Saturday, March 31, 2007

“MTV What Have You Done To Me?”

If Arcade Fire’s Funeral was like waking after a long coma, their 2007 release Neon Bible is sitting down to a cup of tea and the morning paper to find out just what the hell’s been happening while you were asleep. That isn’t to say the new album lacks emotion, but rather while Funeral was a burst of such frantic, anthemic energy and angst, Neon Bible actually takes the time to step back and reflect. It’s much more introverted: the first song is titled “Black Mirror.” While “Black Mirror” is similar to the opener on Funeral, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, in that they are both piano charged, fist pumping beams of energy, the more recent release looks inward, as opposed to “Tunnels” and the rest of Funeral, which is directs its angst outward at everything from parents to corrupt political regimes.

To be sure, Neon Bible continues to display that combination of angst and beauty that makes Arcade Fire the most exciting band around. It just takes the time to look inward once in a while, or at least it attempts to. The aforementioned “Black Mirror” tells us how the “mirror knows no reflection.” Meanwhile, in the same song, the Arcade Fire that we all became enamored with a few years ago shows up: “Un! Deux! Trois! Dis: Miroir Noir!” in a jarring fury.

“Keep the Car Running” joins “Antichrist Television Blues” as two songs that create a sound from Arcade Fire that they haven’t attempted before. The sound is almost Bruce Springsteen circa 1982. Both are excellent songs written from a the voice of a third party that contains elements of Springsteen’s best songwriting: one about an apparent fugitive and another about a man who can’t find a job. Bruce Springsteen made a career creating songs like these. Too, these songs would simply not have belonged on Funeral. On Neon Bible, they fit right in with the trajectory of the album.

It is after this point, however, that the album diverges most significantly from their previous effort. The title track is almost whisper quiet in sound and in message. And after the organ-heavy “Intervention” comes the two-part jaunt “Black Wave / Bad Vibrations” and the rain-soaked, noir anthem “Ocean of Noise.” It is at this point that you start to feel that Arcade Fire is taking their time. Whereas Funeral grabbed your eyelids and didn’t let go, Neon Bible gives you time to breathe.

To suggest that Album X is better or worse than Album Y is a nice time-killer, but ultimately fruitless and pointless. We like to assign music a ranking, but isn’t it as pointless as a ranking of the “Top 10 Paintings Ever?” This may seem like a cop out of saying that Neon Bible isn’t as “good” as Funeral. And truth be told, if I had to choose one of the two albums to be stranded on a desert island with, I’d pick Funeral, but that would be true of almost any album ever created: Funeral was just so eye-opening that it isn’t about to be recreated. Nor does it need to be. Funeral gave us something unique and expanded the horizons of music in the 21st century. Neon Bible gives us something else unique and genre-bending.

The last paragraph aside, what separates Arcade Fire from other bands is simply the resonating emotion they are able to conjure and tap into. With that, the last three songs of Neon Bible strike that chord more than anything else they’ve created. “Windowsill” is a climactic ballad that harps on the whole “Don’t want to live in my father’s house no more” attitude that Arcade Fire does extremely well. The line, “MTV what have you done to me?” is brilliant and resonating. This track is followed by what is possibly the penultimate Arcade Fire song: “No Cars Go.” If you were to create a song as an “Intro to Arcade Fire” look no further. It has the hyper, pulsating drum beats, the “us kids know” mentality, the crescendos that begin to sound like marching orders, and there’s simply no better band in the world at shouting, “hey!” as demonstrated in this song. Finally, the album ends with the shockingly powerful “My Body is a Cage,” a mixture of erotic anguish and haunting self-loathing. The organs once again show up on this track in full force.

If nothing else, Neon Bible reassures that the Arcade Fire are not a one-album band. While the impact and trajectory of their career remains unclear, what is clear is that for the next decade, everything the Arcade Fire do will be awaited with baited breath.
Arcade Fire - "Black Mirror"

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"There's gotta be an end to that."

Low released a new album on the 20th of March. You can listen to four or five tracks on their website www.chairkickers.com. As for the first single, I love the song. As for the video (below) I can't tell if it's brilliant, hilarious, or a waste of three minutes. Here it is anyway.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

How Not To Inspire Confidence in a Fan Base

1) Bypass talented local players for unknown projects.

Check.

2) Compound mistakes upon mistakes.

Check.

3) Say things like this:


"Yes, we've made mistakes," team owner Bob McNair said. "Not just there, that's not the only place. And we'll make mistakes moving forward. The key is you've got to make more good decisions than bad decisions."

Check.

In 2006, the Houston Texans, who will never ever be mentioned on this blog again, passed on the opportunity to draft Vince Young because they already had David Carr at quarterback. Fair enough. Yesterday, however, the Texans traded for a QB who threw a total of 27 passes last year for a fair haul of draft fodder. And then signed him to a $48 million deal.

Look, if the Texans thought that highly of Schaub, that's fine. But reports are that they also sought after Jeff Garcia, Jake Plummer, and Patrick Ramsey before acquiring Schaub. Though I live in Austin, I am far from one of those drooling Vince Young evangelicals. But I will say that he has a tad more upside than Garcia, Plummer, and Ramsey. As for Schaub, who the hell knows?

Man, I'd hate to root for a team that screws up their high draft picks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Watch What You Google

Apprently, this woman in New Jersey killed her husband and the most damning evidence was that she googled phrases such as, "How to Commit Murder," and "undetectable poisons." They're calling it a Google fingerprint and we certainly all leave one. Every website we search can be categorically discovered by anyone with the means and the knowhow (and presumabely, the legal authority). This certainly raises a lot of bigger questions, but we'll save those for another day.

Let that be a lesson to all of you who are going to ask.com and typing "kill+boss+scott+free."

(Thanks to the freakonomics blog for the tip.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Misadventures in HTML

In case you hadn't noticed this past week (and judging by the comment total, you haven't) we've had some minor technical glitches here at Dear Mr. Supercomputer. No one on the DMS staff is an HTML expert by any means. And frankly there's a lack of commitment on the staff as well. Some spend most of their HTML study time this week working on other endeavors.


So as an act of reciprocity, I'll spare you from a long drawn out recap of a music festival and simply get to the good stuff: the music itself. You see, in this new, flat world where everything is almost instantaneously uploadable and downloadable big record companies didn't know how to counteract the dipping record sales presumably due to illegally downloaded music. They started flailing about, suing Napster, then 9-year old girls.
But now, a lot of the independent record labels see the Internet as a good way of spreading their music on a level that was never afforded them in the past. So here are some of the bands I saw over the break with a fully-legally downloadable mp3 to go along with it.



(PatW is one to keep an eye (ear?) on. His 2006 release is all over the place, but the makings of a Sufjan-like career are in place...)


(These guys were a ton of fun. Silly me: I thought Devo was no longer with us.)


(Again! But this time it was free with free beer. I've linked this song via video before, but it's so good you should have it on your iPod.)


(Another band to look out for in the next year. Oh, and they've got lots of great covers at their website. I defy you to find a band that covers The Be Good Tanyas, the Ramoes, Fiona Apple, and "The Jerk.")

(By this time I was pretty sauced from the free beer and the sun. It was 4:30 PM)

We'll try to bring you more legal mp3s as we discover them. Most of these mp3s are linked straight from the bands' websites so don't feel bad for downloading them. Just make sure you go out and see a show or buy their album every once in a while, ok?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Anatomy of a Busted Bracket

Let's just say there's a lot of red on this document after today. And screw you Notre Dame.
(if the pic doesn't show, witness the carnage here.)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

SXSW v. NCAA

(pre-script: Before you let me know, yes, I know the formatting on this post totally sucks. If you don't like it, get your own damn blog and insert a table and make it look nice, ok?)

If Spring Break were an actual holiday, it would have easily surpassed New Years Eve as my favorite holiday years ago. Sure, the week off is nice, but as it turns out Spring Break always corresponds with South-By-Southwest and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. Oh, and St. Patty's Day.

On Wednesday Mrs. Supercomputer and I went to see some free SXSW shows. Those of us too poor to purchase wristbands or individual tickets are religated to the day shows which are all free. But there's no shortage of those thankfully, and at many venues they serve free beer. So we headed over to Mohawk for the Gorilla Vs. Bear showcase.

How cool is Austin? We ran into no fewer than 10 friends in a matter of a couple hours. And mind you, Mohawk isn't exactly a huge venue, and it was one of dozens that had free day shows. Apparently no one in this town works over Spring Break. We had the pleasure of seeing Sparrow House, Titeur, Peter and the Wolf, and Architecture in Helsinki (the last two bands were the ones we orignally wanted to see).

Today, Thursday, however, we have a problem. With the NCAA Tournament starting, what is a Supercomputer to do? Do we go see more shows and drink free beer? Or do we glue ourselves to the TV and watch March Madness? It's a tough call. So it might be best to compare the two choices side by side.





































































Advantage
Start TimeSXSW Day Shows start around noon.March Madness kicks off at 11 AM CST when your Fusion
Coffee
is still hot.
Feel Good StoryUnknown indie band gets signed to big record deal.Cinderella Story
DrinkingOftentimes shows will have free beer, usually from independent brewries.You gotta pay for your damn Bud Light like everyone else.
Cool FactorYou can now be in the hipster music scene.You know the Average Points Per Game from the starting point guard of
Oral Roberts
IntermissionsBands tuning up.Commercials: "This is our country...."Draw (At least that godforsaken Applebees commercial is gone)
MCsDavid Cross. Will Wynn.Clark Kellogg.
CostFree, if you go during the day.Free, with a possiblility of gambling, in which you'll surely lose money.
So maybe it's not free.
End TimeDay shows end around 6:00 PM.Weeks later.
Celeb sightingsMatthew McConaughey. Will Leitch.Ashley
Judd
. Matthew McConaughey
IntangiblesLeadershipTenacityDraw



So the score comes out to 4-4. A tie. I guess since no decision can be made between SXSW and March Madness, I'll have to settle for blogging.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Wading into the ocean of the blogosphere

At six months, Baby Supercomputer was learning things at an incredible rate, but let's be honest: she was still a rather helpless marshmallow. She drooled, cried, and couldn't even control her own arms. At six months, Dear Mr. Supercomputer is at roughly the same stage in life development.

For me, the most difficult step in starting a blog was admitting that I wanted one. For a long time I saw blogs serve as basically a myspace sort of function. They were there to inform friends and family of all the cute little things your baby just did.

But the blogosphere has opened up a whole new world and is starting to run traditional media out of business. Now that's something I can get behind! If you wanted news, sports, music and insight, you are no longer held captive by the Associated Press and espn.com.

Mind you, I'm not at all saying that Dear Mr. Supercomputer is contributing to the flattening of the world in any way. We have no niche like Bob Loblaw's Law Blog and don't ever expect to find one. But after being named Time magazine's Person of the Year, I felt compelled to join in the celebration.

So, to celebrate, I can think of no more appropriate means than by sharing the greatest blog post I've ever read, the reason the Internet was created, here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Is this product really necessary?

Honestly, DMS has so much to blog about these days. And Lord willing with Spring Break, we'll get a chance. There's just so much stuff happening and vitriol to be spread. Everything from the new Arcade Fire album to the results of DMS's fantasy baseball draft. From SXSW happenings to Cobra II. And let's not forget the stunted discussion of The World is Flat.

But I can't get past this.


I mean, cripes, who the fuck needs this?? Isn't that what coffee is? Natural ingredients my ass. I guess cocaine is natural too then.

Look, Dear Mr. Supercomputer is addicted to coffee like never before. We had three cups between 4:00-4:30 PM this afternoon when it was like 85 damned degrees outside. It's literally been months since I've gone a day without the stuff. I get a headache when I don't have it by 9:30 in the morning. But there's no way, I'd ever touch this energy coffee unless I planned on having a heart attack in a half hour.

It's fucking coffee! You don't need to add anything to coffee to make it more energizing. That's like adding extra alcohol to vodka to get more drunk.

If Dear Mr. Supercomputer ever did drink this ghastly concoction, I get the feeling we'd be found a few hours later trying to eat our way through a giant plaster donut.

And in totally unrelated news...

My favorite video of the year so far by Menomena, "Wet and Rusted." Decent song too. Would probably be better after some Fusion Energy Coffee (tm).


Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Center of My Universe

This is shaping up to be a great year for Austin. Or at least, Dear Mr. Supercomputer's Austin.

Last weekend, Barack Obama stopped by and generated 17,000 - 22,000 supporters. That evening, one of the best new bands around, Midlake, graced us with their presence.





This past week, the Austin ISD supernintendo paid a visit to DMS's humble workplace.

In the coming week we have SXSW, which features, like, a zillion bands, most of which DMS has never even heard of (but one of my favorite games of the year is deciding which unheard of band has the best name. This year's contenders: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Lesbians on Ecstasy, and my!gay!husband! Vote for your favorite in the comments, or suggest your own contender!)

On top of that, Will Leitch (of deadspin.com) is going to be here for the Interactive portion of SXSW, delivering a talk or something (titled "Jokes and Jocks: the Deadspin Phenomenon"). He might just be here to score pot and waggle his pickle at co-eds (apparently, Will likes the Ben Gibbard look).


Then DMS finds out that Baseball Prospectus is coming on April 24th and sending Rob Neyer (who isn't actually part of the BP team), who isn't quite the father of baseball sabermetrics, but is like the Paul of sabermetrics (Bill James being that crazy-ass John the Baptist).

Soon after, TV on the Radio plays an overpriced, yet assuredly kickass set at La Zona Rosa.

"It binds us together, my kind of town" -- Peter and the Wolf

(note: I promised and continue to promise this will not become a "This is what I did today blog." If it does, just shoot me in the head." Consider this post a bulleting of important DMS-related-news (read: politics, music, and sports)).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

DMS Live in the classroom!

Here's a better link/video to what yesterday's post was about. And if you squint, you might even see Dear Mr. Supercomputer....


(note: this picture is not in the video I linked.)