January 18, 2015 | 12:48 | Written by: snake911
With 2014 now behind us and waving its goodbye reflected from the rearview mirror, I figured it’s now safe to list all the songs that caught my attention from last year. The list is a little short compared to previous years because I wasn’t paying attention to new music until around the time fall season started. So I guess this is my “songs of the last quarter of 2014.” Some artists are new to me while some are familiar from last year’s playlist. In all, it was a good year in music (at least from the time I was listening). Looking forward to what 2015 will have in store for us.
Tom Vek - Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)
Kimbra - 90s Music
Tom Vek - Let’s Pray
Amp Live - 100,000 Watts
TOKiMONSTA - Drive
Atmosphere - Southsiders
Bonobo - Pelican
December 10, 2014 | 17:49 | Written by: snake911
Following the wildly successful album Smash, The Offspring’s fourth album Ixnay on the Hombre had a tall order to fill. Radio stations filled the airwaves with hits such as "Come Out and Play" and "Self Esteem." Two years after Smash is when we would find out what they were up to. What they felt was a good successor to, at the time, their best-selling record.
Released in February 1997, Ixnay on the Hombre debuted in that post-grunge era, which was a brief point in time during the mid-late ‘90s where alternative rock stations looking for new music had no sub-genre to focus on. Grunge, while still having huge playtime, was a fading star. With Nirvana’s tragic ending and Soundgarden looking like it was on the brink of a breakup, the grunge movement was winding down. Nu metal, which ruled from around late 1998 – 2003, was still a while away from entering the scene and making everyone crazy-angry. If anything, this was prime time for The Offspring to release a new album.
It is interesting to note that Ixnay was the only album to have a title that was more than one word. Before it there was The Offspring (I know, that’s two words, but you know what I mean), Ignition, and Smash. In hindsight you can see it as a flag of sort that marks the end of the punk sound the band was known for to the more pop-punk sound that the band created during the records following it.
While the band members where the same since the first album, the record company was different. Since the late ‘80s they were with Epitaph, a record label founded by Brett Gurewitz from Bad Religion. Due to disagreements between the label and the band, they parted ways and signed with Columbia Records to begin a fresh start with them.
2. "The Meaning of Life"
4. "Me & My Old Lady"
5. "Cool to Hate"
6. "Leave It Behind"
7. "Gone Away"
8. "I Choose"
10. "All I Want"
11. "Way Down the Line"
12. "Don't Pick It Up"
14. "Change the World"
After opening with a snarky disclaimer chuckling at the Parental Advisory stickers placed on records labeled with explicit content --which Inxay came with --, and how it humorously tries to shield youngsters from lyrics that may depict the harsh realities of life and how they may promote thought provoking questions, the album’s first two songs "The Meaning of Life" and "Mota" immediately bring those realities front and center as if to compliment the disclaimer and show their case for why the Parental Advisory sticker is silly.
With these two songs, you’re greeted with fast music and quick lyrics. The guitar is the instrument that sticks out the most with these two tracks and really sets the correct mood you need to be in when listening to this album. Kind of like how the first few songs of a concert would normally do.
However, when it comes to true speed, the track "All I Want" is the one to look for. It’s short, loud, and incredibly fast. With lyrics encouraging the quiet ones that are bottling up their anger and opinions, it symbolizes the violent actions of a cork bursting from a bottle and having all that pressure alleviate all in one short moment. "All I Want" is also the debut single released for the album, which got a lot of airplay in late ‘96/early ’97.
To contrast "All I Want," "Gone Away" slows things down a bit. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, and actually, I really like this song. Sure, it does differ from what The Offspring is best known for, but this is an excellent example of switching things up but also keeping the familiar sounds which are associated with the group. It’s has some gravity to it and tells the emotions of someone who just lost an important person in their life. Love the intro to this where it’s just the drums followed by the slower paced guitar chords.
Accompanying this song is a music video that really sets the visual tone for the track. For starters, instead of everyone wearing t-shirts that this Southern California band is known for, they instead are all wearing collared shirts (with the exception of Ron the drummer who’s shirtless), a simplified way of showing the more seriousness of the video. It’s also interesting to see how all the members are separated from each other, which I guess represents the loneliness one feels when in this situation. Finally there is the brightly glowing light bulb that Dexter sings to. It’s the only source of light in the dimly lit slaughter house and acts as an emblem for the person that was lost.
Tracks 5 and 6, "Cool to Hate" and "Leave It Behind," have a lot of angry emotions behind them. I guess you can expect that with a song titled with the word "hate" in it; however, that would be true if you take the song at face value. I buy the opinion that “Cool to Hate” is a sarcastic/satirical take on the trend of people hating everything. This is pointed out in the line, “I'm only happy when I'm in my misery.” The actual angry song is "Leave It Behind" where there seems to be friction between two friends. Well, former friends, I guess. I get a sense there is a heavy amount of emotion in this song and the lyrics are the cause for it to radiate with white hot heat whenever I listen to it.
"Me & My Old Lady"…oh my! Lots of sexy talk in there, but the relationship between the two seems to be not based on love but pleasuring each other’s desires. Also, the guitar parts of this song are really reminiscent of "Come Out and Play."
Of the more upbeat sounding songs on Ixnay is “I Choose.” With it, you get a catchy tune that includes hand clapping for rhythm with a cool guitar solo near the middle where Dexter goes all rock star on us. I get the theme for the song revolves around life and how you live it, but I’m unclear whether it’s discussing someone’s suicide or living life to its fullest. If I had to pick, I would select the latter because of this line towards the end, “And I'll never know when I hit the ground.” This implies that since, with suicide, you know when your life will end while this indicates it will be an encounter that he’ll never see coming because he’s too busy partying life to its fullest. Points go to Dexter for including a reference to "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."
The music video for “I Choose” is the first and only video directed by Dexter himself. It takes place at an airport where we see a young man walking through it to get to a plane. While walking, he sees a lot of interesting characters hanging around the terminal. The band is also seen walking through it and gets on the same plane as the young man does. It’s a fun video to watch, to say the least.
An intermission follows “I Choose,” and the second half of the album really accelerates due to a number of short songs; one of which is “All I want.” "Don't Pick It Up" is another fun track (instrumental wise) where we hear of few stories about what not to do. They include things like picking up dog poop, catching a disease, and dealing with a transvestite. Obviously all great life tips to keep in mind.
The broken home theme I hear in most Offspring albums is heard here with "Way Down the Line." Basically an explanation how humans turn into what their parents are, but focused on the negative sides such as kids who get beat will beat their kid, and kids that were abandoned by their father will get with someone that will leave and abandon their own kids.
Probably the most beautiful song from Ixnay is "Amazed." Dexter’s singing really shines here and the harmony in the chorus gives the song an extra punch. Some say it’s regarding suicide, but I think it’s more about someone hating the world because everyone is fitting the trends and doesn’t care about anyone but themselves. But I have no solid clue as to what the phrase “shiny face” means, so I can’t make a solid case on this. The last track "Change the World" seems to follow the political meaning of the album’s title where Dexter says it means “’fuck authority’ or ‘fuck the man.’” Looking back at when the album was recorded in 1996, this was a general election year so many were on the campaign trail touting how they were going to change the world. I can imagine a punk band like The Offspring probably didn’t see Washington and local governments with a positive outlook, so this song was dedicated to all the fat cats they were disgusted with seeing on the TV all that year.
"Oh yeah, Oh yeah
Open wide and they'll shove in
Their meaning of life
Oh yeah, Oh yeah
But not for me I'll do it on my own
Oh yeah, Oh yeah
Open wide and swallow their meaning of life
I can't make it work your way
Thanks but no thanks"
Tracks from Ixnay had a lot of time on the radio but would be eclipsed a year later in 1998 when the juggernaut Americana dropped with the hit single "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)." After that, Ixnay became this void that was between the pop songs that began with Americana and the grouping of albums from their earlier days that got them successful.
The album did not go ignored as a few songs from it were used in Sega’s arcade game Crazy Taxi. Anyone who’s played this game would often make a reference to the song that begins with the lyrics “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” which is “All I want.” In addition, “Way Down The Line” and “Change The World” were used for the soundtrack, too. Interesting to note that Bad Religion was also picked for the OST, which seems odd considering how there was some heat between The Offspring and Brett concerning the band’s label contract. In any case, it was a great game with a great soundtrack and Sega somehow made it all work well together.
Ixnay on the Hombre may not be the bands most popular album, but it’s the one I enjoy listening to the most. I normally would select a few songs from a record as my favorites, but this is the rare occasion where I can’t because the whole album is freak’n amazing. If you have never listened to Ixnay and you’re a fan of punk music, you need to do yourself a favor and check this one out. You can thank me later.
September 30, 2014 | 17:58 | Written by: snake911
Back in 2005 when the PSP was debuting, there was a lot of potential for the device in terms of content that Sony was demonstrating. One example was the idea of having supplemented or alternative materials for a music album. So when a band or music artist were to release their latest album, not only would you be able to buy a copy of the CD or download a copy of it, but there would also be a UMD that included not only all of the tracks of the album, but also bonus tracks and remixes, music videos, and behind the scenes content. Think of it like an enhanced CD on steroids.
This was something I was actually excited for because not only would I obsess over the latest album from a group I liked, but I would also scan the internet and music video channels for everything related to it. So having something like this released on the same date as the album for a portable device that played high quality audio and videos (for 2005), this was a no brainer: I would have to buy these dumb little UMD supplements. But alas, this idea never really took off as they advertised, but there were a few that did come out. Heck, I didn’t even know it actually existed as a product that was placed on store shelves until a few weeks ago when I was looking at the Wikipedia page that lists all of movies released for the UMD format.
Some were close to that vision of an all-in-one media extravaganza that supplements an album, but only one that I saw actually did it: the UMD for Guero.
That’s right. Beck’s 2005 studio album Guero not only got a CD release, but also a UMD and DVD drop, too. Different from movies on the UMD format, the spine of the UMD labels Guero as “UMD Music Video” instead of “UMD Movie.” I guess it’s to note that it’s more of a music album (or more related to the music industry) and less of a video (in regards to a theatrical film). As subtle as that is, I kind of like the UMD labeling. It lets you know there’s more to this UMD than just a 90 minute video. The musical note on the UMD case probably also notes the difference as well when compared to a movie UMD that includes an icon of a strip of film.
The Guero UMD is jammed packed with goodies including not only the original songs from the CD, but also remixes, music videos, and a visual version of the tracks by D-Fuse. Below is the track list with some notes I jotted for each one, including the bonus tracks.
1. "E-Pro" - This is the first track I heard from Guero when it was played on the radio. Cool to find out it sampled "So What'cha Want" from the Beastie Boys. Never knew that, but it's stupidly obvious once you're aware of it.
2. "Qué Onda Guero" – I’m guessing it’s based on Beck’s life growing up in East Los Angeles. Someone perfectly described it as, “It's like an entire Mexican street festival compressed into under 4 minutes.”
3. "Girl" - Another radio hit. Love the guitar in this one.
4. "Missing" - Holy crud is this a good song -- and probably my favorite from the album. Has a lot of strings, making it a very orchestral sounding song. The lyrics are lovely, too.
5. "Black Tambourine" - First time I heard this was from Lumines II. I think it’s found on the game when you play on the hard difficulty level.
6. "Earthquake Weather" - You can definitely hear the Dust Brothers in this one (and that's a good thing). Very reminiscent of Paul's Boutique.
7. "Hell Yes" - Dope track with a nice electronic beat.
8. "Broken Drum" - This is where the album hits a lull for me. I know this song is kind of popular, but it doesn't really click for me. A bit too slow without much punch to it, but RIP to Elliott Smith for whom this song is dedicated to.
9. "Scarecrow" - Nothing to note here.
10. "Go It Alone" - The bass (done by special guest Jack White) and hand claps are a nice touch here.
11. "Farewell Ride" - Really dig this one. Has a real western tune to it with the guitar, harmonica, and a stomp-clap beat.
12. "Rental Car" - Nothing to say but "this is a great song."
13. "Emergency Exit" - Ghostly with a twang (hopefully this makes sense if you listen to it).
As noted earlier, the UMD also comes with extra tracks not found on the CD version of the US album; making the total number of tracks on this UMD to 20! Some of these are bonus tracks for other regions like Japan or were included on the DVD. Of them all, I like "Clap Hands" the most.
14. "Send a Message to Her"
15. "Chain Reaction"
16. "Clap Hands"
17. "Girl" (Octet remix)
18. "Broken Drum" (Boards of Canada remix)
19. "Still Missing" (Röyksopp remix of "Missing")
20. "Fax Machine Anthem" (Dizzee Rascal remix of "Hell Yes")
For the music videos, here’s the list for them, too. The first three are the official music vids, but the last four are based on remixes by DJs 8-Bit and Paza Rahm. The remixes are very chiptuned, which I think was very new in 2005, making people in their late-teens and early-twenties lose their minds. It is a shame though that the official music video for “Hell Yes” was not included. This is a glaring omission in my opinion as that was a pretty rad music video with those little QRIO robots dancing around on stage. But I guess it wasn’t out yet when this UMD was released.
“E-Pro” - official
“Girl” - official
“Black Tambourine” - official
"Ghettochip Malfunction" (8-Bit remix of Hell Yes)
"Gameboy/Homeboy" (8-Bit remix of Qué Onda Guero)
"Bad Cartridge" (Paza Rahm remix of E-Pro)
"Bit Rate Variations in B Flat" (Paza Rahm remix of Girl)
Each of the 13 tracks from the CD release is accompanied by a visualizer. This visualizer, created by D-Fuse, is different for each song so they are all unique. Not much to say here, but they do move to the beat of the music. They include a mix of stuff like abstract images, real photos, and video clips flying all around the screen; either quickly shown in a slideshow format or displayed in some artsy way. My favorite one was for "Farewell Ride." The rest were, I don’t know, well…let’s just say while I appreciated the effort put in for the visualizers, I would have preferred something else like a short video documenting the making of Guero or perhaps songs that were rejected and not included in the album.
UMD stuff aside, Beck’s Guero is a fantastic album and is as good as his 1996 album, Odelay. Its tracks cover a wide range of genres like rock, electronic, hip hop, alternative, country/western, and…Mariachi! It’s incredibly awesome that I have something that’s not only just a music album, but as something that celebrates an album in both an audio and visual form. Kind of like an ultra-deluxe version of an album that would normally be released during its 10th anniversary, but instead getting it on the same date as when the album originally drops. Hopefully there are a few more UMDs like this from other artists that I have still yet to discover, because if so, I’ll be snatching them up, too.
July 16, 2014 | 22:15 | Written by: snake911
Consider me the epitome of endowments today because I am a supporter of public radio. Oh yeah, that’s right, I was so impressed with the way how WQXR got me into appreciating classical music that I decided to support them for the year. In return, I got this incredibly rad tote bag. This will come in handy because for the last few months (or maybe a year) I’ve been toting my home made lunches in plastic super market bags. I think carrying my lunch like that gave me the appearance of looking pauperized. Now I can class things up by placing those bags into the tote bag. Consider this a fancy way of capturing two birds with one stone.
June 18, 2014 | 22:45 | Written by: snake911
I didn’t know this, but during the time when Machina/The Machines of God album was released, The Smashing Pumpkins had an animated series in the works. It was canned and was never released but a production demo for it was leaked out online.
The demo contains three episodes and it deals with, I guess, stuff Billy was frustrated with during the time. You know: record labels, music, THE MAN.
It was kind of interesting. Would have been nice to see it fully fleshed out so I could fully understand what Billy was trying to say with the series, but it wasn’t really my taste of storytelling; especially when it’s coming from SP. I found the videos on YouTube. Just search for “glass and the machines of god.”
June 1, 2014 | 13:35 | Written by: snake911
Ten years ago this month the Beastie Boys released their latest studio album titled To the 5 Boroughs. Fans waited patiently for this release as this one took nearly six years to come out after their previous studio album Hello Nasty. It’s a fantastic album from front to end that is wrapped in a stylistic CD sleeve and has lyrics that some might think would never come from a group known for its childish mischief and nonsense video interviews. I want to celebrate this album on its tenth anniversary by looking back at it and describe what makes it a favorite of mine.
The six years between Hello Nasty (1998) and To the 5 Boroughs (2004) was a long one. Many things happened during that period which would be used as fuel for the team for their lyrics. Lyrics that would be different when even compared to Hello Nasty. But they gave us some good tracks to listen to from Hello Nasty during the wait to keep us occupied. Not only did fans of the group love tracks like “Intergalactic” and “Body Movin'”, but top 40 stations were playing them too. Heck, I heard more radio play of Fatboy Slim’s remix of “Body Movin'” from a local radio station than I did of the original. The music videos were also still top notch for the Beastie Boys by creating comical scenes like a giant robot fighting a monster and a parody of a spy film from 1968 called Danger: Diabolik.
Spring 2004 was when we heard the first single from To the 5 Boroughs. It would be the opening track: "Ch-Check It Out." This was a high energy song both instrumental and lyrical.
"All you Trekkies and TV addicts,
don't mean to dis don't mean to bring static.
All you Klingons in the fuckin' house
grab your backstreet friend and get loud"
Hype for the Beastie Boys was strong at this point. All rock/alternative radio stations in my area had this track on high repeat, and this wasn’t a bad thing because the song was so fantastic as was “Intergalactic” during the lead up to the release of Hello Nasty. If this was a taste of things to come, we were all in for a real treat.
This would be the first album that was produced solely by the Beastie Boys. Mario Caldato, Jr. would not be producing the album, breaking his tradition of producing the group since Paul's Boutique (1989). Returning to this album would be Mix Master Mike. As before, he would be the DJ for the group, improving on what he did during Hello Nasty with his techniques like the tweak scratch.
June 15, 2004 is the day when the album would be released. Everyone was excited to grab a copy of it. When you did, you’d notice a lot of quality went into the package of the album. For the time, CD sleeves were replacing the traditional CD jewel case. This is what they used and they added their own touch to it. When you held onto the sleeve, you didn’t feel the traditional glossy cardboard. Instead, you immediately felt the texture was rough like some leather bound object, giving the album some classy appeal. The album art was also something to marvel at. Artist Matteo Pericoli hand drew the skyline of Manhattan from the perspective of the East River. On the front and back, you can see a continuous drawing of the southern tip of Manhattan. But when you open up the CD sleeve, it unfolds many times over itself to reveal the drawing continues on all the way to Queensboro Bridge! This is basically half of Manhattan Island! The drawing itself is inspired by one of his works called Manhattan Unfurled. If you look close enough, you could see the drawing lines may not be their straightest, but because he included incredible details of what seems like every window on every skyscraper that the straightness of the lines don’t matter. It’s a beautiful drawing to say the least.
There are a total of fifteen songs for the album. This is significantly lower compared to the previous three albums where the number was in the twenties. But with this release, there are no instrumental-only tracks. Lyrics are heard from beginning to end and some messages are new to what the group normally raps about.
1. "Ch-Check It Out"
2. "Right Right Now Now"
3. "3 the Hard Way"
4. "It Takes Time to Build"
5. "Rhyme the Rhyme Well"
6. "Triple Trouble"
7. "Hey Fuck You"
8. "Oh Word?"
9. "That's It That's All"
10. "All Lifestyles"
12. "An Open Letter to NYC"
14. "The Brouhaha"
15. "We Got The"
Of course, this album contains songs where they talk smack and describe how they’re the best out there. You couldn’t have a Beastie Boy’s album that didn’t have them dissing others in the hip-hop scene, right? Some of this can be heard from songs like “3 the Hard Way,” “Rhyme the Rhyme Well,” and “Shazam!” "Ch-Check It Out" starts the album off by telling the listener they’re back and ready to blow the hinges off. If you’re a fan, you’ll love tracks like these.
“Rhyme the Rhyme Well” has that classic passing the mic feel to it where each says their name before they start their own verse of the song. The most positive and uplifting song on the album is probably “All Lifestyles.” It notes how you should just be yourself and have fun. I love, love “Triple Trouble” for both its sound and lyrics. It’s a fun song to listen to and the music video for this is great (more on this later).
Somewhat new to the group for lyrics are opinions regarding politics. Peppered throughout To the 5 Boroughs are songs that are politically engaged. Most of it is regarding the Bush administration and the groups dislike of his option to go to war. The track that shows this the most would be "It Takes Time to Build."
"We've got a president we didn't elect
The Kyoto treaty he decided to neglect"
"Maybe it's time that we impeach Tex
and the military muscle that he wants to flex."
"Right Right Now Now" is one that discusses problems with society such as gun control and racism. This is the second song from the album, but there is another tack that I feel supplements this song well and it’s the last track titled "We Got The." It is basically a message noting we can change the direction from the negative course they felt the country was in at the time -- "Who got the power to make a change? Who got the power to make a difference? We got the, we got the, we got the."
"An Open Letter to NYC" is a heartfelt song for the city where all three members of the group are from. A few references of 9/11 are in this, but the majority of it is a general love letter to NYC. They note a number of things in this song including locations, routes they would travel around in the city, and their past experiences growing up there.
An album isn’t complete without some music videos, and To the 5 Boroughs definitely delivers on them. Like the first single, the video for "Ch-Check It Out" came out before the album was released. With it, you get the groups funny side where they dress up in many silly getups, wear moustaches, and disturb a city block when they’re trying to film their music video; only to get interrupted by old ladies, joggers, and yuppies. Another great video is for “Triple Trouble” where the group is kidnapped by Sasquatch (he is also the reason why they were gone for six years). The whole video is hilarious, especially the dream sequence towards the end.
"An Open Letter to NYC" was also given a music video. I like how they traveled to each of the boroughs and showed the culture of the city. "Right Right Now Now," "Rhyme the Rhyme Well," and "Shazam!" all have music videos, too. All this brings the total count of music videos for To the 5 Boroughs to six! "Right Right Now Now" is visually a neat one to watch because they heavily use the bullet time visual effect in the middle of Time Square. As a side note, all videos were done by my favorite music video director, Nathanial Hörnblowér.
In true Beastie Boys style, sampling is used pretty heavily with this release (but nowhere near the amount of samples from Paul's Boutique where the samples were in the hundreds!). For some notable examples, “3 the Hard Way” has a sample of LL Cool J from "El Shabazz"; "Rhyme the Rhyme Well" includes Chuck D from Public Enemy with the song “Public Enemy No. 1”; and “Shazam!” has Kool & the Gang’s “Open Sesame” (Freeeeeeeeek out with the genie!!!). Samples were taken over a span of many decades, but you can hear a lot of retro samples of ‘70s funk -- which I believe is their favorite decade and genre of choice. Some recent samples are found too like 50 Cent for "An Open Letter to NYC."
Compared to their earlier albums, To the 5 Boroughs didn’t sell as much, but it did hit number 1 on many charts and did get Platinum status from the RIAA, so it’s not like it’s a failure or anything. In addition, it was received well by critics too, but it was noted that some didn’t care for the political stuff on the album. And I understand their criticism, but at the same time, a group of rappers in their 40s still creating lyrics about drinking, vandalism, and frat boy type behaviors would be more off putting. Having said some of that, I love this album a lot and it still gets a constant bit of playtime when I listen to my music collection.