Saturday, December 12, 2009

Favorite Albums of 2009

15. Ramona Falls - Intuit

14. Anni Rossi - Rockwell

13. Bowerbirds - Upper Air

12. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career

11. Atlas Sound - Logos

10. Beirut: March of the Zapotec & Realpeople: Holland

9. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca

8. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest

7. Throw Me The Statue: Creaturesque

6. Bill Callahan: Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

5. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World To Come

4. Cass McCombs: Catacombs

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz!

2. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

1. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavillion

Friday, December 04, 2009

Lyricist #1 - Will Sheff

I follow the blog of the poet Ada Limón, and she posted recently about an assignment given to her by Indigest Magazine to interview an artist who works in a different genre. She chose Will Sheff of Okkervil River. And I'm so glad she did. He is a truly brilliant lyricist. He rhymes without sounding compromised or cheesy, he uses repetition without it turning to filler, he can use tricks without sounding forced or contrived. He chooses his words so carefully. The lyrics read brilliantly on their own, but are understood more deeply when coupled with the music (not always the case with good lyrics). There might be a danger to approaching songwriting in too literary a manner, lest the words overshadow the song and melody itself. But whether his songs are whispy or loud he always maintains a balance. Will Sheff, a lyricist himself adored by poets.

Here are two examples:

"A Stone" is sad & superb. The narrator doesn't give any reasons why this girl should love him instead of this stone. He doesn't vow to lay her down in a bed of roses, so to speak, or raise her up so she can stand on mountains, as it were. He just flays her with this indictment of misdirected love. The end just kills.

"Unless it Kicks" is a tour de force. How many songs have we heard over the years about the trappings of rock and roll, and life on the road, etc.? None is more forthright about "living the lie" as Sheff is here, but through shared experience Sheff is able to find some jubliance, some wonder, some meaning despite the doomed nature of the whole affair.

A Stone (mp3)
Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (2005)

Hot breath, rough skin, warm laughs and smiling, the loveliest words whispered and meant - you like all these things. But, though you like all these things, you love a stone. You love a stone, because it's smooth and it's cold. And you'd love most to be told that it's all your own. You love white veins, you love hard grey, the heaviest weight, the clumsiest shape, the earthiest smell, the hollowest tone - you love a stone. And I'm found too fast, called too fond of flames, and then I'm phoning my friends, and then I'm shouldering the blame, while you're picking pebbles out of the drain, miles ago. You're out singing songs, and I'm down shouting names at the flickerless screen, going f*&%ing insane. Am I losing my cool, overstating my case? Well, baby, what can I say? You know I never claimed that I was a stone. And you love a stone. You love white veins, you love hard grey, the heaviest weight, the clumsiest shape, the earthiest smell, the hollowest tone - you love a stone. You love a stone, because it's dark, and it's old, and if it could start being alive you'd stop living alone.

And I think I believe that if stones could dream, they'd dream of being laid side-by-side, piece-by-piece, and turned into a castle for some towering queen they're unable to know. And when that queen's daughter came of age, I think she'd be lovely and stubborn and brave, and suitors would journey from kingdoms away to make themselves known. And I think that I know the bitter dismay of a lover who brought fresh bouquets every day when she turned him away to remember some knave who once gave just one rose, one day, years ago

Unless It Kicks (mp3)
Okkervil River - The Stage Names (2007)

What gives this mess some grace unless it's kicks, man - unless it is fictions, unless it's sweat or it's songs? What hits against this chest unless it's a sick man's hand, from some midlevel band? He's been driving too long on a dark windless night, with the stereo on, with the towns flying by and the ground getting soft.

And a sound in the sky, coming down from above, it surrounds you and sighs and is whispering of what pulls your body down, and that is quicksand. So climb out quick, hand over hand, before your mouth's all filled up. What picks you up from down unless it's tricks, man? When I've been fixed I am convinced that I will not get so broke up again.

And on a seven day high, that heavenly song punches right through my mind and just hums through my blood. And I know it's a lie, but I'll still give my love. Hey, my heart's on the line for your hands to pluck off.

What gives this mess some grace unless it's fiction - unless it's licks, man, unless it's lies or it's love? What breaks this heart the most is the ghost of some rock and roll fan, floating up from the stands with her heart opened up. And I want to tell her, "Your love isn't lost," and say "my heart is still crossed!" I want to scream, "hey, you're so wonderful! What a dream in the dark - about working so hard, about glowing, so stoned, trying not to turn off, trying not to believe in that lie all on your own."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lyricist #2 - John Darnielle

For almost 20 years John Darnielle has crafted intense, uncompromising, original music. Whenever you hear the Mountain Goats you know it is them and not another. As far as vocals go I've never been his greatest fan, but I've come around the long way to that nasal deadpan delivery. And when it comes to lyrics there aren't many musicians out there that can even come close to John Darnielle. He is also staggeringly prolific. The first thing I ever heard from the Mountain Goats was "The Sunset Tree" in 2005, which by that time was already pretty far along in the discography. It marked a departure from his earlier material in that it was the most confessional collection of songs he'd ever released (and I am a true sucker for the honesty that accompanies that sort of thing). A large part of the album's subject matter deals autobiographically with Darnielle's relationship with his abusive stepfather. At one point he sings about a fantasized confrontation with the man, "I'm going to get myself in fighting trim, scope out every angle of unfair advantage. I'm going to bribe the officials. I'm going to kill all the judges. It's going to take you people years to recover from all of the damage." (!). By the album's end, however he seems to be coming to a sort of reconcilliation with the stepfather, and closes it out with this little beauty:

Pale Green Things (mp3)
The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree (2005)

Got up before dawn. Went down to the racetrack, riding with the windows down, shortly after your first heart attack. You parked behind the paddock. Cracking asphalt underfoot. Coming up through the cracks. Pale green things. Pale green things.

You watched the horses run their workouts. You held your stopwatch in your left hand, and a racing form beneath your arm. Casting your gaze way out to no man's land. Sometimes I'll meet you out there, lonely and frightened. Flicking my tongue out at the wet leaves. Pale green things. Pale green things.

My sister called at 3 AM, just last December. She told you how you'd died at last. At last, that morning at the racetrack was one thing that I remembered. I turned it over in my mind like a living Chinese finger trap. Seaweed in Indiana sawgrass. Pale green things. Pale green things.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lyricist #3 - James Mercer

A friend of mine once commented on how unfortunate it was that The Shins came about at a time when "The" bands were so ubiquitous. It would have been easy to lump them into the mix of wannabe throwback hipsters. For every gift like The Walkmen or The Decemberists there were outfits like The Vines, The Killers, The Ravonettes, or The Strokes (not a fan). And although the exposure they got from Garden State almost became a cruel joke ("You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life, I swear." ::vomit::), James Mercer's endlessly creative melodies and equally creative lyrics speak for themselves. The Shins have something to say, and say it poetically.

One of the greatest break-up songs of all time, in my opinion, is Past and Pending. The song opens up in the Fall, the year is dying along with the relationship. Betrayal and infidelity burn in one set of eyes, and the narrator is caught in that painful moment between an idyllic past and lonely future. Anyone suffering from a broken heart knows what its like to "loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines disecting love." The risk the lyrics run throughout is in the complexity of metaphor. Mercer takes the figurative "lines" disecting his relationship and doubles their meaning, sadness, beauty through the lyrical lines he's writing, disecting his love in song.

Past and Pending (mp3)
The Shins - Oh, Inverted World (2001)

As someone sets light to the first fire of autumn, we settle down to cut ourselves apart. Cough and twitch from the news on your face and some foreign candle burning in your eyes. Held to the past too aware of the pending, chill as the dawn breaks and finds us up for sale. Enter the fog another low road descending away from the cold lust, your house and summertime. Blind to the last cursed affair, pistols and countless eyes, a trail of white blood betrays the reckless route your craft is running. Feed till the sun turns into wood dousing an ancient torch. Loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love. Your name on my cast and my notes on your stay offer me little but doting on a crime. We've turned every stone and for all our inventions in matters of love loss, we've no recourse at all. Blind to the last cursed affair, pistols and countless eyes, a trail of white blood betrays the reckless route your craft is running feed till the sun turns into wood dousing an ancient torch. Loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lyricist #4 - Sufjan Stevens

I've never regretted the day I went to the record store and slapped down $14.99 (plus tax) for a brand new album called "Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State." (Record stores? What are those?) I'd been perusing various internet music sites and found the song "Romulus", which blew me away. Sufjan Stevens has been one of my favorite musical artists ever since. He graduated from The New School with an MFA in creative writing, where he also won the Chapbook award for fiction. (You can read some of his peices online. I recommend "All The Nonsense of Suffering" and "We Are Sheilded By the Holy Ghost".) Though it may not seem like it, based on the quantity of output, he is a feirce self-editor, which is essential in any writing (lyrical or otherwise).

One of my favorite Sufjan tracks is Vito's Ordination Song. Christy and I have two sons. When I hear this song, I can't help but think of taking each one into my arms, annointing their heads, and wanting for them every good thing, no matter what.

Vito's Ordination Song (mp3)
Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan - The Great Lake State (2003)

I always knew you in your mother’s arms. I have called your name. I have an idea placed in your mind: to be a better man. I've made a crown for you. Put it in your room. And when the bridegroom comes there will be noise. There will be glad. And a perfect bed. And when you write a poem I know the words. I know the sounds before you write it down. When you wear your clothes, I wear them too. I wear your shoes and your jacket too. I always knew you in your mother’s arms. I have called you son. I've made amends between father and son. Or, if you haven't one, rest in my arms. Sleep in my bed. There is a design to what I did and said.

linked images = paintings by Brian Kershisnik

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lyricist #5 - Collin Melloy

Storytelling is one of the most time-honored branches of songwriting. And while still pretty central to most genres of popular music, especially pop country music, the form has devolved, in many respects, into a paint-by-numbers routine. Then there's Collin Melloy. Whether its a concept album based on a Japanese folktale or theatrical tracks about seafarers or gymnasts (and regardless of how such stories strike your fancy), you must admit he is a true storyteller. I recognize the trust he has in his listeners. He tells stories full of metaphor and symbolism and action without talking down or oversimplifying.

One of the key tenets of writing is "show, don't tell." In his song "Red Right Ankle" he shows three stories, each one speaking to a different aspect of the same relationship. He doesn't hand it to you in a to-go bag, but instead relies confidently on the interpretation of the listener. That's hard to do without being overly cryptic and vague.

Red Right Ankle (mp3)
The Decemberists - Her Majesty The Decemberists (2003)

This is the story of your red right ankle and how it came to meet your leg. And how the muscle, bone, and sinews tangled and how the skin was softly shed. And how it whispered, "Oh, adhere to me, for we are bound by symmetry. And whatever differences our lives have been we together make a limb." This is the story of your red right ankle.

This is the story of your gypsy uncle you never knew because he was dead. And how his face was carved and ripped with wrinkles in the picture in your head. And remember how you found the key to his hideout in the Pyrenees? But you wanted to keep his secret safe, so you threw the key away. This is the story of your gypsy uncle.

This is the story of the boys who loved you, who love you now and loved you then. And some were sweet and some were cold and snuffed you, and some just layed around in bed. And some, they crumbled you straight to your knees-- did it cruel, did it tenderly. Some, they crawled their way into your heart to rend your ventricles apart. This is the story of the boys who loved you.

This is the story of your red right ankle.


I haven’t posted a whole lot lately. Life has been busy, and I’d rather be doing other things, I suppose. But the leaves are down now and every morning I scrape frost off my windshield, the decade's final condensed and frozen breath. And as is customary in death, I’ve been reflecting. On growth and stagnancy? On accomplishments and failures? On discoveries and dreams? On all things transcendent and spiritual? Sure, all those things are fine. But the focus of my reflection has been on the truly important: Pop Music!

This month I’ll post a little more than usual. Most of it will probably be music related. Most of it will be uninteresting to a majority of my friends. Most of it will probably be arranged in the dreaded list format. To begin with, I’m going to share five of my favorite lyricists of the decade, I’ll cover some favorite albums from the year/decade, and perhaps some favorite songs as well. But I don't want to pigeonhole myself too quickly. Are there any requests from anyone who cares (even remotely) about what my reflections are regarding any other aspect of the 00’s as we stand over its open grave?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are - a film review

(There are Spoilers ahead, of course. And I apologize for the long windedness. The Cliff’s Notes version of this review is that overall, for me, the film was only pretty good, though extremely beautiful to look at. There. You can move your Reader along now.)

Christy and I finally got to go see Where The Wild Things Are a few weeks ago. We were pretty excited about it. How could you not be with that trailer? The Arcade Fire song, Wake Up, which is featured in the preview quickly became one of my favorite songs when it was released years ago and, despite being borderline melodramatic, the song captures the wistful regret of our lost inner-child. “Something filled up my heart with nothing. Someone told me not to cry. But now that I’m older my heart is colder, and I can see that it’s a lie. Children, wake up! Hold your mistake up, before they turn the summer into dust. If the children don’t grow up, our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up. We’re just a million little gods causing rainstorms, turning every good thing to rust. I guess we’ll just have to adjust.” See? The lyrics aren’t speaking to ten year-olds here. They are speaking to the dormant child within the adult who has forgotten how to dream and how to trust instinct and feeling. We age, we get calloused, we scab, and as a result we make the mistake of repressing the better nature of our inner-child. So, children, wake up! Hold your mistake up! Before it’s too late.

And that should have been clue number one that WTWTA was not going to be primarily a children’s movie (as it was marketed to be). We had planned to take our three-year-old, and after reading one review decided against it (thankfully). Visually the film is amazing. Spike Jonze gets such unique imagery in all his work and there are no false steps here in terms of cinematography (like I’m an expert, right?). The soundtrack, by Karen O, is marvelous, including a particularly touching rendition of the Daniel Johnston tune, "Worried Shoes." Spot on voice work from every single one of the Wild Things (James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Forrest Whittaker, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano). All nail it perfectly. Max himself (played by namesake Max Records) did a superb acting job as well. Catherine Keener is golden in her role, and for me her interactions with Max were so meaningful they overshadowed every other relationship in the film. There is one little moment in particular when Max is camped out on his back underneath his Mom’s desk at home. She is making phone calls and by all accounts seems to be an expert at juggling both motherly and professional duties. Max isn’t begging for her attention at this point, but he wants it. He reaches over to her foot and tenderly tugs on the toe of her nylon and they exchange this mother-son look that carries all the humanity you might ever hope to catch on film. Yet in the end the film lacked enough of these moments, and it’s been hard to put my finger on exactly why.

I liked the film, but I expected to love it, and I did not love it. The film’s setup was terrific. From the opening scene until Max gets to where the wild things are (and even for a little while afterwards) the film is strong. But then I went over some emotional drop off, and couldn't ever quite return. My best guess is that the writing was a bit too cryptic, and some of the metaphor was a bit too heavy handed. Christy told me on the way home (and I agree with her) that she couldn’t stop asking herself “What does that symbolize?” which ultimately became distracting. On NPR Spike Jonze mentioned that every one of the Wild Things represented an emotion. Emotions, especially for kids, are tricky to deal with and a lot of my frustration in the movie stemmed from seeing Max deal with his emotions just as one might expect—like a child. Symbolically, his relationships with these wild emotions make sense, but the balancing act on screen doesn’t play out so graceful (and no doubt certainly wasn’t meant to, yet that doesn’t invalidate my frustration). The owls “Bob and Terry” are also a bit of a mystery. My guess is that they were a clunky similitude of the real life relationships that Max doesn’t understand, or perhaps doesn’t want to understand (ie: his mother’s boyfriend, bosses, and his sister’s friends). The thrust of the middle section of the movie deals with Max's efforts in this dream, wherein he is a king with the ability to do whatever he wants, to construct (literally) a perfect world. The old Utopia concept. But he ultimately fails, and after all hell breaks loose with the Wild Things he comes to the very real-life conclusion that no such world is possible. It is the other side of the “Wake Up” dichotomy -- that in our inevitable coming-of-age we wake up to the fact that life is hard, and death is real, and there are lots of hard questions and nauseatingly few easy answers. Interestingly enough, when Max discovers this he is not only better equipped to deal with his “real world” but he actually longs to go back. I felt that the ending, much like the beginning, was strong.

My little 3 year old, Gus, loves the book. When we read it together, there are certain phrases that I’m allowed to say, and certain phrases that only he is allowed to say. When Max is being sassy with his mom he lays down a threat, “I’ll eat you up”. Gus delivers the line with sinister eyebrows and a smile. Later on we get to my favorite, and most telling moment in our little exchange. Max’s reign as king has come to and end and it is time for him to go. His threat from the beginning of the book now morphs into an expression of compassion and longing. I let it out like a sad wild thing, “Please don’t go, we’ll eat you up, we love you so”. And Gus delivers Max’s reply with a curt, matter-of-fact, and almost hopeful, “No.”

Kids are resilient and adaptable (“I guess we’ll just have to adjust”). They need to be loved like all the world, and it should be shown and expressed often. But they don’t need to be pandered to. And adults certainly don’t either. WTWTA, despite its hangups, does not do that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Let The Wild Rumpus Start

I'm so excited for this film. I love this book. I love Spike Jonze. And in some beautiful way the trailers for this film give me more faith in humanity. All you artists that are out there creating, and being active, and peeling off the scales from our eyes, thank you. Isn't this life amazing?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Slamming Open The Door

First of all, many thanks to Melanie for directing me to this amazing, heartbreaking peice of art.

From NPR:

Poet Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's new collection of poems, Slamming Open the
, documents the aftermath of the murder of her daughter Leidy Bonanno.

Leidy was found dead in her apartment in 2003, strangled with a telephone
cord by an ex-boyfriend. She had recently graduated from nursing school.

Two of the book's poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and poet
Sharon Olds calls the work "a gift of power, truth, rage, and beauty."

Do yourself a huge favor and click here to listen to the Fresh Air interview and read some of the collection's poems.

Death Barged In

In his Russian greatcoat,
slamming open the door
with an unpardonable bang,
and he has been here ever since.

He changes everything,
rearranges the furniture,
his hand hovers by the phone;
he will answer now, he says;
he will be the answer.

Tonight he sits down to dinner
at the head of the table
as we eat, mute;
later, he climbs into bed
between us.

Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
clamping two
colossal hands on my shoulders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck:
From now on,
you write about me.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Personal Motto

I won't tell you how I got there, but Google landed me on a wiki article detailing some very useful instructions on how to choose a "personal motto". I found the idea very fascinating. Here you go:

Step 1. Decide what kind of person you are. Your motto should have something to do about what you like to do, or enjoy being a part of.

Step 2. Choose a motto that no one else has! It is important that no one else has the same motto, do not choose theirs, and do not tell them yours, until you have it.

Step 3. Don't over-use your motto. You don't want to walk up to someone and just blurt out your motto. It's all about having one when the time is right!

Step 4. Add your motto to the bottom of your emails as a daily reminder.

Brilliant! Sure, step 2 contradicts itself (can't tell it if I don't have it). And nevermind that step 3 (which is completely awesome) contradicts step 4. And don't worry that it isn't very clear why one would need a personal motto in the first place, or in what circumstance it would be "right" to reveal that motto (since this is what it's all about). I'm thinking I should get one.

I know I'm breaking the secrecy implied in step 2, but...any ideas?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cass McCombs on Job Satisfaction

There is work. There is play. There is play that is work, and play that is play. And work that is work, and in only one of these lies happiness.

Cass McCombs: The Executioner's Song

Friday, July 10, 2009

Advertising Gone Bad

I don't know what it is about a baby gleefully holding a razor to his (or her?) face that makes me want to go out and buy the new Gillette Fusion. But it does.

Monday, July 06, 2009

R.I.P. McNamara

Today Robert McNamara died. Read about his fascinating life in this NYT obit. Several years ago Errol Morris filmed one of my favorite documentaries of all time on McNamara's life, The Fog of War.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Two Weeks

This is one of the best songs I've heard this year. The drumming is nails.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Read This Poem. Now.

Joe Plicka (poet, teacher, and friend), has published a beautiful poem with Anti-Poetry. To read it click here. He visits this site from time to time, so leave a comment and tell him he's crazy and/or brilliant.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dancing on Lime Green

I grew up in rural Idaho with no MTV and very little pop music in the home. What I got came from Saturday morning radio (Casey Kasem’s Top 40) and my older brother and sister (AC/DC, Ratt, Def Leppard, etc.) It seems I was born with a fascination for pop music that has never quite left me (as you can plainly read). One of my earliest memories, and most certainly my earliest musical memory, is from about the time I was in Kindergarten. My oldest sister Alison came home one night, having borrowed a record from her friend. She went into our front room and put the vinyl on the turntable and let it spin. I spent the remainder of the entire evening dancing around on our shaggy green carpet to “Beat It”, “Billy Jean”, and “Thriller”. I’ve always appreciated Michael Jackson as an artist. There is a lot that can be said about him, great and terrible. But I’ll always remember green shag carpet and Eddie Van Halen’s unmistakable guitar in “Beat It”, driving a five year old boy mad with joy.

What are your earliest musical memories?

Thursday, June 25, 2009


What is David Lynch up to these days besides making really weird films, you ask? Well, let me tell you. He's up to Interview Project. Over the course of a twenty thousand mile road trip his crew would stop at random and talk to the men and women of this great nation. There is a fascinating humanity on display in these vignettes (uploaded for your viewing pleasure at the rate of one per day. I suppose any life is worth considering for at least that long).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gus and Milo

Christy and I have two fine boys. See them here through the talented, generous, friendly, artistic, focused-despite-the-unchecked-rowdiness-of-my-children, lens of Lacy Jane.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


You may want to put this one on your calendar for July 7th. The album is called "LP" (how clever!). Discovery is a two man electronic side project, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot.

Discovery: So Insane

Monday, June 15, 2009

In Memory

My Grandma, Beth Reynolds Blake
1916 - 2009

"Late Fragment"

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

-Raymond Carver

(see also)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Place You Last Knew Rest

As far as poetry in song goes, there is one album this year that is going places others are not, and that is Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle by Bill Callahan. His almost stoic vocal delivery was somewhat lost on me at first, but after spending an hour with him I see it now. Behold:

Too many birds in one tree. Too many birds in one tree, And the sky is full of black and screaming leaves; the sky is full of black and screaming. And one more bird, then one more bird. And one last bird. And another. One last black bird without a place to land. One last black bird without a place to be turns around in hopes to find the place it last knew rest. O black bird, over black rain burn. This is not where you last knew rest. You fly all night to sleep on stone. The heartless rest that in the morn will be gone. You fly all night to sleep on stone, to return to the tree with too many birds. If. If you. If you could. If you could only. If you could only stop. If you could only stop your. If you could only stop your heart. If you could only stop your heart beat. If you could only stop your heart beat for. If you could only stop your heart beat for one heart. If you could only stop your heart beat for one heart beat.

Bill Callahan - Too Many Birds

Updated: mp3 via Unnecessary Umlaut

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Crazy On You

Shara Worden has a mean set of pipes. She's such a spritely little thing outside that voice, and is now sporting an athletic looking (in a 70's sort of way) bob a la Karen O. I met her several years ago, before I knew who she was, as one of the Illinoisemakers. A fine person I must say, and I wish o wish that I loved her My Brightest Diamond stuff more, but I must confess I think it is just interesting and okay. However, I was browsing YANP today and found this clip of her, as one of the Decemberist troubadors, absolutely slaying a cover of Heart's "Crazy On You."

This might be the most acceptable time to admit that two of my first tapes (you know it), were Heart's self titled album and Def Leppard's Hysteria. My rock roots run deep.

Also (to revisit an old post) you might want to watch her kareoke Whitney Houston's untouchable "I Will Always Love You". We've seen American Idol hopefuls butcher it year after year. This should put a smile on your face.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Road

One of the great novels of the decade, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, was recently adapted for film.  It's actually been in the can for a while but has been sitting on the shelf for various reasons.  When the project was announced I was immediately worried that Hollywood would hack it up into little pieces and sell it as some awful cousin to I Am Legend.  But after seeing that it was going to be directed by John Hillcoat, who brilliantly directed The Proposition (one of the best movies you should never see), I had a spark of hope.  This book, despite the darkness, the sadness, the unflinching portrayal of the putrid side of humanity, also increased my faith in the power of love.  It didn't hurt that I read it as a brand new father.  Then this weekend, the trailer came out, and I'm disappointed again.  It looks more like an action movie than the deliberately, steadily, and intensely, yea even unbearably heartbreaking, and quite often suspensefully rolling forward story that plays out in the book.  As the saying goes: "Movies.  Ruining the book since 1920."  

Actually.  I still have hope.  Many are saying this trailer is a hack job conjured by the production company to put tails in seats.  And Esquire is trying to put it in league with The Godfather. So...we'll see.

Thanks to Kirk for nonchalantly showing me the trailer, after my having religiously checked IMDB for months. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wilco (The Album)

Now streaming at:

I am a huge fan of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Wasn't as big a fan of their last two records, and though this one is pretty good, it isn't blowing me away yet (though I'm only about halfway through the stream). There is a Feist duet that really shines. I still like the Jay Bennett era Wilco better than this more jammy, noisy version of the band. Wilco (the Album) is due for release on June 30.

Big thumbs up, by the way, on the album art work. Oh, you thought that was a Dromedary camel? Idi-oat. That's a Bactrian camel.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Buffetted Economy

Warren makes a case for an easing crisis. And repents for being caught too late at the ball.

See the CNN Money video here

Raise your hand if you think he's making sense.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nerd is such a limiting label...

...for Ken Jennings. And I suppose, by virtue of this post, I'm outing myself as a nerd as well. But one of my favorite blogs to read is Ken's. We have similar tastes in music and film, and he is always witty. We've all seen "Thankful Thursday" posts, right? How about trying one of Ken's "Wordplay Wednesdays" or other random mind games! His (probably oversized) brain is constantly turning over trivia, categorizing things in bizzare ways. For example, I'm linking you to two sets of lists. If you are neither bookish, nor a music enthusiast, these probably won't be very interesting. But I really enjoyed both.

The best American novels set in each of the fifty states:
Part One
Part Two

The best musical artist/group formed in each of the fifty states:
Part One
Part Two

Friday, February 13, 2009

True Love

Valentines Day is protected. It is the one day where, in the name of LOVE, you can get away with shameless amounts of cheesiness. And that's okay, because love often is cheesy. It can't help but be, since we're so unused to expressing it. It's a good day to be a bystander in a grocery store. You may find yourself standing awkwardly in a line of men with sideburns and goatees, closely examining bows, shaped chocolate boxes, looking and feeling lost. But today Joe Plicka will save us. He will show us why love, true love, hides in unlikely places, like the poopy pants of a little girl in the middle of nowhere. Joe is my friend. I reprint his poem here without his permission, and hopefully that is okay.

True Love

Somewhere in northern Nevada,
maybe eastern Oregon, where
nothing has a name—travelers
make up their own and the few that stay on
would rather forget—where the sky ends,
prairie dogs dance with truck tires and
the scrubland rolls away like an ocean swell,
that’s where I figured it out—

We were pointed toward Winnemucca when
that new daughter of ours pooped up her back.
I came out of the greasy roadhouse with a giant
She was lying on the trunk, naked, crooked
scratching the air like an upturned beetle
while you cleaned and dressed her.
She was your daughter then, and I remembered
the time, cradled in blood water,
piecing her together like a ball of tin foil.
And I was your son, knowing you
only from the outside,
and from books.
I saw you striding across paintings
and through silver screens. Mother.
Goddess. Grant me
my only sin: to have wanted you for myself.

I knew then that I am an empty man,
my body a cage,
organs hanging from strings like a lurid mobile.
When I saw you that day, somewhere,
a string broke; things started to sway
dangerously until they were all tangled up.
A marionette
left in a box and shaken up. Here a liver
wrapped around a spleen, hanging under a lung
beating against a kidney—and
I couldn’t do anything but
drive on, just holding myself
together, breathing like a man in a body cast
with you
swirling around me and in me, teasing me with
utter annihilation.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Since the old days of studying literature at the University I've read as much as I could, and at an unfortunately slow pace. In a down year I'll take in about 15 books. In an up year I can get in 25, and that's about as good as I can do with my schedule. In that time I feel like I've done my most important reading. I am a slave to fiction, which I would love to change someday (and have tried to occasionally), but I cannot seem to break free of its chains. Despite the meager sample there have been a small handful of authors that have really blown me away. One of those authors is David Foster Wallace. I had never heard of him until September of last year when news of his suicide made headlines, and I began linking to articles that left me wanting more. I recently finished Girl With Curious Hair, a compilation of short stories that for me were mostly hit (Little Expressionless Animals) with a little miss (the title story). The man is a phenom and a genius.

Secretly I would like to write as well. But I am plagued by demons that haunt me away from it (which is a euphemism for me being too lazy to commit). In one of his stories, "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way", the narrator sums up in so many lovely words what it really means to be a writer of stories:

"...occasionally a writer will encounter a story that is his, yet is not his. I mean, by the way, a writer of stories, not one of these intelligences that analyze society and culture, but the sort of ignorant and acquisitive being who moons after magical tales. Such a creature knows very little: how to tie a shoelace, when to go to the store for bread, and the exact stab of a story that belongs to him, and to him only. How to unfurl a Trojan, where on the stall door to carve BEWARE OF LIMBO DANCERS, how to give the teacher what she wants, and the raw coppery smell of a scenario over which he's meant to exercise, not suffer, authority. And yet occasionally the tale is already authoritatively gutted, publicly there, brightly killed, done by another. Or else menacingly alive, self-sufficient, organic, sounding the distant groan of growth, trading chemicals briskly with the air, but still outside the creature who desires to take it inside and make a little miracle."

Reading him has given me a bit more energy to pursue the stab that is exactly mine.

*Caveat: He is not a writer I would take home to Mom. I cannot in good faith recommend him to all readers of my blog, especially if you might be thin skinned, or somewhat easily offended.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Here We Go Magic

As you may know, I love to hear Luke Temple. It's been a while since he came out with Snowbeast, and I've been craving some more. So after poking around this evening, I've discovered that he's coming out with an album on Feb. 24th under the moniker "Here We Go Magic". Here is a cut that won't be on the record:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lovin's for Fools

In anticipation for next week's release of Bon Iver's Blood Bank, a 4 song EP that I've already heard (and it is good), I was combing through YouTube live footage and found this beauty, a cover called "Lovin's for Fools", performed with the original artist Sarah Siskind.