Well, color me honored! Today in New Orleans, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies held their annual AAN Awards and handed out a second-place national award to City Sound Inertia for Best Music Blog.
Considering the great altweekly music blogs out there—Ian S. Port and the SF Weekly’s All Shook Down; Ezra Careff and the Portland Mercury’s End Hits; Rob Harvilla and Zach Baron at the Village Voice’s Sound of the City, which to no one’s surprise took first place—well, being in such fine company, and winning two years in a row, and doing so all by myself in a relatively small town… it feels good.
Thanks to all of you readers for sticking with me here on City Sound Inertia; I continue to be humbled by the fact that people actually read these words of mine, still usually typed at 2am from home. And again, thanks especially to AAN, not just for the award but for nurturing and championing alternative news media. Now go on and listen to some records! Start with Mingus Ah Um, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, Midnight Marauders or w h o k i l l, and you’ll be in fine shape for the rest of the day. Here’s love to you all.
Behold, Pablo Dylan, folks. 15 years old and already working it.
Sample lyric: “I-I-I’m the grandson of a man nothin’ less than legendary / That’s a lot of pressure / So I Berry Gordy, I am very Motown, bitch / I’m’a get that crown / W-W-While I’m at it, I might reinvent sound”
I’ve got this aversion to foam that’s reached laughable proportions; I just can’t touch the stuff. So when I slipped the plastic off the new Shabazz Palaces LP, I nearly dropped it. What the hell is this foam-like foamness that the foam-a-licious Shabazz Palaces cover is made out of?
Anyway, the record’s good—it’s Butterfly from Digable Planets on some futuristic shit—but after five listens the beats are still the best part. Did anyone see him when he played Hopmonk last year?
In the meantime, keep that furry record away from me. I’m wearin’ latex gloves every time I listen to it.
Check another one off the list! Robert Earl Keen’s Gravitational Forces is finally on vinyl, thanks to Lost Highway’s 10th Anniversary vinyl reissue campaign. This sucker is packed with classics—covers by Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, Terry Allen, and Joe Dolce’s “My Home Ain’t in the Hall of Fame” are fine pairings with Keen’s own originals, including the definitive recording of his brilliant storytelling epic, “The Road Goes on Forever.” (Other highlights on Lost Highway’s campaign include Ryan Adams’ Gold, O Brother Where Art Thou? and the surprisingly good Hank Williams tribute record, Timeless.)
Kreayshawn—the self-directing, self-editing, mega-inhaling personality from Oakland—signed to Columbia this week. If you haven’t seen “Gucci Gucci” yet, you might not know what this means. Check it out below, and then try to get it out of your head.
Kreayshawn came up in the hyphy craze, keeps good ties with Lil’ B from the Pack, and tweets with Mistah F.A.B. Though she’s in L.A. these days, hanging out with Odd Future and Soulja Boy, she still reps Oakland pretty hard wherever she goes.
It’s easy to be conflicted on Kreayshawn. Let’s face it, it’s been a while since there’s been a rising star out of the Bay Area, let alone Oakland. (Keyshia Cole’s got love for the city but moved the hell out, and when I asked her once in an interview what East Bay spots she like to hit up on tour, she couldn’t name any.) So it’s exciting to have some Bay Area action going on.
But . . . is “Gucci Gucci” really the face of Oaktown?
Behold, two girls fighting over who’s more hood!
“This chick @KREAYSHAWN is a rapper…yes. But hood? NO. She knows nothing about the streets she’s not half as hard as she comes off as,” tweets Harmony Gabriel, from Hustler and HBO’s Cathouse. “Makes me sick..maybe if she was some type of hustler or came from the streets or had some type of ambition but she’s trash to me. White chick acting hard throwing up gang signs from home made gangs…. #FAIL.”
Lest one doubt Harmony’s inherent hoodness, the credentials come forth:
“I got people in REAL hoods that can vouch for me I’m not hood now cause I GREW up I get big girl $ now but believe me I come from ‘hood.'”
This triggers Kreayshawn’s response:
“shut up with yor rants I’m from east Oakland u skanky.”
“Who’s hotter? Who’s the realest? @KREAYSHAWN or @HARMONYG? #ImJustSaying”
At this point, if you’re thinking it’s time for Kreayshawn to take the high road, you’re right.
“your a trip chicka I’m from east Oakland you can come visit my hood and tell me what you think… much luv anyways.”
None of this sits too well with Harmony Gabriel, unfortunately.
“@KREAYSHAWN Yea that’s all you got? Cause your mom happen to have you in east side oakland your hood!? Hahahaa!! Ask about me!! Buy my mags!”
Sensing unneeded drama, Kreayshawn then advises that she will “only reply to positive things from here on out,” and Harmony Gabriel, after reminding people “I sold pussy” and telling them to wait for her upcoming rap video, declares herself the victor: “the title is mine the crown is mine.”
And that, dear readers, is the hood battle of the day.
P.S. If you’ve been following the phenomenon of Kreayshawn, this excellent piece by Meaghan Garvey irons out a lot of conflicting feelings.
Zach Hill’s show last weekend in Sebastopol got its usual reviews of wankery, which is sad, because Hill’s shows are usually at least wankery of the highest order.
I’m guessing that Hill mighta had better luck in Sebastopol if he brought his Death Grips project, because OH MY GOD.
Free download of their album Ex-Military and more videos here. Block out the next half hour; you’ll be immersed in insanity. (Death Grips plays July 1 at 1015 Folsom in San Francsico.)
In a similar vein, Spank Rock, who brought electro to hip-hop in the marvelous album Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo, is finally putting out a new record. What’s it called? Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar, that’s what. Guest star Big Freedia. I got big hopes.
One of the biggest influences in my listening, but one that I barely ever think about anymore, is The Bobs.
Right alongside Huey Lewis, the Pointer Sisters and Paul Carrack (yes, really), the Bobs serenaded my sisters and I on many a long family car trip on the Blaupunkt stereo—and live at the Luther Burbank Center. If you’ve never heard them, above is some vintage footage of “Art for Art’s Sake,” one of their more accessible tunes; most of their stuff, both lyrics and music, was far sillier. Imagine if Captain Beefheart and Monty Python started a band with no instruments, and titles like “Mopping, Mopping, Mopping” and “Bus Plunge.”
Lead madman Gunnar Madsen was the first to leave the band, and we Melines were a depressed lot over it. I’d hear about Madsen’s solo CDs from my Dad, who kept the Bobs torch aflame while the rest of us moved on, but I was about as interested in a solo CD from Gunnar Madsen as I’d have been in, say, a solo Dorothy Wiggin LP after she left the Shaggs.
So imagine my surprise when I’m reading today’s NYT review of The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, a new off-Broadway musical production about the greatest horrible group from the 1960s, and there it is, fourth paragraph: “Music by Gunnar Madsen.”
It’s doubtful that a major record company will release the soundtrack to the Shaggs musical anytime soon, but my imagination can vouch for its importance. My curiosity, meanwhile, can vouch for Madsen sharing the Meline ennui upon leaving the Bobs. In his official bio, he outlines the era: “Life after The Bobs was miserable. I’d grown quite used to having hundreds of fans making me feel good one out of every three nights, and I had nothing to replace it. . . Life was not empty, but it felt like it. I was depressed and couldn’t find a way out. Things were dark.”
Ouch! Even in the seemingly carefree world of goofy a capella, the crush of despair hovers menacingly. Anyway, Gunnar Madsen, if you’ve got a Google Alert on your name, know that you’re not forgotten for enlivening the years 1985-1989, and glad you made it out of the dark pit. Congratulations on the Shaggs job, too—my ability to appreciate Philosophy of the World was likely planted, in one way or another, by your work with the Bobs in the first place.
Just like all those shitty mall record stores like Musicland and the Wherehouse died, leaving only awesome tiny independent record stores and horrible Best Buy behemoths; just like music videos shown on cable rotation died, leaving only YouTube and 3D megaplex screenings; and just like the middle class in America has died, leaving only the poors and the well-to-dos; so dies any middle ground when it comes to music formats. You can either have your oh-so-physical in the form of 12″x12″ LPs—which has always been my choice, petroleum and all—or you can have no physical object whatsoever in the form of an mp3.
This Monday’s anticipated announcement of Apple’s iCloud service goes even further: your music collection won’t even take up any hard drive space. You’ll have nothing except a tether to your files, floating somewhere. In 2005 terms, we call this “YouTube,” where nearly every song ever recorded resides. How to spiff up this non-material concept is something I’m sure Apple will handle with trademark skill, but what interests me is that for perhaps the first time in the history of the music industry, a major corporation is going to be spending millions of dollars convincing the American public to buy nothing at all.
I saw Roach Gigz a couple months ago at the Phoenix, and yes, he lit the place up. Opening for Too Short on a night that Too Short canceled, he had to hold the stage down on his own—and didn’t disappoint. (Half the people were there to see him instead of Too Short anyway, if you wanna know the truth of it.)
Roachy’s playing this Sunday at Los Caballos in Santa Rosa, and there’re three reasons to go. One: There’s no school or work the next day. Two: It’s billed as a “Stop Light Party,” i.e. wear red if you’re in a relationship, yellow if it’s complicated, and green if you’re single. Three: Los Caballos is one of the few places in town that’s all-ages but still serves drinks, with the aid of a barrier and a guy checking IDs.
Los Caballos also keeps a backline for the tejano and salsa bands that usually play there, so it’ll be pretty great to see Roach Gigz in front of the ‘Viva Mexico’ drum kit and stencils of Che Cuevara on the wall. Gigz, whose dad was a Sandinista, also has a strong Latino heritage; if you missed Rachel Dovey’s excellent Bohemian profile of him and his sidekick Remedy as they shot a video in San Francisco, read it here.
Tickets for the show are at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa, University of Sports in Rohnert Park and World of Stereo in Petaluma. Don’t sleep, as they say. It’s bound to be packed.