Sunday, June 24, 2012

Countdown #108! Greetings From the Void.

Oftentimes, I do this podcast and I feel like only my family is going to hear it and it doesn't matter what I find on the Internet, I'm pretty much alone. And then I hear back from the lovely people over at Having Said That and I realize that there are ACTUAL people out there that I've not met and they might notice if I talk about them! It's a wonderful feeling of connectedness. I mention them again on this episode. Don't be jealous :)

Countdown #108

The Black Keys
fun. featuring Janelle Monae
Gotye featuring Kimbra
Imagine Dragons
Linkin Park
Now, Now
The Offspring
Of Monsters and Men
Silversun Pickups

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Liveblogging the First Listen: Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

If you know me even a little bit, you'll know that I love Smashing Pumpkins (Don't talk to me about The or's Billy Corgan either way) and so I've been very excited to hear this new album.

When I'm excited to hear a new album, I treat it like the last Harry Potter book. I don't want to hear any songs or anything about any songs or anything at all. Now, this hasn't been entirely possible. I have read a couple reviews, but they've been positive and not too revealing. I only know a little of what I'm about to get into, so let me just write the track titles and we'll be off!


Hitting play. A single note slowly fades in. Some funky guitar. Sounds a little like Cherub Rock (but I'd heard that already). Oh, I like this. It's definitely a "we can still rock it" track. Billy's vocals are kind of low, but that might just be what I'm listening to it on (the dvd player on the main tv. i don't have a cd player and no laptop to rip it, etc. definitely an experience).

I can tell that this is going to be an album (or at least this song) that I'll come back to to learn more and more each time.

It also feels like Tarantula felt. Which I suppose was also a "We can still rock it" track. A very good opener. Are we fading out? Or is this just the...yep that was just the bridge. We come back rocking harder than ever. The guitar is nice and clean.

I bet this would be amazing on headphones. It's pretty good on this less than ideal listening situation.

It used to be that I really identified with Billy's voice. I felt like it was within my range, but lately, I think he's gotten higher and I've gotten lower. So that makes for less of a connection.

Good start, Pumpkins.


This one starts like maybe it's a coda on the end of Quasar. I had to check to make sure that it was actually a new track. I think that's a good thing, but that'll be the job of future listens to determine.

Ok, it's eased up a little bit.

Mike Byrne's drumwork sounds really tight. I'm so glad that he has worked out for them. I hope that he continues to. Can you imagine being that young (he might be 21 at this point) and in this HUGE band? Nutso.

Some good harmonies.

What I want in this album is for it to feel like Billy is in love with music and making music again. So far, I'm really hearing that. It sounds like he's having fun. It sounds like maybe they're all having fun.

This is going to be a fun album to learn about over the summer. I'm happy to be listening to it for the first time on the first day of summer.

So far, Quasar is the winner for me.

The Celestials

Ok, I actively avoided listening to this YESTERDAY. We have some strings and some acoustic guitar and some Billy voice. This'll be the Disarm of the album.

I like it though. It shows confidence to retread some stuff but also show how it relates to you now.

This kind of feels like Snow ((Hey Oh)) on the Red Hot Chili Peppers Stadium Arcadium album.

WHOA. They just kicked it into HIGH gear on the guitar. And now there's some synth. This blows by Disarm into a whole other territory.

Holy CRAP! That guitar is mind-blowing! It's such a gutteral guitar part. By far my favorite part of the album so far. Dammit, that's good stuff. I think he may have done it, you guys. This might be the comeback record I'd hoped for.

That was certainly surprising. I'm glad I didn't know about that going into this listen. Well done.

Violet Rays

Some sort of ambient drony stuff and then some synth comes in. I like that they're using the synth. It's very Billy Corgan, I feel like.

This is from a different era of Pumpkins. This recalls more of the Eye era.

He's letting the spaces happen in the music and not frantically trying to fill them with stuff and that really excites me. This song really is quite barebones. It allows the listener to hear Billy and not worry about rocking so much. And his voice sounds nice.

Those drums are still really bombastic when they're there, though.

I'm going to try not to pinpoint which era of Pumpkins each song is. But the comparisons come to me and I'm not going to deny them.

That was nice. It didn't try to be more than it was. And I appreciate that.

My Love is Winter

Ok this is the song that I COULD have heard if they'd decided to play it when I was at the show in 2010. Or maybe they started playing it right after that, but this was one of the songs that I was looking for coming out as the next Teargarden single.


I'm not nuts about this one so far. It feels like a mix of the previous track and track 2.

Ok, wait. This part is pretty cool. Ooh. I like the synth part there with the kind of funky dancey thing it's doing. And that guitar part is pretty nice.

Yeah ok. This will do. It's not my favorite song on the album, but it has some really good guitar on it and I certainly don't hate it.

The only SP song that I've had to ACTIVELY try to like was the second song on Machina (Raindrops + Sunshowers, I think)

One Diamond, One Heart

This one is starting off like a different band entirely. Almost like....I dont know. Ok. There's the SP shimmer.

I can definitely see what they were talking about when they said that they used this opportunity to explore the more dreampop/psychedelic parts of the SP sound. This song is trippy, man.

It's certainly an eclectic album, isn't it?

It's weird that they're using a drum machine here. I wonder if Mike is waiting in the wings to come in and rock in later in the song. Or if they decided he was too much for the feel of this one.

I just remembered that I have an article where Billy talks about each track. I'll try to remember to link to it down there at the end.

What an odd, lovely song.


Into another odd, lovely song. This sounds like it's the Doogie Howser theme. That kind of midi-ish synth part. Weird.

Some Who-esque guitar strums.

Actually, think the Doogie Howser theme if it was also "Baba O'Riley". It's that kind of background stuff that the synth is doing.

Ooohooohoo :) This is going to build and I'm going to love it.

It's quite pretty. What if this song didn't have lyrics? That would almost work, I think.

But I'm sure it does. Yep. There they are. Good buildup.

I really don't mean to offend his rock sensibilities, but I think the vocal part plus the "Doogie O'riley" part are making for an awfully Coldplay sounding song. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He's having fun with it. Nicole's coming in with some background vox.

Oooh. There's some silvery guitar to make it their own.

Again with the space between the notes. You can really tell that they were doing this for themselves. Playing what they liked the sound of.

"You don't deserve me/ but I deserve you" Arrogance or self-deprecation?

That was nice. Very subdued.


Ok. title track. What are we going to do with it? The drums have come back. But the energy is still in a holding pattern.

This is a different experience from the Me First and Radiohead First Listens. Of course it is, but I mean, I'm finding myself getting sucked into the listening and not thinking of what to say about it. I guess that's a good thing, right?

Oh weird harpsichord and bell part. Very mellow. And some stumbly (intentionally, not for lack of skill) acoustic guitar. Kind of like Wish You Were here, almost.

I could see this part sounding amazing in a concert setting.

Ooh a shuffling drum part coming back in. Are we going to trance it up or are we coming back to rock? The synth is doing some minor chord progressions.

I can tell that this will be the centerpiece of the show.

Answer to the question posed two paragraphs ago: trance it up. It's a mantra over and over.

The guitar is here, but it's just part of the meditation. Everyone's playing their mantra. We're at the 7 minute mark.

The guitar is gaining some momentum here, if they're not careful, it'll blast out of control. It definitely feels like everything is building to something. This almost feels like a Mars Volta guitar part. Noodley.

Oh, that's a nice contrasting guitar part. Like John Lennon coming in on top of Paul's and George's smooth parts on The End.

And....a fade out? Weird choice. Good song. Just over 9 minutes.

Pale Horse

Sounds like we're RIDING a pale horse. Yeah. This was a good choice to follow that last track. Very simple. Very grounding.

What is Thorazine, again? This song seems to be about it in one way or another.

This song feels like waking up at 6 am on Saturday morning after the wild Friday night party of Oceania. And I like that.

They keep doing this cool effect that is the sound effect they do in movies when the world is off its axis because you've just been told something shocking. I don't know if you know what sound I mean. But if  you heard it, you'd know what I'm talking about. Like when you adjust the tuning on a tympani. Does that help you out any?

"Please come back. Please come back. Please come back, Pale Horse"

Just realized. That IS a tympani. They are doing the thing I compared the sound to. That's how they're making the sound.

The Chimera

Ok, back to the rock. This is what I think of when I think of "SP guitar". It's driving and just a little bit faster than you can keep up with.

Whoa. But this is almost a Ramones-speed drum beat. Could this be the SP punk song?

Wow. Would this be amazing in concert.

Great guitar on this one. And the band sounds like this is just another day at the office. In a good way. Like, "Oh you want us to rock the fuck out? Ok. Fine. And then we'll go to lunch." And then they rock the fuck out. I feel like Steely Dan had this kind of attitude a lot.

That is the purest sound of rock guitar I've heard come out of a SP album since the end of Rocket. Good gracious. This is a definite contender for favorite of the album.

It'll matter if they stick the landing. How is it going to end? Letting the guitars go and then turning them off. That was a pretty good choice. Would have loved a clean ending but that worked.


If you gave me a list of song titles and told me to pick out the Smashing Pumpkins song, this is the one I would pick. It's such a BC title. Lots of s's and i's and a's.

The song is good. It's not knocking me out like The Chimera, but it certainly isn't BAD. I think that's what I am realizing about this album. None of the songs are BAD. Some are more memorable than others, but I'm not going to be skipping any track so far.

What if this had been the album they released in 2000 instead of Machina? I think that would have breathed new life into the band. Maybe it just wasn't possible at the time.

There's a siren-like thing going on in the background of this one that kind of reminds me of Hammering in My Head on Garbage's second album.

Not bad.


Ok, again. This is a solid track. Nothing wrong with it, but it hasn't blown my mind yet.

And there's a great guitar solo that brings me back in. I will listen again and again to this song for that solo. It's pretty and dirty and rough and great. I'd love more.

This album is really making me quite happy. Just when I'm worried that we're heading downhill, we pick back up again. That's just what I hoped for.

Good. Good song.


How do you close your "Make or Break" album? I think you start slow (check), rock for a bit and then cinch it up nicely. Leave us wanting more.

But Billy likes to have sort of a benediction at the end of his albums, so this might not rock. And I'd be ok with that. I also happen to like Mantra Corgan.

I still love his voice so much. This is very anthemic. And it's building. Again, we're kind of skirting a Coldplay line of thinking. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Yes. This was a good way to end this album. I think we've passed the point of blasting guitars. We're going whole hog on the "gentle ending" route.

Or, here's some droney guitar stuff. I guess you can have it both ways. It's perfectly distorted and waily and it was a good call. The band has made a lot of good/great choices on this album.

And a fade out. I could have done with less fade outs. But what are you going to do?

O-kay! That was just as good as I'd hoped. I can see the 80/100 that it's mostly been getting. There are some GREAT tracks. And some really, really good tracks. I think the problem with Zeitgeist was that there were one or two GREAT ones, three or four really good ones, and the rest were only ok. This album outshines Zeitgeist and much of Machina (ie not trying to be more complex than is necessary) and I'm looking forward to repeat listens.

And here's the track-by-track that Billy did for Music Radar that I mentioned up there somewhere. Definitely check it out. Especially about The Chimera (Track 10).

Thanks for "listening" with me!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Countdown with another close call!

Did I almost forget about this week's countdown? No. Did I almost not get it recorded? Yes. That happened. Sometimes having a life outside of the blog is so inconvenient! ;-)

Big shoutout to Having Said That in this episode. Let's just say I tried something. I don't know if it's something i'm going to continue to try or what. I guess we'll have to see.

This one starts slow and builds up a good head of steam. Enjoy!

The Black Keys
Bon Iver
fun. featuring Janelle Monae
Gotye featuring Kimbra
Imagine Dragons
Linkin Park
Neon Trees
Of Monsters and Men
Silversun Pickups

Sunday, June 10, 2012

11 years and 1 week later: This Week's Countdown

Wasn't the Flashback last week fun? I wonder if people who didn't graduate that year got as much nostalgia from it as I did. I hope you enjoyed it in either case.

We're back to present day this week and there's a bit of movement to come back to.

I can't believe we're going into the THIRD summer of these countdowns. I love it.

Countdown #106

The Black Keys
fun. featuring Janelle Monae
Gotye featuring Kimbra
Imagine Dragons
Linkin Park
Neon Trees
Of Monsters and Men
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Silversun Pickups

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Flashback Countdown #3: Week of June 2, 2001

My sister graduated from high school 2 days ago. It got me thinking about the songs that were popular when I was graduating. This isn't a countdown from the week I graduated back in '01. This is from this week in '01. So I was doing things like taking finals and stuff, probably. It was a fun trip down memory lane to make this. I hope you enjoy it!

Flashback Countdown #3

American Hi-Fi
Limp Bizkit
Linkin Park

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 2012 Media Update

This first of the month finds me down in Virginia Beach because today my sister graduated from High School! And you can look for a special Flashback Countdown in honor of that on Sunday morning!

Last Song/MP3 I listened to: I pulled out my old CD case for the road trip, because we took K's car and it doesn't have an iPod jack. So the last song I listened to was from a mix a friend made me for my 21st birthday which was two discs of 21 tracks each about drinking and alcohol. The last song that played was "Blood and Whiskey" by the Dropkick Murphys from their "The Gang's All Here" album

Last TV show I watched: It's season finale season, and the last thing we watched last night was the finale for Cougar Town (an hour long episode called "My Life/Your World"). You guys, if you liked Scrubs, you really need to watch this show. It's moving to TBS in early 2013, so check it out.

Last Movie I watched: We actually went to the MOVIES you guys. It was a couple of weekends ago for our anniversary. We went and saw The Hunger Games. I enjoyed it. I felt like I came to the movie with the exact right amount of familiarity. I'd read the series but it had been a while so I had forgotten the finer details.

Last Written Work I read: So my New Yorker kick has continued throughout the month of May and now I'm on the last issue of 2010, in the middle of the Fiction piece which is by George Saunders and is called "Escape From Spiderhead". I'm really excited to be reading the New Yorker right now because now I'm able to read on the iPad app. Its so cool. There are all sorts of extra stuff along with the articles. If you subscribe to the magazine and have an iPad, I can't recommend this app enough. 

And that's it for this month! See you around!