Friday, September 30, 2005

pardon my absence

i may be fooling myself by excusing myself from writing recently, since no one may be paying attention. kind of like asking your neighbors if they've been kept up by all the late-night shenanigans. but i digress. i've been busy with stuff at pulse and also on trying to get the pulse music blog up and rocking. i'm trying to grow this thing gradually and this is where it lives:

pulse music blog

live it up.

Monday, August 22, 2005

the f merlins

here's an article on jazz (that's right, i'm calling 'em jazz and i'm sticking to it) band the fantastic merlins, who really are fantastic. i can't vouch for the merlins part.

fantastic merlins

Friday, August 05, 2005

i self devine article

ye olde linke to the pulse article on i self devine:

tantric hip-hop

word them up.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

reliving it.

so (thanks to my sponsor) i'm in the middle of reliving the 2004 ALCS between the red sox and the yankees. let me say this: even if this weren't the red sox, and even if the yankees weren't the most evil team in all of pro sports, and even if this victory by the red sox didn't represent ultimate justice, i think this would still be a fascinating series to watch, from front-to-back, to see how it happened.

spirit is a tenuous thing, and watching game one, you can see that the yankees think they have it. mussina takes a perfect game into the 7th, where the yanks have an 8-0 lead, but then lets 3 runs in and varitek hits a homer off sturtze to make it 8-5. this spirited come back ultimately fails, but now, re-watching, it seems to prefigure the future comebacks in games three and four that would ultimately destroy the yankees faith in themselves.

the swing in this series, from the yankees wining the first three games, the third 19-8, to losing the series is the kind of extended collapse that i think has parallels only in a relationship. i considered comparing it to video footage of people getting hit by cars, in that after you've seen it, you can see it again and again and KNOW it's coming, but that's really just a random occurence. i think that often, when a relationship falls apart, we have a desire to go back and see what happened in the week before it hit the fan, or the month, or the half-year, to see if we can pick apart the moment it started to unravel, and that's what i'm watching this series for. when do the yankees go from this juggernaut that feels like it can't lose to a team split open at the sternum, hemorrhaging hits and runs? is it rivera's collapse in game four? that seems late. are there hints before that, even as early as game one? does the yankees ability to stop this comeback in game one and then to go on to slaughter the sox in game three leave them wide open to overconfidence?

when a relationship breaks up, we don't get to do this. we can't go to the videotape, only to our memory, which is inevitably colored. even reality shows have been edited by someone post facto to milk every situation. it's all been massaged, but with this, we get to treasure joe buck theorizing about the possibility of the red sox coming back from eight runs down. the last team that happened was 75 years ago that very night. it didn't happen, but who knew the red sox would go on to pull off coming back from three games down in a seven-game series, which no team in baseball had EVER done.

i'm looking for tragedy. and i mean greek classical tragedy. where a hero is brought low by one tragic flaw which neatly undoes the whole thing. i want to see what that is in the yankees. terms like tragedy and irony have been misused and reappropriated in this culture; irony means arch coincidence, tragedy is just misfortune. but here we really have the chance to see these things in action, within the narrow confines of a staged ritual (baseball game) just as these things are really only possible in their original meanings within the confines of a staged ritual (play, book, movie).

in their classical definitions, things like irony and tragedy can ONLY exist within a set of rules. outside of this artifice, loosed into the real world, there aren't the symmetries and boundaries required to truly create them. but here they are in the ALCS.

go sox.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

a couple of articles

here are some links to stuff i've written for the pulse recently:

pernice brothers article

intonation festival in chicago

musicapolis: scene and seen 1965-2005

plus, you shold go visit the new dane cook website. it's just been relaunched to coincide with the release of his new 2 CD + DVD effort, retaliation. the man slays me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

i want this so badly

red sox ALCS and world series dvd

sweet jesus. if i'm anybody's favorite, order this for me.

oh the glory of it all

i'm reading the intermittently fantastic new book by sean wilsey of the glory of it all right now. it's a slightly frustrating memoir of growing up rich in a truly fucked-up family, and it's almost all interesting, plot-wise, but there are some parts that just don't snap. a lot of it is more like just recounting his life because it happened, but what pulls you along are great lines like this, regarding trying to figure out how to get girls to like him:

"I was like some kind of primitive man who had seen fire and was trying to make it out of incorrect, resolutely incombustible materials, like lettuce."

that's pretty genius. dave eggers loved it, and it's not unlike reading a dave eggers book or something from mcsweeney's. rambling, very personal, occasionally great, mostly just there.

btw, i'm at urban bean, and i think lorenzo lamas just walked in.

clap your hands now ...

so i'm pulling off the intonation article because, well, first of all, it was pointed out that as the music editor of the pulse they may not want me to republish things here that i do for them. so what i'll do instead is direct you to:

pulse of the twin cities

where you can read stuff i write for them. besides, thought i, i want to add content to this site, not just duplicate it. so here's some other stuff i haven't written about anywhere else.

clap your hands say yeah

i'm directing you to the website because, amazingly, this band is unsigned. you've probably heard of them if you're a watcher of places like pitchforkmedia.com or salon.com. but if you're related to me (which i think is about a 3 in 5 chance knowing my readership) you probably don't know about them. they're this band from brooklyn who recorded at fireproof, where i was going to record with my last band before we broke up, and made an amazing record that you can only get at their website for now.

they combine elements of the walkmen, interpol, and the arcade fire musically with a singer who sounds a bit like a cross between thom yorke (of radiohead, calley) and david byrne. and yet, they're in a good mood. it's one of the things that sets them apart from a lot of brooding bands. if the arcade fire's album was the "funeral," this band's is the irish wake. also, i just recently learned that album titles go in quotes, not italics. ditto for plays and movies. so, disregard every italicized title you've ever seen hear and imagine quotes. but back to CYHSY.

they've basically made an album with one weirdo curveball track (the opener), two transitional intrumentals (tracks 4 and 9) and nine great songs. seriously. right now 2, 3, 5, and 6 are each so brilliantly tuneful and unique sounding without being derivative, i'm honestly flabbergasted about how they accomplished it. all those bands i mentioned before? parts of their stuff sound like all those things, but i doubt you could mistake their sound for anybody else's. and yet it doesn't seem like they're trying too hard. ever. a really joyous gem of an undiscovered album that's really worth the hype.

soon enough, they'll be on conan, so if this kind of thing's important to you, you better order it before they get snatched up in the bidding war which is no doubt raging right now over the phonelines and airwaves between williamsburg and midtown.

Monday, July 04, 2005

feist-icuffs.

Part of the joy of writing about music is learning not just about great bands, but about world traditions. For instance, July 1 is Canada Day, which is, according to the Canadian Heritage website, a celebration of “a proclamation signed by the Governor General, Lord Monck, call[ing] upon all Her Majesty's loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada,” a little factoid I picked up while interviewing Leslie Feist in transit from Ottawa to Toronto to play the second of two gigs in one day.

That kind of gig-hopping might be unusal for Feist, but genre-hopping has become de rigeur for the Canadian-born singer. After stints touring with rock bands and making homemade demos, she collaborated with her then-roommate Peaches (yes, the hirsute Peaches of ‘Diddle my Skittle’ fame) on 2002’s The Teaches of Peaches and the subsequent tour. Then, as a way to pass the Candadian winter, she got together with some friends and booked a show a few months down the road with the intent to write all the material fresh in the time before the gig. The result was the formation of indie rock darlings Broken Social Scene. And now she’s 0ut in the U.S. and elsewhere supporting the release of her proper debut solo, Let It Die, which is a perfect slice of makeout music. You might not expect that, based on her resume, but that’s just what it is; she’s a kind of Norah Jones for the hip set and the disc is a sweetly compelling mishmash of ballads, torch songs, and Brill-building era pop channeled through a breathy, slinky, and definitely sexy set of pipes.

Ever since I heard lead single ‘One Evening’ after downloading it from salon.com, I’ve been pushing Feist on everyone I know, saying that the song made me want to have one night of life-affirming getting-it-on after years of coke-addled one-night stands, circa 1978. Apparently, I’m not the only one. “Things are just starting in the States,” she explains. “[Let It Die]’s only been out for a month or maybe six weeks. I’ve been pretty astounded; I thought I’d be playing to completely closed and fresh ears and all the playing I’d done in Canada and Europe wouldn’t make a difference, but I guess from the Internet people are already familiar with the album. And the first tour I had done was with the Kings of Convenience so anybody who had heard that record knew me from that.”

Besides guesting on the Kings’ most recent effort, she’s made appearances on Apostle of Hustle’s and French siren Jane Birkin’s latest outings, so when did she even find time to make her own album? “The sessions that we had done were song by song and we didn’t have the intention to make a record,” she says of her work with Chilly Gonzales, who played a large role in bringing the record together, playing most of the instruments and co-writing and arranging many of the tracks “It was just to see how the collaboration would look; what the songs would become if they weren’t in jeans and T-shirts. Since they were one-offs we’d just do a few songs between tours. Some stuff didn’t fit together well. Some stuff we’d approach from left field and some from right field and in the end there were 20 songs there and it was clear which songs fit together as an album, that sounded like they came from the same session.”

The result is a an intimate but far-ranging work whose unifying quality is a certain sparseness. It’s an album that doesn’t force its way down your throat, opening with the lovely ‘Gatekeeper,’ featuring Feist’s vocals supported by only acoustic guitar and vibraphone, and closing with ‘Now At Last,’ a gentle Blossom Dearie song reminiscent of parts of Ella Fitzgerald’s Pure Ella, where her only accompaniment is piano. In between she channels P.J. Harvey’s swampiness (‘When I Was a Young Girl’), Maxwell’s bedroom eyes (‘Leisure Suite’) and hits the highlights of ‘Mushaboom’ and ‘Inside and Out,’ the latter a cover of the Bee Gees ‘Love You Inside and Out.’ In fact, the last four tracks on the disc are covers and her live shows often include her rendition of the Kinks’ ‘There’s Nothing in the World to Stop Me Worryin’ About that Girl,’ a mainstay on the Rushmore soundtrack and a gem of a sixties ballad. “I like to try traditional songs so there’s no mirror flashing back at you from current times,” she also explains, in reference to ‘When I Was a Young Girl,’ “It’s like free reign over the song.”

Her trip to the Twin Cities is bringing her to the Varisty Theater for a solo show, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a better environment to be introduced to her music: it’s cozy, classy, and what could be better than seeing a show from the comfort of red-draped air mattresses on risers? Abroad, though, she’s played to considerably bigger audiences, and has already won a Juno (the Canadian Grammies) for Best New Artist and been nominated alongside Celine Dion and Michael Buble for a MuchMoreMusic Award from MuchMusic. “I don’t really think about it,” she says on winning and being nominated for awards, “That’s one of the external responses in general and all those external things just come from people who see your videos or look at your website. It comes from those people who are in positions to nominate. I don’t mind being singled out; it only means there are more people who recognize you. But it’s not like ‘Oh, it’s like my life is falling into place right now.’”

Speaking of falling, in the midst of our conversation, she deals with the impending disaster of her amp falling off the luggage belt, not to mention making her way through security, marshalling her band into two cabs for the ride to the evening’s venue, and snappily deadpanning when asked about plans for the future, “Go[ing] to community college and becom[ing] an elementary school teacher.” After the ensuing pause and half-laughed “Really,” I shoot back, she says, “No, of course not; I’m going to make music, it’s what I do! Of course I’m going back into the studio, of course I’m touring. Of course I’m going to make a new record and another one after that. You do what you do.”

That kind of unerring sense of direction is the kind of thing that helps you make a simple, subtle record that doesn’t come across as mannered or sentimental. Her voice is strong, but not overpowering, always used in the service of the tune and never at the expense of it. The arrangements are spare and alluring; the melodies addictive and hummable. All those things have brought her recognition abroad and in her native country, and here’s hoping someday she’ll be hopping flights to hit multiple gigs on some of our biggest holidays. Happy Canada Day, Ms. Feist.