Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good Bad Not Evil

Like diet coke with lime, The Black Lips

Fellow Canalsman, Jacob, recently complained:
“I hate movies with plot. Now, Hitchcock, he just set up a feeling and gave a twist. He gave you diet coke with lime.” I never thought of plot as a bad thing, and what’s more, I thought it was actually integral to a good movie. Crazy notion, I guess. But then when you consider it, some of Hitchcock’s best works were almost retardedly simple: town gets attacked by birds, man in wheelchair witnesses murder, exec runs from spies. It's the Twilight Zone principle: try to make something simple seem extraordinary. Aside from being a fan of diet coke with lime, Jacob is a huge garage rock fan. He's probably the biggest White Stripes fan I know, so I guess his whole simplification and minimalism thing spans both movies and music.

Yesterday I picked up the Black Lips new release,
Good Bad Not Evil, an album that pursues a raw and heavy aesthetic with a few notable twists. It might be a stretch to say it, but I'd call it the diet coke with lime of rock & roll. There's no sugar here, all substance. When the album swerves into less conventional territory, the four fellas find themselves out of the garage and out on the range. Songs like "Navajo" and "How Do You Tell A Child That Someone Has Died," show that the Atlanta band has absorbed some seriously countrified influences. And I guess that would be the lime. All bad metaphors aside, Good Bad Not Evil has had constant playtime since yesterday and makes me wish to God I was 21, so that I could see them tomorrow at the Khyber.

The Black Lips -- Navajo
The Black Lips -- Bad Kids
The Black Lips -- How Do You Tell A Child That Someone Has Died


Friday, September 14, 2007

Highest Estimate Yet

Sometimes we can lose perspective. Especially when trying to get some transparency from total opacity. A disturbing poll from British agency estimates conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq at 1.2 million. Read the LA Times article here.

Dr. Dog -- Livin A Dream


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

MTV, the Great Enabler

Over a decade ago, Beck put to music the precise feeling I get when I think about Sunday night's bizzaro MTV Video Music Awards. As his first official release on Flipside Records, "MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack" tidily encapsulates how most music lovers have come to regard the station. I originally thought the song was a snide response to fears about youth corruption, but the truth is that Beck was just plain pissed off that his peers (especially the flakes that worked with him at the video store) bought into the squeaky clean MTV image. It's almost too perfect that these observations, as featured in "Loser," helped him get a spot in the video lineup a few years later.

I love those videos/ I watch them all day/ And I plug 'em in my eyballs... hey!/
And the colors are nice and the pictures are nice/ And the girls are nice, everything's so nice

I like to think that with the recording of "MTV" he had a vision of a future in which the station-heads attempted to re-invigorate the once lucrative career of Britney Spears by parading her ample figure on stage in a diamond-studded bikini. That’s why MTV makes me want to smoke crack.

Beck -- MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack (unfortunately, this version does not include the goof-ball jazz lounge coda that can be found on a later release)


Monday, September 10, 2007


"Sittin' on the front porch, ice cream in my hand/
meltin' in the sun, i've got chocolate on my tongue/
and that's good enough reason to live"

A few days ago I read about a new chocolate creation by Lindt. Sold only in select locations, the bar contains 99% cocoa. The article described in detail the experience of eating such a pure variety of such a common treat. Apparently, pure chocolate has a completely different taste than the “chocolate” we’ve grown up loving. The package even comes with a warning label, instructing the eater on how to gradually work his way up the cocoa ladder.

Besides leaving me desperate for a taste of this mysterious confection, reading about pure chocolate got me thinking about what it would be like if everything was so uncorrupted. Fruit juice would be made only from fruit, squeezed straight from the tree to the bottle. Milk would be whole, with no skimming of anything. Music would be 100% unproduced, reality shows 100% unscripted, body odor 100% unmasked.

By isolating the very elements that exist today they would be made stronger, and our perception of the world would change drastically. We would be bombarded with stimuli of concentrations never before experienced, and would be literally bowled over by the sensation. As with the chocolate, we’d have to start off small, and work our way up to the natural state of things. But once we arrive, there would be no looking back. How could there be, with such vivid sights ahead?

The Wood Brothers - Chocolate On My Tongue
The Beta Band - Pure For
Voxtrot - Real Life Version
Nizlopi - Clear (live)
Charles Wright - Doin' What Comes Naturally


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Vampire Weekend

"Can you stay up to see the dawn/in the colors of Benetton?/
is your bed made? is your sweater off?/do you want to? like you know I do?

I know what you're thinking: "Is Danny planning on going to a blood bar this weekend?" Unfortunately, as appetizing as it sounds, the answer is no (I'm not 21).

Vampire Weekend, besides being some sort of fetish covered on CSI, is an up-and-coming band from Brooklyn. After attending Ivy League rival Columbia University, Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Christopher Tomson, and Chris Baio formed a group they categorize on myspace as Punk/New Wave/Classical.

I don't know if I actually agree with any of those categorizations, but what I do know is that their music is an impressive collaboration of different styles. It sounds to me part Carribean, part Afro-beat, and, the string arrangements especially, distinctly American. We talked yesterday in my "World Music and Culture" class about the globalization of music, and these guys are the perfect example. They integrate their influences without blurring them, and end up with a sound all their own. The music is exotic but has great, accessible melodies, and the "new" factor never seems forced. They pull off as believable a bittersweet and kind-of-pissed-off as they do a laid-back and beach-party.

Their album, which will officially be released in January, is already one of my favorites. They're playing at the M room in Philly on the 13th and I'm hoping to be there. Buy their EP, visit their myspace, and enjoy these songs.

Vampire Weekend - Mansard Roof
Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Vampire Weekend - Walcott


The Pains of Distance

"Oh my love, though our bodies may be parted/Though our skin may not touch skin
Look for me with the sun-bright sparrow/I will come on the breath of the wind"

Canal. An artificial waterway for navigation. A long narrow arm of the sea penetrating far inland. A tubular passage or cavity for food.

It wasn't until this final definition for canal did I feel at home here at The Canals. Nothing in my life is artificial, long or narrow. Now, a tubular cavity for food. Nail on the head my friends. Nail on the head.

My biggest hesitation in joining The Canals came from my fear of working without direction. I'm a business student, I need an idea of the final goal, I need teammates that need my direction and I need spreadsheets, dammit. So, in order to allow the blogwatchers out there the opportunity to get to know me, I will talk about what I've been feeling most recently.

As the only Canal in a committed long distance relationship, I deal with the pains and frustrations of feeling lonely on a daily basis. All the cuddling and wrestling with Benjy, Danny and Jacob just can't compare to the comfort of my girlfriend.

If everything went as planned for me in the initiation of a relationship, they would be narrated by The Vision of a Dying World. I mentioned them in my original guest post in early May. These boys do a great job at making college, folk music a little more sophisticated and slightly more appealing to the pop fan. Here's the story of Mary and how she fell in love with a man at his first concert.

The Vision of a Dying World - The Time and Place for Everything

Unfortunately, chance is rarely on my side, and more significantly, I never have the guts to make the first move. In fact, all my attempts at first moves in relationships usually end the same way they do for The Magnetic Fields. I always ended up Tongue-Tied and feeling useless too.

The Magnetic Fields - I'm Tongue-Tied

I'm a pretty emotional, sensitive guy. In fact, I emotionally attach myself to things I care about really quickly. Mario Puzo described Michael Corleone's feelings for his Italian love as being struck by a lightening bolt. I can relate. So, approximately three kisses after the first, I'm in for the long haul. Unfortunately, I cannot help the fact that I am stuck 1200 miles from my "sweetheart left behind." Fortunately, there are bands like the Decemberists, who formulate thoughts into wonderful meledies, keeping me sane for now.

The Decemberists - Yankee Bayonet


Friday, September 7, 2007

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

"When I was surrounded by the world/
you were the only one who came"

As a new Canal, I really only have two people to thank. They are hardworking individuals who have improved my life and those of countless others through the power of the internet and mind control. They are also dear friends, so I want to dedicate my post to Daniel and Benjamin.

Daniel Boone, of course, brought legitimacy to the West. As a native of Colorado I can assure you it is an honor we are quickly losing. That is why Benjamin Franklin, founder of my school, is so important to me.

As a kind of ice-breaker for you and me, and the filthy people looking in on us, I wanted to pick some of my favorite music. Actually, my favorite music being produced by artists still alive/worth following.

As a child, I looked up to Weird Al as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. He had it all- catchy hooks, sweet rhymes, and a rebel attitude. It was a strange, awkward time in my life.

That was before I listened to The Beatles. I started with older music as it was both easily accessible and unappealing to most of my classmates, the latter being very important to me at the time.

Since Paul first whispered sweet nothings into my ear, I've started listening to many more things. I like to think I am "With it," what the kids call "hep" and "edgy." But in reality, most of the new music I listen to echoes the music I first fell in love with: Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Cars, Zeppelin, The Beatles, and anything else that the kids who beat me up in elementary school didn't like. I hope you had a difficult childhood too.

Cold War Kids - Saint John
Dr. Dog - The Girl
Iron & Wine - Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
The Raconteurs - Blue Veins
The New Pornographers - Myriad Harbor

The last song is from the new New Pornographers album, which I was supposed to review here. That's what Danny and Benjy get for giving me some freedom. I'll review it soon, but listen to Myriad Harbor and you'll know all you need to know about it.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Send The Canals to Space!!

"We are living in the future, I'll tell you how I know, I read it in the paper fifteen years ago. We're all driving rocket ships and talking with our minds, and wearing turquoise jewelry and standing in soup lines."

-John Prine

Please, send us there

Of all the stellar bodies, the crew at the Canals have always felt the most taunted by the Moon. It sits up there, peering down all night -- sometimes with enough gall to show it's sorry face in the daylight -- just begging for another visitor. But for as close and tempting as it is, we've tried to keep ourselves grounded. I mean, COME ON, we know we ain't goin up there...

...or do we?

Business Week broke the story of the century earlier today: Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's space tourism enterprise, is opening a spaceport in nearby Upham, New Mexico. For just a $200,000 deposit, you can reserve a space ticket (or, galactic boarding pass) to liftoff from Spaceport America. And that's just what we at the Canals plan to do.

With your help.

We've managed to gather a great group of artists for an online benefit concert. If you just scroll down, you'll find that musicians ranging from Hem to Herbie Hancock have generously donated their megabytes to our cause. If you're feeling the music and feeling generous, feel free to donate to the Moonbloggers foundation and help a couple down-to-earth guys go to the moon.

Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Hem - Lord, Blow The Moon Out Please
Feist - My Moon My Man
Herbie Hancock (feat. Sting) - Sister Moon
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - The Moon
Jeremy Fisher - Living On The Moon
Dr. John - Traveling Moon
Belle & Sebastian - Waiting For The Moon To Rise

-Benjy + Danny

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Holding the Conch Shel

So now that the Canals has re-entered the blogosphere (hopefully without causing the “massive blogstinction” that I’ve heard so much about), it’s time to share some material that I think we all can relate to. Over the summer, I discovered an album by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Shel Silverstein. A far cry from the stuff of kids he’s known for, Silverstein’s Great Conch Train Robbery is a wild, sickly amusing country album that gives a whole new dimension to his broad catalogue of books, poems, and plays.

It seems that while simultaneously entertaining and molding the youth of the past four decades with his genius brand of dark and heartfelt storytelling, Silverstein produced gobs of written and recorded material for a more mature age set. Perhaps his most famous foray as a songwriter is the raucously funny, Grammy winning, "A Boy Named Sue," made famous by Johnny Cash in 1970. After playing a few songs for some friends, I heard his gruff voice described as a mix of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits (although Waits himself often sounds like a mix between Bob Dylan and Tom Waits). However you choose to describe it, it’s exactly how I’d like to imagine his written word being read. Imagine a bedtime with "Uncle Shelby's" bald head hovering above, reading The Giving Tree in a strained, gravelly voice (note: that may be the most unintentionally perverted thing I have ever written). I think the kid would go into a coma and never wake up.

Shel Silverstein -- Quaaludes Again
Shel Silverstein -- The Great Conch Train Robbery


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

We're Back!

"Born on the desert floor you've the deepest thirst/
and you came to my sweet shores to indulge it"

Benjy and I didn’t quite agree on the best way to re-enter the blogosphere. I wanted to come back with a post to shake the very foundation of the internet, making a deep and catastrophic impact that would forever change the blogging landscape. I wanted to take out our competition before they knew what hit them, cause a mass blogstinction, usher in the Canalzoic Era.

Benjy was thinking of something on a slightly smaller scale, more along the lines of a shooting star – worthy of a fleeting glance but no bigger than a grain of sand.

So we compromised, and this is the result. A modest premier, featuring our favorite songs from the summer.

We do have one trick up our sleeve, though. We’d like to take this opportunity to announce that we have officially added two staff writers to the team. You may remember them from our guest week last semester: Jacob “Cobb Salad” Schutz and Alex “Ander2” Anderson. Coincidentally, they also happen to be our roommates this year. With this team in place, you can expect to see a quality post every day of every week. And with our forthcoming overhaul of the website, you won’t want to go a day without checking The Canals (in fact, you might as well join the Facebook group “I check the canals daily”).

Here’s some summer music to kick off the fall:

Danny’s picks:

Sam Prekop – Something
Miracle Fortress – Next Train
Travis – My Eyes
The Shins – Red Rabbits
Hem – The Beautiful Sea

Benjy’s picks:

Sam Cooke – You Send Me
The Shaky Hands – The Sleepless
Cornelius – Chapter 8 – Seashore And Horizon
8 Ball & MJG – 9 Little Millemeta Boys
Os Mutantes – Hey Boy


Monday, July 2, 2007


Frederick Church's Twighlight in the Wilderness, 1860

Fearless freinds! WEIRD TIMES, so strange. So, I'm stuck up in the desolate hills of... some... God, I don't know... It's been so long since I've talked to anyone. Well, nobody that could talk back to me. The trees and bushes don't make for much conversation. Coniferous bastards! I could be in New Hampshire, Vermont... Maine..... even Canada. It's beautiful, in a terrifyingly lonely sort of way.

Earlier this June I started working for a posh Northeastern summer camp in the hills of.... I... can't.. remember what state. It had the works -- jet skis, motorboats, full spa, jet packs -- and it was perfect. Perfect... yeah, I really screwed up. Damn this solitude!!(!) Well, I lost paradise and began my torment about eight or so days ago, when I set out with my troop on a hike to Bails Pond.

The campers were having a great time, scooting along on their hoverboards, snapping pictures of cybernetic dear and moose (built and set out into the wilderness by the camp director, Dr. Lars Beckins) with their camera-phones/trouser-hemmers, and laughing all the way. I can still here their joyous laughter ringing in my ears like screeching feedback and wind chimes. About four miles out from Bails pond, on as small stretch of bare trail just above the treeline, we rested and snacked on G.O.R.P. and peanut butter sandwiches. That's when I heard the screeching begin. It started faintly, like the squealing of far off tires, and quickly escalated in pitch and fierceness. A sad, horrifying shadow descended on the troop... I looked to the sky to see a giant black shape swooping down on the boys. If it was a bird... a condor, maybe? Or could it have been one of Dr. Beckins' monstrous mechanical creations? I don't know, and I may never know. Whatever it was, I ran from it, sweaty and weird as Hell. I tumbled down the trail, skampering off into a knoll in the side of the hill, all the while listening to the disgusting shreiking of the boys and the bird.

And I continued running... I couldn't go back to the camp, not with this shame. And so I ran and tumbled along the wild paths and forests of the great Northeast. Crying most of the way, I attempted to avoid settlements and trackers. I'm sure there were trackers, as Dr. Beckins had taken samples of each of the counselors' unique scents for his bloodhounds (mecha-hounds, perhaps?) to follow in case of dissertion. And now I write to you, from a computer console of sorts that I've fashioned out of leaves, dung, and various bones... hoping that someone will hear my plea and rescue me from this lonely Hell of my own creation. God speed, and good luck.

-"danny " (Benjy)

p.s. Sorry, no music this time. But a friendly suggestion: I've been listening to quite a bit of Manu Chao and Rocky Votolato recently, so check those guys out. Manu's Clandestino and Votolato's Makers are fantastic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On Holiday

To y'all: It seems the Canals has unfortunately hit a slow season in its summer life. With Danny off at summer camp (what a child) and myself roughing it in the Guatemalan wilds, we will not be making nearly as many posts as we would like in the next few weeks. For now, here's our boy Cobb's review of the White Stripes latest, Icky Thump.

Benjy has been asking me whether I reviewed Icky since the day it was released. White Stripes albums do a weird thing to a man. With every album of theirs I’ve heard (excepting the infectiously catchy Get Behind Me Satan) I’ve initially been underwhelmed. Maybe it’s the absence of a bass to line the bottom of their songs, or Meg’s simple drumming, but I never love their albums on first listen.

I am now, however, a believer. Two overreaching comments about it as a whole: 1) Everyone was hyping the album by saying it was “heavy.” Maybe it’s because I only have a mass-less digital copy of the album (legally purchased, for all the Penn Law admissions officers out there), but I never felt the supposed weight of the album. Perhaps since it was their first album recorded in a modern studio, but I would describe the sound as big. Like Led Zeppelin as stadium rock. 2) This is not their pop album, which is strange since it was released under Warner Bros. and has been pimped on MTV. Get Behind Me Satan (and Jack’s other band’s last effort, “Broken Boy Soldiers”) must have exhausted the easy-on-the ear radio jams in Jack’s repertoire. What we have here is a clash between screeching solos and bizarre riffs.
Which, I think, is the only way the Stripes could go. Jack’s simple hooks and Meg’s austere drumming carried them through 5 albums. Now, Jack is adding more riffs and more solos to each song. The track listing shows 13 tracks, but that number should at least be 26. Nearly every song has multiple personality disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder if you follow DSM-IV*). Just listen to 300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues’ tortured oscillations between quiet blues and scorching rock and roll; or perhaps I’m Slowly Turning Into You’s giant organ and rollicking guitar.

My only real complaint of the album is the complete lack of piano. It is, however, made up for by a dueling trumpet-guitar track (“Conquest”), two bagpipe tracks (both of which are great, don’t be fooled by critics), organ, and a synthesizer.

Reading other reviews, no body seems to be able to come to a consensus. This is the Stripe’s worst album — it’s their revitalization. It’s refreshing — it’s juvenile. “Conquest” is a bad joke — “Conquest” is the best track on the album. Perhaps that’s because no critic is listening to the album the proper way: while driving too fast around hairpin mountain turns in a 1987 Honda Accord with very loud and very shitty speakers.They'd realize it's soul revitalizing blues for the flogged spirit of rock and roll.

*I think we all know psychology is a pseudo-science.

-Jacob Schutz, poet laureate