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Archive for January, 2010

SOUNDTRACK:CBC Radio 3

I listened to CBC Radio 3 briefly when I had Sirius Radio, but I just learned that I could listen streaming online.  In addition to playing (as they say) Independent Canadian Music, they also have a really multifunctional website where you can input any band’s name, read about them and listen to bands’ tracks.  And of course, you can also listen to their live streaming station as it happens (you can even play recently played and even upcoming songs).

Since it’s a CBC station there are no commercials.  And since they are from the CBC they focus exclusively on Canadian bands.  I’m not sure how literally to take the Independent part; however, they don’t include Neil Young, Rush or The Tragically Hip.  But you can get City And Colour (and even AlexisonFire) and even Vancouver’s own 3 Inches of Blood!.

So let’s say you want to hear some tracks from Metric, a band you’ve heard good things about.  Type in their name, get to their page, and play away.  As far as I can tell, the band uploads songs and videos for you to stream.  And, unlike other streaming sites, you can listen to the same tracks multiple times.

If you like your music Canadian and independent, this is the place to be.  Check it out!

[READ: January 29, 2010] Festering Romance

Recently I complained that the Oni graphic novel Wet Moon had the worst title I have ever heard.  And then I found out that “wet moon” is actually an astronomical phenomenon, and I retracted that complaint.  Regardless, this graphic novel now replaces that one as the single worst title in the history of books.  Festering Romance?  Surely not.

Merriam Webster gives us this: 1. To generate pus  2. Putrefy, rot  3. To cause increasing poisoning, irritation, bitterness.

So, okay, the 3rd definition might work, but you have to overlook those first two really radically inappropriate definitions first. (And if you’re afraid to read a book with that title, rest assured, there is no festering pus of any kind in the book).

This terrible title does a huge disservice to what is a really, really great comic, and apparently the first self penned releases by Renee Lott. The artwork is fantastic (more on that in a moment) and the plot was really moving.  I enjoyed it enough to have already passed it along to someone else. (more…)

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J.D. Salinger [1919-2010]

J.D. Salinger died two days ago.  I was saddened to hear this, but I think mostly because he’s everyone’s favorite recluse, and there are so few people actively avoiding fame these days.

Everyone loves Catcher in the Rye (somehow there are three copies of it in our house).  In fact so many people say it is their favorite book, that when you meet someone who says that you kind of grimace and wish they thought of something more original.  Of course, I loved it when I read it, too.  I loved it so much that I read all of Salinger’s published works (which is all of 4 books).   And I enjoyed them all.

This was about twenty years ago.  There’s no reason not to read them again, frankly. But I know if I start right now I’ll seem like a goddamned phony, so I’ll put it off for a little while.

It’s hard to be terribly sad that the man’s dead (from a reader’s point of view, that is). I mean, he hadn’t written anything in over 40 years as far as we know.  But still, it’s always sad to hear news like that.

Raise High the Roofbeam.

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SOUNDTRACK: DINOSAUR JR.-Farm (2009).

I’ve been a fan of Dino Jr since my friend Al introduced me to Green Mind (I had missed the “classic” line up but caught this newer incarnation).  And I loved it.  I have enjoyed just about everything that J. Mascis has put out (although yes, there have been a few duds).

I missed the first reunion album (and will likely get it one of these days) but I had heard a few tracks from this disc on a pitchfork TV segment on IFC (if you can track down the show, it’s great).  This one featured two Dino Jr tracks recorded live (?) in what looks like an attic.  It sounds great and sounds very close to the record, but I hadn’t had the record yet so I don’t know if it was just a video or a new recording).

On the disc, the band sounds fantastic.  The thing I loved about Dino in the post-Barlow/Murph stage was J Mascis’ amazing guitar work that morphed with his almost-beyond-slacker singing.  He sings like such an under-achiever that it was amazing his guitar solos were so blistering.

What has changed on the new disc is that his vocals are a little less lazy/whiny sounding, he seems to be actually singing!  And his guitar work sounds even better.  The strangest thing is that even when he pulls off a hugely long guitar solo like on the nearly 9 minute “I Don’t Wanna Go There” he never sounds like a show off.  The songs aren’t there to highlight the solos, rather, the solo sounds like an integral part of the song.

And this disc offers all of the things that the band is good at: lengthy guitar solo tracks like I mentioned and rocking fuzzed out guitar jams.  And despite all of Dino’s noisy guitars and squalling solos they also wrote some amazingly catchy pop songs.  And that’s true here, too (“Over It” and “I Want You to Know”).

I have been a little confused as to what inspired the band to reunite.  I mean, Lou Barlow had a very successful thing with Sebadoh and Folk Implosion (scoring a huge hit with “Natural One”).  And on this record, he only contributes two songs.  So, it can’t be any kind of ego thing.  I assume they just enjoyed playing together again.

But Barlow’s contributions add a lot to the record.  A sense of depth in the verses and, of course, the utterly different sound than what Masics brings on his vocal tracks.

The disc came with a bonus disc of 4 songs: 2 covers and 2 Mascis solo pieces.  They’re not essential, but they do show a lighthearted side of the band.

[READ: January 25, 2010] “Safari”

I wasn’t initially that interested in this piece.  I’m not big on the whole safari thing, but I thought I’d give it a try.  And I’m really glad I did.  This story went in so many different directions, and covered so much ground, that it was practically a novel condensed into seven pages.

The story starts with Lou’s children.  Lou and his children (and his nanny/student protegé/lover) are on a safari in Africa.  Over the course of the story we learn that there are several other people on the safari with them (a rock star and his band, some older ladies who are birdwatching, Albert, the driver and, my favorite, Dean–a young actor who states the obvious).  But we begin just with this family. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRITISH SEA POWER-Do You Like Rock Music? (2008).

I’ve heard a lot about British Sea Power over the years, and I’ve enjoyed their smarty-pants attitudes.  I think that their first album is most highly recommended.  But I was able to get this disc with an autographed booklet from my favorite record store of all time, the long-missed (since they have no locations near me) Newbury Comics.  So I tried them out.

I can’t speak for their earlier discs, but I’m surprised by how much this disc reminds me of The Arcade Fire, which is odd given their Britrock pedigrees.  It opens with “All In It” which sounds like it could be an Arcade Fire outtake.  And as the rest of the disc continues, I found myself hearing bits and pieces of other bands.  I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific, but I kept thinking, ‘hey, that sounds like–.”

The biggest problem I had with the disc was that even after a few listens, most of it didn’t stick with me.  There were definitely moments where things really stood out (chanting choruses and whatnot), but overall, I kind of felt a lack of anything special.

The album closes with “We Close Our Eyes” which is a reprise of sorts of the awesome opening track.  Whereas the first track is 2 minutes, this one is 8, and it has lots of silences or quiet sound effects and it ultimately ends with a similar chant to the beginning.  But by the time that kicks back in, you’re just sort of annoyed by it.

I wish I could use that as a metaphor for the disc, but I can’t.  I enjoyed some of it, and didn’t dislike any of it really, but it doesn’t make me want to rush out and get their first album, even if it is supposed to be much better (and actually rather different).  I just wanted this disc to be better.

[READ: January 23, 2010] Love the Way You Love: Side B

I really enjoyed part A of this story.  And, at the end of that review, I had asked if Jamie S. Rich had recorded any of the Like a Dog songs.  Jamie wrote back to say that “Love the Way You Love” is available, on MySpace.  Now, I only wish he had included the wonderfully scalding punk B side, “Mighty Joe Marxism” that is featured in this second book.

But back to the story.

When we left off in Book A, Tristan has successfully wooed Isobel away from the evil record producer, Marcus King.  And he had successfully signed his band Like a Dog to a righteous indie label.

But all is now not well.  Marcus has pulled strings and caused a huge backlash on Like A Dog.  No clubs will book them and no distributors will carry their soon-to-be recorded first single.  And Isobel feels responsible for Tristan’s sadness.  This becomes even more apparent when Marcus basically says that he’ll lift the ban if Isobel goes back out with him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NO FORCEFIELD-Lee’s Oriental Massage 415-626-1837 (2000).

I was terribly disappointed with the second No Forcefield album (so why did I get this one?  Because I got them both used at the same time for $1 each).  And I can’t help but think Id have been so much more disappointed in it had I listened to this one first.

This first record is really quite good.  I still have no idea why Ler from Primus is in the band or what he does on this disc (and he’s the reason I learned about the band to begin with), but this disc sounds like a proper album and not just a bunch of undercooked ideas.

This disc is primarily a collection of electronic/scratching tracks.  The beginning of the disk has more scratch-heavy pieces (provided by DJ Disk), and as the disc moves along we get slightly longer more instrumental-only dancey tracks.  But they’re not really dance tracks either, they’re heavy electronic tracks in the vein of say Prodigy (with no lyrics).  They’re quite inventive and they rock pretty hard.

But it must be said, it sounds nothing like Primus.  There’s virtually no bass, and no guitars and no vocals.  I assume that Brain does all of the electronics and drums, and then there’s a few extra folks helping out.  There’s some definitely worthwhile tracks on here (and the samples are all fun…Mister Roger’s Neighborhood music, for example).

This isn’t a genre I know very well, so I don’t know how it compares globally to others. But I do know bad techno music and this isn’t it.

Not bad for $1.  And, no I never called the phone number.

[READ: January 26, 2010] “Fjord of Killary”

This is a quick, dark story.  It concerns a poet, named Caoimhin, who moves from the city to the West Coast of Ireland.  Specifically, he goes there to buy a hotel.  The hotel has been extant since the 1600’s and was even written about by Thackeray.  Since he is having massive writer’s block, he assumed that this little community on a fjord will give him lots to write about.

But instead, he finds himself very busy tending to the locals (the hotel bar is the real draw) and largely uninspired to write anything.

The actual plot of the story concerns a terrible storm.  The raging ocean that is right below the hotel is rising and rising.  Caoimhin is rather nervous, but the patrons, all old residents of the area, tell him not to worry.  Well, actually they ignore him, (despite all of his lame attempts at conversation making) but the effect is the same.

It’s only when the water actually comes up the porch and under the doors that the people start to really get nervous. (more…)

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[UPDATE October 18, 2010]:
Check out the comment below from Sydney Veldhuis who is offering to do some of the translating if Scholastic won’t!

Currently in the U.S. there are four volumes of the Ulysses Moore series published in English.  There are nine original books in the series (in Italian).  Readers of this blog have wondered fro quite some time whether or not the rest of the series would be translated here.  According to Rachel, a reader here, Scholastic sent this reply:

“I’m so sorry. We are not planning on translating the rest of the books. I thought perhaps the British publisher might have done a translation that you could purchase. I did make the editor aware of your interest.”

While I don’t believe in overwhelming an employee (it’s certainly not her fault that the books aren’t being translated… unless of course she’s the person who makes the decision, but I suspect she’s just  the outreach person), we’ve all seen how grassroots campaigns can make a difference.

But the key is to be organized.  It’s possible that a petition would work, although I’m not sure how to go about setting one up. If anyone wants to take the reins on that, please do.  In the meantime, I think the best thing is to sent a polite email saying how much of a fan you are of the series and ask that they do continue to translate the books.

I think a good sign of continuity would be if everyone used the exact same wording in the subject line as well. Unless someone has a really catchy phrase, I’m suggesting:

We need more Rick and Julia–please translate the rest of Ulysses Moore.

I’ll post here what I’m going to email.  Obviously, you can copy what I wrote, but if you have something better or want to get some other things across, please wrote your own message! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STARLIGHT MINTS-Change Remains (2009).

This is the fourth disc from the Starlight Mints.  Their music is hard to describe at any time, but this disc complicates things even further.

The number of genres they cram into this disc is impossible to count.  However, there seems to be a very heavy concentration of a sort of punk/disco feel.  The disco beats (and telltale bass lines) are very strong yet the noisy guitar and instrumentation removes the disco sheen.

And that overall sense sums up the disc fairly well.  It’s got this poppy aspect to it, but there’s a sinister undercurrent.  In my review of their earlier discs, I described them a having a Pixies influence.  And while that’s still true (the sinister part (and the vocals definitely sound like Black Francis)) their sound has evolved away from a grungy rock into a more keyboardy feel.

The opener is a short instrumental that sounds like a cartoony James Bond theme.  The next few tracks have a good 90s alt rock feel (although “Zoomba” mixes it up with some jazzy horns).   But it’s the second half of the disc where the disco sounds really come to the fore.

And, lyrically, the band is all over the place.  It’s always fun to see what’s coming around the corner (as when the rocking “gallop along” comes out of an otherwise mellow dancey track).   Starlight Mints are definitely not trying to sell billions of records, but they are no doubt building a delightful niche fan base. And I’m one of them.

[READ: Week of January 18, 2010] 2666 [pg 1-51]

And so begins the Infinite Summer-like reading of 2666.  I don’t know if this reading group has a catchy title yet (I can’t even think of a jokey one right now), so for now, 2666 it is.

I don’t really know what I’m in for with this book.  And as such, I’m not entirely sure what thee posts are going to turn into.  Unlike with Infinite Jest, which was confusing from the get-go, this novel starts out in a rather straightforward manner.  So, I think for the foreseeable future I’ll do some plot summary and comments.

2666 is divided into 5 books (which were originally supposed to be published independently).  The first book is 161 pages and is called The Part About the Critics.

I had no idea what this book was about.  I’d heard it was a great, difficult read, and that was enough for me.  I like to go into books fairly blindly, so that’s nothing unusual.  The back cover blurb says that it centers around Santa Teresea, which I suspect has something to do with Juarez, Mexico.  So, okay, I get the idea that we’re in for a harrowing tale about murdered women in Mexico.

So, imagine my surprise when the book opens with fifty-plus pages about 4 scholars of a little-known German writer.  And imagine my further surprise when the language of the book is fairly easy to read. (more…)

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