Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Kiss My Grits, Katrita
Sorry about the erratic blog updates, but I came across this photograph, and I'm just going to let it stand for itself. Alright, I think it's brilliant.

Reprinted here with(out) permission from The Washington Times (which I found through a wonderful newpaper front page database at

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Books -- A musical group ahead of its time

My last update was about a mediocre album. This one is about a group that I am fairly nuts about. They're called the Books. This is the cover of their latest studio release, Lost and Safe (2005). Does the cover look like a piece of shit? Yes. All of their album covers have an ironic crappiness to them that is reminiscent of David Shrigley's art.

But the music... is unlike anything you're likely to have heard before. Basically, the songs are built from dozens of snippets of audio from random sources. Taped conversations, old radio broadcasts, samples of various sounds... they are all pieced together and overlaid with some vocals, guitars, and other instruments. All in all, you could call it "collage" music.

And, as you begin to listen, it hardly sounds like music (this is especially true for their older releases, such as Lemon of Pink). It is bewildering, as your ear struggles to make sense of what it is hearing. It takes a while to acclimatize, but eventually you stop searching for the meaning of the songs (how does this all fit together? what does it mean?) and settle into a cozy spot right on the surface - you just soak in the sound and marvel at the super-crisp production.

It's just about the most postmodern listening experience possible. And though I can't pinpoint where any of the source material came from, each sound byte conjures up vague images. It stimulates (maybe I should even say emulates) my stream of consciousness so much that I find it damn hard to focus on anything else while listening to the songs.

Anyway, they're one of my favorite groups currently, and I recommend them for anyone who really wants to stretch his or her musical mind. Check them out online at their thoroughly unnavigable website.

Of course, it's always more of a joy to listen through some high quality stereo speakers (I highly recommend these, and there are online outlets that beat the manufacturer's price by $80+.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Jason Mraz: Mr. A-Z -- 1.5 stars/ 5

To those of you who paid money for this album, my condolences. I grabbed from the ol' BitTorrent, and am in the process of deleting it. Here's why:

1. NO energy. The mood of the entire album is wierdly subdued. Choruses don't have that that rockin' sing-a-long feeling. The single "wordplay" has the big radio sound, but it feels as if it's done that way just for the purpose of getting the song on the radio. No real power behind it. Can't really blame the performers -- there isn't that much emotive weight in a song about how good you are at making puns.

2. I'm tired of wordplay. The mraz formula is gibba-gibba-gibberish-and-really-fa-fa-fast-lyrics that end on a WORD that also makes se-se-se-sense in the next lyrical la-la-line which ends with another WORD that also makes sense in the next la-la-la-RALF **

Someone should tell Mraz that sometimes less is more. I read all of his lyrics, and most of it is the most prosaic, un-poetic stuff I've seen in a while. I just don't buy his lyrics, as hard as Mraz tries to legitimize them with his vocal elaborations and scatty melismas.

3. Bad sexual references. For someone who proclaims himself to be so artful with words, I'd expect more graceful, less braggy, lyrics about making love. Here's a Mraz lyric from "forecast": "

Well I can taste, I can taste, I can taste, I can taste you all over my face"

The album is littered with this stuff, as if he needs to announce to the world, "Yeah, that's right, I'm getting ass now cuz I'm famous."

Then, there's this one from "Clockwatching", in which Mraz sings about finishing early:

Who knew I'd come/cum so fast.
Well so what if a two pump chump can't last.
I finally made it to three, and I foreclose a five minute, fantasy.

Chuckle. Sorry Jason, even you can't make premature ejaculation seem cool. Don't try.

4. Ineffective dabblings in other genres. "Geek in the Pink" tries for hip-hop. "Curiousity" throws in an ambient operatic voice track near the end. "Bella Luna" and "O. Lover" both start latin, and then phase it out as the song develops.

Sorry, but his fo-fo-formula-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la for wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wri-ting songs is stale.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's now been a while since I've written. There were moments in these past weeks where I've thought to myself, "I should write about this in my blog." But I never got the chance to really sit down and write something good. And after a few busy days, that thought you once had is no longer so fresh in your mind. And you feel wrong about writing about it, when it's not even a strong impression in your mind anymore.

So now, to talk about the freshest of experiences in one's mind, to talk about the present... I'm a week into school. I'm a music major. Came to Urbana, and realized as soon as I stepped onto this campus that I can't do this philosophy major bullshit anymore. I needed to switch to music. I'm the director of the Xtension Chords, and I'm struggling to pump out music I can be proud of as fast as the group is gobbling it up. In short, I'm taking 12 hours of coursework, which is nothing (especially when music classes hardly even seem like school anyway). But I'm still feeling like I could use a few more hours in the day. Living a life of quality is time consuming, and right now is the first time in a very long time that I feel myself really trying to live a life of quality. I'm trying to create quality work! Kinda sadly, for me it's something I haven't always done.

I went to the bars for the first time last night, and it was just as it was 5 months ago, when I last went. Just plain dumb, drunken funhaving in a sensually irritating setting. I guess it's kinda comforting that some things will always stay the same, just gives that reassuring anchor to my life *sniffle sniffle, then (fondly) : "I love them ol' campus bars!"