Tag Archives: M.I.A.

Top Eight Thursday: 10 June 2010 – Goal! England

1. Free Energy – “Bang Pop”
2. We Are Scientists – “Goal! England”
3. Das Racist – “Shorty Said (Gordon Voidwell Remix)”
4. The Hood Internet – “Rude Baptism (Rihanna vs. Crystal Castles)”
5. Vampire Weekend – “Jonathan Low”
6. Sleigh Bells – “Infinity Guitars”
7. Das Racist – “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”
8. M.I.A. – “XXXO”

Listen here.

This has been a weird week, apparently. If you’re shopping around for a summer jam, “Bang Pop” is an effortlessly catchy contender. I listened to “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” a couple of times when it became a meme, but never really gave much thought to Das Racist until I saw a couple of Tumblr posts about “Shorty Said” and decided to try listening to more of their work. In an odd, patchy way, I’ve slowly been getting into more hip hop this year.

We Are Scientists consistently prove themselves to be some of the funniest guys in music. In celebration of the World Cup and forthcoming album Barbara, they’ve recorded a football anthem that is available free here.


Leisure Reading: Sleigh Bells, Local Natives, Blur, Interpol, M.I.A., Cults, and Bored To Death

First things first: listen to Sleigh Bells’ debut album Treats and blow your eardrums out. Pretty much all of the dirty, fuzzy sound from the demos is maintained, except now it’s a crisper sort of dirty and fuzzy. That probably doesn’t make sense in words, so you should just go hear it for yourself. The new version of “Infinity Guitars” is a particular stand-out, becoming even punchier and out-of-control.

There’s a new video for Local Natives’ “World News,” which has preemptively been on my list of favorite songs of 2010 for quite some time now. It’s directed by the same guy who did Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move,” and while there are no llamas present, it’s probably nothing like what you would have expected for this song. Watch it here. You can also check out a bootleg of one of their recent sold-out Bowery Ballroom shows here.

Blur haven’t ruled out the possibility of recording new material, so that’s something to celebrate. However, it could be quite some time, considering that Damon Albarn is one of those people who tries to be in every band ever.

Interpol’s new album is done, but Carlos D. has quit the band. Considering how much he’s contributed to the Interpol brand, it’ll be interesting to see where Mssrs. Banks, Kessler, and Fogarino go from here. Will the replacement be required to wear random gun holsters and grow Colonel Sanders facial hair? I have a feeling that no one will be able to suffice in comparison to the real deal.

In other new release news, M.I.A.’s new album will be called / \ / \ / \ Y / \ and will be released on July 13 instead of June 29. Considering that her people hired a blimp to advertise the release date during Jay-Z’s set at Coachella, something serious must have caused the switch. Surely the reaction to ginger genocide wasn’t that strong?

Cults have made a three-song 7″ available for free on Bandcamp. If you like layered vocals, glockenspiel, and lazy sunny days, this is for you.

Filming for season two of Bored To Death is still going. The first set the expectations high (in more ways than one), and we all need more Schwartzman, Galifianakis, and Danson in our lives. Considering that these pictures show the Zach Galifianakis character Ray apparently involved with a dog-walking service, this next season can only get better.

In Reference and Reverence to Joe Strummer

Born in Ankara, Turkey and the son of a diplomat, Strummer, whose real name was Mellor, was middle class and public school educated but became a hugely admired figure as the musical voice of rebellion.

1. In the original draft of Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums, “there was a part that Jason Schwartzman was going to play, a kid living across the street from their house, the son of a diplomat who had escaped from a school in Switzerland and was living in an attic and had like a cable connected to their house, and they were sliding things across it.” The character didn’t make the cut, but a shadow remains–two songs by the Clash feature prominently in the film. These tracks are used as a sort of motif for the character of Eli Cash, the sole noted neighbor of the Tenenbaum family in the final version of the script. Conversely to the Tenenbaums, the unnamed Schwartzman character, and, indeed, Joe Strummer himself, Eli is shown as having a distinctly working class upbringing. He spends his childhood observing the Tenenbaums’ privilege from across the street. When he comes into his own success as a western novelist, he–like the Tenenbaum children–cannot withstand the pressures of fame. Eli turns to drugs as a coping mechanism, and the Clash songs underscore this. The collision-themed “Police and Thieves” accompanies one of his pickups, and “Rock The Casbah” plays as Richie Tenenbaum attempts to stage an intervention. While this connection is not as obvious as the actual presence of a rebellious diplomat’s son, the use of the Clash’s music adds further depth to the way Wes Anderson examines class differences.

2. The Vampire Weekend song “Diplomat’s Son” obviously immediately references Joe Strummer in its title. Originating in a short story written by frontman Ezra Koenig, the track eventually developed into “a six-minute dancehall song about a gay relationship” with the help of guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. It features the repeated line “He was a diplomat’s son, it was ’81.” I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of the image of the story’s protagonist hooking up with the titular character/Joe Strummer after a party, but in 1981, the Clash had just released their album Sandinista!, named for Nicaraguan revolutionaries. “Diplomat’s Son” appears on Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra; while the band did not intend it as a specific reference, they acknowledge the name’s additional connotations regarding the counterrevolutionaries who were in opposition of the Sandinistas. The references to the Clash culminate in “Diplomat’s Son” with the use of a sample from “Hussel” by M.I.A., who famously sampled the Clash’s “Straight To Hell” in her hit “Paper Planes.” This gets meta by not only making explicit allusions to Joe Strummer and the Clash, but by borrowing from the borrower.

As for both Wes Anderson films and Vampire Weekend being viewed by popular culture as the property of the privileged versus the Clash championing the working class, that’s a whole other blog post. Does it really matter, anyway?

Song of the Moment: The Morning Benders – “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)” + a note on brevity

Having picked up on the Morning Benders on their post-SXSW wave of attention, I’ve been listening to their recent release Big Echo quite a bit recently. I like opening track “Excuses” as much as the next person, and the song certainly deserves all of the praise it has been receiving. It’s lushly orchestrated and densely layered, yet airy-sounding; the vocals are delivered with that particular combination of youth and advanced wisdom that I often find myself favoring. It’s also more than five minutes long. The fourth song on Big Echo, “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight),” is just as striking, if in a different way. It clocks in at a mere one minute and 44 seconds. However, it manages to accomplish more in this short span than other songs do in double or triple the amount of time. “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)” is a compact slice of sunny, jangly, 60s-inspired acoustic pop, with nothing particularly frenetic or rushed about it. It is a fully self-contained package, perfect for an ADD generation that finds it difficult to sit through a four minute-long YouTube video. (Apologies for the poor sound quality of the above.)

There is something to be said for short songs, particularly ones that are catchy and easily digestible. As cliché as the comparison is, those sorts of songs are like candy, instantly gratifying and often consumed in large quantities. Out of the top ten most-played tracks in my music library, eight are under four minutes long. Out of those, four are less than three minutes. Looking at these songs, I must give “Kids” by MGMT exceptional credit for making the list in spite of being a whopping 5:02. (One of their other hits, the 3:49 “Electric Feel,” is my most-played track.) In addition to being brief, these top played songs are generally immediately accessible, not emotionally demanding, and have catchy choruses that demand triumphant fist-pumping–who hasn’t leapt around to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” while doing stupid gun hand gestures? They are the qualities that made me want to listen to them so much in the first place, and I can’t deny them.

I used to be able to listen to “Blue Monday” by New Order (7:29) on repeat. I’m not sure what happened to that ability.

Leisure Reading: New Blur single, M.I.A. vs. Lady Gaga, MGMT, Sondre Lerche, Freelance Whales

Blur are releasing a new single for Record Store Day. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 1,000 copies in the UK, so the rest of us will have to frantically trawl the internet for vinyl-to-mp3 rips. I was too young for their 90s Britpop heyday and didn’t get into Blur until around 2005, but I am stupidly overjoyed. Get on that business, Libertines.

The M.I.A. vs. Lady Gaga feud is making me horribly conflicted. I adore both of them–I still regret missing the opportunity to see M.I.A. two years ago–but this feel vaguely reminiscent of that sort of high school drama situation when your friend starts bad-mouthing one of your other friends in front of you. Both women are extraordinarily talented, but in very different ways. Yes, maybe Gaga makes dance music for drunk people that doesn’t confront any serious political issues, but damn she can sing. As for her image, I interpreted the product placement in the Telephone video as a method of subverting the standard technique by purposely making it obvious. It also remains that huge amounts of people still automatically think of Pineapple Express when they hear M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” There are good and bad sides to commercial success, and as much as I like M.I.A., Lady Gaga is obviously the bigger player in the game at the moment. Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig stated it via Twitter about as well as anyone’s ever going to: “M.I.A. dissing Lady Gaga is like when a dude goes to prison and immediately shivs the baddest dude in the cafeteria…works on TV, but I could imagine it backfiring pretty badly (the shivving not the dissing).” Who’s even been comparing M.I.A. to Gaga in the first place?

On that note, MGMT turned down opening for Lady Gaga. They say you can’t miss what you’ve never had, but that’s a dream-crusher right there. Sure, maybe MGMT want to stay in their underground bunker full of acid, but if they like Gaga enough to reference her in a song title, you’d think they’d be willing to play a few shows with her.

Watch a four-song acoustic set from the always-lovely Sondre Lerche here.

Nitsuh Abebe’s editorial about musical trends and Freelance Whales brings up some interesting points. Personally, I gave the Freelance Whales album a fair few listens, acknowledging that their sound contains many elements similar to various artists I enjoy, but it’s failed to make a serious impression on me.

Top Five Acceptable Uses of “Ur” in Song Titles

1. M.I.A. – “URAQT”

This song is so badass that it’s impossible to hate. In this case, the “UR” is definitively meant to represent “you are.” Additionally, the use of “QT” creates a thematic link, making the use of abbreviation more acceptable. The song also makes several references to phones and texting, the technology that has bred the culture of people who are too lazy to hit a few more keys and spell out the entire word.

2. The Kills – “URA Fever”

As the opener to the amazing album Midnight Boom, “URA Fever” gets a free pass. This song showcases the Kills at their best, with a dark, minimalist sound and effortless chemistry between Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince’s voices. Similarly to “URAQT,” the “UR” directly translates to “you are.”

3. Annie – “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me”

As always, Scandinavia knows what’s up. Annie’s “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me” is just over three minutes of pop perfection. This is the kind of song that is immediately and intensely catchy in all of the right ways. Polished production and Annie’s breezy, confident delivery make this a prime dancefloor-filler, and, just maybe, justify the use of the abbreviation.

4. Vampire Weekend – “I Think Ur A Contra”

I love Vampire Weekend–come on, I named this blog after one of their songs–but I can’t say I’m a fan of textspeak. “I Think Ur A Contra” is a tender, bitter reflection on a failed relationship, and the delicate end to second album Contra. While the band shows no signs of a sophomore slump, I’m perplexed as to why “Ur” was used in this song’s title, especially when most reviewers unfailingly mention that the band formed at an Ivy League university. Is it meant to contrast with the band’s inescapably intellectual image? Is it supposed to illustrate the retrospective superficiality of the relationship? Why is it “Ur” when “Yr” at least looks more like “You’re”? Whatever, I’m just going to sit back, listen to those sweet string arrangements again, and try not to think about it too much.

5. I can’t think of any other examples without stretching this to also include “yr,” which is a completely different game.