Music Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "It's Blitz!"

There’s only one word that adequately describes indie rock band and New York City natives, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: unpredictable. Ever since stepping onto the scene, they have constantly refined and adapted themselves, all the while sticking close enough to their roots to remain a pleasurable listen. Thus, with their latest album, It’s Blitz!, on the horizon, fans of the band expected something fresh and exciting.

And once again, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have delivered. For the new record, the band ditched much of its signature garage rock grunge and hit the dance floor – adding a chorus line of MIDI controllers and drum machines to their mix. Facilitating the transition is co-producer and TV On the Radio guitarist, David Sitek, whose influence can be heard everywhere on the album, which feels similar last year’s TVOTR offering, Dear Science. In Sitek’s hands, the band has masterfully and tastefully reinvented their sound. Guitarist, Nick Zinner, also adapts well to the change, knowing when to take a back seat to the synth and when to tastefully cut through the mix. All things considered, It’s Blitz! finds the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the top of their game. It’s one of the most compelling pop-rock albums of this decade.

The record kicks off with the current single, “Zero,” and from the very first second, a pulsing synth sequence lets you know that you’re in for a ride. Singer Karen O trills and pants atop a layering of keyboards and drum machines as the song builds through the first two minutes. Then, just when you thought the band had ridden itself of all things stringed, the song explodes into a soaring, fuzz-driven guitar solo. By the end of the track, you wonder how the band could possibly follow such a stunning opener.

But the album keeps its pace, rolling through a rock-solid lineup of songs. “Soft Shock” is exactly what its name implies: dynamically tame in its context but every bit as vibrant as the rest of the album. For those of you who (for some weird reason) aren’t excited about the electronic currents of this record, have no fear. On “Dull Life” and “Shame and Fortune,” the band moves the synths to the background, landing a one-two punch of guitar rocking winners. The album holds steady for the home stretch with “Dragon Queen,” a club-worthy mix of percussion and chiming guitars and “Hysteric,” a poignant, airy set up to the dreamy closer, “Little Shadow.” On the last vocal line of the record, Karen O asks, “to the night, will you follow me?” If she plans to continue in the direction of this album, the answer is a resounding yes.

Aside from their new electro-pop vibe, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gained another new element on this album: a sense of direction. It’s Blitz! is their first effort that really feels like a cohesive unit, and thus, it emerges as the most satisfying electro-pop record this side of MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular. Expect to see this on most critics’ “Best Of” lists for 2009.

Score: 9/10

So it goes,

This is the extended version of a review originally published in The Gadfly, a magazine of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the King's College in New York.

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Gear Review: Ducti Classic Bi-Fold Wallet

Ducti makes accessories for nerds, geeks, and others who may have a duct tape fetish. Their flagship product is the Classic Bi-Fold Wallet, the perfect companion for your pocket binary to hex conversion chart, homemade AD&D creature cards, and photos of your online girlfriend from Japan.

You may ask yourself, "why buy a duct tape wallet for $20 when I can easily make one for a fraction of the cost?". The answer is twofold: your wallet will be uglier and less functional than the Ducti, and after sitting in front of your computer for hours on end, the glue from normal duct tape will melt and ruin your finest pair of keyboard infused trousers.

Ducti uses a magical, space age duct tape that, while not bulletproof, could easily and permanently heal a flesh wound. The adhesive used is much more like Super Glue than tape glue, refusing to give way under almost any circumstance. Now don't get me wrong, if you often let your dog use your wallet in lieu of rawhide, then this wallet isn't for you. However I can personally attest to the durability of the Ducti Bi-Fold; I finally retired my first Ducti after over 5 years of service. Note that this almost entirely for aesthetic reasons. I can't have the cashier at Grand Asia Market think I'm passing fake bills to pay for my Giant Pocky because my wallet is in such disrepair.

The innards of the Ducti Bi-Fold are what you would expect out of a wallet. Four card slots on the left side and a clear five card / photo book on the right. Beneath each is another pocket for miscellanea. The top opens to reveal the standard cash pouch, in which comes a 3.5" x 2" patch of the aforementioned magical Ducti duct tape for repair work or emergency skin graft. Four shiny rivets ensure that your valuables remain in place and two metal grommets are available for those who enjoy the extra security a wallet chain provides. A divided cash pouch would be appreciated as would slightly wider card slots on the left, but these minor complaints hardly detract from the utility of the wallet.

Besides the functional aspects of the Ducti, there is the added bonus of carrying an instant conversation piece in your back pocket. Countless times have I received a complement or comment from someone tasked with taking my money. Too, it's hard to mistake your wallet for someone else's, as you will probably be the only person you know carrying a Ducti. Add in the fact that it's not made from a mammalian carcass and you have a no-brainer of a wallet choice.

Final Grade: A

So It Goes,

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Food Review: KFC - Kentucky Grilled Chicken


Final Grade: D -

I'm not sick right now. Otherwise it would be an F, making it nominally higher than eating bleach.

So it goes,

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Food Review: McAllister's Deli - Horseradish Roast Beef & Cheddar Panini

Let me start by saying this about McAllister's: I've never received nor expected greatness from the chain, save for the sweet tea, which I heart; we are good friends, the tea and I. Most of the time, I order a superfluously large, 2-pound potato which is "covered/stuffed/loaded" with HALF A FREAKING OUNCE of cheese, olives, turkey or what-have-you. Making me pay $8 for something called a "SpudMaxx" and using a single thumb-pinky pinch of toppings to adorn it makes you a common thief, probably-15-year-old-McAllister's-potato-topper! Even so scantily topped, these potatoes are not objectionable to the palate. Occasionally though, I get a little daring and, seeing that McAllister's is a DELI, try one of their many sandwiches. And every... single...time, I regret it. I don't know if it's laziness or complacency at the management or preparation stage or if the higher-ups make all their franchises buy the same crappy pre-prepped food from the same supplier but every sandwich I've had has been bland in the fullest sense of word. This is still the only 'deli' I've ever been to where I've needed to open up a cold cut sandwich and salt it for it to even remotely taste like (*sigh*) a coldcut sandwich and not like muti-textured cardboard. 
So after a mmmm-six month hiatus from McAllister's, my wife and I returned, hankering for medicore giant potatoes, vegetarian chili (which is usually quite good) and a reunion with my BFF, sweet tea. What do I see upon our arrival? A 'TRY OUR NEW PANINIS' sign featuring beautiful pictures of what appear to be delicious, hot, melty sandwiches. Favoring the pretty colors of the sign over experience,  I thought "OK, sign. Will do." Being a fan of all the words in its annoyingly long name, I settled on one of the (I think) 3 multi-textured cardboard stacks (now with newly added heat!) they like to call the "Horseradish Roast Beef & Cheddar Panini" for the meh price of $5.99 including chips, no drink.
As you've probably figured out by now, I was not a huge fan of the sandwich. However, I did not dislike it either. It is a very safe, neutral tasting sandwich - nothing special. I was a little disappointed in its neutrality because when something has horseradish in it (especially enough to warrant putting it in the name of its parent dish) I expect the abrasive, nose-clearing burn to overwhelm my face the second I taste it. I like it that way. Makes me feel super manly. There was no super-manliness to be felt here though because the horseradish sauce in this 'nini is as much horseradishy as Velveeta is cheese. An elevator-muzak version at best. I did, however, really like the the bread. Crispy outside, tender inside and oh-so buttery - delish. The roast beef and cheddar were...exactly what you would expect from a fast food deli or even store-brand packaged cheese and meats: meh. Brown paper bag, sack lunch food.
Overall, there's not a lot to be said for the panini other than middle-of-road words like: mediocre, alright, OK, meh, etc. If for the same price I could make a much better version of this sandwich at home at 4 or 5 times the quantity, there's a problem. Not that I would do anything about it, of course.

Final Grade: C

So it goes,

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