• Manorexia: The Hippest Disease Since the Clap

    I've already accepted the fact that the fashion industry is around to humiliate me. I accepted this sometime around age twelve, when I realized that overalls, while momentarily in fashion (it was 1994), made everyone look like the Michelin man -- fleshy and lumpy and poking out in the wrong places. Most recently, it's skinny jeans that exist to taunt me, and I'm afraid they're around to stay. I read an article in the Village Voice in November (read more) that claimed that you don't have to be rail thin to wear the skinny jean -- you can't be overweight, but you can be greater than heroin emaciated. As I fall somewhere between overweight and emaciated, and have never worn a size in the double digits, I figured, hell, they're so hot right now! I work in music! I want to try some skinny jeans!

  • Duncan Sheik, 'White Limousine' (Rounder)

    Poor Duncan Sheik. It must be hard to be neutered. In the mid-'90s, he was a spry young pup with a semi-original sound: softly haunting guitars, earnest lyrics. Sure, he wasn't the most manly dog in the litter -- back then he was "Barely Breathing" because his lady friend was withholding affection -- but at least he had enough of a sack to catch the ear of the adult contemporary crowd and to garner a BMI award for writing "Breathing," one of the "Most Played Songs of the Year." Nowadays, he has embraced Buddhism and writes songs that only the blandest of New Age yuppies could love, ones that haven't progressed musically since O.J. was on trial. Although Duncan Sheik's music is stagnant, White Limousine is so well-intentioned that it's hard to hate the album completely.

  • Liz Phair Can't Sing and Claire Danes is a Homewrecker

    By: Jessica Grose I was watching the first game of the World Series a couple of weeks ago. One second I was watching Jose Contreras trot off the screen, his bulbous rear jiggling off into the distance at U.S. Cellular Field for the seventh inning stretch. The next second, Contreras' ample behind was replaced by the wan face of Liz Phair. I thought my spicy buffalo wings had caused me to hallucinate. How was my blowjob queen singing "God Bless America," to a bunch of beer swilling, baseball loving patriarchal enforcers? And besides the obvious disconnect between Liz's Exile in Guyville "Fuck and Run" persona and ballpark patriotism, the girl never could sing. That used to be part of her charm.

  • Various Artists, 'This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles' Rubber Soul' (Razor and Tie)

    It's a tall order to cover classic material. Do you remain as close as possible to the original in tone and spirit as an homage to the artist at hand, or do you make the song completely your own and risk offending the rock gods? Covering the Beatles is neigh on impossible. Not only have Beatles songs already been covered by such musical giants as Aretha Franklin and the Beach Boys, but also the originals themselves are nearly flawless. That's why it's only fair to cut the artists appearing on this new tribute to Rubber Soul a little slack: They're treading on hallowed ground. There is a wide swath of interpretation of This Bird, ranging from a reggae-tinged "Michelle" from Ben Harper to a folksy version of "You Won't See Me," by Dar Williams. Then there is a country-fried "The Word" by Mindy Smith and a sexy, genre-defying version of "Run for Your Life," by the Cowboy Junkies.

  • The Eames Era

    One glance at the album cover of the Eames Era's debut LP, Double Dutch, will incite a number of assumptions about the kind of music held within. The jewel case contains a pastel pink and green booklet decorated with loopy cursive writing and two pudgy arms holding a jump rope. Girl pop, you think. Twee city. Songs about boys and sunshine. OK, you're right. The Eames Era pushes twee girl pop about boys and sunshine, but it's joyous and entertaining and highly aware of its limitations. Lead singer Ashlin Phillips is backed by a quartet, all of whom met at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Guitarists Grant Widmer and Ted Joyner are high school friends originally from the Big Easy, and once they got to college they added Virginian drummer Greg Gauthreaux and Mississippi-born Brian Waits to the mix.

  • Matt Pond PA, 'Several Arrows Later' (Altitude)

    Curses, Matt Pond PA! Damn you for sucking all the originality out of your quirky, lush, orchestral pop and making it into just another neutered, Death Cab drone. Curses also for making yet another slew of reviewers make references to The O.C. because you abysmally covered the Neutral Milk Hotel favorite "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." This is the second cover you've performed for Seth Cohen and the gang, and you did a much better job de-popping Oasis' "Champagne Supernova." At least you didn't include the train wreck of a NMH track on your new album, Several Arrows Later.

  • Dancing in the Weimar Republic

    I've decided to reinstate this blog. I know I've been terribly remiss about writing, but the problem is that I was treating it like a column, not like a blog. Every time I would sit down to write something, ostensibly for the blog, I'd think "That's STUPID. No one CARES about why I like Foghat." But then I realized, it IS a blog, not a column, and blogs are precisely the forum for the verbal/ pop cultural flotsam that is floating around my brain. Blogs are also there for the sentimental stuff you're embarrassed to try to sell -- like stuff about your grandparents and how they're your heroes. Anyway, on that note, in a Band of the Day feature the other day, I wrote about the NYC band Mommy and Daddy, "Maybe New York is a reincarnation of fin-de-sicle Germany. Post-catastrophe, there is an over abundance of burlesque, rowdy nightclub activities, and hedonistic dance music.

  • The Click Five, 'Greetings from Imrie House' (Lava/Atlantic)

    Most rock fans don't expect much musically from a band that opens for the Backstreet Boys, Ashlee Simpson, and Jesse McCartney. Seeing the five fresh-faced, smirking young lads on the cover of the Click Five's debut album, Greetings from Imrie House -- clad in matching suits and floppy hair cuts a la Noel Gallagher and Rivers Cuomo -- certainly causes a rock fan's expectations to plummet further. Upon hearing that the members of the Boston-based Click Five attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music, there might be a glimmer of hope in the rock fan's soul as to the innate talent and goodness of Click Five. But after listening to the unbelievably derivative and banal opening chords of "Good Day," the possibility of that educated goodness dashes on the rocks of so many cheesy lyrics.

  • Mixel Pixel, 'Contact Kid' (Kanine)

    Mixel Pixel is like an overly decorated t-shirt, one that started out as a pristine white t-shirt. Sure it was simple, but it was classic. Imagine that platonic ideal of a t-shirt sullied with lace and sequins and all manner of unnecessary flair until the base of white was nearly completely obscured. In the same fashion, Mixel Pixel took beautiful, uncomplicated folk melodies and bedazzled the crap out of them with videogame noises, Casio-tones, and precious lyrics. The resulting album is a mishmash of folk and electronic that sounds anything but clean. The eighth song, "Gas House Gables," off Mixel Pixel's Contact Kid, is a perfect example of a lovely song muddled by too much digital debris. It begins with a simple guitar hook and a trilling flute, then a more distorted guitar comes in at about fifteen seconds.

  • Various Artists, 'Wedding Crashers' (New Line Records)

    Spoon is the Owen Wilson of rock bands. Let us count the ways: Both Spoon and Wilson are from Austin, Texas. Both Britt Daniels and Wilson possess a laidback, blond raffishness that charms ladies from both sides of the Rio Grande. Both the band and the actor have a dry, almost effortless sense of humor that radiates from their music and persona (respectively). It follows, then, that the mainstream indie Spoon would be included on the Wedding Crashers soundtrack, the ultimate mainstream vehicle for the formerly-indie Wilson. Sadly, there is not a song on the soundtrack that is a Vince Vaughn equivalent (though the old-timey, honkey-tonk hit "Summertime" comes close), most of the Wedding Crashers soundtrack is well-chosen and appropriate for the subject matter of the film. As big-budget Hollywood romances go, Wedding Crashers is a unique, entertaining, and subversive comedy.

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