Archive for the ‘David Lipsky’ Category

1985SOUNDTRACK: KING CREOSOTE AND JON HOPKINS-Tiny Desk Concert #154 (September 4, 2011).

creosoteI’d heard of King Creosote but didn’t know anything about him.  He’s a Scottish folk singer.  And Jon Hopkins is an English producer and multi-instrumentalist who is better known for his room-filling electronic works–although here he only plays the…yes, harmonium and keyboards.

“John Taylor’s Month Away” is a somewhat upbeat song–although the King’s voice is somber and mellow on every song.  I like watching him thump on his guitar to keep the beat while he’s not strumming.  And when he comes back in with the guitar again it sounds all the bigger for it.

The chord structure and delivery of “Bubble” sounds like a 1960s British folk song.  It’s quite lovely.  And when Hopkins switches to piano, it really brings out a lot more in the song.

These two songs came from Creosote’s album Diamond Mine, which the blurb says was everyone’s favorite album in 2011 (although I don’t recall hearing anything about it back then).  Stephen Thompson writes: “To immerse yourself in Diamond Mine is to be transported to a small, calm town in the Scottish countryside: For all of [Kenny] Anderson’s [King Creosote’s real name] reflective ruminations on aging and regret, he and Hopkins know how to make listeners feel at peace; to make the faraway seem everyday. “

“Cockle Shell” is not from Diamond Mine, although Jon did work on it, he says.  The guitar is a played differently–more picking, less strumming.  And the piano sounds lovely again. Creosote sings a bit bigger on this song.  The way he sings the preposterously upbeat music behind the lyrics “choke me, blind me, cut off my hands,” reminds me a lot of Frightened Rabbit.

For the final song, Hopkins switches back to harmonium.  It’s a short song, lovely and sweet.  And I’m sure if I followed the lyrics a bit more closely it would be rather sad too, as the final line is “while they were alive.”

I enjoyed Creosote’s music, although I feel like I’d have to be in a certain mind frame to put it on intentionally.  I will have to give a listen to Diamond Mine in total though.

[READ: January 26, 2016] “Three Thousand Dollars”

After reading the Lipsky articles in Harper’s I thought I’d see if he had written anything in the New Yorker.  I only found this one item, a short story from his collection.

I was intrigued from the start by this story because of the duplicitous nature of the college-aged narrator.  This was especially interesting to read after reading Lipsky’s Harper’s article about slackers.

The story begins with the statement that the narrator’s mother doesn’t know he owes his father $3,000.  It transpires that his parents are divorced and his father–who has a ton of money–is going to pay for his college after they get financial aid based on his mother’s lower income.  The balance–$3000 is what his dad will pay.

But when the $3000 check came in, the narrator spent it on other things instead. (more…)

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00011SOUNDTRACK: PHOSPHORESCENT-Tiny Desk Concert #153 (September 1, 2011).

phospI know Phosphorescent from a Newport Folk Festival Concert a number of years ago.  I remember liking the show, although I feel a little disappointed by this Tiny Desk Concert.  This show is just Matthew Houck and his guitar.

The blurb says that Phosphorescent specializes in “free wheeling weariness.”  And that seems to be true.  It also says that Houck’s voice is weary after a lengthy tour and could barely speak which made his voice sound even more weary.  Phosphorescent was wrapping up months of touring and Houck could barely talk, let alone sing solo for 20 minutes on camera. We quickly hooked him up with as much herbal tea as we could find and coaxed that crooked croon back to life.

I found all four songs to be pleasant and, yes a little weary-filled.

I know that Phosphorescent is basically a solo project for Houck.  but when I heard the Newport Folk festival show back in 2013, he had a full band with him.  And I think the fuller sound made his songs sound, well, fuller.

“My Dove, My Lamb” is a pretty song, gently picked with a rather lovely sound and good lyrics.  After “We’ll Be Here Soon” he says that  “The Mermaid Parade” is in the same key with a lot of the same chords, “I’m okay with that if you are.”  The songs do sound rather similar. Before “Los Angeles” he says he has a new guitar with new tuning.  I can’t iamgine what he means by that.  Is he playing all of his sings with the strings tuned differently?

All four songs were pleasant, but they didn’t make me want to get his record.

[READ: January 26, 2016] “The Packaging (and Re-packaging) of a Generation”

Since I found the essay by David Lipsky in the recent Harper’s I decided to see if he had written anything else for Harper’s over the years.  In fact he hadn’t, but they had excerpted a portion of a book that he co-wrote, Late Bloomers: The Declining Prospects of the Twentysomething Generation.  Interestingly, on Amazon, only Alexander Abrams is listed as an author, but only Lipsky’s bio is given )no respect for Gen X).  Of course, the book is only available used since it is 22 years old, but as the slackers say, whatever.

Back in the 90s I read an enjoyed a lot of books about my generation–Gen X–from insightful commentary to parody.  And I’m somewhat surprised that this one missed my radar–although the title is a bit of a downer, let’s be fair.

The Publishers Weekly Review from back then states “In this sweeping and often dull analysis,” but for what it’s worth I found this excerpt to be pretty interesting.  Now if that could be sustained for 224 pages is something else entirely. (more…)

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feb20156SOUNDTRACK: ANTHONY HAMILTON-Tiny Desk Concert #517 (March 28, 2016).

anthamI don’t know Anthony Hamilton, probably because he is a soul singer and I don’t listen to soul music.  He’s won Grammy’s and everything!  He and this band The Hamiltones (nice) had just played for the Obamas, and they came to the NPR offices afterward.

The first song, “Amen,” is new and he says was his attempt to write an R. Kelly song.  The other three songs are apparently the ones that have made him famous.  The songs are “Best of Me,” “Cool” and “Charlene.”

I love his American Flag jacket/sweater or whatever it is.  And his voice and the voices of The Hamiltones are pretty sweet.  No doubt if I listened to soul music, I’d have a lot of Hamilton’s discs.

[READ: January 26, 2016] “Family Business”

This essay was an interesting mash-up of two writers that I’d like to read more of.  I am a fan of Nabokov’s although I have read but a smattering of his work.  And I have enjoyed what I’ve read by Lipsky, although I have yet to delve into his fiction.

This is a book review of the recent publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s letters to his wife Vera throughout the length of their mostly happy fifty-two year marriage.  Sadly, Vera’s letters were destroyed (by her), although as it turns out, she didn’t write very much back to him anyway.

This is the kind of book review that I find exceedingly enjoyable. It sums up what the book has to say and then lets me know that while I might enjoy reading it, I don’t actually have to.  Not that he gives away spoilers–are their spoilers if you know what their life is like already?  But he really gets the gist of the letters and their life. And frankly, I don’t need to be that intimate with the writer, even if I do enjoy his works. (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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SOUNDTRACK: PAVEMENT-Slanted and Enchanted (1992).

I decided to go back and give a good listen to Pavement since I’ve always liked them but never loved them And, yes, they were in Central Park the other night).  So I started at the beginning.

I listened to the disc about a half-dozen time at work and I really started enjoying it a lot more by the end. It’s a difficult album, one that doesn’t actively embrace its listeners.  It’ a noisy, sloppy album (and that’s one reason why I like it), but there are hints of melody within.

Because I’m not in the moment, I can’t decide just how revolutionary this album was.  Nearly twenty years later it sounds like any number of noisy distortion fueled, lo-fi recordings of the period.  You can hear all kinds of influences on the band, Sonic Youth, The Fall, even The Replacements.  So, it’s not like they created something out of the blue.

Perhaps they were the first band to consolidate these influences into this particular stew.  No songs really stand out for me, as this seems more of an album of sounds that a collection of songs.  I rather enjoyed some of the oddball instrumentals and the use of keyboards, (which seem too polished for their sound: out of tune guitars and scratchy vocals).

It’s a fun record, and it certainly sets a tone and an agenda for the band.  I’m just not blown away by it.

[READ: September, 22, 2010] “Meet Me in St. Louis”

As I mentioned in the Franzen article the other day, I missed the whole brouhaha with Oprah and Franzen.  This article, which touches on that somewhat, gives Franzen’s perspective on what happened.  But primarily it shows (his take on) the videorecording that happened for his big Oprah TV show.

Mostly it involves Franzen driving around St. Louis.  Franzen grew up in St. Louis but spent most of his adult life in New York City–which is where he considers his home.  However on the book tour for The Corrections, he stopped in St. Louis.

The producers of Oprah wanted to film his great homecoming, even though he never felt it was one.  About two years before this event he and his brothers sold their family house after his widowed mother died.  That was the last time he had been to the house, and he had planned to never return. (more…)

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Thursday I went to BEA–Book Expo America.  I wasn’t all that thrilled to go this year as last year was kind of a drag (and publishers were stingy).  But this year I had a very good time.

By the time I got there it was already 11.  But I was thrilled to see that at that moment Mo Willems (we own all of his books, and my kids are huge fans of Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie) was signing posters for his new book.  He signed a poster for Clark (only one per person, sorry Tabitha).  And then over the course of the day I managed to lose the poster (sorry Clark). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: New Moon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2010).

Back in the 90s, it seemed like every week there was a new soundtrack featuring an unreleased song from some great alt rock band.  This meant huge sales for soundtracks, even if for the most part they weren’t solid start to finish.  In fact, mostly you got three great new songs, three pieces of rubbish, one great song by a band you’d never heard before and two or three okay tracks.

The inclusion of a new Death Cab for Cutie song was the big news about this soundtrack.  And overall, the reviews were positive.  And I’m pleased to say there aren’t really any horrible songs here.  (I have no idea how the soundtrack fits in with the movie as I haven’t seen it and probably never will).

But as with that old soundtrack formula: we get a few good songs by reasonably well-known bands: Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke, Bon Iver & St, Vincent, Muse, Grizzly Bear.  And then there’s a whole bunch of good rock songs.  The disc plays as something of a sampler of downcast, mellow alt rock. In fact, the back half of the disc sounds like a pretty decent alt rock radio station from the last decade or so.

Some of the tracks even sound like 90s alt tracks (Hurricane Bells, that song is 16 years old right?  And Sea Wolf, you’re channeling Peter Murphy, I know.)  The final two tracks are okay.  The Editors is kind of a Nick Cave via Joy Division sorta spoken word ballad.  And I admit I’m a little disappointed in the Lykke Li track–they got hyped beyond their ability.  The final track is a piano score, which is fine.

The biggest surprise to me is how much that Death Cab for Cutie songs sounds like a Rush song.  I’ve never considered that the bands sound anything alike before, and yet from the moment the song opens, that could be Geddy Lee singing, and that whole guitar structure is very Rush-like.  Maybe they should do a cover of it.

[READ: April 20, 2010] Maps and Legends

This is a collection of 17 non-fiction pieces by Michael Chabon.  The pieces cover everything from book reviews, essays about reading and writing, comic book and comic book artists and golems.

The opening essay is about the modern short story and it sets the tone for the entire book.  Interestingly, this essay talks about the state of entertainment and how “Entertainment has a bad name.  Serious people learn to mistrust and revile it.  The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. (13).  This very topic is at the heart of the David Lipsky/David Foster Wallace book (and in fact Chabon is mentioned in that book as well.)  Ah, serendipity. (more…)

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In this book, DFW considers himself to be absolutely useless when it comes to music.  He doesn’t know anything at all.  He says he listens to Bloomington country radio stations until he can’t take it anymore and then he switches over to the alt rock station.  He’d never even heard of Nirvana until after Cobain’s suicide.

And so, the soundtrack for the book is R.E.M., Bush (two songs) and Alanis.  In fact, there’s a surprisingly long section devoted to Alanis in the book, including DFW’s admittance that he would love to have a date with her for tea.  He admits that she is pretty much manufactured angst and yet there’s something about her that he finds irresistible.

At this stage (2010), the whole Alanis thing seems almost adorable in it’s “controversy” or “hype” or whatever.  It’s still hard for me to be objective about the quality of Jagged Little Pill (I mean, Flea plays bass on it so it must be good, right?).  I really enjoyed it at the time, perhaps because of its rawness or its honesty (which was pretty novel at the time, especially from a woman), all packed in a clean production of course.  There’s also something weirdly appealing to me about her (really not very good) voice.  She seems just off enough for all of this to be really sincere.

And of course, the nastiness of “You Oughta Know” was pretty astonishing for pop radio at the time.  True, there’s songs on here that make me cringe now (there’s a lot about her that makes me cringe) and yet there’s still some really enjoyable stuff here.  Even the perennially mocked “Ironic” for all of its flaws has a stellar chorus.

Now that the “women in rock” phase of alternative music has passed, there’s very little music like this being made anymore.  So it’s kind of fun to reminisce about this stage of my musical life, warts and all.

Oh, and by the way, I also grew up watching Alanis on “You Can’t Do That on Television,” so it was pretty exciting to see a child star that I knew make it big.

I never liked Bush though.

[READ:April 21, 2010] Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

As I mentioned, I was super excited to get this book and I treated it like the artifact it is: trying to read it in one sitting (impossible) or at least in as compressed a time as possible to preserve the stream of consciousness attitude of the book.

For, as the subtitle doesn’t quite state, this is five-day conversation between David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace.  The tape recorder was running for most of these five days and what we get is a literal transcript of the conversation (with much of Lipsky’s parts excised).  It is an all-access pass to the mind of the man who wrote Infinite Jest as the hype of the book was really taking off and as his brief promotional tour for the book was winding down.

Lipsky was (is) a reporter for Rolling Stone. DFW’s Infinite Jest was the huge media hit (#15 on the bestseller list) and the hype was outrageous.  DFW had begun a (sold out) reading tour which actually began the day before the book came out, so he rightfully notes that no one could have actually read the book by then, they were just there because of the hype.  And Lipsky himself is part of this hype.

Lipsky was sent to do a profile of the wunderkind, literature’s next great hope (RS hadn’t (hasn’t?) covered a young author like this in a decade at least).  The idea was that Lipsky would tag along with DFW, go to the last readings on the tour, an NPR interview, and spend most of their time together: planes, rental cars, hotel rooms, etc generally just hanging out with tape recorder running. (more…)

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[READ:April 19, 2010] Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself [Afterword]

I was pretty excited to get back to work (!) and find the final two Bolaño books that I wanted to read.  (I had planned to read all of Bolaño’s published-in-English works before finishing 2666, except, of course for The Savage Detectives, which is very large (and which is, ironically, the book of his that I wanted to read first–before I got involved in the madness of 2666–and for Amulet, which is a novella based on a character in Savage (and therefore should be read after it, right?).  These two books are Romantic Dogs and The Distant Star.

But then I saw it, the one thing that could arrest my Bolañomania: the David Lipsky book about David Foster Wallace.  I didn’t realize it was coming out so soon, and in fact I had forgotten it was coming at all.  But there it was.  Well, I read the blurb, I saw the cover, I read the details, and I knew there was no way I’d be reading anything but that for the next few days. (more…)

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