Archive for the ‘Cynthia Ozick’ Category

02013SOUNDTRACK: THE CAPSTAN SHAFTS-Revelation Skirts (2010).

capstanI’d never heard of the Capstan Shafts when Sarah bought this disc for me for Christmas a few years ago.  (It was in the NPR recommended discs for 2010).  Turns out the band has been around for nearly 20 years but have been making home recordings with little publicity for much of that time.  They (he, really, as it has always been one guy) finally decided to release a proper album with a second guy in the band.  I wouldn’t have known any of that if I hadn’t looked it up just now–because even with the accolades, this is still a low selling record.  I also wouldn’t have known that for some fans this album is the commercial sellout for this band who usually makes weird personal songs.  And yet I like this album a lot–and it is plenty weird.  Or perhaps a little weird-sounding–like the buzzing noisy guitars (which I guess are from the “new guy”).

The songs are pretty straightforward folkie indie rocky.  They are bouncy and poppy, and the buzzy guitar solos adds a nice contrast to that bounciness   There’s an air of Guided by Voices (“Let Your Head Get Wrong”, with the singer’s slightly faux British accent (he sounds like about half a dozen different singers throughout the disc).   There’s definitely a feel of 90s rock here–maybe Sebadoh (“Little Burst of Sunshine”) or even Dino Jr (“Versus the Sad Cold Eventually”).  The album has 14 songs in 30 minutes–and it feels like a full record–there’s not a lot of shilly-shallying with solos or extended verses, and yet the song are not fast punk tracks either–the pace is leisurely.

I really enjoyed this record and I like popping it in from tome to time for a good album that will never be overexposed.

[READ: February 5, 2013] “The Bloodline of the Alkanas”

I found this story to be quite challenging.  The prose was awkward and not very fluid.  I found it slow going until the end, but even that seemed a mite slower than necessary.

This story has three informal parts.  The first shows the narrator’s parents–her father is Cyrus Alkana, a poet who believes in older, more formal rules of poetry.  He is passionate, but far more passionate about his dislike for more modern writers, especially Alexander Alcott to whom he writes nasty letters.  Or actually his wife writes them–she does everything for him believing unquestioningly in his genius.  She works a full time job then comes home and takes care of the house and also types his correspondence.

The parents have no respect for the narrator because she did not receive The Bestowal–what they call the poetic gift.  The narrator doesn’t care about any of that–she explicitly states that she doesn’t know half of the poets that her father admires.  Consequently, her parents show her no respect.

Cyrus can’t seem to get published anywhere.  His wife unfailingly sends out his poems but they receive nothing.  Finally, she decides to bundle up his work and to include a cover letter expressing how wonderful the work inside is.  We later learn that the name she put on the letter was Alexander Alcott.  Obviously, this would show an instant sign of respect and it would be a rather shocking development in the land of poetry.  Especially when the publisher agrees to publish the book only if Alcott’s accolades are included.

The narrator is understandably freaked out about this–her mother is publicly defrauding another (far more famous) writer–surely there will be hell to pay.  But her mother is not concerned in the least.  She says that Alcott will be happy for the publicity.  After its publication  critics do talk about it–most wondering what happened to Alcott to endorse such a poet, but there is never any formal repercussion.  And no word from Alcott at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SANDRO PERRI-Impossible Spaces [CST085] (2011).

This album has become one of my favorite releases of the year.  I simply can’t stop listening to it.  And the funny thing is that on first listen I thought it was too treacly, too “sweet,” especially for Constellation Records (home to the over-the-top Godspeed You Black Emperor amongst other wonderful bands).  But after a listen or two, I heard all of the genius that is present in this record–so many different layers of music, and so many interesting instrumental choices. Indeed, it does come off as sweet, but there’s really nothing wrong with that.

This album gives me a happy pick me up without being cloying in any way.  That’s a great accomplishment.

“Changes” opens kind of all over the place, with some noisey guitars and really high bass notes.  But once the shk shk of the shakers comes in, the sing settles into a great groove (and there’s a cool bassline that really holds the song together).  After about 3 minutes, it turns into a cool light funk jam, with retro keyboards, buzzed out guitar solos and some funky drums.  It’s unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else.  “Love & Light” is one of the shorter pieces at just under 4 minutes.  It’s different from the other tracks, in that Perri’s vocals seem to be the dominant motif, rather than the cool music.  I like the song, but it’s probably my least favorite here.  “How Will I?” uses a similar multi-tracked vocal style but it has some wonderful flute moments (yes flute) that make the song bubbly and happy.  The song kind of drifts around the ether in a kind of jazzy world until about 5 minutes in, when the bassier notes anchor the song with great contrasting notes.  And the electronic ending is as cool as it is disconcerting.

“Futureactive Kid (Part 1)” is a shuffling minor key number that’s just over 3 minutes, it features a cool bass clarinet and backwards guitars to propel the song.  The backwards guitar solo segues into the uplifting (literally, the keyboards just go higher and higher into space. “Futureactive Kid (Part 2)” features fretless bass, a flute solo and My Bloody Valentine-esque sound effects (although radically simplified from MBV’s standards).  It fades out only to introduce my favorite song in forever–“Wolfman.”  I can’t get enough of this song.  It’s a simple structure, but at ten minutes long, it deviates in amazingly complex ways.  It has so many cool aspects that I love–I love the chord changes at the end of each verse.  I totally love the guitar solo that goes up and down the scale for an impossibly long run–well over 100 notes by my count.  I also love that the end of each section features a different guitar style playing the simple chord progression–from acoustic to loud solo to full band playing those same notes–so by the end of the ten minutes you ‘re not sure what to expect.   By the time the flute solo comes in at nearly 7 minutes, I’m totally committed to the song and wherever it’s going to take me.  So when it gets a bit of an electronic ending, I’m ready to go there with it.  Oh and lyrically the song is just as curious as the music.

The final song “Impossible Spaces” is a beautiful, quiet guitar song which is actually easy to sing along to.  It quiet a departure from the rest of the record, but it ties things together very nicely.  I have listened to this record so much lately, I just can’t get enough of it.

You can stream the whole thing here.

[READ: May 10, 2012] Conversations with David Foster Wallace

This is a book that collects interviews with David Foster Wallace.  Although DFW was reticent about d0ing interviews (as the introduction states), he did do quite a lot of them–often at the same haunts.  This book contains 22 interviews that span from 1987-2008.

The conversations are in chronological order, which is really a treat because you get to see DFW’s opinion (and his addiction to nicotine) evolve over the years.  You also get to see the topics that he was really focused on at one time and whether or not they stayed with him until the final interview.  DFW was outspoken about certain things, especially entertainment, which is unsurprising.  But he was also a big advocate of truth, honesty, realness.  It’s amazing seeing him when he lets his guard down. Although his honesty is there for all to see in his work, he is better known for his difficulty with language or his humor.  So seeing him without the multiple revision is quite enlightening.

The first pieces, “David Foster Wallace: A Profile” published after his first novel The Broom of the System launched Viking’s paperback imprint actually looks into his classroom a little bit and shows him interacting with a student (I wonder if she knows she is in this book?).  It seems sweet and almost naive compared to what is to come next.  And, for anyone who is familiar with him from later in, it’s a wonderful look behind the scenes.  There’s also a number of pieces from The Wall Street Journal.  Like the second piece in the book, the worryingly named, “A Whiz Kid and His Wacky First Novel.”  It’s not a bad piece at all, but man, headlines can be delicate matters. (more…)

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