Friday, June 30, 2006

Hell on Wheels

In the place of something remotely clever or Pitchfork related is one tired and very shaken Pitch Perfect. I am relieved to have made it home in one piece and at this point my priority number one is to go to bed. Dialing 911 twice in one night really takes a lot out of a girl.

The evening began with a leisure car u-turning at top speed Dukes of Hazzard style on a two lane highway for what I can only guess was an incredible determination to not miss his exit. Facing traffic head on was apparently not an issue to this stunt driver. No one was hurt but seriously, what the hell?

Playing in my car at the time was The Telescopes cd As Approved by the Committee.

911 # 1

My return trip home began with a Jeep stopped at a light in front of me suddenly throwing their car in reverse and smashing into my car. There was minor bumper damage done to my car, no one was hurt but what was more infuriating was the elder drunk driver calling me Dear and his male friend / co-worker pulling up to the accident and making fun of me for taking down all the insurance information because I am a woman over reacting to a few little scratches which are in fact deep scrapes no less inflicted by a man who has no business being behind the wheel of a vehicle. The police took over 45 minutes to respond so needless to say by the time they called us back looking for the accident, both cars were long gone. I should also mention while this was all going on a car full of men drove by and shouted at me something about not being bad looking for a white girl. Um, thanks.

Playing in my car at the time was the Luiz Eca - Y La Familia Sagrada cd.

911 # 2

Not more than 10 minutes later, now on the highway returning back home, we (me and my fella) watched a car pinball bounce at light speed against the right guardrail twice only to shoot across all three lanes of traffic to the cement divide and scrape against it. We pulled over, dialed 911 looked to the left where the car was stopped to view in horror that A) there appeared to be a violent altercation happening inside the car (we only saw the passenger’s back as he faced the driver and flailed his hands in either panic or rage and B) that the car decided to remain in motion and head towards us, across the three lanes of traffic again. We sped off fearing for our lives and headed towards to the nearest exit because the last thing I wanted to do was share the road with this car no less be hit directly by it. Somehow our 911 call was dropped (stupid cell phones) so we have no idea how this story ends other than us eventually getting back on the road again. We never saw the car again or any sign of police activity so I can’t tell you anything more than that was a terrifying and surreal experience.

The final leg of our journey was a little less dramatic but watching a fresh massive deer carcass be struck by multiple cars offered the kind of blood and guts vision I really really really didn’t need to see.

We drove home in silence listening to Som Imaginario’s – S/T cd and that leads us safely to the here and now.

It is nearly 3 AM and I need to step away from my computer and crawl into bed. I don’t have a review in me tonight. I am very sorry…but at least now you know why.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Melvins / Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust / Rating: 5.7

“But while it is a little interesting to hear the band revisit some of these songs, ultimately these louder, slightly faster versions pale in comparison to the originals, leaving A Live History of Gluttony and Lust far from essential.”

I had to ask (especially as a once upon a time huge fan of the Melvins), was this faux live Melvins record remotely necessary? Reading the below quote from Buzz helped to put the recording into perspective but it still didn’t spell out essential for me and it took only one listen to the record to prove it. A band can explain a record to death; give it great purpose and meaning in an interview but when the music is left alone to speak for itself, Houdini Live 2005 fails to amaze.

Message from Buzz:

"…We figured it was our duty to put this out as a live record since we went to the trouble of RE-LEARNING all of the songs, a third of which we never ever intended to play live. Figuring out HOW to play some of them was problematic but it worked out beautifully. The shows in London and Dublin went great. Unfortunately we didn't hit upon the idea of the live record until after the shows were over. This was a dilemma that could only be remedied by recording another show, and that wasn't easily done. Not only did we have a limited amount of time, locating a suitable venue and assembling the recording equipment was a BITCH. In the end, we couldn't find a venue that would work on such short notice so we rented a warehouse in Vernon, just south of LA, set up the gear and rehearsed all afternoon for our invitation only performance that evening. Then after running through the show twice, we took the tapes to the studio, picked out the best songs of the two sets, mixed them and mastered them onto this CD. DONE! In the exact same order we played them. "

In theory this re-recording of Houdini makes sense but when you start adding up the details, the record’s power and meaning begins to shrink.

This isn’t the real deal audio scrap book recording of their set as it unfolded live at the festival in front of thousands. Instead it is a stiff re-creation minus all the one of a kind energy one would normally get from a band playing in front of an audience.

This is an after thought recording session and it shows but who can blame a band for wanting to cash in on the grueling process of re-learning an entire record from front to back. When the band tells us one third of this material was not meant to be played live, they mean it.

Mixing the best parts from two rehearsal room sets is cheating. This also challenges the idea of what a “live” recording actually means. Not only is this not the actual recording from the All Tomorrow’s show, this isn’t a live (in front of a crowd) performance either.

Sorry Buzz but this is a compiled practice space recording that when pieced together happens to recreate Houdini but not in the original track listing order. Calling it Live 2005 (even though it does rhyme) is false advertising.

Worst of all, this rearranged and extended lackluster “live” version of a classic record doesn’t come close to the cement shower this band pummels their audience with in normal live setting. It's safe to say 99.5% of all Melvins fans will also prefer the original recording of Houdini over this one. I am barely willing to call this new cd a worthy companion piece to the og.

I won’t mess with the Pitchfork rating but I will suggest to any band who likes to put out a record every 6 months that maybe a few of their releases should be a fan club only thing. Think limited. Think only available at the merch table on tour. Make it a download only record or maybe even a limited mail order thing from your web page. Just because you can make art and record it doesn’t mean every stitch of it needs to be shared with the world.

Assuming your fans will dish out money for every little thing you decide to shit out will eventually work against you (besides revealing the size of your ego) but then again the best part about the Melvins is I know they know this and they still don’t give a fuck. Some people might thrive on hate but this band has learned to make a living from it. More power to them, I guess.

Melvins - Fucking you loudly and often since 1984 … because they can.

PS: Why the hell can’t this band keep a bass player around for more than a tour or a recording session?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Amy Millan / Honey From the Tombs / Rating: 5.9

“Without the grit to make her twanging strums stick, Millan merely regurgitates country-folk's most obvious characteristics.”

Déjà vu. Weren’t we just talking about Canada or something? At least Pitchfork got the review AND rating right this time. I know some of you might be tempted to check out the record because you are a Broken Social Scene or Stars fan plus she does look pretty darn cute on the cover...but everything the PFM review said is true so the moral of the story is stay clear of this record.

The only thing I care to add to “second-rate whiskey'n'tears-fueled backwoods banalities” is that they neglected to mention Honey From The Tombs is not available domestically in the U.S. yet; in fact it doesn’t hit our streets until August 22nd.

From time to time Pitchfork reviews imports which is fine considering how the whole www. thing works but is it really so difficult to add the word IMPORT and what country it’s from between the label / year of release and the rating?

Amy Millan
Honey From the Tombs
[Arts & Crafts; 2006]
Import; Canada
Rating: 5.9

Now that wasn’t hard at all.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Lovely Feathers / Hind Hind Legs / Rating: 7.6

"The Lovely Feathers seem poised for success: They hail from the buzzing indie beehive of Montreal; they're labelmates with Islands on the newly formed Equator Records; hell, they even have a name derived from the animal kingdom and Marcel Dzama-esque illustrations on their album sleeve. But it isn't merely the contemporary cred signifiers that make Lovely Feathers a potential hype band; it's the music.”

Hypothetically speaking: F Canada. F Islands. F indie rock’s obsession with bird and animal names. If we are going to talk music or rather idea of quality music than F The Lovely Feathers and definitely F Pitchfork’s review too.

Sub par bands, even if they are poised to move onto something better next time around do not deserve a 7.6 rating and if you have listened to more than 100 records in your lifetime, you too would hear this record and think maybe a 5. Maybe.

Jangle-funk taking on the identity of a third rate Make-Up minus more than a few IQ points hardly deserves the time for a review. Wacky whiney over dramatic pseudo post punk certainly doesn’t warrant your hard earned dollars or earn the privilege of taking up space in your iTunes library or cd shelf.

If you don’t value your time or money then go ahead, splurge.

Sorry to be so harsh but I am a busy woman who hates to have my time wasted with yet another mediocre record. I want the best for my friends and friends let me tell you… The Lovely Feathers are not it. In fact the best thing I heard all day was the Nacho Libre soundtrack (just watched the movie) and ironically it doesn’t seem to be available on cd.

Wikipedia however does have some hot gossip on the story behind the music in this film. Danny Elfman verse Beck? Yeah you want to read this and while the movie itself isn’t so genius, the music is. Apparently for now at least you won’t be able to hear it any other way other than seeing Nacho Libre for yourself.

Use the money you saved from not buying The Lovely Feathers cd and treat yourself to a movie ticket.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mogwai / Mr. Beast / Rating : 6.8

Ladies and Gentlemen please join me in welcoming the newewst addition to the Tuning Fork staff (drum roll please) Outerupt (applaud here). His test review / practice run was so darn impressive that not only did it warrant me posting it ASAP but earned him a permanent place at the TFM table.

Welcome to the family my good man.

"The longest song on Mr. Beast, Mogwai’s fifth studio album, runs 5:46.
The entire LP clocks under 45 minutes. Ordinarily, this isn’t the kind of thing you’d bother pointing out in a record review, but…"

But… But what? If it’s not normally worth mentioning, why pray tell, mention it to me now What’s that? Oh, I see. You aim to criticize Mogwai’s most recent release for being all too brief. I understand. You were so enthralled with the record, really feeling its highs and lows, enjoying the subtle undulations between the glassy melodies and grit-toothed riffage of "Glasgow Mega-Snake", the jackhammer knocks on the drums and playful syncopation of "Folk Death 95," the nuanced interplay of synth and acoustic elements and soaring crescendos of "Friend of the Night," that eerie-soft-bass vocal delivery unfolding under layers of instrumentation in "Travel is Dangerous," and the destructive barn-burning of "We’re No Here" had you feeling pains in places you hadn’t felt since you were 12. And just when you had completely lost yourself in the record, tears just starting to well up, it came to an all too abrupt end. Well, I’d say that’s a reasonable criticism. I mean, who doesn’t get a little upset at the end of a great movie when all the conflicts have been only slightly resolved and the screen goes black and white with the rolling credits, or when a sandwich with just the right amount of mayo, a perfectly ripe tomato, crisp lettuce and freshly sliced roast beef comes down to the final delicious bite? And this record is no different right? You’re left empty, longing for more… Oh no wait… you just want to make some trivial and misguided point about how you like Mogwai when they play tunes that drone on longer than the average Mahler symphony or Bush II state of the union address. You want me to believe that on some art-crit level of objectivity that Mogwai are better when they "let their music breathe, ebb, flow and stretch…" What is this some girly mid-seventies fanzine review of a Lynyrd Skynyrd solo? And since when does PFM like overlong songs? Didn’t Doug Martsch just get lambasted for his noodling on Built to Spill’s recent You in Reverse? (Hmm… yeah they gave that a 6.8 too… weird)? And last, but most crucially, what Mogwai records have you been listening to? I’m unfamiliar with a wealth of releases from this band that extend past the 10-minute mark. In fact, just for fun, lets collect up a few REAL points about this band and it’s history of long players:

1. In the entire career catalog of 5 full-length studio albums from these guys only 3 out of 49 songs has ever exceeded 10 minutes. That’s a little over 6% and not a lot of material to work with for a band that garnered a 9.6 from Pitchfork for their debut album Young Team.
2. While 2 out of those 3 songs are from Young Team, the average song length on that record is still around 6 and a half minutes despite those
2 long tracks taking up around 43% of the record.
3. The average song length for all of the four albums preceding Mr.
Beast is about 5:23.
4. The album with the greatest number of songs over 8 minutes is Come on Die Young, which is the lowest scoring Mogwai release on Pitchfork (6.1).
5. Rock Action scored an 8.0 on Pitchfork and clocks in at 38.5 minutes and has but two songs over 8 minutes and none over 10.

Moment of clarity: This record builds upon the many achievements this band has made since its initial release in 1997, condensing and expanding themes where necessary and presenting ideas with elegance and clarity. If anything, you might fault Mr. Beast for being more polished than earlier releases but hey, what’s so wrong with polish when it sounds this good? And it comes with a DVD. SWEET!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

El Perro Del Mar/El Perro Del Mar/8.1

These songs are so intent and intense in their misery that it's almost a little funny-- tragedy amplified into comedy.

Rebecca: This is so bad it's almost good.
Enid: This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again.

Those two viewpoints pretty much sum up how listeners are going to feel about El Perro Del Mar. Some listeners will find the combination of retro instrumental tracks and simple sentimental lyrics heartwarming. I find myself in a different camp who find the off key singing grating and the minimalism of the songs uninviting. If you’re looking for something retro and charming, I’d steer you in many other directions.

With new releases by Camera Obscura, Tilly and the Wall and Pipettes, how did 2006 become the Summer of Twee? I don’t mind retro flavored pop, but I tend to partake only on occasion. It’s like Bubble Tea – I enjoy the novelty and the flavor, but don’t drink it on a daily basis (even though I live in walking distance of such an establishment). I also appreciate that influence of 60’s girl groups on the current batch of these artists– the combination of Brill building songwriters, revolutionary production gurus and gifted singers created timeless pop. Artists who try to fill those shoes have to bring at least some combination of those talents to the table. Camera Obscura have songwriting on their side. The Pipettes have the attitude. Tilly and the Wall…well, they have a tap dancer. El Perro Del Mar has some momentarily great production, but the songwriting and singing don’t measure up.

Too many of the songs seems to consist of Assbring cooing the same lyrics over and over and over. On the opening track “Candy”, she squeezes what little flavor exists in the line “I’m going for to get me some candy” while delivering the last part of the line out of pitch (though somehow, the background vocals are spot on). Maybe this is what Ashlee Simpson would sound like unprocessed, but I still wouldn’t want to hear these vocals (though the idea of a clandestine Ashlee Simpson twee project intrigues me). Some folks may find her girlish voice charming; for most of the tracks, it’s hard for me to hear. Besides, if I want to hear teenage girls singing, I can listen to the real deal on Smoosh’s latest.

There are a couple of tracks that work for me, “Coming Down The Hill” and “It’s All Good”. "Coming Down the Hill" has stronger vocal and the repetition of the lyrics sound more like a soul tune than improvised lyrics. "It’s All Good" picks up the temp and again overcomes the simple lyrics with style and sass. Duesner picked up on the appeal of the final track “Here Comes That Feeling” and I have to agree that that cut hooked me as well. However, three tracks are a single, not an LP. Enjoying these tracks as a digital download may be the best way to go (and if you find these tracks too sweet and cloying, stay away from the rest).

Maybe liking El Perro Del Mar is some shibboleth for true hipsterism; it’s on the hard to find Memphis Industries label and sounds like an quirky find after an afternoon of crate diving. If so, fail me as a simple music fan who prefers better songwriting and stronger vocals. El Perro Del Mar’s strange combination of retro charm and intense despair begs for the invention of new genres – Twee-Doom? Twee-Violence? Dark-Twee? However, this invention of micro-genres feels a lot like giving out ribbons at an elementary school track meet – Best Sportsmanship goes to Antwon Belling, Best Dark-Twee song goes to Sarah Assbring. The CD doesn’t quite succeed in any way music typically works, so you have to create new criteria for good music to enjoy it. If you’re looking for something different, El Perro Del Mar is different – however, not necessarily in an appealing way. I’d give this record something in upper fives and advise fans looking to satisfy their sweet tooth to look elsewhere.

I blame the heat.

Hey Mr. Columbus, MS can you please email me or leave a comment here and let me know if you got my mix cd. I can't remember if I mailed yours out before you sent along yours. Crap. Sorry about that.

Pitch Perfect

Helium videos

It doesn't always have to be about Pitchfork. I haven't done a REWIND in ages so here you go.

* Mary Timony (post Autoclave - pre solo-ish artist singing about D & D themes).
* Ash Bowie of Polvo was also a member.
* They had a definite Pixies/Breeders/Sonic Youth thing happening. (Well it was the early to mid 90's)
* Love their records and had no idea there were any videos for the band until today.
* YAY!
* The quality is pretty terrible so consider yourself warned.
* The music is worth all the grain and 120 minutes logos.
* "Pat's Trick" is my favorite song of the video bunch.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Raising the Fawn / The Maginot Line / Rating: 7.6

“Where Broken Social Scene's narcotic-pop floats effortlessly skyward, Raising the Fawn strive for the same heights through a painstaking, brick-by-brick effort: guitars short out, harmonies crack, and calloused fingers grind fretboards with each abrupt chord change.”

At age 92 my grandmother pretty much does what she pleases. She refuses to go to the dentist to replace the missing front tooth in her bottom bridge, she refuses to leave the house for any reason, and refuses to wear her hearing aids which according to her she “hates to fiddle with” as they are too small for her less than nimble fingers to insert into her ear.

What this all means is to see Irma- you need to come to her. You need to sit close by her chair and you need to yell to be heard. Unless you are talking about marriage, death, diseases / hospitals, or buns in the ovens, she doesn’t appear to really be paying attention to whatever you are shouting about and no matter what you say your conversational pauses are met with a pat on the hand followed by a “That’s nice”.

Her short term memory no longer exists so one also must expect to repeat everything you told her at least three times and you will be force fed ice tea and baked goods until your body can take no more. This has been the routine for several years now and while I have grown accustomed to it and love these visits, I find her attitude contagious.

My ears, my listening skills more specifically feel 90 something. I can’t say I have heard it all but it takes A LOT to get my attention these days and the mundane music, the average, even the slightly above average don’t register on my radar anymore. Even after repeat listens I am not hearing anything I care to remember... so Irma, I feel your pain.

My two hour drive to grandmother’s house (4 hours total travel time) allowed me more than ample time alone with Raising the Fawn’s The Maginot Line. Over 5 listens later I turned off my car stereo to finish the ride in silence. I would rather hear the shushing of wind over my car than the kind of record I have heard a million times before. Something pleasant enough, something totally unchallenging, something another million bands do better, and something a million other bands do worse. Temperamental rock (ooooh it is quiet and ahhhhhh now it is loud) with a vocalist who has a great range but has no idea what to do with it is the record equivalent of a cul-de-sac. My patience for this musical middle ground is dead and while I am sure there are plenty people who are content with the unexceptional, I am no longer one of them. I am not impressed or swayed by the Raising the Fawn’s Broken Social Scene connection and neither should you. The Maginot Line barely deserves a 5 (take that Pitchfork) and just to be polite, a “That’s nice”.

Smog / Rock Bottom Riser EP / Rating: 7.4

“Callahan's songs feel worn-in and effortless; his voice coasting across guitars so languid they sound wet, and his focus has turned from damnation to redemption.”

It is such a genuine pleasure to say Pitchfork’s Smog review has not one paragraph, not even one sentence I care to argue about. In fact this means I don’t have to dedicate more than a few more minutes towards this post and I now have the free time to read a few chapters in "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle".

Thanks PFM!

My only question is if the review reads as positive as I think it does, why the slightly above average rating of 7.4? The Smog fan of more than 15 years in me loves Rock Bottom Riser more most of the music Bill C. has produced over the past 9 years and the short attention span adult / single ( 7”ers especially) obsessed record collector in me is pleased as punch*. With a statement that grand comes a grand rating of an 8.4.

* I like trivia (shocking I know) so I looked up the history of the phrase pleased as punch. The slap-stick puppet play of Punch and Judy + alliteration = classic British slang and some cultural experts say P and J inspired the violent humor found in modern day cartoons.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sunset Rubdown / Shut Up I Am Dreaming / Rating: 8.6

“As the Wolf Parade juggernaut gathers steam, the quintet's charismatic keyboardist, Spencer Krug, somehow found time to follow his recent self-titled Sunset Rubdown EP with Shut Up I Am Dreaming, a collection of his strongest, most fully realized non-Wolf Parade material to date.”

“Most fully realized” is the kind of review phrase I despise. As meaningful as the words can be it is a canned criticism I read or am told so regularly (especially coming from labels and publicity companies) that I now ignore this type of claim all together.

Six paragraphs of worship and praise for Sunset Rubdown later (to back up "most fully realized"), it just took one listen to think what a waste of time. Not the record, but all those bulked up compliments. I understand Pitchfork readers need a little more to go on than yup….this sure does sounds like Wolf Parade and their name should be also be a Bathwork’s tropical massage oil, but being the busy people we are, why drag it out.

Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Clear your mind. Now allow your imagination to wander. I would like you to envision what Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade’s other band might sound like.

Yes! That’s it!

I don’t know most of you reading this personally but I bet whatever sounds you conjured up in your head mirror Shut Up I Am Dreaming almost exactly. The same but different should be Sunset’s Rubdown’s motto. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, especially if you like WP but I can’t offer a novella on the subject featuring glowing Pitchfork sentiments like” ostensible perfection”, “brilliant”, “inventive stitching”, “kick-ass axe-toting coda”, “weirdly pleasant and satisfying”, “This is rich stuff”, and “elegant wallop”.

Geesh Pitchfork, get a room already. Just kidding. I am happy to read that somebody is deeply in love with a 2006 record and I can only hope I too find that kind of passion this year for a new release. I don’t prey on other people’s dates so Pitchfork can have Sunset Rubdown. I don’t want to go steady with this band or even hold hands with them under the table. SR isn’t really my type so why try to force what is not meant to be. We can still be friends, right?

My parting question is this: why do so many band members create side projects that sound suspiciously like their other more popular band? I mean if you are going to go for an alternate identity why clone your artist self in the process?

I know some apples don’t fall far from its tree but some band apples apparently don’t want to leave the branch at all. Sunset Rubdown are the 6.8 of my eye and nothing more.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thank you!

The mixes, letters, and packages you good Tuning Fork readers have sent me in relation to my mix cd offer has been nothing short of spectacular.

Thank you for giving such good pen pal and your prizes are on the way!

Your pal,

Mistakes Happen and happen again.

Check out this Information Leafblower post about a funny Pitchfork faux pas.

Note to reviewers who say they are fans of a band-if you are going to gush about artists you fancy, make sure you get their song titles correct or at least have a copy editor to double check your work.

As of 12:39 pm East Coast time this mistake in PFM's Luna review still stands.

It isn't "Billy Peru", it's "Bobby Peru" and thank you eagle eye Information Leafblower for pointing this out.

Fiery Furnaces / Bitter Tea / Rating: 7.6

“There's no shortage of direct and heartfelt indie rock that talks about the passion, but nothing else going sounds like the Fiery Furnaces' carefully considered babble.”

Many of us have at least one roommate we cringe at the memory of. Not only do I have one (I will call her Marisol for this purpose) but to this day the thought of her still makes me shudder. I blame her for single handedly leading me to loathe all people who refer to themselves as a thespian and or budding actress.

To make matters worse my live-in thespian also had a booming voice that was always so loud it was as if she was eternally speaking to the last row of a playhouse. (That isn’t to say people actually attended any of the productions she “starred” in.)

Life with an “actress” felt a little like being trapped in a soap opera steeped daily in high doses of dramatics. There were the weeks she was “in character” which made the most simple every day tasks like super market shopping painful. I mean you try picking a cereal with a person trying out a French accent for the first time and dressed like farmer’s daughter. Then there were the teary eyed melt downs caused by stockings with a run in them, a coffee cart without soy milk, a full moon masked by clouds, or a shoe sale at a local dept store passing her by. And you don’t want to hear about the rehearsals in our living room where MORE people of her kind convened and tried to out act / art each other.


I lost a year of my life to this sort of crazed environment but I am grateful of one thing; she did not play in band. As far as I remember she couldn’t sing (thank God because I think musical home rehearsals would have killed me) nor did she play any instrument so her theatrics and self exploration were contained to a stage and poorly costumed and set designed by others.

I couldn’t imagine what life would have been like had Marisol owned a drum machine, a synth, or guitar no less had a supportive family member coaxing her to play music…but now I can. The Fiery Furnaces have become the thing my nightmares are made of; a DIY off off broadway musical duo with plenty of plot but no props other than deceivingly attractive album cover art. Some people might enjoy an overtly dramatic performance thrown at them in the comfort of their own personal space but this is where my Marisol flashbacks kick in. Wading through a long winded wordy recital in hopes of something that might resemble a hook or a climax leaves me too fidgety to enjoy myself. Just like sitting though one of Marisol’s endless performances (this time of a girl dreams of exotic and far away places) I find myself asking, is it over yet? Is the script the problem or is it the acting? Maybe a little of both?

I appreciate PFM’s ability to make sense of this record no less give it a decent rating but the drama-phobe in me isn’t such a patient listener and there are only so many songs featuring backwards sounding parts a person can take. An hour plus worth of material starts to feel like a job rather than a pleasurable listening experience and for that it earns FF a 6. There are only so many dramatic concept albums I can embrace in a year and I am afraid Scott Walker has already claimed that spot for 2006.

Deconstructing the typical pop format is something I celebrate because it takes guts to make art that challenges the listener as well as possibly alienating a fan base but it still doesn’t mean I have to like the music. It just means I like the ideas behind their music much more than the music itself.

There are unbelievably contagious vocal melodies and memorable lines to be discovered here and if they weren’t so obscured by their outlandish abstract musical theories, not only would my rating jump to an 8 but a wider audience would be offering a standing ovation.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A sneak preview of the new Pitchfork

If you read Pitchfork everyday, then you probably noticed something a little different about their site this past Thursday. For about five hours Thursday, Pitchfork had a bunch of new design features. Their graphical look was the same, however, they added some new features to the home page, reviews and other parts of the site. I poked around, took stock of what was new (and some of it that wasn’t quite done yet) and made a little list. It’s a good thing that I did, because by 2 pm EDT, Pitchfork was back to their old design. Fortunately, the t-shirt ads from American Apparel didn’t go away.

Now, I don’t know when these new features will be back – that’s probably up to their programming company iheartsquares. However, this is what we can look forward to from Pitchfork 2006 XP.

The Good

Related reviews and news on review pages. At the bottom of each of the review pages that day were other reviews of records by that artist as well as any news stories. This will be great for us here at Tuningfork so we can go back to old reviews and berate PFM for any inconsistencies. Less persnickety readers will like learning more about artists’ back catalog as well as related news such as tour dates. In any event, it helps get the vast archive of reviews that Pitchfork has in front of more readers.

Audio and video links on reviews pages. At the bottom of several reviews were links to MP3s, audio streams or music videos for the records. With MP3 blogs becoming the way many folks find new music, Pitchfork needs to give its readers direct access to sample tracks. It’ll sure save me the trouble of having to go to the label site, then better propaganda, then a half dozen blogs to hear an artist who’s just been reviewed.

Search by artist, label, score and date. Freeform keyword search is okay, but some artists and titles just give you headaches if you use them in a search - just do a search for “Son”, the title of Juana Molina’s new album. The new search lets you search specifically by artist, album title, record label, score, date and reviewer. In just one click, I could pull up all of the reviews from this time a year ago. I was also able to pull up all of the records Nick Sylvester panned. The only drawback was that the “power search” was only the available from a review page or the list of reviews. Still, it made finding old reviews tremendously easy.

RSS Feeds! If you follow a lot of blogs in your day to day surfing, you probably already know about RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or you need to find out. Basically, RSS lets you use tools like the Personalized Google Homepage and My Yahoo to track the latest posts from multiple websites at one time. Blogs have been offering RSS for years. Now, if you use an RSS reader or software of some kind, you’ll be able to see the latest reviews and news without having to go directly to Pitchfork.

And if you don’t know what RSS is, you can learn more here.

The Bad

No release dates. People come to review sites to find out about music that they might want to buy. An essential part of buying music is knowing whether it has been released yet in your market. Compared to the features above, this would be easy to add. Pitchfork wouldn’t necessarily need to update the dates either – it’d just be good to know what the street dates are at the time of the review. Any related news at the bottom of the page could fill in readers on U.S. vs. U.K. release dates and so forth.

No direct links to albums. The eMusic and Amp Camp links still go to search pages not album pages on those respective sites. For folks who want to buy a record after a review, this means two or three more clicks to find a record – or a visit to Insound or Amazon instead of Pitchfork’s partners. I’m not the only one to notice how effective direct album links are; Coolfer had a good article on them. If PFM can put album links in news articles, they should be able to put them on reviews. It’d be a great feature for Pitchfork, its advertisers and its readers.

No comments/letters. Back in the day, Pitchfork actually had a letters section. That has since disappeared and now communication is one-way – from Pitchfork to its readers. However, music fans are finding ways to talk back in comments sections of blogs as well as well as on social networking sites like Comments don’t just give the writers direct feedback but also give readers a reason to come back later in the day after reading the initial reviews. Based on their comments and e-mails, I think that many of PFM’s writers actually dig getting responses from their readers. If you want to see a comments section that works, check out the comments on Stylus magazines reviews.

The Ugly

So where did all of this new goodness go Thursday afternoon? Well, as I played with the new features, I quickly figured out that not everything was finished.

  • The RSS feed for reviews didn’t give me any stories. In fact, it didn’t even give me a valid RSS file.

  • Not all of the options for search worked. I could search reviews by artist and title, but the record label search didn’t work.

  • The site was dog slow. Pitchfork gets a serious amount of web traffic. As the day progressed, I noticed that even simple things like reading a new article were taking forever. My guess is that some of the new features were added without planning for the beating they’d take from Pitchfork’s daily traffic.

Now, my day job is writing software and I’ve worked on a big website. I won’t give Pitchfork’s technology partner iheartsquares a hard time; I imagine their code monkeys are fixing the issues right now. Also, I’ve seen rougher software releases from much bigger companies.

Overall, I look forward to using the new features once they’re ready for prime time. However, Pitchfork will need to add more if it wants to keep its spot as one of the most read music websites. Based on some of the features, it seems like Pitchfork is trying to compete with the growing popularity of music blogs. If Pitchfork has anything to worry about, it’s blogs – not because blogs (like us) may be critical of them, but because blogs are becoming a more trusted source of opinion for many music fans. Unlike the mid-nineties when Pitchfork started, anyone can start up a fairly full featured website for free in a manner of minutes. And if they don’t have the time to follow blogs, music fans can go to sites like Pandora or and get recommendations for music based on their tastes. There are more places to get information about music than ever – which can be great for fans, but may make things a little rougher for Pitchfork in the future.

Added 6/19/2006: After a weekend of work, it looks like the new features on Pitchfork are a go. Hopefully PFM's programmers can sit back, enjoy a cool beverage and listen to some tunes - perhaps This Boy Is Exhausted?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Not Yet In The Budget: Spell Checker and "Intro to Punctuation" Course At Local Community College

Yesterday somebody told me Pitchfork's review of the new Replacements greatest hits CD misspelled frontman Paul Westerberg's name. Had it in there as Westerburg. That's pretty lame considering any music critic worth his/her salt is supposed to know all about people like Westerberg, right? He's a critics' darling.

When I checked the page the review had the correct spelling. Maybe somebody fixed it.

Spelling mistakes are common, and I don't mind them...especially in blogs. Mistakes happen. But know how to freakin' spell the last names of the revered rockers, OK?

You know all these mainstream media articles about Pitchfork? I'd like one of them to cover the site's operational process. How does a review go from writer to HTML? What's the editorial process? Does anybody check for spelling and grammar? Is there an oversight committee that says, " know, I think there are too many bands name-dropped in this review. Let's drop the number from 15 to 11. And let's take out that unnecessary reference to My Bloody Valentine. We'll give My Bloody Valentine a rest this week."

Spelling issues are minor compared to the biggest technical problem with the site: The creative punctuation used by Pitchfork writers. If there's one thing I can't stand it's bad punctuation. How annoying. Can somebody at Pitchfork please pick up the AP Stylebook and The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation?

They've been very honest in why they review albums not available in the U.S. The reasoning is that the site has international readers, and they need to cater to them as much as their U.S. readers.

So is that why Pitchfork places its commas and periods where it does, to cater to its British readership? Note to Pitchfork: the commas and periods go INSIDE the quotation marks. You're Americans. Punctuate like Americans.

It wouldn't be so bad if not for the lack of consistency. If your punctuation is going to be incorrect, at least it should be consistent. I've seen punctuation styles vary within a single paragraph. One sentence has a comma outside a quotation mark, a few sentences later there's a period inside a quotation mark.

Let's take a look at today's review of Metallic Falcon's Desert Doughnuts. In the first paragraph there's the sentence,

Although the duo has termed their creations "soft metal," this open-ended descriptor is insufficient to prepare the listener for entrance into the Falcons' vast and cryptic hemisphere.

And in the third paragraph there's

This diffuse recording method lends an appropriate sense of wide-open grandeur to airy tracks like "Desert Cathedral" or "Misty Song", but it does leave one to wonder exactly how many background details might have gotten lost in the wash.

I think I see what Pitchfork is doing. They're differentiating between how they use quotation marks for terms and for song titles. The term gets a comma inside, the song title gets a comma outside.

This section pulled from a Camera Obscura album review doesn't fit that system. The commas and periods are all over the place! One lyric quotation gets a comma on the outside, the next gets a period on the inside.

And on the weepy, twanging "Dory Previn", Campbell is "sick of the sight of [her] old lover", eventually concluding that it's "time I let my love for him die."

Here's what every academic and style guide says is the only and correct way to punctuate: Periods and commas go inside quotation marks. Always. Semi-colons and exclamation marks and some others have different rules, but commas and periods are ALWAYS to be placed inside quotation marks.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Black Angels / Passover / Rating: 7.2

"Like seasoned trackers, these Texas-based psych-rockers gingerly place their steps directly in the petrified footprints left by the Velvet Underground and the slightly fresher ones of Spacemen 3, following the path without disturbing its flora and fauna."

Trust me when I say basically every review of The Black Angels’ Pass Over reads pretty much the same. I could hyper link 5 or 10 reviews to prove my point but I’ve already posted a review like that recently and I think we all understand that many a music journalist relies on press kits and safely stating the obvious rather than stepping out on a limb and offering a new perspective of a band or actually having a strong opinion...though in fairness Pitchfork (and Stylus) writers are occasionally exceptions to this rule.

Oh and forgive me Brian Howe, for some reason the reviews I pick (on) always seem to be his and it certainly has nothing to do with him personally. The records I know best or have in my possession seem to mirror the ones he writes about. Weird but anyhow….

It wasn’t until I began this blog that I wondered how other writers approached the records they review. I don’t mean in theme but literally how (and how often) they listened to the music they were trying to describe. I imagine that a great deal of these people listen to music on a closed course meaning in the safety of their own homes, a bubble so to speak. I think we all know any record can sound different on headphones or from day to day. Outside environments (car, parties, bar, store, friend’s home…) or shared among a group of people can further alter our experience with a record so as often as possible I take the records I review on test drives outside of my home.

Enter The Black Angels.

A few times a year I travel to the border of North Carolina and Virginia to VIR for the Historic Sports Car Races. For those of you not tapped into this vintage car community this is a 3.27 mile non oval racetrack where sports cars from the 50’s to the 70’s (all makes and models) spend three days racing against each other in groups broken down by engine power or country of origin.

I still don’t know a hell of a lot about cars but I can tell you after 4 years of attending these events, I am always inspired by the end of the last day to literally race back home to Richmond which is not only dangerous but as you can guess, totally illegal.(no thanks to the 55 mph signs for the first 70 miles heading back home.) What this return trip requires is music that will be a pace car of sorts, something that will tame my pedal to the metal tempo.

Pass Over in all its steady drone and paranoid tribal War Dance rhythm glory was the perfect choice.

What sounds like a supergroup combo of Clinic and The Warlocks (though they are most certainly not) and carries the motto of “Turn on, Tune in, Drone out.” hypnotized me into traveling at a more sedated safe speed yet was interesting enough to keep me awake / content.

It is also important to add that the second pair of ears in the passenger seat never once fell asleep, forwarded to the next track or hit the eject (reject) button.

To be honest I was a little worried this “trip” back home would be an audio disaster. As I mentioned before almost every review of this band props them up against the same few bands, one of which is quite possibly my least favorite bands of all time: the Doors.

PFM says: “It's a long, darkly iridescent screw, glittering feverishly, boring deeper and deeper into the weirdly giddy wartime terror associated with the Doors and Apocalypse Now.”

It’s true. The Jim Morrison vibe is undeniable but luckily that annoying bloated bellowing ghost of a shit poet haunts Pass Over only occasionally and seemed to only take on a stronger presence once I was back home again and listening to it in my office. I was going to rate The Black Angels higher than PFM’s 7.2 but I still can’t swallow that horse pill of a Doors tribute happening. It chokes up an otherwise impressive sinister psych-rock record so blame the hater in me- the low 7 rating stays.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Camera Obscura / Let's Get Out of This Country / Rating: 7.8

“Though they haven't changed much in the span of three terrific albums, Camera Obscura no longer recall Belle & Sebastian; they only sound like themselves.”

So does sounding like themselves mean The Concretes are copying Camera Obscura or do both bands just happen to sound like kissing cousins? Each band formed around the same time (mid 90’s) and they certainly love to replicate radio friendly 60’s girl group -hey la hey la- pop accessorized by hand claps, strings, and the occasional horn.

Maybe I should pose this question to Finnish producer Jari Haapalainen as he has worked with both of the bands in question here. He could easily be the guilty party.

Honestly I don’t care who did it first.

I generally like both bands but Camera Obscura do a better job of this darling cavity causing brand of cuddle-core. The problem is that both bands suffer from a mid-tempo disease that traps their best songs in the middle of a slow dance marathon. Don’t let the lead C.O. single “Lloyd, I’m ready…” fool you”, 75% of the record is otherwise a trip to sleepy-ville.

But the day I sculpt my hair into a beehive and crave a good waltz with a boy in a cardigan, I know what record to throw on.

In the meantime I will replay to death the more upbeat numbers like “I Need All the Friends I Can Get”, “If Looks Could Kill”, that cute little number I mentioned in the paragraph above, and I still look forward to getting my slow dance on at their live show in a few weeks. (Goodness what ever shall I wear? Saddle shoes and a skirt below my knee?)

PFM does not offer a completely original take on the band (everybody in the press writes about the Belle and Sebastian connection) but I will say after reading about 7 other reviews of the same record, Pitchfork’s version is better than most.

I would give Howe’s review a 7.8 and Camera Obscura a 6.8.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Somehow my mix cd turned into a double disc but needless to say it is finally finished.

If you sent me a mix or a blank cdr already don't sweat it, I will include the second disc for you too.

For those of you who have already forgotten, I made a mix of all the stuff I have been listening to lately(see the subect title and the post about my favorites of 2006 so far) and you can either trade me a mix of your own for mine (doesn't have to be a double disc) or send me 2 blank cdrs to the PO box listed at the top left of this page.

I know it is old fashioned but I love a mix that comes with home spun art that I can actually hold in my hand (once upon a time tapes) and I love sending stuff via the post so sorry this isn't some i-pod thingy.

I'm just not that kind of girl.

Your number one pen pal,
Pitch Perfect

Monday, June 12, 2006

Yes in fact, the sun has awoken...Six Organs of Admittance / The Sun Awakens / Rating: 8.0

"That said, Chasny found himself a heavy fucking vibe and that led him to a transcendent but unrelenting place. If you've ever been intrigued by the sound of the sun imploding, this should be your cup of hemlock."

Spot on review by Mr. Stosuy

As a massive fan of Six Organs I'm not sure yet if I'd call this his best album, but fuck is it ever good.

However one of the reasons it may very well end up being my favorite is all about the context in which I really listened to it the first time.

Rewind to a few weeks ago. It's two days before I'm getting married. I get a copy of this record. Give it a few listens in the office, think it's pretty dope, but don't really have time to delve into it to heavily outside of playing "The Desert Is A Circle" about 15 times in a row having been blown away by the Morricone vibe of it.

The marriage happened over two days in a really nice a-frame chalet with a 35 foot wood cathedral ceiling. Great acoustics, great view of a lake, sweet pad all around. Saturday was a 'for the parents' vibed drunken evening with lots of dancing to what we coined "parent rock". Sunday night the parents and kids were told to go away so that me, the new wife, and all our friends could get down to a big old psychedelic party in the country. Copious amounts of free e's, mushrooms, weed, and booze were thrown into the middle of the room and things got busy on the dancefloor as most people partook in some multiple combo of above. 8 hours of dancehall, hip-hop, and techno later, the sun was starting to show itself on the horizon and somewhere in my drug addled state I thought... 'The Sun Awakens'... wait a minute... So with that I made the executive decision that we needed a music change and it was time to get our nod on to this new Six Organs record. And sure, part of this is the drugs talking, part of it was post-wedding bliss, part of it was the setting with a 35 foot window overlooking the lake, the acoustics of a 35 foot wood ceiling... but fuck me this record sounded great. Around the time that the 24 minute "River Of Transfiguration" took hold everybody stopped speaking until the last "ahh, ahh, ahhh, ohhh, ohhh, ohhh" trailed off. As the record ended and everyone got out of their personal zone, one of my friends looked over at me with huge spaced out eyes and said "they were building Egypt, and my cats were there", and all I could think was 'heavy...and fuck yeah, damn good album'.

There was also a certain sense of time passage involved with that listening. Almost a year ago to the day that I was getting married, me & the wife had actually split up about 6 hours before we were supposed to go see Six Organs Of Admittance play. I ended up going to the show anyway and being completely blown away, particularly by the end of the set in which after setting up various loops and noises on pedals, Chasny picked up a guitar, stepped to the mic, and launched into "Redefinition Of Being" (from "Nightly Trembling"). Hearing "Do you know me, la la la la la la la la la" reverberating through the church (what it is about me always listening to this dude with cathedral ceilings...) completely tore my head off and almost reduced me to tears. I'm no hippy (although if you don't know me, you'd be forgiven if you thought I was after reading this), but having 'The Sun Awakens' play at the wedding seemed to really bring things around full cycle.

So yeah. Dope record. Worth your money, and worthy of support.

And while we're at it.... upcoming Comets On Fire "Avatar" is a fucking blazer also in all it's Blue Cheer goodness. And somewhat unrelated, for psyche folk goodness in the same vein, I would also really recommend the Triple Burner album on Madrona records. Combo of Bruce Cawdron (ex-drummer from Godspeed You Black Emperor) and Harris Newman.

Let's hear it for stoner music. Something had to take the place of Spacemen 3 eventually for me to get high to.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Radio 4 / Enemies Like This / Rating: 3.6

“Given what they've cranked out to date, maybe Radio 4 should worry less about their enemies, and more about the finished product.”

Pitchfork might dislike Radio 4 more than Joan of Arc or anything by Tim Kinsella. Who knew that was even possible?

For those who remember PFM’s last Radio 4 review written by the now infamous Nick Sylvestor, believe it or not this new review is a step up; not only in rating but in actual review content. The slanderous speak from what reads like an Ivy League campus bully is all par for the course and at this point if any of us find that troubling than we should probably abandon reading Pitchfork all together.

Put anything under a microscope and quite naturally cracks become canyons. As a person who takes a magnifying glass to Pitchfork’s review section daily I understand this concept better than most. Under scrutiny the most innocent sentence can be blown up into a smoking gun and in focusing in on a record, a lyric or a guitar part can be distorted into something resembling a crime rather than a piece of art. From a distance everything seems a little more flawless but how many things can survive a close up?

The answer: not many. Not Pitchfork, not Radio 4, not even *GULP* me. We can’t be perfect (don’t let my name fool you), it is nearly impossible so all we can ask of each other is to try our very best and go out on a limb and be true to ourselves AKA be as original as a thinking feeling creative human can be.

So onto the review already.

If you have taken a poetry class or an English lit class, you probably remember that certain words carry an instant positive or negative connotation and this particular review is a perfect case study of subtle coded slaps.

PFM strikes using phrases like:

"but when Anthony Roman opens his yap he consigns the band's good deeds to the remainder bin"
"Roman could use a foot in the ass…"
"Unfortunately, Enemies Like This features Roman front and center, weighing in on such topical chestnuts"
"Dig this big crux…"
"Frisky songs like..."

This particular use of language dilutes my respect for PFM’s opinions; no matter how well they are backed up with valid points. Pitchfork might be right as rain here but the manner in which the ideas are expressed are just too playground fisticuffs for my taste.

What it all boils down to is there are worse records out there (Rye I am looking in your direction) and while this isn’t my favorite Radio 4 release (the first one is) or even my favorite music from band leader Anthony Roman ( Viva la Garden Variety) I am rather convinced Enemies Like This is Radio 4 trying their hardest. You may not like the band, lyrically or musically but there was clearly an effort made to avoid the mistakes from their past and production wise this is hands down the best sounding record the band has ever made.

Let me get the rating issue out the way first and say I would give Enemies a 6.5 and if you know their music well or Roman’s history as a musician, Enemies Like This offers the best vocals (both pitch and melody) that he has EVER done to date. If I had a most improved award to give away, it would go to him (and Kaitlan from Rainer Maria). And sorry, I don’t hear any Winnie the Pooh character here as PFM sarcastically suggests.

Radio 4 hasn’t strayed far from the sound they started with (even with a new guitar player and the addition of extra percussion along the way) and while bands like the Clash (heck even Big Audio Dynamite), Gang Of Four, and name your favorite dub artist here- still apply to the band, they at least do it pretty darn well. I hate to hear a band trying too hard and if there is one thing I can fault the band for, it’s for sounding too manicured and forced. I miss the old Radio 4 who didn’t sound like they had been practicing for six straight months to get a set list of new material down pat. I personally don’t want perfect, I want natural spooning with spontaneity. I think we all can agree here and say music fans like a quality happy accident. (and no I don’t mean the Doughboys record) Happy accident meaning a band that happens to create something special rather than forcing something that is formulaic to what they think their audience might deem as excellent.

Musically I think friends of the band and foes alike can say Radio 4 reeks of their influence and it wouldn’t be much of a game to guess what bands / artists these guys like from year to year. I hold Radio 4 to the same expectation I have for all artists: just be yourselves. Failing as an original band earns more respect than failing as a veritable tribute band any day. My problem with PFM’s disdain for their sound is this;I could say the same thing about 90% of the most popular indie bands out here. Anybody who is reading this site (a review of a f'ing review) is probably a big enough music nerd to say the same thing. Clap Your Hands, Tapes N Tapes, Banhart…we all know who these artists are sweet on so why string just one band up for this very common thread of borrowing in music?

I have to admit I nearly spit out my soda pop when I heard “Too Much to Ask For” which at the start is the mirror image of APB’s “Shoot You Down”. (APB is one of my favorite post-punk dance bands ever) but I hear music all day that I can sing another song over it or that sounds suspiciously like other songs I have heard before.

Secondly I am a stickler for lyrics but once again Radio 4 doesn’t deeply offend me. If you know Roman's lyric history, few comparisons of his written work have ever been made to any literary greats and again there are so many bands whining on about nothing that it is hard to put down Radio 4 when at least they clearly have put some thought into what they are singing.

Sorry but if you listen to enough music you will be hard pressed to hear someone saying something new or different. Some people are just better at expressing ideas than others.

Taking a closer final listen to Radio 4 none of these flaws warrant a brutal critical attack of the band. I am willing to bet most reviews will fault the band for wearing out their angular welcome (that was soo 5 years ago) but will still offer an overall positive reaction to this record and I will join in that chorus.

Leave it to Pitchfork to rain on a parade when it should really read more like a sprinkle.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Chewing On Barkley : Gnarls Barkley / St. Elsewhere / Rating: 7.7

"For the most part, it sounds like two guys playing around and having fun, sometimes more fun than the listener."

Ohh Gnarls Barkley...

How I kind of sort of want to like you.

Genre-crossing, fresh takes on old styles that don't reek of retro fetishism, eccentric shit finding it's way into the mainstream is usually the sort of thing I applaud loudly. But instead I'm left politely clapping and looking at my watch to see if the shows over soon and if the person who put me on the guest list is around to notice me sneaking out.

After repeat listens I kept wondering "this has some good parts, some great songs, some catchy hooks, but why don't I really love it?". And it really keeps coming down to the one half of the duo... Dangermouse.

For Cee-Lo's part it's all pretty excellent. Wavering between classic soul emotion, funk stylings, and straight up bizarre ranting, it suggests that this should work as say 2006's answer to "America Eats Its Young" or something

But then there's the beats and production. Why did it seem like a good idea to back this with something so dense yet so thin sounding and ultimately pretty shambolic. I mean really, if your going to undertake some crazy ass project like this and start drawing comparison to Hey Ya and getting hyped about being a fresh look on hip-hop and soul... why have your beats sound like an El-P record or something. Nothing against EL-P as clearly that's a success in that field, but you know I don't want to ever hear him and Al Green do a record together. This record should bump... and it doesn't really. Crusty sounding white kid hip-hop production certainly has its place and has produced some excellent results. I'm just saying this marriage doesn't do it for me (even though D.M isn't white... but you know what I mean, it has that 'sound'). How did this project come together? Do you think Cee-Lo is aware of the wealth of indie producers that could have murdered on this record, or was it just scratching the surface and thinking "we'll that's an interesting take on hip-hop" without realizing there's a whole wealth of producers way more on top of their game.

I don't know. I can appreciate that Crazy is a kind of dope pop song, some of the other tracks are pretty hot, and this is one of those records that younger people will buy and hopefully get them digging deeper into soul records and indie hip-hop (and the Violent Femmes apparently...), but I give it a resounding..."meh, whatever", and I'm sure that after a summer of having to hear Crazy be this years Sean Paul "Get Busy" car jam I'll really never feel the need to put this record on again.

Cee-Lo's contribution : 9
Dangermouse's beats : 3
Averaging out at ... 6

Mission Of Burma/The Obliterati/8.3

Suffice it to say that this record is very, very good.

I spend a lot of time using the left side of my brain. It’s the side that gets exercised most in my day job – changing meeting notes into diagrams into computer software - but that side is inadequate at appreciating music. In fact, the cerebral lopsidedness of my work partly explains why music is such an important part of my life.

So the left side of my brain fires off all kinds of questions when thinking about Mission Of Burma’s latest album The Obliterati. Do critics praise this record out of homage of Mission of Burma as a critical touchstone? Have Mission of Burma been superseded in the wake of bands they’ve influenced? How does the latest record stack up to an essential album like Vs.? Every review I’ve read seems at least aware of these questions. If you know about Mission of Burma’s place in Rock history, these questions come up (and if you don’t know who Mission of Burma is, Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life isn’t a bad place to start).

Fortunately, you do not need an in depth knowledge of Mission of Burma's history to appreciate this record. I managed to distract the left side of my brain enough with work to squelch those questions and actually listen to The Obliterati. And the vote from the dexter side of my brain? The Obliterati is one of the more interesting records out this year. The first few tracks of the record didn’t initially catch me – 2wice is okay, but leads into the better Spider’s Web. The third track then reveals the first of many delightful surprises on the record – a sizzling high-hat and bass beat that leads into Mission of Burma’s distinctive crunch. The little surprises – Mission of Burma but with something new – continue throughout the record. In particular, the tracks 13 and Man In Decline startled me. The first starts with just guitar, then strings then gradually builds – bringing in drums and bass in the second half of the track. Man in Decline on the other hand starts quietly for a few seconds, and then catapults mid-verse into the song. There’s even an instrumental, The Mute Speaks Out, that starts with a drone then goes into wall of feedback– reminiscent of Roger Miller’s solo records with electric piano or noisier Sonic Youth. That track is then followed by the quieter Is This Where?. It’s these surprises that kept me listening through the whole record and then starting over.

The other thing that brings me back to the record is Mission of Burma’s heft. There isn’t anything out this year that quite sounds like The Obliterati, although I can think of plenty of bands from three, five or ten years ago that would fit alongside tracks from this record. Mission of Burma’s music on this record is forceful and still intelligent, loud but capable of subtlety, passionate but still witty.

I can’t keep the left side of my brain quiet for long and after listening to The Obliterati many times, it pipes up with further analysis. Maybe Mission of Burma can remain so original because, unlike younger bands, they’re not overwhelmed by the influences of their record collection? Perhaps they can combine so many aspects in their music because they are not attempting to fit into a critical sub-genre. Yeah, I suppose I could torment our readers with answers to those musing or at least voice such musing at a bar to drive away fellow patrons and get some elbow room.

In the end, The Obliterati is a good record. You don’t need footnotes to appreciate it, just ears. The PFM rating and review is spot on. I was originally going to write “just a good record”, but fourteen compelling songs is no mean feat. And good records aren’t such a common thing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


It appears the site is having issues today. The page is either slow to load, doesn't load at all, and or won't allow you to read / leave comments. All I can say is sorry about that. It's beyond our control and from what I can tell, Blogger is working on fixing these problems.

If you don't see a new review posted tomorrow, now you know why.

Your pals @ TFM

PS: For those of you who know who some of us Tuning Fork types are, please refrain from leaving comments that might allude to our day jobs or our actual names. Not only could it get me / some of us fired, it goes against the whole idea of keeping our identities a secret. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Primal Scream - Riot City Blues - 3.2

It's as if Primal Scream have run completely out of ideas and so they've reverted to the detestable fallbacks of honking harmonicas and bar-band choogles, acting like college freshmen who just discovered blues.

Riot City Blues is a stinker. It makes Give Out But Don't Give Up look like an honest to Jon classic. In fact it sounds like that band of college freshman Breihan spoke of covering that earlier album with excruciating sincerity and minimal skill. Sadly the thing this album most reminded me of was a recent party I attended which featured a horrible band in the back yard, who played the most stilted blues rock you could imagine, and who had the unfortunate name, I shit you not, Whisky Business. Ugh.

Tom Breihan pretty much nails this one and kudos for that. I probably have a tendency to go a little mean when I don't like something, but Breihan isn't harsh here and seems to be in the same boat as me with this one. You can't help but lament for a band that has made some good music for a long time. Evil Heat made me suspicious, but Riot City Blues proves that Primal Scream is completely out of artistic capital. As I say this, keep in mind that I think that Primal Scream has made one great album that, defying all odds, has not aged as badly as it should have (Screamadelica) and two very good albums that I still listen to (Vanishing Point and XTRMNTR).

I don't take any joy in pronouncing this one dead on arrival but there is no denying that it is way below the career standards of Gillespie and Co. 19 years of making good to excellent music is nothing to scoff at and I tip my imaginary hat to them. But now seems like the time to hang the guitar on the wall and try your hand at producing or A&R or animal husbandry.

Blues rock is a tricky proposition to start with, but when it is so watered down and milquetoast as presented here I can't stomach it. More or less the Stones "perfected" this exact album 35 years ago with Sticky Fingers. So why try to remake it not just once, but twice?!? And to add insult to injury you already did a respectable job twelve years ago. This just feels like scraping the bottom of the barrel. Listen to 'Dolls' and tell me this is worth your time and money. No Way.

3.2 seems very kind to me. There is little or redeeming value here. If each percentage point represents one thing to like about a record I would put this one around the dreaded 1.0, and that is more or less based on the kid with snake cover.

Looking back at 2006 Part Two

It wouldn't be right to call these my favorite records of 2006 because we still have the second half of the year to bump these record from my list BUT these are the records I've gone back to and listen to the most.

So far so good:

Envelopes - Demon - Brille ( will make my end of year top 10)

Broadcast - The Future Crayon - Warp (collection out I think in August)

Figurines - Skeleton - The Control Group

Love Is All - Nine Times The Same Song - Whats Your Rupture

Animal Collective - Grass EP - FatCat

The Ladies - They Mean Us - Temporary Residence

Scott Walker - The Drift - 4AD

Liars - The Other Side of Mt Heart Attack EP (especially the Single Mix)

Aereogramme - Seclusion - Sonic Unyon

Jesu - Silver EP - Hydra Head

Serena-Maneesh- S/T - Beggars Group / PLayLoudRecordings

Jose Gonzalez - Veneer - Mute

(The Sounds Of) Kaleidoscope - Night and Day

With so few records really winning me over this year I have spent a great amount of time with my record collection (as well as my friends') and rediscovering old favorites as well as checking out a few reissues; not all of which have come out this year but it has taken me that long to get back to them.


Bridget St. John - The reissues in Cherry Red Records (Beth Orton who?)

The Field Mice - the reissues on LTM

Anything Pale Saints

Anything AC Temple ( I'll be damned if I can find a good link to this band)

The 80's - 90's twee / shoegaze / or other goodness of : Meat Whiplash, Talulah Gosh, Marine Research, Slaughter Joe, Lorelei, The Wolfhounds, Orchids, Television Personalities, Veronica Lake, The Servants, The Weather Prophets, The Loft, Lovelies, Basement 5, A Witness, and The Clean

I was kinda sorta thinking if anybody wants a mixed cd of some of this older stuff I would be glad to trade a mix for a mix. Or you can send me a blank cdr and I will make you a little somethin' somethin'. Email me if you are interested or just mail me a cdr - email and PO Box are listed at the top left of this page.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Looking back at 2006

I know we aren't half way through yet but when I started to feel like there were fewer than few records I have totally fallen head over heels for, I began to review my 2006 cd piles to hear just how right or wrong I was.

This will be a two part post. First the stuff that really dissapointed me and the cds I like enough to keep but suspect as best I will play them a few times a year.

The crash and burns least favorites of 2006:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Whirlwind Heat, First Nation, CSS, Arctic Monkeys, The Knife, Morningwood, Built to Spill, anything on Chicks on Speed Records and Rye Coalition.

Indifferent to:

Islands, Tapes ‘n Tapes, and Band of Horses.

The flings but not going steadies:

Clearlake - Amber- Domino
Dub Tractor - Hideout - Towerblock (shoegaze + dub = neat but repetitive)
Tunng - Mothers Daugter and Other Songs - Ace Fu
The Good Good - Furrows - Menlo Park (Don't think this is out yet)
Takagi Masakatsu - Journal for the People - cd+dvd - Carpark
Cibelle - The Shine of Dead Electric Leaves - Six Degrees Records
Human Television - Look At Who You Are Talking To - Gigantic Music
Rahim - Ideal Lives - Frenchkiss
Maximo Park - Missing Songs - Warp
Boris - Pink - Southern Lord
Moondog - S/T - Honest Jons (label site is under construction)
Loose Fur - Born Again in the USA - Drag City
Jason Collett - Idols of Exile - Arts and Crafts
Film School - S/T - Beggars Banquet
Electric President - S/T - Morr
Kokanko Sata - S/T - Honest Jons (label site is still under construction)
Liars - Drums Not Dead - Mute
Cat Power - The Greatest - Matador
Flin Flon - Dixie - Teenbeat
Robert Pollard- From A Compound Eye - Merge

Tomorrow I will post my favorite records of 2006 (so far).

Pushmebeegrrr asks:

Dear Tuning Fork,

Pitchfork logo (founded in 1995)

Strike anywhere (formed in 99’ record art w/ arrows 2001)

Whose logo came first?

Number one fan,

Friday, June 02, 2006

Aereogramme / Seclusion / Rating: 6.8

“Intentionally or otherwise, Seclusion comes off more as a teaser for an upcoming full-length than a complete album. And if that was in fact the purpose of this disc, then mission accomplished, you blue-balling bastards.”

Anyone who has ever recorded music at a studio knows this trick. Once you have your first mix of any song, you listen to it (no matter how sick of hearing it you are) on as many different stereos as possible. The theory is each stereo will reveal something new and totally varied from the one before or after it. It may prove on one system that tracks need to be remixed, on another hi-fi –barely tweaked, and on yet another stereo- totally scratched and remixed. The idea is to find an audio average you, the rest of the band, and the producer/engineer can live with. Ultimately these best mixes become the final finished product. (post mastering)

The key to this process is making sure you listen to the songs on at least two crappy stereos like an ancient car stereo or a computer’s built in speaker. The rule is, if a song sounds great on a bad stereo, it will sound AMAZING on a good one. Beyond studio trickery and production value, a well written song will stand up to any stereo, high quality or not.

Aereogramme’s Seclusion has jumped from stereo to stereo; my car, living room, computer and walkman (no ipod for this gal) more specifically and while each stereo provides a slightly different listen, they all confirmed one thing.

Aereogramme’s music is stunning.

I have confessed before a past heavily rooted in late 80’s / early 90’s emo so when I say there is a desperation and beauty, something magnetic about this band that rivals Sunny Day Real Estate, I am not just throwing out a name for name's sake. Emo has become a dirty word but if there was a way to clean the slate, place it in a positive / correct context, this would be it.

All the traditional emo adjectives come to mind: dynamic, emotional(duh), tension filled, uncomfortably intimate at times… but what makes this band unique is the addition of metal in a non metal-core and delicate electronics. A Jeremy Enigk Molotov cocktail including later Radiohead and Isis (as PFM also suggests) is truly the best way I know how to explain Aereogramme’s aggressive tendencies partnered with cry yourself to sleep melodies.

The out of place blazing guitar solos on "Lightning Strikes the Postman" taints an otherwise pretty darn powerful and perfect EP.

The PFM review leaves me nothing to argue about in great detail but the rating. What can I say; while I have no balls to blue and I like a good tease. The Seclusion EP offers a taste worthy of an 8 and in turn I am holding onto the expectation that their next full length should earn at least an 8 or higher.

My only question is if this EP is two years old already, where the hell is that full length?