Monthly Archives: November 2010

Album Review: Sunglasses – “Bad Happy”

This is a reprint from Latest Disgrace, thanks Moe!

Released in August of 2009, Bad Happy was the Sunglasses’ official coming out party—a dirty, abrasive, 11-song trudge through muddy, grunge-y sludge and caterwauling noise rock. It’s a relentlessly aggressive, oftentimes brutal mess, the sort of pummeling, discordant dude-rock.

This is music tailor-made for sweaty, beer-soaked basement shows, especially when its hardwired to the sort of indomitable hardcore punk spirit exhibited on tracks like “Boosh” and “100 Names.” There’s nothing particularly innovative or new here—unfortunately, channeling the Jesus Lizard and the dissonant, atonal AmpRep aesthetic does tend to date your music at least a decade—but the Sunglasses play with such abandon and “fuck all” attitude that it hardly matters. And now, thanks to the fine folks at Trans Ruin and DarkWolf Records, you can score yourself a copy of Bad Happy on vinyl, which is exactly where this type of snarling, go-for-the-throat rock belongs.

Latest Disgrace rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Shot From Guns rating: B+

Bad Happy Track List:
01. Boosh
02. Michael Asshole
03. 100 Names
04. Chut Brittny
05. Here Comes Yer Mom
06. I Can Only Eat Pudding
07. Best Friend
08. Smoke It
09. Yearbook
10. Fires
11. Steven and the Waves



Featured Show of the Week

3 Things the Music Industry Can Learn From Gaming

This is a reprint from Hypebot.

The video game industry is excellent example of an evolving sector with a successful history of quickly adapting to new consumer trends and behaviours in order to constantly realise new revenue opportunities. Similarly, the music industry has been greatly impacted by evolving consumer habits, and as we move away from the historic business model of selling a physical format, we can leverage several valuable lessons offered by the video game industry example.

Lesson 1: Consumers like to be social while they are entertained
The video game industry went from selling consoles with multiple controllers to networked games to purely multiplayer universe games to games that integrate into social networks (you go social first, then plan the game). The music industry also needs to make this transition.

While concerts, clubs, mixtapes and other social outlets have historically been a part of a music fans life, the current environment necessitates ingraining social aspects into the actual music itself. Consumers want to share, discover and connect as, or even before, they listen to music. Today’s “albums” in the form of music apps need to allow consumers to connect with the artist as well as with other fans and give them the ability to instantly, easily share the music they love. We are making strides in this direction, but the more aggressive we can be in not just socialising music, but monetising the social features, the more successful we’ll be as an industry.

Lesson 2: Consumers like to personalise their entertainment.
First, video games sold add-ons. Then they let consumers build their own add-ons. Now, they allow you to design your own character, make in-game purchases and drive story lines for a truly personalised gaming experience. Music has sometimes allowed some remixing or karaoke and a few bands allow taping of concerts, but that is as far as personalisation has gone…until now.

Artists and labels are just now starting to let consumers personalise tracks through mixing or create new tracks through sampling. This fits into the natural desires of consumers – to personalise what they love and to help contribute directly to the artist (yes, including providing the artist with samples). Moving in this direction can not only create more opportunities to sell music, it can create new opportunities to sell the same music multiple times in the form of different personalisation apps.

Lesson 3: Consumers want to gain status through competition.
Michel Reilhac, Head of Arte France Cinema, makes the point that the gamification of life is all about status.  If you can gamify an activity, you can feed both the social and competitive nature of people by giving them a new social status.  There’s no reason we can’t do that for music on an every day basic.  Instead of simply telling friends about this great new song one heard, a person can tell them how your remix of that song was highlighted by the artist…thus elevating ones status.

How to leverage these lessons?
Today’s fan wants more than just a track. They want a participative, personalised experience in a social environment.  This is something they had in the analogue world as they listened to LPs with friends…and now they are seeking it in the digital world. But, as an industry, we can take it farther and create more opportunities as fans that are socialising around music in networked environments can also conduct transactions in these environments.

Success isn’t just a matter of respecting what your customer wants, but also anticipating what they’ll want in the near future. How long would the video game industry have succeeded if innovation stopped with Pong?

Indie Rock is Dead

In October 2009, Sasha Frere Jones, a music critic for the New Yorker, wrote a notorious article about how “hip hop is dead.” He chose the wrong target, he should have written about indie rock. Why? Because indie rock is dead.

I think Pete Wylie had it right when he coined the phrase “rockism.” Rockism is an ideology of popular music critics and it essentially treats rock music as the normative standard across the board. It’s not rockist to only enjoy rock music, rockists may listen to other genres such as soul, r&b, pop. However, it’s the tendency to always frame conversations about these genres in a rock context. I can’t tell you how many countless debates I’ve had about music and what’s truly groundbreaking and it all boils down to some indie rock act.

My question is, who cares? There’s not much interesting happening in the world of indie rock right now.  I would bargain that there’s not much of a difference between indie rock and “mainstream” rock, the lines have become completely blurred. So why are we so fascinated with what indie rock has to offer?

Indie rock has become splintered into so many different genres and sects of music; however, the bands that critics always applaud fit the same stereotypes. I almost wonder if these music critics keep a secret checklist of band stereotypes to allude to when writing for such occasions. The bands that receive the most attention from music critics have simply recycled the same washed up material over and over- it’s like watching tie dye shirts get made.

Let me describe your typical indie rock “band of the moment.” This band is called the Blokes and they sound like a dry mix of the Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes (even though the music they play really takes all its cues from late 70’s, early 80s post punk). The lead singer of the band worked at a coffee shop and discovered music while singing crappy obscure songs in his bum college town. He’s white; he wears Chuck Taylors, tight jeans and horn-rimmed glasses. The guitarist worked at a small mom and pop record store where he learned about “superior” indie bands such as Pavement and Q and Not U. He is also white, plays a Fender Jazzmaster and wears Chuck Taylors. He used to idolize the Mars Volta, but Pitchfork Media bashed them so he doesn’t care for the band anymore. Nobody cares about the bassist and drummer, unless it’s chicks.

As we slowly come around full circle, I really want to know, why are we still talking about this so called phenomenon called indie rock through such rockist lenses? I can understand how artists like Flying Lotus or Animal Collective receive praise due to their contributions within the electronic realm. Progressive metal bands like Mastodon and Boris are fascinating and continue to intrigue audiences worldwide. I remember when Battles released their album Mirrored in 2007; I was blown away by how unique it sounded. Even an old indie dinosaur like Beck is an exceptional artist. He continues to break new ground and bend genre after genre on each new album, but nobody writes about him as if he’s the next David Bowie.

Indie music fans and critics have a tendency to worship these old rock legends; we sneer at the pop stars and canonize the underground band of the moment. We applaud bands that utilize the same rehashed riffs, but display scorn at mainstream figures that attempt to blend into a similar mold. Stop acting as if indie rock will last forever, anything can be blown away with the winds of change. The lifespan of the average bubblegum pop album is about the same as the lifespan of the next big indie hype. Indie rock is dead, pay your respects and move on.

{Photos} Sean Fahie Art Show 11.13.10

More info:

Sean Fahie




Featured Show of the Week

Album Review: Maserati – “Pyramid of the Sun”

This is a reprint from Latest Disgrace, thanks Moe!

It seems impossible to talk about Pyramid of the Sun (at least with any real depth or meaning) without also talking about Jerry Fuchs. The band’s supremely talented and tirelessly inventive drummer passed away in a tragic accident one year ago last Monday, leaving a gaping chasm in the Athens music scene that will likely never be completely filled. Fuchs was as prolific as he was gifted, manning the skins for acts as varied as LCD Soundsystem, !!!, MSTRKRFT, the Juan MacLean, and, of course, Maserati.

And if you’ve followed Maserati since those early Kindercore days, you’ll remember how spacious and huge those records sounded. They were dynamic, moody, atmospheric. But there was always something missing: some spark, a jolt of combustive energy. When Fuchs finally joined the ranks on 2007’s Inventions For the New Season, he humanized the band’s sound, countering all those stratospheric guitars and wrestling them back to Earth. The songs were more explosive, louder and more muscular. The music was still gorgeous and well-textured, but, now, much like the band’s namesake, it had speed, thrust and power.

Pyramid of the Sun marks Maserati’s final recordings with Fuchs, and you can’t help but notice how the band had in many ways become his vehicle, and just how confidently he steered it, shifting gears effortlessly between the clockwork precision of krautrock-inflected jams such as “Who Can Find the Best?” and “Oaxaca” to the more uninhibited forward lurches and grand crescendos of “Ruins” and the title track, “Pyramids of the Sun.” This isn’t to imply that the rest of the group are a bunch of slouches. On the contrary, everything else you’ve come to love and expect from the band—the skillfully intertwined, delay-heavy guitars; the propulsive bass lines; the crucial interjection of buzzing synths and electronics—ripple brilliantly along the surface while Fuchs pounds away underneath.

Just listen to the clever interplay of guitarists Coley Dennis and Matthew Cherry on “We Got the System to Fight the System,” and you’ll marvel at how they can take a simple pattern of repeating notes and patiently construct them into a pulsing, propulsive jet stream of elegantly-sculpted sound. But while Dennis and Cherry provide Maserati with its sleek, aerodynamic exterior, Fuchs is undoubtedly the band’s engine, propelling these dynamic open road jams forward.

Clocking in at a mere 40 minutes, Pyramid of the Sun flies by quickly, at least by Maserati standards. Without sacrificing complexity or ingenuity, these songs are leaner and more exhilarating than anything the band has ever done. Should we really be surprised? Fuchs’ playing was always definitively groove-focused, and never showy or superfluous. It only seems natural that over time he would be able to instill in the band a similar sense of discipline and efficiency.

Tragically, for someone who spent his adult life measuring and keeping time, dividing it into so many segments, Fuchs had so much of his taken away from him. But he made the most of what he had, as people like to say. I’ve always believed that it’s better to celebrate rather than mourn those we’ve lost. So I find it fitting that the record’s final track—and, by turn, Fuchs’ swansong—the wildly thrilling and aptly-titled “Bye M’Friend, Goodbye,” strikes such an emphatically joyous tone. It’s a stirring climax to a fantastic album, a sublime epitaph befitting a truly prodigious talent.

Latest Disgrace rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shot From Guns rating: B-

Pyramid of the Sun Track List:
01. Who Can Find the Beast?
02. Pyramid of the Sun
03. We Got the System to Fight the System
04. They’ll No More Suffer From Thirst
05. Ruins
06. They’ll No More Suffer From Hunger
07. Oaxaca
08. Bye M’Friend, Goodbye

More Info:

Maserati will be performing at the Earl with Royal Thunder and Brainworlds on Friday, Nov. 19.