Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm guest-blogging at Powell's Books this week, and the first post is up, should you find yourself wanting to kill a couple of minutes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A quick note to mention that I've added two reviews over at Shoot Out The Lights.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just a quick mention about the Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale (or whatever they're calling it): YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!

Music Library B: B-52s, BF Shelton, Babes In Toyland, Bad Brains, Badgerlore, Bags, Balancing Act, Banana Splits, Band, Band of Horses, Band of Susans

The B-52s - Time Capsule. This is a best-of compilation, which is about all the B-52s I need. Most of it is great! I like to do the shimmy.

B.F. Shelton - "Pretty Polly." Hillbilly folk music from the 1920s, but the song is much older. Shelton's version is ominous.

Matt Baab & Hayden Childs - Lots of Demos. Well, more like 7. These are some home recordings I made with my friend and former bandmate Matt (now of the excellent band The Distant Seconds) back in 2003 or 2004. We were getting things together for an album and a new band, although not necessarily in that order. They sound pretty decent, actually. I'd like them even if I wasn't playing on them.

Babes In Toyland - "More, More, More (Pt. 1)". This is a cover for a pro-choice album, I think. And man, does it not sound like Babes In Toyland. At all. It sounds exactly like the disco track it's covering. Babes In Toyland could be great, but this isn't. Deleted.

Bad Brains - Bad Brains, I Against I, and Banned In DC. Awesome. I didn't even realize how much I wanted to hear these or how long it had been until "Sailin' On" started. The first album is the best thing that hardcore ever gave us, one of the few albums in the genre that positions hardcore as a inclusive movement with room for reggae and weirdness rather than the ridiculously exclusive and conservative hardcore music that almost everyone else made. I Against I is something else entirely, defying genre expectations at every turn. Banned In DC is a best-of compilation that puts forth a definitive argument for the band's greatness. Even though I'd just listened to some of my favorite songs on the compilation in their original context on the albums, I was just as happy to hear them again as I had been the first time around.

Badgerlore - Stories For Owls. A collaboration between Ben Chasny, the man behind Six Organs Of Admittance and a member of Comets On Fire, and Rob Fisk, formerly of Deerhoof, sounds like a recipe for awesome. It is instead a recipe for okay free-music guitar duets with electronics. There's not much to love, but it falls on the like side of the equation.

The Bags - "Frilly Underwear." Part of a compilation by David Smay, I think. Fun garage rock.

Balancing Act - New Campfire Songs and Three Squares and a Roof. I found these guys by mistake when I downloaded the first song of their first album from a music blog thinking it was "Balancing Act" by the Volcano Suns. But they're a wonderful band, with all the weirdness of Camper Van Beethoven covering Captain Beefheart on acoustic guitars. So I searched out as much of their output as was available about five years back.

The Banana Splits - "I Enjoy Being A Boy (In Love With You)". A thick slice of bubblegum I sought out after reading the delightful collection Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. I used to have a few more Banana Splits tracks, but I didn't like any of them as much as this song.

The Band - Music From Big Pink, The Band, and Stage Fright. I may be missing a few great Band tracks from later, but if they had quit after Stage Fright, they would have had the perfect career. The Band, in particular, is an utterly perfect album, one of my all-time favorites. Getting through this section has taken a while, because I keep restarting this album. I've listened to it all the way through four times just while writing this post.

Band of Horses - Everything All The Time and Tour EP. I like Everything All The Time, but I don't love it. The guitar interplay is pretty, and it overall reminds me of how much I like Built to Spill and Bedhead. I don't get the comparisons to the Flaming Lips or Neil Young at all. The dude's voice is a high falsetto, but that's not enough to make the comparison work. This is straight-ahead indie rock. The Tour EP is just live versions of some of their songs from Everything. It's okay, I guess.

Band of Susans - Hope Against Hope and The Word and the Flesh. Wonderful walls of sound! Band of Susans was all about the melody in the maelstrom, and I love their work. I have a few more, I think, but they'll have to wait for tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My book is in stock at Amazon and Powell's now. Buy it!

I have some upcoming promo things!

1. I'll be guest blogging at Powell's the week of June 30 - July 4. What a great way to celebrate the birth of this country!

2. My Austin book release party is July 12 at the Carousel Lounge. There will be bands playing Richard Thompson songs and I'll read a few excerpts of the book. Yeah!

3. I'll be in Nashville on August 14 reading at Grimey's. Woo, Grimey's!

4. I'll be in Los Angeles on August 30 at Metropolis Books with Kim "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" Cooper and David "Swordfishtrombones" Smay. Those guys are awesome, and I'm excited about sharing the stage with them. They're organizing a Tom Waits tour bus for the same afternoon, which should be oodles of fun. This will also be my first trip to LA, so hooray!

Also, my friend David Schwartz's book was published the week. Buy it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Music Library: Catch Up Brought To You By The Letter A! with AC/DC, Akron/Family, Sam Amidon, and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

A few more A artists I found with careful scrutiny of the section of my iTunes where the artists' names begin with the letter A!

AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Man, to be sixteen years old and own a stupid muscle car.

Akron/Family and Angels of Light - Angels of Light and Akron/Family. A split EP with the two bands. Which are both comprised of the pretty much same people but led by different ones. The Akron/Family stuff is ok, but only ok. There's some great moments and a few baffling ones. The Angels of Light covering "I Pity The Poor Immigrant" is fun, but only because I love the original so much.

Sam Amidon - All Is Well. Actually I don't know why this is in the As. Most solo artists go under the first letter of their given name, and a search of Allmusic indicates that this isn't "Sam Amidon" but "Samamidon," a collaboration between young Sam and another guy. Anyway, these are all traditional folk tunes with lots and lots of ornamentation. I like it. It draws that Azure Ray album into stark contrast. Both albums have lots of gauzy, pretty sounds, but the Azure Ray chose not to anchor those sounds to much of anything, whereas this one has real songs and melodies.

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra - Liberation Afro Beat, Vol. 1 and Talkatif. Aw, yeah! I love Fela-style afrobeat, even when its made by New York-based musicians. These albums murder me dead with the funk-jazz rhythms and counterrhythms.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Music Library: Au Pairs, Augustus Pablo, Auteurs, Avey Tare, Axiom Funk, Azeem, Azure Ray

This is the end of the As! Almost! At this rate, I will be finished by sometime in the next three years.

Au Pairs - Playing With A Different Sex. As I wrote in another post, if they weren't lumped in with utterly brilliants bands like The Mekons, the Gang of Four, the Raincoats, and the Delta 5, the Au Pairs would shine a little brighter. As is, there's some real gems on this.

Augustus Pablo - The Definitive Augustus Pablo. Somewhere between dub and reggae and based around the humble melodica, Pablo's music is a wonderful example of the creative boom in Jamaica during the 60s and 70s.

The Auteurs - New Wave and After Murder Park. Tip of the hat to David Smay, who convinced me to pursue the work of Luke Haines and the Auteurs. Both of these albums are phenomenal, although I'm surprised that writers describe them with the word "glam." They don't sound glam to me. They sound like the Go-Betweens with louder guitars.

Avey Tare - Splinter Series Split #16. There's supposed to be some tracks on this by David Grubbs, too. Maybe I'll hit them in the Ds. Somewhere between annoying and brilliant, like a lot of early Animal Collective.

Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan - Pullhair Rubeye and Pullhair Rubeye (Forward). This is actually just one album. Pullhair Rubeye consists of some lovely songs that Tare and Brekkan, for whatever reason, mastered backwards. The review on Pitchfork mentions how much the author loves this effect when used well, but also how depressing he finds it when abused, such as here. I agree completely. The backwards version is an unpleasant listening experience, without much to recommend it other than proving you can tune out the tediousness of constant redshifted sound. The forward version can be found in any number of places online, and surprise, surprise, it is an enjoyable album. Tare & Brekkan didn't just flip some songs around, but sped them up, too. So: groovy, I suppose, in the same sense that a lava lamp is groovy. Which is also to say not at all.

Axiom Funk - "Sax Machine". A Bill Laswell project with real live funksters like Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell (among, apparently, a cast of thousands) for authenticity. This song carries some pretty heavy funk.

Azeem - "Don't Do It". Decent enough hip-hop. I'm interested in hearing more.

Azure Ray - Hold On Love. This is piano-dominated indie-rock that has something to do with Bright Eyes. The two young ladies who compose this band sing well together and Eric Bachmann provides some fairly interesting (or, at least, not-uninteresting) soundscapes, but, well, I think it's dullsville overall. The songs rarely have anything for me to latch onto. I remember describing a band a few years back as having nothing but atmosphere in search of something solid to anchor it. These songs fit that description. Deleted tonight.


Sorry, that should be meme, meme, meme. They Call Him MISTER Leonard Pierce has tagged me for an online meme in which I should:

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

As Leonard rightfully points out, there ain't no Spring in Texas. It's been over 100 degrees here several times already this year, breaking all sorts of heat records. So Go Team We Don't Give A Shit! This here list is about avoiding the heat in the cool, cool indoor AC, which is, ironically, increasing the heat outside and thus necessitating even more effort in the AC unit, shake, rinse, repeat.
  1. Boris - "Message" (Smile). This is the Japanese version of "Statement" from Boris's Smile album, and the heavy bass & drum beat, the "hoo-hoo" vocals stolen from "Sympathy For The Devil," and the breathtaking guitar breaks all add up to one of the most exciting songs I've heard this year. It's so good that it'll take me a while to come up with the other six.
  2. The Au Pairs - "It's Obvious (Original Single Mix)" (Playing With A Different Sex). OK, I'm back. I hadn't listened to this track in something close to a decade when I hit it as part of my music library project (and I don't think I've blogged about it yet). Think about how unfortunate the Au Pairs were to be so closely associated with the absolutely stunning Leeds punk cadre, like the Gang of Four, the Raincoats, the Mekons, and the Delta 5, because the Au Pairs would shine in most groupings, but were overshadowed in this one. Which is a shame, because when the Au Pairs brought their A-game, they were stunning. This song in particular is a killer.
  3. Om - "Pilgrimage" (Pilgrimage). Bass, drums, and electronics: music doesn't get much more minimalistic. And yet here this is, a psychedelic-metal teenage bonghit symphony to the God of Weed.
  4. Robert Forster - "Demon Days" (The Evangelist). I cried when Grant McLennan died. I didn't know him, of course, but I felt his loss in the songs I knew he still had in him and the seemingly unending potential in his musical collaboration with Forster at the heart of the Go-Betweens. Forster's new solo album contains two songs that McLennan started and would never finish, and this one, one of the finest McLennan had ever written. No one can hear it the way that McLennan intended, but Forster gives it the gravity it deserves. Good man.
  5. The Rolling Stones - "I'm Going Down" (Metamorphosis). For a couple of weeks, eMusic had the entirety of the Rolling Stones's ABKCO releases available. I bought a couple of booster packs and downloaded just about everything I could, including Metamorphosis, a collection of B-sides from the mid-to-late 60s. And this song just slays me. It's the ur-Stones track, built around one of Keef's most solid riffs ever set to tape, and including a sleazy horn track and bongos and Mick drooling like a man possessed. Yeah, the version of "Memo From Turner" on this album is pretty great, too, but this track practically begs for Scorcese to build a movie around it. Maybe he already has.
  6. The Dexateens - "Out On Your Own" (Lost And Found). If the Stones had recorded this song around the time of Exile on Main Street, anyone who was raised on FM radio would know it by heart. Great stuff. Hard to believe that the Dexateens have been having problems getting this record released.
  7. Bat For Lashes - "What's A Girl To Do" (Fur And Gold). This isn't a new song, but I didn't hear it until recently, because I'm semi-purposefully ignorant of Brit-pop, even when it's as layered with awesomeness as this track. It starts off with the drums from "Be My Baby," then follows a meandering path that winds in and out of a gorgeous Shangri-Las-as-covered-by-Bjork melody. What do you call this? Retro-avant-pop?

OK, who's next? How about:

Scott Von Doviak

J. Campbell

Emlyn Lewis

David Schwartz (to give him something to do while he breathlessly awaits the publication of his first novel, Superpowers, out tomorrow)

Mike Sheridan, who blogged a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a while

Austin Swinburn

Bryan Hadley

Friday, June 06, 2008

Music Library: Arthur Russell, Ash Ra Tempel, Ask Dr. Science, Assegai, Asylum Street Spankers, At The Drive-In, Atlas Sound, Atombombpocketknife, Atomic Jefferson

Arthur Russell - Calling Out Of Context. More avant-disco with a stronger emphasis on the dance side of the equation than the avant-noise of the Let's Go Swimming EP.

Ash Ra Tempel - Ash Ra Tempel. Trippy, expansive krautrock.

Ask Dr. Science - a handful of clips. He has a master's degree. In science!

Assegai - "Hey Jude." From a mix CD exchange at some point in the last couple of years. A calypso cover of the Beatles song.

Asylum Street Spankers - Christmas Spanking. Just two songs, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "Linus and Lucy," both bought from eMusic for Xmas mixes over the last three years. The ASSpankers are decent musicians, if a bit winky over their jokey nature. Usually I'd skip Xmas music here, but I listened to both of these.

At The Drive-In - "One Armed Scissor". Free download from eMusic that I've had for some time, but not listened to until now. I hate it! Deleted tonight.

Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel. Solo album from Deerhunter singer. Sort of like Panda Bear from Animal Collective's solo albums: clearly of a piece with the main band, but unique, too.

Atombombpocketknife - "Fly Vultures Fly," "Candy Cane," "Under The Smoldering Wreckage There Is A Town Or Two," "This Is Our Commitment," "Napoleone il cowboy e lo zar" (from This Is Dance Time split EP), Lack And Pattern. My friend Che was in ABPK for a while, and I think most of these tracks date from his tenure in the band. These are several songs that were available for free online plus the album Lack And Pattern and ABPK's contribution to a split EP.

Atomic Jefferson - Atomic Jefferson. A gift from a friend. I'm a little surprised that a little web research reveals that sites aware of this band consider them comic or novelty rock. They're a little goofy, yes, but the music is pitched somewhere in between early Devo, the Meat Puppets, and Captain Beefheart. They don't reach the heights of their influences, but they certainly carry themselves well enough at their best. At their worst, they're just silly.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Music Library: Art Blakey, Art Neville, Art Pepper, Arthur Blythe, Arthur Russell

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - A Night At Birdland Vol. 1, A Night At Birdland Vol. 2, A Night In Tunisia, Paris 1958. Four albums by the jazz drummer, a hardline bop enthusiast who drove the conservative side of jazz so damn well. The Birdland dates are led by Clifford Brown, and Tunisia and Paris albums by Lee Morgan with Wayne Shorter on the Tunisia album only. Great stuff when it's great and inoffensive when it's mild.

Art Neville - His Specialty Recordings 1956-58. New Orleans-style R&B from the 50s. Art's the oldest Neville brother, the founder of the Meters, and the primary organizer of the Neville Brothers. You don't hear much of that here.

Art Pepper - Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section. The rhythm section in question is Red Garland on piano, Paul "Mr. P.C." Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums, all of whom had been playing with Miles Davis in the mid-to-late 50s. Pepper is a very different player than Miles, though. As Garland and Chambers were 2/3 of the Red Garland Trio who played with Coltrane on his earliest dates, this also provides an interesting contrast between Coltrane and Pepper. Anyway, it's hard bop, rounder and more cheerful than either Miles or Coltrane.

Arthur Blythe - Lenox Avenue Breakdown. What a weirdly cool album. Usually when I think of jazz with a flautist and a tubist (is that what you call a tuba player?) and Latin rhythms, I'd just as soon avoid avoid avoid. Blythe is grounded in Ornette Coleman, though, and his sidemen rock their roles, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Arthur Russell - Let's Go Swimming EP. Avant-disco! Built around heavily distorted cello and drum loops. Yeah, that's pretty awesome.

Next time: more Arthur Russell.

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