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Archive for the ‘Hilton Als’ Category

hiltonSOUNDTRACK: BECK/RECORD CLUB-SKIP SPENCE: Oar (2010).

skipOf the four Record Club discs, this is the only one I don’t own.  Although I do have a different covers collection called More Oar (which Beck also appears on). I may have never heard any of the original songs on this disc, so I can’t even compare them.

For those who don’t know (as I didn’t), Skip Spence was one of the founders of Moby Grape, a band who was vaguely successful in the late 60s and then sort of fell apart (especially when Spence tried to kill his bandmates and was put in an asylum for a year).

Beck doesn’t have anything special to say about why they picked this album.  But he must have been very excited that Wilco and Feist were around to play on it.  He says

This one took place last June when Wilco was in town for the release of their new eponymous album. They came by after a long day filming a TV appearance and still managed to put down 8 songs with us. Jamie Lidell was in the studio with me working on his new record. Leslie Feist happened to be in town editing her documentary and heard we were all getting together. Recording took place at Sunset Sound Studios in the room where the Stones did a lot of Exile On Main Street (and looking at the records on the walls it appeared that the Doobie Brothers recorded most of their output there too). Sitting in on drums, we had James Gadson, who’s played on most of the Bill Withers records and on songs like ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘I Will Survive.’ Jeff Tweedy’s son Spencer played played additional drums. Also, Brian Lebarton, from the last two Record Club sessions is back.

And if you don’t know what Record Club is, see the summary on yesterday’s post.

Wilco plays on 8 tracks (of 12) and they sound great.  Indeed, overall this is the most “professional” sounding recording.  Which is not to say that they don’t have fun. It sure sounds like they do.

Little Hands (2:59).  This has a traditional folk band sound.  It’s a great recording.
Cripple Creek (4:14).  This is not THAT “Cripple Creek,” by the way.  “Jamie takes the lead and Gadson gets behind the kit, while Beck and Brian back them.”  There’s a funky drum breakdown in the middle.
Diana (3:48).  Another good sounding song.
Margaret/Tiger Rug (2:27). This song is a little boppy and slightly silly sounding, but not really that silly.
Weighted Down (The Prison Song) (4:58) “Feist takes the lead this week with Nels Cline arpeggiating some ridiculous 64th notes on a toy guitar.”  Feist adds some beautiful vocals to this song.
War In Peace (5:04).  This begins a little slow and shambolic but it soon builds into a full band that gets even crazier when they start playing “Sunshine of Your Love.”  It was fun to hear them let loose.
Broken Heart (3:39).  This sounds like a traditional song.  A little drunken and fun–a nice duet with Feist.
All Come To Meet Her (2:02).  This is a simply beautiful harmonized a capella rendition.
Books Of Moses (7:21) “Gadson lays down the heaviest RC beat ever, while Jamie loops his voice into a voice army and Brian plays some kind of octagon shaped synth.”  This had a kind of Primus-y weird synth opening.  But as Jamie loops his voice over and over it sounds really good, although it is too long.
Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin For Yang) (3:56).  This is a synthy bouncy song.  It’s a little silly, especially with th Ace of Base coda at the end.  But it sounds good.
Lawrence of Euphoria (5:17).  The lyrics of this song are very silly. This version has a fake cowbell and  funky bass but is otherwise just electronic drums and vocals.
Grey/Afro (7:35).  This has echoed vocals and noisy bass.  It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here, especially at the chaotic ending. But it’s nice to hear them all let loose a bit.

As I said, I don’t know how this compares to the original, but I really enjoyed it.

[READ: March 23, 2014] White Girls

This book was madly hyped and I was pretty excited to read it (even though to be honest I didn’t know if it was fiction or non-fiction–and wasn’t even entirely sure as much as half way through the first piece).  I knew Als’ name from the New Yorker, although I wasn’t really conscious of having read anything by him.  It turns out I read one of these essays in McSweeney’s 35 about four years ago.  The fact that I didn’t remember reading that essay does not speak all that well about it.  But overall I enjoyed most of the essays in the book quite a lot; however, the two longest ones I found, well, way too long.  And I honestly don’t understand the title.

Overall the book is a collection of essays (often told from an interesting perspective, like from the dead person’s first point of view).  The problem with pretty much every essay in the book at least for me was that Als presupposes a base knowledge of these people.  Without that, the essays can be frustratingly vague and unclear.  But again, these people are all famous enough that it seems likely that one would have that base knowledge (even if I don’t).  I do wish there was a small bio or even a photo with these essays (as there was with the Truman Capote one) as I feel that grounded me nicely.

I was a lot more confused by his essays that were more personal.  I didn’t really understand the context for what he was talking about, since i know very little about him.  And as you’ll see from the first essay, he covered a lot in a very un-straight way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONSEED-“Jesus is a Friend of Mine” (1983).

My friend Nick sent me a link to this song.  And he said that it would  have been the theme song to his radio show back in college.  (We went to a Jesuit school, so it could be taken seriously as well).  Of course, knowing him, he absolutely would have played it as his intro music.

Anyhow, I listened to it and enjoyed the video in the spirit of gentle mockery that it was sent.  But I found myself listening to it quit a lot and I have concluded that I now enjoy it irony-free.  And how can that be?

Well, first off, Christian rock generally sucks.  In addition to many other reasons, it’s often played with a style that is inappropriate to the message.   And Gawd, forget the bombast of arena Christian rock bands (who shall remain nameless).

What I like about this song is that a) the musicians are really good. It’s a live song (I assume–they wouldn’t lip synch on  Christian TV show would they?) and they are tight.  Also, the music (ska!) is upbeat, just like the message.  Finally, while lyrically not very clever (most of the lyrics are pretty laughable), they are sincere and not aiming too high.

And, I hate to say, it’s catchy as hell (although I suppose you have to like ska to like it).

Evidently, I’m not the only one to be transfixed by this strange group (and, it seems I’m at least two years late to the party, as there is already a great deal of chatter (and even controversy) about this video).  So, let me be the umpteenth person to post it on his blog.

[READ: September 2, 2010] McSweeney’s 35

This new issue shocked me because I noticed that it was printed in Canada, not Iceland. I’m not sure when this switch occurred, but I feel somewhat saddened for the Icelandic press!

The cover is a (softcover) foldout (with two flaps).  The front shows two people crossing a street, but even more shocking than the Canada thing is the cover itself…something I didn’t notice until I left it out in the car.  The black of the cover (see above) is actually heat sensitive.  When it gets warm, it reveals a secret underworld to the picture.  Very very cool!  I was really confused when I picked up the book and it was no longer black but green with fishes swimming around, and I couldn’t imagine why I ever thought it was black.  Pretty sneaky, sis.

This issue features a newly revised letter column (although “letter” is a subjective term here).  There are four longer stories, and the rest of the book has two sections.  The first is comprised of an awesome photo series of lunch bags (which I will attempt to emulate for my kids when they begin school).  The second is “a Portfolio of Stories from Norway.”  The Norwegian Stories are great, and really show the strength of literature coming from the country. (more…)

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