December 05, 2010

2010 Records

The Year 2010 came in the ears of the public, & so new sounds were heard. Here's a look at the best recordings from the year, worthy of earholes all around.



















































(left-right)
1. DEFTONES
Diamond Eyes
2. KANYE WEST My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 3. JAHCOOZI Barefoot Wanderer 4. GRINDERMAN Grinderman 2 5. BRIAN ENO Small Craft on a Milk Sea 6. RONNIE WOOD I Feel Like Playing 7. ERYKAH BADU New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ank) 8. FOUR TET There is Love In You

November 30, 2010

DRONE CONTROL

A CEMENT WORM ON A CONCRETE HOOK

Just before receiving a Bachelor’s degree in journalism I went to my career advisor to ask for some advice on the game of job hunting. “You should try Journalismjobs.com,” she said after her smile leaked down past her chin.
     In the silence that ensued following her response I thought of buildings falling down. I thought of dark city streets littered with glowing pairs of paranoid eyes and the future proclamation of an Internet hoax that said Americans would spend fifteen years fending for themselves in a chaotic and broken down environment. I thought of clutching a loaf of bread, crawling on hands and knees past groups of rioters as they threw bricks through front window shop displays. Then I thought how all the destruction of the coming years will need one thing and one thing only to rebuild: Cement.
     Not journalism, not creative writing, philosophy, music theory or history, but Cement and its final counterpart, concrete. My future proclamation to make on the Internet right now is that Cement is and will be everything in the decades smoldering before us. So much so that it must be capitalized from here on out.
      Soon children will come from the womb with a nostril structure that easily deals with floating dust particles of unmixed Cement. They will learn in school, not the difference between ‘there,’ ‘their,’ and ‘they’re,’ but the difference between gypsum, slag and fire. They won’t spend time molding oblong hunks of clay into crappy pottery, but will learn to lay and cut perfect gravestones. We’ll need a lot of those in the future. When an ancient disease swindles its way back into the Third World, we’ll need Cement to cover the casualties. When a natural disaster guts a whole city, we’ll need Cement, piles and piles of it, to drop right on top like whooped cream on a sundae. And if that’s a little insensitive to you then, guess what, you need some Cement poured over your emotions because we definitely don’t need those in the future.
     Our world is about to crumble (is crumbling!) like that Mississippi River Bridge and only those with the proper knowhow will have a stake in its reconstruction. Throw out your diplomas, GEDs, Associate's and Bachelor’s degrees and if you’re thinking of graduate school, you better prepare your concrete-and-brimstone thesis fast because Cement waits for no one.

November 18, 2010

Kanye West gets greasy with 'Dark Fantasy'

Rapper dissects fame, gangbangs, & himself with pure open honesty
    Fame can be an interesting characteristic to watch someone progress through. Some people, like, say George Clooney can handle it well, while others like, hm, Amy Winehouse, can’t so much. Some just turn weird with it and Kanye West has certainly walked that route a few times.
    His hiatus in Japan after that dumb MTV award thing is over and he’s returned from Hawaii where his new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was recorded. He’s been hyping it up releasing music weekly through his GOOD Music series online, type-jousting with “The Today Show” and, for some reason, apologizing to former President George W. Bush for that dumb Katrina thing.

    It’s all a perfect lead-in for Fantasy, officially available November 22 on Roc-A-Fella Records. The album is carefully structured to propel you, by spaceship, through the rapper’s psyche as he deals with fame, his unraveling relationship and strong penchant for drugs. He unlatches the door to his mind and spills all this perverted, wasted brain matter everywhere.

    When the beat for “Dark Fantasy” drops, a dark magenta sunset appears behind your eyelids and you’re off. It’s classic Kanye: bouncy, orchestral, spiritual, asking, “Can we get much higher?” And you do. Once song one drowns out, song two, “Gorgeous,” bursts right in with bruising purple guitar and, god it feels so good.

    He has added another dimension to his musical palette and brought along a gang of friends to help celebrate. RZA, Pete Rock, Madlib, Q-Tip and Swizz Beats all show up on production, while Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Chris Rock, Elton John and Drake are just a few who make cameos.

    “Monster” and “So Appalled,” both previously released, take the listener down a dark corroding midnight alleyway. The focus is all on the raps and Jay-Z masters on both songs. He drips like the goop from a cave on “Monster,” right before Nicki Minaj takes off squawking about bank-robbing, so sweetly haunting. Pure doom arrives with the chamber-echoed goblin synths of “So Appalled.” When West mentions the “most fly Prada,” he sounds sick of the tag and the world around him, while Jay-Z shivers with a “Dark Knight feeling.”

    West has honed his lyrical skill. No longer are his self-lacerations clunky with name-dropping all the crap he buys – though, that’s still there – but, he’s telling a very personal tale about the messy aftermath of lovers separating. “Devil in a New Dress” softens the mood with a smooch from Smoky Robinson. It’s this album’s “Flashing Lights,” the bittersweet breakdown of a relationship playing itself out. It evolves into a beautiful guitar jam and ends with a diced Rick Ross rap. The fuzzy farting bass of “Hell of a Life” keeps the album from rattling off and drifting. It’s a damn ride through West’s manic mind reduced to a crisp as he propositions, and then marries a porn star in the bathroom.

    As exciting as the record is it does come with its faults. Some songs drift on too long with unnecessary outros. The final three minutes of “Runaway” sound like West licking his AutoTuner all over as he copes with loneliness. “All of the Lights” is jam-crammed with guests and West sounds like Li’l Wayne. Not a bad thing, but the chorus explodes with bongos, horns and Rihanna, who you can almost feel. It’s a little overcrowded in the headphones.

    Fantasy, however, is one more notch in West’s fascinating journey through music. He continues to take chances like nobody else in pop music today, and that’s bound to cause a few missteps here and there, but one can’t deny the stranglehold he has on his career. Whatever he comes up with is always sure to be worth a listen and a couple head-bobs.

Best Tracks: “Gorgeous,” “Hell of a Life,” “Devil in a New Dress”

November 16, 2010

DRONE CONTROL


NASH IT OUT

    I was just in NYC (to eat my first McRib sandwich in years) and Amar’e Stoudemire clobbered the walls of Madison Square Garden (where they served the McRibs) and I’ve got to say, he looked a little sad. It’s not his fault. Phoenix Suns owner Robert “Lowball” Sarver offered him a raw deal (with unguaranteed years and less cash) to stay in the valley of the sun (and meth-labs). Stoudemire took the comfy offer from the New York Knicks wanting to be holy team captain (only he ended up a co-captain with troll Raymond Felton).
    So now the Knicks have Phoenix’s old coach, Mike D’antoni AND Phoenix’s old forward, and, oh yeah, now the old Nash-to-NY trade rumors have been jostled again and there’s talks of sending HIM to the Knicks if Phoenix can’t prove their playoff worth early. And well, now I’m wondering if Al-Qaeda might be Phoenix Suns supporters. How insulting to have three of the most powerful minds, responsible for taking Phoenix so far in the playoffs only a few scant seasons ago, all working on another team in the East! What the fuck is that!?
    But these are just rumors, made up by greedy mischievous sports journalists and I should just ignore them and swallow the puke in my throat. Aaaaaah. And anyway the Suns have looked great so far this infant season, though caveman Robin Lopez is now injured. Regardless of Wednesday night’s loss to the Miami Heat, the Suns just ran through two top Western teams – the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers – in back-to-back games no less! It’s been a marvelous week for the team. Jason Richardson, literally on flames, helped achieve a team record of 22 three-pointers! Against LA! And Steve Nash got divorced this week! And had his third child on Friday! For lunch! Things are OK in Phoenix! Just please retire a Sun Steve, I don’t want to have to make homemade bombs and blow up Madison Square Garden and US Airway Center because if I can’t have you, no one will.

September 28, 2010

Deftones' Road Revival

Nothing Else, but to Throw Your Body at the Cement

I. September 21, 2010 – Northern Lights – Clifton Park, New York

______Never did I think I’d get a chance to see Deftones in a tiny bar, between a church and a Dollar General, in a blown out strip mall twenty minutes north of Albany, New York. The band, from Sacramento, California have made a valiant return to music after a devestating car crash has kept bassist Chi Cheng immovable in a coma. They regrouped with friend Serge Vega filling in for Cheng and recorded their sixth album, Diamond Eyes. After selling more copies than expected (62,000+) and hitting number 6 on the Billboard 200, according to Wikipedia, the album looks to restore the success of their ten-year-old classic, White Pony.
______The band successfully survived the late 90s “nu-metal” blizzard more gracefully than any other act from the era. Limp Bizkit returned, unable to fill seats; System of a Down went on a hiatus to fulfill crummy side projects; Korn just garbles out another record whenever someone leaves the band, and Orgy? Static-X? Godsmack? Deftones have moved beyond all that noise to establish themselves as a long standing rock band, unafraid to break the unforgiving boundaries set in metal music. They’ve thrown melody, synthesizer and drum machines into their own mix of thrashing punk and chunky guitar drone in ways other bands would fail miserably at. They do not give up and their fan base forever loves them for it. Since the release of Diamond Eyes last May, the Deftones, as they’re known to do, have been touring incessantly.
______The show, in the town of Clifton Park, was a one-off from their current national tour with Alice in Chains and Mastodon. I was shocked to pull up to, what looked like, an abandoned shopping center. Nothing else was around except a place called Hair Zen and a Stewart’s convenience store, where I slammed a Red Bull and watched evil black airplanes make their descend.
______Behind the bushes of a Kingercare I smoked a joint that burned straight down the middle, brushed the dust off my pants and got in line. An anxious fan behind me said to his girlfriend, “I want to get so close; so close I can feel it in my heart.” When I turned around a big grin was forming on his face and my mouth formed the same.
______Northern Lights has two bars. One giant square bar in the middle was a barrier for out-of-control mosh-pits. Another, to the side, catered to a set of tables underneath a giant screen flashing the night’s performance. I moved in through the smoke to the front, two people back from the railing. The excitement seeped while the minutes passed.
______The opener was New York’s own Selfish Needy Creatures. The whole time they played I only tried to get a glimpse of what appeared to be a tattoo of the World Trade Towers on the singer’s left shoulder. After a near twenty-five minute set they walked off to mild applause. A flash of stringman Stephen Carpenter, moving from truck to truck, through glass doors, pounded me with anxiety. Someone came from the back placing the microphone on a neatly-folded white towel. After some Snoop Dogg song ended, the lights dropped and cheers rose from the billowing crowd. Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham and DJ Frank Delgado filled up the dark background and Vega, with Chino Moreno, calmly filled up the foreground. Their silhouettes were fragmented by purple lights shooting out. The time had finally arrived. The energy was ready to glide.
______Skipping introductions, they launched into “Headup.” Naturally everyone surged forward like a pack of hungry tigers after a bloody red steak. I was only a few feet from Moreno shooting my arms up and out. The second song, “Engine No. 9,” fed right into the quick bass-snare pop of, “My Own Summer (Shove It).” The blistering trio of staple songs made it feel like they’d been at it for an hour.
______After the quick lift-off Moreno needed a breath. His long-sleeved plaid shirt was drenched. He claimed someone put cocaine on his microphone, sniffing and brushing his nose off, between huffs and puffs. The rest of the band just smiled. Of course we all wanted some and just laughed at the joke as they conveniently shot into “Nosebleed.”
______Moreno fastened his feet to the railing for one of the cooler things I’ve witnessed in live music. Lifted up by arms, he hung right above the crowd looking out with a boyish gleam of total destruction. A slight smile in the silence before the spastic thrash of “Elite.” Clutching the microphone tightly, he curled in, jack-knifing head first into the mob at the first scream, “When you’re ripe!” Heads blasting together. “You’ll bleed outta control!”
He was in full form, hanging from the monitors and throwing himself into the music. The band was dead on with every note and successfully revived their energy after what has been a tumultuous couple of years. Something from every album was played, including the often forgotten “Hole in the Earth,” from Saturday Night Wrist. Surprisingly, they didn't touch the new songs until the last third of the set.
______Their first stab at the new record was the mellow drop-off of “Sextape.” The hushed song gave the band and the crowd some breathing room, but not much because it came sandwiched between two burning cuts off Adrenaline, “Birthmark” and “Root.” Then four new songs, “Royal,” “You’ve Seen the Butcher,” “Prince,” and the hammering, “Diamond Eyes,” rumbled through. When they left the stage all you could hear was the panting crowd. If you keep listening you can hear it for miles.
______The encore was a nice taste, a quick retrospective of Deftones’ catalogue thus far. “Rocket Skates” bleated up against the walls and transitioned beautifully into “Around the Fur.” They finished with their biggest single, “Change (In the House of Flies).” As Cunningham rolled and splashed through the ending, Delgado slammed his laptop shut and turned into the dark.
______They left quickly returning for one last gunshot to the face with classic closer, “7 Words.” By the end my white button-down shirt was transparent with sweat as I plunged through the meat-grinder home.

II. September 22, 2010 -- Agganis Arena -- Boston, Massachusetts

______The following night the band crossed state lines to join Alice in Chains and Mastodon for the Black Diamond Skye tour stop at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The morning before the band canceled an in-store signing at the city’s Newbury Comics “due to sickness.” Whatever that sickness was, it was not noticeable come nightfall.
______They startled the audience settling in with six dollar beers erupting into the punishing “Diamond Eyes.” Moreno reached toward the sky with each bomb dropped by Carpenter. The set relied heavily on new material and old classics. Their electric blue and fiery orange light polished the audience. A disco ball dropped for “Sextape,” shooting beams of purple light to the top seats. Moreno bounced all over the place, knees up, running in circles like a demon child. Deftones enjoyed their time on the stage.
______The only difference from the show at Northern Lights was the new song, “Risk,” which Moreno dedicated to Cheng. The song held onto a new gloomy meaning with Moreno promising, “I will save your life. I will find away,” from the monitors. Unfortunately, a giant moat of security personnel between him and the audience, sopped up any possible interaction. It was satisfying to see them on the big stage, but I yearned to be up front, close and personal.
It’s difficult to get into any performance, much less a metal performance, while sitting in cushioned seats. This, however, is the beauty of Deftones. No matter where you’re at; whether it’s drowning in the mosh pit; smoking joints in the lawn, or holed up on the balcony; the music still pumps into your blood. The energy is always there. You can still feel it in your heart.

September 23, 2010

0:38

video
BERKSHIRE EAGLE: Gabriel Garcia Marquez set in motion
BERKSHIRE EAGLE: Harvest Fest will teach craft & skills

DEATH EYES STAB THE FEAR

Far too many
dead animals
have come across
my path this
summer.
Every step is
taken with caution
eyes scanning,
rocks blurring
squirrel pigeon
fox soufflé.
Charred ends
of logs look
like burnt
possum heads &
flattened
fisher cats
look like
burlap sacks.
While tip-
toeing over
bridge what
looked like
skeletal remains
of ancient
flying turkey
bent over in
distress, was
only birch bark
bent and braying.

September 02, 2010

CAT IN BIRTH BLINDS

High
to forget
you said
goodbye.
Like
you're still
in the room
next over, or
in driver's
seat always
coming or
going.
Brown
cat stripes
on curving
ground.
Cat, always
a cat when
it feels you
may never
come back.