HOW TO BE A MISCREANT #10 by mister matt gasda
Every year, for New Year’s Eve, my friends and I go to Stone Harbor, NJ to hang out at our friend Erik’s beach house- which usually means two or three days and nights of drinking1 and hanging out and going for walks on the beach, occasionally. Many, in fact, almost all of my friends are musicians, and our friendships were largely formed in high school around a shared appreciation2 for indie rock, particularly and predictably 90’s bands like Pavement or mid-2000’s hot property like Wolf Parade and Sufjan Stevens. So music- whether on the three hour drive to Stone Harbor, or over the course of two or three days isolated with fifteen people in the three bedroom beach property- is central both to our shared memories, and our present and ever-evolving sense of having a good time. I don’t think, for my generation (I’m almost 23) this is particularly rare- and I think, genre differences aside, some form of music-related discourse is at the heart of what most young people talk about- other than gossip about each other. What I found noteworthy about this year’s beach house3 was not how our musical discourse has changed (it hasn’t much)- but how I’ve changed in relation to it. While there was a bit more Kanye4 and Drake played this year- the basic playlist has remained the same (some mix of 90’s and 2000’s indie rock with white-people approved hip-hop mixed in). When I was younger, I thought I enjoyed this nicely balanced mix of Pitchfork approved fad-bands and ironic pop songs- but now, five years after we started going to beach house, almost nothing we listened to for two days could move or thrill me. Music, the music that largely defines what it means to be an American young person today, in other words, is dead in me, inert, kaput5... And if the music hasn’t changed, as I’ve already noted, then the change is entirely within me, as again, I’ve already noted... So the question is, quite obviously- what the hell happened to me? I think the answer is equally simple- I shut myself off6 from contemporary culture7 long enough that I could develop some sort of independent sense of art and my own aesthetic desires. More simply, I discovered that 1
I don’t drink so I’m in the interesting position of observer at parties. This is somewhat of an advantage for a writer, but also limits me to sympathy (as opposed to empathy) with drinking, revelry, and debauchery.
Looking back I don’t think high school kids can really be appreciators of music in the sense that adults, specifically middle age or late middle age, adults can be appreciators of music. High schoolers, and college agers too for that matter, tend to be consumers. Upper middle class kids who grew up with ridiculous amounts of “stuff” (video games, sports camps, musical equipment, nice clothes, lessons of various kinds, et cetera) can really think in terms of consumption because they are so used to “stuff” just being given to them. Real musical appreciation is a slow process of intellectual and emotional maturation, and is predicated on the ability to see a piece of music not as something to be listened to, talked and tweeted about, and forgotten, but as something timeless, classic, and vital to the health of the soul... But I digress... 3
“Beach house” denotes our annual trip to Erik’s Beach House in Stone Harbor. “Beach house” is akin to “Christmas” or “Halloween” in our friendgroup’s parlance. 4
One day, people will realize how numbing Kanye is. His massive appeal is a sign of how much over-sensitization has become the primary desire of pop music consumers (assuming consumption doesn’t already imply the desire for over-sensitization). If you had a few million dollars to spend on ghost writers and producers, you could be Kanye too-
This footnote is not an ironic reference to this year’s Destroyer album- I want to point out that there are some exceptions to this phenemenon. I seem to be irrationally fond of, for instance, Beach House (the band, not the event) and Sharon Von Etten, specifically, but not exclusively.
I just stopped trying to keep up with what was popular at a given moment.
We shouldn’t, in analyzing pop music culture, isolate it from other mediums like film, television, and the internet- we consume “entertainment” like it’s a multivitamin- everything we need, all at once.
if you take a step away from pop culture, even indie culture (which is an off-shoot of pop-culture), you realize that you’re a little, maybe a lot, malnourished. The best metaphor for this phenomenon might be if you started to eat kale three meals a day and discovered that you feel a lot healthier than you used to; that your standards of well-being were normed to a very low standard. As I’ve indicated somewhere in a footnote, pop music culture, and pop culture in general, even, again, indie culture- is about entertainment and consumption. It’s about a quick hit of good feeling, a little thrill- something to talk about- but not necessarily something to think about... This kind of culture tends to be satisfying only so long as you don’t know that anything else exists- once you’ve tried a little of musical “kale”- Bach or Louis Armstrong or Beethoven (the list goes on for awhile)- it’s harder to enjoy even the indie bands that you once thought were the epitome of good taste. That isn’t to say that good music isn’t being produced by people of our generation- it’s only to note that sheer amount of music most people of our age tend to consume can’t possibly all be nourishing, can’t all be good. It’s to say that once you’ve tried a little silence, a few hours without your computer or cell phone or TV or Ipod, that your craving for new records8 diminishes a little bit- that you still need art, but that a few really sad, lovely records9 a year are preferable to fifty pretty good ones. So what I experienced at beach house, was my gradually cultivated love of simplicity and long bouts of relative silence conflicted with the near constant two-day stream of music. Ironic pop songs can only be funny for song long, and the same is true of white kids ironically rapping along to Clipse or Drake- after awhile, or once you’ve experienced something outside of pop-culture loop, it just seems like noise, distraction, and habit. Maybe this essay is really a long complaint about how we communicate- indirectly, by taking everything ironically and nothing seriously- or maybe it has remained what it set out to be- an attempt to articulate what it means to evolve as an individual outside of the pop-culture paradigm, but occasionally to re-enter it- whether out of habit, nostalgia, or a genuine desire to stay connected to one’s past. It is jarring, in other words, to discover that something once seemed profound- whether it is a song or a movie or a TV show- “buzzes like a fridge” to borrow Radiohead’s famous and eternally apt description of the radio. I don’t have an entirely clear idea of what it means to live a good life or be happy or morally good or anythingbut I do think, quite certainly, that our inner experience has to, in some way, be connected to something outside of us- that a world that rings atonally around us is both dissatisfying and depressing and a good argument for solipsism. Again, this doesn’t mean that we ought jettison everything we’ve ever thought we loved in culture and move to an island with a few Schubert records and the collected works of Milton- but just that we develop some sort of capacity for cultural and aesthetic self-reflection- that we make sure that we aren’t simply conduits for fads that pass themselves off as deep or interesting or humanistically relevant. The problem, I think, with our cultural appetites, is that we don’t want to do any hard work- we want everything to taste good immediately, and we’re suspicious of anything green, anything that might not be immediately satisfying, but with some discipline, leads to long term health and happiness. Pop culture (in this case specifically music consumption) in the words of D.F.W. has become a kind of “spiritual surrender”- where we want only to remain in the loop, to ironically rap along to whatever it is cool to ironically rap along to at the moment, for the rest of our lives- to accept, as mode of being, perpetual irony and distance- to reject sincerity and emotion and silence so thoroughly that we forget, but never completely erase, the feeling that we long for it more than anything. 8
I used to keep diligent track of every P-fork best new music, and sometimes (!!!!) records that scored a little lower than 8.2.
So fun fact- I think “Video Games”- the consumerist indie record par exellence- is a nearly perfect song.
an interview by kyle kuchta
Lightyear is Lauren Zettler’s most recent musical endeavor. Rooting itself in dreamy electro-pop, Lightyear’s EP All of the Miles is Zettler’s first step into embodying a new sound. The Brooklyn-based, Carmel, Indiana native talks a bit about her fresh start as Lightyear. KK: What were you doing musically before Lightyear? LZ: I was writing and performing music under my name, Lauren Zettler. It was more in the singer-songwriter vein of a girl with a guitar, and after a few years of that I got a little bored and decided to switch it up a bit. KK: Why the change in musical style? LZ: Honestly, there are just so many girls with guitars. And I wasn’t particularly prolific in that. I wasn’t the best, and I wasn’t having that much fun...so I start to explore other kinds of music and other kinds of instruments and writing. I needed a fresh breath of something
to remind me of why I was doing what I was doing in the first place. KK: Do you view Lightyear almost as an alternate persona? Or is it strictly just a venture into a different genre? LZ:It is a bit of an alternate persona, but it’s still me. There are risks I feel like I could take as Lightyear that I wouldn’t feel as comfortable with as Lauren Zettler....and it’s really fun to be able to go play a show and just be a little more anonymous, and say “I’m Lightyear, these are some songs,” instead of being Lauren Zettler. And changing my name made it much easier to slip into a slightly different genre. KK: Do you have a favorite song off of All of the Miles? LZ: I have favorite parts about all of them, especially when I pay close attention to all of the individual musical things that are happening. Today I’d say my favorite is “When You’re Alone”, but tomorrow I might say something different. KK: While recording All of the Miles, did you have a different set of musical influences (lyrical, musical, etc) than what influenced you in your other work? LZ: I did. I tried hard before recording this project to listen to music I hadn’t really listened to before, to try and find influences I hadn’t used before. I listened to a lot of Metric. I wanted to try and be influenced by things outside of my usual box so that I could try and push myself creatively more than I had before. KK: All of the Miles, to me, sounds dreamy and almost cinematic. That being said, is there anything visually that influences your music, both Lightyear and your previous work? LZ: When I started working on All of the Miles, I knew I wanted it to feel like a landscape. That’s really the best way I could describe it - I wanted it to feel really deep and tactile, kind of like you could swim through it. That’s the visual I had in my mind, I guess. When I listen to music, I like listen to it as loud as I possibly can, so that my body literally feels enveloped by it, like you can float in it. That’s what I think about when bringing the music to life. KK: Is Lightyear a one-time deal, or do you plan to release more music as Lightyear? LZ: I plan to release much more as Lightyear. I’d love to release a full-length at some point, but I’m hoping to at least release another EP this year. 5
this issue is brought to you by the new edition to the miscreant family.
Single of the
“Marielle” comes from the Market East’s new self-titled EP that is now available on their Bandcamp. With lovely, melodic harmonies and sweet, delicious lyrics; it is the Miscreant’s Single of the Week! 6
My Paper Notebook by eric vilas-boas
Imagine a world without paper. For one minute. Imagine a world where everything you read, you read on a screen, cheaply produced in Taiwan or China or wherever they mass-produce such things, exploiting the local population as they do. I can’t imagine a world where I don’t read on paper. I own a little notebook, that I keep everything in: thoughts, interviews, things to look up, inspirational notes to myself, assignments under a boldly and contemptuously scrawled and underlined “SHIT TO DO” column, crappy poetry no one will ever read but me and whoever pries it from my cold, dead fingers. Imagine a world where your whole life is extractable within a minute from a file on a server somewhere behind a locked door you can’t see. I love my little notebook: currently a miniature legal pad (although it’s taken on several forms before), with a brown cardboard back and white college-ruled paper, blue horizontal lines intersected a two red ones perpendicularly at the margin, and feeling and smelling of sweet inkladen paper. That’s right -- paper. My iPhone helps me call sources, schedule interviews, and receive emails from my various editors, but on that little notebook, striped along its top with a line of blue, I take down all my notes, my quotes, my pasta, sauce, and shopping-list oats. That notebook reminds me when I have to call my writers, check up on them and make sure they’re getting what my news website needs. My paper notebook is my rock and that’s why I can cover it, no matter what “it”may be -- a girlfriend crisis, some bullshit for that economics class, this very piece you’re reading now (I hope on paper), and, yes, also dinner. I can cook dinner, too. It’s got recipes that my iPhone couldn’t even dream of containing, because my Brazilian mother wrote them down in there, for me and no one else, and, yes, on paper, because she can’t use a computer. Imagine a world where every hundred-dollar organizational tool you buy will break at some point in the next three-to-five years. Imagine a world where the news websites, long since moved wholesale from print to digital, all go bust because no one will pay for what they can have elsewhere for free. Imagine a world where the hosting runs out, and all you’re left with are copies of old stories backed up on decaying hard drive after decaying hard drive, and are then lost to the world forever. Imagine a world where the hosting runs out, because you can’t pay the bills anymore, and all that’s left of your work is a GoDaddy page that says the domain is newly up for sale. Imagine a world where no one will remember the great work you did. My notebooks will last two-thousand years in ideal conditions. I like paper. 7
market east an interview by the miscreant
Lizzy and I have had the Market East’s EP on repeat since its release earlier this month. The Philly-based band has captured our hearts and our ears with their self-titled release, now available on their Bandcamp. Max Perla of the Market East answered some questions for this issue. Enjoy! TM: How did you guys meet, and when did you start playing together? Max Perla: Vincent and I have known each other since we were in grade school and have played in groups together since we were 13 years old. We met Kurt through the Philadelphia music scene and the three of us began hanging out a lot. We eventually decided to start a band that took a different approach, and had a different sound than anything we had ever worked on. It took a few years to really make it a serious project, but we really started working hard over the summer of 2011. TM: How would you describe the genre of music you guys make? MP: We were talking about this one day and mutually agreed that we are a “vocal group”. You could say we are an acoustic group, or a lo-fi group, or even a folk group, but the primary focus when writing the songs are the melodies and lyrics, hence, “vocal group”. TM: You guys have a pretty unique, minimalist sound. What inspired this aesthetic? MP: The songs were demoed using only an acoustic guitar, our voices, and minimal percussion. We really loved the way the demos sounded, so we figured why try to fix what isn’t broken, and leave it with minimal instrumentation. We also felt that doing this gave us room to grow for future releases. TM: What do you all personally listen to that you draw from for Market East? MP: Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, and The Byrds are major influences. TM: Where does your name come from? MP: Market East is a train station in our native city of Philadelphia. Kurt and I had the 8
name before we even had the band. TM: Each track from your EP is named for a different girl. Who are all these ladies you’re writing about? MP: All of the songs are based off of real things we’ve felt or experienced, but we decided going in that every song would be named after a different girl. TM: Where did you guys record the EP? MP: The EP was recorded in a city apartment in Philadelphia. Given the minimal sound, we felt that doing it in an apartment (with the windows open, no less) would almost be an instrument unto itself. TM: Do you guys have a full-length planned in the near or distant future? MP: We have begun writing some songs for a full length, but there is no definitive timetable in place yet. TM: Talk about some of your experiences playing shows with the Market East. MP: Playing shows with Market East is so great because it is so simple. If there’s a PA, no PA, nothing can really phase us. Because it’s really just a guitar and vocals, we can show up almost anywhere and play for people. TM: What’s your favorite place to play in your base of Philadelphia? MP: It’s great to knock back a few drinks and play at Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar. Always a good time there. TM: Talk about the EP release party! When/where/etc? MP: The record release party is at Kung Fu Necktie on 1248 North Front Street in Philadelphia, PA 19122-4602. The date is Friday, January 27th, 2012. $8, 8:00 PM, 21 to enter. TM: What else does the future hold for you guys? MP: I think we all are really excited to keep writing and growing as musicians. It will be exciting to see the growth of the sound of the band as we write more complex and challenging arrangements. We’ve left ourselves with nowhere to go but up.
Album Review: Something by Chairlift rating: 6.5/10 by jen Littman Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly are back with Something to claim their spot amongst eighties inspired synth pop bands. They’re super hip and from Brooklyn. Groundbreaking stuff. Against my first instincts, the duo’s sophomore effort, released under Columbia Records, proves to be a surprisingly standout album. They certainly picked the right producer, making good use of London-based Dan Carey. Carey has worked with Kylie herself and his mastering is an integral part of what makes this album work. With Carey and their new noise-infused sound, Chairlift has made a relatively smooth transition into the genre. Specifically for Polachek, whose celestial voice delivers thoughtful lines of poeticism and often humour. Something pretty successfully emits much of the sentimentalism that defined the eighties. The playful opening tune, “Sidewalk Safari” is almost spooky with its sadistic lyrics and climbing and falling synth riffs. It makes sense for a band that originally set out to make music for haunted houses. However, the pieces to follow take off in a more traditional course and coerce into a sense of understated vulnerability in “I Belong In Your Arms” and slow burner “Cool As A Fire.” “I Belong In Your Arms” is a breathless and desperate romp through young love that is almost triumphant in its tone. It further feeds the album’s eighties authenticity as “Ghost Tonight” demonstrates an almost embarrassing display of crooning woah’s and oo’s. “Amanaemonesia,” seemingly a Lisztomania rip-off, is actually a multi-faceted satirical piece, shining a light on today’s over-medicated hyperactive sideshow youth. The single begins with a predictable dance-ability that evolves into a post-punk minimalist gem, and with a message too! “Amanaemonesia” has been recognized, and rightfully so, for its otherworldly music video featuring interpretive dance by Polachek. The album seems to be making a turn for the worst as tracks “Met Before” and “Turning” prove to be too ambient to grasp and altogether forgettable. The group makes a last minute recovery with closing track “Guilty As Charged.” The song, perhaps my favorite overall, is hauntingly industrial and minimalist with a heart-breaking chorus and a slightly fetishist hook. Lyrics, “If I gave you what you’re asking for/ well you wouldn’t want it anymore,” are destructive with Polachek’s effervescent vocals that are piercing through Kraut-like instrumentals. Something is Chairlift’s first album under a major label and it is refreshing to see them use those resources to their advantage. At this rate, I don’t suspect Chairlift will be blurring into the noisy background of Brooklyn anytime soon.
I know nothing by miss liz kenny
I will openly to admit to everyone, at any time, on any day, that I know nothing. I’m wise beyond my years; yet, I know nothing. I’m 21 and simply just wise enough to realize that this is just the beginning to a life of learning many “how to”s. There was a night my neighbors and I decided to “stoop it” outside of our apartment building; you know, sit on the stoop over a powwow as we sipped our drinks. We also brought a toy of ours out on the stoop with us that night and offered turns to passerbys heading back from whatever weekend parties. Most of the groups looked at us as if we had three eyes. We just took it as- they didn’t quite understand the good hospitality policy we’ve acquired. Yet, one guy… one kid, accepted our offer, took his turn and sat with us on the stoop. A friend of mine insisted the kid tell us all about himself. The kid began listing his major, dorm, yada, yada, yada; essentially, facts of no interest and facts only freshmen feel they are required to recite. My friend then cut the kid off. My friend then asked him to actually tell us about himself. The kid stopped for a second, confirmed to us that he was a freshman here, and then told us he’s spent the past semester (his first as a college student) figuring his life out. He was a good kid, we did want to listen to the rest of what he had to say; however, being Juniors here, we felt compelled to cut him off and tell him news that he probably didn’t expect to hear from us “upperclassmen.” Each one of us on the stoop nodded along with the kid, told him we were in that same position freshman year, and the key fact that we’re still in that “figuring shit out” phase, even to this day. I always say that my friends and I were such babies when we were freshmen in college, and continue to say that about each freshman class following us every fall. On the other hand, I also realize that in a few more years I’ll be saying the same about this time frame of my life. College years feel like decades, with all of the experiences you go through, and everything you learn- whether it be academically, socially, or what-have-you. And yet, with each year that passes, I continue to inform myself I know nothing. I know more than the year before, more than even the day before; but, I still don’t know enough to confidently say I know anything about the paths of my life, aside from what is behind me. That is what youth is. Treasure this phase of “knowing nothing,” and don’t overanalyze it by trying to map out your whole future ahead. So, admit you know nothing with a smile on your face and look at the future as millions of learning experiences you won’t get anything out of until you step out of your comfort zone and give it all a helluva shot. 11
AN INTERVIEW WITH BALANCE & COMPOSURE by matt boswell
Balance and Composure is an alternative/pop-punk band from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. They have two EP’s out and a split with the band Tiger’s Jaw. They released their full length, Separation, on No Sleep Records last year. MB: Let’s just start off with you guys introducing yourselves, tell us what you do in the band, and what your favorite childhood TV show was Jon Simmons: I’m Jon, I sing and play guitar. My favorite childhood show was Boy Meets World Erik Peterson: I’m Erik, I play guitar and Full House was my favorite. Andrew Slaymaker: I’m Andy, I play guitar, and my favorite childhood show would have to be…I don’t know. Step By Step. Matthew Warner: I’m Matt, I play bass, and my favorite childhood show was Doug. MB: Doug was definitely my favorite growing up. Bailey Van Ellis: I’m Bailey, I play drums, and I love Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Jon: Yeah, Bailey is a modern day Mr. Rogers. MB: So, you guys just released a new album, Separation, three days ago. How are you feeling about it?
Andy: Diggin’ it. Pretty great. Jon: It feels great to have a “real record” out. MB: Yeah, this is your first full-length right? You have a split and two EP’s? Jon: Yeah MB: I was wondering how you came up with the album and then the album artwork itself. Jon: Well, the album artwork we were looking on the internet for someone who does artwork and we found this guy, John Turner from England, and we liked his stuff. He’s done stuff for other bands we’ve seen before, but we really wanted him to do our artwork. We named it Separation because that’s a recurring theme throughout the record. Not every song, but most songs talk about how separation is a part of your life with anything. It’s what you’ve grown up with and then separating from that and separating ourselves from our peers and doing something different by touring and playing music across the world. It’s just something everyone
has to go through. I figured it’s a cool album name. MB: Yeah, that’s deep. So were there any bands that really influenced this album compared to any of your albums in the past? Erik: Nirvana influenced this album. A lot of people said they hear Nirvana in this record. I dunno why, but I guess it works. Jon: I mean for this record, there wasn’t really a band we were influenced by really. Andy: We just kind of wrote every song just the way we wanted to write it and if it sounds like another band, it wasn’t intentional. It’s just what we think sounds cool. MB: Yeah, You guys definitely have your own unique sound and while listening to Separation I thought that it definitely sounds like a “Balance and Composure record.” It isn’t like, “Balance and Composure playing such and such band’s songs.” I was just wondering if there was any one who you’ve been listening to that you really try to draw influence from. Jon: Definitely 90’s bands like Nirvana and Sunny Day Real Estate, Neutral Milk Hotel, Smashing Pumpkins. Matt: We like different vibes to an album, but we weren’t like, “We’re gonna take a Sunny Day Real Estate vibe and make it ours”.
Erik: La Dispute Jon: Yeah, there are a lot of bands we want to tour with. MB: So where is your favorite place to play, whether it’s a city or a certain venue? Matt: First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. MB: Yeah, you guys are from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, right? Erik: Yeah. Jon: That’s like the main venue for our thing. We saw so many shows there growing up, and it’s a really small venue. Bailey: It’s the hometown jacks. Jon: (laughs) Yeah, and we got to play there once. It was awesome. Bailey: Austin is pretty crazy too. Matt: Michigan too. Michigan is very cool and everyone there is really nice. Bailey: Florida. But we don’t go there enough. MB: Have you guys played in St. Louis before? Jon: No, I don’t think we ever have. We’re very excited to tonight though.
MB: Yeah. So apart from those bands, what else have you guys been listening to lately? Jon: Everything. Title Fight. Pick up their new record, Shed. Cold Caves, the new Light Years record, Manchester Orchestra their new album is freaking great. Matt: Yeah, May is a good month for music.
MB: So, what are your thoughts on the current music scene? Jon: It depends. There are a lot of really good bands out there and there are some horrible bands out there. But right now I feel like there a lot of great bands which is awesome. Andy: 2011 is a good year for music. Lot of good records coming out.
MB: So you guys are on the road right now with The Dear Hunter and Dredg. How’s this tour been going so far? It’s gotta be pretty cool to be playing with veterans like these guys. Jon: It’s definitely cool, and I’m really glad they took us out. It’s different though, we’re used to touring with more “rockier” bands, but this is awesome. Totally different crowd.
MB: Definitely. I know you guys have a Facebook, a Twitter, and a Tumblr. How important is it for you guys to keep up with these social networking sites? Erik: It’s cool to keep in touch with people who like your music. Jon: Yeah, it’s way easier now just to post something and let people know about a show or whatever coming up.
MB: Yeah, like you said this tour is really different. I think it’s really cool that your band can play with this wide range of bands from The Dear Hunter to Tiger’s Jaw to Touché Amore, but who’s been your favorite band to tour with? Jon: This band called Man Overboard from New Jersey. Andy: They were with us on our first tour with Transit. Erik We’ve done like 7 tours with them after that one. Jon: They’re just the funnest group of guys to tour with. MB: What’s one other band that you haven’t toured with that you would really, really like to? Jon: Nirvana. (Laughs). Nah, there’s a lot. I want to tour with Manchester Orchestra, Circa Survive, Title Fight again, Tiger’s Jaw. Brand New.
MB: Yeah, I definitely think it’s like the modern equivalent of a street team. Ok. Last question. Who is one historical figure you’d like to fight? Jon: Christopher Columbus. Matt: I’d fight Thomas Edison, why not. I’ll knock his lights out. Bailey: I’d fight George Bush. Andy: For some reason, Abraham Lincoln is stuck in my head. I guess him. Erik: General Sherman from Sherman’s March. That was messed up. MB: So there you have it. Thanks guys for coming in, it was awesome talking to you.
Even David Fincher Can Slum it Sometimes by sir lance st. laurent There’s a reason that the process of turning a book into a film shares its name with a Darwinian principle. In adaptation, both biological and cinematic, only the strong survive. It’s a nuanced process that can only be accomplished with an exceptionally talented screenwriter and a visionary enough director to justify the work’s existence as a film. David Fincher (not to mention screenwriter Steve Zallian) is the kind of guy who can pull this off. His last three films have been adaptations of books, and two of those are bonafide masterpieces. The third, Benjamin Button, is, in my opinion, the most underrated film of his career. None of the texts that Fincher has dealt with have had the cultural cachet of Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. The books are international bestsellers have already been adapted to films in their native Sweden. More than anything that Fincher has dealt with, people know these stories. Unfortunately, therein lies the problem. These stories just aren’t that good. Now, I must be completely forthright, I have never read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or either of its sequels, but from what I understand, they are pulpy, fun thrillers with little substance. They’re the kind of books that people who think they are above James Patterson. That’s not a deal breaker; Mario Puzo’s Godfather novel was considered fairly trashy in its day, and we all know how that film turned out. Surely if anyone could elevate this material, it is David Fincher. Does he succeed? Well, yes and no. On paper, everything about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo screams David Fincher. Gritty serial killer thriller with a journalistic bent; the synopsis alone sounds like a spiritual sequel to Seven or Zodiac. Visually speaking, the film reaches those heights with ease. Fincher makes Sweden into the cold, sterile, strikingly dark place we all know it is, and the editing is tight and thrilling. When the film relies on the power of his lens, it kicks fantastic amounts of ass, but the film narratively leaves quite a bit to be desired. The film suffers from a terrible case of “Harry Potter syndrome”. What I mean is that, like some of the early Potter films, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo sacrifices narrative cohesion and momentum for the sake of squeezing in every great moment from the book. This is exceedingly obvious even to someone who’s never read the book. This leaves the film a gorgeous mess, trying (and ultimately failing) to balance three different plots. The central plot of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fairly standard murder mystery. It’s fairly shallow stuff, but Fincher handles it with aplomb. The real thematic meat and potatoes of the film (what little there is to be had) comes from Rooney Mara as the damaged, gothy Lisbeth Salander. Mara’s performance is easily the highlight of the film, and her subplot early in the film is one of its strengths. These two plots eventually become one, and they do so decently. The real problem is the third plot, which involves Mikael Blomkvist’s (Daniel Craig) journalistic career. The narrative is a complete drag and unfortunately it takes up the entirety of the film’s final twenty minutes. The mystery plot is concluded in a satisfyingly thrilling manner, but the film ends on a narrative wet fart. I feel it is worth noting that I actually quite liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Almost all of the problems I had with the film seemed minor as I was watching it, and it truly is a beauty to behold. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score is top-notch work, and the cast gives uniformly good performances. I feel as though this film had been made by someone else, I would be more willing to give it a pass. David Fincher is an undeniable genius, though. He is capable of great art that transcends genres. I hoped he could elevate this material to be worthy of him. Unfortunately, the best I can say is that he didn’t let the material drag him down. Call this one a swing and a miss.
THE RENEGADES #4: Review By Ibet Inyang
(The Renegades are Ibet Inyang and Jasmine Holloway)
The Renegades are back! And as promised, our new blog is up and kickin so check us out at therenegademusic.tumblr.com! But on the music tip, here’s a review of Koncept’s new album! Gone are the days that classic hip-hop songs were at the top of mainstream music charts. Not the ‘leggo’, ‘YOLO’ filled tunes that get plenty of airplay, but the simple mix of good beats, and solid rhymes with an actual message. Well, Brooklyn rapper Koncept is the solution to this problem. The up and coming rapper just released his debut album Awaken and its uplifting yet hard-hitting rhymes definitely put him on the list of artists to watch during 2012. Koncept is an emcee that’s been in the game since 2008 when he joined the rap group Brown Bag All Stars. Since then, he’s released two EPs, Playing Life and More than Meets the Eye and now in his debut album, Koncept gives his audience clever lyrics about his life and the world. Although he may have street cred in Brooklyn, Koncept has yet to break into the mainstream, which is why audiences will be pleasantly surprised at how good this album was. He got excellent production from Brown Bag All Stars members The Audible Doctor and J57 as well as Marink, Dj Goo, and Marco Polo and did collaborations with Soul Khan and Bad Meets Evil’s Royce Da 5’9. Not too shabby for a debut album. A lot of big hits nowadays have utilized sampling, from The Throne’s “Otis” to Common’s “Blue Sky,” and Koncept is no exception to the trend. He mixes the old and new in tunes like “Aspirations” when he samples The Chi-Lites’ “Give it Away,” samples Dusty Springfield’s “Let Me Get in Your Way,” in “The Crash,” which puts a new spin on his music by adding elements of soul and pop. However, in “October 10” the chorus and background music is some kind of tribal sounding chant, which as bizarre as it might sound, actually works. The only thing that didn’t work was that it they ended too soon; during some of the songs, the sample would start the song, then fade out and come back in. However, the stand out sample was one “What the World Needs Now is Love” by Jackie DeShannon in the song “The Only Thing.” First of all, the song puts a more street spin on the classic and talks about ‘the passion within’ and quite frankly, how dope he is. And his level of dope-ness is supported simply by his lyrics. Koncept, unlike some current mainstream rappers, actually had important things to talk about in songs, ranging from enjoying life in “Aspirations” to his life and family in “Save Me.” However, the stand out was definitely “The Crash.” On the surface, the song has a smooth and old school sounding beat and Koncept’s aggressive performance of the lyrics undoubtedly gives it a head-bobbing feel. But he touches on the human condition when he says “mistakes aren’t made when there’s meaning behind it/intentions are made when you see and you try it/sorry’s worth sh#@* when you believe and you’re lying”.” Music with a message, you can’t get much better than that. Koncept’s Awaken is a great album, especially for a debut; it has great production, wonderful collaborations with established artists such as Soul Khan and Royce Da 5’9, and even better lyrical content. Keep an eye out for Koncept; he’s got what it takes to really make a difference in this rap world we live in and maybe even ‘kill the game,’ if you will. 15
Top Ten Bands I Want to Hear New Music From in 2012 a quick list by ian teti
1. Motion City Soundtrack 2. Bad Books 3. Modest Mouse 4. Andrew Bird 5. Dr. Dog 6. Circa Survive 7. The Shins 8. Grizzly Bear 9. Miike Snow 10. fun.
GODOT poetry by josh woodcock
Two men by a tree. Three “men” and a “lady” in a café. Both do nothing, say nothing, mean nothing. They wait forever. There isn’t a beginning, middle or even end. Ends are hard to do, So they wait. It never comes.
album review: nightdriving by Brandon Linn by andrew mcclain In November of 2011, Brandon Linn released a full-length album on his Bandcamp called Nightdriving. This album is a product of about two years’ work on Linn’s part and was recorded in a variety of different places. Nightdriving is a collection of synth-driven pop tunes with a lot of heart and sincerity. The rich, bright production is mostly electronic, recalling The Postal Service, or, maybe more accurately, Hot Chip. And like those acts, Linn understands that it is crucial to bring a strong human element to electronic pop. Each song is well-written, and could hypothetically stand alone with just Linn and guitar. I’d be curious to hear this, actually, though I imagine I’d prefer to listen to the produced versions because they add so much depth to the arrangement. I think electronic music gets a bad rap because of its tendency to rely on production as a crutch for other shortcomings. It gets abused in an effort to make something “flawless” by way of technology. It only gets interesting when you have an artist like Linn, who views electronic production as a tool and as a vehicle for adding volume and breadth to his musical vocabulary, rather than a means to making sterile, technically perfect music. And it’s a clever mixture that Linn comes out with, because it’s not all synths and drum machines. He incorporates acoustic and electric guitar with nerve and grace, turning them into samples with pianos and found percussion (here, I’m talking specifically about the track “September,” which is one of my favorites, at least production-wise). Linn succeeds with unlikely mixtures. Nightdriving shouldn’t work on paper because of its diverse collection of sounds, styles and influences. If someone had told me all the different sounds this album manages to cram into its relatively short runtime, I would have had very low expectations, but it finds a very comfortable common thread through Linn’s voice, which sounds at first like a fairly conventional pop voice, but wavers in a way that gives it character and sets it apart. From the bedroom pop arpeggiated synths on the opening track, “Mrs. Mystery,” to the R&B ballad beat on “Tokyo,” you never really know what Linn is going to pull out next. Also, visit Linn’s Bandcamp and listen to him pull apart and reassemble Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” into something totally new, yet very loyal to the original in an odd way. There’s nothing unnecessary in here. One of the worst trends in modern music is this desire to get rid of all the “white spaces” in music; to cover every second in guitar or reverb, and this often drowns out a sense of purpose. Here, Linn works with a variety of self-made samples, which he moves in and out with a great sense of purpose, and the listener can easily disentangle each of them and hear for themselves why he put it there. In stripping away the noise, he creates something that can’t be called minimal, for all its variety and depth, but is minimal in a sense that it is honest and direct. It doesn’t couch any weaknesses in reverb and overdubs. It’s fun to just sit and try to guess which instruments are synthesized and which ones are acoustic. Of course, it really doesn’t matter, because they’re all just part of Linn’s expansive palette.
TOP 10 PLAYLIST OF THE WEEK Across The Pond H.Q. (A high spec apartment in a recently gentrified area of East London – ghetto.)
Some old, some new; some Yankee and some penned by us Europeans (Don’t we sound cultured? We’re not.) far across the sea. Y’all should re-embrace old favourites and give the newbies a chance. Wu Lyf – Spitting Blood (Well OBVIOUSLY!) Sunday Girl – Where Is My Mind? (Lyrically questionable, but the piano and strings are ultra easy on the ears.) Francoise Hardy – Les Temps De L’Amour (Yes, this choice was influenced by the trailer for Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ – thanks for pointing that out.) The Maccabees – Grew Up At Midnight (Marginally disappointed by this Brighton band’s latest libations yet this cutie is definitely the best of a mediocre bunch.) And So I Watch You From Afar – 7 Billion People All Alive At Once (never did I think it possible to sum up the feeling of rush hour on the London transport system in a piece of instrumental post rock.) Elton John – Someone Saved My Life Tonight (You’re not here to judge.) Desert Hearts – Gravitas (If only to introduce the Northern Irish-ism “melt my head” (i.e. ‘It’s annoying me’) to American vocabulary.) Withered Hand – Religious Songs (Any man who openly admits to masturbating on someone else’s furniture gets the A-OK in my book.) Oliver Tank – Grains of Sand (Pure synthesized sass.) Vib Gyor – Take Cover (Anyone who’s recently watched The Big C will get me.)
Listen and learn, my friends! 18
From Across the Pond: GABRIEL BRUCE
by queen karen edith millar
Don’t deny it ladies (and gents); we all love a good gravelly voice once in a while and although the singing styles of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen et al. may have been limited in terms of popularity as of late, it’s hard to deny, that when compared to the falsetto wailing favored by innumerable indie outfits, we are more than willing to welcome this hunky chunk of baritone to the London music scene with open arms and hungry ears. Crafting organ based music vaguely reminiscent of forced outings to church in our youth, Bruce writes melodies and lyrics that would appease even the most vengeful of gods. Debut single “Sleep Paralysis” is an ode to the in between of our dreams, neither complete consciousness nor sleep – ‘I’ve got this feeling that we’re dead and there’s nothing in my arms.’ I didn’t think it was possible to sum up this particular state quite so poetically; my initial reaction is normally “holy shit” but thankfully for his writing material, this Londoner, at least, remains marginally calmer. Having already started to make topic for much discussion amongst the more underground critics in the city, expect to see Mr. Gabriel B. surface stateside sometime in the near future; and because The Miscreant is so good to y’all you can say you “liked him before he was popular.” Let’s just hope he wakes up by then. 19
WANT MORE MISCREANT? Happy New Year, my beautiful miscreants! Hope 2012 has treated you well so far; I know we here at the Miscreant are super excited for the year that lies ahead. Keep your eyes to our Facebook page for updates on what we’re got in the works! Anyways, as always, I would really like to give a special thanks to everyone involved in this issue. We have a lot of new miscreants coming to write for us and it’s super exciting! Also, a very, very special thank you to Market East for being our featured artist in this issue. Their music is lovely and go check out their Facebook page and Bandcamp site for more on this great band! And now, my friends, send your album reviews, lists of your favorite records to make out to, stories about your parents’ awesome music tastes, etc (as well as any questions about submitting and how to get involved) to: email@example.com! Love, the miscreant