Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 – The year that was

It’s that time again. Time when bloggers worldwide—especially those who focus solely on music—post their best-of lists for the year gone by. Well I’m not gonna do that. Not exactly anyway.

Coming up with a decent best-of list requires having spent the year up to your eyeballs in whatever the subject is. If you’ve seen 10 films this year, you can’t really make a list of the 10 best films, now can you?

So what follows is not a best of, but a list of thoughts on the year that was. Let’s get to it.

First, since it’s still the season…


Best and worst Christmas songs

Best: “Father Christmas” – the Kinks


Runner-up: “Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses
If these aren’t part of your annual holiday tradition, your tradition’s broken. (Is that too strong? Maybe.)

Worst: “Little Drummer Boy”
I really hate this song. Doesn’t everyone?


Five books I liked

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a sweeping, multi-generational, coming of age epic novel. This one is fantastic. (What, the Pulitzer Prize wasn’t enough of a hint?)

Black Postcards, by Dean Wareham
Dean’s memoirs of his youth and his days leading Galaxie 500 and Luna are surprisingly funny, candid and unapologetic—and very entertaining. Great insight into one of my favorite bands.

The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright
This compelling look at the roots of fundamentalist Islamism, the formation of al-Qaeda and the attacks of September 11 should be required reading for every American.

Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
I’d been meaning to read this book for years, after David Gates (one of my favorites) raved about it in an interview. When I heard Hollywood was working on a film version, I got motivated. So good, yet so brutally heartbreaking. (And completely Leo-free!)

Old School, by Tobias Wolff
Wolff is a master; ‘nuff said.


Two books I didn’t

And Then We Came To The End, by Joshua Ferris
Personal Days, by Ed Park
Both of these books garnered a lot of buzz this year. Both are ostensibly humorous, both take place predominantly in modern-day big city office environments (the latter in an ad agency) and both—how can this be?—are written in the first person plural. I’m not gonna lie, that first person plural thing is a real bummer, making it difficult to develop characters beyond caricature or cliché. I struggled to get into these novels and put them both down after about 100 pages. Next!


A bunch of songs I really liked

In a really strange development, I bought very few albums this past year. I’m not sure what that’s about other than being really busy (the move, the job, etc), no longer having the music-sharing friendship base of years past (sniff) and possibly even a declining interest in what I heard out there. So instead of a best-of albums list I’m gonna share some of my favorite songs from 2008. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

“Re: Stacks” – Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago
would have to be my album of the year. Even though technically it was first released last year. Whatever, stickler. (No mp3 for you; just buy the damn thing already.)

“Sex Tourists” – French Kicks
Hidden near the end of Swimming, the band’s best record in maybe ever, this gem of a track’s verses have a slow, yearning—but catchy—vocal melody laying over simple, repetitive instrumentation. And how about the restraint of the band? Awesome.




“Electric Feel” – MGMT, Justice Remix
Crazy delicious.




“Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Let It Fall” – Lykke Li
In addition to the things I said about it when I posted “Dance” a few weeks ago, I love the ska-influenced backing vocals Li uses on some of these tunes. Here’s “Let It Fall”:




“There’s A Reason” – A.A. Bondy
DY turned me on to this. If you like A.A., you should be sure to check out the fruits of his Daytrotter session, especially “Oh The Vampyre,” here.




“No One Does It Like You” – Department of Eagles
“Two Weeks” and “While You Wait For The Others” – Grizzly Bear
Grizzlies continue to be awesome, in all forms.

“Sex On Fire” – Kings of Leon
Say what you want, this song rocks, and makes me think of high school parking lots. (From back when I was in high school, you perverts.)

“That’s Not My Name” – The Ting Tings

“ArtStar” – The Oranges Band
Already discussed and posted here.

“The Light” – Sun Kil Moon
April is among the more difficult Sun Kil Moon/Red House Painters/Mark Kozelek records (though they tend to take a while to hit me), but this song was an instant favorite. Yes it’s slow and repetitive, what were you expecting? But the hook (if you can even call it that) is great and the whole thing is perfect for cold Sundays spent indoors.




“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Rolling Stones, Soulwax Remix
Just shut up and listen to it already.





Best live shows I saw

Radiohead at the All Points West festival (night 1)
Probably the best outdoor show I’ve ever seen, with the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty looming behind us (and with great sound, somehow). The band took the stage and played “15 Step,” “There There,” “Morning Bell” and “All I Need” in succession—I couldn’t have picked it better myself. Radiohead make everyone else look like the JV squad. It’s unreal.

French Kicks at the Bowery Ballroom
I didn’t realize how sexy this band’s music has become until I was among the crowd slowly bobbing back and forth to these blissfully easy and catchy tunes. Everyone was absolutely hypnotized. They started their encore with Lindsay Buckingham’s “Trouble,” a song that sounds like it could be theirs (and wins the award for best live cover tune of 2008). Here they are doing “Trouble”:




The National with Grizzly Bear at the Hammerstein Ballroom
A great pairing and a great venue. Both bands firing on all cylinders.

The Oranges Band at the Blender Theatre
I came around to these guys late and was sure they were never going to tour again. Sometimes being wrong is a good thing.


Biggest disappointments

Zach and Miri Make A Porno
You could argue that for this film to be a disappointment requires high expectations on the front end, which indeed seems unlikely. I guess this is more a disappointment of the folks who brought us the latest wave of popular comedies. The only “oh no they didn’t” element of this film’s précis is that Zach and Miri turn to the porn industry to get out of their bad financial situation. This same film without the porno element (which is pretty easy to imagine) is tired. Actually, it’s tired with it too.

The Cleveland Browns
High hopes abounded for the Browns coming off last season’s 10–6 record (and narrow miss of the playoffs). Oh how the not-so-mighty have fallen. Sure, they had a couple good performances on national TV (beating the world champion Giants, most notably), but Braylon Edwards leads the league in dropped passes, the team is down to its fourth-string quarterback and their last 30 offensive points have all come via the leg of Phil Dawson. Following last Sunday’s egg at home against the awful Bengals they head into Pittsburgh looking down the barrel of 4–12. Just sad. (Oh look, it’s 14–0 Steelers at halftime!)


Well that’s it. I’m sure there’s more, but we both have lives to live. Here’s to a fantastic 2009.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Super Floss holiday gift guide - final installment!

Don’t lug that heavy pot of water! Use the Egg Genie.

And how about that pleasant audible signal when your eggs are done? It’s a snap! Now if only it came with the famous Bacon Wave. Wait, it does?

Welcome to America.



On a side note, don't you find the word "genie" in the product name to be sort of... quaint? It's like a postcard from the land of 1988.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Following last week’s post there was a pretty strong call for rock. This was good feedback as the previous few music posts were pretty darn soft. (I don’t know if I agree with the comment that they were songs for children, but everyone gets an opinion.) Yesterday’s mega-headbanging—and hair-swinging—metal could be seen as a reaction. Or maybe it was just funny.

Today, I bring you some honest to goodness R-O-C-K.

Up The Empire is a band from Brooklyn. Their new EP Loose Ends features three rocking originals plus a cover of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Feel The Pain.”

Oh, and their drummer was arrested at an Obama street party (story and awesome photo here). I think it was the same day their EP was released.

So here’s Up The Empire with “It’s Alright (For Now)”:



Happy weekend.

Survival of the fittest

In contrast to this morning’s news that the auto bailout is moving forward, here’s an interesting opinion piece from the New York Times that ran on Wednesday.

Pan Am Dies, America Lives

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not the song of the day*

But awesome nonetheless.




* Unless you want it to be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yellowbook doesn’t get it

A few years ago advertisers figured out that one way to get consumers to visit their websites was to run TV spots that showed just the first part of a two-part story. Curious TV viewers were required to visit advertisers’ sites in order to see the end of the story and get closure (and thereby be able to sleep at night).

This device actually worked OK for some early executions of it. If the story is compelling enough, and the target is right, and the product or service makes sense for such an action, it can drive traffic.

Yellowbook, and its latest spot, does not fit the above criteria.



Ooh, what in the world will she do?! She’s been so wronged by this awful boyfriend! Perhaps I’ll go the site and help her make a decision and put her back on the right track! Oh, what fun!

Not.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I was just read a short blurb on PWRFL Power (the nom de rock of Kazutaka Nomura) the other day. And now PWRFL Power is the song of the day. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Here’s PWRFL Power with “It’s Okay”:




Hey look, he’s also been animatized by Esurance!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Even more Super Floss holiday gift guide

With all of these amazing products to choose from, it's sure to be a great holiday!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And I thought updating the blog on a regular basis was tough

How about doing a drawing a day? Lauren Nassef does it. And she’s got some great stuff to show for it.


Check out her site here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I doubt anyone noticed, but some of my recent Fridays’ songs of the day selections have been a little… uninspired? What I mean is that a few have been posted not because I really liked them but because of my undying dedication to bring you a new song each Friday.

Today is a different day.

I recently heard Lykke Li for the first time. I’m late to the game, I think. Seems she’s been a pretty hot commodity this year. If you live in a city with an awesome radio station and if you commute in a car, you’ve probably been exposed to her already. I do not, and I had not.

Songs from Li’s debut album Youth Novels—which was produced and co-written by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John* fame—might initially come off as overly simple, but to me they seem simple in the way that requires a lot of work. They’re often stripped of excess instrumentation, with only the basic elements intact. And they’re surprisingly groovy, with Li’s voice often creating the head-bob-inducing syncopation.

Sure, you could dismiss her music as being “cute.” You could also try being less of a dick.

Ahem.

So here we go. Get your happy groove on today with Lykke Li and “Dance, Dance, Dance” from Youth Novels.




* Sweden pretty much kicks ass for music.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You ain’t the Dukes of Hazzard

Awesome long-format commercial for Jones Big ASS Truck Rental & Storage.



Check out the website too (this is my nomination for best business URL of 2008). Toby’s bio is not to be believed.

I called the phone number but the mailbox is full. Toby’s voice is on it, though.


Thanks, DT.

Strange bedfellows

Has anyone else seen this? When I first caught it the other night I was surprised to see what I thought was Cloud Cult selling out to an insurance company.



As I watched the spot I kept waiting for the sell, but it never came.

I scratched my head and wondered, “Esurance is suddenly spending their media dollars to promote bands they like?”

Which immediately led me to a second thought: "Esurance likes bands?"

According to the site, Esurance and Cloud Cult met up at the 2007 Monolith Festival, and they bonded over their mutual passions for environmental friendliness. According to Craig Minowa, leader of Cloud Cult and an environmental scientist (really?), Esurance has been “incredibly friendly and supportive of our environmental goals. We wouldn’t do something like this if those ethics weren’t adhered to.”

So Esurance animated the band for a full-length video and runs a 30-second version on TV.

In these tough economic times, when many companies are surely slashing marketing budgets, it’s a bit shocking to see a company go this route.

Here’s the full song/video, available on the Esurance site:



Also, check out the Esurance/Cloud Cult site for free downloads of three Cloud Cult songs.

More Super Floss holiday gift guide

I don't know what kind of crappy late night TV he's been watching, but Brian alerted me to this fine product and, well, who am I to get in the way of you finally solving that embarrassing problem you've been trying so desperately—albeit unsuccessfully—to hide?

Available here.*


* And at participating CVS stores.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No sense of humor

So Dr. Pepper had a funny promotional idea. They offered everyone (and I mean everyone) a free soda when (by which I think they meant “if”) Axl Rose ever got around to putting out Chinese Democracy.

And then Axl did in fact complete and release the album, Guns N’ Roses’ first in about 17 years.

Awesomely, Dr. Pepper held true to their word. Unfortunately, the site where fans went to get their coupon couldn’t handle the insane amount of traffic and it crashed.

Now Axl is suing (read: trying to get even), claiming some fans are blaming him, assuming he was in on the promotion. It’s tarnished his image!

Right.

Here’s the story from CNN.com.

Warning: The opening sentence reads, “Guns N' Roses became Guns N' Roses N' Lawyers this week.” Ha ha! Ugh. Zzzzzzzzzz.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Super Floss holiday gift guide

Unsure of what to get that special someone for the holidays? Not since the Hawaii Chair has there been a product quite as exciting as this.



One benefit not mentioned: it’s sexy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Animated type is the new black

Some of you may remember the videos I posted back in May—one was all animated type about the Internet as tool for idea-sharing that will ultimately enable things that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, the other was the awesome “I Met The Walrus” animated short—both of which are really cool and use engaging animation. One animates type with no voiceover, the other illustrates visually the words being heard (in this case, and interview with John Lennon).

More recently, I posted a video called the Girl Effect. All animated type. No voiceover. Emotionally moving.

Earlier this month, Starbucks released an animated type spot that was a bit similar to the Girl Effect spot. It’s emotional and inspiring and promotes a good cause (voting).

Watch it here if you haven’t seen it already:



Now Ford has a new campaign for the F-150 that uses animated type in a style similar to what we’ve seen over the past six months or so. The animation adds a layer of content to the spots, does a see-say thing with the voiceover and animates in an engaging and playful way.

See one of the spots here:



What are we to think of this F-150 campaign? For that small group of us who are aware of the things that influenced it, it may seem like Ford is repurposing (for evil—sorry, I’m just saying it) some pretty cool stuff. Borrowing interest, as it were.

This is how fashion trends die and evolve. Some hot guy or girl wears something interesting. A few early adopters see it, buy in and follow along. Eventually some not-so-hot or not-so-hip folks become aware and join in. And just like that, the party’s over. No one “cool” would be caught dead wearing it.

It’s hard work, folks. And it makes me tired.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Oranges Band with A.C. Newman at the Bell House in Brooklyn, November 15, 2008

I’d never been to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus before last Saturday. I was early for the show and needed dinner and wandered through the industrial streets past the dark warehouses until I found a surprisingly nice little bar/restaurant that served up some great meatballs.

The Bell House opened in Gowanus in September and it’s a nice venue. It reminds me of the Showbox in Seattle, but is about half the size. I arrived and got a beer and waited for the opening act to finish up, which they did soon enough.

The Oranges Band took the stage as a three-piece to play “Ride The Nuclear Wave” “Open Air,” “Wild Ride” and “My Mechanical Mind” prior to hired gun Doug Gillard joining them to focus on new numbers. Speaking of new numbers, there are some gems here. I recognized many of them from their show in July and was anxious to listen to the new album.


Oh yeah, the new album! A bonus of going to the show was being able to buy an advance copy of the new record, Are Invisible. I’ve given it a few listens over the past week and I’m liking it a lot. Roman Keubler has said he wanted to write about the Baltimore scene on this album (“Gordon’s Nightclub” is a paean to a bar called the Rev, for example). My current favorite is “ArtStar,” which, thematically, reminds me a bit of the Long Winters’ “New Girl.” I love the art school insight: “They want to be known by everyone and / shown by everyone and / blown by everyone.”

But back to the show…

Roman Keubler is probably the least “rock star” of any front man I’ve seen. He has no stage persona separate from the playful and humble guy he seems to be all the time. (He invited his father on stage to shill product for the band, citing his dad’s opinion that they don’t promote themselves enough—a moment that made the show feel more like a gathering of friends than a gig.) I’ve never seen a musician smile as much as he does when he plays. It’s clear that he loves to “rock out” (as he says), but also doesn’t take it too seriously.

Near the end of the set, as they prepared to play “My Street,” Keubler said “It’s either that or ‘I’ll Never Be Alone,’” honestly opening the discussion to anyone who wanted to weigh in. (Is both not an option?)

About 30 minutes later, A.C. Newman, the night’s headliner, took the stage before an excited crowd. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m not much of a New Pornographers fan. Given a choice, I think I’d have preferred Dan Behar instead (I find his stuff a little more oddly interesting). As such, I won’t even attempt to review the set (sorry, Ben). I’m just not the guy to do it. (Not to mention the fact that I only stayed for four songs before leaving.)


And now for the “thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day” portion of this post.

From the Oranges Band’s new album, Are Invisible, here is the aforementioned “ArtStar”:



Happy weekend.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A double shot of kindness

Did you see the heartwarming story about the drive-thru customers at Starbucks in Loveland, Colorado, “paying it forward” by purchasing, in advance, the order of the person in the car behind them? CNN.com has the touching story here.

It’s so great, especially in these troubled economic times, to see people extending goodwill in this way, isn’t it?

The driver pulls up to the window and is told that the customer before him paid for his order. “Zounds! Really?! Well then, I… uh, I’ll pay for the next person! Yeah, that’s it. I’ll pay it forward!”


Allow me to rain on this little parade. No one’s actually getting anything here.

No one, that is, except for the asshole who decides he’s totally stoked about the schmuck ahead of him who paid for his drink and everyone else can go to hell. Guy #1 pays for his own order and this idiot’s. Everyone in between just paid for themselves (in the form of paying for someone else’s, sure, but the transaction’s no different).

This same thing happened in Seattle last year and also got some local news coverage. I thought the whole thing had been set up as a PR stunt because Starbucks’ “Pass The Cheer” ad campaign—focusing on the spirit of sharing—was in market at the time.

And yet...

As I write this I must say I can’t decide if this whole “pay it forward at the drive-thru” is the dumbest thing—because no one really gains anything from it even though they feel like they do—or the greatest thing—because everyone feels better, everyone’s mood is brightened, at no expense.

Hmmm.

Thoughts?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I'm not gonna lie. I'm posting this song without even having listened to the whole thing. I hope it doesn't devolve into a growling death metal orgy at the end.

You better listen to it all the way through to see if it does.

Oh, and for those scoring at home, the band is Los Campesinos! and the song is "You'll Need Those Fingers For Crossing."



Happy weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What the?

A picture you probably haven't seen before, right here.

(It's safe for work. I'm not that guy.*)



* Or am I?


Courtesy of Ffffound.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Design changes

You're not crazy.* I changed the font and a few small design things about the blog. I think it's an improvement. I hope you do too.


* I have no way of knowing if you're crazy or not.

Flashback

In 1988, Miami hip hop act L’Trimm released “Cars That Go Boom.” Listening to it now, I’m amazed by how elementary their flow* is.



Tigra and Bunny’s delivery is extremely slow, their rhymes are rudimentary and their elocution is terribly forced. They enunciate like they’re training non-English-speakers how to rap. Check it out starting at the 36-second mark.

Today, a couple of 12-year-olds from white suburbs could put out a better song in a week.

Hip hop has come a long way in 20 years.


* That’s right, I said “flow.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Phoning it in (via the interweb)

Hey, if Ben Steele can do it, why can't I?

I love McSweeney's Lists and found this one especially appropriate given the current economic (and pharmaceutical) climate.


NEW ANXIETY MEDICATIONS FOR COPING WITH ECONOMIC GLOOM.
BY PETER SCALLION

Debtrol

Downcyclen

Subprimacare

Lehmanax

Delinquedent

Panix

Nojoblin

Greedquil

Feariflu

Defaulta

Forclosen

Banxergon

Nuvopor

Catastrophex

Hysterian

Maxedoutrin

Stoxadon

Colapsin

Dowoff

Scamagan

Defeatra

Corruptol

Retirelator

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keeping it street

Google Maps? Awesome.

Google Street View? Awesomer.

Using Street View to create art? Crikey!

On May 3rd 2008, artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley invited the Google Inc. Street View team and residents of Pittsburgh’s Northside to collaborate on a series of tableaux along Sampsonia Way. Neighbors, and other participants from around the city, staged scenes ranging from a parade and a marathon, to a garage band practice, a seventeenth century sword fight, a heroic rescue and much more...


The result of this endeavor, dubbed Street With A View, has only recently hit the web.

Check it out here, including all the scenes as well as videos of the shoot.

Via swissmiss.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Today’s song of the day comes from New York’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (a.k.a. TPOBPAH). I just recently stumbled onto these guys and really like their sound. It owes a lot to the distortion-dream quality of My Bloody Valentine and other shoegaze acts, but has a catchy pop sensibility those bands tended to lack. I also get hints of late ‘80s Jesus and Mary Chain in their song structures.

Their song “Everything With You” is certainly in the camp of Cut Copy’s “Unforgettable Season” and The Radio Dept.’s “ I Don’t Need Love I’ve Got My Band.”

TPOBPAH are touring in the U.K. in December. Here’s hoping they’ll have some U.S. dates when they get back.

Check out the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s “Everything With You” right here:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More change


Drawing by Patrick Moberg. Hi-res version here.

Change

From today's New York Times:

This is one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts:

An American with the name Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white woman and a black man he barely knew, raised by his grandparents far outside the stream of American power and wealth, has been elected the 44th president of the United States.



Read the entire article here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I’m not voting*

The other day I was at Petco buying food for my cat. I go to Petco because I know they stock the food my cat eats. But the truth is… I hate Petco.

In Seattle, the Petco I went to never seemed to have enough cashiers for the number of customers attempting to check out. I mean, this happened every time.

I didn’t like going to Petco, but they had what I needed and it was convenient to my house.

In New York, Petco is worse.

The cashier shortage is a problem here as well, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that the cashiers all seem half-asleep. The Upper East Side Petco’s cashiers are the most sluggish, unmotivated, slothful bunch I’ve ever seen. These traits are so consistent among them you’d think “raised from the dead” was an application requirement.

I might be in the queue with ten other people waiting to pay so we can get on with our days and the cashiers will be taking their sweet time and jawing with each other, showing no sense of urgency about the situation.

I have a Petco frequent shopper card. Or maybe it’s some kind of discount card. It says Petco P.A.L.S. on it, but I have no idea what benefits membership provides. I never get mail from Petco alerting me to the number of P.A.L.S. P.O.I.N.T.S. I might have amassed, if such things even exist. So I have this card, with a membership number that I punch in at every purchase, and yet I have no idea why.

The final straw? It sounds silly, but I hate buying one item and getting a 13-inch receipt for it. What is this thing?! I bought one item! Save a tree!

As I left the store this last time I remembered that dollars are, in a sense, votes. I may hate Petco, but I’ve been voting for Petco for years, repeatedly, simply by continuing to buy things for my cat there.

But no longer.

When I left that day I vowed to find a new provider for my pet needs and to stop voting for Petco.

That’s change I can believe in.


* For Petco.**
** See what I did there?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Oh my God this day. This week, actually.

Ahem.

Allow me to present, for your listening pleasure, the Virgins, with “Rich Girls,” while I simultaneously apologize for this lame post.

Good song, though.



Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sincere flattery

Two-sentence review: the World Series

America loves an underdog, and even though the worst-to-first Rays were exactly that—Vegas’s favoring them to win the series notwithstanding—this match-up struggled to excite viewers, the Rays’ Kingdome-ish Tropicana Field shrugged off any sense of drama (those first two games felt like mid-season reruns) and the game 5 rain-delay simply gave Americans more reason to move on to the next thing. Least classic Fall Classic ever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Straight and to the point

I’ve written a fair amount of negative commentary about CNN.com and their headlines, but I don’t mind this one, other than I think they’re being a bit harsh on their subject.


Plus, I think it would work almost as well for a story in the Onion.

And though I’m opposed to the practice, you can’t deny this is a news headline worthy of putting on a T-shirt.

Here's the story.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Sorry, folks. I’ve been negligent.

Lucky for me—and you—Brian is happy to keep my inbox stocked with suggestions for song of the day. His offering for this week: Oldfolks Home.

Brian says:

I was lured in by the post-rock style opening; then at about a minute in they start with the electro beats. The vocals are sweet and yet somehow haunting at the same time. Plus, props to a band that can make me want to listen to a 5-minute song about someone complaining about the poor customer service of a computer hardware company.

‘Nuff said. Here’s “I Hate Dell” by Oldfolks Home:




Thanks for saving the blog, Brian.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How close is too close?

Earlier this month a new store opened in Manhattan’s West Village. The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill is largely what its name implies: a combo pet store and eatery.


Well not exactly.

More accurately, the “store” is an art installation from graffiti/street artist Banksy. Not that you’d know it. His name isn’t anywhere on the place and none of the ingenious and stunning animatronic displays resemble his two-dimensional works.

Inside the “store” you’ll find a rabbit grooming itself in front of a small vanity, hot dogs and other sausages squirming in display cases (located beneath their wrapped and packaged brethren) and a hen overseeing her little chicken nuggets (beneath a brazier menu).


If having animals for sale in two versions—live and/or processed—in one convenient place sounds a bit unsettling, well, it kinda is. It’s also a mental delight to see fish sticks swimming—actually swimming!—in a fish bowl.

But it’s not all fun and games. Banksy, ever the social commentarian, is asking us to question our interactions with animals.

This is definitely one of those experiences that makes you glad to live in New York.

It’s open from now until October 31st.

See more cool pics here.

Yeah, that's how you do it


It’s not uncommon to create something as a tribute to a lost loved one. Poems, paintings, statues, songs…. So what if you’re not artistic? This is your mother we're talking about. Throw some gang-ish adhesive letters onto the back window of your ride in her honor. Now that’s a fitting tribute.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Prior to about 20 minutes ago neither you or I knew who the Everybodyfields were. I've remedied that situation for myself and am about to do it for you, too.

I still don’t know much about them other than their latest release, Nothing Is Okay (on the same label as the Avett Brothers), is more than okay, given the tracks I’ve heard.

Recommended for anyone who misses Whiskeytown.

Check out “Aeroplane,” and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Apologies

I'm in Washington DC for work and am not going to get around to any real blogging this week.

On the plus side, I've now successfully updated the blog from my BlackBerry.

So there's that.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Nike goodness

In case you didn’t see this new Nike spot that aired during yesterday’s NFL games…



I get the point raised by Make The Logo Bigger—that it might just as well be a spot for the NFL Network or even the NFL itself—but I don’t see how it would make sense for either of those brands to show the lifespan (to date) of these players. For Nike football, it makes sense.

One anonymous (of course) commenter on Scamp wrote that he/she/it was “waiting for Nike to do something truely [sic] different.” This comment, in my not-very-humble opinion, is an unintelligent load of crap.

If you’re the brand that does this kind of work, that has the consumers’ permission (expectation?) to do it, and doing so makes sense for your brand, you don’t switch to something else just to be different. Different is what everyone else gets to do.

And it kills them that they can’t do what you do.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I don't know how many nails this coffin needs...

... But here's another one.


Incidentally I'd also argue Palin abused her power in forcing her teenage daughter to marry that teenage guy.

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Vivian Girls is a three-piece rock act from Brooklyn. Their myspace descriptor is “punk/shoegaze/surf.” I say it’s totally lo-fi indie “rehearsal-space” rock. (I just coined that term; use it immediately and everywhere).

Their self-titled album came out on vinyl in March and received a lot of buzz (not all of it good). One online reviewer wrote:

With a penchant for romanticism, Cassie, Katy, and Ali have put out an album that is loaded with songs of love and of chasing after Mr. Right that are packed with hard hitting riffs, steady drumming, and just the right amount of vocal harmonies.

Basically they don’t try to do too much with it.

Here’s the somewhat surfy, kinda shoegazey and totally reverby “Where Do You Run To” by Vivian Girls:

The transient meaning of Obama art

Darryl over at Brand Flakes For Breakfast posed a compelling question today, namely, “What happens to Obama art if he wins?”

Darryl writes:

If he loses the election, his art will live on as a remembrance of what could have been. Hope that didn't manifest itself. The art would retain all of the emotional value that it holds today.

But what if he wins? Six months, twelve months into his term - will people still view his artwork as the inspiration that it is today? JFK crossed into the pop culture icon territory. While he was President. Families proudly hung his photo in their homes.

So...if you're hanging a Hope poster in your apartment today, would it still hang a year from now if Obama is President? Is it possible for a President to cross over to pop culture icon...again?


I had a similar thought while considering the purchase of an Obama T-shirt the other day. The shipping was 6 – 8 weeks, and with the election only 4 weeks away it seemed I’d missed the window of opportunity to show my support for the candidate (via my torso, anyway).

Is there a point to wearing an Obama shirt after early November?

If he loses (heaven forbid), wearing an Obama shirt would would be a symbol of undying idealism; an inability to reconcile hope with reality. If he wins, it would be like saying “I told you so.” I fear I’d despise myself the way I despise those sports fans who wear their team hat and jacket the day after the big victory.

Do these make the same statement?*


* Besides "Ryan Philippe seems like a bit of a prick"?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

MAD about design

Pentagram has done so much great design work—and makes so much of it look so simple and easy—one can forget how difficult and rare great design is.

I love the stuff they’ve done for the brand new Museum of Arts and Design, located in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. I've been seeing it around town and I find it very eye-catching.

Here’s a series of sketches done by Pentagram's Michael Beirut as well as some produced pieces.




Read the story behind the work and see tons and tons of examples (a pretty astonishing amount of work) here.

Learn more about MAD at their website.

And if you’re into this stuff, I recommend Michael Beirut’s Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design. (Interestingly, the book weighs more than you’d think, a detail that adds a certain something to the experience. These guys think of everything.)

A cure for what ails ya

Hey there, partner.

Are you feeling bored? Do you have a hankering some entertainment but are too tired to go searching for it yourself? Are you also feeling a little negative about the world?

Then Vice Magazine’s “DOs and DON’Ts” is for you!

Check out this awesome Don’t (click for larger, web newbie):


Of course, the real entertainment value is in the vicious captions.

Here’s the link to a whole batch o’ fun (may not be safe for work).

(True, this is far from a new phenomenon, but I had kinda forgotten about it. This month’s D&Ds are exceptionally good.)

There goes the afternoon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Don’t do what everyone else does

So many car commercials are essentially the same. Show the car. Show someone driving it. Show it hugging the curves. Show the interior. Show the logo. And use music and visual styling try to differentiate it from other car commercials.

Some advertisers avoid this, and those can be great spots.

The latest Hummer spot, for the HT3, works well because it makes the vehicle almost an afterthought, but sells the thing at the same time.



It reminds me of a cross between Volkswagen’s “Pink Moon” spot and Nike’s “Before” spot. (Maybe even a bit of Nike’s “Move” as well.)

I don’t see the need for the Braveheart tie-in, though. It takes the spot from inspirational to embarrassing and makes me feel dumb.

Ah, so close.


Via Make The Logo Bigger.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Race for the cure (of a different sort)

Seth Gaffney is a strategic planner at Weiden + Kennedy New York. He’s also a blogger, a runner and a Barack Obama supporter. While doing a training run in preparation for the New York Marathon he started thinking about how he might use the race—which will happen two days before Election Day—as a forum for a pro-Obama (Probama?) statement.

He shared this desire with his friend Clay and the germ of an idea began to grow. (Here’s the GChat snippet.)


What they’ve ended up with—not even two weeks later—is Obama Baton.

The idea is pretty clear: runners who are involved will pass a relay baton during the marathon, with the culmination—the baton crossing the finish line—as a sign of their commitment to inspire action and change.

Seth and crew have taken the very simple notion of a marathon and have added a motivated community to create something that’s really impressive. They’ve got a website (of course), a Facebook group, a Twitter account, logos, batons for the race… And they've expanded it to include the Chicago marathon, too.

Their energy for the idea is really something. And I bet not one ounce of it seems like work.

Feeling inspired yet?

Read all about it on Seth's blog.

Monday, October 6, 2008

But will it help me find Electric Avenue?

Word Magazine (I won’t pretend to be worldly enough to know it) has created a cool Google Maps mash-up that matches iconic album covers with the locations where they were photographed.

Pretty cool if, say, you ever wanted to wander down to the corner on the cover of the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique.


Play around with it here.


Via Brand Flakes For Breakfast.

Make it scarier than it is!

The Dow’s free fall is so awful it has this floor trader gasping in horror!


Oh wait. After further review, it seems he’s just covering the microphone on his headset so he can be heard.

Ha, ha. Good ol’ CNN.com, you guys got me again!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

A few weeks ago I had the chance to see Meiko, a singer songwriter from LA, perform at a small club in Manhattan. Meiko is funny, quirky and sexy (in a way that reminds me a bit of Liz Phair, though not quite so dirty). Her music can be a little over-simple for my taste, but whatever, I’m an ass sometimes.

At the show, she played an unreleased song called “You and Onions.” Daytrotter had her in for an interview and some live performances and she played the song again. Here she is with the story behind the tune:

“My friend was in film school and had to write and direct a short film. She had this great idea—a story to be about a guy who gets off work, buys a hot dog from a stand and gets really sick. He passes out, and it goes into a dream sequence where this gigantic hot dog girl is waking him up, and they fall in love. I offered to play the hot dog girl and was inspired to write this song. It played during the sex scene that involved ketchup and mustard.”

If that doesn’t merit being song of the day I don’t know what does.

Listen here:












And read the Daytrotter interview and check out her other songs here.


Oh, and yes, she is that hot.

Wait, what?

Is it Friday already? Where did the week go?

Fear not, gentle reader. Today's song of the day will be coming shortly.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The show that almost was

I was excited back in May to learn that My Bloody Valentine had reunited and was coming to New York to play two shows in September. Loveless is a great record and I hadn’t had a chance to see the band during their early ‘90s heyday.

I was bummed—just a few days later—to learn that both shows had sold out quickly and I was without a ticket.

I was hopeful about a month ago to find a pair tickets for sale online that were less than $100 a piece.

I was excited at having my bid of $140 for the pair of tickets accepted by the seller.

I was bummed to learn I was going to have to attend a two-day meeting in Minneapolis, the second day of which would the same day as the MBV show I had tickets for.

I was happy to learn the second day’s meeting would end at noon and I’d be able to make it back to New York in time for the MBV show.

I was bummed, sitting for two hours on the tarmac in Minneapolis as we waited for a storm to pass, as I did the math and realized that once we got to New York I’d be able to grab a cab and get to the venue right about the time the show would let out.

I guess some things aren’t meant to be.

Sigh.

Sit back and relax for a bit

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So here's the deal...

I flew to Minneapolis on Sunday for two days of meetings. The kind of meetings where you begin to wonder what you're doing with your life. I got back very late last night.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Las Vegas for a few days of sunshine and some semi-bad behavior.*

So unfortunately the blog is suffering this week. It's not because I don't care.

Enjoy your week and weekend and let's regroup on Monday.


* Who am I kidding? I'm a prince.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Listen to this. It’s “Golden Age” from the new TV On The Radio album, Dear Science, which drops on Tuesday.

Enjoy your weekend.



What, you thought I was gonna leave you hanging?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Things to look at

Somebody calling himself Dr. Monster does some entertaining photoshop work on images from science fairs. Good times.


Check ‘em out here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Leverage the awesomeness for your brand

A few months back I posted the awesome animated short film “I Met The Walrus” (here’s the post). Adverbox has posted three animated spots Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago did for Key Bank that use a very similar animation style and visual-to-audio relationship. They're pretty engaging.



The credits list Tim Tomkinson as the illustrator; he's not the guy behind “I Met The Walrus,” lest you believe otherwise.

See all three spots here.

Simple is good





Via the Denver Egotist.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't get too cute with it, Lincoln

If, like me, you spent the better part of yesterday watching football, you might have seen this ad (which has been running for a couple weeks now).

cat power :: "space oddity" (david bowie cover) - bowie

Despite the cool cinematography, it’s not much of a standout spot visually. So many car ads look alike these days. But if you’re a Cat Power fan then you likely recognized the soundtrack. Chan Marshall has done some great covers in her career and I am in love with the snippet of her doing Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” It’s a bittersweet tune, so right in her strike zone.

Lincoln’s use of the song works for their concept of equating driving the car to space travel, and it probably maps well to their intended audience being that it’s a song they probably know updated for today. The weird part is that it’s maybe not the greatest choice when you scratch below the surface of the song to its messages of detachment and powerlessness.

I also kinda hate the “you’ve really made the grade” lyric closing the spot. I bet somebody—the client, the editor, the account guy—was really proud of himself for making that (not so) subtle point.

(I’d love to get my hands on the full version of this song so that I could write over the mental connection I now have between it and this spot. Here’s hoping.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s songs of the day

That’s right, friends, songs. As in plural. Two songs this week. Why? Because I’m awesome and I like you.

First up is a song Brian alerted me to. It comes from the recent collaboration of Kaki King and the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. They’ve finished a six-song EP entitled Black Pear Tree, including this track, “Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is in Another Castle.” The title comes from the Super Mario Bros. video game and, according to Darnielle, the song is written from the perspective of Toad.

As Brian wrote me, “Mt Goats + Kaki King + Super Mario Bros = Awesome. Even if you know or care nothing about video games this is a great tune. Also I love the pairing of JD's melancholy voice with the loving/optimistic
voice of King.”

Fair enough. Let’s check it out.




Song number two is completely different.

Kings of Leon’s fourth album, entitled Only By The Night, comes out later this month. I know some people who have a hard time with how this band has evolved, going so far as to say last year’s Because Of The Times was an embarrassment. These people are stupid.

Yes their first two records were awesome, but you have to let a band grow. We don’t want all artists to play the Ramones card, do we?

I’ve always felt that KoL were a bit like rock bullies: consistently intense and exuding a sense of danger even on their quieter tunes, which often hint at sonic power even when it’s not delivered.

I’ve heard a few of the songs from the upcoming release (in stores on September 22nd) and I really like the sound of this record. For today, I’m sharing the album’s opening track, “Closer.”

Enjoy, and happy weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deerhunter at Le Poisson Rouge 9/09/08

I saw the Atlanta band Deerhunter last night at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleeker Street. This club is about the size of the Crocodile Café (R.I.P.) in Seattle. The stage is bigger but I think the sound is worse.

Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox—who has to be the skinniest guy in rock—is a likeable guy with great audience rapport. I just wish I could have heard the instrumentation better.

Regardless, here’s “Never Stops” off the band’s forthcoming—but infamously leaked—album, Microcastle. The record’s getting a lot of online (read: blog) praise. Decide for yourself right here, right now.

Exploration of a disaster

The Denver Egotist revisited the Oklahoma City Thunder logo today in a post that includes a break down of the logo design by someone named Bubba (not his real name).


It’s quite entertaining and can be seen here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

This logo is yawn-derful

I was going to begin this post by joking that the NBA’s D League had unveiled the name and logo for a new team. But after looking at the logo designs for D League teams (that’s D as in development—the D League is to the NBA what minor league baseball is to the MLB), I’ve decided that’s an inaccurate and harsh comparison.

Those D League logos are much better than this.


This, of course, is the new look for the Oklahoma City Thunder (né Seattle SuperSonics) of the NBA. It's too bad, because nothing about this logo says "thunder" to me. It does say "circa 1985" though.

Anyone wanna wager on the NBA team with the least fan apparel revenue this season?

I guess a more sports-appropriate theme song is the only thing the team (and fans) can hope for at this point. (I never was a fan of J.J. Fad.)


Courtesy of the Denver Egotist.

Let the Tina Turner jokes begin

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thank God it’s Thursday’s song of the day

I am a big fan of David Bazan.

The music blog It's Hard To Find A Friend announced on Friday a new Bazan project called David Bazan: Alone at the Mic. It is, according to the site,

a DVD in which you can basically spend a few afternoons with David, watching him play songs (old and new) in his Home Studio, drive around Seattle in a Ford Bronco playing and singing (like a Minstrel), being interviewed on his front porch, and other things of a generally fun and personal level. Think of it as stalking someone, but with HD cameras.

They’ve got a bit of footage as well as today’s song of the day (I’m taking tomorrow off work so you get it a day early again), which is a new tune entitled “How I Remember.”

Enjoy.

Rubin gets back to basics

When I was in high school I was a big Metallica fan. (I borrowed Ride the Lightning from a classmate as a ninth-grader and probably listened to Master of Puppets more than any other album during my junior year.) I haven’t cared about them in years, but I did enjoy the recent New York Times piece on them and their new album, mainly because I find producer Rick Rubin to be an interesting figure.

Rubin has a track record of producing albums for some very big names that have gone astray, albums that are much better than those artists’ preceding work.

With Metallica, Rubin said, “I asked them to imagine themselves not as Metallica,” he said. “I said to them, let’s say there was a battle of the bands coming up and nobody knew who they were, and they can’t rely on any of their hits to get them over. What would that sound like?”

Read the article here for more.

And if you want to hear one of the new Metallica songs, you can listen to "My Apocalypse" here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pushing my buttons

I’m prepared to speak, but the strangely familiar voice interrupts me. The voice is instantly recognizable, though it belongs to neither a friend nor a celebrity. It’s the voice of a woman I’ve never met, though she speaks to me often.

She always says the same thing.

“To leave a voice message, wait for the tone. To leave a callback number, press five. To hear more options, press the pound key.”

The voice pauses, then prompts: “Record at the tone.”

Americans have been calling and leaving messages for each other for about 30 years. The first telephone answering machines hit the market in the early 1970s, becoming a nearly ubiquitous household item by the mid ‘80s.

While telephony has since given us other ways to connect with those who might not be available when we call—the nearly extinct paging, the reigning king texting—we still use phones to call, and we still leave messages. So we still need outgoing messages.

The words said in an outgoing message hardly matter. The point, it seems, is all about timing. The message should be of an appropriate duration to allow the caller to adjust from initiating a conversation to summarizing his thoughts into a brief gloss including his expectations, if any, of a return call.

This duration is about three to five seconds.

Less, and the caller is likely to be caught off guard and will begin their message with a series of ums and ahs, while feeling the pressure of the open microphone recording their every ineloquent utterance. More, and the caller likely becomes antsy, keenly aware of the process he’s forced to wait through—insult to the injury of not reaching his party initially.

While the words we say in an outgoing message are of little import, I find the prerecorded “Please leave your message for [insert name]” option overly cold. It implies a perennially over-busy existence, as if Insert Name is too time-strapped and important to record a proper greeting.

But back to the voice.

If we agree that it’s unlikely we’ll ever do away with the de rigueur personal greeting, and that that greeting is sufficient in priming callers for what to do next, why the voice? Why does she—stranger that she is—insert herself into what’s essentially a conversation between two familiar parties?

We’re all quite familiar with how to leave messages. Her directions are as helpful and instructive as a how-to guide accompanying a soup spoon.

I have never pressed 5 to leave a callback number. If I’m calling someone’s mobile phone, which is generally the case, I assume that phone will capture and store my number. Likewise I have never pressed the pound key for more options. I wonder now what those options might be.

Perhaps pressing 3 would get a sponge cake delivered to my door.

What if one of the options was to let the voice know she’s not needed on future calls? That would be a button worth pressing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I need (a.k.a. want) this

OK, $33 is more than I’m going to spend on a t-shirt, but how perfect is this for yours truly? Rest assured, if I were flush, my order would already be placed.

Of course, if one my readers wants to put up the money, you know, as a way of saying thanks…


From Mighty Healthy via the Behance Network and Ffffound.

Polar bears in New York

This is a really elegant piece of art/marketing communications.


You should watch it (here).

Thanks to DY for sending.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thoughts in the wake of the Palin announcement

Remember those McCain ads that acknowledged Obama’s remarkable charisma but challenged the depth of his experience and ended with the question, “Is he ready to lead?”

How does a guy go from reinforcing the importance of experience—albeit in a roundabout and competitor-promoting manner—to naming Sarah Palin as his VP candidate?

McCain would be the oldest first-term president in history and he has a history of skin cancer diagnoses. I find his choice of Palin, who governs a state with a quarter the population of Brooklyn, simply hypocritical.

The New York Times quoted Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, as saying, “On his 72nd birthday, this is the guy’s judgment of who he wants one heartbeat from the presidency?”

This is an act of looking out for America’s best interests?


Image via someecards.com.