Archive for the ‘Ben Schott’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: COLIN MELOY-Sings Sam Cooke (2008).

I ordered this CD from the Decemberists website.  (Sadly Colin singing Morrissey is no longer available).   This is, as the title states, Colin Meloy singing Sam Cooke songs.

I don’t know much about Sam Cooke (although I knew a few tunes from this disc).  And, in my head, Sam Cooke doesn’t have a “catalog” of songs, like, say, Morrissey does. So, this came across as a disc of standards.  And as such it’s very good.

If you like Meloy, you’ll like this.  If you don’t, this isn’t going to covert you.  It’s basically just him and his acoustic guitar (and an occasional backing vocal) singing these songs.

I have always liked “Cupid” so it’s nice to have a rendition of it.  As for “Summertime,” I’m not sure why that’s considered a Sam Cooke song since it comes from Porgy and Bess.  I didn’t know the other three songs, but they’re all quite good, uptempo jazzy numbers.

This EP makes me want to investigate a Sam Cooke Greatest Hits, to see what I’ve been missing.  And maybe that was Meloy’s point all along.

[READ: January-February 2010] Shite’s Unoriginal Miscellany

I had ordered a couple of Schott’s Almanacs from the UK, because I thought it would be fun to see what was different about them from the U.S. versions (quite a lot actually).  And while browsing for them, I found this parody of the series.  So, for a few dollars used, I ordered it too.

Now any book that bills itself as “extensively researched, eccentrically compiled and irresponsibly written” pretty much lets you know what you’re getting.   And it does conclude its summary by saying, “more than 250 pieces of useless, misleading and possibly dangerous information.”  So, what might you expect?

This is a very strange parody of the series because it does three things at the same time:  1) It provides actual lists of actual things (which are, indeed, useless and silly).  2) It provides nonsensical/hypothetical questions (more on that shortly).  And 3) It has stuff that is clearly made up and intended to be funny (but often isn’t) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June/July 2007 Music Issue Compilation CD: Cue the Bugle Turbulent (2007).

The 2007 Believer disc smashes the mold of folkie songs that they have established with the previous discs in the series.  The theme for this disc is that there’s no theme, although the liner notes give this amusing story:

one decaffeinated copy editor (“the new guy”) made a suggestion: “The Believer CD should be composed of eight a.m. music/breakfast-substitute jams, like that commercial from a while back with the guy who gets out of bed over and over again while ELO plays over his morning routine. You should tell all of the bands to write/contribute songs worth listening to within three minutes of waking up.”

So, without a theme, they just asked artists for some great songs.  There’s one or two tracks written especially for the disc (Sufjan Stevens, Lightning Bolt).  There’s a couple B-sides.  There are some wildly noisy raucous songs: and three of them come from duos!  No Age offers a very noisy blast of feedback.  Magik Markers play a super-fast distortion-fueled rocker, and Lightning Bolt play 5 minutes of noise noise noise.  Oh, and there’s even a rap (Aesop Rock)!

Tracks 3-7 are just about the 5 best songs in a row on any compilation.  Oxford Collapse plays a catchy and wonderfully angular song with “Please Visit Your National Parks.”  It’s followed by a song from Sufjan Stevens that sounds NOTHING like Sufjan Stevens, it’s a noisy distorted guitar blast of indie punk.  I’m from Barcelona follows with a supremely catchy horn driven song that would be huge on any college campus.  Aesop Rock comes next with a fantastic song.  I’d heard a lot about Aesop Rock but had never heard him before, and he raps the kind of rap that I like: cerebral and bouncy.  This is followed by Reykjavik! with a crazy, noisy surf-guitar type of song.  It reminds me of some great college rock from the early 90s.

Of Montreal, a band I’ve been hearing about a lot but who I’ve never heard (and didn’t think sounded like this) plays a wonderfully catchy two minute love song that sounds ironic, but which likely isn’t.  The melody is straight out of the Moody Blues’ “Wildest Dreams,” and yet it is still fun and quirky.

There’s a couple instrumentals as well: The Clogs do a cool, mellow instrumental and Explosions in the Sky do one of their typically fantastic emotional tracks.  Also on the disc, The Blow contribute a delightfully witty song and Bill Fox, a singer I’d never heard of (but who has a great article about him in the magazine), really impressed me with his Bob Dylan meets Nico delivery.  The disc ends with an alternate version of a song by Grizzly Bear.

This is definitely my favorite Believer disc thus far.  See the full track listing here.

[READ: Throughout 2009] Schott’s Miscellany 2008

This year’s edition of Schott’s Miscellany is very much like last year’s edition (see that review here).  I mean, it is an almanac after all.  However, it is a wondrous testament to Schott that even though I read every word of the 2008 edition, I was able to read every word of the 2009 edition and not feel like I was duplicating myself very much.

Obviously the news, facts and events of 2008-09 are different from last year.  And since Schott’s writing style is breezy and fun with a hint of sarcasm and amusement thrown in, you don’t get just a list of facts, you get sentences with subtle commentary on the facts.  And it’s a fun way to re-live the past year.  Plus, the Sci, Tech, Net section discusses science stories that sounded really impressive and important which I can’t believe I didn’t hear about at the time. (more…)

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originalSOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Race for the Prize (1999) & Waiting for a Superman’ (1999) singles.

race11race21When these singles were released, Zaireeka was out of print; these discs were the only way to get any of the tracks.  So, each of these singles has two track from a Zaireeka disc as a B-side: “Riding to Work in the superman1superman2Year 2025 (Your Invisible Now)” & “Thirty Thousand Feet of Despair.”   “Race for the Prize” (1 and 2) have the tracks from Zaireeka discs 1 and 2, and “Waitin’ for a Superman” (1 and 2) have the tracks from Zaireeka discs 3 and 4.  The singles aren’t really worth hunting down at this point since Zaireeka is now available, but at the time, they were worth it.

[READ: January 18-Feb 5, 2009] Schott’s Original Miscellany

This is the book that started the Schott empire!

Ben Schott wrote this book (the origin story will appear shortly) and it was so successful that he wrote 2 more volumes (all reviewed here).  This led to his annual almanacs/miscellanies. There are different versions of the annual almanac for England and the U.S. (and Germany too!) and I can’t help but wonder just how different they are.  So if any one has an old UK edition of a Schott’s almanac that they want to send me, let me know!

For all your miscellany needs, check out  http://www.miscellanies.info/. Lots of information here! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Manic Moonlight (2001).

This disc is not terribly popular among the King’s X fans.  A big complaint is that they dared to use drum loops.  It’s kind of a funny complaint because aside from adding a bit of texture (and for some reason, having each song start out with the drum machine), it’s not like they’ve suddenly gone all techno.  In fact, overall the album has a feeling of insular claustrophobia.  It feels like the songs are just densely packed with little room to breathe.

To me, the loops aren’t that odd for a band that’s big into experimentation (although you’ll note they were not used again).  What’s unusual is the addition of funk elements in “Believe,” and some really funky elements in “Vegetable”  There’s also some noisy/crunchy guitar workouts in “Yeah.” This song is also kind of odd as the verses are practically inaudible, but the choruses (which consist of the word “Yeah”) are just so great! Perhaps the most unusual track on the disc is “Skeptical Wind” which comes across as a rhymed/spoken-word piece that references Mia Farrow among other things.

But the title track sounds most like the King’s X we know and love.  In addition, “False Alarm” and “Jenna” are pretty close to the earlier Ty ballads (even though Ty doesn’t sing them).  They contain the harmonies we’re used to, but really they are sort of smothered in all of the surrounding noise.

The album is still full of great songs…the guys never lost their songwriting chops.  It’s just the way the songs are presented that makes them sound so different. It’s an interesting experiment, for which I give them credit, but it really doesn’t showcase the best aspects of the band.

[READ: Throughout 2008] Schott’s Miscellany 2008

In the best case of “but I thought you liked him” ever, Sarah bought me this book for Christmas, certain that I had read and enjoyed other books by him.  Interestingly, I had never heard of him or his books.  But I was very intrigued by the concept of it.

As you might imagine, I enjoy trivia and I like facts.  And for a person like me, this collection is fantastic.  As the subtitle says, it is an almanac; however, unlike the standard almanacs (Information Please, etc.) which are just lists of information.  Ben Schott (could he be the only one who works on this book?) gathers all of the interesting things that happened from September 2006 through August 2007 into interesting, subjective groups, with interesting, subjective names, and then writes about them. (more…)

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