Check out this UK double album The Pentateuch by Patrick Woodroffe and Dave Greenslade from 1979—from my wife Ann’s huge record collection. It’s crazy prog-rock SF world-building that comes with what amounts to a coffee table book of new-age speculative philosophy, fiction, poetry and art in the middle, as well as ideograms and more…
Murder by Death, which did the awesome soundtrack for Finch (see the sidebar of this blog to play it), is now offering a rareties, demos, and low-fi album of 32 tracks. I’ve downloaded it and am listening to it now–great stuff.
In the band’s email announcing the new project, they also note the following:
A couple days ago our back wheel flew off on our van and we had to leave it for a repair in Bakersfield. We rented a couple SUVs and put as much stuff as we could fit in ‘em and made a mad dash to the show. Its gonna be expensive and inconvenient for the next week or so, but them’s the breaks. Lucky for us, as of today you can now purchase the digital download of the Rarities collection “Skeletons In The Closet” which was compiled, designed, and put out by me (Adam) from MBD. Your purchase will make this next week way easier- and since we put it out ourselves, buying the download is a donation to help us keep this tour going as we pay for rentals, buy a new van etc.
I had a hard time getting into The National’s High Violet CD at first, but I can’t get it out of my head now, and can’t stop listening to it. “Anyone’s Ghost” is the one that gets to me the most, I think.
“Didn’t want to be your ghost/didn’t want to be anyone’s ghost.”
Keeps intertwining with the Giant Sand song that contains the lines “Yeah, this place is haunted/but only by a ghost.”
Keeps intersecting with Shearwater’s “On the Death of the Waters” for no reason I can figure out and being contaminated by Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”: “Sometimes I can’t believe it/I’m moving past that feeling again.” But that whole CD is one long haunting, with ghosts that don’t know they’re ghosts.
What songs haunt you?
I was writing a Very Serious Review (which will appear tomorrow) when all of a sudden Pandora turned up a musician I’d never heard before and I fell in love.
I almost never find musicians I love, but Gabriel Kahane is amazing. He’s sort of like Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown (who, I just learned by looking him up, apparently has a seriously gorgeous Jewish nose) presented as vaguely pop* music.
His instrumentation is stunning and I love the complex melodies. I almost didn’t pay attention to his lyrics until I happened upon his epic aria about the plight of a man who cannot find a roommate because of his compulsion to put ice cubes down people’s shirts.
I have a compulsion to put ice cubes down people’s shirts. As my roommate, you will likely bear the brunt of this problem. Don’t ask me why I do this. Why do I do this? Why do I do this? Years of therapy hasn’t helped. Hasn’t helped. Hasn’t heeeeeelped.
Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii always have ice cubes on hand. Don’t think you can simply get rid of all the ice trays in the apartment. All the ice trays! All the ice trays!
Trust me, I have tried this. I will only buy more! I will only buy more! I will ooooooooooooooonly buuuuuuuuy moooooooore!
Really — gorgeous music *and* humor? I swoon for this music.
You, too, can listen for free online.
*Note: my definition of “pop” means “written for enjoyment as individual songs.” As opposed to “part of a musical.” When I was in college, I complained over and over again to my friend Tim Jones-Yelvington that I couldn’t get into songs that weren’t part of a story. I thought my problem was unique until Tim’s boyfriend — a lyricist and playwright studying at NYU — revealed he had the same problem. I’ve gotten over it since, by dint of musicians like Poe (whose album Haunted is a musical response to her brother’s amazing experimental novel House of Leaves) and the Dresden Dolls (whose song “Coin-Operated Boy” is a perfect science fiction short story in three minutes).
ETA: Why did I not previously notice that this song is on an album called “Craigslistleider?” That’s seriously brilliant. So, for instance, another song in the cycle is “I have one pair of slightly used assless chaps in size 42. Will trade for spiderman comics. Will trade for spiderman comics. Will trade for spiderman comics or equivalent.” Set to disjunctively serious music. Awesome.
Okay, so I was bad and splurged today. I went down to Vinyl Fever, where my stepdaughter Erin used to work, and I bought Richard Thompson’s box set Walking on a Wire: 1968-2009 and The Kinks’ Picture Book (from their first record to their last–SIX CDs of amazing music). I basically took out a loan on some of the money coming to me from my work on [REDACTED--classified], for which a check will be coming soon courtesy of Bli-[REDACTED--classified], Mi-[REDACTED--classified], and T-[REDACTED--classified].
I’m glad I did. Both collections are thoroughbreds through-and-through. The Kinks’ retrospective in particular puts the lie to the idea that they didn’t create great music on their last few albums. Songs like “Heart of Gold,” “The Informer,” “Scattered,” and “Come Dancing” are brilliant, as is the under-appreciated classic “Summer’s Gone.” “Drift Away” is also great, and “Million Pound Semi-Detached,” never before released in the U.S., is another classic Kinks tune. From garage rock to Britpop to grunge to you-name-it, The Kinks did it, and they’ve been a huge part of my life, from my teen years until now–with Ray Davies’ two great solo CDs making up a little for The Kinks having disbanded. “Scattered” from their great last stand of a CD, Phobia, is still one of my favorite songs of all time. Great melody, great chorus, and brilliant lyrics. It makes me smile and sad at the same time every time I hear it–happy because it’s such a wonderful song and sad because it was the last track on the last CD The Kinks ever put out. (You can see the video here, which isn’t all that great, but at least allows you to hear the song; lyrics here.)
The Richard Thompson collection is, of course, just as good, if in a different direction: using British folk as a lightning rod for creating amazing rock songs with a depth and relevance rarely achieved by anyone else, anchored by Thompson’s signature guitarwork. It, too, provides ample evidence for the folk singer turned rock icon not having shoved off to the Gray Lands on his latter albums. Three tracks with Danny Thompson–”Last Shift,” “Big Chimney,” and “Lotteryland”–prove that, along with “Bathsheba Smiles,” “Cooksferry Queen,” and “She Sang Angels to Rest.” The thing about even Thompson’s ballads is that they usually have a musical complexity, and his voice remains a potent instrument. (You can watch the official video for one of my favorites of his, “I Feel So Good,” here.)
(The booklets that accompany the boxed sets.)
Both collections include a number of classics, as you might expect. On Walking on a Wire, you get “The Calvary Cross,” “Strange Affair,” Waltzing’s for Dreamers,” “Tear Stained Letter,” “Shoot out the Lights,” and dozens more—71 songs total. Picture Book, meanwhile, includes everything from “You Really Got Me” to “This Is Where I Belong,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” and all of the rest–listing classic Kinks’ songs would take forever—along with live versions of “Alcohol,” “Low Budget,” and “Do You Remember Walter?” Kinks completists may not find much new material here, but for someone like me who has misplaced or had to sell back in various collections, it’s great, with six CDs and 138 songs. Both collections come with lovingly compiled oversized booklets that constitute solid overviews of their careers and eccentricities, complete with lots of photos and grace notes.
To say I’m happy tonight as I work on the book tour and listen to ten CDs of classic music would be a stunning understatement.
I went over to the world’s coolest CD store (even though my daughter Erin no longer works there), Vinyl Fever, and sold some CDs, bought some CDs, and even came out ahead in the cash-flow department.
The CDs I bought are, coincidentally, linked by their somewhat raunchy, grind-it-out approach to the music and lyrics. For Electric Six, on I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master, this comes naturally–from a disco/funk/garage rock perspective.
Fast becoming one of my favorite bands. Okkervil’s good and all, but at their best, Shearwater’s visionary qualities transport.
(Yes, E6 is ridiculous…)
Last week we went to see Living Things and Electric Six at The Engine Room here in Tallahassee, and then Dengue Fever at the Club Downunder, in the student union.
Living Things had a New York Dolls vibe going on in their look, and a hard rock-and-roll sheen to their music (but not sans melody). I like their CDs a lot, but figured they’d be better live, and they were. They had real attitude, and managed to pull it off. The drummer was insane (as perhaps indicated by the photos below) and worth the price of admission alone.
Electric Six just completely demolished the place. Their music is jokey when you listen to it on CD, but live, with the lyrics somewhat obscured, that is some powerful shit. I mean, it sounded soooo good. I was actually dancing through some of it. The lead singer had brilliant presence. He looked like a middle-aged college professor, but he absolutely knew how to hold and keep an audience. Frankly, he was insane in ithe best possible way. And wearing two capes over top of a blazer. Each with a different saying on it. Anyway, great show. Highly recommended if they come to your town.
Dengue Fever I enjoyed quite a bit, although their songs tended to merge into one another. The bass player, this tall black guy, strutted around the stage, and just generally behaved more like a lead guitarist. The band was tight and the lead singer had a really unusual voice. I liked them, but I’m not sure I would see them again. Mostly because the music was fun but not hitting my personal sweet spot.
I took some photos with my phone. I love my phone, even though the pixelation isn’t as good as my Cannon, because the grainy quality creates some interesting effects. Also, with no flash, it tries to compensate by letting in light for a longer period of time. So night shots in particular are pretty cool. Here’re the ones I took at the concert. Maybe I just like the pretty colors.
Picked up some used CDs. A couple of these folks I’d never heard of before.
I’m not a huge fan of great voices in music–I’m much more about the lyrics, and if the musician croaks that’s just fine. But Neko Case is one of those performers whose voice hooks me in. I would probably be quite happy hearing her sing the phone book. But she also has killer lyrics, and a shifting country/pop/rock sensibility that means her CDs share certain commonalities but also have enough differences to make her consistently interesting. Also, some albums are performed with her Boyfriends back-up band, and some aren’t.
Her latest, “Middle Cyclone,” is mid-tempo for the most part, and reveals its secrets stealthily. Some songs like “Mother Earth” are never going to be for me, but on balance this is another fine CD, with lots of little subtle touches. It doesn’t hurt that the CD ends with ten-plus minutes of soothing tree frog croaking, titled “Marais La Nuit”.
One particular lyric that stood out:
“I love your long shadows
and your gunpowder eyes.”
And, this, which makes sense even though I can’t tell you what kind of sense:
“Humming helicopters through the blades of a fan.”
Anyway, I’d rank this in the middle of my Neko Case collection–it’s indeed a middle cyclone–but since I like all of her stuff, that’s not a bad thing.