Archive for the ‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SUPERCHUNK-The Question is How Fast (1992).

With a new CD out, and–even more impressive–an appearance on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, I thought it would be fun to revisit Superchunk’s output (starting with their EPs).

This is the earliest Superchunk EP that I own.  The title track is a bracing four minute blast of speedy alt-rock.  It has a poppy structure but the guitar is distorted enough to keep the song interesting over repeated listens.  Of course, it’s the catchy chorus that sells the song.  And it sets the tone for future Superchunk tracks: high pitched vocals sung loud and with unimpeachable pop sensibility.

The second track is “Forged It” a more punk-sounding track that, when the chord changes come in, makes it sound like it’s moving even faster.  A blistering guitar solo muscles its way into the song, too.  The final track is “100,000 Fireflies” a cover of The Magnetic Fields song (and one that they play quite often, it seems).  It’s given suitable bratty treatment from the band.

[READ: October 2, 2010] “Birdsong”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the second to last 20 Under 40 author from the New Yorker. This story has the delightful exoticism of being set in Lagos.

And yet, the basic premise is quite simple: a wealthy married man falls for a woman and they begin an affair.  It’s a fairly typical story of illicit love and jealous.  However, some details are rather different: he allows her to move into his “work” house (he bought it to turn it into condos, but he liked it so much he kept it as an office).  And she lives with him in this way for around 18 months.

Her office mate, a judgmental woman who she would never be friendly with if they didn’t work together is very disapproving of this affair, and always calls him, “your man” knowing fully well that he is actually someone else’s man.

And that, in addition to the love he clearly shows to his wife eats away at her.  So, in many ways, this is a fairly conventional story. (more…)

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walrus-99SOUNDTRACK: NEKO CASE-Middle Cyclone (2009).

nekoI first learned of Neko Case through The New Pornographers.  Their song “Letter from an Occupant” blew me away.  But when I’d investigated her solo work, I learned she was more of a country singer than anything else.  Reviewers said that Middle Cyclone broke from that mold a little into more rock territory.

I don’t know her early stuff, but I can attest that these songs are mildly rocking. However, it’s hard to take the country out of the singer.  There’s something about Neko’s voice on this disc that screams country (even as her songs get faster and more furious).  But, much like k.d. lang who won me over when she broke away from her country roots, so did Neko Case.

Rather than explicit country, Neko case seems to be filling in the shoes of the sorely missed Kirsty MacColl, another great singer-songwriter who melded genres like so much fondue.

Case never hits the manic intensity of “Letter from an Occupant” (she admitted on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me that her vocals were sped up for that song), but she proves to be a powerhouse singer.  And once I got over the fact that this album didn’t ROCK, I accepted that it was very good.  I don’t know if I have a favorite track, although I do like her cover of Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth.”

I finally managed to listen to the last track, “Marais la Nuit” all the way through on my lunch the other day.  It is, literally, 30 minutes of frogs and bugs chirping away.  It’s quite relaxing, but not really worth listening to all 30 minutes.

[READ: October 8, 2009] “Summer of the Flesh Eater”

The title is not misleading exactly, but it may make you think zombies are afoot.  But they are not.  (I debated about revealing this, but figured it would win more fans of people who don’t like zombies than lose people who do). (more…)

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weekI’m not sure how I first learned about The Week. I think I received a trial issue in the mail. But after just one or two issues we were hooked.  The Week is a comprehensive newsweekly, although it offers virtually no original reporting.  It collates news stories and offers opinions from a variety of sources: newspapers, online magazines, political journals etc. And it provides opinions from across the political spectrum.

Each issue has the same set up (although they recently had an image makeover: a new cover design and some unexpected font changes in a few sections, which I suppose does lend to an easier read).

Each issue starts with The main stories… …and how they were covered. The first article is a look at whatever major story captivated the editorials that week.  (The growing gloom in Afghanistan).  And in a general sense of what you get for long articles (the long articles are about 3/4 of a page) You get WHAT HAPPENED, WHAT THE EDITORIALS SAID, and WHAT THE COLUMNISTS SAID.  The What Happened section is a paragraph or two summary of the story.  The editorials offer a one or two sentence summary from sources like USA Today, L.A. Times and The Financial Times, while The Columnists are from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Time.com, for example. (more…)

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pride-zombiesSOUNDTRACK: The Core: WVPH, 90.3 FM.

coreThe Core is also from Rutgers University.  How do they have two radio stations?  Interestingly, the station is shared with Piscataway High School.  For several hours a day Piscataway High School takes over the airwaves.  Although I admit that I have not listened to any of the PHS stuff because the first block is at 6 in the morning, and the other block is from 1- 3PM.

The college folks, however, play a pretty excellent selection of alternative music.  They’re not quite as indie and out there as WRSU, but they’re not commercial either.  To me, they’re more of the kind of college station I’m used to from my days as music director at the University of Scranton.

In the few days that I listened, I heard a lot of familiar alternative artists, with a nice focus on new bands.  What I especially liked about the station was that they didn’t play too much in the way of commercial alternative (your U2s and R.E.Ms who were once alternative but are now mainstream).  Rather, they played bands like Art Brut, The Decemberists, Portishead and Neutral Milk Hotel: bands that many people have at least heard of, but that you won’t find anywhere else on the dial.

This is the station that I would turn to most if my CD player busted permanently.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, but which also reminded me of my days as a DJ, was that college DJs tend to talk A LOT.  We all think that we are imparting precious wisdom to the masses.  And often, that is true.  Although in this one case, the DJ said that the name of the band was Art Brut Vs Satan, which is in fact just the album name.  (See, I’m still a pretentious music snob!).   However, when I’m having dinner and reading a book, I don’t need a seven minute update about that last concert that you went to.

[READ: May 19, 2009] Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

When I first heard about this book (as a punchline on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me at my brother-in-law Tim’s house), I couldn’t believe it was real.  I was so intrigued by the concept, and then so impressed by the reviews, that I couldn’t wait to read it.

And this book does not disappoint.

For those out of the loop: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, as the title suggests, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with good old zombie action thrown in.  Elizabeth and Darcy… What?

Yes.  Zombies.

Seth Grahame-Smith has taken Pride and Prejudice, changed a few details and then added an entire…well, subplot is not right…more like an underlying condition to the story.  It turns it from a story of love and marriage into a story of love and marriage amidst zombie brain-lust. (more…)

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wrsuComing straight out of Rutgers University in New Brunswick (my grad school alma mater), this was the first station that I happened upon while I was scanning the lower numbers on the radio station.

The brief set that I heard was amazing.

I heard the end of a song that I didn’t know, but which I found very intriguing. It was followed by Les Claypool’s new track “Mushroom Men” (which was wonderful) and then the 180-Gs doing an a capella rendition of Negativland’s “Christianity is Stupid.” I had heard about this band but never heard one of their recordings.  First, if you’ve never heard Negativland, then you’re missing out.  They are a surreal band of audio collagists, playing with sounds and samples and all kinds of weird things.  To have an a capella rendition of a five minute song, the bulk of which is a spoken loudspeakered voice saying “Christianity is Stupid” goes beyond bizarre into the sublime. I have tuned to this station from time to time and each DJ plays his or her own weird and often wonderful thing. What a great experience.

[READ: May 14, 2009] Alphabet Juice

My mother-in-law gave me this book for Christmas because she heard about it on NPR and thought I’d like it. And boy was she right.

waitI hadn’t heard of this book, although actually I’m sure I had–but I ignored it.  Roy Blount Jr is on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, NPR’s news quiz, almost every week.   We love the show because it is funny and it tests your awareness of what’s going on in the world (both serious and ridiculous).  And we try our best to get our kids to let us listen to it each week.  (more…)

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