Monday, March 31, 2008

March Music Madness

I've purchased way too much music this past month--I fully admit I've been binging. But a lot of great stuff came out, some of which I've already written about here. Below are some mini-reviews and a list (in general order of not-my-favorite to favorite) of most of the stuff I've been listening to that was released in the month of March. Albums that have already been reviewed on this blog will not get much of a review, just my oh-so-clever "verdicts".

12) British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
This album's just not doing much for me. Verdict: Like eating Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream. It might be "high quality," but it's still just vanilla.

11) Punch Brothers - Punch
This album is the Next Big Project from Chris Thile, the very talented mandolin player from the now defunct Nickel Creek. The musicianship here is incredible, but I'm only sporadically in a blue grass mood. There's definitely a lot of promise here, but I know this one won't get a lot of play time. Verdict: Like listening to something Doc Watson-y, but with 20-something angst.

10) The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
John Darnielle is an excellent song writer, yes. But his music isn't particularly creative, and his voice is downright terrible. There are, however, some great nerdcentric songs here, including "Lovecraft in Brooklyn," How to Embrace a Swamp Creature," and "Michael Myers Resplendent." Yet I still think he peaked with Tallahassee and everything since then has just been pretty OK for the most part. Verdict: Like struggling to read a brilliant poem that has been scrawled in chicken scratch handwriting on wet newspaper.

9) Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
This album hasn't grown on me as well as I'd hoped it would. I'll stick by my initial review--good, but not really good. Verdict: Like listening to either of the last two Malkmus albums.

8) Flogging Molly - Float
I remain pleasantly surprised by this one and continue to enjoy it. Verdict: Like learning that your favorite Irish pub not only pours a perfect pint, but also serves up mean bowl of stew.

7) Elf Power - In a Cave
I've spent the last six or seven years trying to get people into Elf Power, but as far as I know I haven't won over any converts. They're a consistently good band from the old Elephant 6 Collective (wow, I'm an official pretentious music blogger now for mentioning that!), and I'd rank this album better than their last (Back to the Web) and nearly as good as their 2004 release, Walking With the Beggar Boys. I'd recommend The Winter is Coming or A Dream in Sound before this album to Elf Power newcomers, but this is a little indie pop bit of fun with the usual multiple instruments and catchy hooks. Verdict: Like visiting an old friend who's stories are kind of familiar, but thoroughly entertaining nonetheless.

6) The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
I ended up getting this album (and I have to confess, there's a good chance it came out before March) because of the song "Kenya Dig it?" It pretty much captures the tone of the whole album, which is kind of Animal Collective-y, but in my opinion, much more accessible. And Pitchfork gave it an 8.3, for what its worth. Verdict: Like getting dragged to go see some "experimental" band and grudgingly realizing you really like it.

5) The Ditty Bops - Summer Rains
The Ditty Bops is another group I'd really like more people to discover, but it's been a hard sell. They got some publicity last year for touring across the country on bicycles, but hey, their music's pretty good, too. As their name suggests, their songs are pretty much ditties, but they're fun. Abby DeWald and Amanda Barrett harmonize beautifully together, and they just really seem like they're having a good time. Oh, and they're also pretty cute (see the video from my favorite track on the album, "I Stole Your Wishes"). In any case, this is the perfect spring album--any winter blues I still had disappeared upon hearing it. Verdict: Like walking into a vintage clothing store and realizing that it's where all the cute girls in the neighborhood hang out (yeah, sometimes I don't understand my verdicts either).

The following three albums tie for second place!

2c) The Kills - Midnight Boom
Though I'm not quite as enthusiastic about this album as Clyde Squid, I will acknowledge that it's excellent. I will definitely seek out their earlier stuff. As much as I like a group like The Ditty Bops, I would not drive down the street blasting them out the car windows. I could definitely do that with The Kills. Verdict: Like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The White Stripes had a love child.

2b) The Dodos - Visiter
If I haven't already convinced people that The Dodos are a band to check out with this post, or with my recent review of their new album (which includes its verdict), then I give up.

2a) She & Him - Volume One
When I first heard about this album from M. Ward and the actress Zooey Deschanel, I posted about it because I thought it sounded pretty cool. I took the post down relatively quickly because I was kind of embarrassed by my own enthusiasm for what could have been an actress's ego project. It turns out that my enthusiasm was justified: this album is really friggin' good. The songs, all of which were written by Deschanel with the exception of a few covers, tend to have a bit of a retro feel to them--think Motown in its hay day. Deschanel is not a phenomenal singer, but her voice is pretty and comfortable and I definitely don't get tired of hearing it. You don't hear a lot of M. Ward on here, but his careful production and guitar playing is always evident. From the sweet and eerily catch first track, "Sentimental Heart" to the closer, "Sweet Darlin'", I'm truly impressed with this album. Verdict: Like finally getting to meet the cutest girl in school and realizing that she's also wicked smart, really nice, and has a great sense of humor.

1)Jim White - Transnormal Skiperoo
Still a strong contender for my favorite album of the year so far. Verdict: Like going to a Carolina pig pickin' with your best friends on a perfect southern day, hearing stories that make you laugh and cry, and going home really, really happy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Not To Put Too Fine a Point On It....

Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and author, describes in his biography the life-changing raw oyster that made him realize that food would be a central part of his life.

My raw oyster was the video for "Birdhouse in Your Soul", by They Might Be Giants, which I saw at my grandparents' house on the MTV (we had no cable at our house, so MTV was a rare treat). I would have been 13 years old, and before that point, music was really not a part of my life. I rarely listened to the radio, and I'd never purchased or asked for music of any kind. This video caught my eye; the song caught my ear. As soon as I was able, I purchased Flood, my first album. It's the album that made me fall in love with music. It made me the music snob I am today, always wanting to be that guy who listens to the weird stuff. In my rural New Hampshire high school, I was the guy who listened to They Might Be Giants and The Pixies--really, the guy. I honestly have no idea what other people listened to, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I went to see a TMBG show tonight, and it was fantastic. My sister got the tickets and I saw them for the first time in about 8 years. Not only was it the best Giants show I'd ever seen, but it was one of the best shows I've ever seen, period. After over 25 years together (!), the two Johns still bring it. Sure, Flansburgh was drinking coffee during the set and had to tie his shoe at one point, and Linnell was recovering from a cold, but the energy they brought was still amazing. I could not wipe the grin off my face from the first song to the last song of the second encore. I was singing and dancing along with the hundreds of other fans, ranging in age from 14 to people in their 60s.

I don't think it was just the nostalgia--though that certainly played a role. They were genuinely good, and if they weren't having fun up there, they're damn good actors. I have to find the guitarist's name, because he was phenomenal. They cherry-picked the best songs from nearly all their albums, including at least 4 from Flood and "Fingertips" from Apollo 18. Even the songs they played from their last album, which was really not my favorite, sounded a lot better live. I guess I really hadn't appreciated it before, perhaps because the other venues I've seen them in were kind of on the crappy side, but they really are incredible live.

Hands down, the most fun I've had at a show in a long time. I felt 13 again. I was reminded why I love music as much as I do. The fans are my people, and if you're reading this blog, probably your people, too. If you've never seen TMBG live before, do yourself a favor and check them out. Verdict: like realizing that you can go back again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

So Long, Productivity

Trey Parker and Matt Stone: American heroes. You can now watch EVERY episode of South Park streamed online, for free, legally. DVD sales be damned, these guys are sharing their "art" with the world.

I've only been watching South Park sporadically for the last 6 or 7 years, so if anyone has any particularly good episodes to recommend, please let me know in the comments.

It's my hot body, I'll do what I want!

Friday, March 21, 2008

We Have a Visiter

At the risk of practically shoving this band down everyone's throats, I highly encourage you to check out The Dodos if you haven't done so already. I just listened to their new album, Visiter, and it was as great as I expected. Since I've already raved about this band at length in an earlier post, I won't get too wordy. Though to some extent the novelty has worn off (considering the number of times I've listened to their earlier album over the last few months), it just all comes down to this being my new favorite band. Hell, even Pitchfork gave this album an 8.5, so for once the Pitchforkers and I agree.

There are a few more instruments tossed in here than there were on Beware of the Maniacs, and there's 5 songs that actually break the 6 minute mark, but they don't feel like long songs. The insane drumming and strumming makes even the longest songs whiz by. This video of the album's stand out track, "Fools", should give you a taste of what you're in for here.

Album Verdict: Like visiting and exciting foreign country for the second time, and realizing that the place is only getting better with every visit.

Beer Review: Magic Hat's Lucky Kat

As I mentioned in a previous post, Magic Hat is one of my favorite New England breweries, so when I saw that they were coming out with a new year-around beer (OK, I subscribe to their newsletter, alright?), I had to give it a shot. Lucky Kat is an IPA, and though the beer's details can be found here, what you really need to know is that it weighs in at a hefty 58 IBUs. To put that in perspective, #9 scores an 18 on the same bitterness scale.

And man, can you taste the B in those bitter units. As I get older, I find my tastes (and perhaps personality) veer more and more away from the sweet and towards the bitter. I prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and the IPA has gone from one of my least favorite beer styles to a near-favorite. I was surprised that Magic Hat was coming out with this since they already have their seasonal hI.P.A. in the spring, but Lucky Kat packs a bigger hops whollop and is really the bolder beer.

On the first sip, the hops crashes into your tongue--instantly refreshing. There's not much lingering flavor here, no big surprises. This beer is bringing one flavor to the table, and it does that well. It doesn't warm particularly well, however, so I would drink it relatively quickly or keep it well insulated.

I find that a fairly strong IPA like this one can kill the flavor of most foods, so when I have something this bitter I tend to pair it with something pretty spicy. In my case, I was eating pizza with a good dose of hot sauce, and they went together quite nicely. If you're trying to savor something with a rich but subtle flavor, I'd avoid a beer like Lucky Kat.

Verdict: very drinkable (if you're into IPAs), like popping a Warhead in your mouth, but bitter instead of sour.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's As Awesom As I Predicted

The new The Kills album is awesome. Even more awesome than I predicted.

So far, best album of the year...

A must-buy if there ever were one!

My New Favorite Band Of Today For This Month

Billy Talent.

Now that I don't get to venture into cool clubs with awesome music, Sirius has become my source for the new cool shit.

And I love me some Billy Talent...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Black Hole

I started reading Charles Burns's graphic novel Black Hole during the tale end of my stomach bug. Boy was that risky.

On its most basic level, this is a story about a group of teens in Seattle during the 70s who have/don't have/are about to have a sexually transmitted disease called simply "the bug." Though apparently not deadly, the bug causes hideous mutations in some of its victims (like the guy with huge boils all over his face), affectively forcing them into seclusion. Some people with the disease are able to hide the mutations and still blend in (like the dude with a mouth in his chest).

The book isn't about what causes the disease, or what could cure it. It really just follows a few kids--some cool, some not-so-cool--and how they deal with every day high school life in the context of the bug. A nerd falls for a cool girl and tries too hard to impress her. The nice girl falls for the bad boy, who maybe isn't so bad.

I've read a few reviews that say the bug is supposed to represent AIDS, but I think that's a stretch. There may be some parallels, but I think the book is more about the trials and tribulations (and overall suckitude) of high school, amplified an order of magnitude by this disease. It's like "Freaks and Geeks", but with horrible disfiguring illness!

One review I read described the book as "Cronenberg-esque", and that's the best way to describe the images here. I actually thought of Cronenberg before I read that description. Some of the scenes in this book make the worst parts of The Fly look almost appetizing. The black-and-white illustrations are more than enough to convey the disturbing themes Burns is going for. Indeed, if the graphics had been in color, it would probably have been too gross, distracting the reader from the story itself.

I guess Cronenberg has traded in his seeping pustules and gristle guns for more dramatic fare these days, and the rumor is that David Fincher is adapting this book to film. Great director, but I'm not sure how well this will translate to screen. I'm afraid a movie would only be viewed as gross-out horror, but there are some characters here that are actually worth knowing. It'll be a neat trick if they pull it off.

In any case, I certainly would not whole-heartedly recommend this one to everybody, but I enjoyed it and I reckon those of you with strong stomachs would like it, too. I've decided to abandon my Newspeak rating system because it was pretty boring, so I'm working on wrapping up reviews with a simple simile that conveys what I thought about what I watched/read/listened to. Attempt #1: Reading Black Hole was like forcing yourself to eat a meal worm sandwich, and discovering that it tasted way better than you expected.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Re-Made Ultra-Disturbing Cult Film

For those of you who haven't seen the unhinged Austrian horror-thriller Funny Games, an American remake is coming out soon. It's a shot-by-shot recreation of the 10-year-old original with a fine cast and the original director.

The movie includes an obtuse third-person to second-person switch, which initially is quite annoying. However, by the end of the movie, you get it. And you feel sick. Very, very sick...


Friday, March 14, 2008

Hipster With A One-Year-Old

Evelyn Is Not Real left the following comment on my "THEM" post from a few days ago:

I think you should write a top ten list of things that people with one-year olds should think about doing as well as ten things people with one-year olds might as well forget about doing. Inquiring minds want to know.

'Kay, I'll give it a shot.

5 Things to Forget About Doing If You Have a One-Year-Old (in no particular order)

5) Forget about making top ten lists. Who has time for that? Five should be sufficient.

4) Forget about going to the movies, or at least going to the movies frequently. I went from seeing a movie every few weeks to seeing a couple movies a year. I miss it a little, but it does make going to the movies more of an event.

3) Forget about eating out. I am a Golden Rule kind of guy, and I never liked it when people brought their screaming kid into a restaurant (particularly if it's clearly not a family restaurant). I'm not about to inflict my child on others unless it's really an emergency. Take-out is still a very viable option.

2) Forget about seeing a lot of live music. Even if you have a spouse who understands that you want to go to shows and is willing to take the kid on his/her own for a night, stamina is an issue. If your kid's not sleeping through the night, the prospect of a headliner not starting until 11PM is truly daunting. Like going to the movies, you don't have to give up going to shows, but it's important to choose wisely.

1) Forget about reading a book a week. Lack of time and lack of sleep makes it unlikely that you're going to tear through your stack of unread books. Obviously you're going to read (you may be reading Green Eggs and Ham several times a week), but you might be reading that 500-page novel for the next three months, so it better be a good'un.

5 Things to Think About Doing If You Have a One-Year-Old (in more of a particular order)

5) Think about consuming your TV in DVD format. The idea of being able to watch a TV show at the same time week after week is almost laughable. I can go weeks without watching anything and then binge on a Saturday night when I can't sleep. I suppose you can download the shows you want to watch, too (I don't condone that) or some things are streamed. Whichever way you do it, TV watching at your own convenience is the only way to go.

4) Think about reading more graphic novels and/or comic books. They're not just for kids anymore. Indeed, my kid won't be allowed access to mine until he's at least 12. There are a lot of quality stories out there, as well as amazing art. It can be difficult to make the mental leap into thinking comics are OK for adults, but anyone who doesn't at least try a few graphic novels out is missing out on a whole genre of pop culture. And importantly, they can be consumed relatively quickly. It can be difficult to know where to start if you walk blindly into a comic shop, but I've been putting up several excellent suggestions on this blog, if I do say so myself.

3) Think about blogging. It's not particularly time-consuming (at least it doesn't have to be), and it can help maintain the illusion that you still have contact with the adult world. That's important.

2) Think about listening to a lot of music. Unless you listen to a lot of death metal or gangsta rap, it's pretty fun listening to music with the kid, and if you're lucky, you're excellent taste will rub off on your offspring (see my recent sievkins post on this theory). And though there's certainly a lot of terrible children's music out there, there's a lot of good stuff, too. Anyone lucky enough to receive a recent mix from me with the song "Funky Butt"--yeah, that's from one of my son's CDs. And my sister recently gave us an album of Woody Guthrie's children's music, which is excellent. It's also fun to watch the little guy shake his diaper-wrapped booty to my music. Maybe, just maybe, he'll be as good a dancer as me.

1) Think about spending as much time as possible just hanging out with your kid. Nothing is more important, or more rewarding, for me anymore. Everything is new to them, and watching a child see or hear or touch or taste something for the first time is the most precious experience I've ever had. I realize this has all been described by others before me, and much more articulately, but it bears repeating. No movie you watch, no song you hear, no book you read will ever compete with watching your kid touch a kitty for the first time. Eventually, I may able to introduce The Bug to my dorky pop culture world (I can't wait to show him Star Wars for the first time), but until then, it's his fascination with everyday things that I'm really enjoying. The things I mentioned in the first list on this post don't feel like sacrifices to me. Having a child just changes one's priorities, and I'm totally cool with that.

These are, of course, simply one aging hipster's opinions. But I hope it clears a few things up for EINR (and for the record, I'll stop mentioning my lack of time for watching/reading stuff in my posts--I suppose it is getting a bet tiresome).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And In The "About F$#&%ing Time" Department....

Huzzah! This here link tells us that George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons finally has a release date. Mark your calendars for Sept. 30th of this year--at least that's when Amazon claims it will be released. Personally, I'm still skeptical since Martin's website mentions nothing of this highly anticipated event. But hey, there's a cover. And it's green. If it really is coming out, I know at least a few of us won't be getting much sleep for a few nights.

Clyde Squid, I blame YOU for this torment. I never would have embarked upon this series if it hadn't been for you.

You Can't Take the Sky From Me

Yesterday Dark Horse released the first Whedon-scripted Serenity comic of a three issue series. I have to say, I don't think the Firefly world translates into comics quite as well as the Buffyverse (Season 8 continues to be excellent, btw--the last issue was especially good). To some extent, there was always a cartoonish aspect of Buffy to begin with, and the comic is able to do a lot of things that would have been too expensive for the TV show. The Serenity comic doesn't really latch onto the increased freedom of the medium.

That said, it was still a fun read, and it was great to slip back into those characters and the Brown Coat dialog once again. This short series takes place sometime between when the TV series episodes left off and before the movie, so I guess one can think of it as a single TV episode. This means that Wash and Book are around, though neither character has much of a presence in this issue. The story is cool so far--ten pages in there was already a twist that I didn't see coming.

I think with a little tweaking, Serenity could turn into a great regular comic series, but I'm not getting my hopes up. Joss has explained in numerous places that as much as he likes writing comics, it's not going to get his kids through college. Yet since there's virtually no chance of Firefly hitting the small screen or big screen again (though I think a direct-to-DVD movie shouldn't be out of the question), these comics might be our last glimpse of the 'Verse.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I [Heart] The Kills

New album soon. If you don't like them, you suck.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


No, this post isn't about the 1954 giant ant movie, it's about Jon Ronson's book THEM: Adventures with Extremists. I'd been thinking about checking out Ronson's book for a while. He's a frequent contributor on NPR's This American Life, and his dry sense of humor appealed to me.

The cover of the book gives a perfectly adequate summary of what this book is about:

"Is there really, as the extremists claim, a secret room from which a tiny elite secretly rule the world? And if so, can it be found? This book is a journey into the heart of darkness, involving PR-savvy Ku Klux Klansmen, the story of Ruby Ridge, a harem of kidnapped sex slaves, and Nicolae Ceausescu's shoes. While Jon Ronson attempts to locate the secret room he is chases by men in dark glasses, unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp, and witnesses CEOs and leading politicians--like Dick Cheney--undertake a bizarre owl ritual in the forests of northern California."

If that doesn't grab your attention, what will? There are several remarkable aspects of this book. One, Ronson meets with these extremists who are almost universally loathed, and he manages to tell their story without judging them. This is journalism that's just hard to find these days. Ronson gains access, he observes, and he reports. And he finds humor in each of these situations, albeit dark humor for the most part. At times, Ronson may seem almost too sympathetic with some of his subjects, particularly with the Klansman he follows for weeks, but in the end, the people he follows tend to sink themselves.

It should be noted that this book would not have succeeded as well as it has if Ronson himself was not Jewish. Most of the people with whom he interacts believe not only that the world is run by a small, secret group of individuals, but that those individuals are Jewish. The tension this situation creates, especially in the Jihad camp and when Ronson visits Aryan Nations, is palpable. Some of the visits Ronson pays may come off as stunts, but they still make for good stories. I found the interviews with the survivors of Ruby Ridge particularly enlightening.

The major weakness of the book probably lies in the chapter referring to Ceausescu's shoes. It's an interesting anecdote, but it has nothing to do (as far as I could tell) with the rest of the books themes. And does Ronson actually ever find the secret rulers of the world? Well...sort of. The answer is somewhat anticlimactic, but I still found it satisfying.

So I'm sorry if this review is a bit jarbled. I'm a bit sick at the moment, and I read so little non-fiction that I'm barely sure how to even approach it. It should suffice to say that this was an excellent read (and it would be a quick one, for people without one-year-olds). I highly recommend it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Turning the Dial: Just Be

Evelyn Is Not Real-style album reviews of 'new' releases:

So 'newer' in the sense that I've just started listening to these albums recently, but I'm pretty sure they are in fact new releases. Incidentally, all the groups start with the letter B.
  • British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music? Why thanks for asking... yes, I do like ROCK music. This album is highlighted with intricate guitar play (not quite wanking). Very poppy. For me, there is usually more incentive to pick-up new music of groups I've never heard of, if they are planning to stop in Nashvegas on their tour. If I recall, that is one reason why I picked this up. That and a good friend of mine, who just happens to work at Grimey's (our local indie music store), recommended it. His tastes are very similar to mine. Pitchfork reviewed it here and gave it a U.2 score (yes, as in the band). Haha. Funny. Yes, P-effers think it reminds them of U2 from the 2000s, not 1980s U2. Blah, blah, blah. It is an album that has grown on me and if you've got extra money laying around, I'd recommend picking it up. As an aside, in a recent trend that I appreciate as a vinyl collector, you can get the LP, and it includes free MP3 download of songs. Nice. Tracks I particularly dig: "Waving Flags" and "No Lucifer." These guys kind of remind me of the Secret Machines.
  • Black Mountain - In Our Future. On BM's myspace page this group describes their music as psychedelic, healing & easy-listening (aka 'we sound great when you are high'). Prog rock is what I'd call it. Not really my cup of tea. But that being said, their music is like a tape worm. I'm not really happy with liking that I have one, but damn, I can eat anything I want. You see, that's the kind of shit that you'll write if you listen to In Our Future enough. It just grows on (in) you. Going to see these guys this Monday as they are touring with Bon Iver (the main reason I'm going to the show, and I've already described how I feel about For Emma, Forever Ago [damn good album]). Pitchfork reviewed In Our Future here and gave it a 7.4. I don't mind listening to "Wucan."
  • Beach House - Devotion. In all honesty, this is a hard album for me to say much about. It lies in that realm of 'I've listened to the album 4 or 5 times, and I can't decide if I hate it or it's going to be a favorite-of-the-year for me.' Usually, if I feel this way about an album, I end up really loving it, so I guess we will see. As for the music, I have to quote Pitchfork's review (as I can't come up with anything better) in that "Their elicate, lovelorn pop comes in the form of deathly waltzes and dark pastoral dirges." Sometimes Pitchfork gets it right. BTW, they gave it a 8.5. What more can I say? I think I still prefer Trailer Bride as a group over this though, but it took me a frickin' long time to realize I liked TB. Some striking songs off the album for me "Wedding Bell" , "Holy Dances" and "D.A.R.L.I.N.G."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My New Favorite Band Of Today

I heard this band on Sirius Punk today and bought their latest album tonight. It fucking rocks!

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Ed. Note: Seriously, buy this album now!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First Impressions: Stephen Malkmus, Flogging Molly, Jim White

Since my last First Impressions post was so popular (0 comments!), I decided to do it again. These are three albums I've been looking forward to, and they all came out today (3/4). I started with:

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Malkmus's first album after Pavement, which was self-titled, was and remains my favorite since he teamed up with the Jicks. Every song on that album was a gem as far as I'm concerned. and Pig Lib and Face the Truth came next, and both were OK. He started throwing some long-ass songs on these albums, guitaring out. I can appreciate that, but I have to be in the mood for it. I just gave RET a first listen and I'd say it's about on par with the last two albums--good, but not plusgood. The title track is the long one here, coming in at just under 10 minutes. It's actually one of my favorite songs, though I'll obviously need a few more listens to really appreciate it. "Hopscotch Willie", "Gardenia", and "We Can't Help You" also stood out as some decent tracks. I usually hear something new every time I listen to a Malkmus song, whether it's a Pavement tune or post-pavement. He's definitely not a one listen guy, so I'm looking forward to giving this one several more spins.

Flogging Molly - Float
OK, I'll make a confession. The primary reason I bought this album is that Newbury Comics (where I get 90% of my CDs) was giving away a free Flogging Molly pint glass with purchase of the CD, which was only $10 to begin with. I am helpless in the face of free pint glasses. I say it was the primary reason because my problem with groups like Flogging Molly is that sometimes I really can't distinguish between one song and the next, never mind one album to the next. Yes, the music is fast and fun, but do you really need more than one of their albums? That said, I was pleasantly surprised by Float. Yes, the first two songs are the fast and fun type, but the title track is excellent and a bit of a departure from the tried and true formula, as is the next track, "You Won't Make a Fool Out of Me." I'm not going to say every song on this disc is a winner by any means, but I liked it enough on this first listen to give it a tentative plusgood.

Jim White - Transnormal Skiperoo
Whew...I don't even know where to start with this one. It's hard for me to say in early March--after one single listen, no less--that I've just heard my favorite album of the year. But man...for something to top this would be a challenge. Maybe it's the fact that I listened to it on my headphones in the middle of the night. Maybe it's just because it's exactly kind of music I needed to hear right now. Or maybe it's solely because it's a fan-friggin-tastic album. I've raved about Jim White before, and I honestly didn't think he'd top or even equal his last album, Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See. Though I'll obviously have to give it a few more listens, this album may do just that. Lyrically, when I listen to these songs, I want to hang on to every word, like I used to listen to the stories my grandpa used to tell me. White's songs are saturated in the American South--the beauty, the ugliness, the sadness, and the humor of the South are all captured here. His words can make me smile with an amusing ditty like "Turquoise House", or nearly cry, as was the case with "Plywood Superman." Musically, these songs are such a bizarre mixture of old style country with splashes of different instruments and production, that there's no way to pin them down. One song may just be a banjo and guitar, but the next will throw in some horns or even the occasional recorder. Combine Harry Chapin, Beck, and Johnny Cash, and you might get something that comes close, but still not quite. "Fruit of the Vine" is the song that got me into Jim White in the first place--I liked the first version I heard a little better, but that was recorded live on Flannery O'Connor's porch, and it would have been difficult to improve upon that. All the songs here are good or great, however, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, it's 3:17AM as I write this, so maybe I'll come to my senses after a few more hours of sleep. Nevertheless, even after one listen, I will give this album a doubleplusgood without hesitation. Please give it a shot.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Turning the dial: For Emma, Forever Ago

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago: Wow... just wow. I just came across For Emma, Forever Ago by Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver). I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but I have not been struck by music like this in a very long time. Pitchfork was dead on with the review when Mr. Deusner (Pitchforkian staffer) writes "[For Emma, Forever Ago] exudes such a strong sense of loneliness and remoteness that you might infer some tragedy behind it...the sound of a man left alone with his memories and a guitar." Goes along with what I've always thought... mind-blowin' art is often the result of some unspeakable sadness or tragedy. I'd recommend picking it up. Leave it at that.

Meet the man himself: George A. Romero

Cross-posted from True to Life.

Nashville doesn't usually get these types of events; however, our little indie theatre, the Belcourt, is showing an advanced screening of Diary of the Dead on March 21st. The real news is that George Romero will be in attendance for the film, and I'm hoping for a short interactive parley with fans. I suppose the main reason I'm posting this is for Clyde Squid, but who knows, splash damage is also a possibility. For those interested, the link for tickets.

As a side note, I went to the Ryman last night to see Wilco perform. They played an amazing set and have recently been playing songs from some of the older albums. Last time Tweedy was in town he encored with the Tupelo song 'Acuff-Rose' by coming out to the edge of the stage and playing it without amplification. Must have left an impression as this time we were treated to 'Someone Else's Song' performed in a similar fashion.

Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, TN
[Thanks Jaysus for posting the setlist on Via Chicago.]

1) Via Chicago – Summer Teeth
2) Blood of the Lamb – Mermaid Avenue Volume 2
3) Pieholden Suite - Summer Teeth
4) California Stars - Mermaid Avenue
5) Company in my Back – A Ghost Is Born
6) You Are My Face – Sky Blue Sky
7) Side with the Seeds – Sky Blue Sky
8) Pot Kettle Black – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
9) Shot in the Arm – Summer Teeth
10) She's a Jar – Summer Teeth
11) Handshake Drugs – A Ghost Is Born
12) Impossible Germany – Sky Blue Sky
13) It's Just That Simple – A.M.
14) Pick Up the Change – A.M.
15) Too Far Apart – A.M.
16) Nothingsevergonnastandinmywayagain – Summer Teeth
17) Jesus etc. – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
18) Hate It Here – Sky Blue Sky
19) Walken – Sky Blue Sky
20) I'm the Man Who Loves You – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

--------encore 1--------

21) Someone Else's Song (Tweedy w/o amplification) – Being There
22) Misunderstood – Being There
23) The Thanks I Get – Unreleased, although it was on Sunken Treasure DVD
24-25) Red Eyed and Blue -> I Got You – Being There
26) Monday – Being There

--------encore 2---------

27) The Late Greats – A Ghost Is Born

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cinematic Titanic: MST3K's Mutant Baby

So it's 3AM and I've spent the last hour and a half watching The Oozing Skull, the first installment from Cinematic Titanic, or as I like to think of it, Joel-Hodgson-and-the-rest-of-the-original-Mystery Science Theater 3000-crew-finally-realized-they're-only-good-at-one-thing.

MST3K is the show I would take with me to a desert island. It's the show that sparked my sick pop culture obsession. I've missed it terribly. I was pretty pumped when I first heard about this project, which is basically MST3K without the robots, and more people commenting directly at the movie.

Well, you can't go back again. Not that I didn't enjoy the "movie." The Oozing Skull was suitably terrible and thoroughly riffable. I laughed out loud frequently. A lot of stuff also fell pretty flat. Some bits just weren't that clever, or they dragged on too long, or they were so obscure that only someone who hasn't left their couch for 40 years would get them (see Frank's one blog post on the web site for a few of those).

Then again, this was their first shot at this, and MST3K certainly had its share of duds. I'm not going to give up on these guys, but I'm also not going to heartily recommend that anyone shell out the money to buy this DVD. If Clyde Squid (who's probably the only other contributor here even remotely interested in this) wants to check it out, I'll send him my copy. It's probably worth watching with his I'd Give You Some... friends if ya'll haven't seen it already. Sorry I can't give it a really glowing review, but using my Newspeak system, I can only give this one a good.

Trailer | Cinematic Titanic