Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FRESH FLY CRAAAAAAAAAAZY COLORS


This kid has pretty much every coloring or painting or drawing art implement known to man at this point, for real!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So all of a sudden I am totally obsessed with this song, thanks to last week's Saturday Night Live. BTW, James Franco, you are somehow hilarious without being even remotely funny.
Top Five Unjustified Hypes of the '00s.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Just thinking about this story is giving me the shakes. Do. Not. Read. Before. Bedtime.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'll refer to Crucial Sprawl here from time to time, but this new site will be the main hub for everything having to do with it. So bookmark it, trannies! If you want to.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

END OF YEAR 2009 SONGS 11-28

11. Depeche Mode "Wrong" (Mute/EMI)
12. The Fiery Furnaces "Lost At Sea" (Thrill Jockey)
13. Speak Onion " " (No Label)
14. Mya feat. Nicky Minaj "Ponytail" (Planet 9/Young Empire Music Group/Fontana)
15. Islands "No You Don't" (ANTI-)
16. Adam Lambert "Aftermath" (RCA/19 Productions)
17. The Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow" (Interscope)
18. Anni Rossi "Las Vegas" (4AD)
19. N.A.S.A. feat. ODB and Karen O "Strange Enough" (ANTI-)
20. Scarface feat. Bilal "Can't Get Right" (Rap-A-Lot/Asylum)
21. Suckers "Afterthoughts & TV"
22. Lotus Plaza "What Grows?" (Kranky)
23. Chairlift "Bruises"
24. Lars Horntveth "Kaleidoscopic"
25. Mirah "The River" (K)
26. Pill "Pain In They Eyes"
27. Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Zero" (Interscope)
28. Clipse feat. Cam'rom "Back By Popular Demand (Popeye's)" (Re-up/Star Trak)
Top Five Iffy Comeback Attempts of the '00s.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CD REVIEWS: Allison Iraheta, Animal Collective

While You's various producers recognize that guitars suit her distinctive voice (think Heart), they often opt to digitally sand down its edge or dogpile on the lipgloss-y mall-pop riffage so thick you might as well be jamming out to Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson or Ashlee Simpson. – from a Clevescene review of Animal Collective’s Fall Be Kind EP

 
"Graze" opens with expansively Disney-fied ambient grandeur, then detours into sinister electronic hem-hawing before exploding into May-Day pan-flute mayhem. "On a Highway" drowsily celebrates the banalities and wonders of mind-numbing, between-shows drives. – from a Clevescene review of Allison Iraheta’s Just Like You

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top Five Most Successful Comeback Attempts of the '00s.

END OF YEAR 2009 ALBUMS 11-30

11. Mariah Carey, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (Island)
12. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II (EMI)

13. Telecult Powers, Twilight of the Oscillators (Temple of Pei)
14. The Bran Flakes, I Have Hands (Illegal Art)
15. HEALTH, Die Slow (Lovepump United)
16. Sonic Suicide Squad, Hardline American Overdrive (Sounds from the Pocket)
17. Cam'ron, Crime Pays (Diplomats/Asylum)
18. Storm of Corpses, Bite Your Tongue (Bug Incision)
19. Anthony Pirog, Beginning to End (Sonic Mass)
20. The Fiery Furnaces, I'm Going Away (Thrill Jockey)
21. Pissed Jeans, King of Jeans (Sub Pop)
22. Richard Youngs, Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits (Sonic Oyster)
23. Robert Inhuman, Drowning in Betrayal (MT6)
24. Twig Harper, Music for Higher Dimensional Consciousness (HereSee)
25. Newagehillbilly, Arctic (MT6)
26. Jason Urick, Husbands (Thrill Jockey)
27. Playboy Tre, Liquor Store Mascot (self-released)
28. Apes in the Aviary, Strange Town (self-released)
29. Khate, Detrivore (Just Not Normal)
30. Mya, Beauty & The Streets Vol. I (Planet 9/Young Empire Music Group/Fontana)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Another mix - for the holidays, for the homies: CLICK HERE.


Peace, love, joy, lame Tiger Woods adultery jokes to you and yours, etc.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In however many years I've been doing year-end music lists for publications, this is the first one where the process just wasn't much fun, somehow. Possibly because 10 slots - or 20, if you wanna count albums and individual songs together - don't seem like quite enough to really encapsulate what was great about the last 12 months. Possibly because, once again, a slew of promos and downloads didn't even get a cursory spin. Possibly because in the past, like, couple days I've come upon totally fantastic, left-field shit like a bunch of Feeding Tube albums I'm preparing to review, and Telecult Powers. I don't know. There's just no joy in the process. And I have to admit: I was sorta hoping the late-to-the-party Clipse and Gucci Mane albums would be so dope that I'd fume and rage cuz I didn't hear 'em soon enough to consider 'em. Nah. Pazz & Jop comments? Not sure yet. I've a lot to say generally about life and about albums that we're released in years other than 2009. But not so much about music in 2009. Go figure.
LOL at CP's mass Animal Collective lurve. (I mean, sure, Merriweather Post Pavilion is a pretty good album, albeit one I kinda got over as the year wore on. But was it that good? Really? Like, "Really?!? With Seth & Amy" really?) Anyway, I wrote some year-end things about local music and books there.

Monday, December 07, 2009

#990 Shanice "I Love Your Smile" [Motown, 1991]


Such a supremely silly, sassy, classy, chic, irrepressible, positive song, though - until I tracked "I Love Your Smile" down online and revisited it recently - I only remember it being irrepressible and positive, a well-spring of easy adoration, a reminder of innocent crushes and sunny early 1990s Saturdays wasted watching videos on television. (In other words, only the titular chorus really stuck with me between that bygone era when this song - plus a bunch of equally fly TLC joints like "Baby Baby Baby," remember those? - was inescapable and the present.) One of the reasons I dug "Every Girl" so much - Young Money Fam's recent, caddish ode to equal-opportunity sex addiction - is that that song draws on the same wide-open, chill vibe, the sense that it's early spring, that anything's possible, that those conditions will persist forever despite reams of convincing evidence to the contrary. "Smile" reminds me of its video, which I mis-recall as lots of soft-focus shots of Shanice smiling beautificly on some anonymous college campus, of watching A Different World and The Cosby Show, of attending Black Awareness Club-affiliated high school mixers, of wishing I had a car and didn't have to rely on the MTA to get around.

You know what, though? There's so much more to "Smile" than that. There are corny-ass 80s-ubiquitous horn breaks. There's a part where Shanice busts some rhymes, and another where she actually says "sike." There's talk of charging a black mini-skirt to a credit card. There's the lyric "I don't see the bad boys trying to catch some play, because I love your smile." There's the sub-textual possibility that Shanice is totally fronting or is engaged in some intramural flirting exercise, that maybe she doesn't actually love your smile. (Maybe she's taking your measure. Maybe she's acting on a dare. Maybe she's just bored.) And despite all that, "I Love Your Smile" remains a totally great period piece or time-capsule item - an onrush of warm, welcoming bass lines and dorky saxophones (yep, you heard right, she really does say "Blow, Branford, Blow," and Branford Marsalis really is wailing on his sax here) and syncopated beats and New Jane swing vocals and soul-stirring pianos with nowhere to be, in no great hurry to ever get there.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

CD REVIEWS: Kid Sister, Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert
For Your Entertainment
(RCA)

During his run as an American Idol contestant, camp theatrics and gratuitous glam were important weapons in Adam Lambert's arsenal: stratospheric vocal runs, flamboyant costumes, stage-lighting fusillades. This out-and-proud rocker's weekly re-invigoration of the hoariest standards was nothing short of awe-inspiring. So it's hardly shocking that For Your Entertainment plays like a gender-bent hit parade, celebrating Lambert's performance personae while saluting the pop prerogative of co-songwriters/producers like Pink, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, the Darkness' Justin Hawkins, Lady Gaga and Max Martin.

Everything is on the table: stirring-despite-itself MOR tear-jerkery ("Time for Miracles"), Elton John-maudlin, California-comedown weariness ("Soaked"), trippy space-rock operatics ("A Loaded Smile") and hard, fake Queen destined to surplant Kevin Rudolf's "Let It Rock" as sports-arena fist-pimping anthems ("Music Again," "Sure Fire Winners.") On "Broken Open," Lambert revisits the sumptuous, buttery croon he nailed while covering Tears for Fears' "Mad World" on Idol. Inspiring and varied, Entertainment nonetheless loses points for playing it a bit too safe.

Kid Sister
Ultraviolet
(Downtown)

"Ain't nobody out there making shit/Quite like me, quite like this," boasts Chicago MC Kid Sister on "Big N Bad" from her debut album, Ultraviolet. That's debatable. Quite a few people make shit like this, and many more made it in hip-hop's formative years: It's known as party rap. For some genre purists, the oft-delayed and re-contextualized Ultraviolet will kindle fond memories of Monie Love, Salt-N-Pepa and other femcee veterans, as Kid Sis sprays Romper Room synth-lollipop club beats with squirts of lyrical Cheez Whiz even mentor Kanye West would know to leave on the cutting-room floor. Why? Largely because 2009 isn't 1989, a time when attitude, shamelessness and the ability to string together rhymes — any old rhymes — were all a person needed to declare him or herself an MC. Here, gleeful, middling ineptitude scuttles our heroine's regular-Jane bona fides, infectious personality and promising singing voice. One thing's for sure: These tracks will sound awesome when real mixtape rappers spit on 'em.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TOP TEN SINGLES 2009

1. The Lonely Island feat. T-Pain "I'm On a Boat" (Universal)
2. Animal Collective "Brother Sport" (Domino)
3. Mariah Carey "Ribbon" (Island)
4. Grasshopper "Death Compass" (No Label)
5. Cold Cave "Life Magazine" (Heartworm/Matador)
6. Cam'ron "Cookin' Up" (Diplomat/Asylum)
7. Eat Skull "Cooking A Way To Be Happy" (Siltbreeze)
8. Young Money Fam "Every Girl" (Cash Money)
9. Cryptacize "Mythomania" (Asthmatic Kitty)
10. Oneida "Brownout in Lagos" (Jagjaguwar)

TOP TEN RECORDS 2009

1. The-Dream, Love vs. Money (Def Jam/Radio Killa)
2. Jason Crumer, Walk With Me (Misanthropic Agenda)
3. Acidic Jews, Clean Rigs (self-released)
4. Aaron Dilloway, Chain Shot (Hanson)
5. Atlas Sound, Logos (Kranky)
6. Halflings, Self Esteem (RRRecords)
7. Nancy Garcia, Be The Climb (Ecstatic Peace!)
8. John Wiese, Circle Snare (No Fun)
9. Aquarelle, Slow Circles (Rest + Noise)
10. Ascites, Incisional Drainage (self-released)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's hard to believe now, but there was a time, not so long ago, when I was constantly updating this blog! There was so much to be said, and so much time to say it, somehow. Man! What happened?
Copies of Assembling The Lord, my poetry chapbook, remain available here. Buy one! Hell, buy three. They make great stocking stuffers for people you don't like very much. And they're cheap! And I will totally sign your copy if we ever meet, in person, like normal people.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"It all adds up to a thoroughly adequate result that's nonetheless enjoyable if you consider that Destruct is little more than a loss-leader cog in a painfully cynical merchandizing campaign that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon." - from a review of 50 Cent's new CD, from Clevescene.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"I can count the number of people who have seen me flossing in my Primo Uomo on one hand, because it's only been in my possession for a few weeks. As of this writing, I'm unsure whether it's more depressing that this suit retails for more than my first car--1982 Ford Mustang, busted radio, totally decrepit--or that my mother bought it for me as an early Christmas present this year after I spent a decade and change successfully procrastinating the purchase." -From "Sharp-Dressed Man," a piece I wrote that appears in this week's Baltimore City Paper

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What an asshole, right? (I've written up non-current songs tons of times, and this is the first time he calls me on it?) But at least now I know that somebody besides my City Pages editors actually reads 5ingles every week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CD REVIEW: Julian Casablancas, "Phrazes for the Young"


From today’s Clevescene:

Julian Casablancas
Phrazes for the Young
(RCA)

Ah, advice: almost always directed towards the young yet so rarely solicited. In proffering received-albeit-stylized wisdom of his own, Julian Casablancas' motives aren't entirely altruistic: his saving-rawk-in-the-aughts Strokes haven't been a going concern for a couple years now. Phrazes for the Young represents Jules' attempt to keep his fire stoked and demonstrate his versatility, and all things considered, it's reasonably successful. If it's new-wave sparkle-spackle you're after, check out epic synth orgasm "11th Dimension" and the treadmilling, Dirty Harry-channeling "Out of the Blue." Gerry Rafferty-indebted co-minglings of dour childhood remembrance and cougar maligning? See "Left & Right in the Dark." A gospel-tinged blues that erupts into a metal-lite cataclysm? "4 Chords of the Apocalypse" invites you to testify. As for the quality of Casablancas' advice, it doesn't get much deeper than "Don't be shy, oh no/At least deliberately," but it doesn't really need to.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

At some point in the very near future, I'll start running lists of favorite songs and albums from 2009 here, but for now, enjoy this online mixtape, which is hardly an exhaustive statement of recent aural pleasures but is, at least, somewhat representative.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Totally sincere, totally unsnarky questions for anyone who'd care to answer (in the comments section, if you don't mind): if you have a Twitter account, what initially prompted you to start one? Are you able to post anywhere near as often as you wish you could? Do you have as many followers as you wish you did? Does that even matter to you? Is it just a matter of having an online venue available for out-loud thinking? Do you use the word "tweet" in everyday conversation without wincing? Does this blog post represent the first time anyone has asked you questions like this? I really do want to know, and not in a mean way, I swear.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

You know, it should be etched in stone tablets somewhere that you're not really a parent until your tot has crapped in the tub during a bath, and you've had to clean it up, disinfect tub toys, and so on. Just sayin'.

Friday Night Noise: Murex and Noveller.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

CAN POETRY REJECTION EMAILS GET ANY MORE INHUMAN THAN THIS?

Dear Ray

Thank you for your interest in Stylus.

Unfortunately you have not been successful in placing your work on this occasion.

regards
Rosanna Licari
editor

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tomorrow, this Wye Oak interview feature I wrote will appear in the Orlando Weekly. Wye Oak are from Baltimore, and are all kinds of awesome.

One doesn’t automatically expect level-headed pragmatism from the young. At the tender age of 23, Jenn Wasner already has it. The Wye Oak singer-guitarist is possessed of the sort of realist’s worldview that most don’t arrive at until staring down the barrel of 30 – or sadly waving it goodbye. In a phone interview, Wasner tempers her ebullient chatter with the sobered gravitas of an indie-rock lifer. She’s sitting on her porch in Baltimore a few days before leaving on tour, enthusing over the wedding band she put together for the nuptials of the brother of her Wye Oak partner and boyfriend, Andy Stack, and gushing over B’more underground pals like “miniature, nature-oriented” folkie Small Sur and rapper Height.

“When Andy and I work, I work at a restaurant, and Andy’s family is in the film business, so he freelances film stuff. He’s the lowest guy on the totem pole … working the sound, fetching people from the airport, getting coffee – which is nice,” she says. “We both kind of [scramble] and scrounge for money as we can. We’re getting to a point where we’re making the majority of our money from music stuff, and I think that’s because we’re a duo; we have low overhead.”

That “music stuff” – two Merge-issued albums, 2008’s If Children and this year’s The Knot – has transformed Wasner and Stack into indie-rock demigods. The pair’s nuanced yet explosive songwriting recalls the noisy napalm of early Yo La Tengo even as it touches on sweet-and-sour folk and folds in reams of autumnal strings. Like so many other rock greats, Wye Oak surreptitiously couch bad vibes in triumphant tuneage. If Children explored rocky family dynamics and prematurely aged psyches, while The Knot finds Wye Oak wading through scarier, more foreboding territory than before, daring to write the kind of dark, dusky love and life songs endemic to their elders. Smoky, heart-wrenching ballad “That I Do” diagrams painful lovers’ disconnects; “For Prayer” eases slowly in and out of an epic spat. Ironically, given the subject matter, Knot finds the pair at its most creatively integrated, Wasner says.

“[If Children] was an individual endeavor. We had songs we’d written separately over three years,” says Wasner. “‘Family Glue’ I wrote when I was 17, and had it kicking around. On most of the Knot songs, lyrics and tunes are me but the arrangements are very collaborative. It was interesting because I’ve always been very private with lyrics, but I felt a lot more comfortable reaching out to Andy for help finishing a thought or a tune.”

If Knot has a centerpiece, it’s undoubtedly “Siamese,” a lullaby-like amble of weeping violins, caressing guitar figures and ambivalently delivered intimations like “Don’t look back/Hit him right between the eyes,” “’Cause if you leave and I lose you/I lose my life and lose you, too” and “You couldn’t scare me if you tried/Because I’m ready to die tonight.” It’s difficult to say whether “Siamese” represents the last will and testament of a Brave One–style vigilante or a lunatic’s declaration of undying love. Either way, the track is deeply resonant in a way that no other Wye Oak song has been up to now – on par with Radiohead’s haunting “A Wolf at the Door.”

“A lot of people hear the arrangement and strings and think, ‘Oh, this is fun.’ I like to hide things, to shroud them,” laughs Wasner. “‘Siamese’ is one of the happiest-sounding songs, and lyrically, the darkest. I think the urge was to temper light with darkness. I live in Hampden and I work at a restaurant near my house, and I find myself walking home with tip money, trying not to get raped or mugged. ‘Siamese’ captures the sense of being so out of it, cerebrally, that I no longer care what happens to me – which is a shitty place to be.”
Something I wrote about the Queers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hoffman & Hoffman, back in biz and on the job at a Sunny Day Real Estate show. Makes me feel downright nostalgic, you know? Ah, for the days of zines and roses. And malt liquor. I never "got" SDRE, I guess, though I did hear a few songs on mixtapes during college and my set were big fans. (Don't ask me to hum 'em. You will be horribly let down.) All I really knew about 'em was that the frontman freaked out and became a Christian fanatic at one point and broke up the band, and that a couple members played with The Foo Fighters at one point or another. Oh, and they helped invent emo, which is a pretty big deal, I'm told.


Only got two SDRE-related memories:


- Dropping by one of Thom's first post-college pads with Matty Kory, and Matty having the How It Feels To Be Something On CD, which had just come out, and thinking that the artwork for that album was without doubt the most fucked up, nightmarish thing I'd ever encountered to that point. Seriously, drop acid and just stare at that thing for a while. Better yet, don't.


- Going to an SDRE show in, I guess, 2000 with Matty and someone we'll call The Cop-Out Kid from now on. Thing is, I recall, like, nothing about that show except that we attended it outside of Philly and that I ran into some dude who had been marching in a street protest I was covering for the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader a few weeks earlier. I'd interviewed him. I don't remember what he told me, but it was quotable, so I quoted him. Anyway, we said hi and exchanged some pleasantries, then we all went in to watch the show I can't remember.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

As part of its Big Books Issue this week, the Baltimore City Paper included a collaborative piece titled "The Storyteller: 27 Writers on 27 Short Stories from 27 Authors." Below is my entry:


Bret Easton Ellis, "Discovering Japan" from The Informers (Vintage, 1994)


Set in 1984, "Discovering Japan" follows aging rock 'n' roll Godzilla Bryan Metro during a several-day tour sojourn in the titular country, through bouts of groupie abuse, drug binges, darkly comedic business meetings, and varying degrees of penthouse suite desecration. Metro's core tragedy? Chemically fried, he exists in a bewildered, Neanderthal stupor that leaves him socially and emotionally impotent, stripping him of the ability to recognize that his nursemaid-cum-enabler-cum-manager is casually robbing him blind. The act of one man adjusting another's sunglasses has never seemed quite so sinister.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CD REVIEW: JAY-Z


From today’s Clevescene:

Jay-Z
The Blueprint 3
(Roc Nation/Atlantic)


Invincibility is the pot of gold at the end of hip-hop's proverbial rainbow, the brass ring every rising MC aspires to seize. Jay-Z has had it for the better part of a decade: consistent album sales, unimpeachable crossover appeal, a decent if unspectacular run as president of Def Jam, marriage to modern R&B's flyest multimedia diva and fashion bona fides by way of Rocawear and special-edition Nikes. Since 2002's The Blueprint 2, dispatches from Hovito's penthouse have scanned as victory-lap variations — affirmations of his cultural and financial dominance, and the monied musings of a rap don intent on keeping his legend alive and vital in a marketplace flooded with mixtape-slinging whippersnappers and biters.
"Thank You" establishes a swank Vegas issuance that harkens back to 2007's American Gangster both in tone and ad libs before Jay-Z snaps into an elaborate 9/11 riff that demonstrates why he's king: "Not only did they brick, they put a building up as well/They ran a plane into that building, and when that building fell/Ran to the crash site with no masks, and inhaled/Toxins deep into they lungs until both of them was felled." On "Hate," Jay and Kanye West trade the mic in haughty, needle-sharp disgust, while "Off That" finds Hova breathing new, nimble life into the ahead-of-his-time song with renaissance new jack Drake. Throughout, Jay sounds relaxed, revitalized, even hungry. Wide-ranging, forward-thinking beats from his usual stable of top-shelf producers amplify all the frankly reiterative fun he's having here.
I know, I know: another online mixtape no more than 8 people have time/desire to listen to. And it has eight songs on it! Synergy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

MY REJECTED, MOSTLY INCOHERENT BEST-OF-BALTIMORE PITCHES FOR BALTIMORE CITY PAPER

Best Sit-Down Chinese Restaurant: The Orient (Towson)
Best Place To Get Up Close And Personal With Runaway Pollution: the spaces between docked ships at Harbor Place
Best They're-Originally-From-Here-But-Now-Belong-To-The-World-At-Large Rock Phenom: Animal Collective

Best Place To Witness A Street Brawl Randomly Break Out: Oh, man. I suck at identifying places in explicitly specific terms. But I can tell you this: it was an ATM near that historic port building where they filmed The Wire (or maybe Homicide: Life on The Street) - just around the corner from Soundgarden, on the same block as that historic hotel. The ATM - which was a BoA ATM for a bit - is cattycorner to Max's bar and faces out into the brick-paved "park" full of benches that used to be home to a sort of tiered pyramid thing before the merchants teamed up to have it torn down because skaters were doing tricks on it and kids liked to congregate there. I think there used to be a piercing/tattoo place a few feet away from the ATM, maybe it's still there. I don't know if all of that confused the issue further or what :)

Best Chill Coffee Joint: The Daily Grind

Friday, August 07, 2009

Some of you knew that Nodin was going to undergo adenoid surgery this week; some didn't. In any event, I wanted to let you know that he got through it fine! Sure, the surgical team was like two and a half hours behind, but what the hey: all's well that ends well, right?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Night Noise: Satin Hooks & Newagehillbilly.
Yeah, I know: there's been a Scientology video advertisement running at the top of this site all week! Why? No idea. Adsense generates ads based on whatever content I bring to the table, so something I'm doing here prompted this ad to appear and beckon you to join their high-profile cult. Weird. Sorry about this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Washington College Magazine has a little blurb on Assembling the Lord here. Thanks, Marcia Landskroener!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

FUN WITH MATHS


So there I was, the other week, feeling all dejected and spurned over Assembing The Lord's dismal sales. Sure, I haven't done any signings or readings - there are reasons for that, believe me - and poetry isn't a hot commodity or anything, but I genuinely believed that we could move more than twelve copies of this thing by now. (Did I mention that ten of those copies were purchased by my dad? My dad rocks.) So we're coming up on ninety days since the book came out, and we just logged our thirteenth
sale! Go us! That means, like, good luck, right? I divided 90 by 13 in our cheap basic calculator and I guess it works out to one copy sold for every seven days or something. (Not quite, but I'm not typing out all the decimals right now. I mean, I just stained a side porch today, and I'm wiped, you know?)

Anyhow, sweet! And that's a Jay-Z-on-American Gangster "sweet," like it's the 1970s and things can only get better from here. Onward and upward, etc.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: DUMBOCRACY

"Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Looney Left, the Ribald Right, and Other American Idiots"
By Marty Beckerman
Disinformation, paperback

Early on in his tenure as a *Rolling Stone* contributing editor, Matt Taibbi was routinely derided as a beggar's Hunter S. Thompson. The charge was harsh, but predictable: Taibbi's semi-regular cutting bromides stood in the towering, wavy-gravy shadows of Thompson's LSD-soaked politi-populist dispatches. The key differences? Taibbi isn't an active user of recreational narcotics, doesn't weave preposterous hallucinations into his venomous punditry, and is more sharp-eyed humorist than journalist proper. The Thompson comparisons probably aren't keeping him up at night, but the author of *Hostile Takeover* might take comfort in knowing that a poor man's Matt Taibbi is out there, making him look better just by drawing breath. His name? Marty Beckerman.

*Dumbocracy*, Beckerman's second book, proceeds from the premise that radical-fringe elements of the two major American political parties can claim one commonality: they're equally batshit insane. The Playboy, New York Press, and Huffington Post contributor seeks to prove this thesis by wading into the fray of various politically-charged events, actions, and gatherings and posing patently asinine questions to anyone within the range of his voice. At an anti-war rally outside the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, he asks an especially vociferous protester - who chants "No more blood for oil and no more oil in the first place!" - "What if we designed cares powered by Iraqi blood?" only to receive no response. His recommendation to another, at a March 2005 Marriage Equality Rally in Dupont Circle? To appease straights and gays alike, the U.S. should invade Cuba and transform it into a "Tropical Gay Israel." These on-the-scene inquisitions seem designed to cast Beckerman as someone who really, really wants to have his lights knocked out. Occasionally, though, he strikes gold just by being in the right place with the right people at the right time - as at an Aptil 2004 D.C. event protesting violence against abortion clinics:

Katrina and Maddie, a pair of teenage lesbians, distribute posters that that proclaim: "QUEER RIGHTS ARE REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS!"

"What does that *mean*?" I ask. "Gay people can't *reproduce*--at least not without scientists."

"Exactly," chirps one of the girls. "Gay people will *never* have abortions! So I think *everyone* should be gay! So nobody has to argue!"

Indeed, for most of *Dumbocracy*'s 200-page length, it's *that* kind of book: an extrapolation of sardonic, previously published articles into a half-assed pundit's manifesto that isn't as gut-busting as the author believes it is. Beckerman's the sort of guy who thinks cracking wise about Hitler, addressing others as "Jew Bastards," and pretending that Hamas is something "you eat with pita and falafel" while attending a Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators in Jerusalem is hilarious. Worse: he blows his page-count wad on quotes from oodles of sources and seems to have difficulty wearing his snarky trucker's cap and responsible journalist's fedora at the same time - resulting in long, dry passages where an issue is explored straight-faced, only to be encapped with a lame joke in parenthesis. Someone should really gift Beckerman a copy of Jon Ronson's *Them* as a Passover present.

BOOK REVIEW: THE ENEMY WITHIN

"The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Western World"
By John Demos
Viking, hardback

In modern society, there's nothing especially scandalous about practicing witchcraft. In the eyes of many, it's just another lifestyle choice - a hip, holistic alternative to participating in dowdy old organized religions. Certainly, the 'rents might not be thrilled that the apparent soulmate you're bringing home for dinner is an avowed Wiccan with a back tattoo of the sea-god Neptune - but they're less likely to outright disown you for shacking up with somebody whose ancient VW sports a "My Other Car Is A Broom" bumper sticker.

The world has changed so much that it's easy to forget that, once upon a time, accusations of spell-casting could equal death sentences. In The Enemy Within, historian John Demos explores the literal - and to a lesser extent, figurative - manifestations of witch hunting in microscopic sociological detail.

Demos roots the origins of witch hunting in the Middle Ages, as Christianity rose to prominence and sought to define itself by honing a "God vs. the Devil" dualism. A pre-Age of Reason pattern establishes itself: practicioners of magic, actual or accused, tended to fall under suspicion in periods of great societal upheavel, in towns or villages more often than in urban areas. More often than not, the accused were women the accusers knew well, and the singling out of sorceresses often followed a personal setback, calamity, or crop failure.

In the young American colonies, witch hunting was essentially perpetuated by the settlers' Puritanism, and transformed from a phenomenon based on wrongs-done into something more performance-based. As illustrated in The Crucible - Arthur Miller's acclaimed play, which Demos idenifies as Red Scare parody and defining Salem witch trial simulation rolled into one - trials become spectacles in which accusers are driven into convultions at the mere touch of the accused.

To his credit, Demos stays in scholar-mode throughout, allowing readers to draw our own skeptal inferrences in cases where dots might have been connected - or citing passages from the small mountain of related texts he absorbed prior to sitting down to write this book. It would have been easy - very easy - to dismiss the resulting tortures, convictions, jailings, and executions as the runoff of collective hysteria - or to condemn the visions and beyond-the-grave visitations reported by teenaged accusers in hundreds of New England witch hunts as psychosis taken at face value.

The Enemy Within winds down with a trawl through assorted nineteenth and twentieth century "witch hunts": the anti-labor aftermath of the Haymarket Riots, the Sen. Joseph McCarthy-perpetuated Red Scare, and a notorious child sex-abuse fright that continues to reverberate to this day. But, Inquisition-like horrors aside, what lingers is Demos' droll description of present-day Salem, Mass. "Witchery is the lifeblood of local commerce," he notes, singling out businesses like Witch City Repo Services, the Witch Brew Café, and the Witch Dungeon Museum. Everything, finally, can be reduced to some form of commerce.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Distillery: R. Kelly's "The Demo Tape" mixtape



A few tracks into The Demo Tape, DJ Drama informs us that we're witnessing history in the making. "I think this is a first!" he yells. "An R&B Gangsta Grillz! Floodgates are open!" You've gotta wonder how R. Kelly feels about that. I mean, here's a dude with a house full of gold and platinum face who's more or less the face of contemporary R&B raunch, right? "Trapped in the Closet," you know? "I Believe I Can Fly?" "Feelin' on Yo Booty"? Yet here he is, dropping a free internet mixtape in order to drum up buzz for an upcoming album that's been delayed once or twice (and now due in September), as though he were some unknown, MySpace-spamming punchline rapper lacking significant crew affliations. Of course, with our collective national attention span shrinking by the hour - 07's Double Up was sooooo four centuries ago - a reintroduction is probably in order; until recently, Kells and his legal team were too busy battling child sex abuse charges to focus on recording and releasing new grown'n'sexy jams. But I wish The Demo Tape was more memorable and substantial than it is; this tape is fun and all, but I wasn't able to come up with more than 9 songs I really needed to hear ever again and it doesn't do much more than remind the world that R. Kelly exists! Which may have been the whole point. And DJ Drama: please start editing original vocals out of the tracks you're jacking. It isn't that hard to do, is it?


2. "Kelly's 12 Play Remix": Producer extraordinare The-Dream (Rihanna, Mariah Carey) clearly sees himself as the second coming of Kells, and earlier this year he gave his idol some dap with "Kelly's 12 Play," where he sang about sexing a special lady to Kelly's classic 12 Play album. Given his gargantuan self-regard, it was inevitable that Kells would flip the track for this mixtape. Pull quote: "Makin' your body shake like a horror movie/And then I'll put that ass to sleep." More fright-night imagery, please; it's an interesting direction.


4. "Disrespect My Shorty": Oh, please. A don't-hurt-my-girl-by-accosting-me-in-public plea from the co-author of unrepentent horndog banger "I'm A Flirt"?


5. "Fuck Every Girl": This was inevitable, too. Young Money Entertainment - Lil Wayne plus a bunch of wannabe rappers you've never heard of, basically - imagined "Every Girl" as a dewey, springtime-y ode to perpetual hetero-male arousal where all participants would pretend to be Kanye West; as such, this is right up Kells' alley. "I've got a dick and a half/So ladies don't argue" is a boast for the books, though, Robert? You should never, ever use Auto-tune again. You're better than that, for real.


6. "Best I Ever Had": "She the fucking best/And I'm the fucking best/So we the fucking best/Mixtape!" With my secret Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, I've translated this verse; decoded, it reads "Buy my album when it drops for lyrics of unfuckwithable quality."


7. "Banging The Headboard": Imagine what'd it be like if Kells was your next-door neighbor in a rowhouse! You'd never, ever get any sleep, and his jealous exes and the parents of his underage, undercompensated paramours would constantly be throwing rocks through your window by mistake. Bad times!


8. "Pussy Cry": Man! Being a smooth, suave lothario sure sounds like a lot of hassle: making that body scream, buying bubbly by the crate, organizing shopping sprees, listening attentively, texting incessantly, "talking that freaky shit to you." But hey, Kells is here to do all that stuff for you and make it sound super alluring, even with Auto-Tune. All you have to do is hit play.


13. "Supa Dupa Man": You think Kells ever hits the gym? I don't think he even has to, what with all the round-the-clock, post-nightclub sex he's having.


14. "Tip the Waiter": God only knows what Kells' idea of a fair waitstaff tip is. This song, about patiently trying to coax a honey into his ride and ultimately into his bed, doesn't really clue us in. "Girl, I want some patootie, and I don't mean cash," he explains before launching back into the titular chorus, which feels so superfluous as to be ludicrous.


18. "Chopped & Screwed Remix": You heard right, ladies - play your cards right, and Kells will treat you to breakfast at IHOP. Those pancakes are slammin'.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Open Letter to Gucci Mane


Dear Gucci Mane,


What it do, Gucci? What's up? I hope this letter finds you well - cracking open bottles of Kristal, counting money stacks, holed up spitting in a recording booth, or perhaps adding to your no doubt breathtaking stable of candy-paint coated whips. You probably get a lot of letters from fans, and my guess is that most people want or need something from you: to have your baby, to carry your weed, to cop a guest verse, to slip you a homemade mixtape in a by-association bid for regional or Internet fame.


Me, on the other hand, I don't want any of those things! But I think we can help each other out. See, I live with my moms - I'm sort of between careers at the moment - and because I'm, well, I'm more Brokeahantus than blingin' (and yeah, you can steal that! I don't even want any credit, for real), I can't help out with rent or expenses. I can't even buy mom anything for her birthday next month. This is where you come in, because, see, mom fiends for Gucci shit, ya heard? The jackets, the bags, all of that.


And I mean, I don't know your life, but I've always imagined that Gucci Fed-Exes you big-ass care packages on the regular, just out of nowhere, just massive, duct-taped cardboard boxes stuffed with official, non-knockoff Gucci swag. Like, you get back from the studio or tour or whatever and the delivery guy's waiting in the driveway for you, and you give each other pounds, and he's all "Gucci" and you're all "Steve" and he's all "This here's your assemble-at-home Smart Car kit" and then you go "Steve, you on some bullshit, dawg, what you finna do" and then he laughs and says "Naw, man, just fuckin' with you, it's your weekly Gucci payload, initial here." Then y'all hit the strip clubs.


I'm sure you probably dole this stuff out to the women in your life and some of your homies too, because, really, how much Gucci paraphenilia does any one person need? But there have gotta be extras. So can you throw some of the excess in a box and send it to me? Nothing in life is free, and I'm broke, but I figured my advice might be worth a metric Gucci quarter-ton.


You're on your way to maybe becoming Lil Wayne famous, but I Google you from time to time, and you've gotta learn to look more famous. You should walk into a club and right away everybody knows you're somebody, and not just because your entourage could fill a VIP lounge! Like, your name is Gucci Mane; you need a mane, feel me? And I'm not saying you should grow your hair out then get a perm and dye it blonde or even cop a Marilyn Monroe wig, but, maybe an oversized Lion King Simba mane, or an Alex-from-Madagascar mane, or maybe just have an African lion smuggled in, scalp that fucker with a machete, wear its mane like it's yours, blood and viscera and all that. You know? Mane it up, mane it out, make it work for you. And you need more aliases, like how Jay-Z is Hova, or Young, or Young Hov, or Gray Hova, or how Ghostface Killah is Tony Starks, or Iron Man, or Pretty Tony. Mythology! Self-mythology, my homie. People should be calling you "The Gooch"! And "Chris Guccione" and, like, "Vince Ferrito." Also, do you watch Daisy of Love? Kind of a guilty pleasure for me, but you should make a video for "Wasted" with 12 Pack playing you, on some Kanye/"Can't Tell Me Nothing"/Galifianakis/Will Oldham shit, wandering through skate parks with a pack of clowns, lipsyncing to it! MTV would play the fuck out of that! No, no, don't thank me now - thank me with swag. Gucci!


Yours Truly,
Blaine Vancouver
A sorta pithy (but wholly accurate) review of Rusted Shut's new album, Dead.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Night Noise: Swanshit, Yellow Tears.

This Is A Poem About A Poem In And Of Itself

This is a poem about a poem in and of itself,
About words handcuffed to phrases to bastardized
Venacular, arrayed in sober couplets, stanzas,

Compartmentalized as mise-en-scene
Haiku, swallowed and shivering at the arctic
Center of a bone-white sheet, eleven by eight
And a half, lonesome, lachrymorse, a crush
Of ink characters huddling close for warmth


Excuse me. This poem is taking a breather.
Putting on airs, daydreaming. Oh, to be short
Fiction, a novella, the teeny-tiny legal text at
The botton of an Absolut ad! To be truly read,
To signify something unquestionable


And this poem is back to work, Alaskan all
Over again, imperishably impenetrable, female
And male conduits conveying bolts in screws,
Balled fists stuffing trouser pockets, receivers
Fast asleep In hard plastic cradles, oval pills
Rattling in clear orange-brown bottles. This
Poem knows, it knows: you bought in, you
Committed, you hoped for something deeper,
Something truer without being too obvious and
Smug about being true. This poem is someone
Dear to you, who let you down in some way, an
Illusion you projected onto an actual person, who,
After all, was only human. This poem is you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dear serious bloggers - er, sorry, vloggers - guess what? Some of us, and maybe we're behind the times here, but we like to actually, like, read interviews with rappers and indie-rock demigods and other quasi stars, you know? Instead of just clicking links and waiting for shit to load and watching video interviews. Just because you have a palm-sized digital camera doesn't mean that you can't transcribe the killer quotes and hot news bites you scoop instead of lazily posting a Vimeo feed or whatever.

BOOK REVIEW: DAVID BERMAN

From the MAGNET Magazine blog:






David Berman

The Portable February

(Drag City)







Though he’s best known for fronting the late, great Silver Jews, sardonic, cerebral country rock isn’t David Berman’s only talent. He’s also a celebrated poet (see 1996’s dry Actual Air) and cartoonist whose drawings have popped up in the margins of The Baffler and adorned art-gallery walls. The Portable February (Drag City), his first published collection of illustrations, suggests that inkwell Berman isn’t far removed from plectrum Berman; the instruments of creation may differ, but the same bitterly amused tone suffuses both endeavors. February’s 90-plus doodles range from crushingly obvious (the protester holding a sign reading “giants” enclosed by a circle with a line drawn through it, as a giant boot approaches from above) to gleefully inane sketches titled, perhaps, to impart meaning (”The World We Had,” “Irrational 15th Century Battle Scenes”) to oblique cartoons that demand serious interpretive input from the reader. What finally emerges is a bit droll New Yorker, a bit other-dimensional The Far Side and a bit psycho-social Steven, all at once: the anonymous “A Place In New Jersey” wearing its sketchiness all too literally; one animal remarking to another “Premise? I got premise,” when there’s no premise to speak of; a menagerie of rings and trophies; a raving, distended portrait captioned “If you were New Wave in Cincinnati in 1983, I probably haunted you occasionally.” February’s genius lies in how its rudimentary squiggles manage to haunt again and again, each time in a slightly new way.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

IRONY OF THE WEEK: As publications scale back and phase out freelance reviews, my mailbox/inbox is flooded, increasingly, by worthy/interesting albums. Gotta love this economy, man, gotta.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CD REVIEW: SONIC YOUTH


From today's Orlando Weekly:




Sonic Youth

The Eternal

(Matador)


Sometime between the time NYC Ghosts & Flowers redefined Beat Generation–fellating uselessness and al-Qaida terrorists flew planes into the towers, Sonic Youth – or somebody on Sonic Youth’s management team – had an epiphany: Why not roll out each SY opus as though it were a summer installment in a blockbuster franchise? Put the word on the street in early spring, roll the disc out in June, then launch a huge, momentum-riding tour.


Given that SY excursions mimic hazy, dog-day atmospheres, anyway – heat-exposure prose unspooling into bouts of sweaty, noisy fret-copulation – this gambit made sense. While The Eternal hews to this post–Memorial Day schedule, it pulls the storied sequel trick of shuffling the deck without actually shifting the paradigm: new label (Matador), new sidekick (ex-Pavement member Mark Ibold on bass) and new-and-improved schtick (all three singers harmonize at times). Draped in what appears to be a swirling portal to hell – a John Fahey ass painting, as it happens – Eternal is Sonic Youth’s most self-indulgent album since Flowers. No longer under the corporate-rock whip, they forgo even the appearance of mainstream capitulation, drifting into a water-treading, if enlivened, limbo that shrugs off the (largely) battened-hatch creep of 2004’s Sonic Nurse and 2006’s Rather Ripped. Ripped ended with rote interview-query murmurs, and the punk-lite “Sacred Trickster” kicks Eternal off with one more as Kim Gordon yelps, “What’s it like to be a girl in a band?/I just don’t understand!”


From there, we’re off to SY’s bohemian paradise, all urgent verse-chorus-verse buildups surging into manicured noise-pop gullies. Immediate crowd-pleasers – like the barbed, stinging “Malibu Gas Station,” which perpetuates Gordon’s celeb fetish by drooling over Britney Spears through the paparazzi’s massed camera eye – yield to fare like the drowsy, adoring Thurston Moore ballad “Antenna,” the is-it-stalking-or-caring-too-much? snarl of “What We Know” and the sunnysided “Walkin Blue,” which finds Lee Ranaldo at his most unashamedly hippie yet. Eternal earns its place in your six-disc changer by degrees, and does its next-installment duty just well enough. You’ll laugh, you’ll sigh, you’ll check for Sonic Youth’s next comfort-food ear-flick whenever it’s on the horizon.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CD REVIEW: SCARCITY OF TANKS

The pre-edit version of what ran in today's Clevescene:

The Scarcity of Tanks
No Endowments
(Textile/Total Life Society)

Scarcity of Tanks frontman Matthew Wascovich hails from Cleveland, but to ears still ringing from the noisy rock - distinct from "noise rock," thank you very much - of Shellac, the Jesus Lizards, and other Touch & Go-affiliated acts, the group's jazzbo-fied clang and din comes across as decidedly Chicago in feel. Trolley-cable basslines sproooing, saxes squawk, and spincter-tight drum fits combust - while hot-shit chicken-wire guitar riffs snake in and around to tie these 11 anti-songs up into nasty, gristle-stuffed little care packages. "Hedge Over Height" frantically skins its knees on the gritty whiplash of spindled guitars and Uzi-like kitwork, while "March Toward Crash" is a more haphazard creature, borne of scuzz-psych accents and incidental feedback congealed; much of Endowments suggests early Sonic Youth wasted on shrooms, which is no bad thing. But for all the stormy nihilism spun, Wascovich is Scarcity of Tanks' main attraction, intensely overenunciating nightmarish, impressionistic verse like Steve Albini rudely riffling through Lee Ranaldo's poetry journals. "The humans were decimated, but the animals restored," he bemusedly declares on "Motto for the Parked," where sparse instrumental seethe and harmonica whinny puncture near-silence like sabers. He pauses dramatically, as if he were the late Mitch Hedberg allowng space for delayed audience applause, then mutters darkly: "Evolve, or improve the atrophy."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Behold the first installment of my new weekly Houston Press music blog column, Friday Night Noise, where I spotlight three noise bands/artists. This week: Caldera Lakes, Wolf Eyes, and Cop Warmth.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Behold What Is Pretty Much the Quintessential Courtney Love circa-2009 Album Cover



Love this. So dusky, so honest, with the orange cigarette ember the only stand-out color tone. It's a perfect representation/distillation of who C.Lo actually is - and how we think of her now: this embittered, spurned, illegibily-MySpacin'-the-days-away fallen rock/pop shrew who doesn't want us to see her face now, given the ravages of time and drugs and heartache and plastic surgery misadventures (as opposed to the airbrushed-onna-van wish-fullfilment of the America's Sweetheart cover). I confess: it just occured to me that, if he hadn't killed himself, this could probably pass for a photograph of her late, lamented husband. Anyhow, behold the purported cover for Nobody's Daughter, which supposedly (finally!) drops on July 20th, though I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

#991 Madlib "Live at Chocolate City" [No Label, 2001]


Imagine a block party that swallows an entire city. Block parties are synonymous, it often seems, with shootings and violence, but this block party is peaceful; it's as though the entire metropolis has been transformed, briefly, into a gigantic speakeasy. You wander along streets, in and out of strangers' homes, and the chill vibe is all pervasive: different LPs spinning on different hi-fis, senior citizens enjoying breakdance spectacles, cops joking with junkies, tough guys teaching kids to shoot hoops, red plastic cups dangling from everyone's hands. As you walk, the soundtrack changes, shifts, and mutates with an almost intoxicating ease: lite jazz, snippets of funk, blaxploitation soundtracks, classic Pete Rock cuts, Chitlin' Circuit comedy bits, Herbie Hancock thunder, and much more besides.

Such is the delerious ambiance generated by "
Live at Chocolate City," a Madlib mix I listened to almost obsessively in 2007. At the time, I lived with my mother during the weeks in Owings Mills, Maryland, while still working at SAIC; I'd drive up to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania to stay with Alecia and Nodin in our rented townhouse there. On weeknights, I'd aimlessly wander suburban Queen Anne's Village, immersing myself in "Chocolate City" while tracing sidestreets and cul-de-sacs. Madlib's alchemy had a relaxing, drug-like quality; it allowed me to put aside the various stresses associated with constantly hunting for work closer to home with no success, with wearying commutes, with the indignity of being 30 years old and sleeping on my mom's lumpy couch most of the time. Owings Mills suburbia can be pretty lonely, empty, and anonymous; the rows upon rows of late 70s/early 80s-era townhomes are depressingly uniform, and, generally, nobody's out after 6 or 7 p.m. except for other folks similarly determined to work constitutionals into their busy schedules. With Madlib wafting up from my iPod headphones, I could make believe, for an hour, that I was somewhere else: a warm, inviting somewhere, glowing and familiar and conciliatory, where a sense of acceptance and good feeling intensified with each successive stride.
America prefers Kris Allen to Adam Lambert? America is insane. And Idol Beat is diggity-done.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Distilling the new Cool Kids mixtape down from 21 tracks to 10 essential ones: really, really tough.

CD REVIEW: EAR PWR

Below is the original, pre-edit version of this review:

Ear Pwr
Super Animal Brothers III
(Carpark)

If a pop-techno album ever warranted its own Surgeon General's Warning label, Super Animal Brothers III is it. Something along the lines of: "This disc contains high does of sacharrine and obnoxious cuteness that may trigger diabetic comas in some listeners. Do not ingest more than once in a single 72-hour period."

What Ear Pwr's Sarah Reynolds and Devin Booze - formerly based outta North Carolina, now carpetbagger nesting in Bodymore - proffer is gut-pummelling, Fruity Pebbles bpms and madcap, dance-til-you-drop twee that's all puerile, cartoon surface. And it flashes by in a neon blur as dumb-happy as it is pleasure-point stabbing: tension-racheting "You Are The Bomb" taking that bit of urban-originating vernacular seriously in thirty fleeting seconds of MacGruber silliness, "Boys II Volcanoes" squishing chopped chimes and virtuoso melisma into relentless nonsense about skulls in the sea, aerobic "Beam of Light" pressing and holding the "puree" button on the synth blender until you're afraid your ears will pop - at which point the song begins to careen from that churn into I Am The World Trade Center ripoff fodder, and back. (See also: "Future Eyes.") Both bands employ bright, halogen synths and shameless pop hooks, but IATWTC's music had the benefit of being about actual emotions; Ear Pwr aim for giggles. The title track spikes Woody Woodpecker glowstick hyperactivity with hip-hop woot-woots and animal-buddy babble; "Sparkley Sweater" is a chiptune earworm about a sparkley sweater, while cheeseballin' skitterfest "Cats is People, Too" has something to do with kittens in pyramids and randomly quotes Rammstein's 1997 hit "Du Hast."

Yet there's something to be said for music this singlemindedly uninhibited, this merrily shallow, this steamrollering: it allows those of us who'll never mix twenty Twinkies and a can of Jolt into a Love It-sized milkshake from Cold Stone Creamery to imagine how the experience of gulping that down en route to a dancefloor might feel. Ear Pwr harness and simulate the heedless energy spring is supposed to trigger within us all. Who can blame them for channeling it into charmingly vapid songs like "Diamonds Liquor Leather," with its helium-balloon synth-squiggles and nyah-nyah "I'll do the dealing if you'll do the wheeling/We'll make lots of money and it will be funny" refrains? And, honestly, who among us doesn't just need this kind of cut-loose malarkey now and again?

Dan Deacon, watch your back; everybody else, keep a watchful eye on your glucose levels while reeling in Ear Pwr's Super Happy Fun Ball (still legal in most states) zone.