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Archive for the ‘David Byrne’ Category

klosetrSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 1 of 13 (November 10, 2003).

This was the 1st night of their 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

 The sound quality of this show is great, although it’s quite disconcerting how quiet it is between songs—must be soundboard with no audience pick up at all.

Dave chats with the crowd of course: “Always exciting on opening night—a tingle in the air.  We’re basking in the glow of David Miller’s victory tonight even if he doesn’t know the words to “Born to Run.”

David Raymond Miller is the president and CEO of WWF-Canada, the Canadian division of the international World Wildlife Fund. A former politician, Miller was the 63rd Mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010. He entered politics as a member of the New Democratic Party, although his mayoral campaign and terms in office were without any formal party affiliation. He did not renew his party membership in 2007.  After declining poll numbers, Miller announced on September 25, 2009, that he would not seek a third term as mayor in the 2010 election, citing family reasons.  He was replaced by Rob frickin Ford.

They play a lot of songs from their not yet released album (not until 2004, in fact) 2067.

They open with “The Tarleks” which is follows by 2001’s “Song of the Garden” and then back to 2067 with “I Dig Music.”  The new songs sound similar to the release but perhaps the words might not be solidified yet—there’s also no “too fucking bad” in “I Dig Music.”

Tim’s “In It Now” comes next with that cool opening riff.   It segues into one of my favorite Tim-sung songs “Marginalized” also from 2067.  I love the drums, the guitar riff, everything about it—although they are off-key as they start.

Dave says, “We’re surprising ourselves a little by playing new stuff.   But when Martin asks for requests and people say “Saskatchewan” Martin starts playing it (see, the squeaky wheel…).

“Fan letter for Ozzy Osbourne” (also from 2067)  it sounds a bit more spare and sad (with no wailing vocal at the end).  It’s followed by “a very old song we wrote in 1989, I think, but it still applies on this special occasion.”  He says it’s called “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby you were just 2 years old you, you weren’t even born.”

There’s a quiet “In This Town” that’s followed by a lengthy “When Winter Comes.”  This song features a remarkably pedestrian guitar solo (sloppy and very un-Martin like).

Dave says they were recording audio commentary from a show two years ago (for what?  is this available somewhere?).  He says that night wasn’t a very good patter night.  Good music night, though.

Tim says, “So we overdubbed good stage banter. … Till I sparked up a fattie and giggled like a moron.”
Martin: “till you sparked up a fattie and the ridiculousness of the situation became glaringly apparent.”
Dave: “Martin I can’t believe you just said ‘sparked up a fattie.'”
Martin: “The times they are a-changing.”

Martin introduces “Aliens” by saying “This would be a b-minor chord.  The whole thing seems a little weird–Martin does some odd voices and weird guitar noises—it almost sounds out of tune or like it’s just the wrong guitar.

Back to a new song with “Polar Bears and Trees” and they have fun chanting the “hey hey ho ho” section.

Dave calms things down with some details: We got some stuff planned over the next 13 days. Lucky 13.  Thursday there’s going to be 25 guest vocalists.  We’re gonna mail it in, basically.  And then on Saturday we have “Tim Vebron and the Rheostars.”  According to a review, this “band” is a goof: “Martin was wearing a lei and suspenders, MPW looked like an extra from THX1138.”   You can also get a pass to all 13 shows for $75.  For some good old live live Canadian shield rock.

Dave asks, “Tim did you get a contact high during aliens?  Some wise acre lit a marijuana cigarette.”  Tim:  “It’s just kicking in now.  I’m hungry.”

“PIN” sound great although in “Legal Age Life,” the sound drops out at 58 seconds and comes back on at 1:35.  During the song, Dave shouts G and they shift to “Crocodile Rock.”  It kind of clunkily falls back in to “LAL,” but it’s fun to see them jamming and exploring a bit.

Dave says “Crocodile Rock” was a very complicate dance, but it didn’t catch on.  I think the dance involved implements didn’t it. Tongs?”

“Stolen Car” starts quietly but builds and builds to a noisy climactic guitar solo.  Its pretty exciting.

During the encore break there’s repeated chants for “Horses.  Horses.”

You can hear Dave say, “‘Soul Glue?’ We’re not going to do that tonight, we’re going to say it for a special occasion.”  The audience member shouts, “the hell with you.” Dave: “Ok, bye. Yes I am going to hell.”

What song do you think cleans the palate for the song to come after it—A sherbet?

There’s some amusing commentary between Dace and the audience.  And then a little more local politics: “Did you think that was good speech by David Miller?  I didn’t. I don’t want to be a bad guy coz it’s his night but…”  Then Dave imagines a “David Miller ascension-to-power film starring Ed Begley Jr.”

The encore includes a rollicking “Satan is the Whistler” followed by a solid cover of The Clash’s “London Calling.”  Tim’s a little sloppy on the bass, but the guitar sound is perfect and Dave’s got the vocal sound just right.  As they leave you can still here that guy calling for “Horses.”

[READ: July 1, 2016] What If We’re Wrong?

I have enjoyed a lot of the essays I’ve read by Klosterman.  But I’ve never read one of his books before.  I saw him on Seth Meyers one night and this book sounded cool.  And then I saw it at work, so I grabbed it .

Klosterman is clever and funny and this book is clever and funny.  Although I found it a little long–every section of the book felt like it could have been shorter and it wouldn’t have lost any impact.  However, I loved the premise and I loved all of the examples.  I just got a little tired of each section before it ended.

So what is this book (with the upside down cover) about?  Well, as the blurb says, our cultural is pretty causally certain about things.  No matter how many times we are wrong, we know exactly how things are going to go. Until they do not go that way any more.  “What once seemed inevitable eventually becomes absurd.”  So what will people think of 2015/16 in 100 years?  And while some things seem like they may be obvious about how tastes change, he also wonders if our ideas about gravity will change.

This came out before the horrors of the 2016 election and I read it before them, so the whole premise of the book is even more magnified. (more…)

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orcsSOUNDTRACK: AVEC LE SOLEIL DE SA BOUCHE-Zubberdust! [CST106] (2014).

cst106cover_258x242Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche (With the sun out of his mouth–no translation for Zubberdust) is the creation of former Fly Pan Am bassist Jean-Sebastien Truchy.  With this album he has created a fascinating hybrid of near Krautrock repetitions with some King Crimson guitar lines and time signatures.  And interesting sung almost operatic male vocals.  Technically the disc has four songs, but songs 1 and 3 are extended suites broken into chapters.

“Face à l’instant” (Face Now parts I-IV) is the first suite.  This disc opens like Ministry–with an aggressive, fast, pounding guitar riff for 8 bars, a sharp pause and continuation of same.  After four measures of that, a quirky quiet instrumental takes over and at about a minute the heavy guitars return. Part 2 of the song starts with a funky, slightly off-kilter sounding guitar line and whistling.   About a minute into this secretion the song shifts to a quiet sequence of overlapping riffs and sounds.  About 5 minutes in, the voices start singing in wordless chants–it’s strangely catchy and slightly militaristic at the same time.  The song builds with voices until it climaxes with a stop.  Then a complex drumming pattern begins Part 3. The guitars lines resume and there are several vocals sections (I assume singing in French) that add a lot of tension to the song.  Midway through this part the song stops and that aggressive introductory guitar pummeling resumes, this time changing keys and not letting up.  New sounds and super heavy drumming are added as this brings part three to a climax.  Part 4 returns to quieter playing (and sounds a bit like Fly Pan Am in the way the guitar line as intersect.  The final section continues with the vocals and rhythms of the other three and then ends with some dramatic keyboard chords playing us out.

“Super pastiche fantastique” (Super fantastic pastiche) is the other suite.  It opens with some complex drumming and then several sequences of notes–guitar and synth that meld nicely.  Part 1 is just 3 minutes and by the end some electronic noises start overtaking the melodies.   Part 2 opens with the same melody but the electronics have been replaced by a wah-wahed guitar and more synth lines.  The song is complex and repetitive, with the only non-repeating part being the singer’s voice (no idea what he’s even saying).  The second half of part 2 (which is 7 minutes in total) ends with some sung vocals (not unlike David Byrne).  Part 3 is a 90 second interlude of very quick tinkling strings that are overwhelmed by noise and static and thudding drums.  The end of the track seems to be building up to part 4 which picks up the momentum into a great instrumental motif–intertwining guitars and electronics all with a cool bass line underneath.  After 2 and a half minutes the  song drops to drums and a funky guitar line with all kind of noises and static and voices working as transition to the cool bass line that comes in around 3 minutes.  As the song careens towards the end, the pace picks up and you can hear some intense screaming of vocals way in the distance.  The song cleans up and plays that great fast riff right up until the end when it abruptly ceases.

Tracks 2 and 4 are weird pastiches of sound. “Déja hier…” (Already yesterday…) is a four-minute song.  Interesting music plays very quietly in the background before it gets overwritten by conversation and static.  You can occasionally hear the song being played behind the noise, but it’s mostly just a weird kind of muffled noise.  “À partir de dorénavant” (From now) is similar.  You can hear a distant muddy drum and what sounds like la dinner party–tons of conversations going on at once.  It seems like the disc is going to end with 3 minutes of this, but a keyboard melody begins to slowly overtake the din.

The last minute or so is this interesting sci-f sounding synth line with warbling effects and an interesting, mellow bass.  Although it’s nowhere near as complicated as the rest of the album, it’s a cool way to end and almost feels like a segue into something else.

This album has a whole lot of styles and genres blended together into a (mostly) very cool mix of sounds.  I like it a lot, although I’ll probably skips tracks 2 and 4 most of the time.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Orcs: Forged for War

This book was a little hard to learn about because Stan Nicholls has written several novels in the Orcs series.  So when you look up his books you get a confusing list of the series and other things.  This book is not part of the series, but it is part of the overall Orcs arc. It comes just before the First Blood Trilogy.

In the intro, Nicholls tells us lot more about his whole Orcs oeuvre.  He points out that unlike Tolkien (whom he loved) his Orcs are not mindless brutes. In fact, in his books, the orcs are the heroes and the humans are the ones who have along and messed things up.  He says that anyone unfamiliar with his orcs books should have no trouble following this book.

And that is true to a degree.  One thing that it behooves an author/artist to do is to make sure that everyone understands who all of the characters/races are in his/her book.  He does give a brief summary in the intro, but that doesn’t really help because there’s no visual guide.

Humans are divided into two camps.  The Manifold (Manis) pursue ancient pagan ways.  The Unity (Unis) are monotheistic.  They are both fanatics but the Unis have more bigotry and demagoguery.

This book opens with the Unis fighting the Manis.  And then the Orcs enter the fray but it’s not always clear whose side the Orcs on, if any. Regardless of which side they are on, they are willing to fight and kill whomever (there is much much bloodhsed and a shocking amount of vulgarity in the book). (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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june10SOUNDTRACK: GABRIEL KAHANE-Tiny Desk Concert #178 (November 26, 2011).

kahaneWhen I saw Kahane a few months ago, he looked very different from the fellow here.  (More hair and a beard will do that).

I found Kahane’s music to be really enjoyable even if it was never really that catchy.  His songs are complex and thought-inducing, with many layers.  Although I found that after listening to his songs a number of times, I could really find the hooks in there.

His voice has a kind of soft quality to it–not quiet, but very much not harsh, which allows his enunciations to be heard quite easily.

For “Charming Disease,” Kahane plays keyboards.  He’s accompanied by strings and a guitar (I love the coloration of the guitar).  Since he also writes classical music, his pop songs have a distinctly classical feel (even without the string quartet to back him up). So the piano lines that he plays are simple chords, they are full lines.  And there are times when the guitar plays beautiful counterpoint to his chords.  This song is about an alcoholic (“I took you home and took away your keys”), but you’d never know the darkness of the lyrics from the melody which is bright and cheerful.  I love the middle section of the song–the chord progressions during the “Wine Dark Sea” are, in my mind anyway, very Kahane, and they’re what I love about his music.

For “Where Are the Arms” he switches to acoustic guitar.  You know the song isn’t going to be simple when he counts of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”  I love that he plays a continuing picked section while the guitar and strings play chords behind him, really fleshing out the song.

As they prepare for the final song, one of the violinists knocks over her music stand and he jokes, how did you fit an 11 piece band back her but we can’t get a string quartet.  Someone shouts that it’s the strings–the bows.  Kahane says, yes, “One string is two humans–ego and otherwise.”  To groans from the band.

For “Last Dance” I love that he sings his vocal melody along with the guitar melody (something Frank Zappa used to do–it’s complex and interesting).   And while there is certainly a melody there, he really complicates it with all of the single notes.  The strings come in and the song modifies somewhat until his voice seems to resume the complex singing style.  But then in the middle of the song (“she begins to sing”) it switches to a very catchy section with a refrain of “sex and cigarettes.”  It’s the most immediate thing in the show and shows how poppy Kahane can be.  even if the ending is quite abrupt.

He really deserves repeated and close listening.

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Learning to Look at L.A.”

I know Gabriel Kahane from when he opened for Punch Brothers this past summer.  I really enjoyed his set and found his album charming and eccentric but very literary.

Turns out that at the time of the release of The Ambassador he wrote this piece for the New Yorker as well.  It explores the themes that he delved into for his album, especially architecture in L.A.   He even opens with a discussion of Die Hard.  Like his song “Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.)” which contains the lyric:

I’ve been thinking a lot
About action movies of the 1980’s
Particularly Die Hard,
Which seems to illustrate
So many of the anxieties
Central to a time + place:
Japanese capital
The waning of the cold war
Pride in a downtown
What did they build it for?

He says that his “affection for this film is one hundred-percent unironic.” (more…)

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hiro1SOUNDTRACK: ASAF AVIDAN-Tiny Desk Concert #340 (March 2, 2014).

asafAsaf Avidan is a 33-year-old, Israeli singer, formerly with a folkish rock band called Asaf Avidan & The Mojos.  He has since gone solo and is touring the States.   His voice is the most notable thing about this performance—it’s feminine, but not in a conventionally feminine way.  It’s got a husky Janis Joplin vibe or maybe that weird Billie Holiday thing that she does.  And yet Asaf Avida is (clearly) a man and when he belts out songs, his voice is incredibly powerful.

And yes indeed, he knows how to use his voice very well.  His voice would be unconventional even if he was a woman—it’s creaky and crackly, it warbles and rises and swoops and yet it is very powerful nonetheless.  And I can see it being very polarizing.  I didn’t like it at first but it really won me over.

“My Latest Sin” is a slow finger plucked song (the guitar is beautiful) and most of the song is pretty quiet, but man can Asaf belt out the lines when he wants to. “Different Pulses” is a more robust song musically (even though it is just him on guitar). When he sing the “oh ho” part, he hits some real falsettos, but is still very powerful.

The way he mixes up his incredibly high pitched voice with the gravelly and growly makes this an incredibly engaging performance.

As he introduces the third song, “Reckoning Song,” he explains that it was remixed as an ambient song–which he hates.  He had asked the remixer to take it down, but the guy refused.  And it has since hit 150 million hits.  He’s grateful for the attention, although he still hates the remix. His version is quiet and powerful with some beautiful catchiness.

I’m very intrigued by this fellow and want to hear more.

[READ: June 20, 2014]  Johnny Hiro Book 1

This book collects the first three Johnny Hiro stories (from 2007-2008).  It was originally published by AdHouse books with the cover that you’ll see below.  This Tor reprint is identical (as far as I was willing to investigate).

I was immediately intrigued by the cover and the title.  I loved the play on Hero and Hiro and when I saw that a Godzilla type monster attacks them on the first page, I was sold.

So Johnny Hiro is an average Japanese American kid living in New York.  He has a bad job as a sushi chef, but he has a beautiful Japanese girlfriend who loves him very much.  Of course, when the first story opens and Mayumi is pulled away by “Gozadilla,” things aren’t looking that good for him.

But here’s some wonderful things that do happen in the story: Johnny rescues her while wearing her Hello Bunny slippers (she’s concerned that he will stretch them out); we learn that Gozadilla is mad at her because her mother stopped him in 1978 from trying to rampage Tokyo (so this is a revenge mission) and, best of all, they are saved because Mayumi calls Mayor Bloomberg for help (she got his number from the phone book because of an article in the New York Times).  Oh and the monster attack has left a huge hole in their exterior wall. (more…)

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arborSOUNDTRACK: DAVID BYRNE-uh oh (1992).

uhohI received this CD free when it came out (radio station perk), and I listened to it a few times, but not really all that much.  I never really thought that much about it because I didn’t really like the cover–it looked too babyish.  It’s been a while since I listened to it and I am delighted at what a good, solid, Talking Heads-ish album this is (with David Byrne, you never know exactly what you’ll get from a record, but this is poppy).

“Now I’m Your Mom” opens with an early 90s funky electronic bass and some crazy guitar sounds.  But as soon as the bridge kicks in, the song is pure Byrne/Talking Heads.  And that world music style chorus means that this song could have been huge (even if it is about a transvestite or transgendered person–I didn’t listen that carefully).  However, the extended section at the end makes the song feel a little long.  “Girls on My Mind” is a strange (but good) song from start to finish—a weird cheesy synth sound pervades the song, and yet once again, it’s very Byrne—especially the crazy singing of the chorus.

“Something Ain’t Right” opens with an odd chant but then turns very conventional—with choral voices giving big oohs.  “She’s Mad” opens as a kind of sinister song.  And yet, after some verses about her being mad, the chorus is as bright as anything else on the record—a very schizophrenic song.  “Hanging Upside Down” has a very commercial Talking Heads Feel, like “Stay Up Late.”

“Twistin’ in the Wind” has more of those big choruses of voices to “well well well” up the song.  “The Cowboy Mambo” has another weird sound that circulates through the song, but it’s got a good beat and a great chorus and it would be fun to dance to.  “Monkey man” is a horn-heavy track that opens in a sinister vein once again.  “A Million Miles Away” just gets stuck with you and makes you want to sing along.  “Somebody” ends the disc with more Latin horns and rhythms.  It’s a fun song, and a good ending.

Overall, this is a surprisingly good record.  All of the songs are a little long–Byrne songs should really max out around 4 minutes.  For that extra time, he either tends to repeat himself or add superfluous codas that drag out the end.  But aside from that, this is a real treat, especially for Talking Heads fans.

[READ: May 20 2013] Arboretum

The back of the book describes this as a collection of enigmatic, enchanting mental maps.

And that is kind of what the book is.  It is a collection of drawings–tree and branch-style drawings mostly–that endeavor to map relationships.  But the subject matter is crazily diverse–oftentimes nonsensical or at the very least unparseable.  The good news is that many of the drawings have an explanatory text in the back of the book.  I acknowledge that ideally the drawings should make sense without needing an explanation, but the explanations were really useful–they really give you the frame of mind that Byrne was trying to explain through the pictures. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DROMEDARY RECORDS

My friend Al started Dromedary Records many many years ago (for the whole, in depth, history read here).  He released a number of cool indie rock CDs and then decided to put a halt to the proceedings.

Recently, he decided to resurrect the label, with mostly downloads as opposed to physical product (for the post about that, read this).  He’s currently offering a free EP download from the great Jersey band Footstone.  But more importantly, he’s gathered a number of cool indie bands who contributed a track for his new compilation called Make the Load Lighter: Indie Rock for Haiti.  Proceeds from the compilation go to Haitian relief.

Al has always loved music.  Dromedary was his way of getting great music out to people without all the bullshit that major labels were foisting on artists (this was all before internet music, of course).  And, Al has always been a really good and decent human being (even after owning a record label for a dozen years).  I’m delighted that he’s able to do a nice thing for people and still get music out to those who want it.

So, buy the download, support a good cause, and enjoy some great tunes.

[READ: February 2009] 52 Weeks Heads and Quotes

This is a day planner (sort of) and as such it doesn’t really qualify as a book I’ve read.  However, The Believer published this planner which included excerpts from the magazine, so it kind of counts.  Each week there’s a quote from an artist (usually a writer, but also actors and musicians) as well as a Charles Burns drawing of him or her (or even it in a couple of cases).

And since it is not tied to any year (you write in the month as you go) it has the delightful quote on the back: “You can start this planner anytime–it does not expire.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARK WAS THE NIGHT: This Disc (2009).

This compilation was released to benefit the Red Hot organization, who raises money to fight AIDS.  I’ve gotten about a half dozen or so of their compilations over the years (and was surprised to see that they have released about 2o of them!).

This collection is a two disc set of contemporary cutting edge indie rock bands.  And, when it came out it was definitely billed as a who’s who of cool.  The first disc is more or less an acoustic/folky collection of songs.  While that’s not entirely true, the discs are more or less broken down that way.  The artists include David Byrne & The Dirty Projectors, Jose Gonzales, Feist (on two tracks), Bon Iver, The National (a band I don’t know but whose song I love) and Iron & Wine.

Probably the coolest song of the disc (although not my favorite) is Kronos Quartet’s take on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night.”  For years, Kronos has been interpreting rock and other genre songs to fit into their string quartet style.  And this song sounds amazing.  I’ve no idea what they’re doing, but they turn their standard quartet instruments: violin, cello, etc into really cool blues sounding strings (even a slide guitar at one point).  It’s really amazing.  As I said it’s not my favorite track, but it sounds great.

The Decembersists contribute a 7 minute song (that I believe is new as I don’t recognize it).  It’s very good, but it seems like the kind of song that normally would have had a lot of effects/orchestration on it.  And this is an acoustic rendition, so it sounds more sparse than I would think.  It’s still very good though.

Finally, the disc ends with the weirdest track, an 11 minute freak out by Sufjan Stevens.  Every time you think it’s going to end, it morphs into a new instrument which continues the track.  It works well as a soundscape, although it’s a bit tedious in comparison to the rest of the disc which is largely concise acoustic gems.

Disc one is a great collection of tracks, and the overall style works well together.  It’s a very worthy collection of songs and it’s for a good cause.

[READ: December 18, 2009] Love as a Foreign Language 1

This graphic novel is the kind of great romance story that I’ve come to expect from Oni.  It is clever, it is funny, it plays games with pop culture and, of course, the writing and art are fantastic.

Joel is a Canadian living in Korea teaching English to native Koreans.  The book opens with the 4 H’s of culture shock: The honeymoon (you love the place), the horror (you hate the place), the humor (you accept the place and its flaws) and the home (you see yourself living there).  Joel is clearly in the horror stage.  He hates everything about Korea, especially the food. Joel has a few months left on his contract but he wants to get out of it and just go home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Kiss (1974).

I’ve always loved the first Kiss record.  Everything about it is over the top, and I can’t imagine what people thought of it when it hit shelves back in 1974.

And yet, for such a preposterous looking record, the tracks are really great.  The music is a mixture of pop, Rolling Stones rock swagger, Beatles harmonies, and a sort of proto-heavy metal.

“Strutter” proves to be a great opening track with a great riff and fun vocals.  And it’s just one of thousands of Kiss songs about hot chicks that, because of its metaphorical/obscure lyrics is less offensive than it might have been.  “Nothin’ to Lose” is another lyrically inscrutable song that I’ve always assumed was very dirty: “Before I had a baby, I tried every way.  I thought about the back door.  Didn’t know what to say.”  And yet it is so outrageously poppy that no one minds singing along.  “Firehouse” is a wonderfully over the top song with great falsetto vocals and an awesome solo from Ace. “Cold Gin”  is another rocking classic with cool basswork and guitar solo notes over a standard rocking verse.  Side one ends with”Let Me Know” a pop song hiding under the guise of a heavy rock song.  The song is such a poppy bit of fluff (check out the soulful harmonies before the ending guitar solo kicks in), but it works wonders.

Side Two starts with a silly cover of “Kissin’ Time” that of course is appropriate for this band (and if they went for a more poppy sound overall, this would have been their anthem, no doubt).  “Deuce” follows, and it blasts forth with some heavy stuttering and slighty off-sounding guitars.  It also has the best opening lyric ever: “Get up and get your grandma out of here.” Which is later followed by one of the top ten Huh? choruses off all time, “You know your man is working hard, he’s worth a deuce.”  (Rampant speculation as to what a “deuce” was in 1974 can be found online).  I’ve always loved the “Love Theme from Kiss” which is possibly the most hated pre-disco Kiss song that I can think of.  It’s a weird pseudo-middle-eastern instrumental that I’ve always thought was trippy and funny.  And then comes “100,000 Years,” another one of my favorite songs.  Again, the lyrics are just bizarre (and I’ve always mis-heard them until I looked them up just now: “How could you have waited so long, it must have been a bitch while I was gone” (I’d always thought the “it” was actually “you” which means the song isn’t as nasty as I ‘d always thought).  So, it’s sort of like The Odyssey, then.  But musically the song is just phenomenal: a great guitar riff over simple bass notes and a staggering guitar solo.

The disc ends with the outstanding “Black Diamond.”  There’s so much to love about this song.  It’s a gritty tale about life on the streets.  It opens with a pretty acoustic guitar ballad sung by Paul.  Then, after the awesome “Hit it!” the song kicks in powerfully.  Peter takes over vocals, and his rough voice works perfectly.  It’s only five minutes long, but it feels like a great epic track.  No the least of which is because the song ends with a cool concept: a single note, punctuated with drums, that is slowed down (from the original taped master), getting slower and slower making the notes sound heavier and heavier, slower and slower.  You can even hear the drum riff played at a by-now snail pace.  It’s very cool.

This is really a great album, and it’s somewhat overshadowed by their mid 70’s more famous music.  And if you like 70s rock but don’t think you like Kiss, this is one disc you can sneak into your collection.

[READ: December 20, 2009] The New Sins

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.  I bought it from McSweeney’s in their attic sale for a couple of bucks.  David Byrne is Talking Heads David Byrne, so everything he makes is arty, avant garde and hard to fathom on a first listen/view.  But I’m unlikely to read this again, so he gets a cursory attempt here.

The New Sins purports to be a collection of what the “new” sins are.  It’s also written as if it were an ancient text that was recently uncovered and translated into English (although obviously, the word choices are laughably not ancient (web design, for instance).  Basically, what you get is a list of behaviors that until recently were not sins but which are now.  The odd thing about the book is that the sins are not an obvious parody of virtues or anything like that.  He doesn’t just say that kindness is a sin, he adds that ambition is a sin as well.  So it’s not even simple inversion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Future Soundtrack for America (2004).

This CD came with the McSweeney’s Future Dictionary for America.  It was released on Barsuk Records (home of Death Cab for Cutie and other great bands) and it was compiled by Spike Jonze and one of the Johns from They Might Be Giants.

This is a solid compilation of indie rock tracks.  At the time of the release most of the songs were rare or hard to find (since then I’ve seen a number of these tracks elsewhere).

TMBG obviously include a piece (a rendition of the old political song “Tippicanoe and Tyler Too”).  Other featured artists include: OK Go, David Byrne, Jimmy Eat World (covering Guided by Voices), Mike Doughty (with a song called Move On, that I have to wonder if it was written for this compilation as proceeds went to MoveOn.org), Ben Kweller (great song title: “Jerry Falwell Destroyed the Earth”), Blink 182 (with the only song I know by them, “I Miss You” that reminds me When in Rome’s The Promise“), the much missed Sleater-Kinney, a remix by R.E.M., a great track from Nada Surf, a live piano version of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” from The Flaming Lips, a staggering song by Laura Cantrell (who I only know from her work with TMBG, this song is a cover of a John Prine song), Tom Waits’ amazingly powerful and very emotional “Day After Tomorrow,” and a rocking piece from Elliott Smith.

Proceeds for the disc went to MoveOn.org in an attempt to raise money to defeat Bush in the 2004 election. We know how that turned out.  But, as that is not relevant anymore, if you like your indie music good, this is a wholly worthy collection.

[READ: December 17, 2009] Maintenance Volume 1

Now this is a comic that I can get into.  And I’m already delighted to see that there are two more volumes out.

The premise of the comic is that the two guys on the cover, Doug and Manny, work as maintenance men for TerroMax, Inc., the world’s biggest and best evil science think tank!  Their work is sometimes scary, often disgusting and always interesting.

There are three stories in this volume.  In the first one, the guys encounter a ManShark.  In the second, they are sent back in time to the cavemen era (where they learn that a scientist has already visited them) and in the third, a minor character from the first story comes back to play a large role in an alien invasion. (more…)

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