Monthly Archives: February 2011

Hip Hop Monday #7: ‘sGucci

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for hip hop. Next Saturday, there’s a Gucci Mane-themed night on in the Bernard Shaw. I was going to do a Gucci-themed piece, because Gucci is mental and often deadly, but it seemed better to just ask the guy putting the night on to do it. So here’s an out of season guest post, by Orlando.

When he told me about the night, I asked him if anyone in Dublin cared about Gucci Mane. “They will,” he replied. Evangelism.

“Dear Friends of Karl’s Blog,

My name is Orlando. I really like all sorts of music, but hip-hop music specifically has been a big interest of mine for a considerable amount of time. I would be mostly interested in Golden age stuff, but recently mostly due to the fact I have been spending some time in America (where it is bigger than pop music) I have been developing an interest in new rap artists like Rick Ross and Mannie Fresh.

The appreciation I have for this style of music is not comparable to how I feel about hip-hop music in general. The feeling that these “rap” artists give me as they arrogantly drawl over the sub kick drums, and pitch shifting snare rolls is far more superficial than anything I have ever gotten from the talented rappers I have held in such high esteem for the past years. But, at the same time I enjoy the way this music makes me feel. I can identify that the feeling I am getting from this music is hardly down to the lyrical content of the artist or the talent of the producer making the track, it is more down to the attitude, image and tone of the track.

So, keeping this is mind, Gucci Mane is with out a doubt my favorite of all these rappers. He has a complicated and interesting persona as an artist and I can honestly say that he enthralls me. I want to celebrate him as person, not just his music.

This Saturday in the Bernard Shaw, will probably be the best possible low budget salute to Gucci Mane imaginable. Gucci Mane Vs. The World is going to not only have every second track as Gucci Mane, but the rest of the music will be made up of some of the best new and gangsta rap tracks you have ever heard. My great friend Kathi is going to be painting ice-creams onto peoples faces. On top of that we will be showing the Gucci Mane Raw Report and there will be a contest to win a 1017 Brick Squad T-shirt. So, hopefully I will see you there to enjoy some mind numbingly stupid lyrics and erratic hi-hat patterns.

I would also love it if the people coming would tip their cap to the man, by donning “street threads”, anything from a new era cap to a grill for the boys to fake nails and weaves for the chicks.

Anyway that’s everything,
Thank you,

Orlando.”

‘ssssssssssssssssssssGucci.

Lo-Fi Friday #4: Two Dublin Lo-Fi Things.

This is an easy one.

Ginnels album came out last week. Ginnels is Mark Chester, bassist in No Monster Club and guitarist in grand Pocket Orchestra. His album’s very good. A Ginnel is another term for a snicket or a flutester, according to Urban Dictionary.

New Squarehead single’s coming out on Richter Collective. Here it is. It’s called Midnight Enchilada. Squarehead’s called Squarehead because Roy’s uncle used to call him that. He later found out it’s also a term of mild abuse for German people.

Hip Hop Monday #6: Trinity Ball

The line-up for the Trinity Ball was ‘announced’ last night by the unusual method of someone finding the YouTube teaser video of it a day ahead of time. In my capacity as co-editor of the Ball Guide, which Trinity News makes every year, I’ve known it a while. And I’ve been silently giddy about it for a while, too. In fact, astute social network watching even led someone to guess the headliner, because when I’m giddy, I cannot avoid typing lyrics to stuff WITH CAPS LOCK ON and posting videos and waxing nostalgic about stuff I really liked when I was a younger scut.

There’s loads of British hip hop, which is nice.

I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure Original Pirate Material was, if not the first, then one of the first non-minirocker-acceptable albums I ever properly loved. It was definitely the first hip hop album I bought, having wallbounced to NOFX while my peers drew hash leaves on their pencil cases and listened to 2001.

The Streets – Geezers Need Excitement

If you’re rolling around your school with your Junior uniform augmented with a dog chain and really poorly manufactured Pennywise t-shirt as an extra layer, it’s not likely that you’re going to be able to open your mind enough to relate to first person stories about fucking bad bitches and still being Dr. Dre. Mike Skinner’s easy, non-aggressive flow, full of this new but vaguely familiar English slang, was instantly accessible. The first album was all pluck and aspiration, with songs about being late to meet your girlfriend to balance the ones about owing someone money ‘subbing scunny’. The second one, A Grand Don’t Come For Free, is softer around the edges, less rappy, and it got a broader audience, but it does feature probably the best Streets song, a ridiculously affecting, almost conversational walkthrough of taking pills while his friend kisses his girlfriend. You can hear the thought process change from glum and worried to ‘on pills’ through the verses. It’s serious stuff.

The Streets – Blinded By The Lights

I even liked the third album, which everyone hates. I thought it was funny.

The Streets – Two Nations

The fifth album, Computers and Blues, rap-wise, is the best since Original Pirate Material, successfully managing to regain the unique perspective and expression he had on that first record but gradually lost when fame changed his lifestyle and he descended a little into self-parody. This is my favourite track, not least because of the line “weed makes me not wanna be in new places… fight it”. Which can be a problem for people, I hear.

The Streets – Outside Inside

As well as The Streets, there are three of the rappers from Tinchy Stryder’s ‘hey look at UK rap’ anthem Game Over – Professor Green, Devlin and Chipmunk. Here’s Game Over again, because it’s still great. Professor Green’s is the second verse, and it’s my favourite. “I could tear apart MCs but I’d rather read a book on childcare by Kerry Katona.” Devlin’s is fourth, the ridiculously aggressive, metrically loose one. It has a curious line about making someone “turn on his own team like an Irish defender”, which is either a reference to Roy Keane (who is obviously not a defender), a really obscure reference, or some kind of attempt to imply that Irish people are incredibly stupid/treacherous. Headscratcher. Chipmunk’s last of the guests. He is soft as butter at rapping, and in the video he wears a body-warmer with a hood. He is for teenage girls to listen to on their phone on the bus. Devlin’s also kind of dodgy. Green’s good though.

Tinchy Stryder feat. Giggs, Professor Green, Tinie Tempah, Devlin, Example and Chipmunk

Finally, meriting an honorary mention by vaguely being British urban music, is Katy B, whose Benga-produced Katy On A Mission from last summer is a serious ripper. Obvious highlight of this video is 2.50 when the DJs do synchronised body snap things at the last drop. Dope ass shit.

Other people playing: Simian Mobile Disco, Rubberbandits, Fight Like Apes, Alex Metric, Jessie J, more. Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, but if you are not a Trinity student or alumnus, you are going to need a time machine, a friend or some ingenuity. “Private party” and all that. I’ll post the Ball Guide when it’s done, it should look nice and fancy. Apologies for Trinity-centric post, but that’s where 80% of my energies are directed on a daily basis, so doing this the once seems defensible.

The Year. Wrap-Up.

Well, that took longer than usual. Here is the list, at a glance. I got into a lot of hip hop very late last year and would like to honorably mention Danny Brown especially, and also Tyler, the Creator whose album was released on Christmas Day 2009 and would have been top 5 had I been less strict with my own rules.

1. Wavves – King of the Beach
2. Best Coast – Crazy For You
3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
4. So Cow – Meaningless Friendly
5. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
6. Caribou – Swim
7. Earl Sweatshirt – Earl
8. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
9. Xiu Xiu – Dear God I Hate Myself
10. Adebisi Shank – This Is The Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank
11. Porn On Vinyl – Old Folks’ Home
12. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
13. Future Islands – In Evening Air
14. Beach House – Teen Dream
15. Of Montreal – False Priest
16. Vampire Weekend – Contra
17. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
18. Liars – Sisterworld
19. These New Puritans – Hidden
20. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
21. Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts
22. Domo Genesis – Rolling Papers
23. Tinchy Stryder – Third Strike
24. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise
25. Salem – King Night

Irish: 12% (2009: 12%, 2008: 12%)
By bands I was already into before 2010: 44% (2009: 36%, 2008:40%)
Saw live: 40% (2009: 64%, 2008: 48%)
Reviewed for print: 48%, (2009: 52%, 2008: 32%)
Interviewed for print: 24% (2009: 20%. 2008:12%)

Average Pitchfork rating of top 25*: 8.33 (2009: 8.03)
Average Pitchfork rating of top 5**: 8.75 (2009: 8.38)
Average Metacritic score of top 5***: 8.03 (2009: 8.08)
Overlap with top 25 of NME’s 50 Best Albums: 28% (2009: 36%)
Overlap with top 25 of Pitchfork’s 50 Best Albums: 24% (2009: 28%)
Overlap with top 25 of State’s 75 Best Albums: 32% (2009: 28%)

*Pitchfork did not review six of the albums: Tinchy Stryder, Domo Genesis, Porn On Vinyl, Adebisi Shank, Earl Sweatshirt and So Cow
** Pitchfork did not review So Cow
*** Metacritic did not register scores for So Cow

And here’s some OF, buttercup.

The Year. 1. Never gonna stop me.

1. Wavves – King of the Beach [US]

I’m having severe difficulty writing about this album. My initial instinct was just to write “hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit”. But it seemed like future me would be disappointed with that, and I’m basically in this to serve the needs of future me. So I have to try.

Considered a few angles. The “emerging from a cloak of fuzz” angle. The “response to Primavera meltdown” angle. The “becoming the reincarnation of Jay Reatard by hiring his band” angle. These are all legitimate narratives. But they’re not the reason this is the best album of 2010. It’s really hard to explain why it is, in any even pseudo-journalistic terms. These are songs you want to shout. They are songs you want as your entrance music when you go to do anything at all. They make you want to do stuff just so you can do it while listening to them.

Invincibility has been a sunken theme in Wavves songs since the beginning, but it’s right above board here. The first song is King of the Beach itself, which features Nathan shouting “NEEEEVER GONNA STOP ME!” over hard-edged guitar pop that basically forms its own nerd mosh pit just by existing. In hip hop, if you want to claim the crown, you just keep calling yourself the best, and you’re entered into the competition. In indie rock, it’s a little more embarrassing to be positive about yourself. But this is the high water mark of all that lo-fi and surf pop and garage rock that California’s been pumping out for the past few years. And if there was gonna be an equivalent title to Greatest Rapper Alive, it’d probably be King Of The Beach.

That celebratory, fuck you sense is in everything on the album. On Idiot, when he’s saying “I bet you laugh right behind my back” the music lets you know the exact nuances of how he’s feeling about that. Take On The World is actually about taking on the world. Even more chilled out (i.e. stonery) things like Convertible Balloon (about riding around in a convertible balloon) and Linus Spacehead are infused with it. It’s always “me” in the lyrics, and the “me” is railing against doubters, haters, restraints, himself, everything. You can hear it as Nathan, or you can do what inevitably ends up happening and hear “me” as yourself and use your newfound power to go out and fuck shit up, at least theoretically.

Songs, in some way, are the sound of the inside of a person’s head, and Wavves songs sound like skateboarding fast, being high, being happy, being unhappy and just generally chasing excitement. It’s easy to do guitar pop, but the curve is steep when it comes to actually doing it well. Every smacked guitar chord on King of the Beach expresses something. Nothing drags out, and the stonery in-between times that were essentially just computer ghost noise on the first two LPs are now cloud-surfing psychedelic pieces, still hooked on weirder sounds than the pop hits, but now with choruses too. Like Bobby said in the Nylon interview, “the existence of Animal Collective, the internet and a fucked up planet has to feed into something.” It fed into a lot of things. What Wire insists on calling Hypnagogic pop and we HRO alums call chillwave, for example. Or the fact that every band has a table of toys now. But also it eats into music like this, ending up as songs like Baseball Cards and Mickey Mouse.

But really what I want to say still is “hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit.” It’s melody to begin with, and then the option of force. When it’s not used, you get the weirder, Animal Collective/60s-influenced stuff. When it’s used, you get Post-Acid or Idiot, string-breaking chord riffs and shout along verses. But either way you get melody.

Wavves – Post-Acid

Wavves – Baseball Cards

Lo-Fi Friday #3: Two Chord Songs

A big part of the mythology of punk music is that you only need three chords to start a band and make good songs. Dm7? F9? F#m7sus4? Who do you think you are, dude, Steve Vai? However, by the logic that songs with three chords are better than, for example, songs with twenty chords, songs with two chords are proportionally better again.

Half Japanese – 1,000,000 Kisses

This entire post is basically an excuse to post this Half Japanese song that I really like. I’d heard of them before, but it was the serendipitous ‘two unexpected mentions in a week’ that actually motivated me to go through the stress and strain of googling, clicking, waiting 60 seconds, clicking again and un-RARing an album. One was on the Facebook page for the YXIMALLOO gig (which I didn’t go to), in the form of a comparison. “A Japanese Half Japanese”. I thought that was funny. The second was on Cinnamon Songs, a ‘song a day’ type Irish blog I really like, clicking tags arbitrarily.

Anyway, this song has two chords. They are G and Am, as far as I can tell. They repeat in the same rhythm for the entire song. It is still a really, really good song. The opening lines are some of my favourite from any song: “It didn’t work out as I had planned it/But it did work better than I thought it would.” There’s just something really telling in the delivery.

Velvet Underground – Heroin

This song also has two chords. They are C# and F#, I think. It is by little known Lower East Side art rock band the Velvet Underground. It’s a good example of how a song can be based on basically nothing, the most common and simple chord change in pop music, and still end up sounding like a huge long journey.


Moldy Peaches – Anyone Else But You

This is another little known Lower East Side art rock band, probably. I don’t think the song has been in any movies. It’s really nice. The chords, by my reckoning, are G and Cmaj7.

Galaxie 500 – Snowstorm

Dean Wareham from this band is playing in the Workman’s Club tonight with no support, starting at 8.15pm. This song has two chords. They are G(maj7) and D. It is amongst the saddest songs ever written.

None of these songs are fuzzy, but so what. Doing some subtle canon-building here.