/*Google*/ /*Hosting*/ December 2008 | SFCritic Music Blog



Here at SFCritic, we'd like to wish you a Happy New Years, and thank you for reading!



The Path Walked

"So what are you doing with this blog?" Just over two months ago, this blog was conceived on a trip while riding in a cab. Now writing for two magazines my postings have decreased, but I hope your interest hasn't.

The New Year is near, and I'm thinking resolutions?, life changes?, and should I reflect? So many music websites are stating their favorite bands/albums/songs in the past--thus, I've got to be more creative. When this blog was conceived, I wrote:

I think music defines us. I think music can help one understand people by what they do, don't or claim to listen to. Call it judging. Call it tastes. Call it knowledge. We all assess life based on different mediums, beliefs, systems or structures--why not music?

Some people asked to know the purpose of SFCritic, implying I'd lost my course, or that my new posts seemed like tangents. Consider this posting a reconstruction of what has been stated, and an ushering of what is to come. Oh New Years, let us say there is something NEW this year.

In these posts I've references artists I like, discussed behavioral associations, symbolic references, and intertwined them in discussions of culture, life, and music.

I began this playlist of posts with direct cultural critique. Ne-Yo and the notion of an "independent woman," eliciting social paradigms in music concerning gender and also suggesting a viewpoint for analyzing popular music through a historical lens.

The next track intended to show how music and associations can change one's listening perspective. Whether discussing "fighting music," or "coffee house music," the topics were meant to assert that music is not just something you listen to, but can describe events, activities, or environments through manifested associations.

Finally, in a narcissistic, "this is my playlist" fashion, I added my own flare offering music suggestions. This wasn't merely to add posts when I was consumed with other deadlines, but also to provide an outlet to continue the exchange of music. Hopefully in the new year, this exchange can go both ways, with readers recommendations and discussion of the music proposed.

This blog will continue to highlight artists, critique society's cultural discourse through music, and poke fun at the stupid things we do (Aka "The Macarena").

For those of you reading this blog, thanks. Now, as I try begin a writing career, I can use your help. Sustain freelance writing by clicking on the Ad--it doesn't bite.

Happy New Years All!

David Johnson-Igra

Vampire Weekend and Cold War Kids at Live 105 NSSN

It’s a Wednesday night, but The Mezzanine is sold-out for Live 105’s Pre-Party to Not So Silent Night. The warehouse looking club is decorated in holiday spirit with dim yellow lights illuminating large hanging snowflakes and white flowered poinsettias, creating a mellow and warm atmosphere: a perfect mood for a night of indie rock.

With record sales plummeting, and the illegal sharing of MP3s continuing to rise, the future of albums and compilations are bleak, scaring not only record labels, but artists. Now the pressure for a band’s survival rests on their ability to perform live.

If every show were perfect, the opening band would invigorate the crowd, and be followed by an even more engaging and exciting performance, eventually leading to the headlining band who’d have the crowd hot ‘n sweaty screaming for an encore. Nearing perfection, Wednesday’s performances by Audrye Sessions, Chairlift, Cold War Kids and Vampire Weekend, played like a crescendo ending in a large dance party.

San Francisco’s Audrye Sessions who began the nights’ festivities, played with a gentle sound that eased the crowd into the night. Following Sessions was Chairlift, a three piece band, lead by singer Caroline Polachek. Still relatively unknown to the crowd, Chairlift received cheers of excitement and applause as they played, “Bruises,” the group’s first hit, and featured on Itune’s 4th generation Nano ad campaign. During “Bruises,” drummer Patrick Wimberly put down his sticks and picked up the bass guitar, helping generate the most energy during the band’s set. My friend accompanying me, a casual bass player, suggested that the band lacked freedom in their music because they didn’t have a bass player to accompany the drums—a point I thought worthy to highlight.

There is a certain breath and confidence that distinguishes good bands, from great, something that was evident once Cold War Kids took the stage. The four piece band sounds more complete and dynamic than the preceding bands, as they raised the level of performance just a notch higher. Lead singer Nathan Willet’s voice is strong, and piercing with high pitch notes on tracks like “Something is Not Right With Me,” “Mexican Dogs,” and “Hang Me Up To Dry.” The band has stage presence, which was highlighted when Willet on the guitar and Matt Maus on bass faced each other, each strumming away, bending their knees with each new chord. Their performance was a show, entertaining, as well as invigorating, not just a listening session.

Vampire Weekend’s first album, released early in 2008, has created quite the stir, being labeled by Spin as “The Year’s Best New Band,” and their song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” ranked 67th on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best songs of the year.

I had high expectations for Vampire Weekend, a new and growing success story, immersed in a growing fan buzz. Dressed casually, the band played stiffly, hardly moving, impressing upon me that the band seems caught up in more success than they know what to do with. Even so, their performance was sharp, with vocalist Ezra Koenig hitting every note, and the backing maintaining the levity and grace that makes listening to their entire album through and through so easy. Playing all their notable tracks, from “A-Punk,” to “Oxford Comma,” the band had the crowd jumping, twisting, head bobbing in a way the previous bands were unable to achieve. Towards the end of their set, Ezra acknowledged the dance party by stating “This is the hottest it’s been, thanks for generating the body heat,” a nerdy comment reaffirming the group’s humility and Columbia background. By the end of the show, I was left wanting more, but too much of good thing is never good—yet with several tour dates sold-out (like this show), I’m clearly not the only one.


A Message from Jay Z

This article is a reprinting of a feature of Jay Z as one of the top artists of the last ten years, originally posted on betterpropaganda.com. SFCritic liked the style, and thought I'd highlight/share it with you. Enjoy:

Nobody knows Jay Z better than Jay Z. So why should I try explaining his legacy, skills, impact, and story—when he can? This piece is a montage of Jay Z’s lyrics throughout all his albums. With a little narration, I’ll let him explain why we should consider him one of top 100 artists of the last 10 years.

Jay Z, you’ve sold millions of hip hop records. From hustlin’ streets to MTV Unplugged, how would you describe your impact in hip hop?

(Jay Z)
I'm, young H.O., rap's Grateful Dead
I keep it realer than most, I know you’re feelin it
I can't see 'em comin down my eyes
So I gotta make the song cry

(D) Your music is pretty well known—no?

(J) Then run and tell them ducks you heard Hovi new shit
He and the boy Phar-real make beautiful music
He is to the East coast what Snoop is
To the West, what 'Face is to Houston

(D) What about your lyrical content? Every rapper raps about the hood. Every rapper seems to talk about sex, drugs and booty, what makes you a top artist?

(J) Radio's gotta play me though I cuss too much
Magazine said I'm shallow, I never learned to swim
Just read a magazine that fucked up my day
How you rate music that thugs with nothin relate to it?
I help them see they way through it - not you
Can't step in my pants, can't walk in my shoes
Bet everything you worth; you lose your tie and your shirt
Can't deny me, why would you want to
You need me, why don't you try me

(D) So I can’t critique you because I haven’t walked a day in your shoes. So if you’re content is not much different than other, what can critics point to say, “this is one of the greatest hip hop artists?”

(J) I stretched the game out, X'ed your name out
I’m a business man, not a business man
Demandin y'all respect, hand over a check
And while y'all at it, hand over the jet
We the reason they ain't hand over Def Jam so quick
They knew every year I was droppin new product
I was raisin the stock up, while buildin the Roc up
I'm a hustler homey, you a customer crony

(D) So where does that leave you Jay? In the greats of hip hop, where do you stand with your comeback?

(J) Can't call this a comeback, I run rap, the fuck is y'all sayin?
Five million I done that, and I come back, to do it again (uh-huh)
Ex-sinner, Grammy award winner
I came, I saw and I conquered, from record sales to sold out concerts
Maybe you'll love me when I fade to black
If you can't respect that, your whole perspective is whack

(D) You heard the man, if you can't respect that, your whole perspective is whack!

Do you like this? Then check out:

Dilla One Of The Best

Bitch Pop: The Story of Pubescent Teens And Bitching


MMM...Smells Like Meat

I couldn't resist: This is a direct cut and past of an article published at BBC. Look out women, the SFCritic is scented with a new form of seduction: grilled meat.

American fast food chain Burger King is marketing a men's fragrance with the scent of meat.

Called Flame, the company says the spray is "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat".

The scent is on sale in New York for $3.99 (£2.65) and through a website that features a variety of romantic images - but no actual burgers.

Its character the Burger King is also seen reclining almost naked in front of a log fire with whipped cream.


London Times

This blog is overwhelmed with soul, hip hop and funk--don't you think? As SFCritic, I wanted to diversify, so lets taste some pop punk.

While Jamie T cannot be considered wholly punk, in these times, no artist is truly character of one style. His voice has a thick London twang (no he's not from Liver-POOL)that stumbles drunkenly over tracks with beats and rhythms that can range from fast punk, to alternative indie. Take a listen to this track, as he's my recommendation of the week:

Also, see: "Sheila," and "So Lonely Was the Ballad"

Jamie T, "Salvador"


Ideas in Practice

The SFCritic is here today with a class assignment. Just follow the instructions, don't jump to conclusions--you're older now and should be more patient ("should" being key). Yes, you're schedule is busy, but give at least a minute to both clips. Enjoy.

1. Play this track at this website, and then close your eyes and let your imagination wonder with the music

2. So now you've disobeyed step two by reading this--so go to step three.

3. Either write down, or try and remember what the music brought out in you.

At this moment you're supposedly drawing. Are you drawing? Are you?

4. Below is a link to the same song, entitled: Talkdemonics, "Duality of Deathening."

5. Compare your original image to that of the music video, not the same is it?

6. Class dismissed.

In truth, this isn't any big "WOW," because of course placing an image to something will change your original interpretation. This is a very clear example: hearing a song without an image, and hearing the same song with an image. In everyday life, the examples and distinctions aren't as clear. In regards to the previous post, when listening to the song "So Nice," by Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66, I had a new "
"understanding" or interpretation of the song in the context of the coffee shop. In this case I'm comparing the song without an image, with the song in a different environmental surroundings.

So what if you heard 50 Cent's "In da Club," at a wake--would you still jam to it in the same way? This is simply a discussion of the notions of conditioning, but most importantly they should make you more conscious of the factors which condition your tastes and conceptions.


You Remind Me of a Song I Once Knew

We've all heard terms such as, coffee house music, garage rock, chill house, smooth jazz. With these terms we've created our own associations, whether with ideas, places, feelings, or people. In past articles I've written--particularly, "Music and the Moment" (Oct 23rd, 08) and in "It began" (Oct 19th), I've extrapolated to some extent how music can describe an individual and can reflect feelings in a moment. In further exploration, this article is meant to question the labeling of music and how we then perceive it.

Once upon a time, I listened to smooth jazz. Yes--I admit I listened, though unaware, to Kenny G. The music is described as "easy listening," which if you've ever listened to a station which might play Kenny G, you probably forgot because you weren't actually paying attention to the music. What does "easy listening" mean: not intended to be analyzed, played at clubs or even relished, unless you're painting your house or washing the dishes. It's not substantial or anything difficult/special.

The thing is, when I first heard smooth jazz, with a name like that, I felt sophisticated. I thought, this is enjoyable and not challenging to the ear. Later, when I divulged my secret favoritism, someone asked me bluntly, "Are you a carpenter, why would you listen to that?"

When and where did this association with easy listening and housework manifest?

Today, I was in a coffee shop, with the plan to write my concert review of the night before, and to enjoy a cup of coffee. I put my headphones over my ears, put the Ipod on shuffle, turned on the computer, and began. Then I heard it: Brazil 66 and Sergio Mendez's "So Nice." This song might be described as as Bossa Nova or Brazil's smooth jazz, except, a lot cooler.

Listen Here to: Brazil 66 and Sergio Mendez's "So Nice."

As I listened to this song, sitting in a small coffee shop, facing the sunny street, I smiled because in that moment, the song fit. By fit, it made sense to me. Here in this moment, my mind had created a new association of how to hear this song: coffee shop music. It's subtle, not overwhelming my task at hand, but it's gentle rhythm encouraged me to continue writing like a cat's monotonous pur serves as a positive reinforcement. Okay, yes--this description is overdone, but nonetheless, I can assure you that System of a Down would not have aroused the same feelings, or even Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue."

Coffee shop music became a "thing," during the mid 90s with chains like Starbucks selling their mixes. Artists like Sarah MClaughlin and Rufus Wainwright became poster boys/girls of this phase. Then airplanes started to do the same thing. It became a phenomenon--or at least, a worthy rant on my blog.

It might be argued that these associations with "coffeehouse music," were superimposed. As I wrote in "The Music and The Moment," the associations of fighting/anger might be a result of connecting images with music in the form of movies. Past conditioning, what movies one has seen, encourages future deductions of time and place.

The question I ask: why does something just "fit?" Why does that "one jam" just make you want to boogy? How does that one song remind you of something else? Can the SFCritic be taken serious after admitting to listening to Kenny G?


Never Saw it Coming

The Macarena is back. Yes--you heard me correctly: The Macarena is back. The lovable and hated song by Los Del Rios, which many of us as kids practiced dance routines to, has returned. This time adding a new dance flare, with a soca/reggaton rhythm, who knows what peaks it may reach to or lows it might dive to. Vamped with more sex, the song still is reminds me of that summer day at camp where myself along with fifty other campers danced in rows to the infamous routine which we all know. Take a look for yourself. The SFCritics applaud those that admit to dancing to Macarena.


Vampire Weekend Has Taken Over

Vampire Weekend is one of the best groups of 2008. With their mixture of indie rock with African rhythms, the band explores a sound yet to be discovered. The group formed during their days at Columbia University. With witty lyrics, and catchy riffs, the album can be played through, and through and one still will want more. Check out this video

Vampire Weekend's, "A-Punk"

Blog Widget by LinkWithin