Archive forArts and Entertainment

They’re only good for the latest trends

So, as most of you know, emo is a notoriously bad genre. Its sort of like the ‘alternative’ that included all those one-hit-wonders of the 90s and Everclear. I tended to agree (with the only real exceptions up until now being Bright Eyes, who is legit despite recent popularity (tee hee), and My Chemical Romance, which is a real borderline case anyways). I mean I always loved Weezer, but they are the exception in that they either aren’t the genre, or they *defined* (not created, defined) the genre. Either way, they don’t quite count.

But now I think I’ve found out what emo can be. Emo can be what Fall Out Boy does. They do awesome. Also I like their name. It is a command to a boy, not a description of a boy.

If you’ve heard any emo, you’ve heard “Dance, Dance” by now, a seriously catchy and (both musically and lyrically) clever song. In fact, after the about 10th time of loving listening to that song, I decided (on somewhat of an impulse) to buy the CD (physical compact disc, dude, I have a job). That’s when I realized that song about going “down down” that you really can’t understand the lyrics of is *also* Fall Out Boy. That song is also seriously catchy, and utilizes (uses) rock and roll prinicples such that Chuck Berry would be proud (no, it doesn’t *sound* like classic Berry, but it does right by him). It is (like) somehow like really sweet and tragic, such that a 20-something can identify. After you spend a few hours deciphering the lyrics, you realize that you understand what he means (he being the Boy meant to fall out). Not really whining (physically or lyrically). Its actually emotional rather than devoid of emotion yet full of whine that is most emo. Nice.

Throughout the whole album most of the songs are at least two out of catchy, emotional, fun, and musically ‘good’. There are a couple flops (of which I cannot remember which they are right now, because their song titles are like way long. I know “XO” and “Our Lawyer…Sued” are good, though. (oh, and “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying” is good) In fact, “XO” is a really satisfying end to a CD. Incidentally, the CD is called “From Under The Cork Tree” which might be an awful name, and it is their third album I think. So I need to think more. But for now, I found some emo I like and am listening to many times.
is this a review? I just did a review….

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I love how he knows how to use words

I love the mix of self-awareness and complete obliviousness and even just plain I-am-a-hell-of-cute-kid-ness that Philippe shows in panel 5. It is so true that kids feel shit like that, and have some concept of that things have always been a way since they were around. It is funny.

Wow.

Chris Onstad is getting good at using language. And that is saying a lot. I want a shirt!

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How can it happen?

He’s not like this. He reads dozens of novels a year, and some other stuff too. He usually has one novel and maybe something else going at once. He knows you know: all-consuming fiction on one hand and like programming or comics or poker or who knows on the other hand: something that takes less dedication. But then it happens, his whole world turns upside down and he opens a third book.

This the answer to the question of how a man ends up in the middle of 6 books all at once.

He can begin with the 9th book (Water Sleeps) in a previously amazing and now completely shitty fantasy series. He’ll pick up the sequel (The Smoke Ring) to a sci-fi book he previously read and start that, in hopes that he’ll gain some momentum to later finish the shitty book with.

Then he’ll get Woody Allen’s Getting Even for his birthday. And he has to start that, it is Woody Allen.

But then he’ll realize he really doesn’t know enough about the major events of the times, and he’ll also be a trial member of Amazon Prime (trial membership is so worth it! haha) and on a whim buy The Assassin’s Gate, which turns out to be pretty interesting after all, so he gets into that. The real world is important, so fiction and humor can wait.

Then, as he’s programming a poker odds calculator to see which hands really are the best in Omaha8 (AA23 or A234 or A236 or A2KQ or AKQJ they are all so good!), he’ll decide he needs to refresh some of his poker knowledge so he’ll break back into The Theory of Poker. This project will lead him to slow down his reading of other books, after all, it takes focus.

Then he’ll find the library’s comic book section, and check out The Sandman, the first 4 volumes at that. He’ll start reading a “chapter” before bed each night, taking that time away from finishing other books. Now as they all sit stacked on his bedside table…

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(WTFbrb) Rank(s) Late Night Talk Show Hosts

With the week coming up (how rare is that!), WTFbrb assesses weeknight talk-show hosts based on how smart they are, how smart they think (or pretend) they are, how mean they are to people who come on their show, how funny they are, and how newsy they are:

Smart Thinks Mean Funny Newsy
Leno 3 4 3 4 3
Letterman 4 5 5 3 1
Conan 5 2 2 5 1
TV’s Craig Ferguson 2 2 2 4 2
Jimmy Kimmel 5 3 3 2 1
Carson I am not that unemployed (:
Jon Stewart 5 4 3 4 5
Stephen Colbert 4 5 4 5 4

WTFbrb hopes this helps.

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Sufjan Steven’s Illinois: not the real thing

Since its release, critics and music lovers everywhere have been hyping Sufjan Steven’s Illinois as the great album of 2005, even a revitalization of indie rock. This album, however, isn’t that. But the album deserves respect as an achievement of some sort, so I’m going to attempt what I believe is an honest discussion. After a couple months of rave reviews I decided to buy it, and gave it a couple listens. The first time through I was interested but not blown away. The album is indeed somewhat clever—especially in its song titles—and an original creation in its own right. But the name-dropping and gimmicks get old, even if they are the flair that holds Stevens’ apart from others.

A couple more listens began exposing the weaknesses of the album. The lyrics are contrived and forced. I enjoy lyrics that deliver deliberate and descriptive narrative when done properly (Try Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats for some excellent lyrics in a concept album), but Stevens’ prose comes through as awkward at best. The stories he tells aren’t anything special, or particularly well told. For all the hype around “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”, I’d take a yarn woven by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists or Craig Finn of The Hold Steady over “Gacy”—or any other song from Illinois—any day of the week.

Beyond lyrics, the music itself is contrived. Stevens applied some amateur theory, making it different from your standard indie music, then brought in some orchestration and fanfare to make it sound big, and let the album ride on it, but its unable to evoke the feelings or histories it is presumably meant to. If you want grand themes that work, try Arcade Fire’s Funeral on for size, or if you’re willing to go back a few decades, Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd. When Illinios invokes folk themes, it unfortunately breaks utterly, these spots are times when the album does indeed become nearly unlistenable. The redeeming fact is the use of string parts to connect songs and preserve the album as one opus.

More than anything vocals are a matter of opinion, so if you absolutely love Sufjan’s voice, I won’t try to tell you otherwise. But again, I feel that Stevens is attempting to deliver a soft-spoken singing performance that doesn’t come through properly. As I see it, Elliott Smith or Avey Tare (of Animal Collective) deliver much more inspired vocal performances, both in similar but unique soft-spoken ways. Indeed, their vocals ride over better musical backdrops as well.

Song for song, there is nothing special about Illinois. The songs are average creations that any moderately successful artist is just as likely to deliver. That the lyrics and music themselves leave much to be desired doesn’t help put any of the songs from Illinois on any top 10 list of mine. Even as simple catchy tunes, nothing sticks in my head, or gives me any sort of inspiration beyond double clicking another song in my library. A breakway hit might redeem the album, if in a way unintended by Stevens, however none of the songs stands much above the rest. As a concept album, Illinois is able to invoke similar themes throughout, which isn’t as easy as it seems, but these themes aren’t inspired enough to merit such a lengthy opus.

Now, as for tying it all together, this is what can make albums truly great. (I’d again point to you to any of the examples above for artists that have created truly great albums). Sufjan Stevens put care into the production of Illinois. The recording and mixing is near flawless, you’ll never hear something that sounds just plain wrong or out of place. For this reason, the album deserves respect and recognition. However, even if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, Illinois remains lacking. Perhaps call this album a truly great recording of generally mediocre songs. Considering Sufjans half-joking threat to compose such an album for each of the 50 states in the Union (48 to go), I’d suggest passing on Illinois altogether.

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