Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 91: The Sound of One Hand Washing

At this point in the game you are either packing your bags for Nerdapalooza 2010, or you are silently weeping in the corner.

Thankfully, I am among those fortunate enough to make the pilgrimage down to Orlando this year. It's taken some doing – and no small amount of funding from you, you magnificent bastards – but I am even now finalizing my travel itinerary.

Still, whether you're joining us or not, I thought you might enjoy another special Nerdapalooza-themed episode. It features my pals hex and Masu, two cats with whom I can assume you are already quite familiar. It was a great opportunity for us to talk about this year's event and to reflect on previous incarnations of the world's premiere nerd music festival.

But mostly it was just an excuse to laugh. A lot.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 91: The Sound of One Hand Washing [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 84.4 MB Running Time: 1:32:11
Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Beefy won't be coming down for 'Palooza 2010. And I'm still really bummed about that. :(

Track 1: MC Frontalot – "Tongue-Clucking Grammarian (live at Nerdapalooza 2009)"
Can we expect another amazing live album to come out of this year's festival? One can only hope! 

Z's 1st interlude: "My old pals."
It is assumed that I am attending Nerdapalooza for the music. The truth is I'm going down to see all my friends. The music is merely a fortunate cover.

Track 2: Marc with a C – "Bounce Bounce Bounce"
In case you missed it, I reviewed Marc's newest earlier this week.

Track 3: The Protomen – "The Hounds"
I look forward with rapt anticipation to seeing The Protomen live!

Track 4: Kirby Krackle – "Can I Watch You"
The same goes for Kirby Krackle. In fact, I will go so far as to say they are my most anticipated new act.

Track 5: Random – "Boss Battle Metalman (The Megas Remix)"
Like hex said, we will have both Ran and The Megas in the house. Cross your fingers.

Z's 2nd interlude: "This ain't your first rodeo."
The guys have been holding down the proverbial fort re: the Nerdapalooza festival for years, and I think it's only gotten better with age.

Track 6: Schaffer the Darklord – "A Lot like Me"
Will STD steal the show at a 3rd consecutive Nerdapalooza? My sources say yes.

Track 7: Ministry of Magic – "Accio Love"
There's a really solid Wrock lineup at this year's event, so bring your house scarves,

Track 8: The Adventures of Duane and BrandO – "Guerrilla War"
Attendees will also be fortunate enough to catch the reunion of The Adventures of Duane and BrandO! 

Track 9: Emergency Pizza Party – "Shine Avenue"
It wouldn't be Nerdapalooza without EPP.

Track 10: Krondor Krew – "New Edition"
I largely watched Krondor Krew's set at Nerdapalooza 2008 through the doorway to the next room. This year, however, I will be both front and center.  

Z's 3rd interlude: "For those who've been living under a rock."
You rock-dwellers can find all the pertinent info concerning the event right the fuck here.

Track 11: Yip-Yip – "Audacity Beach"
With Yip-Yip, hex and the Nerdapalooza organizers have managed to do the impossible: they found a nerdy band that was totally new to me.

Track 12: The Great Luke Ski – "Dementia Revolution (feat. MC Lars)"
Luke and a number of his FuMP brethren will be on-hand to dispense with the Dementia music at 'Palooza 2010.

Track 13: Random Encounter – "Still More Fighting (live at Nerdapalooza 2008)"
Random Encounter had a solid set back in '08, though it was plagued by some sound issues. I have every confidence that this year will be their time to shine. 

Track 14: Sci-Fried – "Saturday Night On SyFy"
Sci-Fried is another new act I am really looking forward to checking out live. They have a very classic sound that differentiates themselves from most other geek rockers. 

Holy shit! A 4th interlude?!: "BYE, I'M HEX!!!"
Wait – did that muthafucker talk over my outro?! ;)

Track 15: George Hrab – "Think for Yourself"
It's good to see the skeptical community represented this year as well. I'm not exactly sure what George will bring to the stage, but I'm sure I'll dig it.

And that's it, kids. I'm afraid that's all the blogging I plan to do on this side of things. So, until I return from Orlando and regain my bearings, I bid you farewell.

If you're going to be at Nerdapalooza, be sure to holler atcha boy. And if you're a little uneasy diving into the event-proper without sufficient backup, feel free to come down for our poolside meet-up at 9:30ish on Saturday. It'll be like a can of instant friends!

For those of you who won't be joining us, please keep the internet safe while we're away. And watch my Twitter feed for my < 140 character event updates.

You know how I do.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pop Goes the Record

Pop music has gotten a really bad rap. I blame Britney Spears. I blame The Archies. I blame M.

Wait – no. Not that last one.

Whereas once pop music, a simple derivative of the phrase "popular music," plainly described radio-friendly songs with distinct youth appeal, it has now become cultural shorthand for radio-friendly songs with distinct youth appeal and absolutely no inherent artistic merit. And that's a goddamn shame.

Because, from the very dawn of the age of the modern songwriter, pop has been a viable musical force. From Small Faces and Big Star to Cheap Trick and The Replacements, pop has proven itself to be just that: modern music. A rejection of classical tropes and high-minded motifs in favor of the understated strength of verse-chorus-verse. A music not necessarily low in substance, but rather high in charm.

And though proud pop fans like me have found ourselves forced to explicitly state our leanings with descriptors like indie pop or guitar pop or Townshend's classic power pop, we know the importance of the strong hook. Of the sing-along chorus. Of the lead riff.

Marc with a C is a lot like me. He's a man unafraid of exposing his pop leanings. But unlike me, Marc does so within the bounds of the art form itself, and his recently released Pop! Pop! Pop! is an 11-track pledge of allegiance to the Empire of Pop.

The album kicks off with the tuneful "Holly Vincent," a pop ballad in the style of any good guitar-based ditty named after a girl. Of course, this one is named after the frontwoman of punk-poppers Holly and the Italians. It makes a number of clever references to her 1980 breakthrough song "Tell That Girl to Shut Up," all the while touting the global appeal of a solid pop offering.

From there things stay in that distinctly upbeat vein with a brighter take on RetroLowFi's "Fighting For Love." It's a track that still loses me a bit on the chorus, but remains a well-metered charmer in spite of it. And follow-up "Joe Henry" drops the volume and ups the ante with bright, beautiful chorus harmonies and minimalist, last-minute percussion.

"Ammonia," another song with which I'm familiar due to its inclusion on his RetroLowFi collection, is an otherwise lackluster They Might Be Giants-style vocal track saved by phenomenal instrumentation, which plays perfectly into another RetroLowFi track, "As the Bombs Fell." It comes through as an album highlight, even among the other pop treasures that similarly balance angst and honesty in equal measure.

"Roll The Tape" marks the album's midpoint with vocal swagger and lyrics centered on the folly of a sure-thing. "Medicine Head," however, slows it down and dwells on the uncertainty of the un-medicated life, a topic that should resonate with a lot of us. "Winter Colors" keeps that string of somberness flowing, though it occasionally plods and again resorts to some clich├ęd lyricism.

"If You Loved Me" remains on the lower end with regard to tempo and manages to sound uniquely intimate, though it's not exactly Marc's best vocal delivery of the album. Still, it plays perfectly into follow-up "The Audience Is Listening," another not-so-subtle journey into the mind of the artist that breaks the cardinal rule of pop by extending past the five minute mark. More so, it also challenges multiple musical conventions by evolving into an acerbic spoken-word piece at irregular intervals.

Pop! Pop! Pop! returns to form with album closer "Just Stop Trying." Its double-time chorus punctuated by old school staples like who-who-whos and the all-important vocal countermelody really help to end the album with a bang.

With only minor shortfalls, Marc with a C's latest offering channels the pop music of our past into a shiny new version for tomorrow. It starts strong, gets a little mopey slightly after the midpoint and then pulls out all the stops for an 11th hour turnaround. Like the best pop, it challenges lyrical conventions in a manner both subtle and charming (by mining the artist's own experiences and attitudes), while at the same time making you sway with a healthy hooks and never-abused percussion.
If you're a fan of pop, in any of its myriad of forms, then Pop! Pop! Pop! is for you. But unlike those pop anthems of yore, it's freely available at retrolowfi.com.

Welcome to the future.

"Pop, pop, pop goes weekend radio."