Beck Hansen’s “Song Reader” Proves He’s More Hipster Than You

January 4, 2013
Beck Hansen: "Song Reader"

A friend was going through a quarter life crisis recently and said that one of his issues was that he’s been too into hipster culture and now feels like he’s entirely unrelatable. I consoled him, saying “There’s always someone more hipster than you, Beck Hansen”.

In case you’ve forgotten during his long hiatus Beck Hansen is an indie-pop singer/songwriter who has a habit of completely changing his style upon each release. He gained moderate mainstream success with 1993’s “Loser” and 2005’s “Girl”, and has collaborated with everyone from Pearl Jam to Childish Gambino.

Beck’s latest release, “Song Reader”, proves once again that he is the uberhipster. Someone so obscure that no other human being could possibly come close. “Song Reader” is not an album or a single, it is a book of sheet music composed by Beck to be played by a small ensemble. Hansen has refused to release a recorded performance of the album, forcing non-musicians to seek out versions performed by others.

Beck Hanson: "Song Reader"

In fact, up until this week the music community at large was subjected to poor quality YouTube videos if they wished to hear “Song Reader”. Thankfully though the bastion of all hipsterdom, NPR, posted a full album performance from the excellent musicians at The Portland Cello Project. And I must say, even performed by a cello-based group with female vocalists “Song Reader” still feels like a Beck album. It’s full of alt-country twang like his earlier material, but has some really big ethereal tracks like his middle “Sea Change” period.

But even if the album were crap, Beck would still have made his point. He is more obscure than you or any of your friends will ever be. Though not nearly as experimental as other hipster acts like Animal Collective and of Montreal, Beck has proven himself once again as the most obscure musician out there.

I really kind of hope this turns into a mini-trend where other artists emulate “Song Reader” and release music for live performance. Partially because performance possesses a level of intimacy that even vinyl can’t come close to. But mostly so that when Fun. puts out a full score I can say that such a move was really only cool the first time around with Beck way back in 2012.

Briefly on Tame Impala

January 4, 2013

Tame Impala is such a great band. They have just the right amounts of every type of psychedelia. And this track is so beautiful I can’t stop listening to it. The vocals almost sound like George Harrison, and the atmosphere builds in a really cool way throughout.

via Tumblr

The Undertones: Pioneers of Pop-Punk

December 10, 2012
Undertones Teenage Kicks Single Artwork

The Undertones; Teenage Kicks Single ArtworkThere’s a vlogger on YouTube who claims to be “The Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd”. I don’t know if that’s true, or who gave him that title, but he does know quite a lot of music and he’s recently been showing his viewers through his vinyl collection for fun. In the most recent of these side videos he briefly showed off his copy of the first record by a band from the late-70s called The Undertones, who I’ve since fallen in love with.

Essentially, The Undertones are a combination of The Beatles, The Small Faces and The Ramones which just so happens to make them one of the first ever Pop-Punk bands. Now, I love Pop-Punk, so to hear that this band nearly created the genre was quite exciting for me, and I must say they really do live up to that reputation. Their sound takes that early punk guitar sound of The Ramones, adds in a bit of glam keyboards and tops it off with lyrics about teenage angst and love set to pop melodies.

The Undertones formed as a pop-rock cover band in Derry, North Ireland in the mid-early 1970s. It wasn’t until The Ramones and other massive figures in early Punk became popular in the UK in 1976 that The Undertones began writing original tracks that combined their pop influences with the new Punk sound. After establishing a following in Ireland The Undertones sent a demo to five record labels, all of which turned them down. However, renowned music nerd and BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel received a copy of their demo and instantly fell in love.

Peel financed the band’s first four track EP, which ultimately got them signed to Sire later in 1977, and claimed throughout his life that The Undertones’ break-through single “Teenage Kicks” was his favorite song of all time.

Because of their Pop influence and generally well behaved nature, The Undertones never gained the fame or infamy of contemporaries such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash. However, their Pop/Punk hybrid would ultimately spawn one of Punk’s most successful sub-genres.

The Undertones split in 1983 when lead vocalist Feargal Sharkey left the group due to artistic differences. They reunited without him in 1999 and have been touring and releasing albums since.

Below is a playlist of some of The Undertones best tracks, which really show the beginnings of what we now call Pop-Punk.

Get Inspired on the Quick with Soul Pancake’s “Art Attack”

December 9, 2012
Art Attack

Soul Pancake began as a book by actor Rainn Wilson, you probably know him as Dwight Schrute, and a few of his friends. The book discussed what they viewed to be some of life’s most important questions and thoughts. These were then transferred to a website and most recently a YouTube Channel.

The Soul Pancake Channel is one of YouTube’s premium channels, meaning they are endorsed by Google to produce original content specifically for YouTube, and they do their job well. The channel has a rotating lineup of five shows (one for each day of the workweek) including a talk-show hosted by Rainn Wilson, a short film series, and original comedy series Kid President.

The only non-rotating series on the channel is Art Attack, wherein artists are given a single word theme and asked to create a piece while being filmed time-lapse style. The videos are uploaded each Friday and are typically about 5 minutes long for easy digestion. Quite inspiring and always entertaining, Art Attack showcases some great talent in all sorts of mediums. <br/ >

Backpacking Zaleski

December 4, 2012
Kevin looks out

Surprisingly, even though I’ve spent 14 or so of my 20 years of life in Scouting I had never gone backpacking until this past weekend. My Troop kind of fell away from it just as I bridged over from Cub Scouts and I never had any friends outside the Troop who were really into such things until the past couple of years. Thanks to their incessant nagging though I did manage to make time for a quick 10 mile weekend in Zaleski State Forest last week.

Armed with a 30-year-old pack that I made far too heavy with non-essentials I set out for a two-day one-night trek with my good friends Kevin and Ben. We had an excellent time and saw a very different side of Appalachia than what we typically see in and around the Ohio University campus here in Athens, Ohio.

This short little trek has already awakened a new desire in the three of us to do bigger hikes in the future leading up to Kevin’s through-hiking of The Appalachian Trail after graduation. While I’m not sure I’ll be in for that I’m certainly pumped about upcoming treks to Red River Gorge and The New River.

The New Myspace Dilemma

December 4, 2012
New Myspace

If you aren’t big into the Social scene this may be a bit shocking for you to hear, but people are actually talking about Myspace again. The once gigantic social network dwindled under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, but was recently purchased by singer turned actor Justin Timberlake who’s team has announced plans to re-brand the site as an entertainment-based social network designed to connect fans to content producers.


The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo.


In late September the Myspace home page added a link to a video showing off the site’s new features that ended with a nebulous “coming soon”. Social Media sites went nuts over the video and SM junkies like myself immediately signed up for the invite list. The web was getting all geared up for what appeared to be an exciting new hybrid of Tumblr, Pinterest, Spotify and the original Myspace.

Nothing happened though. It’s December and the beta invites are just rolling out, though its an extremely rough beta with a lot of freezing and crashing. We’ve been starved of the functional content Myspace ambitiously promised almost three months ago.

This is what I’m calling “The New Myspace Dilemma”, another symptom of the bubble we’ve built around the Social Media industry. There’s an ongoing push for ultra-fast innovation, but nothing has proven substantial enough to satisfy everyone. Industry leaders announce what they believe the next big thing will be and then when it fails to catch they move on rather than supporting an idea to full maturity. See Highlight and the geo-social craze started this year at SXSW, which has failed to catch on in many markets.

“The New Myspace Dilemma” comes from this incessant buzz building; but its main symptom isn’t lack of support, its lack of content. Myspace put out the announcement of their relaunch far too early without even a beta version to back it up , and so when a month or so went by with no developments people began to write the idea off. And now, though the beta is visually appealing it still has a lot of functionality issues that should probably have been solved even before the announcement. They’re losing momentum before the race has even started.

If you’re trying out the beta version of the site as well you can connect with me here.

Empty December Mix

December 3, 2012
The Flaming Lips: Once Beyond Hopelesness

I really love playlists. Particularly well-crafted ones that fit to a particular mood. Thus, about once a month I build some sort of master list of songs fitting my mood. This December I’m really enjoying sparse, empty music.

I don’t know if it was the recent release of How To Destroy Angels’ An Omen EP or what, but empty soundscapes are really catching my ear right now. I re-listened to the first HTDA EP, as well as Trent Reznor’s various ambient work for scores and such; from there I’ve been revisiting a lot of electronic stuff like Burial and some of the more atmospheric Moby albums.

Below I’ve compiled a brief list of some of the tracks I’ve really been digging in this phase.