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

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Southern Perspective

I recently took a weekend road trip to the eastern-most tip of West Virginia, to the small college town called Shepherdstown. Residing a few miles from the historic Antietam battlefield, Shepherdstown is, naturally, home to a fairly large Confederate cemetery. I’ve been to my fair share of cemeteries, mostly due to my dad’s unhealthy obsession with the dead of history, but until now I had never been to a solely Confederate cemetery. Keeping in mind what a friend’s Virginian relative had told me about the youth of the South (There may be no truth to this: he had said that few southern boys have not imagined themselves dying for the South, despite the historical outcome), my friends and I took some time to survey the area and soak up the vibes of bizarre futility and useless death.

And then I began to think about how most of the great songs that I know that glorify the South’s cause were not written by southerners, but mostly foreigners. For example, there’s the Band’s classic The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (written by Robbie Robertson, a Canadian), and Elton John’s My Father’s Gun (Taupin/John, Englishmen), both seemingly sympathetic songs for the Confederate cause. To non-American songwriters, an understanding of the southern perspective of the American Civil War should be as foreign as a feud between two rocks on the outer galactic belt. But it seems that many have been able to take the point of view as a compelling and passionate (yet horribly deranged and misguided) voice for a song. A key point, though: both of these songs neglect any mention of racist motives, only nationalistic. For that, there’s always that cantankerous Canuck, Neil Young.

The Band -- The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Elton John -- My Father's Gun
Neil Young -- Southern Man


Friday, June 15, 2007

Primary Colors

Through the magic of e-mail, a couple of fresh new artists have recently come to our attention here at the Canals. To promote their respective new releases, Los Angeles native Frankel and North Carolina's own Bowerbirds have sent us a few tracks that have now found their way onto my regular playlist in the past few days. First, we'll deal with Frankel:

"It's a shame spending days/ In the throws of tooth decay"

Frankel (or, as he is known to his familiars, Michael Orendy), has been described as a fresh mix of the Flaming Lips, Elliott Smith, and Wilco. It's understandable that this is the simplest way of marketing an artist, but is it really necessary to label him so directly? It also seems to explain why we were contacted about him, as our previous posts have included such musicians, but such a cursory and unimaginative description alone shouldn't persuade someone to listen to Frankel. After all, why make brown when you can get the primary colors? Stepping over some pretty hefty piles of bullshit, I put my ear to the phonograph and had a listen to the tracks off his debut album, Lullaby For The Passerby.

The songs are sunny affairs with catchy melodies and pleasing instrumentation, definitely worth a look at the rest of the album. There was one thing that rubbed me a bit awkwardly, though. I couldn't resolve whether I was impressed by Orendy performing all of the instruments, or if it made it seem less organic or full in some way. Despite that little capo on my brain, I really enjoyed the songs, and if I had to make a comparison to anyone it would probably be fellow indie-folk troubadour, Benjy Ferree. The romping drums and up-tempo strumming on Thermostat really reminded me of In the Countryside off of Ferree's Leaving the Nest. So, now that I've added my own two cents, check out Frankel's new release, Lullaby For The Passerby.

Frankel -- Thermostat
Frankel -- Tooth Decay

Buy Lullaby here.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Under The Covers with Traditional

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/
I once was lost but now I'm found/Was blind but now I see"

Second Hand Songs lists The Beatles as the most covered artist in existence, but I have to argue that Traditional is the rightful bearer of the title. Not much is known about the man, but it seems like pretty much every artist out there has been drawn to his music at some point or another. In this post alone we feature artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Dropkick Murphys, from Willie Nelson to Veggie Tales (I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this is the only time in history the latter two have been mentioned in the same sentence, although I could see Willy being a big fan).

Some highlights: Spirtualized somewhat ironically begins its "Peace On Earth" variation of the song with the Star-Spangled Banner. Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo drift into an African language about halfway through. Aretha Franklin manages to drag it out to 11 minutes. Dropkick Murphys' cover fucking rocks, obviously. Jerry Garcia's is my personal favorite. Bela Fleck adds some much-needed banjo to the mix. We saw Braddigan perform the song at World Cafe, although without a segue from "Walk With You." Pete Seeger's is marked "explicit."

On a slightly heavier note, this is a bittersweet post for me. On Friday I'll be leaving for eight weeks to work as a counselor at a camp in NH. Unfortunately, what the mountain air enjoys in crispness it lacks in WiFi. I'm aiming for a post every three days, but Benjy's gonna have to hold down most of the fort for the remainder of the summer. And seeing as he's living in the Midwest, the fort could suffer some serious decay over the coming weeks.

But hope is not lost. Before you know it, The Canals will be at 110% again, swinging for the fences, going for the jugular, busting its ass, taking what the defense gives it, and playing an all around solid game. We have some big surprises in store for the fall (when a Canal says big, he means BIG), so make sure to stick around. And who knows, maybe you won't even notice I'm gone.

Charlie Daniels - Amazing Grace
Jerry Garcia - Amazing Grace
moe. - Amazing Grace
Rod Stewart - Amazing Grace
Willie Nelson - Amazing Grace
Veggie Tales - Amazing Grace
Spirtualized - Amazing Grace
Pete Seeger - Amazing Grace
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
Dropkick Murphys - Amazing Grace
Paul Simon & Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Amazing Grace
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones - Amazing Grace
Braddigan - Walk With You -> Amazing Grace


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I can wait when I'm dead

A brain aneurysm

Gee wiz, we're an impatient bunch. Remember back when Wilco streamed Sky Blue Sky online weeks before the album hit the shelves? In an age of pirates and pirate movies, how can this be seen as a good idea? Well, anyhoo, the White Stripes highly anticipated Icky Thump can be legally streamed in full at Tune in and listen up, so you don't get a brain aneurysm from the wait.

Is the only way the music industry can save itself from a suicidal implosion of repetitive and uninspired artists by prematurely ejaculating the only decent music around weeks before its due-date? Maybe... but if that's the way it's gotta be, I won't complain.



"You might've heard I run with a dangerous crowd/
We ain't too pretty we ain't too proud"

We take full responsibility if yesterday proved to be an especially painful Monday. It was painful for us, too - too painful even to post TGIM. But Tuesday is the new Monday and The Canals have always been ahead of the curve. Here are some very Friday tunes to cheer up your Monday (Tuesday).

Cornershop - Brimful Of Asha
Jamie Lidell - Multiply
Ben Folds Five - Battle Of Who Could Care Less
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Down On The Corner
Billy Joel - Only The Good Die Young


Unoriginal Sin

"In my little town/I grew up believing
God keeps his eye on us all/And he used to lean upon me"

Two stories out of Ohio this week:

It turns out that the same actor who plays Adam in a video at the new Creation Museum can also be seen "posing alongside a drag queen on an explicit Web site he owned." The actor hails from Columbus, Ohio.

In related news, the Pentagon recently confirmed that it intended to build a "Gay Bomb." The idea, proposed by the Ohio Air Force Lab in Dayton, was to release hormones that would "cause enemy soliders to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistably attractive to one another."

I'm no expert in the field, and I don't want to raise any alarms in the surrounding area, but it seems like a distinct possibility that there was a gay bomb accident in Ohio and that Adam was hit by the shrapnel. Thank goodness the original Adam didn't suffer the same fate, or else humanity never would've caught on (not to mention that Eve would've been one lonely woman). It looks like Benjy will be unaffected - he was on a road trip to West Virginia at the time.

Simon and Garfunkle - My Little Town


Friday, June 8, 2007

Gonna Sell My House, Buy a Trailer

Julian, Bubbles, and Ricky... any questions?

First of all, screw Danny. He can just cram it, 'cause he doesn't know just how bad I got it. Since I got back from school I've been eating out of a trough with my eight bow-legged brothers and drinking pure antifreeze just to forget my problems. It's a miracle I even know what the interweb is.

Secondly, check this out:

Canada has brought us many incredible sights, sounds, and smells (not to mention textures; we certainly wouldn't want to forget the textures), but all of those pale in comparison to the one thing still unknown to many Americans. And no, it is not my philosophy professor from last semester, although she was most definitely a delight beyond compare. Actually, it's the television show Trailer Park Boys, available on the Canadian version of Showtime, Showcase. Apparently, Trailer Park Boys (TPB) is wildly successful in the northlands, partially due to its unparalleled hilarity and also to its insistence on being as Canadian as possible. Set as a serialized mockumentary, TPB revolves around Sunnyvale Trailer Park residents, Ricky and Julian, two lowlifes and petty criminals, but overall good guys. It also features an incredibly diverse ensemble cast, including the trailer park supervisor, Mr. Jim Lahey, his shirtless, cheeseburger obsessed boyfriend, Randy, and the ever-lovable sideshow, Bubbles. I've become slightly inappropriate in my love of the show, which has altered my psyche to accept small crimes as morally justifiable, as well as loosened my vocab to include significantly more f-bombs, sh-bullets, and the like. Thankfully the show has been popular enough to merit six seasons, with a seventh in the oven, and two full-length feature films. God bless Canada, God bless. If you can't find this gem of a television show on the store shelves, check it out online wherever you can. I'm going to make no suggestions as to where to look, because I hope you will support this wonderful cause by buying as many of the seasons on DVD as you can.

Cowboy Junkies -- Murder, Tonight, In The Trailer Park (Live)
Beck -- Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix)

Buy seasons 1 & 2 here.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Nick Drake's Mom

"Gold and silver/Is the autumn/
Soft and tender/Are the skies"

So, Benjy was gonna make a great post today but his internet's down. It's no surprise - I heard in Ohio they can only use the village computer twice a week. They have to conserve energy to feed the livestock and run the overall factory.

Anyway, I saw it as an opportunity to make another short post about Nick Drake. On June 19 another collection of his rarities will be released, and this one's a 28-track doozie. It features some really cool stuff, like Nick on the clarinet and his family members singing. "Poor Mum" was actually written by his mom, Molly Drake, and you can hear the influence loud and clear. Besides the covers and cameos, it's great to hear Nick in a casual setting. There are no videos of him in existence, so this is about as close as you can get to experiencing his personality.

Molly Drake - Poor Mum
Nick and Gabrielle (sister) Drake - All My Trials
Nick Drake - Kegelstatt Trio (on clarinet)
Nick Drake - Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Dylan cover)
Nick Drake - Milk and Honey (another Jackson Frank cover)

Order the album here
Check out a documentary posted at aquarium drunkard


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Under The Covers with Daniel Johnston

"I'm walking down that empty road/
But it ain't empty now/Because I'm on it"

Daniel Johnston is the type of artist who needs covers. He has a bizarre, grating, child-like voice that takes a while to warm to and a short time to grow tired of. He can barely play guitar, and his best music was recorded in his garage using tape decks. Despite this, Johnston is unquestionably one of the most talented and influential songwriters to ever live. Ex-girlfriend (sort of) Kathy McCarty explains her reason for covering Johnston's work:

"Daniel was still in the mental hospital, and he'd been there a long time and I rather thought the possibility existed, sad as it was, that he might never produce anything again. And a lot of the music that he had recorded was to the general populous unlistenable and I felt like people would maybe never get him and he would just be like a flower that bloomed in the desert and was forgotten... So I thought that I would do some of his songs... and do them in such a way that they kind of bloomed and became from, say, a notepaper sketch, they kind of came into a full-color painting."

I highly recommmend the documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." The way that Daniel's life played out is almost mythical. The film includes so much real footage of him growing up that the viewer gets a complete picture of the way that his manic depression influenced his music and took over his life. It also does a great job of talking about his artwork.

Daniel Johnston - Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievience
Clem Snide - Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievience

Daniel Johnston - Worried Shoes
Sufjan Stevens & Daniel Smith - Worried Shoes

Daniel Johnston - True Love Will Find You In The End
Beck - True Love Will Find You In The End

Daniel Johnston - Go
Sparklehorse feat. The Flaming Lips - Go

Daniel Johnston - The Sun Shines Down On Me
Guster - The Sun Shines Down On Me

Daniel Johnston - Devil Town
Tony Lucca - Devil Town
Bright Eyes - Devil Town

Check out his art and music at his official website
Read his bio here
Buy the film here


Rap is Freedom, pt. II

Here's the second half of my tale fromt the 2007 Hemp Fest rap concert. Check out the first half here to fill in the missing pieces. Part II:

The empty amphitheater

The main thread of Definition's raps revolved around drawing a line between them and mainstream hip-hop, a feat that usually requires some substance to back it up. But instead of substance, we got bombarded with fronts and disses, and strangely enough, references to Napolean Dynomite and U2. I guess they thought they could relate to Central Ohioans at a hippy festival with pop culture name drops. And so these posers continued to hate on the haters as Evan continued to yell about freedom, haircuts, and ice. He quickly and deliberately made his way to the stage and raised his hand as if to ask a question. This got some of the audience interested and some upset, but still there was attention directed toward the ass in the front row.

“He has a question!” Shouted a voice from the audience.
“Yeah, I have a question!” Evan said.
Illogic addressed the mop-haired teen in the undersized Wendy’s shirt by replying, notably confused and annoyed,
“I’m in the middle of my set, man.”
“Well, I’m in the middle of my set,” countered Evan. And it was true, there definitely were two shows going on there that night, one more interesting than the other. All Evan wanted from this rapper was for him to show us that he could in fact put a dirty little punk kid in his place. Nothing was done, and this continued on for some time. Spurts of rap followed by attention to the freedom-obsessed question-punk in the front.

As it turned out, Evan didn’t have a question, but merely wanted to start a rap battle with the defensive Illogic. An avid rap and hip-hop fan, Evan was of the mind that rap should be a discourse in which disagreements can be settled with the mic. Only the best should come out on top, and if to do that it takes a scraggly-haired white kid to be crushed on stage by legitimate freestyle, that’s what it takes. But suspensions of freedom that night only made the situation worse. Before we headed out, during an ultra-hatin’ song about our president, Evan walked onto the stage and started smoking a cigarette. A furious fan slapped it out of his mouth as Illogic stopped to shout obscenities, and the DJ left his cocoon of a record table to deal with the punk on stage. The stage hands gathered as the crowd picked sides. The reluctance by Illogic to face off against his little rival was mirrored by the tameness in the mounting posse, and so it didn’t look like anyone was going to be hurt. To be safe we all escorted our friend out as he shouted back,

“Freedom at Hemp Fest 2007!”

The stage was silent as we walked away.

Visit these to get the whole picture:
Illogic's myspace
Ill Poetic's myspace
The Green Brothers myspace


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dry Land

"I'm only waiting for the proper time to tell you/
That it's impossible to get along with you"

Believe it or not, the interweb is not made up completely of Canals. There's a whole world of dry land out there, waiting to be discovered. Today I ventured out along the shores and was rewarded with some buried treasure.

First, This is one of a few blogs (Tim Urban's is another) that once I started reading, I couldn't stop until I'd seen every post. Lucky for me this one is only three weeks old, but it's already got a few pages of laugh-out-loud notes. (Mendoza, if you're out there in cyberspace reading this, you should submit the notes your roommate wrote to you. Or maybe submit them here so we can break the story first.) I have a note from a carpenter that I'll be submitting when I retrieve it from storage in the fall.

Second, A much-needed new tool for the amateur stalker, this website approximates the value of any house in the country.

I was going to post music relating to both websites, but I just had way too many great "house" songs. It was hard to narrow it down to these 8:

Hem - Great Houses Of New York
The White Stripes - There's No Home For You Here
Paul Simon - Homeless
Modest Mouse - Sunspots In The House Of The Late
Phish - Farmhouse
"Guitar" George Baker - House Of The Rising Sun
Gorillaz - Rock The House
Jackie Greene - Write A Letter Home


Monday, June 4, 2007

New Feature: TGIM

"A little bit of Monica in my life/A little bit of Erica by my side/
A little bit of Rita is all I need/A little bit of Tina is what I see"

First off, I wanted to let you all know that The Canals was recently featured on “Best Week Ever”. We were honored but not surprised. You see, the office of Best Week Ever is located in the same building as Tim Urban’s tutoring company. He was my CIT nine summers ago, was on the 6th season of The Apprentice, just released his first album, and has an absolutely hilarious blog. So it was really just a matter of time.

Small world? No, big Canal.

In somewhat related news, we’re pleased to announce our third weekly feature: TGIM. I recently noticed that allmusic categorizes songs by theme, and that one is called TGIF. I found that hilarious. According to allmusic, TGIF music is 80s rock and Lou Bega. I realized what a shame it is that we only listen to Mambo #5 at the end of the workweek, instead of at the beginning when we really need it. From now on, every Monday the Canals will post some very Friday songs.

This week the tracks require no commentary – if allmusic says they’re TGIF songs, then by golly they’re TGIF songs. Starting next week, though, we’ll compile the playlist ourselves and make sure to justify exactly why you should be T-ing G after each song.

Sly & The Family Stone – I Want To Take You Higher
Bruce Springsteen – Glory Days
Electric Light Orchestra – Roll Over Beethoven
Dr. John – Let The Good Times Roll
Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
Fatboy Slim – Going Out Of My Head
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
Lou Bega – Mambo #5


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Rap is Freedom, pt. I

Here's the first half of a story that happened last night. Y'all gonna be hit wit' it in two pieces because I never learned to paraphrase. Part I:

Illogic of Definition

Last night I watched as my friend Evan shut down a rap concert and nearly started a brawl. The show was free, the last in a series at the Ohio State Hemp Fest 2007, an annual event on campus that doesn’t have any more of an excuse to exist other than to sell hip T-shirts and drug paraphernalia. The freeness of the concerts was a condition that lent into two theories. One implies that there is some sort of charity or sponsored act of good will at large, something that would require a degree of respect. Then there is the other side of the coin, which might say that we were not beholden to the folks on stage, and free to act in any manner we see fit. No contract barring any action. And that’s how we thought.

We arrived at the festival, sober as hall monitors, expecting to stay for a max of twenty minutes. The whole idea of throwing a Hemp Fest during the same month as the far more successful and notably more fun Community Fest made me a little uncomfortable, so I certainly didn’t want to stay long. Then Evan began one of his role-playing escapades, a game of sorts where he acts in a particular manner to purposefully misrepresent himself. He started to yell at the top of his lungs to anyone about anything. He shouted about how the ice at the lemonade stand was free, and how we should be more like ice. He harassed the burnt out t-shirt and accessories vendors with nonsensical bursts like,

“This is the biggest variety of sunglasses I’ve ever seen!”
“I’m going to cut my hair ten times tonight!”
“I’m going to get a hair cut and hair extensions at the same time!”

Yelling for the sake of yelling because we were alive and free and young. And on this freedom kick, we showed up to the last concert of the night, the rap group Definition featuring Ill Poetic, The Green Brothers, and the headlining MC, Illogic. A technically sound and proficient group of rappers, Definition was superficially enjoyable to see and hear. Nonetheless, Evan shouted on about freedom, haircuts, and ice, as Definition and Illogic spit rhymes about fakers, players, posers, and haters.

To be continued...

Visit these to get the whole picture:
Illogic's myspace
Ill Poetic's myspace
The Green Brothers myspace

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Deep Space

"They were blurry and clean/Outer space in between/
With a depth and a form unclear"

I remember reading a few years ago that scientists had located a black hole that emits a sound 57 octaves below middle C - the lowest note ever observed in the universe, and well outside the audible range for humans. The note has a wavelength millions of miles long, and takes ten million years to complete one modulation. The black hole has been producing this note for over two billion years, providing a sort of cosmic symphony to any entity large and old enough to witness it (the Flying Spaghetti Monster? A polar bear?).

I was happy to hear that the universe had such a powerful bass note, because I've always loved songs that have a steady background a few octaves below the rest of the music. It adds a distinct richness that can't really be achieved any other way. Here are a few songs off the top of my head that fit the bill:

R.E.M. - You Are The Everything (at 2:28)
Phish - Train Song (at 0:38)
Elbow - Grace Under Pressure (at 3:16)
G. Love & Special Sauce - Stone Me (at 0:08)
Radiohead - Exit Music (For A Film) (at 2:50)

And here's a poem by Mikhail Horowitz about the black hole, printed in the New York Times science section on August 3, 2004:

A supermassive ghostly Robeson robed in nothingness,
I serenade the void from the heart of the Perseus Cluster,
underhumming the underpinnings of the galaxies in B flat,
''Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'' at 57 octaves below middle C.
Not even God hears me.

But any one of these icy nights beneath the warbling stars,
those shards of horns long shivered that still take solos,
if you close your eyes you can almost sense my presence,
holding down the cosmic bottom for billions of years,
blowing the antisong of the antispheres.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Under the Covers with The Band

"They say ev'ry man needs protection/ They say ev'ry man must fall/
Yet I swear I see my reflection/ Somwhere so high above this wall"

Since grade one, there hasn't been a band that I've obsessed about as irrationally and pervasively as the Band. In the early days of The Canals, as Danny can attest, I had some trouble keeping this from being a 50% Band blog. Shadows of the temptation can be seen in my mention of drummer Levon Helm in a couple of earlier posts along with a few shaky comparisons to contemporary groups. Like a love-sick sea captain writing unstamped letter after unstamped letter, only to mail the lot into the great blue, or an addict trying to kick a bad habit with chewing gum, I would write a few private, unpublished Band posts here and there. That is, only to get them out of my system. But my levees weren't built to last, so I'll hold back the flood no more. Crack open that box of Q-tips in your bathroom closet, clean out those ears, and listen up to the feature that began in a land before time. Here is Under the Covers with The Band!

The Allman Brothers Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Listen as Gregg Allman forgets the words and just try not to crack up. He sounds senile as hell.

Wilco – I Shall Be Released (Live)
All I can say is that I wish I had been there.

The Roches – Acadian Driftwood
It’s really refreshing to hear a Band song done by a couple strong, reedy female voices.

Ekoostik Hookah – The Weight (Live)
A very Band-like and soulful rendition done by an excellent Columbus band. I especially like the gruff voice of the singer in the fourth verse.

Flying Dogs -- Katie’s Been Gone
This version by Italian group Flying Dogs is one of the most bizarre songs I’ve heard in a while. The singer sounds almost exactly like the Band’s bassist Rick Danko doing an Italian accent. Auditory gold.

Cowbirds -- Look Out Cleveland
They stick pretty close to the formula and instrumentation set up by the Band, nothing too impressive or mind-blowing here. The inconsistent and overdone southern accent gets a little grating. Should have gone with Italian.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Forms

"Talking about music is a game in that you can't talk about music. It's like talking about the human mind. We have no real understanding of how memory works, what purpose dreaming serves, what the function of seemingly unused areas of our brains is. The truth about music is also beyond our comprehension. When you change one note of a great melody, why do the composer and you and I all realize it's ruined? We don't really know why it's ruined, just that it's ruined... Icarus works in a way that is especially hard to talk about."
-The Forms

It was the track names, not the stellar reviews, that made me pick up the new untitled album from The Forms. Track 5 is called "Borges" (Benjy's grandfather) and track 9 is called "Oberlin" (Benjy's brother's alma mater) so I knew the band had some cosmic connection with The Canals.

Turns out this blog is far from the only thing The Forms have connected with. Both of their albums were produced by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) and the music has received pretty much the best reviews I've ever read. The band has been compared to Sunny Day Real Estate, Nirvana, and Modest Mouse, but they remind me of a less melodic and more rockin' version of The Shins. They literally march to the beat of their own drummer, with almost every track in either 5, 7, or some other bizarre time signature that I couldn't even recognize. It's like they hear music in a completely different meter than other bands.

The music feels a little like an instrumental track to another song. Sometimes it feels like something's missing, but your ears are constantly bombarded with so much sound that it's impossible to put your finger on what it might be. It creates a weird situation where it sounds a little like background music but it requires and holds your complete attention. It's haunting and powerful - the type of music with nothing specific to cling to but that you won't be able to stop thinking about any time soon.

The albums have been described as mysterious, but even more mysterious is the band's lack of presence in the blogosphere. A total of four blogs have written about The Forms, and none have featured tracks from the new (not-yet-released) album. This despite Pitchfork giving their debut album Icarus an 8.5 and naming it the "#1 album of the year." They deserve better, and The Canals is here to provide just that.

From Icarus:

The Forms - Stravinsky
The Forms - Sunday 1

From [Untitled]:

The Forms - Oberlin
The Forms - Transmission

The Forms' Myspace
Buy Icarus here (for $2.34...)


Monday, May 28, 2007

Searching For Polar Bears: A Multimedia Essay

"Someone told me/It's all happening at the zoo/
I do believe it/I do believe it's true."

Rather than barbecuing or parading, I spent my Memorial Day weekend on a quest to find the king of the ice. Yesterday my crew and I got on a train and headed due north -- to the heart of the Bronx.

Simon & Garfunkel - At The Zoo

We started out on the African plains. A long way from the North Pole, but interesting in its own right. We were greeted by a zebra.

Elbow - Scattered Black And Whites
Michael Jackson - Black Or White
The White Stripes - Black Math
Nate Allman - Stripes

On our way out of Africa we noticed two monkeys grooming each other, and we took turns doing the same. Under the beating savannah sun it's important to keep your hygiene in mind.

Outkast - So Fresh, So Clean
Chuck Prophet - What Makes The Monkey Dance

We met up with some gorillas. This one was deep in thought.

Ben Folds - Philosophy (live)
Elliott Smith - I Don't Think I'm Ever Gonna Figure It Out
Norah Jones - Thinking About You

And these brothers were enjoying some good-natured roughhousing.

The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother
G. Love & Special Sauce - Love
Golden Earring - Radar Love

Just when we thought we couldn't make it one more step, we spotted a camel in the distance. We all piled on and high-tailed it to Antarctica.

The Beatles - Ticket To Ride
Calexico - The Ride, Pt. II
Alberta Cross - Lucy Rider (acoustic)

Stopped for a bite at the Dancing Crane Cafe.

The Decemberists - The Crane Wife 1 And 2

We spotted something on the side of the road, and we knew we were headed the right way. Personally I think this sign was a bit of an understatement. I'd describe them as something more like "Majestic Creature of the Icy Kingdom" or "Savage Titan of The Milky Way."

Hem - Almost Home

And then the beast appeared before us. I felt such sympathy for my Polar brother. It seemed like I, too, was covered in a dense fur.

"Jump in the water, my friend!" I screamed, but the beast paid no heed. He just sat, absorbing the Sun's rays like the martyr I always knew he was.

All of a sudden, he sprang up on his haunches. He was 25 feet tall if he was 5. He roared at the heavens as if to say, "God - if ye be more mighty than I, strike me down in front of my minions!"

Needless to say, he did not fall.

Wax Fang - Bi-Polar Bear
Modest Mouse - Polar Opposites

What a day.