Menu

Ramsayings

A Blog About Nothing in Particular

A Must-Read Kanye West Roundtable

Were you one of the poor souls spazzing out over Kanye’s 10.0 from Pitchfork? How perfectly 2002 of you. If you’re looking for more grist for the mill, look no further than Jeff Weiss’ excellent My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family roundtable, in which several critics offer their thoughts on what most people seem to believe is the album of the year. (I’m inclined to agree with most people.)

Not good enough? Jeff and his friends are really, really funny.

I Ate a Roast Pork Sandwich

But it was, like, from the future! Because I used my iPhone! Tony Luke’s never tasted so good at Citizens Bank Park. And then I wrote about that experience for the 700 level.

What Happened to the New Pornographers?

I haven’t even finished listening to the first song on the New Pornographers’ latest album, Together, and I’m bored. This is a band that once inspired me to do that least cool of things — join the band onstage to dance — way back in 2001 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Man, that was fun. Has it already been five years since they played a preview of Twin Cinema at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA? It has, hasn’t it?

It sounds like a snide, elitist thing to say, but the New Pornographers weren’t built to last. They were that rarest of animals: a supergroup not only didn’t suck, but actually produced two classic albums and a passable third before becoming adult contemporary claptrap.

You see, it would’ve been wonderful if they never really formed a band as such, just produced Mass Romantic, toured, and then went their separate ways. Sure, Electric Version is a spectacular album and I wouldn’t want to forget how fantastic it was to see them play those songs, too, but it’s just that it’s hard to look back on those albums and see them in the same light as they were made. Together, and it’s predecessor, Challengers, are shockingly boring mid-tempo affairs that make you wonder how the New Pornographers ever packed so many hooks into “To Wild Homes.”

The pace of their career makes me think they released those great albums, split briefly, and then reunited to produce two more lackluster albums, only to disappear into obscurity. Maybe it’s for the best. That way future generations might discover the unbridled joy when they first hear Neko Case wail on “Letter From an Occupant.”

My Part in the Spiral Stairs Snafu

I had no idea that anything I’d ever written, least of all a review of a middling album by Spiral Stairs, would ever gain this degree of infamy, but then this story broke this week. Turns out Spiral Stairs is upset at Pitchfork for their appraisal of his body of work post-Pavement. That’s totally his prerogative, but wouldn’t it have helped if he didn’t insist on rewriting “Coolin’ by Sound” and just giving it new titles?

For the record, that review stands as one of the most puerile pieces of criticism I’ve ever written. Bear in mind that it was written at a time when people actually wrote negative reviews about music, and those reviews were often long than 140 characters. Want to know a secret? The original was longer AND meaner. Hard to believe, right?

For what it’s worth, I loved Pavement. I’m not a hopeless nostalgic for the band, however, and I’ve felt that both Kannberg and Malkmus overestimated their talents in their solo efforts. I listened to Monsoon hoping to hear something different from Kannberg. How do you root against the underdog? The unfortunate thing was that I didn’t find anything to like and he’s been shockingly consistent in underwhelming critics and consumers. This may be why he was so frustrated in Pavement. Malkmus was too shrewd an editor to allow him to contribute material like this.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the praise I lavished on Kannberg for really working to preserve Pavement’s legacy as one of the great acts of the ’90s. I meant what I said about him undertaking the thankless task of unlocking gems from old tapes that he had to literally cook before they could be prepared for remastering. I think I can speak on behalf of Pavement fans everywhere when I say that effort was appreciated.

It’s a shame he can’t get past these bad reviews and just move on. He shouldn’t be discouraged by a handful of bad Pitchfork reviews. At least someone’s listening to these albums and promoting them at all. Will he ever play sold out tours across mid-sized venues as a solo artist? No. But he’d do himself a favor by lowering his expectations and maybe enjoy the fans who do come out to see him perform. Is that so much to ask?

WORST HEADPHONES EVER: ETYMOTIC ER6i

After reaching out to the ILX hivemind for suggestions on buying a new pair of headphones, I ended up getting a pair of Etymotic Research ER6i Isolator In-ear Earphones, against the advice of former Stylus colleague and renowned audiophile Nick Southall. This, I realize now, was my first mistake.

In my haste to find a suitable replacement for my old AKG K 26 P’s, I settled for a pair of in-ear earphones. They were nearly twice as expensive as the AKG’s, but based on what I read online, they’d be much gentler on my precious eardrums because I wouldn’t have to play them as loudly to drown out ambient noise. Since I want to preserve my hearing at least until I have teenaged children, this sounded like a good idea.

It wasn’t.

When I first used them, it was a revelation. I barely had to turn the volume on my iPod on and I got amazing sound, and, despite what you might read on Amazon.com, decent bass response. But imagine my surprise when I discovered that the right cone blew out while I listened to R.E.M’s “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” sometime this past spring.

No worries, I assured myself, confident that their customer service would be able to deal with my issue in a fair and timely manner. I mailed my faulty earphones back, had them repaired, and they were returned within a few weeks. If there’s one good thing to be said for Etymotic Research, it’s that they have fine customer service.

Everything was back to normal. They sounded great and were very comfortable, despite the fact that they need to be inserted pretty deeply into the ear canal to properly isolate the music. I was in love with them all over again. That is, at least until yesterday. They’re broken again, and this time it’s the left cone.

I’ve written customer service again, but this time I was far less understanding. I don’t feel the need to placate anyone. They’re charging a decent chunk of change for a product so fragile I don’t it think can be used in real life settings. I plan on getting this pair fixed or replaced and then keeping them at work, never to be used outdoors again. They’re so bad they make me wish I’d read an Amazon review before buying them. They’ve been a major disappointment and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone looking to replace Apple’s horrendous earbuds.

It’s back to the drawing board then. What earphones or headphones do you use? Where and how do you use them? I need your suggestions!