Monthly Archives: March 2011

PBR&B: The Weeknd and Frank Ocean

I wish I could say that I came up with “PBR&B” as a term for the indie R&B that has been popping up on Pitchfork, Stereogum, et al. for the past month or two, but I’m not that clever (not by a long shot).  Despite not coming up with the name, I’ve been digging quite a few albums that fall into said sub-genre, namely The Weeknd’s House of Balloons and Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia U.L.T.R.A.

From what I can tell, the main thing that makes PBR&B artists hipster-friendly (versus regular R&B artists like Ne-Yo or Trey Songz) is that at least one song on their album makes extensive use of a familiar, hipster-approved indie rock song. In The Weeknd’s case, this takes the form of two songs that sample Beach House (pre-Teen Dream, no less). “Loft Music,” which is one of the better songs on the album, borrows guitar and Victoria Legrand’s vocals from “Gila,” distorts them, and adds a drum track and vocals. Somehow, it works to great effect.

The Weeknd – Loft Music

Beach House – Gila [Buy]

The other Beach House sample on House of Balloons is “The Party & The After Party,” which samples from “Master of None.” I think it’s a less original sample, an inferior Beach House song (relative to “Gila,” anyway), and the track just sort of meanders along for the last four minutes. Not exactly the best pitch in the world, but it’s worth a listen just to hear the Beach House sample.

The Weeknd – The Party & The After-Party

Beach House – Master of None [Buy]

All in all, the Weeknd album is pretty solid. It is deconstructed, sometimes sparse R&B that is better than anything I’ve heard in the genre in years. My favorite track is the opener “High for This.” While it doesn’t sample any indie rock, the beat during the chorus sounds like the beat from Ginuwine’s “Pony” and the sound from Inception got together and had a baby. Awesome.

The Weeknd – High For This

Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia U.L.T.R.A. is more standard R&B fare, but still an enjoyable album that has its weird moments. For instance, he manages to take an atrocious Coldplay song and make it marginally listenable (“Strawberry Swing”), reworks The Eagles’ “Hotel California” as a song about marrying a teenager (“American Wedding”), and samples Radiohead’s “Optimistic” in an interlude that features two women lamenting the lack of Jodeci in Frank Ocean’s music collection and includes the line “What is a Radiohead anyway?” However, the absolute standout track on the album is “Nature Feels,” in which Frank Ocean takes MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and turns it into a ridiculous outdoor sex romp (first line: “I’ve been meaning to f*** you in the garden”).

Frank Ocean – Nature Feels

MGMT – Electric Feel [Buy]

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Listen to Timber Timbre’s Upcoming LP for Free!

Just a heads-up that Creep On Creepin’ On, scheduled for an April 5th release, can be heard for free HERE [updated with the correct link]. I favorably reviewed the Canadian ghost-folk outfit’s 2009 self-titled debut back in Noise Narc’s early days, and Creep On Creepin’ On, as the name might suggest, continues the same theme with references to death, seances, madness and magic spells, but with a few extra instruments thrown in here and there (like the morose sax at the end of the title track or the demonic cello/sax/violin combo in “Do I Have Power?”).  On a first impression, it sounds like some tracks veer more towards a horror movie score sound (Swamp Magic), while others will make you want to slow dance like it’s the zombie prom.  I like it.

Pre-order Creep on Creepin’ On here or here.

Also, it looks like they’re only making three US stops between Ontario and Europe, but one of those is Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live, April 12.

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RIP Knut (2006-2011)

When I was on vacation in Germany in 2007, a billboard promoting Frankfurt with a picture of a piggy bank on it read: “Berlin hat Knut.  Frankfurt hat Schweine.” I understood that “swine” in this case referred to the financial industry centered in Frankfurt, but a random German on the streets had to inform me what “Knut” meant.  He was a polar bear born in captivity in the Berlin zoo.   His polar bear mother (a former circus-performer) rejected him, so surrogate father, zookeeper Thomas Dörflein, raised him, and little did I know that I’d arrived in Germany at the dizzy peak of “Knutmania.”  Deutschland loved the cuddly runt.

Here Comes Knut! video.

Knut’s upbringing may have been unorthodox, some would even say “unnatural,” but was it wrong?  Animal rights activist Frank Albrecht thought so.  The life of a polar bear without a polar bear mother’s love and instruction was no polar bear life at all.  Albrecht and a few others advocated euthanasia for Knut, but the children of Berlin stood in his corner, and the result was the zoo’s most profitable year in its then-163-year history.  So that shut Albrecht up.

But the light bulb that burns twice as bright lasts half as long, and like all child stars, Knut didn’t grow up quite right.  At 2 years old, when his surrogate zookeeper father died of a heart attack at the age of only 44, Knut was considerably less adorable.  He was also a little strange, letting the polar bear ladies in his enclosure walk all over him.  Some have argued that the stress of his living situation may have contributed to his premature death (captivity polar bears can live up to 30 years; Knut was 4), which the results of a recent autopsy blame on brain disease.  Witnesses say his rear leg began twitching before he collapsed in a pool of water and drowned as zookeepers rushed to rescue him.

What did the people of Germany see in him?  The story of Knut is one of captivity, exploitation, controversy and a-cute (too soon?) heart break.  In honor of his story, think of him as you gaze at your shoes in sadness, listening to “Polar Bear” off of Ride’s 1990 debut, Nowhere:

Ride, “Polar Bear” [Buy Nowhere]

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New track from Grubby Little Hands

Those of you at the Noise Narcs show on Saturday may have heard the live premiere of the new track from Grubby Little Hands, “Uneek.” It has the Grubbies moving towards the chillwave side of psychedelic spectrum: watery gurgles flow by a tight R&B-esque drum track and then the Hawaii-esque guitars kicks in. Brian Melton of Fishing Engine, who also did the projection for Saturday’s show, provides the triptastic video.

Grubby Little Hands, “UNEEK”

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Tom Waits, and Darlene Love

It’s not much of a secret that there are some Tom Waits fans here at Noise Narcs.  Most surprising to me about Waits’ recent induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is finding out that he plays Rock and Roll.  Usually I just categorize him as “Tom Waits.” But where’s the Hall of Fame for that?  Where’s the Jazz-Blues-Eastern-European-Folk-Avant-Opera and Nightmare-Hobo-Cookie-Monster Hall of Fame for that?

Check out Terry Gross’ great and hilarious recent interview here:

GROSS: Well, what was your first instrument?
Mr. WAITS: I don’t know. I don’t know, probably a box or something.

Tom Waits, “Step Right Up” [Buy Small Change]

Tom Waits, “Misery Is the River of the World” [Buy Blood Money]

Other inductees include Leon Russell (featured on Noise Narcs here) listed as a “sideman” and Darlene Love, whom you may not have heard of–in spite of her prolific career–because of stories like this from her Hall of Fame bio:

Among rock cognoscenti, Love is best known for “He’s a Rebel,” a song credited to the Crystals that was in actuality sung by Love and her vocal group, the Blossoms. The reason for this odd situation has to do with the record’s producer, Phil Spector. He instinctively knew that the song, written by Gene Pitney, would be a hit. But he couldn’t record it with the Crystals, his main recording group at the time. They were back home in Brooklyn while he was out in Los Angeles, impatient to get the song recorded before a competing version (by Vicki Carr) could gain momentum. So he cut “He’s a Rebel” with the Blossoms, crediting it to the Crystals because he wanted a recognizable name on the record and they had two recent hits (“Uptown” and “There’s No Other [Like My Baby]”).

The Crystals, “He’s A Rebel” [Buy The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love]

And here you’ll find the full induction list for 2011.

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You passed the test on Saturday / The Trademark Experience

Thanks go out to all the people who came out to the Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater show on Saturday night. You all passed with flying colors. More picture proof can be found at‘s Flickr. And check out Rockaphilly’s indie show listing while you’re at it.

My friend from Wisconsin said, 'Damn. People from Philadelphia are hot.' We know.

Cozy Galaxies

Donnie from Grubby Little Hands

Pat from Bridge Underwater

Speaking of passing tests, this video from Philly’s The Trademark Experience, made to encourage Philly kids to do well on the (funding imperative) PSSA exams, touches all the right places on its way to parodying Fabulous’ “You Be Killin’ Em” [via Philebrity]. Aw.

The Trademark Exeprience, “Fill It In”

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Although Philadelphians don’t understand irony, we do understand free tickets

The Onion, who just recently launched in Philly, are doing a ticket giveaway for some show we might have talked about a little bit. Namely one sponsored by this blog and featuring the excellent Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater.

Enter now at The AV Club’s site.

And special thanks go to Sly Fox (and Suzanne) for their green room consideration, the wonder that is Odyssey x2 IPA, and for helping make Philly’s beer scene so kickass since 1995.

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Philly’s music scene is more than just Kurt Vile (even if he tries hard to make it seem that way)

Kurt Vile has his hands in a lot of Philadelphia pies

That Kurt Vile record? Oh my gawd. The best Philly record in roughly forever. If you’re previously familiar with Vile, you’ll recognize the same juke that Deerhunter pulled with Halcyon Digest: the sound got less aggressively “weird,” but underneath the shinier veneer is an intensified strangeness: a musical force that rips you apart while maintaining eye contact. If you’re just joining the Kurt Vile freak train (of course it’s not because of Pitchfork’s BNM. No, I know. You’re not a cog in Pitchfork’s culture machine. I believe you.): 1) yes, that’s his given name, and 2) welcome to the party.

And one hell of a big-tent party it is. Not only did Vile play in one of my other favorite Philly bands of this millennium (The War on Drugs), in the past year he also contributed to J Mascis’ excellent new album (see his work below on the amazing “Not Enough”), inspired the below homage track from Shai Halpern’s solo project Sweet Lights (also excellent), played with Thurston Mooore, opened for Pavement, signed to Matador, and to top it all off went back in time, hung out with caveman, and invented music.

Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater $10, 3/19 8:00 PM @ The M Room, 15 W Girard

But, despite appearances, Kurt Vile doesn’t have his hands in every awesome Philly indie rock band. Need proof? Tomorrow we’re throwing down with three of our absolute favorite Philly bands, and Kurt Vile plays in none of them (yet). Join us for our show with Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater at the M Room, tomorrow night (3/19) at 8 PM. The internet can’t be wrong: So far, City Paper‘s Critical Mass, The New Philadelphia, and The Swollen Fox have picked it for their featured show of the night (take that, Godspeed You! Black Emperor). presents Cozy Galaxies, Grubby Little Hands, and Bridge Underwater
Sat, March 19th. 8PM. $10
The M Room, 15 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA
Event Page

Kurt Vile, “Baby’s Arms” [Buy]
J Mascis, “Not Enough (ft. Kurt Vile)” [Buy]
Sweet Lights, “Ballad of Kurt Vile #2” [Bandcamp]

Cozy Galaxies, “Clean Yourself Up” [Buy]

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A Polaroid of the Blogger as a Younger Man

In “The One Where They All Turn Thirty,” Rachel is upset because she thought she’d have found “The One” by that age, and she doesn’t yet realize that it’s always been Ross.

If you know what I’m talking about, then you’re probably as old as Dave, who turns thirty today.

I’ve known Dave since the summer of 1999, when Penn State, having assigned us to be roommates, exchanged our phone numbers so that we could plan who would bring the stereo and who would bring the tv, etc.  IIRC, Dave directed that first conversation towards the subject of musical taste.  Here is my reconstruction of it:

D: Hello?
C: Hi, I’m Chris.  So we’re going to be roommates?
D: Guess so.  What kind of music do you like?
C: All kinds I guess.  I play a little guitar.  I sort of like that band Tool.
D: [silence]
C: Hello?  Are you still there.
D: Yeah, sorry.  I was just thinking of something awful.  Do you like Radiohead?
C: Uh…yeah, sure.
D: Have you ever heard of DJ Shadow?
C: Who?
D: DJ Shadow
C: No, I never heard of him.
D: That’s not surprising.

That year I listened to a lot of new-to-me music thanks to Dave, and in honor of that, I put together a little playlist of a few of those tracks.  Perhaps they will offer Noise Narc’s readers a slight insight into the mind of Dave G.  Feel free to reminisce if you’re old enough.

Space, “Begin Again” [Buy Tin Planet]

Morphine, “Potion” [Buy Like Swimming]

Jeff Buckley, “The Sky Is A Landfill” [Buy Sketches (For My Sweetheart the Drunk)]

Bach, “Harpsichord Concerto No.10 in C Major BWV 1061, II” [Buy Bach: Concertos]

Kula Shaker, “Mystical Machine Gun” [Buy Peasants, Pigs, and Astronauts]

On the bright side, Dave, while you’re now older than all of the technology featured in this video, the kids actually do a pretty good job of identifying what it had once been useful for:

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RIP Nate Dogg (1969-2011): Going to heaven with his condoms in a bigass sack

Nate Dogg died last night of undisclosed causes, after years of deteriorating health and two debilitating strokes. Here’s hoping that he’s dialing from 777 not 666.

Take it away high school friend Snoop Dogg’s Twitter: “all doggs go to heaven.”

Ludacris ft. Nate Dogg, “Area Codes” [Buy]

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