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Archive for the ‘Rolling Stone’ Category

SOUNDTRACKFUJIYA & MIYAGI-Live at Gibson Showroom, New York (2008).

This set is available for Download from KEXP.  I don’t know Fujiya & Miyagi all that well, but I really enjoy everything I’ve heard from them.  They place a keyboard-heavy, almost-dance music, but they use a lot of guitars to propel their songs further.

The most noteworthy thing about the band is the vocals–they are whispered (and often nonsensical–“Vanilla, strawberry, knickerbocker glory”) but the whisper seems to make the song move faster somehow–adding an almost sinister edge to the tracks (although sometimes it can feel sensual as well–it’s a neat trick).

This show has five songs from the album Lightbulbs–and it’s their first tour with a live drummer, which adds a nice complexity to their set.  One of these days I’m going to have to check out  their studio releases.

[READ: September 8, 2012] “My Journey to the Outer Limits of Funk”

Here’s another author I admire writing a short piece in Rolling Stone.  This one, unlike Lethem’s recent contribution, is about something he himself has done.  This article is a kind of music-based background explanation of his new book, Telegraph Avenue.

The premise of one of the plotlines is that two guys work in a record store, Brokeland Records, and are aficionados of jazz.  But he felt that was kind of dull, so Chabon delves into how he was able to get his characters to feel more interesting.  He didn’t wan them to just be “into jazz”–blah–he needed to add even more details so that they were more than just jazzies.  So he talks a bit about what he learned from Wax Poetics a magazine that refracted black popular culture through hip hop.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SANDRO PERRI-Impossible Spaces [CST085] (2011).

This album has become one of my favorite releases of the year.  I simply can’t stop listening to it.  And the funny thing is that on first listen I thought it was too treacly, too “sweet,” especially for Constellation Records (home to the over-the-top Godspeed You Black Emperor amongst other wonderful bands).  But after a listen or two, I heard all of the genius that is present in this record–so many different layers of music, and so many interesting instrumental choices. Indeed, it does come off as sweet, but there’s really nothing wrong with that.

This album gives me a happy pick me up without being cloying in any way.  That’s a great accomplishment.

“Changes” opens kind of all over the place, with some noisey guitars and really high bass notes.  But once the shk shk of the shakers comes in, the sing settles into a great groove (and there’s a cool bassline that really holds the song together).  After about 3 minutes, it turns into a cool light funk jam, with retro keyboards, buzzed out guitar solos and some funky drums.  It’s unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else.  “Love & Light” is one of the shorter pieces at just under 4 minutes.  It’s different from the other tracks, in that Perri’s vocals seem to be the dominant motif, rather than the cool music.  I like the song, but it’s probably my least favorite here.  “How Will I?” uses a similar multi-tracked vocal style but it has some wonderful flute moments (yes flute) that make the song bubbly and happy.  The song kind of drifts around the ether in a kind of jazzy world until about 5 minutes in, when the bassier notes anchor the song with great contrasting notes.  And the electronic ending is as cool as it is disconcerting.

“Futureactive Kid (Part 1)” is a shuffling minor key number that’s just over 3 minutes, it features a cool bass clarinet and backwards guitars to propel the song.  The backwards guitar solo segues into the uplifting (literally, the keyboards just go higher and higher into space. “Futureactive Kid (Part 2)” features fretless bass, a flute solo and My Bloody Valentine-esque sound effects (although radically simplified from MBV’s standards).  It fades out only to introduce my favorite song in forever–“Wolfman.”  I can’t get enough of this song.  It’s a simple structure, but at ten minutes long, it deviates in amazingly complex ways.  It has so many cool aspects that I love–I love the chord changes at the end of each verse.  I totally love the guitar solo that goes up and down the scale for an impossibly long run–well over 100 notes by my count.  I also love that the end of each section features a different guitar style playing the simple chord progression–from acoustic to loud solo to full band playing those same notes–so by the end of the ten minutes you ‘re not sure what to expect.   By the time the flute solo comes in at nearly 7 minutes, I’m totally committed to the song and wherever it’s going to take me.  So when it gets a bit of an electronic ending, I’m ready to go there with it.  Oh and lyrically the song is just as curious as the music.

The final song “Impossible Spaces” is a beautiful, quiet guitar song which is actually easy to sing along to.  It quiet a departure from the rest of the record, but it ties things together very nicely.  I have listened to this record so much lately, I just can’t get enough of it.

You can stream the whole thing here.

[READ: May 10, 2012] Conversations with David Foster Wallace

This is a book that collects interviews with David Foster Wallace.  Although DFW was reticent about d0ing interviews (as the introduction states), he did do quite a lot of them–often at the same haunts.  This book contains 22 interviews that span from 1987-2008.

The conversations are in chronological order, which is really a treat because you get to see DFW’s opinion (and his addiction to nicotine) evolve over the years.  You also get to see the topics that he was really focused on at one time and whether or not they stayed with him until the final interview.  DFW was outspoken about certain things, especially entertainment, which is unsurprising.  But he was also a big advocate of truth, honesty, realness.  It’s amazing seeing him when he lets his guard down. Although his honesty is there for all to see in his work, he is better known for his difficulty with language or his humor.  So seeing him without the multiple revision is quite enlightening.

The first pieces, “David Foster Wallace: A Profile” published after his first novel The Broom of the System launched Viking’s paperback imprint actually looks into his classroom a little bit and shows him interacting with a student (I wonder if she knows she is in this book?).  It seems sweet and almost naive compared to what is to come next.  And, for anyone who is familiar with him from later in, it’s a wonderful look behind the scenes.  There’s also a number of pieces from The Wall Street Journal.  Like the second piece in the book, the worryingly named, “A Whiz Kid and His Wacky First Novel.”  It’s not a bad piece at all, but man, headlines can be delicate matters. (more…)

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[WATCHED: January 3, 2011] Classic Albums: Rush–2112 • Moving Pictures

Sarah got me this disc for Christmas.  Thank you, Sarah!

This DVD is from the Classic Albums series.  The series is shown on VH1 in the states and BBC (and other places) elsewhere).  There’s been about 35 episodes of the series, with Rush being one of the few bands to have two albums for the show (which is an honor, but which also cuts down on the content for each album by half…boo!).

The show is an hour, and there’s almost an hour of bonus footage on the DVD  (which die-hard fans will enjoy more than the actual show).

The main show itself looks at the creation of these two classic albums.  There are interviews with the band members as well as many people associated with the band (and a couple completely random musicians).  We get their manager Ray Daniels and the producer for these albums Terry Brown (his segments are my favorite because he gets behind the mixing console and plays around with the songs).  We also get Cliff Burnstein (the guy with the crazy hair) who was instrumental in getting Rush publicity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALANIS MORISETTE-Jagged Little Pill (1995).

In this book, DFW considers himself to be absolutely useless when it comes to music.  He doesn’t know anything at all.  He says he listens to Bloomington country radio stations until he can’t take it anymore and then he switches over to the alt rock station.  He’d never even heard of Nirvana until after Cobain’s suicide.

And so, the soundtrack for the book is R.E.M., Bush (two songs) and Alanis.  In fact, there’s a surprisingly long section devoted to Alanis in the book, including DFW’s admittance that he would love to have a date with her for tea.  He admits that she is pretty much manufactured angst and yet there’s something about her that he finds irresistible.

At this stage (2010), the whole Alanis thing seems almost adorable in it’s “controversy” or “hype” or whatever.  It’s still hard for me to be objective about the quality of Jagged Little Pill (I mean, Flea plays bass on it so it must be good, right?).  I really enjoyed it at the time, perhaps because of its rawness or its honesty (which was pretty novel at the time, especially from a woman), all packed in a clean production of course.  There’s also something weirdly appealing to me about her (really not very good) voice.  She seems just off enough for all of this to be really sincere.

And of course, the nastiness of “You Oughta Know” was pretty astonishing for pop radio at the time.  True, there’s songs on here that make me cringe now (there’s a lot about her that makes me cringe) and yet there’s still some really enjoyable stuff here.  Even the perennially mocked “Ironic” for all of its flaws has a stellar chorus.

Now that the “women in rock” phase of alternative music has passed, there’s very little music like this being made anymore.  So it’s kind of fun to reminisce about this stage of my musical life, warts and all.

Oh, and by the way, I also grew up watching Alanis on “You Can’t Do That on Television,” so it was pretty exciting to see a child star that I knew make it big.

I never liked Bush though.

[READ:April 21, 2010] Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

As I mentioned, I was super excited to get this book and I treated it like the artifact it is: trying to read it in one sitting (impossible) or at least in as compressed a time as possible to preserve the stream of consciousness attitude of the book.

For, as the subtitle doesn’t quite state, this is five-day conversation between David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace.  The tape recorder was running for most of these five days and what we get is a literal transcript of the conversation (with much of Lipsky’s parts excised).  It is an all-access pass to the mind of the man who wrote Infinite Jest as the hype of the book was really taking off and as his brief promotional tour for the book was winding down.

Lipsky was (is) a reporter for Rolling Stone. DFW’s Infinite Jest was the huge media hit (#15 on the bestseller list) and the hype was outrageous.  DFW had begun a (sold out) reading tour which actually began the day before the book came out, so he rightfully notes that no one could have actually read the book by then, they were just there because of the hype.  And Lipsky himself is part of this hype.

Lipsky was sent to do a profile of the wunderkind, literature’s next great hope (RS hadn’t (hasn’t?) covered a young author like this in a decade at least).  The idea was that Lipsky would tag along with DFW, go to the last readings on the tour, an NPR interview, and spend most of their time together: planes, rental cars, hotel rooms, etc generally just hanging out with tape recorder running. (more…)

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dfwshelfSOUNDTRACKFLEET FOXES-Sun Giant EP (2008).

sungiantMy friend Jarrett introduced me to the Fleet Foxes with their self-titled CD.  I recently picked up the Sun Giant EP and it is just as good as the main CD.  It opens with a beautiful a capella introduction to “Sun Giant” in multipart harmony that melds into a nice folksy song.

The remaining 4 songs all contain these harmonies, although some rock harder than others (within their style of orchestral folk).  Orchestral folk implies a “bigness” that the band never really strives for.  In fact, some songs sounds downright pastoral.

“English House” is great for so many reasons: the fantastic guitar lines, the breaks in the song proper, just everything.  But the track “Mykonos” is probably my favorite Fleet Foxes song of all.  It has such a wonderfully catchy pre-chorus and then an even more fantastic post-chorus.  Simply amazing (even if I don’t know what they’re saying).

The EP is a great introduction to this fantastic band.

[READ: Mid-September 2009] uncollected essays

I don’t normally like to have a bunch of things appear in one post.  But this post is going to be about those small, uncollected pieces that aren’t really long enough to warrant their own entry (letters, interviews, etc).  I tracked down most of these pieces from The Howling Fantods, but I also got a few from The Joy of Sox.  You’ll notice that many of these pieces are stored at http://theknowe.net/dfw and yet I can’t figure out how to access the files there directly, so Howling Fantods links are what we get.

The text in bold comes from The Howling Fantods site (I hope they don’t mind that I swiped it).  The text underneath is my review/opinion/idea. (more…)

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rsI began my Rolling Stone subscription a few years ago when I bought something at Best Buy. The subscription was a bonus gift of some sort. The choices were pretty lousy and I didn’t even want Rolling Stone, but I figured what the heck.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the magazine.

I suppose no one has to be told what Rolling Stone is like. Or so I thought, because here was me, being surprised by this most mainstream of magazines.  I mean, I’ve seen the covers for years, and I knew they liked sex, drugs and rock and roll, but there’s more under the covers.

I have quickly learned my favorite sections and the ones I don’t even bother looking at.

Skim the letters. Maybe there’s a worthwhile addition.

The first main section is the “news” of the last two weeks…usually a concert or a new album or some such. This one happens to focus on American Idol, so, I skipped right past that nonsense.

The Hot List is 5 things that impress them since last issue. I usually like 1 of the 5.

I never read the Smoking Section, but Breaking is usually about an indie band that I heard about a few months earlier.  RS finally catches up and I can read a bit more about them. The In the Studio section is worth browsing to see who’s due for a new disc.

The Random Notes I feel is meant to be a big deal, with “insider” photos and blah blah. I skim it but little more than that.

And then the issue proper starts. (more…)

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nevermindSOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2003).

yoshimiHow do you follow up the fantastic Soft Bulletin?  If you’re The Flaming Lips, you simultaneously pull back and push forward.  I often thing of Yoshimi as Bulletin part 2 but that’s really not right or fair.  Yoshimi has a more Pink Floyd vibe: it’s quite mellow and folky.  But nothing the Lips do can be completely commercial, so you get things in every song that add immensely to the sound, yet prevent it from complete accessibility.

The opening song “Fight Test” begins with an ominous voice saying “The test begins…  NOW!!” with loud distorted crashes, and yet it quickly turns into one of their most delicate and catchy songs.  The only nod to peculiarity is the watery bass lines that fill the song.  It’s a mystery why this song wasn’t huge.

The next track, “One More Robot” is a delicate song reminiscent of Radiohead with the walking bassline and soft vocals.  This leads to the fabulous title track “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Ropbots Pt 1.”  In which yes, Yoshimi disciplines her body to take on the evil machines.  It’s another shoulda-been single, with strumming acoustic guitar and more of that fabulous fat bass. ” Pt 2,” on the other hand is a noisy cacophonous march depicting the fight.  It includes Yoshimi P-We from the Boredoms and OOIOO adding appropriate shrieks and screams.

Two more delicate songs follow: “In the Morning of the Magicians” is one of their longer songs and is quite mellow.  It also features a very lengthy instrumental section with more of that awesome bass.  “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” is the most techno sounding song I can think of by the Lips.  It seems like maybe that touring work with Beck influenced them a bit.

“Are You a Hypnotist??” is a little louder and plays with the ascending chord progressions that Wayne does so well.   An uplifting track, with fun, interesting notes thrown in.  “It’s Summertime” has some great rubbery bouncing bass noises in the beginning, and it slowly morphs into a heavenly chorus.

The real highlight is “Do You Realize??”  It’ a song that goes from happy to sad to happy all in the space of a few lines.  But musically it is uplifting, with choruses and swelling orchestration.  I gather this was used for some ads, but I’m just surprised it wasn’t everywhere!

“All We Have is Now” is another delicate song, with gentle verses sung in an impossibly high falsetto.  The chorus is the most interesting part, with great bass notes interrupting the reverie.  The album ends with a gorgeous instrumental “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)” which is an apt title (Pavonis Mons being a volcano of Mars) and it sounds quite interstellar.

What’s most notable about this album is that there’s nothing that stands out as peculiar from the rest of the record (except “Yoshimi Pt 2”). It’s a very  constant record, mellow and comforting.  And yet I’m not going to call it safe, because it’s not.  I don’t know if it made as many critical lists as Bulletin, but I know it sold better, and it seems like a really good place to start for latter days Lips.

[READ: February 18, 2009] Never Mind the Pollacks

After reading several Pollack stories in McSweeney’s I discovered that he had written a novel. This novel.

With an awesome title! Most of the awesomeness is purely luck that his name is Pollack (Never Mind the Debraskis doesn’t have the same ring). (more…)

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