Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ariel Pink and Stevie Wonder

I fail to understand how not one review I read last year of Ariel Pink's album mentioned how "Round and Round" (Pitchfork's #1 song of 2010 no less) borrowed its opening vocal melody from Stevie Wonder's classic "My Cherie Amour." I make no bones about how much I loved Before Today or that I think "Round and Round" stands on its own as a phenomenal pop song. It just strikes me as a bit odd since Wonder's song is fairly ubiquitous within the lexicon of great pop songs. Would it have been so hard to frame a discussion of the song's greatness in easing through the door on a melody that almost anyone would recognize? Do modern critics think that Pink's audience is so young that they won't know Stevie's song and therefore discussion of it in this context is irrelevant? Or are music critics willfully ignorant to the point because they don't want to admit that a song they fell for so hardcore couldn't be entirely original?

Compare and contrast:
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Round and Round"

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Round & Round from Delo Creative on Vimeo.

Stevie Wonder - "My Cherie Amour"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Contender For Worst Album Cover of the Year #1

Well, I don't think I can go on another moment in life without pausing to laugh at this. Contender for worst album cover of the year? Definitely. And if the previous three Trail of Dead albums have set a precedent it's that no one should care about this band anymore beyond Source Tags & Codes.

Cut Copy Paste Men at Work

Like a whole lot of other people, I really enjoyed Cut Copy's last album, 2008's In Ghost Colours. Depeche Mode and New Order were pretty obvious touchstones for that album so I was really surprised by one of the first singles from the band's latest album, Zonoscope, because the obvious touchstone is Men at Work (who coincidentally also hail from Australia like Cut Copy). After doing a little Google searching, it turns out that I am not the only one who thinks that "Take Me Over" borrows a little too heavily from Men At Work's "Down Under." Just check the comments section of that link. The first time I played it in the car for my wife she asked me if it was a cover before the vocals kicked in. While Zonoscope album opener "Need You Now" gave me hope that Cut Copy had made a solid follow up to In Ghost Colours, I was pretty nonplussed by Pitchfork's Joe Colly's assertion that the song prepares you for whatever comes next on the album. Maybe he hasn't heard Zonoscope yet, but I have and it is pretty underwhelming. If "Pharoahs & Pyramids" and "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" didn't hint at how bad this record is just in its choice of track titles alone then wait until you actually hear them. "Pharoahs" in particular sounds like the kind of generic song a band would record for the soundtrack to Bill & Ted's Excellent adventure if they were going to visit Tutenkamen.

Deerhoof Vs. Evil Vs. Pitchfork

I find it funny how Deerhoof used to be one of those bands that could do no wrong in the eyes of Pitchfork, especially in light of the sliding scores of reviews of the both this album and its predecessor - Offend Maggie. Honestly, Deerhoof isn't doing anything all that different on Vs. Evil to what they did on Reveille or Apple 'O. There's still plenty of off kilter prog pop and Satomi's semi-twee vocal delivery. There's certainly not enough difference to explain away an 8.9 for Friend Opportunity as opposed to the 6.7 awarded to this release. It's even harder for me to stomach knowing that Douglas Wolk didn't even mention "Super Duper Rescue Heads" in his review. That might be the album's best song. The band even made a video for it that was hosted on Pitchfork's site not that long before the release of this album. Part of me wants to chalk it up to what could be called the "Polyvinyl curse," Deerhoof having jumped ship from Kill Rock Stars to Polyvinyl and this being the band's first release on the label. Polyvinyl at one time was heavily associated with what used to predominantly be a vein of indie rock that time has not been too kind to - emo. In this case it wasn't just emo but the label's onetime flagship act is what could be interpreted as emo's least successful and yet most pretentious band - Joan of Arc. I don't recall a single even remotely positive leaning review for that band on Pitchfork and in fact seem to remember reading an interview with Tim Kinsella of that band in Skyscraper magazine about how he had met Pitchfork founder Ryan Schrieber at a bar in Chicago and attempted to start a fight with him over how the site had ruined his band's career. Let's forget for a second that Joan of Arc's main claim to semi-recognition is the fact that they shared members with Cap n' Jazz and not that they ever made a note of music worth a damn. It only takes a simple search using Pitchfork's own advanced search capabilities to peruse the Polyvinyl reviews on the site and see that most releases on the label scored well below average with a few notable exceptions (Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna comes to mind). It could also be chalked up to younger reviewers/changing of the guard at the site too. I mean Deerhoof aren't exactly in line with the current nostalgia wave of hazy sounding groups since they mostly get by on muscular guitar/bass/drums concoctions that are fairly mathy. It would be easier to let this bumble around in my brain if I knew that this opinion came from the sole mind of Mr. Wolk, but as Ryan Schrieber told The New York Times recently, Pitchfork operates on a hive mind mentality and as such they would have had to get several writers to agree on this score.

While I personally can't say that I think Vs. Evil is Deerhoof's best album, it's far from their worst - which is what is implied by the significantly lower score as compared to these:
Reveille - 8.5
Apple 'O - 8.3
Milk Man - 7.6
Runners Four - 9.0
Friend Opportunity - 8.9
Offend Maggie - 7.6

See Douglas Wolk's review here.

Return and Mission Statement

Originally I used this blog to post snarky comments on all things music related. At one time I had a rant on here dissecting the "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" by Weezer to provide proof of Rivers Cuomo's slow and painful slide into irrelevance from his pinnacle as one of the great pop song writers of the '90s. There was another railing against Girl Talk's Greg Gillis and his "KFC failure pile in a sadness bowl" music to borrow a quote from Patton Oswalt. It turns out I have more free time to do these things now so I will continue. Expect nothing but endless backhanded slaps against the face and occasional accolades. I am not without a sense of humor so feel free to send hatemail to the now deleted email account that I am unable to substitute a working one for or unattach from this blog (thanks for that Blogger).