Monday, July 03, 2017

From the heartland....

John [Cougar] Mellencamp - "Between A Laugh And A Tear"

From the album Scarecrow (1985), the transition album between John Cougar and John Mellencamp. An effective and sometimes moving slice of Springsteenesque classic rock, stripped down to guitars, bass, and drum. Backing vocals by Rickie Lee Jones

A bonus track: "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963" by Rickie Lee Jones from her self-titled debut (1979).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

kara-Lis coverdale - Grafts EP

This is kara-Lis coverdale with her recent EP Grafts.

Someone described her prior album (Aftertouches) as an "acrylic portrait of a Cronenberg-esque organism, morphing, half human, half machine."

John Cale - The Sleeper

From the album Artificial Intelligence (1985)

"I was the moth stuck on your pin..."

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Beach House

We saw Beach House in San Pedro on April 20, 2016. Fantastic show. I'll never forget it.

The best song at the show?


Abba - Medley (Pick a Bale of Cotton, etc.)

I can't tell if this 'song'--an Abba single b-side that was basically a medley of three different standards--was considered thoroughly inappropriate for all manner of historically troubling reasons... BUT when it came out (September 1978), I found it strangely more alluring/disturbing than the a-side ("Summer Night City").

The three songs spliced together on the b-side are:

"Pick a Bale of Cotton" (an old spiritual originally recorded as early as 1933 by James "Iron Head" Baker and then later by the more famous Lead Belly in the 1940s and the song which makes this reproduction by Abba the most troubling)
"On Top of Old Smokey" (a traditional folk song originally recorded by The Weavers in 1951)
"Midnight Special" (a traditional folk song from the American South whose first recording dates back to 1926, and was also recorded by Lead Belly in 1934)

For an interesting history of "Pick a Bale of Cotton" and its dubious place in the history of racism in the U.S., see here.

The Abba version was originally recorded in 1975 (!) but released as the b-side of "Summer Night City" in September 1978.

How to even unpack how wrong this is? And yet, yet, amazing to think that Abba had a strangely outside-the-box aesthetic, way back, before The Album (their clear magnum opus), before Arrival...?

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Cockney Rebel - Mirror Freak

Is there one track that you think of (maybe "Tomorrow Never Knows"?) that seems soooo far ahead of its time that you feel completely dislocated (distempered?) when you find out when it was actually released/recorded? (A list of those songs would undoubtedly also include any song from the Modern Lovers debut ["She Cracked" anyone?], anything by Kraftwerk, 1970s Eno, Tangerine Dream, Doctors of Madness, stuff from Revolver and the White Album, James Brown, Death [not the metal band], and yes, the Velvets entire goddamn canon).

But here, my friends is the final track on Side One of Cockney Rebel's album The Glass Menagerie. From 1973! Yes, yes, they were a sub-second-rate glam outfit overshadowed by Bowie, Roxy, Slade, etc. But as Simon Reynolds notes, weren't the second raters really pumping the reddest most bloody blood into the heart of glam?

You hear this song (and indeed the album) and you wonder if young John Lydon wasn't internalizing some vocal affectations that would come in handy later....

And so sexy.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Bands/artists I don't like (but I probably should):

- Leonard Cohen
- Bruce Springsteen
- Derek & The Dominoes / "Layla," etc.
- Eric Clapton (any part of his career)
- Beach Boys / Brian Wilson / Smile, etc.
- Grateful Dead
- Kiss
- Rush
- Frank Zappa
- King Crimson
- Electric Light Orchestra

- The Hold Steady
- Wolf Parade
- Perfume Genius
- Sufjan Stevens
- Father John Misty
- Animal Collective
- Grimes
- Sun Kil Moon
- Tame Impala

Bands/artists I think are overrated and represent a kind of mediocrity disguised as cleverness:

- Tom Petty (with or without the Heartbreakers)
- Elvis Costello

Bands/artists that are fine (and often quite good) but are somewhat overrated in the pantheon of pop, rock, and rap, and now it's just too late and too much to try and mount a challenge to the orthodoxy:

- Beyonce
- Jimi Hendrix
- Metallica
- Nick Cave
- Nick Drake

Bands that will never get any cred from critics but I unabashedly love them and think they are brilliant:

- Tool
- Bauhaus
- Tears For Fears
- Alice in Chains
- Monster Magnet

- The Who

Bands whose critically acclaimed phases (e.g., Roxy Music in 1972-73) I think were not as good as the other stuff they did:

- Wire (I much prefer their Eurotrash techno-pop from the '80s over their initial three-album run)
- fiREHOSE (much prefer fIREHOSE to Minutemen; yes, I just said that)
- Flaming Lips (much prefer their mid-period acid psychedelia from late 80s/early '90s to their later Brian Wilson-esque The Soft Bulletin, etc.)
- Husker Du (much prefer the last two albums over earlier stuff)

Ought - "Forgiveness" and "Habit"

This is pretty amazing.

This is the band Ought playing two songs ("Forgiveness" and "Habit") as part of a short movie called "A Take Away Show" (or "Concert á Emporter") as presented by the French website La Blogothéque.

An amazing 15 minute 37 second performovie that is well worth watching.

The two songs are originally from Ought's debut album More Than Any Other Day.

Monday, May 08, 2017

When Song Titles Describe How You Feel






I heard this (Candy Apple Grey) for the first time in '88 or '89, I think. Can't remember. K used to listen to it a lot on a cassette. It sounded like shit. But it felt deeply midwestern in a way that I can't articulate. Like being in Columbus, Ohio or Milwaukee in October. Or maybe even Mankato in Minnesota.

The album is not known as one of their best. But it is my favorite of theirs, bar none.

And just so it's clear: I always preferred Grant Hart over Bob Mould. Still do.

When song titles describe how you feel, a kind of songomatopeia:

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Grizzly Bear - Three Rings

Everything feels at once beautiful and about to fall apart. I experienced lots of beauty today with people I love (and I think, people who love me). But yet, at the same time, it feels about to fall apart. This, the new song from Grizzly Bear echoes that feeling. I know I shouldn't like Grizzly Bear (serious white men who do indie rock) but I can't help myself. They make beautiful music. Can't wait for the album, whenever it comes:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Josh > Me

This is Swans with "Better Than You," the opening track from White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity (1991),

I'm so glad I'm better than you
I'm so glad I'm better than you are
I'm so glad I'm better than you
I'm so glad I'm better than you are

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Visitor to Archway

A bit of a demoralizing and depressing day today, for obvious reasons. I need some coffee and I don't have any brilliant erudite and pun-ripe observations to make.

There is music for every mood. But is there music at the bottom?

For these moments, I made a mix once of all the songs that mattered to me before I was ten years old. Before puberty, before adulthood, before relationships, kids, etc. Frozen in wide-eyed childhood, parked (perched?) somewhere between toddler and boy-into-comics-but-before-girls sophomoric-journal-writer

But that mix seems a bit tedious now, all British Top 30 from the early and mid 1970s.

But I like to imagine the happiest moment in my life (well one of them anyway) being on a drive on Route 155 in Texas, sometime in March 1989. Hung over, as the white brittle clouds passed over the blue Texas skies. My head leaning to the side, while the radio station played music that eventually turned to hiss as the station disappeared in a sea of static. That static, a kind of hiss, was really the sound of happiness. For miles and miles neither of us moved the dial to find a new station, because it just seemed right to hear that filled up static and noise, mixed with the wind as it jetted over the tops of our window panes, pulled down a little bit.

Something like this, but with the volume turned down low. How it feels today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Favorite Movies 2016

Well, here are my favorite English-language movies of last year, ranked. With some gibberishy comments.

1. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch): The movie itself works as a poem, with scenes repeated as if in rhyme, the two main protagonists waking up each morning in bed, the camera looming over them. It's a beautiful movie about the rhythms of daily life, rendered in the context of a small New Jersey town made famous for, it turns out, poetry.
2. Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins): Lots written about this movie. I don't have much to add. It's about one person's crisis of masculinity seen through his graduation into adulthood, but it also works as a kind of generational narrative. Most important, I think the movie is about absences, particularly the sudden and painful absences of the people who we make connections with and how those absences define us.
3. Hell or High Water (dir. David Mackenzie): People say this is a modern day Western. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. It's set in post-2008 housing bust Texas. It's like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on steroids and a fantastic movie about the fast crawl to self-destruction. The context of the mortgage crisis renders it a parable about class, as effective as Grapes of Wrath.
4. Captain America: Civil War (dir. Anthony and Joe Russo): Maybe the best superhero movie since the Nolan days? It's not dark or gritty or dealing some serious neoliberal capitalist critique bullshit. It has bright colors, has an emotional center which you can get into, and wonderful comicbook panel battle scenes worthy of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Also, Spiderman.
5. 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills): A small movie about a family in Santa Barbara, California in the late 1970s. It's got a bit of the coming-of-age boy-becomes-man kid of thing but that's not really the story. It's more about a boy's relationship to his mother at a moment when second wave feminism was in its declining phase and we're heading into the 1980s. For me, of course, this was a soundtrack to my childhood, mostly post-punk. The movie kind of captured the true dichotomy of the schism between punk and post-punk in the slogan, Black Flag vs. "artfag." And really, how could it not be great when it ended with the greatest Buzzcocks song of all time, "Why Can't I Touch It?"
6. Sing Street (dir. John Carney): Another music movie, this one about a 15-year old kid in Ireland in the mid-1980s who wants to front a band, be cool, become famous, and also, yeah, get the girl. The stylistic choices of the "band" that he forms (the Cure, Duran Duran, etc.) telescope the excitement of watching MTV in the eighties, as image and style and substance and colors and English accents collided in neat verses and choruses and gated reverb. Like 20th Century Women, it's about a moment in music that frames a boy's transition from point A to B, but a bit more ebullient and deeply touching than the former.
7. Deadpool (dir. Tim Miller): This is so meta that it's metameta. The superhero genre turned inside out. It was bound to happen of course, but the unexpected joy of this movie is that its fowl-mouthed hard-R-rated humor and ultra-violence masks a lovely and romantic story about substance over image.
8. Manchester By the Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan): Again, lots written about this, not much to add. What does crushing personal tragedy do to a person? Can he form a bond with another person after? These are the big questions at hand here, but there's also a lot of quiet private moments done extraordinarily well. Like, Paterson, this is a movie about that the mundane acts that make a daily life. Unlike Paterson, it is a larger tragedy that is revealed slowly, that casts a pall over the movie.
9. Zootopia (dir. Bryan Howard and Rich More): I don't want to get too political about a movie about cartoon animals who live in a utopian society, but there is a kind of latent political commentary in this movie, about difference, and the stereotypes we attach reflexively to "the other." The most relevant comparison is to Muslims but the movie could be about anything really, about gays and lesbians, about immigrants, etc. And yes, also a feminist movie at heart. But even despite all that, it works as an engaging story about the friendship between two people, an earnest do-gooder and a huckster out to swindle his way through life.
10. Dr. Strange (dir. Scott Derrickson): Surprisingly (or are we really surprised anymore?) MCU pulls out a completely different genre in the latest addition to the Marvel canon. Dr. Strange was a hard character to pull off, given his particularly odd '60s counterculture beginnings (and his '70s post-LSD hangover stories). What MCU has done to smooth out some of the edges and locate it in the current milieu. There's a whiff of Orientalism of course, but the special effects are remarkable and the performances make you care about the story and characters despite the absurdity of the premise.
11. Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi)
12. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards)
13. Denial (dir. Mick Jackson)
14. Moana (dir. Ron Clements and John Musker)
15. The Nice Guys (dir. Shane Black)
16. Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin)
17. Silence (dir. Martin Scorcese)
18. The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau)
19. Ghostbusters (dir. Paul Feig)
20. The Shallows (dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Josh Is Indeed Better Than Me

Today (Monday) will be a hard day. But nothing of the kind that I haven't handled before.

Some people say that music salves the soul. Is this true? I can't remember experiencing anything of the like. For the most part, music has worked as a lever of distraction, elevation, effervescence, euphoria, ennui. But music as medication? No. Not for me.

That said, I like this song. It's by a band that no longer exists. Also: The Whitest Boy Alive. Yes indeed.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Natural Mystics - Runaway Love

Don't know anything about them but I distinctly remember listening to this song, released in 1979, on a 7" single when I was like 13 or 14. Lost forever to imagined memories, youtube has allowed me to experience the song again after 35 years. The tiny guitar solo (beginning roughly at 1:35) is sublime.

Lovers rock indeed.

OK, so with the help of The Googles, it appears that they were British, released a couple of albums in the early eighties, and fronted by Ashley Sommers (lead guitar, vocals) and Chev Mastin (bass).

Friday, March 03, 2017

Songs for You

Literally the greatest songs ever written. Yes, that includes anything written by Irving Berlin.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Since I Was A Young Boy, I've Wanted To Make Men's Clothes

The glorious Royal Crescent Mob with their complete and utter non-hit "Na Na Na" from their non-noticed album Spin The World (1989). Clearly one of the greatest non-meaningful songs of the non-alternative eighties. I remember many non-parties dancing to this in non-college, especially at non-parties with non-friends and and non-girflriends.

Na na na indeed.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hate A Sad Face On Your Lucky Day

On my birthday, here are the Replacements' singing "Birthday Gal," a song recorded during the Pleased To Meet Me (1987) sessions in late 1986 but, for some reason, ultimately left off the album. Finally released in 2008 as a bonus track.

So much deep melancholia in these chords and lyrics, it's hard to even articulate coherently....

Happy Birthday....

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Accelera Deck - Drifting Out

This is "Drifting Out" by Accelera Deck (often also known as Acceleradeck, one word) from their album Narcotic Beats (1998). This is basically a guy named Chris Jeely. I think he's still somewhere out there releasing material, now under the name Llarks. Here's a recent interview with him.

Monday, February 06, 2017

At Seventeen

This is for S. Who made me grow up. Seems weird to think of this song now, as an adult. It's a bit sophomoric, the mid-seventies high-school poetry Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter aesthetic distilled down to 4 minutes. But there's a strange allure to it, I'm not sure why. It's the deep breaths she takes in between each verse. It's the fact that I first heard it in a particular context. I was actually seventeen when I first heard it. As was S., I think. She lived with her mother in this strange house with shadows and corners and whispers. Upstairs her room had an eerie glow. I spent a lot of time in her room, working on my calculus homework. She had a weakness for getting high, as did I. We used to get skyscraper high, just lulled into oblivion and listening to music. She loved Bill Withers, Al Jarreau, Joni Mitchell, and Janice Ian. I was into Prince and Gary Numan. But I do remember this song, echoed out to infinity, played on a small cassette player in her room, close to midnight, ourselves tired and lying in her bed, and staring at the ceiling as the highs came down, our upper lips full of perspiration in the tropical night. When I said goodbye to her, it seems it was indeed for ever [sic]. Wherever you are these days, hope you're well. Actually I know where you are now, in San Francisco. Which is kinda appropriate. Sending you this message as a small gesture of .. something. Hope you're well.

Pollo Asado

This is for Dave. I miss you. I hope you're doing fine somewhere in the universe

We would listen to this from beginning to end.

"I would like a guacomole on my chimichanga..."
"Would you put some hot sauce on that for me...?"
"Could you make me some guacamole...?"
"Two lemonades and one medium iced tea..."


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

All Apologies

I can barely stay awake. Haven't slept in 36 hours. Am in Zurich? This is how I feel:

Stone In Focus

"Stone in Focus" is the vinyl & cassette-only track on Selected Ambient Works Volume II by Aphex Twin.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Love Is Stronger Than Death

It’s a bit of a cliché already to remark that 2016 was in some way a year of deaths. By which, people generally mean famous deaths. Yes, for pop music, there are the obvious ones: David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Prince Buster, Bernie Worrell, Alan Vega, Vanity, Scotty Moore, and David Mancuso. Let us also mention the ones who made crappy music but who also passed away: Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns, etc. I do not wish ill on them.

There were, of course, many other famous people who died in 2016: Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, John Glenn, Ed Mitchell, Mohammed Ali, Alan Rickman, Umberto Eco, George Martin, Gary Shandling, Alvin Toffler, Edward Albee, Fidel Castro, Debbie Reynolds, and William Christopher (the guy who played the chaplain on M.A.S.H.!)

But I also personally felt surrounded by death. My beloved cousin (and basically a sister to me), Shampa, unexpectedly died in February. This was the most devastating loss I've had in my life. It's still hard to process even after all these months. I'll never forget her.

A close friend Ben, died in July. A lovely academic colleague, Ann Johnson, died in December.

Mark Fisher, k-punk, died recently, took his own life. I did not know him but almost felt like I died, having voraciously read his blog in the early 2000s. Simon Reynolds has written a wonderful eulogy to him. He was only just a bit older than me.

As I get older, there will be more deaths, I am sure, in my life.

Perhaps it's time for more earnest emotion, and less esoteric rumination. It's time to not be afraid to express those things that make us live and love. So anyway, Matt Johnson wrote this song a long time ago. I never really liked it when it came out, thought it was a bit embarassing. But as I get older, I kind of appreciate its unabashed lack of pretension. Love is, indeed, stronger than death. We have to believe that sometimes, don't we?

Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores

John Cale - "Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores" [b-side to "Mercenaries (Ready for War) (live)"] (1980)

Bauhaus - "Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores" [b-side to "Telegram Sam"] (1980)

Bauhaus - "Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores (live)" [from Press The Eject And Give Me The Tape] (1982)

Can - Halleluhwah

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Every hit song America ever had

Yo La Tengo's "Lewis" from their second album New Wave Hot Dogs (1987).

"Maybe just like you some day I will forget
Every hit song America ever had
Like 'this is for all the lonely people'
And 'Oz never gave nothing to the Tin Man'
And 'I've been to a desert on a horse without a name'."

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be"

"... the sphere of authenticity lies outside the technical..."

"The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition."

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Reproduction" (1935)

Public Enemy - "Security Of The First World" (from It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back) [released June 28, 1988]

My Bloody Valentine - "Instrumental" (from extra 7" with Isn't Anything) [released November 21, 1988]

Sinead O'Connor - "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" (from I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got) [released March 20, 1990]

Madonna - "Justify My Love" (from The Immaculate Collection) [released October 30, 1990]

Asher D - "Still Kickin'" (from Still Kickin') [released 1991]

Enigma - "Mea Culpa Part II (Orthodox Mix)" (from MCMXC a.D.) [released 1991]

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Best of 2016

My very quick and dirty list of albums I liked in 2016. They are in alphabetical order. The list is rather conservative, a bit rockist, a bit of dad rock. The real standouts I've put in highlights. Those are the ones that are my favorite of the year.

Daniel Avery - DJ-Kicks mixtape
Bat For Lashes - The Bride
Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of Denial
David Bowie - Blackstar
David Crosby - Lighthouse
DIIV - Is The Is Are
Dinosaur Jr - Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
eMMplekz - Rook to TN34
Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness
Tim Hecker - Love Streams
The I Don't Cares - Wild Stab
Kristin Hersh - Wyatt At The Coyote Place
Katie Gately - Color
Mica Levi - Jackie [original soundtrack]
M.I.A. - AIM
Moodymann - DJ-Kicks mixtape
Phantogram - Three
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Rob Crow's Gloomy Place - You're Doomed. Be Nice
Savages - Adore Life
School Of Seven Bells - SVIIB
Solange - A Seat At The Table
Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution
Wild Nothing - Life Of Pause

Random song that I liked:

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - "Juno"

The track was created to commemorate NASA's Mission Juno to Jupiter. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 5, 2011, the Juno spacecraft arrived around Jupiter in the summer of 2016. On July 5, last year, the 8,000 lb spacecraft entered orbit around the largest planet in our solar system. NASA commissioned this track as a kind "soundtrack" the trans-Jovian orbital injection.

Reissues that had good "extra" stuff worth seeking out:

Autechre - Amber / Incunabula / Tri Repetae
Chassol - Ultrascores II / Indiamore
Crowded House - Crowded House / Temple Of Low Men / Together Alone
Fleetwood Mac - Mirage
Flying Saucer Attack - Further / Chorus
Lush - Origami
Michael Jackson - Off The Wall
Primal Scream - Screamadelica
Carl Stone - Electronic Music from the Seventies and Eighties
Sun Ra - Singles
Underworld - Second Toughest In The Infants
The Who - Live At Leeds
The Verve - A Storm In Heaven
The Verve - A Northern Soul