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Archive for November, 2008


Gsimon
SOUNDTRACK
: PEEPING TOM-Peeping Tom (2006).

peepingPeeping Tom is one of the many side projects that Mike Patton (known mostly as the vocalist for Faith No More) has created in the last few years.

As Faith No More moved past “Epic” into their later releases, it became increasingly clear that Mike Patton was one wacky little monkey.  And as he moved into projects like Mr. Bungle and his solo releases, he really let his freak flag fly.

Peeping Tom has Patton collaborating with all kinds of people.  And it is a surprisingly accessible record (even though it is still pretty unusual).  The album has a sort of hip hop feel to it with loud pulsing drums on most of the tracks as well as collaborators like: Kool Keith, Amon Tobin, Doseone, Kid Koala, and uh, Norah Jones.

“Five Seconds” starts as a pretty straightforward song, but the chorus of him counting/shouting 1 second, 2 seconds… faster and faster, takes on a new meaning of sinister.  “Mojo” has fun with Britney Spears, although the fun is in lyrics only, as the song is a heavy blast of illicit substance references.  The third track “Don’t Even Trip” continues this carnival of dementia with the wonderful lyrics, “I know that assholes grow on trees, but I’m here to trim the leaves.”

The middle of the album is less manic, it slips into some really catchy trip hop moments with the guests taking some control of the songs.  Kool Keith raps on “Getaway” allowing Patton to take charge on the choruses, while “Caipirinha” sounds very smooth and jazzy, as any song with Bebel Gilberto should.  “Celebrity Death Match” has a very funny vibe to it, not unlike Kid Koala’s tracks. The final track “We’re Not Alone” says it’s a remix, although it’s not a remix of any tracks on the disc.  It returns to the heaviness of earlier in the album.  And near the end it sounds not unlike a Foo Fighters track (despite its slow-paced and falsettoed verses).

But probably the most fun/giddy song on the disc is “Sucker.”  In it, a whispering, sultry, derisive Norah Jones sings the line, “What made you think you were my only…lover?  Truth kinda hurts, don’t it mother…fucker?”

There are many many moments on this record that seem borderline commercial, yet the schizophrenic nature of Patton’s songwriting means that those moments are quickly replaced by something else.  Compared to say Fantomas, this is a very commercial disc, but fear not, Patton fans, there’s enough weirdness on here to keep you coming back.

Plus, the album packaging is really cool. You pull open the tab on the right side and the disc slides out on the left side. There’s a keyhole cutaway that reveals different layers as the package opens, too.  Very cool.

[READ: November 22, 2008] Free Range Chickens

I had forgotten my book for lunch time reading today, and I didn’t want to start anything big, so I was thrilled to see that we had gotten in Free Range Chickens (at my request, of course).  It was the perfect lunchtime book as I finished the whole thing in 40 minutes.  (This may be a warning not to buy it, unless you intend to re-read it). (more…)

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pnin1SOUNDTRACK: ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS-Momofuku (2008).

momfukuI’ve enjoyed Elvis Costello for many years.  I’m not a die hard fan, but his Best of is often in play in our house.  I got into a little phase where I was buying a bunch of his things, but that has more or less subsided now.  And, since he has become somewhat more classically oriented I’ve basically just stopped listening.  So, when I heard that on this release he was returning to his rocking days, well, I figured I’d give it a go.

My initial reaction was somewhat muted as I thought I’d be getting a whole disc of “Pump It Up”s and “Oliver’s Army,” which you don’t.  But what you do get is almost costelloa condensation of his albums from My Aim is True through to about Spike (a long period, granted, but it makes sense).

The album opens with a few rocking tracks that hearken back to his earlier punkier songs.  Although “No Hiding Place” sounds “fuller” than his 1970s records, it doesn’t sound out of place with classic tracks.  But really, it’s “American Gangster Time” that brings back that classic Costello organ sound.  This track could have been written thirty years ago and would easily fit on any Best Of.  “Harry Worth” hearkens back to Costello’s ballads.  It’s a bit less punchy than say “Everyday I Write the Book,” but the wit is in high marks. “Drum & Bone” has the fun tongue twisting chorus of “I’m a limited, primitive kind of man.”  One of the highlights is “Flutter & Wow” a potentially timeless love song that somehow rings of Van Morrison.  It’s really stellar track.

Side Two (his phrase not mine) starts off rocking once again, and, while “Stella Hurt” rocks pretty hard, it tends to drag on a bit long.  But it quickly moves to another beautiful ballad, “My Three Sons.”  The album ends with “Go Away” another organ-heavy rocker.

And so the album is mixed nicely with some rockers and ballads balancing out the totality of the disc.  Lyrically, the songs are tight and witty.  The ballads are lovely.  I don’t know if Costello’s work with more more mature performers has affected him a lot, but it certainly hasn’t impacted his ability to write good rock songs.  Welcome back Elvis.

[READ: November 20, 2008] Pnin

pnin2

I harp on the appearance of book covers a lot.  I know that the contemporary covers are fine and they try to retain a consistency for each author.  But, I love this early cover.  I especially like that there’s an artist’s rendering of Pnin himself.  It really paints an immediate picture of the man.

I bought my copy of Pnin many, many years ago, probably right after I had read and enjoyed Pale Fire so much (I had a coworker who really loved Nabokov and insisted that I keep reading him).  It has been sitting on my bookshelf for all this time just waiting for me to read it.  About three months ago, I decided I would like to read all of Nabokov’s works, so I brought it out of the basement and left it next to my bed.  Then, I got the October 2008 Believer.  The first article, “Amerikas,” by Adam Thirwell (excerpted here) was about novels and translations.  And, since Nabokov is a novelist and translator, he was included in the article.  About seven pages into the article is an excerpt from Pnin.  And the excerpt was quite amusing, so, I took it as a sign to read Pnin next.

The most fascinating thing to me about the book is that is told by a narrator whose name we never learn, and whom we don’t actually meet until the last chapter. (more…)

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fowlSOUNDTRACKBROKEN SOCIAL SCENE-Bee Hives (2004).

bssB-side collections come in a couple of forms: the awesome collection of fantastic rare tracks, the self indulgent crap that only true fans would like, and the middle road.

This collection fits nicely into the middle road.  I’ve enjoyed Broken Social Scene’s two later discs (I haven’t heard their first one).  This collection comes between the second and third.  And it contains remixes of songs from the first two, as well as some instrumental tracks.

The tracks are all dreamy and sort of atmospheric.  It’s definitely the kind of disc that requires the right mood, as the instrumentals are pretty but not exactly pulse-racing.  The highlights are Feist’s rendition of “Lover’s Spit” which is ghostly and haunting.  And “Backyards,” a wonderfully catchy, beautifully sung song that could easily be one of their best.

This collection is not for the casual fan, but if you really like BSS, it’s a worthy addition to their catalog.

[READ: November 1, 2008] Artemis Fowl And The Time Paradox.

fowl2Just another example of how the British cover, while not drastically different, is still much cooler than the US cover.

This is the sixth book in the Artemis Fowl series.  Sarah asked me if you could read any of them without having read the previous ones.  Aside from the first, which you should read just for background information (and because it’s a great story), it doesn’t REALLY matter which you read next.  Although references to previous events do crop up in the subsequent stories, the plot events of each book are not dependent on previous knowledge. (more…)

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ny060913SOUNDTRACK: [REVISITED] LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III-Strange Weirdos: Music from and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up (2008).

loudoWe used Loudo’s “Daughter” from this soundtrack in the birthday video that we made for my daughter.  (We also used Dolly Parton’s “Shine” for the first half).  Because we were listening to the song, I listened to the rest of the disc as well and wanted to make a few extra comments from the last review.

Overall, the disc seems much more upbeat lyrically than his usual fare.  He’s almost always funny, but on this disc, the humor isn’t as sarcastic.  Also, his voice seems gentler, too.  Is this the dawning of a kinder Loudon?  I haven’t heard his latest disc, so I don’t know.  But I really enjoy this whole disc.  The only exception is two tracks which are full band with backing vocals.  There’s something about the tracks being so polished that seem to take away from Loudon’s voice…and really its all about a guy with a guitar. But it’s a small complaint given how good the rest of the disc is.

As for our daughter’s video, we spent I’d say about ten or twelve hours editing, syncing, and making sure the video was more than just picture one, fade, picture two, fade.  We’ve made a video for each of the kids birthdays, but we’re especially proud of this one.  You can see it here:

[READ: November 25, 2008] “Natasha”

I read this story a few months ago, but felt I should re-read it given how little I remembered. So, I re-read it last night.  I think I was surprised by it because of how un-complicated it was (especially compared to Nabokov’s novels).  Well, I learned that the story was written in the 1920s, long before he had written Lolita or Pale Fire, or anything in English.  (more…)

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yourlifeSOUNDTRACK: PORTISHEAD-Third (2008).

3rdThis is probably one of the spookiest albums I’ve heard in a long time.  And, boy, do I love it.

Portishead has been away from the music scene for about ten years.  They’d had a couple of hits, sort of gloomy trip hop all held together by Beth Gibbons’ otherworldly voice (“Nobody loves me, it’s true, not like you do”).  But frankly, after ten years I wasn’t even sure if I cared about Portishead anymore.  And then, I heard the songs!

Beth Gibbons’ voice sounds even more ghostly than before.  And the noises that Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley make are totally beyond the pale.  Some of the music sounds like pieces from a late night horror movie.  Take the bizarro verse music of “Hunter,” guitar chords stretched beyond recognition alternating with a keyboard riff straight out of “Revenge of the Cheapo Zombie Monster.” Or the aggressive soundtrack of “Machine Gun,” in which Gibbons sings over a musical piece that is more or less an electronic drum that sounds like a machine gun.  It’s pretty intense.

But just when you think the whole disc is nothing but uneasy listening, they thrown in the beautiful acoustic simplicity of “The Rip,” a simple acoustic guitar playing over Gibbons’ sultry voice, or “Deep Water” a minute and a half of old timey ukulele music.  Of course, these songs are bookeneded by two creepy tracks: “Plastic” in all its eeriness, and “We Carry On” some of the most unusual sounds ever to be called music (aside from Einsturzende Neubauten, of course).

Somehow all of the unsettling sounds work wonderfully together.  And, although I haven’t processed all the lyrics yet, previous Portishead albums would lead me to believe that things aren’t very peachy in Gibbons’ world.  And yet, despite that, I find the album very uplifting and not at all depressing.

Maybe every band should take ten years between records if it yields results this great.

[READ: November 16, 2008] The Ultimate Game Guide to Your Life®

I used to work with the author of this book.  Perhaps a dozen or so years ago, Christopher (just Chris back then) Monks and I worked at Wordsworth Books in beautiful Cambridge, MA.   When I learned that he was writing for McSweeney’s (and has since become the editor of their online website) I was very impressed and happy for him and not at all jealous or seething with envy at his wonderful, picturesque life in the Massacusetts suburbs.  But, more to the point, when I read his works, and his website, he displayed humor that was in little evidence at work.  (Talk about compartmentilization…).

Anyhow, he recently sent a generic email to everyone who has ever written him to say that he has a book out (and would we all go buy it, please).  Well, I’m always game to help someone who over the years I have come to consider a former co-worker. (more…)

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ny1020SOUNDTRACK: TOKYO POLICE CLUB: A Lesson in Crime EP (2006).

tokyoWhen Toronto’s Tokyo Police Club released their album Elephant Shell, there were quite a lot of rave reviews for it, but almost all of the reviews talked about how great this EP was.  So, I opted to check out their EP first.  And how can you go wrong with a seven song EP that totals about 16 minutes?  Even though I am fond of the long digressive progressive rock style, I also really love really short songs.  And these are short, and very good.

Despite the speed of the EP, and the shortness of the songs, the band isn’t hardcore, and is sort of barely even punk.  Rather, they play high energy, no frills rock.  Their sound is more high end with guitar lines playing melodies and the bass taking a back seat.  The start of the album is a little misleading what with the singer screaming “Operator. Get me the President of the World” suggesting that chaos is forthcoming.  But rather, the songs are very fun, with spazzy guitar lines and really catchy choruses.

“If It Works” even has a break for a second of silence (unexpected in a song that’s only 2 minutes long). “Citizens of Tomorrow” has a few softer moments in it (followed by a chorus that reminds me of The Go! Team). They fit in nicely with the rock revival bands that have been making the rounds lately.  I’m very interested in their full length.

[READ: November 12, 2008] “Sleep”

This is a short, affectionate story by Roddy Doyle.  I enjoyed it very much.  It concerns a long-married couple and how much the husband enjoys watching his wife sleep.  There’s some flashbacks, including the time she slept from Friday night until Sunday morning, as well as some medical revelations that are scary but which he believes they can get through.  It’s nice to read a short, sweet story that, despite the difficulties, ends happily.

It’s available here, and if you’ve not read anythign of Doyle’s (or anything since his earlier funnier works) this is a good story to get a feel for his more mature stories.

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ny060912SOUNDTRACK [RECONSIDERED]: YO LA TENGO-I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2007)

yolaWhen I reviewed this record a while ago, I had enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave that much of an impression on me.  Well, I just listened to the disc again, and I was amazed by how much I remembered the riffs and choruses of just about every song.  I was also impressed thinking that no matter where you were to drop the needle (as it were) on the record, you’d get a different style of song, one that would be interesting and entertaining.

I think part of the reason last time why I felt nothing really “stuck” is because of the varied nature of the disc.  Typically, Yo La Tengo albums have a “feel” to them, but this one is so all over the place that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.  But each song, taken by itself, is very strong and very fun: Piano pop (with horns- “Beanbag Chair” and without horns-“The Weakest Part”); Mournful ballad (” I Feel Like Going Home”); Falsetto faux funk (“Mr. Tough”); A winding, beautiful song (“Black Flowers”–which sounds uncannily like Arcade FIre’s “Celebration Guns”); Feedback/folksy 60’s style song (“The Race is on Again,” “I Should Have Known Better” “Point and Shoot”); Memorable keyboards (“The Room Got Heavy”); Garage/Grunge Rock (“Watch Out for Me Ronnie”).  It’s all done very well, and not at all like they are simply aping the styles.

Granted, it is a long album to listen through in one sitting, but it’s still pretty great.

[READ: October 25, 2008] “Hypocrites”

This is a short reminiscence about religion and the nature of hypocrisy.  I assume this is a true story, so I’ll say that young George stumbled upon a priest and a nun making out in the back of the chapel where he was supposed to practice a reading for the day.  He wondered if this one act destroyed all of Catholic faith, since these two were supposed to uphold all that was sacred. (more…)

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