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The Top Ten (or so) Most Interesting Stories In Music This Week

August 22, 2009

Wow.  People, I am bushed.  I’m famished.  I’ve been hit with an intellectual napalm bomb.  There are a lot of musical happenings this week that I’d like to share with you, but I am fresh out of clever and witty ways to share them.  I tried to make a connection between the current state of Web 2.0 and a note I received from a girl in middle school, but that just didn’t work.  I tried to work in one of the more interesting tweets I saw this week (“It’s 2am and I’m in desperate need of hemorrhoid cream. Any suggestions?”), and that one didn’t fit in either.

So I apologize in advance for stooping to a technique I’ve tried hard to avoid:  the Top Ten list (henceforth TT).   Common blogging convention is that TT’s are hit magnets that will bring in new readership while at the same time pleasing established readers.  Having TT’s in your blog posts and titles will cause your search engine hits to rise, once again increasing the size of your audience.  I must admit that when I’m hanging out online, I often check out TT’s myself, so I certainly can’t fault anyone else for doing the same thing.

Up until today, I’ve considered appealing to TT’s in my posts as somewhat low-brow.  The recent use of neuralyzers on my cerebellum, resulting in this blogging equivalent of a hail-mary pass, have changed my opinion.  So here you have it folks, TT’s galore!

  1. Vince Neil goes all Marylin Manson on Axl Rose. In what could only be considered logical in some bizarro world where Vince Neil hadn’t quit Motley Crüe about a thousand times, Vince Neil calls out Axl on the internet for letting G’N’R fans down.  Says Neil:  “A buddy of mine went to go play guitar for him. They rehearsed for three months and Axl never once showed up. Rule number one: show up!”  To which Axl could have responded:  “I thought rule number one was ‘Rehab doesn’t work!’
  2. Bon Iver to rock the dead! My most current man crush, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, is all over the place recenty.  His side project, Volcano Choir, is set for a CD release soon.  But what made headlines this week was Vernon’s announcement that he’s going to play a show in a frikkin’ cemetery.  At sunrise. Yep, it’s a 6am start time for a show among graves.  Fortunately, according to the L.A. Times “free coffee and pastries will be provided, but guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets.”
  3. Defending Third Eye Blind?  From what? In apparent celebration of the cultural juggernaut that is the release of Third Eye Blind’s new album, the New Yorker’s Rob Tannenbaum brings us a passionate defense of the band.  I guess it’s just me, but I’m not sure what he’s defending them from.  Tannenbaum graces us with witticisms like (speaking about lead singer Stephan Jenkins) “Hooks seem to flow out of him as naturally as phlegm comes out of a baby.”  Uh, OK.  I don’t think irrelevant bands need defending because (here’s the secret):  NO ONE CARES!!! Telling me Third Eye Blind is releasing a new album is like telling me you had pancakes for breakfast.  So Mr. Tannenbaum, save your vitriol for something really significant.  When Vince Neil pontifiates about some other over the hill rock star, give me a call.
  4. Mariah is dissin’ and dissin’ and dissin’ some more. Not to be outdone by the New Yorker’s irrelevant news, the New York Daily News upped the irrelevancy ante by reporting that Mariah Carey has pushed back the release date on her new album just to mess with the Grammys.  Not only has Mariah taken on Eminem, now she’s giving the middle finger to the Recording Academy?  Yeah, I’m sure the voters had already prefiled their ballots for Confessions of a Fallen Angel as Album of the Year and it took Mariah’s cunning ploy so all those ballots are now rendered meaningless.  Sure, that’s plausible.
  5. Hasidic Reggae, the new Trip-Hop. Speaking of man-crushes, here’s a friendly reminder that Matisyahu’s new album Light drops on August 25.  He’s released a free MP3 collaboration with the Crystal Method on his website which should whet your appetite for the album.  I’m telling you, this guy is for real.
  6. Dan Deacon’s New Video. Dan Deacon released an awesome video for his song “Paddling Ghost”.  It’s better than Jay-Z’s new video.  ‘Nuff said.
  7. Norah Jones gets a little help from someone else’s friends. As if she wasn’t a pop tsunami all unto herself, Nora Jones drafts Okkervil River lead singer Will Sheff and a semi-retired Ryan Adams to help write songs for her new album.  She also pulls in über-producer Jacquire King (see Tom Waits).  Using her Jedi-like powers of persuasion, I expect her to soon convince Barack Obama that publicly promoting her new album is a good way to get health-care reform passed.
  8. The genuis who isn’t a genius? This week The Guardian attempts to deconstruct the legend of indie pioneer Daniel Johnston.  You may or may not know Johnston, but his influence is everywhere in pop songwriting and independent rock music.  Strangely, he’s probably most famous for the fact that Kurt Cobain once wore one of his T-shirts.  His songs are often strange and his records are hard to listen to because they were literally recorded in his basement, but there are moments when his music is transcendent in a way that only the Beatles have managed.  My favorite D.J. line:  “I sold my freedom for free room and board, like a monkey in a zoo.”
  9. Jeff Mangum is back! Another huge (largely unknown) influence in current rock music is Jeff Mangum and his band Neutral Milk Hotel.  To bring the thing around, probably all of you have heard of the Apples In Stereo, right?  If not, I guarantee you’ve heard the song “Energy” that’s been featured in commercials and has a video directed by Elijah Wood.  Anyway, Apples co-founder Robert Schneider and Mangum are childhood buddies and formed the Elephant 6 recording company in the early nineties.  Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel made history in 1998 with the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which is considered one of the best “underground” albums of the nineties and is continually cited as an influence.  After Aeroplane, Mangum largely disappeared from the music scene, only coming out of hiding for rare live performances and some cameo appearances on albums.  One of those appearances is on the new Circulatory System album, called Signal Morning, where Jeff actually plays drums as a member of the band.  The album is noteworthy for more than Mangum’s participation, but the fact that he is involved is significant nonetheless.  If you’re a music lover and you don’t follow Elephant 6 artists or haven’t heard Aeroplane, I suggest your music education isn’t quite complete yet.
  10. I did say “Or so” in the title, right?
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