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Archive for the ‘Sebadoh’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 4, 2018] Superchunk

I’ve been a fan of Superchunk for what seems like ever.  Their music is reliably punky and poppy.  Fun, sometimes funny, with clever lyrics and always a big hook.

I’ll admit that their music sounds pretty samey, but there is something to be said about that.  After they put out their 2001 album Here’s to Shutting Up, they didn’t exactly go on hiatus, they just kept a low profile for a half a dozen years or so, releasing limited edition records and such.  When they returned in 2007 I realized just how much I’d missed them.

When I saw that they were playing Philly I knew it was time to go see them.

It was really cool that the band was the (nearly) original members: Mac McCaughan of course, Jim Wilbur on guitar (he joined after their first album) and Jon Wurster on drums (he joined after the third album)–they’re both bonafides!  The only one missing was bassist Laura Ballance.  She plays on the albums but because of her hyperacusis, she no longer tours.  So, on bass we had Jason Narducy who has played with anybody who is anybody. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: XFM-It’s a Cool Cool Christmas (2000).

This is a long Christmas collection (about 72 minutes).  So it’s a bit hit and miss.  But the hits are pretty great.  The problem really is that the disc gets a little bogged down and slow in the back half.  The first half is bright and fun.  Either re-sequnce or add in some peppier songs!  There are a couple that just don’t belong on a Christmas collection.  Remove them, and you’ve got a good one.

GRANDADDY-“Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland”
I’ve loved this version of this song ever since I heard it here.  By making the simple substitution of Alan Parsons for Parson Brown (which doesn’t make any sense, really), they are able to make all kinds of weirdo jokes and musical changes to an otherwise completely faithful version of the song.  It’s terrific.

THE DANDY WARHOLS-“Little Drummer Boy”
Generally I don’t like this song.  It’s a little too ponderous and repetitive, but The Dandy Warhols totally rock it out.  It’s not crazy or anything, it’s just super catchy with a cool synth riff and great backing vocals on the “bum bum bum bums.”

THE WEBB BROTHERS-“Every Day is Christmas”
I feel like this compilation is the first I’d heard of this song, but since then I see that others have done it as well.  This version anyway is slow although it’s catchy–particularly the chorus.  I’m not sure I get exactly what the chorus is saying though: “every day is Christmas, if only tonight,”  What does that mean>

EELS-“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”
This is a poppy punky track that’s upbeat and fun.  Just before the solo E (the singer) even mutters, “Baby Jesus, born to rock.”

El VEZ-“Feliz Navi-nada”
One of my favorite Christmas songs–rocking and silly but with the spirit still in tact.

MORGAN-“Christmas In Waikiki” [NSFC]
This track opens with a Merry Christmas to the soldiers, in what sounds like Marilyn Monroe’s voice.  It then turns into a keyboard-heavy, almost reggae march through a wah wah instrumental.  Then there’s a quote from, I assume Richard Pryor, who jokes about a 300 pound honky.  This f-bomb dropping joke makes this not safe for Christmas.

DRUGSTORE-“Maybe At Christmas Time”
This a slow song filled with hope for Christmas.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
I have always been puzzled at the way they change the melody of the song–they sing the “and random captive” part without a pause, so the first line runs right through.  It feels rushed, but is anything but.  Once you get past that though the music sounds lovely with those gentle guitars and voices.”

GIANT SAND-“Thank You Dreaded Black Ice, Thank You” [NSFC]
This is kind of a dark song, spooky and whispered vocals.  Even if there is a happy message, it’s not really a very festive song.

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Christmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for The Lips, I never cared for this version.

SAINT ETIENNE-“My Christmas Prayer” [NSFC]
A pretty, moody piece of longing.  Not really anything I want to hear on Christmas.

DEPARTURE LOUNGE-“Christmas Downer” [NSFC]
This is surprisingly catchy for such a downer.  But it is indeed a downer.

SIX BY SEVEN-“I Believe In Father Christmas”
Things pick up with this version of the dark, but wonderful Greg Lake song.

SNOW PATROL-“When I Get Home For Christmas”
This seems like its kind of dark and mopey, bu the sentiment is actually quite nice.  Sounds a bit like Sebadoh.

TITÁN-“Spiritual Guidance” [NSFC]
Titán are a Mexican electronic band.  This instrumental samples a movie which has a guy telling a young woman to remove her panties.  It’s a shame it gets dark like that because the disco Jingle Bells in the middle is good fun.

BIG BOSS MAN-“Christmas Boogaloo”
This is a groovy, funky instrumental with random chants about Christmas.  Its good fun indeed.

TEENAGE FANCLUB-“Christmas Eve”
This is a beautiful guitar based mostly instrumental.  It’s a lovely piece and far too short at only 2 minutes.

CALEXICO-“Gift X-change”
Despite Calexico’s usually bright sound, this song is pretty sad, musically and lyrically.

GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI-“Hwiangerdd Mair”
This is a very pretty song which, if Google Translate is to be believed actually means Mary’s Halloween in Welsh.  But whatever.  Gorky’s always has a great way with a melody.

LOW-“Just Like Christmas”
I actually thought this was Aimee Mann singing. Despite Low’s penchant for slow, broody songs, this one is upbeat, even if it wasn’t just like Christmas at all.  But the big thumping drums keep it moving along nicely.

LAUREN LAVERNE-“In The Bleak Midwinter”
This sounds like a children’s choir very far away.  I’d never heard of her before and I have learned: Lauren Cecilia Fisher, known professionally as Lauren Laverne, is an English radio DJ, model, television presenter, author, singer and comedian.  Wow.  This is pretty neat but could use a bit more oomph.

[READ: December 15, 2017] “The Copy Chief”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I had to play catch up with these earlier stories because this collection arrived late (my fault, not theirs).  I put this one off because it was so long, and yet it turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the collection so far.

Not because of anything flashy or exciting, just because of good writing and compelling characters. (more…)

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nobokov eyeSOUNDTRACK: DINOSAUR JR.- I Bet on Sky (2012).

ibetI have been so pleased with the reunited Dinosaur Jr.  I’ve enjoyed each of their albums, and feel like they really have hit a great stride of songwriting.  The only difference to me is that these songs are all pretty long, something I don’t really think of as a Dino Jr thing.  They do often have a few longer songs, but on this disc, 5 songs are over 5 minutes and two are nearly 5 minutes long.

As with the last album, I’m not sure why Lou Barlow agreed to reuniting.  Barlow is a great songwriter and has successful other projects.  He gets two (short) songs that he write and sings and that’s kind of it.  I mean, they sound great and really flesh out the album, but it seems like a weird thing for him to do unless he just likes playing the old Dino stuff again.

And then of course there’s Mascis.  It’s amazing how much of a slacker J Mascis sings like and yet what a careful and meticulous guitar player and songwriter he is.  And yes, it’s great to have Murph on drums, too.

“Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know”  opens just like a great Dino Jr song—that guitar is unmistakable. It’s a fast rocker. With a big old Dino chorus. There’s a lengthy outro solo that really stretches out the song into a jam.  “Watch the Corners” is the other kind of Dino song, a chugger with big slow open chords and a nice riff. (and again a wonderful chorus).  “Almost Fare” is the other, other kind of Dino song, poppy with a kind of cute riff and a slow drawl in the vocals.  And “Stick a Toe In” is a slower ballad–the fourth kind of song that Masics writes so well. It has a nice chorus (with piano (!)) and some dramatic steps in the chorus.  Suffice it to say that although they all sounds like Dino Jr., it’s impressive how many styles of song Mascis writes so well.

Barlow’s first song is “Rude,” a short fast punk rocker.  At just under 3 minutes (with no solo) the song pounds along with a very funny chorus: “I wish I didn’t care cause caring is rude.”  Even though it changes the flow of the album, it just adds to the diversity that is Dino Jr.  In “I Know It Oh So Well” Mascis’ ringing guitar comes back  It’s a simple song with just a few chords and a simple interstitial riff, but he makes it sound very full.

“Pierce the Morning Rain” is the only short Mascis song on the disc (and perversely it gives the album its title).  It has a very heavy metal guitar riff and a super fast paced (and sung) tempo.  “What Was That” is a slow burner with many elements of classic Dino—a great solo in the background of the song and a cool riff along with Mascis’s patented delivery.  “Recognition” is Barlow’s other song. It almost makes 4 minutes.  It sounds more like part of the record (and, strangely, also like the popular Sebadoh tracks). You can really hear Barlow’s vocal style shine through and it’s a great counterpoint to all the Mascis on the disc.  It’s also great song—kind of slow and angular but with a cool fast riff in the bridge.  It also features a pretty wild (and un-Masics-like) guitar solo

“See It on Your Side”  is the last song and at nearly 7 minutes, it feels a little long.  Although that may be because the song seems to end and then starts again.  And yet, that end solo is pretty great.  It’s a very notable Mascis type riff that starts the song.  Even with all of the long songs, the disc still clocks in at around 45 minutes, which is really a perfect amount of Dinosaur Jr. consumption.  Looking forward to the next release.

[READ: October 1, 2014] The Eye

naboI have had Nabokov on my list of authors to read for a long time.  I have read and enjoyed a few of his books and planned to read his oeuvre at some point, just not quite yet.  And then, as serendipity would have it, I stumbled on a book of his novellas (the Penguin classic edition) and decided to read them.  Because they aren’t really meant to be taken as one item, I’m going to mention them individually.

The book includes a Foreword by Vladimir (his son Dmitri translated this with help from Vladimir) that talks a bit about when he wrote it and how he didn’t bother to include details about the location because it wasn’t important to the story (it’s a surprisingly casual foreword).

“The Eye” is a strange story (technically a novella or a very short novel) in which a man, despondent at the beating he receives, tries to kill himself and then believes that he does.

The narrator has been having an affair with a married woman named Matilda.  He’s been a little bored with her lately, and is pretty much over her.  But one night when the narrator is working as the house tutor for two boys (the boys are completely disrespectful to him and every scene with them is very funny), the cuckolded husband comes over and really beats him up.  Just really lays into him (the narrator’s protestations about this not even being his house are rather amusing).  I especially liked that the husband calls first and doesn’t tell him who he is “So much the better–it’ll be a surprise.” (more…)

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02013SOUNDTRACK: THE CAPSTAN SHAFTS-Revelation Skirts (2010).

capstanI’d never heard of the Capstan Shafts when Sarah bought this disc for me for Christmas a few years ago.  (It was in the NPR recommended discs for 2010).  Turns out the band has been around for nearly 20 years but have been making home recordings with little publicity for much of that time.  They (he, really, as it has always been one guy) finally decided to release a proper album with a second guy in the band.  I wouldn’t have known any of that if I hadn’t looked it up just now–because even with the accolades, this is still a low selling record.  I also wouldn’t have known that for some fans this album is the commercial sellout for this band who usually makes weird personal songs.  And yet I like this album a lot–and it is plenty weird.  Or perhaps a little weird-sounding–like the buzzing noisy guitars (which I guess are from the “new guy”).

The songs are pretty straightforward folkie indie rocky.  They are bouncy and poppy, and the buzzy guitar solos adds a nice contrast to that bounciness   There’s an air of Guided by Voices (“Let Your Head Get Wrong”, with the singer’s slightly faux British accent (he sounds like about half a dozen different singers throughout the disc).   There’s definitely a feel of 90s rock here–maybe Sebadoh (“Little Burst of Sunshine”) or even Dino Jr (“Versus the Sad Cold Eventually”).  The album has 14 songs in 30 minutes–and it feels like a full record–there’s not a lot of shilly-shallying with solos or extended verses, and yet the song are not fast punk tracks either–the pace is leisurely.

I really enjoyed this record and I like popping it in from tome to time for a good album that will never be overexposed.

[READ: February 5, 2013] “The Bloodline of the Alkanas”

I found this story to be quite challenging.  The prose was awkward and not very fluid.  I found it slow going until the end, but even that seemed a mite slower than necessary.

This story has three informal parts.  The first shows the narrator’s parents–her father is Cyrus Alkana, a poet who believes in older, more formal rules of poetry.  He is passionate, but far more passionate about his dislike for more modern writers, especially Alexander Alcott to whom he writes nasty letters.  Or actually his wife writes them–she does everything for him believing unquestioningly in his genius.  She works a full time job then comes home and takes care of the house and also types his correspondence.

The parents have no respect for the narrator because she did not receive The Bestowal–what they call the poetic gift.  The narrator doesn’t care about any of that–she explicitly states that she doesn’t know half of the poets that her father admires.  Consequently, her parents show her no respect.

Cyrus can’t seem to get published anywhere.  His wife unfailingly sends out his poems but they receive nothing.  Finally, she decides to bundle up his work and to include a cover letter expressing how wonderful the work inside is.  We later learn that the name she put on the letter was Alexander Alcott.  Obviously, this would show an instant sign of respect and it would be a rather shocking development in the land of poetry.  Especially when the publisher agrees to publish the book only if Alcott’s accolades are included.

The narrator is understandably freaked out about this–her mother is publicly defrauding another (far more famous) writer–surely there will be hell to pay.  But her mother is not concerned in the least.  She says that Alcott will be happy for the publicity.  After its publication  critics do talk about it–most wondering what happened to Alcott to endorse such a poet, but there is never any formal repercussion.  And no word from Alcott at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DINOSAUR JR.-Live at the 9:30 Club, Washington D.C. October 8, 2009 (2009).

This was one of the first shows I downloaded from NPR.  I’ve been a fan of Dinosaur Jr. since my friend Al turned me on to Green Mind back in college.

This is an amazing show created by the original Dino Jr. members.  This tour is in support of their second album since reuniting, Farm. This set-list is an outstanding mix of old songs, new songs, Barlow-sung songs and even some songs from when Barlow and Murph weren’t in the band.  (Green Mind is still my favorite album by them).

When the band reunited there was much joy, and I’ve said in reviews of the newer albums, I’m not entirely sure why.  I mean, Dino Jr has always been about Mascis, and it’s not like Barlow is such an unusual bassist (although Murph’s drumming is always solid).  I’ve nothing against Barlow (I love Sebadoh and Folk Implosion) or Murph, it just seems odd to get excited about having them back in the band aside from nostalgic reasons.

Having said that, the band sounds amazing (and yes, Barlow does get to sing on “Imagination Blind”).  What never really came across to me until hearing all of these great songs live was that Mascis has always been a great pop song writer.  These songs are catchy as hell. But Mascis buries them under loud squalling guitars and a voice that is almost whiny, almost off-key, a total slacker voice.  (But you’ll notice it is never actually off-key.  He must work very hard at that.)

By the nd of the show Mascis chastises the audience for not moving (we obviously can’t see what they’re doing), saying he forgets that people don’t move in Washington, D.C.  But during the encore break, NPR host, Bob Boilen, points out that Mascis himself doesn’t move either–he just stands in front of that wall of Marshall stacks (Boilen wonders how he can hear anything anymore).  And looking at the pictures it’s comical the way he looks, surrounded by amps.  The picture above doesn’t fully do it justice, but check out the extra photos at the NPR page.  And while you’re there, listen to this show. It is amazing.  For a total slacker, Mascis can rock a guitar solo like nobody’s business.

[READ: July 20, 2011] The Best American Non Required Reading

I’d been meaning to read this series for years (yup, Eggers fan), But I have a hard time starting “collections” because I feel like I’d rather be reading a novel.  Nevertheless, I have most of these Nonrequired books, so it seemed like I should dive into one and see what it was like (I don’t think the year really matters all that much–some of the articles are topical but most are not exactly).  Then Sarah said this would be a great book to read on vacation because it’s all short essays, and she was right.  It was perfect for late nights when I wanted something to read but didn’t feel like getting involved in the novel I was reading.

DAVE EGGERS-Introduction
Eggers’ introduction is actually a partial short story about kids who go swimming in pools around town. It reminded me of the opening of Life After God by Douglas Coupland, but of course, lots of kids did that so I’m not saying it was “lifted” from DC.  The story “ends” (it doesn’t really end so much as stop) with an interesting scene between two unlikely kids who get caught.

After this story Eggers includes these three notes about the collection: It’s not scientific, It’s alphabetical, and We had a lot of help with this.  Of the three, it’s the middle one that’s most useful because Eggers says that you shouldn’t necessarily read them in order just because they are printed this way: “In the first half of this collection, you get a good deal of hard journalism, primarily about war and refugees, from Afghanistan to the Sudan, followed immediately by a number of less serious pieces, about malls and Marilyn Manson.  We didn’t group anything by theme , and won’t be offended if you skip around.”  This was good to know (not that we needed the permission of course), but yes, the beginning of the book is pretty heavy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The 90’s Are Back, Or Whatever… NPR.  (2011).

This is a 90 minute podcast about the music of the 90s.  And, of course, it opens with “The Dream of the 90s” from Portlandia.

I don’t listen to too many full discussions on the All Songs Considered site, but since the 90s were definitely my favorite era of music, I thought it was worth a listen.  Incidentally, it’s funny that the 90s are so meaningful to me when, really I should be a child of the 80s.  But in reality, my 80s music was mostly heavy metal, because I hated all pop radio then.

This radio show (available for free download here) features four NPR music geeks talking about the music they loved during the 90s.  There are some obvious points (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “1979,” “Song 2,” “Loser”), but some unexpected songs as well: “Grace” (Jeff Buckley), “Long Snake Moan” (PJ Harvey).  And of course, probably the biggest surprise: Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire as “song of the decade.”

The hosts have a lot of fun with bad songs (severe bashing on Collective Soul or hilariously cueing up “Can’t Touch This” to punk one of the speakers when they are talking about Missy Elliot–yup, it’s not all alt rock, Missy Elliott and Lauren Hill crop up along with Johnny Cash and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan).

But let’s not forget my perennial favorite from Cornershop: “Brimful of Asha.”  And, yes, My Bloody Valentine.

These days, when I do listen to the radio, I find that the stations I prefer tend to play a lot of 90s songs, but it’s surprising to me how infrequently they play some of these really big artists (I hear a lot of Harvey Danger, but no My Bloody Valentine).  It’s funny that one of the songs they talk about, Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” I actually heard coming out of a radio at a pool while on vacation in Florida this past January (!?!).

It’s a fun segment and makes me think that although I do like a lot of new music, I’m a gonna hafta retire to Portland.

P.S. Stay till the end of the show for the hilarious impersonation of Trent Reznor.

[READ: February 17, 2011] 3 book reviews

Zadie Smith is an author whose output I fully intend to ingest one of these days.  So I figured why not read a few of her book reviews, too.

Smith reviews three new titles: Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts; My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard; and While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías.

I’m intrigued by her review of Harlem is Nowhere.  She seemed to be rather critical of the author, especially of her mannerisms: like calling James Baldwin’s “habit of speaking to Harlem folk, having experiences, and deriving from these encounters “a metaphor about all of black existence”–“The Jimmy.”  (where others might have simply called it “writing”).  Or the fact that the author describes herself as a “single girl” as if that has anything to do with anything.

The second half of the review concedes that once you abandon wanting to known anything precise about historical Harlem, it’s a lovely book.  Smith revels in learning about James VanDerZee, Raven Chanticleer and Alexander Gumby (and her enthusiasm makes me want to investigate this book, if not their own works).

So, despite initial criticisms, she ends the review very positively and gives a thumbs up to the work. (more…)

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