Archive for the ‘The Boston Globe’ Category

buddySOUNDTRACK: CULTS-Cults (2011).

cultsThis album was on many year end lists in 2011.  But it’s really tough for me.  I really really want to like it.  The cover alone is very cool.  And in fact, I do like it quite a bit.  The songs are simple and catchy and after just one or two listens they are very easy to sing along to.  So what’s the problem?  The album sounds an awful lot like the girl group/Phil Spector sound of the 6os which I really do not like.  I have never enjoyed that era of music–and I think it is mostly something to do with those singer’s voices.

Cults singer Madeline Follin has a delivery that reminds me a lot of that sort of Ronettes vibe.  Even though the music is not like that–Cults is much more 90s indie sounding (although the drum beats are often the same) I’m conflicted about how much I enjoy the record.

When I can just lighten up and bop along it’s wonderful. Indeed, some of the album embraces other styles.  I hear the mood of  Twin Peaks on “You Know What I Mean”  And songs like “Never Hear Myself” sound more contemporary which takes that girl group edge off.  “Never Saw the Point” has a strange Japanese quality to it that makes it stand out from the rest of the tracks.

I found that after listening a few times I could get past the parts I don’t like and enjoy that punky fun.  Although I don’t imagine that I would get another Cults album after this.  But you never know.

[READ: January 20, 2013] Buddy

I rarely get a book that I don’t like.  So I rarely get a book that I don’t finish.  This book seriously had me considering not finishing it.  In fact, I even said I wasn’t going to finish it.  But I plugged on, got the minor amount of redemption I expected and am now done with it.

So what was so bad about this book?  Well, first, the title suggests that this will be a book about a rooster.  Perhaps I should have wondered how McGrory was going to write 300 pages (yes) about a rooster.  And then answer is, he isn’t.  He’s going to write 300 pages about McGrory.  I had no idea who he was when I checked out the book.  He is a columnist for the Boston Globe and, God help us, a novelist.  And I should have known that, since it was in the biography section that it would be all about him, but again, I was charmed by the cover and the title.

So the book opens with a brief bit about Buddy, a rooster who lives, sometimes, in their house.  And whom McGrory clearly does not like.  McGrory lives in the Boston suburbs, although with a house with nearly an acre of property I’m not sure exactly how suburban that is.  My family lives in NJ we have almost two acres and we aren’t really in the suburbs of any big cities.  We also have chickens–a lot of chickens and a few roosters.  And this is why I wanted to read the book–see how this guy adapts to a rooster in his life.

After that first chapter, the next 120 some pages have nothing to do with Buddy.  They are all about McGrory and his dog, Harry.  As any dog owner, McGrory thinks that his dog is the best, smartest, coolest etc dog in the world.  And that’s fine, although I didn’t need over 100 pages to be told that.  What I also learned in those 120 pages is that McGrory is a smug, entitled jackass.  He somehow believes that he is a regular guy although he is going to a vet on Newbury Street (I lived in Boston, that’s a swanky street…  I can’t even imagine what a vet charges there) and because of his reporting job, he has access to all kinds of fancy places to eat, people to meet, sports teams to see etc.  He also, and let’s make this very clear, things that the suburbs are a vast wasteland, that kids are overindulged and, well, every other cliche that rich, cranky, white men complain about (some of which I agree with mind you, but he seems so bitter about it all). (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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