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Best of 2007 - late, but coming… eventually

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Well, my best of 2007 list is now long overdue — I usually do these things at the beginning of December. I’m working on it now; in the meantime, you can check out my best of 2008 list at the Washington City Paper. Yes, I sold out my principles to do a year-end list for this year, even though I haven’t heard anywhere close to all the 2008 albums I want to hear yet. When I do a best-of-2008 list here next year, it will probably look very, very different from the list at the City Paper. Still, there might be some things of interest there. Sound clips and everything!

Nasum + my first review at the City Paper

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

In the deal of the year, I recently got Nasum’s Doombringer for six bucks from The End Records (sorry, the sale is over, but if you’re into this stuff you can still find the two Crowpath albums there for six bucks apiece). It absolutely slays. I’ve never managed to get into grindcore all that much, but this is amazing.

In other news, I’ve reviewed the new record by Richard Pinhas & Merzbow on Cuneiform, Keio Line, but not here — it’s my first print review for the Washington City Paper, DC’s alternative weekly. It’s on their website here. The short version is that I really, really like this album, and in fact it may be my favorite non-Heldon Pinhas record. Go get it if you like this guy’s music.

Today’s collection of random crap

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Some fun things today.

First off, in the Washington Post music blog, Post Rock, comes a scathingly amusing dismantling of the new album by indie-pop sensation Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley fame): “If you were wondering why you couldn’t find a review of the album in today’s paper, it’s because all the potential reviewers either fell asleep or forced themselves to sleep via a hammer to the cranium by the 43rd time Lewis moaned “black sand” on the album’s bore of an opening track.” Ouch!

Secondly, this video, which is hilarious and painful and embarrassing all at once:

You might imagine that all the metal blogs have been sneering at this. A lot.

Finally, thanks to those who have been asking — yes, I’ll be writing reviews of some of the recent shows I’ve seen, including Extra Life and Mogwai. In the meantime, check out my photos and brief recaps of a couple shows over at Black Plastic Bag: one of a great show by Sigh and Unexpect, and one of the aformentioned Mogwai show.

Speaking of Mogwai, looks like they’ve had to cancel the remainder of their U.S. tour because their drummer started having problems with his pacemaker. Bummer for them and the fans, best wishes to the drummer for a quick and full recovery. I’ll particularly miss the updates to the band’s USA tour diary that they’ve been posting on their website — it has been absolutely hysterical. Some choice excerpts:

“People loved Fuck Buttons’ set and it made me wonder how brutally strong the LSD must be in this city. I mean, some guy shouting into a children’s toy while another mentally ill person screams monkey noises into a cheap effects pedal really just isn’t enjoyable unless you’ve been fed an heroic dose of hallucinogenic drugs.”

“The show was really quite good in San Francisco apart from the usual idiots who are afraid to keep their mouth shut for 10 seconds in case they start having an introspective tour of duty into their own minds and then nervous breakdown… [the next] show was a bit of a stinker we thought and the tourettes victims were out in force. One exceptionally stupid man shouted for a song he happened to like halfway through a song we were playing. I do wonder what he thought this would achieve…… let’s stop playing this and start doing requests.”

“Washington D.C. SHOWTIME! Here we are in what is hopefully not going to become Sarah Palin’s new hometown. I suppose there’s a real chance of her becoming VP seeing as the Americans had a cocaine and alcohol cowboy in the whitehouse for the last 8 years.”

Ah, we’ll miss you bastards.

Rick Wright is gone

Monday, September 15th, 2008

RIP Rick Wright.

As I mentioned in my writeup of Aussie Floyd last year, Pink Floyd was the group that made me the music lover I am, and so Wright’s passing affects me quite a bit. I’ll be listening to Broken China tonight in memoriam.

Belated update

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Where have I been?

Well, I spent about two weeks in China for the Olympics - one hell of a family trip. I don’t really have much to say about that trip that relates to this website whatsoever, except for one small anecdote. One of the places we explored was the 798 Art District, a rather stunning space on the outskirts of Beijing with numerous spaces for avant-garde and modern art — much of which was excellent and some of which was surprisingly political. At my favorite gallery, there was a particularly impressive sculpture made of a wrecked car painted entirely black, with tiny models of cars (think Micro Machines) swarming all over it, bulging out around cracks in the wreck, looking like nothing more than maggots infesting a recently deceased corpse.

Relevant to this website, though, was merely the fact that in the museum gift shop, Mogwai was playing softly, a desolate soundtrack and the only time I heard anything approaching interesting contemporary music during our entire two-week trip.

Musically, where have I been? Mostly expanding my horizons in metal listenership. Revisting stuff like Enslaved and Demilich, and familiarizing myself with obscurities like Book of Black Earth, local doom band Salome, the new Asva, and Georgians Kylesa (admittedly more hardcore/punk than metal). I’ll try to write about some of this stuff in the near future as most of this has been dominating my recent listening.

For now, I’ll leave off with this image of Salome, whom I saw with Behold… the Arctopus and Intronaut some three weeks ago, and who really left an impression on me. I wrote up that show at Black Plastic Bag and won’t duplicate that here, since it’s old news anyway. Click on the photo for the full image set at Flickr.

50 songs from 25 years

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

A coworker of mine is making a mix CD for his 30th birthday that includes one song from every year he’s been alive (no duplicate artists allowed). This got me thinking about what such a mix would look like for me. I decided to do two songs per year and just go up to my 25th birthday. There are so many damn epics in the following list that if I ever actually burned this to CD it would have to be a box set, but anyway, it was kind of a fun and interesting exercise. This was all very much off the top of my head, and if I did it again tomorrow I’m sure it would look pretty considerably different. (Well, maybe not the early 80s - pretty slim pickings for me there.)

So without further ado:

  1. Los Jaivas - “La Poderosa Muerte” (from Alturas de Macchu Picchu)
    King Crimson - “Discipline” (from Discipline)
  2. Dire Straits - “Telegraph Road” (from Love Over Gold)
    Begnagrad - “Cosa Nostra/Waltz” (from Begnagrad)
  3. Etron Fou Leloublan - “Phare Plafond” (from Les Sillons de la Terre)
    Solaris - “Marsbéli Krónikák IV-VI” (from Marsbéli Krónikák)
  4. Univers Zero - “Presage” (from Uzed)
    David Gilmour - “Murder” (from About Face)
  5. Shub Niggurath - “Entresol” (from Shub Niggurath)
    Rush - “Mystic Rhythms” (from Power Windows)
  6. Metallica - “Master of Puppets” (from Master of Puppets)
    Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman - “Endangered Species” (from Song X)
  7. Pink Floyd - “Learning to Fly” (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason)
    David Sylvian - “Orpheus” (from Secrets of the Beehive)
  8. Cowboy Junkies - “Misguided Angel” (from The Trinity Session)
    Queensrÿche - “Revolution Calling” (from Operation: Mindcrime)
  9. John Zorn - “Latin Quarter” (from Naked City)
    The Cure - “Pictures of You” (from Disintegration)
  10. U Totem - “One Nail Draws Another” (from U Totem)
    Ozric Tentacles - “Sunscape” (from Erpland)
  11. Massive Attack - “Safe From Harm” (from Blue Lines)
    My Bloody Valentine - “Only Shallow” (from Loveless)
  12. After Crying - “A gadarai megszállott” (from Megalázottak és megszomorítottak)
    Quaterna Requiem - “Madrugada” (from Velha gravura)
  13. Autechre - “Basscadet” (from Incunabula)
    Anekdoten - “Karelia” (from Vemod)
  14. Änglagård - “Sista somrar” (from Epilog)
    Portishead - “Wandering Star” (from Dummy)
  15. October Project - “Deep As You Go” (from Falling Farther In)
    Bob Ostertag - “Positive” (from Fear No Love.)
  16. Tim Berne/Bloodcount - “Bro’ball” (from Unwound)
    Tortoise - “Djed” (from Millions Now Living Will Never Die)
  17. Mogwai - “Mogwai Fear Satan” (from Young Team)
    Grey Eye Glances - “Chills” (from Eventide)
  18. Mos Def & Talib Kweli - “Thieves in the Night” (from Black Star)
    Thinking Plague - “Dead Silence” (from In Extremis)
  19. The Dismemberment Plan - “A Life of Possibilities” (from Emergency & I)
    Opeth - “Godheads Lament” (from Still Life)
  20. Sigur Rós - “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” (from Englar alheimsins)
    Radiohead - “National Anthem” (from Kid A)
  21. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - “Ambugaton” (from Grand Opening and Closing)
    Cannibal Ox - “Iron Galaxy” (from The Cold Vein)
  22. Paatos - “Quits” (from Timeloss)
    NeBeLNeST - “Nova Express” (from Nova Express)
  23. Spring Heel Jack - “Part II” (from Live)
    Pelican - “The Woods” (from Untitled EP)
  24. Magma - “K.A II” (from K.A)
    5uu’s - “Resolve” (from Tel Aviv Construction Events)
  25. Bar Kokhba Sextet - “Khebar” (from 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 11)
    Iron & Wine and Calexico - “In the Reins” (from In the Reins)
  26. Joanna Newsom - “Emily” (from Ys)
    Nelly Furtado - “All Good Things” (from Loose)

Statements of ignorance

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

PopMatters has a very nice review of the reissue of Mogwai’s classic debut, Young Team, but it includes this statement with which I am extremely uncomfortable, and for me colors the reviewer’s credibility quite a bit:

Take the epochal “Mogwai Fear Satan”, still one of the few real epics modern music has produced… [emphasis mine]

Making a blanket statement like that strikes me as… well, absolutely ridiculous.

Vialka: French avant-folk-prog in DC

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Vialka 9

Vialka, a French husband-and-wife duo of drums and baritone guitar, played at the Velvet Lounge on Tuesday night. I previewed the show at Black Plastic Bag, complete with plenty of hype and one wildly inaccurate comparison (no, these guys do not sound anything like Ruins).

The show definitely lived up to my expectations. As I wrote in my preview, the band describe themselves, glibly, as a “turbo folk micro-orchestra,” whatever the hell that means. But what they really are is prog, albeit prog in the Etron Fou sense more than anything else, minus a bit of the dadaism. They played a number of lengthy compositions that flitted whimsically through two to three seemingly unrelated themes, most of them involving tricky but somehow bouncy rhythms, gratuitously sung/screamed/declaimed vocals (all in French), and a hell of a lot of fancy guitar fretwork.

Vialka 6

Vialka combine the manic, stop-start spasticity characteristic of so much proggy avant-rock with a melodic sense that draws straight from Eastern European folk and what I ignorantly categorize in my head as “French music.” There’s a sense of whimsy that’s very un-American going on in their writing, which probably makes them sound ridiculous to some of the more jaded types out there, but gives them a certain irrepressible charm for me.

In concert, all the quirkiness embedded in the compositions came out in the open. I got a chance to chat with both band members - Eric Boros, the guitarist, and Marylise Frecheville, the drummer - before and after the show, and my very enjoyable conversations with them gave no hint of their stage personalities. When the show began, Eric donned a shiny metallic shirt and Marylise a sequined spaghetti strap top and the quirkiness just kept going from there. They danced around a lot - Marylise leapt up from behind her kit to dance in the middle of the crowd on two occasions, and Eric was bouncing around with a huge grin on his face the whole time - but more than that, their personalities just seemed to shine through in the vocals and the sometimes hilariously disjointed rhythms.

The reception was quite good, and they sold a few CDs, always nice to see with a band likely so far outside the experience of your average American concertgoer (even one who frequents the Velvet Lounge). Good times.

Vialka 1

There are a few more photos in the full Flickr set - mostly of Marylise as the lighting was almost nonexistent on Eric.

eMusic + Web 2.0

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Some good eMusic news — lots of interesting things in this piece. The juicy bits are:

Let’s say you are a fan of Arcade Fire. You can already read quite a bit about the critically-acclaimed Canadian cult band on its eMusic album pages. Now eMusic will add a wealth of content from the Web 2.0 universe: the band’s Wikipedia entry, pictures from Flickr, and videos of Arcade Fire concerts from YouTube. None of this is available on iTunes or the Amazon digital music store.

eMusic will also allow members to share these pages with friends on popular social media sites like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter. “These are the things that we know our customers are already doing with the music they love,” says eMusic CEO David Pakman.

This is great, because eMusic is way behind the curve in user experience. It’s nice that there are user reviews and reviews pulled from AllMusic, but the user interface is terrible and there are things like the eMusic discussion boards that might as well be on a totally different site. I’m psyched about this integration with Web 2.0 entities, should make browsing a lot more fun.

But the other thing that really caught my eye in this article was this:

Jesse McCann, digital operations manager for Allegro Media Group, a music distribution company in Portland, Ore., says his company makes about the same amount of money selling songs on eMusic as it does on iTunes: “I’d say our eMusic check is about the same as our iTunes check.”

Given eMusic’s absurd cheapness, this is one hell of a statement.

One I like and one I don’t

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I recently picked up DFA’s much-heralded new album, 4th. A long long time ago, I gave Duty Free Area, their last studio album, quite the rave review. When this new one came out, it immediately started garnering very very positive comments in the usual circles, so I was pretty psyched to spin it for the first time. I did, and… I was bored out of my mind. Have my tastes really changed this much in the past eight years? I suppose it’s quite possible. I’ll be giving 4th a few more spins in the hopes that my first impression was a situational fluke, but we’ll see.

Instead, I’ve become totally enamored with Secular Works by Extra Life, which is a band led by Charlie Looker, the guitarist/keyboardist who recently left Zs. This stuff is was more accessible than his old band, though — imagine complex math-rock superimposed on early music and monophonic medieval chants, and you have a very rough idea of what this sounds like. The opening track, “Blackmail Blues,” is completely amazing and one of the coolest things I’ve heard in a long time. Listen to it at Myspace.