Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This isn't one of those "I'm ending my blog" blog posts. I'm not ending my blog (not that anyone could tell the difference lately).

I started doing this thing a year and a half ago one day when I was really bored at work. I picked "Dip Dip Dive" as a title because my first two choices were already taken (I don't remember what they were), and I've fucking hated the name since Day Two. Even with a wack name, this blog has taken me from "Baltimore City Paper contributor" to "genius world-renown internet journalist and Baltimore City Paper contributor and also he writes for Pitchfork." But things are about to blow up to insane, ridiculous, ebola levels. Yesterday, the Village Voice dudes, in their infinite wisdom, hired me to write a blog for their website. On August 15, one week after my U-Haul pulls up to the curb in Brooklyn, my name will blaze across one million computer screens, I will start stepping past the velvet rope at every club in town, and you will probably start hating me, if you haven't already. I'm going to have to step my game up immeasurably because I will have stiff competition, and maybe I'll disappear after a couple of weeks, but finally I'll be one of those few lucky chumps who gets to put food on the table with his writing and one of the even fewer, even luckier chumps who gets to do it with a goddam blog. Thanks for reading this thing. I know it hasn't always been easy.

Oh, and tenative title: Status ain't hood. Is that OK?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Oh shit! It's finally here! The article four years in the making! The main event! Breihan on Kidwell! Watch as I lamely attempt to stuff six years of one ridiculously convoluted career into 1800 words!

Monday, July 18, 2005

The big test for bands at Intonation was whether these little indie-rock bands could carry themselves in front of a huge crowd, whether they'd come through with the sort of transcendent moments that only happen at big shows or whether they'd look scared and stranded. The Hold Steady, as much as I love them, didn't come off the way I was hoping they would - they sound better as fake arena rock in a club than as real arena rock in front of an arena-sized audience, and Finn's vocals were buried in the mix. I still loved seeing them in front of this many people, but it wasn't the highlight I was hoping for. Dungen apparently is Swedish for "time to get a sandwich", although said sandwich caused me to miss a guitarist tantrum that was supposedly pretty funny. But Thunderbirds Are Now absolutely blazed at 1 in the afternoon, doing Matrix shit with tambourines and probably making themselves twice as famous in half an hour. Out Hud is perfect for huge crowds; those squiggley elastic beats are way too big for clubs, and an Out Hud club set works even better in front of a crowd like that. Les Savy Fav tore shit up and whipped the crowd up to the point where we couldn't stand in front of the barricades because they looked like they were about to fall down. Deerhoof sounded like Deerhoof, which is pretty good I guess. I have my quibbles with the Decemberists - not with the music itself, but with the fact that this is the new standard-bearer, the thing that everyone loves and I just don't get. But I get them more now. I only caught the end of their set, but it was pretty and warm and nice, and I will never be mad at seeing a field of thousands of people singing along with just about anything. Diplo's set in the DJ tent was sort of weird because he was on a stage and people were watching him like he was a band. Just dance! But I can't believe I've never heard anyone mix "Bombs Over Bagdhad" into "Deceptacon" before. How great and obvious is that? But anyway: festivals are never about the music; they're about the people you're with and the weather that day and whether that hot dog gave you food poisoning, and Intonation totally succeeded on every level. I felt lucky to be there, and I feel like that would be the case even if I didn't have a VIP pass on the whole time. The Siren Festival, probably the closest cousin of Intontion, crams people on warped hot blacktop and forces them into these narrow pens where you have to fight to walk between the stages. Intonation was wide and open with plenty of room and clear sightlines and shade all around the edges. I didn't come for the music; I came for a chance to meet and hang out with all the other writers and walk around like I was somebody for a weekend, and I did that, and it was great. One surreal moment: Fennessey and Dombal and I were lucky enough to find a cabdriver who knew what he was doing, and we were some of the first people at the afterparty. When we walked into the bar, there were about five people in the room, and Prefuse was DJing. This happens? And I was there? Weird!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day one of the Intonation festival is in the books, and I'm sort of amazed at how much fun I'm having. Last night, I got way, way too drunk at the pre-festival meet-and-greet, all the Pitchfork writers who could make it awkwardly introducing ourselves to each other, trying to get drunk enough fast enough to keep it from seeming weird, partying with dudes you only know as pixelized names and still managing to become fast friends by the end of the night. Today, poison still coursing through my veins, walked two miles to the festival and saw a park surrounded by fences with pale indie kids lined up around the block both ways. This is the cheese moment: I'm certainly not the dude who built Pitchfork, who turned it into the cultural force that could bring 15 thousand kids into this park, but I'm a part of it, and right now I'm proud. To stand in front of the stage barrier, to look behind me and see this sea of humanity, hands waving in the air - it was amazing, and I'm still buzzing. Walking straight past the fence, drinking free weird microsodas in the insanely huge and shady backstage area, nobody asking me what the fuck I was doing there: pretty great. Also great: the Go Team. The sound was muddy, and they need to not have so many guitars, but this band just emanates total joy and goodwill, hooks whirling out of control, chanting along with the goofy party cheerleader stuff becoming the only possible course of action. That band is a force. Also perfect: the Broken Social Scene, a band I've never bothered to notice, playing the ideal set for the middle of the afternoon, warm gushy fuzzy guitary indie-pop without the slightest hint of aggression, fifteen affable bearded guitarists onstage, a crowd that screamed for the opening drumbeats for songs I've never heard, it made me feel lucky to be there. Not everyone was great; I ignored Magnolia Electic Company and Prefuse because sometimes you need to trust your instincts. Tortoise was boring. I don't see the big deal about AC Newman. Four Tet sounded nice, but I can't imagine watching a dude play with his laptop for that long, standing out in the hot sun, surrounded by other people. Death From Above 1979 made a big show of cutting through the sunny dazed happy warmth of the day, and it wasn't something that needed to be cut through, which, along with the cloud of dust that the ensuing moshpit kicked up made breathing virtually impossible, made them look like total dickwads. But none of that matters because today I met Kalefa Sanneh. I saw Jean Grae and Will Oldham politely taking turns in the DJ tent, alternating dusty old soul with dusty old country. I saw Sean at the afterparty, dancing to Murphy Lee, crash into El-P. I'm feeling good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Here's the problem with a movie like Dark Water: you already know there's a ghost. You've seen the commercials on TV, and even if you haven't, you can tell just from the sickly green lighting in every scene that this is a ghost movie. So you, the person in the audience, have to sit around for an hour while Jennifer Connelly slowly figures out that, hey, maybe there's a ghost. These "psychological horror movies" always seem to think they're classy and intelligent when they're just boring. There's always a whole ton of scenes of pretty, critically acclaimed early-middle-aged actresses sitting around looking all worried and biting their lips. There's always spooky little kids with excessively pale skin. There's always unexplained grinding ambient sounds rumbling on the soundtrack. This is the build. When something does happen, half the time it doesn't make any sense (The Forgotten), and when it does, it's usually really disappointing. The Ring was good because things actually happened throughout the movie; the characters figured out really quickly that the video was haunted, and they spent the movie trying to solve the problem while lots of scary stuff happened. I could watch and enjoy the entire thing, but Dark Water is the sort of thing you just endure. And it wasn't helping anything that Jennifer Connelly's daughter and the little girl ghost and Young Jennifer Connelly in flashbacks all looked pretty much exactly like each other. I guess I was the only one who had any trouble figuring out what was going on, but would it have killed them to find three little kids who had different hair colors or something?

Monday, July 11, 2005

We have entered the flux stage. I am three work days away from not having a job anymore - hire me, New Yorkers! - and we've got our apartment all set up, casting decisions made, Park Slope as Our Hood and DIW Editor Andrew Parks as Our Roomate. After a weekend in Chicago for The Pitchfork Thing, I'll be spending a couple of weeks ineptly putting tape on boxes and trying to find someone to take our shitty furniture or maybe pay me actual money for scratched-up CDs like the Judgement Night soundtrack and the Spawn soundtrack. And I won't be blogging much. Which will, of course, be a momentous change.

Larry Hughes has made the exceedingly sane decision that it's better to play second banana to LeBron James in Cleveland (maybe he can get on a XXL inside cover!) than second banana to Gilbert Arenas in Washington, and all I can say is: fuck.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Quarterly Report

This list is necessarily compromised because I'm writing it the day after the 4th of July, which means that towering psychedelic beast stuff like Sleater-Kinney and Caribou lost out to T.O.K. and Fannypack, possibly because T.O.K. and Fannypack make better barbecue material - for the barbecue in my head, not the one I went to, where they played the same goddam Gram Parsons record over and over again.


1. The Hold Steady: Separation Sunday. Well yeah. Months later, the pick-slides and cheesed-out piano riffs and Blooz Hammer guitars sound even better, and the story still hasn't gotten old. And that part on the last song about "They wrote her name in magic marks / On stop signs and subway cars" still gives me chills. This album has made me look around at Baltimore parties, trying to figure out where certain people would fit into these songs - almost all of them would fit into them somehow. I've written and thought so much about this band and this album that it feels like spinning my wheels to even talk about it anymore, so I'll just say that I'll be shocked if I hear a better album all year.

2. Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree. This album isn't perfect. If you're half-listening, it's a nice-enough singer-songwriter record with a few nice melodies an occassional jarring strings and a dude with a rough and likeable voice. If you're listening fully, it's an absolutely harrowing experience, a blurred stagger through the worst parts of anyone's life. I'm not going to get into the specific personal resonance that the album has for me - figure that one out yourself - but I can say that the first five songs had me so numb and damaged the first few times I heard the album that I couldn't even the album's most wrenching song, "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?", for a while. When I did finally notice it, I couldn't breathe. I just kept hitting repeat over and over again on the CD player, sitting there in my apartment by myself and trying to keep myself together. "Song for Dennis Brown" took even longer; it finally got through to me about two thirds of the way through the long-ass drive from Asssateague Island. Maybe I'll never get around to hearing "Pale Green Things". I go back and forth on whether I'm happy Darnielle included a conciliatory song at the end of the album. Right now I'm glad he did.

3. Supersystem: s/t. It's a damn shame that the Second-Best Dancepunk Album Ever (First Best = Echoes) dropped like a year after the whole dancepunk thing up and died, so nobody even noticed. I never gave half a damn about El Guapo, the band that would become Supersystem, but oh my God they knocked it out of the park when they started trend-humping. If every indie-rock album had readily discernable house and dancehall jacks and savage, monster hooks and DC post-hardcore jagged ferocious intensity and nonsense nature-freak lyrics and fake Middle-Eastern drip-painted winding guitar lines and a tangible sense of jerky, ridiculous, insane abandon from end to end, the world would be a better place. Also: it ends with the best psyche-folk song of, like, all time.

4. T.O.K.: Unknown Language. First off: no songs about lighting gay dudes on fire! Awesome! Better than the first album just on that alone! Second: Pitbull says, "Call me Richard Gere / Is it cuz I run through Pretty Women? Yeeeuh." (If I ever interview Pitbull, which I certainly hope to do, remind me to ask him if he knows the Richard Gere Gerbil Story.) Third: "Wah Gwan" sound like a euphoric homeland-pride anthem at first but turns out to be about how utterly fucked up Jamaica is. Fourth: the singer guy with the high voice sounds all longingly desperate and tragically sad even when he's just urging you to dance. Fifth: every song has about 247 hooks. Jesus, I love this album, even with the lameass fluffy lite R&B jams and the boring middle third and everything.

5. Fannypack: See You Next Tuesday. The first Fannypack album was a sloppy, glorious mess, so it's almost shocking how focused this one is: martial clap-stomp beats, cold unemotional raps, hard confidence where the last album was all self-conscious goofyness. They don't sound like L'Trimm anymore (much). There's still joy and life and frothy exuberance here. But I love how they've gotten stronger and fiercer, like everyone involved realized that they were really on to something here, like a hobby became a dayjob. The male stripper song flips the Ying Yang Twins paradigm beautifully, and the line about hating trucker hats makes the back-cover photo of pencil-moustached production dork Fancy that much funnier. There is absolutely no reason for Fannypack to remain not-huge besides Tommy Boy marketing idiocy.

6-10: Sleater-Kinney: The Woods; Caribou: The Milk of Human Kindness; Maximo Park: A Certain Trigger; White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan; Lungfish: Feral Hymns.


1. Sufjan Stevens: Chicago. Is this even a single? I'm going to say it is because it's too good to not be a single. Those weeping Motown strings and watery vibraphone plunks and sad twee emo choir vocals will never ever get old. This thing just builds and builds and swirls and piles on heartfelt hook after heartfelt hook until you're dazed and sunstruck. The day my promo of Come On Feel the Illinoise arrived, I drove to Radio Shack to buy a new remote and kept hitting repeat on the car CD player and almost got into about five accidents; Bridget was pissed. The album isn't even all that great, but DC Comics better get its mind right and stop squandering its post-Batman Begins goodwill so people can hear this thing.

2. Damien Marley: Welcome to Jamrock. I love that his name is Damien. Isn't that perfect? Like he's really this devil-born demon and Bob fucked around and died trying to stop him like Gregory Peck? I said on Pitchfork that I liked this at least as much as anything Bob ever recorded, and now I'm starting to think that this was faint praise; the only Bob songs that come close are "Redemption Song" and "Burning and Looting". This is just such a furious, righteous slice of oppressed rage and incoherent, wounded pride. I mean, isn't Damien rich? How does he manage to sound like death squads just killed his entire family? And why am I such an asshole to be making snarky jokes about such an amazing piece of work?

3. R. Kelly: Trapped in the Closet. I was going to list all five parts individually, with like Part 1 here and part 4 at #10, but that eventually just seemed ridiculous. This was such an amazingly fearless bit of cultural event-making that it's hard to just judge it as music, but the music is great. The way Kells wraps his voice around the police siren in part 4, the way the strings saw away all paranoid at the end of every installment - I wish A Grand Don't Come for Free had actually sounded anywhere near this great. And the story, ridiculous as it is, had me holding my breath through the first couple of installments. Even as it got stupid, it never stopped being completely entertaining, and now at least I know why he included that bit about the cop.

4. Missy Elliott ft. Ciara and Fatman Scoop: Lose Control. That "music makes you lose control" part - that's from Les Rhythmes Digitales, right? Has Missy been reading Generation Ecstacy? Does this song even have a chorus? Why is Ciara rapping? Does this have any right to be as great as it is? Of course it does.

5. Kanye West ft. Jay-Z: Diamonds (Remix). It's nice to hear Kanye conflicted about the ice in his stupid fucking Jesus piece, but this song would be nowhere near the top ten without Jay. That part where the music drops out and they Jay comes in is possibly the single most thrilling moment on any song this year; dude knows how to make an entrance. And his verse is like a particularly revelatory XXL cover story, except a minute and a half long and rhyming. Too bad he doesn't explain the Lebron thing!

6-10: B.G. ft. Homebwoi: Where Da At; Mannie Fresh: Conversation; Common ft. Last Poets: The Corner; T.I.: U Don't Know Me, Juelz Santana: Mic Check 1, 2.