Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reader Mail

Associates, friends and staff members of The Typing Monkey have often asked our publisher, S.L. Kreighton, why this site doesn't allow comments. His answer involves more media theory than anyone cares to listen to, so we'll sum it up thusly:

He thinks comments are stupid.

Based on research we believe he's conducted -- or at least paid someone to conduct, the report is bound with a spine as thick as the North Platte, Nebraska phone book, so let's not pretend we read it -- Kreighton says that even the most noble sites on the Web have comments sections that eventually devolve into lowest common denominator dialogue. Therefore, it adds nothing to the content presented, and in the worst cases, actually devalues it. And we gradually came around to agree with him that there's no reason to further prove Godwin's Law.

So when Typing Monkey Industries (a division of Typing Monkey Int'l) launched The Typing Monkey, Kreighton convinced the board of directors that the very idea of Web 2.0 is absurd and that he'd walk away if they enabled comments on this blog. [We realize the irony here, and have chosen to ignore it. -- ed.] When pressed about the fact that he's heading up the editorial team for a blog, our publisher smiles and mumbles about "web 1.5" before chasing us out of his office.

With that in mind, we were delighted to receive reader mail:

Dear Typing Monkeys,
I found your little weblog, and read a few posts. But when I scrolled to the bottom of the page to add my comments, you don't have that feature. What gives? I had to find your corporate headquarters and send you an actual letter. A letter! Who does that anymore? Also, you should have a pets column.

J. Prescott
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Thanks for reading, J., and we hope the explanation above makes clear our policy on comments. However, your hissy fit has prompted us to offer an alternative to paper, stamps, difficult web searches for our P.O. Box, and icky, icky envelope glue.

Have a comment, question, recipe or vehement disagreement with one of our reviews? Send an e-mail to and we'll do our best to respond. We may even post some of your mail on the site.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Erase Yr Head

Will Danger Mouse fans pay fifty dollars for a blank CD-R? They will if it comes with a book of photographs taken by filmmaker and Transcendental meditation enthusiast David Lynch. The empty digital media storage is provided to house the 12 tracks that make up a new Danger Mouse recording called Dark Night of the Soul. Consumers must illegally download the songs in order to get them onto the CD-R.

In Web years, this story is as old as the Teapot-Dome scandal. And due to the nature of the story itself, writing about it could mean that The Typing Monkey has nibbled the bait of a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt, and is therefore pointing more eyeballs (and earballs) toward a vanity recording project that needed a PR boost.

However, Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, seems a genuinely nice guy who has not only created some of the most interesting and fun music of the past decade, but has casually challenged intellectual property ideals. (He rode into the mainstream on a cyclone of fair-use debate over The Grey Album, and teamed up with British art-prankster Bansky to do a number on Paris Hilton's musical debut.)

The Dark Night of the Soul flap goes as follows: Inspired by some David Lynch photos, Danger Mouse wrote and recorded an album's worth of material with Sparklehorse founder Mark Linkous. Lynch provided more photos, famous guest musicians lent vocals and played instruments, and then Danger Mouse's label, EMI, nixed the whole thing, claiming legal complications. And that's what inspired the nose-thumbing via a blank CD-R bundled with everything else that was to come with the music -- primarily the Lynch photos that act as a sort of picture book accompaniment for the songs.

NPR is streaming the entire album, and with minimal effort the music is already easily downloaded. So what's the point? Calling it sleight-of-hand publicity makes for nice storytelling. A generous portion of music fans want to keep hating major labels -- corporations that have trouble navigating the bumpy modern terrain of music distribution, let alone making a profit from it.

The truth is probably as compelling a read as the legal paperwork required to get all of the artists who've already contributed to Dark Night of the Soul cleared for an EMI release. We're guessing this will all be sorted out soon enough, and like Radiohead's In Rainbows, an official release of Dark Night will arrive with tracks not available on the original "free" version.

If that sounds cynical, it's not intended in that spirit. EMI will let Danger Mouse do what he wants while they iron out legal kinks. An audience for the music will grow and soon all parties involved will make some money rather than none -- at least that's our theory.

A review of Dark Night of the Soul will appear on The Typing Monkey soon. Read more about the story here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Goat's Head!

Aeron Alfrey runs Monster Brains, an art blog for all things horrid, and a frequent destination for The Typing Monkey staff when we need to dazzle our peepers. Alfrey often gets thematic. Beginning, appropriately, on Sunday May 10, 2009, he ran a series of Devil cards from tarot decks throughout the centuries.

Sunday's entry features some history on the origins of the tarot deck, culled from Wikipedia. Take a look at Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday too. (Old Scratch takes Thursdays off.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Club MySpace

Welcome to the second installment of Club MySpace, a feature we're trying to make semi-regular. This is The Typing Monkey's way of quickly calling your attention to bands and musicians who emerged from the piles of PR mail to make an impression on our ears.

In this edition, a retro/revival theme happened purely by chance. Or else this speaks volumes about our tastes. You decide.


Major Lazer
Jumpin' Jehosaphat! A snappy, silly mess of electro, dancehall and dub. The Typing Monkey's had trouble getting behind dancehall, but Major Lazer's for-the-hell-of-it approach is actually fun. If the sloppy funk from Stones Throw (James Pants, Funkaho) pleases you, then there's much here for your ears.

Ex Plone and Broadcast members make druggy, electronic pagan exotica, just in time for summer. They push the experimental science of BBC library music into looser territory. The result lands on the same occult turf as Clinic, but less manic and more sci-fi. "Pherox" is good and creepy.

The Shortwave Set
Excellent psych-pop that references the British Invasion while leaving room to wander through the four decades that have come since. Male/female vocals and a mini-orchestra of instruments backing them, with stellar production from Dangermouse and arrangements from Van Dyke Parks, whatever that's worth.


Ape School
Smartly arranged pop/rock from multi-instrumentalist Michael Johnson, who's spent years as a sideman for other musicians (Lilys, Daedalus, et al.). Technically, Ape School's self-titled debut is his second solo effort, but the first under a "band" name. His gently psychedelic songs leaven pastoral elegance with just enough racket to make it all sound unforced.

Is this for real? Yes. A Chicago hip-hop beatmaker called Earmint has a dirty secret. He grew up loving Ministry, Cabaret Voltaire, Skinny Puppy and other similar industrial/electronic acts. So he set out to write a batch of songs in that same vein, and you know what? He's really good at it.

The Sweet Vandals
Between reissue labels and revivalists such as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, the world's enjoying a wealth of '60s and '70s soul, funk and r&b, both authentic and recreated. As it turns out, Spain likes to get on the good foot too.


The Bloody Beetroots
This feels like electroclash redux, but then a lot of bit-crushed/gutter/ghettotech dance music feels like that, thus proving this stuff never really goes away. The audience's fashion choices simply change.

Afghan Raiders
The music is interesting enough to make us pay attention, but the vocals put an end to that. We've learned an important lesson.


Alaska In Winter
At first this came off as trying too hard, but Brandon Bethancourt (the man behind the name) digs deeper than the '80s synth-pop design and buzzing techno gloss he puts out front. Electro-style drum machines clatter below Balkan horns, and blank-eyed keyboard chords hint that he's a fan of the Scandinavian cosmic disco sound. His second LP, Holiday from late '08 is worth checking out.

Gui Boratto
This Brazillian electronic musician has a couple full-lengths and countless singles and remixes behind him already. He dishes out cold, almost melancholy techno and house that are as good for a long drive as they are for the dancefloor. (Spin the nine-minute "Ballroom" for a good example.)

However, we'd like to bring your attention to this (unintentionally?) hilarious quotation from Pitchfork that Boratto's PR team used on his Website:
"[Boratto's] deliberate inflections of melody often emerge with a ring of truth, especially as he guides his repetitions through the peaks and valleys of his little mostly-nonverbal anecdotes."

If you can tell us what that means, The Typing Monkey staff will put together a nice little gift pack for you. Send your translations to:

Monday, May 4, 2009

From the Slow News Desk

In case you, like The Typing Monkey, don't spend a lot of time on sites such as Gawker, perhaps you were unaware of the strange case of the "Hipster Grifter."

It's all true, of course. Even the unusual part about the grifter turning herself in in Philadelphia, as was reported on May 4. And you read that right, the Hipster Grifter is a woman.

Apparently she's been juggling multiple boyfriends in Salt Lake City and then Brooklyn for a few years. The HG beguiles these young, indie-rock enchanted men the old fashioned way: with sex, promises of free entrance to music clubs, claims of pregnancy and faked terminal illness. That she's been using her actual name -- or at least what is believed to be her birthname anyway -- is only one of many amazing details in her story, summed up in this head-spinning three-pager from The New York Observer.

Gawker documented the Hipster Grifter with a series of posts that, perhaps unintentionally, illuminate our admiration of those who take advantage of us. And if there's any moral to take away from all of this, it's that Vice magazine should do more thorough background checks.