Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rufus Wainwright Live @ 9:30 Club, Dec. 21

Fantastic show, as expected. It was Rufus solo; just him and his piano (and guitar). He had a great set, and his voice was top notch, as was his snarky sense of humor.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!

I am always wary to say something is the best, because I always know that five minutes later a new best will come, and the old will be obsolete and passe. But here is one album I can say is the best with no qualms and no hesitance.

Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas is the finest Christmas album ever created.

And here's why:

Rather than forcing pumped-up, glossy holiday classics down our throats the Trio creates jazz-soaked, perfectly produced reincarnations of the originals. Guaraldi's arrangements, for instance, of "What Child is This?" is a re-imagining of sorts, with gliding, trickling piano and a simply flowing bass line.
When Guaraldi tackles the oft-harshly covered "My Little Drum" (Little Drummer Boy), the chords don't pound like so many of the song's reproductions- they ring, and the song comes across in a new, inspired light.
Following "My Little Drum" on the album is the ubiquitous classic, "Linus and Lucy." A masterpiece at least, the song fluidly blends elements of rag, jazz and pop into a tune that feels fresh at each listen. The song sounds as though it were written in a stream-0f-consciousness fashion; Guaraldi just walking along the street and noticing the shuffle of his own feet and the playful melody in the wind- and then transcribing it onto the staff.
The piano is the best showcased element on most tracks off the album, but percussion and bass shine as well. The top bass line off Christmas comes in "Christmas Time is Here"- the strings are vibrated confidently, with ease and a free-flowing glide.

I could go on, I won't simply because I feel myself becoming redundant. I think you get the message though. Among all the glossy, pop-star, over-produced Christmas albums that exist, A Charlie Brown Christmas is by far the most listenable, the most enjoyable, and the most inspired. Each song is a flawless-sounding reworking, with not a cringe-worthy note in the bunch.

OHHHH SNAP. Camelstonegate Update

Courtesy of Pitchfork Media

It was bound to happen. We'll see where this one goes. I hate to bash the music publication of music publications, but from the moment I saw that fold-out, I knew they had it coming, and in my opinion, they deserve every once of it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fix You- Young at Heart

This has to be one of the single most moving things I've ever seen. Young at Heart is a octogenarian chorus line that performs strictly "young" songs (ranging from the Ramones to Sonic Youth to Coldplay). They group has a documentary that I believe is being released in the U.S. sometime later this year. No two ways about it, they are truly, truly fantastic. Just watch. If you don't feel a huge rush of emotion, you have no soul. Amen.

Oh and here's the little blurb that is next to it on YouTube:
This is from a documentary shown on Channel 4 in the UK called 'Young@Heart'; the name of the New England octogenarian chorus line. The performer here is Fred Knittle, who suffers from congestive heart failure. This song was intended to be a duet between Fred and another chorus member, Bob Salvini. Sadly, Bob died of a heart attack and it was left to Fred to carry the song on his own. If I'm correct, the people you see crying at 01:13 are Bob's family. The lady you occasionally see mouthing the lyrics in the audience is Fred's wife.

Young at Heart website

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Feeling

I recently discovered Brit band The Feeling. Or rather, re-discovered. The quintet had a free single on iTunes a whiiiiiile back (their Twelve Stops and Home album opener, "Sewn"), and I half-listened to it, in the way I half-listen to even the most decent free singles (to go off on a tangent: is it me, or have the free singles lately been lacking? I'll save that for a later post. Mental note). However, this past October I met the fantastic Nick Hornby, and asked him about some good music and he recommended The Feeling's song "I Love It When You Call," which is an uber-catchy ode to love, or falling in love, or being not-so-sure about love, just as the rest of the songs on their album Twelve Stops and Home are. That is in no way a move to say they are plain or boring. Each song's catchiness and melody is independent of the other, and yet the album feels like a cohesive unit, with not too many ballads, not too many rockers, and enough catchy hooks to last you until Chinese Democracy is released (and I mean that in a "it-will-last-forever" way, not a "Chinese-Democracy-will-bring-more-catchy-hooks!!" way). Despite loving Nick Hornby's choice, my two favorites off of Twelve Stops are "Never Be Lonely," a doe-eyed ditty full of "b-b-b-baby's" and "c-c-c-crazy's" and "Helicopter," a piano-laden tune that harks back to the Beatles (the way all Brit-pop bands do).
So what separates The Feeling from every other melodic/hooky/Britpop band? Well, you could argue nothing. In my opinion though, they stand out for their shameless longings for love, their just-enough dose of Morrissey, and their boy-band-but-not-in-bad-way harmonies. Think of them as Travis+Backstreet Boys+Fratellis+Beatles. Just really pleasant, fun tunes with lyrics you may have heard before, but won't mind hearing again.

Cigarette Smoke and Mirrors

In a recent issue of Rolling Stone, there was a fold-out feature titled the Indie-Rock Universe. It was cartoonish, made to look like a bored teen scribbling and doodling in their notebook. It was pointless and fun, and that seemed about it. But then the ad on the outside of the folds, there was a similarly colored and styled Camel cigarette ad, which itself promoted indie music, and their new site (which has since been shut-down). Harmless advertising or planned ploy? To me, it seemed like the latter, and many agree. The "Indie Rock Universe" seemed like a part of the Camel ad, and vice versa. Many have noticed, and Rolling Stone and Camel both seem to be in some hot water.
Another bone I have to pick is in Camel's sponsoring of many indie concerts. These are clearly aimed not only at the young concert-going crowd but the younger concert-going crowd, those young impressionable teens like myself. The bands who have had their concerts cig-sponsored defend their ways by saying that they just want to sell affordable tickets to their fans, but I ask this: Won't your fans be dead if they smoke too many cigs??? WELLL?????

Below are some great articles about the topic. What are your views?

Paste article
The Daily Swarm article

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Grammy nominations. *yawn*

For a music lover, I strongly dislike the Grammys. Or maybe that is to be expected of a music lover. Either way. I find the nominations boring and predictable, with no spice and no daring choices. My ultimate favorite award show (the Oscars), on the other hand, takes risks with both their nominations, not to mention the winners. With the Grammys, it is almost guaranteed that an indie artist will not be included in the Album of the Year category. Indie artists will, however, on occasion, be included in the Best New Artist category, no matter how venerable the musician may be. That said, independent artists have been accounted for under the Best Alternative Album category, but unfortunately often times the albums selected are obvious, sub-par, middle-of-the-road rock albums. This year, Kanye West leads the nomination race, with 8 noms to his name. I am a huge Ye fan, so I see no problem there. Graduation is fantastic. Next in line comes Amy Winehouse with 6 noms. I am GREATLY looking forward to her acceptance speech; let the slurring begin...
Anyway, most years I tune in to the show just to see a few of the performances, but this year I am guessing that I will just check who won the next day. Eh.

Simply because I am lazy and don't feel like typing all the nominations, here's a link to the list: clicky


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Merry Indie Christmas #1

Well folks it's that time of year again: Thanksgiving has ended, and that means the Christmas season has begun. In addition to the yearly onslaught of pop star renditions of beloved Christmas carols (Soulja Boy does Carol of the Bells, anyone?) we will be bombarded with indie renditions of beloved pop songs (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah does What Child is This, anyone?). Now, this is both a positive and a negative. Positive: sometimes those speedily cranked-out carols can be unnecessary and leave us questioning the artist's motive. Other times, the merry tunes can be the perfect alternative to yet another "All I Want for Christmas is You," courtesy of yet another Mariah Carey knock-off. Since there are still a few weeks til the commercial holiday of the universe (xMaS 2k7 LOLZ!) I will have a few segments of this here "A Merry Indie Christmas" post. Oh, and to all you non-Christians out there: I will be throwing in some Hanukkah (Chanukuh? Czhanukeh? Hannukuh?) and non-denominational "holiday" (oh the easily offended...god bless. I mean, "bless") songs as well. better watch out and you better not cry because "A Merry Indie Christmas #1" is here!!!!

Yes. ok. Now that I have done that snappy lil intro. Today I have found a Christmas tune that is actually not technically indie, but indie-leaning (let the arguments commence). This band is The Killers. I will deny nothing, but (and don't disregard my taste from henceforth) I am a big Killers fan. Ever since Hot Fuss came out, I have really loved them. Anyway, last year Brandon Flowers & Co. released "A Great Big Sleigh" and, in the "it's-better-to-give-than-receive"-vein, donated all the proceeds from said song to charity. The Killers decided to do the same this year, releasing "Don't Shoot Me Santa," which is enjoyable, in a take-it-as-it-is way. Some sample lyrics:
Don't shoot me Santa Claus
I've been a clean living boy
I promise you
Did every little thing you asked me to
I can't believe the things I'm going through
Hmm. Ok. Yeah. Well anyway, I really like the song. The only, teensy little bone I have to pick with it is that, with a few lyrical changes, it could have been released at any other time of year. Is it really too much to ask for a few jingle bells? Really? Anyway, if you are an owner of Sam's Town, I will tell you that it sounds a little "Why Do I Keep Counting?"-y, which I think is a good thing, so props to The Killers for their charity work and great addition to my Annual Christmas Mix!

The borderline-bizarre yet oddly lovable (I think it's the Brandon Flowers in the Christmas sweater that makes me like it)"Don't Shoot Me Santa Claus" video follows:

P.S. please note the holiday-themed YouTube skin?????

Monday, November 26, 2007

NPR never sounded so good

So my parents always listen to NPR (National Public Radio) in the car, and it is usually just boring old news and whatnot, but on occasion there would be some stuff that interested me, at least to the point that I didn't beg them to change the channel. Earlier this past summer I discovered the NPR podcasts, namely All Songs Considered, in which the musically-enthused staffers at NPR discuss the latest albums, songs, and artists. The discussions were usually pretty interesting, and I'd listen to the podcast whenever I knew they were discussing an artists I was interested in, but what really got me going was when they would record full concerts and post them as podcasts. I live in the D.C. area, and that is where NPR is based, so 99% of the concerts they record are local shows at the 9:30 Club that I had wanted to attend, but couldn't for various reasons (i.e. school nights, lack of cash, etc...). Examples: The Swell Season, Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Josh Ritter...the list goes on and on. Each show is a quality recording, and on the NPR website they include set lists. My one grievance is that because they are podcasts, you can't skip around from song to song with ease. However, I figured out a way to clip song-by-song and convert them to AAC files. So far I have only done it for Rilo Kiley and The Swell Season's shows, but I will probably be clipping Josh Ritter and Iron & Wine in the near future. To reach the All Song's Considered Live Concerts podcast, click here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wake Up Call- Maroon 5

Is it wrong that I really want Maroon 5's most recent CD It Won't Be Soon Before Long? I have had Songs About Jane for quite a while, but I've never given it a thorough listen until just this week. It is very satisfying, unabashed pop-funk. Plus their ultra-catchy singles "Makes Me Wonder" and the newer "Wake Up Call" won't get out of my head. Plus, the "Wake Up Call" video is just great. Check it out:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Name!

I have renamed this blog "Hello Peppermint!!"

Please link to this new and improved URL:

Nature Appreciation

Yesterday after school I walked to the Potomac River with a friend of mine, and I hadn't been since summer, and I was reminded of how perfect it is, and how amazing nature is when it is just there. She had to write an English paper, so while I was there with her I just sat and appreciated everything around me. I had my iPod with me, but didn't end up listening to anything because the river and the trees had their own music, and that was more than beautiful enough to hear. It was freezing and gorgeous, and the water was so glassy, and the only noise was the wind and the occasional bird flying overhead. I usually only go in the summer, where there is a rope swing that we dive in the river with, but going yesterday brought to my attention the fact that while in the summer it is a social place, in the winter it becomes a subtly, solemnly placidly perfect sanctuary. And although I recommend not bringing music with you on your nature appreciation outings, my visit to the river inspired me to make a mix when I got home, so here it is. Along with some pictures I took while there. Enjoy.

The River & the Leaves- a mix. For best results, record on cassette tape.
  1. She's Half- The American Analog Set
  2. I Love NYE- Badly Drawn Boy
  3. Dust in the Wind- Daniel Walker
  4. I am a Man of Constant Sorrow (Instrumental)- John Hartford
  5. Walk On- Braddigan & Josh Garrels
  6. Birds & Ships- Billy Bragg & Wilco
  7. At Last- Neko Case
  8. Drift On- Butterfly Boucher
  9. White Daisy Passing- Rocky Votolato
  10. Kissing the Lipless- The Shins
  11. Either Way- Wilco
  12. Dead Duck- Badly Drawn Boy
  13. The Upper Peninsula- Sufjan Stevens
  14. Sybill- State Radio
Liner Notes:
  • "Going to Georgia" by The Mountain Goats was almost included as the first track, with State Radio's "Sybill" as the second, but I omitted "Georgia" because I found John Darnielle's voice too grating (don't get me wrong now, I love him), for the rest of the mix. Once I lost that, I switched "Sybill" to the final track, because I found it didn't start the mix off with the right tone, and left with a better finish.
  • You may notice there are two Badly Drawn Boy songs on the mix. There were I think four to begin with. This is because I connote The Hour of the Bewilderbeast with nature, and also because I think of About a Boy (soundtrack) as a very life-soundtrack-y album, which fit the theme of my mix. I recommend you buy both now if you haven't. Bewilderbeast is one of the best albums I own, and the About a Boy soundtrack is listenable everyday, and as a song for every occasion.
  • I put the instrumental version of "I am a Man of Constant Sorrow" on. On the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack (which is where I found this song), there are two instrumental versions. The one for this mix is not the violin one.
  • The song "Dust in the Wind" is from my friend's older brother Daniel Walker. He recorded it in his room with his friends talking in the background, and I think it sounds great. I don't know how to post MP3's on here, but if you like, leave your email address and I would gladly send you one.
  • I almost decided not to include "Drift On" by Butterfly Boucher, because I thought it might be too poppy, and clash with the rest on this mix, but I think it fits nicely between Neko Case's female vocals and Rocky Votolato's acoustic "White Daisy Passing."
And yes, I put a lot of thought in when I make mixes.

Here are the accompanying photos from my day out (click to see them bigger):

Monday, November 12, 2007

Paste follows Radiohead's example

Until Thursday, Paste magazine (a 11-per-year music magazine with an included mix cd in each issue) is letting customers choose the price of their one-year subscription. I just ordered mine today, I suggest you do the same!!
Click HERE to order your subscription, then tell me what you paid!

The iTunes Side of Indie

iTunes semi-recently started a playlist series called "The List," where a list of 20-or-so-songs are compiled that represent a theme. Past themes have been sports, money, and summer. Currently, the list's theme is "Independent Artists." The accompanying description:
Need a break from the onslaught of mainstream pop music? iTunes has whipped up a nice batch of indie pop/rock/noise/etc....drawing from artists who are just on the precipice of going huge, off the radar, or are just plain awesome. Take a big bite out of Band of Horses classic rock revisionism! Witness the preppie posturing and African highlife/indie pop hybrid of Vampire Weekend! Behold the power of White Williams minimal glam/electro pop! Dare to sing with the Fiery Furnaces elaborate wording! The List, as they say, goes on and on.
The playlist goes on to include such "obscure" and "off the radar" artists as Spoon, Iron & Wine, Animal Collective and Stars. If these iTunes folks paid an ounce of attention to blogs, or music periodicals, they would realize that these bands are no longer "on the precipice" of success. They are indie musicians, yes, but they are the mainstream indie musicians. These are the indie musicians that are everywhere, that could very well get radio play if only the radio weren't a dying creature. These are some of the most popular bands on sites such as, where many true-blue music fans flock. Not to sound like a music snob (and I can tell I am coming off that way, so my apologies), but I would appreciate it if companies like iTunes stopped acting like the discoverers of indie, "obscure" music.
When iTunes used Feist's "1234" for their new Nano ad, the song shot up the online charts. It became known, at least from what I heard at school and from friends who hadn't heard it before, "that iPod song." While I think it is great that Feist should get so much success (she by-all-means deserves it), it irks me when a song becomes known by the ad in which it appears. I don't want to think of a product when I am listening to a song, I want to think of my own, special, personal connotation. The same thing happened with Badly Drawn Boy's "All Possibilities" (Campbell's Soup) and Of Montreal's "Wrath Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" (which was annoyingly butchered and re-worded for Outback Steakhouse).
I do not oppose artists selling their music for advertisements, on the contrary I think it is a natural checkpoint of success for emerging artists, but I do not like when a band is pinned as "emerging" simply because never before had their song been playing in the back of a Volkswagen commercial. Feist is not a new singer, Spoon is not "on the precipice" of success, and Iron & Wine is not "off the radar" (unless by "radar" you mean Top 40 charts, in which case, I guess). Each of those artists is established, respected and quite successful in the music world, if not in the music business, by which I mean Top 40 charts, and ability to sell dolls of their likeness (actually, Wilco does...).
Anyway. By all means a great playlist, iTunes really irks me how it labels the bands on their "Independent Artist" list as breaking. "Just plain awesome?" Yeah in most of their cases. "Off the radar?" Not quite...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Title Suggestions?

So, currently this baby is called Headphones, but that title hasn't really clicked with me yet. I was wondering if you guys have any suggestions for a new title. I am thinking something (obviously) music-related. Fire away.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Burn to Share, and then BUY

On my recently-arrived new Braddigan CD, The Captive, a message is written in small font on the back right corner. "Burn to Share, and then Buy," it says. Now, before going into my spiel I should tell you a little bit about Braddigan. He is Brad Corrigan, formerly of Dispatch, and he is quite an understanding fella. He helped found an organization called Love, Light, & Melody, which helps a Nicaraguan community and most of his songs deal with calls to action, and inspiration, and embracing change, and one, even "explores the dichotomy of light and dark through the eyes of a little girl living in a trash dump who, despite being surrounded by human waste, smiles at every day with an infectious joy." Yeah. So you can deduce that Braddigan is a pretty socially conscious guy. He clearly believes in doing his part to help those who are less privileged. He wants to reach out, he wants to save, and he wants to understand.
Which brings us back to that little message on the back of his CD cover. "Burn to Share, and then Buy." This is as brilliantly understanding as a musician can get in regard to illegal sharing of music. Braddigan knows that people will burn music for each other, and he just asks that once you receive a burned copy, if you like the music enough that you would have bought the album otherwise, shell out that $10.00 and pay your respects to the artist, who is, believe it or not, trying to make a living. Lawyers need to acknowledge this philosophy, and understand that music pirates aren't usually out to get as much free stuff as they possibly can. They are are out to get music. They are out to learn about their favorite bands, listen to their songs, and enjoy music simply without paying 99 cents any time they want to try something new. Lawyers should show a little understanding. Music sharing is a community activity. Music brings people together in every way, and through Internet file-sharing caters to the convenience of the people, albeit not the record labels.
Of course, lawyers aren't the only ones who should take something away from Braddigan's message. Customers need to get that last word imprinted in their heads. "BUY." Say a friend burns you the new Rilo Kiley CD. You love it. You listen to it ten times a day and declare them your new favorite band. And yet, even with them being your "favorite band," you can't scrape together enough cash to give Jenny Lewis a little appreciation. Yes, music is an art. But in today's world it has become enough of a business that people need to respect the businessmen (bands, artists) and pay up. If one loves music as much as they claim, they shouldn't oppose giving their favorite artists money, which will, of course, only persuade the artist to continue making the music one loves so much.

Photo credit: Aaron Chang

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pot of Gold at The End of Radiohead's Rainbow?

A study was released yesterday that revealed the average of what buyers paid for Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows. The study, conducted by comScore Inc., showed that in a four-week period, 62% of buyers chose not to pay anything, while those who did pay averaged $6.00. However, the percent of people willing to shell out $X.XX for this album among U.S. residents was higher, at 40%, with a greater average payment of $8.05.
In Rainbows was released to much hype, due to it's innovative marketing approach (in case you hadn't heard or something). Radiohead chose not to renew their contract with EMI and instead released Rainbows themselves, through their website, giving fans (or just those who were curious) the opportunity to pay whatever their stingy little hearts desired. This means that if the purchaser so desired, they could plug 0.00 into the price box. For those confused, there was a question-mark link next to it, which when clicked displayed in block yellow caps, "IT'S UP TO YOU."
Is this too much power to give the consumer? Giving fans the option of paying nothing seems to defeat the purpose of calling the music industry an industry. Because in reality, when given an option, how many people would rather pay for a product than be legally given it for free? 38%, apparently. 38% is higher than I expected, actually. I think 38 is a hopeful number in this context. It shows that people still have appreciation for a person's work, or at least enough to shell out $6.00.
This scenario reminds me of a late-night news special I saw once, where a man had a freezer full of fresh fish set up in front of a shop, with a cash box on top. There was nobody manning the fish stand, and the man who set it up was relying purely on people's good morals to pay for the fish. Surprisingly, perhaps, he was right, and found at the end of the day he usually had exactly, if not more, than what he calculated he should have made (based on the fish missing from the freezer).
An unfortunate blip in Radiohead's plan versus the fish-man's, was that while most did pay for fish, most did not pay for the album. Why? Perhaps because music has become so focused around the Internet and illegal-downloading that the opportunity to legally get free music is merely a way to be guilt-free when browsing your iTunes library. People should recognize that Radiohead's decision to let buyers choose their price is a business decision (although some do argue, and it can be argued, that it is purely for publicity). People should pay for the album in the way that they would pay for the fish left in the freezer.

Purchase In Rainbows HERE

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

American Flava

With Jay-Z's new release, "American Gangster," hitting shelves today to impressive reviews, it leaves one thought in my mind: If what Jay really needed to crank out a well-reviewed album was the inspiration of a Ridley Scott film, why did he release "Kingdom Come," his back-from-"retirement" album at all? "Kingdom Come" was received as nothing more than an unexciting, uninspired, one-single disappointment. Jay made such a hype about (as we predicted...) coming out of "retirement" to release this album, but when us mortals picked it up, we wondered what had happened to our hip-hop god. "American Gangster," on the other hand, is what we knew Jay had all along: smart rhymes, fresh beats, and good old mass appeal. I would like to credit the success (I say success in regard to what the critics are saying; who knows what Nielson will reveal) of this album however, to one key component that so much rap music is lacking these days: inspiration. When Jay saw the advance screening of "American Gangster" (the film), he left utterly inspired to create an album that reflected what he saw in the movie, and how its message reverberated with him. The result is an album that tells a story with a blurred line between fact and fiction, just as stories should be. With "Kingdom Come" lacking the inspiration of "American Gangster," it landed itself in a pile of albums with flat tones and plain-old boring tunes.
Jay-Z isn't the only one to have committed this crime of non-inspiration. If you look at today's Billboard charts, you see songs about prostitutes and how women move their bodies like "cyclones" scattering the Top 40. Now, I'm not saying that a musician cannot be inspired to write a song about how their "shawty" is "a 10;" in fact I am completely in support of artists recording whatever the hell they feel (Hello, Ariel Pink). I just find that songs that last, and maintain listeners years after the release of their song often are the songs with inspired lyrics, or at least inspired melodies. A song can be about having sex with a prostitute and still be brilliant, as long as the song brings something new to the table, like an experimental type of production, or a unique voice (i.e. Lil Wayne).
This is why I believe that while Soulja Boy's "Crank That" is acceptable, but the rest of his album is questionable. While "Crank That" has the purpose of teaching a new dance (and apparently succeeded, based on all those YouTube videos), songs like "Soulja Girl" and "Yahhh!" serve no purpose but to add fillers to an album designed to market a single song.
If hip-hop continues on the road it's on, with most new artists lasting a year, at best, and songs being written to become ringtones, the genre could reach a new low. Now, comparing Public Enemy to Soulja Boy makes one wonder how the two could possibly consider themselves in the same stratosphere of genre.
Also, with hip-hop being a relatively new musical category, most "old-school" artists have their first albums clocking in at barely twenty years old. It's depressing to realize that today's hip-hop is considered successful if it lasts for a few days at the top of ringtone charts. While De La Soul is placing in the top fifty of all-time best records charts, many new hip-hop albums, save the Kanye Kult (West, Common, Talib, etc.) can't even place in a best of year list. And yet these songs are played on the radio, and bought religiously by musically ignorant teens. Do we really want to live in a society where "Ay BayBay" will be played like a classic on the oldies station in fourty-or-so years? And does anyone else find it at all depressing that Flava Flav, once the saving grace of the genre, now has his own VH1 reality show? The future looks grim for hip-hop, and stronger selectivity must be used when signing new artists, but thankfully albums like Jay-Z's "American Gangster," Kanye's "Graduation," and Common's "Finding Forever" carry inspiration and the hope of bright new hip-hop frontiers with them. Hopefully that trend will last longer that the next season of Flava of Love.