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Archive for the ‘Benjamin Cohen’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ST. VINCENT-Actor (2009).

I had seen St Vincent on Austin City Limits, and her juxtaposition of waif-singer with noise mongering guitar player blew me away.  So I was a little disappointed when this album opened up with this gentle, practically 1950s sounding vocal and string line in “The Strangers.”  It takes two and a half minutes, but the noise eventually comes and it totally changes the texture of the song.  Of course now, “make the black hole blacker” is a fun thing to sing along with (and the lyrics in general are pretty great).  “Save Me from What I Want” is another quiet song with a catchy chorus.  “The Neighbors” has a great melody with interesting strings over the top of it.  “Actor Out of Work” brings in some stranger sounds to the album.

There’s something interesting about the songs on this album, like the way “Black Rainbow” has these sweet string sections but for the end half builds a crescendo of tension. I also love that a seemingly delicate song can be called “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood.”  Perhaps the strangest song on the disc is “Marrow” which has a strange horn section and the chorus: “H.  E.  L.  P.  Help Me Help Me.”  “The Bed,” “The Party” and “Just the Same But Brand New” continue in this vein–like a Disney princess song with a horrible threat underneath: “Don’t Mooooove, Don’t Screeeam.”  But that sense of princess who are slightly askew really resonates on this record.  It’s not as willfully dissonant as her first record, but lyrically it’s a knife covered in cotton candy, it’s still a gem.

[READ: March 20, 2012] McSweeney’s #39

One of the bad things about having a job with actual work is not being able to write complex posts about compilation books.  It’s hard to have your book open while bosses walk by.  So, its been a while since I read this and I’ll do my best to remember it all.  Incidentally, if you’re keeping track I skipped 38, but I’ll get to it.

Issue #39 is a hardcover and a pretty one at that. It has a front cover photo (as well as many interior photos) taken by Tabitha Soren.  Yes, forty-somethings, THAT Tabitha Soren, from MTV who has a new career as a photographer.

This issue continues with the recent return of the Letters column (as the magazine and front matter become more serious the return of the Letters adds an air of silliness). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONSEED-“Jesus is a Friend of Mine” (1983).

My friend Nick sent me a link to this song.  And he said that it would  have been the theme song to his radio show back in college.  (We went to a Jesuit school, so it could be taken seriously as well).  Of course, knowing him, he absolutely would have played it as his intro music.

Anyhow, I listened to it and enjoyed the video in the spirit of gentle mockery that it was sent.  But I found myself listening to it quit a lot and I have concluded that I now enjoy it irony-free.  And how can that be?

Well, first off, Christian rock generally sucks.  In addition to many other reasons, it’s often played with a style that is inappropriate to the message.   And Gawd, forget the bombast of arena Christian rock bands (who shall remain nameless).

What I like about this song is that a) the musicians are really good. It’s a live song (I assume–they wouldn’t lip synch on  Christian TV show would they?) and they are tight.  Also, the music (ska!) is upbeat, just like the message.  Finally, while lyrically not very clever (most of the lyrics are pretty laughable), they are sincere and not aiming too high.

And, I hate to say, it’s catchy as hell (although I suppose you have to like ska to like it).

Evidently, I’m not the only one to be transfixed by this strange group (and, it seems I’m at least two years late to the party, as there is already a great deal of chatter (and even controversy) about this video).  So, let me be the umpteenth person to post it on his blog.

[READ: September 2, 2010] McSweeney’s 35

This new issue shocked me because I noticed that it was printed in Canada, not Iceland. I’m not sure when this switch occurred, but I feel somewhat saddened for the Icelandic press!

The cover is a (softcover) foldout (with two flaps).  The front shows two people crossing a street, but even more shocking than the Canada thing is the cover itself…something I didn’t notice until I left it out in the car.  The black of the cover (see above) is actually heat sensitive.  When it gets warm, it reveals a secret underworld to the picture.  Very very cool!  I was really confused when I picked up the book and it was no longer black but green with fishes swimming around, and I couldn’t imagine why I ever thought it was black.  Pretty sneaky, sis.

This issue features a newly revised letter column (although “letter” is a subjective term here).  There are four longer stories, and the rest of the book has two sections.  The first is comprised of an awesome photo series of lunch bags (which I will attempt to emulate for my kids when they begin school).  The second is “a Portfolio of Stories from Norway.”  The Norwegian Stories are great, and really show the strength of literature coming from the country. (more…)

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