Bringing Back The Jam
While J.I. was watching his beloved Cleveland Cavaliers get obliterated tonight by the Seattle Supersonics (hey, no Lebron though), we took some solace in a quick on-air interview with Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who revealed that the band was about to regroup after a six months-plus hiatus.
"We're gonna get together here in a couple of weeks and try and write some stuff," said Ament, who also weighed in on the talents of star Sonics rookie Kevin Durant ("he's fast ... and long") and the quality of the snow in the Pacific Northwest of late ("probably the best in 10 years," he claimed).
Beyond the upcoming writing session, J.I. is in the know that Pearl Jam is going to play some shows before too long. One appearance may even be ready to announce as early as next week.
The New England Patriots Of Indie Rock
New York's Vampire Weekend and those New England Patriots both elicit very strong feelings as to the legitimacy of their output. As a few have pointed out, most of the hate directed towards VW is due to their preppy flaunting of a vague notion of privilege. The comments on Brooklyn Vegan dubbed their fans "indie-frat", which I think means that they're a lot like Dave Matthews' audience, but happen to be on indie label XL, which draws a certain type of music fan, not usually associated with the Greek alphabet.
The similarities are striking: both have Massachusetts ties; VW sings about towns such as Hyannis Port; the Patriots, despite being from a "region," also stake the territory just outside Boston. Both have effortlessly risen to the ranks to the point where they're currently in leagues of their own. VW has press coming in at every corner, critical acclaim to back it up and a downright fun album that cannot shake the comparisons to "Graceland" (aside: what was THAT record consistently compared to?). And of course, this whole season, the Patriots and the '72 Dolphins were always in the same conversation, especially as they got closer and closer to finishing undefeated.
And watching VW last night at the Bowery Ballroom, their second sold-out night in a row, they embody what we love and hate about Tom Brady. They're youthful and have chiseled good looks. And like Brady, VW has an impressive air of confidence when they're playing -- way too much for being in their early 20s. They're never awkward, and lead singer Ezra Koenig, despite a need to work on his stage banter, delivers line after line flawlessly. He knows how to control his voice, as on "One (Blake's Got a New Face)." He hits the high points on the appropriate words, puts a little quiver in his voice and returns it to its lower pitch promptly. These little variations are enough to make you think he's über talented, or at the very least, mildly interesting.
VW is quite adept at recreating the album's sunny, backyard BBQ feel. Crowd favorites "Oxford Comma" and "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" were built around repetitive guitar and bass chords, and "Walcott" seemed a bit sped up, as Koenig egged the crowd on, pseudo-shouting, "outta Cape-Cod tonight."
People grew hate Brady delivering pass after pass and breaking records left and right. It's okay to be good but not too good -- that was the general conclusion in living rooms/bars around the country. And for Vampire Weekend, the common thought/myth is that bands are supposed to struggle (at least a bit) or supposed to pay some sort of tangible or metaphorical dues for years. But they both just make it look so easy.
When it comes down to it, who'd you rather be? The quarterback who's struggled with consistency, as well as controlling the hometown boos (Eli Manning), or the guy who is hated for being awesome? It's an easy choice. The Patriots are fantastic at the moment, and VW might be too. It still doesn't mean they're not annoying. -- Michael D. Ayers
Idol Chatter: If It's Wednesday, It Must Be Miami
Ah, we open to the sounds of Michael Mann's "Miami Vice," and I can only wish that show will turn into Simon and Randy wearing pastels, not shaving and jetting around in a cigarette boat while Paula is being taken hostage by narcotraffickers.
But no. Instead we get - not one, but two! - people who think that auditioning using Janis Joplin songs is a good idea. Folks, let me explain a little something to you - there are two competing Joplin biopics floating around Hollywood for a million years now. Why have they taken so long to get made?
Beyond the typical Hollywood reasons of financing, timing, and meddling studio executives - the powers that be figured out that it's going to take a long, long, long time for the actresses - purportedly Renee Zellweger in one and Zoey Deschanel in the other - to achieve Janisosity. These are skilled, highly-paid actresses who have to spend hours and hours and hours practicing to sound enough like Janis that post production will make them sound exactly like Janis.
So, in short, American Idol wannabees, don't come waltzing in after taking a slug of whiskey and start bellowing and think that you sound like Joplin. You don't. You can't. And Simon doesn't want to put someone who emulates Joplin on this show, anyway, and if you emulate Joplin, the last thing you should be doing is trying out for American Idol.
Sigh. OK, I'm doing twitching now.
The rest of the episode passed pretty much on par for an audition round: some freaks, some geeks, the person who Randy Newman wrote "Short People" for, zaftig ladies who love Randy and Simon. For those keeping track at home, it's Wednesday, February 13th when we end this nonsense and get to the final 24.
To that end, Idolator recently posted an amusing video that you can Zapruder all you want if you're seeking American Idol spoilers. It's a local TV news feed from Pasadena, and it shows an overview of the downtown area, including a smattering of American Idol folks walking around some buildings. It was allegedly filmed on the day when the final 24 were selected. Don't look if you don't want to know - because there are some very readily recognizable people from the audition rounds.
MacBook's Insidiously Catchy Ditty
We ooohed and ahhed when we caught that new MacBook Air commercial the other day, but inevitably it's the song trilling in the background that sticks in the mind, la la la. We had to find out what that insidiously catchy song was and who was singing it.
Onscreen, a hand model sexier than the Addams Family's Thing slides the svelte laptop -- 3/4 of an inch thick at it's fattest end -- out of an interoffice envelope to the dulcet tones of "New Soul," the single from an Israeli folk/pop singer named Yael Naim.
Turns out we aren't the only ones interested. The track was one of the top 50 things Google yesterday, Naim's eponymous album has crept into Billboard's European Top 100 Albums chart over the last few weeks. Course the folks over at AdWeek are already hot on the trail too.
But here's the ad itself. What do you think? Good song? Good placement? Or just Apple flexing their "we're cool against a white background" muscle?
Idol Chatter: Children Of The Corn
Yeah, yeah, we were prepared for a poor representation of fellow Cornhuskers as the “American Idol” crew rolled into Omaha's Quest Center, but we were thinking more along the lines of ineloquent hicks wearing overalls, 18-year-old Applebees waitresses with bad dye jobs or at least something that hinted at hidden Midwestern charm.
But last night’s “Idol” didn’t offer squat. No stereotypes to poke fun at (obligatory camera shots of corn fields aside), no emotionally charged backstories (uh, nice try, Angelica), and the token weirdo was just some faux-goth chick who looked as though she made a wrong turn on her way to buy a new tongue stud at Hot Topic.
And the "good" contestants that did make it through to Hollywood weren’t even all that exceptional: the arm wrestling girl was more intimidating than talented; the Daughtry-audition-studier needs to lay off the Fuel records; and we’re stumped as to how the guy from Iowa got Paula to yell “touchdown!”, although we speculate that might just have been a Super Bowl plug or was, more likely, prompted by something else.
While most of the episode moved along at a very Nebraska-ish John-Deere-tractor-chugging-down-a-gravel-road pace (hey, it's our home state, we can get away with the stereotyping), the rare highlights included the “I’m America’s Next Top Model!” fluke, Paula hiccupping and Seacrest’s go at judging. Somehow 19 hopefuls made it through to the next round, but it was certainly slim pickins as far as the talent is concerned.
So now we set our sight on Miami, where people wear big hats, Simon can brush up on his tan and Paula can drink as many mojitos as her heart desires.