Monday, November 30, 2009

shut up, it's monk time

Thelonious Monk - It's Monk's Time (listen)
The Monks - Black Monk Time (listen)
The Monkees - Headquarters (listen)

Ramen Review: Shin Big Bowl

Lives up to its name in quantity and flavor. I like how it dispenses with any alleged relation to chicken or beef or prawn or whatever. Refreshingly candid, since none of these soups ever taste like their claims anyway. It's like a homeless guy asking you for a dollar to buy a beer. All it says by way of a flavor concession is "gourmet spicy" but truth be told, it simply tastes "big." Bonus: green onions!

[Country Roads] Floyd's Record Shop

In the December 2009 issue of Country Roads, I visited Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte, the oldest independent records store in Louisiana, to get at least one side of the story one of our region's oddest and most compelling songs, Rufus Jagneaux's "Opelousas Sostan" and learn a thing or two about jukeboxes.

Also. if you didn't catch it from last month's issue, Frank McMains has a breathtaking portrait of some of the artists and craftsmen whittling away their years at Angola prison.

the snapped rope of the catapult

Michael Hurley - Ida Con Snock (listen) Michael Hurley is one of those grizzled coot burnout types from a famous band you've never heard anything by (Holy Modal Rounders, in his case) that I tend to enjoy, but I've never really latched onto it until this record. I suspect it might be the guys from Vetiver and the Devendra Banhart commune doing the subtle backup music, but really it was the mouth trumpet and sweetness in his version of "Valley of Tears" that got me. Close readers may recall that swamp pop titan Warren Storm's version got to me a while back.

But this is almost Robert Wyatt or Vic Chesnutt beautiful, which is a special kind of beautiful that you requires your wicked heart to pass though a clean room to get. I'll show you what I mean in a minute, but this popped up.

Ralph Shapey - Songs of Life (listen) I'd never heard of this composer until Alex Ross piece in this weekend's New Yorker, and I don't know upon listening if I've really heard it still. Playful, evocative, plink-plonk music that uses Ives as a trampoline to reach the lowest of the stars before bounding back. It reminds me of Lukas Foss, a composer that not enough people talk about; not impenetrable music, but you are going to have to chase it around the tree a couple of times before catching it.

Various Artists - From Behind the Unreasoning Mask (listen) Or Earl Kim. No one ever talks about Earl Kim and his "Earthlight" is just one of the best things ever. This ancient Smithsonian Folkways recording of immediately forgotten American composers was one of my standby records when I was 18, 19. I wore out a cassette copy of it walking around the fog of my freshman year and had to bring my stereo home with me one laundry weekend so I could check the record back out from the Houma library and retape it. But man, "Earthlight" is so slight it hardly exists, like the fluffiest desert or the fleeting breeze of youth.

Harry Partch - "Dreamer that Remains: A Study in Loving" or Jesus Christ, this! This is one of my favorite pieces of music ever. EVER. Why haven't I looked for this on here before? I assumed it was lost to me. My back-burner-ed book of personal music essays that garnered a favorable reception at the reading a couple weeks ago should really bear this as a title, because this piece is the book's fulcrum; the snapped rope of the catapult. World's wilder than the song Beck did in tribute to the hobo/madman/genius composer a week or so ago in his website.

Vic Chesnutt - Skitter on the Take-Off (listen) Here is what I meant about Vic Chesnutt.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review of A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley

A Fan's Notes A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed Exley's descent into the crossed worthlessness of his humanity and the humanity of his worthlessness, I feel a little exhausted having witnessed it; like spending an evening with a drunk that starts out jolly well and ends up with you imprisoned in the sphere of their failed control, wanting to just go home.

Honestly, for most of the book, I wasn't even sure what was going on, but I got a sense that the Truth was happening, which is a sensation I remember happening nightly when I used to drink too much. Unlike me and the protagonist of most every drunken loser epic, though, Exley's Exley is self-aware, so much so that he (Exely the author) did not even feign the distance of writing a book of fiction about someone else.

This might be a book about football, particularly about loving football, micro-particularly about idolizing Frank Gifford. I wonder if Frank Gifford ever read this book, or did Kathy Lee, or even better, did Regis Philbin, having been longtime co-host with the prize wife of the book's central idol? I think an audiobook should be made with Regis' mad voice maddeningly voicing the Everymadman sucking up all the air in this book. But it is not that at all. A Fan's Notes is a man poured so deeply into his own book that he stains the pages, gets them so wet that they stick together and as a bonus, Exley the writer or Exley the written (whichever) is funny as hell.

View all my reviews >>

sunday morning rock party with my best girl

It started with the Bobby Fuller Four and your new favorite old song from "Fantastic Mr Fox"


Rushmore Soundtrack (listen)
The Who - Who's Next (listen)
Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand (listen)
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (listen)
John Hiatt - Slug Line (listen)
Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure (listen)

culminating in the Toki's Cat Song from Metalocalypse

Thursday, November 26, 2009

thanksgiving dinner

My daughter made this excellent video of what we had for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

[Offbeat] December 2009 Issue

In the December issue of OffBeat, I offer this little primer on John Prine.

Also be sure to check out the bounty of Louisiana music in their annual top 40.

Personally, I think New Orleans band (with a healthy dose of Baton Rouge) Generationals had one of the best records of 2009 with the Con Law EP, local or not.

[The Record Crate] Counting Down

Time is running out to get your sonic artifact dubbed one of the 5 "most intriguing" for 2009. Digital releases, full blown CDs, homemade CD-Rs across all genres are up for consideration, so get them to me. Contact me by clicking here if you have any questions.

Things are slowing down for the year, but there are a few things coming up on the radar about which you should be aware. Willie Nelson isn't playing the Varsity until January 12, but something tells me you might want to pony up the $85 for the red headed stranger before too long.

Closer on the horizon, the New Orleans Bingo! Show offers the perfectly perverse antidote to the debilitating turkey dope of Thanksgiving with their appearance at the Spanish Moon on Friday. Also, the coolest cat to come out of Church Point, Rudy Richard will be laying down the blues at Teddy's Juke Joint on Saturday. Speaking of Teddy's, his annual Christmas party featuring Lil Ray Neal will transpire on Tuesday; if you have yet to make it out to Teddy's, his parties are a good night to get your blues on.

Also not to miss are indie rock favorites Cursive. Touring behind their most recent album Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, Cursive maintains their momentum of embedding massive hooks inside sweet, melancholy songs, the rock equivalent of floating an iceberg down a stream.

Click here for original with local events calendar

why I don't throw parties

Fever Ray - Fever Ray (listen) This is more my kind of dance music, the kind that is kinda lousy to dance to. These guys were previously the Knife who provided an even less boogie-oriented version of this thing, but this will do to bring the not-much-of-a-party at the end of this short week.

Kruder & Dorfmeister - G-Stoned (listen) They had me at the cover.

Various Artists - White Cock (listen) I am particularly drawn to the brilliantly named Duran Duran Duran. I don't even enjoy this purposely annoying, hyper-referential, "sounds great on drugs" brand of stunt techno much at all, but then that's what I kinda love about it. That attitude right there is why I don't throw parties.

the Squirrel of Destiny

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (listen) It's been two years now, probably about the right time for me to stop hating MGMT and finally latch onto it. Plus after listening to nearly 8 hours of Alan Lomax in Haiti yesterday burbling away in the background, everything I put on is going to sound hopelessly unauthentic and plasticine. This first track is kinda hitting me where I live right now: we walked up to the usual coffee shop for an unusual kid-free morning to find that a squirrel had been nibbling on the wires and had just taken out the power.

The regulars stumbled out, surrounding the poor splayed thing. One of the baristas was half on her phone, "My dad is a rehabilitation veterinarian and he looks like he's still....yeah Dad, um, there was a squirrel...." and I am thinking yeah, Dad, there is a dead squirrel. "Time to Pretend" indeed.

But yeah, I was thinking man, this sounds tribal and dense and thick and maybe I've been wrong about those Brooklyn kids all along, they really are onto something when I realized it sounded that way because I had left iTunes on, and it was playing this at the same time:

Illachime Quartet - Illachime Quartet (via MUTANT SOUNDS) some diffuse Italian weirdo jazz I'd downloaded moths ago and promptly forgot about. And then just as I tried to remedy the situation to see what anything sounds like, Rhapsody gave out. It's like the Squirrel of Destiny was feeding me my own wires, making me second-guess my second guesses. Maybe that barista's dad should come look into this when he gets done with the wire nibbler, or maybe now I know the true meaning of "Electric Feel."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'll be in here should you need me

Various Artists - Alan Lomax in Haiti (listen) I'll be in here should you need me, daydreaming that I am Alan Lomax in 1936 lugging 500 pounds of recording equipment through the mess of post-U.S. occupation Haiti along with my child bride and a terrible case of malaria.

But I'm not Alan Lomax, or I am in my own little way, and anyway I'm blessed to have my sweet bride of 11 years on my team through my expeditions, imagined and real. Happy anniversary!

Monday, November 23, 2009

what Jesus and Hitler are

Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk (listen) Eh. I like everybody involved, but if they'd traded any of them for Frank Black it would have been an actual monster.

Frank Black - Fast Man Raider Man (listen) Like this

and this

or, man, this!

Fleetwood Mac - Mirage (listen) Anyways... Fleetwood Mac is for playlists what Jesus and Hitler are for arguments: irrefutable. I'd still like someone to reissue that pre-FM Buckingham/Nicks record, or at least send me a copy.

you know I planned it

Beastie Boys - Ill Communication (listen) Hands-down the album of the weekend. I was taking my daughter and her friend out to breakfast and they were indulging my Rhapsody subscription with requests for "Weird Al" Yankovic songs, sweet sincere love for the funny, but after the the third request for "Eat It" I had to take the helm. "Sabotage" is used for one of opening scenes in the new Star Trek so I put it on and my parody fan daughter reverted back to drummer girl and shouted "SABOTAAAAAAAGE!" from the back seat. She was singing it under her breath as we walked to school the other day. So yeah, when we get our father/daughter band together, this is going on the setlist. Look out farmer's market! You can't stand it. You know I planned it.

Apollo Heights - White Music for Black People (listen) This group was introduced to me via a discussion board discussion about TV on the Radio, a band I want to like more than I do. Apollo Heights is the current incarnation of the Veldt, a black band among the swirly whiteness of 4AD records from back in the day, much as TVOTR is pigeonholed today. I saw the Veldt open for Coteau Cocteau Twins* in 1990 or so and honestly, they owned the show until announcing "We wrote this next one with Simon {what's his face] form Cocteau Twins" and it sounded exactly like Cocteau Twins. So anyway, Apollo Heights rocks it with the sharpest album title in ages.

Lunar Testing Lab - Space Program (via OngakaBaka) Their Seashore Blvd. EP was my jam of the summer and this massive slab of low-orbit micro-throb bliss rock seems to be following suit. When I was a kid, my dream job was to be a radio astronomer, watching the array of massive dishes turn in unison toward a pulse in the outer Out There, and this is what that dream sounds like. Space nerds rejoice! You know I was just as into that pancake as my daughter was when she ordered it.

Papa M - songs from Live from a Shark's Cage, played live (via nyctaper) Live from a Shark's Cage, not itself a live record, is one of my favorite records ever. Slight in footprint but still with an indeterminable internal mass, it is post-rock, trans-mope, guitarist-ist splendor. David Pajo (Tortoise, Stereolab, Slint, Zwan (and hey, I liked Zwan. They should have kept that up until someone actually smashed a pumpkin over somebody's head)) is more famous for a lot of other things but this record is his true glory moment. NYCTapre has him re-doing a few of these songs live and wondrously. If only he could have dug up that answering machine for "Crowd of One"

* I originally mistyped "Coteau," which is a pretty common word in South Louisiana place names, meaning "cluster of homes." It made me want to start a swirly alt-rock Cajun band (we could deem it "shrimp boot gaze") called the Coteau Twins: accordion, washboard and guitar all fed through piles of delay, maybe find the most elfin of Cajun gals to warble obliquely about fais-do-do's and play the triangle. A musical joke with limited appeal for sure, but an idea I want to push out into the world. They would be huge in Lafayette.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

RIP Jeanne-Claude

NY Time obit

Love? Life? You? Zero? Infinity?

Adam Carroll - Lookin' out the Screen Door (listen) I saw Carrroll perform a few weeks back and then last night Slaid Cleaves tore through his "Race Car Joe" and another song and I got to thinking Adam Carroll might just be the guy. Like the guy you have that can whip through the NY Times crossword, or the guy you have to help you get that old lawnmower to start, or the guy you know to call when you need to find a globe at a yard sale (I have such a guy and have utilized him in precisely that capacity.) Adam Carroll is the guy you have that writes those great songs nobody has ever heard that are nothing less and not a morsel more than great songs. And many of them are about beer.

Richard Buckner - Devotion+ Doubt (listen) I drove home after the Red Dragon show listening to this record, wondering whether that "+" in the title is really a plus or just a graphic designer's decision, if devotion is truly augmented by doubt as a plus sign implies rather than what an open ampersand marriage would offer. What is on the other side of the equals of devotion + doubt? Love? Life? You? Zero? Infinity?

Then I started thinking about what a hypotenuse on a right triangle means. The length of your slanted part can be determined by how much you run and how much you rise, things you think define you but really the math of life is in the hypotenuse. Your rising and your running are just little components that figure into the big picture. This is the kind of stuff that singer-songwriter music makes me think of, which in turn makes me think I would be the worst singer-songwriter, trying to cram word problems into songs when what the good singer-songwriters do is just let problems be songs and not spend much time on solutions.

Slaid Cleaves and Michael O'Conner at the Red Dragon, Baton Rouge, LA

You know you are in the presence of instrumental mastery when you find yourself dumbstruck by how beautifully someone played "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" as I was with Mr. O'Conner last night. Having Mr. Cleaves' knife edge lyrics, as well as some ambitious yodeling over it is a wonderful bonus.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

classic non-classic

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures (listen) This is what it sounds like in my head whenever I try to play guitar with somebody. It unfortunately does not sound like this outside of my head.

Polvo - In Prism (listen) Like, I'd like to sound like "not quite classic rock" like this song by classic non-classic-rockers Polvo does on this number.

Six Finger Satellite - Law of Ruins (listen) Though when given the helm, it does tend to go on about as long as this

love me, love my friends, love my record collection

Fred Weaver - Those Ancient Skies...Came Sweeping Wide (MySpace) - Fred is a good friend of mine, but I put 75% of my innate nepotism aside in recommending his music. I was thinking strident, strained, and (a)stringent this morning and Fred appeared in that Google search of the spirit.

Silver Scooter - The Blue Law (MySpace) These guys have an album called "Orleans Parish" so it seems I though I should have some local cognition of them, but MySpace puts them in Austin, and their sound has them square in the Grandaddy/Fountains of Wayne/Apples in Stereo camp of low-simmer "love me, love my friends, love my record collection" rock. Which is where I am this morning.

Brooke Waggoner - Go Easy Little Doves (listen) and, as if on cue, my former upstairs neighbor of just 5 years ago or so Brooke Waggoner is getting the kinds of accolades from sites on my RSS feed that imply readers should already know her name and style. Nice work, and nice record too. She should sing the princess themes for the hipper versions of Disney films.

5 things, 3 of them referencing Spock girl

  1. The Chinese Japanese spam machine is still all over the 5 things I said a couple of months ago.
  2. We got the new Star Trek movie from NetFlix and my daughter piped in that she wanted to watch it. We told her it is different from Star Wars, not quite as "exciting," I guess, but she's into it. She revealed herself to be a Spock girl immediately, which as a dad is a relief. An attraction to passive-aggressive, emotionally detached know-it-all's has its downsides but the appeal of bare-chested, flying kick cavaliers perpetually getting in trouble is cliche.
  3. The book is progressing slowly, like an iceberg melting as I chip at its surface. Any minute now I'm going to hit a watery pocket and will have to handle the flood.
  4. The meat pies from Bergeron's are the supreme personality of ground meat, spices and pie crust fried to golden perfection godhead. Hiccup spicy, but the aforementioned Spock girl put some sour cream on hers and rendered it even more amazing. Her logic in this matter was Vulcan sound.
  5. Spock girl has also been taking drum lessons once a week for a while and is getting pretty good. I keep joking that we are going to form a garage rock family band duo (maybe we can work in a Star Trek theme into it) to play at the farmer's market (or the convention scene), but truthfully, I am going to have to step up my game on guitar soon if I really want that to happen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

[The Record Crate] Scarlett Johansson's Appearance Would Be Warmly Welcomed

Slaid Cleaves lays down a serpentine path through the landscape of heartbreak on his latest album Everything You Love Will be Taken Away. On "Run Jolee Run" he urges his protagonist to flee the life in which she's found herself, while in "Black T-Shirt" he details the signs of embarking on that dangerous journey with "Gotta black eye and you wear it proud/Guns 'n' Roses way up loud." Cleaves is one of those guys that will turn you around on the whole singer-songwriter thing, real live flapping on the line like wet towels, stories all the fresher for having hung in the effortless breeze of his songs. He performs with fellow songwriter Michael O'Conner at the Red Dragon Listening Room on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Jazz legend Ahmad Jamal will play two shows at the Manship Theatre. In the 1950s, Jamal's atmospheric take on jazz piano was big influence on Miles Davis' quintet work with Coltrane that led up to Kind of Blue, but Jamal has pursued his muse across the decades, weaving his experience with the times to reveal the larger fabric of jazz. He lent the progressive jazz of the 1970s a masterful grace on The Awakening, even recreating his 1963 smash I on a 2008 live album. This is a rare chance to see one of the most important figures in jazz in such intimate surroundings.

But that's not all for Thursday: Pop rock outfit Cage the Elephant seems to be everywhere all of a sudden: radio, festival shows, even in the video game Borderlands, and this week, that everywhere includes the Varsity stage.

Pete Yorn continues to brush the eclectic edge of the pop spectrum, recently recording a surprisingly charming album called Break Up with Scarlett Johansson (better than her recent Tom Waits cover album anyway). There is no word as to whether Johansson will be gracing the Varsity stage with him on Saturday or not (I'm thinking it unlikely), but Yorn's immediately-embraceable material should suffice. That said, I think it is safe to say Scarlett Johansson's appearance would be warmly-welcomed at any of the aforementioned shows.

Click for original with local events calendar

possibly jacked-up enough

Alex Chilton - A Man Called Destruction (listen) He's a guy like Paul Westerberg, you aren't supposed to like anything he did outside the mother band, even when calling it a band might be a contentious claim as Alex Rawls muses in this post, and OK maybe it's not up to the mettle of the earlier material but dude, neither are any of us, and at least ol' Alex keeps pluggin away.

Jivin' Gene - It's Never Too Late (his MySpace) That pluggin' brings me back to swamp pop, a music I am never too far from lately. Jivin' Gene is one of the living relics of Louisiana music (despite hailing from Port Arthur, TX - a city possibly jacked-up enough to qualify as Louisiana) having his first hit in 1958 with "Goin' Out With the Tide" and still plugging away in swamp bars across the soggy planes of our fair state and the parts of Texas that qualify.

Tyla Gang - Yachtless (listen) Tyla Gang is the best little thing I've come across in some time. Fatter than Thin Lizzy, reedier than Lou Reed, bigger and starrier than Big Star, fuzzier than the cat on the dumpster in the back-alley-of-the-pub rock. Maybe it was Sean Tyla who invented heavy metal in 1974 and no one noticed.

100 words on the pelicans

100 words on the pelicans, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.

The sign that warns “Beware of Alligators” near the boat launch for the LSU lakes hardly registers when there is before you a writhing, stinking, gurgling blanket of pelicans spread out before you. This picture does not capture the dense clockwork of clap and snap of their beaks, nor does it display the absurdity of their landing posture, not that different than a little kid, pants-down, mid-squat shuffling fast to the nearest bathroom. I defy an alligator to surface in that mess; the sheer not-right of it might just blow even his reptilian nugget, just like it did to mine.

six inch valley through the middle of my soul

Pretty Fakes is to blame for this Bruce moment.

Gary U.S. Bonds - The Best Of... (listen) Gary U.S. Bonds is one of those guys I don't really have a feel for outside of "New Orleans", and this E-Street relocation of the Cajun superstandard "Jole Blon" with Bruce doing his share of the heavy lifting only clouds the dim perception I already had.

This one, though, it hits me right in the Bruce ventricle.

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A (listen) So let's go to the real deal. It's a little baffling to be that this 1984 album, Bruce's ticket to getting his bust carved on Mt. Rushmore, came only two years after Nebraska, and four after The River. This like Thriller and Purple Rain, was insanely huge, omnipresent in my formative years. I also contains maybe my all-time favorite Springsteen song, wedged in there like a stolen diary between glossy paperbacks.

I came to know this song through a cover by the Smithereens

who wear it like a bad tattoo. God, this song. I believe that dude from the Smithereens got laid off from the lumber yard and got the job at the car wash and ran till he thought his chest would explode and broke into that house and... and... Bruce's original sounds like a cover of their cover to me. Since we are going meta...

The Smithereens - The Smithereens Play Tommy (listen) I want to tell the Smithereens to knock this tribute shit off and do another Especially for You or Green Thoughts or any of their records but man, they are really good at this. I say either do Born to Run or Appetite for Destruction next.