“If music be the food of love, play on,” quoth the Bard: “Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.”
Shakespeare never met a Bowdoin College student on the brink of Ivies, did he? Indulging appetite to excess is our job this time of year, and judging by how much brainpower we devote each semester to yearning for these few days, I doubt it ever dies. We’re made of sterner stuff than Duke Orsino.
I’m not at all ashamed to say that the debauched spirit of Ivies has even corrupted the heretofore unblemished hipster cred of yours truly. The ivory tower of the music snob gets lonely, my Buddy Holly glasses have become unwieldy, and my vinyl has stopped playing properly. This week, I will retire my cardigan and take up a pinny. Instead of hipster, I shall Guster.
Over Spring Break, one of the preliminaries to the Bowdoin Project caught my attention. It discussed the development of the concept of the common good at the College, which today seems vital to our institution. The report contends that Joseph McKeen, when referencing the common good in 1802, noted the nation’s need of ministers. The revival of the conceit 200 years later raises the inevitable question—just how constructed is our understanding of the common good?
I will not attempt to defend the common good, if it indeed needs defending. I am more concerned with moments of uncommon good in Bowdoin’s history. When has Bowdoin demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the face of extraordinary adversity?
The question matters because of the uncommon threat that climate change poses, made worse by a Congress that seems hellbent on ignoring science so long as corporations continue to line its pockets (see the Senate’s symbolic approval of the Keystone XL pipeline a few weeks ago). Urgent action has been taken by four colleges known for their “experimental” education methods, in divesting from the fossil fuel industry, while more traditional schools all look at each other sheepishly, like Bowdoin students with cold feet before a Polar Bear plunge. “You first.”
When the Flaming Lips announced that they would be releasing their thirteenth album, “The Terror,” on April 1, I was expecting an April Fools joke. The holiday is perfect for these merry pranksters, who are now in their fourth decade of existence.
By “existence,” I mean releasing songs on a flash drive in a bubblegum-flavored gummy fetus, recording a 24-hour-long single and selling it inside real human skulls; producing Steve from “Blue’s Clues” debut album (Pitchfork gave it a 7.8 rating), and of course, collaborating with Ke$ha on the forthcoming effort Lip$ha.
Perhaps, then, you can excuse my skepticism. Amidst all these antics, after all, when could the Lips find the time to record an album? Their last proper album, "Embryonic," was released in 2009, though the band has been suffering from no dearth of headlines. To wit: in 2010, they recreated the classic Pink Floyd album, "Dark Side of the Moon," to give us all another option when watching “The Wizard of Oz,” and last year, brought Ke$ha, Bon Iver, and Yoko Ono all on the same album together. They’ve just been too busy, surely, and the April 1 release date was a sure sign of more antics.
After burning in the sun for more than an hour, I was about to walk into Warehouse 1100, where Pitchfork was hosting its party showcase of indie rock up-and-comers. This was, of course, at South by Southwest, the film/technology/music shitshow that attracts angel-headed hipsters to Austin, Texas every year. My fellow Polar Bear representatives and I hadn’t anticipated the long line (apparently our obscure tastes just weren’t obscure enough), so we tried to look as nonchalant as possible as Pitchfork-approved acts like Mac DeMarco and Waxahatchee came and went.
We made it in, however, after much kvetching about the VIPs (were they really all that important?) who sauntered into the at-capacity venue ahead of us, and made our way to the outdoor stage. With our fake plastic sunglasses—free as part of a Nikon ad campaign—and an authentic love of music planted firmly in our heads and hearts, we ambled outside. We were greeted by a head of curls, partially dyed turquoise and lavender, under a jauntily perched hat that obscured the big round glasses of Trevor Powers, alias Youth Lagoon.
Powers is no Justin Timberlake, but I couldn’t stop my fanboy from showing a little bit. His debut album, “The Year of Hibernation,” was my favorite record of 2011. The album sounds like it was recorded in his closet (it was), but far from seeming claustrophobic, it soars with doe-eyed optimism and resounding crescendos. If it weren’t for the cigarette he was taking drags from, Powers would have looked no older than seventeen. That’s part of his charm; he’s a 24-year-old who dropped out of college to turn his adolescent imaginings into reality.
Now here’s a hard one. Though, as I kept having to remind myself while wading through this album’s murky depths, if it had been easy, Thom Yorke—notably of Radiohead—wouldn’t have made it.
The record in question is “AMOK,” the debut record of Atoms for Peace, one of those supergroups that refuses to call itself a supergroup. The band takes its name both from a 1953 speech by President Eisenhower and a song title on Yorke’s 2006 album, “The Eraser.” The musicians that comprise the band were even commissioned to play Yorke’s solo material live, for which Atoms for Peace were originally billed as “Thom Yorke???” during Coachella in 2010.
This naming makes sense: “AMOK” sounds like a vanity project of Yorke, his ethereal whisper the cohesive element to the album’s otherwise frenetic electronic jumble. Normally, vanity projects represent the worst work of an artist looking for vindication outside a certain genre. In the hands of anyone but music’s greatest living crotchety-bastard legend, “AMOK” would be an album of pathetic excess. Instead, we get an impenetrable piece filled with jumbled beeps on a time signature even Battles would have a hard time keeping up with. My first bit of advice: listen to this with headphones in. The second bit: don’t expect a Radiohead album.
It’s not Smile, it’s not Detox, and it’s not Half-Life 3. It’s better. And it’s real. After 21 years of false starts, broken promises, and nervous breakdowns, Kevin Shields has emerged from his reclusive lair, no longer hamstrung by crippling perfectionism: My Bloody Valentine’s third album in as many decades has seen the light of day. And rather than enjoying the sun, the band, true to form, continues to gaze down at their shoes. I am not a hardcore MBV fan by any measure. I was not one of the 13,491 people to like the band’s Facebook status update last Saturday announcing their return with a simple sentence: “We are preparing to go live with the new album/website this evening.”
Fade, Yo La Tengo’s thirteenth full-length album, opens with a repeating, clicking rhythm that immediately invites foot-tapping. This beat is shortly joined by an otherworldly sound, like the croon of some mystical beast. The tension rises as the drum and shaker come in. This beat is contrasted with the floating harmony, which together evoke separate inclinations in the mind and body, one to the dance floor and the other to the skies. Supported by a classic Yo La Tengo guitar jangle melody and fuzzy bass line, the opener creates a sense of tantric bliss reminiscent of the track’s name, “Ohm.”
Year-end lists in music criticism are often like members of my extended family: put them together and they remember why they hate each other. Online magazine NME, with its bewildering loyalty to a Brit-pop agenda, is the self-aggrandizing snot-of-a-cousin who still thinks MySpace is cool. Rolling Stone is the balding uncle who thinks relevance means waiting out for another Eagles' album; Spin is the brother who regretted coming the moment he stepped in; Pitchfork is the other brother who shows up late to drink the free alcohol and goad everyone as much as possible. NPR rounds out the family tree as the desperate patriarch hoping to hold his family together, and does so—unwillingly—only by giving everyone else a common enemy.
Take a look at the cover art to “The Haunted Man,” the new album by Natasha Khan, alias Bat for Lashes, who is proving to be the indie music industry’s answer to Adele. You don’t have to scrutinize the album art too long for the word “stripped” to come to mind. The first thing you notice when listening to the record is what’s missing. Just like Khan’s (lack of) clothes in the artwork, there is no lead single that propels the album, like the song “Daniel” from her 2009 yearning, witch-pop gem “Two Suns.” Does “The Haunted Man” suffer because of it? Probably, but what album would not suffer from the absence of an immediately affecting lead single? The album is most impressive because, even without something as catchy as “Daniel,” it succeeds as a well-balanced album filled with grace and beauty.
Exclamation points! Impossibly long thematic gestures! Deliberately obscure-sounding faux words posing as real words! No, it’s not the next presidential debate, but “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” the fascinating new album from everybody’s favorite peculiarly punctuated band, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This album, quietly released at a show in Boston three weeks ago, marks the triumphant return of some of the music industry’s most confounding artists. In 2003, GY!BE declared an indefinite hiatus to allow band members to pursue other musical endeavors.
Jagged guitar licks, resounding crescendos, themes of loneliness and melancholy—I know it sounds like Arcade Fire, but these are all components of Grizzly Bear’s newest album “Shields.”
The Office of Safety and Security released the 2010 Annual Report on Campus Crime, Fires, Alcohol and Illegal Drugs in an email to the Bowdoin community on Monday. Changes in the numbers between 2009 and 2010 did not illustrate any conclusive themes. The annual report is federally mandated by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1998.
The Office of Planning and Development saw a decrease in the value of gifts to Bowdoin this year, as many of the remaining pledges from the College's 2009 capital campaign were paid off last year. In fiscal year (FY) 2011, the College took in gifts worth $35.9 million, a 25 percent decrease from FY 2010 in which it received gifts totaling just over $48 million.
Safety and Security and the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) are on the lookout after a flurry of burglaries struck campus this past weekend.