Monthly Archives: April 2007

This week: the overbooked edition

Finding the rockets in and around Inman Sq. is my new favorite in-transit game.

Rumbo A Las Grandes Ligas at the Somerville Theatre at 8 p.m. (Full disclosure: my roommate edited this film, but even if he hadn’t, I’d still go. Plus, Big Papi is rumored to be attending – score!) Read what Mike Milliard had to say about it, in the Phoenix’s extensive guide to the fifth annual Independent Film Festival of Boston.

Tomorrow night, via Globe Calendar:

When Johan Hedberg and Peter Gunnarsson, otherwise known as Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, sing, ”I’m making out tonight with my computer,” on their song ”Loop Duplicate My Heart,” they aren’t kidding. The Swedish electro-pop duo’s debut album, ”#3,” lovingly utilizes electronic beats, mixed with tinny, music box-like piano, acoustic guitar, and what one Pitchfork reviewer recently described as ”Napoleon Dynamite deadpan” vocals. Much like Napoleon Dynamite, their music possesses a certain lovable geekiness, complete with silly lyrics (”Noodles are the smell of denial”), an experimental array of instruments, and the infectious pop sensibility that’s become synonymous with the recent onslaught of Swedish bands.

Wedesday night, choices choices:
Age Rings, with the Everyday Visuals, Summerbirds in the Cellar, the Televangelist and the Architect at T.T. the Bear’s Place. (Full disclosure, again: I wrote about T & the A for the Globe last December. I’m also dating an undisclosed member of Age Rings. But I’d still go if neither of those things were true, even though Big Papi is not rumored to be attending.)

Or, via Calendar – again:

In a recent interview, Trans Am member Philip Manley said, ”People often bring up the eclectic quality of our music, almost like it’s genre-hopping.” That pretty much sums up both Trans Am’s career and its eighth and latest album, ”Sex Change” (Thrill Jockey). The trio has been creating tunes that are part techno and part prog-rock, though the exact proportions vary depending on the album. ”Sex Change,” the band’s first album after a three-year break, feels like an attempt to bridge any inconsistencies in their musical catalogue, possibly as a career closer. According to Manley, Trans Am will likely resume hiatus following their current tour, which makes their show at Great Scott on Wednesday, with Zombi and Psychic Paramount, all the more appealing.

And speaking of Swedish pop, it should go without saying that PB&J are only four days away. Cue up “Amsterdam” on your iTunes one more time. If you’re not one of the lucky few with a ticket, catch PB&J live on Friday, on WERS.

Lyons pulls the plug.

Looks like we’re losing both Axis and Avalon. Won’t be sure what to think about this until we have more details…

Use it.

Coming soon…

The artist behind this soon-to-be album cover is none other than Neko Case. 

Battle of the Weekend sections.

Pixnit, obviously, but anyone know who does the bad apples? Photo by sushiesque.

Friday = Weekend section day! Come, let’s see see how they stack up this week. Ready?

Casually slipping “says David Bowie in an e-mail” into a story = 3 points,
via The Globe. (“Said David Bowie during our weekly sushi date” would’ve taken the cake.)

Combining self-deprecation, restaurant-deprecation, and a joke in one sentence: “If you’re the kind of diner with a bad short-term memory, you’ll… wait, what was I saying?” = 2 points, via Globe Sauce.

Employing the words “shook his jowls violently” in a lede = 2 points, via NYT Theater section.

Using an almost painfully meh review to characterize a decidedly meh sounding concert, via NYT Music.

Pitting Oscar Wilde against the surgeon general, comparing cigarettes to nipples, and mourning the loss of a best bet pick-up line = 2 points, via WPost Weekend. Bonus: WPost Weekend wrote about the best barside outdoor smoking areas a few months ago = 1 point.

And our winner, for banning the words “Brangelina” and “TomKat” from the English language, and providing useful tips for unicorn hunting – in one article! = 475,892,563 points, via CSMonitor.

Now. Now.

Looks like my typical Thursday afternoon.

You are probably not immune to Annie Clark’s powers, so don’t try to fight it. That’s essentially what I was aiming to say here, but the Globe generally frowns upon writing things like “Go see St. Vincent now, or I’ll come to your house and make you go!” So I had to write this instead:

It’s no surprise that Annie Clark, the slender, Oklahoma-bred curly-haired beauty behind St. Vincent, sounds like the female version of Sufjan Stevens. She has played with Stevens, as well as the Polyphonic Spree, everyone’s favorite choir-robed purveyors of uplifting pop. The surprise is that, as a solo artist, St. Vincent creates anything but lo-fi indie pop. Instead, she combines simultaneously sweet sentiment and boldly experimental instrumentation. ”Now Now,” for example, from her upcoming debut, ”Marry Me,” is a shifting fusion of music-box-like tinkling and whispery, call-and-response vocals that dissolve into screeching guitar distortion. Beggars Banquet will release ”Marry Me” on July 10, but you can catch a preview tomorrow night, when St. Vincent opens for John Vanderslice at the Middle East Upstairs.

St. Vincent, “Now. Now.”

Happy backwards day.

Goldenstash flick by bluesocks78.

According to today’s papers, the music industry is moving backwards. First, the good news: This guy in Nashville is on a personal mission to keep vinyl alive, and to be “the last vinyl plant standing, no matter what.” Sweet news for someone who recently acquired a record player (read: stole from my parents’ house, along with most of their record collection. Minus the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack – eek). Says another Nashville-based, determined vinyl savior: “You hear people use adjectives like ‘warmer’ and ‘more round.’ And there are other things beside sound quality. People know what the song titles are. It’s not like, ‘I like track 5.’ You put the needle on and let it play through — not jump around. You have more of an intimate relationship with the music.” Word.

Over in greedy major label-land, the scheming music execs and has-been artists (Wang Chung, I may or may not be talking about you) have joined forces for their latest scam: re-record old songs and resell them! But wait, wasn’t Nickelback already doing that? Zing! Says one of the desperate-for-attention artists: “To re-record our back catalog is a way of empowering ourselves.” The euphemistic blathering continues – even Prince is joining the club. “Prince, for example, has re-recorded significant portions of his catalog that — thanks partly to technological advances — may rival the original versions, according to one person close to him.” (Note: The “person close to him” is definitely Prince himself.-Ed.)

There’s no denying the long, genre-spanning list of excellent re-recordings out there – jazz music as a whole depends partially on reworkings of its evergreen standards. But usually the new version is enjoyable because the old one was. “You’re Beautiful,” for example, will never be a good song, no matter how many times James Blunt re-records it Or, hell, even if Thom Yorke, Jeff Tweedy and Ted Leo teamed up to cover it, it still wouldn’t be good. That would be amazing though.

However, re: using pop music in commercials, a new trend in the world of independent music as well – see Of Montreal’s Outback Steakhouse commercial, and was that a New Pornographers song I heard on another commercial recently? – I half-heartedly support it. Sure, it makes me feel slightly sick to hear Led Zeppelin classics accompany ads for environmentally unfriendly car companies, but what about the smaller bands? I recently chatted with some friends in a local band about this, and the general consensus was that they’d happily sell their tunes for commercial purposes – if only to make enough money to quit their day jobs and finally record that second album, not to mention spread their sound across living rooms nationwide.

But I’m still not buying anything marginally related to Wang Chung.

In other, unrelated news, VH1 Classic, aka the best TV station EVER is now replaying Pop-Up Videos, in addition to the enthrallingly awesome Classic Albums series. Let the learning begin – did you know that Jimmy Page played guitar on the original 1964 version of “The Crying Game,” or that Tracy Chapman’s high school classmates said that she was destined to marry her guitar?

Final note: Apparently David Day caught me at the Klaxons show.

Tube top troubles.

Question of the day: How does Feist’s glittering, Garment District-esque, gem of the disco era blue pantsuit not fall down in this video? Extra strength double-stick tape? Circulation-slowing too-tight elastic? The wonders of gravity?

“That Feist video is awesome, in a Carol-Ann Boardway School of Dance, colorgasmic sort of way.”- Melissa

Planning ahead.

Via Calendar, if genre-mashing Mexican guitar duos aren’t your thing:

Usually breakup songs are either sadly introspective or determinedly empowering (ask Kelly Clarkson). Rarely are they as cheerful as “Goodbye,” by the Miami-based indie-pop trio the Postmarks. The song pays homage to ’60s-era pop, with triumphant horns and tinkling xylophone mingling beneath lead singer Tim Yehezkely’s whispered, woozy musings, setting the perfect backdrop for an amicable breakup. Luckily for the lucky-in-love types, the Postmarks’ recently released, self-titled debut album is packed with orchestral pop songs concerning other topics – the weather, for example. They’ve expanded to a six-piece for their current tour, which includes an early show at the Middle East Downstairs on Tuesday, with Harry and the Potters, and Smoosh.

Blue Thursday.

It’s already happening. The lit bloggers are all writing posts titled “So it goes.” His website has an appropriately simple message. Remember this Phoenix piece, about MySpace as the virtual equivalent to flower-filled roadside memorials? It’s doubtful that Vonnegut actually maintained this MySpace page, regardless, his comments section will likely blow up by the day’s end.

Read the sad news this morning, and I thought “I should do something.” But what? A MySpace comment hardly seems adequate for a person who profoundly inspired countless generations of writers – myself included – not to mention, well, everyone else. Who hasn’t picked up a copy of “Cat’s Cradle” and thought “Whoa”? When I first read it, I stayed up all night devouring every word, then sought out more Vonnegut at the nearest bookstore, then searched for used book stores, and scoured their dusty shelves for lost Vonnegut gems. I remember looking up one day last fall, and happily realizing, as I sat amongst three of my four new roommates, that we were all reading Vonnegut novels simultaneously – a sign of a good living situation.

So, back to the original question: what to do? Read as much about him as possible? Retreating to Google’s comfortably all-knowing arms, I found this interview from 2000, between Vonnegut and some lucky Harvard student, during which he wonders “how the fuck” he wrote so many brilliant novels, and shares some (now bittersweet) musings on the afterlife. He also shares this notable thought:

If I were a religious person, my first question would be “Where the hell is God?” But I never expected him to be on the job.

Furthermore, Google says, the news sites are buzzing. The Times has essentially the same thing to say as the Globe: he was the king of countercultural literature, a modern-day Mark Twain, a curly-haired caricature of himself, a scientific messenger of the apocalypse, a self-proclaimed humanist, the original dark comic.

We knew all of this before today, but should we be celebrating it? Start referring to all mirrors as leaks, and alcoholic beverages as yeast excrement? Smoke Pall Mall cigarettes (“the classy way to commit suicide”)? Find out his favorite drink and make it? But Google didn’t know what his favorite drink was.

But wait! What does the hoi polloi’s voice of all reason and truth have to say? I’m speaking of Wikipedia, of course, which already includes an update on Vonnegut’s entry, in addition to his eight rules for writing a short story. A few favs:

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

In the end, I’ve decided to find solace in a Vonnegut quote from a 1973 interview with Playboy. Vonnegut wrote for and was interviewed by Playboy throughout his life, including a dual interview with Joseph Heller in 1992, though he once noted in an interview with Salon that no one ever reads Playboy. So here I am, reading Playboy, hoping he’s found his utopia, and thinking, “I don’t know how the fuck he did it either, but I’m glad he did.”

“Human beings will be happier — not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie — but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.”