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Killer Mike (#110 of 3)

SXSW 2012: Music, Part Two

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SXSW 2012: Music, Part Two
SXSW 2012: Music, Part Two

In a panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon, Anthony Bourdain described his preference for “red-blooded countries”—passionate, unstable places where anything can happen—over well-behaved, Scandinavian-style ones, where calm and order are the norm. Applying this to SXSW, the film part of the festival is one of those Scandinavian countries, taking place in a system defined by meticulous organization. You can guess what the music portion is.

Film has its messy moments, but the system is clearly proscribed: You get a “queue card,” wait in a neatly ordered line, chat with a producer from St. Louis, and then get directed to your seat. Music is chaos, in the sense that it’s usually ruled by random chance rather than any distinct system. To see Bruce Springsteen (at a secret location) you needed to enter a raffle and hope for the best. Entertaining the impossible dream of getting Jay-Z tickets required a byzantine process involving Twitter and an American Express card registration. Then again, you could walk into a no-name bar at any time of the day and possibly hear something amazing. It’s a Wild West kind of atmosphere, which is by turns both thrillingly off the cuff and colorfully overwhelming.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #90 - #81

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #90 - #81
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #90 - #81

90. Department of Eagles, “Floating On The Lehigh” (In Ear Park, 2008)
Arguably, the aughts traveled through three or four distinct phases of journalistically notable indie rock trends (read: space-filling pseudo-movements rooted in some truth, but basically the creation of lazy critics). There was the ridiculously clustered-together “garage rock revival” post-millennial phase (something so poorly and simplistically defined that, for a while, people thought maybe The Fiery Furnaces ought to be grouped next to the White Stripes, since they were both [faux-]brother/sister duos). There was the ugly middle period defined by (depending on where your head was at) either DFA and its disco-punk ilk and/or the notion that large groups of people standing around on stage constituted an automatically laudable, Gen-X-cynicism-repudiating ethos of “community,” “togetherness” et al. (Douglas Coupland would be so proud we snapped out of it!). The endgame (now over, apparently) was in thrall to the idea that Sonic Youth should be everyone’s favorite band of all time. There will be much more to say about these dismal mini-zeitgeists on another occasion.

At this particular moment, though, it seems like Grizzly Bear have a chance of making really ornate, multi-harmony vocals that resist automatic Beach Boys sugar very popular and generally The Next Big Thing if anyone can figure out how to rip them off. They’re very sui generis, but I prefer side project Department of Eagles, which concedes just enough to the kind of stuff I already understand; Yellow House aside, Grizzly Bear often stretches beyond what I’m comfortable with in their longeurs. Like Rufus Wainwright at his most Romantic, “Floating On The Lehigh” meanders through six minutes of woodwinds, the occasional operatic swell and non-urgent detours without ever seeming too tenuous. There’s real excitement to be found in music that can sprawl for a long time without losing you when it stops to breathe, which is pretty much always in this case. Downright post-coital.

Music Video Round-Up: Young Jeezy’s "My President Is Black" & Relics of Cynicism

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Music Video Round-Up: Young Jeezy’s “My President Is Black” & Relics of Cynicism
Music Video Round-Up: Young Jeezy’s “My President Is Black” & Relics of Cynicism

Like most Young Jeezy songs, “My President” is a monster. Unlike most Young Jeezy songs, there’s a stomping, seething sense of joy and a little less get-money nihilism here, as it celebrates Obama’s presidency, or even the possibility of it (the song was recorded when Obama received the Democratic nomination back in June). The song’s the coup de grâce of Jeezy’s fucked-up economy-obsessed album The Recession, wrapping up the frustrations of the previous seventeen songs and looking forward to better, history-changing days. It’s the kind of multiplicity that hip-hop does best.

Young Jeezy, “My President,” directed by Gabriel Hart