From the category archives:

Audio/Video

What Music Are You listening to This Week

by Belle Waring on August 29, 2017

The recurring series that’s actually pretty popular, dammit. Also I get sweet music recs every time. Otpup pointed out that the new LCD Soundsystem is great, and although they have only released three of the songs off the new album, I have been listening to them on repeat as I do my morning 1-hour hike that I do before the sun comes up because I am a person of unusual virtue and my life has changed and now I am up from the front end instead of from the other end if you see what I mean. Also it’s really hot when the sun comes up in Singapore. Of course, it’s so muggy before the sun comes up that I come home in a lather of sweat anyway, but hey. I see lots of old people doing tai chi in the park, and occasionally monkeys. Not doing tai chi, as far as I can tell. Otpup posted “Call The Police”, so here’s “Tonite.”

I’m not 1000% sold on The War on Drugs, but I’m warming up to it. And this song is great. Damn this dude must do a good Dylan cover though.

This is one of my favorite songs from The Clash’s Sandinista:

It’s strange in a way how like this the towers of Singapores HDB blocks look, in huge clusters, but neatly painted with graded hues on the brick ends, some blues, some reds, some yellows, all planted around with tidy gardens, all surrounded with new cars.
My Neighbors
Sorry, there were much better photos but they maxed out the side of the blog. Anyway, this is in my neighborhood, so there’s that.

I have the Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox that appears in the video at 4:17 and carried it as a purse for a number of years, a choice I now regard as dubious.

Is there a name for the songwriting device of setting up an obvious rhyme and then not using it? Pavement is particularly inclined to this but there’s an example in LCD Soundsystem’s “Tonite” also:

Sure enemies haunt you with spit and derision
But friends are the ones who can put you in exile

You are expecting “prison” at that point, oder?

What Music Are You Listening To This Week?

by Belle Waring on August 22, 2017

In my last music post commenter Fats Durston recommended the Weakerthans “Plea From a Cat Named Virtue,” and it is totally awesome. Thanks, bro!

“I’m tired of this piece of string.”
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sometimes do a The Smiths thing, but here I would say it’s more about The Only Ones. Or a combo? His voice is very like Peter Perett’s.

Sometimes I feel like bustin’ loose with Chuck Brown, Godfather of Go-Go.

Car Seat Headrest’s releae from earlier this year is still rocking me all the time, and further proves that literally anything can be a band name. Like, anything. (Plus fan-made video!) I feel that the outro is very early Brian Eno. Best quote “last week I took acid and mushrooms/I did not transcend, I felt like a walking piece of shit/in a stupid-looking jacket.” #relatable

What about y’all? You always have amazing suggestions and I listen to them all.
UPDATE: German punk band Slime’s “Viva La Muerte” is about the conquest of the Americas and it is so good.

Although maybe this anti-fascist song is more appropriate to the moment:

This. Is. The. Remix

by Belle Waring on June 10, 2017

Why would anyone remix Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you might ask? Well, this is what NPR’s mellow-voiced Bob Boilen discusses with Giles Martin, son of the legendary Beatles producer George Martin, in this All Songs Considered podcast. I should note first that it seems misleading to call this a remix since it’s more like a remaster. Wait, I should note first that this sounds AMAZING and I am legit listening to this full-time now vs the original mix. It’s like a scrim has been lifted between you and the music: everything is crisper, fuller—there are drums, even! Martin explains something I didn’t know, which is that it was a technical concern for a while that the phonograph needle could get kicked out of the groove by too much drums. Ringo wuz robbed! Seriously, though, the bit where the drums come in in “A Day In The Life” (after “he blew his mind out in a car”) is fantastic now.

Back to its being a remaster, basically the band and Martin spent four times or more as long on the mono mix as on the stereo, lavishing way more care on the former. They expected everyone to listen to the mono, but then through widespread adoption of the stereo format, it turned out that exactly no one listened to the mono after a certain point. Certainly no one my age has ever heard it, and it’s noticeably different in many places. In addition to that, the four-tracking for the stereo mix, while innovative and cool-sounding, caused the sound to be degraded as it got repeatedly bounced to make the various tracks. What Giles Martin did was go back to the original tapes from which the stereo was mixed down, and to the mono mix, and then tried to create something that is in effect a stereo version of the mono mix. So, for example, the mono version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” had something called artificial double tracking, which John loved. Another recording of his voice that’s slightly slower than the ‘top’ part (I don’t know what else to call this) is put in, creating a smeared effect that really suits the psychedelic sound. In the stereo version his voice sounds thinner by comparison. The whole podcast is worth a listen, because they put snippets from the various mixes and raw tapes next to one another so you can hear the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences. Or just listen to the remix of the album itself, it’s on Apple Music. Needless to say, you have to use the good headphones as the varying effects will be lost on your crappy computer speakers. For the record, Paul has listened to and apparently loves the mix. And speaking of records, they cut a vinyl version and I’m kind of coveting it. Maybe John will buy it for me as an anniversary gift. [insert winkmoji]

P.S. It is a humorous fact about my life that I never listened to The Beatles until I was 17, because my parents strongly inculcated in me the belief that you were either a lame hippie who liked The Beatles or a cool person who liked The Rolling Stones and then went on to like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, as if it were a Thunderdome-style match in which the two bands entered but only one band left. I don’t know what you also liked if you liked The Beatles; the soundtrack to Hair, maybe. This is related to my parents’ insistence that they were never hippies when I’m like we had a failed back to the land farm! I was there, dammit! Anyway, it was thanks to my horrified high school boyfriend Charles Andrews that I learned this Beatles/Stones absolutism was dumb and made zero sense (sorry Mom and Dad, and thanks Charles). It was “And Your Bird Can Sing” that sold me.

Harry Potter Moe

by Belle Waring on August 17, 2015

What if the people who made super-popular, insanely adorbs anime K-On made an anime of Harry Potter? In which they skip around from era to era so that everyone can be a student (and this is very much what they would do, if you think about it)? Then, it would look like the following video, which you must promise me you will watch to when you burst out laughing at the face of Severus Snape—himself as astonished as you are—after which you will find it mere child’s play to continue to the end to get a glimpse of Helga Hufflepuff in a miniature top hat. The Weasley twins are perfect. They could be like the twins in Ouran High Host Club! (The girls and I, hearing the premise of that anime—HS students run gigolo-type host club as one of the school clubs, and blackmail an androgynous girl into participating, in drag—thought it would be awful. But last summer we were bored at my mom’s and succumbed to the magic of Netflix, only to find it’s hilarious. It sends up shojo manga tropes a lot.)

[click to continue…]

David “Robin Hood” Brooks

by Eric on May 4, 2015

Ronald Reagan in “A Time for Choosing,” the Gipper’s speech for Barry Goldwater in 1964:

Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We’re spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you’ll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we’d be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty.

David Brooks in the New York Times, regarding the case of Freddie Gray in 2015:

The problem is not lack of attention, and it’s not mainly lack of money. Since 1980 federal antipoverty spending has exploded. As Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post has pointed out, in 2013 the federal government spent nearly $14,000 per poor person. If you simply took that money and handed it to the poor, a family of four would have a household income roughly twice the poverty rate.

Annie Lowery points out why Brooks’s argument is numerically bogus: just as conservatives don’t count millions of government employees as employed in 1930s, Brooks doesn’t count federal money as money in the 2010s:

Brooks is claiming that federal spending on anti-poverty programs is not lifting families out of poverty… when the government specifically does not include the value of those very programs in its poverty calculations.… A fuller accounting shows that food stamps alone lift 4 million people above the poverty line. The earned-income tax credit lifts nearly 6 million above it. Which is to say that “not bringing down the official poverty rate” is not a good yardstick by which to judge these programs.

But I would like to take David Brooks up on his suggestion: with the absolute same degree of sincerity as 1964-era Reagan, he’s supporting a straight-up transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor. It is a radical solution to poverty, this long-standing Republican proposal, but perhaps one that we should consider.

I’m an animation history buff, as you may know. Here’s something I noticed today.

“Hell-Bent For Election”, the 1944, Chuck Jones-directed, proto-UPA pro-FDR agit-prop classic, shows Roosevelt’s streamlined profile as the head of the Win The War Special. On the other track is the Defeatist Limited, pulling various cars including, finally, the Jim Crow Car.

jimcrowcar

That is, the cartoon basically says: vote FDR, because Thomas Dewey is in favor of Jim Crow.

I am very surprised to see this messaging in 1944. I wouldn’t have thought the Democrats would have wanted to go there. Too much of a raw nerve. Too close to home for a party still based in the South. (Probably also unfair to Dewey, but the cartoon isn’t a model of fairness. It contains a pretty raw ad hitlerum argument. The surprise is only that it seems to risk offending the white Democratic base.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if the cartoonists, who were all lefties, were wishing FDR further to the left. Maybe message discipline for this stuff wasn’t very tight.

The cartoon got a lot of play in the election. From a book on history of the studio:

The film worked. Distributed in 16 mm by Brandon Films, Inc., of New York City, the cartoon could be rented for ten dollars. Boxoffice reported that it was screened in “union halls, political clubs – even in private homes at parties organized for fund raising purposes.” Naturally, the liberal press trumpeted Hell-Bent For Election: “Clever cartooning, obviously done by Hollywood’s best,” noted John T. McManus in the newspaper PM. The Daily Worker praised the cartoon’s “expert craftsmanship and sound political advice to labor and the nation.” Hell-Bent also warranted a two-page spread in Life – a periodical aimed at the middle-American mind. Direction magazine estimated that Hell-Bent was “shown to more than ten million persons.” (57)

What do you think? I’d be kind of curious to see the Life spread.

So, All The Cups Got Broke, You Guys.

by Belle Waring on December 7, 2014

DJ Earworm has come out with his 2014 year-end mix. For those who have not hear them before, he makes mashups at the end of the year with the top 25 songs. Since he started making ‘Summermash 13’ and ‘Summermash 14,’ the songs from earlier in the year don’t get as much love, which is sort of too bad if the good songs were earlier in the year, but OK since you can hear him use the same bit quite differently. Assuming you don’t know these songs (except three maybe, except none maybe) the lines of the song and even words of a line are all from different songs.

Lots of people online have been saying it’s not that great, not like back in the day. Partly because everyone must ritualistically claim that 2009 was the best, ever, forever. This is defensible but non-obvious. It blew everyone’s mind, and it is beautiful, but there is a lot of Blackeyed Peas and Miley Cyrus’s first solo album in there and you’re not telling me that’s right. What there is is good Lady Gaga songs. I want some of those. Partly people are saying it’s weaksauce because the songs (raw material) sucked. This is a fair and an unfair point. Fair, in that they mostly sucked, but by no means all, since Lorde’s Team is great, and I like Happy a lot (shut up h8ers) and…and…mmm, there was plenty of suckage. No, screw it, “Fancy” is idiotic but kind of fun, what do you want in a song. I mean, other than an Australian chick trying and failing to sound like…(considers YouTube history)…this totally random rapper Yolanda laying it down in front of egg-crate foam. Seriously, who is this? Not really anyone, and yet her flow is so much better than Iggy’s. Is this evidence that we live in a just world?

Unfair (the criticism of 2014’s mix) in that every year most of the songs are terrible. This year suffered in not having an EDM track to bring the EPIC. Last hear there was only one: “Don’t You Worry Child.” If you listen to last year’s mix you can hear that it made the chorus rousing (like starting at 1:11.) This year DJ Earworm relied on the crazy lead-in to the stupid chorus of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” for this purpose, and took 0 sung sections from the song, a WAY SOLID decision [not linking to this because if you want to see Katy Perry turn someone into a glass of wine because he gave her a massive basket of Spicy Cheetos carried by slaves that’s on y’all]. The thing he did that was inspirational was he made the ridiculous Charlie XCX “I’m so fancy/Everybody knows/In the fast lane/From LA to Tokyo” part of “Fancy” be the chorus and be all moving and sweet. Like the ending of last year’s mix made “Thrift Shop” and a Justin Timberlake song beautiful. How? Is he magic? He’s magic probably, is the answer. Belle, why do you even know all these shitty songs? Do your children like these shitty songs? No, they only like good music, actually. I, um, I ride in the taxi all the time and hear Singapore radio stations? I see the mashups and think “what the hell song was that?” Checks. “Oh god, it’s Maroon 5. If Adam Levine bleeds or gets blown up one more time in a video he will die of blood loss, and I will not mourn his passing.”

ANYWAY speaking of Magic, one of the not-good songs in the year-end mix was a meagre Canadian reggae song called “Rude,” which you must now go listen to the first 45 seconds of so you can fully appreciate the genius of this cover. No, go. No. Seriously, I’m not posting it until you—-OK, then. Now this you really want to watch. This is not you humoring me, this is straight awesome and not in some abstruse possibly ironic way where I double back and like Christina Aguilera (I don’t obvs.)

See! I am in love with this kid now! I feel, re-reading this, vaguely defensive and like I need to reassure you that I spend lots of time listening to Can and Ike and Tina Turner and Parliament/Funkadelic and Porter Wagoner and am a good person, but whatever. I’ma let my freak-flag of ‘hating things by knowing about them in intricate detail’ flag fly (please ask me if you’d like me to synopsize all the Twilight books. My daughters wanted to know where I even learned the name of the Vampire pureblood association that is all mad at Edward and Bella for their forbidden creation of a half-etc. child, and even granting that I read it on the internet why did I remember it? I have no defense.)

Not to Mention, I Respect You With My Art

by Belle Waring on September 5, 2014

September! When I made a monthly music-themed mix, September won. At this very moment I’m obsessively listening to this song, “Don’t Wait,” by Maipei. John finds the vocals too computer-processed, but it’s important to note that they are too computer-processed in an Air-song-from-1998 way, and not in a T-Pain-song-from-2008 way.

But obviously when September rolls around, this ticking, percussive guitar/synth/O HAI ITS THE HORNZ thing comes to mind. Firstly, are those, like, daishikis from outer space, or Chinese-inspired sequined outfits from outer space, what say ye? Secondly, John notes no one goes for the balding afro anymore. A man in that position nowadays would shave his head. Not Maurice White. He has the sexual self-confidence to rock this balding afro with pride.

Feel free to tell me “September” is some disco bullshit compared to “Evil” or “Shining Star.” I will ignore your reasonably well-supported claim because WAIIIAIIAIIIAIIsay do you rememberWAIIIAIII…
[click to continue…]

Mash Up For What?

by Belle Waring on June 6, 2014

So, a new DJ Earworm mashup. This one was getting a lot of bitching in comments, but I like it a lot. Partly it’s because many were complaining that the inclusion of “Happy” made it bad, and I really like the song “Happy.” Partly because it’s “only” five songs. This is funny to me because I have been listening to mashups/bootlegs for a long time, and for many years there were always only two songs, and that was often even the titling: Song A vs Song B, or Artist A vs Artist B. One of the best mashups ever is dsico’s “Love Will Freak Us” (Get Your Freak On vs Love Will Tear Us Apart) (Missy Eliot vs Joy Division obvs.).

Another early classic is Freelance Hellraiser’s “The Strokes vs Christina Aguilera ‘A Stroke of Genie-us.’” I am entirely certain that the popularity of this bootleg made Christina Aguilera’s people write/produce songs for her differently. Really, her music was no question influenced by how good this sounded. (Now you’re going to tell me that there’s still Christina Aguilera in there, so “good” in that previous sentence is not being employed properly but…OK. Don’t like it. It was ground-breaking, though. I think it came out in 2002.

I feel obliged to warn you that this video contains scenes of…well, unrelieved priapism? There is no reason that a man crashing through the successive stories of a normal Asian apartment building, and convincing his neighbors to join him in mimicry of unsatisfied sexual behavior should be more sexual or more salacious than girls shaking their almost-naked asses at you and performing sexual congress with the wall of Jason Derulo’s dressing room or whatever, but somehow it is. Zoë says it’s more disturbing “because they look like real people.” This is right; we expect impossible plastic beauties from around the world to shake their money-makers right into the camera. An ordinary Chinese dude in sweatpants dry-humping an old TV is…more sexual? This can’t be right, but it’s right? Anyway, NSFW in some illogical way that is fully clothed and has no one touching anyone. This combines with the ordinary people in the video for “Happy” in a humorous way.

Next time: is Iggy Azalea a drag queen? Is this a kind of reverse blackface where you take the rhymes you want from a woman MC from South Florida and then repackage them in a model-perfect white blonde?

Big Love – Oh Brunhilda Edition

by John Holbo on May 18, 2014

If you think there’s the slightest chance that you would enjoy a book about Maurice Noble, who designed the backgrounds for all your favorite Warner Brothers cartoons (and a bunch of other animated works you love), you should get The Noble Approach: Art and Designs of Maurice Noble [amazon]. [click to continue…]

Enjoy!

by Belle Waring on May 3, 2014

I like this song (“Tous les Mêmes” [corrected, thanks Ezster!]) and video by Belgian musician Stromae. I hope you will also.

I am distracted from his alternate blue-green-male/magenta-female personalities by the fabulous furniture in their apartment. Probably my job has gotten to me too much if my immediate thought is “I want that wall-mounted storage unit!” rather than “this reminds me of when I wondered where they got all those implausibly tall, thin dudes to dance on Soul Train, and whether it was just because cocaine is one helluva drug, or what—no, here’s Stromae!” (I grant there’s a hidden premise.) Tertiary May Day thought inspired by outdoor dance scene: I always read that students were throwing cobblestones, and then I ever saw any and thought, “that must have took a damn bit of effort to get up out the ground.” Also I stepped on Eszter’s post. Sorry!

YOLO

by Belle Waring on April 18, 2014

Congratulations to Harry on his new US citizenship! Perhaps English people rock the whole YOLO thing a little more like this:

You Poor Bastards

by Belle Waring on April 16, 2014

OK, my mom texted me earlier that it was snowing in D.C. That is wrecked-up sideways, people. LAND’S SAKES IT IS THE MIDDLE OF APRIL?! In a way I should really post the Weezer song “My Name is Jonas,” because, do you know what else? Guess what I received in a text today—words of deep concern from my little brother. Building’s not going as he planned. The vortex means digging is banned. The dozer will not clear a path; the driver swears he learned his math! The workers are going home—I reckon, because the dirt’s frozen! How’s the man meant to get a cellar dug for his cool 1950s-plan cabin on the lower meadow of his proppity up in West Virginia if it starts snowing and the workers are going home? Now I imagine it’s all going to melt in a trice but this really has been retarding his plans, for real, and not just in a Weezer song (which is an excellent song, but not as good as “Say it Ain’t So,” The Best Weezer Song. Um. OK, no, I’m changing my plea to guilty claim to “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here“). Yep, they have had the stones and the timber and all that, sufficient to build a cabin, and all taken from the woods itself, but they haven’t been able to break ground till last week because they couldn’t break into the damn ground!

And now it’s snowing on all they poor heads, even that of Fatso, the chihuahua-pomeranian mix, who isn’t fat, and was chosen for his mighty endurance and ability to withstand the harsh winters by sitting in a dog bed made of a damn knitting basket or something right up next to the wood stove. I am told that despite being a pom-chi-chi (no, psych, it’s cause he’s 1/4 pom and the rest chi), Fatso has the soul of a black lab, and that I will love him and not think he is a wretched yappy creature whom humans brought into the world only in order to illuminate the First Noble Truth. We’ll see. E’erbody says so, though. Hmmm. OK Fatso, win my heart. He’ll get a chance this summer when I meet him for the first time.

Anyway, for the rest of y’all, here’s DJ Earworm’s Summermash 2013, with the “hey where’s all my ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Blurred Lines’” you were wondering about I was complaining about with regard to the 2013 mashup (which has grown on me). Watch, listen, and imagine. Summer is coming, sure as anything. If she is delayed in some way I feel certain that small felt and metal figures whose manipulable fingers become dark with smuts over the course of the film will be animated in stop-motion and narrated over by an avuncular zombie Burl Ives in such wise as to overcome any difficulties as may be posed by the Snow Miser or Jim DeMint or whoever.

Good Cheer

by Belle Waring on April 10, 2014

Soultrain.com sort of alleges itself to have the HD video, but I can’t find it there. In any case, this is a great song, killer outfits (I want all those! All I own is the pants of the dude with the hat. Hm. OK, her pants, but I don’t like them on me.) and Don Cornelius is rocking…just…is that tie 6 full inches wide? It is, right? Right on.

Wishing you peace, love, and soul, gentle readers.

Best Video Ever

by Belle Waring on April 8, 2014

This is really for Straightwood, because I know the deeply meaningful and fully explained nature of this video of 50 Cent dubbed over a Jehovah’s Witness exhorting deaf students to abstain from masturbation will appeal to your keenly honed and not in any way homosexual aesthetic.