hooeySOUNDTRACK: Songs for Stuffing: A Thanksgiving Mix (2011).

turkey_wide-5d9e8a59bec66b4815045e86e4267da98ecc9263-s1900-c85There are not too many Thanksgiving songs.  But our friends at NPR created this Thanksgiving mix back in 2011.  It seems to lie dormant for much of the year but they bring it back at a seasonally appropriate time.

I have to admit I have not actually listened to it (at least not yet).  But it includes this rather broad selection of artists (designed to please or alienate everyone on Thanksgiving).

A Band of Bees • Amadou & Mariam • The Andrews Sisters • Louis Armstrong • The B-52’s • The Beatles • Ludwig von Beethoven • William Billings • Willie Bobo • Bow Wow Wow • Greg Brown • Cab Calloway • Cyrus Chestnut • Guy Clark • Nat King Cole • Joe Craven • Joseph Curiale • Guy Davis • Champion Jack Dupree • Bob Dylan • The Flaming Lips • Dave Frishberg • William DeVaughn • Rick Gallagher • Dizzy Gillespie • Johnny Griffin • Patty Griffin • Golden Smog • Benny Goodman • Arlo Guthrie • Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass feat. Ozomatli • Herbie Hancock • Bill Heid • David Holt • The JB’s • Jay & The Techniques • Louis Jordan • Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan • Paul Lingle • Lyle Lovett • Eric “Two Scoops” Moore • New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble • Harry Nilsson • Tim O’Brien • Lee “Scratch” Perry • Michelle Shocked • Dmitri Shostakovich • Southern Culture on the Skids • Spearhead • Still on the Hill • Rufus Thomas • Traffic • Bobby Troup • Jay Ungar & Molly Mason • Warrant • Ethel Waters • The Wiyos • “Weird Al” Yankovic

You can hear the mix streaming on NPR.

[READ: November 27, 2014] A Load of Hooey

Just in time for Thanksgiving, McSweeney’s has sent us A Load of Hooey.

Bob Odenkirk has been cropping up a lot lately (not as much as erstwhile partner and financially secure comedian, David Cross, mind you), and that’s a good thing.  There’s something about Odenkirk’s persona (crotchety, uptight, white guy) that is usually really funny.  He often elevates crappy sitcoms just by yelling at one of the characters.

This book is a collection of short pieces (most are 1-3 pages), including “unabridged quotations” and poems.  They cover a variety of subjects, but pretty much all upend expectations.  And, as one might expect from Odenkirk, there’s a lot of religious and political jokes as well.

The “unabridged quotations” allow Odenkirk to append something that removes the pomp from some famous quotations.  The poems are usually funny, twisted barbs at some subject or another.

But the main targets are religions and politicians. Continue Reading »

1982SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BOWIE-“The Laughing Gnome” (1967).

gnomeI have always liked David Bowie.  Never loved him, but always liked his radio hits (and a bit more).  Suffice it to say that I have never heard of “The Laughing Gnome” before reading about it in this book.

What a strange little song.  I can’t tell if it came out before or after his debut solo record (he has the same haircut), but I gather it was released as a novelty record.

It’s a delightful little song.  Very sixties mod with a healthy nod of dance-hall.  The very different thing of course is that in the song, the main singer (Bowie) meets and sings with a sped-up-voiced Cockney “gnome.”

So the song is clearly a novelty song (what else would you call it?).  Except that the production is really great and the music is really good too.  Despite the gnome, the song isn’t really a “funny” song (well, there are jokes and puns, I guess).  It’s certainly weird and certainly silly, but it holds up pretty well to repeated listens (even if the chorus is “ha ha ha hee hee hee I’m a laughing gnome and you can’t catch me”).

Bowie doesn’t really acknowledge the song anymore, although he did joke that he was considering performing it in a new ‘Velvet Underground-influenced’ style.  Before that happens, hear the original

[READ: November 22, 2014] 1982

So yes, I know that Ghomeshi is in the midst of a scandal in which he is pretty undeniably a sexually abusive scumbag.  I’ll say nothing more about that since things are still under investigation {formal charges were brought today].  But it doesn’t look good for Jian.

This is rather upsetting.  For the women involved, obviously, but also for those of us who liked Jian and thought he was one of the good guys.  Which I did.  I loved Moxy Fruvous.  I loved his solo album.  I had a brief email exchange with him before he joined the CBC, and his show, Q was one of the best interview shows out there.  He always seemed so nice and on the right side of so many issues.  Ugh.

But anyhow, this is about the book, not him (although the book is about him as well).  I only heard about the book when I was looking for news about his scandal (I had no idea he had written a book).  The book is called 1982 because it is all about his life in the year 1982, a formative year in his childhood. Continue Reading »

greatestSOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-“The Hard Way” and “Wine Glasses” (1974).

glassThis book informed me about these two unreleased Pink Floyd songs (there’s a Wikipedia site that lists some fifty more !).  While the were unreleased in 1974 (from the abandoned Household Objects album), they were eventually released in 2011 on expanded versions of albums.

“The Hard Way” features some “percussion” that sounds like someone taking steps.  There’s a bass riff which I gather is from rubber bands (but very well tuned).  There’s clocks ticking and chiming and tape being unspooled.  It’s a neat idea and while it is absurd to think you could make a whole album with this kind of stuff (in 1974), it’s a surprisingly good sounding track.

“Wine Glasses” was apparently made with wine glasses.  It is all of 2 minutes long.  It was designed to be a full song but was eventually used in the introduction to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”  I never really considered that there were wine glasses making the sounds (and clearly there are synths added on top), but yeah, so that ‘s kinda neat.

[READ: November 25, 2014] The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear

I found this book at work and knew I had to read it.  I was actually surprised at how long it took me to read (there’s a lot of entries).

The title and subtitle pretty much say everything you need to know about this book (and if you need to read it or not).  This book collects a series of writers who give a brief history of some of the more famous (and some not so famous) albums that were never released.  It explains (as best they can) why the albums weren’t released and even gives a percentage chance of likelihood of the album ever seeing the light of day (interestingly, most seem to be a 3/10–they may have been able to use a 5 point scale).

I knew some of the records they talked about (The Beach Boys’ Smile, Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams), but was ignorant of quite a lot of them. And while big fans of the artists may know all of the details about their favorite lost album already (these are sketches, not exhaustive research), there will certainly be some new information.  For instance, I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan but had no idea about the two shelved works mentioned here.

I liked the way the book was done chronologically and grouped by decade.  It was also interesting to see how the “reasons” for the non-release morphed over the decades from “the record label didn’t like it” to “it was leaked online.”

The one major gripe I have with the book is that it is chock full of “imagined” album covers.  This in itself is okay, but it is not made explicitly clear that they are all imagined (credits are given at the bottom of each image, but it took me a few entries to realize these were just people’s ideas of what the covers could look like).  And most of them are gawdawful.  Just really lame and dull (as if they had 20 minutes to come up with an idea).  They mar an otherwise cool collection,especially since some of the unreleased records actually do have proposed covers (even if they were never released).  I see that there is in fact a paragraph about the covers in the front pages of the book, but it is almost hidden away.

In addition to the albums I’ve listed below, I learned some fascinating things.  That Bruce Springsteen has hundreds of songs that he wrote but never released for various reasons.  That Pink Floyd did try to make an album out of household objects (with no instruments).  That the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks was almost simultaneously released illicitly as Spunk.  And that Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album was recently remastered.

The end of the book includes two small sections: other favorites that were never released.  Not sure why they earned only a small column instead of a full entry, but that’s okay.  The second was albums that we eventually did see, like My Bloody Valentine’s MBV and Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy.

So if you ever wondered what happened to that long lost album, this may be the book for you.

A sampling of the unreleased records include:

  • The Beach Boys-Smile
  • Buffalo Springfield-Stampede
  • The Kinks-Four Respected Gentlemen
  • The Beatles-Get Back
  • Jeff Beck-The Motown Album
  • Jimi Hendrix-Black Gold
  • The Who-Lifehouse
  • Wicked Lester
  • Rolling Stones-American Tour ’72
  • CSN&Y-Human Highway
  • Pink Floyd-Household Objects (1974), Spare Brick 1982
  • Dusty Springfield-Longing
  • David Bowie-The Gouster (1975), Toy (2001)
  • Sex Pistols-Spunk
  • Neil Young -Homegrown (1975), Chrome Dreams (1976)
  • Frank Zappa-Läther
  • Beastie Boys-Country Mike’s Greatest Hits
  • Weezer-Songs from the Black Hole
  • Jeff Buckley-My Sweeetheart the Drunk
  • Van Halen-IV
  • Foo Fighters-The Million Dollar Demos
  • Green Day-Cigarettes and Valentines (the author doesn’t believe it was actually stolen)
  • Tapeworm (Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan among others)
  • Deftones-Eros
  • U2-Songs of Ascent
  • Beck-The Song Reader



harpjuneSOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-“Bored in the U.S.A.” (2014).

 boredNot a cover of the Clash song (“I’m So Bored with the U.S.A”) this is a piano dirge about the materialism of American culture.

I loved Father John Misty’s debut, and the way it addressed serious topics but with beautiful songs and Misty’s wonderful voice.  But this song is a dark and dreary tale of life in contemporary America.  Father John laments about, well, just about everything:

I’ve got all morning to obsessively accrue
A small nation of meaningful objects
And they’ve got to represent me too


Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways
I’ve grown more disappointing to you
As my beauty warps and fades

with the staggering next line

I suspect you feel the same

Te melody is pretty, but solemn (there’s no ironic poppy chord structure for this lament).  Rather, it’s a slow minor key piano melody with Misty’s beautiful aching voice drifting over the chords: “Save me white Jesus.”

By the next verse, while the melody and singing stay at the same pace, he adds a laugh track to his life: “They gave me a useless education / A subprime loan, Craftsman home / Keep my prescriptions filled / Now I can’t get off, but I can kind of deal / Oh, with being Bored in the USA.”

If this is the single, what can the album have in store?

 Save me President Jesus.

[READ: November 17, 2014] “Long in the Tooth”

This is a Czech story (translated by Stacey Knecht) written by Hrabal (who died in 1997).  I don’t know anything about him except that he wrote “many novels.”

But this story I find quite puzzling.  It’s not hard or complicated, indeed, it is quite a straightforward piece.  I’m just puzzled by why he wrote it (unless the conceit of false teeth was so novel that it needed to be written down).

In this story, the main character (who is a woman although that isn’t revealed until quite late in the story) is marveling at how she (and her husband) have aged without them realizing it.  She says that suddenly she was sixty and then sixty-five when she contracted paradentosis (which can cause massive tooth loss). Continue Reading »

harpjuneSOUNDTRACK: みっちりねこマーチ – MitchiriNeko March (2013).

mitchiBecause Lewis-Kraus mentions “the most important internet cat band of our day” in this article, I did a search for such a thing and came across this.  This is an adorable cartoon of cats marching (and playing along to the music).

I didn’t look into this too hard, and I don’t really know MitchiriNeko, although the video says that “MitchiriNeko” is a cat-like cartoon character who is always in a group to hang out so closely with each other wherever they go.

I’ve listed below more stuff about MitchiriNeko, but really I just enjoyed watching the video.

Evidently there is a web comic for this fella:
Manga Box! English editions are coming soon.

There are apps for this character:

And this song “MitchiriNeko March” is now on sale.

[READ: November 17, 2014] “Story A”

I enjoyed Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ previous Harper’s essay about Japan: “Sleeping Together.”  I thought it would be fun to tie it to this one which is also about Japan.

He says that for a time, he was drawn to “particular breeds of the Japanese trivial” like “the “most important internet cat band of our day” and the cafe that he describes in “Sleeping Around.”  Thus he was immediately drawn to the Japanese hole-digging contest.  He decided to go see it, which would also allow him to visit his brother Micah in Japan.

The title of the article, “Story A” refers to a journalistic practice in which “essays purport to be about one thing but reveal themselves to be about some other, profounder thing.  Story A might be about the game of Monopoly but its real role is to give cover to Story B which is about the decline of the American city.”  He imagined that the nonsense of hole digging could lead to something incredibly profound. Continue Reading »

harpjuneSOUNDTRACK: KING TUFF-“Black Moon Spell” and “Eyes of the Muse” (2014).

tuffI first heard King Tuff on WXPN.  A few weeks later I heard two of his songs on NPR Music.  I’m including both of these because they’re from the same album and yet they are so very different.

“Black Moon Spell” has a stupid, great, heavy riff–it’s all distortion and garage rock.  And when the first verse starts, Tuff’s voice sounds very 60’s–whispered and trippy.  It’s a great contrast to the rocking riff that repeats in the chorus.  The second verse and the chorus sound pretty much the same, but they are so catchy it’s hard not to rock out to it all.  There’s a cool guitar solo and, perhaps most unexpected, female backing vocals as the chorus repeats in the outro.

It has a real classic rock sensibility but with modern elements.

“Eyes of the Muse” is also full of classic rock sensibilities but in a very different way.  This song is anything but heavy–it has jangly chords, and a pretty guitar riff.  The vocals are also higher pitched with a very sixties folky style.  And when the Boston-style guitars burst forth about half way through, you’d swear you’d heard it all before, and yet it is still different enough to be really enjoyable.

Ty Segall plays drums of “Black Moon Spell” and I can compare this record to him or to Mikal Cronin–simple familiar elements done in a novel and exciting way.  I’d definitely like to hear more from this record.

[READ: November 17, 2014] “The Second Doctor Service”

I didn’t think I’d read anything by Mason before, but I had.  I didn’t really like his previous story in Harper’s,(which was sort of a parody of Herodotus).  This one was written in an old style as well (although not a parody this time–if indeed the first one was supposed to be one).

Anyhow, this one opens like an old story (with county names given in this format: K— and S—).  At first I thought we didn’t really need a story pretending to be old like this, but Mason really mastered the style.  Not to mention a story with this content works much better as an old one (before “modern” science).

Essentially, the author is writing a letter to the Journal, in response to Dr Slayer’s study “On the So-called Cumberland Were-wolf.”  He has not encountered a were-wolf but he hopes that anyone reading the Journal might be familiar with his own unusual plight.  Continue Reading »

withoutSOUNDTRACK: GOJIRA-L’Enfant Sauvage (2012).

gojiraGojira is a French heavy heavy metal band, and this album was highly recommended back in 2012 (I didn’t realize it wasn’t their debut–they have quite a few records out already).  This album is quite heavy, but it has a lot of diverse elements to keep it interesting.

At the same time, they do rely on a couple of guitar effects which make the album weirdly samey (no idea if they do it on other albums too).  The two biggest offenders in this “repeated” scenario are the seeming over-reliance on the open high e string to add contrast to the heavy chugging chords.  It’s a cool effect once or twice but they do it a lot (especially in the song “The Axe” where it happens way too much and which is then followed by “Liquid Fire” where they do it again).  The other thing they do is this weird scraping sound.  It happens in the first few notes as the disc opens (in “Explosia”).  It’s a really cool sound and quite distinctive.  When you do a weird sound like that a lot in one song, it feels like maybe too much, but then to do it in several other songs, it feels like a crutch.

Which is a shame because the rest of the album is really interesting–the vocals are growly but audible and there’s occasionally really cool backing harmony vocals (“Liquid Fire”) and some really unusual different parts to songs.

So “Explosia” opens really heavy with a crazy riff and pounding drums (and that weird scraping sound).  I love that at 2:30 it switches from bludgeoning to slower (but still heavy) and that as the song fades out with another heavy section there are slow guitar notes that remind me of a Western.  It’s really cool. “L’Enfant Sauvage” uses that open high E string in an interesting riff (by doing more than just letting the string ring out).  (The scraping sound appears here too, but in limited quantity). I like the way the song’s volume just drops for the last thirty seconds or so.

“The Axe” opens with a pummeling drum and guitar sound.  “Liquid Fire” alternates between heavy guitars and that open high E sound.  “The Wild Healer” is a simple, pretty instrumental.  It is 2 minutes long and the main riff is simple one (again all on one string).  There’s an interesting solo that plays along behind the main riff which is quite pretty–but it all ends very abruptly.

“Planned Obsolescence” jumps right in with some pummeling guitars (an a scrape sound).  It slows down a bit, but towards the end the pummeling double bass drums resume until the really slow sweet guitar section that comes in around 3:45.  “Mouth of Kala” has a heavy riff which is a cool change (even if the riff is fairly simple).  But there’s some nice melodies that alternate with the heavy stuff.  I also really like the way the song ends with a very different riff and sound than the beginning.  (And the backing vocals are really cool too).

“The Gift of Guilt” has an interesting open E string riff (which is similar to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” although they do something very different with it.  This song is just littered with odd effects, like a big heavy “bowh” sound and some high-pitched guitar pyrotechnics.  But I love the way it alternates parts (the growly vocals work really well here, too) and then ends so melodically.

“Pain is a Master” opens with a slow guitar riff and whispered voices, it’s a great change of pace for the disc.  Once the slow part ends, the guitars and drums pound furiously and we get some more odd effects–a siren sound (from the guitar) alternating with the ubiquitous scrape.  But the middle parts are really quite different, slower, slightly more menacing.  “Born in Winter” opens and closes with a slow and atmospheric section (delicate vocals even).  In the middle it gets heavier (and has some really fast drumming).

“The Fall” has an Alice in Chains vibe in one section and then a more cookie monster type vocal on another.  The scraping sound returns for a final showing. I really like the way the album just sort of disintegrated into random sounds as it ends.

So overall I really enjoyed this album. It’s probably nitpicky to complain about the overuse of certain sounds, especially since they are cool.  But they have so much creativity on the disc, that to hear the same things a few times just seems redundant.  Nevertheless the album rocks and is a really enjoyable metal album.  I was supposed to see them open for Mastadon earlier in the month but something came up and I had to eat the tickets (who knew you couldn’t even give away Mastadon/Gojira tickets, come on!).

[READ: November 21, 2014] Without Blood

I’ve been enjoying Baricco so much that I decided to grab this book while I was in the library too. I had already read this book a couple of years ago, or actually, I had read the version that appeared in the New Yorker.  The Wikipedia entry says that the New Yorker version is a”revised form” of the novel.  I didn’t know what that meant exactly.  But basically I gather it means that Ann Goldstein (who translated the New Yorker version) has re-translated the story (or that they edited it for the magazine the first time).

The New Yorker version is really long for a New Yorker story (it is practically the whole novel), so it’s understandable why things were a little shorter for the magazine.  But she hasn’t changed very much for the book.  There’s a lot of little modifications–tenses of verbs (in flashback situations), word phrases are altered, additional details seems to have been added and there is at least one small section in this novel that was not in the New Yorker version.

This “new” section is about a woman who is sitting in the cafe with them.  She asks the waiter about the two main characters and we learn a little about her past as well (it’s not relevant to the story and I can see why it was omitted, but it does flesh out the scene).  I am not willing to do a page by page comparison of the two (even though that is something I tend to do). But suffice it to say that the stories are virtually identical, although I found it more satisfying reading the novel version.

Since my original recap is basically how I would summarize it this time as well, I am including it here almost verbatim.  But in the spirit of the updated version of the novel, I am modifying this post from the original in small details–see if you can spot the differences. Continue Reading »


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