Infographics, nuclear weapons and Ratatat

While perusing the Internet this morning, like you do, I stumbled upon this very compelling video at YouTube. I was drawn to it initially because the song used for the soundtrack is Ratatat’s Gettysburg, and I’m a sucker for anything Ratatat related.

The video is a taut and thorough overview of the current state of nuclear weapons technology and proliferation in the world. It showcases all the nations that currently possess armed-and-ready weapons as well as the number of weapons that are operational (Russia has the most with 5830 active). It goes on to simulate a 150-kiloton detonation centered on the Empire State Building.

It effectlively crams a lot of information into a scant three minutes and the somewhat frantic beat of the music impressively augments the visuals. There is no advocatcy message however. The video is strictly informative and the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions.

The video was produced by GOODmagazine, which has a number of similarly styled videos on it’s own YouTube channel. GOODmagazine describes itself as a non-profit media outlet for “people who give a damn.”

You can pick up Gettysburg, here:
ratatat classics ratatat gettyburg at itunes

Radiohead – In Raindows: Ethos and ambiance

Via this 9rules note:



I haven’t placed an order for In Rainbows yet because I was waiting to find out the quality and format of the digital files. With this news I’m a little disappointed. Sure, 160kbps is quite *acceptable* but I consider 192kbps to be my minimum bitrate for MP3 (or did before I started encoding into AAC). Still, I assume the tracks are coming straight from the masters, so they’re bound to be decent. Even so, 160kbps seems like a strangely small format in this day in age.

All in all though, what this experience amounts to is a controlled (and profitable) “leak” for the band. Whether they succeed in up-selling the Discbox or traditional CD remains to be seen. Personally, I’m still debating whether there’s a Discbox with my name on it.

In any case, I’m sure the album will be fantastic. This is Radiohead we’re talking about.

Also strangely, the mp3s don’t come with any cover art included, though they otherwise have good ID3 tags (except for genre). Two images I’ve run across so far are this one, which looks like it could be from one of the vinyl sleeves:

in rainbows cover

And this one, which looks like it’s taken from the In Rainbows website:

in rainbows cover


Update 10/10: Having found out the format, I went ahead downloaded the album. I’m just glad I didn’t pre-pay a large amount for it. If I’m going to pay retail price for a record, I’m going to expect to be able to encode it at whatever quality I want. Having listened, the files sound fine in my ear buds and are certainly enjoyable enough for now, so I’m not going to make any further deal of it.

Albums by Radiohead always take a little while to grow on you. While they are never disappointing on the first listen, it takes some time before the gems are evident. I’m sure I won’t know quite what I think about In Rainbows for some time, but here are my first thoughts.

In Rainbows is perhaps the smallest departure in style in the band’s history, feeling like a continuation of the Hail to the Thief ethos, but with Amnesiac’s dour ambiance. Overall, the sense I get from the album is unambitious, but not staid. It is music of and for people who are weary. Of what, who knows? But true to the Radiohead mind-set, a detached alienation pervades the entire elaborated experience. To be sure, the music itself is as intricate as is to be expected, it just feels smaller and more straight-forward. There are no grand exclamations like Karma Police, mind-bending riffs like My Iron Lung or voyages into the unknown like Idioteque.

The other thing that strikes me right off the bat is that, for a rock band, this album doesn’t feature much in the way of rock. I don’t necessarily call that a bad thing. In fact, In Rainbows sounds so good as a whole that a massive rock song would feel totally out of place. It’s just unfortunate for me because Radiohead jams are some of my favorite things. I think they make up for it though with some down-right inspired percussion.

Initial song-by-song impressions:

15 Steps
A glitchy Bjork-like intro powers Thom Yorke’s trademark, though nearly unintelligible, falsetto in this up-tempo opener. The percussion here is the most interesting part, with the live drums providing body to the emphasized synth beats.

Dirty distorted riffs, straight-end drums and wailing electronics make me want to dance on top of a haunted house.

This slow proto-waltz is mesmerizing in its stripped down simplicity.

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Gloriously clean arpeggios and a galloping rhythm make this one an early contender as my favorite from the album.

All I Need
A somber piano ballad builds to brilliant crescendo.

Faust Arp
A cello accentuates more arpeggios, this time played by a Spanish guitar, on this mellow tune. It’s possibly the most tender song in all of Radiohead’s repertoire.

Rounds out an elegiac trio of songs. All I Need, Faust Arp and Reckoner feel like they could easily meander by, unnoticed in a dream or on a dark foggy night, if they weren’t so captivating.

House of Cards
Thom’s vocals echo through the emptiness on what could be the B-side to Knives Out (if Knives Out didn’t already have b-sides).

Jigsaw Falling Into Place
The tempo finally picks back up on what it the most direct pop song on the record. It could be Sit Down. Stand Up’s little brother.

A boy and his piano ponder the persistence of media and the cruel march of time. A bit of a downer to end the album on.

All in all a great album to listen to, though you might want to save for a soundtrack on a rainy day or you find yourself in too good of a mood.

Here’s a fan-vid featuring Weird Fishes/Arpeggi:

Radiohead – In Rainbows – Weird Fishes_Arpeggi

Radiohead announces “In Rainbows.” Released Oct. 10. Download for whatever price you want to pay.

radiohead in rainbows

A very brief post at dead air space, the official Radiohead blog, informs the world that the band’s first album in four years will be available for mass experiencing in ten days:

Hello everyone.

Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days;

We’ve called it In Rainbows.

Love from us all.

radiohead discbox
In Rainbows Discbox

The post links to the In Rainbows store site, which features a neat animated background with a couple options for pre-ordering the record.

The first is a physical “Discbox” version that includes the both a compact disc of In Rainbows, two vinyl records, a second cd with additional new songs, artwork and booklets and comes packaged in hardback book form. The entire set runs £40.00 (roughly USD$80) and isn’t expected to ship until December. Buyers, however, will receive access to digital downloads of the album on 10/10.

The package looks pretty cool, but eighty bucks is a bit steep for an album, even one from Radiohead. Fortunately, Radiohead is as innovative in their business practices as they are in their music. Showing that the band “gets it” in the new millennial music world, a basic download version of In Rainbows will also be available on 10/10. But get this, there’s no set price for it; you can pay whatever you want. The checkout screen brings up an empty field where you put in how much you’re willing to give (in British Pounds and Pence) in exchange for ten new Radiohead songs. “It’s up to you,” the band says, “No really, it’s up to you.”

radiohead set your own price

An iTunes-like rate of $0.99 per song converts to £4.84 for the entire album and that seems quite fair. The only thing that’s not mentioned is the format and bitrate of the downloads. MP3, AAC, FLAC, other rights-managed or not? 128 kbps, 256 kbps? Radiohead, I’m sure, has come up with an equitable solution.

Also, at the end of the year though, I would love to see a chart of the range of prices people are wiling to pay. That would be fascinating look at the value consumers place on downloadable music.

For a preview, here’s a live version of track 5: All I Need, recorded in Chicago, June 2006:

Radiohead: All I Need- Chicago 6/20/06

Additional live previews were compiled by Rawkblog this past July. Download away.

Foo Fighters – The Pretender: Best in a Decade

The Pretender:

I think I’m in love with Foo Fighters again.

I’ve watched as the band kinda coasted down hill, or at least plateauing after achieving breakout success and emerging from the long shadow of Nirvana after There’s Nothing Left to Lose. After that the band just seemed to be going through motions.

I still liked Foo Fighters during that time and some of their songs from that time are good, but the band’s zeitgeist felt like it missing the playful spark that made the early era so much fun. Since then, I’ve treated each release with increasing skepticism and when I learned of a new record, skeptical I remained.

But all it took was one viewing of the premier video from the forthcoming Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, The Pretender, and I was hooked.

The Pretender is the Foos’ hardest rocking song since Monkey Wrench and is some of their best material since The Colour and The Shape was released ten years ago. And that video is effing fantastic. Way to go Foo Fighters, I eagerly await next weeks release of your new album.

Ethan Winer, one-man Cello section: 37 parts to a song played by one man

Ethan Winer plays all 37 separate parts on A Cello Rondo, including the percussion, on his cello. He also composed the song. The music is about 6 minutes long and the end of the video shows his digital music editing and some of his film setup. Not only is the production quite smooth, showcasing the power of modern technology to allow a single person to (relatively) easily create complex and intricate music, the song is a really good pop tune.

And I thought it was impressive when Dave Grohl recorded the first Foo Fighters record all by himself.

A Cello Rondo at Ethan Winer’s homepage. Multiple links to sites hosting the video as well as a free mp3 download of the song. There’s also as much background information on the project as you could want and some downloadable sheet music if you want to give it your own try.

Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight: It’s a Hit

The Moneymaker:

Rilo Kiley – The Moneymaker

Rilo Kiley is back, and in a big way. After a three year hiatus, the indie rock wunderkind of the twenty-first century is back with a new album, Under the Blacklight, and it rocks. Though technically, with this release Rilo Kiley can no longer be called “indie rock” as the new album is being released by a major label, Warner Bros. Records. Indeed, both in distribution and sound, Under the Blacklight shows a clear smoothness and polish of production that the resources of a major label can provide. It also shows a quite noticeable departure from the band’s previous ethos.

Part of Rilo Kiley’s rise to prominence in the indie rock circles was due to their ability to blend pop, rock and folk/country elements into a pleasant low-key package. While I have enjoyed that aspect of the band’s oeuvre, for my tastes, they’re at their best when they put the rock into overdrive (Spectacular Views!). And fortunately for my tastes, Rilo Kiley’s evolution has shown a steady increase of rock.

Where earlier albums were markedly complicated, emotionally dense and intricately constructed, Blacklight is straightforward, blunt and to a certain degree, shallow. But it’s just so damn addictive, like candy or a drug. The band has real talent and while the record is certainly not their greatest artistic statement, they do pull off straightforward, blunt and shallow *well*. Jenny’s engaging vocals and Blake’s smashing guitar melodies power a pure rock delight.

After reading some of the early commentary on the web, fans seem to have had decidedly mixed reactions to this new and revised Rilo Kiley, with criticisms largely consisting of predictable accusations of “selling out.” But here at tunequest, I couldn’t be happier. And it was some kind of most divine providence that the album dropped just as the Atlanta Heat Wave of 2007™ was breaking, providing improved conditions for windows-down, volume-up driving. Under the Blacklight is more than up to fulfilling that role. In fact, cruising down I-85 last Friday, I couldn’t help but nudge the volume up steadily after each song.

I’ve been digesting this album for nearly three weeks and man, it just keeps burrowing deeper and deeper. I can hardly close my eyes without hearing a riff, refrain or lyric.

One of the more compelling aspects of Under the Blacklight is its unabashed and forthright sexuality: Close Call is about prostitution; The Moneymaker is about pornography; Dejalo appears to be about being straight-up slutty; 15 is about unbeknownst and unwitting cyber-pedophilia; Smoke Detector is about hooking up on the nightclub scene. Indeed, the album’s recurring themes seem to highlight society’s darker, sordid aspects (ie, things that are revealed when illuminated by a blacklight).

Dejalo, where the band does their best calypso-infused Blondie impression, also turns out to be Blacklight’s weakest spot. It breaks flow and it breaks style and is somewhat hard to listen to. Otherwise, I have few complaints about the album.

I have the feeling Under the Blacklight will be shining in my library for a long time to come.

under the blacklight at itunes

under the blacklight at amazon

Silver Lining (probably my favorite):

Jenny and Blake dated for a number of years, so it’s tempting to read that history into this song and video. But, some have speculated that it might be about Jenny’s relationship to the rest of the band following her increasing success and notoriety as a solo artist.

Further reading: RK gets the cover story for 9/2007 issue of Spin.

Official Site
RK on MySpace

John Vanderslice – Exodus Damage: Spellbinding storytelling

John Vanderslice- Exodus Damage

From the album Pixel Revolt (2005). Download MP3.

Man, I am obsessed with this song. Seriously, it’s been on repeat in my head for the past seven days. I can’t decide what I find more compelling, the musical arrangement, melody and composition of the song or its fascinating subject matter.

I heard it for the first time a week ago, while partaking in my weekly Podcast Friday™ podcast listening spree and from there, its hold on my mind gotten deeper and more tenacious. The podcast in question was actually an old episode of The Sound of Young America and the topic at hand was Analog vs Digital, featuring, in part, musician/producer John Vanderslice, who operates one of the last remaining all-analog recording studios in the world.

Through the interview, Vanderslice talked about his studio, his recording techniques and the philosophy of maintaining the art of analog production in a world that is increasingly digital. He also covered some of the music he’s recorded himself, and admitted an attraction to “extreme” subject matter.

Exodus Damage is a prominent example of that attraction. Vanderslice discussed the song from the perspective of the American right-wing militant anti-government movement, and he noted the depreciation of that movement since the events of September 11, 2001. That is the overall theme of the song, told from perspective of an unsure acolyte, a follower of the movement and focuses on his relationship with the “true believer”. On his website, Vanderslice likens the relationship of his characters to that of Timothy McVeigh and one of his accomplices Michael Fortier (who helped survey the Murrah Federal Building prior to the bombing. Echos of this can be seen in the video, where the main character seems to be surveying buildings himself.)

Let’s take a closer look at this song:

I’ll see you next fall
at another gun show
I’ll call the day before, like usual

Our story opens in the late 1990s, at one of the favorite hangouts of militiamen and other colorful characters, a gun show. Our protagonist makes his customary arrangements to meet with his mentor at the next one.

but I wanted so much more
I got exodus damage bleed,
could not commit, some things I’ll never be

so now we’re talking about this
I’m starting to lose my confidence
no one ever says a word about
so much that happens in the world

Our protagonist admits that his devotion to the cause is waning.

dance dance revolution
all we’re gonna get
unless it falls apart
so I say: go go go
let it fall down
I’m ready for the end

Despite his uncertainty to the cause, our protagonist has his mantra memorized. You can’t have a revolution until you are ready to destroy what already exists. Unless you’re willing to blow something up, you might as well just play video games.

so the second plane hit at 9:02
I saw it live on a hotel tv, talking on my cell with you
you said this would happen, and just like that, it did
wrong about the feeling, wrong about the sound
but right to say we would stand down

A clear reference to the September 11, 2001 attacks. When the United Flight 175 hit, everyone knew that the first was no accident. Among the anti-government movement, there are those who suggest that this type of event was planned and executed by elites in the New World Order. There are even some who claim that talk show host and conspiracy filmmaker Alex Jones predicted the attack in July/August 2001, going so far as to name Bin Laden as a puppet of the elites.

Such speculation is rampant among conspiracy theorists.

When the attacks actually occur, our protagonists faith is shaken and is relieved when the mentor calls off any plans they may have been making.

Incidentally, the Wikipedia timeline says the second plane hit at 9:03AM. However, the bomb that exploded in Oklahoma City did indeed detonate at 9:02AM.

an hour went by without a fighter in the sky
you said there’s a reason why
so tell me now, I must confess
I’m not sick enough to guess

One claim made by conspiracy theorists is that, despite the threat of additional errant planes, military jets were far too slow in scrambling that morning and have suggested diabolical explanations for that. Again, the distrust of government kicks in for our protagonist, but his mind isn’t capable of taking the leap that his mentor’s is.

dance dance revolution
all we’re gonna get
unless it falls apart
so I say: go go go
let it fall down
I’m ready for the end

so you hope that one person
could solve everything
and for me, that’s you
sometimes that dream
is a sad delusion
but sometimes it’s true

Our protagonist realizes that the goal he’s worked toward is an illusion, but can’t shake his fascination with his mentor.

so now we’re talking about this
I’m starting to lose my confidence
no one ever says a word about
so much that happens in the world

dance dance revolution
all we’re gonna get
unless it falls apart
so I say: go go go
let it fall down
I’m ready for the end

All in all, I find Exodus Damage irresistibly engaging, as it shows both a glimpse into a foreign world and the intense personal struggle portrayed by its main character. Combined with its sheer listen-ability, the song will be on my playlists into the far far future.

Download Exodus Damage.

Want More? Get Pixel Revolt on iTunes.