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Archive for the ‘The Capstan Shafts’ Category

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: All Songs Considered Year End Music Roundup (2010).

Every year, I like to check various sources to see if there were any albums that I missed.  My definition of good resources: allmusic, amazon, pitchfork.  (There’s another fascinating list available here at Best Albums Ever, a site I’ve never seen before, and I have a large portion of the Top 50 albums.  I didn’t buy a lot of music this year, but evidently I chose wisely!).  I don’t necessarily agree with these lists, but if I see the same album on a few lists, I know it’s worth at least listening to.

This year, since I spent so much time on All Songs Considered, I thought I’d see their Best of Lists.  What’s awesome about the site is that you can hear not only selected songs in their entirety, you can also download the audio of the original show…where the DJs talk about their selections and play excerpts from them.   There are many different lists to investigate.

The most obvious one to star with is 50 Favorite Albums of 2010.  This shows the staff’s 50 favorite albums in all genres.  I admit that there’s going to be a lot on this list that I won’t bother exploring (I’m not really that interested in new classical or jazz and I’m not too excited by most pop music, although I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Kanye West songs here).

But some albums did stand out that I hadn’t heard, and I will investigate them further in 2011:

Buke And Gass, ‘Riposte’
Deerhunter, ‘Halcyon Digest’ (I know, this is on many best of lists)
The National, ‘High Violet’ (This is also on everyone’s list)

Bob Boilen, All Songs Considered’s most awesome host, picks his Top 9 of the year.  I’m on board with about 1/2 of his list (haven’t heard the other half).  Sufjan Stevens is his #1.

Robin Hilton, Boilen’s partner in crime, has a Top Ten which is remarkably similar to Boilen’s.  It has most of the same albums just appearing in a slightly different order.  Lower Dens is #1. (I’ve never heard of them).

Carrie Brownstein (of beloved Sleater-Kinney and now evidently a permanent member of the NPR team) has a Top Ten (Plus One)–funny that she liked more than ten when Boilen liked less than ten.  I’m really surprised by her selection of albums because her own music is so punk and abrasive, but her top ten features R&B and some folky bands.  Her top album is by Royal Baths, a band I’ve never heard of.

Stephen Thompson also picked his Top Ten.  He has an interesting mix of alt rock and jazz.  His number one is by Jonsi from Sigur Rós. (A great album).

Perhaps the best list comes from 5 Artists You Should Have Known in 2010.  I didn’t know any of the 5.  Sarah bought me two CDs for Christmas (and she was pleased to have gotten me good music that I hadn’t heard of!).  The Head and the Heart hasn’t arrived yet, but The Capstan Shafts is great.  I’m also really excited by Tame Impala.

Another great list is Viking’s Choice: Best Metal and Outer Sound (stay tuned for much more from this list).  It is dominated by black metal, but there are a few surprises in there as well.

Even the All Songs Considered Top 25 Listener’s List was great.  I had most of the list (except for The Black Keys who I simply cannot get into).

Although I enjoyed a lot of new music this year, it’s always nice to see that there is some new (to me) stuff to investigate.  Who knows maybe some day I’ll even have listened to enough new music in a year to make my own Top Ten.

[READ: December 31, 2010] McSweeney’s #36

With McSweeney’s #36, it’s like they made my conceptual ideal.  Its weird packaging is fantastic and the contents are simply wonderful.  But let’s start with the obvious: this issue comes in a box.  And the box is drawn to look like a head.  You open up the man’s head to get to the contents.  Brilliant.  The head is drawn by Matt Furie (with interior from Jules de Balincourt’s Power Flower.

Inside the box are eleven items.  The largest are smallish books (postcard sized) running between 32 and 144 pages.  The smaller items are a 12 page comic strip, a nineteenth century mediation (8 pages) and 4 postcards that create a whole picture.  The final item is a scroll of fortune cookie papers.   The scroll is forty inches long with cut lines for inserting them into your own fortunes (I wonder if they will sell this item separately?)

Aside from the bizarre head/box gimmick (and the fact that there is ample room in the box for more items), the contents are really top-notch.  For while many of the books included are individual titles, there is also an actual “issue” of McSweeney’s (with letter column and shorter stories) as well.  So let’s begin there

ISSUE #36: New Stories and Letters.  The resurrected letters page continues with more nonsense.  I’ve often wondered if these are really written like letters or if they are just short pieces that have no other place to reside.  (Oh, and the back of this booklet contains the bios for everyone in here as well as assorted other folks who don’t have room for a bio on their items).

LETTERS (more…)

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