01 November 2013

ROTKELFER: Reflecting on Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation?

That's a question that keeps popping into my head. It's a question that is a testament to U2's impact on music in spite of the fact that their act has grown tired in recent years and has threatened to tarnish their generally sterling reputation. It's a question that is also a testament to the growing impact of Arcade Fire.

The other question is how committed is Arcade Fire to the so-called concept of reflection in an album titled Reflektor? Especially with songs like "Supersymmetry," "Reflektor," and "Here Comes The Night Time" part I and II in a sprawling double album that is frustratingly asymmetrical for someone with a mild-to-moderate case of OCD: Disc 1 has seven tracks and disc 2 only has six tracks.

18 September 2013

PERFECT ALBUM: Fleetwood Mac - "Rumours"

On one typically sunny, crystal-blue persuas-, er, sky morning in Los Angeles I decided to throw on an album I hadn't listened to all the way through in a number of years: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

I turned the record on, started driving, blinked and then about 39 minutes and 3 seconds later I was sitting in my car at the parking lot marveling to myself, "This just might be a perfect album."

09 September 2013

THINKING ABOUT: The Perfect Album

"What is the 'perfect' album?"

That's a question I've been turning over in my head for the last few months or so.

Obviously, the idea of a "perfect" album is hugely subjective. And the reasons for why one would think an album is "perfect" is based on tons of variables: age, geography, environment, parents, musical taste (or lack thereof), etc.

But, me being me, I want to make some attempt in documenting what the "perfect" album is. At least what I consider perfect according to my age, geography, environment, parents, and musical taste.

No doubt, it is difficult to try and create the criteria for a perfect album (especially a criteria that everyone can agree on). After all, the idea of perfect doesn't necessarily mean the "best." Back in 2003 (and revised in 2012), Rolling Stone magazine attempted to determine the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The list is hardly controversial: The top 10 featured four albums by The Beatles (The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), two records by Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited), then rounded out by Marvin Gaye (What's Going On), The Rolling Stones (Exile On Main Street) and The Clash (London Calling). All fantastic albums. All influential. All brilliant in their own right. And many of those albums have been well-worn on the Pet Bear Sounds hi-fi over the years but none of them quite reach perfect status for me. (Hint: That last line is called a teaser).

So, what makes a "perfect" album? So far, I have come up with this rough criteria:
  • Album length: The perfect album (we're talking LPs here) is usually between 35 minutes and 40 minutes and rarely over 50 minutes. To a certain extent track length also comes into play. Individual tracks should generally be around that typical pop-song length of 2.5 to 4 minutes. (e.g. I'm on the fence about The Velvet Underground & Nico - an album I love - as a perfect album because of tracks like "Heroin" and "European Son" being over 7 minutes (!) long and with "All Tomorrow's Parties" at a flat 6 minutes).
  • Track sequence/Pace: Anyone who has had some experience making mix tapes/CDs - and believe you me, I do - knows the importance of track sequencing (the ordering of tracks on an album). Sequencing, I feel, is often overlooked when discussing great albums and is something that can easily make or break an album which is why I put a lot importance on track sequencing when talking about the perfect album. Excellent track sequencing will also generally result in less "filler" songs and is related to having an efficient album length. Excellent track sequencing will also create the perfect pace, the perfect ebb and flow of an album (e.g. The Beatles (The White Album) by The Beatles is a fantastic study in track sequencing but at a little over 90 minutes it will never be perfect). In most cases, the careful ordering of tracks will result in a fantastic opening and closing song.
  • Hits/Accessibility: Often times the best album in an artist's catalog can be the most difficult to digest. On the other hand, the perfect album tends to be pretty universally accessible and has at least one massive hit single on the album. The other tracks were likely hits, easily recognizable or at the very least could have been a hit with proper radio play.
  • Cohesion: I'm not saying the perfect album has to be a concept album per se but there just has to be some sort of common thread to make the album feel cohesive, whole - in one way or another - whether it is thematically, lyrically, sonically, technically (or perhaps all of the above!).
  • Intangibles: And then there are the intangibles of an album that likely includes bits of the above mentioned criteria. But then there's that something extra. You can't quite put your finger on it, but there's that special moment in music that creates a visceral reaction: warm fuzzy feelings, heartache, unbridled joy.
Admittedly, these criteria are not concrete and they could change based on album, based on whim, based on whatever. But I think it's a good starting point and I think that once I start discussing and digesting what I consider to be the "perfect" album, the criteria could be modified, expanded, tightened. I think one initial difficulty that I foresee is recognizing and accepting that your favorite album may not be the perfect album.

Finally, I'm hoping that the by-product of this project/discussion is to help me re-approach and re-examine music in the context of a full-length album as opposed to just a single (which is how we seem to be consuming music these days but that's a different discussion for a different time).

So, stay tuned here at PetBearSounds.com and look out for the on-going series on the Perfect Album!

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07 August 2013

FYF 2013: Spotify Playlist (and Schedule!)

UPDATE (8/18): Schedule is out! See you there.

Hard Summer 2013 is in the books and after the LA State Historic Park conceded ground to blissfully-E'd-out neon-splashed candy-ravers last weekend, the park will concede ground again on August 24 and 25 but this time to indie-punk-electro-rock-hop-gaze hipsters.

To prepare myself for FYF 2013, I have created a playlist on Spotify to include at least one song from each band playing at FYF, so follow Pet Bear Sounds on Spotify and subscribe to the FYF 2013 playlist!

I think the lineup is fantastic this year: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Devendra Banhart, Toro Y Moi, My Bloody Valentine, MGMT, Beach House, Solange, Washed Out, Holy Ghost!, !!!, etc. etc. Can't wait for this mini-Coachella.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, it's one big playlist for both days and it's organized by how the bands are laid out on the FYF poster. So, on Saturday we start with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and end with Waxahatchee then go right into the headliners on Sunday (My Bloody Valentine) down to Antwon and his song "Dying In The Pussy." Yup. "Dying In The Pussy." Not a typo.

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02 August 2013


Super excited about HARD Summer 2013! Enclosed in the red boxes above (thanks, MS Paint) are the acts that I definitely want to see.

My apologizes to Mr. 2 Chainz for going with SBTRKT's DJ set over yours. I've been wearing out the Disclosure album and I can't wait to see their set. Mix in a bit of Dog Blood and TNGHT before watching some Alex Metric. Then closing out Saturday night with Knife Party. My apologies to Oliver. Though, maybe I'll swing over there for a quick disco nap.

Sunday, I definitely want to make it to Crystal Castles and then onwards to Breakbot (apologies to Ms. Azealia Banks, though you were fantastic at Coachella). I've somehow missed Empire of the Sun at every other festival but I'm definitely making a point to see those wacky Australians. Definitely looking forward to Zedd who I think has really successfully blended a lot of that older trance style with modern vibes. And even though it's just a DJ set, I can't wait for Justice (I felt like I was cheated with their short set the last time they were at Coachella).

See you there!

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11 April 2013

EXCITEMENT #2: Coachella 2013

There are the bands you know you have to see (Blur, Stone Roses, Local Natives, Johnny Marr, Postal Service, 2 Chainz, OMD, etc), then there are the conflicts (Phoenix (with Daft Punk!?) vs. Sigur Ros vs. New Order vs. Knife Party, etc.), then there are the too-close-to-calls and you ask yourself if you can really run from the Sahara tent (Wolfgang Gartner) and get to the Main stage in time (Blur) or maybe from Main stage (Blur) to Gobi (Foals) and then back (Stone Roses). But maybe you want to get a good spot at the Main stage.

These are the questions that weigh on the mind in anticipation of Coachella 2013. It's the sort of stress that someone of my personality (OCD) has to deal with but in the end it all sorts itself out doesn't it? Sometimes even best laid plans are cast aside as the desert breeze pushes you from one stage or another. Best not to fight it.

See you this weekend!




Haven't done your homework? Well, for Weekend 1 kids there's still time today and while you're on the drive out to the desert. Weekend 2 hipsters still have time to get pumped. Subscribe to my Coachella playlists on Spotify!

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02 April 2013

EXCITEMENT #1: Johnny Marr at Coachella 2013

The first in a series of posts about musical things that excite me.

Johnny Marr at Coachella. How freakin' exciting is that!?

Let's be honest here: Reuniting The Smiths for Coachella isn't going to happen. It just won't. So, the next closest thing is seeing Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr (who is quite possibly the Eric Clapton of our generation). Marr has defined a generation of guitar sound and style in the way Clapton did in his Hey. Marr briefly toured with The Pretenders, recorded and toured with The The, worked as a session musician for the Pet Shop Boys, Billy Bragg, Talking Heads, Beck, Oasis, Modest Mouse, The Cribs. Throw in a couple quality solo albums and there's some reason to be excited.

Marr's set at Coachella should be filled with some classic Smiths tunes (like I said, this is the closest you'll get to The Smiths so enjoy it) and real solid Smiths-y tracks like "New Town Velocity" below.

Boy, you can take the guy out of The Smiths...

Now, here's where it's time to get even more excited.

Johnny Marr worked closely with Bernard Sumner of New Order in a super-group sort of project called Electronic. Guess what? Marr is playing Coachella on Friday while New Order plays on Saturday. You can see where I'm going here. I'm really hoping that Sumner joins Marr on stage for some Electronic tunes like this one:

And let's not forget that Johnny Marr worked with Modest Mouse who are also playing on Friday.

Tons of reasons to get excited about guitar legend Johnny Marr at Coachella.

Be sure to check out my Coachella playlists on Spotify! They're split up by day and I have at least one song from every band on there and I'm adding more as we get closer to Weekend 1 of Coachella. It's a lot of hours and not for the faint of heart.

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19 February 2013

REMEMBERING: The Postal Service - "Give Up"

Ten years ago today The Postal Service released Give Up. Ten years! Makes you feel old doesn't it?

I find it difficult to figure out where I was in 2003 without a bit of context. (It's a sign of aging, I hear). A while back I wrote up a top albums of 2003 list which brings me back to records like So Much For The City by the Thrills, Rooney's debut album, Muse's third record, and Radiohead's Hail To The Thief. Digging back through email records doesn't really help because it appears as if I don't have anything in my Gmail before August of 2004 and my Hotmail account has long been defunct and the emails from there are lost forever.

I took a quick glance through the year 2003 on Wikipedia. That was the year where 100 people were killed in a Rhode Island nightclub at a Great White show. And that was the year America invaded Iraq (again) and George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished." I think the MTV Music Video awards was still pseudo-relevant, right? (The one in 2003 was when Madonna and Britney Spears open-mouth-kissed on stage). June and Johnny Cash passed away that year.

Frankly, I feel as if a lot of the years seem to blur together. Perhaps there haven't been enough hallmarks in those years to really make an impression. Though, I've come to realize that I'm simply not very good with marking the passage of time and have a lot of difficulty attaching a particular place/event to a certain time. I generally save my concert ticket stubs and I am routinely surprised at the dates on those stubs. Days that once seemed so long ultimately turned into years that were too short.

Listening to Give Up now, I can recall the strong impressions I had then: I remember thinking that this was a "hipster" record before the word became ubiquitous. I remember not wanting to like this record as much as I did. I remember thinking that - some sappy lyrics aside - this was a beautiful, near perfect combination of electronic music and indie rock. I remember playing this album a million times. There were countless nights this dreamy record lulled me to sleep. The hyperactive, ear-candy production kept me awake behind the wheel on long road trips. I remember songs that felt at home both in the club or on the living room hi-fi. Listening now, there is certainly an undefinable nostalgia that coats this album like honey.

The Postal Service are playing this April at Coachella. I'm not sure what sort of memories will come back to me in a sort of post-traumatic-Pavlovian sort of way but there is a good chance that a little desert dust will find its way into my eyes.

Stupid dust.

What are your memories of Give Up by The Postal Service? Comment below!

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25 January 2013

COACHELLA 2013: Spotify Playlists

The Coachella lineup is finally here and the reaction seems to be more mixed than usual especially with some Coachella veterans. I'll have full thoughts some time next week or so but my initial reaction? Very solid. At first glance, it feels bit more Mary Jane rather than Molly. Just depends on what strikes your fancy.

Like last year, I've created some Spotify playlists for Coachella 2013. Click the links for each day to open up Spotify and listen to playlists for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Go ahead and subscribe to the playlist too as I will be updating as we get closer to Chellatimes.

Don't stress, don't sell your tickets, you'll have fun, I'm sure of it. See you Weekend 1!

(Feeling some Coachella 2012 nostalgia? Listen to my Coachella 2012 Spotify Playlist here).

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