Tuesday, November 18, 2003

More music, but shorter

Recently, any time I go to Parasol, I come home with a handful of CDs. Thank god I'm moving away before I spend all my money.

Anyhoo, here are some shorty reviews of some stuff I picked up (and an older one that's completely worthwhile).

!!!, Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard
I think this is what I what I wanted The Rapture album to be. That is, two songs long. (Rimshot.) !!! sound a little like Pigbag (well, the one Pigbag song I've heard), but they sound a lot more original than The Rapture, and take themselves a lot less seriously (a good thing for a dance-punk group). And they tell both Rudy and Bloomberg to get down. Put this on, fill the room with foam and let the UChicago kids get down for a study break, I say!

Calexico, Alone Again Or EP
I love this song. I could listen to the original version of this song (by Love, if you don't know, and if you don't, find Forever Changes or the nifty Rhino best of comp as soon as you can) all day long, several weeks in a row. The barking dogs who do Jingle Bells could cover this song and I'd still like it. I like Calexico a lot more than I like the Jingle Bells dogs. I like this version a lot. The other songs are good, too.

Sufjan Stevens, Michigan
Pitchfork has managed to redeem itself from The Rapture debacle by recommending this album of gorgeous, lush acoustic music. The title (fully Greetings From Michigan the Great Lakes State) does not lie: the song titles alone mention Flint, Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls, Holland, Detroit, Alanson, and Sault Saint Marie, and there's a lovely map of the state in the liner notes. Stevens, now living in Brooklyn, is a Detroit native, and this entire album seems like a tribute to the winters of his home state. I declare it morally imperative that all of my Michigan friends get a copy of this. Between this and reading Middlesex, I'm having a very Michigan-y time these days.

Richard Swift, The Novelist
Oh my goodness. This is a completely obscure record, recommended to me by Roy from Parasol, who has friends who are also on this label. I'm not even sure if there are copies still available (though you can try at the label's website. Unless something spectacular comes out in the next couple of months, I'm going to consider this the best new music I've heard all year. The Novelist is something of a concept album, about a Great Depression-era New York writer, and it's recorded to sound as though it's from that era. It's certainly not rock, but it's incredibly powerful. Swift's voice is lovely--reminiscent of Fred Astaire, with a slight touch of the menace of Tom Waits. The album is only about 20 minutes long (4 of the songs are more soundscapes, with 4 proper tunes), but there is not a bit of wasted time on this album. Everything is brilliant. I swear, buy this album, and you'll find yourself wandering around humming "I am New York/Tired and weak/Try to write a book each time I speak." (According to a friend-of-a-friend-of-an-acquaintance-who-knows-somebody-who-knows-somebody-at-some-label, Swift may have recently signed to V2, possibly under Jack White's Third Man label, so if you can't get the record now, it might come out again later. But if you do get it now, you can talk about how you knew Richard Swift was great way back when!)