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Archive for the ‘Kevin Moffett’ Category

peach SOUNDTRACK: FOALS-Holy Fire (2012).

I foalsloved 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  And in fact, that Foals, with all of their angularity, has been replaced by this much dancier version of the band.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.  (more…)

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lp11SOUNDTRACK: AMASON-“Älgen” (2014).

amasonI was delighted when I heard this song on NPR because of the unexpectedness of it.  It starts out fairly simply with a fast shuffle drum and swirling guitars.  Then comes in a deep, very synthy sounding keyboard playing a simple and straightforward riff.   All of this instrumental section lasts nearly a minute and a half (of a 4 minute song).  Then the vocals come in.  A very deep (and wholly unexpected) voice sings a few words and is quickly followed up by a female voice singing quicker vocal lines, almost speeding up the song.

Amason is a Swedish band (with members connected to nearly every Swedish alt rock band you’ve ever heard of).  And like a lot of Swedish music, it is super catchy but somehow just a little different, which keeps it interesting.  I want to hear more from them (although when you search them, you have to keep saying, no I am not looking for “Amazon”).

[READ: September 6, 2014] “Lobsters”

Lucky Peach 11 was the “All You Can Eat” Issue. So the issue focused a lot on buffets (don’t feel compelled to get your money’s worth, you’ll only get sick). But there was also some interesting twists about all the things you could eat if you were so inclined.

My favorite article was from Mark Ibold, about Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and the amazing buffets you can find in Lancaster. He recommends the popular but for worth it Dienner’s on Lincoln Highway East (next to a fake revolving windmill!). Lisa Hanawalt’s illustrated stories have also become a favorite. This one is set in Las Vegas, with all that that implies.

There’s a tremendous article on Quebec and the stunning foods of the French Canadians, and a very funny article called “Decision Fatigue Related Eating” how as you get tired your food choices suffer as well (WINGS Fri-DAAAAY!”). There’s a lengthy article about crashing weddings in the country of Georgia (where you will likely be invited to a wedding even if it’s your first day there).

There’s several recipes with the main ingredient of celery. Peter Meehan opens with a very funny set up “There are things one can never seem to buy in appropriate quantities at the grocery store…. Celery’s natural packaging comes in one size: more than you can eat…. It’s cheap and it last forever so you buy a whole head…. be honest: isn’t there always a nearly complete head of celery heading toward middle age in the crisper?” This is followed by some possibly good celery recipes. (more…)

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#20SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-File Under: Easy Listening (1994).

fuelI  always thought File Under: Easy Listening was a very funny title.  But it’s possible that people took it too literally as it didn’t sell all that well. And in Mould’s autobiography he says he didn’t have much time to write songs for this disc and he thinks it suffered.  Of the three Sugar discs, this is definitely the weakest, although there are some great moments on it.

The disc opens with “Gift” which has some ragged distorted guitars. It’s got some noises and grungy sounding solos showing that FU:EL was a joke.  Although, the overall sound is kind of a cleaner version of the angry songs on Beaster.  “Company Book” is kind of a pounder, until the voice comes in and you realize…it’s not Mould!  It’s got a catchy chorus, but after the kind of underwhelming opener, it’s a strange place for a song that’s also not so dynamic.  Especially when it’s followed by “Your Favorite Thing” another great pop song from Mould—not top tier but a really strong second tier (although that bright, simple guitar solo is a real winner).  “What You Want It To Be” is a another decent song (the addition of that extra guitar playing the melody line really makes the song shine.  “Gee Angel” is also a high point.  A catchy song, but which never quite reaches the heights of the previous albums.

“Panama City Hotel” has the same feel as the opening of Beaster: bright acoustic guitars and a similar riff.  But it never really goes anywhere, and the 4 minutes seem.  The “do do do do’s” that open “Can’t Help You Anymore” are certainly the brightest spot on the album, and a big pop song as well.  “Granny Cool” has a nicely abrasive riff although it seems kind of mean spirited.  It’s funny that he tucked “Believe What You’re Saying” at the end of the album.  It’s a minor song but it sounds so bright on this album after the other songs. It’s really quite pretty.

And the closer, “Explode and Make Up” is one of Mould’s great angry songs.  Unlike Beaster, this one has a happy acoustic field—bnright guitars with that raging distorted guitar underneath.  It’s a great slow burner of a song and at five minutes it ends a somewhat lackluster album in a great way.

[READ: March 31, 2013] McSweeney’s #20

McSweeney’s #20 is an issue that I have read before.  At least I think I have.  My recollection is that it was the last one I read before I started writing about them on this blog.  I was hesitant to read it soon again, which is why I waited until now.  And while I remember the issue itself (with all of the art), I didn’t remember the stories.  So who knows if I actually read it six years ago.

Anyhow, this issue comes jam-packed with art.  Every fourth page has full-color artwork on it–many of them are quite famous.  It makes for a very beautiful book.

In between these artworks are a number of stories–ranging in size from 2 pages to 30-some pages.  There are no letters, and the explanatory and copyright information is on the cover of the book–which would be fine, except that it is covered up by a kind of 3-D artwork.  I wonder if the whole text is available anywhere?

The book also comes with a separate pamphlet–an excerpt from Chris Adrian’s Children’s Hospital.  I intend to read the novel eventually so I didn’t read the excerpt–although maybe if I put off the novel for six years I should just read the excerpt now. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Asylum (1985).

This series of mid-80s Kiss CDs is regarded pretty poorly.  In fact, I believe that Gene and Paul have distanced themselves from Asylum.  And yet, despite its pop metal vine and really dayglo appearance, there’s some good stuff on it.  The solos are really notable on this disc.  Bruce Kulick has taken over lead guitar duties and he is wailing maniac.  He has speed and flash and he, frankly, really stand out (not always in a good way) in these songs.  His solos seem to signal a shift to a more pop heavy metal sound.

The disc opens with a pounding drum salvo and aggressive guitars!  “King of the Mountain” is a classic Kiss song—loud, with a great sing a long chorus from Paul.  “Anyway You Slice It” also rocks pretty hard, one of Gene’s fast, sex songs.  But man I hate songs that break down to just vocals and drums. “Who Wants to Be Lonely” seems like a ballad—lyrically and all—but it’s actually a pretty heavy song, again, perfectly suited for Paul’s voice.  “Trial By Fire” is the first song that really falters.  A generic anthem with the really lame chugga chugga guitars that Kiss would really push in this era.  “I’m Alive” opens with more crazy drumming and wild soloing and for all the world sounds like mid 80s Van Halen.  Until Paul belts out a fast vocal line.  This is a fast, aggressive song with a great chorus.

“Love’s a Dirty Weapon” almost turns into a great song—the chorus is just a little lacking.  And there’s that other part with just drums and a guitar solo—again, very Van Halen, which is good for Van Halen, but sounds really weird for Kiss.  I should hate “Tears Are Falling,” it’s got the chug chug chug guitars, and very little else, but I love a good Paul ballad—when he starts wailing at the end, it’s pretty great.  I am aware that the lyrics suck, yes.  But the solo is more like old school Kiss.  “Secretly Cruel” is cheesy, but delightfully so, and actually sounds like Kiss of old as well.  “Radar for Love” is an awkward song that never quite flows the way it wants.  It’s a good song that shows them branching out, though.  “UH! All Night” is a, well, look at the title.  It’s the kind of throwaway song that is so over-the-top ridiculous that it comes back around to be kind of fun.  And I imagine that some fans are still singing that chorus to themselves.  “When you work all day you gotta Uh all night.”  No one ever said Kiss was classy.  Note:  I listened to this song a week ago and that frikkin chorus is STILL in my head.

[READ: August 11, 2012] McSweeney’s #40

This issue came in a double pack–with a paperback issue of the magazine and a hardback edition of In My Home There Is No More Sorrow by Rick Bass.  I have not yet read Bass’ book [UPDATE: read it at the end of July 2013], because it sounds really depressing [UPDATE: It was].  But I do hope to get to it before the end of the year.  This issue has a few short stories and  a non-fiction at the beginning.  The entire back half of the journal is devoted to the January 25 uprising in Egypt.  It is full of testament and testimony about the event from all kinds of people–bloggers, poets, musicians.  It’s pretty profound–and almost seems like having a silly story in the journal is inappropriate.

As has been the trend lately, the journal also opens up with a series of letters. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).

Before buying this album I really only knew of Kanye West as a loudmouthed guy who tweeted a lot and told off George Bush.  But then everyone was raving about this album (Pitchfork gave it a 10 out of 10!).  So I decided to check it out.  And I can’t get over how great an album it is.

Now I’m going to start this review by mentioning a few things I dislike about rap as a genre.  1) I dislike all of the “guests” that appear on a record–I bought the album because for you, not your friends.  2) I dislike excessive use of “unh” and “yeah” at the beginning of a track; when you have nothing to say–let the backing music flow, save your voice for actual words.  3) Rap is still terribly misogynist and vulgar–I’ve nothing against vulgarity per se (I do have something against misogyny) but excessive use is lazy, and it stands out much more in a rap song since you’re saying the words not singing them.

The Kanye West album is guilty of all three of these things, and yet I still think it’s fantastic.  The first reason is because it goes beyond a lot of rap by introducing real musical content into the songs.  This is not an “all rap is just a beatbox” dismissal of rap, it’s an observation that rap tends to be more about the lyrics and the musical accompaniment can get kind of lazy.  West’s songs have (beautiful) choruses, strings, and samples that augment the rest of the song, as opposed to samples that ARE the song.  And Kanye West’s voice is great.  His delivery is weird and twisted, a little cocky but more funny, with a twisted attitude that is really cool–and to my rather limited palate of rappers, it’s original.

The opening of the disc “Dark Fantasy” has a chorus singing “Can we get much higher” which is catchy and cool (and is used in the promo for The Hangover 2).  The switch from this opening to the rapping works well (aside from the FOUR “yea”s).  Although I don’t love the yeahs, I love his delivery, and that he occasionally ends lines with these weird “hunh” sounds, that are wonderfully emphatic.

The guests start showing up on track 2, but even the guests can’t detract from the excellent guitars of the song (and the cool solo). And I’ll say about the guests that I like some of them, but for the most part I’d rather hear Kanye.

“Power” samples King Crimson’s, “21st Century Schizoid Man”; anyone who samples King Crimson is alright with me.  But to use it so perfectly, to make it part of your song is real genius.  It works musically as well as within the overall concept of the album.

“All of the Lights” (with the pretty piano intro) features scads of guests including John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John (!), and Rihanna.  I can hear some of these people but not Elton John (why would he agree to be on a track where you can’t even hear him?).  It is a beautiful pop track nevertheless.

“Monster” is a monster of tracks with yet more guests (I like that some of these guests break with the typical guest, like Bon Iver (!)).  And I really like Nicki Minaj’s verse.  [I’m not familiar with her work at all (in fact I keep wanting to say Minja instead of Minaj) but her verse with the wonderfully crazy vocal styling she displays is weird and cool and very powerful–I would like to check out her solo album, but the samples I heard weren’t that interesting].  It also has a great repeated chorus of being a “motherfucking monster.”

It’s followed by the even more catchy “So Appalled” (with FIVE guest rappers–some of whom I’ve never heard of but who do a good job.  I love Cyhi da Prince’s lyrics: “I am so outrageous, I wear my pride on my sleeve like a bracelet, if God had an iPod, I’d be on his playlist”  or  “So call my lady Rosa Parks/I am nothing like them niggas baby those are marks/I met this girl on Valentine’s Day/fucked her in May/she found out about April so she chose to March” or this line, “y’all just some major haters and some math minors.”

“Devil in a New Dress” opens with a bunch of “unhs” (which I dislike) but this is nice ballad in the midst of all of the noise (and it has some clever lyrics).  It morphs right into “Runaway” one of the more audacious singles I can think of.  The piano melody is so simple (a single note to start) and the lyrics show Kanye as a loser in relationships.  It’s a surprisingly thoughtful song for a song with a chorus that goes: “Lets have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the asshole; a toast for the scumbags every one of them that I know.  You been putting up with my shit for way too long…runaway fast as you can.”  It gets even more audacious when you realize the last 4 minutes of the song are a solo with distorted voice.  And the video…the video is 35 minutes long!

The sentiment of that song is erased by the next one, “Hell of  a Life”.  It opens with a great distorted guitar riff and lyrics about sex with a porn star.   “Blame Game” is a surprisingly honest song about being nasty to your girlfriend (“I’d rather argue with you than be with someone else”).  It features a sample of Aphex Twin’s (!) “Avril 14th”.  And it’s quite a sad but lovely track.  It ends with a very long skit by Chris Rock.  I like Chris Rock, but this dialogue is kind of creepy because the woman who Rock is talking to (about the great sex she gave him) seems to be a robotic sample–why not have an actual woman talk to him?

The final track, “Lost in the World” has a lengthy intro by an auto-tuned Bon Iver.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the disc, especially the end, where the processed vocals get even weirder but accent the beat wonderfully.  This track morphs into what is the actual final track, “Who Will Survive in America” which is basically a long recitation from Gil-Scot Heron.  It works great as an album closer.

So, despite several things I don’t like about the disc, overall, it’s really an amazing release.  And I can overlook the few things I dislike because the rest is so solid.  I can’t decide if it’s worth looking for his earlier releases.  How can they live up to this one?

[READ: May 6, 2011] McSweeney’s #37

This is the first McSweeney’s book where I’ve had to complain about the binding.  The glue peeled off pretty quickly from the center cover.  Fortunately, the back cover held up well.  I’m guessing it’s because there’s an extra book tucked into the front cover which prevents the book from closing nicely when it’s removed.

But aside from that, the design of the cover is very cool.  It is meant to look like a book (duh), but actually like a 3-D book, so the bottom right and top left corners are cut on diagonals (this makes for a very disconcerting-looking book inside–with triangles cut across the top).  The artwork inside is also cool.  In keeping with this appearance, each two page spread looks like a book with a spine drawing in the gutter of the pages).  And the bottom of each page has lines making it look like the bottom of a book.  (The illustrated margins are by SOPHIA CARA FRYDMAN and HENRY JAMES and there are interior paintings by JONATHAN RUNCIO).

The front matter is wonderful.  Although it gives the usual publishing information, the bulk of this small print section is devoted to counteracting all the claims that the book is dead.  It offers plenty of statistics to show that not only are the public reading, they are reading more than ever.  The introduction also goes a long way towards arguing against the idea that people are reading less now than in the past.  When was this “golden age” of readers?  There’s also the wonderfully encouraging news that 98% of American are considered literate.

This issue opens with letters. (more…)

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30SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Fight Test EP (2003).

fightThe test begins NOW!

With the success of Yoshimi, the Lips put out a couple of multitrack EPs.  The first one was for “Fight Test.”  In addition to the title track, this EP features three great covers: “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is a slow acoustic guitar/timpani version of the infectious Kylie Minogue hit.  Despite its slowness, the “La La La” part is still catchy!  Next is a cover of the Beck song “The Golden Age.”  It’s also an acoustic guitar version.  Finally is a cover of Radiohead’s “Knives Out.”  It’s not quite as manic as the Radiohead version but it’s still very good.

The next three tracks include a 9 minute dance remix of “Do You Realize??” which is fun enough, if you like that sort of thing.  “The Strange Design of Conscience” sounds like it could have been an outtake from Yoshimi.  It fits in quite well with the music and themes of the CD.  “Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)” is a 3 and a half minute folk song relating the (presumably true) tale of a plastic Jesus that Jack White gave to Wayne.

It must be fun to be able to write a thank you song that thousands of people will hear.

Lots of times EPs aren’t really worth the time, but this is a very good one.  The covers are a lot of fun, and you’ll be La La Laing right along with Wayne.

[READ: February 24, 2009] McSweeney’s 30

This issue of McSweeney’s hearkens back to their initial three issues: a white paperback with words in a graphic design on the cover. The cover design is an homage to Obama’s presidency, and has some thoughtful as well as funny lines on it (You Can Take That Canadian Flag Sticker Off Your Backpack Now). It was also printed in Iceland once again (in a nice bid to help Iceland’s economy, which is actually worse than ours) by Oddi Printing.

The contents of the issue are also pretty straightforward: eleven short stories and some occasional art by Jason Polan which ties into the stories. (more…)

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21.jpgSOUNDTRACK: THE ATARIS-So Long, Astoria (2003) & THE STARTING LINE-Say It Like You Mean It (2002).

ataris.jpgTHE ATARIS-So Long, Astoria. I am only reviewing this CD because of the circumstances in which I acquired it. Driving out of my driveway this morning, I was surprised by a shiny thing in my lawn. It turned out to be a CD. This one. Indeed, someone had thrown this CD out of their car (I assume) onto my lawn. [Later inspection uncovered two more CDs, one by a band I didn’t recognize and the other a burned CD with no writing on it… I can’t WAIT to see what it is!] So, anyhow, I had not heard the Ataris before, but had heard of them. And the record is okay. It’s sort of generic pop punk, meaning it is really catchy and fairly fast and I probably would have loved it if I were 18. Or maybe 16. This also features the cover of “Boys of Summer” that I remember hearing on the radio oh so many years ago. The only distinguishing feature of the song is they change the lyrics to a “Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac.” Otherwise, not much else of note.

I’m sort of amazed at how many bands there are that sound like this, which leads me to believe that this kind of music must be easy to write. And yet, it seems like all of this kind of music should just be huge sellers. I mean, I’m half way through a 2:30 song, and I already know the chorus and what the next verse will sound like. It’s so easy to play along to, shouldn’t it be easy to write as well? I dunno. I’m also not sure what I’m going to do with the disk when I’m done, maybe I’ll toss it to someone else.

THE STARTING LINE-Say It Like You Mean It. Speaking of this kind of music, the other CD I mentioned above turned out to be this one by The Starting Line. This is similar to the Ataris in that it’s a poppy punk album. It seems effortlessly happy, as opposed to the usual tormented lyrics that bands like this usually have. I liked the music a little better than the Ataris because it was a little grittier and a little less obvious, but only a little. Of the two, this one wins, but not by much.

Sadly, the third disk was a collection of hip hop, mostly Dr. Dre produced acts. After the third song which said “bitch” about 75 times, I gave up.

[READ: May 2007] McSweeney’s #21

As part of my ongoing McSweeney’s reading, I enjoyed Issue #21 very much. As I have said before, I love Roddy Doyle’s work, so any more that I can get from him is always welcome. I have a tenuous connection to Roddy Doyle which is so tenuous as to be nonexistent, but it still makes me root for him all the more. My college roommate was from Ireland, and he had been taught Literature by Roddy Doyle just before he wrote his first book, The Commitments. As I say, no real connection at all, but it was still neat to know a guy who knew a guy…. (more…)

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