Friday, May 30, 2008

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

The Stills announced some exciting news yesterday. Their forthcoming album, entitled Oceans Will Rise, is scheduled to be released by Arts and Crafts on August 19th. That’s a long way off, but thankfully, they’ve made a couple songs available.

I’m already liking the first single, “Being Here,” more than anything off of their disappointing Without Feathers.

Give it a listen right here.

More misleading news links

I wrote last month about Yahoo!’s use of titillating and unnecessarily obfuscating story teasers. Looks like CNN has decided to get in on the action. Today’s home page had this story line:

Clicking this link confirms it. Rock icon and recovered drug addict Steven Tyler is indeed in rehab. But not due to a drug relapse. He’s recovering from foot surgery.

This is the news equivalent of that timeless “Shirt’s on fire! Now it’s not!” gag. Oh, CNN, you’re such a kidder!

Return of the red band trailer

The trailer for the new Coen Brothers film Burn After Reading is for restricted audiences only. And why not have a trailer that accurately reflects the nature of the film? Have you heard the mouths on these kids today? Who are we protecting, and from what?

Also, this is my nominee for best use of an Elbow song in a trailer and/or movie.

Sea Wolf at the Mercury Lounge, 5/28/08

I like Sea Wolf. It’s true I think their EP, Get To The River Before It Run Too Low, is better than the more recent full length, Leaves In The River. But the latter has some great songs, namely “Middle Distance Runner” and “The Cold, The Dark & The Silence.” (I think my third favorite would be the bonus track “The Promise,” and I must admit liking a bonus track that much doesn't say a lot about an album.)

Anyway. I was looking forward to last night’s sold out show at the Mercury Lounge for a few reasons. It was my first show since moving to New York, my first show at the Mercury Lounge, and—having seen Sea Wolf a couple times—the band was like a piece of familiarity amid the unfamiliar.

Openers the Jealous Girlfriends had a few songs I liked, but it seemed like they’re not quite sure what band they are yet. Live, they don’t have a sound that pervades their music (unless you count trebly Fender guitars run through trebly Fender amps; one would be fine, but two is too many). Lead singer Holly Miranda does have a strong voice, though.

On to Sea Wolf.

Sea Wolf has a full-time cellist. Of course, many bands bring a cellist into the recording studio—and there are surely thousands of instances where a cello has added some great mood or texture to a song—but having a cellist as a full-time band member, specifically while touring, seems like an extravagance.

I think with a better guitarist and a better keyboardist (though Lisa Fendelander is awful cute), the cellist wouldn’t be missed during the live performance. And I have to believe the band members would prefer to split the cash five ways instead of six. I know I would.

Another facet of having six musicians onstage is that it's surely more difficult to get into a groove, to hit on all cylinders, to have a great show. It’s simply one additional factor.

This got me thinking. Bandleader Alex Brown Church and new drummer Joey Ficken are easily the best musicians in the group. Ficken (formerly of Portland band Swords) has great tempo and range and his energetic fills enliven the band’s mid-tempo catalog. But I think it would behoove them to take a good, hard look at the others. (It’s essentially Church's band, anyway.)

Maybe the Mercury Lounge has sub-par sound (it wouldn’t surprise me, it being an old, small room). Maybe Sea Wolf needs a new soundman. Whatever the issue, the band sounded a little off for a good portion of the show.

They played every song off Leaves In The River and two from the EP. They also unveiled “Song Of The Magpie,” which they wrote for Augusten Burroughs’s audio book, A Wolf At The Table. “Magpie” is a great song and was a highlight of the show.

The Mercury Lounge floorplan is not conducive to encores. To get to their dressing room, the band leaves the stage to the audience’s right and walks along the wall the length of the club to the back of the space. To return to the stage they have to walk through everyone again. It looks kinda silly.

Having finished the main set with rousing versions of the upbeat “Sea Monuments” (my personal fave) and “You’re A Wolf” they led off the encore with the slow and delicate “Leaves In The River.” This mood swing seemed to cause the remaining crowd to get sleepy.

Or maybe it was just me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Worth getting upset about

I saw a short piece on the news last night about parents who are concerned about the impact of Katy Perry’s hit “I Kissed A Girl” on their impressionable teen and tween children. If you’re not familiar, here’s the video:

I can see why this is cause for concern.

I first heard this song a few days ago and when I began to pay attention to the lyrics, well let’s just say my own reaction was one of shock and awe. Think of how TV and radio hold the attentions of today's kids like so many hostages. (And my heart goes out to their parents who’ll surely be subjected to it again and again—a decidedly cruel form of torture.)

It makes me question the bigwigs in charge. Is this an abuse of power? Surely the messages within will lead to an increase in bad behavior. And it’s wrong of them to deny any wrongdoing. That just proves they’ve got their head in the sand. They’ve obviously gone too far, and there’s no telling the toll this sort of thing will exact.

Someone must be held accountable.

Though in the end, perhaps this is just another situation where we’re looking for a fight where there really isn't cause for one. Or perhaps we’ve allowed ourselves to get distracted from the real issue.

Maybe if we ignore it, it will just go away.

It just makes me long for the good old days.

By the way, the brouhaha over the song is real.

Friday, May 23, 2008

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

What’s that you say? The French Kicks have a new album out? It was released more than a month ago? Jesus, why doesn’t anyone tell me these things?

I was doing a little shopping yesterday and heard the unmistakable sounds of the Brooklyn band over the sound- system. Turns out their new album, entitled Swimming, was made available via iTunes last month, but only came out in other formats (including physical CDs) this week.

I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, but the opening track, “Abandon,” is great. The music blog We Like It Indie quotes front man Nick Stumpf as saying it’s "by far the closest we've come to getting the sound we wanted." It’s great that even though these guys have never had anything even remotely resembling a hit they’re still putting out records.

They’re on tour now (unfortunately they played NYC before I got here) and—get this, Super Flossers—they’ll be joined on the road beginning next week by Frightened Rabbit, who have the opening slot for the latter portion of the tour. (Carr, they hit Austin on June 5th.)

Enough blather. From the new French Kicks album, Swimming, here’s “Abandon”:

And—news flash (specifically for DY)—apparently Stumpf has stepped away from the drum kit (at least three years ago) to focus on singing (proof here). Where have I been?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thumbs way up

One benefit of moving to a new place and not knowing a lot of people (and not having a job or a TV) is that you get to see plenty of movies. Since moving to New York three weeks ago I’ve seen five films. This is surely a record for me. The best part is that they’ve all been good. Recommendable, even. Here’s the recap, in order of my viewing (because I know how you like the details):

Hear And Now. I saw this documentary at its HBO screening, thanks to my roommate. Very touching story about the filmmaker’s deaf parents who decide to undergo cochlear implant surgery pretty late in life in hopes of being able to hear. Website here.

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago.

Iron Man. What can I say that hasn’t been said? Great summertime fun and Downey Jr. is perfect.

Priceless. A great old-fashioned comedy, and funnier than I expected. Audrey Tautou shows she’s much more than Amelie. Here’s the French trailer (the American one is simply awful):

Reprise. The debut film from Norwegian director Joachim Trier, Reprise delivers exactly what you look for in a foreign film (those of you who go for foreign films): subtlety, innovative storytelling and characters we can believe since we haven’t seen the actors in a dozen prior films (not to mention US Weekly). Oh, and subtitles.

If these last two make it to a theater near you, I highly recommend you go.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Borrowed interestingness?

Is “Happy Jetting” (by JWT for JetBlue) any different than “Let’s Motor”?

The “Happy Jetting” campaign frames the JetBlue experience as being completely different from the one air travelers get with United, American, Delta, et al.

It’s a tactic similar to that used by CP+B and Mini, who launched “Let’s Motor” as a completely different approach to driving. Different to the point that it requires a new term, goes the thinking.

JetBlue headlines like “Flying. It’s why we created jetting” sound like they’re straight out of the Mini “Manual of Motoring” brochure. Visit to get the whole experience. Pretty fun, and executed all the way down to the T-shirt.

Follow-up question (if your answer is that they’re not different): Does it matter?

Open letter to Ben Steele


Your readers and I may not always* enjoy the music you feature on I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better! and/or on your podcasts (though I’ve really gotta hand it to you for your diehard passion).

And I enjoy ribbing you for your near-incessant sales job on all things even remotely related to the New Pornographers (“Hey, this album was produced by the guy who ran sound for their ’99 tour! I’m totally buying it!”)

But while you and I disagree on some music, our tastes actually overlap quite a bit. (Though you consume so much music it’s honestly a little disconcerting. I worry for your health—and your baby daughter’s feeding schedule.)

But back to the point.

Years ago you gave me a few tracks by the Oranges Band. I’d never heard of them and really wasn’t that interested at the time. The songs hibernated untouched on my iPod for years. But last year you posted their song “OK Apartment” and I woke up. As a result, I purchased their album The World And Everything In It and I must say it’s become one of my favorite albums.

You’ve also expended a fair amount of energy raving about the Hold Steady. I've had a few songs of theirs but again, never really got into them. Perhaps I railed against the hype. Perhaps it’s their “all-American” instrumentation (I don’t listen to a lot of bands with the same elements as the E Street Band). Either way, I got over it. Boys And Girls In America is pure gold. And (hold onto your socks) the lyrics… my God but that guy can write.

It almost hurts to admit it, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, dammit, you were right. And thank you.

Just don’t expect me to come around on Destroyer, ‘cause it ain’t happening.

Your friend,

* Or even occasionally.

(Strangely, I wrote this last night, prior to seeing today's ICBINB! post.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yeah, that's how you do it

They don’t make ‘em like they used to, eh pops?

In the old days car bumpers were positioned out from the body to protect the darn thing. These newfangled designs may look nice, but get tapped at 5 mph and you’re stuck replacing the bumper, the side panel, the taillights…. Pretty soon you can’t afford the annual trip to Boca Raton.

So grab those foam floaty things the grandkids use in the pool, add some rope and boom. It’s like you never left the boy scouts.

(He had the same configuration on the front, except he didn’t cover up the headlights.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

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

It’s rainy in New York today, but I hear it’s sunny and warm out in Seattle. Summer-ish, even.

With that in mind, today’s song of the day is a happy summertime ditty from Seattle band Throw Me The Statue, off their album Moonbeams.

Their song “Lolita” has been getting some decent airplay already, so I’m going to mix it up and allow you to subject yourself to “Your Girlfriend’s Car.”

Listen to it now, and feel those fantastic UV rays infiltrating your skin. Aaah...

UPDATE: Looks like that link isn't working anymore. Try this instead.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on what’s old is new again

I wrote a couple months ago about the growing joy that seems to come from handmade or low-budget-y things when they’re coupled with the web. Here are a couple more things that kinda fall into this camp. Or do they? Either way, they’re cool.

The first is a video that’s made the rounds already, but it’s timely (for this blog) given yesterday’s post. (Couple it with the presentation from Paul Isakson I posted a while back and you’ve got a good primer on social media and today’s marketing landscape.)

It’s also an interesting corollary to Malcolm Gladwell’s article, In The Air, in the latest New Yorker. Gladwell’s article is partly about the myth of innovations as rare gems delivered the minds of individual geniuses—like Athena, springing fully formed from Zeus’s forehead—and partly about the power of having a bunch of really smart and engaged people gather to brainstorm on a topic. (“Really smart” and “engaged” being the factors that lead to successful brainstorm sessions, unlike those that the guys at Brooklyn Brothers wrote about.)

But back to the interestingness that comes from the juxtaposition of the DIY-infused and modern technology. (Jeez, this is kind of two posts in one, isn’t it? Follow along, please.)

The second example is the very cool short film I Met The Walrus by Josh Raskin. It’s a little more than a year old and was nominated for an Oscar (which, unlike being nominated for a Grammy, means it’s probably good). Very cool animation to go with the audio of a renegade interview with John Lennon by a 14-year-old fan back in 1969.

Thanks to DY for the heads up on the Walrus film. Apologies for the scattered post today. Welcome to the jungle, baby.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Everything has a website

Feel overwhelmed by and/or unclear of the benefits of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Second Life,, or other parts of the current digital landscape?

Dennis Cass, a writer (you know, of books), shares your pain* and made a funny little video about the paperback release of his book.

Hey look, it's right here!

* Or does he?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It is what you say it is

Here’s an interesting project you can participate in: Noah Brier has put together Brand Tags, what he calls “a collective experiment in brand perception.”

Since brands are what consumers say they are, Brier’s Brand Tags site simply displays well-known logos and asks you to share the first thought that pops into your head. The aggregated results are viewable as a tag cloud.

Here’s a portion of the current tag cloud for Pabst:

And if your Holiday Inn client doesn't believe that his brand means "cheap hotel" in the minds of consumers, direct him here.

A very cool—and surprisingly simple—tool. Hopefully Noah will add more brands to it and keep it growing.

For those not into branding, Noah’s also created a celebrity version.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Half full

One night last week I went to the final screening of the documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts. Fans of documentaries and/or music (or both) should certainly try to check it out. Glass comes off as a remarkably humble but passionate artist.

You don't need to be interested in Philip Glass or even a fan of his music to find this documentary compelling. Here’s the trailer (with painter Chuck Close’s retelling of a Glass-inspired joke at the end).

Friday, May 9, 2008

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

One of the great things about doing a weekly music post is that it forces me to investigate new music, even when I don’t really have time to. Like this week.

But it didn’t take me long today to stumble upon Frightened Rabbit. The Scottish band released their second album, The Midnight Organ Fight, last month. Turns out I was already familiar with their song “The Modern Leper” (thanks, KEXP!) but had never heard the artist mentioned. Ah, technology.

A quick sampling of the album has me thinking this may be one of my new favorite bands. I know, I'm totally fickle like that.

But, for those who may already be familiar with “The Modern Leper,” and in the interest of always (or at least occasionally) introducing you to new things, today’s song of the day is a different track off The Midnight Organ Fight.

Here’s “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” by Frightened Rabbit:

Bonus for my dedicated readers only: Listen to “The Modern Leper” here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Branded to the core

Many of you who know me probably know I don’t think bathroom activities are an acceptable topic in polite conversation. Picture me, then, hopping on the Times Square shuttle yesterday and finding myself surrounded by the Cottonelle campaign that’s been up since March.

Because it’s two months old, I won’t go into the work itself, other than to say “We shine where the sun don’t” is a funny headline. And I like how the text is framed by a rounded border with detail in the lower right that mimics both a tuft of cotton and a human butt. Clever.

But seeing this effort reminded me of something I’d been thinking a few months ago.

As with many other products, I have a toilet paper preference. Or at least I think I do. Some brands are better than others, but I can never remember which one I like.

The reason has to do with my interaction with the branded portion of the product. I buy the stuff at the store, take it home, remove the rolls from the plastic, and stock them in a cupboard in my bathroom. If I buy a pack of twelve rolls, it can be quite a while before I need to buy more. Three or four months? Six months? I really don’t know for sure. But during that time, I’ve completely forgotten what brand I’m using because I'd discarded the wrapper shortly after returning from the store.

None of my other toiletry products suffer from this disassociation between the product and the brand. My toothpaste tube is branded, and I interact with the brand until I’m squeezing out the last bit of paste. My deodorant is branded throughout my experience with it. Ditto my shampoo. And the same for most other goods I use.

So here’s a free idea for anyone in the TP industry: Brand your cardboard core. It’s the last part of your product your customers experience. Put a funny message on it (see above) and connect with your customer on another level. Seize the opportunity to remind them of what they’re using. If it’s a good experience, they’re more likely to make a repeat purchase simply because they’re more likely to remember your brand.

Friday, May 2, 2008

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

Sing it with me.

No seriously, play it.