Monday, February 28, 2011

5 Favorite Swan Songs

I picked up the latest Bright Eyes record today, and it got me thinking about swan song albums. Connor Oberst, the founder of the band, has said that this will be his last album under the Bright Eyes moniker, and while fans are often disappointed when an artist decides to hang it up, I've always had a certain amount of respect for musicians that knew when to hang it up before the music got stale or repetitive. Here are five of my favorite last hurrahs:

1. Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come

This album is legendary among indie snobs and Hot Topic regulars alike. That's no easy feat. The title of the 1998 record would seem arrogant if it hadn't turned out to be true.

2. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

In an uncomfortable interview before his last television performance with LCD, 41 year-old frontman James Murphy told Stephen Colbert that at certain point "it just gets embarrassing." As great as this album is, I suppose seeing Murphy sing "Drunk Girls" during his golden years would be a bit of a buzz kill.

3. The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes

These guys were all over the place stylistically, so it's hard to imagine that they could run out of ideas. The split was probably for the best, though. With all the impossibly high-pitched shrieking in their tunes, I'm guessing their throats were pretty sore.

4. The White Stripes - Icky Thump

Jack and Meg White may have called it quits this past February, but their music lives on, like in that commercial for the show with those two guys who collect garbage.

5. As Cities Burn - Hell or High Water

This album was definitely a departure from the band's metalcore roots. Instead As Cities Burn opted for a more melodic rock sound that even hints at new wave at certain points. It would have been interesting to see what direction the band would have taken on the next record.

-Riley Ubben

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bonnaroo at its Best

This time of the year beats Christmas and Thanksgiving. Last week, 2011's Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival line up was announced. Like every year since 2009, the event will take place in Manchester, TN June 9-12. Headliners include Grammy winner Arcade Fire, along with the Black Keys and Eminem. Other large names such as Best Coast, DeVotcka, Florence and the Machines, and Ratatat will also perform.

How is it that all of my favorite musicians are going to be in the same city at the same time? I am having trouble falling asleep at night, devising a secret plan on how I can sneak into the show. This line up may just top last year's, which included groups such as She & Him and The Dead Weather. An estimated number of 75,000 people turned up in 2010-about the size of Chicago's annual Lollapalooza.

If I can't sneak in someone's guitar case, I will pretend I'm at Bonnaroo by sharing a video of five piece indie pop group Freelance Whales. Known for their obscure instrumentation (banjos, glockenspiels, and mandolins to name a few,) the band surprises audiences by performing in subways and on New York City's streets.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What you always wanted to do in art class

I remember my high school art teacher telling my class that "the process can be just as beautiful as the work itself." This sounded ridiculously campy to me at the time, I mean, a painting of a bowl of fruit is great, but who cares how it got there? Recently I started doing some research on the work of Lil Picard and performance art, and I started to see what all of my teacher's cheesy lines were about. Today I came across a video of a group of people simply pouring cups of different colored paint on top of a white block. The result itself is great, but watching the time-lapse footage of it all happening is incredible. But why describe it to you when there's YouTube? Here's the video:

-Riley Ubben

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Keep Portland Weird

The other day I overheard a conversation amongst vegans:

“You HAVE to try this ice-cream. It's soy free!”

“Really? Where did you get that? I bought the most incredible vegan mustard last week, no oils added.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for vegans. I cannot imagine a diet lacking in obscure cheeses or scrambled eggs. I appreciate Iowa City for its organic-conscious atmosphere, and vegan restaurants such as The Red Avocado and Fair Grounds Coffeehouse. But when does eco-friendly behavior become borderline crazy? In the television series Portlandia, the vegans, dumpster divers, and feminist librarians of the unique city are shown in a humorous light.

In one particular skit, a hip adult couple is shown ordering food at a restaurant. They ask their server about the chicken on the menu. What did the chicken eat? What about the farm? Is it local? How big is the area where the chickens are allowed to roam free?

To calm the couple’s nerves the waitress fetches a portfolio of the chicken, complete with a heavy stack of papers and a photo of the deceased bird. Luckily the chicken, which goes by the name of Collin, had 4 acres to roam. He ate a diet of soy, whey and hazelnuts, and lived on a farm approximately 30 minutes away. Before ordering a meal, the couple decides to double check on Collin’s environment by visiting the farm.

As I watch the show pigging out on high calorie, soy induced ice cream, it seems as if Portland and Iowa City may not be so different after all. In fact, the more I watch the more I get angry at Whole Foods for being corporate, and realize that dumpster diving may not be a shabby gig. The show portrays Portland as strange, yet so inexplicably wonderful.

- Laura

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Arctic Sprint

Yesterday, reportedly 15 minutes of exposure to the four degree weather outside could cause frostbite. Today is not much better with a mere seven degrees and an 11 mph wind chill making it feel like negative nine degrees.
This type of weather leads many UI students to take the most inconvenient route to their classes- walking through every building in sight just to stay warm. And for those too frigid to move, the cold compels groups of student-shaped icicles to wait for lengthy periods of time simply to ride a heated Cambus.
Yes, the UI campus has resembled an arctic town for the past few weeks, with North Face- coated and UGG-booted Eskimos hiding their faces behind their furry hoods on every street corner.
I am disappointed by the groundhog this year- when he didn’t see his shadow he gave me hope for the early arrival of spring but it currently looks like this bitter winter has no end in sight.
On the positive side, the enduring chilly weather has given me the opportunity to practice sprinting as I rush from heated building to heated building to get to my classes. At this rate, I’ll be ready to join the track team by the time spring arrives.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

5 Tips for the aspiring movie snob

Everyone’s got those select few friends who are very enthusiastic about their movie-watching. You know the type. They take great pride in the fact that they spend their free time watching way more movies than you, and they never want you to forget it. I know you’re probably thinking, “How can I be just like them?” Give these five tips a try, and soon you’ll be snobbing it up with the best of them.

1. Laugh independently

Take great care not to laugh too hard at the scenes that all your friends laugh at. This could suggest that they are just as capable of spotting a good laugh as you are. Instead, try laughing extra hard at parts that may only elicit a small chuckle out of your fellow viewers. This will assert the subtle nuances of your perceptive sense of humor and assure those around you that you are indeed the superior movie aficionado.

2. Name drop, name drop, name drop

If possible, do some research before said movie experience and find the name of a quasi-famous supporting actor in the film with a minor enough role that none of your friends will pay attention to him. That is, until you convince them that they need to be paying attention to him. Proceed to call said actor “the man” at every available opportunity, being as broad as possible so that you don’t end up actually having to explain what places this particular actor above the rest. Make sure to enlighten your uninformed friends about how underrated said actor is and make more vague statements about how he or she “steals the show” from some of the actors with lead roles.

3. Know your audience

When suggesting movies to others, do not under any circumstance recommend a movie if there’s a good chance that they’ve heard of it. This works best if you’re familiar with the person you’re talking to. If this person enjoys action movies, for example, present them with a low-budget tragedy. Make sure to say things like, “I loved it, but it’s probably not for you.” This will show off the breadth of your tastes.

4. Utilize social media

Rotten Tomatoes for Facebook is a great tool for movie snobs. After every movie you watch, pass your judgement on it for all the online community to see. The five-star rating system allows you to be just vague enough that if another movie buff calls you out on one of your ratings, you can simply complain that a ten point system would reflect your opinion much more accurately.

5. Stay up to date

The biggest mistake a music snob can make is falling behind. Just imagine the embarrassment you would feel if one of your less cinematically inclined friends happened to mention an upcoming film that you weren’t aware of. To ensure this never happens, religiously scan upcoming movie lists and watch all the movie trailers you can. With a little hard work, you can enjoy movies better than all your friends.

-Riley Ubben