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Archive for the ‘Marcel Dzama’ Category

songbookSOUNDTRACK: songs from Songbook (2002).

songbook2Songbook came with an 11 song CD.  I’m curious, given the way he speaks so lovingly of the songs in the book how come more bands/labels didn’t want to be included on it.  The proceeds went to charity and it would just be more exposure for the artists.  There were a lot of songs I didn’t know and would love to have heard (or would love to hear while I was reading).  And frankly I see no downside to throwing a track on a compilation which is a collection of someone’s favorite songs.  Of course, things were very different in the music world in 2002.  Now, someone will just make a playlist on their iPod of theses songs, and post them to Spotify.

PAUL WESTERBERG-“Born for Me.” I’m much more of a fan of Westerberg with the Replacements, as he got a little too polished as a solo guy.  But this song has a fun, shambolic quality to it (it doesn’t even sound like Westerberg singing).  It wouldn’t be a favorite song of mine, but it is a nice one.

TEENAGE FANCLUB “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From” and “Ain’t That Enough.”  I really like Teenage Fanclub a lot.  They are one of my favorite jangly pop bands.  So these two songs rank pretty high for me.  Although I admit to liking their slightly more rocking songs a bit more, “Your Love” is a very pretty ballad and “Ain’t That Enough” is just gorgeous.

THE BIBLE- “Glorybound” Hornby says he knew these guys.  It’s an okay song, a little too slick for me and very of its time.

AIMEE MANN-“I’ve Had It”  I like Aimee Mann very much.  I can’t say that I paid a ton of attention to the lyrics of this song (I didn’t know it was about touring) but I’ve always liked it—the understated yet beautiful melody and chorus are very nice.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-“One Man Guy” I like Rufus a lot.  I don’t own any of his music, but I really like everything I hear from him.  His delivery is so louche, it makes me smile every time.  This song is actually one his father wrote and sang many years ago (very differently).

ROD STEWART-“Mama You Been on My Mind” Hornby’s essay on Rod Stewart is hilarious.  And his defense of early Stewart is wholly believable.  I, of course, know Rod from his later, laughable stuff, so I never considered his early work  But this track is pretty good.

BADLY DRAWN BOY-“A Minor Incident” Sarah and I love Badly Drawn Boy, and this soundtrack in particular.  Hornby’s discussion of how he Damon got to do the soundtrack is very interesting.

BEN FOLDS FIVE-“Smoke” I’ve liked Ben for years now (going to see him in two weeks).  This song has always been a favorite both for the lyrics, which are great and because that weird harp-type sound is him playing the strings of his grand piano with a pick.

MARK MULCAHY-“Hey Self Defeater” I don’t know Mulcahy at all.  This song has a beautiful wavery guitar and gentle vocals (it’s funny to read about Hornby rocking out when most of this disc is quite mellow).

ANI DIFRANCO-“You Had Time” I was a huge Ani DiFranco fan back in the day, but this song is unknown to me, or should I say unfamiliar to me.  It’s on one of her very early albums.  Perhaps it’s more that I must have ignored the piano opening, which Hornby pays close attention to and really explains it in a useful way, showing how it is more about a beautiful melody being born from chaos.  And now I respect the song a lot more.

[READ: 2002 and July 1, 2013] Songbook

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this very book in my head….  A list of favorite songs and why they are so important to me?  How cool is that.  I have no idea how come Hornby got to write it (I know, High Fidelity), but still, what a nice cozy assignment.  And to have this book illustrated by Marcel Dzama is even cooler.

This book came out in 2002 after About a Boy (and in the year that About a Boy was being turned into a film).  Hornby had recently hooked up with the McSweeney’s gang and began writing for The Believer in 2003.

I had no idea that the book was released in the UK under a different name (31 Songs) or that they also released an accompanying CD (A Selection of Music from 31 Songs) with 18 songs on it (see my comment above about CDs).  Although we got fewer songs on the disc in the US, at least ours came with the book. (more…)

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[WATCHED: December 16, 2012] McSweeney’s #11

11

THE DVD that came with Issue #11 was listed as a “Deleted Scenes” bonus feature for this issue.  The colophon of the book explains in great detail what they wanted to do and how they went about doing it all.  And that’s all quite amusing in itself.

Now, of course, there are no “deleted scenes” up front.  The DVD is, at first glance, authors reading from the works in the book.  But as you scroll down the menu, there are some deleted scenes, as well as behind the scenes features and audio commentary.  All in all there’s about two hours worth of stuff crammed in here and some of it is quite interesting.

DELETED SCENES

This is where the authors read from their works.  They each read between 3 and 6 minutes, with some of them reading different sections (Samantha Hunt), but most of them reading a chunk.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OKX: A Tribute to Ok Computer (2010).

OK Computer is one of the best records of the 90s.  Every time I listen to it I hear something new and interesting.  So, why on earth would anyone want to cover the whole thing?  And how could you possibly do justice to this multi-layered masterpiece?

I can’t answer the first question, but the second question is more or less answered by this tribute which was orchestrated by Stereogum.

The answer is by stripping down the music to its bare essentials.  When I first listened to the songs I was really puzzled by how you could take a such a complex album and make Doveman’s version of “Airbag,” which is sort of drums and pianos.  Or gosh, where would you even begin to tackle “Paranoid Android?”  Well Slaraffenland create a bizarre symphonic version that excises many things–in fact half of the lyrics are missing–and yet keeps elements that touch on the original.  But it’s an interesting version of the song and shows  a bizarre sense of creativity.  And that is more or less what this tribute does–it makes new versions of these songs.

Mobius Band make a kind of Police-sounding version of “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”  Again, it radically changes the song, making it a fast and driving song (although I don’t care for the repeated “Uptights” and “Outsides” during the verses).

Vampire Weekend, one of the few bands that I actually knew in this collection (and whom I really like) do a very interesting, stripped down version of “Exit Music, for a Film.  The “film” they make is a haunted one, with eerie keyboards.  Again, it is clearly that song, but it sounds very different (and quite different from what Vampire Weekend usually sound like).

“Let Down” (by David Bazan’s Black Cloud) and “Karma Police” (by John Vanderslice) work on a similar principle: more vocals and less music.  The music is very stripped down, but the vocals harmonize interestingly.  Perhaps the only track that is more interesting than the original is “Fitter Happier” by Samson Delonga.  The original is a processed computer voice, but this version is a real person, intoning the directives in a fun, impassioned way.  There’s also good sound effects.

Cold War Kids take the riotous “Electioneering” and simplify it, with drums and vocals only to start.  It’s hard to listen to this song without the utter noise of the original.  “Climbing Up the Walls” is one of the more manic songs on this collection, with some interesting vocals from The Twilight Sad.

There are two versions of “No Surprises” in this collection.  Interestingly, they are both by women-fronted bands, and both treat the song as a very delicate ballad.  Both versions are rather successful.  Marissa Nadler’s version (the one included in sequence) is a little slower and more yearning, while Northern State’s version (which is listed as a B-Side) is a little fuller and I think better for it.  My Brightest Diamond cover “Lucky.”  They do an interesting orchestral version–very spooky.

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble (a side project of Chris Funk from The Decemberists) do a very weird electronic version of the song (with almost no lyrics).  It’s very processed and rather creepy (and the accompanying notes make it even more intriguing when you know what’s he doing).

The final B-side is “Polyethylene (Part 1 & 2),”  It’s a track from the Airbag single and it’s done by Chris Walla.  I don’t know this song very well (since it’s not on OK Computer), but it’s a weird one, that’s for sure.  This version is probably the most traditional sounding song of this collection: full guitars, normal sounding drums and only a slightly clipped singing voice (I don’t know what Walla normally sounds like).

So, In many ways this is a successful tribute album.  Nobody tries to duplicate the original and really no one tries to out-do it either.  These are all new versions taking aspects of the songs and running with them.  Obviously, I like the original better, but these are interesting covers.

[READ: November 5, 2011]  McSweeney’s #8

I had been reading all of the McSweeney’s issue starting from the beginning, but I had to take a breather.  I just resumed (and I have about ten left to go before I’ve read all of them).  This issue feels, retroactively like the final issue before McSweeney’s changed–one is tempted to say it has something to do with September 11th, but again, this is all retroactive speculation.  Of course, the introduction states that most of the work on this Issue was done between April and June of 2001, so  even though the publication date is 2002, it does stand as a pre 9/11 document.

But this issue is a wild creation–full of hoaxes and fakery and discussions of hoaxes and fakery but also with some seriousness thrown in–which makes for a fairly confusing issue and one that is rife with a kind of insider humor.

But there’s also a lot of non-fiction and interviews.  (The Believer’s first issue came out in March 2003, so it seems like maybe this was the last time they wanted to really inundate their books with anything other than fiction (Issue #9 has some non-fiction, but it’s by fiction writers).

This issue was also guest edited by Paul Maliszewski.  He offers a brief(ish) note to open the book, talking about his editing process and selection and about his black polydactyl cat.  Then he mentions finding a coupon in the phonebook for a painting class  which advertised “Learn to Paint Like the Old Masters” and he wonders which Old Masters people ask to be able to paint like–and there’s a fun little internal monologue about that.

The introduction then goes on to list the 100 stores that are the best places to find McSweeney’s.  There are many stores that I have heard of (I wonder what percentage still exist).  Sadly none were in New Jersey.

This issue also features lots of little cartoons from Marcel Dzama, of Canada. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH on NPR [interviews and stories] (2006-2009).

While I was finding all of these awesome downloadable shows on NPR, I also found that there are hundreds of downloadable NPR stories about all kinds of bands.  But I was especially interested in the Sonic Youth ones because, well, I’m a fan of the band, but also because it seemed so incongruous to me to hear Peter Sagal introducing a story about Sonic Youth (with noise rock in the background).

The three downloadable shows cover the period from 2006-2008.  It’s no coincidence that this is the Rather Ripped period, where the band is at its most commercial.  And yet it is still pretty neat to hear them play samples of the noisier music as well.

The first one, A 25-Year Experiment in Artful noise (June 12, 2006) appeared on All Things Considered.  It is an interview from WHYY (but with the Peter Sagal intro!).  Joel Rose asks the band about their longevity as well as the history of their sound (this is where Thurston admits that their unusual tunings were because their crappy thrift store guitars sounded very bad in normal tuning).  This interview also revealed to me that Thurston and Kim were married in 1984.  I knew they were an item forever, but didn’t know they were official for that long.  Well done!

The interview also mentions their appearance on the beloved show The Gilmore Girls.  They watched the show with their daughter, Coco and heard Sonic Youth mentioned a few times (by cool chick Lane).  So they got in touch with the producers and were invited on set (I wonder if the actress who played Lane liked them as much as Lane did?).  And they played a fun “troubadour” version of one of their songs on the show (with Coco on bass).

The second download, Story of a ‘Kool thing’ (June 13, 2008) is more of an interview with David Browne, whose book Goodbye 20th Century:  A Biography of Sonic Youth, I have not read (although it sounds good).  This interview delves into their earlier music a bit more (how cool to hear Tom Violence on an NPR show–admittedly this show is The Bryant Park Project, so it’s not quite All Things Considered).  This segment is a general overview of the band’s history and of the book itself (but unlike the book, this offers snippets of music!)

The third one has a rather snarky title: “Turning ‘Sonic Youth’ Fans Into Readers” (January 27, 2009). It’s not so much about the band as it is about a book curated by Peter Wild called Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth.

It’s a brief segment which delves into the inspiration for the book and for Wild’s own story “Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style.”  There’s a strangely credulous tone to the whole piece which makes it seem like they don’t really like the book.  I’m curious about the book as there are a few well-recognized writers on board, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to reading it (although Amazon sells used copies for $2.50).

Contributors include:

Hiag Akmakjian • Christopher Coake • Katherine Dunn • Mary Gaitskill • Rebecca Godfrey • Laird Hunt • Shelley Jackson • J. Robert Lennon • Samuel Ligon • Emily Maguire • Tom McCarthy • Scott Mebus • Eileen Myles • Catherine O’Flynn • Emily Carter Roiphe • Kevin Sampsell • Steven Sherrill • Matt Thorne • Rachel Trezise • Jess Walter • Peter Wild

[READ: April 18, 2011] 826 NYC Art Show Catalog

This item is always for sale pretty cheap at the McSweeney’s site.  It recently was marked down to $3 so I figured I’d check it out.  This is a collection of art prints.  Each one is on a stocky paper just under  8 1/2″ x 11″.  The prints are reproduced beautifully (there’s about an inch and a half border (making them suitable for framing).  The back side of the print has a review of the print.  And, most amusingly, the reviews are by 6 to 8 year olds.

The art is hard to summarize, as it covers a lot of ground.  There’s a ton of different styles as well, from straight ahead photography to line and pencil drawing to painting.  These artists each have one page: (more…)

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