Sunday, August 31, 2008

i never got around to posting that baseball project mp3--i'm a busy man, see--but now that i'm finally doing it, i thought i might as well make it a power-pop twofer and include this seasonally appropriate and rather recent gem from saint paul:

[mp3] the baseball project--"jackie's lament" (original post)
[mp3] paul westerberg--"love you in the fall"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Wrap-Up Pt. 1 (of 1)

(1)I’ve fallen under the spell of a number of indie rock iconoclasts in recent months. A while back it was Mark Kozelek, and before that Daniel Johnston, Will Oldham, Alan Sparhawk and other dudes much beloved at WMCN. Now it’s F.M. Cornog, who recorded as East River Pipe during the glorious sad years of the mid 90s. He’s been semi-active since then, but it’s 1995’s Poor Fricky, an album that’s been floating around in the matrix of my musical awareness for a long while, that has finally captured my attention. Much of it owes a debt to the Go-Betweens, and Grant McClennan in particular, though Cornog does play the Robert Forster card quite a bit, since he has no songwriting partner to balance his more serene moments. He comes across as a loner, and while the songs are by and large serene, the words don’t match McClennan’s often lovely sentiments. “I’m walking the dog and I’m scared in the usual way,” goes one confession, and Cornog elsewhere titles a song with the exhortation, “Keep All Your Windows Tight Tonight.” That song is the crowning achievement on the album, climaxing in a series of long mournful sounds that seem to be made by a human being but sound so sad and other-worldly that you’d be right to mistake them for an exotic woodwind (it certainly beats John Lennon’s primal screams on “Mother,” much as I like that song). Click below for one of the album’s more conventional gems.

[mp3] East River Pipe - "Ah, Dictaphone"

(2)Earlier this summer, Stephin Merritt solidified as my all-time favorite songwriter, on the strength of one of his earliest songs, The Magnetic Fields' “100,000 Fireflies.” It’s often touted as his best, but I had somehow failed to ever hear it. It’s simply transcendent, as the whole world probably already knows, full of chiming pianos and synths that could send your reeling dreamy mind into enchanted phantasmagoric lands for centuries. Seriously! I’m not linking it below because, while it is a song that you’ll never get sick of, it’s also too damn valuable to be tarnished by the mundane business of blog posting. If you haven’t heard it, you need to wait.

In terms of new music, Billboard chart-topper Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie served me well this summer. It finds the band courting the big time with a number of simply constructed but memorable songs. Ben Gibbard’s lyrics are borderline awkward but always lovable, nowhere more so than the consumed-by-flames meditation “Grapevine Fires” and the very nice “Your New Twin-Sized Bed,” an honest tale of eternal aloneness. Up there elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, Fleet Foxes put out a debut album that simply couldn’t be better, maybe even more grippingly languid than their stellar EP from earlier this year. And down in California, Port O’Brien, who did a jolly set opening for Rogue Wave back in October, released their official debut All We Could Do Was Sing, which is Will Oldham for the sing-along crowd and so much more.

[mp3] Port O'Brien - "Stuck on a Boat"

For those on a budget, you can’t do better than Paul Westerberg’s latest jumbled mess, 49:00, on sale for 49 cents at Amazon as a single mp3 (though it looks like it's been taken down), or for even cheaper, Nine Inch Nails’ latest giveaway, The Slip, which is pretty damn palatable, surprisingly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

because i neglected to ever get a job back in may/june, i've had a lot of free time this summer. and, thanks to a little cash flow and the wonderfully cheap portland house shows, i've been able to spend a lot of that free time going to concerts. i've managed to catch 26 shows and some 100+ bands. admittedly, most of the shows i ended up at weren't very good (an especially disappointing set from Frog Eyes comes to mind), but there were a few that made a great impression.

one show really stood out for me. i ended up at the house (wonderfully named Castle Greyskull) at the insistence of my friend Nora, the high-school-sophomore-cum-folk-singer Glass Teeth. now, there's two reasons that this show was memorable for me.

1. a guy named Edward played with a friend. now, Edward was well beyond drunk. Edward and his friend covered that damn Imogen Heap song Hide and Seek, along with playing a few of their own songs. Edward finished the set by peeing in his empty rum bottle (in the living room that we were all sitting in) before angrily stumbling out of the room. he later fell down, taking a set of curtains with him. at the end of the night he tried to get in my car as i was leaving, then ran down Burnside screaming. anyway, here's that Imogen Heap cover:

2. for a better memory, the act that followed Edward and his friend was Edgar Cayce, who introduced himself as "Mike, from Michigan." he's Mike Flores, and he's one of the many solo acoustic guitar troubadours that keep a regular presence in music. and Mike Flores doesn't really bring anything new to the genre. he's one of a million of his kind; playing guitar in a stranger's house, recovering from any number of drug addictions, selling home-made CDs from a kitchen counter. i really enjoyed his performance, and bought his CD I've Been Better. it's since been one of my summer staples. check it:

Edgar Cayce - Let Go (mp3)

ps. the following artists have all also put on great shows every time i've seen them and i recommend catching them if ever you get the chance: Japanther, YACHT, Beirut, boat, Starfucker, Guidance Counselor, All Girl Summer Fun Band, Hooliganship.

Friday, August 15, 2008

driving from minnesota to iowa seemed like a momentous occasion (which it turned out to be: i turned in an olympian performance, making it from st. paul to my front door in 2 hours and 58 minutes, even with my broken arm) so i decided to make a summertime mixtape to ease my boredom. it was governed by a set of arcane and possibly stupid rules not worth sharing, but i thought i'd share the tracklisting and ask anyone else if they had a summer 2008 mix they'd like to share. tried to provide links when possible:

[1] "100%" Sonic Youth
[2] "Lloyd Price Express" Beck
[3] "Trópico De Cancer" Café Tacuba
[4] "Jackie's Lament" The Baseball Project
[5] "American Boy" Estelle feat. Kanye West
[6] "Death To Los Campesinos!" Los Campesinos!
[7] "You Can't Stop Me Now [single edit]" RZA as Bobby Digital
[8] "Good Dope/Good Fun" Spiritualized
[9] "Love Can Tame The Wild" The Monks
[10] "Ten Years Gone" Led Zeppelin
[11] "Get It Up" The Time
[12] "Honey" Erykah Badu
[13] "Supergalactic Lover" Kool Keith
[14] "Metal Firecracker" Lucinda Williams
[15] "Alchoholiday" Teenage Fanclub
[16] "Flood" Sebadoh
[17] "Brain Burner" No Age
[18] "Slapped Actress" The Hold Steady

and thought i'd share "jackie's lament" by the baseball project, whose first record is jangle-pop done right and hasn't quite gotten the attention it deserves. a supergroup consisting of songwriters scott mccaughey and steve wynn, with r.e.m.'s peter buck on bass, these guys are all 80s survivors still at the top of their game. every song on the album is about baseball, which could have been gimmicky or a turn off for non-fans, but songs about sandy koufax, curt flood and ted "fucking" williams go considerably deeper than a box score, and this track, about jackie robinson, gives him a lot more humanity than do the postage stamps and history books:

the baseball project--"jackie's lament"
[i'll post the link once the effing macalester webmaster--no naming names here--decides to fix netstorage]