blog.asurroca.com my personal blog

January 26, 2011

Every (Hipster) Music Critic’s Year-End Top 10 List Explained

Filed under: humor,music,reviews — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:46 am

Upon reading this article on the predictability of year-end top 10 lists, I decided to make my own. Because someone called-out Pitchfork (and me) for being as predictable as the year-end top 10 lists referred to in that article.

10. Any self-respecting egoitst music critic is going to pick his/her personal favorite as #1. Also, Mumford & Suns is a hipster Dave Matthews Band, and fuck them. There I said it.

9. If the author didn’t understand Four Tet’s latest record, then there is little hope for him as a music critic, because it’s not dense. He’s dense.

8. This is America, and it’s OK to hate on other countries (ironically, of course). So, fuck foreign records. Exception: British bands. Because we speak their language.

7. What an amateur. Any self-respecting hipster music critic will not include any breakout successes. Rather, they will deride the bands’ rise to the top and declare them to be uncool sell-outs. “Arcade Fire? Yeah, they used to be cool, back when they were unknown and in that one Apple commercial.”

6. Obama is president. Hipsters don’t have to go on pretending to like hip-hop anymore. It’s a post-racial world.

5. The old-timer records belong further down the list because they’re only even on the list for irony’s sake. Everybody knows a good hipster has no sense of history. What’s history? Huh? Fuck history, that’s what.

4. Yes, Kanye West does deserve his own spot, despite hip-hop having no place on a modern hipster music critic’s top 10 list. Because Kanye transcends hip-hop. His beautiful dark twisted fantasy is our beautiful dark twisted fantasy. He speaks to us. He understands us.

3. This is the slot for the obvious sub-mainstream hit, actually, the one that almost made it, but didn’t. Because bands who almost sell-out but have to lick their wounds and come crawling back to college radio are the best. Oh, MGMT, it’s nice to have you back.

2. This is the spot for whichever album everyone else chose as #1, obviously. Let’s call this spot “Your Favorite Record is Only my #2 Pick”.

1. And finally, a good hipster music critic is going to put his/her personal favorite here. This is for the album that he/she either a) lost his/her virginity to, b) listened to the most while being high, c) listened to while sitting on the hood of a car looking at the night sky and musing or just pretending to be in a John Hughes movie or something. For example: 2008–M83, 2009–Animal Collective, and 2010–Beach House.

July 22, 2008

Albums Best Heard Together: Drums Not Dead and Deceit

Filed under: music,reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:45 am

Liars has become a darling of the indie world, especially after their 2006 record, Drums Not Dead—look no further than Pitchfork Media’s glowing review for confirmation. Their drum-based, drone-filled sound doesn’t make for an easy listen, and sounds nothing like the hacks that fill the indie landscape lately. Drums Not Dead is almost perfect, but it’s also been done before.

Album art for This Heat-Deceit (1981)Album cover for Liars-Drums Not Dead (2006)

See, while you’ve probably already heard of Liars (the band opened for Radiohead during their 2008 North American tour), it’s much less likely that you’ve ever heard of This Heat. And Liars’ entire sound is essentially the application of a fresh coat of paint on a 1981 masterpiece by the name of Deceit.

Rather than accuse Liars of ripping off the forgotten 70s-era post-punk band This Heat, I choose to believe that Liars is paying homage to This Heat unless I find out otherwise. If you’ve heard Deceit, you’ll find Drums Not Dead definitely comes from the same place. Both records open with un-threatening, almost peaceful tracks, then pull the rug out and launch into tracks filled with menacing drum lines, screaming, and a caustic, off-balance feel that continues through the remainder of each.

That’s not to say that either record is a chore to listen to. On Deceit: “Cenotaph”, with its Joy Division-esque sound, would have made a fine single in 1981 (less so today; maybe on satellite radio), “Makeshift Swahili” is the most punk-like track on the record, and “A New Kind of Water” morphs from a beautiful, droning anthem into a proper rock song. And on Drums Not Dead, “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” is likely to be a signature Liars song for a while—when I saw them open for Radiohead in West Palm Beach, it was their set opener. “Drums Gets a Glimpse” is a slower, pretty track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Broken Social Scene record.

It’s interesting that where I heard a little of This Heat’s contemporaries such as Can and Joy Division (and on one track, perhaps Dead Can Dance) in their record, I heard a little of Liars’ own contemporaries such as (in addition to Broken Social Scene) The Microphones, and Radiohead. The only track I’m not sure about is Drums Not Dead‘s closer, “To Hold You, Drum”, which comes off embarrassingly like a carbon copy of Deceit‘s sound. While the rest of the record stays far enough away from This Heat’s sound for Liars to come off as merely on the same wavelength as This Heat, this track implies that the band merely listened to Deceit on repeat while they were dreaming up ideas for new tracks.

As I’ve said, I choose to believe otherwise. Give both a listen. But be warned: Deceit has been out of print for a while, so it’s basically impossible to find at retail stores and difficult to find at download sites.

July 2, 2008

A Little Linear Love in Album Covers

Filed under: artwork,music,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 7:41 pm

When I saw the cover for the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I thought to myself, “hey, I’ve seen this before.”

Cover for Death Cab for Cutie album, \

Les Savy Fav, The Microphones, and Lamb all had similar album covers for their respective albums around the turn of the century.

The Microphones, in 2000
I would say the Death Cab for Cutie album cover bears the closest resemblance to this one, made from a few apparently hand-cut photographs.

Cover for The Microphones album, \

Les Savy Fav, in 2001
The artwork consists of several photos that were chopped up and then spliced into one, creating a colorful, line-filled collage. It’s especially apparent on the album’s backside, where all the band’s members show up in the same space.

Cover for Les Savy Fav album, \Rear side of Les Savy Fav album, \

Lamb, in 2001
Rather than cutting out the band’s members linearly, the artwork here uses squares, but does about the same thing as the Les Savy Fav cover. The album’s 2003 US release was much less interesting, showing only the band’s lamb “logo” on a blue background. Boring, and two years late. Thanks, amazon.co.uk.

Cover for UK edition of Lamb album, \

June 19, 2008

Blip: Yellow Rain

Filed under: artwork,music,video — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:02 pm

I was just driving home this evening and rain and sunset mixed together to make everything cool and yellowish. I’d already taken more than enough photos at times like these, so I thought I’d do something a little different. Music is: Lamb – “Five”.

June 16, 2008

Blip: Between Friends

Filed under: artwork,music,video — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 11:50 pm

I shot a few bits of video during the drive from one friend’s home in Coral Gables to another friend’s home in South Miami. Here’s what came of it. Music: “Neuflex” by Two Lone Swordsmen.

June 12, 2008

Blip: In Sync

Filed under: advertising,music,video — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 9:48 am

While driving home one night, I encountered a lot of road construction, and noticed that the various flashing lights were vaguely in sync with the beat of the music. Music: “Beat Connection” by LCD Soundsystem.

June 16, 2006

The Library… An Untapped Free Music Source

Filed under: music,technology — Alfonso Surroca @ 5:11 pm

With all the headlines file-sharing garners these days, I find it interesting that old-fashioned offline methods of sharing music have essentially gone unnoticed. Instead of risking a strong-arm lawsuit from the RIAA by searching peer-to-peer sites, you can find a wealth of free music at a place from some of the tech-minded public might have forgotten: your local public library system. (more…)

March 16, 2006

Dude, Where’s My Music?

Filed under: music,rants — Alfonso Surroca @ 3:12 pm

I wasn't around in the Sixties and Seventies, but I'm pretty sure that mainstream recording artists and their fans weren't too terribly preoccupied with reliving (and rehashing) music from the Fourties or Fifties. They were too busy creating a generation of groundbreaking music to worry about that. So, why, since about the time "grunge" came and went from our popular psyche, have we been so damn preoccupied with re-recording classic musical styles of past generations? Is it because we've got easier access to music than we used to, better information, and so we are now better able to listen to and appreciate that music? I think it's because there's something fundamentally lacking with music today.

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December 16, 2005

In a Beautiful Place Out In The Country

Filed under: music — Alfonso Surroca @ 7:25 pm

Some folks prefer the old Boards of Canada, some prefer the newer stuff; me, I'll always cherish their 2000 EP, Boards of Canada – In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country, a flawless little four-song record whose eponymous track makes it absolutely outstanding.

Currently listening:
In a Beautiful Place Out In the Country
By Boards of Canada
Release date: By 28 November, 2000

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October 2, 2005

iTunes uSuck

Filed under: business,music,rants,technology — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:30 pm

Today, I deleted iTunes from my system.

I've always been a die-hard PC user and thus fairly ambivalent to the Apple crowd, despite the fact that I'm usually in-line with other "hipster" brands (case in point, I drive a Volkswagen). Note, however, that I do not shop at Urban Outfitters. (more…)

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