Monday, September 28, 2009

My Music Year #1

I didn't get my first album of 2009 until the second half of January, which is a bit unusual for me. There was no big reason for it; I was just waiting for some music of interest to come and was still digging into what little I got for Christmas. Whatever the reason, my first new music of the year came in the form of A.C. Newman's Get Guilty.

A.C. Newman is the solo guise of Carl Newman, who is the glue that holds The New Pornographers together. He writes most of the band's material (excluding the songs Dan Bejar writes and sings on and a few other exceptions), fueling their four album run of power pop goodness. This is his second solo album after 2004's The Slow Wonder.

Newman writes pop songs, real pop songs that aren't afraid of melody or subtlety or varied instrumentation. Heck, he's not even afraid to use whistling in the background (see "All of My Days And All Of My Days Off"), to use "yo ho" in the place of a la-la or do-do (see "The Heartbreak Rides"), or even a chorus of "one high, one high, one high, one." (see "Prophets")

The album gets off to a great start with "There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve," with it's ascending and falling guitar line, soft plucked strings, and a string of interesting lyrics (such as "There are maybe ten or twelve/Things I could teach you/After that well I guess you're on your own/And that wasn't the opening line/It was the tenth or the twelfth/Make of that what you will").

Other highlights include the propulsive strumming and percussion of "Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer" and the mid-tempo pulse of "The Changling (Get Guilty)" with its piano chords and the great first line: "It's not war/It's more like a warning."

The album has many charms and I can also state from firsthand experience that he and his band did a fantastic job translating these songs to a live setting as well. Any album with work written and performed by A.C. Newman is well-worth picking up and this one is no different.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Shuffle #153

I had planned on getting many of my online Spanish exercises done yesterday so I could relax and watch football this afternoon, but my professor still hasn't posted them. To be honest, I'm a little frustrated. Still, no need to take it out on the music...

1. Against Pollution/The Mountain Goats (25)
2. Bulls Through/The Henry Clay People (11)
3. OK/Higgins (6)
4. They Ran/My Morning Jacket (8)
5. Poor Boy/David Byrne & Brian Eno (5)
6. All The Old Showstoppers/The New Pornographers (21)
7. Glamour Puss/Hoodoo Gurus (3)
8. Night Falls/Cracker (4)
9. Joanie Don't U Worry/Apples In Stereo (12)
10. This Day/Bowerbirds (4)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Project Collection

The history of this blog and even my life is littered with ideas and projects that I don't follow through on, yet I keep coming up with new ones. This year the big ones have included recording an EP (not one note), reading Infinite Summer (I lasted less than 50 pages), writing a biography of The Jayhawks (not one word written), blogging about every song by The Jayhawks (I've covered 4 in 2 months), reading the entire works of Charles Dickens (not one word read), and writing about every issue of Astro City (nope). Still, I don't want to give up on these ideas or at least on the idea of ideas in general. I'd like to follow through on a project or two. I realize I'm setting myself up for failure with all the school work I have in college this semester and the general craziness of life, but here are the blog projects I plan on doing over the next few months...

* A series of posts on the best of the decade in books, music, movies, TV, comics, and whatever else I come up with

* A resumption of writing about The Jayhawks songs

* Reviews of all the new music I've bought this year, in chronological order

It's ambitious, especially for someone with my track record, but I feel like I have to do it. What have I got to lose?

Broken Dolls

I've been a fan of Joss Whedon ever since I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer during its second season. As much as I loved that show, I think Firefly holds an even bigger place in my heart. I watched it religiously when it was being shown on Fox and was crushed when it got cancelled all too soon. So it was with some trepidation that I began watching his latest TV show, Dollhouse back in the spring.

I found myself not watching each episode right away and got a couple weeks behind almost immediately. The show didn't grab me right away and then a few characters were revealed to be "actives" (dolls), which seemed a bit over the top. I was also stressed out and busy with school and it seemed like I was perpetually behind on the DVR. I had to make a decision - should I keep recording a show I wasn't totally in love with and that would probably be cancelled anyway - and decided to stop.

Almost immediately, I started hearing that the second half of its season and made a dramatic turn and was now must-see. Still, I didn't bother. It was announced the show would return for a second season of 13 episodes and I wondered if I had been too hasty. When the DVD of the first season came out, there was high praise for an episode that hadn't aired which was set in the future of the show. I thought maybe I should pick up the DVD, but I couldn't justify the expense. Luckily, the internet and Netflix came to my rescue.

Hulu only had half of the season available for viewing but I had actually seen all the episode they didn't have. I started watching and was hooked. I saw that the first half of the season was really setting up the second and everything kicked into high gear. I used Netflix to get the last disc of the DVD set and was able to watch "Epitaph One." It was great.

Last night was the first episode of season 2 and I watched it not long after it aired. It was written and directed by Whedon and there was a lot going on. I also enjoyed it immensely. I will be watching the rest of the season and will probably put the first season DVD on my Christmas list. I gave up on the show too soon but now I've rediscovered it and am well on my way to loving it.

On the cosmic pop culture scale, however, it seems that things have to balance. I may have gained a new love but word came this week that I have lost another one. The Broken West announced that they have disbanded. I love their sound and I love their songs and I'm sad that there won't be any more of them. I saw them open for A.C. Newman back in March and it was a great show all the way around. They will be missed but at least they left us with two great albums (I Can't Go On I'll Go On and Now or Heaven) and an EP (The Dutchman's Gold, which was released under their previous name, The Brokedown). Go and search them out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Shuffle #152

It's been a busy week and today isn't going to be any different, so let's get right to the music...

1. There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve/A.C. Newman (15)
2. Painted Halo/Two Hours Traffic (4)
3. We Used to Vacation/Cold War Kids (11)
4. Blood On The Knobs/Glossary (6)
5. Bandit Queen (with DT)/The Decemberists (9)
6. Antarctica Starts Here/Okkervil River (7)
7. Marrow/St. Vincent (5)
8. Some Bridges Are for Burning/I Love Math (7)
9. Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters/The Twilight Sad (9)
10. Last Day of Magic/The Kills (4)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Shuffle #151

I could complain about the work I still have to do for college today but I won't. Instead, let's celebrate the return of the NFL to Sundays. I'm going to do my best to watch as much as I can. In that spirit, let's get going on today's ten...

1. Criminal Piece/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (3)
2. Theme to Wendel Stivers/Spoon (6)
3. No One Here Knows Jane/Warren Zanes (12)
4. Stop Breathin/Pavement (16)
5. Hand-Me-Down Tune/The Avett Brothers (12)
6. Fisher of Men/M. Ward (13)
7. Back of a Car/Big Star (9)
8. Vintage Violet/The Minus 5 (6)
9. Black Lexus/Joseph Arthur (12)
10. Game Show Touch Our Lives/The Mountain Goats (19)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Music Downs and Ups

For someone who loves music as much as I do, this week has been a bit of a failure. I don't have a few hundred bucks to spend on the stereo remasters Beatles box set; what's more, I haven't even gotten a single one of the individual releases. I did, however, read the reviews on Pitchfork and Popdose...which is as close as I'll come to listening to them until maybe Christmas. That hasn't stopped me doing my own small part to contribute to this latest round of Beatlemania by breaking out Magical Mystery Tour and The White Album for car listening this week.

I also haven't managed to pick up Popular Songs, the latest from Yo La Tengo. I'm still pretty new to my fandom of the band but it's reached a level that I wanted to own the new one right away. However, it's not yet available on eMusic and if it will be soon (and I hope so), I'd rather wait than pick up a physical copy right now.

So what have I been listening to instead this past week besides The Beatles? The new Two Hours Traffic, Jason Isbell, Patterson Hood, A.A. Bondy, Destroyer, Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel, The Decemberists, Teenage Fanclub, and...Yo La Tengo. Can't complain about any of that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor of Love

I don't want to give up on this blog. In fact, I think it will be necessary in the coming weeks just to switch my brain into a mode that isn't about school. I may not post often and I may not follow through with all the projects I want to start but I still want to be here. They say you're supposed to dress for the job you want, right? I would like to earn money as a writer before it's all said and done, so with this blog I'll be dressing for that job. I love music and books and TV and movies and comics and more and I want to be able to share that love. And so I will.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Shuffle #150

I can't leave the Sunday Shuffle holding at #149 for who knows how long, so I'm back already to get it to a nice even number. Yes, I am a nerd. And yes, I am a music nerd too...

1. Alone (a.k.a. Shakin Sugar) (demo)/Wilco (2)
2. Moral Centralia (demo)/Harvey Danger (13)
3. Starling Of The Slipstream/Pavement (7)
4. Set Me Free/The Kinks (2)
5. Me In Honey/R.E.M. (15)
6. Apartment Story/The National (19)
7. From/Dr. Dog (10)
8. Highly Suspicious/My Morning Jacket (8)
9. Hand-Me-Down Tune/The Avett Brothers (11)
10. Impossible Germany (live)/Wilco (9)