Wednesday, March 28, 2007


The best part is that the narrator gets as fired up to yell, "UFO Porno!!!", as the Spanish language announcers for soccer games are about yelling, "GOAL!!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Assorted Musicoloy & Pernicious Apologizing...

The old up keep of the blog has been lacking lately, but I've been feeling a bit beaten down. Work is busy as a beaver in the redwoods which is a blessing and a curse, the personal life is mangled at best and is naturally draining emotionally, physically. Everything (= life) makes the management of a music blog rather low on the priority scale. I did manage to catch a show last week at The Hotel Utah. It was the wonderous Our Lady of the Highway with the much blogged about (I'm guilty here because I think he's great) Adam Arcuragi and a Washington Dc area band called These United States. A really great bill. All the bands produced some really stunning music. The highlight was during Arcuragi's set when he was backed by the other bands on his final song. It was clear there was a real affection between all the players. This heartfelt camaraderie produced such an effusive outbreak of music that as the whole gang leaned into Arcuragi's chorus of "oh lord, come and take me home" I swear the room was filled with a light the color of rose. An excellent night of music. Catch Arcuragi if you're able he puts on an excellent show and is touring all over the place at the moment.

I was unfamiliar with These United States but was suitably impressed with their country inflected take on 70's AM rock. Oft times gentle and melancholy, other times more forceful and insistent in their melodies. They're like a hoedown held at on AA meeting or a barn dance in a decrepit urban warehouse or a shindig with slide guitars on a sinking boat.

some songs from These United States:

The Business

Kings And Aces

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A written word...

Watching Young Couples with an Old Girlfriend On Sunday Morning

How mild these young men seem to me now
with their baggy shorts and clouds of musk, as if younger brothers of the
women they escort in tight black leather, bangs and tattoos, cute little
toughies, so Louise Brooks annealed

in MTV, headed off for huevos rancheros
and the Sunday Times at some chic, crowded dive. I don't recall it at all this
way, do you ? How sweetly complected and confident they look, their faces
unclouded by the rages

and abandoned, tearful couplings of the night before, the drunkenness, beast savor and
remorse. Or do I recoil from their youthfulness and health ? Oh, not recoil, just fail to see
ourselves. And yet, this tenderness between us that remains

was mortared first with something dark, something feral, we still refuse, we still refuse to name.

-by August Kleinzahler

Monday, March 19, 2007

Have Fun, I'm not...

Junior Senior. It helps sometimes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Today, some reading...

Everybody and their Uncle Hank has something to say about file sharing and its link to the demise or resurgence of music today. Personally, I usually ignore all articles because I'm just sick of hearing about it. But today I read a piece on file sharing by Okkervil River's Will Sheff. I've interviewed Sheff and like him. It goes without saying that I think Okkervil is one of the finest bands playing today. So this one I read. It's well thought out and touches many of the points, concerning both the state of music and the necessary evil of file sharing, that I find myself pondering to some degree. I've included the link and the text.

The Link

The Text:

Over the nine-odd years that we in Okkervil River have been trying to
make a living playing music, I've developed a kind of love/hate
relationship with the world of file-sharing. The first good job I ever
had was at the website, where I drew a respectable
salary for writing music reviews and editorials as a kind of
not-very-convincing camouflage for what was at the time one of the
world's largest file-sharing networks. At the time, my attitude about
file-sharing was that it didn't particularly hurt artists – most of
whom were being ripped off by their labels anyway (it's a little known
fact that very few musicians actually make any money off of record
sales) – rather, it helped spread the word about their music to people
who, if they liked it enough, would buy the CD. I felt that the party
who genuinely had cause to be frightened of file-sharing weren't the
tiny little indie bands but the colossal major labels; if you put out
a Britney Spears CD with only one good song on it, I figured, people
would just steal the one song and no one would buy the CD. When
feeling grand – usually after one or two of the free 20 oz. Mountain
Dews available in our office kitchen fridge and a few rounds at the
Nerf hoop – I'd imagine a new and digitally reinvigorated world in
which sales of major-label behemoths like Britney and Creed would
plummet, in which major labels would topple, in which culture would be
reinvented as a kind of meritocracy where anyone with artistic
ambitions could draw a decent living by setting up a PayPal tip-jar on
their little corner of the internet. Don't laugh – you thought that, too.

About a year later, the RIAA finally came gunning for Audiogalaxy and
shut us down. The dot-com crash hit, and everyone started wondering
where the money was. I was taken into the special room at my offices –
the one with the big, soft leatherette couches, the one reserved for
hiring and firing – and fired. I loaded a box with my belongings and a
pair of stolen Sony headphones and drove home from the gutted
Audiogalaxy offices. A couple of weeks later I cast my lot with
Okkervil River, and I headed out on my first major tour. I've spent
more than half of the intervening five years on the road. After tour
upon tour of paying more for gas than we were making at the shows, of
skipping meals, of asking people in the sparse crowds we drew if any
of them had available floor space where we could spend the night, I've
finally managed to make it pay enough so that I draw roughly the same
salary as a clerk at a 7-11. I use that comparison solely
descriptively, as I couldn't be possibly be happier to be making a
living doing what I love. At the same time, with no health insurance
and no house and no idea how long my "music career" will last, it's
kind of become everything I have. I try to use that fact as reason to
throw all of my energy and my care into every single thing that I do;
as a result, my attitude about file-sharing has become more
complicated now that it has a direct impact on my life.

I'm not sure if file-sharing impacts our sales enough for it to hurt
us. Sometimes I suspect that it does – other times I'm glad people get
a chance to be exposed to our music. I do know that there's a
subscription-based service called Sound Scan that all industry
professionals – labels, booking agents, promoters, publicists – look
at regularly. Sound Scan estimates how many records you've sold in
stores and over the internet, and it is used to determine how "big"
you are. If you're angling to have the opening slot on a lucrative
tour or trying to get signed to a new label and someone takes a look
at your Sound Scan numbers and doesn't like them, it's over. That's an
aspect of file-sharing that I'm not sure people take into account. In
any case, I honestly don't care quite as much about the commercial
implications of file-sharing because they're basically out of my
control and I guess that inside I still do take the view that
file-sharing can be radically empowering to fans and that I can trust
those same fans to buy the records.

My real concerns with file-sharing are primarily aesthetic.

There's a story by Jorge Luís Borges called "The Library of Babel." It
describes a fantastical library composed of an apparently infinite
number of identical rooms. Each room contains 1,050 books. Printed on
the pages are words whose lettering and order are apparently random.
Because the library is complete, among the gibberish it also contains
every book that is possible, every book that could ever be written. It
also contains every imaginable variation of every book possible,
whether that variation is off by thousands of letters or by a single
comma. Borges adds that it must contain, somewhere, a book that
explains the meaning and origin of the library itself – just as it
contains thousands of variations of that book, true and false. He
writes, "When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books,
the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt
themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure…As was
natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression."

The internet – with its glut not only of information but of
misinformation, and of information that is only slightly correct, or
only slightly incorrect – fills me with this same weird mixture of
happiness and depression. I sometimes feel drowned in information,
deadened by it. How many hundreds of bored hours have you spent
mechanically poring through web pages not knowing what you're looking
for, or knowing what you're looking for but not feeling satisfied when
you find it? You hunger but you're not filled. Everything is freely
available on the internet, and is accordingly made inestimably
valuable and utterly value-less.

When I was a kid, I'd listen to the same records over and over and
over again, as if I was under a spell. The record would end and I'd
flip it over again, doing absolutely nothing, letting the music wash
over me. My favorite record albums become like a totem for me, their
big fat beautiful gatefolds worked as a shield against the loud,
crashing, crushing world. I would have laid down my life and died in
defense of a record like Tonight's the Night or Astral Weeks. I felt
that those records had, in some ways, saved my life. These days, with
all the choice in the world, it's hard for me find the attention span
for a single album. I put my iPod on shuffle and skip impatiently to
the next song before each one's over. I don't even know what I'm
looking for.

Because my work is the most important thing in the world to me, I
sometimes feel uncomfortable about it existing freely in the digital
Library of Babel, these songs that I worked so hard writing and
revising and rehearsing and recording and mixing (and re-mixing) and
mastering (and re-mastering) shucked off the album and thrown up on
the internet in hissy and brittle low-resolution versions with no kind
of sequence or order, mixed in with odd leaked tracks and some sub-par
live versions. In a world overstuffed with stimuli and choking on
information, I feel like a musical album should have a kind of purity
and a kind of wholeness, that every aspect of an album – from the
sequencing to the artwork even down to the typesetting – should feels
labored over and loved, and that the finished product should feel like
a gift.

At the same time, I am a very ardent supporter of the way in which the
internet empowers fans. I truly believe that the internet allows fans
to connect with and participate in art in a way that's far more
meaningful than it's been for decades, in a way that's more akin to
the way folk music worked in the 1920's and for hundreds of years
beforehand. Anyone who has ever been to a perfect rock show by their
favorite band in a small venue can testify to the circuit of energy
that is created at those shows between the audience and the band, to
the way that energy washes up onstage from the crowd and is radiated
back out again from the performers, to the way that it becomes less
about an artist and an audience and it becomes entirely about a
singular unrepeatable shared moment between a group of people. That's
why I go to shows, and that's why I play music myself.

By the same token, those same great shows don't always sound the same
when you run a line out from the soundboard into a minidisk player and
put it up online. For one thing, soundboard tapes are notoriously bad;
everything that's supposed to resonate through the air – like drums
and amps – gets lost, while everything that's miked or going direct
sounds dry and ten times louder. Similarly, all those other ineffable
things that resonate through the air – those things that are the
reason we go to rock shows in the first place – simply can't be
captured through a line-out on a soundboard. I've heard a lot of the
Okkervil bootlegs out there; some of them sound great and some of them
make me wince. I don't mind that they're out there and I encourage
bootlegging, but sometimes it's painful for me to contemplate how
there are hours and hours of terrible-sounding Okkervil River music
readily available on the internet.

We're going on tour again in the fall and we'll probably be playing
some new songs. I love sharing new songs and refining them live in
front of people. However, I'm going to save some of the new songs for
our next recording session – in spite of the fact that we could use
the rehearsal – for the simple reason that I don't want them to be
heard first in versions that are inferior because we're still working
through them and they're poorly from soundboards. I'm not at all
asking that you don't record and share shows; rather, I myself am
going to try to choose some songs that I'm okay having shared in early

Just as long as when the album comes out you don't do that thing on
the message board where you go, "hrumph, I much prefer the earlier
version better, by the way. I find so much more pure the version from
Madison where Will's guitar is out of tune and he's so wasted that he
forgets half the words and then apologizes and starts the song over.
And then he forgets them again." --

Friday, March 09, 2007

Manchester Orchestra...

I'm blown away. At last a record that grabs my attention and holds it. I've listened to Manchester Orchestra's I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child incessantly for the last week.

First things first: Manchester Orchestra is from Atlanta, GA. And their kids. By kids I mean they're all around 19 or so, kids to a man of my advanced age. That youthful energy is palpable on I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child, it infuses the record with purpose in a way. It's most certainly a musical statement produced by the passions of youth. There are odes to broken hearts and weightier issues of deceased parents, real heart on the sleeve stuff that might make you want to hurl accusations like "emo" at the band, but don't be too hasty. There's something far more imaginitive and inventive going on than your garden variety cookie cutter emo rock schlock here. Does it not rock? Why yes it does rock. Does it not get quiet and emotional? Why yes it does get quiet and introspective. But the album does both these things in unexpected ways, or at least in ways as unexpected as you can get within the confines of rock and pop songs. It's emo with imagination, emo that resents the tag and wants you to show you why. It's The Weakerthans without the politics. The Shins with no shine and more guts.

I'll admit that at times it's totally overblown. But that's what youth does, youth makes big weighty pronoucements and acts like it knows everything. When you get older you realize that you didn't know everything at 20 or 21 or even 25, and there's a hell of a lot more subtlety and hair splitting in the world than you realized. But that kind of stuff comes later in life, right now for Manchester Orchestra life is an open wound that bleeds music. It sounds pretty killer.

1 from I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child:

The Neighborhood Is Bleeding

Thursday, March 08, 2007


I like to write. I'm not particularly adept at it and spend too little time editing (especially here) but I get an emotional satisfaction from simply trying to move an idea from my head to the page. I'm not good at opening myself up emotionally, I could go on and on about why I think that is but at the end of the day, that's simply who am I. Some people are very good at living as an open wound, vulnerable and giving of their emotional selves. This is good, I think. It certainly takes a lot of the difficulty out of managing personal relationships. It's easier to deal with an open book then a brick wall.

Ok where am I going with this. While this is obviously a completely non-music related post it is about the only other thing as engaging as music. That thing, for me, is stories. The act of telling others about parts of our lives, bits and pieces that are funny, sad, scary, unsettling, uncomfortable, is such a basic human connection that I think we forget that it is incredibly freeing and empowering.

Now for the part with the link. If you live in NYC maybe you're already familiar with The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, I just recently got wind of it and think that's pretty fucking cool.

If you have time during your day listen to some of the stories on the site. When you're done write something down, or better tell it to someone else.

Stories told at The Moth

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Rosebuds...

The Rosebuds got my attention with Birds Make Good Neighbors which was a pretty compelling mix of reverb drenched pop songs that mixed bittersweet lyrics with boy/girl harmonies. It was damn good.

On April 10 Merge Records will release The Rosebuds' Night Of The Furies, an album inspired by the mythological creatures. In fact to a large degree the lyrical content of Night of the Furies is a recounting of the "furies" myth. Now if you recall from your freshman Greek 101 class the Furies were three monsterous women charged with keeping everyone in line. The punished all those that violated sensible societal codes like, you dont' kill your mom or dad, be nice to strangers, keep your word, etc. The Rosebuds inject this myth with a classic love story that acts as a structure for the bands' exploration of romantic tension, love and betrayal. According to the band there is a narrative arc through the album's nine songs. I can't recount the story as yet, but a few more listens...

The most arresting thing about Night of the Furies is the Rosebuds new attachment to beat and bass. In many aspects this a dance record begging for additional remixing by James Murphy or Diplo. The beats run deep in a way the Birds Make Good Neighbors only hinted at. A song like "Get Up Get Out" is straight up disco, and that's not a bad thing. There's still pleny of hook and melody, particularly in keyboard runs and synth licks. The guitar is just a layer this time around, supporting the songs, usually buried below the surface of the mix, popping up now and again with ringing chime, but the muscle of the melody is left to the vocals and the keyboards.

It's an excellent effort that separates itself from the band's earlier work not in the interest of simply being different or contrarian, but in a logical exploration of where they can push their talents.

from Night of the Furies:

Cemetery Lawns

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bill Callahan...

In April Drag City will release the first solo album by Bill Callahan entitled Woke On A Whaleheart. You may only know Mr. Callahan from his day job which is being the primary mover and songwriter for Smog. This of course begs the question, why a "solo" record and not another Smog record. This is splitting hairs which need not be split, especially when Woke On A Whaleheart is no less then some of Callahan's most dramatic and wonderful work yet.

Callahan, no matter what guise he's playing under, has always been brave enough to follow his muse no matter where it might lead him. Fortunately, he's always had the artistic freedom to explore genre, to find a voice, and to develop artistically. This is a rarity in today's music world. If Woke On A Whaleheart is where all the experimentation has lead, then there should be an insistence that musicians once again be allowed to fully engage in their craft unhindered by the petty demands of the market.

Callahan's body of work should be should be an American treasure in the same way that Raymond Carver's short stories should be lauded as one of finest cultural jewels, uniquely American and powerfully aware of its environment. It is in this sense, one of cultural value, that Woke On A Whaleheart takes on an aura of an artistic high water mark for Callahan.

As on all of Callahan's projects his deep baritone and it's languorous delivery anchor each song. The songs feel expansive musically, touching on gospel, country, rock, each song filled with subtle changes and slowly building layers. The album is near impossible to pigeonhole as a genre. It simply seems stamped as American, a look both backward and forward at our cultural tectonics and the slowly evolving chasms and collisions that make it fascinating.

Lyrically, again much like Ray Carver, Callahan understands the power of simply placing a word within a sentence, a lyric, a line. He's a master of brevity and the power that it can wield when used correctly. So much is said in small moments, carefully crafted. Unlike Carver Callahan doesn't have a particular affection for the suburban relationships that Carver seemed near obsessed with chronicling in their various states of disrepair and disintegration. The world of Woke On A Whaleheart is more pastoral, as if he's embodying a small town's pace and attitude.

It's an excellent album that only gets better with each listen.

1 song from Woke On A Whaleheart: