Daft Punk

Covered: “Stillness Is The Move”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Dirty Projectors broke through in a big way in 2009 with their release Bitte Orca; though the album didn’t sell that many copies (which, let’s be honest, was to be expected, considering the experimental nature of their work as well as the decline in sales across the music industry overall), it garnered a massive amount of praise and ended up on countless Best Of lists.  At the very least, it earned the group substantial buzz and a placement on the strangest triple-bill I’ve ever seen–playing Madison Square Garden with Wavves and headliner Phoenix (plus a special appearance from Daft Punk(!)).  I will never forget looking across the arena that night and seeing thousands of faces that were alternately bewildered by the complex time signatures and odd vocal inflections of the group or merely bored by the lack of instantly-accessible melodies and wondering when those guys with that one song they really liked were going to show up.

“Stillness Is The Move” was a highlight of Bitte Orca for many fans, even if it strayed a bit from the usual Dirty Projectors formula (as much as there is such a “formula”).  Dave Longstreth’s yelps don’t make an appearance on this track, as the group’s three female vocalists (Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle) provide the harmonies, though his intricate and unique guitar style makes a distinct impression.  The guitar is paired with a glitchy upper-register bass part which helps provide a skittering counterpoint; though the two parts have two markedly different rhythmic patterns, they somehow fit together in a pleasing groove.  But the true power of the song is the gorgeous interweaving melodies of the vocals, which will have you humming along long after the track is over.

She may be remembered more for her antics inside an elevator with her sister and brother-in-law last year, but there was a time where Solange attempted to step outside of Beyonce’s shadow by launching a music career of her own.  Though we seem to be coming closer everyday to becoming ruled politically by a couple of dynasties, the public has been less accepting of nepotism in the music industry for the most part, and as a result few remember Solange’s brief career.  If Solange is remembered at all, it’s generally as a punchline.

However, there was one brief shining moment to her career that is worth revisiting, and that is her cover of “Stillness Is The Move.”  Solange displays great vocal dexterity in her handling of the song’s complex melodies, allowing her to show off her range and musicality.  It’s an impressive display of musicianship in its own right, but the true power of her cover is how it develops and embellishes the strengths of the original.  The cover emphasizes the deep rhythmic groove, showing that hiding underneath all the usual indie rock trappings there was a soulful R&B song; though it’s hardly definitive evidence, a quick look at the way the singers dance in the original music video helps confirm this assertion.  The interweaving guitar and bass parts in the original may interact with each other in an elaborate manner, but they’re actually held together by a simple drum groove that drives the song.

Additionally, Solange’s vocals help illustrate the technical achievements of the original.  Subsequent listens revealed how the trio was able to bounce around difficult intervals and odd rhythmic accents with ease, which I had glossed over initially.  With that in mind, I can’t say that Solange’s version is the superior one, though she does a great job of making it her own, but that it’s still an excellent performance because of the way that it found new qualities in the original that had previously been overlooked.

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An Incomplete List of SCARY Music Videos

We here at Rust Is Just Right enjoy the Halloween season, especially since it gives us the perfect reason to indulge in our love of all things horror.  So, of course we’re going to use the holiday as an opportunity to show some of our favorite scary music videos.  We don’t think we have the authority to say that these are the scariest, or that these selections form any definitive list, but we hope you enjoy them in all their terrifying glory.

Before the revival of the zombie craze truly took hold, Phantom Planet made a great video depicting the making of a low-budget zombie horror story for their single “Big Brat”.

I remember jumping for the remote to try and change the channel as quickly as possible once the faces started melting and the shit truly hit the fan when I saw Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” for the first time.

Before Daft Punk won the hearts of the people with Random Access Memories, they had the worst record sales of their career with Human After All.  This may have been partially due to their horrifying video for “Primetime of Your Life”.  Though they more than capably proved their point about the perils of eating disorders, the skeleton motif may have been too effective.

[So that we don’t stress your browser, we’ve got plenty more videos (including a few legitimately terrifying ones) on the next page.]

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Catching Up On The Week (Oct. 10 Edition)

Some #longreads to keep your mind off the fact that you’re missing out on the Austin City Limits Festival…

This week, the AV Club published multiple articles worth checking out.  First, Daft Punk’s debut album Homework is examined in their Permanent Records feature, which would be worth checking out if only to hear the earliest demo of the duo, a nearly-unrecognizable bit of alternative instrumental rock.  Then there’s this plea to listen to The Jam’s “Set The House Ablaze”, which coincidentally enough was published right around the time I was listening to Sound Affects.  I have a rule: if anyone writes something about The Jam, I’m going to share it, since they are one of the most underappreciated groups in rock history and are always worth a listen.  And finally, if you’re in the mood for something a bit more technical and business-related, there’s this piece discussing the role and motivations of BitTorrent in partnering with Thom Yorke for his recent release.

Readers of the site are well-aware of our love for The National, so it’s no surprise that we’re recommending this piece from PopMatters discussing their album Alligator and its role in the rise of indie rock in the mid-00’s.

When Kendrick Lamar released his new single “i”, it was met with a mixed reaction at best.  The FADER attempts to correct this by placing the song in a greater context in their Popping Off feature.  If necessary, familiarize yourself with the song by watching the lyric video which was just released today.

Dave Holmes uses his column at Vulture this week to take a look at the Top 40 chart from the week when Nevermind was released, and while the general shittiness is not surprising, the diversity of music at the time was pretty striking.

Finally, Chicago Reader has an in-depth look at the life of Jason Molina, the former leader of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. who unfortunately passed away last year after years of struggle with alcohol abuse and other issues.  The piece also examines his continued influence, both through his music and his development of the Secretly Canadian label, and talks to the musicians and friends that mourn his passing but remember his talents fondly.  But it also serves as a great introduction to a wonderful musician, with an extensive look at his development and history.

How to Spot a Charlatan

A few days ago, we linked to an interview with Peter Matthew Bauer that the AV Club hosted, but expressed a bit of trepidation with our comments in advising whether or not one should read it.  Though we were big fans of Bauer’s solo album, we feared the potential for it to be an irritating piece because of the particular writer responsible for the interview.  It turns out our concerns were well-founded, as Rick Moody once again provided his unique combination of pretentiousness and ignorance.

The actual interview was rather illuminating, since Moody generally let Bauer lead the conversation, and the reader didn’t have to bother with Moody’s attempts at rumination and conjecture.  Bauer provided several insights into his journey into discovering his voice as an artist, as well as details about both his upbringing and the dynamics of his previous band, The Walkmen, as the group eventually dissolved.  The problem was the first half of the article, when Moody attempted to provide some background by contemplating over the place of Bauer’s old band within a grand theory of rock music, as well as comparing Bauer’s Liberation! with the his other bandmates’ solo efforts.  There were several irritating individual lines that landed with a thud, with various descriptions and theories that alternately showed Moody’s haughtiness or laziness.  Consider the statement “[t]his band made two short recordings, EPs as they used to be called and are still sometimes[.]”  Why add all this unnecessary verbiage?  They’re still called EPs, even when people weren’t buying vinyl, and nobody calls them anything different.  There’s also the mini-rant about the press release announcing The Walkmen’s “extreme hiatus”: it’s “an example of the overuse of extreme that I have come to find denotatively irritating. It’s either a hiatus or it’s not, and it’s only in retrospect that anyone will be able to evaluate the adjectival qualities of this hiatus.”  Within the context of discussing the careers of different bands, this kind of terminology is actually useful–declaring that a new album should not be expected any time soon but to make sure not to rule out a reunion at some point–but for Moody, I guess it’s his chance to take a stand against the fact that the kids just don’t know how to speak any more.  And he does so in the most irritatingly pedantic manner.

It’s not just Moody’s shitty writing, it’s his lack of professionalism that’s also infuriating.  When talking about Hamilton Leithauser’s solo album, Moody writes “I feel like the single, “Alexandra,” is about Alexander The Great, merely changed to a feminine ending, and is, accordingly, a tribute to the idea of attempting to rule the world.”  Sounds like a great theory (when divorced from the actual song, but whatever (seriously, read those lyrics and try to figure out any connection to the historic ruler)), except that the song was written about Hamilton’s daughter, and he just changed the name because it fit better.  I would not expect everyone to know this fact, but I also would imagine that a professional writer like Rick Moody would bother to do at least some cursory research before writing his piece.  Then again, Moody spent multiple paragraphs talking about Jonathan Fire*Eater, one of the two predecessor bands to The Walkmen, to make some grand point about rock and roll.  The problem is that Bauer was in the other predecessor band, The Recoys (a group he was in with Leithauser, the person with whom Moody makes the most direct comparison).   Of course, Moody does not mention The Recoys at all; in essence, Moody’s entire thesis about the nature of rock and roll is irrelevant to the interview, and is just an excuse for him to ramble about “private schools” and class.

This was not a surprise.  Moody had previously caught our attention when Salon published an exchange he had with Dean Wareham (former member of Galaxie 500, Luna, and others), where they discussed the relative merits of “Get Lucky” and the new Daft Punk record in general.  The problem was not with his opinion about the song, to which he is perfectly entitled.  It’s the fact that there were several arguments and lines throughout the discussion that indicated that either Moody had no idea what he was talking about or that he would miss the point entirely.

For example, he simply refused to understand the basic artistic conceit of Daft Punk itself, that the duo’s goal was to produce music that was as mechanized as possible (seen in their previous work), or in the case of Random Access Memories, an album that was supposed to resemble a robot’s attempt to recreate human music.  His condemnation of the method used to record the album (using live session players from the era) also betrays a total lack of knowledge of how disco music was produced (using live session players).  And for further proof that Moody doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, consider his praise for Captain Beefheart, aka Don Van Vliet, who employed the same method of hiring musicians to bring his vision to fruition.

Or take a look at this word salad: “But the French robots apparently do not know about “Trans,” [ed. note: he’s referring to the Neil Young album] or rather, they are too cynical to care about “Trans,” and they bank (it’s the operative word here) on the audience’s lack of knowledge about the history of the vocoder. So they use it again and again like a neurological tic, and given that this vocoder section is the only appearance on this song of the actual robots rather than their surrogates—the musicians who are hired to make the song sound as though it has actual soul—it is inadequate as a sign of the auteurs.”  At no point does he explain why the history of the vocoder is necessary to understand the song, and that it is apparently unsatisfying for the songwriters to only make a cameo appearance in their own song.  And all this occurs before an unhinged rant that touches on the “tyranny” of four-four music, that it’s wrong for French guys to pay tribute to the black music of their youth, and a total misunderstanding of the basic concept of Kraftwerk.  That’s right–at one point, Moody asserts that Kraftwerk used the vocoder to hide the weakness of their vocals…instead of further entrenching their entire philosophy of mechanizing and dehumanizing music.

More than anything, it’s so hard to believe that Moody never understood that the title of the album should have tipped him off to its goals.  Random Access Memories combines both the robotic nature of Daft Punk (with its allusion to RAM) and a tribute to the past with the slight tweak to the plural of the last word.  These songs were written to represent facsimiles of past musical genres, as interpreted through the “minds” of robots.  So, if despite the human touches in producing the album it still carries an air of artificiality, that’s the point; if it sounds like a reproduction of black American music from the 70’s, that’s the point because that was the music that Daft Punk enjoyed in their youth.  If you don’t care for the concept, then fine, but at least acknowledge that this was the intention.

Rick Moody is a fucking idiot.  Not your normal idiot, mind you–it’s clear that along the way he’s learned a lot.  It’s just clear that he never understood at all what it is he learned.

Over the Weekend (Mar. 31 Edition)

It looks like a pretty good Monday–a lot of new music, videos, and other fun stuff to kick off your week.

We mentioned this on Friday, and today our suspicions were confirmed: The Antlers are about to release a new album!  Familiars will be released state-side on June 17, so mark your calendars now (or just save the hassle and pre-order).  Meanwhile, watch the music video the band released for the lead single, “Palace”–it’s as delicately gorgeous as you would expect, and the band has already done the courtesy of providing the lyrics for you on their Tumblr.

Stereogum has the premiere of the single from former member of The Walkmen Peter Matthew Bauer, the festive “Latin American Ficciones”.  It definitely evokes the spirit of his former band, especially in the insistent trebly guitar, with a nice spare percussion backing track.  This follows on the heels of the recent new music we’ve heard from other former members Walter Martin and Hamilton Leithauser.  It’s unlikely that any of the projects will reach the heights of the best work of The Walkmen, but all of the songs that have been released are rather promising, so fingers crossed.

Everyone should be familiar with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” right now, but you may not know the “science” behind the hit.  Owen Pallett takes a look at the underlying music theory that makes the song work so well.  He takes a couple of liberties to make it easier to understand for beginners, but it’s a solid look at the underpinnings of the tune.

This actually appeared on my Facebook feed on Friday, but I’m linking to it now because we need more ways to kill time at the beginning of the week.  NPR has a quick quiz of “Name That Drum Fill”, and I think most people should do pretty well.

And finally, last night I had the great pleasure to see album-of-the-year frontrunners The War On Drugs in person at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland.  It was a blistering set, and the new songs really kick live.  We may run a quick review of the show in the next couple of days, but I’m going to pass along a video from one of the highlights of the show: it was when Jim James of My Morning Jacket showed up for the encore to sing a cover of John Lennon’s “Mind Games” with the band.

Catching Up On The Week (Feb. 14 Edition)

A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend

Chino Moreno is best known for his work as the vocalist for the Deftones, but he is definitely unafraid to branch out and work with other artists (Palms, Team Sleep).  Now Chino has a new project called ††† (Crosses), and they released their debut album out this week.  Chino gave interviews to SPIN and Rolling Stone, discussing his musical influences and other interesting stories including battles with labels over his career.  For me though, the one piece of information that most intrigued me was finding out that Chino now lives in Oregon.  If I ever see him around, I’ll be sure to welcome him.

Happy Birthday Oregon!

Happy Birthday Oregon!

Mark Kozelek has a new album out this week under his Sun Kil Moon moniker called Benji which is already drawing raves for both the evolution of his style and the stark, deeply personal lyrics.  He did an interview with Pitchfork a couple of weeks ago, and you can read it here.

And the LA Times recently had an in-depth look at the recording process behind Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.  I would note that it was the Grammy winner for Album of the Year, but you and I know that designation really doesn’t mean anything at all.

Neutral Milk Hotel & Catching Up On The Week (Feb. 7 Edition)

A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend

I am of the generation that grew up in the wake of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea—not in the era from when the album was first released, but in the ensuing years where it became totem of alternative/indie rock culture.  Like many, I became obsessed with the album and the story of Jeff Mangum, the reclusive genius who became the J.D. Salinger of rock.  I was ecstatic when Jeff Mangum returned to the stage, and witnessed two amazing performances in Portland and Eugene (I remarked at the time that only Jeff Mangum could get a Portland crowd to scream “I love you, Jesus Christ!”).  But even there was something that was missing from those performances, and that was the rickety junkyard orchestra quality of the album itself, provided by a full backing band.  “Holland, 1945” will always be one of the greatest songs ever written, regardless of how it’s performed, but it loses something without those horns and that fuzz bass and those barely-restrained chaotic drums.  So even though I had the good fortune to see those previous two performances, I still jumped at the opportunity to see Neutral Milk Hotel as a whole for the reunion tour.

There are those that express some reservations to this.  Steven Hyden of Grantland wrote about his reaction to the return of Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel, and he took a much more pessimistic stance.  I do agree to some extent the cult-like devotion of some fans is a turn-off (while I have listened to the album over a hundred times, I haven’t memorized the entire lyric sheet as it seems most audiences have), but I wouldn’t go so far as to say as a result that I like the album “less”.  And personally I think it’s unfair to call out any band for their possible motivations for reuniting, even if it’s to say that you don’t care that their intentions may be less than noble.  I can see points being made about post-boomer generations now realizing how much fun it can be to indulge in nostalgia, this overlooks the fact that there were younger generations who never got a chance to experience things firsthand, so why piss on their opportunity to do so?  I didn’t get a chance to see Dinosaur Jr. the first time around, but I’m sure as shit enjoying their late-period renaissance; Pavement was before my time, but seeing their reunion in Central Park was one of the greatest live performances I’ve ever seen.

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Continuing our previous coverage of the 20th anniversary of Dookie, Consequence of Sound asked various writers and musicians about their memories of the album.  What struck me is how many were my age at the time (around 9 years old), and led me to wonder whether any bands that are currently popular with 9 year olds will have any critical respect twenty years later.  I’m going to say probably not.

Here’s an interesting article that details how useless it can be to talk about a musician’s social media presence.  The number of followers and likes are generally useless figures, and discussion of those immaterial numbers take away from any discussion of the music itself.  However, there’s a twist in this story of how exactly an artist gained all those Twitter followers.

One of my favorite weekends of the year is NBA All-Star Weekend, and this year will be especially great because I’ll be cheering for two Blazers.  Kudos to LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, the latter of whom will be the first player to participate in five events during the weekend.  What does this news have to do with music?  Just the fact that they’ve got an outstanding musical lineup for the weekend, with Kendrick Lamar performing before the Dunk Contest, Pharrell in the pre-game ceremony, and Janelle Monáe performing with Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, and Earth, Wind & Fire at half-time.  That’s probably the best lineup that I remember for the event, if only for the fact that Phillip Phillips is not involved.

And finally, as the Winter Olympics begin, enjoy this video of a Russian Police Choir performing “Get Lucky” as a part of the Opening Ceremonies.  I didn’t see much of the festivities, but I’m pretty sure this has to be one of the top highlights.