Tuesday, April 28, 2009

King of the Hill (2007)

El Rey De La Montaña in English

Let me start by saying that this movie will probably be re-made by Hollywood and almost certainly misdirected and destroyed of all its innate cinematic value. So, my suggestion is to watch the original Spanish version here and also not worry about sub-titles as this is a decently dubbed English version which is still eminently watchable.

Similar to Eden Lake, my last movie post, Gonzalo López-Gallego’s King of the Hill is a ‘man against nature’ visceral Latin take in the likes of Walter Hill’s ‘Southern Comfort' John Boorman’s evergreen ‘Deliverance', 1982’s over-violent 'Turkey Shoot' and the 2001 under rated 'Suspended Animation'. If you‘ve have not seen any of these, I will not spoil the fun any further but even if you have, King of the Hill delivers a superior dose of cinema – a joyride that’s well written, tightly edited and beautifully shot.

If you have a stable broadband connection, you can watch the movie online. Or use any of the many video downloaders to extract and save the avi file locally on your PC to watch later at your convenience.

Divxvine Avi Video Link - http://is.gd/v669

Single Link 696 MB Avi Video File - Cut, Copy and Paste into your browser.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Smoking a Castro and Other Cigars

Everything You Didn't Know about Cigars and Were Afraid to Ask

Rudyard Kipling once jibed “A lady is only a woman, but good Cigar is a smoke “. Thankfully, in these turbulent times of the ever-growing health mafia who balk against anything entering your body that isn’t made exclusively from oat bran, corn flakes or probiotic yoghurt, the seven-inch Cigar is making a modish return. And a real comeback it is!

I had my first Cigar smoke during my high school days when me and my mates experimented with cheap Indonesian spiced Cigars, smuggled inside our school grounds and traded with Iron Maiden tapes. It was not until my second job that I had my first authentic Cigar experience – an original Partagás gifted to me by a gregariously benevolent client who I helped save a substantial sum of money.

Last week, I had my Cigar experiences reawakened as I had to gift an entire box of pricey Dominican Cigars - Arturo Fuente for a close mentor of mine – a retired Army General with a penchant for luxurious Cigars and the most expensive wines for his 69th birthday.

Swanky, posh and undeniably male, Cigars combine the poise of the gentleman with the air of the cad. Even though annual Indian consumption is among the lowest in the world (we smoke a mere .08 per head, as compared to 220 per head in Denmark), the Cigar seems to have unfettered itself from the injurious image of its poor and vastly inferior relative, the acidic Cigarette. Always popular in gentlemen’s clubs, Cigar smoking has been attracting more youthful practitioners recently. Experts believe that the Cigar’s suave image makes it all more attractive to the younger men (and also women).

According to Iian Crawford, the author of ‘The Havana Cigar’, a bible for any serious Cigar enthusiast, a Cigar greenhorn should choose a brand that fits his own particular style. While this is good advice, Crawford approach is rather literal: for example, he suggests that if you have a long thin face you should avoid fat Cigars, and vice-versa. A more realistic approach is to begin by buying a selection of different Cigars- a good Havana can be had for around $15 -$20 and simply try several until you find one that suits your palette and personality. A diffident Romeo Y Julieta number One might be a good starting point. At five and a half inches, it is neither too large and nor too aromatic and has a distinct taste of burnt wood smoke – a perfect after-dinner Cigar. But whichever brand you decide to try, it’s wise to avoid Cigars that are under-matured. Even the most hardened smoker would find the notorious “green” Cigar intimidating, if not upsetting, so it is not recommended as an introduction for the uninitiated.

Once you’ve found your perfect Cigar, you are then faced with a minefield of Cigar etiquette to navigate. If you thought it was a case of lighting up and puffing away, you’re very much mistaken. Avoid rolling the Cigar next to your ear or running it under your nose. All this will prove is that Cigars sound like desiccated leaves and smell of tobacco. Cutting the end of your Cigar using a special Cigar guillotine is to be recommended. Alternatively, pierce the end with a matchstick; but be warned, this concentrates the Cigar smoke like a jet on to your tongue, with an associated burning sensation that can be very distasteful.

Never bite off the end of your Cigar – this might be fine in an Italian spaghetti Western, but outside of Clint Eastwood territory, few people find it attractive. Most importantly, light your Cigar with a wooden match, rather than with a petrol lighter or a candle, both of which severely impair the flavor. And, once lit, only smoke three quarters of its length; after this, the tobacco oils concentrate in the remaining area of the Cigar and cause a bitterness, which ruins the otherwise mellow taste. Finally, never stub out your Cigar-once half its length has been smoked a Cigar will automatically extinguish itself if left unattended.

There is little that can match the aromatic smell and taste of a good Cigar. For anyone who claims to enjoy tobacco, it is the ultimate in sheer pleasure and good taste.

The Premium Brands…

Dunhill Aged - Mainly due to the increasing difficulty in importing Cigars from Cuba in the late Eighties, Dunhill decided to produce its own brand of Cigar. It uses South American tobacco and the leaves are matured over a number of years. The result is surprisingly, a much milder and nuttier tasting Cigar that lacks the pungent kick found in the stronger blends. Increasingly popular, the Dunhill Aged is the ideal Cigar for smoking during the day or over a light lunch.

Romeo Y Julieta - One of the world’s most popular Cigars, the Romeo Y Julieta is classified as a medium flavored Cigar. Tasting woodier than the Dunhill Aged, there is no mistaking the punch that lurks within it. However, the medium taste is still aromatic and palatable with our being overpowering. A version worth trying is the Romeo y Juliet Fedros, which boasts a sweeter woody flavor thanks to a cedar wrap around the Cigar.

Montecristo - Similar in taste to the Romeo Y Julieta, but slightly stronger. The increase in the Monetecristo’s strength is more pronounced in its most popular version, the Corona No 3. This Cigar has a very definite rich and pungent nutty flavor that lingers on the palette. Probably best enjoyed after a heavy evening meal.

Bolivar - The strongest of all Cigars, the extremely dark leaves used in the Bolivar give it a very strong taste. Too much for many tinge of bitterness and, if you are unaccustomed to it, can quite literary make your head spin.

Cohiba aka Castro- The Rolls Royce of Cigars, the Cohiba is rolled from the choicest leaves of each year’s Cuban tobacco crop. This Cigar only become available in the West because its Castro’s personal brand.

Besides Partagás, Hoyo de Monterrey, H. Upmann and José L. Piedra, other good Cuban brands include Belinda, Cuaba, Diplomáticos, El Rey del Mundo, Flor de Cano, Fonseca, Gispert, Guantanamera, Juan López, La Gloria Cubana, Los Statos de Luxe, Por Larrañaga, Punch, Quai d'Orsay, Quintero, Rafael González, Ramón Allones, Reloba, Saint Luis Rey, San Cristóbal de la Habana, Sancho Panza, Trinidad, Troya, Vegas Robaina, Vegueros and many more.

Health Warning - Cigars can be fun but they are as damaging to our Health as Cigarettes or even worse. Think twice before you light one!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Damn Google, It Doesn't Care Anymore

My Love-Hate Relationship with Google

I am not sentimental but I have always liked Google. Microsoft has never been in my good books. I still don’t like Microsoft especially it’s excessive over pricing, blatant display of power, outright arrogance and complete disregard to civilized customer service. And I always found Hotmail with its 'check regularly or get deleted' rules quite despotic. Besides, the MSN search sucked. So, when Google appeared across the horizon offering infinite bounties ready for discovery across the Cyberian far lands, I was delighted. And when Gmail offered dollops and dollops of gigabytes of free storage, it seemed like heaven. Soon, I was lapping onto the free online super luxury hitherto something that I had to pay through my nose. This was the start of my Google affair, my fascination with Open Source software and my net addiction.

Many years later, as I write this blog, I wonder if I am back to square one. And if the recent turn of events is an indication, my love affair with Google is also going to end (unless Google does something about it). So, how did this go sour?

In Mid 2008, my 3 year old, handcrafted, lovingly nurtured blog dedicated to hard-to-find music mysteriously crashes for no possible reason and Google doesn’t help. ‘Sorry Dude! Can’t Help’ was the curt refrain. It’s a long, dirty (and sad) story so I don’t wish to bore you but you need to know that old habits don’t die and I ended up with a new blog - this new blog (against all advice again on Blogger!) and not self-hosted on Wordpress. (blame me).

A few weeks back, when this blog went berserk with a spike in web traffic, my profile view ticker abruptly stopped working and it hasn’t worked till date. My request to Google Support has not attracted any reaction and I now have many new net friends, all blogspot users facing similar or even worse problems with their Blogger accounts. As if this was not enough, one of my Google Analytics account (with more than 80 client websites in it) has gone bonkers and the ‘Goal Conversion feature’ suddenly seems as good as dead. A few clients also have serious login issues with their corporate Gmail accounts (paid accounts). Again, there is no single response from Google Support. As a long-time Google advocate, I had moved many of client email systems (100’s of them) from their third party hosted servers to Gmail supremely confident with Google’s reliability. And finally, to add insult to injury, new Adsense applications for several of my client websites besides this blog are still pending for the more than a month, apparently still under review. Now, I have angry and impatient clients, especially my SEO customers literally breathing fire down on me, all of whom concurrently discovering the priceless value of search analytics and web metrics!

Maybe the anti-Google theories are indeed true. Maybe Google is just an omnipotent money-making machine which has grown too big, too fast. Just visit the Official Blogger Help Group, read the horror stories or better scour other Webmaster forums to read Google/Gmail related disasters and it’s all too evident that Google is indeed all set to become the next Microsoft. The only rational explanation I can construe otherwise is that the support folks at Google are either stupid, outright lazy to fix these recurrent bugs permanently or maybe since it’s all mostly free, Google just don’t care anymore.

I know there is no free lunch in life but when you are talking about a excessively powerful and disproportionately cash-rich company like Google, which many still consider the prime apostle of Open Source free software, it’s very demoralizing, unsettling. As a small fish in the mighty Google ocean, I don’t know if my voice will be ever heard (I hope Google spiders pick this up) but I will at least have the satisfaction of making my Google rants - read and re-read by many here. And that is more than satisfying!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Websnacker’s Select Alternative Rock + Alt.Pop Hits - Part 3 (S to Z)

90 Even More Minutes of Superlative Alt. Rock

Welcome to the final installment of my select Alternative Rock Hits, Part 3 (in alphabetical order S to Z). In this last edition, I have added an assorted mix of old and new alternative tracks including alt. heavyweights like Sonic Youth, Stereophonics, Vertical Horizon, personal favorites like Tantric, Splender and relative newbies like Weakling and King, Young Parisians and Winterpills.

Starting with Seabirds' hit single – ‘Let Me Go On’, you’ll get to hear the Grammy nominated Texas indie band Sixpence None the Richer’s cover of the La’s ‘There She Goes’, which NME magazine placed at number 45 in its list of the 50 Greatest Indie Anthems ever; industrial alternative rockers – Stabbing Westward, the 2001 surprise hit ‘Car Crashes’ by the Swedish two-piece duo – Standfast and ‘Breakdown’ the debut hit single of the Louisville, Kentucky post-grunge band Tantric (one of my favorites) from their self-titled album that reached #1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks and also helped the album achieve platinum status.

I have been criticized for ignoring British acts and being US centric in my selections so I have added the Wigan, UK piano rock band - Starsailor’s most popular track ‘Alcoholic’ from their 2001 album ‘Love Is Here’ and their first single to reach the UK top 10; ‘Mr. Writer’ from the Welsh rockers – Stereophonics taken from the their third album ‘Just Enough Education to Perform’ that reached #5 in the UK charts and ‘Clocks’ by Thomas Edward Yorke (Thom Yorke), the lead vocalist and songwriter of the alternative superband Radiohead from his massively successful debut solo album – ‘Eraser' which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 in the US, #3 on the native UK Albums Chart selling over 90,000 copies in its first week of release in July 2006.

You’ll also find ‘Everything You Want’, arguably Vertical Horizon's best-known single that reached the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999, Violent Femmes’ brooding ‘Color Me Once’ from the equally dark The Crow soundtrack, ‘Seein Red’, a top 5 US Modern Rock hit by Unwritten Law, the Californian alternative hard rock band and ‘Absolutely Anytime’ by the Watchmen - one of the most commercially successful Canadian alternative rock bands of the mid to late 1990s from their album ‘Slomotion’.

Besides, I have also added recent indie pop/ alt.rock gems like ‘Freshman Thesis’ by Thee More Shallows, the San Francisco based three-piece experimental indie rock band, ‘1800s’ by We’re Marching On from their 2007 release -Argh! Umph! Ahhh!, ‘Broken Arm’ by Winterpills, the Northampton, Massachusetts, indie rock band and the low key ‘Teach Me How To Drown’ by Unto Ashes – a rather deceptive track for a band who call themselves ‘unrepentant purveyors of apocalyptic folk, medieval doom and gloom, dirges and drones’.

2 more tracks warrant a special mention namely ‘Burning’ by the Berlin-based minimalist lo-fi shoegaze indie band, Whitest Boy Alive taken from their debut album - 'Electronic Dreams' and the Coldplayish chill out track ‘Jump the Next Train’ by Young Parisians aka Solarstone to finish this personal 3 part alternative pop rock anthology.

Seabird - Let Me Go On (Olaj's Let Me Go Off Mix) (4:09)
Sixpence None the Richer - There She Goes (2:39)
Sonic Youth - Jams Run Free (3:52)
Splender - Monotone (3:03)
Stabbing Westward - Drugstore (4:57)
Stand Fast - Car Crashes (3:29)
Starsailor - Alcoholic (Evening Session) (3:15)
Stereophonics - Mr. Writer (5:18)
Tantric - Breakdown (3:11)
Thee More Shallows - Freshman Thesis (5:02)
Thom Yorke - The Clock (4:13)
Unto Ashes - Teach Me How to Drown (4:30)
Unwritten Law - Seein Red (3:46)
Vertical Horizon - Everything You Want (4:14)
Violent Femmes - Color Me Once[The Crow Sdtk] (4:09)
Watchmen - Absolutely Anytime (3:46)
We're Marching On - 1800s (5:51)
Weakling and King - Fuel the Flame (4:13)
Whitest Boy Alive - Burning (3:11)
Winterpills - Broken Arm (2.46)
Young Parisians - Jump the Next Train (3.20)

Promote these Artists – Buy their Stuff NOW

97.05 MB Zip Folder – 21 MP3, Average Track Length: 4:02
Total Playlist Length: 1 Hour 30 Minutes 19 Seconds
MP3 Download Link - http://su.pr/2Bqqfv

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Websnacker’s Select Alternative Rock + Alt.Pop Hits - Part 2 (F to S)

82 More Minutes of Superlative Alt. Rock

In my second installment of Alternative Rock Hits (in alphabetical order F to S), I have added many personal favorites like Feeder, Grinspoon, Grant Lee Buffalo, Jets to Brazil, Guided By Voices, School of Fish and Kristen Hersh. You’ll also get to hear the ska-ish Len, piano rockers Keane, the melodic Gin Blossoms and the keyboard alt poppers Lightning Seeds.

Cinema has been quite influential in popularizing many alt. rock bands so to give you some indication, I have added Flaming Lips ‘Do You Realize’ from the 50 First Dates soundtrack, Plumb’s ‘Real Life Fairytale’ from the Perfect Man soundtrack and the easy on the ear Postal Choice cover of Phil Collin’s 'Against All Odds’ from the popular Wicker Park soundtrack. Incidentally, the original version was also a soundtrack hit from the movie of the same name that fetched Phil Collins’ a Grammy Award in 1985 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Adding Katy Perry was an ambivalent decision but I am sure you’ll love the radio-friendly fare of Mudcat Jones, New Radicals, Heavens, Joy Drop and the splendid Mercury Rev. Download, enjoy and send in your roses. Or if you don’t like’em, send’em to your recycle bin and get on with your day.

Feeder - Morning Life (4:02)
Flaming Lips - Do You Realize [50 First Dates Sdtk] (3:32)
Gin Blossoms - Until I Fall Away (3:51)
Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy (4:58)
Grinspoon - Chemical Heart - (4:39)
Guided By Voices - Glad Girls (3:49)
Heavens - Dead End Girl (4:57)
Jets To Brazil - Sweet Avenue (5:14)
Joydrop - Sometimes Wanna Die (3:12)
Katy Perry - Hot N Cold (3:40)
Keane - Bedshaped (4:39)
Kristen Hersh - Echo (3:45)
Len - Feelin' Alright (3:58)
Lightning Seeds - All I Want (2:54)
Mercury Rev - Nite And Fog (3:58)
Mudcat Jones - Are You Satisfied (2:55)
New Radicals - You Get What You Give (5:00)
Plumb - Real Life Fairytale [The Perfect Man Sdtk] (5:05)
Postal Service - Against All Odds [Wicker Park Sdtk] (4:11)
School of Fish - Rose Colored Glasses (3:44)

Promote these Artists – Buy their Stuff NOW
97.7 MB Zip Folder - 20 MP3 Tracks, Average Track Length: 4:06
Total Playlist Length: 1 Hour 22 Minutes 3 Seconds

MP3 Download Link - http://su.pr/2qOmaB

Monday, April 13, 2009

Websnacker’s Select Alternative Rock + Alt.Pop Hits - Part 1 (A to E)

85 Minutes of Superlative Alt. Rock

Relish my first medley of prime quality Alternative Hits (in alphabetical order from A to E) featuring personal favorites like ‘Someone To Talk To’ by the Devlins, ‘Sound of Settling’ by Death Cab For Cutie from the Wedding Crashers Soundtrack, the electronica laden ‘Daybreaker’ by Beth Orton, ‘Gin Soaked Boy’ by the Irish Chamber Poppers – Divine Comedy and ‘All I Need’ by Alternative Space Rockers – Air. I have also added enjoyable indie toffees from the likes of Colony, Cornershop, Dexter Freebish and more.

AFI - 37mm (3:54)
Air - All I Need (4:28)
Beck - E-Pro (3:25)
Beth Orton - Daybreaker (3:52)
Broken Social Scene - Shampoo Suicide (4:07)
Bush - Bush - Adrenaline (XXX Sdtk) (4:15)
Caroline’s Spine - Varsity Blue (3:00)
Coco Rosie - Noah's Ark (4:13)
Cold - Suffocate (3:39)
Coldplay - The Escapist (2:45)
Collective Soul - Collective Soul - Forgiveness (5:01)
Colony - Shivering (3:43)
Cornershop - Brimful of Asha (5:17)
Dada - Disneyland (4:05)
The Daysleepers - The Soft Attack (3:13)
Death Cab for Cutie - The Sound of Settling (2:14)
Devlins - Someone to Talk to (4:45)
Dexter Freebish - Twilight (4:28)
Dishwalla - Somewhere in the Middle (3:42)
The Divine Comedy - Gin Soaked Boy (5:03)
Early Edison - Demographically Pleasing (3:50)
East Village - Strawberry Window (2:34)

Promote these Artists – Buy their Stuff NOW

97 MB ZIP folder – 22 MP3 Tracks, Average Track Length: 3:53
Total Playlist Length: 1 Hour 25 Minutes 33 Seconds

MP3 Download link - http://su.pr/1cdfB9

Saturday, April 11, 2009

WebSnacker's Guide to Alternative Rock/Alt.Rock

Everything You Wanted to Know About Alternative Rock

I was recently approached by a close pal for a written favor. Aware of my obsessive interest in ‘Alternative Rock’, he wanted me to help him compile ‘easy to understand’ descriptions of this genre (apart from other genres) for a Music oriented research project - something which I had already done for a pioneering P2P website, collaborating way back in late 2000 (and which has since then been consistently plagiarized).

The mini-guide below is a tweaked raw version of my original old material that has been revised and modified to reflect current musical trends - in the most popular genres of Alt. Rock/Alt.Pop. I have no formal certification in Music or Music studies so readers are advised to follow due diligence and common sense if you are considering this for official or academic use.

Alternative Rock – the Better Substitute for Regular Rock
Alternative or Alt. Rock is a very wide and rather fuzzy term. Originally, it started when Punk bands like the Fall, Echo and Bunnymen, and U2 took the musical experimentation of the punks to another level by further abandoning conventional rock instrumentation and song structure. Blues based rock was thrown out and replaced by moody synthesizers and a new guitar style that was lush and layered. This new music revolution ranged from the dark, depressing sounds of The Cure and Joy Division to the lighter synth pop of Depeche Mode to the more avant garde songs of bands like Public Image Limited and The Fall. Later day Post Punk bands like The Pixies and Dinosaur, Jr. created the blueprint for the Alternative Rock movement of the late eighties and nineties.

In the early ‘90s, thanks to the rabid success of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Radiohead and The Red Hot Chili Peppers (mostly Nirvana though), the lines between Alternative and Pop were getting blurred. Pop bands adopted Alternative trappings and Alternative bands were marketed to Pop audiences. Alt. Rock soon encompassed almost any post-punk, non-mainstream music, from Cure, REM and the Pixies to XTC to Dishwalla, VAST, Live and Toad, the Wet Sprocket. Now, everything from the faux arena Rock of Soundgarden (Audioslave) to the retro-pop of Barenaked Ladies and Smashmouth is classified as Alternative these days.

Since the Alternative Rock peak of the mid-90's and a current resurgence, many new alternative rock bands (and consequently new alternative radio stations) have evolved - in the direction of Modern Rock, or in some cases, Pure Indie Rock while a few focus exclusively on select Alternative Sub-genres like Indie Pop or on cult bands like Dinosaur Jr, Sugar/Husker Du, the Connells, the Devlins, Tortoise, Arcade Fire, Pineapple Thief, Kings of Leon, Mercury Rev and Stereophonics creating niche audiences of their own. However, even now, many mainstream Music Stations play Alternative Rock which is stylistically derivative of the Seattle grunge bands and twirly alternative purveyors of the 90’s, and to some extent, the punk/new wave artists of the late 80's, rather than the "underground" rock artists of the 60's and 70's. These stations are aimed primarily at teenage and indie audiences and feature mostly current single releases and popular alternative album cuts.

Popular Sub-Genres & Derivatives of Alt. Rock (in Alphabetical Order)

Adult Alternative - Adult Alternative was born in the mid-1990s, when the Alternative Rock and Grunge styles had gained such a level of mainstream acceptance that their influence was beginning to show in more subdued and less adventurous “VH-1” bands. The massively successful Counting Crows were one of the first Adult Alternative bands, and their success paved the way for even more successful bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, the Gin Blossoms and the Crash Test Dummies. This style still flourishes today and is diversely represented in Single artists and bands like Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, Train, Paul Weller, John Mayer, David Gray, Tracy Chapman, Natalie Merchant, Travis, the Wallflowers, Matchbox Twenty, Alanis Morissette, Vertical Horizon, the Cardigans, etc.

Alt. Country - Post or Alt. Country (also known as Americana, or American Roots) is Country music that is made and exists outside Country’s mainstream. Compared to conventional Country music, Alt. Country has varied influences like American Roots Music, Bluegrass, Rock & Roll, Rockabilly, Acoustic Music, Americana, Honky-Tonk and Punk Rock. It is still not largely made or distributed from the Nashville industry and it does not get enough airplay on commercial Country radio. For the most part, Post Country is closer to its traditional roots than is more mainstream Country. Everything from the Indie Rock country of WhiskeyTown, Palace and Wilco, Sun Volt, Uncle Tupelo to the twangy eclecticism of Lucinda Williams, Freedy Johnston, Lyle Lovett and K.D. Lang is classified as Post Country.

Brit Pop/Brit Rock - Brit Pop/Brit Rock began in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s with groups like the Stone Roses, the Charlatans, Happy Mondays and later Inspiral Carpets, Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers, Lush and many more. It began to flourish in the mid ‘90s with the success of bands such as Blur, Oasis, Gene, Boo Radleys and Pulp with Manchester being its epicenter. Brit pop/rock is guitar-based, but it ranges from the Disco-Funk of the Stone Roses to the Beatles-wannabe Rock of Oasis and to the Piano Rock of Starsailor. Brit Pop/rock is defined more by its reliance on "rock star" attitude and image, and its disinterest in US chart success, than by a particular sound. Its successful practitioners include the Suede, the Smiths, Elastica, Echobelly, Morrissey, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Supergrass, Ocean Colour Scene, Powder, Shed Seven, Sleeper, the Verve and most recently Keane.

Chamber Pop - Chamber Pop (aka Baroque Rock or Baroque Pop) is carefully orchestrated music that attempts to apply the principles of Chamber music to Indie Pop mixing Indie Rock, Post Rock and Avant Classical interludes. The style is most easily identified by the use of instruments not commonly used in Rock music, such as string and horn sections, organs and flutes and even theremin and singing saw. Chamber Pop groups also take a more deliberate approach to songwriting, having been influenced by Cabaret musicians like Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Brel, as well as ‘60s and ‘70s rock anomalies like Lee Hazlewood, Nick Drake and Scott Walker. Lambchop, Tindersticks, Jeremy Enigk, the later work of Nick Cave and even Low and Belle and Sebastian have strong Chamber Pop elements. Other notable examples include Sufjan Stevens, Elvis Costello, Arab Strap, Mazzy Star, the Divine Comedy, Beulah, John Vanderslice, Smog, Cousteau and Mojave 3.

Emo – Sandwiched between Hardcore Punk and Pop Punk, "Emo" or "Emo-core" is short for Emotional Hardcore. The term began as a derogatory one but has been proudly and vehemently claimed by lovers of this dynamic, intensely emotional splinter genre of Hardcore. Really good Emo is characterized by sudden, surprising shifts in rhythm, ragged, screamingly emotional vocals, pretty instrumental breakdowns, slightly unconventional song structures, and a decidedly un-punk embrace of poppy elements. Sunny Day Real Estate made a couple of amazing Emo records, and The Get-Up Kids and The Promise Ring are pretty good too. Other good examples of Emo include Jimmy Eat World, Pedro the Lion, Further Seems Forever, Finch, Alkaline Trio, Dashboard Confessional, Jets To Brazil, Starting Line and also Modest Mouse. Emo would be a great genre had it not given birth to Math Rock, one of the coldest and most annoying of all of the post-punk splinter genres.

Experimental Rock - Progressive Rock, Noise Rock, Proto-punk and Experimental Rock bands that experiment extensively with styles, textures, sounds and production techniques - but still maintain a rock structure and stay within the rock idiom - can be called Experimental Rock. Of course, almost all of the greats have been at least somewhat experimental... Sgt. Pepper's, Pet Sounds and even Exile On Main Street were revolutionary records, but this term is reserved for those that have been truly out there on a consistent basis. Lots of Prog Rock bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson have aspects of experimental rock but the real stuff started with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart and includes everything from No Wave to latter Tom Waits, Pere Ubuto Wire, Oingo Boingo, Sonic Youth and even Mr. Bungle. Other Examples include the Butthole Surfers, Ween, Pram and Sigur Ros – Iceland’s darlings.

Goth Rock - At core, "Gothic" refers to the New Wave - Synth Pop style invented by second-generation British Punk bands like Joy Division, the Cure and Bauhaus, music that embraced darkness of theme and excessively morbid imagery, but the Gothic style is actually quite broad and has serious cultural antecedents in the work of writers like Mary Shelley and Horace Walpole. The pop "Gothic" style has deeply influenced our culture and is today represented in the music of a wide variety of bands, from Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance to Marilyn Manson touching fringes of Industrial Rock and New Wave Euro Metal. At its worst, Gothic music is laughably hackneyed: a collection of clichéd lines about vampires, blood, and creatures of the night. At its best, Gothic music can be terrifying, swooningly romantic, and exorcisingly powerful all at the same time. Famous practitioners of Gothic Rock include Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cult, Type O Negative, Killing Joke, Skinny Puppy and Switchblade Symphony.

Grunge/Post-Grunge - Grunge Rock began in the late ‘80s and redefined the Alt.Rock genere. It originally comprised of stoner Punk, combining the sound of early Black Sabbath with Punk attitudes, angst-filled lyricism, speed (in some cases) and DIY aesthetics. Indie record label Sub Pop and bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog, Mudhoney, the Melvins, Tad, and early Screaming Trees, Soundgarden and Paw typify the fuzzed out, stop/start, buzz rock sound of grunge. Most of these artists were associated with Seattle and after Nirvana’s success Grunge became synonymous with "The Seattle Sound."

After the success of Nirvana and the cult popularity of its frontman Kurt Cobain, a slew of commercial friendly Grunge and "Post-Grunge” bands popularized this genre even further. The first wave featured bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Creed, Hole (fronted by Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend/wife – Courtney Hole), L7, Everclear and Babes in Toyland while the second wave bands featured Bush, Silverchair, Candlebox, Our Lady Peace and Grinspoon. However, hardcore Grunge soon suffered a slow death and was replaced with Post-Grunge rock acts, many of whom exist even today. Most recent and (successful) examples of these post-grunge bands or those with discernible grunge influences include 12 Stones, Foo Fighters, A Perfect Circle, Hinder, Breaking Benjamin, Hoobastank, Switchfoot, Incubus, Staind, Nickelback, Audioslave, Cold, Papa Roach, Godsmack, Semisonic, Alterbridge, Seether, 3 Doors Down, Saliva, Redd Kross and Tantric.

Indie Garage - The mid ‘80s saw the beginnings of an Indie Garage Rock revival mixing Indie Rock, Garage Rock, Noise Rock, Lo Fi &Proto-punk. Notable bands that comprise this sub-genre include the MonoMen, the Chesterfield Kings, Flipper and Meat Puppets. Garage Rock bands tend to suck once they get famous and learn how to play their instruments. Nevertheless, they occupy a niche and latter day famous examples include Brian Jonestown Massacre, White Stripes, Red Elvises, the Replacements and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Indie Folk - There are many Indie artists (Mary Lou Lord, Vic Chesnutt, Shannon Wright, Cat Power, etc) who play music that could be described as “Folk” but often isn’t because of the connotations that term has gathered over the years. The music they play is in fact Folk, but it is so different from the music of more well-known Folk artists like Joan Baez and Greg Brown that a separate clarifying term is helpful when talking about their work. That term is Indie Folk. Blending Lo-Fi, Indie Rock and regular Folk music, Indie Folk songwriting tends to be more complicated and experimental than mainstream Contemporary Folk, and Indie Folk recording is usually far less slick than its mainstream counterpart. Additionally, most Indie Folk musicians would try to rip your throat out if you called them “Singer-Songwriters.”. Beck, Rufus Wainwright & Bon Iver are prominent examples though you can also add Elliott Smith, Red House Painters, Kristin Hersh and Billy Bragg.

Indie Pop/Dream Pop – Originally from the UK, Indie Pop embraces the basic tenets of Pop songwriting but filters them through the warped sensibilities of tuneful Indie Rock. The result is pleasant ear candy that is smarter, more experimental, and more emotionally realistic than the typical dross on the radio. Distinguished examples include Aztec Camera, Blur, Cocteau Twins, the Smiths, Lush, Sia Furler, Ivy, Stereolab, Postal Service, the Cardigans, Ben Kweller, Club 8, Imogen Heap, High Llamas, Apples in Stereo, Iron & Wine, Broken Social Scene, Hanson, Belle and Sebastian, Luna the Lemonheads and Ladybug Transistor.

Indie Rock - Indie Rock refers to the wide musical landscape maintained by Alternative bands that have remained underground and on independent labels and the widespread commercial co-opting of Alternative music. Though there is no particular Indie Rock sound, it stretches to two extremes from pop to rock and is typically guitar-based and made either with a Punk-inspired Do-It-Yourself (DIY) aesthetics or melodious rocking aural delights. Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, Nada Surf, Superchunk, Beat Happening and Shellac are examples of big name Indie Rockers. Other examples include Arcade Fire, the Auteurs, Badly Drawn Boy, Bright Eyes, British Sea Power, Neutral Milk Hotel, Promise Ring, the Radio Dept, Death Cab for Cutie, the Flaming Lips, Crayon and the Decemberists.

Jam Rock - Jam Rock is hippie music that relies on extended impromptu "jams" at the end of or instead of songs. Jam Rock begins with Psychedelic Rock (Grateful Dead), but it takes many different directions from there including Acid Rock, Folk Rock & Bluegrass. Much Jam Rock is Blues based, such as the Allman Bros. Band, but much is Jazz and Funk-influenced, such as Phish. The ultimate Jam Rock band was the Grateful Dead, who combined Folk and a little Jazz with Psychedelic Rock. Other bands rely on bastardized Bluegrass techniques and instrumentation. These bands such as the String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon, are often referred to as Newgrass. Current and notable examples include Ben Harper, Dave Matthews Band, Carbon Leaf, Deep Banana Blackout, Disco Biscuits, Blind Melon, Polyphonic Spree, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic, Lotus, Animal Liberation Orchestra, Dada and Sound Tribe Sector 9

Jangle Pop - Jangle Pop is a kind of Folk Rock/‘60s Pop, Indie Rock, Post Punk, Lo Fi, Folk Rock hybrid popularized by the Byrds, but it is typically executed with an underground aesthetic. The prime Jangle Pop example is R.E.M. (before their switch to Warner Brothers), Gin Blossoms, Camper Van Beethoven, the Connells, the Primitives, Teenage Fanclub and other bands including the Bangles, Belly, Uncle Green, Dream Syndicate, Game Theory, the Go-Between, House of Love, Loud Family, the Ocean Blue, the Railway Children, the Rembrandts, Love Tractor, the Feelies, the Soft Boys & Throwing Muses

Lo Fi - Lo Fi Indie Rock (or blended Indie Garage, Jangle Pop, Indie Folk, New Psychedelia) is recorded on four track and other amateur (i.e. cheap) equipment in order to maintain a rough, immediate sound. Lo Fi bands strive for a sound far removed from over-produced slick studio recordings. Reaching towards the aesthetic of early Blues field recordings, Lo Fi acts like Animal Collective, Archers of Loaf, Beck, Beat Happening, Beta Band, Bon Iver, Bonobo, Built To Spill, Coco Rosie, Devendra Banhart, Folk Implosion, John Frusciante, Of Montreal, Okkervil River, Pavement, Pedro the Lion, the Shins, Swell, Yo La Tengo, Smog, and, to a lesser extent, Sebadoh, are noisy and chaotic but often full of simple, pretty melodies.

Modern Rock - Modern Rock is just that - modern rock music. More specifically, this term refers to the genres of rock that influenced or were influenced by the advent of punk, from the Big-Star-crafted American-punk-influencing Power Pop to the post-punk sounds of New Wave, the forefather of Alternative, a genre that, in the early 90s, crashed into the rocks of commercialism and cracked into the two halves of fiercely uncommercial Indie Rock and radio-friendly Alternative, Adult Alternative, and Grunge.

New Psychedelia - The late 90s saw a renewed interest, on the part of the Indie Rock community, in the Psychedelic Rock of 60s bands like the Beatles and the Beach Boys (as well as lesser-known bands like the Zombies, the Incredible String Band, and Sagittarius). This was brought about almost single-handedly by a loosely organized, and artistically prolific, group of Athens, GA artists and friends called the Elephant 6 collective that mixed Indie Rock with Lo Fi elements.

Early releases by the Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal, and the amazing Neutral Milk Hotel garnered truckloads of critical acclaim for the collective, and releases by Dressy Bessy, Elf Power, the Minders, and Beulah followed not long after. Stylistically, the Elephant 6 sound diverged wildly, but all of the bands had in common an ecstatic, joyful approach to making music, an eschewal of cynicism and irony, and a love for bizarre instruments and analog equipment. In the Elephant 6 bands, as well as non-E6 psych purveyors like the Flaming Lips and the Ladybug Transistor, the array of modern Psychedelia has become just as broad and impressive as it was in the 60s. Other examples include Super Furry Animals, Cornelius, Starlight Mints, the Sunshine Fix, Oneida, the Four Corners & Whistler.

Noise Rock – Blurred between Indie Garage, Indie Rock & Experimental Rock, Noise Rock relies on alternative tunings, feedback and cacophonous sounds orchestrated into discordant anti-songs. Though it has existed since the 70s, the Boredoms, Royal Trux, and Guitar Wolf were the original noise bands. However, the credit for actually popularizing this genre goes to Sonic Youth, Fugazi & Helmet. Other popular Noise Bands include Butthole Surfers, Ween, Drive like Jehu, Codeine, the Boredoms, Spectrum, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, My Bloody Valentine, Born Against, Lightning Bolt, the Jesus Lizard, Swans, Velocity Girl, the Birthday Party and my personal favorite – Catherine Wheel.

Post Rock - Post Rock is an experimental form of Indie Rock combining elements of Noise, Free Jazz, Space Rock, Indie Rock, Chamber Pop and Electronica. Tortoise and Slint are forerunners of this genre that includes bands like Air, Mogwai, Album Leaf, the Sea and Cake, Four Tet, Isotope 217, Plone, Clinic, Calexico, Gastr del Sol, A Minor Forest, the Notwist, Piano Magic, Bedhead, Slowdive, King Black Acid, Mercury Rev, Medicine, and Explosions in the Sky

Power Pop – A popular sub-genre of Alternative rock and Alternative Pop, it includes elements from New Wave, Pop Punk, Hard Rock and Punk Rock. Power Pop takes crisp vocals, Hard Rock guitars and wraps ‘em up in delicious Pop harmonies. Old bands like Duran Duran, Roxette, the Smithereens, Big Star and Cheap Trick typify this sound as do modern Alt. Rockers like Better Than Ezra, Teenage Fanclub and Tal Bachman.

While its artistic impact has waxed and waned over the decades, Power Pop is among Rock's or rather Alt. Rock’s most lasting secondary genres covering a variety of trends and diverse set of bands as varied as Lightning Seeds, A.C. Newman, Pink, All-American Rejects, American Hi-Fi, Artful Dodger, Ash, Avril Lavigne, the Posies, Sloan, Semisonic, Dandy Warhols, Bracket, Material Issue, Altered Images, Todd Rundgren, Matthew Sweet, the Knack, Squeeze, Sugarcult, Superbus, Don Dixon, Enuff Z'nuff, Fastball, Juliana Hatfield, Katy Perry, the Loud Family, Nick Lowe, the New Pornographers, Rick Springfield, Swirl 360, the Vapors, Veruca Salt, Weezer, Wheatus and XTC.

Riot Grrrl – Riot Grrrl is a hybrid between Hardcore Punk, Punk Rock, Pop Punk and Indie Rock. First arising in the late ‘80s through a network of new bands, labels and fan-published ‘zines, Riot Grrrl is typified by a loud, abrasive Punk Rock sound and attitude, and aggressive feminist politics. Drawing inspiration from early girl-punks like the Raincoats and Yoko Ono (believe it!), Riot Grrrl constructed a new ethos of empowerment and creation, making it OK for girls to scream, rock, and do it themselves. Sleater-Kinney and Hole are the best-known Riot Grrrl bands apart from L7, Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland and also Chicks on Speed, Luscious Jackson & Le Tigre.

Rock en Espanol - Rock en Espanol also known as Latin Alternative is a movement of alternative rock bands from everywhere from Texas to Mexico to Argentina who sing in Spanish and play all styles of modern rock, often with touches of traditional Latin rhythm, Hard Rock and Pop thrown into spice things up. From pop in Spanish, to hybrids of Anglo rock and elements of traditional and popular Latin music, Rock en Español is the sound of young Latin America like Divididos, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Charly Garcia, Herodes del Silencio, Mana, Ricardo Arjona, Soda Stereo & Jarabe De Palo.

Ska & Ska Punk - Ska is the direct musical forerunner of Reggae and is a sublime alternative combination of Jamaican (African) folk traditions, Calypso and American ‘60s R&B. Ska is horn heavy and relies on a syncopated rhythmic structure in which only the upbeats are played upon. Ska has experienced many revivals and permutations in the form of New wave, 2 Tone bands and the Ska-Punk/Alternative Ska of the nineties, but the basic Ska blueprint is the Skatalites, who were the Studio One band for a number of years. Rancid, Toots and the Maytals, the Toasters, Camper Van Beethoven & Bodysnatchers are other good examples.

Mixing Ska with elements of Pop Punk, Rock Steady, Punk Rock and Reggae, Ska Punk takes the British Mod-Ska of early ‘80s 2-tone bands like Madness and the Specials and charges it up with Punk speed and guitar riffs. The Clash did this way back in ’77; Fishbone did it throughout the ‘80s followed by recent contemporaries like No Doubt, Operation Ivy, Buck O’ Nine, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Sublime, the Pietasters, Save Ferris, Goldfinger, RX Bandits and Instant Winner.

Space Rock/Progressive Alt.Rock - Mesmerizing, droning and sedative, this is post-punk Psychedelia vacillating between Space Rock, Indie Rock, Chamber Pop, Electronica, Ambient, Post Rock, Indie Pop, Film Scores and Modern Rock. Major groups include Pink Floyd (the pioneers), Bark Psychosis, Mogwai, Bowery Electric, Seefeel, Labradford, Spaceman 3, Babylon Zoo, Ride, Muse, Bardo Pond and Spiritualized.

Surf Rock – Integrating early Rock & Roll with Rockabilly, the first Surf rock single belongs to guitar virtuoso Dick Dale, whose “Let’s Go Trippin” set the instrumental mold - reverby and cascading guitar washes over propulsively simple rock beats - that many surf rock bands, from the Ventures to the Surfaris, were to follow. Jan and Dean and especially the Beach Boys took Surf to the next level, wrapping the style around skillfully written pop songs sung in gorgeous, complex harmonies. A Niche genre, other famous examples include the Dead Kennedys and the Reverend Horton Heat.

The New Wave and Synth Pop genre has been intentionally left out and will be covered later. Critical feedback requested. References and Credits will be added later in the final file. I will also upload a MP3 Sampler of Alternative Hits in the next few days.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Essential Reading - Manil Suri's Death of Vishnu

Slumdog Bombay, Coma, Bollywood and More

I had read 'Death of Vishnu' many years back, having purchased it a railway station to kill time on a boring journey across interior Maharashtra. I really loved it so much that I not only reviewed it for a book portal but also bought additional copies for many of my American clients who had a peculiar penchant for anything desi. Years later, I found it again yesterday at a small second-hand book joint and I couldn’t stop buying it again.

An outstanding debut novel that I am told has been translated into more than 20 foreign languages, ‘Death of Vishnu’ beautifully depicts the last few hours of a dying alcoholic mixing Indian mythology with archetypal cultural flavours that can only be experienced in India. Speed read a few pages and the title of Manil Suri's first novel gets right to the point. The central character – Vishnu, having procured the right to sleep on the ground floor landing of an emblematic Bombay apartment, lies dying slowly slipping from a coma into the inevitable death. As our blacked out hero departs from his earthly abode, the apartment dwellers surround him, arguing over who gave him a few dried chapattis, who called the doctor and who will pay for the ambulance to lug him away.

Manil Suri, the author who was named a “Person to Watch” in 2000 by Time magazine brings Mumbai to life in its frenzied dissonance of sounds and smells, mapping the path of the human spirit from birth until death in a very inimitable method blending subtle comedy and tragedy. Suri skillfully paints daily life in a crowded apartment building, complete with joys and sorrows, neighbourly petty disputes and small wars over water and the shared kitchen, adolescent lovers and anguished widowers. His wonderfully drawn characters cover a wide range of human emotions and possibilities but never seem two-dimensional.

Suri also infuses his story with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes, so distinct of India. Whether it is the Cigarettewalla with his radio playing desi music, eating ripe mangoes, gulab jamuns or the cacophonic soundtrack to an Indian film, Suri creates sensory snapshots that stay and linger in the mind throughout the story and beyond. If you like this, also read the “Age of Shiva” from the same author.
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