Tag Archives: Frightened Rabbit

Friday Random 10: Jersey Shore Edition

Last night marked the debut of one of the television season’s most anticipated shows, the regrettable “Jersey Shore” on MTV. Basically the premise of this show is to follow a group of the stupidest guidos on the planet as they dog-paddle through their shallow existence at a certain outpost in New Jersey — official maligned home state of Pax Arcana.

I did not see the premiere episode last night, but I checked up with Gawker’s live-blog-in-the-comments to get an appraisal of the event. I got as far as this:

DID HE JUST PUNCH A GIRL IN THE FUCKING FACE?!

Some critics say “Jersey Shore” is anti-Italian, since it glorifies the worst stereotypes of young Italian-American culture. I partly agree, since I know several meatball slurpers — our own Perry Ellis is one! — who do not ritualistically cruise around with spiked hair and oversized sunglasses and punch girls in the fucking face. On the other hand, holy SHIT you should have seen my high school. Just filled with knuckledragging ziti weiners like this. Christ almighty, I’ll take a pugnacious newsboy hat-wearing Boston mook moron any day of the week over these greasy bastards. No offense, Perry.

The songs:

Walls in Time — Bob Mould
Two Times Blue — Debbie Harry
Fame Throwa — Pavement
One PM Again — Yo La Tengo
Pink Turns To Blue — Husker Du
Get Older — Dan Deacon
XMas Curtain — My Morning Jacket
Lucifer’s Jigsaw — Jaydiohead
Baltimore — Steven Malkmus and the Jicks
Big Love — Broken Social Scene Presents… Kevin Drew

Bonus Video:

Fake Empire / It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop — Frightened Rabbit

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.

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Perry Compilationaria: The Official Pax Arcana 2008 Best Albums List

Perry Ellis

It would be hard for any trio of virile, dashing and hip young men such as Pax, the Padre and Perry to be less alike. For example, Father Scott is a bearded clamdigger from the back woods of Maine (which is technically Canada), Pax is a 7’10” albino Viking and I most closely resemble Brad Pitt in every particular.

But one thing we all share (besides being sheer catnip to the ladies, as Mrs. Arcana, Mrs. Ellis and A Playah to be Named Later can attest) is a true passion for music of all stripes and genres.

Witness our trio of “Top 10 Albums of 2008″ posts, which saw entries ranging from Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III to some unpronounceable release by Icelandic juggernauts Sigur Ros. We’re so catholic in our tastes that two of our “Top 10” lists didn’t even have 10 entries!

So, in the interest of clarity and coherence (and because none of the five companies I need to speak with to write the feature that was due last week are calling me back so I have nothing better to do), I took the liberty of creating an ingeniously complex algorithm to determine the consensus picks for this year in music.

Behold!

Conor Oberst, “Conor Oberst”

Pax and Father Scott both put this on their lists; though I considered it, and gave it another listen just this morning, ultimately I decided it was meh. Therefore I arbitrarily decree it lands at the bottom of our list.

She & Him, “Volume One”

Even though the Padre was the only one to list this as a fave, I’ve given it a once-over or three since publishing my picks and really, really like it. Sorry for the oversight, Zooey! Tell Frannie I said, “Hey.”

Dr. Dog, “Fate”

I’ve never even heard of this. Is it good?

The Gaslight Anthem, “The ’59 Sound”

Pax and I both liked this, though I’m pretty sure any indie band from Jersey would have made his list, regardless of the merits. It’s pretty good, even if New Jersey resembles a lunar landscape most of the time but especially in the early a.m. hours.

Lil’ Wayne, “Tha Carter III”

I have never heard a single note from this outside of the approximately 30 seconds of video I watched on one of the other guys’ posts, and therefore am unqualified to render judgment. But those two loved it, so here it is.

Frightened Rabbit, “The Midnight Organ Fight”

Color me utterly mystified that this stellar album isn’t taking the nation by storm and topping every list everywhere. It’s awesome. Buy it.

Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago”

This is the only record all three of us put on our lists, so it’s the clear champion. Even though it’s not as good as “Organ Fight.” Still, though, it is truly excellent. Buy it.

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The Best Music of 2008: Pax Arcana Edition, Part II

Pax Arcana

To follow up on my previous post, here are my 20 favorite songs of the year.

20. “Go Easy” — Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
19. “Time to Pretend” — MGMT
18. “Ill Love” — Pete and the Pirates

17. “Pop Song” — Starfucker
16. “The Good Lies” — The Notwist
15. “I’m OK, You’re OK,” — Let’s Wrestle
14. “Souled Out!!!” — Conor Oberst
13. “Slight of Hand” — Army Navy

12. “Skinny Love” — Bon Iver
11. “Science Fiction” — French Miami

10. “Halfway Home” — TV on the Radio
9. “The Wake Up Song” — The Submarines
8. “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur” — Sigur Ros
7. “Dr. Carter” — Lil Wayne
6. “The Modern Leper” — Frightened Rabbit
5. “Boneless” — The Notwist

4. “Bikini Atoll” — Oxford Collapse
3. “Vid spilum endalaust” — Sigur Ros
2. “Fast Blood” — Frightened Rabbit
1. “Lover’s Day” — TV on the Radio

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
“Waving Flags” — British Sea Power
“The Old Days” — Doctor Dog
“Carried Away” — The French Kicks
“Casanova, Baby!” — The ’59 Sound
“Ghost Under Rocks” — Ra Ra Riot

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The Best Music of 2008: Pax Arcana Edition

Pax Arcana

We’ve already got year-end lists from Perry Ellis and The Good Doctor, so now it’s my turn to foist my favorites on an unwilling public. So let’s go ahead and dance about architecture, OK?

But first, a disclaimer:

WHY SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES ARE NOT ON THIS LIST: Because either I didn’t hear them or they sucked. Or I suck. Either way, feel free to argue my picks but don’t expect it will get you anywhere.

That said, here’s my top 10 favorite albums of 2008:

10. Okkervil River — The Stand Ins

thestandins

Better, in my opinion, than their last album (The Stage Names), this follow-up is full of the kind of literate, tuneful fare that makes the hipsters swoon. In my opinion, singer Will Sheff’s voice is the band’s biggest flaw — but it’s pretty hard to ignore the inventiveness and good humor of songs like “Pop Lie” and “Lost Coastlines.” And “Blue Tulip” features one of the coolest guitar parts I’ve heard all year.

9. The Gaslight Anthem — The ’59 Sound

the_59_sound_cover1

A pleasant surprise from the always-pleasant state of New Jersey, The Gaslight Anthem’s first album is a throwback to a bygone era of blue collar rock music. Fusing elements of rockabilly and garage rock with Springsteen-influenced story-telling lyrics, these guys injected a much needed dose of testicular fortitude to my iTunes this year.  My personal favorites are “Great Expectations” and “Casanova Baby.”

8. Lil Wayne — Tha Carter III

lil-wayne-tha-carter-iii-album-cover

I’m predicting this will land higher on Father Scott’s list, since he practically walks around the office with a boom box on his shoulder playing it. For me, Lil Wayne albums are an exercise in creative listening. Just following Weezy through all the twists, turns, metaphors, allusions, homages, and concepts is enough to set your earballs on fire. Is that the whitest review of a hip-hop album in history? Oh well. Guilty as charged. Still, it’s fun as hell. Especially “Dr. Carter.”

7. Conor Oberst — Conor Oberst

oberst

I’m surprised at how little attention Oberst’s first solo record has received. Perhaps most music fans consider him a known commodity for his Bright Eyes recordings — and there’s not really much difference between Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes in the first place. Whatever the reason, this album is full of the  hyper-literate alt-country troubadeering that has made Oberst a force in the indie rock scene since he was a teenager. “Souled Out” is probably the most accessible (and best, in my opinion) song on the record, but there are some terrific moments scattered throughout. I especially like the bizarrely Spanglish refrain in “Eagle on a Pole”: El cielo es azul, just don’t go tellin’ everyone.

6. Dr. Dog — Fate

dr_dog_fate_a

All I know about Dr. Dog is that they’re from Philadelphia and there are like 400 people in the band at any given time. For all I know, they could be gypsies from Albania or suburban frat boys or train-hopping hobos or the illegitimate children of Jethro Tull. It’s safe to say their music is eclectic yet accessible — with a decidedly retro guitar-rock flare. My favorites are “The Old Days,” “100 Years,” and “My Friend.” I do wish they’d stay away from the 1970s prog rock, though.

5. The Notwist — The Devil, You + Me

notwist

The German band The Notwist have been around for years, but this album was my first exposure to them. The band is relatively famous in electronic music circles — which I always imagined was a group of European twits in retro sweatsuits trying to outdo each other with layers of pointless noise — but the songs on The Devil, You + Me are a lot more accessible and melodic than I expected. The electronics on the album are employed mostly to add lushness or cool signature rhythmic flairs to otherwise straightforward — and inventive — songs. “Boneless” and “The Good Lies” are standouts, while “The Devil, You + Me” is a downright charmer. Like Radiohead with a slight German accent.

4. Sigur Ros — Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust

sigur-ros

Everything I knew about Sigur Ros before this year was that it was a critically-acclaimed shoegazing electronic ensemble from Iceland whose songs would make you want to eat fermented shark meat just to kill the pain. But I got the album after hearing a slice of the first song, “Gobbledigook” on a music podcast. It’s safe to say this was my favorite surprise find of the year. The first half of the album is replete with stunning, lush, upbeat anthems beautifully orchestrated and paced. The second half descends into the morose, but somehow it all still works for me. Really the only reason this isn’t my favorite album of the year is that I can’t understand a word of it (until the very end).

Video: Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

3. TV on the Radio — Dear Science

dear-science

I didn’t realize how much I love this album until the normally-reliable Paste placed it at #50 on its year-end list — behind the crapulent effort from My Morning Jacket and not-real-in-any-way comedy band Flight of the Conchords (I love FOTC, but they should be considered on their own terms). Upon encountering that slight, I puffed out my chest, hitched up my pants, and marched around the cube farm at the office all red-faced and seething. It took Father Scott two blowdarts and an entire bag of Cape Cod potato chips to calm me down.

Anyway, Dear Science is probably TV on the Radio’s most accessible album to date, which may piss off some of their die-hard hipster doofus fans in Williamsburg — but only makes them more endearing to me. I think the move puts them at the doorstep of being the coolest rock stars on the planet. There are a ton of great songs on this album, all imbued with the confidence and swagger of a band that knows how dope it is, and isn’t afraid to show off a bit. My favorites are “Halfway Home,” “Dancing Choose,” “Golden Age,” “Red Dress,” “Shout Me Out,” and “Lover’s Day,” which is probably my favorite song of the year (Oops! Did I just spoil my next post?).

Video: Golden Age (Live on Later…)

2. Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago

bon-iver-for-emma-forever-ago

I’m predicting this sparse, haunting album of sad ruminations from Justin Vernon will hover in the top 5 of almost any year-end list you read, so I’ll refrain from saying too much about it. I will say that the thing that sets this album apart, to me, is how complete it feels as an album. There are songs on here that can highlighted or singled out (I like “Flume,” “Skinny Love,” and “For Emma”) but the artistry of the album is really in how seamlessly it all fits together. It’s an expanse of lofty peaks and depressing lows, but Vernon’s songs carry you from place to place gently and deliberately rather than shoving you around. I probably listened to this album once a day for three months last winter.

Video: Flume (Live)

1. Frightened Rabbit — The Midnight Organ Fight

midnight-organ-fight

First, let’s talk about body parts.

From the opening line of The Midnight Organ Fight (“A cripple walks amongst you all you tired human beings”), Frightened Rabbit lead singer and songwriter Scott Hutchison reveals a deep preoccupation with the human body in all its glory and decay. That first song, “The Modern Leper,” is an anthemic — if disturbed — look at self-pity and remorse, as the protagonist continues to lose body parts and functions yet still clings to an old love in the chorus:

Well is that you in front of me?
Coming back for even more of exactly the same
You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last leg
Well I am ill but I’m not dead
And I don’t know which of those I prefer
Because that limb which I have lost
Well it was the only thing holding me up
Holding me up

Hutchison explores body part metaphors even more deeply in “Fast Blood,” my favorite song on the album (but not by much). The best line is that which gives the album its name:

good night
it’s stroke time
let’s get paralyzed down both sides
snake hips, red city kiss
and your black eyes roll back
midnight organ fight
yours gives in to mine
it’s all right

Which moves into a chorus that continues the doin’ it metaphor:

and the fast blood
hurricanes through me
and then it rips my roof away with her fire heads
this is the longest kiss
good night

The bodily theme continues throughout the album with grace and charm, most notably in “Good Arms, Bad Arms,” “Head Rolls Off,” and “Poke.”

That I listened to this album dozens of times for its quirky, escalating rock anthems before successfully interpreting the Scottish brogue of the lyrics probably says all you need to know about why this is my favorite album since Arcade Fire’s Funeral. For me, it’s like a five-tool ballplayer — it’s got just the right amount of quirk, bravado, lyricism, desperation, and goofiness. Hutchison — with his kid brother Grant on drums — took a huge step forward from the pretty-awesome The Greys with this album. I’m really looking forward to hearing what they do next.

Also, they put on a killer live show.

Video: The Modern Leper (Live in Madison)

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals — Cardinology
Army Navy — Army Navy
British Sea Power — Do You Like Rock Music?
The French Kicks — Swimming
Pete & the Pirates — Little Death
Ra Ra Riot — The Rhumb Line
The Submarines — Honeysuckle Weeks

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS (HIGH HOPES DASHED):

My Morning Jacket — Evil Urges
Of Montreal — Skeletal Lamping

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The Best Music of 2008: The Good Doctor Edition

Pax Arcana

good_doctor5The caring and jovial Mrs. Pax Arcana and I were sad to see our upstairs neighbor, The Good Doctor, leave for the swamps of D.C. earlier this year. But just because he’s gone — and he abandoned his own blog almost a year ago — doesn’t mean TGD can’t contribute to our ongoing series on the best music of 2008 (Perry posted his list yesterday — expect Father Scott, Fallen Angel and I to contribute our own soon).

The Good Doctor, apart from being The Man Who Will Singlehandedly Rescue the American Economy, is an exceedingly knowledgeable music fan. Here, with only minor grammatical edits, is his list:

This year I’ve particularly gotten into the Americana genre, as my year-end list will indicate. At last count, I’ve bought around 50 albums released this year. Here are my favorites:

12. Frightened Rabbit — “The Midnight Organ Fight”

11. Vampire Weekend — “Vampire Weekend”

Meh, mostly harmless.

10. Plants and Animals — “Parc Avenue”

These guys have a Talking Heads (Burning Down the House era) jam-bandy feel to them, which I totally dig.

9. The Weepies — “Hideaway”

I actually think this is a more solid album than their debut. It’s more upbeat, too! Try the title track, “Hideaway”:

8. These United States — “Crimes”

The first of many Americana-ish albums on the list. Much much better than their debut. Try “Honor Amongst Theives”:

7. Langhorne Slim — “Langhorne Slim”

So this was the year my tastes strongly shifted towards Americana, and Langhorne Slim strongly fits the bill. Try “Rebel Side of Heaven” or “Worries.” Try “Restless”, here on Letterman:

6. Tift Merritt — “Another Country”

Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely nothing groundbreaking or special about this album. It’s almost straight up alt-country, no funny business (maybe even drop the “alt” on that). I kept coming back to this album time after time this year, which must mean that it’s meaningful, but I really can’t articulate why. It’s just solid, well-written and tuneful music. Here’s “Broken”:

5. Jason Collett — “Here’s to Being Here”

I don’t have a lot to say about this. The music is richer than singer-songwriter stuff tends to be; he’s part of Broken Social Scene; and the record is sublime. Here’s “Out of the Blue”:

4. Bon Iver — “For Emma, Forever Ago”

This should probably place higher, and if this ranking was for “best music, artistically speaking,” it probably would: incredibly well-written music which is perfect for a snowy evening, and I bet it’s doubly-excellent live. I just don’t happen to listen to this as frequently as I do the higher-ranked albums: it’s not quite something I can hum along to on the morning commute.

Check out “The Wolves”:

and “Skinny Love”:

3. She & Him — “Volume One”

I absolutely love M. Ward. One of my favorite all-time singer-songwriters: his slow, gravelly-voiced, old AM-radio style is timeless and perfect for late evening nights or cold Sunday afternoons. I first met Zooey Daschenel as Buddy the Elf’s love interest in “Elf,” in which she sings “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the shower. Given the similar vocal style to M. Ward, She & Him is a natural – and somewhat obvious – collaberation. I had incredibly high expectations for the album, and I must admit to being a little underwhelmed in the end. Her songs are sometimes cute, sometimes touching, but generally a little vacuous. Also, I could use me a little more M. Ward (the lyrics and tunes are largely hers; the rest of the composition, I suspect, is him; she’s 95% of the vocals). I hear they have plans for a Volume Two, though, which can’t come soon enough! (M. Ward’s sixth – “Hold Time” – is coming out this spring).

“Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”:

I adore the song, the video is wacked-out.

2. Dr. Dog — “Fate”

Love them, have nothing to say about them.

Try “Ark”:

and especially “From” (only song, no video):

1. Fleet Foxes — “Fleet Foxes”

I like to think these guys sound like if My Morning Jacket went all-acoustic, joined forces with a college Glee Club, and sang tranquil, pastoral songs in the middle of a forest clearing. They have the same sort of vocal-reverb sound as Band of Horses and MMJ, but there’s something more peaceful and intoxicating about this music.

Plenty of up-tempo tunes, too: try “White Winter Hymnal” (video below), “Ragged Wood”, and “Your Protector.” I imagine that in a few years I’ll still be pulling this one out for a listen, which I think is more than can I can say for anything else this year. Thus, my year-end favorite.

Honorable mentions: Thao, “We Brave Bee Stings and All”; Hold Steady, “Stay Positive”; British Sea Power, “Do You Like Rock Music?”; Bonny Prince Billy, “Lie Down in the Light.”

I’ll also note my favorite album that I first heard this year is Christopher Denny’s “Age Old Hunger” (along the same lines as M. Ward, Langhorne Slim, A.A. Bondy, Deer Tick, etc.). But it was released last year, so it doesn’t count. Also, Deer Tick’s “War Elephant” – one of my favorites from last year that has progressively grown on me – was re-released this year, so technically it could make my list, as was A.A. Bondy’s album “American Hearts.” All three of these albums might top my 2008 list if they weren’t released years ago…

Previously: Top 10 Albums of 2008: Perry Ellis Edition

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I need Pedialyte

Pax Arcana

Posting may be slow today, on account of Pax Arcana and the silky and tremendous Mrs. Pax Arcana headed down to Central Square last night to see Frightened Rabbit — who absolutely crushed it.

Unfortunately they played well past my normal bed time (8:19 p.m.), and TT the Bear’s suffers from an infestation of hipster beers that I tried valiantly to exterminate myself.

It’s times like these that I thank the heavens for Dr. French Fry. In the most recent installment, she elucidates why Pedialyte (it’s like baby Gatorade) is a close-to-perfect hangover cure. The science behind this theory, if I remember correctly, is that Pedialyte works to connect your upper dorcimus and australopithecus with proteins and enzymes that grind beta carotene out of your synapses. Wait, that’s probably not right. You may have to read the whole thing.

your poor liver [Dr. French Fry]

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Thursday filler showcase: Frightened Rabbit

Pax Arcana

Father Scott and I are tied up in a meeting all day today (we’re deciding whether his beard is more “pirate” or “substitute teacher” with a focus group of nine year olds).

Instead of leaving you completely contentless, I’ve decided to put together a small musical showcase of Frightened Rabbit, a Scottish band I’ve become a fan of recently. As I described them to the kind and luxurious Mrs. Pax Arcana, Frightened Rabbit is what Coldplay would be if Coldplay were more talented.

We’ll start with the video for “Head Rolls Off”

Now let’s check out a live performance. Here’s Frightened Rabbit doing “Old Old Fashioned” at a radio station:

There’s no good quality video of this one, but it’s probably my favorite of the songs on their current album “The Midnight Organ Fight.” The song is called “The Modern Leper”:

That’s all well and good, you say, but what about their personalities? Do they have charming accents? Do they seem like good blokes? Were they sweaty at SXSW this year?

I strongly recommend “The Midnight Organ Fight.” It’s not the most innovative album of all time, but it’s full of top-notch songwriting — and the songs that are not instantaneously impressive have a tendency to grow on you. It’s available on eMusic, iTunes, and Amazon MP3.

I’m sure faithful reader Carl Spackler, who seems to know the scene as well or better than anyone, has some thoughts on these guys. Pax Arcana will be checking them out at TT the Bear’s in Central Square on July 1. Perry Ellis will likely have his hands full — of baby poop — that day, but we’ll try to get a live review up soon after.

Here is the MySpace page if you’re into that kind of thing.

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