24 March 2009

Monkey in the Middle

In Issue 1075 of Rolling Stone Magazine (otherwise known as the Gossip Girl issue), the leading men of Gossip Girl give what could be considered a thumbs up recommendation of Victory Brewing Company's Golden Monkey. Ed, Chace, and Penn provide some details about the beer during their interview, however, one does not know Golden Monkey until they have truly experienced it. At 9.5% alcohol by volume, Golden Monkey can pack quite the punch. Whenever the monkey rears it's ugly head, within my circle of friends, we know we are all in for quite the night.
Victory Brewing Company is a microbrewery located in Downingstown, PA. Admittedly, Golden Monkey (with its spicy and bold flavor) is an acquired taste. Fans of Belgian ales will like it; it is certainly not your father's Budweiser or Stella. Residents of Central New Jersey can find their beers in most fine liquor stores, as well as at the New Brunswick favorite, Stuff Yer Face. Kudos to the Gossip Guys for name checking something other than Patron. Perhaps this is one Gossip Girl trend that many guys will latch on to.

21 March 2009

Biting Eighties Style: Whitney, You Were Robbed!

As a child of the '80s, I am often amazed by popularity of Reagan-era fashions that produced by American Apparel. American Apparel relentlessly co-ops what is often bad style, which has become a source of amusement for me. On an entirely different tangent, I am also fascinated by the way that American Apparel has become increasingly sexier. However, that is another post all together. At any rate, I was just watching the tube, when I saw this video by an emerging girl group called Electrik Red (it is nice to know that they are following the nu-metal trend of replacing a "c" with a "k").

What I found most astonishing about their video, "So Good" was that it immediately made me think of Whitney Houston's break out video "How Would I Know". The frizzy perm, spandex, and splashes of paint! As much as I hate to admit it, I miss Whitney Houston. Not "crack is cheap and I don't do cheap things" Whitney, but a younger, gentler version. Well, I guess we should be thankful to Mtv and the eighties music video revolution. Otherwise, gems like this one wouldn't be preserved on youtube, so some nice media specialist to use as their video foundation.

From Princeton to Virginia Woolf

When driving on the crowded roads of Middlesex County, I often seek the solace of music that allow me to reflect on simpler times. Growing up on the Jersey Shore, some of my best memories occurred during spring visits to the seashore. This winsome feeling is encapsulated in the carefree sounds of the indie pop trio Princeton. Hailing from Los Angeles, Princeton is an aural fix for the winter blahs.

Twin brothers Jesse and Matt Kivel, along with their childhood friend Ben Usen, bring their unique instrumentation and sense of humor to Princeton. Princeton’s sound, which includes keyboards, ukuleles, and the harpsichord is like a mash up of Vampire Weekend and Of Montreal. Their musical style has given Princeton the opportunity to provide support for bands ranging from Brooklyn based synth pop trio Au Revoir Simone to My Brightest Diamond.
During the summer of 2008, Princeton released the well received EP, Bloomsbury. With a nod to academia, the Bloomsbury EP is filled with lush orchestral pieces inspired by Virginia Woolf and other twentieth century British intellectuals. While the world of indie pop is inhabited by many classically trained musicians, their combination of intricate lyrics and upbeat music is what has set Princeton apart. Stand out tracks on Bloomsbury include the gems Ms. Bentwich and The Waves. In preparation for the South by Southwest Festival, Princeton has also released a live Daytrotter session. Princeton is currently on tour in the West with nationwide dates soon to be announced.
The following post was cross posted on Princeton Record Exchange blog.

20 March 2009

Welcome to the Freak Show

As someone who works with the developmentally disabled population, I have always found the concept of traveling circus' and freak shows to be a bit disturbing. Recently, however, I developed a renewed interest in the phenomena after my boyfriend and I engaged in a marathon viewing session of Seasons One and Two of the HBO series Carnivale. Carnivale, which aired from September 2003 through March 2005, focuses on life during the Great Depression. Series creator Daniel Knauf illustrated the trials and tribulations of carnie folk who find themselves emerged in a battle of good verses evil. Unfortunately, the series was discontinued after two seasons due to the massive amounts of funding required for filming.

Knauf used Depression era carnivals as his back drop, due to the juxtaposition between innocent carnival goers and the magic that appears to lurk inside the dusty tents. Besides common sideshow acts such as a bearded lady and snake charmer, Knauf explored the complexity of how society treated those who were considered different. In a pivotal scene, Ben Hawkins (a character who is representative of the Biblical paradigm of salvation through redemption), is sent forth to find a girl with deformities known as the "lobster girl". It is apparent to views that the girl has been shut away from society; as a sideshow freak, she is able to earn wages and emerge into the world.

As the series progresses, viewers learn that Ben Hawkins is the adversary of Brother Justin. Brother Justin, who is excellent portrayed by Clancy Brown, is a Methodist minister who initially believes he was intended by God to bring forth His message. As time progresses, Brother Justin turns from the more conservative views of the Methodist church towards the fire and brimstone message associated with the Evangelical branch of Protestantism. Brother Justin's massive appeal evokes images of the historic Azusa Street Revival, a Pentacostal revival which took place in California from 1906 through 1915. As his movement grows, Brother Justin begins to receive criticism that is similar to what was given to participants in the Azusa revival.

However, as time progresses, it is apparent that while Ben Hawkins heals the ill and disabled, Brother Justin is intent on propegating his own agenda. Throughout the series, Ben is drawn to those are disabled or injured and attempts to aid them. Through Ben, Daniel Knauf conveys the message that Depression era society sought to either fetishize the disabled or exclude them. Other than Ben, no one truly attempts to help society's disabled. In the clip below, Ben attempts to heal carnival goers who are in need, while Brother Justin has his own plans.

In a more contemporary spin of the side show, Asbury Lanes will be hosting the act Freaks of the 999 Eyes on April 9, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. The show consists of acts such as the Lobster Girl and Elephant Man, who have chosen to use their disabilities or conditions as part of an old-fashioned sideshow. Coming on the heels of my non-stop Carnivale marathon, I am excited to see what Freaks of 999 Eyes have to offer.

As an advocate for individuals with disabilities, I must add that all members of this modern day performance have willingly chosen to participate. Do you consider sideshows to be a tool for exploiting people or do you think that our politically correct society can use a little stirring up? Leave your comments, as I will continue to explore this topic, after the April 9th show.

11 March 2009

Dark was the Night: Indie Rock's answer to "We are the World"

One of my favorite bands that are currently active in the market is The National. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend their show at Messiah College. It was worth the four hour trip through Pennsylvania and was one of the best live shows I have ever witnessed. The album Boxer is amazing, which helped to propel it to the top of many Top 10 lists.

Since the release of Boxer and the Messiah College concert, I have waited with bated breath for The National's next release. Although, Dark was the Night is not exclusively a project from The National, it features their newest single So Far Around the Bend. Check out the video for So Far Around the Bend, below.

Dark Was the Night is comprised of thirty two exclusive tracks, with contributions from artists such as The Decemberists, Feist, The National, My Morning Jacket, and Sufjan Stevens. Under the production of Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, each artist brings their unique flavor to an album that will probably be one of the best compilations of 2009. The proceeds of the album benefit the Red Hot Organization, an group that is dedicated to raising funds for HIV and AIDS.

Besides The National's single, stand outs on the compilation include Feeling Good from My Brightest Diamond and Knotty Pine, a collaboration between The Dirty Projectors and David Byrne. Feeling Good is a sultry song that evokes images of supper clubs, Josephine Baker, and speakeasies. In contrasts, Knotty Pine is a delightful tune that makes you want to go camping in the mountains with a hefty bag of granola. Over all, Dark Was the Night is a solid album and is a must have for any indie music fan.

Service Bell--Feist f. Grizzly Bear

09 March 2009

Pop! Straight Out of Scandinavia

When it comes to our choices of music, we all have guilty pleasures. During my formative years, I was a huge New Kids on the Block fan. I tortured my parents to purchase every poster, cassette tape (yes, it was that long ago), and piece of merchandise I could get my hands on. My love of NKOTB even helped me to become elected to my intermediate school student council. However, as time moved on, so did my taste in music. By the time high school arrived, I had abandoned pop music in exchange for alternative bands like Nirvana and Depeche Mode.

As Disney powerhouses The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and the High School Musical gang take the youth by storm, I often wonder what type of music their listeners will tune into next. Not being a huge fan of the “emo” genre, I hope that many reformed Radio Disney listeners will turn to the sweet sounds of indie pop. Independent pop music is steadily trickling into the mainstream, with exposure ranging from iPod commercials to prominent spots in teen dramas. Leading the charge of the indie pop invasion is a group of artists who have descended from the North with world domination in mind.

With increasingly more complex lyrics, catchy hooks, and hand claps, Scandinavian pop artists are taking the musical world by storm. The infectious beats and joyous refrains that have infiltrated the contemporary Scandinavian pop world is reminiscent of disco favorites Abba. The trademark sound of Abba consisted of cheesy, synthesized melodies that were infused with slightly ominous lyrics. Following in their footsteps, artists such as Alphabeat, Lykke Li, and Peter, Bjorn, and John are creating the soundtrack for a new generation of dancing queens.

As a sucker for hand claps and whistling, I could not resist the Peter, Bjorn, and John gem Young Folks. Young Folks, like many great pop songs, makes me want to jump out of my seat and start dancing. After listening to the album Writer's Block, it is easy for me to see that they were able to achieve what many pop artists' continuously strive for. Many critics, however, have viewed Peter, Bjorn, and John as a one hit wonder that has yet to deliver another song as successful as Young Folks.

With a co-opted eighties sound, Alphabeat is swiftly becoming one of my favorite pop groups. Their debut album, This is Alphabeat, features songs that would set the perfect backdrop for the upcoming revival production of Fame. The single Fascination brings to mind crowded school halls, acrobatic dancers, and bespectacled schoolteachers. Although the song Public Image is intended to be a commentary on the trappings of stardom, it is easy to envision a cheerleader who longs for life after secondary education. The icing on the cake is Fantastic Six, which features an enthusiastic chorus and handclaps. Check out the video for Fascination and more about Lykke Li, after the jump.

My boyfriend has a word for female artists with voices like Lykke Li: precious. Upon hearing her breakout song, Dance Dance Dance, I was quick to dismiss Lykke Li as just another cutesy pop star trying to coo her way to the top. Then, I heard the single Breaking it Up from the album Youth Novels. Dark and filled with edgy lyrics, Breaking it Up sets the tone for other songs on the album. As demonstrated during her mtvU performance, Lykke Li is perfectly capable of playing a woman on the verge of self destruction. Hailing from Sweden her quirky style is more remisicent of German electronica artist Ellen Allien.

As eighties music makes a huge comeback, I realize that I have missed listening to The Right Stuff while jumping around in Wigwam socks. Although, Scandinavian pop is not New Kids on the Block, it satisfies my craving for pop. As for my transition to Depeche Mode, my love of Dave Gahan and company inadvertently led me to my current boyfriend. Upon seeing him in a black Violator tee shirt, I knew I needed to talk to him. Afterall, we shared a guilty pleasure.

Fantastic Six-Alphabeat
Public Image-Alphabeat

Textual Harrassment: Rumors, Techonology, and the Gossip Girl Generation

When I was a catty, teenage girl the greatest threats to my social life were the vicious rumors that were often spread by my so-called friends. Such rumors would distributed through the simplest of technologies, notes passed in class or every one's favorite game, telephone. By the end of a particularly difficult day, Tommy So-and-So would finally know that I had a crush on him, even if he was dating Mindy the cheerleader. Such events could be temporarily damaging, but generally faded after a few days. Today, teens are facing an ever changing environment in which even they do not have complete control.

Social networking sites such as facebook, which I joined with great reluctance, allow for ordinary citizens to become mini-celebrities. People you haven't talked to since elementary school are suddenly your best friend. Actual friends are provided status updates; photo galleries allow for nights of drunken debauchery to be encapsulated in cyberspace for all eternity. While technology such as Twitter and Flikr have viable applications, they are often misused or abused. For today's teens, a brief moment of indecision towards a supposed friend can lead to what may seem like a lifetime of misery.

Technology, while convenient, has created a world in which abusive relationships can thrive in unprecedented forms. As a teen in the nineties, I was witness to friends and boyfriends who were overzealous with instant messaging, phone calls, and even beeper pages. (Yes, prior to the proliferation of cell phones high school students carried pagers). While receiving repeated pages or phone calls was annoying, the person on the other end had no way of tracking your location. Global positioning technology that is currently available in many consumer electronics has paved the way for abusive partner to maintain constant location some one's whereabouts.

During the past month, the airwaves have been jammed with fans who were horrified at domestic dispute between musicians Chris Brown and his girlfriend, Rihanna. Apparently, the incident, which led to extensive injuries and a blood spattered car, was precipitated by Rihanna intercepting a text message that was intended for Chris Brown. Art often imitates life, but in this instance, Rihanna's concern over the female sender of the message led to a period of violence. What fans are finding most disturbing, however, is that she has not public renounced domestic violence or issued some form of statement that is seeking assistance. The fact that both artists maintain a youthful fan base is what I personally find most disturbing.

The Chris Brown and Rihanna incident has sent a very dangerous message to young women who may need to seek help for domestic violence. Thanks to the piranhas at TMZ, police photos of a horribly battered Rihanna have been leaked to the press. The anonymity that is normally afforded victims is apparently forgone when a victim is famous. Thankfully, there are various efforts that are being made to counteract bullying, domestic abuse, and technology abuse.

In an attempt to draw awareness to technology abuse, domestic abuse, and gossiping, The Family Violence Prevention Fund and The Ad Council have launched the website, That's Not Cool. That's Not Cool is a clever site that has provides free e-cards for teens to send to their friends, gossip mongers, and partners about actions that are just not cool. Included in this list is the abuse of instant messaging, posting damaging information on social networking sites, or stalking. This humorous take on these often illegal activities is intended to help create a dialog amongst teens regarding abuse.

As a fan of Gossip Girl, I often marvel at the over-the-top plots, dialog, and wardrobe. Is Chuck Bass really wearing a pink ascot? However, I must admit that I was horrified at a plot that unfolded during Season One of the series. During the episode, Poison Ivy, Blair Waldorf and her cohort Chuck Bass, spread the nasty rumor that one of their flock was absent from school due to stint in a rehabilitation facility. Complete with photographs that are distributed throughout the school faster than a snow chain, this rumor has devastating effects on both the subject and her family members. In true Gossip Girl fashion, there are no negative consequences for Chuck or Blair. It is not until an entire season later that all of the rumor spreading finally catches up with Blair. Perhaps, someone needs to send her character a That's Not Cool message.

The Mean Girl Playlist:

Hot and Cold-Katy Perry

Wikked 'Lil Girls-Esthero

Kiss Me Thru the Phone-Soulja Boy


06 March 2009

Frito Lay's Female Specific Ad Campaign

Apparently, the downtown has led marketing firms to sink to previously unseen lows when targeting the female demographic. In a new campaign called Only in a Woman's World, Frito Lay utilizes the ad firm Juniper Park to create one of the most disastrous, sexist campaigns I have ever seen. Utilizing a technique called "neuromarketing", Juniper Park claims that this campaign is a reflection of scientific data stating that women react to different marketing techniques than men. Supposedly, the average woman should be able to empathize with the simpering, stereotypes that are portrayed in the cartoons. Be forewarned, these videos are not for the faint of heart.

Now playing: No Doubt - Just a Girl
via FoxyTunes

04 March 2009

Silver Lining

I seem to have fallen behind in my blog posts; I guess the failing economy has had a lot to do with it. However, it appears as though the sun is about to appear from deep within the dark clouds. I am going to be one of many recently chosen bloggers to write for the Princeton Record Exchange blog. PREX is one of the best independent music stores in NJ! They are one of my favorite places to find great music at awesome prices. At any rate, the incredible "goodness" of my day makes me think of the song "Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley. Oh...and the song "Good Day" by Nappy Roots.

Now playing: Rilo Kiley - Silver Lining
via FoxyTunes