31 July 2006

Earworm: Final Fantasy - Please Please Please

This is an utterly bizarre song to have as an earworm. I'll let the lyrics speak for themselves.

Where did you bottle up
the gentleman, the gentleman?
Where did you bottle up
the gentleman, the gentleman?

give me your hands, give me your hands
give me your hands, give me your hands

Your head is shouting
Please please please,
please please please

Don't let your cock do all the work
all the work

All those around you
Please please please,
please please please

I have no idea what to make of this lyrically or narratively, but it's a damn sticky song.

Final Fantasy - Please Please Please (from YSI) off of Has A Good Home

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Bon Savants/Lake Trout/Editors @ Paradise

It was a good show: consistent, as my companion point out. I don't think I'd been to a show with two openers where both of them were good.

Bon Savants were good, but no better than that. They drew a pretty decent crowd for a first opener, seeing as they're local, and announced that guitarist Kevin is leaving; their sound edged upward in my estimation for the whole set, which is always a good thing.

Lake Trout was the second opener of the night, and the big surprise; the second-opener slot is usually death, if only because at that point everybody's tired of listening to people who aren't the headliners. But they were sharp and engaging; their fondness for cyclical guitarwork reminded me of Tool in its lighter moments, and the wandering construction of some of their songs reminded me of Mogwai. Accidentally bought their next-to-newest CD, and there's a big difference between the two: part of it of course might be production values, but their sound has gotten more layered and focused since then.

Lake Trout - Riddle (from YSI), off of their 2005 CD Not Them, You

And of course, Editors. They're good. Everybody knows they're good. It's clear they're good from the show, and it was probably the most enthusiastic audience I've seen--there was actually a stage dive and brief crowd sufing, before security collared the guy and hauled him off. But . . . it's not my thing. Too much cool rockstar posturing. Tom Smith (the vocalist) looked like he'd either taken too many floppy drugs or was doing the last stage of the peepee dance (which is called "Oh . . . too late")--although I sort of doubt that was the impression he was going for--and the guitarist was such a rock star with his skinny jeans, mini-mullet, and pigeon-toed guitar dances. The bassist was the only one who looked like a normal human being, and thus, my favorite.

I do like the occasional song, like "All Sparks," and Editors'll always get props from me for the brilliant acoustic cover of the Gorillaz' "Feel Good, Inc.," but mostly they're just not a band for me.

Editors - All Sparks (from YSI), off of their debut Back Room

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30 July 2006

Lowell Folk Festival

Had the good luck to get dragged to the Lowell Folk Festival yesterday; I'd never heard of it, not being from around these parts, but apparently it's the largest free folk festival in the US. We only caught a couple of acts, but they were wonderful.

The first we had was Liz Carroll and John Doyle (Irish fiddle and guitar). I don't know enough about Irish music to be able to comment intelligently, so instead I'll say that watching Liz Doyle was great fun. When she played standing up, her whole body was focused on the fiddle, but when she sat down, her legs started dancing! Kept much more complex time than most people aim for when they're using knees. Doyle was behind a pole from my vantage point, so I can't comment on his dancing.

Then there was Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and they were brilliant. There's not much like zydeco for getting people dancing--even hesitant New Englanders--and as there were a few couples there who really knew how to do it, and a few caution-to-the-winds types who didn't care that they didn't, the aisles were pretty full. As we were right behind an aisle, we had a brilliant view: the hot girl who was almost certainly a bellydancer; the crazy-dancing bearded barefoot dude who tried to pick her up; the couple where the girl taught the ponytailed guy a step, and he would repeat it with tremendous enthusiasm and fair agility; the weathered couple I suspected most of knowing how to do a proper Cajun jitterbug. It was a lovely thing to see, and made the music that much better.

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29 July 2006

Blogathon Now

Blogathon in progress over at CTASLS! Go read and then give, or give and then read!

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28 July 2006

Square Wave Punch

The problem with keeping up with all of the good music blogs out there is that it produces way too much music to be absorbed, or even tried (is this my theme for the week--too much music?). Some things that the blogosphere adores I never try, like Asobi Seksu's new CD "Citrus," which everyone I read loves, or only try a month later, like Ladyhawk. Always makes me wonder what the actual elements are that get me to listen to something. I still don't know what they are, but The Underrated Blog's bit on Square Wave Punch worked, anyway.

Is it just me, or is there a movement of just-rock bands coalescing? Square Wave Punch reminds me a lot of Ladyhawk in that way (maybe White Whale too, a bit): they're not alt-rock or emo-rock or any other hyphen-rock. It'd make sense as a backlash to over-mannered indie acts that're around now (as cool as some of them may be); they have a pleasant kind of palate-cleansing effect, even though they lack the immediate pique-your-interest or substantial feel of more experimental stuff.

Square Wave Punch - Keep Quiet (from YSI)--which doesn't seem to be on CD anywhere, more's the pity.

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Lost and Found in the Shuffle

I have a ridiculous amount of music--at least, in human terms; in gigabyte terms, I know people with more, but in human terms we're in the same boat: we have too bloody much music to absorb, and most of us acquire new music at such a rate that the situation is hardly going to change.

So there's music in my library that I don't remember having heard. Large amounts of it, even; which seems just as shameful as having large amounts of books you haven't read in your library. (Come to think of it, I don't know why this should be, either; but everybody I know who does have large amounts of unread books is vaguely embarrassed about it--maybe we think it betrays a gluttonous lack of temperance, or something.)

Irrational embarrassment aside, the plus side of this is that shuffling can produce very nice discoveries that still feel new, no matter how long I've actually had 'em. This is one; it's by a tiny band called Dandelion Wine that apparently, incredibly, doesn't have a web presence--and isn't the one from Melbourne that plays pop with medieval instruments, which does.

I like this song: it's got an addictive, sweet bop to it that avoids being saccharine, and there's a nicely steady trajectory from start to finish. I wish to hear more from Dandelion Wine.

Dandelion Wine - Fosterwallace (from YSI)

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26 July 2006

Tripwire: The Escapism of Headphones

There's a great bit on Tripwire right now about headphones in law firms (sort of), from the point of view of a temp. It's a pretty pompous article, but it pinpoints something that motivates the success of the iPod, and the Disc/Walkmen that preceded it: solace for the sacrifice of our time. This is what portable music, and particularly high-capacity portable music, is for; it rescues odd scraps of time that would be otherwise irritating waste or barren tedium, and makes them into a blank canvas for mental experience. It makes everybody in the world into me and my patient, book-toting friends: what does it matter if anything is late, as long as I have a book? Music is even better, because you don't have to be sitting still to use it; my 1.5-mile walk to the lab every day is by far the happier when something good is playing in my head.

Doesn't happen all the time, of course, but with everybody hoo-hah-ing about how iPods make you selfish, asocial, and self-absorbed, it might be noted that they can make you more patient, too.

Course, it'd be easy to argue they make you good little drones dependent on external stimuli to fend off boredom, since technically, all unoccupied time is a blank canvas for mental experience; to stretch the metaphor badly, it could be argued that by giving you a ready-made painting it prevents you from making your own. Only applies sometimes, of course, when there are truly minimal attention demands; repetitive work that seems like it should free your mind just catches it in equally repetitive mental loops.

And since it seems appropriate. . .

Headphones - Natural Disaster (from YSI) off of the self-titled debut of Dave Bazan's new project.

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The Fountain: Clint Mansell, Mogwai & the Kronos Quartet

Um, ok, so Aronofsky's doing another movie (and since I loved Pi almost as much as Moby-Dick I can only be excited about that), but! But! Mogwai, Clint Mansell, and the Kronos Quartet are reportedly doing the soundtrack. This, I can get ecstatic about.

From BrightLight.co.uk:

mogwai spent much of december 2005 and february 2006 in their 'castle of doom' studio in glasgow working on film scores.

discussion on the imdb.com messageboard for darren aronofsky's forthcoming film 'the fountain' suggests that the soundtrack has been composed by clint mansell and performed by kronos quartet and mogwai.

a friend who attended the test screening saw that both groups' names are on the end credits as the performers of the music.

if confirmed, this would tie up a couple of other loose ends - the mention of working with clint mansell by barry in a recent interview, and the mooted collaboration with kronos quartet a couple of years ago.

the film stars hugh jackman and rachel weisz, and is due for release on 13th october, preceeded by the soundtrack on 26th september. a number of test screenings have taken place in the us.

Also, The Fountain's website is unbelievably obnoxious. But I'll forgive for the goodness of Clint Mansell, Mogwai, and the Kronos Quartet.

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24 July 2006

Blogathon: Global Fund for Women

Right, so clever titles are so last summer is doing the Blogathon--posting every half-hour to raise money, the charity of choice being The Global Fund for Women. They've got an initiative called "Rights Within Religious & Cultural Traditions" that's very impressive--supporting women in restrictive traditions, educating them so that they can form their own ideas about what their tradition should mean for their lives. Outside of this specific initiative, they work with organizations all over the world focused on helping women be independent and equal participants in civil and cultural life, from literacy to economic independence to legal equality. The Fund is also non-endowed, so they rely on yearly contributions for their grants.

I've got a slot, along with Largehearted Boy, Black Country Grammar, DiMattia Films, My Voice Rising, DIY Rockstar, and Great Body of Water, so there'll be a bloody lot going on over at CTASLS come Saturday. Please be generous for the pleasure of reading!

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And Then There Was Lots

Technorati has a new look today. I like it--it does a much better job of putting most of the things I need on one page.

Old-school media is working hard to interest my generation of music freaks--first NPR gets hip, and now The New York Times reports on Jens Lekman! (Might ask for a free-registation login tomorrow or so; see BugMeNot for a bypass.) I do think Kelefa Sanneh got it right, whoever s/he is: "his witty, self-pitying songs aren’t quite as glum as they might first seem" is a pretty good way to cover Jens' odd manner, appeal, and music. But in case anybody thought the NYT was going to get things right, they blow their cover by claiming that alt-country is dead or dying; apparently nobody told them about Neko Case or Golden Smog--which is funny, because they're also hosting five GS tracks as part of the article.

There's a webcomic called XKCD that I've found recently--since it makes fun of computational linguists and mentions Freezepop and Guitar Hero today, I hereby dub them Awesome. Like Freezepop. (But surely Freezepop isn't really on Guitar Hero?)

Freezepop - Shark Attack (from YSI)

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23 July 2006

Under Construction

Left sidebar under construction, working on getting show dates into tags so it's sorted properly.

Jens Lekman @ TT the Bear's

Can't speak to Frida Hyvönen's set yesterday, as we missed it entirely; I did manage to get a copy of her CD Until Death Comes, which The Concretes' label Sticky Fingers put out originally in 2005 (it's been re-released by Secretly Canadian this year). Her voice is strong and squarely graceful, although her sound is a little too consistently piano-chick to be really interesting.

Frida Hyvönen - I Drive My Friend (from YSI)

Before I get to Jens, a word about the crowd. Central Square cracks me up, and this was the very Centralest of Central crowds: hipster geeks to their eyebrows and earlobes, and it was hipster happy hour. I spent most of the show trying to figure out what about Jens triggers hipster adoration, because it was clear there was a lot of it going on at this show; it was a show obviously composed of ardent fans--when he flubbed the lyrics of "Pocketful of Money," it was the crowd that gave him the reset point. The music of course--the man's got a dreamboat voice with a tinge of Johnny Cash's gravid bass, as well as a knack for songwriting that oscillates between the quirkily peppy and a dreamy backrub. But the answer I ended with was sort of a sideways slant on both: he's undeniably sentimental, but with enough self-conscious ridiculousness (the quirky lyrics, the mannered brass section, the occasional hyperpop trappings that almost, almost remind a listener of ABBA) that the sentiment doesn't ask to be taken seriously. To a hipster's sincerity-allergic palate, this is where the magic is: sentimentality that can be enjoyed, with a side of the ridiculous so that the listener chooses how seriously to take it.

Regardless of all this, it was a good show. Even though Jens only brought off maybe two-thirds of the songs well, the six backing instrumentalists gave him a layered, vibrant background over which to work--and further confirm that wind and non-guitar string instruments are infiltrating the indie scene, all to the better (although Jens' in particular does raise the quesion--six-piece all-girl backing band: fashion statement or coincidence?). Jens' smile is ecstatically sweet and almost weirdly untouched, he still seems a bit surprised by all the fuss like an awkward kid suprised to be asked to join the popular clique for lunch in the cafeteria.

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21 July 2006

Very Off-Topic: Screw-On Head

The Sci-Fi channel has posted the pilot for Screw-On Head (based on the comic by Mike Mignola). It is great fun. Adding firm timing to the flexible medium of comics makes them considerably funnier, Mignola's art doesn't suffer in translation, and the voicework is good--just what you'd expect of Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, and Molly Shannon, really.

Notable quotes:

"He was abducted by two horrible old ladies and a monkey!" "Ah . . . Emperor Zombie, then!"

"It's as I always say. . . all really intelligent people should be cremated, as a matter of public safety."

An informant is reduced to cockroaches about to be squashed by a vampire lady's heel, which is foiled by Screw-On Head's projectile arm. Need I say more?

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20 July 2006

I Want This: Art Brut & We Are Scientists Split

They're splitting a single, says NME. I want it!

"The song we're doing for the split is 'Bang Bang Rock & Roll'," We Are Scientists' Keith Murray told NME.COM. "I'm hesitant to discuss what our approach for it is at this point, since part of what this whole cover split project has turned into for both bands is essentially an opportunity to blow each others' minds when the songs are eventually revealed in their finished forms."
Art Brut seems to be doing a cover of "The Great Escape." Also,
"If Art Brut have done any harm to our precious little tune, I will slice them from nape to 'nads'," joked Murray.
Murray is nuts. Is this a pro or con of the band? I can't tell yet--but I did like the Keith-Murray-accepts-the-Arctic-Monkeys'-award bit, and of course, We Are get big points for covering Sigur Rós.

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19 July 2006

Er. . .

This is really quite weird. Pela? Since when is Sally Forth on the cutting edge of up-and-coming anything?

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Glad to Hear It: Frida Hyvönen

Going to the Jens Lekman/Frida Hyvönen/bunchaotherpeople show at TT the Bear's this weekend; Jens goes on at bloody o'clock in the morning, which has me a bit dampened, but all of a sudden everybody is posting about her, and I like the sample song that everybody's got. So good--maybe I'll get the CD at the show, since I already have all Jens' stuff.

Frida Hyvönen - You Never Got Me Right from YSI

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Earworm: Pedro the Lion - The Poison

My old man always swore that hell would have no flames
Just a front row seat to watch your true love
pack up her things and drive away

From the brilliant but not very even Achilles Heel.

Pedro the Lion - The Poison, from YSI

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18 July 2006

eMusic is My Lipstick

Totally random note: lipstick on blogs is the new hip thing, apparently (like last summer it was wolves in bands): there's websites with Lipstick in the title popping up all over. There's Lipstick is My Crack, a fashion blog, and The Lipstick of Noise, a music blog, and The Days & Nights of a Lipstick Librarian, which is about what it sounds like it is. Therefore, eMusic is my lipstick. Because I said so.

But really the point of this is that eMusic is rockin' my world more than usual these days, and here's a list of reasons. . .

1. They've finally got the Final Fantasy catalog. All of it!

2. Dave Bazan's new post-Pedro EP.

3. An eMusic-only EP and CD by Sunset Rubdown.

4. A best-of-Riverside jazz recordings by Harvey Pekar, freelance jazz critic and the author of American Splendor.

5. A live Mike Doughty recording, which, since he won't come to Boston, I covet.

So eMusic is definitely my lipstick. Whatever that means.

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17 July 2006

Video: Final Fantasy @ Alchemize

The very fine Anchor Center has a video of Owen Pallett playing at Alchemize in Cincinnati. It's a sight to behold, the way the song is built to complexity with nothing but a violin, a voice, and a sample pedal. The name of the song does make me wonder--"This is the Dream of Win & Regine"? Sure sounds a lot like "This is the Dream of Evan and Chan," but what would be the point of that?

This makes me even crosser at missing Final Fantasy when they came to Boston.

Final Fantasy - This is the Dream of Win & Regine (live @ Alchemize

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Unexpected Covers: The Editors - Feel Good, Inc

There's an Editors show coming up at Paradise, so they're on my Upcoming Shows playlist; which is how I discovered an overlooked cover of Gorillaz' Feel Good, Inc. The original is a diabolically sugary addiction, and the cover is up there with Kozelek's cover of Tiny Cities in its bizarre wistfulness.

Editors - Feel Good, Inc from YSI

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Les Claypool @ Porter Square Books tonight

So, er, apparently Les Claypool, the former frontman of Primus and current solo music-fella, is also a solo writer. By all accounts he's an int'restin' guy, and Primus was a strange, strange band--their CD was called Pork Soda for cryin' out loud! I have absolutely no idea what he's like as a writer, so I'm gonna have to show up and find out. . .

Primus - The Diamondback Sturgeon from YSI

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14 July 2006

Playlists in Slow Progress

Building coherent playlists carefully is hard to do once you have a certain amount of music, but if it's well done it can make a CD that's listenable for years, and takes with it the feel of the time when you made it. I'm working on two right now; the tracks that're on YSI are the ones I think are most representative of what I'm aiming for.

One: The Intuition of Mortality, or, We're All Gonna Die
Pedro the Lion - Priests and Paramedics
John Vanderslice - Nikki Oh Nikki
Headphones - Slow Car Crash (the live Undertow Orchestra version)
Death Cab - What Sarah Said
Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day
Psapp - Leaving in Coffins

This is taking me longer than most--I'm being pickier than most, but it's a good idea that needs to be done well. Somebody suggested Godspeed You Black Emperor - "Dead Flag Blues", but I found it too apocalyptic; what I'm really looking to convey is the moment when you realize you don't go on forever, to quote Rosencrantz; or the moment when you realize with Big Bird that Mr. Hooper isn't coming back--when the idea of death in all its strangeness and impenetrability comes close.

Two: Dress
Dirty on Purpose - Your Summer Dress
Sufjan Stevens - The Dress Looks Nice On You
The New Pornographers - Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
Margot & the Nuclear So-and-So's - Vampires in Blue Dresses
Belly - Sad Dress
P.J. Harvey - Dress
Mark Lanegan - Wedding Dress
Red House Painters - Summer Dress

Maybe because it's summer and too bloody hot for much else, or because my fashion-conscious friends are proclaiming it the Year of the Dress, but I've had dresses on the brain. Cool thing about this group is that half of the them are gritty and powerful (PJ Harvey and Mark Lanegan, unsurprisingly) and half of them are graceful and dreamy (Sufjan and Red House Painters); it could be cool, I think. That's one of the humps of making a good, coherent playlist: you get to a certain place where you have all the right songs, and then they're either too short or too long for a CD, and you have to decide whether or not to fix it, weaken the list and make it burnable, or leave it as it is.

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13 July 2006

Earworm: Centro-Matic - Calling Thermatico

My introduction to Will Johnson of Centro-Matic was when he toured with Dave Bazan, Vic Chesnutt, and Mark Eitzel as Undertow Orchestra; man, that was a brilliant show. Those guys had it together.

I went out and got Love You Just the Same, and I've run across some South San Gabriel songs here and there--partially in the eMusic Misra sampler. This song has got to be the stickiest--it's perpetually making itself an earworm. The jagged guitars and smartly mechanical percussion just keep lodging themselves in my phonological loop; which is to say, I like.

Centro-Matic - Calling Thermatico from YSI

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12 July 2006

Off-Topic: Brick

So I went to see "Brick" last night; I'd heard it was a high-school noir and very good, and it was both. As a noir it was meticulous and sharp, very well done.

But ten minutes into it I had a question that I've still not managed to figure out: why set it in high school? The film seemed very carefully to excise any atmosphere of high school, and unavoidable high school figures like a vice principal were rephrased to fit a more adult noir setting. This disqualifies most of the more obvious reasons for a high-school setting: it wasn't either using noir to make high school funny, or using high school to make noir funny, or using noir to say something about high school (that it's as dangerous and dark a world, or whatever). So what does the unusual setting buy the movie?

It's obvious that it's a good movie; it followed the rules of noir precisely--the roles of the characters, the slang, the assumption of a certain amount of violence as the price for information. So it seems unlikely that such a smart movie would use a lame gimmick like "in high school!" (which is the movie business' equivalent to the fortune-cookie suffix "in bed!") unless there was an advantage to it, or something to be said by it. But the fact that I can't figure out what the basic setup is for makes me feel like I saw a whodunit but missed the payoff.

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I Wish Somebody Would Post This Commercial To YouTube

So, um, apparently an instrumental version of "I Think I Need a New Heart" is on a commercial for Cesar Canine Cuisine. I really, really wish somebody would put this on YouTube. Or something. Make it viral, y'all, c'mon!

Obviously I'm a bit slow, since the spot has been airing for at least six weeks. Stephin Merritt doesn't seem to take himself at all seriously (which is good, considering how the ridiculous makes up a good part of his music's charm), so I don't think there need be any moaning about the degrading commercialization of fine music. I bet he thinks it's funny.

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10 July 2006

Last.fm's Shiny New Beta

Last.fm's new beta site sure is shiny. The scuttlebutt before the mast is that it'll go live tomorrow, but for the moment it's subscribers only. But look what I got--a screenshot! Friend of . . . people breaking the restrictions of . . . well, it's a screenshot, anyway.

Which doesn't, and can't I guess, say much about the changes. I'm not sure yet what the real differences are, besides cool-but-cheating gradients in the color blocking and an increasingly popular dashboard sorta display. Word is you can edit your recent tracks--in case your little brother and sister sneak into your room and start playing Ashlee Simpson and, um, other really bad things. There's also an all-in-one place listing of free tracks, which is good; previously they were damn hard to find. This'll be interesting to explore--Last.fm is part of the unholy pantheon of Emusic, Lala, Tourb.us, and Technorati that help me keep track of new music.

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Live Colin Meloy Set

I'm still pissed that I was out of town for the Laura Veirs/Colin Meloy show early this year; but NPR broadcast them from The Birchmere a couple days later, and now You Ain't No Picasso has a live set from him, too. The universe seems determined to make it up to me with live Meloy goodness--but I still want the real thing. This one pointed out a Decemberists EP I don't own, called 5 Songs. Shocker! I must have it.

"Shiny" (live) from YSI

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08 July 2006

Cold War/Pela/Dirty On Purpose @ Great Scott

Cold War opened; the sound wasn't great, but from what I could tell their instrumentals were unfocused and their vocals uninteresting.

Pela was the band I'd heard more about, and they did seem better focused; the bassist seemed very good, and the instrumentals over all made a much better impressoin; but there didn't seem to be any reason to be interested, really--they were good, but not interesting. They had no grab: there was an odd contrast in the lead singer that I almost liked, between his jock look and his screamy almost Bright Eyes-ish vocals, but when it comes down to it--I don't like Bright Eyes, and a look/sound contrast in a lead singer does not a band make.

Dirty on Purpose was the first strikingly good band of the night; their instrumental work was tight, although the stage setup was odd, with the guitarist/vocalist over on the left instead of centerstage. Their vocals were an unusual falsetto harmony between the guitarist and the drummer, and I'm a sucker for vocal harmony. Plus, the drummer was wearing a Sea Ray shirt, which gets big points, and they had free stickers, which also gets big points. Got their CD, and I'm glad they did--Dirty on Purpose is good enough, and interesting enough, both live and studio, that I wouldn't be surprised if they were going places. Below find "No Radio," from their 28 June '06 CD Hallelujah Sirens. (I notice that Jaymay did the backing vocals on the studio version. Worth noting, I guess.)

Dirty on Purpose - No Radio from YSI

Off-Topic: Flight 3 Rules

Flight 3 came out last Thursday; it's edited by Kazu Kibuishi, one of my favorite writer/artists--he did Daisy Kutter, which is the most nuanced recent book I've read both in scripting and art. Flight is an anthology of short stories done by various young artists, most of whom have either webcomic or illustrator presence.

Flight is the series I look forward to the most--despite the fact that there's about one a year. The art is lovely, the stories are quirky and unsimple, and both are sweet without being twee or forgetting edge and shadow; the artists' different styles give the book a diverse touch that makes it all the more enjoyable, even though I usually end up wanting more of everybody. Everybody should read Flight. And there should be more.

To get the proper juices flowing, here is a sample page from Johane Matte's story "Hunter." All of the animals are wonderfully drawn, maintaining a stylized, Egyptian grace while still being expressive in every line. Closest thing it reminds me of is Blacksad, but without that watercolored softness--more stylized in line.

07 July 2006

Earworms: Snowden, Some By Sea, Sigur Ros/We Are Scientists

Snowden is an Atlanta band that says on their myspace page that they're "post-shoegaze." I'm not entirely sure what that is--I thought the point of shoegaze was that it was gauzy, heartfelt, and melancholic, which doesn't so much fit Snowden. Their guitarwork does sorta remind me of Trespassers William (the limit of my experience of shoegazer stuff) in that they both remind me of the geometric string designs I did in first or second grade--the curves there are approximated by a repetition of straight lines. Their CD Anti-Anti comes out from Jade Tree 22 August, which can be preordered at their woefully flash-based website, where there's also a link to download most of the Snowden EP.

Snowden - Good News

Some By Sea I got from Obscure Sound, as On Fire! (Igloo) made the cut for the best CDs of the year at half-time. I'm a sucker for strings and vocal harmony, both of which they do very nicely, and their lyrics are vivid, impressionistic, and miserable.

Some By Sea - The Beginning of the World Often Comes

This next one goes under unexpected covers for sure; it's We Are Scientists covering "Hoppipolla," which is worth it just to get to see somebody else do Sigur Ros. Nobody covers Sigur Ros! They sing in a made-up language! Apparently Murray had a phonetic crib-sheet for the lyrics--although I'm confused because Ain't No Picasso says he got the crib sheet from someone who speaks Icelandic. How would that help with Jon Birgisson's Hopelandic? Do the two share phonetic codes, or what? Anyway, it's a great song nonetheless.

We Are Scientists - Hoppipolla

It should be noted that We Are Scientists are part of the exalted company, along with Alexi Murdoch, Psapp, Jose Gonzalez, Final Fantasy, Calexico, and Aimee Mann, THAT BLOODY CHOSE TO PLAY SHOWS IN BOSTON THE WEEK I WAS OUT OF TOWN! All of those in one week! It isn't fair.

06 July 2006

Earworm: Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day

A friend sent me "Casimir Pulaski Day" maybe a year ago, raving about Sufjan. I listened, and didn't get it. Like a good little girl, thinking maybe I needed a bigger sample, I went and got Seven Swans and Illinois--and still didn't get it. It was nice, but nothing ever grabbed my attention.

Which now makes me think I wasn't paying any. It was playing in The Museum of Useful Things last night, and it got utterly stuck in my head and still isn't ousted; which is odd, since the only really lovely part are the trumpet and the lyrics (which are too subtle to be striking upon hearing once)--the change in the overall song induced by the trumpet part reminds me of Salieri's reaction to the oboe and clarinet notes in Mozart's Serenade for Winds and how much a single line can change a piece of music.

Sufjan's vocals still remind me of Iron & Wine; they're too precious and gentle to be really powerful (Iron & Wine needed the extra sparkle and twang of Calexico to be really superlative). But the lyrics of Casimir Pulaski Day complement this vocal style, and turn it from a weakness into a technique: since the lyrics are so oblique and melancholy, and the subject so grieving, the twee quality of the vocals deepens into a different impression. They remind me of a perceptual phenomenon called object completion: it's the mechanism that allows people to see a square when there are really only four unconnected corners, or the third dimension of a cube when the only cues are dotted lines; although the listener only gets told peripheral bits and pieces, the complete picture that's constructed is the more powerful for it.

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05 July 2006

Psapp Reminds Me of Postal Service

In the sweetness of their glitchy instrumentals (although that goes for Dntel too, of course) and the lyrics that, once you get past the jerky, catchy flow of the song, surprise you with their quiet, vivid detail. Below find "Leaving in Coffins," off of Tiger My Friend.

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