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Archive for the ‘Jack White’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist Season 1

organistGiven my love of the McSweeney’s empire, it seems logical that I would have listened to The Organist sooner than this.  But I didn’t.  It has been on for a couple of years, so i assumed I’d never catch up.  But then I saw that there were only 50 episodes and most of them were quite short.  So it was time to see what it was all about.

And, since it is more or less in conjunction with The Believer, it should come as no surprise that it is sort of an aural equivalent to that magazine–longish pieces about esoteric subject, but geared specifically to “radio.”

The Organists first season was done as a monthly podcast starting on Feb 1.  Each episode was about 50 minutes long and covered a variety of subjects with fun guests and other ephemera.

Episode 1: (February 1, 2013)
The inaugural episode kicks off with Nick Offerman spouting some hilarious nonsense about podcasts.  The rest of the show includes an interview with George Saunders talking about the voices of his fiction; Greil Marcus discusses the impact of the first Bikini Kill EP now that it is reissued.  Perhaps the most unusual and interesting piece is when Amber Scorah tells the story of her defection from the Jehovah’s Witnesses while working as a missionary in Shanghai; In short pieces, Brandon Stosuy editor of Pitchfork, presents five five-word record reviews of interesting new guitar rock and then musicians Matmos take a song from their new album apart, piece by piece, revealing its brilliant, pulsating innards.  Basically they used thought control to get people to “create” a song for them.  It’s a really neat process even if the final result doesn’t really sound like the sum of its parts. (more…)

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 walrusaprilSOUNDTRACK: BECK-“I Just Started Hating Some People Today” / “Blue Randy”(2012).

beckhateA few years ago, Beck suffered from a debilitating back injury that required spinal cord surgery.  This limited his output significantly over those years.  It also gave him a chance to re imagine releasing music.  And so around 2012 he started releasing singles with no albums attached.

This first one is a collaboration with Jack White and is and astonishingly traditional country song.

The song has big fiddles and twangy vocals.  Then the drums kick in and a big old bass notes sounds and…it’s even more country.  There are big, fun verses (about murder, naturally) and a slide guitar solo.

I honestly can’t tell what Jack White’s contribution is, but evidently it is “punk vocals.” And those punk vocals come near the end.  Because at 3:45, it turns into a blistering fun country punk mess, which lasts for just a few seconds.  And then it morphs into a weird, string-filled kinda sexy song with a hot-sounding lady telling us she’s going to kill us.

The straightness of the country is only weird because of the straightness of the punk at the end.  It’s clear Beck wanted to have fun with this track, and so he did.

The B-side is another country song.  This one is of a more spoken word quality, but it still has the country vibe (and slide guitar).  His voice sounds decidedly more country than I have heard from him.  Even Beck fans may be confused by just how country this is, and yet he definitely has country content in his earlier releases.

[READ: April 1, 2014] “The Navigator”

This is an interesting story that has a fascinating structure.  It seems like the story is told in third person.  It is the story of a man, Walter Ehrlich, who nearly died in 1972 when he caught pneumonia.  He had been swimming every day in Lake Ontario, but the doctors told him that that was unsafe, so he had a pool put in is backyard and he swam there every day that the winter didn’t freeze the water.

He also had a passion for ballrooms, and built one in his garage (this section is quite magical).

After a few paragraphs, the narrator reveals himself and the story is suddenly in first person.  The narrator knows about the man through his wife’s family.  Walter was close to his father-in-law (the story of how they met is also funny).  Indeed, there are photos of Walter visiting his wife’s family when she was just eight or nine years old.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACK WHITE-“Sixteen Saltines” (2012).

I really liked the first White Stripes album.  After that things were just a little too samey to me.  So I pretty much stopped listening to him.  This new album is all the rage (as is everything he does), and this is a song that NPR picked as one of their favorites of the year so far.

And as with everything Jack White does, it’s immediately fun.  It’s also simple as anything, with a raw and aggressive sound–just like everything else he does.  I usually don’t mind when an artist plays the same stuff over and over, I mean it’s called a signature after all, but for some reason it bugs me with him.  Or maybe I just don’t like him as a “person.”

Anyhow, I can’t deny that this song is fun (the vocals done in a kind of R&B vein (sounding like Michael Jackson a bit?) and the addition of keyboards half way through are a nice touch.  But I can’t say that I’ll remember the song much after it’s over.

[READ: June 16, 2012] “Black Box”

I have been meaning to read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad for quite some time.  But in the meantime, I’m happy to have read this short story, which I assume is nothing at all like her novels.

“Black Box” is written in a series of small numbered black boxes.  And each box contains a number of statements in the second person.  It’s a striking and unusual way to concoct a story.  I didn’t really think it would be all that intriguing because the tone is so matter of fact and instructional.  But I was thrilled with how much of a story Egan created out of this style.  And, yes, it is a full story.

So Box number one begins: “People rarely look the way you expect them to, even when you’ve seen pictures.”  Then, “The first thirty seconds in a person’s presence are the most important.”  Then, “If you’re having trouble perceiving and projecting, focus on projecting.”  Then, “Necessary ingredients for a successful projection: giggles; bare legs; shyness.”

So, what is this?  instructions?  advice?  quips to live by?  Well, it turns out that they are instructions to a “beauty.”  And this beauty is working for her country, to take down a bad guy.  She is a spy, although not a professional spy, she’s just a beauty doing her country’s work.  The instructions show (in a very unexpected way) how the story unfolds: “‘Shall we swim together toward those rocks?’ may or may not be a question.”  And so, “you” and your Designated Mate swim to an island where sex in inevitable.  “Begin the Dissociation Technique only when physical violation is imminent.”  For indeed, “you” are married, but your husband approves of this mission, for the good of United States and the world.

As the story unfolds, the reader realizes that this is not just a beautiful woman who has been called into the service of he country, but something a little more. “If you are within earshot of his conversation, record it.”  Well, how will she do that one wonders.  “A microphone has been implanted just beyond the first turn of your right ear canal.”

Cool. (more…)

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