Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Belated "live"-blogging the Grammys

First off, what a boring and relatively conservative awards show. It was pretty obvious that the superbowl would set this precedent, but I kept hope alive. Now my hope is checked into a narcotics rehab. Anyways, here are some of the notes I took while watching the 47th Grammys:

7:03) Pirates are back in a big way in 2k5!

7:10) I wonder who got Alex Kapranos and the rest of Franz Ferdinand Revlon deals?


7:15) Queen Latifah has abandoned bras for extremely out of place belts. Millions of gay men everywhere pray she chooses not to jump around.

7:25) Not even a half hour into the show and they're handing out lifetime achievement awards like they're breathmints.

7:26) Is Alicia Keys at all related to Alan Keyes? No? Ok, boring then.

7:31) What the hell is tattooed on the back of Jamie Foxx's head? A Nike swoop?

7:56) Latifah is driving me to drinking.

7:57) The set J.Lo and Marc Anthony are performing on looks like a Ramada Inn, or perhaps a discarded set for "A Streetcar Named Desire."

8:03) Yelling "Freebird!" just got astronomically less cool, if that were even possible.

8:12) Is it OK that I've finished a six pack by now?

8:35) Keys reps WGCI!! Keys reps WGCI!! Chicago love in the house!!

8:47) As good as Kanye West's performance is, I can't get over the use of shadowpuppets. Our country could use more of that, really.

8:53) Kanye wins an award, says "This is going to take a while." Well let me fix myself a drink. "Everyone wanted to know what I would do if I didn't win... *dramatic pause*... I guess we'll never know." This drink's for you, dude.

9:12) Billy Bob Thorton: the new Anna Nicole Smith (drunk, high, or riding a tall white horse).

9:25) Commercial for Heineken reminds us that Heinie is the official beer of the Grammys. Shouldn't they have chosen a hard liqour, like, I don't know, Maker's Mark?

9:31) U2 win some award for rock; "Franz Ferdinand is going to kill this country," sez Bono. KILL THE FUCKING TERRORIST COMMIES FIRST!!!

9:54) Dead people still winning lifetime achievement awards.

9:56) I had to wait this long for a little sex appeal and all I get is Usher dancing? I think there's one more beer in the 24 case...

10:03) Oh shit, it's not over? Let me ring my dealer...

10:07) Quoth my roommate: "Bonnie Ray looks like a big foot... a foot with red hair." More interesting than anything I had to say.

10:15) Album of the year goes to Ray Charles, which proves that dead people are the real winners at the Grammys.

After this I think I wrote something about "what are these stretch marks," but it's rather incoherent. Thanks for reading!

So... is Unforgiven next?

Or "Dirty Harry," the debut single from second and as of yet untitled Gorillaz LP

Do Gorillaz hibernate? What about lilly white artists and rock stars? Since the release of Gorillaz in 2001 and Blur's Think Tank two years later, nearly all of the "members" of Gorillaz have been noticeably absent from music in general. However, it seems like now the great silverback beasts have begun to emerge from their slumber, finding a new bedfellow in tow. In an excellent and well thought out attempt to update their sound (The Automator has been running a bit stale these days), Gorillaz have welcomed DJ Dangermouse to the fold. "Dirty Harry," the first peek at what his production will bring, is very enticing. Dangermouse's sampling is so well done that it's difficult to decipher what of the song is a sample and what is organic. Built on a bed of clangy guitar/bass funk, the track later unfolds to reveal a children's choir singing an endearing urban hymn, clapping massively all the while. An aged synth and some strings keep them company until Booty Brown of Pharcyde lays down some aggressive lines; which makes me wonder if Del has moved on as well. A very well done track that shows boatloads of potential for the upcoming album.

Eisley -- Room Noises
Reprise Records; 2005

While it's probably unfair to boil a band down to a single word, I still think the best way to describe Eisley is to call them cute. From the moment the Dupree sisters (then 15, 13, and eight) picked up guitars and recruited their brother and boy next door Jonathan Wilson in 1997, being adorable has followed Eisley through their career. Eight years has passed, and now on their long anticipated debut LP, Room Noises, it's clear that the group still intends to ride cute all the way to the bank, as innocent as can be. It's not that I think they're trying to pull the wool over listeners' eyes. Everything from their thin, waif-like appearance to their lulling melodies is certainly precious; however, it's uncertain whether that's enough to keep the good ship Eisley afloat.

Within the first 30 seconds of Room Noises, it's quickly apparent that cute does not necessarily equate novelty. On the melancholic opener, "Memories," the girls pour forth soaring vocals (reminiscent of The Sundays or a thicker Rilo Kiley) that narrate the tune and meld with each other. Often one sister will take the lead, singing an amber-hewn melody before handing it off to a sibling who does likewise. Choruses in Eisley songs are a lavish affair, as they are often the converging point of all three sisters' voices. The slightly country-tinged "Marvelous Things" is a gleaming example, with a molasses sweet vocal blend that could make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The quality of said harmonies is often so good that songs are picturesque, even if you're too mellowed out to pay attention to lyrics. It's almost enough to make you want to hug one of the sisters for being so darn endearing.

Eisley is less of a powerhouse in the instrumental section, as the girls' vocals do most of the heavy lifting and are the group's focus. While many bands will create vocals to compliment the song, Eisley is the other way around. As such, each track is tailored to its vocal melody, ranging from chiming and chipper ("Plenty of Paper") to languid and somber ("My Lovely"). Combined with the lush three part harmonies the songs are designed around, the group's sound can be a charming affair.

Oftentimes though, charming is not enough. Because Eisley likes to repeat the formula of taking a suitable melody and expanding it to a drawn out harmony so often, many of the tracks are indistinguishable and unmemorable. Certain hooks stand out here and there, but I'll be damned if I can tell you which songs they are in without a few minutes time to browse. It's a shame that the group's penchant for making use of their strongest trait betrays them and leaves them with a rather homogenous album.

Taken bit by bit, Room Noises is a solid debut album. The group's long eight years together has shown them exactly what buttons to push and how to push them in order to make something gorgeous. But as any video gamer will tell you, doing the same combo over and over again can be irritating and reminiscent of cheating. With time they'll probably get adventurous and try new combinations, but for the time being, their sound is best suited for moments on teen dramas that make you say "awww!"

LCD Soundsystem -- LCD Soundsystem
DFA/Capitol Records; 2005

As a member of the DFA he's a wizard whose magical manipulation of knobs and switches reinvents entire bands. As LCD Soundsystem he's a snake charmer, cranking out hypnotically danceable singles that beg, no, command hipsters to shake what they don't have. On the massively-hyped, much delayed, and eponymous full length debut of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy shows that he's all of the above and more.

LCD Soundsystem is not particularly bound to the dance punk Murphy helped to reinvigorate. In fact, few of the album's nine songs even bother with the genre. The songwriting is tuneful and instructive, relishing in moments of near painful simplicity that often expands to richly textured heights. "On Repeat" is exemplary of the tactic, as Murphy takes a two step shuffle and pushes it to wildly oscillate -- bemoaning modern punks all the while. The basement show anthem "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" kicks ass with a grin and no frills. Album closer, "Great Release" is majestic, with Murphy's voice radiating over the Eno-influenced piano/guitar hum clouds.

As if the tasty nine-tiered cake that is LCD Soundsystem wasn't enough to satisfy fans, Murphy tops himself off with his famously vitriolic and insightful lyrics. Varying from a haunting and dreamy coo to a shout, Murphy takes on the Great White Invasion of black music on "Disco Infiltrator," the spectrum of love on both "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up," and "Too Much Love," and the better portion of all indie rockers on "Movement."

With only one exception ("Thrills" doesn't live up to its name), LCD Soundsystem (and its bonus disc, which collects all of the group's singles) is an exceptional testament to James Murphy, both as a musician and producer. It's relieving that he’s not a one-trick-pony like so many other musicians these days, but rather a pack of snarling race horses (I mean that in the nicest way possible).

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