Evolve Or Die: Why Vampire Weekend Will Have More Meaning Than Be Your Own Pet

24 05 2008

Evolution

Progression. I feel that this is something that is necessary in all of our lives. It can be as simple as shifting from Pepsi to Coca Cola (or vice versa) or as complex as moving to a new country and starting all over. Whatever the case, it is important that we keep moving forward.

The arts especially should continue to strive towards progression and evolution.

Okay, so you’ve probably noticed that this post is going to be more than just a music based write-up and a download link available at the bottom. However, I was compelled to write on this topic after listening to two young musical acts that are rising in popularity and acclaim: New York City’s Vampire Weekend and Nashville’s Be Your Own Pet.

Vampire Weekend


Yes, I know. They are two completely different acts; Vampire Weekend is comprised of four clean-cut, Afro-pop boys that went to Columbia University and Be Your Own Pet is comprised of three hairy boys and one rambunctious Jemina Pearl that probably started a Johnny Thunders-inspired food fight at your local music venue. However, both of their success stories are almost on the same page, as these two bands (among many MANY others) have gained notoriety from fellow music blogs and impressive live shows. In addition, both of their latest albums, Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut and BYOP’s sophomore effort Get Awkward (both on XL Recordings, fyi), have received solid reviews from esteemed music critics, further heightening their profile.

Be Your Own Pet

By chance, I listened to both albums back-to-back today on a lovely drive in the countryside and my mind started buzzing with those neat thoughts that can fuel revolutions or blog entries. With Vampire Weekend, whose first album immediately recalls the sound Paul Simon utilized on his timeless Graceland, there is great potential in their ability to grow and develop as artists. What they bring to the table is, at the moment, simplistic pop music. But, I can only wonder what these Columbia scholars will be up to in the coming years due to the great potential that these boys have. Yet, with Be Your Own Pet, whose sophomore album is filled with great fun and intensity, I feel that they have hit the plateau. Where do you creatively go after writing songs about Valley of the Dolls and food fights? It’s a serious question to consider.

Now, certainly, you can compare this group to The Replacements and their ability to develop as songwriters (listening to “God Damn Job” and “Alex Chilton” back-to-back is astonishing). But, in my honest opinion, I don’t see frontwoman Jemina Pearl to be a modern day Paul Westerberg. Whereas Vampire Weekend have the potential to grow, I can foresee BYOP to become a mere footnote of the era of music where the background of your Myspace Music page matters.

But hey, who knows? Maybe Be Your Own Pet will become U2 and Vampire Weekend will end up like The Fixx? The beauty about life and art is that it is very unpredictable.

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Duderman Discovers No. 2 – The Depreciation Guild

22 05 2008

The Depreciation Guild

There are lot of memories floating around the grey, plastic confines of my Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember the time when I finally beat Starfox, the moment I defeated my cousin Dan in a fierce 7 round gauntlet of Super Mario Kart (Rainbow Road FTW!), and the sheer insanity that Uniracers put me through. Glorious wonderful times, despite the fact that I was probably closer to my Sega Genesis.

So, my ears were perked exceptionally high when one of my friends introduced me to Brooklyn, New York’s The Depreciation Guild. The band is two guys, Kurt Feldman and Christoph Hocheim, and a Nintendo Famicom. When I heard this, I was one part intrigued, another part worried. Seriously? A video game system as a band member? How could this possibly work without being some kind of cheesy gimmick? Are the concerts mini Gamer Conventions?

However, with a listen to their debut album In Her Gentle Jaws, all my fears were vanquished. It’s wonderful, dreamy shoegaze that co-exists with the very unique beeps and boops of a Nintendo soundchip, which is programmed by Feldman. Filled with atmospheric instrumentals (the title track, “Water Window”) and some wonderfully upbeat numbers (“Sky Ghosts,” “Butterfly Kisses), this is the kind of album that should not be dismissed; furthermore, In Her Gentle Jaws is ESSENTIAL for any self-respecting music lover. Seriously. Scout’s Honor and all that shit.

And it won’t kill your wallet either to dive into this album; it’s available FOR FREE off their website, in either a full album download or individual tracks. So, it’s worth checking out. You will certainly love it.

The Depreciation Guild’s Website *album downloadable from here*

The Depreciation Guild Myspace





I Miss Blur

20 05 2008

Blur

I miss Blur.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; I totally dig Damon Albarn’s efforts with Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad, and the Queen, and those little solo things he occasionally does, and Graham Coxon is a pretty decent solo artist (check out Happiness In Magazines).

But I miss the musical unit of Albarn, Coxon, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree.  I really do.

Out of boredom (and a desire to stop listening to Scarlett Johansson’s album), I’ve been blazing through choice cuts of their seven-album discography.  The Great Escape‘s “Country House” reminded me of the nastiest war of British popular music history where “Country House” went head-to-head on the charts with Oasis’ “Roll With It” in 1995.  Think Tank‘s “Crazy Beat” reminded me of that crazy Levi jeans commercial where some guy was fighting a pair of jeans.  And did you know that Leisure‘s “She’s So High” was the soundtrack of a date over ice cream and pizza in 2003?  Memories, man!

A part of me would love to see these boys reunite and create great music again.  But, there’s also a part of me that knows that Albarn’s erratic personality, as well as Coxon being content with his solo career and James totally in love with cheese, will prevent such a thing.  Hey, maybe Dave Rowntree will save the day?  I bet he wants to go back to the skins after his time with British politics are over.  Well, at least that’s what I think.

She\’s So High – Blur





Scarlett “Sings!?”

19 05 2008

When I decided to plunge into actress Scarlett Johansson’s debut album as a singer, Anywhere I Lay My Head (out May 20th), I knew one of two things was going to happen. One result could be my sheer, utter disgust in the “music” created, a feeling that often beckons me to call the actor/actress and scream “STICK WITH YOUR DAY JOB!” The other result, however, could be that I LIKE the album, which is a rare quality with actors turned musicians (and even rarer with athletes turned musicians). So, I was definitely eager to put this 11 track set of Tom Waits cover tunes (and one original) into my iTunes and hit play.

One thing that definitely grabbed my attention from beginning to end was the production. TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, as well as Yeah Yeah Yeah’s guitarist Nick Zinner, provide truly awesome sonic soundscapes for every track. Believe it or not, I was left stunned and speechless. “I Wish I Was In New Orleans” is one such highlight, with its toy piano and slight hint of lo-fi hum. Add in those lyrics about how Scarlett (or in the songwriter sense, Waits) “could drink you under the table” and its quite astonishing.

Oh yeah…the singing. The production totally sent me soaring so high that I almost forgot about Scarlett Johansson and her vocals. Well, in all honesty, I would rather take Zooey Deschanel’s singing effort with She & Him over her any day; there’s almost a lifeless quality to her voice that, within the production, feels just kinda there. But, the wispy nature of Johansson’s singing does have its moments where it blends quite well with music, becoming another element within the grand scheme of things. Sure, “Town With No Cheer” is a bit messy, but the title track and “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” are good examples of this actress and occasional model displaying some solid chops. Oh, and you can’t forget the cameos by Mr. David Bowie, who sings backup on “Falling Down” and “Fannin Street”

SO, is this another Dogstar? Another Jennifer Love Hewitt? Perhaps even as bad as Paris Hilton’s “album?”

It’ll take some more listens. But, for now, Anywhere I Lay My Head is an interesting album with killer production value and some unique takes on the material written by the incomparable Tom Waits. You might forget an actress sung on it…

Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head





Duderman Discovers No.1 – Aushua

17 05 2008

Aushua

Today, I add a new feature to this ever-growing blog: Duderman Discovers. In these special blog entries, I will put the spotlight on a little known band that, in my opinion, all of my readers should be aware of due to their talent (or lack of) and potential. Pretty cool, right?

The first artist I want to spotlight is a band from Orange, California called Aushua. I was made aware of these guys by Thrice, who expressed their admiration for this group so much that they recruited them for backup vocals on The Alchemy Index tracks “Firebreather” and “Child of Dust,” as well as recommending them on their website (www.alchemyindex.com).

Out of curiosity, I checked their Myspace and was immediately taken by their sound. It reminded me of all the best qualities of early anthematic U2 (soaring guitars, a steady rhythm section), but without the “we play ONLY stadiums” pretentiousness. Singer Phil Newyear is a captivating person to listen to; every lyric sounds so heartfelt that you can easily become attached.

Their No Harm Done EP is available through various digital retailers like iTunes and Amazon, and it’s DEFINITELY worth checking out (it’s also super inexpensive). From the title track to the final track “Soldier Boy,” Aushua has a sound that many bands often (unsuccessfully) strive for a sophomore album or a “mainstream breakthrough.” Aushua, still a young group, has this cherished sound already in the palms of their hands.

Aushua Myspace

Aushua – Sister Saves





So…NOW Judas Priest tries for a concept album?

16 05 2008

Judas Priest

So, in my previous post Let’s Talk About Guitars, I inserted a song that I had just learned, which was Judas Priest’s “The Sentinel.” Well, in a case of “hey, what ARE those guys doing right now?”, I found out that these metal vets from Birmingham, England are preparing to release their 16th (!) studio album, Nostradamus (out June 17th).

And it’s more than just another album, gang; it’s a double disc (or triple vinyl, for you audiophiles/purists) CONCEPT album, all focused on the French apothecary Michel de Nostredame (or, you know, Nostradamus). The sound is also just as massive as the concept, as the band employs synths and bit orchestral elements to their already heavy standard of metal music.

Now, Judas Priest is one of my favorite bands. I remember seeing them live at Jones Beach in 2004 with Queensryche and, not only was it heavy, but it was also loud enough to leave my hearing permanently scarred (FTW!) However, I scratch my head at their decision to do a concept album. Aren’t those things popular to do as a 5th or 6th album, the proverbial “leap of creative faith” when you’re the darlings of the Billboard 200? If that’s the truth, I believe Rob Halford, KK Downing, Glenn Tipton, Scott Travis, and Ian Hill are just a little late.

Then again, who gives a shit? It’s JUDAS F’N PRIEST!! If they can push my eardrums to the limit with “Painkiller” and “Electric Eye” (as well as those other gems), then they have my blessing to get away with this bold concept. It should be an interesting listen, albeit a long one.

Judas Priest – Nostradamus





Whitney Wins America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 10. TP Duderman Hangs Head in Shame

15 05 2008

Whitney and Tyra

Ugh…don’t remind me.  Anya HAD it.

It’s just a “Let’s get a plus-sized win over with” conspiracy!