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Category Archives: The General Specific

On LCD Soundsystem and Starting Back Up

lcdsoundsystem

Sometimes I wonder about the state of affairs on the Internet of Things, like this recent faux-tumult where everyone has been worked into a lather about the return of LCD Soundsystem even though Murphy & Co. previously declared things over – as if anyone knew with absolute certainty that they were done making music under that moniker when they “retired” about five years ago.

Here’s the thing: Murphy is an artist. Part of my understanding of artistry is that there is an inherent need to create. The artist – whoever he or she is – can’t simply switch it off, even if they really want to. He or she has to do it. Wine bars and coffee and shows in the subway aren’t going to be fulfilling as getting the fucking band back together and making music again. It’s just not. (And the allure of that sweet, sweet Coachella cash probably didn’t hurt much either.)

Do I think all the farewell tour stuff was a cash grab? Maybe, but I’m hedging my bets toward no. I can’t imagine that Murphy was being insincere when he said he was finished. I’m just not that cynical.

Do I think it cheapens the MSG Farewell Show Sendoff Extravaganza for people who attended (many of whom were gouged by ticket resellers)? No, I don’t think that’s the case either. It was probably a cool, communal experience for anyone who was there, and while they might be a little hurt that they weren’t one of the last 50,000 people to see LCD Soundsystem perform, they haven’t lost out on that experience. Maybe they’ll be a little gun shy about final shows in the future, but they really aren’t worse for wear.

If you think about concerts, there’s always been an element of “I was there!” to any of them. No one is angry that the show happens again the next night in a different city. Any concert is always a singular happening – particularly when the artist is good at what they do.

What the hell is my point here?

I don’t know, but this seems to dovetail nicely into the idea that I’d like to write again, or write more, or write differently than what I do in my normal nine-to-five routine. I’d like to delve back into a greater music scene that has packed up and moved on without me (not that they really noticed I was along for the ride in the first place). I’ve kept abreast of some of the larger things going on, but I was enjoying blogging more when I was into the minutia of the scene, heralding artists because they were good, and not because their PR team was begging me to or because it’d be cool if a lot of people liked it on Hype Machine. (We’re not even on Hype Machine anymore. I think our feed is there for posterity, but it’s not updating.)

That’s how it starts. We start to figure it out.

[random] On 2014 So Far

It’s amazing how quickly time slips past us; I’ve posted on the blog literally ten times since the calendar turned to 2014. Considering that we’re already ninety-some days into the year, that’s not a great average.

But it’s been a great year to this point: I’m newly-engaged and learning to not call my fiancée “my girlfriend.” Old habits are truly hard to break. And with that engagement comes all kinds of busyness: scouting locations, deciding on what food 180 people will be allowed to eat, what we want to listen to throughout the reception, colors, flowers, ties, dresses, etc. There are myriad things available for which I never knew there could even be options.

Bringing things back to music, I’ve been spending 2014 looking backwards, in part because of the engagement, so I’ve been looking for specific types of songs – old soul in the vein of Freddie Scott’s “You (Got What I Need).” That’s led me down rabbit holes into a lot of Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley and into my live Van Morrison bootlegs and recently into Simon & Garfunkel. My time with new music has been limited, and I’m enjoying thumbing through old records at the shops for albums I never would have dreamed of previously, or discovering The Mad Lads, or needing to listen to all of Stevie Wonder’s output with fresh ears.

It’s been rewarding to tap back into this great wealth of music that so often goes unnoticed by the bleeding edge blogosphere to discover this vast expanse of new-to-me music. I mean, I’ve listened to Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moanin’ at Midnight” two dozen times this year. It’s likely that my most played list for 2014 won’t have much representation from the twelve months that preceded it.

And that process has been doing me so much good. I’m losing some of the jaded veneer that I’ve so snarkily cultivated when it comes to what I like. Music should be enjoyed, and dredging up all this great stuff from the past has enabled me to do exactly that again.

[Best of 2013] Andy’s Favorites: Chance the Rapper // Acid Rap

2013 seems to have been kind of a lost year for me. My listening habits took a turn for the worse as the rest of my life picked up speed (I went back to school, continued to work full-time, and then got a dog), so my favorite releases from these past 12 months will likely not mirror many other outlets, just my own ebb and flow of listening when I found the time, and in no discernible order. Let’s mix it up.

Chance the Rapper Acid Rap cover

Chancellor Bennett turned 20 years old this past April, and two weeks after his birthday the Chicago rapper released his mixtape Acid Rap to a public that was largely unsuspecting of just how good it would be, this writer included.

Acid Rap is filled with a verbal tic that lies just behind the vocals on the vast majority of the songs. It’s a yelp, one that serves to keep time in the songs in which it appears. I had the thought of trying to count the number of tics I heard throughout the mixtape’s running time since Chance is smart enough to make that number significant, and with the murder rate in Chicago in 2012 reaching 516, I thought there might be a correlation.

I realized I was pressing, however, and trying to make more out of things than needed to be. Acid Rap is at its core largely a tale of diversion, whether through cigarettes, sex, or drugs, and it is at its pinnacle on the “hidden” track “Paranoia” that’s tacked onto the end of the album’s second song. It’s heartbreaking to hear Bennett snarl that “down here it’s easier to find a gun than it is to find a fucking parking spot.”

Acid Rap isn’t about the cash, and it’s not about the women, or even really about the drugs, though those things do have their place. Told through a lens yellowed by cigarette smoke, Acid Rap is a stark look into a world that has been largely ignored by those who are outside of it, and it is delivered with enough aplomb to make those same individuals take long overdue notice.

[sports] Richie Incognito and Basic Humanity

incognito

I don’t have any other outlet for my musings when they aren’t about music, so this is going up here. It’s not the first shot over the bow of Grantland or anything – just some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for the past few days.

I have read with interest the ongoing saga of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, two players for the Miami Dolphins, first because it is incomprehensible to me that someone has the last name Incognito, and second (and more importantly) because I am always fascinated by discussions of race and how our national perspective on it rears its head when these things happen. Usually I just keep my mouth shut, because the last thing the world needs is another middle-class Caucasian male parroting on about race in the 21st Century. With this situation, however, I think there is more that needs to be worked out, at least in my own head.

If you’re unaware, Martin left the Dolphins rather abruptly last week. In the time since his departure from the team, it has been revealed that Martin, a rookie, was on the receiving end of Incognito’s particularly misguided, churlish form of hazing, which included the use of racially charged language, threats to Martin personally, and threats to Martin’s family. (Incognito, it should be said, is white, whereas Martin is not.)

Since that revelation, all manner of reporting chaff has been offered up in order to explain what transpired. Current and former teammates have given Incognito a pass for using the word that he did (you know the one), even going so far as to claim that he is an “honorary brother.” Others are dismissive of the entire incident, chalking it up to nothing more than rookie hazing, a longstanding tradition of any sports locker room, though it usually ends at making the rookies carry bags or dressing up in costume (at least in baseball). Still others are directing the blame on Martin himself, calling him soft, or feigning outrage that he went outside of the normal hierarchy of the locker room to voice his concerns.

None of those things seem important about the story. What is important, and what has been lost in the discussion, is that it does not matter what latitude Incognito had to say what he did, or whether it was permissible as mere rookie hazing, or whether it amounted to bullying. Instead, what does matter is how Martin himself felt about the situation, and his departure from the team because of it makes it abundantly clear that he did not count himself among those who think it was copacetic.

All the rest of the spin surrounding the story is, in light of that fact, rendered irrelevant. We spend our lifetimes learning to be mindful of other people’s beliefs and feelings when we speak; it is not always successful, even for those that are well-versed in it. But we do this as an acknowledgement that other people’s feelings are important, and when we hurt them – inadvertently or not – we need to make amends for that fact, even if we were joking, and even if everyone else around us was doing it as well. That Incognito was more unabashed in his offense makes it that much worse.

Exceptions are not made to this rule simply because an individual plays professional sports, can lift more weight than another other person, or because they have played for a certain team for a longer period of time. If anything, being older should make a person more aware of this. But for a group of men playing (or reporting on) a glorified version of an after-school game, these basic lessons about humanity seem to need to be retaught.

[rant] On the New Vinyl Single from Arcade Fire

Reflektor Single Artwork

Last night at 9PM, Arcade Fire released their new single, “Reflektor” on 12” vinyl to various record stores throughout the world. At only 8,500 copies, the single was destined to be something of a collector’s item, like any limited run vinyl from a popular band is bound to become.

I dutifully drove myself to the record store in the Rochester area that was supposed to receive copies of the single, arrived about 15 minutes before 9PM and asked the people at the registers if there were, in fact, Arcade Fire singles available there. After receiving an affirmative response, along with an apology that they couldn’t sell them prior to 9PM, I kicked around the store for a bit and then got myself (first) in line when the time came. (That was more a function of me looking at the stacks of 45s in the front of the store than it was my desperation for getting my hands on the new single before anyone else in town.)

Those who were in line all got their vinyl, and then, before anyone paid for it, we took a group picture for the label (apparently), looking stoked to have our hands on this limited run of wax. After that, we dutifully got back into line, and then, because I was the first who’d asked about the single, I received a t-shirt with the Reflektor artwork on it, as well as a bunch of pins, a poster, and a sticker as well, all for $10.79 including tax.

After paying, I walked out, having been a small part of something much larger. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare – the store was playing the single as we checked out – but there were no balloons or confetti or large cutouts of the band adorning the walkway into the store. It was all pretty understated – just a handful of people excited to have new material from Arcade Fire in their hands, and to have it in a format that only 8,499 people would have it.

And then, not 15 minutes after I got home – around 9:20 or so – I searched for “arcade fire reflector vinyl single” on Google, and found that two people already had the single for sale on eBay, one seller asking for $49.99 for the privilege of owning it. As of this morning, there are a dozen copies for sale.

Fuck that.

If you collect vinyl, you understand that it’s not really about getting your hands on everything limited you could possibly want, because that’s realistically (and monetarily) not going to happen. If a limited run of vinyl sells out before you get it, that sucks for you, but it’s great for the band. Chances are that you’ll be able to get the two songs for a couple of bucks on iTunes. Yeah, it sucks that you can’t set it on your turntable and spin it endlessly, but you do realize that it’s not the end of the world, right? Don’t you?

Please don’t go out and spend some exorbitant amount on two songs that were available for $10 to feed someone else’s greed. You don’t need it that badly. Hell, I’ll sell you my copy if you can prove to me that you need that single so much that you’re willing to shell out $50 just to have it. (Note: the only way to convince me is if you have a tattoo of each band member’s face on your body, or something equally idiotic.) Let’s collectively decide that, right here and now, we won’t support individuals who try to profit from your fandom. (Blog pal Rich reminds me that this also goes for ticket resellers.)

Now, I also understand that my inconsequential ranting isn’t going to bring about a sea change in people’s attitudes or how shitty people can be in general. But man, if you’re that seller in Pittsburgh that had that copy of the single up not 30 minutes after it was made available, please do me the favor of not ever setting foot in a record store again, because you clearly don’t understand what it is to love anything other than yourself. Stop taking advantage of the people who do.