Thursday, November 16, 2006

(11.16.06) Recommends:

Split Lip Rayfield's curtain call.

If you live in the Bay Area, tonight is your last chance ever to catch this band. They're playing at Great American Music Hall. Doors at 8, show at 9. If you're not familar with the band, you're really in for a treat. If you're familar with them, you know the drill. SLR is an old favorite. They're from Kansas, and they embody much of what I love about Kansas: Yeah, they play a traditional form of music that people can easily dismiss as conservative and outdated, hopelessly unhip and so not cosmopolitan. But they play the music with such emotional fury that it is nothing short of stunningly progressive. Today, I guess it's not that revolutionary to have a bluegrass band that plays with the wreckless abandon of a punk band. But when I first came across SLR all those years ago, it was something I'd never before experienced. SLR is calling it quits because Kurt Rundstrom, their guitar player, has esophageal cancer and his condition is getting worse. I've had days before where an album, or a song, or a single lyric has made an otherwise awful day bearable. I don't want to sound like an out-of-touch-with-reality wacko, but medicine has been failing Kurt Rundstrom; here's hoping the power of music might make his days more bearable.

SLR @ Bloodshot Records.
SLR @ myspace.
SLR homepage.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

(11.15.06) Recommends:

The cartoons of Hugh MacLeod.

Hugh MacLeod drew that, I came across it today for the first time, and found it quite lovely. He has a website, which I recommend so that you can go and see his other, in his words, "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards." So this recommendation is for his drawings. I haven't fully vetted his website, and I only mention this because he describes himself as a "marketing and blogging consultant," which, I'm not going to lie, makes me cringe just a bit. I don't know about you, but when I hear marketing consultant, I think "used car salesman trying to sell me crap that I don't want." Do I know any used car salesmen that draw compelling cartoons? I do not. And thus, Mr. MacLeod has the benefit of the doubt.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

(11.14.06) Recommends:

The Whigs, the track "Technology" from the album "Give 'Em All A Big Fat Lip" (ATO, 2006).

I can't yet recommend this whole album. Here's why: I got to the third track, Technology, and I have been listening to the song on repeat for a day now. If you indulge only one of my recommendations this week, please go to The Whigs' myspace, and listen to this song (I mean, I'd prefer if you'd have voted, but that ship has sailed). Perhaps by the time that you, too, have finally fallen in love with this song, I'll have finally gotten around to listening to the whole album. God, I can't wait to write that recommendation.

Monday, November 13, 2006

(11.13.06) Recommends:

Misc. Photography, Vol 1.
The New Yorker College Tour,
David Remnick in conversation with Orville Schell,
Berkeley, Calif.

I've been a pretty consistent reader of the New Yorker since high school. My junior year I had an English teacher who gave each of his students a subscription to the magazine. I mean, he didn't personally give us a subscription; it was some educational program between the magazine and high schools. It was then that I first fell in love with the magazine. Needless to say, I took the teacher for a class again my senior year, and have been reading the magazine ever since. And I've got to say, reading the New Yorker once a week has to be more valuable than reading e.g., the New York Times every day. They do a much better job of separating signal from noise (this is the difference between magazines and newspapers, but still), plus they have a finger on the pulse of music, writing, art generally, and the market place of ideas better than any other general interest publication around. So I was excited to get the chance to hear David Remnick, the magazine's editor, in conversation with Orville Schell, the Dean of the Berkeley School of Journalism, and himself a contributer to the New Yorker. Remnick said that at the beginning of the decade, the LA Times had roughly 1.2 million subscribers while the New Yorker had roughly 700,000. Today, the LA Times has roughly 700,000 subscribers while the New Yorker has roughly 1.2 million. Some lament this as an early warning sign of the demise of the newspaper and culture generally. I don't see it as that at all. I actually think it's a good thing. One should obviously compliment ones reading of the New Yorker with a variety of daily newspapers. But like I said above, I believe a weekly reading of the New Yorker makes a more informed citizen than a daily reading of the newspaper.

I tried to snap a few pictures of the event. But I'm not seeing much improvement in my photo-shooting-skills. Which is pretty crappy, because girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

(11.11.06) Recommends:

Another season of NCAA basketball.

People in California are probably too busy finishing up reading all the fine print that accompanied the roughly 5000 items on Tuesday's ballots to notice that today is opening day for many college basketball teams. But everybody else, listen up: Julian Wright's campaign to become First Team All-America begins tonight against Northern Arizona. KU is a 25.5 point favorite. What are the odds the fix is in? For an interesting, forensic-economic look at point shaving in college basketball, I suggest reading this paper by Justin Wolfers, a brilliant, on-the-rise Penn economist. He published this paper last March, to coincide with the NCAA Tournament. You can bet that the NCAA was not very pleased (though you wouldn't get very good odds). Keep an eye out for other exciting work by Wolfers. He's one of those rare economists who has the potential for vast mainstream readership.

Friday, November 10, 2006

(11.10.06) Recommends:

The Horrors, "The Horrors" (Stolen Transmission, 2006).

This fiesty British band is attempting to steal The Hives' mantle of World's Most Dangerous Band. This music is loud and fast and raw. It's a very urgent 5 tracks. Luckily it's only about thirteen minutes. Otherwise your body would probably go into a seizure. I hear their live shows are legendary. Hopefully they'll have a proper, full-blown U.S. tour very soon.

Their myspace.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

(11.09.06) Recommends:

Oxford Collapse, "Remember the Night Parties" (Sub Pop, 2006).

The latest in Sub Pop's attempt to take over the world. It's working. These are good, meaty songs. So beef up by taking a listen to "Please Visit Your National Parks."

Their webpage.
Their myspace.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

(11.08.06) Recommends:

Chuck Berry, "The Definitive Collection" (Geffen, 2006).

Chuck Berry turned 80 this year. He hasn't put out an album of new material since 1979. I hope he gets around to putting out one more before he passes away. I've talked before about how I'd love to see, e.g., someone like Rick Ruben produce a great Elton John album , and I feel even stronger about Chuck Berry. Can you imagine Chuck Berry channelled through, say, Jack White? Chuck Berry is clearly a legend in our midst. We need to recognize this before it's too late. So I challenge you to go get this collection. People are talking today about "America being re-claimed." America is the land of rock 'n roll. And rock 'n roll, by any other name, would be Chuck Berry.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

(11.07.06) Recommends:


So, pretty much the only song we should be listening to today is "Election Day" by the Replacements. Pretty much the Replacements are a necessary rock bank from Minneapolis; pretty much Minneapolis is a necessary town to the history of rock music; pretty much voting is a necessary element of this country. I'll see you tomorrow. Maybe the country will feel a bit different by then?

Monday, November 06, 2006

(11.06.06) Recommends:

Annuals, "Be He Me" (Ace Fu, 2006).

The other day I blogged about one of this year's most ambitious releases. This is another one of them. This band sings and performs each song as if it's the last song they'll be allowed to perform on this earth. And the result is a very good thing. This band -- who makes the point on their myspace page, somewhat obnoxiously I think, that there is no "The" is their name -- hails from North Carolina, but they manage to channel that frantic energy of some of those Canadian bands of which the kids can't get enough. However, they are completely their own band. Look, I don't know how to write about listening to music. So how about this: "Carry Around" is easily one of the best tracks of the year. And luckily for you, it can be streamed for your listening pleasure from the band's aforesaid myspace. But you shouldn't just listen to one track. You need to hear the whole album. It's a bear from start to finish.

Band's website.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

(11.05.06) Recommends:

Concert Photography, Vol 4.

Voxtrot (w/ Magic Bullets and Yellow Fever)
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, Calif.

One of the great music venue facades:

First up was Yellow Fever, late of Austin, Tx. They play very solid indie-pop. Take a listen at their myspace. I think you might like. The also have a member that is very purty, though it's doubtful you'll be able to tell from my picture. But regardless, she's nice to look at but I respect her for her mind:

Next up was Magic Bullets. I know nothing of this band. The lead singer is kind of like Jim Carey. Not because he's funny -- though maybe he is, I don't have a feeling one way or the other about his humor capacity -- but because the whole time on stage he was doing this Stretch Armstrong contortionist thing that I couldn't decide if it was cute, and brought on by the moment, or completely contrived. I think cute won out, because this band was unfailingly energetic. They have an album coming out "sometime next year" and who knows if their sound will translate well on record, but they were very fun live. He moved around too much to get any clear pictures. Makes for bad pictures, but a very fun show:

And then there was Voxtrot. Another Austin product. And folks, this band rocks. They have 2 EPs out, which are both very listenable. But this band was meant for the stage. They are the real deal. Because they rock much harder then their EPs suggest. They will put out a full length album next year, and they will become a major force to be reckoned with. I have heard many people reference The Smiths when speaking of Voxtrot. And here's the thing. I pretty much hate the Smiths. Or at least the idea of the Smiths. They sound like every bad 80's movie I've ever seen. And this Morrissey character. What's his deal? He seems like the kind of person that you would invite over to your house for Thanksgiving -- because he's alone, always alone, writing poetry alone in his room, thinking thoughts that no other loner has ever thought, thoughts that are too massive for regular people to comprehend, and you feel maybe it would be a nice gesture to invite him to be around people on a holiday rather than being alone alone alone -- and the whole time he would bitch that you're serving turkey. Because meat is murder! Feasts are rape! Turkeys are people too! Good grief. But anyway. Back to Voxtrot. If people are linking Voxtrot to the Smiths, and Voxtrot is this good live, I just might have to reconsider my position on The Smiths.

Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me:

Great thing about cameras. They're like automatic easter. I'm kinda, sorta going blind and had no idea that he was wearing a Beat Happening shirt until I reviewed the pics:

The bassist rocks out Paul McCartney style:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

(11.02.06) Recommends:

The artwork of Tom Stack.

Tom Stack is an artist out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I first stumbled upon his work by accident. A friend and I were at Amoeba Records and decided to play the time-honored game played in used record bins the word over. We both had to purchase an album based solely on cover art and...and I'm not sure exactly how the game is scored. Either the person who chooses the most listenable album or least listenable album "wins". Really, nobody wins, except for Amoeba, who gets to keep our money. Now that I think about it, maybe this game is actually only played in the US. Perhaps other countries would find this type of consumption disgraceful in light of the starving children of the world for whom a mere dollar a day would bring salvation. [Or, at least drive away those nasty flies. (Oh god, did I really just type that?)]

Or, nobody wins unless you discover a cool artist. And that's what happened here. The album I choose was by a band called .22. The album is called "Patriots." This Tom Stack fellow did the album artwork. Cool , right? Here's his website. As you can see his specialty is bird paintings. The paintings are very elegant; the lines very clean. (Note: I have no idea what that last sentence means. It sounds kinda art-fancy though, right?) As an added bonus, the names of his pictures sound like they could have been Guided By Voices song titles. "These Seagulls Are Insane Beasts." "Your Eyes Become A Shorebird." "The Observation. A Rediscovery Of The Third Dimension." Etc. You get the picture. Now go get the picture, literally. [These things are on sale (wakka wakka)].

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

(11.01.06) Recommends:

Daniel Johnston, "Welcome to my World" (High Wire Music, 2006).

Most people probably know the story by now. Johnston, the Waller, Tx based artist with bipolar condition, started making -- and handing out to anybody who would take one -- low-fi casette tapes of his keyboard-and-vocals music in the 1980s. He attained mainstream notice in the 1980s, thanks to the Austin music scene, exposure on Mtv, and praise by other established rock stars. This album is like a greatest hits compilation. Some people inevitably give in to the urge of feeling uncomfortable when dealing with the fruits of someone like Johnston, because of his bipolar condition. The feeling, I suppose, is uncertainty over whether when we laugh and smile with the music, we're doing so because we actually like the music -- and thus are actually laughing and smiling with Johnston -- or whether we're laughing and smiling at Johnston. I appreciate that people have this urge, I suppose. But when I listen to a track like "Don't Let the Sun Go Down" I just can't understand the urge. It is such a catchy tune. I mean, he clearly recorded this thing in a garage, and as far as the world was aware, the garage was as far as this song would ever go. Yet at the end he's calling out for the crowd to sing along. Is he doing this because he is bipolar? Perhaps. But more than likely, he's doing it because it's something that, say, Bono would do. It's so awesomely rock star. We nominate Bono for a goddam Nobel Peace Prize, but we feel uncomfortable when Daniel Johnston wants to rock out? Puh-lease. Get over yourself already. Once done, get out and give this record a chance. There is some incredibly catchy, witty, funny stuff here. And that's more than we reasonably deserve to receive from Daniel Johnston.