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Archive for the ‘Nick Dewar’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Easy Wonderful (2010).

This Guster album is confusing.  It’s rather short (compared to their other discs).  Combined with the (kind of flimsy) cardboard packaging, it feels almost like an EP.  It also seems to be kind of religious (although I don’t think it is)–like a themed EP.  And yet it isn’t off-putting or anything (a few mentions of Jesus is all, although that’s a lot more than usual).

But, like most of Guster’s releases, it’s super catchy kind of alternative jangly pop.  After one or two listens the songs are instantly recognizable.  There isn’t a bad song in the bunch.  However, they’re also mildly underwhelming compared to their previous releases.  The songs feel a bit more subtle, but really it seems like they might be just a little too smooth.  The dynamics aren’t quite as exciting as they have been.

Having said all that, the disc is still pretty great and I find myself humming a lot of these songs all day long.

[READ: June 18, 2011] Five Dials Number 12

Five Dials Number 12 has a theme explicitly stated on the cover.  The premise of the theme is that the Conservative Party of Britain had been claiming (in their TV ads and billboards) that Britain was broken.  This idea was relentlessly pushed across Britain.  And Five Dials wondered if people thought that that was true in general.  So they asked 42 citizens (no idea what kind of random sample it may have been, realistically) and they recorded the results.

The rest of the issue has some of the standard Five Dials material we’ve come to expect: essays and fiction, advice and lists.  The theme gives an interesting tone to the proceedings.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Broken Britain and Nick Dewar
Taylor addresses much of what is said above.  David Cameron (I still can’t get used to him being Prime Minister, it’s still Gordon Brown in my head–I guess Cameron hasn’t done much yet) is the man who keeps trying to “mend our broken society.”  Even though (and statistics are similar in the U.S.):

They found that violent crime had almost halved since 1995, while crime generally fell by an extraordinary 45%. The figures for teenage pregnancies – a favourite of those talking about social decay – remain constant since Labour came to power in 1997; so too do those for teenage abortions.

The rest of the letter is devoted to the passing of Nick Dewar.  Dewar drew the illustrations for Five Dials Number One.  I really liked Dewar’s style, and his absurdist sensibilities.  Taylor says that Dewar’s color work was even better.  And I think he’s right. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PETER BJORN AND JOHN-SXSW May 26, 2009 (2009).

This brief set at SXSW (available from NPR & KEXP) showcases the band’s (then) new record Living Thing.  The album was just about to be released, so these are all previews of the album (“New music is the best music”).  The album itself is very sparse and these live songs are equally sparse, but are slightly different in construction (some songs have different instrumentation live than on record).

The crowd is very responsive, and the band is really funny.  During “Just the Past” there’s a section where the song sounds like it ends, but it is just a pause, and the band tsk tsks the audience for applauding too early.  There’s also a joke about John being Joaquin Phoenix and taking up a career in rap.

It’s a wonderfully lively set, even if it is a bit short (the gripe with almost every SXSW download).  It’s a good introduction to the album and a great introduction to a band who has been around for ten years and just started making inroads into American consciousness a few years ago.

[READ: April 16, 2011] Five Dials #1

Five Dials is an online magazine.  It is free to subscribe (and to download).  All previous issues are available on the site in PDF format.  I learned about it because they printed the eulogies for David Foster Wallace in Issue 10.  But the magazine looked interesting in itself, so I decided to go back and read the whole run (the most recent issue is #18).

The only real complaint I have with the magazine is that they don’t put a publication date anywhere on it.  Which is a shame if you’re anal retentive like me. According to Wikipedia, the inaugural issue came out in June of 2008.   It’s a monthly (ish) publication and, although I originally thought it would be a literary magazine, it proves to be very much of a magazine-magazine.  And a good one at that.

There’s a letter from the editor, there’s Current-ish Events, there’s essays, reviews and even fiction.  There’s also a “classic” letter from a “classic” author.  The magazine also has some very cool black and white art in it.  The style is very crisp and one that I find quite agreeable. (more…)

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