Friday, November 21, 2003


I'm back up to Chicago today. I've got a nice little place by the lake, just north of Belmont. I don't have a bed, or a couch, or dishes, or much of anything other than CDs, books, and clothes, but I'll be getting these other things soon enough. I'm still in the process of applying for re-entry to Chicago, but I think they basically want to hear me say "I've grown as a person" and (more importantly) "I can pay for it" to let me back in.

Anyhoo, I will likely be disappearing from the internet as I so often do (no net access planned for the apartment for a little while at least), but people in Chicago, let me know if you want to do anything, or even just want to know how to contact me.

A brief moving playlist:
New Pornographers-Letter from an Occupant (repeat many times over)
GBV-My Valuable Hunting Knife
Belle and Sebastian-Lazy Line Painter Jane
Calexico-The Ride, Pt 2
Neutral Milk Hotel-King of Carrot Flowers Part 1

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

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!)

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Moving and music

Moving happens in a week. I'm freaked out both by the amount of stuff I have to move and by the lack of all the stuff it seems like I need (beds, dish drainers, olive oil, shampoo). I'm trying to ignore the lack of stuff and focus on packing (not that I've done that yet).

Instead of packing, I've been buying lots and lots of music. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my discount at the label will last as long as the label does... once you're Parasol, you're always Parasol, it seems. This didn't deter me from buying up lots and lots of CDs last week, though. You want half-assed reviews, you say? Well here they are:

I don't quite get all these claims that Julian Casablancas is as surly and distant as ever on Room on Fire. The lad was talking about not caring and being out that door a few years ago, but now he's asking his girl to skip the party and drink a nice forty with him. To accompany this new romantic mood, the band has decided to jump forward a decade; instead of the old dirty-ugly fuzzy early-70s sound from Is This It, they've moved solidly into Ric Ocasek territory. It serves the mood well--after all, Debbie Harry proved that one can be pretty as can be and still exude new wave misery.

General complaints--there are some great songs, but the back end of the album is a long, smoke-filled haze of very similar songs. As much as I love Albert Hammond (he just gets scuzzier every time I see him--I really do hope he turns into the Strokes' Keith Richards), the one song where he collaborates on the lyrics, "Between Love & Hate", was the weakest song on the album. Do you really need two people to write lyrics this boring? And do we really need to see Julian's (seemingly waxed) chest on the lyrics page? (I will ignore Ms. Alaska's howls here.)

I must admit, the only GBV I'd owned previously were cassettes of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes from way back when. I really liked them, but I lost them before I graduated from high school, and didn't pay much mind to it... until I went crazy and bought the Hardcore UFOs box set last week. (This is what you do when you have a discount!) I haven't gone through all the CDs yet, but that's because I can stop listening to the greatest hits CD, Human Amusements at Hourly Rates. It's been said before, but I'll say it again--Robert Pollard might do a little better with some editing, and this edition proves it. Even the strong GBV albums always have at least a couple tracks that are random and bad rather than random and sublime, and this disc is a testament to the fact that Robert Pollard can do a little self-editing when he wants. (Though he does still mix things up a little--the box-set edition of this disc is chronological, while RP shuffles things in the independent-release version, and also chooses some alternate versions of tracks that are found elsewhere on the box set.) But enough with the negatives--this is just a fabulous disc. It spans from 1987 up to Earthquake Glue, and really brings out strong tracks from later albums, which have apparently been a little less killer and a little more filler. I must admit I'm not totally familiar with the newer stuff--I'm still dealing with "I Am a Tree" being DAMN NEAR FIVE MINUTES LONG, which makes it their "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands". Fun stats! Songs of length:

0:00-0:59: 1
1:00-1:59: 9
2:00-2:59: 15
3:00-3:59: 6
4:00-4:59: 1

average song length: 2:15

So, um, The Rapture really, really, really like the Cure, a lot. And, um, they like to count (they use counting as lyrics in 3 of the 11 songs on this album, including the chestnut "1234567, I'm floating in constant heaven." Apart from counting, their biggest hit has three lines, two of which are only used twice. They have some incredibly stupid package art, unless you consider several differently-tinted copies of B&W pictures of the band looking very sincere and intense as they play laid out next to each other to be something other than incredibly stupid. Also, they really, really like the Cure. They also use the term "conversating".

That being said, the album is not completely without redeeming features. It's just not very redeemable as an album. There are two really great dance-punk numbers--"Olio" and "House of Jealous Lovers". Yes, this song only has three lines other than counting--"house of jealous lovers" (though I think "jealous lovers' house" might be brought up, I'm not counting it), "shakedown", and "one hand ties the other"--and I don't even understand how that last line works--but it will get your booty shaking. Boys, release a single, not an album. And listen to some music other than the Cure. Maybe you can trade Interpol for their Joy Division albums! You'll like them, I swear! They're moody and British, too! And their lead singer killed himself instead of getting old and flabby. Look into it!

Another short note--everyone who's ever purchased a Matador album should sprint out and buy the re-release of the New Pornographers' debut, Mass Romantic, if only to hear Neko Case's amazing vocals on "Letter from an Occupant." I bought a copy of Blacklisted recently, too, but I haven't had time to really listen to it that well yet. Maybe later I'll talk about that, as well as the five bajillion freebie CDs I have strewn about.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...