Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Boil It First 003: What's So Wrong With A Stupid Happy Song?

Wow, it's sure been quiet around these parts, hasn't it? The post-holiday months are pretty barren when it comes to productivity, but it does seem strange that no one's posted here in over a month. Well, I'm not gonna let this humble blog go without makin' some noise! So, here I present a mixtape I made a few weeks back, entitled "What's So Wrong With A Stupid Happy Song?" If you listened to the last episode of Random Old Records Podcast, I went through a nice period of winter malaise, so what better way to deal with it but a bunch of super-catchy, silly, mindlessly entertaining rock n' roll? PERFECT! OK, so let's begin.

1. Spanky and Our Gang - "Swingin' Gate"
People scoff when I say that Spanky and Our Gang is one of my favorite bands of all time. Weren't they that bunch of '60s sapsters that came up with "Like To Get To Know You" and "Sunday Will Never Be The Same"? Well yeah, they did. One person's trash is another's treasure, and I happen to think that those slices of vintage cheese are absolutely perfect. They released a couple of brilliant singles, but the last two albums they did are pure pop bliss. I don't really give a shit that they were created by a bunch of PROFESSIONAL songwriter dudes in suits and by-the-hour session musicians. The sheer force of the vocal harmonies honed in shady late night East Village dives and high-rise studio bathrooms are too powerful to ignore. This song sounds like nothing else I've ever heard. It packs weird backwards guitar riffs and incredible criss-cross vocals that explode all over the stereo spectrum. "Swingin' Gate" is a visual hallucination of sound waves jousting and fighting in front of my eyes, rising and falling, engaging and retreating. It's all dueling vocals and trippy '60s production tricks. My, but your hair's so long!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unnecessary Remake? Not quite. Why Let The Right One In Being Brought To America's A Good Thing.

Sometime last year, it occurred to me just how lucky I am to live in this era. Sure, fashion wise, I'd much rather have been a girl about town in the 1920's, wearing sequined headbands and drop waisted dresses, doing the Charleston at my local speakeasy and harboring dreams of being a Zigfeild girl or even being in a talkie one day but if that had been the case, I wouldn't live in the age of youtube. The site's pretty much altered the daily existence of life and drastically changed the way the world consumes entertainment and I, personally, am especially thankful for the website's inception because, without it, I may never have been able to see Let The Right One In. It was sometime in early summer and I lived with a wonderful, sarcastic, and off-putting girl not unlike myself named Sara. One night, we decided to watch a film called [Rec] on youtube, based upon a comment on one of Oh No They Didn't infamous creepy posts that said the film's ending was the scariest thing that had ever been put to film. (This was in the glory days before Paranormal Activity ruined everyone's perception of scary in cinema.) The next night, I decided to continue the trend of streaming modern foreign horror fare and checked out a movie I'd heard nothing but amazing things about, the 2008 Swedish vampire flick, Let The Right One In.

Let The Right One
In surpassed being one of my favorite films of the year and went straight to being one of my favorite films of all time. It's not often that a vampire film is understated and realistic and it's even less often that a vampire film is heartfelt and affecting without being sappily romantic. Blame my early teenage obsession with Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Hey, what can I say? I'm a feminist.) but I've always had a soft spot in my empty-chest-cavity for bloodsuckers done right. Twilight? Don't talk to me about that shit. True Blood? Please do talk to me about that shit, especially that Eric Northman. Me-ow! Regardless of my lustings, however, nothing in modern pop culture comes close to getting vampires right as Let The Right One In. The film is near and dear to my heart so naturally, when it was announced that the movie would be remade, Americanized, and called Let Me In, I was perturbed to say the least. Why, exactly, was it necessary to remake the masterpiece into what I feared would become standardized subtitle-less tripe? I even went so far as to begin a blog, in my sort-of-series on unnecessary sequels, as to why Let The Right One In should just be released to a wide audience in the states and the sequel should be halted mid-production. In the past 24 hours, however, I have had a change of heart.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"And when I'm sad, I slide..." Looking for meaning in T. Rex's The Slider.

I've been dealing with a wicked case of the winter blahs lately, and of course, music is there to cheer me up. In case you haven't been paying attention, that doesn't mean burying myself in wrist-slitting epics like Big Star's 3rd or Lou Reed's Berlin. A lot of people turn to rock n' roll to find a sympathetic voice, someone or something to identify with, to make them feel they're not alone in the world. Not me! I look at music as entertainment, first and foremost. Besides, once an album leaves the pressing plant it doesn't belong to the artist anymore, it belongs to US! If people can spend centuries finding all kinds of symbolism in a painting of a chick sitting in a chair, then it stands to reason that everyone's interpretation of a song is different, essentially giving it so much meaning that it becomes meaningless, right? Crying is for suckers. I wanna smile when I'm down and out. It didn't always use to be that way, though...

Who Needs Love When There's Southern Comfort?: The Irony and Ecstasy of Amanda Palmer

There aren't many women in music that I actually like. I've always been worried that that makes me secretly sexist or a traitor to my own race. It's no secret that I consider myself a feminist and I have for quite some time. Blame being raised by a progressive thinking mom who I often heard rant about the injustices of the world when you have a pair of jugs from the time I was approximately three years old and on. I was taught that my vagina is no reason to be an idiot and, as I reached adolescence, I did the proper reading to back that up. (Yep, I was one of those girls in ninth grade who carried around a copy of The Beauty Myth.) I don't believe women are superior, on a whole, to men, I believe they're equal. It's morals (or lack thereof) that makes one person better than another, in my opinion, but that's a whole different can of worms and all of us here at Boil It First know how easily I get sidetracked.

Speaking of "sidetracked", to get back on point, if you were to go through my massive iTunes library, you would find an approximate ratio of one female musician for every fifteen males. What it comes down to is the fact that the artists I relate to, lyrically, are men and the voices that appeal to me are in a lower register. It just sounds good to me. There are female artists I've grown fond of over the years: I used to rock the album Haunted by Poe back in high school and I had an intense, burning love affair with Cat Power back before she went honky tonk and regurgitated the same exact story, word for word, of her sobriety in the press (The fact that it sounded so rehearsed made me doubt her sincerity and just feel put-off, to be honest). But in the recent years, no female musician has affected me half as much as that Will Sheff fellow.

That being said, I believe former Dresden Doll, current Neil Gaiman muse Amanda Palmer deserves your respect. All your respect.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

30 Years of Prestige & my 2010 Golden Globe Best Drama Pick

Hi cats and kittens.

Examining this year’s Golden Globe Awards nominations, I was given the rare gift of a personal journey in evaluating why awards are so important to me.

Boil It First Presents... Unpopular Opinions of the 21st Century: Cloverfield Was Alright!

There's nothing glamorous about insomnia. You reach a certain point in the night (or, as the case may be, early morning) and you just start to ache. Your head aches, your back aches, your fingers and toes ache. Not to mention the fact that you just start to look a total mess. Smeared mascara, bags under the eyes, the whole shebang. By the time the sun rises, you find yourself bearing a frightening resemblance to Zooey Deschanel in Manic, messy dark hair and all. Or maybe that's just me.

The one good thing about insomnia is that my mind does tend to wander in pretty amazing ways, leading to some fun googling and even more fun reminiscing, occasionally with the aid of google. For instance, last night went something like this: "Man, I can't wait to have a costume party. It's gonna be superhero themed and I am so gonna dress as Liz Sherman." I thought. "Speaking of Liz Sherman, I sure wish I was watching Hellboy II: The Golden Army right now. Hey, remember that green monster in Hellboy II? He totally looked like the Cloverfield monster. Yeah, Cloverfield. I remember that. It wasn't nearly as bad as everyone seems to say..."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Amber Valentine, One Woman Will Sheff Appreciation Society: Boil It First on the Importance of Okkervil River.

To quote the most recent blog by fellow Boiler Zach Braun, "When it comes down to it, music is truly the only thing I've ever been obsessed with". I hate to quote Zach all the time but he says a lot of things that I wish I said and to be honest, I can't think of a better way to start this blog than with that quote. Despite the fact that I'm a full time writer and some time dancer, what my life has revolved around for as long as I can remember is music. My writing? Well, it's usually about music. And dancing? Well, you can't do that very well without music. I was introduced to music and what it would mean to me when I lived in Missouri. I was somewhere between the ages of four and five and saw a clip of The Beatles performing "Please Please Me". In a lot of ways, after that, John Lennon became the gravitational pull of my creative existence. I had memorized his entire catalog by the time I got to middle school when I was promptly introduced to a bevy of indie musicians who held Lennon in the same esteem that I did.

In the time between now and then, I've been introduced to a lot of musicians that mean a lot to me but in recent months, it's become apparent that no one affects me quite like Will Sheff, front man of Okkervil River. It's strange to me that a band I only became familiar with in the past few years would mean so much to me. I've been listening to Neutral Milk Hotel, Elliott Smith, and various incarnations of depressed-Jesus-freak-turned-bummed-out-atheist David Bazan for anywhere from ten to fourteen years. Compared to that, the fact that I've been a fan of Okkervil River for a mere five years seems like nothing. So what is it about them that at once makes me feel like less of a singular freak and feel as if I'm going to come slightly unglued?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Uriah Heep and the lack of passion in music journalism.

When it comes down to it, music is truly the only thing I've ever been obsessed with. Since I was a kid kneeling before my Fisher Price record player, the sound is what's kept me going throughout my 29 years on this planet. While other youngsters were playing touch football, sneaking peeks at dad's Playboys, or hunched over Nintendo controllers, I was absorbing every piece of music that came my way. Whether it was Casey Kasem's weekly rundowns of the radio Top 40, the mysterious records stolen from dad's collection, or the classical anthologies I proudly carried away from the library, I treated them all with equal respect and reverence. Each discovery was a revelation. It might have been naive, much like any childhood thought is in retrospect. I thought every new amazing song I heard belonged to me, and me only...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Does It Make Me a Mega-Nerd to Think About Things Like This?: Feminism in The Watchmen.

I remember when the cast of Watchmen, Alan Moore's "unfilmable", grandiose, and damn near perfect graphic novel, was announced. In fact, I remember when the project was green lit and Zack Snyder signed the proper documents to become attatched as the director. I also remember reading Watchmen for the first time and being absolutely blown away by the fact that superheros could be real people with real problems. But all of that information is neither here nor there because what's important was the hubbub that erupted on the internet forums this lady nerd frequents when the cast was announced.

I, naturally, was one of the people typing up a storm on Ain't It Cool News. Having read the comic at a young age, I had an A Plus vision in my head of exactly what each character should look like and, in some cases, who should play them. Despite my adoration of Patrick Wilson in Little Children and the epic, gripping Hard Candy, I had really wanted my captain, Nathan Fillion to take the role of Night Owl if only so I could look at Nathan Fillion on screen. Everyone, it seemed, had something to say about the casting of the characters: Jeffery Dean Morgan as The Comedian (Pitch perfect, in my opinion. Just look at that sweet 'stache!), Matthew Goode as Ozymandias (Homosexual or not homosexual? Still up for debate.), Jackie Earle Hayley as Rorschach (It was doubted early on that he could get the voice right. He managed, however.), etc. Surprisingly, the response was fairly positive and as cast photos and trailers began to make their way into the stream of the nerd popular consciousness, the kudos for the gentleman of Watchmen only began to increase as it was made apparent that the men cast as the anti-heroes actually cared: about the characters, about the book, about the fans. They cared. And that, from a female nerd's perspective, is fuckin' awesome! What no one seemed to care much about, however, was the Silk Spectre or the actress chosen to play her.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How The Late Night Shenanigans Will Benefit Us All

The proverbial fur is flying all over the internet about NBC's rumored maneuvers and machinations in their Late Night Department. While there is a whole lot of woe-is-me-how-can-you-do-this-to-Conan? (on sites I respect) and a whole lot of woe-is-me-how-can-you-do-this-to-Jay? (on sites I don't), people are missing the point: This gives us the best of all possible worlds.

Those of us who still get their TV from an antennae, anyway. People with cable, satellite and/or DVR could, I'm sure, give a shit.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Boil It First 002: Retro Acid Green

OK, so our esteemed, cuddly, teddy-bear of an editor, Mr. Dan Majesky, posted an incredibly entertaining mixtape yesterday, so you know I had to get in on that business. Making mixes is one of my only talents, apart from run-on sentences and fanboy hyperbole, which you might know if you were following my blog, Random Old Records, and my stellar podcasts. Unlike his selection of what was rocking his face in the now, I decided to go way back! These twelve tracks come from a mix I made in 2007, and to be honest, it was for an ex-girlfriend. This thing probably contributed to me getting laid, so you know it's good stuff! It's called "Retro Acid Green" and it's all over the place, but it flows brilliantly, if I do say so myself. The original was 19 tracks and ran over an hour, so I cut out the duff tracks and left the pure gold. OK? Let's begin.

This Is Why People Don't Let Me Pick Movies: Boil It First's Take On Lars Von Trier's Antichrist!

I feel like the mark of an excellent film is needing to pee halfway through the movie and being too intrigued to leave your seat. By those standards, Lars Von Trier's Antichrist is a superb movie. Building a significant amount of word of mouth buzz before its release for the graphic and disturbing nature of the movie, Antrichrist never received a proper release in the U.S. despite being the talk of many film festivals the world over. You don't, after all, earn the honor of being "The Great Genital Mutilation Film of '09" and not get talked about.

For those unfamiliar with Antichrist, the film stars my long time girl crush Charlotte Gainsbourg and the always unnerving Willem Dafoe as a married couple who, after the death of their son, retreat to their cabin in the woods to face their demons. There's also graphic sex, graphic violence, and graphically violent sex. And a talking fox. Interested yet? Between that and the aforementioned genital mutilation, I can't see how anyone would not put Antichrist at top of their Netflix cue.

A Saylor Park Hymnal: The Tillers - By The Signs

Photo by: Mike Meldon

I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. - W. Guthrie

2010 promises to be a huge year for this great Queen City. Can’t you feel it, y’all? There’s something in the air, I tell ya! Take it all in now and don’t you dare worry cause it’s gonna linger all year long, baby doll! Lucky for you, beloved, the good news fell into my lap early this year, and I'm here to spread the gospel! It’s the first shot fired out of the chamber in the Cincinnati campaign to take over the landscape of popular culture. It comes in the form of a record made in a west side basement by three unshaven men in their mid-to-late twenties -- The Tillers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Get To Know The Idiots That Run Your Favorite Blog!

I've wanted to post an introductory blog since Boil It First started, a "get to know your new favorite bloggers" entry, if will. I feel like we here at Boil It First are an amazing and eclectic group of weirdos and ruffians and a blog getting to know us would be an interesting and informative read.

Thankfully, tonight, a hilarious Facebook conversation was started that will help you get to know myself, Dan Majesky (our fearless leader), and that aforementioned ingenue Zach Braun quite well.

So what happens when one Boil It First staff member innocently posts on their Facebook that it's going to snow? A discussion about upper decking, fancy elephants, and alcoholic goats, of course!

I Made You A Tape: Boil It First 001

I find it hard to reconcile myself to making any kind of year-end list. Pop music is so temporary that I barely remember anything week-to-week or month-to-month. It has me and it's gone. I won't really have a handle on the historical 2009 until 2012 at the earliest, if ever.

Okay, maybe 2011.

Wouldn't it be better to know what's rocking my soul right now? Sure it would. Here, I made you a tape.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Who Gives a Fuck About An Oxford Comma? I do. Four Times In This Blog Alone: Examining The Vampire Weekend Backlash.

Let's talk for a second about the great blogger backlash against Vampire Weekend. Once a charming, affluent, and preppy indie band from the east coast, now hated by the vast majority of "cool kids", the hipster community hadn't seen a band go from beloved to despised so quickly since Zach Braff used Garden State to try to ruin former Vampire Weekend tour mates The Shins. (FYI: Just because a song is good does not mean that it will "change your life".) To quote fellow Boil It First ingenue Zach Braun, "I hated Paul Simon's Graceland when it came out and hate it even more when smug college kids rip it off."

As a self proclaimed "indie kid" (Definition: White person wearing a thrift store sweater with obscure band buttons on the collar; An individual who knows more about Jeff Tweedy's personal life than the personal lives of their siblings.), I found myself front and center for Vampire Weekend's rise to beloved, quirky pop band and subsequent fall to the ranks of the band no one wants to admit they like for fear of being judged by thick glasses clad bloggers and art school majors everywhere. Summing up the events that took place over the past three years in a few paragraphs would be a pretty easy, wikipedia aided feat but wouldn't it be more fun to create a Vampire Weekend timeline? Starting with their formation in New York and ending with a sophomore album featuring autotune, this is a quick glance at how Ezra Koenig went from being just another Jewish kid at Columbia to being called a pussy by Alice Cooper.