So, this is a video I saw a couple weeks ago while I was hanging out with one of my friends from the army in his town, Zichron Ya’akov. Everybody gathered around someone’s iPod and laughed as they watched it – I’m assuming it’s been making the rounds with the Israeli youth who can all, of course, personally relate to it.
The title of the song translates to “The Most Beautiful [Girl] In Infantry”, and it’s a jokey song about a girl soldier in infantry. In it, the singer, Noam Barak, sings about how beautiful this girl in infantry is, with her machine gun and her battle-vest pressing against her breasts.
While the image of a hot chick soldier is something of a fantasy for us in North America, in Israel you see them on the street everyday, and the amount of them who are downright stunning is confounding. Unfortunately, they seem to have managed to fit all the not-good-looking ones in this video, leaving the rest out…
The Strokes were one of the bands that made me fall in love with music, so whenever they release a new album, it’s a big deal. Are people talking about this back in North America? Hasn’t been the stuff of much discussion in the IDF, believe it or not. Maybe it’s because it’s coming so soon after the underwhelming Angles. In any case, let’s get into this.
So, it looks like we’re gonna have to get used to The Strokes 2.0. Comedown Machine is clearly the new The Strokes that we got on Angles – less NYC cool, more simple, old-school pop-rock band with great guitar-arrangements and a frontman that keep things interesting. But they’re more confident and comfortable in their new skin this time, and they sound good…most of the time. The songs are by and large better and more consistent than those on Angles, and the band feels more engaged in them. The first half of the album particularly impresses – as with Angles, that’s where they stuff most of the straight-on killer tracks, saving the more experimental but less-actually-good for the bottom half.
At this point I feel like I can live with and even enjoy these middle-period Strokes – I even half to give them credit for still sounding relevant while their old-school peers The Hives and even Jack White sound out of place in 2013′s bandiverse. Most of the credit, however, goes to Julian Casablancas, who sounds rejuvenated here – he continues to stretch he vocal abilities and expand his signiture singing territory with a lot more falsetto than we’re used to from the famously baritone-voiced frontman. The production – though similar in feel to Angles – is also a bit better, credit owed to producer Gus Oberg.
Like everyone who remembers 2001, I miss the Strokes of Is This It and Room On Fire and would prefer them – even solo Julian at his best – to the new Strokes. But I can still enjoy the band for their numerous strengths that remain on Comedown Machine.
So, this is cool: our friendly neighbourhood (or old neighbourhood, as they’re from Toronto…) cold-gazers Volcano Playground have renamed themselves Program and begun the release of new and Dave Newfeld-produced material with this revamped version of their song “Waiting”. It’s pretty, pretty, pretty cool shiat.
So, Nancy Ajram isn’t actually an obscure artist – the Lebanese pop star is a big deal in her home country supposedly, but for us non-Arabic Westerners, she is considerably less known. But here’s a good question: why is a blog that focuses on indie rock blogging about a straight up pop artist? Well, because Lebanese pop is far enough removed from our version of pop that some of it actually sounds pretty cool.
I only know a couple of Ajram’s songs, but there are two in particular that I’ve become a bit addicted to and wanted to blog about. The first one is “Fi Hagat”, which is a sprawling melodramatic masterpiece, alternating between soft, sensual sections and something of a smooth grind, all throughout managing to be hugely melodic and brilliantly colourful. From watching the video (which has 32+ million hits on youtube) I gather the song is about romance or something, but I really have no idea (I can only hope it’s not a song about hating Jews ). And Ajram’s Arabic make the vocals sound smooth and, again, amazingly sensual.
The second song of hers I’ve found that really impressed me was “Kol Ma Teddy”, a straight up electronic dance floor banger. So what makes this any different than the typical dance bangers we hear in North America? Mainly the glistening, gliding Middle Eastern-strings that punctuate the song amidst bright, bubbly synths. By any standard, this is beautiful, well produced, and well arranged tune-smithery. I’ve been listening to these songs for weeks and figured it was high time I posted something about them, so here.
Unfortunately, not all of Ajram’s music is as good as this: a lot of her songs really do sound like plastic crap with lame production, but I do encourage others to dig through the considerable amount of stuff she’s released and if you want, let me know what else to check out.
Toronto/Montreal folk/psych/lo-fi-pop-maker David Kleiser‘s been making music (and lots of it) for a long time as The Walls Are Blonde (and we’ve been blogging about it too) – he’s got a new CD-R called Warm Thoughts that rambles along with all manner of strange sounds and pretty tunes. I’ll probably listen to the whole thing on some late evening/night-time busride from my kibbutz to Tel Aviv. I can imagine it being good for something like that, and in the Facebook message Kleiser sent me he did say mobility was a big part of this one.