8.26.2005

they were boys, with their cars, summer jobs

dear friends,

I'm not capable of much at the moment. with your kind permission, I would like to quote myself. this is from an e-mail I sent earlier today to contributor tina:

"ps my head has now become the burrow for beatrix potter rabbits that are decorating their new abode with etchings of woodland scenes. they are banging tiny hammers into the delicate awnings of my skull."

said bunnies are currently at work on the solarium.

1. because I have the soul of a big manx & I's suspicious of anything that's aggressively sold to me as yummy, I have found it difficult to get into sufjan stevens. I know he's a very big deal, an educated poetic sort, gonna write albums for every single state, soulful deep thinker poses in publicity photos, sold out shows, breathless blog references (I saw sufjan buying broccoli rabe!!!) & yet all I can do is studiously avoid him.

recently however, in deference to my profound morbidity, I gave john wayne gacy, jr from illinois a listen. lyrically, I found it a bit forced despite the occasional lovely bit like "he put a cloth on their lips, quiet hands, quiet kiss". I got this mental image of an especially clever fifth grader who decided to do his "famous person" presentation in song form & in costume as the titular killer clown & his teacher secretly thinks he's a little creep for picking this nasty character instead of teddy roosevelt*.

but it winds up working. 'cause, words aside, when stevens lists all the dead boys' things & his voice swoops up into an "oh my god" that unspools in a way that's gorgeous but hurts, hurts 'cause it sounds like words failing & failing desperately. & that I can understand.

I still haven't caved in though. I'll eventually take a gander at seven swans (groan. blame los conejitos.) & greetings from michigan... but not for a while. I'll wait for the dust to settle.

2. I've practically turned into a whale & sang in my post/praise for this artist. so naturally I will not be content until you all go out & hear her play. luckily for you, sunday's your chance since diane cluck is playing at the bowery poetry club as part of a bill called north south music presents. starts at 7, $6 plus one drink minimum. I hope I see you there.

3. because I am dumb. really quite slow. I didn't know what the hell this was about at first. but despite my lack of edumacation, I think this is an intriguing opportunity for tristan tzara enthusiasts & creatively inclined folks alike to make new stuff out of the things that are now collecting dust or look at finished pieces from another perspective. collaboration is fun! so are demolitions! go here. read. send something in, see what comes of it.

love, d

* I know whereof I speak, back in the day, I chose mata hari as my "famous person". my costume was ridiculous & my teacher did not hide her contempt very well. apparently sexy spies are not cool in elementary school. & I think that last sentence should be in a song or at least embroidered on a pillow.

song to seek: john wayne gacy, jr/sufjan stevens

8.25.2005

music has the right to children

in the meantime, the internet archive provides hours of ripe open source audio for harvesting. choose from categories includoing 'free psych-folk', 'glitchpop', 'tardcore', 'abstract mechanical beats', and 'gameboy'.

it is also suggested that you peruse this collection of copyright-infringing mixes by recombinant gladiator DJ Z-Trip. of special interest is the 30 minute gesamtkunstwerk titled 'uneasy listening'. we didn't know what a mash-up could be until we heard midnight oil's 'beds are burning' crammed on top of metallica's 'for whom the bell tolls' or phil collins *slide* into del the funky homosapien. in fact metallica, the riaa's prison trusty, gets hit twice in this track - z-trip also samples 'one'.

take note - there are some free animal sound effects available here. you may need them.

8.24.2005

Family Book is now my Bitch

Hello hey hello!

September approaches. Kirsten: 1 Boondocks: ZIP!

Kashiwazaki in August is comparable to Florida. Insects of unusual size lurk behind shrubbery. The air is so humid it's like breathing warm blood. And there is precious little to do besides hang out at the beach or...karaoke. However, with astounding powers of bullshit and mime I managed to score a membership card to Family Book DVD/CD rental outlet. YEAH BABY YEAH!

So what is on the roster?

I am the last person to be interested in TM Revolution's new flamboyance or Fukuyama Masaharu's latest whatever. The bands I seek are old or dasai (uncool) in any language. Although I did hear something at karaoke last time that I would have turned my nose up to at home, D-51's No More Cry. Oh god, it was the musical equivalent of a car wreck. I know I must not bounce and yet I cannot turn away...

They can be infectious, these uber-genki bands. And if you're not careful (or sober, at that), addictive.

The Japanese are especially good at career synergy. Most pop stars are models, designers, actors, etc. I am especially interested in the singers who fancy themselves authors. Cocco, for one, has published at least one book and I believe is working on another one of her prose. From Kansai, Kou Machida has been brought to my attention. A punk rock writer creature. His book is titled "Tribulations Avec Mon Singe" which if I am not mistaken means "Trouble with my Monkey"? His album: Nounai Shuffle Kakumei is supposed to be witty, cutting and essentially "punk". The Japanese translation of this concept I am still trying to determine. Fuck that, I'm still trying to get a grip on the English one. ^^ Music aficionado I am not, dudes. Nonetheless, I look forward to listening to Machida rant.

Because I am infatuated with Chiba Yuusuke and the name ASSFORT, I rented my first ROSSO album. Yuusuke has never let me down. I pray ROSSO won't be a gallon of suck. Reviews will follow.

And finally, I scored a copy of Higurashi Aiha's latest album Platonic because Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her was a good thing and good things come from good things. I say this because I am an optimist and know no better. I didn't mind Aiha's English delivery and her sound didn't go all jangly pop after SSKHKH. Besides that Downy, Miho Hatori, that dude from Supercar and Asa Chang are all listed as collaborators. Can this go wrong?

Possibly. But if I can find more than one song worth the rental fee, I will have considered this yen well spent.

Shite, it's 5. Gotta go!

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8.22.2005

I bet you think this song is about you

SCENE: EXT. 7th Ave. Barnes & Noble, Park Slope, Brooklyn. A weekend morning. Swarms of polished moms pushing expensive strollers down the sidewalk. Earnest Times readers with paper coffee cups. Dogs on leashes. Bright sunshine. Too much traffic.

A twentysomethingish female, ethnically ambiguous and charmingly (she hopes) unkempt, crosses the street toward the store. She is accompanied by a handsome male who is precisely twenty-five and very tall.

They turn to walk past the store display windows when the girl stops suddenly.


GIRL (pointing at window): Look!

BOY: What?

GIRL (jabbing her finger in the air): Look! Look!

BOY: Look at what? What are you talking about?

GIRL: Look!

She stands directly in front of the window, tapping on the glass. A large poster of CARLY SIMON is prominently displayed. In the picture, CARLY is wearing a glamourous white outfit, her hair elegantly streaked, her equine features stretched into a seductive smile. The GIRL is very excited.

GIRL: Carly!

BOY: Okay... so? What, you want that?

The poster is an advertisement for Carly's latest album, Moonlight Serenade. Barnes & Noble is offering an exclusive version featuring a bonus track, "My Foolish Heart."

GIRL: No, no, I don't want it. I just-

BOY: What?

GIRL: I just like Carly. I hadn't thought of her in a while.

The pair continues up 7th Avenue, but the poster reminded the GIRL that she does, indeed, like Carly, primarily because she grew up listening to her, and because "You're So Vain" was one of the very first songs she ever loved. It is a great song, far and away Carly's most popular, and deservedly so. Everyone knows it, but when was the last time you actually listened to it, eh?

Labels:

you encourage the eating of ice cream

dear friends,

I first heard sia furler on a zero 7 sounds eclectic session where she spent a great deal of the time cackling & talking up a storm in a scratchy aussie accent, babbling about thrift shop store browsing. I was charmed by her constant guffaw-filled interruptions especially considering that the other zero 7 singers, mozez, tina dico & sophie barker, seemed to be of the cool, seen & not heard (well...speaking, anyway) school of classy vocalists. furler, on the other hand, was practically jumping behind sam hardaker & henry binns, main songwriters/men behind the curtain for zero 7, & waving & shouting ME!, ME! & ME! & all this without having even sung her song yet*. then she did & I was dumbstruck. I was expecting something far rougher & blues-ier like joplin but heard, & oddly this is not meant as a diss, someone that sounded very much like christina aguilera in range & tone, but with taste. her live version of the song somersault which is a measured ode to someone who helps you rebuild your life after heartache became a completely different monster live. furler seemed eager to prove just how she could push & pull a simple soul song into a jazzy slur-sung mini-opera. I wasn't sure if I liked it but yet I kept returning to that session so I could hear it over & over again.

I guess the reason I dislike a lot of current pop music is that there's a lot of technique behind those slick vocals but no real feeling. furler has all the technique in the world but her voice seems to constantly threaten to break with raw expression & that roughens her delivery, makes it less tidy, in a way that's far more exciting. not quite the stuff of soul-pop miss populars but certainly in the pop vein. but definitely not clean enough for the masses. for the flip side of somersault, seek out the woozy, up all night whisper of speed dial #2, also off of zero 7's when it falls.

so I spent a portion of last night blubbering over the finale of six feet under, a show I have followed since its inception with varying degrees of satisfaction. I sniffled, I brooded, I went "OH, COME ON!" & I demanded hugs from my fellow co-viewer 'cause I was 'sad & stuff.' then, at the end, full waterworks in effect, a montage that resembled an arty car commercial was underscored by a song I recognized instantly. "sia?," I blubbered. "what the...!?!"

considering that the song was ostensibly the first cut on a mix made by a man who only listens to top 40 & christian pop, the writer or music supervisor had taken serious liberties. character-inconsistency aside, breathe me**, from furler's solo album colour the small one, was a fitting choice for the final montage for six feet under. furler has acknowledged that the accidental death of the man she moved to england to be with was the start of a period of grief that she struggled to break free of for years & the inspiration for much of her music today. I'm not sure if the person responsible for choosing the song was aware of this but the selection certainly had a bit more weight for me than if they'd chosen something by say, faith hill. the fact that furler did founder during her bereavement & but made her way back directly relates to something the series has been trying to push on its viewers from the beginning, namely, we all will experience death at some point & rather than ignore it or sweep it under the rug, it's a good idea to examine the process. & somehow or another, move on.

love, d

* this is a lie. upon rehearing the session, she sings FIRST & chortles later. ah, well. this is how legends are made! through exaggeration & inconsistency!

** if you can, I heartily recommend searching for the four tet remix of breathe me. while this isn't the version that was played on six feet under, I find it superior.

songs to seek: somersault/zero 7, speed dial #2/zero 7, breathe me (four tet remix)/sia

8.19.2005

a lady in the streets

dear friends,

no links today, maybe I'll add them next week...I am bad.

1. I don't know who annie's american publicists are but they are geniuses! how on earth did they find a way to sell a little girl voiced scandinavian disco dolly as the indie rock lover's little girl voiced scandinavian disco dolly? before I ever heard any of her songs (bright white pebbles on an ibizan beach) or knew what she looked like (a sweet-faced blonde in white, natch), I was reading about her in magazines as being a rock snob's acceptable guilty pleasure. who says? personally, my guilty pleasures are truly capital H horrendous & it don't include kylie & ilk 'cause I like dancefloor inanities & I don't feel a bit guilty about that. sometimes I want guitars & sheer noise & sometimes I want powdered sugar & sometimes I want something that's far, far worse like...kaleigh by prog-poppers marillion. now that's what I consider truly shameful.

which makes me wonder what's next in today's musical pr agenda...selling spoon as the hip hop purist's indie rock allowance? intriguing! seriously, who's gonna be the next act to be aggressively sold to their polar demographic? & did I just make up a term?

snottiness aside, while I'd never want to go see annie in concert, I like to put on her bouncy compact japanese hotel room of a tune, me plus one, & dance around doing the "when two becomes one" spice girls dance. oh & pretend to mock ring a bell whenever the bell sound comes in. I like to imagine me plus one is about getting it on with your partner & their clone* but I think it's really about how cool annie is. BORING! she's nice & all but sexy clones are way better. especially when the soundtrack selection is a song that has a "spoken word" moment & breathless background spelling.

2. the ipod is having an usher** day. thus far I've heard:

nice & slow - a song with a ridiculous video about kidnapping in france (?!) & features possibly the most fey "rap" in the history of slow jamz. what people fail to realize is that sometimes r&b can be incredibly weird in a way I really like.***

caught up - a song which I've managed to get stuck in the monkey's head. ha! I love it when that happens. I get him to keep intoning "caught up" while I go "I'm so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o" in that ridiculous melismatic way that usher so favors.

yeah! - a ditty I first heard, oddly enough, on the train when a violinist playing vivaldi suddenly switched to the now ubiquitous sample from that song. you've never seen a car full of commuters so eager to give up their cash. I heard the real thing in h&m a week after that & went "aaah, that was one wicked smaaaaaht violinist."

now I just like to hear that song so I a) can have a laugh at lil jon's signature yelping & b) do something that vaguely resembles riverdance whenever that recorder/pan pipe sounding line comes in.

you don't have to call - I'm single & I wants to mingle club hopping x "true player for real" + pinball machine noise = fun

3. like many of you, I love my mother. I love her so much in fact, that come saturday, I will be committing the musical equivalent of hara kiri...I will be taking her to see neil diamond at madison square garden for her birthday.

that's right. laugh it up.

if I'm lucky, there will be no turn on your heartlight & we're coming to america but there will be plenty of cherry, cherry & girl, you'll be a woman soon. because those songs are good & make me forget those other two. that's what I'll be praying for.

have a good weekend!

love, d

* I'm telling you, cloning is the way to go. that way it's less emotionally confusing than the whole cliche twin fantasy thing. besides, I don't want a completely different person with all their attendant hobbies & whatnot, I just want two of the same person & if one's slightly dumber, that's cool - - - wait. have I revealed too much about myself? I think I may have.

** I love to, when my spine's giving me a break, dance to usher's music & for this, that incurable ham has a place in my heart. I didn't always feel this way. when he first appeared on the scene, I couldn't get past how much usher looks like his uncle, ben vereen, so I kept having visions of him suddenly busting out with "gotta find my corner of the sky!!!". I am over that now thank god.

NB also, I wanna make something really clear. as much as I enjoy usher's music, he is someone I never, ever need to hear talk. I tried to watch a concert of his on cable tv one time & after the third or so inspirational speech, not for his fans mind you, but for HIMSELF, as in "I never thought I'd have my own basketball team & record label but I believe in myself & I believe in YOU believing in ME! YEAH!" & then the band busted into yeah!, a song about believing in...getting a piece?!? I had to stop watching immediately.

*** speaking of which, I wanted to write about r. kelly's trapped in the closet video. but I really need a whole post devoted to just that slice o' special.

songs to seek: me plus one/annie, nice & slow/usher, caught up/usher, yeah!/usher, you don't have to call/usher, cherry, cherry/neil diamond, girl, you'll be a woman soon/neil diamond

8.16.2005

I can't seem to hide from the sounds around me

dear friends,

welcome to my new summer hours. blame the heat, other commitments & my spine. I'm currently sporting huge, dark purple circle-bruises on my back courtesy of my alternative medicine provider, susan aka my chinese torturer. I look like my little pony meets matthew barney in a crop circle in england. perhaps I can pitch that to him for the next cremaster... or is that series over? oh well, there's always the barney's new one with bjork where they turn into whales & swim away... sometimes reality provides you with such satisfying conclusions to your daydreams.

1. alas, the delgados broke up. I heard them rather late in the day. they were playing some peel sessions on bbc in honor of the man & I heard their utterly charming version of mr. blue sky. it had none of the uber-grandeur of the e.l.o. original (thank god, I say) & when co-vocalist emma pollock solemnly sings "bamp baaaamp ba-ba-ba-bamp bah" at the end like a child in a choir, I became inexplicably choked up. well...not inexplicably. I get very emotional by sincere attempts or approximations in popular music. do you know what I mean? when people try to replicate something honestly but wind up doing something that's not quite it but is just as meant, well it's as good as rudy* for me.

anywho, today the el pod-o shuffled onto keep on breathing from universal audio, their now swan-song. a stop/start carousel pseudo-waltz, something about the tune suggests sadness as well as derangement so I sought out the lyrics & enjoyed their desolate simplicity. someone is watching others driving away, waiting for phone calls, etc... & reports those observations in a flat affect. apparently, all this randomness is teaching them a lesson on just what exactly makes up life. huh? exactly! the narrator is a cypher & the music keeps spinning relentlessly so how is any lucidity possible in the midst of such sonic queasiness? of course, knowing me & my hyper-ventilating imagination, I could have this all wrong. the song could be really about cinderella or late night tv so why not seek it out & decide for yourself what is going on? 'cause whether there is meaning or not, it's a compelling slice of carnival noir-pop.

2. when you're feeling lousy, staring at the receiver after you've been screamed at & hung up on, I find it helps to put on music that will not only relax you but put things into pleasant perspective. life's a gas by t-rex is that song to me. no description necessary, just tuck it away somewhere until you need it.

3. I received a cd called vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot by sparklehorse as a gift. I thought the title of the record was really quite annoying so I ignored it for a year. when I finally put it on, I felt ashamed. it was as if the album was a neighbor who keeps inviting you to hang out but you always beg off, making excuses & at some point or another, 'cause you're BORED or lonely or something, you say "why the hell not?" & give in & they finally come over & you wind up staying up all night drinking, singing songs & talking on the porch. the morning light's coming, the gradual lightening of blues, the drink's wearing off in a good way as opposed to the circling sharks way & your brand new friend smiles at you & says "I'm glad we've finally gotten to know each other" & you're so very pleased you didn't have to say it yourself.

sparklehorse is really one man, mark linkous, a genius southern loner of the highest order who has managed to put out 2 other albums of considerable beauty** that occasionally feature some of his fans on vocals. oh fans like thom yorke & polly jean harvey*** & tom waits. the usual types you find gracing lo-fi albums of delicate oddities sung by a man whose voice evokes both finches & rust. while the more recent ones like good morning spider & it's a wonderful life are excellent like attics full of goodies for the curious hands of play-acting children, I always like to single out the most beautiful widow in town from the aforementioned vivadixie... because it is a brief plainspoken fragment of a tale & yet the story lingers long after the song is over. a man talks to a woman as they sweat like maniacs in her mother's living room. later he avoids her wedding portrait knowing that she is now a widow & he can't bear to look at her smile. is it real or a dream? the singer seems sure it is a dream but he sings about the woman of the title with such a beautiful bittersweet clarity that it all sounds hauntingly awake. linkous himself doesn't say much about this song except that it is "a true story recorded with a two dollar guitar". invite him over, you won't be sorry.

love, d

* apparently this is a movie that makes men cry. thankfully, not the monkey. he hates football.

** though not after lengthy but justified gestation periods. several years ago, linkous had a freak accident on tour in london where he passed out in his hotel thanks to a severe reaction caused by mixing his medication with wine. he passed out & fell in a position where his legs were trapped underneath him. when he was found twelve hours later & the paramedics tried to straighten his legs, he suffered a heart attack & fell into a coma. linkous awoke but because of the way his body had been those 12 hours, he had damaged his legs in such a way that there was talk of amputation. as of today, he can walk but he will have to wear braces for the rest of his life.

*** his polly jean duets (eyepennies, piano fire & sick of goodbyes) are among the many reasons why, generally speaking, miss harvey is magic.

songs to seek: mr. blue sky/the delgados, keep on breathing/the delgados, life's a gas/t-rex, eyepennies/sparklehorse, piano fire/sparklehorse, sick of goodbyes/sparklehorse, the most beautiful widow in town/sparklehorse

8.12.2005

Avert your eyes: Dorkus Malorkus has something to say...

WARNING: This post is about showtunes.

I know I've posted about Sondheim before, but let me tell you. Let me just tell you why. No, wait, let me tell you how...

I didn't start out this way. It all changed in grade 6. The details of that night are vivid: I was doing my math homework one night, multiplying fractions on a yellow legal pad. I kept forgetting if I should switch the numerator and the denominator before or after I multiplied. I was chewing the eraser of the pencil to bits as I sat on the couch, when my mom came in and popped a tape into the VCR and said that she was taping something on PBS and I might enjoy it.

My mom used to do that. She'd tape just everything. Half the movies I loved as a child are grainy things with 80's commercials taped on thrice-taped-over VHS cassettes off of Channel 9 in the middle of the night. My parents' pack-rat-ism extended to everything, even late-night movies. This time it turned out to be more than enriching. It was fucking life changing.

On "American Playhouse" that night was an airing of the 1988 Original Broadway Production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.

It wasn't my first experience with Sondheim; I had seen the movie of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and had probably been exposed to Gypsy (his lyrics) at that point, but as an 11-year-old, composers meant nothing to me. It was because of this musical that I would learn his name and come to consume, slowly and over a period of many years, nearly everything the man had written. (And I'm not done yet...)

What was it that grabbed me at the time? It wasn't a sophisticated love of clever lyrics or challenging melodies. I'm sure, at the time, part of it was the performances (no one will ever be The Witch to me but Bernadette Peters, and may Vanessa Williams be slapped around mercilessly with a giant fish for even trying to turn those songs into some sort of easy-listening smooth jazz/soul video. And Joanna Gleason's Baker's Wife has been, since that day and to date, my favourite character in the history of musical theatre.) Part of it was the subject matter-- I was 11, and I loved fairy tales. Still do. I like magic, I like scary magic, I like that we are fucked up by and proceed to fuck up our children by telling them gruesome tales with happy endings.)

But as I got the tapes (later, the CDs-- this was 1990) and wore them to death, I began to realize how much smart, how original/haunting/offbeat Sondheim's songs were. I was developing a particular passion for harmony and counterpoint, and Sondheim is a master of blending and arranging music in unexpected, beautiful ways. And he could get away with lyrical acrobatics that someone like, say, Andrew (blech) Weber would never dream of. One of my favourites from Into the Woods is when Jack's mother is singing to her dreamy-headed boy about the need to sell his beloved cow:

Son! We've no time to sit and differ
while her withers wither with her
And no one needs a cow for a friend...
Sometimes I fear you're touched.


You know that cheese sketch from Monty Python, where Cleese is trying to purchase cheese from Palin, and the point of the sketch is to basically see how long they can get away with just naming cheeses? It reminds me of a lyric from On the Steps of the Palace, where Sondheim is just trying to see how long he can sustain the repetition of this rhyme:

You'll just leave him a clue--
for example, a shoe...
and then see what he'll do.
Now it's he and not you
who is stuck with a shoe
in a stew
in the goo
and you've learned something, too,
something you never knew...


It doesn't come across without the music, and, okay, some repeated listening. But this stuff just got inside of me and wouldn't come out. And so I sought more. It helps that the man picks some of the more interesting subject matter: presidential assassins, murderous barbers, Swedish love triangles, the life of Georges Seurat, the opening of Japan to Western contact... I found Sunday in the Park with George... A Little Night Music... Company...Assassins... Sweeney Todd... Pacific Overtures... Merrily We Roll Along...

...and I'm not done yet...

8.09.2005

the watusi...the twist...eldorado...

I just wrote an extended piece on my blog about my childhood memories of the Beatles' "Revolution 9." View here if you like.

8.08.2005

everyone said she looked like a mess, yeah

dear friends,

there's a big hole in today's entry since I was gonna talk real nice about the black mountain show at bowery ballroom on friday only it didn't happen 'cause they cancelled & all I got was a helluva drink-on, fine commiseration with some fellow black mountain-lovin' folk, snatches of overheard conversation between a respected music writer that shall remain nameless & some hard eyed hipster ladies he was chipping away at & sadly, no t-shirt. I did not stay for the headliner because I've become so hype-resistant that when one of my new friends was honestly defending the clap your hands say yeah record, my brain actually started going "la la la la la la la, I can't hear ya, la la la la la" & that's just sad.

once more, onto the list...

1. when nick drake was first making his way around the folk circuit, slowly but surely alienating audiences by being utterly unable to banter while he changed tunings for every song, he met another rising neo-folkie called john martyn. martyn was the opposite of drake; gregarious, (at the time) happily married & an engaging live performer. the two disparate men became friends & when drake's debilitating depression worsened, martyn would be one of the few people he was willing to see, if not talk to*. martyn thought that since he could not speak to his friend directly, he would try & reach him through music, so he wrote the song solid air for him, in the hopes that his friend would hear the message in the lyrics & understand or at least reply in kind.

if you make an effort to sample from the various stages of martyn's career, you'll find everything from straight-forward earnest folkie renditions of the usual traditionals (I love making up words) such as cocaine, don't think twice it's alright to the jazz leaning, slurred-sung meditations on love & change from his more recent records. personally, I'm a big fan of the early mid-period stuff where martyn's just standing at the threshold of the experimentation that's to come. I particularly like the gorgeous go easy - which was featured on my soft communication covers mix as done by beck - which is probably the most eloquent defense of slackerdom/plea for love I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. I also recommend the straightforward head & heart which asks a lover for a deeper commitment but is really just a showcase for martyn's RIDICULOUS acoustic dexterity at the coda. absolutely worth a listen despite the admitted wankery; wankery which justifies its existence by its very gorgeousness. lastly, I'd check out go down easy which is one smooth white man seduction song. like a hebridian barry white, martyn coos about how he's gonna listen to you & "sympathize" & everything (or someone) will go down easy. what smooth jazz really oughta be but sadly isn't.

2. the cribs want to tell you something & it will only take 3 or so minutes. this british trio, literally a band of brothers, definitely graduated from the brief & catchy nyc garage rock school of song but a careful listen to their lyrics show they have a cheekiness usually absent from that particular sound. for videos & mp3's visit their website, check out mirror kisses & the repetitive + sarcastic hey scenesters which could just as easily be an admission of self-loathing as general hipster put-down.

3. because we are people that are easily prone to exhaustive, research-heavy music obsession that's somehow still sprinkled with whimsy, contributor jared & I like to occasionally discuss a playlist called "the jukebox in greg dulli's pants".

now, who is greg dulli? he was the lead singer for 90's 120 min-faves the afghan whigs & currently presides over the twilight singers. dulli was an interesting musician to get into because unlike every other vocalist/guitarist at that time, he wasn't particularly interested in following the slint model of angular minimalism with GUITARS! that was going around like the indie plague (trust me, while thrilling at first, it got old real fast) no, what dulli really, really wanted was for his songs to be as direct & soulful as the best hot, buttered r&b. this tendency, while not immediately evident from his recordings** was really clear live when dulli indulged in his velvet jones by frequently & liberally quoting from everything from me so horny to ex-factor to the beautiful ones & doing it so well that it showcased his own songs as worthy heirs to those ditties even though on the surface his offerings sounded like your average alterna-rock songs featuring some guy screaming hoarsely about his girl trouble. remember though, that the key phrase here is "on the surface".

the twilight singers may not be as well-promoted as other performers out there right now but I guarantee you, dulli & whoever's in his band nowadays will probably give you the best rock show you've seen in a while so keep an eye on the listings & don't forget to invite me.

so yes, "the jukebox in greg dulli's pants" playlist. jared submits funkadelic's I call my baby pussycat. I offer up garnet mimms' as long as I have you. let us know if you have any recommendations/suggestions.

4. sometimes, I really want to listen to music that makes me feel like I'm outdoors in some leafy hamlet with thatched roof houses & crowns of flowers & all that hobbit type shiz. anywhere but nyc & its humid, smells like a dirty dog dampness. to that end, ladies & gents, I offer up espers. a music collective from somewhere in philly, this band channels a gorgeous, other-wordly sound that brings up images of pagan rituals that don't involve britt ekland, which can, you know, sometimes be good. 'specially in company. or in front of your mom.

their self-titled debut, is great but if you want to start slow, I recommend the scarborough fair-ish whisper of meadow. a vaguely sinister sounding tune sung by a man & a woman in hushed, spectral overlap; it's music as shivers. for the plain ole pretty, check out daughter. so rooted in magical, mystical nature-worship you can practically smell the rain as it hits the earth & the freakin' fairies hidden in the flowers, this song is perfect for an imaginative journey outside of the heat & your own sweat-induced hysteria. go here to listen to a mesmerizing radio session.

love, d

songs to seek: go easy/john martyn, head & heart/john martyn, go down easy/john martyn, mirror kisses/the cribs, hey scenesters/the cribs, I call my baby pussycat/funkadelic, as long as I have you/garnet mimms, meadow/espers, daughter/espers

* their last meeting consisted of drake showing up unannounced at martyn's house & sitting on his stoop without speaking for an entire day.

** even the inclusion of a cover of tyrone davies' excellent "can't live with ya/without ya" ballad, keep coming back, on the whig's masterpiece, gentlemen, doesn't really announce the influence. on the later albums, black love & 1965, it was a bit more obvious & unfortunately, not quite as affecting.

8.03.2005

saudade palavra triste

dear friends,

a few nights ago, I was watching a tv series I haven't been keeping up with & a major character was killed off & I found myself inexplicably emotional about it. it might've been the circumstances of the death, which were familiar, or it may have been my general august anomie; can't really say. but I was thinking about the dead until I fell sleep, upon waking at 5 am & then back into zzz which was intermittently interrupted by nightmares about tornados in the east coast, kim gordon & high school cafeterias in connecticut.

which brings me to what was supposed to be this wednesday's morbid offering: songs either about death, performed by people that are now dead or make me think of my own dearly departed. luckily for everyone, that post would require way too much introspection & research, neither of which I'm clear-headed enough to do at the moment. so I'll offer one memento mori & talk about some other, more light-hearted offerings.

1. apparently somebody is making a documentary about townes van zandt so if it's any good, very soon he will be joining the ranks of klaus nomi & lev sergeyvich termin (a.k.a. leon theremin) as dead artistes exhumed commercially via docs. good on that, I say.

I discovered van zandt through an excellent compilation my moms bought called the great tomato blues package which includes a beautiful desolate slice of country blues called nothing. to give you an idea as to what mr. van zandt liked to do with himself when he wasn't plying his trade or drinking his liver to zero, he said he wrote that song after he read nikos kazantzakis' last temptation of christ. & it's fair to say that this song will not really clue you into that fact. van zandt was a fiercely intelligent man born into privilege who, for private reasons (ethical? plain old willfulness? wrong-headed romanticism?), chose to reject his upbringing & become a hobo troubadour with all the non-glamorous trimmings that come with an itinerant lifestyle.

anywho, his black angel's death song is called kathleen. young man muses about his inability to feel joy. thinks about his love, who has passed away. promises to join her in death. possibly very soon. veeeery dramatic & yet sobering since van zandt's vocal carries no drippy self-pity. just an eerie placid self-possessed tone. & this was an early number! file under: americana goth

2. junior m.a.f.i.a. put out a really shit album that I purchased just so I could listen to get money over & over again. as contributor jared is all too well aware of, listening to this song in summer whilst bouncing to the beat in your car seat is fantastical to the nth degree. a he said/she said affair that doesn't seem to connect entirely story-wise (mainly because the two people involved have vastly different degrees of ability) it's got a hook so tight, it doesn't really matter that you won't know exactly who did what & where.

first up is biggie smalls aka notorious b.i.g. who proceeds to talk about how he thought he was treating his woman pretty well (i.e. "so you wanna sip mo' on the living room flo'/play nintendo with cease-a-leo..." & giving his lady "full length mink/fat x and o links/bracelets to match, conversation was all that") right up until he realizes she has betrayed him & sold him out to the feds. so he gets a little "vexed" & starts knockin' down doors, etc. things look serious.

then comes poor, jailbound lil' kim. you're not really sure where she fits into this story of deceit but her protestations are feisty & delightfully venal. so she raps that she'd rather "count a million/while you eat my pussy". I get it. she likes money. but then again, she also states how she put up with "...all the games and the lies/hallmark cards, sayin, "I apologize"/is you wit me? how could you ever deceive me?/but payback's a bitch motherfucker, believe me". ouch. & whether or not it was her or biggie that wrote those rhymes, the words provide a terrific counterpoint to a ditty that was simply supposed to blow out the speakers in cruisin' cars back in the summer of '95 but also happens to carry enough lyrical grit to make it something like the gansta scenes from a marriage. too bad those crazy kids couldn't make it work.

3. caetano veloso is a brazilian singer known to american audiences for either his stop-breathing singing cameo in the film talk to her by pedro almodovar OR by his excellent album of covers released last year called a foreign sound. lesser known than caetano but just as huge in latin america, is the songstress maria bethania. bethania is veloso's sister, a fact I failed to realize in all the time I've been listening to brazilian music even though they have a noticeable family resemblance. color me stupid.

now it's a fairly acceptable generalization to state that most of the famous male singers from brazil tend to have soft gentle, slightly feminine, tenors. veloso is clearly in that number. in the way of random reversals, bethania, has a voice that is low & textured like the roughest of tree bark. in the wonderful live duet between veloso & bethania, meu primeiro amor, bethania carries the melody - a low rummy purr that sounds unlike anyone out there (seriously, I've heard a lot of singers, how does she get that sound!?!) & veloso supports it gently; his high winsome harmonies cradling the song from beginning to end. you don't have to speak portuguese to understand perfectly what this song telegraphs: bittersweet sadness, longing, regret & rueful acceptance.

love, d

songs to seek: kathleen/townes van zandt, get money/junior m.a.f.i.a., meu primeiro amor/maria bethania & caetano veloso

8.02.2005

Yappari Gaijin Da

What up m'friends?

The muckety mucks at CLAIR should have distributed a pamphelet titled: "How to Eat and Sleep". Jesus, it's been a week and I STILL wake up at 1 in da AM without fail. I must like kicking my own ass. Thank god for my unflagging optimism and my ability to read hiragana. ^^ So ends that rant. Onto the music. In the car driving to Kashiwazaki, the Cardigans demand multiple times to be loved. David Bowie and Lou Reed are discussed wildly among the thirty-somethings. Avril and her ilk are fawned over by the students. They marvel at my weird pink IPOD creature. The kids love chatting about music even though I am discouraged from speaking Japanese with them. I was sent here for strictly English purposes so communication is strained and a bit infuriating. The kids love Ozzie Osbourne, Black Sabbath, The Backstreet Boys and some are die-hard Reggae fans. To quote:

"The reason I select English class. Jamaican speak Patowa. Patowa come from the English. I wish I were speak Patowa."

Sugoi nano? (Cool, huh?)

Friday I was obliged to endure the inevitable welcome enkai which involves, naturally, karaoke. As in every karaoke party, there's always one ham. One guy SO stoked by the sound of his own voice that nothing short of his ass exploding will distract him. Sango sensei belted out a sappy mcsap by Southern All Stars Itoshii no Ellie (Beloved Ellie) before we end up on the equally inevitable Beatles leg of the evening. Tanabe sensei sings a vintage anime theme song I have never heard but find very amusing. ATTA-KU NANBA WAN. (Attack Number 1)

A song was selected for me.

Beauty and the Beast. In Japanese.

My years of detachment training at church paid off.

On the way to apply for my gaijin registration card, my coworker Iizuka sensei comments lightly that maybe I am very quiet as we drive past the 7-11s and LAWSONS. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. It's as hot as fuck! Maybe my shy smile conveys this too well.

She presses a cute-as-a-button button on her cd player and we sing:

Ano hito bi dashita kono machi do kimi ga tadashikatta no ni ne
I know that you and the town I ran away from were right.

(Tadashii Machi (Right Town) by Shiina Ringo)

That would SO never happen back home.

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