Saturday, December 18, 2010
In Which I Proceed To Make A Parody Of Something That Perhaps Should Not Be Parodied, Or, Look How Awesome I Am!, Or, Lists
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Instead of repetitively listing off my favorite albums of the year, which happen to be many of the same albums that my friends have chosen, I'll just dedicate this blog post to my favorite album of 2010: MGMT's Congratulations. Two days after the album's April 13th release I wrote an article covering my impression of it, which was to be submitted to Sacred Heart-Griffin's Campus Crier (proofread by Classic Brian's very own Robert Langellier), but that never worked out. Funnily enough, what I wrote eight months ago is pretty much exactly how I feel today about Congratulations. I'll give you a look at how this brief article appeared when I wrote it- no changes made. I admit, there are a couple corny lines, but I think I get my point across anyway:
"Dear Mssrs. VanWynGarden and Goldwasser (MGMT),
If your plan was to bemuse fans and leave critics scratching their heads, It’s Working. Everyone thought your sophomore LP Congratulations would follow the same heavily-synthesized formula as your debut, Oracular Spectacular, but in a matter of two years, you’ve gone from creating insanely catchy, neo-psychedelic pop pieces like the widely appreciated single, “Kids”, to composing esoteric, lyrical homages to musically experimental English veterans, as found in your Song For Dan Treacy.
A lot of critics think Someone’s Missing, that some experienced hands are required to aid you guys in meeting up to everyone’s demands for more satirical, danceable tunes about spending money and doing drugs with attractive women, similar to the ones found on your debut. But I disagree; I have mad respect for you for refusing to fold under the music world’s expectations. I like that Congratulations is distinctly different from Oracular Spectacular in that it delves further into the macabre, trippy sounds of the oft-overlooked tracks of the former, yet still leaves the listener’s mind reeling with bursts of Flash Delirium. I like how the album resonates even when I’m not listening to it- for instance, the other day, I Found A Whistle and recalled the emotional rawness in your echoing vocals on the album’s slower tracks. Like that whistle, several of the more memorable leit-motifs of the album’s first half still pierce my humdrum day, causing me to unconsciously begin humming the catchy tunes.
But what is especially impressive is Congratulations’ twelve-minute opus halfway through the album. The song’s subtle transitions between alternating fast and slow ditties effectively replicate the swelling and subsiding of the Siberian Breaks which match the track’s title. The song’s wonderful imitation of a frigid ocean’s surf and tide, as well as the album’s ridiculously oblique cover art, triggers something deep inside of me that makes me want to hang ten with some friends on the melodic waves of the so-called “Pop Surf Opera.”
As a whole, the LP’s overall smooth flow, complete with solid synths, sincere vocals and deliciously other-worldly sounds would bring a tear to even the father of ambient music, English musician Brian Eno. Referenced in the album’s punkiest song, Eno would at the very least be moved to smile at the track’s rousing call-and-response verses, the likes of which are found elsewhere on Congratulations. Now, the album also throws some curveballs in the mix. For example, there are assuredly a number of Lady Gaga haters that were innately drawn to the second-to-the-last track, hoping for some devilishly biting lyrics towards Gaga. They instead discovered the instrumental psychosis of Lady Dada’s Nightmare, described simply by English musician- and Congratulations’ producer- Sonic Boom as “More DaDa than Gaga.” Sorry, but if people haven’t learned by now that MGMT frequently does the opposite of what is expected of them- exemplifying the near-anarchist principles of the Dada art movement- then they probably should not be listening to the group at all.
But perhaps this was MGMT’s goal- to cast off the parasitic and unappreciative hipsters and scene kids from their fan base, yet retaining the faithful few who actually appreciate what they aim to accomplish through their music. So Congratulations, MGMT, on your success in refusing to conform to the ill-founded expectations of many and instead demonstrating your versatility, while still adhering to your principles by creating a truly memorable psych-pop album that will play in my car’s CD player for quite a while.
Your devoted listener,
. . .
I like that MGMT decided not to release any singles prior to Congratulations' release because, as co-front man Ben Goldwasser claimed, ""We'd rather people hear the whole album as an album and see what tracks jump out rather than the ones that get played on the radio – if anything gets played on the radio! There definitely isn't a 'Time to Pretend' or a 'Kids' on the album. We've been talking about ways to make sure people hear the album as an album in order and not just figure out what are the best three tracks, download those and not listen to the rest of it." Releasing Congratulations without promoting any singles beforehand sends a strong message that I think a lot of people fail to comprehend these days. In a time of file sharing and iTunes downloads, it would be awesome if people would appreciate musicians for what they try to convey to the masses through their music, instead of using them for the few tracks that will earn them the most friends at a dance party or at school or some kind of social gathering.
I don't know what attracted me to Congratulations so strongly. I listened to this album at least twice a day every day for about six months straight, and I still listen to it several times a week today. I guess for once lyrics aren't really a primary concern of mine, though that's not to put down the lyrics on Congratulations, which are solid. This album just has a wonderful and inimitable sound that is almost palpable in a way. When I listen to it rise and swell I can feel my emotions following suit, as Congratulations, I've noticed, is intertwined with so many diverse experiences of mine from 2010.
Feel free to submit your candidate for Best Album of 2010 in the comments section below or on my Facebook link.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
At the beginning of the year I played this game where I would try to pick the person in the class I would date if I was forced to find a boyfriend out of that particular group. I would look for the person (preferably male) who seemed like he had the most tolerable personality and a style that suggested that out lifestyles would mesh. (scarves indicated that they probably weren't into me...) Some of my class boyfriends were better than others, but they all had a special place in my heart.
Every time I went to a class where I had a picked a boyfriend I would try to sit within two or three desk of them (never next to them), and if we were asked to pick partners I would do my best to snag him. I would also assume that that person was constantly looking at the back of my head and thinking about me. In a way this made going to my classes a lot more fun. It gave me a goal, a reason to shower, a reason to not say stupid chit to the teacher, something to distract me when the lecture was hella boring. These are all very beneficial to my life.
Side note: Once I sat directly next to one of my class boyfriend for a test. We were working on those desks in lecture halls that have a flip up writing surface. Anyway, when I finished my test (before him because I'm great), I flipped down my desk and smashed it into his knee really really hard. This is why you never sit right next to your class boyfriend. That was a rough patch in our relationship.
Anyway. These class boyfriends became very close to my heart. I'm not sure I could tell you all of their names but I'm sure I could totes point them out to you if you were ever on the Illini campus. Last Wednesday was out last day of classes and as I was leaving my linguistics lecture for the last time I realized I would never see shaggy-hair-with-blue-shoes-kid again. This was the end of our road. I almost thought of saying something to him and then I remembered the desk-to-knee incident and silently left. A sad day. A day I'll probably remember for a couple weeks.
But, alas, life goes on and this will continue to happen for the next eight semester. I'll have to learn to cope. In the meantime, I'm going to mourn this loss with a little more calculus studying.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Even though the bad thing that happened here was the oil spill, really a million littler bad things happen. The oil was spilled because the ship was using unsafe practices. The ship was taking unsafe practices because their bosses were putting profits above safety. They were allowed to do that because regulation on the oil industry is extremely lax. Regulation is so lax because politicians get paid by the oil industry to keep them that way.
See what I've done here? Whether we go backwards or forwards in time, the worst is never over because it's a chain of events.
And even though I'm get into the politics of the event a little bit, this shouldn't be controversial at all; nobody wants the oil industry to control our politicians. Not liberals, conservatives, independents, libertarians, anarchists, you name it. Anybody could tell you what a bad idea it is. So why does it keep happening?
If you've been keeping an eye on the news at all, you've probably seen that there's a big fight about tax cuts. Republicans want to keep the tax cuts where they are, and Democrats do too; except for the the richest 2% of Americans.
Here's the interesting part of that debate: while politicians are split on the issue, most people aren't. Over 70% of the country agrees that taxes for the super rich shouldn't be lowered anymore. Warren Buffet (Third wealthiest person in the world) has famously pointed out that he pays a far smaller percentage in taxes than his secretary.
Everybody's entitled to their opinion, but when 70% of people can say that this is obviously a bad idea, it seems like that side should prevail, right? So why is it looking like the Republican politicians are winning this fight? Even a good deal of their own supporters are against it. Anybody could tell you what a bad idea it is, so why does it keep happening?
I could give you a hundred political answers as to why it keeps happening. I could talk about Obama's leadership, I could talk about the interests of the politicians themselves, I could talk about how the lobbying system is set up, and all of those would be correct answers. But the real problem is so much deeper.
If the majority of the people are on the side of the argument that ends up losing, something is probably wrong. So how does the majority lose?
And the answer is that the majority doesn't know. They know, when given a concrete issue, what side they are on. But then there's all these partisan politics. Accusations are thrown around. Other issues are brought in. And, worst of all, the people that report the news stop doing their jobs.
Whenever I watch television politics news, it's so bogged down that I can't really tell what's going on. And I do know this stuff. So for someone who isn't so dedicated to politics, it can be confusing.
And at the root of all this, we find a twofold problem: News organizations aren't giving clear, unbiased news; everything has to be shown as a Republican or Democratic issue instead of examining the policy on its own.
And the second part of the problem is that people who aren't getting the straight story from the news don't have the knowledge or the concern to look it up themselves. People just don't care that much. They get angry for a second, but they don't get really angry.
And when the people let the politicians and the media get away with this stuff, it just happens again and again. It's a cyclical problem, and the cycle isn't going to be broken for a long time, because right now we don't have any politicians trying to get the people involved.
But take a moment to think about a world where everybody pays close attention to all of the policies being considered. Where everybody tries really hard to understand what's going on and to take a firm stance. The world could be so much better if there were more people fighting for these kinds of things.
So I guess my point is, pay attention. Pay attention to this stuff, because it's important. And it can be frustrating to watch bad things happen, but it's better to be angry than to be ignorant.