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Archive for the ‘Eugene O’Neill’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS-The Age of Adz (2010).

Sufjan Stevens has released a bunch of albums of beautiful orchestral rock.  It is multi-layered and complex with classical elements and all kinds of cool instruments.

And this album starts out with a beautiful acoustic guitar melody and Sufjan’s delicate vocals.  Although it is a far more stripped down song than usual, “Futile Devices” seems like it is heading in the standard direction.  But anyone who heard Sufjan’s Christmas album number VIII knows that he has been having some fun with electronics.  And they show up with a vengeance on track two, “Too Much.”

All of the multilayered noise that was once orchestral and (some might say) precious has been replaced by a cacophony of gorgeous electronic noises.  The beginning of the song reminds me of the sounds in Skinny Puppy’s “Stairs and Flowers” (how many Sufjan Stevens reviews mention Skinny Puppy?).  The song is nothing like Skinny Puppy once the vocals kick in–it’s catchy and delicate–but those electronics underpin the whole thing, bringing his pastoralia into the twenty-first century.  When I first reviewed this song I didn’t like it but once you get absorbed by Sufjan’s world, it’s an enticing place to be,

“Age of Adz” takes this electronic nonsense even further with an 8 minute brew of strange sounds and choral voices.  But he always manages to throw in some catchy parts, no matter how strange the song gets.

For me one of the highlights of the disc is “I Walked” it features one of my favorite Sufjan things–falsetto vocals in a beautiful but unexpected melody.  And this song has them in spades.  “Now That I’m Older” has a very disconcerting sound–his voice is slowly warbled and mournful.  It’s a beautiful melody that is alienating at the same time.

“Get Real Get Right” returns to his earlier style somewhat (there’s more layers of music, although the electronica is still in place).   “Vesuvius” is a beautiful song and “All for Myself” is another of those great falsetto tracks that I like so much.

“I Want to Be Well” eventually turns into a manic electronic workout in which he repeats the chorus “I’m not fucking around.”

But nothing compares  to “Impossible Soul” a twenty-five minute (!) multi-part suite of electronic chaos.  It’s a fantastic song complete with autotune (used to very cool effect), repeated swelling choruses (it’s like a Polyphonic Spree tribute), electronic freakouts, and acoustic comedowns.  All in a positive, happy message.  I can’t stop listening to it.  “It’s not so impossible!”

Sufjan continues to impress me.

[READ: November 10, 2011] McSweeney’s #9

After the excesses of McSweeney’s #8, I was excited to get to the brevity (and urgency) of McSweeney’s #9.  This one is a paperback and looks like the first couple of issues.  The cover is mostly text with a hodgepodge of phrases and pleas.  You get things like: Thankful, Emboldened, The (Hot-Blooded/Life-Saving) Presumption of (Perpetual/Irrational (or More Likely, Irreducibly Rational) Good Will, Efflorescence, Our motto this time: We Give You Sweaty Hugs,” Alternative motto: ” We Are Out Looking,” GEGENSCHEIN (no more), and the promise: “We will Do Four This Year.”

This is the kind of issue that makes me love McSweeney’s.  There are some wonderful short stories, there are some nice essays and there are some dark moments all centered vaguely and tangentially around a theme.  There are some great authors here, too.

The back cover image is called Garden Variety by Scott Greene and it’s a fantastic painting.  You can see it here (navigate through the 2000-2004 paintings, but I have to say I really like the style of all of his work.

There are no letters and no nonsense in this issue.  So let’s get to it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SEMISONIC-Feeling Strangely Fine (1998).

In my mind, Feeling Strangely Fine is the pinnacle of Semisonic’s pop greatness.  I mean, it’s got “Closing Time” on it.  And while I am now pretty tired of the song (can it really be 13 years old?), when it came out it was pretty awesome.  And so I tend to think of The Great Divide as being in the shadow of this record.  But in retrospect, I think I have to favor Divide over Fine.  This album has a bit too much polish, a bit too much smoothness for my liking.  And while there are some great songs on it, I’m not entirely sure it matches up to The Great Divide.

“Singing in My Sleep” is a supremely catchy song–a simple riff, mellow verses and an urgent chorus.  It should have been huge too.   And “Never You Mind” has that Semisonic quality in spades–simple accents that make a song catchy (a little guitar riff) and really catchy choruses.  Plus lyrically, it’s rather clever.  “Secret Smile” is one of their few ballads that I really like.  I guess they have just mastered pop hooks for this record.

But to me the rest of the record pales a bit compared  to The Great Divide.  “DND” is a similar slow song although it’s a bit slinkier.  And there’s some very mild funk on “Completely Pleased” which is a welcome return to the rockier songs but which doesn’t quite reach the heights that they have hit before.

“California” is a fun track.  It could use a bit of oomph but it shows off some fun noises at the end.  And the last two tracks just kind of fade the disc out.

Nothing on the album is really bad.  And indeed, in the right frame of mind these songs are all really enjoyable, but i think after comparing them to some of the earlier tracks and even the earlier tracks on this record overall this one comes up a bit short.

[READ: November 6, 2011] “Exorcism”

This is a Eugene O’Neill play that was believed to be lost forever.  He staged the play in 1920 but after a brief run, he destroyed every copy, possibly to assuage his dying father.  But this copy was recently found amongst a friend’s papers.

So that’s pretty exciting that a new Eugene O’Neill one-act play is now available.  I believe the whole thing is printed here–it’s so hard to tell with the New Yorker.  But they also say that Yale University Press will be publishing the play in the spring.  If the whole thing fits onto 7 New Yorker pages, how are  they going to publish it as a book?  Well, that’s Yale’s problem.

I don’t know that I have read many, if any, O’Neill plays.  I’ve never really taken any drama classes, although I know about O’Neill’s mastery of drama.

So this is probably as good a place to start as any.

This is the classic “nothing happens” kind of story which proves to be a powerfully emotional story (especially as it resonates so closely to his own life). (more…)

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