Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beach House on Conan

From Dr. Gonzo's favorite album of 2010, here's Beach House performing "10 Mile Stereo" on Conan last night:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gonzo + Marc Morrison on the air, 12/19

Our second annual year-end show!

The Bird and the Bee-Heard it on the Radio
Zeus-The Renegade
Local Natives-Sun Hands
Yeasayer-Ambling Alp
The Books-A Cold Freezin' Night
Surfer Blood-Floating Vibes
Spoon-Who Makes Your Money
Twin Sister-Lady Daydream
The Mynabirds-Let the Record Go
The New Pornographers-Crash Years
She & Him-Thieves
Maps & Atlases-Living Decorations
Grinderman-Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man
The Dead Weather-No Horse
Broken Bells-The High Road
Miniature Tigers-Bull Fighter Jacket
Vampire Weekend-Giving Up the Gun
Field Music-Measure
Beach House-Zebra
Soft Pack-Pull Out
Ariel Pink's the Haunted Graffiti-Round and Round
LCD Soundsystem-I Can Change
Robyn-Dancehall Queen
New Young Pony Club-Lost a Girl
Sleigh Bells-Infinity Guitars
Crystal Castles-Vietnam
Chromeo-Night by Night

Friday, December 17, 2010

RIP Don van Vliet a.k.a. Captain Beefheart


Captain Beefheart was one of the true originals in music. Like many, I discovered his music via that of Frank Zappa. While Beefheart is probably best known for the Zappa-produced Trout Mask Replica, his ouvre goes well beyond the scope of the Zappa-esque tunes on that album. While he retained elements of the Trout Mask sound, Beefheart might be best described as a blues man first, but one with his own unique style. I always liked to think of him as a demented Howlin' Wolf.

From the great Safe as Milk LP, here's "Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes I Do" -

And another favorite from that album, "Electricty" -

There's also a great documentary from a few years ago titled simply Captain Beefheart: Under Review. Well worth checking out - a very in depth look at his career.

As someone put it on Twitter, "Live fast, die bulbous." RIP, Captain.

2010 Mix

Well, here we are again. There's snow on the ground, presents being bought, and a half-completed stack of finals on my living room floor. Yes friends, it's that time of year, when your old pal Gonzo compiles what he thinks represents some of the best music released in the last twelve months.

2010 was an excellent year for music. By April, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of good releases hitting shelves each week. That pace ebbed and flowed for the remainder of the year, but golly - this was surely one of the better years for music in recent history. As always, trying to narrow it all down to 80 minutes or less proved a challenge. But with perseverance and geeky obsession, I accomplished the mission. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you:


1. LCD Soundsystem - "Dance Yrself Clean" This is Happening (Virgin)

Somehow I knew in June that this would end up kicking off the 2010 mix. I love the build in this song. For the first three minutes, you can barely hear what's going on (a la "Long Long Long"). Suddenly you're suckerpunched with that sixteenth note leading into a solid four-on-the-floor beat with some groovy synth punctuation as James Murphy's vocals become more soulful. And then there's the seemingly arhythmic break down which always throws me for a loop as well. I admit that I can't quite wrap my head around Murphy's lyrics, which critique the same hipster subculture that his career depends upon. Nevertheless, This is Happening was a winner with me from the moment I streamed it on the band's official website, and it is certainly deserving of all the attention that it's received this year.

Official Website

2. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Round and Round" Before Today (4AD)

Official Website

I'd never even heard of Ariel Pink until the buzz around Before Today began to circulate. Fellow WIUP DJ and occasional co-host Marc Morrison chose this one week for our summer program First Impressions. Upon first listen, I wasn't completely taken in by the album, but I could tell that it had room to grow on me. Turns out, I was right. A few late nights of writing spent with Before Today swung my opinion more fully. "Round and Round" remains my favorite track from the disc, and is very representative of the album's overall sound. It's indie rock meets AM Gold meets something slightly haunting (ergo, the name?). It's a catchy number, and I can't be the only one who thinks that the bridge pays homage to Julian Lennon's "Too Late for Goodbyes, can I?

3. Vampire Weekend - "Giving Up the Gun" Contra (XL)

Official Website

2010 was perhaps the year of Vampire Weekend. They got quite a bit of attention for their 2008 self-titled debut, but the buildup and eventual success of Contra pushed them into the mainstream spotlight. The album is great, though I know many people have tired of it, claiming it wore its welcome pretty quickly. That may well be the case. I can no longer tolerate "Holiday," thanks to the excessively-run Honda ad featuring the track. I would have pegged them for a Target commercial, actually. Anyhow, the fact of the matter is that Contra is still a great album, even if we're sick of it. More than any other song from the album, "Giving Up the Gun" sticks out primarily because WIUP student DJs gave it heavy play. But it also has a lot going for it - a catchy melody, a stop-start chorus, and a relative lack of pretension (which can't be said for many VW songs).

4. Yeasayer - "O.N.E." Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian)

Official Website

I believe my introduction to the new Yeasayer was actually Alan Wilkis' remix of "Ambling Alp." The original version of that track was up for consideration on this mix, but "O.N.E." beat it out, in part once again because a few WIUP DJs gave it heavy play in the spring. It's surely the most dance-oriented track on the disc, which sees the band generally moving into a poppier realm. Odd Blood still sports a good deal of the darker, weirder elements of All Hour Cymbals, which is great. But I have to say, it's the poppier tracks that stand out. I also got to see them live back in September, and they put on an excellent show.

5. Twin Sister - "Around and Away We Go" Colour Your Life (Infinite Best)

Official Website

A totally random discovery that happened to pan out. I stumbled upon Twin Sister over at Gorilla vs. Bear, who had posted a few tracks from the band's then-upcoming EP. Twin Sister put the entire EP up for free download, so I gave it a shot. And boy howdy, did it pay off. Twin Sister have a light, almost dream-like sound, but maintain a pop sensibility throughout. You can almost hear a bit of Tom Tom Club in there. There's also something rather charming about lead singer Andrea Estella's accent. It doesn't really sound like a New York accent (the band hails from Brooklyn), but I can't quite place it. They've toured extensively, though sadly not anywhere on my radar. Nonetheless, Colour Your Life is one of my top picks of the year - you know it's good when you download it for free (legally) yet make an eventual CD purchase as well. I'll be interested to see where Twin Sister goes from here.

7. Beach House - "Norway" Teen Dream (Sub Pop)

Official Website

I'd heard Beach House's previous release (2008's Devotion) and liked it well enough. But it cannot hold a candle to Teen Dream. When I heard Teen Dream in January, I billed it as "an early contender for album of the year." While there have been a number of worthy challengers, I say with conviction that Teen Dream is hands down my favorite album of 2010. I've played the hell out of it for 11 months and it affects me just as deeply in December as it did in January. The album is so unbelievably gorgeous, so lushly arranged and produced. It was a perfect winter release, to be played at full volume in a warm abode while Snowmageddeon raged outside. To put things into perspective, by the time I get to ripping tracks for the year-end mix, I have a general idea of how it will take shape. In the interest of time, I'll rip 2, *maybe* 3 tracks from the pile of discs that I accrue. When it came to Teen Dream, I pulled 6 of the album's 10 tracks, because there are just that many standouts on the disc (though the other four tracks are good too!). "Norway" won out from those other 5 tracks simply for purposes of fit and flow. It was otherwise quite difficult to pick one track from this dynamite album. Victoria Legrand also has one of the most alluring, beautiful and unique voices in indie rock. Interesting range as well. I was fortunate enough to see Beach House over the summer, and they faithfully execute their material live, with the aid of a live drummer (which is generally a plus in my book). If this mix prompts you to buy one album, it should really be Teen Dream.

8. Band of Horses - "Laredo" Infinite Arms (Fat Possum)

Official Website

Band of Horses has been around, but I admit that I hadn't heard them until this year. I heard "The Funeral" on the radio and thought it one of the most emotionally intense songs I'd ever heard. After acquainting myself with their first album, I was intrigued to hear of the pending release of Infinite Arms, their third album. I can't speak for what their second album sounds like (it's on my "to buy" list), but Infinite Arms has a hint of southern influence, which isn't quite the case with Everything All the Time. That southern flavor is probably most evident on "Laredo," the album's second single. That said, the song is indicative of the general vibe of Infinite Arms. This album gets the award for "Best disc for driving on the highway in the summertime." Perfect road trip music. So I thank an unnamed WIUP alum as well as blogging pal Pete Icke for hipping me to this wonderful band.

9. Grinderman - "Worm Tamer" Grinderman 2 (Mute/Anti)

Official Website

Speaking of bands that somehow escaped my radar until this year, Grinderman's second album was a surprise favorite. Nick Cave (along with a few Bad Seeds) fronts this dark, loud, straightforward rock outfit with a raw power (pun intended) unparalleled in 2010 rock releases. I believe I only checked out the album on account of some of the online buzz around it's release, which panned out in the end. "Worm Tamer" is the album's second single, (preceded by the equally in-your-face "Heathen Child"). Check out this live in-studio performance from the RAK Sessions in London:

10. The Dead Weather - "Die by the Drop" Sea of Cowards (Third Man)

Official Website

2009 saw the introduction of The Dead Weather, yet another JW project. The band's debut hit shelves in July of last year. Sea of Cowards was in our grubby little paws by May. And let's not forget all of the touring in between! In some senses Sea of Cowards is more of the same brand of gritty rock and creepy blues established on Horehound, but it seems a bit more focused as an album, and in general an all around tighter execution. Seriously, when does Jack White sleep? This guy's productivity is reaching comical proportions. ?uestlove is the only other figure I can think of that might give White a run for his money, though I'm certainly not complaining. Word on the street is that 2011 will bring us a new album by country gal Wanda Jackson produced by White (they'll also be touring together), and who knows what else. I'm certainly looking (and listening) forward.

11. Sleigh Bells - "Tell 'Em" Treats (N.E.E.T./Mom and Pop)

Official Website

While there was a lot of great music released this year, Sleigh Bells was one of those rare albums that made my ears perk up as I thought, "Well this sounds different than pretty much anything else I've heard before." It definitely has some echoes of labelmate M.I.A., but they aren't copping her style by any means. Most notably, Sleigh Bells are a hell of a lot nosier than M.I.A. The sheer amount of overmodulation on the album is reminiscent of the Stooges' Raw Power, while the music is a clash of pop hooks, punk ferocity and guitars, and danceable beats. Wikipedia categorizes the band as "Noise Pop." Usually I ignore such labels, but this one actually fits. They've taken aggressive, distorted noise and placed it within the 3 minute pop format. And somehow, it works.

12. Crystal Castles - "Celestica" II (Fiction)

Official Website

The sophomore disc from Crystal Castles took a very close second to the Beach House record as my pick for album of the year. They were certainly my two most played discs, with Crystal Castles having the added element of extreme anticipation. And the band certainly disappoint - there isn't a bad track on the album. From the "fun facts" file, Wikipedia claims that Crystal Castles II was recorded "in various places including a church in Iceland, a self-built cabin in northern Ontario, a garage behind an abandoned convenience store in Detroit, and the London studio of Paul "Phones" Epworth (Bloc Party)." But I digress. The album showcases Crystal Castles in a variety of modes, but none too far of a stretch - dancier tunes (such as "Celestica"), noisier, more aggressive tracks ("Doe Deer"), and darker electro tunes that have earned them the rather absurd label of "electro goth" ("Vietnam," "Violent Dreams"). And they put one hell of a live show. Aside from the seemingly endless DJs that preceded them, Crystal Castles' show at the Electric Factory was by far the best (and sweatiest) live show I saw in 2010. The icing on the cake is a remix of one of the album's tracks, a cover of Platinum Blonde's "Not in Love," featuring Robert Smith on vocals. I admit, it sounded like a bad idea, but holy cow, it works beautifully - dare I say I like it even more than the album cut. Check it out:

12. New Young Pony Club - "Lost a Girl" The Optimist (The Numbers)

Official Website

You may recall that the New Young Pony Club's 2007 debut was a favorite of mine that year. That being the case, I was very much looking forward to The Optimist. It isn't as strong as its predecessor, but The Optimist is a solid effort in much the same vein as Fantastic Playroom. If ever there was a band that could be described as "hipster pop," this is probably it. I sure don't have a problem with it. I just wish they would tour the US.

13. Chromeo - "Night by Night" Business Casual (Atlantic)

Official Website

Oh, we're dancin' now! Chromeo came back onto the scene this year with the follow up to their 2007 breakthrough/automatic dance party Fancy Footwork. It's an admirable return that follows the FF format, but Business Casual does leave one wondering just how long Chromeo can ride the wave of retro-'80s synth funk. In any genre , the retro game is only interesting for so long (I'm looking at you, Jurassic 5 and Amy Winehouse). While Business Casual is a fine disc, it does suggest that Chromeo's next move is going to have to step out side of the (talk)box for them to retain audience interest. But to end on a positive note, the songs on Business Casual maintain a too-sexy vibe. "Night by Night" is a great example of this - and the video is every bit as seductive as the song:

14. Goldfrapp - "Rocket" Head First (Mute)

Official Website

Speaking of retro, there's also a clear 1980s influence throughout Goldfrapp's Head First. Some call it a return to roller disco. I believe my hetero life partner said "Rocket" sounded "like Flashdance circa 2010." I'll take it. I was not a big fan of Goldfrapp's previous effort, 2008's Seventh Tree - but I had to respect their move to play outside of the electro sandbox for a bit (though I'm thinking I ought to revisit that album). Ultimately though, Goldfrapp is at their best when they're making dance music. Their decidedly retro approach on Head First works very well, a more playful contrast to their previous work (such as 2005's Supernature).

15. M.I.A. - "XXXO" /\/\ /\ Y /\ (N.E.E.T./XL/Interscope)

Official Website

I didn't have much hope for M.I.A.'s third studio album (read: "Maya"). Her off-stage antics (most notably her feud with a New York Times writer) and schizophrenic Tweets seemed like she might be heading into Kanye territory. Upon hearing the album's stream via NPR's First Listen, I was pleasantly surprised. This is absolutely M.I.A.'s weakest album to date, but there are a number of gems scattered about. Quite simply, it would have been a great 10-track LP. Among those gems is "XXXO," which is apparently one of the biggest love-it-or-hate-it singles of the year (at least according to the blogosphere). I love it. One reviewer criticized the track for being so "club ready," but that's one of the things I like about it. It's a contrast to the multi-genre cultural amalgamation she's known for, true. But a welcome one, I think. I will say that in this track and others on the album, the references to Twitter, iPhone, the Internet, etc. seem incredibly forced. Maybe it's done tongue-in-cheek, I don't know. Nevertheless, "XXXO," "Born Free" (and it's controversial video), "Teqkilla," and "Tell Me Why" are standout tracks that make /\/\ /\ Y /\ a worthwhile album, if an overall less interesting one. She also loses points for not including a download code with the vinyl release (seriously?).

16. Robyn (feat. Snoop Dogg) - "U Should Know Better" Body Talk pt. 2 (Konichiwa Records)

Official Website

Ever since Bowie's canned Outside trilogy, I've instinctually been skeptical of any artist announcing a multi-volume project to be released over time. 2010 may force me to rethink this position. Erykah Badu released the second installment of her New Amerykah trilogy this year, and Robyn met her goal of releasing the three-part Body Talk set over the course of 2010...sort of. I can't help feeling that the third installment (simply titled Body Talk) was a bit of a copout, boasting 5 new tracks and 10 cuts previously issued on Body Talk pts. 1 and 2. Seriously? Of course I bought it, but that's beside the point. So is this little tirade for that matter. I digress. While 2005's Robyn received international acclaim, I found much of it fairly pedestrian, save the electro-infused tracks that opened the album. But those two tracks were enough to leave me thinking "She has a great album in her. This just isn't it." So I was very excited when I heard that among other people, Philly's own Diplo would be doing production work on the Body Talk project. "This is exactly what she needs," I thought. And while Diplo was only involved in a few of the project's tracks, collectively Body Talk is the album I've been wanting Robyn to make. Her pop tendencies aren't buried, but given a makeover that makes these albums stand out amid the sludge of contemporary dime-a-dozen dance pop artists. Pop, electro, dancehall (hi, Diplo!), acoustic ballads and Swedish folk combine for a consistently enjoyable toe-tappin', booty-shakin' listen. Here's hoping that Robyn continues to innovate and reinvent her sound in interesting ways.

17. Janelle Monae (feat. Big Boi) - "Tightrope" The Archandroid (Bad Boy)

Official Website

Being such a Prince fan, friends of mine will fairly often recommend an artist claiming, "they sound a lot like Prince." This was how I first learned of Janelle Monae. Skeptical, I gave The Archandroid a listen and wasn't that taken, especially after seeing her Prince tribute at the BET Awards. Her "look at me, I'm weird" shtick just seemed too contrived. Months later, I thought that I may have been too harsh, and gave it another listen.

I had been too harsh.

The Archandroid covers a lot of ground. It's soulful, it's funky, it's accessible yet unconventional. And guess what - I *can* hear the Prince influence on a few tracks. So all apologies to Ms. Monae - I was too quick to judge (this is why I try to give everything at least two spins before writing it off).

18. The Roots (feat. Dice Raw) - "How I Got Over" How I Got Over (Okay Player)

Official Website

Three words: "return to form." The Roots' body of work has been consistently good, but I admit that their last few records have been mixed bags. Not that they were bad, but they lacked the consistency of earlier discs like Do You Want More?!!!!??!, Illadelph Halflife and Things Fall Apart. How I Got Over is easily the group's best disc since at least 2002's Phrenology. There are some atypical guest appearances (Joanna Newsom, Monsters of Folk, that somehow work, sounding totally logical and natural. As always, the album is littered with social commentary. While the group's previous two records (2006's The Tipping Point and 2008's Rising Down) were generally dark in lyrical and musical tone, How I Got Over exudes a more positive vibe, one focusing on perseverance and triumph. Though I can't find the interview now, one Roots member (?uestlove or Black Thought, I believe) stated that The Tipping Point and Rising Down were reflective of the George W. Bush era, while How I Got Over is in some senses a snapshot of moving into Barack Obama's America. Musically, the album has a stronger soul element than previous efforts, almost a "Curtis Mayfield goes hip hop" sound. It makes perfect sense then, that The Roots' second project this year was Wake Up, a collaboration with vocalist John Legend (though I wasn't so taken with that album). As with M.I.A., The Roots lose some points for not including a download code with the vinyl edition, but I can overlook that given the quality of the music.

19. Cee-Lo Green - "F**k You" The Lady Killer (Elektra)

Official Website

Undeniably the viral hit of the year. Sure, it's a bit of a novelty tune. Sure, absent the F-bomb it wouldn't have reached the level of success that it did. But you know what? It's a great track despite a pretty blatant pandering to shock value. Plus, it's Cee-Lo back on his own, redeeming himself from the slop of the second Gnarls Barkley album. To Cee-Lo's credit, The Lady Killer isn't another retro-'60s soul album, but has a somewhat wider breadth. (though the catchiest tracks do fall into that category). However, the radio friendly version ("Forget You") sounds so forced and awkward, and its regrettable that they even bothered trying to capitalize on a clean version of a song that's appeal is largely it's use of expletives. Speaking of awkward and regrettable, there was that Gwenyth Paltrow performance of "Forget You" on Glee (which I would in fact like to forget):

2010 Honorable Mentions

I'm about to unveil my 2010 mix. This having been a pretty great year for music, there were many regrettable omissions. These worthy contenders were cut for a variety of reasons - length, flow, quality of the overall album vs. individual songs, etc. But they bear mentioning as jawns that got much play in the Zackcave this year, and are also worth your time.
  • Erykah Badu - New Amerykah vol. 2: Return of the Ankh
  • The Bird and the Bee - Interpreting the Masters, vol. 1: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates
  • The Books - The Way Out
  • Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea
  • Broken Bells - The High Road
  • Four Tet - There is Love in You
  • Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
  • Ikonika - Contact Love, Want, Have
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way
  • Lightspeed Champion - Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You
  • Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
  • The Mynabirds - What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood
  • The National - High Violet
  • oOoOO - No Summr4U
  • Quadron - s/t
  • Royksopp - Senior
  • Sade Soldier of Love
  • She & Him - Volume 2
  • The Soft Pack - s/t
  • Spoon - Transference
  • Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
  • a telecine - a cassette tape culture
That's a lot of honorable mentions. What could possibly be left? Stay tuned!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 12/12

Grinderman-Worm Tamer
Neil Young-Walk With Me
New Order-Dreams Never End
Clinic-Lion Tamer
The National-Anyone's Ghost
The Raveonettes-The Christmas Song
The Walkmen-While I Shovel Snow
Lou Reed-New York Telephone Conversation
Tom Waits-Down in the Hole
T. Rex-Christmas Bop
John Lennon-Nobody Told Me (Request)
Beatles-Christmas Time is Here Again
Dr. Dog-Where'd All the Time Go?
Grizzly Bear-Two Weeks
Luge-All About Love
Big Dee Irwin & Little Eva-I Wish You A Merry Christmas
James Brown-Soulful Christmas Tree
Cee-Lo-It's OK
Aretha Franklin-See Saw
The Staples Singers-Respect Yourself
Prince and the Revolution-Another Lonely Christmas (12" mix)
Yesterday's New Quintet-Superstition
Beck-Nicotine and Gravy
Kid Cudi-Revofev
Clarence Carter-Back Door Santa
Run DMC-Christmas in Hollis
Kurtis Blow-Christmas Rappin'

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Disappointments

Since mid-November, I've been listening (mostly re-listening, actually) to 2010 almost exclusively. This is of course in preparation for my annual year-end mix, now under production. I've decided to make a few preliminary posts leading up to the mix itself, and this is the first.

Why did I just spend three weeks straight listening to this music? I surely have a pretty good idea of what my tops pick would be. This is more a chance to catch things that fell through the cracks. More accurately, to give one last chance to albums that either didn't impress me, or perhaps didn't received enough attention. There are always a few releases that, upon this final review, I move from the "NO" pile to the"Maybe" or even "YES" pile. Overwhelmingly though, this re-review process leads to filling up the "NO" folder. No doubt, there's more bad music than good music released each year.

I'm not here to catalog what I thought were all of the bad releases that I came across this year. Instead, I'm going to share a few disappointments - albums that I legitimately looked forward to with anticipation, but ended up being (as Raoul Duke would say) "a lame fuck around, a waste of time."

Here then, are Gonzo's four biggest musical disappointments of 2010.

MGMT - Congratulations (Sony)

I remember it like it was Record Store Day. And it was! I admit, I approached the album with trepidation. 2008's Oracular Spectacular may be overexposed, but it's a damn fine album. As the hype machine for Congratulations began spinning, I was skeptical. It would be pretty easy for MGMT to not have another great album in them. But I started to buy into some of the hype. I mean hell, it had a scratch off cover! So on my first visit (of many in 2010, I might add) to Indiana, PA's Backstreet Records, I picked up the double LP on Record Store Day.

The album is...interesting. Truthfully, I don't think it's as horrible as many have cast it, but it sure isn't a winner either. I admire them for not trying to remake Oracular Spectacular. But Congratulations just isn't that interesting. I really wanted to like this record. And there are some decent tracks, but the whole affair reeks of mediocrity. "It's Working" is pretty much the only salvageable track here, and perhaps "Brian Eno" (though I fear this is interesting only because it's an ode to Eno). Maybe they can recover and put out another great record. But I'm sure not going to give it a blind buy.

.Jamie Lidell - Compass (Warp)

I first heard Jamie Lidell in the time between his Multiply and Jim albums. I loved both, thus Compass was much anticipated. It came out the same week as the Band of Horses and LCD Soundsytem albums. But the Lidell disc ended up being the odd one out. It lacks the musical diversity of Multiply and the tight, punchy, well polished sound of Jim. The album is a chore to get through. It's also lyrically a bit dark. It actually reminded me (in tone, not style) of Lenny Kravitz's Circus and Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple. By that I mean it appear to be Lidells "depression album.' That can be ok, but it simply isn't executed very well. The best songs on Compass aren't as good as the worst songs on its predecessors. "Telephone" standouts are "I Wanna Be Your Telephone" and "Enough's Enough," but these are fairly uninteresting in comparison to the tunes comprising Lidell's last two releases.

Prince - 20Ten (NPG)

It pains me to include a Prince album on a list of musical disappointments, but thems the breaks. Much of Prince's output in the last decade has had the Purple One going reflexively retro. Somehow, every time a Prince album is released, some half-baked critic hails it as "his best since Sign 'O' the Times or "as good as Purple Rain." Bitch, please. It's not a bad album, but it's Prince ripping off himself, and the result sounds horribly rushed and uninspired. As I said in my initial review of the album, Prince should probably stop releasing an album in year, going for quality over quantity. It's still better than Planet Earth, though.

Lil' Wayne - I Am Not a Human Being (Cash Money)

I won't say that I had huge expectations of Lil' Wayne's new disc, especially after Rebirth. But I thought perhaps we could forgive him for his questionable foray into the rock arena, and that I Am Not a Human Being might recapture some of the glory of Tha Carter III (perhaps this is because the album adapts one of my favorite tracks from the latter album). But nay, the album is a disappointment. Uncreative, lacking innovation, overly formulaic. Maybe I should give the guy a break. He did spend the bulk of 2010 in prison, after all.

These were probably the four most disappointing albums for me in 2010. Not the worst. But guess what - there was a lot of great music released this year. So much so that in my next post, I will briefly survey the runners-up to my year-end selections. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 12/5

Steely Dan-FM
Bird and the Bee-Kiss on My List
Stereolab-So is Cardboard Clouds
The Ravenonettes-Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Vampire Weekend-Horchata
Jukebox the Ghost-Empire
George Harrison-What is Life
Local Natives-Sun Hands
Death Cab for Cutie-We Laugh Indoors
The Sonics-Santa Claus
Chuck Berry-Run, Rudolph, Run (REQUEST)
The Hold Steady-The Weekenders
Ty Seagall-My Sunshine
The Beau Brummels-Laugh, Laugh
Blur-There's No Other Way
Capstan Shafts-Class War Tease
Royksopp-Tricky Two
Das Racist-hahahaha jk?
N.E.R.D.-Party People
Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith-Not in Love
Scissor Sisters-Night Work
Devo-Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gonzo on the Air, 11/28

Foo Fighters-This is a Call
Ra Ra Riot-Too Dramatic
Spoon-Is Love Forever?
Band of Horses-Compliments
Fleetwood Mac-Secondhand News
Warren Zevon-Excitable Boy
Violent Femmes-American Music
Spinal Tap-Big Bottom (REQUEST)
The Replacements-Lay it Down Clown (REQUEST)
Delorean-Endless Sunset
Phantogram-Bloody Palms
Twin Sister-Lady Daydream
Mynabirds-Numbers Don't Lie
Beach Boys-That's Not Me
Erin McKeown-Slung-Lo
Miike Snow-Animal
LCD Soundsystem-I Can Change
+/- - Queen of Detroit
Flaming Lips-Race for the Prize
Yeasayer-Love Me Girl
New Young Pony Club-We Want To
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult-Hit n Run Holiday
Budos Band-Rite of the Ancients
La Roux-Quicksand
The Roots (feat Monsters of Folk)-Dear God
Brian Eno-2 Forms of Anger
The Books-The Story of Hip Hop
Portishead-Only You

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 11/21

I was a little limited this week, as the computer was temporary off limits. Alas.

The Pixies-Hey
We Are Scientists-Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt
The Killers-Mr. Brightside
Black Keys-Tighten Up
Dead Weather-Die by the Drop
New York Dolls-Chatterbox (live)
Sleigh Bells-Infinity Guitars
Fugazi-Waiting Room
REM-Bang and Blame
Patti Smith-Because the Night
The Cure-Just Like Heaven
Belle & Sebastian-I Want the World to Stop
Sweet-Man from Mecca
Wolf Parade-Cloud Shadow on the Mountain
Barry and the Remains-Why Do I Cry
The Searchers-Needles and Pins
Frank Zappa-Joe's Garage
Aloe Blacc-I Need a Dollar
Cee-Lo-Cry Baby
The Miracles-Going to a Go-Go
Jr. Walker and the All-Stars-Road Runner
Robert Palmer-I Didn't Mean to Turn You On
The Whispers-Rock Steady
Stevie Wonder-Part-Time Lover (12" mix)
Erykah Badu- Agitation/Turn Me Away (Get Munny)
Luther Ingram-If Loving You is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gonzo goes to Amoeba Music

I've just returned from a trip to San Francisco. While my primary purpose in visiting was a conference and catching up with old friends, I was also stoked to visit the legendary Amoeba Music.

This is actually one of three stores Amoeba has in California, the others being in Berkeley (the original) and Hollywood. Amoeba consistently ranks in those "Best Records Stores" lists, and I've heard years of personal testimony. I never doubted, but now I can confirm that Amoeba Music is a) worthy of such praise b) really fucking big and c) totally overwhelming.

(Note: this image does not include the video department, the 45s, or the new releases).

Prior to entering, a long-time friend, music geek and current SF resident said "it's better if you have a list. Otherwise you'll get overwhelmed pretty easily." I did not have a list, and yes, I was overwhelmed. I would browse for a bit in one section, then think of something to look for somewhere else, rinse, wash repeat.

The prices seemed fair, but not incredible deals nor overpriced (I admit, my price-gauge on vinyl has been immensely spoiled by Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh). I did find some gems, however. It's rare anymore that I come across Prince 12 inches that I either don't have or are out of my price range (limited promos and such). But I filled two gaps there ("Diamonds and Pearls" and "Black Sweat"), as well as a remix 12" for MJ's "You Rock My World" - featuring Jay-Z! Didn't even know that existed. I also found a bunch of nuggets in the clearance bins, which are easy to miss. Mostly funk and r&b stuff (filling many Earth Wind and Fire gaps). The coolest thing that I found was a recent release of an old New York Dolls show:

The label touted it as the best-available recording from the era, plus you got a cd copy with the 180-gram vinyl. Count me in! I listened to the cd on the way home from the airport, and it is pretty great (though Johannsen's vocals are mixed a little low). It's not exactly a bootleg release, but from what I can gather it's a Russian company putting out some excellent reissues and previously unreleased gems from all over the musical map - the Dolls, the Cure, the Who, Stevie, Can, Bob Marley and many more. Something to keep an eye on.

Fortunately, my friend found me amidst the bulging aisles and gestured that we should leave. "I've found it unwise and financially unsound to spend more than an hour in here." Which is probably good reasoning (I did leave my place in line to check for one more thing).

Anyhow, if you're ever in Cali, Amoeba is a must. I can't imagine that being my local record store, though. Living in California is expensive enough as it is!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 11-7

Thee Almighty Handclaps-Full Time
Gore Gore Girls-Fight Fire
The Drums-Me and the Moon
Surfer Blood-Anchorage
No Age-Glitter
Adam Ant-Goody Two-Show (REQUEST)
XTC-Generals and Majors
MGMT-Brian Eno
Love is All-Early Warnings
Hot Hot Heat-Le Le Le Low
The Blue Up?-Going all the Way
Twin Shadow-Tyrant Destroyed
Grinderman-Palaces of Montezuma
The Replacements-Skyway (REQUEST)
Big Star-Kizza Me
The Sugarcubes-Chihuahua
Brian Eno-Horse
Crystal Castles-Pap Smear
Rainbow Arabia-I Know, I See, I Love, I Go
Ratatat-Bare Feast
Film School-Heartful of Pentagons (Alan Wilkis remix)
Robyn-Criminal Intent
La Roux-Quicksand
Chromeo-Night by Night
The Time-Wild and Loose
Parliament-Fantasy is Reality

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 10-31

Misfits-Hallween II
The Ramones-Pet Cemetery (live)
Siouxsie and the Banshees-Halloween
Ministry-Every Day is Halloween
David Bowie-Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
New York Dolls-Frankenstein
Rolling Stones-Dancing with Mr. D
Alice Cooper-Welcome to My Nightmare
The Sonics-The Witch
Gore Gore Girls-Where Evil Grows
Screamin' Jay Hawkins-I Put a Spell on You
Classics IV-Spooky
The Lollipop Shoppe-You Must Be a Witch
Fantomas-Rosemary's Baby
Zombi-Sequence I
White Ring-lxC999
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince-Nightmare on My Street
Whodini-Freaks Come Out at Night
Fat Boys-Are You Ready for Freddy?
Yvonne Gage-Doin' it in a Haunted House
Rockwell-Somebody's Watching Me
Outkast-Dracula's Wedding
The Jacksons-This Place Hotel (live)
Michael Jackson-Off the Wall
Michael Jackson-Thriller

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"$50 cool cash!"

This is the best late-night YouTube find in a loooooong time:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gonzo On the Air, 10/24

Paul McCartney-Too Many People
Spoon-You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
Ra Ra Riot-Do You Remember
Florence and the Machine-Kiss With a Fist
The Raveonettes-Last Dance
Best Coast-When I'm With You
Pains of Being Pure at Heart-Teenager in Love
M83-Kim & Jessie
Local Natives-Wide Eyes
UUVVWWZ-Shark Suit
Los Campesinos-Plan A
Primus-Have a Cigar
Nirvana-Scentless Apprentice
White Stripes-Ball and Biscuit
The Black Keys-Tighten Up
Twin Shadow-Tyrant Destroyed
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti-Can't Hear My Eyes
The Cars-Since You're Gone
The Family-Screams of Passion (12" mix)
Terrence Trent D'arby-Wishing Well (12" mix)
Barry Adams-Something Wicked This Way Comes
Donald Byrd-Think Twice
Graham Central Station-I Believe In You

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I have a feeling this will haunt my dreams tonight.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 10-17

Taco-Puttin' on the Ritz (12" mix)
Belle & Sebastian-I'm Not Living in the Real World
Peter, Bjorn & John-Amsterdam
David Byrne feat. Santigold-Please Don't
Mission of Burma-That's When I Reach for My Revolver
The Replacements-Anywhere is Better than Here
Grinderman-Worm Tamer
Wolf Parade-Ghost Pressure
Young the Giant-My Body
The Clash-Straight to Hell
The Guards-I See it Coming
MIA-Born Free
Holy Fuck-Red Lights
Yoko Ono-You're the One
Chromeo-Don't Turn the Lights On
Robyn-We Dance to the Beat
Royksopp-Miss it So Much
Gnarls Barkley-Just a Thought
Fever Ray-Mercy Street
Blakroc feat. Mos Def-On the Vista
Janelle Monae feat. Big Boi-Tight Rope
Flo-Rida-Right Round (request)
Das Racist-Commercial
Jody Watley-Don't You Want Me
Val Young-Seduction

Friday, October 15, 2010

Playlists from Back 2 School Daze

Back in September, my musical partner in crime and I deejayed together once again. This comes very late, but here is the rundown of what we spun in case you're interested:


Loose Joints - Is It All Over My Face (Female Version)
El Coco - Cocomotion
M.F.S.B. - K-Jee
Metro Area - Dance Reaction
Calvin Harris - Acceptable in the '80s
Charlie - Spacer Woman
Les Rhythmes Digitales - Hypnotise
Soviet - Candy Girl
David Bowie - John, I'm Only Dancing (Sax Version)
Roxy Music - Do the Strand
The Jam - Sounds From the Street
New Young Pony Club-Lost a Girl
Midnight Oil-Beds Are Burning
New Order-True Faith
Midnight Star-Midas Touch (Hell Interface remix)
Felix da Housecat-We All Wanna Be Prince
David Bowie-Modern Love
Quasimoto-Astro Black
Camp Lo-Luchini (A.K.A. This It It)
Nas-It Ain't Hard to Tell
SWV-Right Here (Human Nature Remix)
Big Boi-Shutterbug
Stevie Nicks-Stand Back
Kate Bush-The Big Sky
Sheena Easton-Sugar Walls
New Edition-My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)
Cee Lo-Fuck You
Style Council-Walls Come Tumbling Down
The Action-I'll Keep On Holding On
Stevie Wonder-Uptight (Everything's Alright)
Robyn-Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do
Chromeo-Night by Night
Rick James-17
Rockwell feat. MJ-Somebody's Watching Me
Lady Gaga-Monster
Duran Duran-Girls on Film
Neneh Cherry-Buffalo Stance (12" Mix)
Prince and the Revolution-1999
Lil' Kim-Crush on You
2Pac-I Get Around
EU-Da Butt
Salt N Pepa-Push It
Janet Jackson-Miss You Much
The Time-Jungle Love
Notorious BIG-Juicy
Bell Biv Devoe-Poison
Gwen Stefani-Hollaback Girl
Run DMC-It's Tricky
Digital Underground-The Humpty Dance
Public Enemy-Terminator X to the Edge of Panic
MJ-Billie Jean (12" mix)
MJ-Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
Madonna-Dress You Up (12" mix)
New Order-Age of Consent
Jaylib-The Red
Peaches-Fuck the Pain Away
Spank Rock-Bumb
Amanda Blank-Might Like You Better
Lil' Wayne-Pussy Monster

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Runnin' Down a Dream

I know I've been slack in posting much more than radio playlists as of late. The first month and a half of the semester did me in. But I've had this post brewing for a few weeks, and it's time to get it out.

I recently watched the Peter Bogdanovich documentary Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream. I've always been a big fan of the Heartbreakers, and was curious as to what insight the documentary would provide. I was a little dismayed when the discs came from Netflix. This sucker clocks in at just under four hours. Now, I love me some Tom Petty, but that seems like overkill for a straightforward documentary on a pretty straightforward rock band.

But overkill it is not. I found myself drawn into the Heartbreakers' story for the film's duration, eagerly awaiting the insights and developments of the next documented phase of the band's career.

The film is rather comprehensive - following the boys from their youth in southern Florida to their stabs at obtaining a record contract, their rise to stardom in the 1970s, becoming video icons in the 1980s, the solo work, the Wilburys, the 1990s material - it's all here. And it's all told with such by the band themselves - every member was interviewed in depth, as were associates of the band (producers, former managers, family members, ex-band members, as well as a who's-who of rock stars from the 1970s through today).

And it is a surprisingly gripping story from the perspective of what was happening behind the scenes (infighting, substance abuse, family struggles, creative differences) and simply being able to see Tom and the band develop their craft over the course of 30 years.

Perhaps most interesting to me were the well chronicled battles between Petty and the music industry. I knew he was always an advocate for fans, but I never realized just how many times he went to bat against the corporate music biz (and he remains so today, critiquing the radio industry on The Last DJ, getting into hot water over offering free downloads, etc.).

To put it simply, if you're a fan of the music, the documentary is an absolute must. The four-disc set includes a DVD of the Heartbreakers' 30th Anniversary Concert in Gainesville, as well as a CD of rarities and outtakes. Rock on.

Check out the trailer:

And what the hell, here's one of my favorites:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crystal Castles: "Baptism"

New video for one of my favorite tracks off of one of my favorite discs of 2010:

Gonzo on the air, 10-10

Sex Pistols-Holiday in the Sun
Frank Black and the Catholics-Bad Harmony
Ty Segall-My Sunshine
The Buzzcocks-I Don't Mind
The Black Angels-Telephone
Johnny Thunders-Daddy Rolling Stone
The Ramones-I Don't Want to Grow Up (live)
Luge-All About Love
The Hotrats-Damaged Goods
Spencer Davis Group-I'm a Man
The Greenhornes-Shelter of Your Arms
Lightspeed Champion-Middle of the Dark
The National-Anyone's Ghost
The Doors-The Soft Parade
Sleigh Bells-Rill Rill
Tom Tom Club-Lorelei
New Order-1963
Solomon Burke-Cry to Me
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings-She Ain't a Child No More
Aloe Blacc-I Need a Dollar
The Roots-Walk Alone
Fela Kuti-Who're You

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 10/3

Cinematic Orchestra-Evolution
Broken Bells-The High Road
Yeasayer-Madder Red
Eleni Mandell-Iowa City
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-Home
The Walkmen-Stranded
Bruce Springsteen-The Promised Land
Credence Clearwater Revivial-It Came Out of the Sky
The Drums-Best Friend
Talking Heads-People Like Us
Justin Townes Earle-Harlem River Blues
Iron & Wine-Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car
Boss Hog-I Dig You
Sia-Clap Your Hands
The Ting Tings-We Walk
Four Tet-Angel Echoes
Chromeo-Night by Night
Robyn-In My Eyes
Whodini-Freaks Come Out at Night
Rockwell-Somebody's Watching Me
Kraftwerk-Musique Non Stop
Cibo Matto-Sugar Water
The Bird and the Bee-One on One

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 9/19

Joni Mitchell-You Turn Me On I'm a Radio
She & Him-Thieves
Ra Ra Riot-Too Dramatic
Twin Sister-The Other Side of the Pillow
Delorean-Real Love
Dead Weather-Blue Blood Blues
Arctic Monkeys-Crying Lightning
Maps & Atlases-Carrying the Wet Wood
Butthole Surfers-Tongue
Stray Cats-Runaway Boys
The Jades-Ain't Got You
The Bangles-The Real World
Johnny Thunders-Great Big Kiss
T Rex-Baby Strange
Aceyalone-The Lonely Ones
Kim Weston-Take Me in Your Heart (Rock Me a While)
Booker T and the MGs-Chinese Checkers
Stevie Wonder-Light My Fire
Budos Band-Black Venom
Santana-No One to Depend On
Sly and the Family Stone-Underdog
Chromeo-Night by Night
Kylie Minogue-Better than Today
Daft Punk-Around the World
The Carpenters-Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MJ Experience Trailer

I hate video game trailers that barely show the game. I also doubt that this game will "electrify the world," but I'm still curious. I hope the actual on-screen graphic can be MJ though (what's up with that?).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 9/12

Kate Bush-Running Up That Hill
Bat for Lashes-Daniel
Beach House-Zebra
Black Keys-Everlasting Light
Them-I Can Only Give You Everything
Los Campesinos-Romance is Boring
Gogol Bordello-Trans-Continental Hustle
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers-I Need to Know
The Chevelles-For Your Love
Thee Headcoatees-Wild Man
The Who-So Sad About Us
Man Man-Top Drawer
Fugazi-Exit Only
Faith No More-A Small Victory
Jukebox the Ghost-Schizophrenia
Love and Rockets-Haunted When the Minutes Drag
Siouxsie and the Banshees-Happy House
Crystal Castles-Violent Dreams
Tobacco-Fresh Hex (feat. Beck)
Grandmaster Melle Mel, the Furious Five, Cowboy and Scorpio-Step Off (12" mix)
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince-Brand New Funk
Gorillaz-Stylo (feat Mos Def and Bobby Womack)
LaRoux-Bulletproof (Electrolightz remix)
Chromeo-Don't Turn the Lights On

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 9/5

New Young Pony Club-Lost a Girl
We Are Scientists-Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
Sleigh Bells-Kids
Surfer Blood-Floating Vibes
Wavves-Post Acid
Ra Ra Riot-Boys
The Capstan Shafts-Class War Tease
Arcade Fire-The Suburbs
Sufjan Stevens-All Delighted People (original version)
Animal Collective-My Girls
LCD Soundsystem-Somebody's Calling Me
The Bird & The Bee-Heard it on the Radio
The Breeders-Do You Love Me Now?
Pop Levi-You Don't Gotta Run
Wild Nothing-Gemini
Best Coast-Boyfriend
The Dresden Dolls-The Jeep Song
Jamie Lidell-Enough's Enough
The Books-Thirty Incoming

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 8/29

The Raveonettes-Love in a Trashcan
Dum Dum Girls-You Alone
Stray Cats-Runaway Boys
YACHT-Psychic City (Voodoo City)
Mynabirds-Let the Record Go
The Pretenders-No Guarantee
Ra Ra Riot-Foolish
Broken Bells-Sailing to Nowhere
Maps & Atlases-If This Is
Luge-All About Love
Los Lobos-Shakin' Shakin' Shake
Band of Horses-NW Apt
She & Him-Thieves
Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs-Devil in the Jukebox
Marvin Gaye-Trouble Man
The Roots (feat. Monsters of Folk)-Walk Alone
Erykah Badu-Window Seat
Sade-Soldier of Love
Peter Gabriel-Games without Frontiers
Michael Jackson-Off the Wall
The Jackson-Lovely One
Michael Jackson-Billie Jean (ext.)
Janelle Monae (feat. Saul Williams)-Dance or Die
Groove Armada-Paper Romance

Saturday, August 28, 2010

OK Go's Damian Kulash on Net Neutrality

Those of you who are connected to me on Facebook, Twitter or real life know that one of my biggest pet issues in the last year or two has been Net Neutrality. I haven't said much on this blog, but it does merit attention on this forum for a number of reasons. In short, the fate of net neutrality affects:
1. Me as a blogger
2. You as a reader
3. The future of online music distribution, sale and consumption
4. The future of other related online music content: streaming, downloading, YouTube videos, etc.
4. All of us as users of the Internet

If you haven't been paying attention to this issue, you should. Net Neutrality is getting more press attention these days, which is a good thing. One of my favorite resources on the issue is a sister site of media activists/watchdogs Free Press.

Prefatory remarks aside, OK Go frontman Damian Kulash penned a clear, concise and smart piece on the matter that will run in tomorrow's Washington Post. Read on, and I urge you to take action via FCC Comments (though I believe the filing period is closed), communicating with your legislators, etc. ( makes this very easy under their "Take Action!" page.)

Without further adieu, Kulash's editorial:

(You can also go to the original Washington Post page here.)


On the Internet, when I send my ones and zeros somewhere, they shouldn't have to wait in line behind the ones and zeros of wealthier people or corporations. That's the way the Net was designed, and it's central to a concept called "net neutrality," which ensures that Internet service providers can't pick favorites.

Recently, though, big telecommunications companies have argued that their investment in the Net's infrastructure should allow them more control over how it's used. The concerned nerds of the world are up in arms, and there's been a long, loud public debate, during which the Federal Communications Commission appeared to develop a plan to preserve net neutrality.

The FCC's latest action on the question came partly in response to a federal appeals court ruling in April that appeared to limit the agency's authority over Internet service providers. In May, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a plan to classify the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. In English, that means the agency would be legally recognizing a fact so obvious that I feel silly even typing it: We use the Internet to communicate. With that radical notion established, the FCC would have jurisdiction to protect the public interest on the Net, including enforcing neutrality. Since announcing its intent, though, the FCC hasn't followed through, and the corporations involved are trying to take the reins before the public servants do.

The first volley, earlier this month, was a proposal from Google and Verizon. The part they'd like us to notice, and the part I was thrilled by, is where they say there shouldn't be paid priority for the transmission of Internet content, meaning all legal data should be treated equally. Hear, hear, Googrizon! We, the stuff-making, freedom-loving, innovation-crazed citizens of the Internet, could not agree more.

Unfortunately, a couple of parts of the proposal radically contradict the noble principle outlined above.

First, Google and Verizon would like to exempt wireless Internet, which leads one to wonder just how dumb they think we are. Everyone's heard that the future of the Web is all wireless, but in truth, the present of the Web is all wireless. We are already deep in the iPad/BlackBerry/Android era, and there's no going back. So limiting equality and fair play to wired territory would be kind of like civil rights legislation that dealt with bus seating but exempted schools, the workplace and the voting booth.

Second, the companies slipped in a doozy of an idea for what seems like a hypothetical "fast lane" apart from the "public" Internet. Big bucks could gain access to this separate, specialized service, guaranteeing faster delivery of corporate ones and zeros. Essentially they are saying: Don't worry, there would be no "paid priority," except in the instances where you could pay for priority. Words fail to convey my incredulousness.

Let me tell you why I take this so seriously, and so personally. I've spent a decade working in the music industry, a business in which the big guys block out the rest of us. Creativity and innovation take a distant back seat to money, and everyone loses, even the big guys themselves. They have insulated themselves from change for so long, they've dug their own grave.

Both as a musician and as a music fan, I've always wanted to see the best and most exciting musical ideas rise to the top. But we all know the story of the music business: Success is bought more often than earned. Smart money looks for low risks, so the safest, blandest music attracts the most investment, and only the safest, blandest music makes it to the airwaves and the shelves at Wal-Mart. Creative, innovative artists toil in obscurity, the public is fed rubbish, and, for decades, the industry contentedly made its way to the bank.

Music is subjective, of course, so you don't have to agree with my assessment of what's innovative and what's trash. But business is less so, and the past decade of the music industry is as clear an example as you can find of what happens when the depth of pockets, not the quality of ideas, is the arbiter of success. It's been like a corporate version of the Three Stooges: absurd flailing, spectacular myopia and willful ignorance of reality. Now that the big record companies have made themselves obsolete, bands such as mine can make a better living without their help than we can with it.

The lesson is that insider's clubs don't nurture the best ideas, which is the whole point of markets: Competition is supposed to keep everyone on their toes. Sure, it's a drag that the radio plays such bad music, but it won't sink our economy. Can you imagine, though, what would happen if we let the same thing happen to ideas themselves?

The Internet is the purest marketplace for ideas that the world has ever seen, and the amazing power of such a level playing field has revolutionized everything. Google knows this better than anyone. It started in a garage and became an industry leader by having great ideas, not mountains of cash. And it's wonderful: The Internet works! It rewards innovators such as Google, and it relegates protectionist, defensive, idea-squashing fogies such as record companies to the dustbin of history.

Now that the Internet has been around long enough to have developed its own giants, though, we need to make sure they don't ruin what's great about the technology that made them. We need to make sure they don't crush the idea industry the way the music giants crushed the music industry. I hope Google keeps succeeding (seriously, I'm a stockholder), but it must be because of the power of its ideas, not its power to tilt the playing field.

The Google and Verizon statement, which was roundly criticized when it was released, is unlikely to be the only proposal we'll see from the big boys. A week and a half ago, AT&T, Verizon, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and a trade group called the National Cable & Telecommunications Association met for closed-door negotiations on managing online traffic that didn't include the FCC or the public.

The good news is that the Obama administration has repeatedly promised that it supports net neutrality. Right now the FCC can lastingly protect freedom and equality on the Net. To establish that authority, the agency needs the support of three of its five commissioners. Two commissioners, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, Democratic appointees, have loudly backed the effort. What we need is for the chairman to join them and follow through on the plans he laid out months ago. Mr. Genachowski, we, the citizens of the Internet, are with you.

Damian Kulash is the singer for the band OK Go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fever Ray covers Peter Gabriel

Just last week, I confessed to a friend that the inclusion of Fever Ray on said friend's 2009 mix was one of my favorite end-of-year discoveries. If you haven't heard Fever Ray's self-titled debut, I highly recommend checking it out. Very unique sound that is somewhere between electronica, ambient and pop.

Her upcoming 7" release of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" has the Intertubes abuzz. Originally released on 1987's So album, Gabriel penned the song as an homage to tortured poet Anne Sexton.

[sidenote: getting interested in Peter Gabriel and David Lynch (also influenced by Sexton's work) my freshman year of college led to reading Sexton's collected poems. I admit I am not much of a poetry fan, but I recall liking her stuff quite a bit.]

Anyhow, here is Fever Ray's rendition. I think it is both true to the original, yet successfully stamped with Fever Ray's own identity and interpretation. I also sort of forgot how great this song really is.

Mercy Street by Fever Ray