Author Archives: Jorge Farah

About Jorge Farah

I am the opposite of Prince.

Happy Halloween! Here’s a Terrifying Slowed-Down Hour-Long Version of “Rock Lobster”!

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Looking to get into the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve? Need some background music for your House of Horrors? Here’s the New Wave remix absolutely nobody knew they needed!

I like to take songs and tinker with them on audio editing software. I’m not Isosine, but I do get a kick out of hearing a familiar tune twisted into different shape– anything from simple stereo-widening, to changing the pitch on Big Star albums and making them sound like they’re being performed by Alvin & the Chipmunks. Last night, I took the B-52s classic “Rock Lobster”– a track that was already weird enough to begin with– and applied a Paulstretch effect. You’ve probably heard the Paulstretch a few times– it’s the audio engineers’ current go-to for making things sound spooky and ethereal. It’s also been making the rounds somewhat recently, with those “Justin Bieber Slowed Down 800% Sounds Like Sigur Rös!” clickbait things.

My understanding of it is that Paulstretch doesn’t exactly slow down the song, but chops it up into small pieces, then wraps those small pieces up with a shitload of reverb and smart tail measurement/envelope. This allows for the length of the song to be increased considerably, keeping the pitch intact. It also means, for example, that a simple snare hit is stretched out across several seconds, which makes it sound like a giant wave crashing down on the rest of the instruments. The vocals sound like barely comprehensible gibberish in an echo chamber. Guitars, keyboards and other instruments dissolve into a wave of harmonics and swirly, splashy sounds. You run just about any song through Paulstretch and the end result will likely be a soothing, lush ambient track.

“Rock Lobster”, though, reveals something far more sinister. The songs signature surf-rock riff becomes ominous and menacing, Fred Schneider’s sprechgesang become the ramblings of a mad man, or a cult leader. The first couple minutes are normal enough, but by the time we hear the Farfisa organ creeping in– or its malformed, stretched-out version– it becomes something much more unsettling, bringing you deeper into the world of madness of this song. By the time you’ve reached Kate Pierson’s guttural animal noises, it sounds like a fairly accurate aural representation of hell– shrieking, howling, deranged, dissonant; the frenzied wails of things that should have stayed dead.

It’s also an hour long. Give it a shot.
Happy Halloween, folks!


Download link.


It Would Be Nice to Live Without a Head: A Mixtape

weeeeeeurd

A few months ago I participated in one of those dopey mixtape exchanges, where a group of strangers (or almost-strangers) craft “mixtapes” (more accurately, playlists) and send them to each other anonymously. It’s a silly timewaste, but one that can sometimes result in a few decent discoveries, whether it be of a worthwhile new artist or the inexplicable, unquantifiable alchemy that sometimes results from grouping a specific set of songs in a specific order.  When it came time to make my mixtape, I decided against the standard format, opting instead to craft a running playlist where the songs blended into each other, and the transitions were as much part of the listening experience as the songs themselves. I also decided that I should include pieces of dialogue from movies, peppered throughout the 1-hour running time to provide dramatic brushstrokes. At the time, I thought I was doing it kind of haphazardly, without really giving much thought to any specific order or internal logic. However, as time has gone on and I’ve found myself listening back to this set of songs (because yes, I am the kind of self-absorbed asshole who continually listens back to his own handiwork), something else has revealed itself to me. Something that may have been on the back of my mind as I was putting this monstrosity together.

I’ve written here before about my uneasy relationship with sleep, and how I’ve suffered through sleep paralysis and sundry disorders over the years. I’ve also written about how my dreams often fluctuate between placid, beautiful, happy images of the things and people I love,  to incredibly violent and disturbing imagery and scenarios. Sleep has become an experience I can never quite predict, and I can never quite guarantee, and something I don’t do often enough. My dreams aren’t an abstract representation of my brain working out all of my problems. They’re more like absurd, horrifying David Lynch pastiches which my brain puts together with the sole purpose of freaking me out. A bizarre smattering of Catholic imagery, pop culture references and the most random cast of characters from my life. I try to write them down immediately upon awakening, since I believe they’re mostly worth salvaging. Sometimes, when I’m with my girlfriend, I’ll be too embarrassed to get up at the break of dawn to write down on my notebook, so I’ll simply narrate the premise of the dream out loud to ensure it’s copied in my muscle-memory and I am able to preserve it. As if saying “going bowling with Bono and my grandfather” out loud is any less weird than getting up and writing on a journal.

Anyway, it became clear to me that this playlist is an attempt at approximating that kind of feeling. The sometimes-terrifying, sometimes sadly-sweet absurdity of the short films my brain puts together for my amusement. Check it out below. Movie sound bites were taken from Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Ramis’s Groundhog Day (1993), Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009) and July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005).

Charles Mingus- “Haitian Fight Song”
Man Man- “Pink Wonton”
Floratone- “The Bloom is On”
Jesu- “Silver”
Crooked Fingers- “Boy With (100) Hands”
Bohren & der Club of Gore- “Im Rauch”
Diarrhea Planet- “Ugliest Son”
The Antlers- “Bear”
Arbouretum- “Coming Out of the Fog”
Red House Painters- “Have You Forgotten” (Electric version)
The Staves- “White Winter Trees” (live)


Download link: http://jorgefarah.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/dream-playlist.mp3


Everyist Blogcast: Teenage Lobotomy (with guest Risha from Read Me Anything)

then and now- risha

Looking back on my entries in this blog, and other blogs I’ve had in the past, I’ve noticed that a lot of energy is spent on figuring out exactly what songs mean to me, and why they ended up being part of my personal canon. Were they simply forced into my life by virtue of their overwhelming ubiquity, or did I personally pick them and place them there? I also find myself examining my earliest writing, and being equal parts amused and horrified by the ways in which I’ve chosen to document my existence in this big old rock. Music and memories. This is what we’re discussing in this new installment the sporadically-updated podcast portion of the site. Joining me this time around is my friend Rishita Nandagiri.

Risha and I met through a website called Twenty-Something Bloggers, which is a blogging community that my friend Rease convinced me to join several years ago (and proceeded to completely abandon shortly thereafter). 20SB, as the name implies, is a group of bloggers uniting under the shared experience of the itching uncertainty of our 20s, as well as a near-pathological need to document every little thing in the form of a blog post. Like every online community made up of semi-anonymous strangers, there’s good and there’s bad. At its best, it’s a vibrant community of like-minded, creative individuals sharing ideas and gently nudging each other towards some kind of path. At its worst, it can feel like a bunch of needy sycophants trying to make themselves famous, toppling over each other in a mad scramble to be the one voice that cuts through the fog and becomes The Next Big Thing. It can be both things, and can lead to some interesting connections, which makes it more than worth the time spent in its forums and (now woefully neglected) chatroom.

Risha has a fantastic blog named You Can Read Me Anything, and also hosts a podcast of her own, The Quietude. She’s also one of the brightest people I know. I invited her to have a conversation with me about music and memories, and was thrilled when she accepted. As per usual, I tasked her with putting together a playlist of songs to share. Risha and I are in similar places in life: entering our late 20s and not quite certain of what exactly we’re doing, tracing steps back in the sand behind us. As such, she picked six songs from +/- ten years ago, to test out whether they still held up to scrutiny or if they were simply a proximity infatuation.

Here are the songs Risha selected:

Placebo- “English Summer Rain”
The Arcade Fire- “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”
Ratatat- “Seventeen Years”
Camera Obscura- “Teenager”
Modest Mouse- “Float On”
Wolfman feat. Pete Doherty- “For Lovers”

Click the embedded player below to listen to our conversation. Do it.


Download link: http://jorgefarah.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/risha.mp3


BoJack Horseman and the Art of Dropping the Ball

bojack

I can’t stop thinking about BoJack Horseman.

And it’s not like I think Netflix’s original animated series about a washed-up sitcom star who happens to be a talking horse is any good. In fact, I… I kinda hated it. At first, I hated it with some hesitation, remembering that a lot of comedies don’t really find their footing until well into their initial season, when the characters are already established and there’s a solid foundation to build on. But then, when I realized that it really wasn’t going to miraculously get a million times funnier, I just plain hated it. Realizing that I was already past the mid-season mark, and that I was somewhat invested in this stupid fucking show and its cardboard cutout cast of characters, I kept watching. And I continued to hate it.

So why did I hate it so much? And why can’t I stop thinking about it a full week after I finished it? And– perhaps most pressing a question– why have I rewatched several episodes multiple times?

The premise is simple. BoJack Horseman is the abrasive, alcoholic, self-destructing former TV star trope personified– part Charlie Sheen, part Bob Saget. His glory days are well behind him at this point, and his career has grown stagnant. He spends his days in a drunken stupor, watching reruns of his old sitcom to catch last lingering vestiges of his former glory. In an effort to revitalize his career, he teams up with a ghostwriter to release an autobiography. He has a slacker roommate. He has a snarky ex-girlriend who is also his agent. He’s a callous prick with a heart of gold. Based on all this information I’ve provided you, you can pretty much figure out how the show is gonna go– to a T. It’s been done. Everything about this premise has been done before, a thousand times, by a hundred better movies and TV shows. In fact, the one thing separating BoJack Horseman from every other hacky sitcom pilot you’ve ever seen is that it takes place in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals coexist as equals. A huge chunk of the humor that works is derived from this, and aside from the immensely talented voice cast, it’s what keeps it from being a complete failure.

The main problem with BoJack Horseman is that, much like its insipid premise, the comedy is utterly uninspired. It’s like someone who watched one too many seasons of Archer decided to “take a stab at this adult cartoon thing”, without realizing they lacked the wit and cleverness to pull it off. It all feels very constructed; characters speak in meticulously crafted one-liners that seem like they were written for the sole purpose of becoming gifs on tumblr. In the social media age, where the average denizen of “weird twitter” is more interesting and insightful than most TV writers, this kind of ham-handedness seems particularly contrived and off-putting. The jokes plod along and, with the exception of the aforementioned animal gags, there is hardly a laugh to be found throughout the entire season– which is, you know, kind of a big deal when you’re ostensibly a wacky cartoon comedy.

And yet…

princesscarolyn

What works about BoJack Horseman, works so fucking well. It’s infuriating. You want to quantify it and put it on a pie chart and point at it aggressively with a stick and yell at the writers’ face. “LOOK. LOOK HERE. THIS IS GOOD. THIS WORKS. DO MORE OF THIS.”

The show is at its best when it prioritizes the bittersweet character moments over superficial yuk-yuks. It’s like, if you stripped away all the rapid-fire Charlie Sheen comedy, it would work really fucking well as a wistful drama– and I’m in full knowledge of how ridiculous that sounds when talking about a cartoon about a talking horse. But BoJack Horseman almost feels like it was meant to be a drama– like somebody took the basic scripts for a somber live-action IFC drama about the futile nature of human relationships, made it a cartoon and filled it with animal jokes and soon-to-be-horrifically-outdated pop culture references. Either that, or whoever wrote BoJack– Wikipedia reliably informs me it’s somebody by the name of Raphael Bob-Waksberg, which sounds made up– just wanted to write an incredibly bleak story about failure and utter despondency, and was forced by a bunch of execs to half-assedly shoehorn a bunch of tepid FX comedy into it. Clearly that’s not actually the case, but it’s how it comes across sometimes.

Ultimately, BoJack Horseman is a show about disappointment. Every character seems to be unsure of their place in the world, ill at ease with their current station in life, always feeling like they’re not quite doing what they’re supposed to be doing, hurling towards a certain doom. My favorite episode of the season is “Say Anything”, which focuses on BoJack’s tenacious yet long-suffering manager/ex-girlfriend as she deals with capricious directors, fickle movie stars, opportunistic rivals and BoJack’s own proclivity towards self-sabotage. At the end of the ingeniously crafted 25-minute-long episode, she’s dealt with every crisis and expertly solved every issue, but she’s left alone in an office with no one to celebrate with. In a genuinely touching sequence at the end of the episode, she gazes longingly out of her office window into the Hollywood night sky as Lyla Foy’s “Impossible” plays. She gets a cell phone notification. “Happy birthday, Princess Carolyn. You are 40.”

There’s a sadness which permeates the entirety of season 1. There’s the feeling that, for each of these characters, time is quickly running out as they scramble for that thing– that dream project, that book, that million-dollar idea– that will finally earn them some semblance of significance, that’ll give some meaning to the madcap struggle. In the parlance of the times, I know that feel. As I approach the end of my twenties, as I stare at my growing pile of unfinished projects, as I struggle to come up with ways to explain to my friends why that script that I sold hasn’t gotten made yet, it all condenses into a subdued shrug and a weary smile and the knowledge that all I can do is keep trying. That there’s something big about to happen, but it’s just out of reach, just over this hillside. The very best moments of BoJack Horseman tap into that feeling, and– especially towards the very end of the season– it’s sweetly poignant.

Netflix Original Series continue to be an exciting idea that hasn’t quite lived up to its promise. Between the wacky (and tonally inconsistent) antics of Orange is the New Black, the tawdry soap-opera proceedings of House of Cards and now BoJack’s failed comedy, I remain unimpressed by a medium that has all the promise in the world. I really wanted to like BoJack Horseman. I really did. But then, I guess for a show about disappointment, it’s only fitting that I’m so frustratingly underwhelmed.


Everyist Blogcast: Elvis Costello Special 60th Birthday Extravaganza!

costello60

This kid is 60 years old today. What?!

That’s right, folks. The gangly, acerbic, perennially-at-odds-with-himself young man is now a veritable elder statesman of song, and may soon be transitioning to a new career of yelling at kids to get off his lawn. No, but seriously, Elvis Costello is 60. Isn’t that crazy? Doesn’t that make you think about your own mortality? It should.

Regardless, I am a massive fan of EC, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to dedicate him his very own podcast episode. So what we have here is a SPECIAL ELVIS COSTELLO BLOGCAST– two and a half hours of Elvis Costello music and chat! Featuring over 30 songs, mostly overlooked gems, alternative versions and live performances that you won’t find on a Greatest Hits. It’s sweet, man. A Costellian dream.

Click here to listen:

Download link: https://jorgefarah.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/full-pod.mp3

I also invited a few other writers and podcasters to contribute, chiming in with their own favorite Elvis songs. Here’s the list of contributors, in the order in which they appear in the podcast:

David Jones is a cartoonist, writer and Chief Creative Officer for Third Street, based out of Chicago. Find him on Twitter. Also here’s his website.
Nikki is the host of the excellent Everything and the Kitchen Sink podcast. Listen to it here, and find her on Twitter.
Graeme Thomson is a Scottish journalist and biographer who’s written books on Elvis Costello, George Harrison and Kate Bush. Find him on Twitter and check out his official website.
Kevin Davis is an author and musician from Peoria, IL. You might remember Kevin from the guest post he wrote for this website about Elvis Costello’s North, or from the time I interviewed him on the podcast about his book Mystery Pill. I don’t think Kevin is on Twitter, but this is his blog.
Jeremy Dylan is a filmmaker and podcaster from Australia, host of the excellent podcast My Favorite Album and director of the documentary Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts. Find him on Twitter.
John Qualls is a musician from Huntington, New York. He plays in the band Costello’s Flying Circus, performing covers from all periods of Elvis Costello’s career. Check them out on Facebook.
Connor Ratliff is a comedian and performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC and on The Chris Gethard Show,. He does a podcast called 12 Hour Day With J.D. & Connor. Each episode is literally 12 hours long, and recorded in real time. Check out his website and find him on Twitter.
Alexandra Naughton is a poet based out of San Francisco. She’s the author of I Will Always Be Your Whore: Love Songs For Billy Corgan, runs Be About It Press, hosts That Lit Podcast and blogs at The Tsaritsa Sez,

I am debating whether I should post a full tracklist of the show. Kind of feel like that would take away some of the “fun” of listening to a project like this. Well, if I make my mind up I’ll post it below. In the meantime, happy listening and happy birthday, Elvis!

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Everyist Blogcast: Working Out All of Our Kinks (with guest Nick Nagy)

whiteyskinks

The world lies torn asunder by hate. Rivers run red with blood as brother turns on brother, streets crowded with dissent, thousands of angry limbs thrown in protest against a system built on oppression and dehumanization, rigged in the favor of suited-up settlers and thieves. In every corner of the globe we see it: war, injustice, famine, pestilence and death. Anger turns to terror, then to total crippling despondency. In light of all this plight, what do we turn to? What can we do? What is there left?

Well, we spend an hour and change talking about rocknroll records.

In this edition of the Every ist and Every ism Blogcast, I’m joined by musician Nick Nagy. Known to his friends as Mr. Multitask, Nick is a Pennsylvania singer-songwriter with a penchant for melody and bizarre puns. He’s also a fervent fan of The Kinks, and we decided to dedicate an entire podcast episode to the exploration and discussion of the work of Ray Davies and company. Of course, this being my podcast, we also digress into a lengthy discussion about boners. Par for the course.

Nick dug up six excellent Kinks tunes to showcase for this podcast. Go buy them. Explore. Immerse yourself in the richness of their back catalogue. Carve out a spot for these songs in your daily life, where they can nestle in comfortably among the old-faithfuls. The song selection is as follows:

“Underneath the Neon Sign” (from Soap Opera, 1975)
“Oklahoma USA” (from Muswell Hillbillies, 1971)
“Art Lover” (from Give the People What They Want, 1981)
“King Kong” (B-side to the “Plastic Man” single, 1969)
“Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues” (from Muswell Hillbillies, 1971)
“Scrapeheap City” (from Preservation Act 2, 1974)

In addition to these Kinks songs, Nick was also kind enough to share two of his own tunes– the breezy, wistful “Foot in My Mouth”, and the Kinks-inspired rave-up “Come On Home”. Stream our conversation by clicking the player below. Go on then. You know you want to. Cliiiiiiick it.


Download link: http://jorgefarah.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/whiteymcpodcast.mp3

Be sure to check out Nick’s music on his soundcloud stream here. And listen to more Kinks.


Cover Songs That Decimate the Original in Just About Every Way: “Wild Horses” by The Sundays

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I tend to bristle at the idea of crediting an artist of performing the “definitive” version of someone else’s song. It just feels unfair to me, like it trivializes the craft of songwriting or renders it subservient to the performance. People are so smug about it, too. I know they’re not consciously doing it, but the kinds of people who heap that kind of praise upon someone who’s doing a cover version seem to treat them like they’re tearing down some dilapidated old structure and building a new, better song in its place. I dunno, it seems icky to me. A good cover version can be ten kinds of mind-bendingly beautiful, but not if the base song is absolute garbage. You’re shining a new light on an existing object, and it can bring out dimensions that weren’t immediately evident in plain sight, but unless you’re overhauling it, your work is to explore and expand.

That said, it’s hard to argue against the sheer deliciousness of British indie-pop band The Sundays’s gorgeously plaintive take on the Rolling Stones’s “Wild Horses”. The original is a real nice song, and I mean no disrespect to the Stones– though I’m not by any means a fan of theirs, I think there’s an undeniable level of craftmanship in their very best songs, and “Wild Horses” certainly falls in that category in my book. Thing is, I can’t really stand listening to the original. It drags and it plods and it’s a laborious country ballad with some lovely moments of tender sincerity but not much in the way of mellifluousness. Unlike the sheer magnifiscence of stately “Moonlight Mile”, which I wrote about a while ago, I find it difficult to sit through.

The Sundays version, though? A quietly transcendental arrangement of echoey, flickering-streetlight guitars over the silkiest acoustic base since Johnny Marr gave us “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, Harriet Wheeler’s beguiling vocals carrying us gently along. I love this version. I love it a thousand times more than it’d be physically possible for me to love the original. It’s more yearning, more wistful, more uncertain, just more of everything that I love about music They took a plodding trudge of a song and carved it into something that feels that much more real, more intimate; whispered words between lovers in the dead of the night, a shared moment from across the room, something existing quietly and gladly beyond any grand gesture. Not only do they elevate an already-solid song to new heights, they craft a new, distinct emotional space out of it, and spend the next four minutes and forty-five seconds loitering placidly within it.

And really, only a reading this sublime could make a line as dopey as “let’s do some living after we die” sound like anything other than a discarded Dashboard Confessional line circa 2003. I don’t care that this version was in a beer commercial and in the Buffy soundtrack. This is the version that defines the song for me. And it is glorious.

Listen to The Sundays teach the old coots how it’s done by clicking the embedded player link below.


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