Our incredibly intuitive resident futurist muses on whats crackin in pop culture. Becks Girl video In the second video for Becks listless new album, Guero, directors Motion Theory borrow inspiration from Mad magazine illustrator Al Jaffes fold-in back covers: An automobile, a homeless mans sandwich board and entire city blocks in East L.A. collapse upon themselves. Like every ingredient in Becks latest, the singer shows top-notch curatorial taste his record cover featured Marcel Dzama drawings; a remix EP tapped electronic luminaries such as Dizzee Rascal and Boards of Canada. At the eye of the storm, however, Beck seems like hes sleepwalking not the right vibe for the end of the world. Video: http://www.motiontheory.com/work/beck_girl Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (self-titled, self-released ) After a 9.0 rating and copious coverage in Pitchfork, this Brooklyn/Philadelphia quintet is indie rocks Next Big Thing all sans record deal. They deserve it. Alec Ounsworths voice is in the same register as Gordon Ganos, David Byrnes and Tom Verlaines, but CYHSY are more than plagiarists. Synth lines go dreaming, guitars jingle-jangle until morning, and layered voices mass and dissociate like a holy youth chorus. After the Arcade Fire and Interpol, I worry about how this group extends the trend of indie superstars fetishizing youthful disillusionment: They are going into bars/and they are getting into cars, Ounsworth waxes wistfully, I have seen them with my own eyes/AMERICA PLEASE HELP THEM. But then he sings, They are child stars, and Im all, like, Yup, these guys deserve to be. Offical website: http://www.clapyourhandssayyeah.com Kanye West, Diamonds (from Sierra Leone) (Roc-A-Fella) Kanye is one indecisive motherfucker. Is he a bling-bound superstar or a socially conscious underground rapper? A sweetheart or an egomaniac? Hell, hes even turned his new single into a double. When the first incarnation of this track was released in May, it was a celebration of the Roc-A-Fella labels logo and the jewelry West can now afford. Since then its morphed into a protest anthem against blood diamonds. (Definition: gems mined in battle zones and sold, clandestinely, to finance warfare and terrorism.) A tight remix released in mid-July features mentor Jay-Z, and a new set of lyrics: I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless/until I seen a picture of a shorty armless. Both are fueled by a sample from the theme to James Bonds Diamonds Are Forever the rest is temporary. West performs at the free NFL Opening Kickoff September 8 outside the L.A. Coliseum. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. (Requires iTunes) Original song: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/ viewAlbum?selectedItemId=65429872&playListId=6542 9870&originStoreFront=143441 Remix: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/ viewAlbum?selectedItemId=75054772&playListId=75054770 Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako(Nonesuch) A blind husband/wife duo from Mali, Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia have made the world music record of the year, thanks in part to production assist by Manu Chao, the most charismatic politico-pothead since Bob Marley. Per usual, Chao throttles genres combining complex Latin and North African rhythms, reggaes repetitive lilt, watery guitars, the crack-pipe sensuality of American R&B and liberal dips into his proprietary sample bank of chattering crowds, police sirens, etc. Youve heard a lot of this already if youve heard Chaos records, but I enjoyed this duos less drug-addled, African twist. Amadou & Mariam play the Knitting Factory Monday, September 12. Amadou & Mariam Offical website: http://www.amadou-mariam.com/
Black Mountain, Black Mountain (Jagjaguwar) Every few years Canada produces another collective: It was Montreals Godspeed You Black Emperor in 1998 and Broken Social Scene in 2002; now this Vancouver group has won the indie-rock lotto, parlaying a well-received debut into an 18-date swing with Coldplay. Sure, theyll play to half-empty arenas, but hand it to Chris Martin and company for challenging their fan base. Black Mountain plays chooglin rock, mood enhanced by peeling guitars, drum-circle percussion, druggy male/female duets and a languid vibe that turns hours into days. Charitable listeners compare them to Black Sabbath with a college education; detractors say they sound like Foghat on Quaaludes (See: Druganaut). I think their tightly structured jams sound like a krautrock take on American stoner metal. Well, maybe stoner is the wrong word: Four of the five members are employed as social workers. Official Black Mountain Army website: http://www.blackmountainarmy.com
New York Rock: A Critical History This self-published rant originated on a blog called A Good Life Spoiled (http://theduffer.blogspot.com) and takes a page from the Jim Morrison and R. Meltzer school of rock-as-philosophy. The author claims modern frontpeople (Karen O is mentioned prominently) act as shaman. He then proceeds to share profound thoughts about the most obscure corners of the underground rock scene (i.e. Orthrelm, Excepter). Sarcasm from one end to the other? asks one commenter, or the best piece of writing ever in which Ive disagreed with every word? Im not sure, but its interesting.
Richard Swift The Collected Works of Richard Swift, Vol. 1 (Secretly Canadian) Los Angeles Richard Swift may come into his own with this September release. Disc one, The Novelist, is reminiscent of producer Jon Brions imaginary Tin Pan Alley orch-pop; Walking Without Effort is a throwback to the aerodynamic 70s rock of George Harrison. As with many pop formalists, the music engages your intellect before your emotions, but its intriguing to hear a songwriter emerging from anonymity so fully formed. Swift Official Website: http://www.richardswift.us Rhianna: Would you stay if she promised you heaven? Rihanna, Pon de Replay (Island Def Jam) Barbados-born Rihanna is a cipher, as light-weight divas are supposed to be, but listen closely to her backing tracks and youll realize theres something interesting going on. No, shes not the first artist to join urban American bounce with the Caribbeans stuttering, sunkissed dub see M.I.A., Shaggy, Sean Paul, Gwen Stefani, even 50 Cent but she may be the first entrant whose main alliances are uncertain. Is this pop-dancehall, or dancehall-pop, or none of the above? Rihanna performs at the free NFL Opening Kickoff (see Kanye West blurb for details). Record Label Website: http://www6.defjam.com/site/artist.php?artist_id=586 Podcasting: iTunes vs. KCRW Look, dude, podcasting aint the revolution, its a radio show delivered as a very long MP3. Sadly, the vast majority have done without music because of litigation fears. Instead, most feature random peoples spoken-word rambles. So, while its cool that Apple has integrated podcasting into iTunes, whats cooler is that KCRW has started releasing Morning Becomes Eclectic sessions in this format. Lets hope this represents a great leap forward for the medium, the first step in making music-by-podcast legit. And lets hope the revolution does not belong entirely to Nic Harcourts indie-yuppie amalgam. How to Podcast: http://podcast411.com/ Willie Nelson revival! The Dukes of Hazzard has put the spotlight on Jessica Simpsons stark, dance-pop cover of Nancy Sinatras These Boots Were Made for Walking, and her star turn as Daisy Duke put the spotlight on the ass those boots were meant to move. But its also brought us Nelsons redneck comedy as Uncle Jesse. (What do you get when you cross a donkey with an onion? A piece of ass thatll bring a tear to your eye.) Its incorrect to say his career is resurgent, but his continued efforts to twist his image should serve as inspiration for all musicians enslaved by the past. Last year Nelson teamed with Toby Keith on the cheesy mainstream hit Beer for My Horses; his latest, Countryman (Lost Highway), is a Don Wasproduced reggae (!?!) album. Tracked in the mid-90s and completed last year, it sounds as confident and strange as Bob Dylans early 80s Christian albums or Willies 2001 childrens album The Rainbow Connection. Unfortunately, its as likely to be ignored. Official website: http://www.willienelson.com/