St. Vincent Review: Strange Mercy

St. Vincent

Strange Mercy

Judging on looks alone, Annie Clark looks about as fierce as a mouse. Clark, who goes by the musical moniker St. Vincent, is short in stature, with cute, modest features, and the sort of sweet curly black hair that brings to mind a more innocent time. But as clichéd as it is, appearances can be deceiving, which couldn’t be more of the case when it comes to Ms. Clark.
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A Small Start

Welcome to Little by Listen, the music blog where the every man gets his say.

This blog is the culmination of years and years of three high school friends wasting minutes, hours, and days listening to music, making long concert road trips, and having ridiculously trivial arguments about which is the best Rolling Stones record or who would you rather be, Jack White or Jim James. More recently, we had a Facebook message to share our thoughts and opinions on music, and eventually thought out loud, “our conversation might be entertaining for others to see”.

Though we do have our disagreements, we as a whole, do share a majority of favorites and thus, most of the music discussed on this site will indeed be consensus favorites for all three of us. However, that’s not to say we won’t disagree. In fact, we plan on making our reviews and opinions open for counterpoints and arguments.

Here at Little by Listen, we live by three simple rules:

  1. No Pretention: One thing that seems constant in music sites is pretentiousness is like a height restriction for a rollercoaster: you have to be super elitist to own a music site. Whether it’s the self-appointed hipster kings at Pitchfork, the hoity-toity, overly academic approach of the NY Times Arts & Leisure, or the “We invented rock ‘n’ roll” mentality of Rolling Stone. We are just three guys with a love for music that we would love to share. No more. No less. If you catch us being pretentious, feel free to call us out.
  2. Open for discussion: This ties in with the first rule. As part of staying unpretentious, we want to hear your thoughts as well. We want our reviews to be less criticism and more discussion. Also, if someone wants to give their two cents on the state of hip hop or review their favorite new punk band, we are open for outside submissions. This will become clearer as our blog develops over time, but we want you to know from the get go, that Little by Listen is a conversation, not a lecture.
  3. Giving all music a fair shake- Anytime a song or album hits our ears, we promise to try to throw our preconceptions aside and give it a fair listen. Whether it is in regards to challenging avante garde music that grows on us little by little with each listen (Little by Listen?), or reviewing a new album from Miss GaGa, we promise to throw aside our preconceived notions for our reviews.

On top of our three rules, we thought it would be best if we gave you a mini bio and including our musical preferences, so you know a little of what to expect when each of us post.

Todd “Tinseltown” Reynolds

Todd was a good-natured, friendly Midwesterner, until he moved to L.A. and turned Hollywood. From producing Ca$h Money music videos to catching the next clichéd surf rock indie band out of Long Beach, Todd brings some west coast glam and flair to the blog. Todd is also a punk rocker at heart stuck in a tall, gawky body, but is able to still find joy in a good pop song if it makes that same gawky body move to the beat.

Turn up: True grit and grunge (Iggy Pop, Black Lips), filthy-dirty, sonically-charged blues (Jimi Hendrix, Jack White, Black Keys), intelligent punk (The Clash, Television), unintelligent punk (Misfits, The Cramps, The Creepy Creeps), artist/production combos that seemed to be forged by the hands of musical titans (TV on the Radio/Sitek,Radiohead/Leicke/Godrich,Kan-yeezy West/Kan-yezzy West), musicians who destroy their personal health and well-being by performing outlandishly beyond their own physical means (My Morning Jacket, Pixies, Tom Waits).  I also has a soft spot for cool jazz on long drives (Miles Davis, Charles Mingus) and pop musicians of the drunk-n-horny nature (Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Kings of Leon (pre-Americana-esque abandonment)).

Turn down: Emo-“Punk” musicians that piss and whine about how they can’t stand seeing their ex-girlfriend “Facebooking” another guy (Hawthorne Heights, AFI), anyone after Bush, that still sounds like Bush, including Bush (Bush, Nickelback, Chris Daughtry), and Wilco (yes, THE WILCO, a band that hasn’t had an album worth staying awake through since the 90’s).

Austin Knepp aka The Gavel

Austin brings judgment to the blog, as the recently minted lawyer is the driest, harshest, and most opinionated of the bunch. Austin is also our resident hip-hop guy, even though he does most of his shopping at Banana Republic. Expect Austin to lay the hammer down hard on some unsuspecting bands.

Turn up:  Industrial sounds (NIN, Cold Cave), mastery of the English language (The Fugees The Score), British Post-Punk (I say British to exclude U2, but mostly love Echo & the Bunnymen), incarcerated/previously incarcerated rap artists (Gucci Mane, Lil’ Wayne, Mystikal), Neil Young (no explanation necessary), eccentric female solo artists (Cat Power, Joanna Newsom), oh, and for Wes’ sake, Toby Keith (because I don’t want him to put a boot in our a**).

Turn down: About 50% of Radiohead (you know, the 50% where Thom Yorke whines for the entirety of the song), straight-edge hyper-intensity (I’m looking at you Tool fans), Jack White’s refusal to just sack-up and make a solo record, most anything that is put on contemporary alt rock radio, metal (alright, I get it, you are super talented musicians and can play your instruments REALLY fast).

Wes Jakacki aka Pooh Bear

Recently tamed by his new wife, Wes is the big softy of the group. Having over five years of music writing experience, what Wes has in experience he lacks in style.  While being the youngest of the three, Wes is a bit of an old soul, having been cornfed on the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Oldies radio. Much like Pooh Bear, Wes loves his honey (on his chicken nuggets), and all too frequently finds himself covered in the stuff in the back seat of a car on the way back from seeing a show.

Turn up: Beach Boys harmonies (Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear), bands with “Bear” in the name (see previous), ambition (think Sufjan Stevens, Kanye West, not Rush) unabashed Americana that’s not overly patriotic (Grateful Dead, Ryan Adams, Wilco), soul music (Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye), blistering rock ‘n’ roll ( Exile on Main Street), and the Talking Heads or anything remotely influenced by the Talking Heads (the Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer).

Turn down: Horribly 80’s guitar solos (see Eddie Van Halen), rap rock (anything from the late 90’s), self-titled albums that aren’t debuts (Weezer’s last nine albums), Matt & Kim, Toby Keith, big 80’s drums, and white rappers (minus the Beastie Boys, who get a pardon for strength in numbers).

Enjoy as we dive into the world of music.

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Site Breakdown

At Little by Listen, we plan on delivering a variety pieces from thought-provoking blogs to good-old fashioned reviews. Here is a breakdown on our various categories.

News

Though we will never be the first to break a news story at LxL, we do want to aggregate the music news that we think is important and interesting and also give a little of our take on stories. So while we may not be breaking news, we will always offer our own flavor on things, making it worth your while to check us on news topics.

Reviews

This like most sites, reviews will likely be our bread and butter. For album reviews, we plan on offering three or four reviews a week of a wide range of music, but every so often, we plan on taking it a step further and giving a review the royale treatment– turning it into an all out rumble between the three of us. This will allow for more depth and variety in opinions on the most important releases.

As far as how we decided to measure our reviews? Why go to 10 when you can go to 11?

We figured it will for the most part be treated like a 10 point scale in increments of half points, with the rare immaculate albums getting 10.5 or 11s (think The Beatles Revolver or Radiohead’s Kid A). We will also be doing song reviews, show reviews, and even reviews on reviews, for those reviews that are truly terrible or pretentious.

Thoughts @ Work

Named after a song by the hardest working hip hop band today, the Roots, this will be our blogs or think pieces. So if we want to waste some space on our thoughts on a changing music industry or why My Morning Jacket is the greatest live band around and you need to go see them right now (seriously), we will do it here.

Top Tens

There’s nothing quite like a Top Ten list for people to dispute. We especially have a knack and love for lists, and will be putting out lists once a week. Whether it’s our top ten favorite bassists or the five greatest covers of all time, we will try to keep it interesting with our lists.

Hall of Fame

So what to do with our best work? Well we have a place for that too. We will place our most viewed and best received work under the Hall of Fame section where they can live forever in infamy.

 

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Watch the Throne Review Royale

Jay-Z and Kanye West

Watch the Throne

Two listens into Watch the Throne, the collaborative release of the two self-anointed kings of rap, I was afraid that The Throne was simply the musical equivalent of the Miami Heat; all flair and no substance.

Fortunately, that isn’t actually the case, though Watch the Throne isn’t quite championship material. On the surface, Watch the Throne is an album of two of the richest men in showbiz bragging about being the best and living the Hollywood lifestyle with little to no conflict; sort of like a bad Entourage episode. But look beyond the gold-plated façade, and you will find some real substance on Watch the Throne, both musically and lyrically.
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