Author Archives: Chase Martin

My Disappearance

Hey guys!

So, it’s been well over a month since there have been any new posts on here.

I’m sorry about that.

But in the last month I moved from Los Angeles to Seattle, and my life has been super crazy.

Things are now starting to slow down, so SiA will make a comeback.

There are an ass-load of new releases in May, and I’ll will be on top of them.  New LCD Soundsystem (which is great,) new National, Dead Weather, Flying Lotus (can it topple the brilliant “Los Angeles?”), new Broken Social Scene…….whew, I’m exhausted.

Much love to all the readers.  I’ll see you guys next week!

-Chase

Review: Gorillaz “Plastic Beach”

Devotees to SiA will note that I am a huge Damon Albarn fan. I inch closer and closer to getting that Blur tattoo I’ve long debated. That said, I always take his more popular side-project, Gorillaz, somewhat lightly. Gorillaz is clearly his more electronic side, which I’ve always felt was not his strongest suit. However, every Goriallz LP always manage to leave me with a few songs that consistently come up in rotation. After the 2005 release of Demon Days, rumor had it that Gorillaz was only going to exist one more time, in a film no less. But here I am, holding another full-blown Gorillaz LP in 2010. While it may not be Albarn’s/Gorillaz’ most musical cohesive album to date, it certainly is the most adventurous and intricate since Blur’s 13 back in 1999.

To say that Plastic Beach may shock you at first is a serious understatement. The first time I put the album on, I sat on my floor, stunned for the first 15 minutes. A: I forgot Snoop Dogg was on the opening track B: It is so very different from previous Gorillaz efforts C: I was drinking my iced coffee too fast and may have suffered brain freeze. But really, Albarn really threw the world a curve with this album. From the opening funkadelic cut (“Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach”) to the oriental-stringed hip-hop (“White Flag”) and all the way in to the electronic-only groove that is “Glitter Freeze.” It took me a good 4 listens to really let these numbers sink in, because the shift can be a little hard to follow at first. Plastic Beach also marks the first Gorillaz album where previous Albarn projects start to combine. The previously mentioned “White Flag” clearly came after the Chinese opera he wrote the music for last year, and I mistook “On Melancholy Hill” for a Good, The Bad and The Queen b-side.

While I do applaud Gorillaz for not stepping back into the same sound that the previous albums carried, the variety carried on the 57 minutes of Plastic Beach is pretty much the weak link of the album. The complete tonal and instrumental shift that takes place song after song can make it a little difficult to sit through. By the time you reach the “meh” song that is “Sweepstakes,” Plastic Beach may have started to wash away from you. My first few listens, the final 20ish minutes were all a blur (no pun intended), as my brain started to simply tune it out. It took me several listens to really focus on the end of the record, even though I love “Plastic Beach” (feat. Clash-ites Paul Simonon and Mick Jones!!!). But the album does carry some great tunes with it: “Rhinestone Eyes,” “Empire Ants,” and “Broken” are insanely good.

To put it plainly, Plastic Beach is a bold Gorillaz album that has a jarring opening, a great middle and a distant close. And unlike previous efforts, there’s really no big singles, other than “Stylo,” to be found. And the only thing binding the album together is it’s very apparent environmental stand point. But I wouldn’t say the album is a failure, I quite enjoy/respect Plastic Beach more than any other Gorillaz release. It just took a lot of dedication and close listens to really sink in. Plus, it’s nice to hear Lou Reed’s voice again.

-Chase

Reviews: Hot Chip, Massive Attack and Charlotte Gainsbourg

This might be the point where I could point out that it’s been almost a month since I wrote an article on here. I thought about coming up with some excuse about my future move out of L.A, but in reality I’m just lazy. In real reality, I’ve been playing too much video games.

ANYWAY, I’m here now. February was a pretty good month for music. Actually 2010 has gotten off to a really strong start. If we keep up this pace, it’ll be as memorable a music year as 2007 (Radiohead, Panda Bear, LCD Soundsystem, Burial, etc). In an attempt to atone for my absence, here’s some blurbs about the note-worthy releases in the past month. (Videos below)

HOT CHIP “ONE LIFE STAND”
Hot Chip is one of those bands that has yet to make a bad album. One Life Stand is no exception, well…minus the album cover. The record stands out as one of they’re brightest yet. From the bro-mance anthem of “Brothers” to the infectious “We Have Love,” the album just manages to keep you on your toes. The album’s closer, “Take It In,” is quite possibly the best track they’ve ever cut.
MASSIVE ATTACK “HELIGOLAND”
Seven freaking years. That’s how long I’ve waited for a follow-up to the underwhelming 100th Window. Heligoland is actually a decent return too. It may not be as strong as fellow trip-hoppers Portishead’s comeback 2 years ago, but the album is pretty trim. It’s closer to 1994’s Protection in it’s larger focus on instrumentation and subtle songwriting. But it’s a hearty welcome back with tracks like “Paradise Circus” and “Saturday Come Slow.”

CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG “IRM”

Charlotte’s first LP, 5:55, has simply sat on my shelf since the week it came out. Good news! IRM will not suffer the same fate. This time around she enlisted Beck to help her write the music. And the product is the best Charlotte Gainsbourg yet, and the best Beck album since Sea Change.

As previously mentioned, I am moving to Seattle in the next month, so the site may once again suffer. I’ll try my best to keep on top of things, but I like to disappoint. Until then: I’m working on the Joanna Newsom review (3 discs is a lot to take in), I’m taking in the new Gorillaz album right now, and James Mercer/Danger Mouse’s Broken Bells LP comes out next week. I’ll try to get reviews up for each within the next 2 weeks.

-Chase


Drivel: Netflix I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

I can admit, I generally a bit of a snob when it comes to “the arts.” I’m likely to refer to 80% of the population as philistines, while I sit on the floor of my living room, caressing the cover of my latest original-pressing vinyl purchase, that I probably spent countless days/months tracking down on the internet. I’m a rare breed. A coffee shop faithful, who winces at the thought of Bon Jovi or grinds my teeth when I hear the words “Jersey Shore” float through the air. When it comes to entertainment, I demand the best, and easily shit on all the rest. But in the dark corners of mind, lurks this Bizzaro Chase, who is out to damage my pointless “hipster” reputation. He’s killing me softly, and it usually involves a good amount of gore, bad dialogue, and a budget that almost never hits 7 digits.

My name is Chase Martin, and I’m a glutton for trash cinema.

I can look over my film collection, and generally be pleased with myself. Yes, I have numerous films featured in the Criterion Collection. And I wrote several papers in school defending the brilliance of French New Wave cinema or the techno-phobia of David Cronenberg. But scattered throughout my shelf sit nasty little titles that stink of betrayal. Older ones, like The Toxic Avenger, to the more recent Crank series. The most damning of them all, and the harbinger of my dark deeds, my 43 episode collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 sits there, reminding me of my handicap. These DVDs suggest a problem that dates back to the mid-90s. And it’s a problem that I’ve been rapidly embracing over the past few years. I can pinpoint it to the exact moment of my life: the day I signed up for Netflix.

In this age of digital distribution, demands are met instantly for little effort, and usually a cheaper price tag. I still prefer my music to be in physical format, and my books to take up space on an IKEA shelf. But Netflix’s ability to stream movies instantly to my TV and computer has brought upon my household a barrage of crap movies, usually viewed during the twilight hours of the morning. The ability to view movies like Jesus Christ: Vampire Slayer and Dumpster Baby an a button’s touch has caused me to re-evaluate myself as a “film graduate.” What kind of an intellect stays up until 2am watching a movie about a zombiefied killer turkey entitled Thankskilling? And this takes place on a regular basis. I watch more crap movies than “good” films these days. Sure, Netflix puts films like Fellini’s La Strada at my fingertips, but those same fingers can’t seem to pass up something called Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus.

Like any good addiction, I’m seeing it spiral out of my control. Sure, I argued with myself about it. It’s possible that I’m exposing myself to the bad in order to further appreciate the good. I’m going to extremes here. I’m overindulging on it. Maybe this is my way of keeping myself in check, or maybe Bizzaro Chase is slowly oozing to the surface. Either way, I can hear The Room beckoning me away from my computer for the 5th time.

You’re tearing me apart, Netflix!!!!!

-Chase (or Bizzaro Chase, it’s getting harder to tell)

News: New Gorillaz Album and Blur Documentary

If all goes according to plan, 2010 will belong to Damon Albarn. He almost conquered 2009 with the newly-reunited Blur taking the UK by storm, and playing several high quality live shows. And he helped to curate and score a unique opera based upon Chinese folklore, entitled Monkey: Journey To The West. But, if it sells as well as the previous album, the newly announced Gorillaz LP should bring him back into everyone’s mind on a global level. So, without further fanboy-ish gushing, let’s get down to the details.

The new Gorillaz album is entitled Plastic Beach and is set for release on March 9, 2010. I remember reading an interview, in which Albarn stated that this is his most pop record to date. And after listening to the leaked single, Stylo, it sounds like he wasn’t kidding (featured below). The single is a completely new approach to the Gorillaz format. And aside from the Mos Def and Bobby Womack cues, it still manages to retain their unique sound. I’ve had to give it a couple of spins, due to the initial shock I received the first time, and it is certainly growing on me. The 16 track LP features some amazing guests like Snoop Dogg (?), LOU REED (!), De La Soul, and MICK JONES & PAUL SIMONON of THE CLASH(!!!!!!!!!).

And on a final note, the Blur documentary No Distance Left To Run, is coming to DVD in early February. It has been well received in the UK, and the trailer still manages to give me goosebumps (featured below). The DVD will come with a second disc of the band’s Hyde Park performance from last year, and the footage shows why Blur are one of the top UK bands of the past 2 decades.

-Chase

Review: Spoon “Transference”

I can’t remember the first time I listened to Spoon. It was probably shortly after 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, and the fact that I own every album they’ve put out since then is a rare occurrence these days. Britt Daniel, Spoon’s frontman, has worked hard to elevate Spoon up to the indie royalty status they now enjoy. I mean, they’re one of the very few bands that constantly release solid follow-up albums. Nearly a decade since my first exposure, Spoon still carries weight in my over-crowded record bin. However, their 7th LP, Transference is a breath of fresh air for the band, and a welcome evolution to the band’s sound.

For the past few records, it’s safe to describe a Spoon album as…well, exactly that, “a Spoon album.” The clean production, the snappy beats and the hooky riffs that all came tightly together on every LP. It was a constant I could always count on, like Tom Selleck’s glorious mustache or the unholy suck-factor of Keystone Light. So, when Transference first pumped through my speakers, I was surprisingly shocked at how it sound so different, yet oddly familiar at the same time. This is the first LP to be solely produced by Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, and it feels like a wonderfully personal sound. What we get is a Spoon album that is an exceptional stand-out from all of their previous work.

There’s no denying that it’s still a Spoon record. The band’s signature sound is still intact, especially on tracks like “Written In Reverse” and “Is Love Forever?” where the staccato beats take some blissfully sharp turns and always manages to result in head-nodding. But occasionally the mix gets a little rough and the instrumentation becomes subtlety more than just two-beat pop songs. Its tracks like “Who Makes Your Money,” “The Mystery Zone,” and the surprising ballad that is “Goodnight Laura.” And the results are an album that still shows you the Spoon you know and love, but it gives the band some much needed stretching room, and let’s them approach their music from a slightly different angle.

Transference simply maintains Spoon’s pedigree, by releasing yet another solid album. So, those looking for more, won’t come away disappointed. It’s just the slight differences in the production and songwriting that really make this a Spoon album to take heed of. And it’s a great way for Spoon to start off the new decade.

-Chase

Review: Vampire Weekend “Contra”

I think reviewing music has made me pessimistic over the past few years. I find that even my favorite band’s next album is bound to disappoint. Take 2009 for example. I was thinking the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic was going to let me down, as their previous LP, but it rocked and completely restored my faith in them. But on the other hand, my suspicions were confirmed when Peal Jam’s Backspacer sounded like an Eddie Vedder summer mix….which was not a good thing. Now, Vampire Weekend’s sophomore record, Contra, looms before me. To be honest, I was a little less pessimistic about this record than my previous examples. It took me a while to warm up to VW’s self-titled debut, but now a few choice cuts stand out on my summer playlists.

The first thing that is fairly obvious about Contra is that it tries hard to stand apart from the light afro-beat infused sound of it’s predecessor. I mean REALLY hard. It seems like the best way to accomplish this was to bring in the synths. Most of Contra is bubbling with hard synthesized beats and riffs, which is what is going to polarize it’s audience. On one side, you have those who appreciate this new direction. The songs are more beat heavy, but they still manage to capture that brisk, light sound you look for in Vampire Weekend. Ezra Koenig’s voice still bounces up and down the scale triumphantly. And his lyrics are still filled with the double speak and clever comparisons he offered up last time. Songs like “White Sky” and “Horchata” will brighten your day.

But then there is the other side……and it happens to be the side I drifted towards. This is the side that can find the synth to be too much. Maybe it’s the production’s fault, but the beats are too loud. So the clever afro-beat instrumentation I warmed up to the first time gets drowned out. Songs like “Giving Up The Gun” and the Auto-Tuned “California English” just grate against my ears, causing me to turn the volume. Occasionally, the instruments win out (“Taxi Cab,” and the good “Diplomat’s Son”),and the album shines for me. But those moments are few and far between.

I’m not going to dissuade anyone from listening to Contra. It’s simply not a bad album. But, for me anyway, it is also not a great one. After their debut, I was hoping VW’s follow up would sound something like a Fela Kuti demo, sprinkled with a dash of Pavement. But, that’s not what the band seemed to be on board with. Instead, they’ve set out to sail on their own boat, doing a decent job of separating themselves from the rest of the fleet. I’m just not sure I want to keep my boarding pass anymore.

-Chase