Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Passing the time here and there, indulgentastic meanderings on the Music that Mattered to Me last year.

1. Pet Shop Boys

Having only half-remembered a handful of their biggest hits, I was oh so um pleasantly surprised to find entire PSB albums that were worth my time. The chronology goes like this: Please, Actually, Introspective, Behavior. Them's the ones worth exploring – I simply can not vouch for the later catalogue (I like Very, but less defensibly).

[Regarding Popism. Remember when everyone tried to find out about un- or less-discovered music in order to either enjoy themselves or gain subcultural cred? I mean, that's how I remember the mid-90's (ed. revisionism suspected). Or that's what I got from reading Magnet and Alternative Press. Well, the new thing is discovering worth instead in the music of the mainstream populace. And maybe not just because it's so unlikely that there's any music left to discover (thank you, Internet). But, still less than ideal, maybe partly because there's something somehow subversive to be said for Google Earth zooming out and applying our college-educated intellection to music that's actually meant something to the masses. Pop anthropology aside, I also mean to touch briefly upon the Death of Guilty Pleasures: seems to me there's very little room left for shameful enjoyment when there'll always be something valuable to glean from everything. Exaggeration, but maybe just, like, art-historical vectors of analysis or something. Anyway, this whole Popism thing I think is maybe one potentially positive direction the kids these days could take. I can't tell how rampant or effective it is, but I know a couple of my recent favorites are significantly above-ground finds.]

Anyway, the Pet Shop Boys. The drum machines and synthesizer sounds, sometimes they sound like presets, and sometimes they are, but the overall production value is absolutely crystal clear definition. This goes double for the vocals -- Tennant slices through the mix with precision. And lyrically, it's babble-less economics. It's like they came from disco, but also from The Kinks (or something else as smart and socially conscious; if I may, I'm reminded of Pulp and Blur but with less knowingness. Sorry.). Please and Actually are the most recommendable b/c they're short and to the point (and contain those humongous hits); Introspective leans closer to house/techno long-form than pop mechanics, and Behavior vice versa. If only Madonna's albums measured up (excepting True Blue).

Like some other things I've fixated on this year, this is slick 80's pop. There's nothing raw or messy about it. Perfect architecture in sound and song structure, at least most of the time. Gloss, and not just for it's own sake. But still, don't take that sheen for granted either, it's an essential foundation of the imaginary environment. And with regard to reverb, there was once a time when the defaults were set to Wet... Why have things dried up so, since the 80's? Is it maybe somehow due to digital recording? That would be pretty pretty pretty pretty ironic.

(Thanks to the estate of Viva Cohen.)

2. Scott Walker

I started with Tilt last year, which came out nearly 10 years ago. That voice was ridiculous, opera-like, almost somehow even not melodic, just going on and on, with the vibrato and the relentless melodramatic intensity. The music is avant-rock, with epic orchestral embellishments, and still somehow truly foreign sounds (it can be done), and the production actually reminds me of ...Nothing Like the Sun (I'm just arriving at this now, but oh wow, what Sting could do, what so many elder icons could do, if they wanted to...). Tilt, I don't know what these songs are about, but after listening to it tons I find the melody and retain it, and can anticipate the dramatic dynamic shifts, and can enjoy the voice -- it's not all dumbed-down opera parody, none of it is, but I don't know what it is, it's not teasing or ironic (the sound), it's pained and serious, always serious and poetic and seriously poetic. I wonder when people criticize that so-and-so take themselves too seriously, what is that? The non-serious ideal? Not that anyone's saying that about Walker.

Turns out the new album, The Drift, is even more strange, dark, and dissonant. And though it might seem even more difficult to read or decode than Tilt, I think it's much more immediate and instantly gripping. It's visceral and noisy and crushing and tactily dense. Not all the time, there's still some lean 'mathy' moments, and some ultra-pregnant pauses. Well, not really though -- b/c the quiet times are always eerie, but the dynamic shifts are so well-timed that they genuinely shock, stir....make you rush back to the volume knob.

Of course it's exactly this type of musical description that prompts one-upmanship, but the sonic shock value is only a part. What're these lyrics about? From interviews, I understand "Jesse" to be about 9/11, but only via imagining Elvis's graveside conversation with his unborn twin brother; that and prairy vs. skyscrapered landscapes as tools for unpacking a disillusioned American Dream. That's just part of one song. The Drift reminds me of David Lynch. And not just because it comes close to Mulholland Drive's sound design (that turd-dude behind the diner's dumpster). This stuff about America, coming from a weird perspective -- Walker's USA but has lived in the UK for decades. But also the mining for dream logic, or, at least, unfamiliar reference points. Me, I have to start from zero when I think about the sound of this stuff; or want to.

3. Joanna Newsom

I'd heard the voice was peculiar, but then that it (the voice) was supposedly less peculiar on her otherwise more remarkable new album, Ys (pronounced "yes, please, pass the le peas!"). Got sucked into the eye of the hype storm: knew I'd like it, rushed to buy it before seeing her concert in Greensboro, and subsequently fixated for a good couple months. [It occurs to me this list is really probably just from the 2nd half of 2006, b/c I can't recall what I obsessed over earlier in the year.] This is the album composed of long-form harp and vocal songs, adorned and often trumped by Van Dyke Parks' orchestral score. But trumped for the better. This motivated me to revisit Parks' Song Cycle (which as we all know is Jim O'Rourke's favorite album of all time), which Newsom was supposedly obsessed with enough to not only ask for his help, but which album she also obtained the actual harp played on the recording (which is, like, an old harp).

Song Cycle
sounds like a musical that's been edited a la musique concrete (to me), and so I anticipated some narrative complexity from Ys , given the songs' lengths. Song Cycle is rendered with studio magic (edits and splices, reverb and echo) but also some of that 'american' or 'jazz-influenced' orchestral scoring, and Parks' voice is small but realer for its limits. Ys was all written by Newsom on harp and voice, and then the orchestra was added after the fact. Her voice and melody and vocabulary and vision overall seem limitless. And it's partly just the ambition and expansiveness that're remarkable here. Who besides Scott Walker and Joanna Newsom are even trying to do so much with the temporal medium? I mean, anyway... makes you want some sweeping ideas and plotlines of your own.

Parks's score runs the gamut: crazy referential, t rex blues violins, surprisingly propulsive, brings dimension(s). But so does Newsom's voice: every single each and every word and note is individually tempered. Re peculiarity, it's like if Bjork had more than just the one trick; Newsom literally sounds like different people sometimes -- maybe too exaggerated there... The songs are stories and maybe different narrators, it's all kind of literary, but I hope that doesn't turn someone off the way certain 'bookish' Indie rockers of late seem to just embarass everything. The next album should be on Deutsche Grammaphone. Or Nonesuch. Or the one Kate Bush was on.

4. Genesis

Excepting his cover of Lauper's "True Colors," my Phil Collins greatest hits CD is pretty much an unfaltering display of affirmative, anthemic hits and the economic production values that only a drummer's drummer's drummer could will upon us. "And yet...?" What about all his other songs I hear on the radio; were they deemed less-great or were they simply less popular? The answer, an answer, is Genesis. Not his songs, but those of a group, a collaborative songwriting unit. Dudes that can effin' play and sound-design, but also know mechanics, dynamics, ir/resolution management, how to compose great pop songs .

They didn't start off that way (nor did they try), but they didn't categorically stay that way either (e.g. "Domino" or even the unedited "Tonight tonight tonight," both from Invisible Touch). Besides the fact that many of their songs are hardwired into my pop radio nostalgia, I also have real respect for Genesis's career. Mostly that they didn't stick to one pursuit. Not that I'm steeped in their lore. But I like to think that, following Peter Gabriel's departure, the group found a way toward polished pop which had nothing to do with artistic compromise. Not like "Gee, we'd sure prefer to compose ever more elaborate epic concept-suites, but there's not enough money in it." More like "Maybe it'd be interesting to adapt our skills and interests to the more immediately gratifying pleasures of pop." Stretches upon speculations, no place near veracity, granted.

[In a way, once again, regarding Popism. This is all kidding aside. Patrick Bateman's caricatured mock-erudite appraisal, while intentionally and successfully funny, also wasn't completely wrongheaded. This music is affirmative and 'powerful,' and knowingly so. But I'd rather disassociate Genesis from any sort of cutesy U.S. Psycho-related 80's revisionistic ironization. Because it needn't ever be a guilty pleasure to begin with. In as much as we're discussing pop music, subtlety and sophistication aren't always ideal. It takes all kinds... But sometimes the underground, the alternative, the punk, the subculturally authentic -- sometimes the art is shyness: the layered-ness ultimately distracting, intentionally or not. Furthermore, sometimes the level of musical sophistication overstates what one could possibly hope to express: having learned the tricks and tools of the trade, you're obligated to make use and explore even further, but the impetus is still one of a few fundamentally common human conditions. "Oh, but the lyrics and musical dramatics are so cheesy!" That cheese's truth-value is often quite ample.]

So anyway, Genesis's Platinum Collection, which came out a couple years ago, is a 3 disc reverse-chronological greatest hits collection. Here I found most of what's missing from my Phil Collins collection. But I also found songs I'd forgotten ever hearing, and more importantly, enough great songs from the same albums that I will now need to pick them up ( The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Abacab, Duke, Invisible Touch, possibly We Can't Dance).

Inasmuch as these surveys are meant to encapsulate particular types or genres of interest, I really could've spent this portion on Sting and The Police. B/c I was well familiar with Sting's early albums, but only this year got to know The Police's entire albums. And there may've actually been some thematic similarities between Sting / The Police and Phil Collins (and Peter Gabriel) / Genesis. G.E. Smith, our commercial breaks need you now more than ever!

5. Thom Yorke

Cher Journal Intime,

Les Qualifications Unremarkable. I happen to like Radiohead very much. My fall of '97 semester-abroad in Paris headphone listening was mostly split between OK Computer, Red Apple Falls , and some assortment of Steve Reich, Morton Feldman and the Chicago Post-Rock crowd. I got to see them at Cradle (The Bends) and while in Paris (OK Computer). Kid A's the last album by anyone that I remember immediately purchasing upon release and poring over, without pause, alone, start to finish. And many times opting to drive TWO's van in order to monopolize the stereo in order to hear Kid A right next to Amnesiac ostensibly in order to seek out sonic and thematic connections between them but really just in order to make Kid A seem longer.

La Dissidence Moins Qu'exceptionnelle.
Radiohead's a group I'm perpetually suspecting isn't cool. Because they're so popular. That no matter how much they experiment, the sounds and songs themselves can't gain on the group's unhip international celebrity -- part of the U2 and REM "alternative" pantheon. That they're uncool to the extent that they try (or pretend) to be experimental or sonically contemporary at least. That there's some offense being taken at their meddling in the cooler genres of music (concrete/electronic, free/jazz, their politics too, I suppose). But no, nothing's really in dispute. RH isn't uncool, they're just not interesting enough. There's nothing to defend or speak up for. I know someone that's complained Yorke's vocals are too droney, don't spread out enough melodically, and that's kind of true. His lyrics aren't as bad as Trent Reznor's, but he does seem to have only a couple of feelings to repeat endlessly with little variation.

La Suffisance Non-très-exceptionnelle.
All of which goes for Thom Yorke's The Eraser, which really is a more electronic and less densely arranged Radiohead album. I expected or hoped that it'd be material too experimental (or different) for him to develop with the group, maybe even an all-instrumental electronic affair. It is almost completely electronic (laptop glitchy, to be more specific), but his vocals are very acoustic and very up-front -- both things that RH's been shying away from since Kid A. It turns out to be far more simple songwriting, despite the elaborate textures and unnaturally precise glitch-rhythms. In fact it often sounds like he spent months on the music and then quickly laid down the vocals in a couple days. There's little vocal harmony, and few words -- somehow it sounds a lot more intuitive and less over-wrought than RH. Above all else, it's more calm. Realizing that what I like about RH and TY is probably just the sound (the voice, chord progressions and melodies and harmonies, the engineering and production), not the meaning or content. The Eraser is wallpaper because it's familiar, and its familiarity is due to its suitability. And its suitability must signify something -- and something overarching considering the massive popularity. Again, getting close to sentimentality = truth. Maybe it's just UK emo.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Nilbog for Academics

Wikipedia article on Nilbog and Troll 2. Did you know that the movie was made by Claudio Faragosso under the pseudonym Drake Floyd? Faragosso also did some directing on Zombi 3 which was the sequal to Zombi 2 which was not actually a sequal to Dawn of the Dead which was a sequal to Night of the Living Dead? Did you know that Michael Paul Stephenson, the actor who played Joshua, has business ventures in Salt Lake City, UT?

The official Troll 2 website. Apparently it is quite popular.
Nilbog in da house.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Deep Sea Shark

Read about it HERE. Watch the video too--creep-tastic! The world is craxxxy!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sibling Jowlvalry

Crash starts out strong.

OH SHIT. The quick follow-up suckerpunch: jowl on a plane.

Crouton strikes.

As Mike Tyson took out Larry Holmes in 90 seconds in '88, Crash delivers the crushing blow: the monobrowl.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Erie Choir show tonight at 506

Hey Y'all,

Erie Choir isn't as secretive about it's shows. We've got one tonight at the 506 with this Benjy Ferree guy. You can watch him get interviewed by Ian Svenonius (above?). Which reminds me, didn't The Hundred or another one of Matt and David's bands play with the Make Up at Guilford once?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is he the a killer or not?

From craigslist:

Horror Feature needs Cast and Crew March 12-24

Reply to: job-260564559@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-01-10, 2:50PM EST

UPDATED AGAIN - RECENT SCRIPT CHANGE - Both cast and crew needs have been updated from previous postings, so please read below.
We are seeking local cast and crew for a feature film shooting in and around Boone, NC. The film has guaranteed distribution (through either a division of Lions Gate or WB) as we have relationships with both. Great exposure for actors, great experience for crew. We plan on working hard, but having fun.
SHOOTING DATES CONFIRMED - Production shoot dates are March 12-24 with one day off (Sunday the 18th). When applying for a position, please let us know your availability for those dates. Crew who are available the entire shoot get top priority.

THE MOVIE: low-budget indy horror film set in the woodlands of the south. Friday the 13th meets Deliverance.

NON UNION Actors are asked to submit a headshot and resume via the craigslist email link provided in this posting. If we think you physically embody a character in the script, we will contact you in for a reading when the production arrives in Boone (at the beginning of March). We are specifically looking for the following:
1) JOHN (caucasian)- Lives in the moment. Good time, partying frat boy, early 20's. Would sleep with his friend's girlfriend if he had the chance (think "Steve Stiffler" 'from American Pie').

2) JAMIE (caucasian) - Good time partying sorority sister, early 20's. Beautiful and light hearted. She's fresh out from under her parents thumb and just wants to experience everything. Looks to John to show her how to party. (note: nudity is required for this role)

3) MINDY (caucasian) - Good time partying sorority sister. Busty, blonde, beautiful and BFF forever with Jamie. Not the brightest bulb. Lives for the moment and doesn't have a care in the world. (note: nudity is required for this role)

4) ZEEK (character actor type - caucasian male) - 20's - 30's. Local Yokel drifter. Dirty, sloppy, creepy in a "deliverance" kind of way. He'll stalk our good time college group in the woods.

5) STEVE (caucasian) early 20's, college. Wannabe Frat boy. A hanger-on. Attractive, but awkward. Steve is the kind of guy who's smart and will likely go far in life, but for now, really wants to cut loose and party. He wants to run in the same circles as John and spends his parents wealth to help him get there.

7) RANGER MAXWELL (caucasian) 40's - 50's. CREEPY doesn't begin to describe his energy. The big question will be, is he the a killer or not? MUST be a well versed actor, able to convey a feeling with a look and be able to monologue a ghost story in a frightening, compelling way.

8) JASON (caucasian) - early 20's. Frat boy friend of John's. Unfortunately for Jason, it will cost him his life. Actor needs to sell fear and be able to die a good death (smiles).

Actors please submit resumes/headshots via email and hardcopy to: fixed point films attn: the deranger 8899 beverly blvd. suite 400 los angeles, ca 90048

CREW- (film students are welcome to apply)
3) LOCATION SOUND RECORDIST - Experience required. People with their own equipment (Booms, LAVS, Mixer, etc.) get top priority.
4) MAKEUP - We need a makeup/effects person. Must have your own kit and be willing to do practical makeup along with EFX stuff. Majority of work is action oriented blood gags (ie. blood sprays from opened wounds). EFX Makeup is mostly wound oriented. Please submit portfolio samples via email.
5) PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS - We need PA's that are willing to work on set, doing whatever will be needed. Experience isn't nessary, but is a plus. Great opportunity to boost your resume or get practical, hands-on set experience. PA's with experience could find themselves promoted to more responsible positions (which would look great on IMDB).

Again, this is a low budget indy production. The budget is tight, but if film is in your blood, this is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door. If you are interested in any other position not listed above, feel free to contact us as well. Thanks.

Location: Boone
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I saw the fantastic band Audubon Park last night at Cat's Cradle. They ended their set with Ginuwine's "Pony", a song that makes you want to like, ride something...The lead singer said prior to the song, "You're going to be more horny than you've ever been after this song!" I guess so...Rah Bra's out of Richmond have been covering this song for nine years and in more recent years the beautiful blond woman on keyboards has been exposing more of her cleavage while performing this song...I'm not trying to overlook her artistic integrity, I'm just saying she's showing a lot of damn cleavage while slamming her hips against her keyboard while singing a song about riding a damn pony (add to that the drummer is usually half naked and grinding on the floor), but Audubon Park were um, funny. I'd like to thank David Nahm for allowing me to write on his blog. Thank you.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fans to AP: "You're playing a show tonight!"

9:30 pm (for real)

Cat's Cradle

Friday, January 12, 2007


North Elementary, Schooner, Un Deux Trois, AP, The Heist and the Accomplice.

[painting of half-elf/half horse]

Announcing New Tropic of Food Junior Associate

The Tropic of Food, and Tropic of Food related management concern, are proud to announce the addition of 2007's newest junior staff member of the Tropic of Food writing team:


Give him applause. This will be a banner year. Perhaps a good way to welcome him is to begin a comment thread of Cy Rawls stories.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Give Fred a chance.

We just refinanced the Big House with this guy, and we don't even own the place. That's how smooth he is.

Potential 2007 Great Cover-Up suggestion for Mr. Burr

"You can say I'm trippin' but I'm Stingy and I can't hide it
Wanna keep you all to me--I'm selfish, why try to fight it?
You're the only one--you're the only love that's strong enough to claim me.
So please forgive me;
I'm just Stingy.
But how can you blame me?"

Time 1--Finn 0

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

LeBurn and Shirley

This is real music for the soul of man and the heart of women.

I recommend "Too Old to Rap," as well as the built-in on-all-the-time game where every time you click the mouse it's like you're blowing up the website.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Monet and Picasso Connect the Dots

A la "Meditations," Ben's John Coltrane to Finn's Pharaoh Sanders. The old guard, still avant, meets the new. Co-exists with. Harmonizes with. Classically radical next to shattering new primitive instinct.

You look retarded? I look violated, beaten, barely breathing. Having shown the way, I give thanks. But this is the new. A derivation, to be sure. But still, technically, a revolution. From dissonance to duck sounds: you shook your head, your face, your skin...They shake me.

Scenes from a Burn III

Robert's keyboard after being knocked over after the Hamilton show when Finn forgot the Golden Rule: "Always take it off the stand first." The splintering sounds were particularly forlorn.

Chuck working on octatonic scales while we prepare to watch "Grizzly Man" in Hamilton.

The quest for pure (unplugged) woman tone continues as "Grizzly Man" spells out Timothy Treadwell's sad tale.

Soundcheck at one of North America's nicest clubs, The Starlite, in Waterloo, Ontario.

Le safe sex.

Some drawings on a wall in an alley at a bar in Montreal.

Josh and our host in Montreal, Claude, in front of an inflatable spinning Christmas carousel.

Le advertising pour les cell phones.

11:30pm in the back of the van: a sandwich is born by lightning and the cooling power of the newly purchased Nein Cooler.

NYC bathroom graffiti. Our country 'tis of thee.

Street performers in NYC promoting the wiping power of Charmin toilet paper with a person in a bear costume and a few cowbells.