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