Thursday, October 29, 2009

what do you do with a...

“What do you do with a BA in English?” So goes the opening line in a song from Avenue Q. It’s a great musical because it makes puppets swear (giggle), and is also peppered with harsh truths like that one (you just don’t get that in Cats). I always knew my BA in English wasn’t worth much, but you never expect to hear it from a Jim Hensen creation (or close enough approximation) and being laughed at by a large who probably all have that degree or similar.

There is one difference between my situation and the one outlined in the aforementioned song. Ok, two: the first is that Gary Coleman is not my landlord, and the second is that my life doesn’t suck. I get work and it keeps me afloat, but it’s doing little to wipe away my debts from a recent Euro trip. It’s also hard to look busy when you work from your bedroom –and thus to anyone not physically standing in your room and observing you, working and watching Twin Peaks are practically the same activity.

Although said work is writing-based, I’d have probably gotten this work regardless of whether I had that BA in English or not. That said, I loved my BA and would do it again if I had the chance. But that routine and relative lack of expectation from my undergraduate days has since been stripped away and violated. I’ve never been one to stress about money or occupation before, but debts need a-paying. Also, my partner in crime/self-pity is now a straight and semi-productive member of society whose achievements at her job somehow eclipse the time I spend on Hype Machine and Facebook. I know, right?

I didn’t adopt all of the below steps, but if I ever scale back my freelancing stuff and get desperate then I will likely be turning to suppress the impotent guilt that will likely arrive shortly thereafter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

stuff i've been listening to.

The Beta Band - 'Squares'
This is a song off this now-defunct band's second studio album Hot Shots II released in 2001. What's notable about this song - and something you'll realise pretty quickly if you listen - is that it shares a chorus with a later, well-known Lupe Fiasco song. Both are based around a prominent sample from I Monster's 'Daydream in Blue,' only The Beta Band's sample is slightly more abridged and features their distinct brogue on top.

I like Lupe Fiasco's track, but this is much better. While the idea of pop music drawing from hip hop in the mid-to-late nineties was hardly revolutionary, a bunch of English squares (no pun intended) somehow managed to sound so original by doing just that. Sampling old soul tracks, using crusty hip hop beats, playfully cutting up their librarian-esque vocals - it all works so well when it probably shouldn't. Maybe it's exciting because the band could have so easily rested on their laurels and churned out more acoustic songs like 'Dry The Rain' - first song on their debut EP and a fantastic song no less - but they went much further than that. They were diverse, adventurous and quite geeky. Sometimes they go almost too far; the sampled string break in 'It's Not Too Beautiful' is surprising the first few times, but eventually feels like the aural equivalent of sea-sickness.

I've been thrashing the Beta Band's 'best of' this last fortnight and this is probably my favourite song on there.

Foals - 'Big Big Love (Fig. 2)'
This song is hardly old but whatever, the album leaked Feb 08 - which is long enough ago to warrant its inclusion here. The opening (not the bit with sticks but the bit with the delayed guitar) sounds "like water" according to Maddy, which is a great description. The distorted, low-cut drums and synth that come in soon thereafter are deceptively simple and maintain a feeling of floating throughout the verses. The chorus is all double-tracked shouts and yet somehow sounds nearly as weightless, and then the song is brought by down to earth by high-fret antics in the bridge/outro.

This album was was produced by Dave Sitek (aka the man of the decade) and is way too underrated. Too many reviews said that the album needed more upbeat ska-type singles like 'Cassius' and 'Balloons.' While those songs are good, the best stuff on Antidotes is easily the more atmospheric, loop-based compositions (see: 'Red Sock Pugie,' 'Tron (Is A Good Film), 'Electric Bloom'). People complain about Sitek's production (the band themselves rejected his final mix) because it's not transparent - it draws attention to it's knob twiddling ways and incidentally pulls focus from the songs. But that what I love about it, and any band or listener looking for slick, live-sounding jams should stay away from Sitek. His production makes me want to spend hours trying stuff out on Logic, and the song 'Big Big Love (Fig. 2)' makes me want to grab my guitar and delay pedals and go for it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

in defense of animal collective (at my own risk...)

I remember a time when it was cool to like Animal Collective. I remember that time mainly because it only three years ago.

I was among the many fans that thought Feels was a great album from an innovative band. Then a whole bunch of new blogs and blog readers decided they also loved Animal Collective, and held them up as the band of the decade and the pinnacle of experimentation in indie music. And then it became cool to hate on Animal Collective. So many of those who formerly championed Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin moved on to championing Fuck Buttons and Health - until such time that they too become the toast of alternative media and thus must be discarded in an equally open and critically-hostile manner.

Friday, October 16, 2009

hipster partay mixtape

I put together a bit of a mixtape because it seemed like a fun thing to do. This isn't a compilation of my favourite songs ever or anything. No. This is a collection of songs that I would play if tonight I were getting loose and DJing to a crowd consisting entirely of myself.

It's pretty fun and not "high brow" hipster material (see: 'Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell'), though it may possibly include the obligatory AnCo jam ('Grass'). Also some cool remixes and my favourite mash-up ever alongside just generally catchy stuff. It's one file with fades - not exactly "mixed" (ie. beat matched), but still worth putting on if you're doing pre-drinks tonight (especially if you to be/want to be me). This is what Brisbanites affectionately call a "Ric's Mix," in reference to the indie-iPod-shuffle style of DJing featured at the eponymous still-best-despite-all-the-Motown-upstairs-on-Saturday-nights club/bar in Brisbane.

Download the mix (at 128kbps) along with the above cover art and tracklist here.


(Clarification: the name of this mixtape - 'i want to party (party)' - references a Philadelphia Grand Jury song. So as not to be accused of misleading anyone, I'll now point out that that song is NOT included here since I didn't have my new PGJ album near me at the time. Suffice it to say it would've been included and may indeed pop on a future mixtape).

Monday, October 12, 2009

problems with indie films, pt. 1

Since the 1950s and the birth of 'counter culture' as we know it, the mainstream has continually absorbed the signifiers associated with various movements until said signifiers become widely disseminated and steadily lose the cultural purchase they once possessed. It happened to punk (see: Supre shirts with safety pins, Ramones shirts on sale at K-Mart), it happened to hip hop, it happened to grunge - it's a cycle that endlessly repeats itself.

The same is true of the signifiers and tropes of indie movies. The impetus behind this post has been two movies I've seen in the last fortnight, both of which are ostensibly banal Hollywood genre movies that tried to decorate unimaginative characters and plots with indie songs and images in a superficial attempt to connect with/conflate themselves with a demographic that A) enjoys basking in their own reproduced codes, and B) shuns cultural product made from mainstream media outlets/isn't championed by blogs (this is an important caveat, since 'Where The Wild Things Are' is a movie from a major studio that still excites the indie kids).

I would have to identify myself as part of the indie crowd. I love the fact that it's incredibly codified - music and image have always been connected and to say that visual and musical aesthetics should be totally disengaged is rubbish. Style is important and exciting. It obviously goes too far at times, but this has been the folly of the subculture since way back. While I mention above that us indie kids love recognising and reproducing our stylistic codes, nothing annoys us more than when those codes are adopted by outsiders for commercial reasons.

This brings us to 500 Days of Summer, and Whip It.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

mixing failure

So I just finished mixing one of the Ticky-Tak songs we'll be uploading tomorrow. It's an epic song, it took a long time to mix, and I was pretty happy with it...

And then I realised I hadn't even recorded the bass yet, let alone mixed it. And now I'm sad.

I know - how meticulous a craftsman, how skilled and attentive a musician must I be to finish this work of art only to later realise that one of the main elements of a popular music song was missing? The obvious answer is: not a very good one. But this answer is wrong; I am slightly above average, and in my defense this song has upward of 60 tracks hovering around (an indicator of my penchant for excess more than anything else). Still, this is quite the (isolated, not-reflective-of-me-as-a-whole) failure on my part - and more than that, has meant that I've literally pissed my entire day thus far against the wall.

I'm currently thinking that the track will be uploaded sans bass tomorrow, and the bass can then be an extra surprise in a few weeks. If nothing else it gives us another excuse to drum up some future anticipation/hype - marketing 101, guys. Or, in other words, it's laziness repackaged as a cunning attention-grabbing ploy amongst our handful of fans.

I'm about to go work on my Lost Valentinos review for The Vine before I continue mixing. I have a dream that one day I'll be able to pay someone to mix our stuff. Hopefully that day arrives before I strike my computer down and/or go deaf.

Also, the 'ghost organ' I referred to on Ticky-Tak's blog is still yet to be located. The mystery van is on its way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

aural exhaustion (+ normal exhaustion)

I've spent the last few hours with my Senheisser headphones on attempting to mix a few of my band's tracks, since I may have publicly promised to have them online by Friday. Not that anyone will be too devastated if I fail, it's more of a motivational technique designed to snap me out of idling perfectionism. And I wonder why I'm steadily going deaf...

Anyway, I've been sat here since six, slowly growing to hate my own tunes as cymbals, kick drums and all other array of sounds steadily disappear from the mix. Right now, all I'm hearing is a tambourine - which, jaunty as it is, is still largely unhelpful since a solitary tambourine hardly maketh a song. I'm told not to mix through headphones, but this way those fortunate enough to be near me escape the repetitive sonic battery. I know, I'm a martyr right?

My actual body is also fairly exhausted. I played squash for the first time since I got back from Europe today - turns out Europe and Boot Camp aren't the same thing.

Some rad things also happened today, like this rad, Cure-referencing track magically landing in my SoundCloud inbox. You should check it out. I love my SoundCloud account, it's like some sort of glorious, intangible stocking that fills up like it's Xmas every day. (And by 'my' SoundCloud account I mean ''s' SoundCloud account). I also did some work on Rahool's traitorous MySpace page; I'd like to have had the fortitude not to condone her back-stabbing side-project ways but I'm enjoying Photoshop way too much at the moment to pass it up. It's fairly basic, but you'd be surprised how easily I can be impressed with my own limited abilities. Money doesn't buy happiness, extremely small expectations do.

Having enjoyed this brief respite, I'm going to return to my tambourine solo of a song. I'll let you know when it's up, or you could just check Ticky-Tak's blog yourself.

(Yes, we are called Ticky-Tak. We literally drew it out of a hat after certain members of the band deemed 'Pink Tight Raptors' too lame).