Archive: March, 2011
If you’re in the market for a chic, up-to-date threads or sexy minimalist furniture, you may want to peek inside the Matthew Izzo boutique, which just moved to Midtown Village. The artsy bazaar offers clothing with an alternative bent, modern art, furniture, and candle collections designed by owner Matthew Izzo. “Everything is local, we're trying to focus a lot on that,” Izzo says. “As a small business we rely on tourism, and this is a great tourist location, so we’ve been getting a lot of traffic.” You can check his new digs at 111 S. 12th St.
Critical Mass contributor Ryan Carey set his iPod to shuffle. This is where it led him ...
1. Radiohead, "Feral" -- King of Limbs (2011)
Radiohead's latest release shows they're finished reinventing themselves (for now) and they've settled on ambient psychetronica, which draws mixed reactions from fans. But they're having fun and certainly don't owe us anything. Feral is a somewhat minimalist pulsing rhythm which waves York's lyrical vocals all over like an oscillating fan.
2. Morphine "Rope on Fire" -- The Night (2000)
The Night, Morphine's final album before lead singer and bassist Mark Sandman passed away on stage in Italy, was more critically acclaimed that its 1997 predecessor, Like Swimming. Reason probably being, The Night is a bit darker, dense, poetic, artsy. Like Swimming was more entertaining, groovy, and accessible, which is not necessarily Morphine's fanbase wheelhouse. But "Rope on Fire" — one of their few tracks to feature acoustic guitar — is one of The Night's more toe-tapping head bobbers, despite its gypsyish minor scales. R.I.P Mark Sandman.
3. Screaming Trees "Troubled Times" -- Sweet Oblivion (1992)
"Troubled Times" starts off with a slow paced bluesy riff and low key vocals on self reflection. After a few measures it breaks into Oasis-y guitar-drenched rock riffs and verses about a relationship underachiever (to put it mildly). Sweet Oblivion was seen as the highwater mark for the Trees, and is the album you most likely have heard of, however I have to personally refer you to their 1996 follow up Dust.
4. System of a Down "Mind" -- System of a Down (1998)
This insanely effed up metal tune (about... child-abuse? adolescent sex? government mind control?) is one of those tracks that hadn't really been on my radar. I love System of a Down, but I love them in a very specific way. The brilliant Toxicity is tied to a time and place for me, and its follow up, Steal This Album, appealed to my generally not-that-hardcore musical taste. For all I know, I might not have ever listened to their eponymous album in its entirety but this song, with dynamic quiet and heavy parts, is powerful stuff.
Death Row Records alum Nate Dogg (aka Nathaniel Hale) passed away yesterday in Long Beach, Cali. The cause of death hasn't been reported but the well known hip-hop collaborator, who famously worked with rappers like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, suffered from two strokes in recent years. He was only 41.
Who & What: Each week, three Y-Rock DJs spin an eclectic mix of indie rock and pop, tossing in an occasional classy electronic beat to keep it sexy.
Why: Because a good Wednesday booty shakin' does the body good.
Fri., March 11 — such a deceptive day for a set of balls. Fifty two degrees at 5 p.m., thirty one by 10 p.m. Damn you weathervane. No matter. I slipped into one of my Dolce & Gabbana Martini tuxes, grabbed my dressiest pals and went balling.
First out of the ball box, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra's 2011 annual gala at The Union League. I have to confess that I ran late and was in and out of the tony affair. But this is where Maestro Louis Scaglione, President and Music Director of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra organization, led 100+ classical musicians at Lincoln Hall in song; Berlioz’s "Roman Carnival Overture" and Stravinsky’s "Firebird Suite" to be exact. Tune Up Philly was also a beneficiary at the benefit and Studio Incamminati painted still lifes during the cocktail hour.
Next up at the Ballroom at the Bellvue, the White Tie Ball that benefited Variety — a children's charity — and paid homage to honoree Loraine Ballard Morrill, the news and community affairs director for Clear Channel Radio Philadelphia. This was way louder and younger than the PYO gala – big funk from CTO, a 16-foot ice wall for photo ops, a room of sports memorabilia in the silent auction area. Big. Big. Big.
Lastly, there was The College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s birthday party and masquerade ball for Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter’s 200th. Number one, outside of Dorian’s Parlor, and a vintage Spandau Ballet video shoot, you’re not likely to find so much Victorian dress. These weren’t costumes. This was a lifestyle. Second, there’s nothing more that I’d rather do than visit the Mutter Museum. For the annual ball, the Museum opens rooms of rarities and reconfigures its old exhibition items into something swellegant and with great portent. And third, Philadelphia Distilling brought Vieux Carré Absinthe and served it in an Absinthe water fountain as a punch in the VIP Lounge. Somebody said the cocktails were "alchemy inspired." I nearly swam in that alchemy fountain while Tony Micelli/Larry McKenna Jazz Band played on. Lastly, there was a monster sized cake with a top hat, a spleen and a volume of books designed by cake sculptor Chad Durkin of Exton-based Desserts International. At least I thought there was – could have been the Absinthe talking.
Like 127 Hours hiker Aron Ralson, Microsoft has decided to sever one of its mainstays, the Zune. But in this case, the boulder that came between them and success is the iPod.
Released in 2006 (I was working at a Best Buy at the time, and I remember this being something of a big deal), Zune was Microsoft's attempt to cut into Apple's digital music ubiquity. Microsoft wanted Zune to be the Facebook to Apple's Myspace (which, admittedly was one of the more astounding usurpations of market dominance in recent memory). These were lofty goals for sure, but at first it wasn't doing terribly with a nine percent market-share after the first year. It was promising, even. Were it to continue in that direction with any amount of consistency, by today it could have approached competitive numbers with the iPod, and would have at least established itself as the standard iPod alternative worth keeping in production.
What it turned out to be, though, was LiveJournal to Apple's Myspace; RC Cola to its Coke.
Now, Zune is getting dropped and there is no alternative to the iPod. Not in any meaningful sense. This is great news for investors, who will benefit long run from Zune's attempted assault. Whatever small change profits Apple lost to Microsoft in that sector will certainly be made up by the value of the company now that they're seemingly competition-proof. Microsoft publicly demonstrated that taking on the iPod is not a profitable strategy, and it's now far less likely that Sony, LG or Amazon will attempt a similar coup.
Every week, Critical Mass pokes around the blog world so you don’t have to.
➤ A call to all printmakers! While I love the fact that you all exist, some of the jars and vats of chemical whatever-the-hell are frightening and unusual. All art has its necessary evils that come with putting together great work — guitar players have calloused fingers, everyting a painter owns is covered in paint splotches, painters and graphic designers have LED fried retinas — but printmakers have to deal with gnarly chemicals on the daily. Many of which have proven to cause nervous and respiratory damage to adults. No longer, says Art in the Age, who is singing the praises of eco-friendly shop nontoxicprint.com. On top of not rotting your brain, the new stuff is better to dispose of than the cans of colorful liquid death. So instead of passing out and thwacking your head on the toilet every time you get back from the studio, make the switch.
➤ It’s easy to pop on a pair of headphones, open up a book or simply look around indiscriminately while on the subway. But little did you know, there’s super sophisticated tech floating right by you. You might even be sitting on it you’re so oblivious. According to Philebrity those wacky looking benches at the 8th Street stop on the Market-Frankfort line were actually made using 3D design programs and water jet cutting adapted from aerospace technology. Water jet cutting. That’s water cutting metal, which falls somewhere on the fine line between awesome and terrifying.
➤ Speaking of tech that may or may not be scary, Geekadelphia lets us in on a hacking workshop … for sex toys. The event starts out with a short talk by Maggie Avener about what she’s worked on, then it’s basically right to MacGyver-ing sex toys with homemade materials. Hacking is all well and good, but something about hacking something and then turning it upon the more vulnerable parts of the body seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Did I mention there’s no tech experience necessary? No sir, just a few vibrating parts and a pocket full of dreams and you’ll be on your way.
It only comes once a year, but it’s more special to me than any other holiday. This isn't one you can buy a Hallmark card for, though. I'm talking about Spring Break — also known as my personal refuge delivered from the gods. I relish in the entire week when I don't have to worry about deadlines, 8 a.m. classes, or papers. My brain shuts down to higher thinking and I'm left to do what I please.
This year I didn't travel anywhere exotic — partly due to my procrastination — but I did have fun. I went back to my hometown of Staten Island, where people say "dawg" instead of "dog" and "cawfee when they want a cup of joe, and, despite popular belief, it is one of the five boroughs in New York City. I stayed with my best friend since middle school for most of the time. And between the two of us we ran our havoc — clubbing until four in the morning, teasing the boys, shopping spurges, etc. I love my best friend because, even though we go to colleges that are miles apart, we can get together and fall right into place. The last day we had together we drove to our favorite place in the Todd Hill neighborhood. Todd Hill features the best views on the island and, as cliché as it sounds we share it as a favorite destination.The spot we go to provides views of the Verazzano Bridge and parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. We talked all night in the car about everything we have been through, amazing and horrible. We fell asleep sometime after midnight, but she woke me up for the sunrise. It was another experience for the memory books ... now back to school.
Monday: Both Robyn Hitchcock and Joe Boyd have a wealth of stories to share, though only some of them will be easily understood by non-turned-on minds. Boyd, a producer whose role in the legacy of psychedelic and folk rock is indelible, will read selections from his memoir, White Bicycles. Along with the reminiscing, Hitchcock will provide musical accompaniment, playing the songs of Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and The Incredible String band, among other Boyd finds of the 1960s. While Boyd’s tales will be the stars, it’s unlikely that Hitchcock’s own surreal storytelling will sit this one out. 7:30 p.m., $33 - $45, World Cafe Live, 30th St. & Walnut St., 215-222-1400.
Tuesday: Spasmodic Canadian duo Crystal Castles quickly rose to indie-electro fame with a pair of self-titled records teeming with glitchy, abrasive beats. Just after the release of last year’s record, a re-edited version of “Not In Love” surfaced featuring vocals from The Cure’s Robert Smith. The track showed a different side of the band: melodic, lush, and sweepingly nostalgic for the days of John Hughes. Simple Minds they aren’t, but Crystal Castles make sounds that high schoolers of any generation would dig. w/ Teengirl Fantasy, 8 p.m., $26 - $38, TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011.
Wednesday: No matter if you’re a little bit country or rock and roll, you’ll give a whoop when you hear Grand Nationals. Despite their PA/Jersey pedigree, these guys are firmly rooted in the sounds of the Old West. Their Opry-worthy twang and down-home harmonies will make for a real dilly of a night. w/ The Farewell Drifters & Cait Black, 8 p.m., $10, North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St. 215-787-0488.
Thursday: No need to feel pressured when it comes to seeing live music on St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re already burnt out on Celtic music for the season, check out Future Islands. A blend between saccharin pop and aggressively experimental art music, Future Islands provide the spirit of Baltimore (even though they’re originally from North Carolina). You’re definitely not going to hear any renditions of “Danny Boy” at this one. w/ Club Lyfestile & Norwegian Arms, 9 p.m., $10, Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
Friday: Last year, a tribute album, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was released saluting the music of Loretta Lynn. Though tributes usually come after an artist’s death or long after a band’s breakup, Lynn’s tribute comes at a time of revival and rediscovery of the country legend’s career. Her Grammy-winning 2004 album Van Lear Rose can take a share of the credit in bringing Lynn back into the spotlight, but her musical immortality lies in the material of her early years. Opening the show are The Secret Sisters, a Jack White/T-Bone Burnett find that carry the torch that Lynn herself ignited. 8 p.m., $62.50 - $72.50, Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St., 1-800-298-4200.
Saturday: Lancaster’s Cozy Galaxies used to go by The Major Leagues. Pavement references aside, the new moniker is quite befitting. The group concocts a pastoral, intricately arranged landscape on their self-titled album, and electronic flourishes shimmer and sheen against the otherwise organic backdrop. Woozy and occasionally rollicking, Cozy Galaxies still frequently evoke Stephen Malkmus and company, but in a much more refined and subtle way. w/ Grubby Little Hands & Bridge Underwater, 8 p.m., $10, M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave., 215-739-5577.
Sunday: As the creative force behind the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, Mark Kozelek has all but mastered his technique of lulling listeners into a tranquil swoon. Both projects showcase Kozelek’s delicate guitar style and intimate intonations, though Sun Kil Moon has effectively operated as a solo outlet for the past few years. Regardless, prepare to curl up with someone warm at this show, and, if Kozelek decides to do one of his renowned cover versions, prepare not to recognize it until around the 9-minute mark. 8 p.m., $15, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980.
Saturday morning I picked up my bro-hort in Bucks County, and began the nine hour drive to Toronto for Canadian Music Week. After more than one detour through central New York's Seneca Nation (thanks to a GPS which seemed to disaprove of our plans for North-of-the-border shenanigans) we arrived in Toronto, which reminded me of Manhattan without the swirling currents of garbage.
We checked in a Backpakers on Dundas hostel — the one location in Toronto that didn't accept U.S. dollars (which, yikes, is equal value with the Canadian buck). We paid $25 for a bed smack downtown in the fifth largest city in North America ... not too shabby. Getting to socialize with other travelers from different parts of the world is worth the price of admission alone. A clean and comfy bed is just the cherry on top.
After dinner at the Harbord House Gastro Pub, we walked to Lee's Palace, a rock club which boasted Trocadero-esque capacity with Johnny Brenda's-esque intimacy. A+.
The first band was The Balconies, a lady-fronted rock trio from Ottawa with a Yeah Yeah Yeah's-on-caffeine vibe but with more blues-scale guitar licks. They were followed by Paper Lions, a terribly catchy and high-energy Cold War Kids/New Pornographers hybrid. They wowed the audience with anthems about very Canadian things like hitting a moose with your van, and raising pints in pubs for the greater fellowship of man. In that order.
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