Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Music Roundup - Late Spring / Early Summer Edition

100 posts. Big deal.

San Fran was great, I will keep everyone updated on my job search as it begins to solidify.

But until then, here is what's been blowing my skirt up lately!

Lucky Soul - Great Unwanted

Ah, more girl group sounds. There is no better time than summer to hear sultry female vocals layered over sunny pop melodies. I have talked about my weakness before, but Lucky Soul is a little bit different. They blend a little bit of Belle & Sebastian twee sensibility in with their music, which normally I would despise, but Belle's last album really tickled my fancy. There's nothing really deep here, just music to have a good time to.
Best Tracks: One Kiss Don't Make a Summer, My Brittle Heart

Grant-Lee Phillips - Strangelet

Mr. Phillips has never gotten the respect he deserves. It is very rare in indie rock these days to find a male singer who can actually sing. Mostly it's whiny, nasal, and slightly off. See Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard. Grant-Lee Phillips can really sing. Not only can he really sing, he can really write too. After a slightly weak opener, he gets right down to business on Strangelet. His songs are beautiful and understated without being forgettable, a rare feat. And now that the Gilmore Girls is off the air, he's got a lot more time on his hands. To read physics books I guess.
Best tracks: Soft Asylum (No Way Out), Fountain of Youth, Dream in Color

Battles - Mirrored

I know what you're saying right now. "But Cliff, a group made up of members of Helmet and Don Caballero is just way too out there for me. Right?" WRONG! This album makes neo-prog rock accessible that no one has been able to do before, including At the Drive-In and Mars Volta. The melodies on this album are amazingly upbeat and almost Disney-ish, and putting them in the context of dark prog lightens up the music rather than darkening the melodies. It's a really fun album in a genre not known for fun. All the virtuoso playing is here as well, but it's weaved through simple electronic beats that wink at listeners and lets them know that it's okay to enjoy themselves.
Best tracks: Atlas, Rainbow, Race:Out

The National - Boxer

Ever since Interpol I've been skeptical of singers with deep voices. They all tend to sound alike, and Turn On The Bright Lights was such a good album for me that I've become unable to listen to albums by other bands with singers who sound like Paul Banks without automatically bringing Interpol into my head. It happened with the Editors' The Back Room (and is now happening with their new one), and at first it happened with The National's new one. But I quickly realized that Matt Berninger, while he sounds a bit like Paul Banks, has nuance in his voice that makes it uniquely his, more so than any singer I've heard in a long while. This album is dark and joyous, a fantastic journey. It hangs together like a unit while also being outstanding as a collection of individual songs in the tradition of recent great albums like Chutes Too Narrow and The Crane Wife. Do yourself a favor and give a listen.
Best tracks: Fake Empire, Mistaken For Strangers, Slow Show, Start a War

I'm digesting the new Editors album, and I'm still forming my opinion of the new Wilco. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard to like an album. Also, the few tracks that I've heard off of the new Ryan Adams album are pretty good. Word.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Last presentation

I gave my last presentation of my Adcenter career today.


And now I head out to visit San Francisco for the first time ever.


And my next post will be my 100th.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why we should better fund our space program

Sunset on Mars, taken by the Mars Rover


I've been really into Albert Einstein lately. I bought Walter Isaacson's new Einstein biography, and I am going to devour it as soon as I get through this whole school ending/job search thing. NPR's "This I Believe" aired an essay this week written by Einstein and originally aired in 1954. It's a great little meditation on the nature of curiosity and how it informs our sense of civic duty. Here it is.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the Mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.

I sense that it is not the State that has intrinsic value in the machinery of humankind, but rather the creative, feeling individual, the personality alone that creates the noble and sublime.

Man's ethical behavior should be effectively grounded on compassion, nurture and social bonds. What is moral is not the divine, but rather a purely human matter, albeit the most important of all human matters. In the course of history, the ideals pertaining to human beings' behavior towards each other and pertaining to the preferred organization of their communities have been espoused and taught by enlightened individuals. These ideals and convictions — results of historical experience, empathy and the need for beauty and harmony — have usually been willingly recognized by human beings, at least in theory.

The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us westerners in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind.

The pursuit of recognition for their own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice and the quest for personal independence form the traditional themes of the Jewish people, of which I am a member.

But if one holds these high principles clearly before one's eyes and compares them with the life and spirit of our times, then it is glaringly apparent that mankind finds itself at present in grave danger. I see the nature of the current crises in the juxtaposition of the individual to society. The individual feels more than ever dependent on society, but he feels this dependence not in the positive sense — cradled, connected as part of an organic whole. He sees it as a threat to his natural rights and even his economic existence. His position in society, then, is such that that which drives his ego is encouraged and developed, and that which would drive him toward other men (a weak impulse to begin with) is left to atrophy.

It is my belief that there is only one way to eliminate these evils, namely, the establishment of a planned economy coupled with an education geared towards social goals. Alongside the development of individual abilities, the education of the individual aspires to revive an ideal that is geared towards the service of our fellow man, and that needs to take the place of the glorification of power and outer success.

I love the idea that the most important function of art and science is to awaken our curiosity. It makes me really happy that I'm about to become a planner and make a career out of being curious.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Quote of the Day

"If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability."

-Vannevar Bush

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The single greatest piece of pop culture this century

Via Luke, copywriter to the stars:

This is the music video for "Call on Me" by Eric Prydz. It is impossible to look away. It is brilliant and horrifying. It is poetic and crass. It is something to be experienced firsthand. I don't even know what else to say about it.

*Disclaimer: The video is clean enough to be on Youtube but has been "flagged for having content inappropriate to some users." It's PG-13 or so, so if you're under the age of 12, you may not want to watch.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Oh, those poets...

"The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood."

-Jean Cocteau

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Some things I've been meaning to do for a while...

1. This is the computer from which I blog:

2. This was my foot after surgery:

3. This is what my dad likes to do in his spare time:

4. This is why I'm a planner and not an art director:

5. This is just wonderful