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Archive for the ‘Gustav Flaubert’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Bugs Bunny” (2018).

bugsThis is another single from Los Bitchos.

Of all of their releases, this one is the least interesting to me.  But I like their songs a lot so it’s not like I dislike this one.

I rather like the way the song shifts speed midway through though–it certainly adds some fun to the song.  And the whole ending is a wild ride of excitement.

I’m not really sure what the music has to do with Bugs Bunny, though.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Single-Handed”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

I feel like Barnes gives the most honest answer to the question of who your Influences are.

He says that when British writers go to Spain they are asked if they are always asked if they influenced by Tom Sharpe–a writer of jocose farce: “student embarrassed by  acquiring large quantities of condoms, inflates them with gas, stuffs them up his chimney, someone lights the fire, the chimney explodes.” Sounds hilarious, can’t believe I’ve never heard of him.  The trick when asked this question is to keep a polite face while pretending to ponder this question. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNT EERIE-“Ocean Roar” (Field Recordings, January 3, 2013).

For reasons I’m unclear about, I had been posting about these Field Recordings in reverse order.  So I decided to mix it up for the 2013 releases and do them in proper order–it feels better that way.

This particular one makes you wonder how much work they went to in order to record less than 3 minutes of music.  This Field Recording [Mount Eerie Plays ‘An Absurd Concert To Nobody‘] was taped in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s gorgeous Elizabethan-style theatre in Washington, D.C., just across the way from the Supreme Court.

Mount Eerie is a band I’ve heard of but don’t really know.  I don’t know if this stripped down song is in any way representative.  The band is the brain child of Phil Elverum who sings songs of “life-affirming, death-obsessed mysticism.”

“Ocean Roar” is a smart tangle of words; its alternate stories oddly complement and complicate each other, while telling of lost thoughts and wandering souls. On record, the song chimes with guitars and drums that subdivide the dreaminess, but at the theatre, it’s just Elverum, a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and touring band members Allyson Foster and Paul Benson singing soft harmonies at his side.

The song starts with them singing some lovely harmonies, they add lovely notes to flesh out the brief song throughout.

“We just played an absurd concert to nobody,” Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum says, as he faces a sea of empty red seats.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “Flaubert Again”

I have not enjoyed much by Anne Carson–she’s just not my type of writer.

This story also left me flustered.

This is about a writer who seeks to write less and less, not more. Other writers have tried, Barthes, Flaubert, but she hopes to go further.

To be a different kind of novel it would have to abolish things–plot, consequence.  And fully abolish, not just renounce, which is a weak and egoistic attitude.  She felt the pleasure of reading derived from answers withheld. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Wasting Light (2011).

The Foo Fighters are huge.  Duh.  But when I think of that, it amazes me that a) the Foo Fighters are the band from “the drummer from Nirvana” and that b) while Dave Grohl knows his way around a melody, he is a metal dude at heart, and some of his most popular songs are really heavy.  He can scream with the best of them.

I’ve enjoyed the Foos for many years, but I didn’t listen to their previous discs all that much (or at least I didn’t listen to the mellow disc from In Your Honor and I don’t remember anything off of Echoes…), but this new one is fantastic.  There’s not a dull song on the disc, and Grohl has hit new heights of catchiness and singalong-ness. 

I also like how noisy the disc is.  It opens with some great discord before turning in a majorly heavy rifftastic scream fest in “Bridge Burning.”  Despite the screaming and noise of the opening, the chorus is super catchy.  “Rope” was said to be inspired by Rush.  Knowing that, I can hear a lot of little Rush-isms in the track: The main riff is very Rush-like, there’s a cymbal tapping that reminds me of Neil Peart in the verses, as well as a little drum solo in the middle (with a cowbell!) and the solo is very Alex Lifeson. (It also feels longer than 4 minutes).

“Dear Rosemary” features Bob Mould on backing vocals (but you can hardly tell it’s him).  It’s got a great chorus as well.  “White Limo” is a wonderful punk song, completely incomprehensible lyrics and all.  Meanwhile “Arlandria” (whatever that means) is another totally catchy track (I find myself singing it a lot).

“These Days” should be the next single: catchy and easy on the ears.  I wonder why it hasn’t been released yet.  “Back and Forth” has another great noisy riff.  One thing that I like a lot about the Foos is that they put different things in the same song:  so “A Matter of Time” has a very simple verse and a catchy chorus, but there’s some really buzzing heavy guitars too.  “Miss the Misery” has a kind of sleazy feel which I think is new for the Foos.  And “I Should Have Known” is a kind of angry ballad (I’d like to see Richard Thompson cover it). 

The final track, “Walk” is a fast rocker that sums up the album really well.  Bravo Dave Grohl.  I can’t get enough of this disc, regardless of how popular it is.

[READ: July 2, 2011] Five Dials Number 15

After the brevity of Number 14, Five Dials Number 15 comes back to a fuller size.  It’s strange to me that the issue is titled The November Issue, in part because they never tell us when the issues were published, but even more because this is actually the Québec Issue.  Most of the authors are Quécbecers and the issue release party was in Québec as well.

I’d like to point out that while I was looking something up about this issue (more later) I discovered the Five Dials News Page.  There are currently 43 pages worth of posts.  But most of them are short.  If there are any especially noteworthy ones, I’ll add them to reviews of future issues, but for the most part so far they’re just announcements of how well received their books are (I’ve already made notes to read two of them).  They also give release dates for the issues, which is how I have been able to retroactively attach dates to some of them.

There are many Québecois writers included in this issue (thoughtfully translated into English), as well as some standard features by Alain De Botton and frequent contributors David Shields and Raymond Chandler.

CRAIG TAYLOR-On Our Québec Issue, and Young Novelists
Taylor’s introduction discusses many Canadian’s attitudes about Québec and their (seemingly perennial) vote concerning separation from the country (“so, let them go”).

creepy beard

The confusing thing here is that it appears that Taylor is Canadian (or at least lived there in 1995/6).   But surely he is British, no?

There’s lots of information about Québec in here but no grand statement (except that Celine Dion’s husband’s beard is still creepy).

He also introduces a new section called “Our Town” which is all about London.  The final section of the note says that

we are releasing our second Five Dials list of Top Ten Novelists Under Ten (or ‘Ten Under Ten’,or ‘Ten-Ten’, or as some of the writers themselves call the list: ‘Tintin.’) As you know, many of the writers we chose for our first Ten Under Ten list went on to things such as high school.

This is how I discovered the Five Dials News page, because there certainly was no Ten Under Ten section in a previous issue of the magazine.  Of course, nor is there any mention in the news that I have seen.  So I can’t decide if the whole thing is just a big joke or what.  I assume it is (but I’d hate to not give credit to the waaaay precocious kids at the end of the issue). (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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SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-There is No Ememy (2009).

I’ve liked Built to Spill for quite a few years (I first encountered them on Perfect from Now On), but they always hang just below my radar when I think about great albums.  Nevertheless, many of their songs have landed on compilations I’ve made.

I listened to this disc a few times when it came out and when I popped it in again today I couldn’t believe how well I knew the whole album and how much I really, really liked everything on it.

This may in fact turn out to be my favorite BtS disc.  It isn’t radically different from other releases of theirs, but there’s some ineffable quality that seems to raise the whole disc above the fray.  The total package is fantastic.  The first few songs are quite short, just over three minutes each (which is surprising after the release of the live album which had so many extended songs and solos (a 20 minute cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer”).

Of course there are a few extended jams as well.  Four songs are over six minutes long (and three of them make up the last four tracks, so the disc does to tend feel a little heavy at the end–although “Things Fall Apart” has a horn solo (!) and “Tomorrow” has some unexpected time changes).  But the first long song, “Good Ol’ Boredom” has a great chugging riff that hold ups to the six minutes very well.  The nearly seven minute “Done” has a wonderfully effects-laden end section. The solo is pretty lengthy, but the backing music/sounds keep the whole thing interesting.  Of course, there’s also “Pat” a two and a half-minute blast of punk abandon.

Doug Marsch has a pretty high voice, but it never grows whiny or annoying, and in fact, it has a kind of gravitas to it.  And it is more than matched by the full band sound on the disc.  Martsch’s lyrics are also wonderfully unexpected [“Is the grass just greener because it’s fake?”].

BTS has made a great album and I’m going to have to revisit their back catalog too.

[READ: November 14, 2010] “Twilight of the Vampires”

This was a banner issue of Harper’s (I’ve felt kind of down on the magazine lately, but it made up for itself this month).  We have the Lydia Davis/Flaubert stories, a lengthy piece by William T. Vollmann and the cover story about Rupert Murdoch (which I won’t be posting about).  In fact, normally I don’t post too much about non-fiction (recent obsessions notwithstanding), but this particular piece was by Téa Obreht, one of this year’s New Yorker 20 Under 40.  Obreht had barely had anything published when they selected her, and so I figured it would be easy to keep tabs on her.  So here’s a nonfiction to add to her two stories.  (And it’s about vampires!)

Obreht is originally from Russia (her family is apparently still there).  As the essay opens, she is going to meet her mother in Belgrade for their trip to Serbia.  Their ostensible reason to travel to the Balkans is to find out about vampires.   (But when her mother injuries herself before the trip is about to commence, it convinces her mother that the whole trip is possessed by devils).

But why travel to the Balkans in search of vampires when her adopted homeland of America is overrun by vampires right now?  Because as she relates, our vampires are rather different from theirs. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PREFAB SPROUT-Let’s Change the World with Music (2009).

This album was unreleased back in 1992 (it was supposed to be the follow-up to the wonderful Jordan: The Comeback).  Record label confusion left it shelved for many years.  It’s been released now because lead Sprout Paddy McAloon has been having health issues and won’t be releasing any new Sprout music anytime soon.  So he has released this album in what is essentially demo form.

Unlike many demos, though, this one is pretty fully realized.  It’s full of keyboards (where there might be strings for instance) and there are no backing vocals (or any other musicians), and yet for all of that, it doesn’t sound like a scratched out demo or a home-recorded cassette (and Paddy sings his heart out).  There are certainly moments (most evident in the drums at the beginning and end of songs) that sound kind of sparse, but the bulk of the disc is fully formed and quite well realized.

The opening is pretty odd, with Paddy (who normally has a soaring tenor voice) speaking a deep almost rap over a funky beat.  In fact, as the song continues, with Paddy’s voice returning to “normal,” that funky beat continues.  Nevertheless, but the time the sweeping dreamy chorus kicks in we’re back to less funky, more smooth sounding Sprout that I know and love.

Like Steely Dan, Prefab Sprout is not really meant to be enjoyed by the young.  It’s borderline treacly, it’s very sweet and earnest, an my high school self would have scoffed at my enjoying them at all.  And yet for all of that, the songwriting is really magical.  There is religious imagery all over the disc, but it’s there to convey the magical power of music.  And it’s entirely authentic.

And when you combine that with Paddy’s voice its adult contemporary music that is still interesting (certainly too interesting to be played on pop radio).  I think the real key to the success of the disc is the unpretentious, unforced and completely unironic joy that Paddy gets from music.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

[READ: November 14, 2010] “Five Stories from Flaubert”

I really enjoyed Madame Bovary many many years ago when I read it.  Recently, writer Lydia Davis translated Madame Bovary and her translation is supposed to be exceptional, light years above the translation that I read.  One of these days I plan to read her version.  In the meantime, I’ve got these little short short stories.

I had a hard time deciphering what these little stories were, exactly.  The introduction says that they are “adapted from letters Flaubert wrote to his lover.”  So I guess Flaubert gets a co-writing credit?  There’s a couple more stories online at The Paris Review (but you need to buy the issue to get all ten). (more…)

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