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Archive for the ‘Boston Phoenix’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 14, 2018] Letters to Cleo

When Letters to Cleo first put out Aurora Gory Alice back in 1993  I was really excited about them.  They were punky and fast but they were poppy and intriguing.  The chorus of “Here & Now” is somehow really catchy and impossible to sing.  I lived in Boston, they were based in Boston.  They were getting much buzz in the Boston Phoenix and on WFNX (“Here & Now” was inescapable–it was even used on Melrose Place).  And their name was weird and mentioned my childhood dog (Cleo).  I also thought their album title was funny so I bought a copy on Cherry Disc records (one of dozens of CDs I bought on an indie label only to later find out the major label pressing aided like five more songs and a gold chain or something).

Their second album had an even weirder name Wholesale Meats and Fish but was equally as strong, if not stronger.  Their third album was the amazing Go!–it added so much depth to their songwriting and was really just fantastic.

Then they appeared in 1999’s movie 10 Things I Hate About You.  They had songs on the soundtrack and were filmed playing “I Want You To Want Me” over the closing credits.

Wikipedia says that “the band then recorded 13 new original songs for the Kids’ WB cartoon, Generation O!, which aired from 2000 to 2001″ and which I’ve never heard of.

Then they broke up. (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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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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jestI’m a fan of David Foster Wallace. I read Infinite Jest when it came out (1996) and loved it.  I still vividly recall scenes from the book even 13 years later.  However, I’m a very different person and a very different reader now.  And I wondered if I would get more out of the book reading it as an older, hopefully [DFW would hate that usage] wiser person (and certainly a second read could only help with this incredibly dense book).

But who wants to undertake the immense work involved in reading this 1100 page book?

Enter Infinite Summer.

The Challenge

Join endurance bibliophiles from around the world in reading Infinite Jest over the summer of 2009, June 21st to September 22nd.

A thousand pages1 ÷ 92 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat.

1. Plus endnotesa.
a. A lot of them.

The Rules

There ain’t none. Read Infinite Jest, start around June 21st (if you want), finish around September 22nd (if you want), gloat about having completed the novel afterward (required).

If you wish to read ahead, feel free. Think of us as a pacecar: you can leave us in the dust, but it’s probably best not to fall behind.

If you are ahead of the pack you should feel free to join the conversation. All we ask is that you adhere to the Inficratic Oath: First, Reveal No Spoilers. So, apparently, there is at least one rule.

So I’m on board.  This is TOTALLY going to screw with my plans of reading lots of other books this summer.  And this especially hurts because I have two summer reading contests that I was hoping to enter a couple of entries every two weeks.  I know this book.  75 pages can take a long time.  I hope I can squeeze in some other books as well.

Like on Infinite Summer, I’m going to post weekly updates, mostly to keep notes for myself, but also to comment when it’s warranted. (more…)

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fun.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BATTLES-Live from Chicago (2007).

This is the very rare online soundtrack that I am actually listening to as I type this. My friend Lar sent me a link to the concert, and since I’m at home with a computer with speakers instead of my silent “work world” I can actually enjoy the tunes. I’d never heard of this band, and upon reading up, I see that the drummer is from Helmet, and one of the other guys is from Don Caballero. Its very noisy and math rock-y. Very, very cool and unorthodox. Thank you, Lar. I’ll definitely be checking these guys out some more!

[ACTION: Today] I went to BEA today. It was simultaneously over- and underwhelming. (more…)

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sex.jpgSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Greatest Hits (1987) & ROGUES GALLERY (2006).

greathits.jpgRHEOSTATICS-Greatest Hits: I first found out about the Rheostatics many many years ago on a driving trip to Niagara Falls & Toronto. I bought Introducing Happiness and really liked their weird sensibilities. They don’t really sound like anyone else (except perhaps one or two of Neil Young’s phases); whether it’s Martin Tielli’s alto voice, the meandering guitar work, or the harmonies of Bidini and Vesely, the Rheostatics are uniquely them.

(more…)

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