Friday, September 30, 2011

#24: Titanium - David Guetta ft. Sia

Sarah gave me this a while back. Bring the fuckers on. No mercy.
Right. I've bagged out David Guetta before in this blog and I'm sure as hell not going to let up now without a valid reason. So here goes. David Guetta's style of late is pandering to the lowest common denominator by combining semi-grungy house with generic progressive house and adding in a splash of the shittiest hiphop artists out there. So it would seem that this song is a little different because Sia is by no means hiphop. In fact, I do respect Sia. But I don't respect David Guetta any more and I certainly don't respect this song. It does, admittedly, rate higher than a lot of his other junk.

My main issue with this song is that it breaks down too fast and builds up too slow. Not only that, but it's repetitive without evolving. Sorry Sia, but even your voice gets on my nerves after a while, especially when it's the same thing over and over without any changes. Four minutes of annoyance without any letup is not, strictly speaking, fantastic. I do agree that it's not as grungy as LMFAO, as annoying as Kelly Rowland, or as trashy as Akon. ...Hey, there's an idea. Mr. Guetta, why don't you team up with all those guys and try and make them sound better OH WAIT YOU DID AND IT FAILED. Well, bugger that for an idea. Also bugger David Guetta for an idea. He has transformed nightclubs into something I don't like (oh wait, they were already pretty piss-poor). Well, he's transformed dancefloors into something I don't like (oh wait, I don't dance beyond the Nutbush). Well, um, he's transformed parties into something I don't like (oh wait, I barely party as is). Well... shut up. As long as I don't hear any more David Guetta from down the hall in my dorm I'll be OK. I'mma go listen to some Booka Shade now.

#23: Forever (Live And Die) - Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark

OMG, it's OMD! Yes, I spelled it "Manœuvres" and not "Maneuvers" because "maneuver" looks FUCKING WEIRD. Besides, I've been really pedantic about the œ and æ ligatures and accents in Latin-based languages. On that note:
What the hell is it about this song? I found it when I was watching reruns of Daria - with the music in it, for the most part - and I took a shining to it. I reckon I've worked out why - I guess it's because the song is all that was good about 1980s electronica. Which, of course, is the precursor to contemporary EDM. And I love it. For me, disco began in the 1980s and not the stupid seventies. Hell, music in the 1970s didn't exist.

My prejudices aside, this is a pretty nice song that has been very underrated of late. I have two 1980s electronica compilations, and while Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark appears four times, this laidback melancholy beauty doesn't. Annoyance. It wasn't so underrated back in 1986 when it charted everywhere (OH FUCK I'M TALKING ABOUT CHARTS. HELP ME.) but I guess other songs have eclipsed it since. That said, I was kinda shocked to learn that they're still going in 2011. Shocked and surprised, but not disappointed. I do like these guys. And honestly, the only complaint I have about this song is the bit from ~3'33" to ~3'55". It doesn't fit with the rest of the song. I'm all for evolution and all but that's just a bit strange. And speaking of evolution, no, this doesn't evolve much but it does stop short of being cheesy muzak. It's easy on the eardrums for the whole thing and it plays on your sense of time. Oh, listen to me, waffling on about all that crap when I could just as easily be picking apart the fact that the lyrics are repetitive and boring. Reality is, they are, but it only feels like the song runs for about 3'30" so that's fine. It puts it above hiphop, where the same three words are repeated ad nauseum for five minutes: "MOTHERFUCKING BITCHES SHAKE DAT ASS". In every single song, by every single hiphop artist, five minutes of that crap. OK, I'm exaggerating but it certainly feels that way. And that's why I listen to OMD.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#22: OK Go

Yes, yes, OK. I've just wrecked your eyeballs and given you a mindfuck with more music and more videos than I've ever posted in one post before, but these guys will fuck with your mind more than I ever can. In an amazingly awesome way. My best friend introduced me to these guys way back when Here It Goes Again (that is, the treadmill video) made the Triple J Hottest 100, claiming that the video made him giggle. Then someone (dammit Sarah you hooked me) showed me both versions of This Too Shall Pass and I, uh, started to admit I had a problem. Addiction. These guys are way too awesome and boy oh boy do they deserve their rights to title of Most Kickass Music Videos Ever.

Let me share my personal philosophy about music videos. Generally, if a music video has any of these, I consider it bad:
  • the singer/band doing nothing but playing the song
  • clips from a movie, interspersed with the singer/band doing nothing but playing the song
  • the singer/band just dancing shit that I could dance (and I can't dance)
  • the singer/band just singing and doing nothing else
Because that's why you go to live shows. You pay $20 for the record to hear the song. You pay $50 for the chance to see them perform. Watching Sunday morning TV or YouTube clips, you should see something else and different. So this is what I define as a good music video:
  • one with a plot
  • one with a message or interpretation of the song
  • one without the band
  • one that takes the piss out of something (and is serious about taking the piss)
  • one that does something different
  • stop-motion
OK, the last one is personal taste. But OK Go are very good at doing the last two, and reasonable at the fourth one. Clearly none of the above videos have plots (though the All Is Not Lost vid does have a message of "spread love"). They also all feature the band, but at least they're doing something other than just playing the song (which any Tom, Dickhead and Harry with musical background can play anyway). They're dancing on treadmills, choreographing pooches or half-showing their genitalia through skin-tight green leotards. And yes, they have a bit of stop-motion involved as well as the one-take stuff (note the "homeless power rangers" video of End Love) and, hell yes, they take the piss out of things (see below). It's interesting, it's exciting. I prefer this to some bland video of some artist singing from only three different camera angles and relying too heavily on looks rather than inventiveness and creativity.

OK Go has gone viral. That much is obvious. So, everyone has a favourite OK Go video and (correct me if I'm wrong) the majority opinion is the Rube Goldberg video (one of the This Too Shall Pass vids): partially because we as a species are fascinated by Rube Goldberg machines (without knowing who the hell Rube Goldberg was) and partially because the band gets shot in the face with paint. Because we all like shooting. And paint. And paintballing, which this is close enough to. We also like dominoes causing bowling balls to drop liquid into a piano and all that crap because it mindfucks us. Humans are masochists when it comes to mindfucks because we're curious. But I digress.

My opinion: the Rube Goldberg video is pretty cool, I'll admit, but it's not my favourite. All Is Not Lost is my favourite song out of those (and I'm not exactly a huge fan of OK Go and their style of music to begin with), but still not my favourite video. My favourite OK Go video is below.
It's not just the band. It's taking the piss. It's doing something different. Three out of six is pretty damned good. And it's the Muppets. Hell, who doesn't like the Muppets? Except maybe a bunch of you sadsacks who can't appreciate sock puppets for what they are: a bit of fun. But anyway, OK Go are the epitome of what I like in a music video, and let me tell you, there aren't nearly enough of those music videos around. Twilight movies' soundtracks' music videos can go get fucked up the bumhole for a joke because they're twying WAY too hard to cash in on the movies' immensely undeserved popularity. And music videos like this are not trying hard enough. (That said, it features half the cast from my favourite Britcom so I'm fractionally more satisfied.)

I have issued a challenge to people to give me songs to review. Now I issue this second challenge: find me a music video I can give a perfect score of 110.8% to, and I'll review it properly here. First one to do so gets a million CJ-points.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#21: CJ's Addictions 4

Man oh MAN there's a lot of songs to catch up on. I have addictions and a challenge, plus a feature. May as well start with the addictions.

I'm going to be honest: I have absolutely no idea why I like this song. None at all. It's a very bizarre song, which is probably why because I tend to like the bizarre stuff. The bizarre nature is rooted in the singer's distorted voice - whether this is deliberate or not is irrelevant - and the fact that it seems "harder" than it really is, especially given the subject of the song - Gabriel, who is apparently this guy who was an arsehole to the narrator. Well, that's my take on it, anyway. It does evolve, albeit fractionally. The full version does it better justice at 5'36" and the video is an interesting take (albeit boring). I also have to award a Gem Line to "he was stronger than I was but it's strength you can't sustain" - lines that mention strength (or, rather, lack thereof) always are good candidates for Gem Lines. Humble. I guess that's why I like this song. Bizarre nature, evolution, Gem Line. That'll do. Anyway, enjoy it while it lasts - I can't see this being big for long, despite its all-around awesomeness. Unlike this one:
If "having an argument with myself down Elizabeth Street" doesn't tip you off as to the location of the song, then you deserve to not know anything. Come on, now. Elizabeth Street? Victoria Street? Queensberry Street? Don't make me bash you over the head with a Melburnian sledgehammer. Which, oddly enough, is what the song is about. Streams of consciousness always rate high in my books, and I've got to say this is a pretty nifty one. Not sure what Jens Lekman is trying to say about his mind but I'd say the "fuck you! no, you fuck you!" bit was a bit of comic relief. I'd rate this along with Northcote [So Hung Over] as one of contemporary Melbourne's iconic songs. Bugger Man From Snowy River, this is REAL Australiana. Wait, actually, don't bugger Man From Snowy River. I do actually like that. There was movement at the station...

Hm. I usually give you a three-fer. So here we go:
Just realised that I'm giving you these vids in 4:3 instead of 16:9. But that's irrelevant next to the awesome power of Cut Copy's video. The music has even more power: starting out soft, the song slowly reaches crescendo and is belted out by either the lead singer or a chorus behind him. Or both. Hell, I could say that about most Cut Copy songs, and I can also say that every single one of them is different. Yeah, that's right. They follow a pattern, but they're different. Fuck you, RnB music, you are not different. Anyway, Cut Copy have always been a good blast back to the 1980s and I reckon this song has some sounds amazingly similar to Vangelis. Not a bad thing. I like Vangelis. And I like this song. No idea what the lyrics' interpretation are but that's irrelevant. I'm also going now, but that's also irrelevant.

Monday, September 19, 2011

#20: The Phoenix Alive - Monarchy

I came in my pants when I heard this song. It's a couple years late but seriously, this shit is fucking amazing. Apart from having the name of a bird in the title (second only to owls) the song is quite possibly the best combination of bouncy electronica, soothing lyrics and no fucking grunge that I've heard in a long time. Not to mention the video. The science fiction element is brilliant and at the end of this incarnation, the code at the end is delightfully deceptively simple and beautifully relevant. And the song evolves! ♥ Even though it evolves right at the end and doesn't last long afterwards, it changes just enough to keep me interested. On the other end of the track, though, it starts out quite suddenly. Not a bad thing, because it instantly hooked me. And I loved it. It fits right in there with freshly-cut grass and petrichor that characterise summer for me. Actually, scratch the petrichor. But it's amazing and it's a summer song and... and... I think I want to marry this song.

Ahem. Fair review: it's house, it's bouncy. It's not party, and it's not grungy. It evolves, and it involves acoustic instruments. It's not too obvious but it's not too subtle. It's a very nice background track but would also find a good place in a set. Progressive house, basically. And its video is pretty cool too, it's not just the band dicking around lip-syncing to their shitty little songs that they try and make better by appearing on-screen and showing off their pretty-boy bodies just to sell said shitty little song. Ahem. Astronauts for the win.

Friday, September 16, 2011

#19: LMFAO

There's been a lot of songs I've liked so far on this blog, but less of those that I don't like. Time for some of those with a respectful look at how these songs could have been made so much better. I'll cover only LMFAO at the moment because their latest two "hits" have garnered totally undeserved popular attention simply because the first hit included the word "Party" and the second was just branding. I'll elaborate later, but for now, have a listen to the most distasteful of tunes to poison my ears in the last year or so.
Unfortunately, this song wasted so much potential. It had the tune, but it fucked it into a rap and grungy house nightmare that spouts nothing except "party" and "shuffle". Hell, it's not even a good party song. Good shuffle song? If you're lucky enough, yes. Even worse is the idea that "every day I'm shuffling". Yeah, that's really sending out a positive message to the kiddies. If it were up to me I'd take out every single vocal, sample about four bars of the synth on top (and NOT the FUCKING COMPUTER BEEP - example is from ~2'24" to ~2'38") and burn everything else. Yes, the song would be four seconds long. Because four second songs are better than this monstrosity. It is the epitome of everything that house music has devolved into since around 2009. How this shit got popular, I don't know. What boggles me further is how it got popular without a vocoder, because isn't that how to make a song instantly popular these days?

To make matters worse, LMFAO followed up the pile of crap you see above with this:
Alright, that's a little unfair. This one had potential as well, but was again wasted so badly when the vocoder was actually added this time. Sounds as bad as "Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife" with that horrendous auto-tuning. So, what's good about the song: much the same as last time, there was a decent tune on top at the start. What do you do with a decent tune? Break it down, gently. Not with a fucking sledgehammer. Not to mention that the lyrics - which were supposed to "change the way that people view champagne" (pretentious fucks!) - are just as terrible as in their first "hit". Yes, I called it a hit, because I'd like to hit the pair repeatedly with a sledgehammer until I feel they've had enough punishment for their crimes against music humanity. But anyway, after you've broken the tune down, gently, you build a song up, playing on tension, and make it explode and release that tension you've had inside you. Otherwise what does it do? Leaves people unfulfilled and fucks their mindset up even more. You're not a good musician if you can't do that properly.

So what did I say before? Oh yes, branding. Their first single from their new album was called "Party Rock Anthem". Clearly appealing to the sixteen-to-twenty-fives who have nothing better to do than party. In other words, chumps with no eardrums. Nevertheless, the word "party" in the title hooked even people who are sensible, and forever shattered their ideas of house music too. People associated "LMFAO" with "party" and expected the same thing from them with their next single. Lo and behold, I squelched my left foot on the dog turd that is Champagne Showers. Champagne is supposed to be an expensive drink, used for celebrations and luxurious occasions. Not a fucking party. So anyway, they've bought into the shit that is Champagne Showers just because of the LMFAO name. If I produced the exact same song, nobody would know it existed and they'd all call it a pile of shit. Well, it is a pile of shit, but that's not the point.

Finally, I'd like to note that these two songs follow exactly the same pattern. An untrained ear wouldn't know the difference. Mine nearly didn't. Now, on that sour note, I'm off. I need an antidote to the poison that my ears just ingested. The antidote consists of listening to some proper music, like half the stuff I've reviewed before. If that doesn't work, I'm considering grabbing a sledgehammer and beating myself senseless until I get amnesia and forget that LMFAO even exist.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

#18: Jona Vark - Gypsy & The Cat

Yes, I know I'm jumping on the Gypsy & The Cat bandwagon a few months late, and I know that this isn't exactly a new song. I also accept that this isn't EDM *shock horror*. But I've been hearing it on my iPod and the radio a bit lately so I'm reviewing it.
What is it? Dancy rock. I like dancy rock.

OK, but what is it really? Picture the following scenario: Empire Of The Sun meets MGMT meets some other artist who belongs firmly on the Kitsuné label - probably Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - and all three of them bugger off and have a weird musician threesome and produce Gypsy And The Cat.

OK, but what is it *really*? It's an epic song. I'm not talking "epic" as in "awesome" (though it is awesome). I'm talking "epic" as in Titanic or Star Wars. Big, heroic, and awe-inspiring. But less so on the heroic scale. I define epic music to be music with sound saturation - in other words, bucket loads of instruments, all playing at once; or bucketloads of people, all singing at once. No wonder I like choirs. Basically, epic music is the opposite of grungy house. But enough about that.

OK, but what is it really? It's a song about enlightenment. What kind of enlightenment? I don't know and that's completely irrelevant. It could be about Thomas Edison's big enlightenment (oh shut up you would have made the same bad joke too, if you were me, and I was you, and things were different). Except that it's not about Thomas Edison's enlightenment, it's about Jona's. Who's Jona? Obviously not the one with the whale. Some girl, whose name happens to sound like a young French leader. Or maybe that's what it's about? The real Joan Of Arc was guided by visions, who's to say that Jona isn't Joan in disguise? (Except that Joan was killed six hundred years ago.) It's also a damn fine piece of electronic rock. I was impressed by Time To Wander - in fact, that's the song I want playing in my car as I drive out of college for the last time1. And I love Jona Vark.

OK, but what is it REALLY? It's Gypsy & The Cat. That's all you need to know.

1. This is actually going to happen. I swore for months that I'd play the Lifelike remix of This Boy's In Love, by the Presets, as I left the town of my birth, as I was moving onward and upward to better things and better times. I played it and I was amazed at myself for picking such an epic song.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#17: Tanz der Moleküle - Mia.

Forgive my lack of German-speaking-ness, but I actually had to Google-translate this. When I realised the idea was stupid, I gave up and started looking further afield. But my German-speaking friends were all unavailable. Besides which, I just remembered this song for a very bizarre reason that I can't quite put my finger on. Regardless. Loosely translated, I believe the title "Tanz der Moleküle" comes into English as "Dance of the Molecule" and the song is about (correct me if I'm wrong) two atomic physicists in love. Now, you'll have to bear with me as I'd only ever heard the BeeLow remix - which isn't really that different - until today, and this was the first version I heard (live recordings are pretty damned good IMO). So I'm basing this on the only two versions I've heard.

If ever there were a quirkier EDM song, it could only be Fix Your Accent by Fake Blood (which I may be reviewing soon). It's quirky. Whatever instrument they use to get their effects works (possibly the keyboard, because I'm not talking about the xylophone effects) and works well. It really does sound like molecules dancing. Question is: exactly which molecules? Is it a metaphor? Actually, no, I'm going to leave that one alone, because I like this song and I don't want it (along with so many of my other favourite songs) somehow connected with sex. Simply because some songs are better off just as they are, and without any imagery to go with it. Good or bad. Either way, it's a pretty cool song. The only problem with this version of the song is that it starts with the drummer tapping his sticks together. I don't like that (though I accept that it's unavoidable in live recordings). Otherwise it really does put me in mind of one sunny winter day when I went to open days and I visited Chisholm not knowing that it'd be my home within a few short years and... I'll shut up because I understand that some of you out there are allergic to flashbacks. Either way, please enjoy the song because I do like it simply because of its bubbly quirkiness.

Now, can I get someone German to make any sense of the song itself? Comment below if you can. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#16: Goodbye - Toe

A challenge from Sean.
Alright. It's not house. It's not electronic. It's not, strictly speaking, experimental. But I've accepted the challenge and alas, I must give it a fair and unbiased review. STOP LAUGHING.

I'm judging this song purely on this live version of it. To be honest, you'd think if these guys were an established-enough band, they wouldn't have a single problem with microphone feedback. I mean, hell, there's not much worse than hearing that all-too-familiar whine when you came to the show to get AWAY from whiny kinds, parents, significant others, or your pet robot. You'd also think that they'd amplify her singing more so you can actually hear it over the guitars. What the hell is she saying? I could only just piece together a few syllables and figure out that it wasn't English, and I took a stab at Japanese (based on the characters in the video's title). Oh, and also, I'm not going to comment on the lyrics - having little to no experience with Japanese short of counting to three, I can't fairly comment on this. I'm sure some otaku somewhere will tell me what it's all about. I'm guessing it's not about kittens and rainbows, given the distinct lack of fun-type music and "meow"s, among other things.

In any case, Sean's managed to pique my interest somewhat. Poorly-executed, and the singer isn't that great, but they've managed to make eight minutes feel like five, despite the first ten seconds sounding like tuning-up. Without the vocals it belongs in a chillout collection. With the vocals it probably still does, but slightly less so. I like the false ending at ~6'06" and the accompanying synthesised sound (I've only heard that sound, or something similar, once before) to piece together the song and its ending. Which, by the way, is distinctly evolved from the base song. Points for that.

I don't love it. I don't hate it. But I do like it. Now I'm going to watch a video about kittens and rainbows. Meow.

Friday, September 2, 2011

#15: Amanæmonesia - Chairlift

This song is dangerous.
It's dangerous because it's only been in my playlist for a week and I've played it like 20 times. It's a song I can't even begin to classify except as "addictive" - it's synth, but not synthpop; it's catchy, but it's not offbeat-alternative; some of its lyrics are indecipherable, but it's not by The Presets; it's fun and boppy, therefore it's not Justin Bieber. (Yeah, that's right! I've moved from David Guetta to "teen" "pop" "idols" now! BRING IT ON!) Oh, and one of the lyrics I can decipher earns a Gem Line award: "mistaken for magic". Occasionally I can use that one line to describe myself, but that's another story. This is another Zan Rowe-alarm-half asleep find (I've had about half a dozen in the last few months alone - that might be a topic for another day). The thing that anchors the song for me is the key it's in just after the backing vocalist says "chasing the rabbit". (On a related note, remind me to share some Melbourne songs and some "utopia" songs next post. Maybe also my Back To Mine playlist.) That said, the song as a whole is amazing and distorts my sense of time (on another related note, I'm going to share Catcall with you one day) by making five minutes seem like three and a half. And yes, the song EVOLVES! Check it out at ~3'10", it turns into something somewhat somehow strange but seriously awesome. Keychange, synth change, and that haunting chorus of voices or synthesised voices or whatever and that deep-voiced bridge and WOW. Now this, my friends, is orange juice served freshly squeezed and chilled on a Hawaii beach. Liquid music. Deeeeeeeelicious. Got any more of those oranges?

Oh, and if you're masochistic enough to read this, here's a challenge. Feed me the name (and YouTube or SoundCloud link, too, if you please) of a song via comment, Facebook, email, whatever. I will accept the challenge and review it. I'll either rip it to shreds or love it to bits; either way, it's going to end up as tiny little pieces after I've picked it apart. But hey, don't let that bother you. I'm fair and reasonable. Go on. Try me.