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Posts Tagged ‘Bright Eyes’

Ignored 71: Photos WTF

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2015 at 2:57 am

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Ignored 36: Do you like Neil Young?

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm

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I asked my friend Adam (via Facebook) if he liked Neil Young. What happens next will SHOCK you…

Cam: Do you like Neil Young?

Adam: Yes very much but not as crazily as others. Only seen him twice. “A Man Needs a Maid” acoustic at Massey Hall was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Adam: You ask me questions at times were I can’t adequately answer on an iPhone.

Cam: I was going to ask you to tweet me your ENTIRE thoughts on the Beatles next.

beatles

Cam: I’m not a massive fan but I like him. I have this morbid reaction every time he plays Toronto… balking at $80 tickets to see him play his latest song cycle about the electric car or whatever. And then finding out he dies a week after filling the ACC. Similar feelings about Leonard Cohen.

Cam: Is there a particular album or three you’re into?

Adam: Harvest Moon is a slice of perfection for me. straight through. A certain place and time I remember well. That album, then. Getting it, and listening to it all the time. The harmonies. Oh, the harmonies. James Taylor is on there. I had a Nicolette Larson phase, who sang all the harmony on “Comes a Time” (also great, I could go on) and then had her own hits with “Rhumba Girl” and “Lotta Love”. She died early, which was super sad, especially since she’d done an album of lullabies that I had found. but I digress. Nicollete Larson, James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt all do harmonies on the album. It makes me happy all the time. It makes me want to sing along. It’s simple and perfect. “One of These Days” is one of the best songs he ever wrote, and the live version of it from Neil Young: Heart of Gold is something else. How he talks about the letter he’ll write to his old friends, how he feels about them, it’s really beautiful and stirs emotion in me every time.

Adam: TBC…

Adam: My first album was Decade. A great starting point. “Out on the Weekend” and “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and “Tell Me Why” are the shit. Watch this. Greatest thing ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Pf0RkL6lN4. Chrome Dreams II was a fantastic album. I was lucky to see him do the tour live at Massey Hall. Frst half acoustic (people need to shut the fuck up). Second half electric. Awesome.

 

Adam: Also saw him at the ACC with Wilco opening. Most notably, my first Wilco show. Neil did a really good “Cortez the Killer” if i recall. Show highlight for me. Lowlight is always “All Along the Watchtwoer” because I can’t stand that song, though he wails. Deceptively. you forget that about him because of how soft and gentle he is, then he fucking goes off.

Cam: I like your comments very much. Harvest Moon is interesting because it comes on the heals of “Neil Young in the 1980s” which is almost entirely experimental, “message albums” or both. “Neil in the 1980s” is definitely a massive Rolling Stone article in its own right. I’ll need to go back and give Harvest Moon a deeper listen. There’s something about “Unknown Legend” that rubs me the wrong way, although I think for no real reason. Maybe the concept of desert highways freaks me out a bit.

Cam: You’ve mentioned Tweedy in a few times in past. Seems like for you, he’s one of the few new (i.e. ONLY been around for 25 years) artists who kinda sorta carries the mantle for Bob, Neil, etc? I think I’ve suggested it before but definitely give the War on Drugs’ “Baby Missiles” a listen if you can carve out a few minutes. If only because it kinda sounds like Dire Straits, Petty, Bruce and all that shit squished together. Via Philadelphia somehow. It’s a great song but I guess only time will tell if this guy/these guys are their own thing or a merely vaguely interesting soundalike.

Cam: OK, I’m putting “Journey Through the Past” on my iPod. One thing I really like about Neil is that he’s such a curmudgeon but his lyrics and songwriting is incredibly earnest and when he wants to be, very universal. I’d like to see make one more really vastly acclaimed (and listened to) album before he splits. Maybe his Time Out of Mind? I dunno. He’s got kind of a “Neil being Neil” thing going for the casual observer at this point.

 

Cam: Strangely, my introduction to Neil was CSNY’s “American Dream”. Primarily, the video. I guess we were around 10 when that came out and I thought it was by somebody akin to Weird Al since the song and video were (apparently) parody. I think for a while, I thought it was Genesis since they had that video with all the puppets in it and… well, I was young and foolish, I guess. It’s interesting to watch the video now and see how prominently Oliver North and Gary Hart factor into it… two fellas that NOBODY ever talks about anymore (let alone sing about). It kinda bothers me Nash is in there poo pooing the “American Dream”. Dude, you’re from Blackpool. Git outta there!!! Git!! Git!!

Cam: I know you never “did” Pearl Jam. What about when Neil was jamming with those guys? I think that Mirrorball album was a bit like “the emperor’s new clothes”. The coolest mainstream band of the day with the baddest mainstream legacy artist. The single “Downtown” was pretty weak and had inane lyrics: there’s a place called downtown/where all the hippies go… downtown/let’s go downtown.

 

Cam: Just writing this out reminds me of that Seinfeld where George is trying to solve the downtown “riddle” by dissecting the Petula Clark song, famously resulting in the humiliation of a mail room clerk.

Cam: Deer Tick is another new(ish) band that I like to put in iPod playlist with Wilco, Steve Earle, Bright Eyes, the War on Drugs, etc…. kind of real fake country rock, I guess. Not sure I’d draw any parallels with them and Petty, Bob or any of those guys. The Replacements yet. I love the persistent organ on this tune.

Adam: My Other first Neil album was Live Rust. Holy shit, that album blew my mind. His early output is so over the top impressive.

Adam:The opening to “Comes a Time”!!

Cam: Yeah, I certainly gravitated more towards “noisy Neil” when I was a litte guy. I like when he took Sonic Youth on tour and went through “gratuitous noise” phase but it always sounded different when he’d freak out with Crazy Horse because it was coming from a more “bar band” sensibility than pandering to critics or “edgy alternative types”. He could go from noise freak outs, straight up country rock, jamming with Booker T and the MGs and then when he wanted to do something MOR and mainstream, he could drop a Harvest Moon and completely nail it.

Ignored 35: When skits went indie

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm

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“The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Skits list” from Complex Magazine is a good read and helps shine a light on the (mercifully) dying art of the hip-hop skit.

Wikipedia defines a hip-hop skit (ed. I seriously LOVE that’s there’s an entry for this) as “a form of sketch comedy that appears on a hip hop album or mixtape, and is usually written and performed by the artists themselves. Skits can appear on albums or mixtapes as individual tracks, or at the beginning or end of a song. Some skits are part of concept albums and contribute to an album’s concept. Skits also occasionally appear on albums of other genres. The hip-hop skit was more or less pioneered by De La Soul and their producer Prince Paul who incorporated many skits on their 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising.”

A fair definition but clearly not every hip-hop skit was trying to be “funny ha ha”. Some were sending a harsh message (i.e. N.W.A. sings “Message to BA”). Others were semi-scary glimpses into domestic violence and violence violence (i.e. the Notorious B.I.G. sings “Intro”). Others still spawn catchphrases that would go on to dominate UrbanDictionnary.com (i.e. Dr. Dre sings “Deeez Nuuuts” ).

As the popularity of the full-length album has largely died, the prevalence of hip-hop skits in the culture is likewise on life support. If you need further proof, check out this BBM conversation between me and my friend Ryan on the topic.

This is some #realtalk right here!

ryan

So since “the hip-hop skit” era is a thing of the past (more proof from The Onion A/V Club), here is a companion piece of sorts to the Complex Top 50. Except instead of hip-hop, this is indie rock and instead of 50, it’s five. Since middle-class college kids apparently like to make the odd skit too.

Honourable mention: Bright Eyes and Godspeed You! Black Emperor who often incorporate bits of spoken word into their songs w/o getting too skit-y.

1. The Pixies sing “You Fuckin’ Die…!”

A bit confusing since it’s only a standalone (track 11) on certain CD pressings of Surfer Rosa, “YFD” is nevertheless a landmark track in the annals of indie rock skits. I guess. It’s not overly clear what Black Francis is getting at with his f-bomb assaults but it appears it’s an imitation of Kim Deal and how she reacts when “somebody touches her stuff”. Yup, seems like a healthy band dynamic! Between this skit, the topless lady on the album cover and the weird lyrics about UFOs and physical harm, it’s no wonder the Pixies found an audience amongst those who like some guts and macabre served alongside their poppy hard rock.

2. Sonic Youth sings “Providence”

I suppose this technically could be considered a song because a spooky Jandek-ish piano track that is present through out. However, the core of this “skit” is Mike Watt’s voice mail for Thurston Moore, admonishing him for (I think) drugs and how forgetful he becomes while on drugs. There’s an interesting father-son dynamic here, which is double-interesting since Watt’s only about half a year older than Moore. A throwaway of sorts but given it’s placement within the track list of the epic Daydream Nation full-length, “Providence” does serve as a reminder of the more experimental (vague?) side that Sonic Youth had started shedding by the late 1980s.

3. Beck sings “11.6.45”

This is probably the least surprising artist on the list since Beck took many early cues from hip-hop. And folk. And “power electronics” (not really). And television. And fast food. Flipside was primarily a fanzine but also released some music, including the “soooooo random” 1994’s Beck effort Stereopathetic Soulmanure. The album predated his commercial breakthrough Mellow Gold by a week and a bit, and contains a whopping 25 tracks. Some of these were music and some of these were not. In terms of the “nots”, you have some noise bursts, live weirdness and wonky vocal recordings. “11.6.45” is my personal favourite and features a sped-up voice mail talking about playing Pac-Man in 1945 and a Sasquatch eating a burrito. Heavy commentary on the Clinton regime, no doubt.

4. The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir sings “Happy Earth Day, Tortoise”

Tortoise was a dude friend of the under-remembered Toronto indie/funk/R&B outfit the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. He played on a few recordings and we can assume, was a roommate of band member “not that Chris Brown”. This track features Mama Brown calling up a house at 50 Palmerston Gardens, briefly performing a Weird Al-ish tune “Happy Earth Day to You” and asking Tortoise about what time the band would be playing at Toronto City Hall for Earth Day. Tortoise sounds out of it and Mama Brown sounds frustrated. Turns out the band was playing at 3:00pm. The track can been found on the Bourbon’s out-of-print 1985-1995 collection, which pops up on eBay at times.

5. Built to Spill sings “Preview”

“Preview” goes with a fake infomercial motif and closes out BTS’s sophomore There’s Nothing Wrong with Love effort. I think I’m not alone in having always wanted to hear the full versions of the five fake (real?) songs featured on this fake Built to Spill album. Wikipedia called the skit “satirical” although it’s a bit unclear what this is supposed to be a satire of. Maybe a K-tel commercial? This Amazon review says it “pokes a little fun at the mainstream punk scene and modern rock radio”. This Amazon review says it is “hilarious”. I’m not sure it’s either but it’s strangely not out-of-place either.

Ignored 11: Setlists without prejudice

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2013 at 3:03 am

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Bold statement: When a band plays a concert (ne: “gig”), more often than not, there is a template (in a broad sense) that is followed when the setlist is composed. This needs to be commented on.

Underrated website alert: http://www.setlist.fm/

Setlist.fm is an awesome resource for concert goers and although its Wiki-esque architecture doesn’t always lend itself to things like “accuracy”, it still is a wonderful online destination to revisit your favourite concert memories. Just recently, it allowed me to revisit the splendor that was this and this but not this.

Spend five minutes on the website and you’re liable to be struck by how similar a lot of concert setlists are. There is a cadence that bands tend to follow with respect to the energy and approach to setlist architecture. Sequencing is key, not unlike crafting a mix tape or planning a murder in cold blood.

In an effort to kill the guest work (and an excuse to create a PDF), here is the Completely Ignored Setlist Template (CIST) that bands can follow to help them craft exceeding predictable setlists. This is based on a 15-song setlist model (12 tunes in the regular set, three in the encore). Lots of variance in reality of course but nine times out of 10, you could plug and play and your fans would be none the wiser.

PDF Download: Completely Ignored Setlist Template

Song #1: The band’s second biggest hit (or equivalent)!!! This should be a recognizable, high energy number or if not high energy, at least something that builds momentum or anticipation or excitement. Bonus points if it works thematically, as was the case with Pulp’s comeback appearance at the 2011 Reading Festival. Similarly, we should seriously hope that the Smiths never reunite but if they do, is there any doubt that this song will be the opener of their first comeback gig?

Song #2: An exciting song!!! Easily the best baseball analogy of this entry, the #2 song needs to rival the #2 hitter in a batting order. Characteristics will include reliability, focus, grit, etc. This song/hitter is pivotal to keep momentum strong and can seriously thwart the setlist/batting order if it’s a proverbial “rally killer”. Typically an older song BTW.

Song #3: A strong song from the new album This is where we take a step back. Assumedly. Even if your favourite band’s new album is well received, chances are, a majority of the crowd will only have a cursory interest in hearing anything new aside from the track that is widely regarded as the best of the bunch. Everything else will be kind of… meh!!! Bands try to curb this by frontloading with one of their better new tracks. Probably won’t work.

Song #4: A less strong song from the new album See Song #3 and subtract 25 per cent in the interest column. The initial jolt of “hey, the concert has started” will have worn off and upwards of 30-40 per cent of the audience will become a bit antsy. This song probably doesn’t suck but again, the unfamiliarity will cause energy levels to flatten.

Song #5: A reasonably well-received older song By no means the band’s biggest hit but something that should have some level of recognition from the back catalogue. A reaction from a typical audience member would be “I’m glad this isn’t another new song… but this probably isn’t the song I’D choose!” Line-ups at the bar and washrooms will grow by 20-25 per cent during this track, depending on length (of song).

Song #6: New song / rest song / ZZZZZZZZZ The place in the show where half-soused couples start fighting. This song is probably slower and lets the band rest. Don’t be shocked or offended if a band member (or multiple band members) drink beer, juice, cocktails or water during this tune. It may happen.

Song #7: New song / rest song / ZZZZZZZZZ 2.0 The girl or guy walks out. If there’s going to be a fight in the crowd, NOW’S THE TIME!!!

Song #8: Older song with experimental “noodling” It’s true. A lot of bands will go all Grateful Dead at this point in the setlist, either to breathe life into something old or out of sheer tedium. The results could either be awesome or a complete train wreck. Sometimes, it’s both! A recent study shows that a band member will sneak offstage to smoke a cigarette in 20 per cent of concerts during this tune.

Song #9: Obscure B-side or deep album cut Definitely not for the sweethearts, this stage in the setlist is a bit of a “no man’s land” for all but the most diehard fans. It’s the place to slot in that random song from an earlier album that likely wasn’t that good to begin with but at least will give annoying pukes a chance to overemote in an effort to legitimize of their fandom (in their own eyes). It’s alright and OK.

Song #10: Semi-recent hit that girls like and drunk people will get excited about This is where the set gears back up and salvages the concert for those who ain’t into noodling or “deep cuts”. The concert is likely around an hour in by this point. The end of the set is on the horizon. The band is rested and rejuvenated from their delicious water breaks or cigarette pauses. Overall, they’re ready to “bring this home” as they say in amateur sports and really lame boardrooms.

Song #11: Loud, high energy song A bit of a “table setter” for the closer, this song must ensure that lethargy has been cleared from the room (or outdoor space) so the outfit is primed to end things on a high note. This is also the best opportunity for some “random mosh pit” action which could be a fight or could just be some random lush being passed around into oblivion. Probably the best chance for personal injury to occur is during this song.

Song #12: The current single Ok, maybe not the current single but it’s the last song of the set proper and at very least, this should be a song for everybody. Ideally, this song lends itself to a disingenuous extended outro. I mean, everybody knows the encore is to follow but the band needs to act like it’s their last song. Because that’s just what is done.

Aside: Can we seriously ditch this little charade of “will they or won’t they come back out???” at concerts between the main setlist and the encore(s). I get that the band members need to pee or whatever but between the rhythmic applause, the hootin’, the hollering’, the lame chants and the like, it’s a piece of theatre we can do without. Ideally, the venue should include a little countdown clock on-stage a la New Year’s Eve or the TTC so you know the precise moment that the band will return. In short, attending a concert needs to be more like riding public transit.

Song #13: Underwhelming song Chalk this up to the fact the band was likely just in the bathroom and/or smoking dope but the first song of the encore is typically a bit of a letdown. Often, it’ll be some completely forgettable album cut from their new album and it’ll make the audience feel like all their whistling and rhythmic applause was for nothing! #buzzkill

Song #14: Well-received cover song That’s more like it! Hipsters and “serious” music fans loathe to admit it but everybody loves cover songs. File under “Hell, why not”.

Song #15 The band’s most famous song of all-time!!!!! Trite and predictable but often true.

Aside: Somebody went on setlist.fm and switched all these songs played during Sloan’s Twice Remove anniversary tour stop in Loretto, Ontario (?!?) to song titles that involve either cows, cattle or other farm-based themes. We clearly live in a Wiki-world.