Archive for the ‘Yannick Murphy’ Category


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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Just months after their in-studio session, The Head and the Heart played South by Southwest.  This set seems somehow louder than the in-studio (which seems a very common phenomenon–the bands just seems to be quieter in-studio somehow, even if they are playing hard, it still seems subdued, which isn’t bad at all, just odd).  So here, the band really lets loose (or maybe it’s because they’ve been playing no for six extra months?) and they sound like they’re really having fun.

Their sound is loud and (somewhat) chaotic, and it really suits them.  The set list is similar to the in-studio (they also play “Cats and Dogs” which segues into “Coeur d’Alene”).  “Ghosts” and “Lost in My Mind” are also here (“Lost” sounds great in this rambling, somewhat shambolic format).  They also play “Down in the Valley.”  Added to the set are “Winter Song” and “River and Roads.”  These two songs feature vocals by violinist Charity Thielin, and I have to admit I don’t love her voice.  Perhaps it’s in this context or that she is mixed a wee bit to loud (because I didn’t dislike her voice in the in-studio).  As I said, I haven’t heard the studio version yet, so I’ll chalk it up to a very large crowd.

But otherwise the set is outstanding, and I’m becoming a huge fan of the band.

[READ: March 28, 2011] Here They Come

I had been thinking about reading this book for a while (the blurbs on the back are quiet compelling) but I kept putting other McSweeney’s books in front of them (I had hoped to finish an entire stack of McSweeney’s novels before The Pale King came.  But it shipped two weeks early and threw off my plan).

I have read two pieces by Murphy in previous McSweeney’s issues, but looking back they didn’t prepare me for this strange story. And the strangest thing is the point of view of the narrator (but more on that later).

This is actually a simple enough story.  Set in New York over an unspecified time period (there’s a couple of winters and a couple of summers, but I’m not sure if it’s new seasons or flashbacks), the (as far as can tell) unnamed narrator girl leads a pretty crap existence.

Firs there is John, the hot dog vendor.  He’s a married man from a middle eastern country (his family is back there).  And basically the narrator lets him feel her up (for what it’s worth on a flat chested 13-year-old) for free hot dogs and candy bars.  She doesn’t seem to upset by the groping and keeps going back to pass the time with him.

Then there is her brother, an obnoxious boy who walks around in a silk dragon bathrobe all the time. When he is not smashing things with his guitar when he walks past the furniture, he is smashing things in his room or threatening to shoot himself with their old, unloaded gun.

Her mother works all the time but really can’t afford to take care of them or feed them.  And she says “Merde” night and day (she is French).  But worse is her mother’s mother, la mere, who stays with them from time to time.  la Mere seems like she has money but she never gives them any. (more…)

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mc29SOUNDTRACK: FISHBONE-Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe (1993).

monkeyI had actually forgotten about this album, because it was so overshadowed by Truth and Soul and Reality….. When I put it on I wasn’t expecting much (Fishbone had something of a precipitous decline around this time).  So, I was amazingly delighted with how much I remembered this album and how much I enjoyed it (which shows to me that I must have listened to it a lot back in college).

This album is much much heavier than anything they’ve done up to this point (I can’t speak for the releases that came after it).  It does have some variety of songs, but not nearly as much as their previous releases.  The other notable thing is that there’s no short songs on it.  There’s none of the one minute songs that they’ve put throughout their discs.

“Swim” was the single from the album and it is heavy and moshy.  The video, I seem to recall, was a lot of people crowd surfing.  “Black Flowers” slows things down a bit, but unlike previous ballads, this one is still pretty loud.  It’s got a great catchy melody, but it’s still  quite dark. “Servitude” reminds me of some of King’s X’s s darker moments, with their riffs and dark harmonies.  (This just shows how Fishbone is much more metal on this release).  Their first “lighter” song is the return to ska with “Unyielding Condition.”  It’s a nice let up from the heaviness, and is still catchy. “Lemon Meringue” is the other lighter moment, with a nice bass riff included.

Funk returns with “Properties of Propaganda” and the repeated chants of “Fuk This Shit on Up.”  “The Warmth of Your Breath” is hardcore insanity, the type of song that would have been about 2 minutes on another disc sort of overstays its welcome, although the often repeated line “may your dog’s colon be familiar with the warmth of your breath” while barely audible can’t help but raise a smile.  And even though “Drunk Skitzo” features Branford Marsalis, it’s still too long for such silliness.

So, it’s really the first half of the disc that I liked a lot…I guess some discs run too long.

I never got a Fishbone CD after this one.   The reviews were pretty lousy by then.  But of course, the reviews of this one were lousy too, so maybe I’m, selling their later output short.

[READ: January 3, 2009] McSweeney’s # 29

My cover for this book happens to be red.  Huh.

This issue comes as a hardcover book.  There are planets on the cover, including a die cut hole that shows the moon of the next page.

On the bottom of every page of the book are matchbox labels.  Most of them are Eastern European in origin.  They were collected by Jane McDevitt, a web designer in the UK.  Some of the images are available on her Flickr site: www.flickr.com/photos/maraid.  They are a pretty cool collection of images.  And, they brighten up all the work . (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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