Archive for the ‘Synesthesia’ Category

[LISTENED TO: May 13, 2013] Musicophilia


My sister-in-law Karen got me this audio book for Christmas.  I had never read any Oliver Sacks before although I have always been amused/intrigued by his stuff (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is such a great title).  So this book, as one might guess, is all about how music impacts our lives.  Music is more than just an enjoyable set of melodies, it is a more primordial form of communication.  The key thing for any fan of music to know about this book is that about 97% of the music he talks about is classical.  Which is fine, but you’re not going to get any kind of insight into rock.  The reason for this is twofold.  One–he likes classical (and doesn’t seem to like rock–although he did take one of his patients to a Grateful Dead show) and two–he wants to talk more about music and not so much about lyrics (although again, that’s not entirely true).

I have to admit that while I enjoyed the stories in the book and will certainly talk about it a lot, I found the book a little overwhelming–it was exhaustive and exhausting.  Sacks really tries to cover ever aspect of music (and many I never would have guessed) and so I found the nine hours of story a bit tiring by the end.

Part of that may also have been John Lee, the reader, who spoke very clearly and a little slowly and gave the book something of a lecture-feel.  Which was fine for much of the book, although again, it was a little exhausting sometimes.

The thing that is most exhausting about the book is that virtually every person he talks to or about has had some kind of trauma which makes their appreciation of music different from the norm.  If you are in any way a hypochondriac, this book will make you go insane  I’m not, but even I found myself worrying about having a stroke at any second or experiencing some kind of weird brain thing where I no longer like music or god forbid get some kind of long term amnesia.  Jesus, I was getting a little spooked by the end. (more…)

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finSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-“Rather Ripped” (2006).

rippedWhen Rather Ripped came out, I was really excited by it.  It rocked heavy, it was catchy and it featured a lot of Kim.  I listened to it all the time, and would have said it was my favorite SY disc of this era.  However, listening to Sonic Nurse reminded me how much I liked that one too, so I’m unclear now which one I like better.

Jim O’Rourke left the band, so they’re back to a 4 piece.  And the overall sound of the album is more minimal. There’s less squalling feedback (although there are noisy parts).  And the song structures are tighter.  It sounds more like a punk album that a jazz album.  It’s a great release.

“Reena” is so instantly catchy, it’s an amazing opener.  And it’s followed by “Incinerate” which might be even more catchy.  A simple guitar riff and a beautiful chord progression.  “Do You Believe in Rapture?” is a delicate guitar-harmonics filled song.  The only thing that keeps it from being totally poppy are the off-kilter harmonics between verses.

It’s followed by the screaming noise guitars of “Sleepin’ Around.”  This has some amazing tom-filled drums from Steve Shelley which really propel the song along.  It eventually morphs into a pretty straightforward chugga-chugga song until the noise solos in the middle.  “What a Waste” is a lo-fi rocker with Kim singing angrily.  It’s followed by Kim’s more delicate/sexy “Jams Run Free,” a rather tender guitar line.  And, with Kim playing more guitar, I’m wondering if she’s writing these more delicate guitar riffs?  They seem kind of bass-like rather than the complex lines that Lee typically writes.  I’ll never know.

“Rats” is a noisy Lee song that I’m quite fond of.  It’s immediately followed by an even more delicate Kim song, “Turquoise Boy.”  This is a slow ballad that is quite surprising.  “Lights Out” continues the quiet mood with Thurston’s own brand of sinister/seductive singing.

“The Neutral” continues Kim’s delicate singing.  While “Pink Steam” is a beautiful six minute near-instrumental that Thurston reins in with great vocals at the end.  “Or” ends the disc in a quiet frame of mind.

I’m still undecided if I like Nurse or Ripped better.  But I am delighted by this new style that SY has been playing with.

[READ: September 17, 2009] Infinite Jest (completed!)

Hal is remembering the ’98 blizzard (which I actually tried to remember if I had been in Boston for and then realized that ’98 came after the book was written…Doh!)

It was the year that E.T.A. opened and they moved from Weston to E.T.A.  The Moms was attached to the Weston house so she dragged things out. (more…)

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onlyrev.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Everything to Everyone (2003) & Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

bnl-every.jpgEverything to Everyone. I was pretty down on this album when it first came out. I remember being rather disappointed in it because BNL had, gasp, matured somewhat, and were making more “serious,” less “wacky” songs. To me, the whole CD was somewhat flat. But, after a recent listen (possibly the first time in 4 years) and expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the record.

“Celebrity” is a decent start off, although it breaks from their standard set up of rollicking lead off tracks. “Maybe Katie” is a somewhat disappointing track 2 (a track that seems to produce great results for them)…. It seems to be so close to a single, yet it just misses. There is a somewhat zany song “Shopping,” which sets off a run of three or four good songs. It also ends on a pretty high note with, “Have You Seen My Love?” being a slow, but, sensibly, short song, so it doesn’t just drag on.

The noteworthy thing about this album, is what its title alludes to: everything for everyone. It seems like this album has fifteen different styles at work. There’s an Irish jig type song, a crazy rocking song, a soft ballad, a salsa beat. Basically everything is on here. It’s either crassly commercial or (more likely) a funny jab at their complex styles.

The overall sound of the album is definitely more mellow and “mature” than their earlier ones. There’s not a lot of outright silliness involved, and the tunes themselves have certainly calmed down a lot. If you’re not expecting the zany BNL of old, then the album works pretty well. Just don’t have high hopes for “If I Had $1,000,000.”

bnl-holiday.jpgBarenaked for the Holidays. This has become one of my favorite Christmas/holiday records (and it’s a good time of year to be writing about it.) It ranks up there with Brave Combo’s It’s Christmas, Man, brave.jpg South Park’s Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, hankey.jpg Sufjan Steven’s great boxed set Presents Songs for Christmas, sufjan.jpg and Brian Wilson’s What I Really Want for Christmas, wilson.jpg which has also quickly jumped to the top of my Xmas list.

BNL’s is definitely silly, but it is also somewhat reverential for the time of year. They mix classics with originals (and if Jews don’t adopt “Hanukkah Blessings” as an official Hanukkah song, then they have no taste!).

The recording is a mix of old and new tracks (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was recorded almost ten years (more…)

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bosch.jpg SOUNDTRACK: FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS-The Distant Future EP (2007).

conchords.jpgWe really enjoyed the Flight of the Conchords series on HBO. Although the stories weren’t always great, the music and music videos were hilarious. Probably better than the show itself was the live special that they showed on HBO before they aired the series. Their comedy/music performance is simply great. What works best about the songs is that they can be funny repeatedly, but that they are also great songs too.

This EP is a good taste of their music, and I understand they have a full length coming out soon too. The only disappointing thing about the EP is that the song “Business Time” does not contain all of the lines from the show and the live rendition (where he trips getting out of his pants, which is the funniest thing ever). So I may have to look for the older live CD they have out.

Although they have some information on their official site, http://www.conchords.co.nz/, you’re better off going to What the Folk!, where you can hear a lot of great downloads. There are some great tracks available here like “Business Time” (several versions) and “Hiphopapotamus v Rhymenocerous.”  I suppose your tolerance for this depends on your tolerance for “novelty” music, but I think they’re pretty great.

Oh, and Mel, from the show was featured in this month’s Radar magazine.

[READ: November 21, 2007] The Name of This Book is Secret

Sarah received a copy of this book, and it was sitting on top of a pile in our office. I was very intrigued by, well, everything about it, and it was the author’s name Pseduonymous Bosch, that really caught my attention. Actually, the entire design of the book is eye catching and interesting. (more…)

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