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Jan. 17th, 2011

The (Last) Year in Music -- May

This is music that bears no lead-in commentary:

Sleigh Bells is a miracle less of musicality than of engineering. Although a few of the vocal lines are relatively accomplished, most of the music--especially the guitar-playing--is almost stupidly primitive. Their one tuneful song (Rill Rill, see below) only manages to break the trend with the help of a bald-faced Funkadelic sample.

Yes, it's loud. Almost at any volume. But let's take a moment to appreciate that such a feat is not as easy as it seems. There are lots of ways you could set out to make an album like this and end up with garbage. (Not to mention Garbage!) Yes, it's essentially gimmicky. But let's face it, a gimmick can still be original and powerful, when properly employed. Now, figuring out what their next album will sound like... that I don't envy them one bit.

Here's the relatively-speaking-sonically-laid-back Rill Rill, for those of you who maybe just can't swallow the jagged Tell Me:

Six sets straight ace, cut 'em in the bathroomCollapse )

That's Numberwang!

Been enjoying "That Mitchell and Webb Look," a British sketch show. Now you should enjoy it too!

Dec. 29th, 2010

My Year In Music -- April

It took me almost a year of listening to cuts like this extraordinary tune from 2008's Shallow Grave album to finally dive wholeheartedly into the music of The Tallest Man on Earth. Could this croaky voiced, Swedish parody of Dylan really be such a consistently great songwriter? If Shallow Grave didn't prove it, then his second full-length, The Wild Hunt, released in April, absolutely does.

Wild Hunt's songs still range from high energy...
King of Spain and many moreCollapse )

Dec. 23rd, 2010

Nothing more beautiful...

...than a local Christmas tradition.

Dec. 13th, 2010

My Year In Music -- March

March saw the release of a new Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album, this one with members of the Cairo Gang (a band I was not familiar with beforehand). BPB usually manages an album a year, so this was not a big surprise to see. However, I don't have much to say about the album. Many BPB albums take some time to absorb and enjoy, and I haven't given this one quite enough. At the same time, it is missing even the few hooks that usually get me to return to his albums. Instead, over the last year, I came to really appreciate his 2008 effort, Lie Down in the Light--his last wholesale success.

Jumping ahead a bitCollapse )

Dec. 8th, 2010

My Year In Music -- February

Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg is a professionally trained ornithologist and the piano player and back-up singer for another band, Okkervil River. Which is astounding considering his voice just crushes that of Okkervil's Will Shef with its superiority--more precisely its range, robustness, and power. Everything that can be said of his voice also applies to his compositions, which are dynamic, wide-ranging, and voluminous.

Well, I'm just a sucker for a Big Sound, whether it's The Cure, Arcade Fire, or Grizzly Bear. Shearwater, essentially, is the same shape as my earholes. Their 2010 release, The Golden Archipelago, is deeply resonant with its predecessor, Rook, in almost every aspect--mood, instrumentation, lyrical themes. The only part of Rook's formula it really changes is to up the tempo a bit, correcting the sometimes languid pace in Rook's (still beautiful) middle tracks. The results are summed up very nicely by this song:

CastawaysCollapse )

Dec. 7th, 2010

My Year In Music -- January

Is there anything more tragically pointless than blogging about music? Not much, I wager. If de gustibus non est disputandum, then today we've gone gusto on the gustibus, and music in particular non est disputandum.

Well, I've covered this territory before, and retreading isn't my intention. My intention is just to share, however pointlessly, the music I've soaked up over this year.

You almost certainly don't care. But would you rather have me talking politics? The question answers itself.

Eleven months ago, walrusjester posted the following video on LJ. Press play and enjoy (unless you find it unenjoyable... de gustibus, after all):

This Too Shall PassCollapse )

Nov. 3rd, 2010

We're Americans!

Here's an excellent summation of things:
Everybody will be talking in the next few days about the “message” of the elections. They mean, of course, the message from the voters. This is one of the treasured conventions of political journalism. Yesterday, the story was all about artifice and manipulation, the possible effect of the latest attack ad or absurd lie. Today, all that melts away. The election results are deemed to reflect grand historical trends. But my colleague Joe Scarborough got it right in these pages last week when he argued that the 2010 elections, for all their passion and vitriol, are basically irrelevant. Some people are voting Tuesday for calorie-free chocolate cake, and some are voting for fat-free ice cream. Neither option is actually available. Neither party’s candidates seriously addressed the national debt, except with proposals to make it even worse. Scarborough might have added that neither party’s candidates had much to say about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (except that they “support our troops,” a flabby formulation that leaves Americans killing and dying in faraway wars that politicians won’t defend explicitly). Politicians are silent on both these issues for the same reason: There is no solution that American voters will tolerate. Why can’t we have calorie-free chocolate cake? We’re Americans!

Jun. 2nd, 2010

Contemporary Art Works as Relics

Here's a quite long, but fascinating dissection of the lucrative contemporary art market through the lens of... Medieval relics??

The central argument seems to be that what is often assumed to be (reasonably so) a matter of cult of personality, fashion, or status-seeking--a la the cliched Renaissance genius/patron model, Michaelangelo and the Medicis, etc.--is quite possibly a cult of physical incarnation, a la the One True Cross or the Shroud of Turin.

May. 18th, 2010

Got a Few Hours to Kill?

You could do a lot worse than to peruse Rufus F.'s commentaries on classic (mostly classical so far) works of literature and philosophy over at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

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