Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Raymond Chandler’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: HELIUM-The Dirt of Luck (1995).

Mary Timony fronted Helium for a few years.  In that time she was recognized as something of a guitar wizard–not in her speed and flash, but in the weird sounds she conjured from the instrument.

She also had very peculiar musical sensibilities (these songs are quite odd) and a cool feminist attitude.  This album features the amazing song “Superball” (one of the best songs of the mid 90s–check out the video and watch the guitarist playing the strings with a screwdriver!  Man I miss the 90s) as well as a number of unpolished gems like “Medusa” and “Pat’s Trick” (the dual vocals are very cool and the dispassionate “oh oh oh” is very interesting, plus I love the lyric about “long-ass curly hair”).

Her singing style is often quite slacker-y, like in the opening of “Medusa”–she’s not always audible, and she often seems like a kind of buzzy sound more than a voice.   She sounds like she’s singing from very far away–seemingly powerful and yet quiet at the same time.

But combine that with the cool scratchy/noisy guitar sounds she gets and she’s pulling off a very cool combination (think Dino Jr without the hooks and killer solos).

Like “Baby’s Going Underground” features some crazy shoegazer guitar washes for most of its 6 minutes which really changes the pacing of the record.  There’s also the great “Skeleton,” a riff so cool that Sonic Youth used it for “Sunday.”

She also has a way with haunting melodies as on the piano  instrumental “Comet #9” and on “All the X’s Have Wings” which sounds very medieval. I think of Timony as a guitarist and yet there is there are lots of keyboards on the album too–mystical keyboards that are fascinating and seem out of character with the guitars, but actually work quite well.   But the prettiest song is “Honeycomb.’  It’s a sweet song with a wonderful melody.  It is followed by the ender “Flower of the Apocalypse” a guitar-based instrumental that is mostly feedback but is also surprisingly melodic.

Helium had mild accolades back in the 90s.  They released a couple of albums and then Mary Timony went solo.  It’s nice to have her playing now with Wild Flag.

[READ: November 11, 2011] Five Dials Number 21

This is the first issue of Five Dials that I was ready to read when it was sent to me (I’ve been all caught up for a while now).  So that’s pretty exciting!

I was tempted to say that i enjoyed this issue more than other issues, but I have enjoyed most Five Dials issues equally.  But this one is definitely a favorite.

CRAIG TAYLOR–A Letter from the Editor: On Turning 21 and Thinking About Rock Stars and Greece.
The magazine introduction jokes about them now being legal to drink in the U.S. and also about now being old enough to run for M.P. in England.  He also tells us about their “new” section Our Town, which has vastly expanded in this issue.  He also explains that there are many rock stars on hand to give the magazine tutelage (authors that the rock stars enjoy) and three short stories.  He ends with a notice that they have gone to Greece where they are gathering material for Issue 22. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait (2010-2011).

If you’re a fan of Phish, you no-doubt know about their live concert releases.  Phish has always encouraged bootlegging of their shows.  And people traded the shows all around the country.  Back about twelve years ago, they started releasing some of these concerts officially–soundboard quality recordings.  There was no indication that they would release every concert they had played, but they selected a very interesting mix of recent and early shows as well as Halloween shows (where they cover an entire album from another band) and shows from unusual places.

Starting in 2009 (after their hiatus), the band started making (almost) all of their concerts available for download (for a fee) on their site.  You can get any show–you can even get them in CD format, for a quite sizable fee–soundboard quality.  One thing that I really like about their site if you go to a concert, you can redeem the bar code on your ticket for free MP3 of the show, usually within 48 hours.  Back when I used to go to concerts, I would have loved to have copies of a lot of the shows I saw.  This is a cool service for their fans.

And speaking of cool services, this post is about Live Bait.  I love the title of the series, which is obviously a pun about places where you can buy live bait (the covers all have pictures of bait stands), but it’s also a wonderful way to bait users into buying more music–crass and clever.  Anyhow, the Live Bait downloads (up to #6 right now) are a collection of live recordings taken from various shows.  (Live Bait #5 has songs from 2009 and songs from all the way aback to 1989).  They’re assembled together into a kind of seamless show and they are all available for free. 

Okay, big deal.  But it is a big deal because, while the first couple were 80 or so minutes of music (not too shabby in and of itself), Live Bait #3 features a 58-minute version of a song (!); Live Bait #4 contains almost 4 hours of free music and Live Bait #5 contains over 6 hours of free music.  So if you’re curious about why people like Phish so much, here’s several opportunities to listen to some of their live songs for free.  

Their most recent download is from their Benefit for Vermont Flood Recovery–if you’re going to buy a show, it’s a good place to start

[READ: September 25, 2011] “Radisson Confidential”

For a time (I wish I could remember exactly when this was) it seemed like all the young hip writers were named Jonathan: Ames, Lethem, Franzen, Safran Foer, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I think I grew weary of the whole episode and decided not to read any of them.  That has since changed, and I have now read (and enjoyed) all of them–but each for very different reasons.  The funny thing to me though is that they were all lumped together and yet they are all so very different, especially now that Safran Foer has been writing nonfiction and Franzen has proven himself to be a writer of occasional big books that get lots of attention. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Wasting Light (2011).

The Foo Fighters are huge.  Duh.  But when I think of that, it amazes me that a) the Foo Fighters are the band from “the drummer from Nirvana” and that b) while Dave Grohl knows his way around a melody, he is a metal dude at heart, and some of his most popular songs are really heavy.  He can scream with the best of them.

I’ve enjoyed the Foos for many years, but I didn’t listen to their previous discs all that much (or at least I didn’t listen to the mellow disc from In Your Honor and I don’t remember anything off of Echoes…), but this new one is fantastic.  There’s not a dull song on the disc, and Grohl has hit new heights of catchiness and singalong-ness. 

I also like how noisy the disc is.  It opens with some great discord before turning in a majorly heavy rifftastic scream fest in “Bridge Burning.”  Despite the screaming and noise of the opening, the chorus is super catchy.  “Rope” was said to be inspired by Rush.  Knowing that, I can hear a lot of little Rush-isms in the track: The main riff is very Rush-like, there’s a cymbal tapping that reminds me of Neil Peart in the verses, as well as a little drum solo in the middle (with a cowbell!) and the solo is very Alex Lifeson. (It also feels longer than 4 minutes).

“Dear Rosemary” features Bob Mould on backing vocals (but you can hardly tell it’s him).  It’s got a great chorus as well.  “White Limo” is a wonderful punk song, completely incomprehensible lyrics and all.  Meanwhile “Arlandria” (whatever that means) is another totally catchy track (I find myself singing it a lot).

“These Days” should be the next single: catchy and easy on the ears.  I wonder why it hasn’t been released yet.  “Back and Forth” has another great noisy riff.  One thing that I like a lot about the Foos is that they put different things in the same song:  so “A Matter of Time” has a very simple verse and a catchy chorus, but there’s some really buzzing heavy guitars too.  “Miss the Misery” has a kind of sleazy feel which I think is new for the Foos.  And “I Should Have Known” is a kind of angry ballad (I’d like to see Richard Thompson cover it). 

The final track, “Walk” is a fast rocker that sums up the album really well.  Bravo Dave Grohl.  I can’t get enough of this disc, regardless of how popular it is.

[READ: July 2, 2011] Five Dials Number 15

After the brevity of Number 14, Five Dials Number 15 comes back to a fuller size.  It’s strange to me that the issue is titled The November Issue, in part because they never tell us when the issues were published, but even more because this is actually the Québec Issue.  Most of the authors are Quécbecers and the issue release party was in Québec as well.

I’d like to point out that while I was looking something up about this issue (more later) I discovered the Five Dials News Page.  There are currently 43 pages worth of posts.  But most of them are short.  If there are any especially noteworthy ones, I’ll add them to reviews of future issues, but for the most part so far they’re just announcements of how well received their books are (I’ve already made notes to read two of them).  They also give release dates for the issues, which is how I have been able to retroactively attach dates to some of them.

There are many Québecois writers included in this issue (thoughtfully translated into English), as well as some standard features by Alain De Botton and frequent contributors David Shields and Raymond Chandler.

CRAIG TAYLOR-On Our Québec Issue, and Young Novelists
Taylor’s introduction discusses many Canadian’s attitudes about Québec and their (seemingly perennial) vote concerning separation from the country (“so, let them go”).

creepy beard

The confusing thing here is that it appears that Taylor is Canadian (or at least lived there in 1995/6).   But surely he is British, no?

There’s lots of information about Québec in here but no grand statement (except that Celine Dion’s husband’s beard is still creepy).

He also introduces a new section called “Our Town” which is all about London.  The final section of the note says that

we are releasing our second Five Dials list of Top Ten Novelists Under Ten (or ‘Ten Under Ten’,or ‘Ten-Ten’, or as some of the writers themselves call the list: ‘Tintin.’) As you know, many of the writers we chose for our first Ten Under Ten list went on to things such as high school.

This is how I discovered the Five Dials News page, because there certainly was no Ten Under Ten section in a previous issue of the magazine.  Of course, nor is there any mention in the news that I have seen.  So I can’t decide if the whole thing is just a big joke or what.  I assume it is (but I’d hate to not give credit to the waaaay precocious kids at the end of the issue). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE RESIDENTS-Meet the Residents plus Santa Dog EP (1973/1972).

Like a proto- Negativland meets Primus, The Residents took the world by storm in 1973.  Their debut album (pictured here) bore the unmistakable tagline: The First Album by North Louisiana’s Phenomenal Pop Combo.  And so it is.

Read more about the album in the Jon Savage essay below.

“Boots” is a sampled and remashed version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”  “Gylum Bardot” sounds like a Primus demo.  “Breath and Length” is noise and noise and effects and a soothing female vocal singing the title.   “Consuelo’s Departure” is a noisy soundtrack to nothing and “Smelly Tongues” sounds like a hammered dulcimer with a menacing bassline behind it until the vocals come in: “Smelly tongues looked just as they felt”.   And all 6 of these songs last less than ten minutes total.

“Rest Aria” changes tempo of things.  It’s five minutes long.  It starts as a simple piano track (slightly out of tune) but it slowly adds crazy horns and what sounds like children’s instruments.  The other longish song, “Spotted Pinto Beans” comes with a kind of faux chorus (female and then male) singing a kind of call and response which is overtaken by noise.

The one-minute “Skratz” comes between these two longer songs and is mostly  mumbling spoken vocal.  “Infant Tango” sounds like a normal song.  It opens with a funky wah wahed guitar.  Of course, the skronking horns and mumbled bass vocals tell you this is not going to be a hit.  It runs 6 minutes long with a strange little “guitar solo” in the middle.

“Seasoned Greetings” (with it’s weird holiday wishes at the end) segues into the 9 minute “N-Er-Gee (Crisis Blues”).  “N-Er-Gee” is a piano “melody” which is really someone banging the same notes very hard on the piano.  The voice on both tracks sounds like the aural equivalent of blackface until the sample (a very long sample that apparently voided placement on some releases) of “Nobody But You” morphs into a manipulated sampling of the word “boogaloo” and eventually becomes a dissonant chant of the title.

The appended Santa Dog is a bit more song-like.  Totally weird songs yes, but there’s actual melodies and lyrics.  Like on “Fire”: “Santa dog’s a Jesus fetus.”  “Aircraft Damage” is mostly a bunch of people reciting bizarre lyrics over each other.  The whole EP was about 12 minutes.  It’s weird but more palatable than the LP.

Despite how much this album foreshadowed loony alternative bands in the future, there is a clear predecessor in Trout Mask Replica.  Although Captain Beefheart followed a (relatively) more conventional song structure, you can hear elements of the Beefheart within.  This album is also notable for being made in the early 70s when the technology to do this easily was very far away.  You could whip this album up in a few minutes now, but back then with splice and paste, it would take ages.

It did not sell as well as the similarly titled Meet the Beatles.

[READ: June 16, 2011] Five Dials Number 11

Five Dials Number 10 was a special issue, but Number 11 goes back to the format we know.  It sort of has a theme about lists.   It contains half a dozen short essays and one long short story by Paul Murray (author of Skippy Dies).  This issue is also something of a surprise as it weighs in at a fairly small 16 pages (sometimes smaller is perfectly fine).  The issue also raised a couple of totally weird coincidences which I will point out as they come up.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Wilton’s and Lists
Number 10 was designed to be ready for an evening at Wilton’s Music Hall on February 26th.  But the real theme of the issue is lists.  In part this is inspired by the Raymond Chandler entry, it’s also inspired because Taylor keeps lists around the office.  At the end of the letter he provides a list of all of the notes he’d left to himself in the office.  Some are about the issue (Paul Murray manuscript), other are seemingly more random (USA 5 Canada 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result;  Canada 7-Russia 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result; ‘Range Life’–Pavement).  And the one that is most coincidental to me–(The Umbrellas of Cherbourg–Jacques Demy).  This is coincidental because on the day that I read this, my friend Lar wrote a post about this very movie, which was completely unknown to me. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BEN FOLDS/NICK HORNBY-Lonely Avenue (2010).

As the cover of this album notes: “Ben Folds adds music and melody to Nick Hornby’s words.”  And that is true. The only surprising thing about this combination is that Folds is quite a good lyricist himself, so it’s surprising that he would sacrifice his words.  But regardless, the fit is a good one.

Sometimes it seems like Hornby is challenging Folds to come up with melodies for some of his more difficult lyrics which Folds lives up to).  But they have such similar sensibilities that (aside from occasional references to British things) the words could have come from Folds himself (although, Hornby’s a better writer, so Folds wouldn’t have written exactly the same things).

The big surprise is the diversity of musical styles on the disc.  Folds of course does play lots of different types of music on his previous discs, but I guess since the cohesion is Hornby’s words so Folds can really let loose.

The opener, “A Working Day” is a keyboard pop confection, a surprisingly 80s sounding synth song with some wry lyrics about being a writer/performer (“some guy on the net thinks I suck and he should know, he’s got his own blog”).  “Picture Window” is a beautiful downer, a string-filled song that seems like a companion to Folds’ “Brick” (“You know what hope is, hope is a bastard”).  It’s just as sad but the melody is gorgeous.

“Levi Johnson’s Blues” is a strangely topical song (in fact, it took me a minute to remember who he was when I first listened to the song.  Anyhow, it’s a silly song about what happened to the father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild.  And yet, despite the novelty of it, it’s actually a somewhat sympathetic portrait of the guy (sure he’s a redneck, but he’s just a normal guy thrust into a ridiculous spotlight–the liner notes say the chorus came from Levis (redacted) Facebook page).

“Doc Pomus” feels like a classic piano song.  While “Young Dogs: is a fast romper (with great vocals) and more keyboards.  “Practical Amanda” is a slow ballad (and Hornby says it’s not autobiographical at all).  While “Claire’s Ninth” is a story about a young girl of divorced parents who hates having two birthdays.  (With sweeping choruses!) Hornby states that this was his first accepted short story (modified for the song, of course) but the magazine that accepted it stopped publishing before his appeared.  D’oh!

“Password” is a wonderful song which only makes sense when you know the name of it (which I didn’t at first, as I usually don’t look at titles right away).  Throughout the song Ben spells words which leads to a cool conclusion–it’s wonderfully clever writing and it’s done in a fascinating R&B-lite style.

“From Above” is a jaunty rocker about people who never meet, although their paths cross quite often.  “Saskia Hamilton” is the “single” from the record.  It’s another great 80’s keyboard fueled romp.  Since I have a friend named Saskia (hi, Saskia) I’m fond of this song–her name is fun to say.  They have a bunch of fun in the recording too.

The final track, “Belinda” is designed like a classic 70s piano ballad (there’s a lengthy email printed in the notes that explains the construction of the song–reading that makes the song even more impressive).

It’s a great Ben Folds album.  It’s not as tidy as some of his other ones–but all of that experimentation leads to some new avenues of melody. It’s a risk that paid off.

[READ: May 10, 2011] Five Dials Number 7

This issue of Five Dials was primarily about Memoir.  Typically, I don’t like memoirs, but I’m finding (and this coincides with what one of the memoirs below states), that I just don’t like celebrity memoirs.  Or perhaps I just like three page accounts of an incident in someone’s life (which these are).

Each of the writers below is given an introduction in which they summarize WHY they write memoirs.  It’s interesting to see that many of them do, in fact, take other people’s feeling into consideration (not as seriously as Mark Twain who waited 100 years for the publication of his), but they try to do something or other to spare people’s feelings.  I was intrigued also that several of the writers also talk about finding themselves through writing.  One or two of them make the exercise of writing memoir sound obnoxiously solipsistic (which of course it is), but it’s nice to read ones that are interesting and not too self-centered.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: “On Audio Detective Work and Memoir”
This letter explains the extent of the audio detective work that went into the interview (presented later) between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming.  Since I love playing with audio software, this was of especial interest to me.  And it made me really look forward to the interview. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: WEAKERTHANS-World Cafe Live, December 5, 2007 (2007).

I really like the Weakerthans, and they are surprisingly unknown here in the States.  I say surprisingly because they write exceptionally catchy (almost absurdly poppy) songs which would fit on many radio stations’ playlists.  But what sets them apart is John K. Samson’s lyrics which are clever and interesting and about people and loss (maybe that’s why they never made it down here).

This World Cafe set came about shortly after the release of their last studio album, Reunion Tour.  David Dye asks some great questions (I’ve never really seen/heard any interviews with them, so it’s all new to me) and the band plays three songs from the album.

We learn that Reunion Tour was initially inspired by Edward Hopper paintings (and the whole album was going to be devoted to Hopper until Samson grew sensible again).  We also learn the official pronunciation of the recurring cat on the Weakerthans albums is Virtute (Vir-too-tay) which comes from the city of Winnipeg’s crest.

They play “Night Windows,” “Civil Twilight” (and talk about the video, which I watched and it’s very cool), and “Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure.”  The interesting things about the Weakerthans is that they don’t sound all that different live than on record.  So, these songs aren’t terribly revelatory.  There are some effects that are changed, and the tempos feel slightly different as well.  But nevertheless, the songs sound great.  The only problem is that the set seems mixed rather loudly, so there’s distortion (unintended, I assume) on some of the tracks.

Nevertheless, this is a great introduction to a relatively unknown band.

[READ: April 19, 2011] Five Dials Number 2

After just one issue, Five Dials has already lied to us.  In Number One, they said that all of the artwork would be black and white, but here is Number 2, and we have a host of beautiful color pictures (perhaps they only meant that Number 1 would be in black and white).   Of course, I’m only teasing them because the color pictures are really nice, and they really bring a new aspect to the magazine.

Number Two is a bit larger than Number 1 (twenty pages).  This issue has a vague sort of theme as well (it’s unclear if the issues will be thematic in the future), but this one has a general theme of adventure/nature/environmentalism. (more…)

Read Full Post »