Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Naught to Be Outdone: Albums, Pt. 1

Remember when the world was all abuzz with this idea that the album was "dying"? With the world's newfound ability to buy individual songs via the mp3, appreciation for an entire 45 minutes with one artist would quickly fall, and albums would cease to exist.

Well, they weren't entirely off base. Album sales have indeed dropped. And though artists are still churning out the LPs, who knows, maybe this "death" is just taking a bit longer than we expected. Regardless, the Decade of the Mp3 still managed to produce some damn fantastic albums. Sexy, droney, hooky, fuzzy albums that pushed music in interesting directions, just as albums had in the last 5 decades (without the hindrance of the mp3). Here are a few of Pretension and Perk's favorites.

20. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. PJ Harvey. 2000.
Polly Jean Harvey has repeatedly insisted throughout her career that she was not influenced heavily by Patti Smith. Despite the overwhelming evidence against her (see: almost every PJ Harvey song), I am inclined to believe her, if only for the sheer honesty she puts into her fifth album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Simultaneously beautiful and rough as hell, the album finds PJ reaching a balance she has been on the verge of for her entire career. PJ, we beg of you: stop messing around with that John Parish fellow and give us more albums like this.

19. Franz Ferdinand. Franz Ferdinand. 2004.
Oh my god. What a sexy album. This thing is just dripping with a pansexual intensity. The hooks are what pull you in first, which, though incredible, are just the foreplay. After a bit, your mind clears and you notice the subtleties. Alex Kapranos' articulation is sultry and comforting, inviting and menacing. The the guitar licks bite you, then heal you back up. The slow builds... the resolves. What are you left to do?: Let it happen again and again for thirty-eight point seven minutes. Oh yes.

18. Sound of Silver. LCD Soundsystem. 2007.
For his sophomore effort, the consistently brilliant and consistently disheveled James Murphy sacrifices some of the biting wit found in tunes like "Losing My Edge" for a bit more heart and soul. And it works. "Someone Great" takes on the question of starting over with a repeating hum that drills into your brain; "All My Friends", meanwhile, builds on a single, droning piano riff to create a middle-age examining-masterpiece that defies classification. But by no means is his edge gone: "North American Scum" is a sly jab at the oversimplified criticism of American culture. Murphy's edge and soul finally converge in the album's closer, "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down", a song that shows him trying out a surprisingly traditional rock structure. Of course, it succeeds. Is my man-crush blatantly obvious yet?

17. The Woods. Sleater-Kinney. 2005.
When Sleater-Kinney announced their hiatus in 2006, they couldn't have been going off on a better note. Their final album sees the band not summing up their career (as so many swan songs do), but rather continuing to expand their sound. Dirtier and more elaborate riffs ground the girls' intense and desperate wails in both the album's lead single "Entertain" and the epic, 11-minute "Let's Call it Love". But it's "What's Mine is Yours" that hits the hardest: the songs swings like the girls have never swung before, but ultimately degenerates into a more familiar fuzzy mess. "It's either run or fight," yelps Corrin Tucker, just before howling in a prolonged drawl, "I'M STILL RUNNING." Hey, the band might have chosen flight over fight, but perhaps it was for the best. It would be pretty hard to create a more perfect final memory.

16. The Blueprint. Jay-Z. 2001.
Sure the hooks are great. The samples are well chosen and well placed. And Jay's flow has rarely been smoother. But what really puts this album over the top is the structure: no skits, no throwaways, and no guest rappers except one instance in which the guest is very much warranted to be there. Jay crafted The Blueprint the way more rap albums should be crafted, and he backed it up with the finest set of songs he has put out to date. It would have been an utter shame to see them spread thin by joke tracks or cheapened by lazy verses by the hot new rapper of the month. Hova proves again and again he knows just what he's doing. --insert any of the thousands of relevant, self confident Jay quotes here--.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Naught To Be Outdone: LiveJournal, part 1

As a relatively young music fan, I naturally did not start actively listening to/consuming/obsessing over music until this decade had already been quite underway. The naughts, consequently, entirely shaped my taste in music. My experiences as a concertgoer perhaps contributed to that shaping of taste more than anything else. Since the first show I went to in 2003, a handful of concerts stand out as especially important to my life as a music fan; performances that caused something to click inside me; shows that screamed, "This is what music is. Find more of this."

December 2nd, 2004. The Hives.
2004 was an important year for this founder of Pretension and Perk: I took my first steps away from 70s punk and into modern music. It took a few heavy hitters to make this happen, though. First off, Modest Mouse's "Float On" broke into the mainstream. Then Interpol's Antics showed me a more fun and accessible kind of post-punk. And finally, Franz Ferdinand set a new standard for the pop-rock album with their self-titled debut.

That last one is what led me to Camden, NJ's Tweeter Center on December 2nd. The Y100 "Feastival" boasted a mediocre lineup headlined by Good Charlotte and Jimmy Eat World, but the promise of my newest Austrian archduke-named obsession was too good to pass up. Franz, as it turned out, had not quite mastered their stage presence yet. But I didn't leave the Tweeter disappointed.

For a group of Swedish rascals in black and white suits made it their duty to completely annihilate the ears of the Good Charlotte-adoring teeny boppers that had made their way to Camden that night. But the Hives managed to maintain proficiency in musicianship despite their raw, ferocious energy. Today I know this is not exactly a rare feat, but when this group was surrounded by the lackluster performances by Jimmy Eat World, Silvertide (one of the worst shows I've ever seen), and Franz Ferdinand, I couldn't help but be amazed.

While the band churned out balls-out garage punk song after balls-out garage punk song, frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist combined Jagger-esque stage moves with obnoxious, self-deprecating egotism into something all his own. The unbridled conceit and undeniable swagger of Almqvist left a young me completely enthralled. He simply refused to accept that anyone could think that The Hives were not the greatest band in the world. I certainly wasn't going argue. I hardly can today.

And I promise, I left 3 songs into Good Charlotte's set.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Naught To Be Outdone: Pretension and Perk sums up the decade

We all know Pitchfork is the golden standard for music websites. So while some may say, "Hey guys it's only August; why are you doing some end of decade junk", I can just slap them with a link.

pitchfork.com, lol

End of argument.

So here's what you can expect from Pretension and Perk in the coming weeks:
*livejournal: a diary of concert experiences
*20 best albums of the naughts
*The songs that changed how the founder of Pretension and Perk looked at music, and thus led to the creation of Pretension and Perk
*The Bands of the Decade

And probably some other things! We at P'n'P like to think of ourselves as organic writers- unexpected ideas will appear out of the work we put into our other pieces. But, as longtime readers know all to well, sometimes articles we have planned to and/or stated that we will write never appear. You must take the good with the bad.

+Acknowledgments to BenB for coming up with the title for this feature. Where would we be without him?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pictures from the Dan Deacon, No Age, and Deerhunter Pool Party Extravaganza

On Saturday, August 1st, a private airport/pool/resort in Medford, NJ hosted the second stop one of the most unique tours of the year. For Dan Deacon, No Age, and Deerhunter's Round Robin shows, all three bands set up simultaneously, creating a constant, "seamless piece of music." Indeed, the Flying W Airport was the place to be; the night saw Dan Deacon playing on a swing set, No Age's Randy Randall thrown into the pool, and Deerhunter's Bradford Cox using detective skills to find the sneak who stole his bag of picks. Pictures by me follow. The camera that took the pixx is owned by fellow blog-runner John Teoli (of Quality New Music).

Opener Ed Schrader delights with all too appropriate songs about gas stations attendants (appropriate because we were in New Jersey) and airplanes (appropriate because we were at an airport)

Dan Deacon, as expected, embraces his inner child.

Could that be BEEEEEEEANNNSS??

Deerhunter was good, but not too photogenic. Also they were slightly obscured by the deck. #excusesforbadphotography

Bad photo of No Age and airplanes, but actually the better of the two No Age photos I took. SORRY FOLKS WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH READERS TO HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER.