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Bright Eyes - Fevers And Mirrors

November 23rd 2009 23:30
Conor Oberst's voice is heard in all its nervous, wavering glory on Bright Eyes' 2000 release, Fevers and Mirrors. He seems to be at his most emotionally brittle on this, their third album. It is also their best album. Definitely in my top five favorites of all time.

Fevers And Mirrors Cover



It starts with a little boy reading an excerpt from Mitchell is Moving by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. The lines most representative of this album from the reading are:

"I want you to stay next door forever"
"I can't," said Mitchell, " I do not want to go wake up in the same old bed and eat breakfast in the same old kitchen. Every room in my house is the same old room, because I have lived there too long"


This story works well with "A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever, And A Necklace," the song it is featured on. The song seems like its about someone Oberst cares deeply about. Either this person is no longer in his life, or he fears to lose this person. The lyrics suggest that even the sun might not rise without him or her.

One of Bright Eyes' biggest influences was the great Jeff Mangum. And like Jeff Mangum, Oberst is very skilled with his use of metaphor to elicit emotion. I believe that for a song to be truly great, it must have very emotional lyrics, but they cannot be bluntly stated like in “emo” music shit. The best lyrics, such as those heard on “The Center of the World,” are somewhat ambiguous, and can have very different meanings to different people.


Girls found honey to drench our hands.
Men cut marble to mark our graves.
Said we’ll need something to remind us of
all the sweetness that has passed through us.


The honey could symbolize anything that makes someone happy. For me, I'd say the honey is music. I think the marble headstones that remind us of the sweetness represent how the meaning of life is to be happy, and at the death of a loved one, we should remember all the things that gave them joy throughout their life. That's just my interpretation.

The instrumentals perfectly complement the lyrics. This is probably best demonstrated in “The Calendar Hung Itself” where frantic drum and guitar patterns parallel the nearly psychotic story of an obsessive Oberst seeing one of his former lovers with a new boyfriend. His distorted use of a few lines from “You Are My Sunshine” in this song illustrate the seemingly co-dependent relationship he had with this girl. Another good example of this is seen in “Sunrise, Sunset,” a song about dealing with Bipolar Disorder. This song has a simple chord progression. But it is far from simple. It cycles between slow and quiet during the depressive parts to loud and intense during the manic parts. The normally quiet Conor Oberst is actually heard screaming (sort of) during the highest points of the song. And then it drops to a near silence immediately following that. More and more layers of instruments are added as the song nears its peaks, and are all taken off immediately after the fall.

Part of my motivation to review this particular album was because of a review of it on Pitchfork.com. Normally Pitchfork is pretty reliable in their album reviews, but Taylor M. Clark, who they paid to review Fevers and Mirrors is kind of an idiot. First of all, he claims all the emotion in Oberst's voice is artificial, which clearly is not the case. He says they “struggle for originality.” Really? Then why can I immediately tell that a Bright Eyes song that I've never heard before is in fact Bright Eyes? Their music is in a class of its own.

This guy wants us to believe he's smart by using long words, and phrases such as: “Far be it from me to criticize...” It sounds like he's writing a college senior thesis on this album.

Anyway, the whole reason I mention all this is as a segueway into my opinion of the mock interview at the end of “An Attempt to Tip the Scales.” Because Clark didn't understand it at all. He completely interpreted it as the opposite of its intended purpose.

“I simply cannot stress enough what a maddeningly self-indulgent mass of pseudo-depth this section of the album falls into. In this sickening chunk of narcissism, Oberst makes a laughable attempt to prove to his listeners that he is of a penetratingly deep intelligence by spouting strings of stale aphorisms that pass for rich understanding amongst those reluctant to have original thought. Not only this, but the mock interviewer actually interrupts Oberst to tell him how brilliant the album is. On the actual record he says this. I hate to sound haughty, but I have honestly never witnessed such tasteless, ostentatious self-promotion on an album by anyone. It must be heard to be believed.”

The whole interview was obviously meant to be a joke: comic relief from the heaviness of the rest of the record. Oberst was not even actually in the interview. One of his former bandmates, Todd Fink, from Oberst's first band, Commander Venus, was impersonating his voice.

The interview starts out sounding real. Conor (well Fink actually), comes in talking about how its raining outside, and then begins to describe the concept of the album. As it goes on, his responses to the questions become increasingly more bizarre. I first started getting suspicious when the interviewer says:

...Interviewer: It is, it is. Uh, how ‘bout this Arienette? How does she fit into all of this?
Conor: I prefer not to talk about it, in case she’s listening.
Interviewer: Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize she’s a real person.
Conor: She’s not. I made her up.
Interviewer: Oh, so she’s not real.
Conor: Just as real as you or I...


And my suspicions were all but confirmed by these lines


...Interviewer: That’s interesting. Now, you mentioned your depression.
Conor: No I didn’t.
Interviewer: You’re from Nebraska right?
Conor: Yeah so...


At this point, I had started laughing hysterically because it was so random and weird. Some more funny lines:

...Conor: Well, I did have a brother that died in a bathtub. Drowned. Actually, I had five brothers that died that way.
Interviewer: (Laughs)
Conor: No, I’m serious. My mother drowned one every year for five consecutive years. They were all named Padraic, so that's why they all got one song...


...Conor: Nevermind. How long have you worked at this station?
Interviewer: Oh, just a few minutes...


...Interviewer: Really, you’re telling me you’re doing all this for attention?
Conor: No, I hate it when people look at me. I get nauseous. In fact, I could care less what people think about me. Do you feel alright? Do you wanna dance?
Interviewer: No, I’m feeling sick...


The album as a whole is deeply personal. I've never heard songs that go so far in revealing all the insecurities of their writer as the songs on Fevers and Mirrors. It's like Conor Oberst looked into a mirror, and described exactly what he saw. And I think the mirror on the cover of the album is his way of challenging us to do the same: to not be afraid to be genuinely introspective for a change.

I highly recommend buying this album. You can get it here.

10/10.
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"Sublime"

November 9th 2009 02:17
On February 28th 2009, Sublime reunited to play a show in Nevada with Rome Ramirez taking Bradley Nowell's spot on vocals. (Nowell, of course, died of a heroin overdose in 1996.) It was later announced that the newly reformed Sublime would play Cypress Hill's October 24th Smokeout Festival with several other amazing bands. The day before the concert, Nowell's estate attempted to file a temporary lawsuit to prevent the band from using the Sublime moniker. They were unsuccessful, and Sublime performed what was, according to fans, an incredible show. Stephanie, some lady that Rolling Stone interviewed said she was afraid “that they would replace Brad with someone who wasn't worthy. I had heard good things about Rome, but I didn’t want to listen. Then today, I was blown away.”


Then, on November 3rd, the Nowell estate again filed suit against the band, and unfortunately, they were successful this time. The two surviving original members, Eric Wilson and Floyd "Bud" Gaugh, were barred from using the name Sublime.

This is ridiculous. Plenty of bands go on playing after an original member dies or gets kicked out of the band. Look at Alice and Chains. Layne Staley also tragically died of an overdose. No one is freaking out because William DuVall took his spot. Look at AC/DC. They did the same thing as well, and look how well that turned out.

The Nowell estate said: “It was Brad's expressed intention that no one use the name Sublime in any group that did not include him.” I highly doubt Brad Nowell ever explicitly said that no one could use the name Sublime for a band he wasn't in. And sorry for being blunt, but he's dead, it's not like any of this really matters to him anyway.

I'm sure Brad Nowell was a pretty chill dude. And Wilson and Gaugh were his compadres. If he had any say in the matter, there's no way he'd be filing lawsuits against his best friends.
Sublime original lineup
Sublime (original lineup)

And along with Brad Nowell, Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson were the founding members of Sublime. If anything, they were in the band before Nowell, because before forming Sublime, Gaugh and Wilson were in a band called The Juice Bros. In a way, I guess you could even make the argument that Sublime was around before Nowell joined, they just changed the name upon his arrival. And if you really think about it, how does it make any sense that the family of a former member of a band has more of a say in the fate of said band than the two remaining members? If two-thirds of a band wants to do something, that's a majority. They should be able to do what they want with their band.

Most importantly, its not like the band is disrespecting Nowell in any way. At the Smokeout, Sublime dedicated their first song to Brad Nowell. And according to Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge “they were there for him and they’re not trying to do anything but pay Bradley homage... We’re talking about 20,000 people that heard Sublime tonight, that never saw them live, sang every fucking word and had a great time.” And that's exactly what they're trying to do. Pay Brad homage. According to Gaugh, “One major project under development that we're psyched about is code-named 'Brad's House.' The idea is to provide free addiction recovery service to underprivileged teens in Brad's honor. The entire Sublime family was devastated by Brad's loss and we would like to help prevent that from happening to others. The band has agreed to allocate proceeds to get this started. We'll begin with one facility but our hope is that we can get other bands and organizations to join us and we can eventually scale it all across the country.” I wonder if the Nowell estate will file a lawsuit against the band if they try to use Brad's name in founding an addiction recovery center. Or would that dishonor his memory too?

I wish I were the judge that sided with the Nowell estate. Because then I wouldn't have sided with the Nowell estate. Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson deserve just as much credit as Nowell for their contributions to Sublime. They should at least get to use the name.
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Guantanamo Bay Torture Playlist

October 28th 2009 22:50
Everyone knows (or at least I assume they do) that the CIA implemented music from various artists to torture detainees at Guantanamo Bay. They would force an inmate to listen to a song at a high decibel level for several hours to several days. One released detainee claims he was forced to listen "The Real Slim Shady" for twenty days straight. After a ton of negative publicity, and being "reminded" that using music as torture directly violates the U.N.'s Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, they finally halted the practice of using music as an instrument (no pun intended) of torture.
Guantanamo Bay Detainee
Detainee's daily 'outside' period

But some artists are still pissed that, without permission or even notification, they may have been on the Guantanamo playlist. Trent Reznor, David Byrne, the Roots, R.E.M., and Pearl Jam are among a group of over a dozen artists demanding, under the Freedom of Information Act, that the records be released showing which songs were played. They filed a suit, headed by former Rep. Tom Andrews, to finally know for certain which songs were played. As it stands now, a total of 35 bands/songs are known to have been implemented by the CIA for use as an "enhanced interrogation technique." They were confirmed through a 2005 investigation, and by interviews with released prisoners. They are:

AC/DC
Aerosmith
"Barney" theme song
Bee Gees
Britney Spears
Bruce Springsteen
Christina Aguilera
David Gray
Deicide
Don McLean
Drowning Pool
Eminem
Hed P.E.
James Taylor
Limp Bizkit
Marilyn Manson
Matchbox Twenty
Meat Loaf
Meow Mix jingle
Metallica
Neil Diamond
Nine Inch Nails
Pink
Prince
Queen
Rage Against the Machine
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Redman
Saliva
"Sesame Street" theme
Stanley Brothers
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
Tupac Shakur

None of these artists deserve to have their music be used for torture. Not even Britney Spears, though her music would be highly effective. Unfortunately, aside from simply learning who is on the playlist, I don't think there's much these artists can do. I mean they could try to demand royalties, but that's about it. And it would seem a bit hypocritical to me to demand money for indirectly torturing people. Maybe that's just me, but either way, musicians across the nation at least deserve to know if their music was used to bring suffering upon others. I fully support their quest to declassify the records that would finally end all speculation of which songs were used as devices of torture.

By the way, I find it absolutely hilarious that someone thought of using the Meow Mix song.

And I think it's unbelievably ironic in so many ways that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was also used. First of all, Francis Scott Key wrote it on the way to negotiate the release of a prisoner who was a friend of his, and now it's being used to torture prisoners. And I mean, looking at the lyrics, it seems to me that this song is completely against torture. It's all about the joys of freedom: and torture and imprisonment are the opposite of freedom. And it's about bravery--that we should only fight "when our cause it is just." Torture is never justified. And it's never brave to torture. If you can win a war without stooping to the lowest common denominator (AKA torture) that is true bravery. Committing human rights violations is never brave. But standing up for those who's rights have been violated always is.

OK, I'll get off my high horse now.
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I wish I were Keith McDougall, the former author of this blog. He is such an eloquent writer. I mean, I believe I am proficient, but he made the words sing. Reading the blog was like actually listening to the music he wrote about. I started a blog a couple weeks ago, and then had the opportunity to take over this one. I transferred my posts over to this page (my posts start from "Just Starting A Blog") and now I'm going to attempt to fill the shoes of a great opinionist of music. First of all, I am from Chicago, not Gothenburg, Sweden, so most of the music I know comes from the windy city, which is not nearly as exotic. But there are a lot of absolutely incredible bands from my home-state. I love the Chicago music scene.

I'm also more into just straight indie than indie-pop. And there is a HUGE difference between the two. Or at least there is a huge difference between most of the bands Keith and I label as these two separate genres. Not that I don't like his music. Its good. Just not what I normally listen to. But I guess that doesn't matter much. All that really matters is that I write meaningful, interesting shit, regardless of genre. Which is exactly what I intend to do.
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Jack White and Q101

October 21st 2009 01:48
This isn't really breaking news. It happened May 30, 2007. But on that day, Q101 (the only good radio station in Chicago) played the new White Stripes album, Icky Thump, in it's entirety. The album was scheduled to be released Jun 19th. Jack White found out that they played it before the release date, and a few hours later, he called the station from Spain to yell at the DJ who played it.

If you Google "Jack White" and "Q101," the first several results are all people blogging about what an idiot Electra, the DJ, is for doing this. And about how much they hate Q101. I felt obligated to make this post to defend Electra and Q101 because no one else is. I don't think anyone that shits on Electra really knows what they are talking about. I read the blogs. Most of them got the facts totally wrong or omitted key bits of information. I just want to clear up all the misconceptions surrounding this event


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ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just found out that Britney Spears' new single, "3", debuted number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first song not by an "American Idol" to do so since 1998. I haven't heard the song, and have no intention of ever listening to it, but I looked up the lyrics, and they are absolutely horrible in so many ways. I can't even comprehend how so many people could possibly like this song. It was downloaded over 255,000 times in it's first week. This song is about having a threesome. How the hell does anyone fantasize about having sex with a woman that used to look like this


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Chris Knox and a Tribute Album

October 14th 2009 00:09
Chris Knox, if you don't know, is a singer from New Zealand. He started several influential bands (most notably The Tall Dwarfs), and has released a ton of albums. Sadly, he suffered a terrible stroke on June 11 2009, but is recovering. According to the blog that his friends and family made to provide updates on his recovery, yesterday he drank his first beer since his stroke!

Chris Knox

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Nearly a year ago I was talking to my friend about this new band I just discovered. I told him how crazy good their music was and that they are going to be huge someday. They have definitely started down the path of making that prediction a reality. On July 28, 2009, they signed with independent label, Realid/ILG and announced their album would be released on Sept. 22. As of August 27th, their single "Eyesore" can be heard in regular rotation on 15 radio stations across the country. On my local station, Q101 here in Chicago, they do a countdown everyday of the 9 most requested songs of the day. And Eyesore has consistently been one of the top 9 songs since Q101 started playing it July 15th.
Red Right Return

When I was telling my friend about the band, I told him they sounded kind of like a cross between Deftones and Chevelle. Ironically, when I went on their myspace, I noticed both of these bands are in Janus' top 8 friends. I just thought that was interesting. I guess if you like Chevelle or Deftones you will probably like Janus as well


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Best Albums of 2008

October 12th 2009 08:19
It's obviously a bit late to do a best album of '08 list, but i didn't have a blog at the end of last year, so i figured what the hell? I might as well do it now.

3. Paper Route -- Are We All Forgotten [EP] -- Yeah I know this is supposed to be an album list but this EP is so good, I couldn't not mention it


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I'm super stoked for Lupe Fiasco's new album. Still not 100% sure what it's actually called. It's either lupE.N.D; L.A.S.E.R.S.; Lasers; We are not Losers; We are not Losers, We are Lasers; or We are Lasers. It's gone through so many name changes I'm just not sure anymore. Anyway, I hope it's as good as Food and Liquor (The Cool kinda sucked...well it was ok I guess).

He issued a "manifesto" for his new album


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