Saturday, October 10, 2009

what is hip?

Once one gets over the sheer proliferation of music available on the internet, (developing avalanche instincts, as it were)...the logical response, aside from flight, is to set up a gatekeeper, or series thereof, where one can turn on a trusted tap when one feels the need to dabble in the new, or get an opinion on new from the old.

Along with the innate excitement of watching social media progress is the flip abundantly exuberant blogosphere that seems intent of burn & churn, the building up and tearing down of new acts to quickly fill all that cyberspace. Almost to the point of resembling the tawdry English music weeklies...

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Vampire Weekend were two great examples of this...So far it seems only the Arctic Monkeys, and some would say Animal Collective, have had the musical goods to transcend this...making it to a third album relatively unscathed.

Today's object lesson is Grizzly Bear. 2007 saw the release of the much praised 'Yellow House', and with news that they were back in the studio working on a followup, the stage was set for the hype machine to reach full throttle...

Last year saw them secure a high profile opening gig for the east coast first leg of Radiohead's US run. They acquitted themselves well, and the buzz built, leading up to the leaking of tracks from the by now, highly awaited 'Veckatimest'. It was immediately acclaimed as on the best albums of 2009, even though it was: a) still 2008, and b) horrifying to the band, given the less than ideal sound quality of some of the leaked work.

Still, the machine rolled on. When the album was finally released it somehow cracked the US Top Ten, the tumult growing to dizzying heights, and having swallowed the giant lump of salt needed at this point, one actually listened to the finished product. And was quite pleased. It's a really good album, heavily layered in a baroque indie.pop style that reflects the sixties masters, but seems firmly of the moment. Beach Boys comparisons abounded given the ornate vocal layerings, but to me it seems most redolent of Love's 'Forever Changes', perfectly capturing that elusive melancholy...maybe not the year's finest, but surely a lock for the top 5 at this rate.

Rolling right along, the next stages of the process being Celebrity Interest, (Jay Z?!), in the band that generated more headlines, and then of course, a sweetly subversive move, news broke of the newest single, which featured a guest artist lending his pipes to a remix of 'While You Wait For The Others'...
(wait for it...)
Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, solo, et al) was the voice of choice, and early fingers pointed the obvious crossover sellout potential inherent in the move, but once again, the proof is in the listening...what is dreadfully and absolutely Wrong on paper, once heard, is like chocolate and peanut just flows...

and that's where we'll leave our Grizzly Bear, ambling through that particular Hundred Acre Wood of the music blogosphere, living to ramble another day...


  1. McDonald sounds kinda tore up on that track :P. Like, he's got some jowls or he's trying to swallow some porridge or something.

    We saw them (Grizzly, not McDonald... although I'm fairly sure I saw what was left of the Doobies at my county fair a couple times as a kid) a couple years back, I think they opened for TVotR. I wasn't particularly impressed, but at the same time I could see why the hipsters dig them.

    I totally agree about the cannibalistic nature of "online music journalism". Too god damn much competition to be the ... "cool sleuth", or whatever Cayce Pollard from Pattern Recognition called herself, and not enough un-douchery.

    I didn't mind Vampire Weekend's 1st album - do they have a second yet? Comparisions to Graceland are unavaidable I think, and I took that as a positive.

    IIRC, Clap your Hands annoyed me. I know that I listened to them once or twice, and never felt another urge to listen to them again. But hey, maybe I just heard songs I didn't like.

  2. McD: tore up in a good way i thought...did seem to warm up into the track as it went along...After the last few years of cover albums and 'cell phone advert' music, it was gratifying to hear him wrestle a tune that he could sink his teeth into...

    I saw GB before i heard the records, and it was OK, not earthshattering, but enough to send me to the records, which i've like more and more...

    interestingly, Doobies regrouped to the pre.McD core of the early 70's, and sure enough, are easily found on the state fair/Indian casino circuit.

    Vampire Weekend i got a lot of mileage out of playing instore, clever & catchy, but never actually bought or made it home w/me. I just go back to Talking Heads 'Remain In Light', or Peter Gabriel's 'Security', when i need to scratch that particular cod African alt preppy itch.

    side observations: Peter Gabriel apparently was involved in a media filter/gatekeeping kind of project, which could be of interest...i meant to follow up on that but never did...

    as for Paul a great article with Los Lobos not too long ago, mentioning Simon's tendency when collaborating with an artist to end up on the good side of the publishing rights...hmmmm

    as fo' Clap Your Hands...i filed under another Pitchfork 'storm in a bottle'...never could bring myself to swallow that particular Kool Aid

  3. I could never get into Peter Gabriel. Sure, he's a genius or whatever, but I think I'm just the wrong generation.

    The Vampire Weekend album definitely needed a bit more 'bite', it wasn't worth buying IMHO. But, I can listen to the tracks and enjoy them when I'm in the right frame of mind.

    Not a surprise about the Paul Simon thing, he seems like a smart "businessman" as far as what I've heard.

    I agree with your assessment of GB, that's about how I felt after the show. I still haven't got around to listening to their albums yet though, kind of dropped of my radar.

    I agree about McDonald warming up too, but I never heard the killer finish the article you linked to described. I kept backing it up and playing the last minute or so waiting to be wowed. Nothing. Could be another generational thing I guess.

    I wonder how much money there is in the casino circuit? I'm seeing more and more 80s & 90s acts (En Vogue hit the local one recently) doing that.

  4. Peter Gabriel for the uncommitted...ignore the hits and go straight to 3rd album (I.e. 'melted face'). A dark masterpiece of barely restrained paranoia that is a direct predecessor to radiohead in the 'this world is eating my soul alive dept.'

    agreed on mcd; he ramps it up & closes nicely, and what I liked is that it was stronger than the original, but Not over the top. Certainly no Whitney Houston.

    Casinos are throwing around ass money for acts that hit their demographics, and the proliferation makes it quite sustainable to bounce between them, state fairs, w/the occasional shed thrown in...(like say Styx, reo, foreigner @ verizon ampitheater for example. Journey, in fact, has risen from the dead to play the sb county bowl this year, only months after the mid st fair...ekkk

    oh yeah, chumash opened their ballroom w/fleetwood mac. Don't dare guess how much they paid them to play a 1200 seat room, but why not? They've got plenty left over after all the lobbying & paying off politicians...might as well throw down for some entertainment. And, quite frankly, I think it's having the same impact as when costco & grocery stores started aggressively carrying books-grow the pie & make the market come to you...

    it's all relative, I guess...