Category Archives: Random Noise

Music that fits no category. Or we’re too lazy to categorize.

Indie Rock Is Dead: Paul Krugman’s Posting on Arcade Fire

On his blog, Paul “Cassandra” Krugman posted on Arcade Fire last night. I’m just going to repeat that: Paul Krugman wrote about Arcade Fire.

I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t even aware of the band until the Grammys — but hey, I’m 58! And as I suspect is happening with Brad, as an aging baby boomer I find it vastly reassuring to see that there are honest, creative artists still making their way up amid the commercialization. And their live performances are truly addictive. So:

Two notes. 1.) Starting today, Noise Narcs will cease its coverage of last week’s Pitchfork and instead cover last week’s Keynesian economics. 2.) James Fallows, you better step up your game from Pomplamoose.

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Happy Easter, Christians!

I am Senor Chang, and I'm so ill! This is a warning: I can't be killed.

Jacques Slade, “I Never Die” [youtube] (from the Community soundtrack)

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Your 420 Post: Argent, “Liar”

It’s not like I’m obligated to post one, but if you were expecting a 420 friendly tune, then the following should serve nicely.

After the lackluster sales of Odessey and Oracle, one of our favorite misspelled albums, The Zombies tragically dissolved. Distinctive vocalist Colin Blunstone left to work in the insurance industry for a little while before ultimately returning to music, but keyboardist/song-writer/sometime-vocalist Rod Argent quickly formed his own band, Argent, which would go on to release several albums throughout the early seventies.

Several tracks off the 1970 self-titled debut would sound right at home on an Odessey and Oracle follow-up, for example, “Schoolgirl,” “Dance in the Smoke,” and “The Feelings Inside.” All are very highly recommended.

"Come right in! Your keys go in that bowl there. We were just listening to Argent on our Koss headphones. It's 1970."

But then there’s a track like “Liar,” which would turn into a much bigger hit for Three Dog Night when they covered it that same year.  It is not like the Zombies, but I like it. To begin with, the driving blues riff sounds more like something Alvin Lee was doing around that time with Ten Years After, but there’s also an edge that, to me, makes it way more of a freak-out than anything the Zombies did together.


Argent, “Liar”

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Skeleton Dead premiere: New songs, debut album “done and dusted within the month”

Just got an email from the British duo of Skeleton Dead, who we first fell for back in December. Not only have they released two more sparse, gorgeous neo-trad folk tracks on their Soundcloud, there’s also album news: “We’re currently finishing off the album – should all be recorded, mixed, done and dusted within the month.”

“Lock the Doors” starts with an ominous thrust of crawling echo that would fit well with “U Smile 800% Slower,” before a car engine turns over and the tale of a murderous burglar begins over jangling guitars and slowly progressing organ. But underneath the bright, gentle instrumentation, the echoed retardation never leaves: drifting in and out, providing ballast and biting menace.

Lock the Doors by The Skeleton Dead

“Taken by the Tide,” is Skeleton Dead’s most sunshine-y song by a country mile. A train-like acoustic rhythm guitar is overtaken by a warm electric that would fit well in a ’50s ballad or a Cass McCombs song. “If we’re taken by the tide / I can’t say that I’ll mind.”

Taken by the Tide by The Skeleton Dead

These two additions make Skeleton Dead’s album one of our most anticipated of the year. And for our UK readers, they’ll be playing some dates in June. So keep an eye out.

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Tripping Through Vanguard’s Vaults

Tomorrow, April 16, is the fifth annual Record Store Day, so be sure to run out and support your local record store whether it’s a.k.a. Music in old city, Repo on South St, tequila sunset or milkcrate records up on Girard, or whatever.

To celebrate the occasion, Vanguard Records has dug deep in its vaults and come out with Follow Me Down: Vanguard’s Lost Psychedelic Era (1966-1970), a two-disc compilation of mostly single album artists from that golden, paisley age.

Tracks range from the Hammond-soaked agnosticism of Listening’s “Stoned Is” (It’s a mean life / I mean, you don’t even know why you scream / but someday I’ll find out what I’ve got to say) to the more experimental, thirteen minute raga-rock vision-quest (complete with electric banjo) of Serpent Power’s “Endless Tunnel,” a personal favorite that exchanges the blue bus of The Doors’ “The End” for a mysterious passenger train headed for death or conformity or something.

Here is “Stoned Is” for your enjoyment.  If the bass sounds a bit familiar (solo starts at 3:20), it’s because Walter Powers would later be known to hold the groove for the (moderately more successful) Velvet Underground.

Listening, “Stoned Is”

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The Antlers new track, “Parentheses”: The opposite of slight

I initially fell in love with The Antlers’ Hospice, but its emotional tug fell off for me after repeated lesson. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my taste in music has been affected by my life situations: music that’s too slight (overwhelmed by the subway) or too harsh (too distracting for work, etc.) tends to get unfairly minimized. And Hospice‘s fall from my good graces was likely the result of that sort of unfair squeeze; no matter how beautiful it was, it was just too slight for what’s going on with my life.

This new track, “Paanetheses” [via Pitchfork], however, won’t fall prey to that. Pulling a major, major page from the last couple of Radiohead albums, it ups the ante with a Greenwood-esque guitar and Selway-esque drums. To be honest, this is as good as, if not better than, most of King of the Limbs.

Keep an eye out for The Antlers’ May 10 release of Burst Apart.

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A New Direction for Noise Narcs: Comparing and Contrasting John Cale and Britney Spears

Hey all,

Compare and merge: Britney Spears and John Cale, together at last

After 15 grueling months of posting on Noise Narcs, things have gotten pretty staid. We post about music, frequently new, occasionally Philadelphian, occasionally on the varying covers of classic songs. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So, as of today, we’re taking a bit of a gamble. Those of you who know me, know that I’m a big fan of Britney Spears. Sure, as Jody Rosen points out, she’s kind of an empty vessel for her producers, but I’m not falling for the authorial pop fallacy (see: Lady Gaga, whom we should all congratulate for writing her boring pop songs all by herself just like a big girl!). “Toxic,” I totally ♥ you.

What you may not know is that I’ve been burning through John Cale’s catalog in between spinning Britney’s new four on the floor masterpiece, Femme Fatale. Cale is different than Britney, but he’s still pretty great. He also had a part in a song called, “Femme Fatale,” although it does not keep all four on the floor, which Britney is really great at.

So for the next two months, we’ll be posting exclusively on Cale and Spears, using the compare and contrast essay system I was taught in middle school. And to start it out, we have Britney’s new song “How I Roll” and John Cale’s old song “Helen of Troy.”

Britney Spears, “How I Roll” [Buy]
John Cale, “Helen of Troy” [Buy]

Britney Spears, “How I Roll”

Bloop-bloopy-bloop. What a way to start a song! H-o-t! But then this song makes me angry. I can’t believe that Robyn has been stealing from Britney all these years. Copy-cat! Speaking about cats, how great is this lyric, “back downtown where my posse’s at / because I got nine lives like a kitty kat”? She can hang downtown with her posse because even after they stab her and watch her bleed to death, she’s still got eight more lives!

Britney’s songs have multiple meanings. The first three times I was really excited about this song because I thought it was “Philly earthquake,” which scared me because I live in Philadelphia. But turns out that the lyric is “feel the earthquake.” I couldn’t feel it, could you?

John Cale, “Helen of Troy”

Eww! Stop talking about big thighs, John Cale. And those horns are weird. Doo-to-de-doooh! Someone should tell Mr. Cale that we’re not in medieval England with Charles Dickens and whatever, riding horses with armor and being colonialists.

But I do like the part where the man with the lisp talks, totally make think of Sex and the City!!! I also like the part where John Cale talks about Britney: “She’s got fat men, vermin in disguise / In the cold rooms of her eyes.”


Although both John Cale’s “Helen of Troy” and Britney Spears’ “How I Roll” are really neat songs about Britney Spears, I like Britney Spears autobiographical version better because: 1) it’s not set to 19th century England knight horns 2) bloopy-bloop-bloop 3) it does a better job describing how Britney Spears rolls, 4) “Helen of Troy” doesn’t talk about cute kitty cats once and 5) “Helen of Troy” does not once ask “can we get blind, like a captain in the sky?” which is a really important question to ask in today’s modern society.

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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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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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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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