on television right now.

2008 looks to be another good year, what with The Dark Knight and Indy 4 looming large, but this strike just makes me nervous. The NHL lockout ended terribly for all involved, and the MLB strike ended Tony Gwyn's chance at history and sent fans away for good. The industry has been building and building ever since Spider-Man, and I'd really hate to see the qulity dip that a strike would cause ruin the popularity and art of film for the next few years. I'll be reading anything I can about this, and hoping that somehow this gets solved really soon. Until then, enjoy your shows, these could be the last few new episodes for a good long time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

In Defense of In Defense of the Genre

One of my favorite films of all time is Cameron Crowe's 1989 directorial debut Say Anything, so when I heard of Max Bemis' band of the same name I felt obliged to check it out. I picked up their 2004/2006 re-released album ...Is a Real Boy and took a bit to get used to it. On the first listen I didn't really like the instrumentation or Bemis' delivery, but after a short while epic tracks like "Alive With the Glory of Love" won me over. The album plays like a musical, which makes sense because it was initially conceived in that way. I liked being able to track the character Bemis created through the entire album, and the sense he created of singing as a character instead of himself made the emo/alt-rock/musical combination work despite an overly long album.

Now, the band has released its follow-up In Defense of the Genre. In case it wasn't just blatantly obvious enough, the genre under attack is emo. Say Anything is, much like other great bands, under the umbrella of hate that has become the genre of emo. I personally enjoy a lot of emo music, and not in the Fueled By Ramen or Decaydance Records type of way. Instead of shortening and concentrating his argument, Bemis decided to go all out on a double album stretching 89 minutes and incorporating guests on almost every track, including Hayley Williams of Paramore and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance.

When I heard the news that this would be a double album, my expectations immediately flatlined. Max Bemis is a charismatic, arrogant musician, and a lot of times those type of personalities let their creativity get the better of them and release a sprawling album that clearly needed an editor to cut out the crappy tracks. When I put the album on for the first time, I wan't really expecting much, and that's probably why I was so blown away.

The chugging power chords are there, the ironic and cutting lyrics are there, and the guest stars add a little necessary spice to the whole ordeal. How does this 89 minute epic work so well? For me, the answer really comes down to the fact that Bemis challenges what we thought of the seemingly obvious title. Yes, there are some emo songs on the album, but the musicality switches genres from track to track, the guests do different types of backing over the course of the album, and what genre Bemis is defending starts to become unclear about halfway through the first disc.

The first four tracks switch genres easily, even including the show tune tinged "This is Why" that echoes the structure of their last album. Hayley Williams does the best guest work on the album on "The Church Channel" and second disc closer "Plea". Bemis did let his imagination run wild, and his musical creations easily swing across genre lines, but his lyrical content does tend to stick to the same subjects: difficulty with women and hatred for the music industry. He does sound more grown up, more coherent, and more in control of his voice this time around, and that added self confidence empowers the tracks with strong vocals that were somewhat lacking in some tracks on ...Is a Real Boy.

Bemis obviously felt what a lot of emo musicians have felt over the past few years: critical and popular backlash against their music for a changing fan base and the arrival of corporate packaged entries into the genre. In response, Bemis has created a crowning acheivement for the genre to aspire to be; an almagam of all the genres emo can draw upon, can be influenced by, and can look up to. The album is a beacon of hope for a now-maligned section of music, a transcendent album that defies genre specifications while at the same time staying loyal to an idealistic vision for what the genre can be with a little more care and attention to detail.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mid-Week Special: Arcade Fire & Nada Surf bring on the New Order

With Control entering theatres, I saw the track listing for the soundtrack that came out on iTunes on Tuesday. I have to say, I’m significantly disappointed in the cover of Transmission "Shadowplay" by The Killers (edit: I mixed the song up...turns out the cover was so forgettable that I didn't remember which Joy Division song they were bad). I loved Hot Fuss, hated Sam’s Town, but I like some of the b-sides on the forthcoming Sawdust rarities album (small side note: how can a band release a b-side and rarities album after only 2 LPs? It’s not as though these guys never leave the studio…). I’ve never really heard a good cover of a Joy Division song that wasn’t “Love Will Tear Us Apart” so for today’s post I’m pulling out two of my favorite live covers of New Order songs.

The first is a “Blue Monday” cover by Nada Surf. I’m not a huge fan of the band, considering they don’t really sound different from bands like Death Cab For Cutie (whose guitarist produces their albums), but I still really like this cover.

The second is a cover of my favorite New Order song “Age of Consent” by Arcade Fire. I remember the first time I put Power, Corruption, & Lies into my computer and fell in love with it. I also remember my surprise when the song was used in the first trailer for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Win Butler is perfect on the vocals here, and the string section is wonderful as well.

Nada Surf - Blue Monday(New Order Cover)
Arcade Fire - Age of Consent(New Order Cover)