Sunday, December 26, 2010

Q's 2010 Lists

Once again, I'm pretty sure I got through the whole year without listening to 10 total new releases, so doing a Top 10 list seemed a bit absurd. Here are a handful of shorter lists that hopefully you will find interesting:

Top 3 New Albums I actually listened to this year:
3. The Roots, How I Got Over
Another great album from a great band. I even loved the bonus track "Hustla" with the weird baby-crying sample.
2. Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot
I hope he and Andre 3000 do more work together in the future, but if Big Boi's solo output remains this good, there will be nothing to complain about if they don't.
1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I'm going to have to go with the critical consensus on this one. I've just been obsessed with this album, and there's no denying that it was my personal favorite of the year, despite its flaws, and despite my reservations about it. In fact, with the possible exception of some albums by The Roots or Lupe Fiasco, I might have to go back to The College Dropout to find a new record I played this incessantly. I'm glad Kanye has been able to harness his batshit craziness to create something so compelling!

Top 3 Joni Mitchell albums besides Blue:
I've been listening to tons of Joni Mitchell this year, much more than I've been listening to new music. I started with Blue, which unsurprisingly is an incredible album. What I didn't realize, however, was just how much first-rate material she created in the 1970s. There are a number of absolutely classic albums that I had never even heard of before. Below are three albums which, in my opinion, are as much worth listening to as Blue, even if they are all less immediately accessible, and may require more time and attention to appreciate.
3. The Hissing of Summer Lawns
Weird, unsettling, and wonderful. This album is strange enough that it probably shouldn't be anybody's first encounter with Joni Mitchell, but there is some seriously great material here to explore.

2. Hejira
This album is a huge grower. For months of listening to it, most of the album seemed like sort of an easy-listening blur (even if a couple of the songs, such as "Amelia" and "Refuge of the Roads" were undeniably great from the first listen), and I couldn't understand why so many Joni Mitchell superfans on the internet claimed that this was her best album. But slowly, the extremely wordy complexity of Hejira began to open up for me, and I discovered it to be full of some of the best songs about how traveling affects the soul this side of Townes Van Zandt.

1. Court and Spark
If you haven't heard this album, you should give it a shot. It's the most accessible of her classic albums besides Blue, and it really has it all: sad folk songs, weird jazz experiments, a rare dash of unexpected humor, and even a couple of songs where for once Joni Mitchell just rocks out. I was hooked from the moment I heard about the character who "buried the coins he'd made in People's Park/and went looking for a woman to court and spark."

Top 3 Literary Giants Whom I Somehow Never Got Around to Reading Until This Year:
3. Thomas Pynchon
I really enjoyed The Crying of Lot 49, and I've been surprised how much this extremely short and strange little book has stuck with me since reading it. I'll even go so far as to say that it's made me think about the concept of a "mystery" in a new way, and has informed some of my teaching on the subject. Despite his reputation as being an impenetrable writer, this book is a fun, fairly quick read, that any of you might enjoy.
2. Franz Kafka
I started out by reading some of his short stories, and very quickly couldn't believe it had taken me so long to get around to him. Reading "Metamorphosis" reminded me of the sense of wonder and dread I used to feel as a kid when reading Stephen King...except that Kafka is almost certainly more terrifying. I also wondered if the strange torture machine from "In the Penal Colony" might have been J.K. Rowling's inspiration for the magic quill that carves "I must not tell lies" into Harry Potter's arm. Actually, much of Kafka's writing on the surface is so simple that it could almost pass for a pulp thriller or horror story; the further you go, however, all the details start to pile up into something far more obscure and disturbing than you first expect.
1. Marcel Proust
I'm currently reading volume 2 of Proust's 7 volume mega-novel A La Recherche Du Temp Perdu, and I am very excited that so much of it still lies ahead of me. Proust reminds me of James Joyce, at least in one sense: both writers have a way of looking at the world partly through the prism of art and literature, and try to make sense of life by finding surprising parallels between great art that they admire, and their own mundane, bourgeois, sometimes sordid lives. In other words: it's right up my alley. Proust is also dense in the best possible way. Every page is so packed with evocative descriptions, philosophical asides, and unexpected doses of comedy, (not to mention the surprisingly frank--and weird--discussions of sexuality), that you need to read it extremely slowly in order to take it all in (which is fortunate, since I'm attempting to read it in French, and slooooooooow is the only way I can go). A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu has even served as a sort of crash course in art history for me, as Proust assumes of his readers a certain level of familiarity with European painting, and often chooses to shed light on characters, or create interesting juxtapositions, by making extremely specific references to particular paintings. For someone like myself, who has only a passing familiarity with that material, regular internet searches to track down the relevant paintings become a must in order to fully understand the narrative. That may sound like kind of a chore, but honestly, I've found it to be kind of like an awesome treasure hunt. Not only does knowing each painting help me to more fully enjoy the book, but the book is actually helping me to appreciate European painting in a way I never have before. It's hard to ask for more!

Best Book I (Re)Read This Year:
Voltaire's Candide may be my favorite book. It's so short that I've actually read it once a year for the past several years, and it never seems to get old no matter how often I come back to it. I think what separates Candide from other snarky, remorseless take-downs of human vanity (such as may be found in the work of Jonathan Swift, Kurt Vonnegut, or sometimes Mark Twain, all of whom I also enjoy) is that there's something strangely life affirming and even uplifting about Candide. At the end of the book, after going on countless adventures in search of love, wealth, and philosophical glory, the main characters all decide that the only thing that will really make life bearable is to settle down and work hard at jobs that they enjoy. "We must cultivate our garden" is how the novel ends, and it's a phrase I often remember when the world seems unbearably depressing. In the end, life is never going to be easy, and sometimes it's going to be awful, so you might as well try to find something that makes you happy. There's no point in worrying about the rest.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Texplush's Favorite Albums of 2010

11. Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer
Backed by two of my new favorite producers, Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus, Gonjasufi sings twisted soul in the midst of dense and disorienting electronics.

10. Frightened Rabbit - Winter of Mixed Drinks
I guess there's nothing quite like a thick Scottish accent to make sadness feel authentic. These guys are going to make the young girls swoon if they keep writing songs like 'Swim Until You Can't See Land'. Driving rhythms, hooky melodies and eclectic arrangements overshadow the occasionally over-earnest lyric. FR feels like sipping whiskey in a warm chair by the fire.

9. Janelle Monae - The Arch Android
A protege of Big Boi, Janelle Monae's album is the most over-the-top and ambitious of the year. She attempts a slew of genres- and invents a few of her own in the process. Her voice is absolutely insane and she's short and adorable. Also my vote for best album cover of the year.

8. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the Good Friday tracks
With Kanye, the highs have always been stunningly high, and the lows have been embarrassingly low. That is still true with MBDTF, but songs like 'Power', 'All of the Lights', 'Monster' and 'Runaway' are the best of his career. I could do without the Chris Rock monologue, but Kanye makes up for the unlistenable stuff with almost another album's worth of great tracks for free on his website (the GOOD Friday tracks). Here's one of my favorites:

7. Deerhunter - Halycon Digest
I have always flirted with liking this band, but previous albums have been inconsistent and immature. Halycon Digest, on the other hand, slays on almost every track. Neil Young meets Sonic Youth, with absolutely killer production. A headphones masterpiece:

6. Vampire Weekend - Contra
I drank the Kool-Aid. Contra is a great album and such a leap forward in terms of production, with a lot of new colors for VW's pallate that surprise and complement their established sound. There are still some embarrassing lyrics here and there, but Contra proves that Vampire Weekend is in it to innovate. Here's one of my favorite tracks:

5. Field Music - Measure
Field Music's third album is an embarrassment of riches. Twenty songs and every single one is impeccably written, arranged, played and produced. A modern XTC with a hint of Big Star - I like to imagine if I was a math major and british, this was the music I'd make.

4. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
Just when I was on the verge of tiring of Sufjan and his ever-angelic anthems, this crucial work in the Stevens oeuvre appears, on the heels of the less impressive but still entertaining All Delighted People EP. The Age of Adz is not always a soothing listen - it's often dissonent and cacophonous - but it is nevertheless a welcome change of pace and a thrilling ride. This is a long player in the epic sense. As some have commented, the closing 20-minute track 'Impossible Soul' alone has more exciting musical ideas than most other albums that came out this year.

3. The Walkmen - Lisbon
This is their simplest record and most unified statement. Drawing inspiration from Sun Studios, the arrangements are spacious, warm and simple. Hamilton Leithauser croons like he's never crooned, the guitars chime with honeyed distortion and the Walkmen continue to sound like absolutely no one else. Lisbon is calming, invigorating, fresh and classic all at once. The money shot on this song comes at 2:28:

2. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
The best hip top album of the year. Thick, southern, purple and funky. This track says it all:

1. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
This year, I fell in love with LA's beat scene, of which Flying Lotus is sort of the godfather. Conceived as a 'Space Opera', Cosmogramma feels to me what I imagine it must have felt like to hear jazz for the first time. It has served as quite the gateway drug, introducing me to Gaslamp Killer, Teebs, Shlohmo, The Take, Baths and more. Total eargasm.

Honorable Mention:
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
Aloe Blacc
New Pornographers
Maps and Atlases
Mark Ronson
The Soft Pack
The Roots
Sleigh Bells
LCD Soundsystem
Mount Kimbie

Favorite Songs:
Swim Until You Can't See Land - Frightened Rabbit
Shadow People - Dr. Dog
Rill RIll - Sleigh Bells
When The World Comes To An End - Dirty Projectors
Shutterbug - Big Boi
Tightrope - Janelle Monae
Power - Kanye West
Coronado - Deerhunter
Norway - Beach House

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Any thoughts on the new Sufjan Stevens?

I found it very off-putting and hard to listen to at first, but it is officially growing on me. Have you guys been listening to it at all? What do you think?

Friday, December 17, 2010

All My Friends...

Ah year-end season... What better time to post a song from 2 years ago that I have only just now really started to appreciate.

I'm not sure what the general opinion here is on these guys, but I have recently become a full fledged convert to LCD Soundsystem. It took me quite a long time - I heard the singles but they didn't do much for me. Watched this video from Pitchfork this summer (alas, I was not there live as I only attended Pavement day) which increased my interest, and after about 3 or 4 listens of their new album, I'm finally all over it. Not sure exactly how I will put together my year end lists of sorts, but the new album is a 2010 highlight for me.

Anyway, here is "All My Friends" in a truly glorious performance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

For Your Consideration: The G.O.O.D. Friday Dowloads

For those of you who love the new Kanye album, but haven't heard any of the free downloads which he posted on his website prior to its release: there are some very good songs which didn't make it onto the album, and which are definitely worth tracking down.

Below is one of my favorites. On one level it's really just a mash-up of a Justin Bieber song and an old Wu-Tang track, with some extra rapping thrown in...but what other major artist would not only have the audacity to release such a thing under his own name, but could figure out how to make it sound this good?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Best of 2010 Season Begins

The AV Club is rolling out their list.

The first detail that popped out at me: why does this band I've never heard of called Dum Dum Girls have basically the same album cover as Vampire Weekend? Is it just a weird cosmic coincidence?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Jim O'Rourke in a Walmart Ad

Drischord, I suspect that emusic is behind this treachery!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Recovery is a (sometimes fascinating) mess

Maybe this is just because ever since college, (when I was a reluctant fan of The Marshall Mathers LP, despite my best efforts to be repulsed by it), I've been dreaming of what Eminem would sound like if he ever attempted to peel through the layers of posturing and bullshit and make a "mature" album. Anyone hoping 2010's Recovery would be that album will be disappointed, but I still personally find it to be kind of a fascinating mess.

"Fascinating" is not to be confused with "good". At best, this album is unbelievably erratic, and contains numerous moments that made me literally wince the first time I heard them (who is laughing at all the Michael J. Fox jokes? For your own good, Marshall, cut it the fuck out!)

Eminem sounds at war with himself on Recovery. On the best songs you hear a man struggling to achieve a new level of honesty, and to figure out what a more grown-up, reflective, and even repentant Eminem might sound like. And then on the very next song he's right back in the sewer, doing tired, lazy retreads of the kind of shock songs he used to....wait, did he just make another Michael J. Fox joke? It's not funny, it's just stupid! Even those knuckleheads who might have thought it was funny the first time don't want to keep hearing it. Stop it!!

Well, anyway, this obviously isn't a recommendation of this album, but for anybody who's ever been quietly rooting for Eminem to grow up and achieve something more profound, you might want to go to YouTube and listen to "Talkin' to Myself" or "Love the Way You Lie" or "Not Afraid" and keep on hoping. Or at the very least, listen to "No Love" on which Lil' Wayne rhymes "broken bottles" with "open Bibles," and hope that maybe that guy's best days could still be ahead of him as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RIP emusic

Congratulations, emusic. Having toiled over the past 7 years to build up an indie-centric, DRM-free alternative to iTunes-- a go-to site for the frugal but savvy underground music connoisseur-- you've finally reached the mountaintop...

And not just that. Xtina's friends Brittney Spears, NSYNC, Ricky Martin, Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys are also finally available on emusic. Praise the lord and pass the roofies!

Of course, nothing comes without a price, but fortunately in emusic's case it was only Matador Records, Merge Records, XL Records, 4AD Records and Domino Records. They're gone now, but that's okay because now emusic has Shania Twain!!

Sure, you'll no longer be able to download music from Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Arcade Fire, Caribou, Sigur Ros, Animal Collective, Spoon, Polvo, and all the other bands that made emusic what it is, but let's be realistic. Having done the heavy lifting to lay the foundation, it's time to send those artists out to pasture to clear room for the real jewels of recorded music...

The cast of FOX's Glee! (all exclusive trademarks apply)

Nice going, fellas.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Predictably Appalled by Pusha T

One of the verses that immediately stood out to me on the new Kanye album was Pusha T's verse on "So Appalled". Mostly, it stood out because it has some of the most openly, unabashedly misogynist lines in the entire album, although I must confess a weird kind of admiration for it. Throughout all his time with The Clipse, Pusha T has really gotten his flow down to a science, and I'm actually stunned by how efficiently he crams all of his usual talking points into such a short amount of time.

Take a look below, where I've reprinted the verse as I found it on a lyrics website. Over the course of about a minute he manages to:
1. Weave in an astonishing number of references to cocaine. ("Still move a bird like I'm in bed with mother goose, etc.)
2. Assert his superiority to women. ("I never met a bitch who didn't need a little guidance.")
3. Mention an expensive car he owns. (Range Rove, leather roof.)
4. Rhyme that mention of a car with some gangsta bravado. (Love war, fuck a truce.)
5. Make the kind of unexpected, oddball references that make him somewhat more interesting than your average gangsta rapper. (Flow similar to the Legend of the Falls.)
6. Get close enough to something approaching social commentary for the Pitchfork crowd to swoon over him all the more. (CNN said I'd be dead by 21.)

All of which definitely takes a certain level of craftsmanship, even if it ends up being so predictable that I personally find it unendurably boring. Listening to The Clipse is like talking to somebody at a party who is only capable of discussing the minute details of their job, or the expensive vacation they just went on. Ok, Ok, I get it, you used to be a drug dealer. If you're to be believed, maybe you even still are a drug dealer. You made a lot of money doing that. Can we move on now?

Success is what you make it
Take it how it comes
A half a mill in twenties is like a bill where I’m from
An arrogant drug dealer the legend I’ve become
CNN said I’d be dead by 21
Black jack I just pulled in aces
You looking at the king in his face
Everything I dream muthaf-ckers Im watching it take shape
While to you I’m just a young rich n-gga that lacks faith
Range Rove leather roof
Love war f-ck a truce
Still move a bird like I’m in bed with mother goose
Them hoes come in a bakers dozen
Claiming they was with me when they know they really wasn’t
I keep the city’s best never said she was the brightest
So if you had it too, it don’t affect me in the slightest
I never met a b-tch that didn’t need a little guidance
So I dismiss her past until she disappoint your highness

I speak the gospel, hostel
Tony doing time for what he did to nostrils
Paranoid mind I’m still under the watchful
Eye of the law, aspire for more
Them kilo’s came we gave you bobby brown jaw
Flaws aint flaws when it’s you that makes the call
Flow similar to the legend of the falls
Spillin’ I own you all, yeah

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rabin on West

I'm sure that in the coming month we'll all get in on the discussion of the new Kanye West album (which I am officially obsessed with, even if I have some mixed feelings about it). I just wanted to point everybody to Nathan Rabin's review over at the AV Club. It's the only review I've seen that spends some real time addressing what to me is the most remarkable aspect of the album: the debt it owes to rock songwriting, instrumentation, and production. This album is crawling with electric guitars, keyboards, and driving drums that often owe as much to indie-rock as they do to hip hop. There of course have been rock-rap crossover acts for decades, from Run-DMC and Aerosmith's famous collaboration, to Lil' Wayne's recent, less successful efforts. But I actually think that in the last few years there's been growing interest from the hip hop community in cross pollinating traditional hip hop sounds with electric guitars and rock sensibilities (perhaps on another day when I have more time I'll offer a few more specific examples), and it's been interesting to watch it happen, even if up to now there have been a lot of sonic missteps.

Whatever else you can say about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I think that Kanye has blown the door open on rock/hip-hop crossover, and has created something that could (and hopefully does) serve as the blueprint for a lot of new music going forward. He has successfully fused elements of both styles, and made something thoroughly rock-oriented, without losing the hip-hop underpinnings that made his music so great in the first place, resulting in a mind-bending sonic landscape that I can't stop playing over and over again.

Does he also share some archaic and/or stupid views about women and relationships in the process? You bet he does! But when the music is this good, and the self-examination this intense (there are moments that almost remind me of Blue era Joni Mitchell...maybe I've just been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell, but I think there are actually similarities) it makes you want to overlook all that. Kind of like the way everybody overlooks the noxious antisemitism in The Merchant of Venice, because the author certainly has a way with words.

But I'm sure I'll post more on that when I've had time to wrap my head around this album a little bit more. In the meantime, I hope everybody is listening!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Springsteen + The Roots

Awesome jam at the end.

My apologies for embedding a Hulu video-- nothing but ads. I hate them, but what can you do?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christian-Era Bob Dylan

I recently decided to start exploring the Christian period of Bob Dylan's career, since it's a pretty sizable gap in my knowledge of the guy.

Stop one is the record Slow Train Coming. Two things stand out immediately: One, it is definitely Christian. Two, it is definitely a Bob Dylan record. Check out the track "Precious Angel" and try to tell me one bad thing about the music. For that matter, try to tell me how you'd write greater Christian rock lyrics, if you were setting out to do such a thing.

I particularly love the horns on this record. I can't think of any other Bob Dylan album where horns factor in at all. Also coming up huge is Mark Knopfler, who produced and plays lead guitar.

But the funniest thing about Knopfler's involvement is that Dylan never actually told him they were making a Christian record, and it didn't become apparent until he started laying down vocal tracks. Knopfler says he called his wife from the studio and said something to the effect of: "Sessions are going well. But... and I'm not sure about this... but I think we're making a Christian record." Classic.

(It also brings to mind one of my favorite Onion articles ever-- "Bassist Unaware Rock Band Christian.")

Patriotic Embarrassment

Is anyone else as obsessed as I am with following stories on the insane new TSA procedures for airport security, which involve either taking naked pictures, or doing an "enhanced" feel-up, of every single passenger to pass through American airports?

Some of the bloggers over at are writing about it almost daily, and this post in particular, in which James Fallows compares airport security here to airport security in China, really gets at the embarrassment (I would call it a patriotic embarrassment) I feel as an American, thinking about how incredibly scared and stupid we must look to anyone from any other country in the world who is unfortunate enough to have to pass through one of the airports in which these new radioactive naked-picture machines are located.

I was especially disturbed by this footage of the new head of Homeland Security. The relevant portion begins around the 1:00 mark.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Bottomless Pit in New York

New York Kittybrains... go see them. This Saturday at the Knitting Factory. (Which is apparently now in Brooklyn?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fifty Percent of the Kittybrains Collective Is OFF THE MARKET

Just wanted to post my congratulations to Quinapalus, who joins Dr. Kittybrains among the ranks of the engaged! My sources tell me it happened over the weekend.

Add in the fact that Via Chicago is already married, and this Collective is flying off the shelves like Faith Hill CDs at WalMart. Congrats to you all!

Who will be next?

(And by "who will be next," I mean "Eric will be next.")

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Latest from Campbell/Lanegan

A couple months ago, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan put out their 3rd CD together-- Hawk. It's mostly Campbell's project-- she writes the tunes and plays a couple of instruments, while Lanegan just doubles her on lead vocals. Even the contact information in the liner notes refers you to Campbell's website. But my attachment to these collaborations come mostly via Lanegan-- certainly one of my favorite voices in all of rock.

I finally got my hands on this record yesterday, and I'm really impressed. Pretty sure it ranks as my favorite of theirs. For one thing, it's just more energetic than their first two records. While both good, those tended to focus on lulling ballads, whereas this one has more than a few bar room stomps. It also has 2 really good Townes Van Zandt covers-- Snake Song and No Place to Fall. (FYI, it's hard to find a Mark Lanegan interview where he doesn't gush all over Townes Van Zandt. His voice is much huskier than Townes' but there's an obvious influence there.)

If anything, a lot of Hawk reminds me of Bob Dylan. Some sounds like his late '60s stuff, particularly the New Morning album, and others sound like songs he's releasing today. Check out this track, which is the last one on the album.

After listening to this twice, it's already sounding like one of my favorites of this year. We'll see come December.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Whoa Again

Kanye officially enters the Use Your Illusion phase of his career.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One of My All-Time Favorites

Mark Eitzel's West...

I haven't listened to this in at least a year, and I'm kind of kicking myself for it. It's been one my favorites for the 13 years(!) that it's been around, and now I've got to put it back in my rotation.

The whole record was co-written with Peter Buck, who is featured throughout on guitar. It also has perennial Buck collaborator Scott McCaughey on bass and keys and the stellar Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin on drums. (Those three were also in Tuatara together.)

Here's a track:

And wouldn't you know it? Even Pitchfork loves it!

I apparently recommended this record 2 years ago in the midst of praise for a then-new American Music Club album. And while that record holds up, if you only acquired one thing by Mark Eitzel, I'd strongly suggest West.

Friday, October 08, 2010


This craziness sure took me by surprise...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boardwalk Empire is Great!

"All I want is an opportunity."
"This is America ain't it? Who the fuck's stopping you?"

Monday, September 13, 2010


I know a lot of you guys have been pretty down on Kanye West, but his new song "Monster" featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj (who I'm not that familiar with, but whose verse on this song kicks ass), and frickin' Bon Iver, really deserves to be heard.

You can (and should) check it out here!

Monday, August 30, 2010

You Guys Into Jason Falkner?

Sometimes a song comes up in your iTunes shuffle and it just makes you smile. This happened to me today with Jason Falkner.

I first became aware of him because he played on the first Eric Matthews album. (Eric will remember that guy as a classic Drischord selection-- although one I no longer really like. Too coy and pretentious.) But then I got sent a Jason Falkner solo CD when I was writing for the Daily Northwestern. It was a collection of 4-track demos, about half of which had previously been released in fully "produced" versions on prior records.

Probably because I heard them first, I prefer the 4-track versions to this day. Raw and fun, but not undeveloped or lo-fi. This is probably the way these songs sound live.

Now, of course, I think of Jason Falkner mostly as the guy in The Grays who wasn't Jon Brion (and the one who wrote/sang their best song-- "Very Best Years"). He was also in Jellyfish-- a band I don't really know. Anyway, great power pop type of guy, and highly underrated.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Awesome cover

Everything about this Sweet Child O' Mine cover is amazing, from the outfits to the fact that there are several points in the song when each musician is _almost_ playing the actual part, but absolutely out of sync with the other two. But the point is not so much to make fun as it is to be thankful that youtube wasn't around when we were that age, because I am fairly sure that my band (shoutout to Pete X!) laid down performances that were almost as embarassing in my parent's basement (though I think even if youtube did exist then, we would have had the good sense not to post the footage):

Also, actually, Pete X was never this bad.

Friday, August 06, 2010

If Wyclef Jean Was President

I hope that in his campaign for president of Haiti, Wyclef remembers to uphold the seemingly supernatural promise he makes in the opening of this song.

"I'd get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, buried on Sunday, then go back to work on Monday." (Not the plan I'd go with, but I trust he knows what he's doing).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Your Latest Phish Update

The latest cover from Phish and it's, well, it's annoyed some folks. As a caveat, this came in the midst of "Harpua", which is traditionally a spot reserved for super goofy covers. Anyway, here you go...

What most surprises me here is how straightforward and faithful this is. And that they play the whole dang song.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

No Conclusion

A rare example of a 10 minute song that pays off like gangbusters. This guy knows how to build a song, and once you've heard the final release, the way he teases you with it the first time, ducking back into the verse after we initially hear the words "I never ever wanted to write this song" is agonizingly delicious.

Though not on the CD, this is the final track on the vinyl version of 'Hissing Fauna...', and I can't imagine the album without those extra songs on side four of the LP. I've made my own iPod version of the album including the whole 'Icons, Abstract Thee!' EP as the final tracks of the album and it works for me very well.

Kevin Barnes' lyrics on this album, so paranoid and embarrassingly personal, really speak to me. As melodramatic as they are, I love the crap out of them. This guy really got under my skin on Hissing Fauna, but sadly, Skeletal Lamping was a huge disappointment. Meh.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Latest From Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Glad to see Q and VC leading the migration back to the blog, and I'd like to chime in with my take on an old favorite of this collective. Bonnie "Prince" Billy's latest, The Wonder Show of the World, has been out for a good 3 months now, and it's aged quite well during that time span.

Musically, I'd place it between the open pop embrace of Lie Down in the Light and the spare open spaces of Master and Everyone. To me, this hits on two of Will Oldham's greatest qualities. I've gone off in the past about how minimalism as an "artistic choice" is kind of a cop-out for me, but there are some people who do minimalism damn well, and I think Will Oldham is one of them.

On the other hand, this new album isn't purely "minimalist" in terms of production values. It sounds professionally recorded to a degree I don't think I've heard since Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music, and that was a record that I think a lot of people found "produced" beyond an indie rocker's acceptable taste.

Take those comparisons as you will; this is a great record. The ensemble is great-- and gets equal billing for the first time-- and it features some of the most unabashed pop hooks of Oldham's career. If you're already a fan (and I think most of us are), I see no reason why you wouldn't be completely into this album.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Get This Album!

The best compliment I can give Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot is that it totally holds it's own even in the long shadow of the Outkast discography, and even in the complete absence of Andre 3000. (Although a couple of songs featuring Andre have leaked separately from the album, and are also very awesome.

As an added bonus, listen through to the end of this great new song, and be treated to a description of the most avant garde sex move since Soulja Boy introduced us to the superman.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Jam Time = Phish Time

It's summer, and the #1 band of that portion in my life when I saw most of you folk on a daily basis is doing their thing. That's right - let's talk Phish.

Because of the changes in mobile technology during their absence, the new Phish is a whole lot more accessible than ever before. Gone are the days of waiting for tapes - I know have pretty much all of the summer tour. And while I often am against this kind of relentless hoarding, which I think leads to collecting music, not listening to it, I have to say that I am indeed listening to an awful lot of Phish.

I won't get too into details, except to say that they are absolutely, 100% back, and sounding as good as they ever had. Some highlights for you:

An absolute destruction of Zep's "The Rover" that makes me wonder why they never covered this before:

Bizarrely, a cover of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." Weird, and didn't do a ton for me, but thought it might be of interest:

"2001" played on the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, and man is it a blast (I sacrificed video quality for sound quality on this one):

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hip Hop Hooray!

It's summer! And I finally have enough free time to be excited about new music again!

If you didn't already know, it's shaping up to be an great summer for hip hop:

To start with, The Roots just released a new album. I've only had a chance to listen to it a few times so far, but I definitely like it a lot. Maybe not as much as their last couple of albums...but then again, those two albums were both major growers, so I suspect that the true greatness of this new one may only gradually reveal itself.

Also, these guys are probably the only compelling reason to go see a Jimmy Fallon taping. They're really incredible in their role as house band, and when I went we were also treated to a pre-show performance of "The Seed 2.0".

And, Big Boi's new album is apparently actually for-reals coming out in a couple of weeks!! This may be the only album in a long time I'd describe myself as "eagerly anticipating", and there's every reason to hope that it's going to be very, very good.

Big Boi may just prove himself to be the underestimated Jeff Tweedy of the Outkast songwriting team.

I also have to say that from what I've heard of his stuff, that Drake kid actually appears to be pretty good. He's been mentored by Lil Wayne, raps about himself with the like-ability of Kanye West circa 2004, and is as Canadian as Neil Young! I haven't actually purchased any of his music...something about him makes me feel old. Maybe it's the fact that I've more than once had Drake lyrics shouted at me by defiant middle schoolers in Harlem, as if to say to me "this artist raps how I feel, and you couldn't understand, old man". But whether I actually end up trying to get into his album or not, you can't deny his talent. (Also, one could make an argument that Drake is greatly helping Kanye's 808's and Heartbreak production aesthetic seep further into the mainstream...which could be good or bad depending on your perspective.)

Hell, even Eminem appears to have released a solid new album! Now all we need is for Lil Wayne to give up on his dream of being a cross-over rock sensation. (Lupe Fiasco recently fared slightly better than Wayne, turning in a rap/rock song that's only mediocre. Maybe if Lupe were able to wed a radio-rock hook to his usual lyrical complexity, he could put something together that wasn't even half bad, but probably the New Moon soundtrack isn't the place to expect him to pull that off.)

Finally, on two not-entirely-related notes:

If you haven't seen it yet, check out this highly readable evisceration of M.I.A. by the New York Times.

Also, let me be the first to say on this blog: despite how much I'd like to resist this idea, Lady Gaga is addictively entertaining.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who is this actor...

...and when is somebody going to give him his own TV show for real??

Semi-Literate Former Gold Prospector Given Own Cable News Show

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More Joni

Well I have to say I was thrilled when Quinapalus shared his newfound Joni Mitchell appreciation with me. As I said in my comment to his post, she is truly among select company at the top of my all-time list. While Court and Spark is my favorite, I do want to share two others from later records:

First is "Coyote," off Hejira. This song is pretty famous; Jaco Pastorious's bass playing is legendary. It also just conjures up a beautiful "western" image for me. Montana or Wyoming or (more likely) Alberta.

The second is "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow" from The Hissing of Summer Lawns.

What's interesting for me about Joni Mitchell is that while she's forever singing about either California or Canada (and occasionally Detroit), I truly got into her while living in Boston. And almost all her music puts me back in that city, usually on my bike, out on a weekend ride. This song places me back at a specific intersection in Cambridge, about a half-mile north of Harvard Square. It's got nothing to do with the song, but Joni Mitchell will be indelibly associated with Boston for the rest of my life. (So will Jackson Browne-- ironically another Californian, but the second I hear "Late for the Sky," I'm on a hill in Roxbury.)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

My Joni Mitchell Phase

For years I resisted liking Joni Mitchell. I wrote her off as a hippy-dippy, self-absorbed 70s throwback...which she sort of is. But then I started listening to bits of Blue on YouTube and LaLa, not even really liking it at first--I'd even say finding it annoying on some level. But something made me keep wanting to come back for more despite myself. The complex wordplay, the loping unexpected melodies, the moody piano songs like "River" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard" that suddenly seemed to explain the basis of Tori Amos' whole career... before I knew it I had bought a copy and was listening to it obsessively.

Then I went to LA for week--which somehow put her music in an even better context for me, and where Drischord recommended a few of her jazz-influenced 70s albums. And now I'm all tangled up in 1974's Court and Spark, which I'm listening to about twice a day, and there seems to be no turning back. Count me a full-on fan, despite my years of resistance. There's even something in her mid-70s work that starts to remind me of Townes Van Zandt...but I think I could (and may) save that for another post.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rest In Peace, Alex Chilton

Oh man, this is another bad one. Alex Chilton dies at age 59.

There's almost no music in the world that I love more than the first 2 Big Star albums. You almost couldn't dream of a better fusion of the Beatles and the Stones. And even though Alex Chilton hadn't written a particularly great song in about 30 years, it still feels like he died way too young.

I saw Chilton on stage once. He was opening for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Roseland back when I was in high school. (Talk about a headliner unworthy of its opening act.) The audience was largely ignorant of Chilton's music and talked through much of it. And as a solo performer, he wasn't particularly compelling on stage. But it was still pretty cool to be in the presence of a giant. (At least by my estimation, he was one.)

To quote Paul Westerberg: "I never travel very far/ Without a little Big Star."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Chick Bad

Ludacris continues to be (in my mind, anyway) something roughly analogous to the Aerosmith of his generation. He doesn't take himself too seriously, he's obsessed with sex and partying, and he can write a really solid pop song.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Well, what the heck, here's yet another rap/rock mashup. There's actually something about mashing up "99 Problems" with Radiohead's "National Anthem" that really works.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's coming...

I hope that at least Via Chicago is as pumped as I am. Despite the disappointments of last season, I'm always ready for more.

Monday, March 08, 2010

PS22 Strikes Again!

Doing Collective favorites, Phoenix!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pavement's "Kennel District"

Been listening to a lot of Pavement lately in anticipation of seeing them at Pitchfork this year (anyone else seeing the Pavement reunion train?) and discovered this previously overlooked gem:

"Kennel District" from Wowee Zowee

I've always found Wowee Zowee to be the unfairly overlooked album in Pavement's catalog. Something about it's bizarre song fragments really appeals to me for the same reason I have an irrational love for Todd Rundgren's A Wizard A True Star album. And it's highs (Rattled by the Rush and Grounded primarily) are just so, so good. But somehow I've overlooked this song in the past, and I am the worse for it.

I love the combination of My Bloody Valentine-esque guitar with (dare I say) almost Wilco-style poppiness. It sounds very un-Pavement to me, but is just fantastic, and helpd remind me why this band still holds up, and why I can not wait to see them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

She needs cash, to buy asprin for her pain

On a friend's recommendation, I went back and listened to this song off of Live's 1994 smash hit Throwing Copper. The album as a whole is pretty ridiculous (even if I did enjoy it in earnest as a 15-year-old) but there's something about this bizarre song that's kind of great. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Field Music is back!

Field Music is back together after a brief hiatus in which they became The Week That Was and School of Language, both of which at one point Drischord and I were heartily in favor of. The new album is pretty stunning, if a little bit hard to digest, coming in at 20 tracks. Sounds like XTC meets Big Star.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I'm Just Gonna Keep Posting Vic Chesnutt Songs

I'm officially still mourning this man's passing, so I think the best thing I can do right now is keep posting his hauntingly* beautiful music and let it speak for itself.

This is "Supernatural" off his aforementioned Drunk album, which everyone should own.

* apologies for using the adjective/adverb "haunting(ly)" in consecutive posts

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bob Dylan Live at the White House

His range isn't even what it was in 1964, but this arrangement of "The Times They Are A-Changin" sounds like so much of his recent output... haunting.

Just part of a larger White House concert to commemorate music of the civil rights era.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Mercy Seat

Man, this song is good. I loved it when Johnny Cash sang it, but this version is just one more thing that tells me I need to get into Nick Cave at some point.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Unsung Insanity of Crispin Glover

Clowny Clown Clown! Oh dear God, I can't believe there's a video on YouTube of this Crispin Glover spoken-word train wreck! I can't express how amazed and delighted I was to come across this after all these years!

It even contains references to Glover's bizarre alter ego Rubin Farr, mentioned without explanation so that you'd have to make an effort to dig deeper into the Glover canon to find out what the heck he was talking about.

I'm tempted to go on for a long time, but really, I think the material speaks for itself.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Surprising Example of Well-Produced Music

Yesterday I stumbled across a slice of mid-'90s esoteria-- The Crash Test Dummies' random hit "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm." And I had two reactions:

1. The song holds up remarkably well. I actually really like it.

2. It's really well produced. The instruments are wonderfully clear and precise, the stereo mix is excellent, and while it is definitely compressed, there are still dynamics within the track.

Unfortunately I have to upload a compressed .mp3, so it's not going to sound as great in this stream. But check it out. I'm really impressed and would be interested to hear what some of the more discriminating audiophiles in our collective think.

I'd also welcome other examples of great production.

Press Time Update: Right before posting, I went to All Music Guide to see just who the hell produced this anyway. And I guess I wasn't alone in my opinion:

"Thanks to Jerry Harrison's remarkably clear and focused production, Crash Test Dummies' second album became a surprise hit."

Production mentioned in the first line of the review... and it's a "celebrity" producer no less! Yay Talking Heads! (sort of)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Quinapalus Does a Few Year-End Summations

I'm afraid I don't have a top ten list in me this time around. I was kind of on my own pop-cultural planet all year. Here is a quick summary:

Album of the Year:
Nirvana: Live at Reading. This was one of the very few albums released this year that I actually got a copy of, and I've listened to it nearly every day since it came out. Listening to it now gives me a new appreciation of what a fucking tight band they were.

Album from last year I've unexpectedly grown to like:
Bon Iver: For Emma Forever Ago. I resisted liking this for a very long time, but ever since Drischord's post a couple of months back in which he mentioned how much he liked the last song, I've been listening to the album via YouTube quite often, and in the end may even have to get a real copy of it. It has really grown on me.

Concert of the Year:
Wilco, on Coney Island. Quite seriously, my concert of the year, in that I literally don't think I went to a single other concert all year long. And in fact, I didn't get off my ass to buy a ticket even to this one, Tex just had an extra ticket and convinced me to go. Don't get me wrong: it was a GREAT concert, and I can't think of a band I would rather have been the only one I saw all year. But I am officially an old man now, and I just don't get off on loud noises the way I used to.

Semi-retraction of the year:
I'm afraid I went too far in my condemnation of Mos Def's newest album. It's not up to the level of his classic material, but not all of it is abysmal either (even if some of it is abysmal). It's not something I listened to very much in the end, but my initial review was the knee-jerk reaction of a once-devoted fan, who is being much too hard on an artist for not living up to his past glory.

YouTube find of the year:
Perhaps the most brilliant example you'll ever find of a once-devoted fan being extremely hard on an artist for not living up to his past glory. I tuned in to this sprawling dissection of all that is wrong with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace simply out of curiosity, expecting to watch about 2 minutes of it. Before all was said and done, I had not only watched all 70 minutes, but was truly awed by the talent it took to put together such a hilarious and damning essay, and held a new appreciation for just how terrible and disappointing that movie truly was.

Writer I always underestimated before this year:
J.K. Rowling. Those Harry Potter books are actually quite entertaining, especially starting with the third installment. The later books in the series are also pretty marvelously structured, and I could (and maybe someday will) write a whole essay on the unique, very contemporary, tongue-partly-in-cheek way she has chosen to meld together the myths and fantasy stories of the past into her Hogwartsian universe. (I would probably title that essay either "Identity Politics and Demi-Giants" or "Myth and Multiculturalism"). I may have more to say when I finish the series (I've got 1 and a half more books to go) but so far you can color me impressed.

Overall theme for the year:
Getting into material I can't wrap my head far enough around to post about yet. Musically, I've been on another planet this year for some reason, and one of these days I will learn enough about the Baroque period, and jazz fusion, to write competent posts on both topics. For the moment though, I'm still in the phase of just getting my mind blown, and have nothing worth sharing to say about either of those things yet. I've also been trying to learn French, and am getting much much better at reading it (if not speaking, writing, or listening to it), and the richness of the French literary tradition is in some ways only really starting to dawn on me. It's also very freeing to be able to read something, and feel basically OK that there are sentences that I can't make heads or tails of, paragraphs I have to spend an hour on to understand, and subtleties that are beyond a doubt going way over my head. It reminds me of being a kid and discovering British literature for the first time, and having a great time just entering into this vast, unexplored world, without it being necessary to understand it all: the newness and the mystery were part of the allure, and I knew I'd understand more with time.

I think I'd nearly forgotten how much fun it was to run up against something totally new that you couldn't quite wrap your head around. It can be quite rejuvenating!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Year in Review Update

I discovered a giant, massive, glaring omission in my Year in Review list. That being... the reunion of Faith No More. It's not just the fact that they returned, it's that they put on an absolutely amazing show for their first time back. Seriously, this is at lowest my #3 music moment of 2009, maybe #2, hell maybe #1. And if I'm being totally honest, while I am thrilled that Phish is back, if you told me that tomorrow I could either have tickets to a Phish show or FNM, I'd take the FNM tix in a heartbeat. Some of you might hate this, but I don't think it gets much better than the following for music in 09:

Monday, January 04, 2010

Eric's 2009 Roundup

I agree with D's assessment that this was a good year for "good" albums. I heard a decent amount of new music this year, plenty of which I enjoyed, but none of which particularly excited me (despite all of the blog/NYMag-based insanity for the Dirty Grizzly Collective). So, here are ten albums that I purchased this year that I enjoyed to varying degrees, listed without comment (in vague order of how much I liked/listened to them, but not really):
1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
2. Flaming Lips - Embryonic
3. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Beware
4. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
5. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
6. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
7. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
8. Wilco - Wilco (the album)
9. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
10. AC Newman - Get Guilty

As per my usual habit, this year I went through several phases where I spent weeks, if not months, listening to only one artist or genre. The phases proceeded thusly:

I). Winter: Bonnie Prince Billy and other sundry Will Oldham aliases -- Inspired by the high placement on last year's lists, I ended up picking up a handful of his albums, starting with Lay Down in the Light, which remains my favorite. This bled into . . .

II) Spring: Bob Dylan -- I hadn't been in a Dylan phase in years, and had mostly ignored his newer stuff. I was focused more on stuff that I hadn't played to death in high school (ie, Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks). I spent a lot of time listening to a great bootleg set of the complete Basement Tapes (can't remember if I posted about it, but google for "A Tree With Roots") and finally got really into Love & Theft. I also finally got around to seeing Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. I'm generally not a fan of Todd Haynes' work and I don't know if I liked this movie at all really, but because I was in such a Dylan phase at the time, it really hit the spot.

III) Summer: Michael Jackson -- I must have listened to other stuff until the Summer of Death began, but once MJ died, I listened to basically nothing but for a good month or so (focusing especially on the stuff I posted about in the linked entry).

IV) Fall: The Beatles -- I hadn't listened to a Beatles record in years. There was just no need -- I had heard every single note of every single album so many times that it became hard to derive much joy from sitting down and listening to an album. That all changed when they released the remasters this past year. The sound was definitely am improvement, though, except in a few cases (the stereo White Album especially) it wasn't totally revelatory. But sitting down to hear the sonic improvements and compare the stereo and mono mixes (I actually bit the bullet and bought the Mono Box Set, like the sucker that I am) forced me to actively listen to music that had long become background music. And Sgt. Pepper in mono really is better (except for a couple moments)!

V) Late Fall / Winter: Motown -- For the past couple of months I have been listening to literally nothing but Motown. On this message board I sometimes go to, a guy is going through and reviewing / posting links to download every single Motown (or affiliated label) LP, in order of release. Many of these are out of print on CD, though easy enough to find online (check out Although Motown is, of course, first and foremost, a singles label (and certainly many of the albums are nothing but singles with some filler), many of the LPs are fantastic in their own right. As a first priority, seek out good singles compilations (preferably in mono -- it makes a HUGE difference, no joke) for The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. But a quick top five album recommendations:
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - You're All I Need
Temptations - With a Lot O' Soul
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - Make it Happen
The Supremes - More Hits By The Supremes (not a compilation)
Martha and the Vandellas - Watchout!

Motown basically has the best songwriting, the best production, the best playing (especially the drumming and bass playing), the best grooves, and the best singing. So its kind of by definition the best music ever. It's difficult for our generation, because it has been so muzak-ized by its use in commercials and movies. You definitely have to approach the music from a specific mindset to hear "I Heard it Through The Grapevine" as one of the coolest, tightest grooves ever laid to wax (it has three drummers!) and not a California Raisins commercial. But once you can, there's a seemingly endless well of amazing music to be enjoyed.

(Looking back, I spent the back half of 2009 listening to the greatest pop music ever by almost any account. While I certainly enjoyed Bitte Orca, it just can't compete).

I'm still in the Motown phase, though the lists people have already posted have given me some good stuff to check out and download from eMusic, before I cancel my subscription because I've now forgotten to download my allotment before it resets TWICE, which pisses me off to no end. Happy 2010!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Inevitable Soundgarden Reunion Finally Materializes

Only sloth and/or forgetfulness has kept me from predicting on this blog that Soundgarden would be the next major band to reunite.

I've thought as much ever since Chris Cornell released his floor-scraping, jaw-droppingly awful album with Timbaland earlier this year. And now the news appears confirmed. According to their website: "The 12 year break is over and school is back in session."

This is great news-- assuming that none of Cornell's projects from the past 12 years bleed into this reunion. Also, there's the complication that Matt Cameron has been the drummer of Pearl Jam for 11 of those 12 years and apparently has no plans to leave. So we'll see how it all evolves...

Q's Vic Chestnutt post

I'm still working on my year-end list...hopefully I will have some free time to actually finish it before it's time for next year's list.

In the meantime, I just wanted to add my own two-cents about the late great Vic Chestnutt. He was an artist I always liked when I heard him, even if I never got around to buying very many of his albums. In fact, I'm pretty sure I only ever bought one of his albums, 2001's Left To His Own Devices (on Drischord's recommendation, I assume).

I can't speak very objectively about my favorite song from that album, because it was one of those songs that in my early 20's I would have said "changed my life". To this day it's burned into my memory as a song that actually caused me to look at the world in a way I never had before. This song was like a sharp needle pricking my inflated, liberal sense of pride and goodwill, and letting me know that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about half the time.

Maybe the song is the stunning classic it still sounds like to me...maybe it was just a pretty good song that I came across at exactly the right moment for it to have a huge effect on my young consciousness. In either case, I present for you "We Should Be So Brave".

RIP Vic Chestnutt.