M.I.A. at Rickshaw Stop

Photo by kewlio.
This Saturday was my third time seeing M.I.A. The Rickshaw Stop is a tiny venue, especially after seeing her at the Independent, and the slightly larger Grand Regency a year or so ago.

1. After this show, I'm slightly more excited about her new album Kala. The songs and videos floating around right now, "Boys," "XR2" and "Bird Flu," haven't impressed me. A little too tribal for my liking. But the new songs she played live were really incredible. I liked the first of the batch, and this one big pop/club track that sounded like a companion piece to "10 Dollar."

2. She looked a bit more focused and serious. There wasn't that fun, crazy, neon explosion of the first album promo tour. Maybe it's because she's testing out the new material for a bigger tour? Maybe it's her shorter hair cut? Or the "DARFUR" t-shirt, or the military headwear? She's becoming a pop star .. and sticking to her guns, so to speak. It's very exciting to see.

3. The show was very loud. My ears are still ringing, and I truly regret not bringing plugs. I had a similarly loud experience when I saw Clinic earlier in the year. Apparently, I didn't learn my lesson.

4. She was more on-time than usual. The show started at 9 p.m. and she was on by 11:30 (one opener, and a bunch of DJs). This was better than the last few shows when she was late, played short sets and pissed off a lot of people. She's been in SF since Thursday I think (she DJ'd at Popscene that night, and played a record store show earlier on Saturday .. both of which I missed). However, I read she was 3 hours late (!) at a show in Brooklyn earlier this week.

5. The audience didn't seem that into it. Lots of random people. LOTS of people taking photographs. I know she's incredibly photogenic .. but it was non-stop. It took me no time to find the photo above from last night's show on Flickr (which I very much appreciated).

Overall, I had a good time. I hope the ringing in my ear will stop. Next up: Clipse in September. Hip-hop shows are always hit or miss for me -- the audience has really gotta be there. This should be a cool show.


Blowing Off Some Steam

I went to the Napa Valley with my father this weekend. He recently purchased property in Calistoga and wanted to show me the "before." It's a plot with a whole lot of nothing, but it's neighboring some wineries and in a very good location. I guess he's planning on turning it into a vineyard and retire there.

It was a lot of fun and it was a really beautiful day. We went to see the Calistoga geyser erupt. We had good food, talked a lot, and since I was the one doing the driving, he got to hear the R&B space disco of Chromeo's "Ce Soir On Danse!" mix, my favorite thing of the moment. He had no comment.

My mother and sister are in Iran right now, which puts my radar up more notches than normal to what's going on over there. When I talked to them on the phone, they sounded fine and excited to be there. I talked Farsi with my grandmother, which was a surreal and touching experience. I don't talk Farsi nearly as much as I'd like to. My pronunciation is very good, but my vocabulary is limited.
I've thought about writing songs in Farsi. I suppose it's destined to happen one day or another.

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I found this really vile Iranian cartoon via Angelo Says. It was broadcast on Iranian TV in October 2005. It attempts to rationalize martyrdom and suicide bombings to a young audience, which is certainly as disturbing as it sounds. Jeez, and I thought the propoganda on Fox News was bad.


Wolf Parade

Patrick Wolf is someone I never wanted to like. At 23, he's got a few albums under his belt, worshiped as a child prodigy and considered to be the second coming of David Bowie. His shaggy, preschooler haircut bothers me, as does his campy fashion sense.

I must admit I didn't actually listen to his music until I saw the video for "Bluebells," the first single off his new album, The Magic Position. With a beautiful piano melody and tasteful firecracker samples, the song had a pretty big impact on me.

The album is pretty tremendous as well. I'm not going to go into a song-by-song highlight -- there are so many good ones -- but I will say "Augustine" is one of the most beautiful ballads I've heard in a long time. I'm constantly playing it.

In this video, he plays "Augustine" on what appears to be a baritone ukulele. The interview is kinda cute as well. Patrick seems like a cool guy and not as self-important as I had imagined. This performance is interesting, but you must hear the original. Also, checkout the new video for the title track. It's classic British pop, a la Dexy's Midnight Runners.

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I'm going to take a little break from writing exclusively about music. I'm finding my fiendish need for new music is becoming a bit escapist for my own creative goals. We'll see how long this lasts!

I'm starting the recording process for the songs I've written in the last eight months. It begins with beat making and sample tweeking. I'm pretty excited about it.

Also, my dear friend Susanna, who sadly ran away to Canada last year
with a boy I never met, is sending me vocal recordings for songs she's written. She has a great voice. I'm planning on writing music for this project. It's been a challenge so far, and I'm hoping to get more ideas down when I'm back in the saddle. My technical know-how definitely needs an update.


Revenge of the Nerd Zombie

Kavinsky died in 1986 when his Ferrari mysteriously went over a cliff. Twenty years later, he's back as a zombie ready to get revenge. That's the story as so far.

If you played arcade games in the 80's, this French artist mimics a lot of the noir-ish theme songs of those favorites. There's a nightmarish, L.A. apocalypse quality to his sound. These days, Kavinsky takes advantage of better technology; the bass is thicker, the beats are bigger.

The reviews have not been very generous to Kavinsky, I think mostly because his music might appear to be so overtly referential. But I like it. It reminds me of being 10, a time when wearing big sunglasses and getting to the next video game round at the Round Table Pizza arcade made me feel instantly cool.

The NY Times ran an article two weekends ago about how the new school of French electronic music has more in common with fist-pumping rock than ambient music for "genteel soundtracks" and "design-conscious restaurants." They cite Daft Punk as the forefathers of this revival, which I agree with. Although I haven't seen him perform live (he's actually on tour with Daft Punk right now), Kavinsky uses the Daft Punk image/sound/performance template to produce an interesting backstory.

Other bands in this French revival include Justice, who I haven't really gotten into. "D.A.N.C.E." got old really fast for me, and I haven't liked any of their remixes. I'm hoping their album will have some good surprises. There's also Simian Mobile Disco, who I've enjoyed a lot of their remixes, but haven't heard much of their own music.

My favorite Kavinsky track is this incredible bootleg remix by A-Trak. It's got police sirens, Scarface samples and M.I.A.'s vocals from "XR2." It's perfect. Talking about being 10 years old, Scarface totally reminds me of my uncle, who's "hey mang" I can still hear. Pacino might have been Cuban in the film, but he was definitely Iranian to all the mafioso-wannabee Iranians. I guess that's why "The World Is Yours" is still inspiring to so many minorities.

Kavinsky's EPs appear to be out of print, but you can buy them on iTunes here. Also, I just purchased the "Kavinsky vs. M.I.A." remix from A-Trak "Dirty South Dance" bootleg. You can buy it here.


You Used To Be My Chromeo

There's a new Chromeo album out called Fancy Footwork. It's more of the same nostalgic electro that made their first record so great, except there's less hip-hop and more dance pop. She's In Control had a lot of filler, but it was a perfect party record and surprisingly addictive.

This new one really feels like a team effort. Chromeo is Canadian duo Pee Thug and Dave 1, "the only successful Arab/Jew partnership since the dawn of human culture" so they claim. It's definitely more of a structured pop album with less of the instrumentals that loaded She's In Control.

When I listen to Chromeo, I think of it as stock soundtrack music for low-budget 80's flicks. If there's a scene where characters are dressing up, or they're at a club, or they're opening their high school locker or whatever, Chromeo would cue in. The good news is that they're in on the fun, their music is always fun to dance to, and they're good at the player-as-victim perspective in their lyrics.

I've been listening to Fancy Footwork for a couple weeks, and although I don't dig it as much as the first album, there are some good tracks. I like "Bonafied Lovin" with its wailing guitar and clunky beats. "Opening Up" could have been a hit for someone like Debbie Gibson or Paula Abdul during their breakout years. It's got lots of "yeah yeah yeah yeahs," funky oscillating keys and a whole lotta bounce. The best part is these guys get away with this stuff without any irony.

The title track is certainly fun and has Napolean Dynamite-style imagery to it. It loses its luster after a few listens, but I admire their musicianship. They love the music they play, even if it doesn't always work. You can listen to it here.

"100%" is the last track on the record and my favorite. It starts off sounding a little like Madonna's "Holiday" but then becomes something smooth and sleek. It's the sexiest track they've ever recorded and the most "real" to me, which is not necessarily
something that I look for from Chromeo.

For San Francisco folks, Chromeo is playing a show at Mezzanine on Monday, July 23. Flosstradamus is also playing and the boys from Frisco Disco will perform a DJ set. You can get in free if you RSVP.

If you're new to Chromeo, I would suggest checking out the Bloc Party remix of "Needy Girl" on the Vice Records site. This excellent remix is really what turned me on to this band. Maybe I'll see you at the show?