I loved Foals’ debut album Antidotes, it was a modern rock/prog rock/dancable mashup with angular guitars and all kinds of weird time signatures. Then Foals returned with a new album which I haven’t heard anything of, except to have heard that it was very different. Then I heard “Inhaler” from this album and I loved it. It was easily in my top ten songs of 2012.
But it was so different from the Foals of Antidotes that I wasn’t sure what to make of it. And in fact, that Foals, with all of their angularity, has been replaced by this much dancier version of the band.
“Prelude” is like an extended intro to “Inhaler.” It’s 4 minutes of intro music with chatter and noises. Then comes “Inhaler,” a slow building song that rises and falls, rises again then falls again and then bursts into a big rocking chorus. It’s fantastic, it feels louder than is possible for such a song. “My Number” introduces some of that unusual staccato song style but in a far more dancey framework. The synths are louder and bolder. I really like this song. “Bad Habit” is a far slower song, but it’s a nice tempo changer. And the chorus is still catchy.
“Everytime” brings in more shoegaze elements (so let’s see, there’s angular punk, shoegaze and dance music here). This song even has a discoey chorus. “Late Night” and “Out of the Woods” feel even more dancey than the earlier tracks–with a kind of earlier 80s British alt rock flavor–spiky guitars and exotic percussion. I hear some of the guitar sounds of early U2 as well, especially on the intro of “Milk & Black Spiders” (the rest of the song sounds nothing like U2.
“Providence” brings back some of that louder guitar, coupled nicely with a combination of shoegaze and screamy vocals. The heavy guitar plays a very nice counterpoint to the picking of the second guitar. It’s the last great song on the record. “Stepson” is a slow song, the slowest on the disc, and I fear that it rather runs out of steam. “Moon” continues the slow drifting sense of the end of the album. It’s pretty song, but it feels so far removed from “Inhaler” that it seems to be from a different record.
So I’m not entirely sure what to make of this record. It has a few great songs, and then a number of songs that seem to want to go in a different direction, but what direction that might be remains unclear.
[READ: September 6, 2014] “The Happy Valley”
Lucky Peach 10 is “The Street Food Issue,” and it is a fun issue with all kinds of interesting food you can buy on the street (and recipes to try them at home).
Like food in tubes. Take “Sausage Quest” (what the locals do with their various sausages all around the world), or “I Went to Thailand and All I Got was a Sausage Stuffed in My Mouth” (I can’t wait to make sausage blossoms). Beyond sausages there’s a list of the most compelling street foods around the world from New York to Naples to Tunisia. We look at street food vendors in Malaysia and South East Asia. And then we meet the Lucha Doughnut Man of East LA (Mexican donna vendor by day and masked wrestler by night).
Then there’s some articles that are not about food. Like the surprising article about the microbiology of used cigarette butts (no butts were eaten). Or the very interesting history of charcoal (which dates back to Henry Ford). I had no idea charcoal came from trees. There’s an essay about rapper Jibbs and his song “Chain Hang Low” which was apparently ubiquitous in 2006 although I don’t know it). The essay discusses how it used “Turkey in the Straw” as a motif. Most likely, he took it from the ice cream trucks that he heard as a kid, but there is a whole history of racism packed in to that song, let me tell you.
I enjoyed the idea (throughout the issue) that if you’re in a new place, sometimes you can’t always trust reviews for what’s good, you just have to trust your gut (and your nose).
Then there’s several articles about corn. Making tortillas or masa–the whole process of nixtamilization.
There’s also Mark Ibold at the Martin’s Potato Roll Factory–the best bread ever! Perhaps a close second is “Pious Pie” the Karelian pastries of Helsinki. Or “Wonder Brød” the Snobrød of Copenhagen.
And finally we get to the fiction.
“The Happy Valley” was an exception to the other two Lucky Peach fictions I read recently in that I really liked it. The other stories seemed more like ideas than stories, but this is a compete and complex story which I enjoyed very much. The story is about Danielle, a New Yorker living in Hong Kong. Her father is now a businessman in Hong Kong and he lives there year round. So Danielle has gone there for the summer to see the sights.
Taylor takes a very interesting look at Hong Kong–not from a tourist’s point of view exactly, but also not from a native’s point of view. It’s more from a long time guest’s point of view. Because most of the people who Daniele meets there are Americans who are working for her father–men and women who are going to be living in Hong Kong for an extended period of time but who will no doubt be returning home eventually.
The big surprise to me was the amount of Jewish history in the story, This was something I knew nothing about–that many Jews fled to Hong Kong during the 1940s.
Her family even has roots in Hong Kong. Although her father, Stan Ross moved to Hong Kong with Lehman Brothers. But he left the company before all the trouble began to start his own company Ross Investments. he had a lot of local contacts and his business was quite successful. Less successful was his marriage. When his wife split from him, she returned to her maiden name. Since Stan had cheated on her, Danielle sided with her mother and returned to her mother’s name as well. Of course, when her mom remarried and took her new husband’s name that left Danielle as the only Melman, which kinda sucked.
Even though Danielle was enjoying her trip with her father (as a chance to reconnect) he was so busy that she found herself alone quite a lot. So he finally told her about some of his young employees. She contacted one and he invited her out to a bar with a bunch of them that night. She had a pretty good time despite the club being in Lan Kwai Fong (an endless expat frat party crammed into a few blocks of bars and restaurants). It turned out that the people who were out that night were celebrating the end of their working relationship (internal politics is sending some of them back home). Despite that , the night proved to be more fun than she’d expected and she really hits it off with Colin, so she shows him the less expat friendly section of town, which they like quite a bit.
At the end of the night, they agree to do something else soon. And soon they do, going for a long hike into some beautiful sections of the city. There’s a few awkward moments when he doesn’t want his picture taken, but they do eventually go back to his place. And that’s when she sees the picture of his family, and she wonders if that will be the end of it.
I expected the story to sort of peter out there with a moral lesson or some such, but it doesn’t. Rather, it goes in a different direction, one where Danielle tries to find her identity among the strangers and strangeness of Hong Kong. I was surprised by the ending and it didn’t really have the impact I think it was meant to. But I appreciated the imagery at the end.
For ease of searching, I include: snobrod and brod.