Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Benjamin Curtis 1978-2013

Sad news that I just heard: Benjamin Curtis passed away yesterday, a casualty of cancer. He was only 35. I was a fan of both the Secret Machines and School of Seven Bells so it's a bit shocking to hear this news. I missed seeing the former but I did see the latter once. To commemorate his life, here are two clips. The first of Secret Machines playing "First Wave Intact." You can see Curtis shredding on guitar. His brother Brandon plays the keyboards and sings lead vocal.

Next is the completely different and beautiful "Windstorm" from the School of Seven Bells album Disconnect From Desire.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Six Songs from 2013

So how did 2013 stack up in terms of culture in my life? I confess that my interests don't reflect any kind of coherent sensibility but I did enjoy a bunch of stuff: music, TV, films, books, and whatever. Others have made this point before, but the way in which popular culture is fragmented is really striking these days. In other words, it is possible to be fairly engaged with music, movies, TV, etc. and still not know what the hell is going on with other people's preferences. This is most starkly reflected when I look at year-end lists from some websites, and I find (once again) that not only have I not heard or seen or read what is considered the best of the year, I have not even heard of the people on these lists.

Let's go to a fairly mainstream middle brow list, for example, something like Entertainment Weekly. According to them, the top 10 best albums included those by Earl Sweatshirt, Pusha T, Local Natives, Paramore, and Kacey Musgrave. I don't know who those people are. Among the others on the list, I have heard of The Weeknd, Miley Cyrus, and Drake, but I have not heard any music by them. So that brings me the remaining two acts: Vampire Weekend and Kanye West. I have heard their music and I also like them.

And then you go the top 10 singles, and it's got stuff by Lorde, Palma Violets, and Florida George Line. I don't know who they are. .. Also on the list is Haim. I know that hipsters like Haim, but honestly I can't bring myself to listen to them. Conceptually they just sound awful. Katy Perry and Rihanna are also on the list. They are young people who sing about young people things, and that's OK.

Anyway, I'm feeling a bit lazy, so what I'll do is just six songs that I listened to a lot this year.

This song by Portugal. The Man entitled "Modern Jesus" is wonderful. Reminds me a bit of Alt-J, the kind of lush pop that time-traveled forward from the seventies to 2013, while picking up a few technological tricks on the way.

This following song, "Step," by Vampire Weekend is clever (in the way that Elvis Costello might be clever) but not clever for its own sake (in the way that Elvis Costello might be). It's just a pretty song. You don't honestly need to know anything about what he's singing, but beneath is a lot of complexity, especially in the musical arrangement. The vocal melody seems to head in odd directions. The musical instruments are strange but pretty in that same way that the Beatles' "Penny Lane" walked that fine line between the two.

I listen to Boards of Canada a lot, especially when I write. This song, "Palace Posy," from their new album sounds, as one might expect, like music from a soundtrack of a movie that was made on a different planet 5,000 years in the future.

The new album by Deerhunter is an anomaly in their discography, given its slightly distorted production value. But the songs are still pop gems. This song, "T.H.M.," keep swirling in my head. The riff is simple, elegant, beautiful. I imagine that this was a song on an album that Television might have put on Adventure.

And because I sometimes feel like jumping out of my skin, here is Nine Inch Nail's "Copy of A." Remarkably understated for a NIN track and much more electro/techno in feel. The whole album is one with clean lines, nothing distorted or broken, very sparse, very cool.

And finally, Arcade Fire's "Reflektor," the opening track on the new album. Honestly, forget the hype and all of that. This is a great song with great lyrics. They somehow managed to combine late 1970s disco with something contemporary. A relationship song you can dance to.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Favorite Albums of 2013

[in alphabetical order]

1. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
2. Atoms For Peace - Amok
3. Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
4. Bombino - Nomad
5. David Bowie - The Next Day
6. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
7. Deerhunter - Monomania
8. Four Tet - Beautiful Rewind
9. How To Destroy Angels - welcome oblivion
10. Johnny Marr - The Messenger
11. M.I.A. - Matangi
12. Monster Magnet - Last Patrol
13. My Bloody Valentine - m b v
14. Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks
15. The Ocean Blue - Ultramarine
16. Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
17. Pinback - Information Retrieved
18. Savages - Silence Yourself
19. Throwing Muses - Purgatory/Paradise
20. Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze
21. Kanye West - Yeezus
22. White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade
23. The xx - Coexist

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Politics and Music

Question: A lot of artist would say that mixing arts and politics is wrong. That their goal is only to entertain. What would you say to those people?

Roger Waters: [I]f you’re not interested in any of this, if you’re one of those “Roger I love Pink Floyd but I hate your fucking politics,” if you believe artists should be mute, emasculated, nodding dogs dangling aimlessly over the dashboard of life, you might be well advised to fuck off to the bar now, because, time keeps slipping away.” That’s my answer to your question.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Total Immersion

Purely by coincidence, I am reading three books on or related to the Smiths. I am reading them simultaneously. They are:
They are all worth reading, each for different reasons.

And not by coincidence, I purchased a copy of The Smiths Complete box set which contains all the albums (8 CDs) they released while a working band (although missing many other stray tracks). I was not insane enough to buy The Smiths Complete (Deluxe Edition) which runs for $500 and is a vinyl version of the CD version with a lot of bells and whistles added.

I also made a playlist on my iPod that lists every single Smiths song (including every single obscure b-side, compilation track, radio session track, etc. etc.) in the exact order it was released to the public. They released 122 tracks as official releases. It plays for over seven hours.

I also made a playlist of about 40 songs that were otherwise unreleased, i.e. various bootleg tracks, including many songs in alternate studio versions.

I also saw Johnny Marr in concert earlier this year in New York. He was fantastic.

I also spent a few hours on Youtube watching Smiths performances and recent interviews with Morrissey.

I've read many reviews of the new autobiography by Morrissey. Including one by Tony Fletcher, which was quite good.

What have I learned from this immersion?

Let me think about this. Will get back.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Freak Scene

In a random thought of the day, I just realized that almost all of my professional colleagues are on Facebook and Twitter and actively participate in both. I am on neither. And this made me think that maybe I'm being less of an academic than I should be. Like I'm just screwing around and they are talking about important things and exchanging links and articles and essays and names of books and cool websites. While I'm just hanging around in my underwear, eating donuts, and making lists of favorite Screaming Blue Messiahs albums ordered from best to worst. (Yes, I know they are a band from, like 50 years ago. I'm an old man, what can I say).

I used to be on Facebook. I had 300 friends or something like that. But I don't remember much about it and I never think about Facebook that much anymore.

Anyway, I had a moment of insecurity. That maybe I should get on Facebook and Twitter....?

But then I came to my senses. I realized two fundamental things: (a) Nothing that ever happens in my life or my brain is interesting and (b) I'm not a social being. If you combine those two things, there's no reason for me to be on Facebook or Twitter.

So I felt much better.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Morning

Well, I had this idea I would write about how much Lou Reed's music and lyrics affected me, or how I discovered the Velvet Underground (sophomore year, college), or how White Light/White Heat totally blew my fucking mind when I heard it, how the band's four-album run of brilliance from 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970 are unparalleled in the history of pop music, or how I once saw Lou Reed at a movie theater in Chelsea watching a science fiction movie, or how a song like "Sunday Morning" can still make me cry ... but honestly .... doing so would just be kind of inane, and pale against the enormity of Lou Reed no longer being among the living.

I do know this though: if I had to name the 10 most innovative and revolutionary artists of 20th century Western culture (not pop culture, ALL culture), Lou Reed would be on that list. It might include Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol, the Beatles, Jackson Pollock, James Joyce, William S. Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut, some others. Maybe Woody Allen. But not Martin Scorcese (or for that matter, Quentin Tarantino), both of whom are too fascinated with the boring past to have done anything that looks forward to the future. But there was one thing that was true about Lou Reed: he was always facing the future.

Interesting that both Woody Allen and Lou Reed were New Yorkers, both Jewish, and both dedicated their art to New York. Yet they couldn't be from more different worlds. And where Woody Allen could be brilliantly innovative, especially with the medium of film, he very much restricted himself to the possibilities entertained by polite white liberal culture. In other words, you will never find someone in a Woody Allen movie who is a male prostitute named Sister Ray who is into S/M, scoring heroin, picking up a john, and complaining that they were too busy "sucking on my ding dong." All of that and more in a single Reed song, "Sister Ray," which the band were performing by 1967, while the rest of the hippie world were talking about flowers, peace, and love. (I take a lot of pleasure in knowing that late 1960s hippie counterculture people hated the Velvets for being too "negative.")

Besides being a bit depraved in his lyrical sensibilities, Lou Reed could also write beautiful songs which were always melodically elegant and simple. His songs had 2, maybe 3 chords. You always got the feeling that you'd heard the song before, but in fact, his songs were completely original. And the prose wonderful. Consider this:

Candy says
"I've come to hate my body
And all that it requires
In this world."

Or this:

I'm set free
I'm set free
To find
Another illusion

Sure, Lou Reed was probably a bit of a dick in person. But he got a free lifetime pass for writing some of the most beautiful music ever made about and for fucked up people.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


After seeing Deerhunter at Webster Hall a couple of days ago (September 19), I am convinced that Deerhunter is the best American rock band right now. They blazed through nearly two hours of amazing rock/pop that was never boring. Bradford Cox may be the best songwriter around now, and certainly the most charismatic singer. I've written about them before.

Here they are performing "Nothing Ever Happened" live in 2011. About half way through Cox begins to chant/scream the lyrics to Patti Smith's classic "Land."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Toy Cities

Here's a song by the band Toy Cities called "Echos Haunt." It's one of the three songs off of their new EP called Setting Son.

More information here.

My My My

Recommended by reader meep, this is My My My, a band from Chicago. This is a song called "War Party."

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I've posted this before. I listened to this a lot in 2011. Bombino (Omara Moctar) is a guitarist from Niger. This is a live version of a song ("Ahoulaguine Alkaline") originally featured on his album Agadez (2011). It's a hypnotizing piece. Bombino has a new album, Nomad, that just came out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ray Manzarek 1939-2013

Rogers and Hart - My Funny Valentine

I am trying to learn the chords of this song. The video shows the basics (although this is not the arrangement that I would do). It's not easy for sure, especially if you're such a crappy guitar player such as myself. If anyone knows a better video, plz let me know.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Wombles

More from the childhood days. The Wombles TV series originally ran between 1973 and 1975. I mostly watched it on reruns. I think I learned more about being considerate about the environment from that show more than anything else. Their motto, after all, was to "Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish."

Something so comforting about these videos. Next up, The Goodies.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I onced loved a woman, a child I'm told

Metric doing a lovely cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright," originally featured on Bob's second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1962), recorded when he was but 19 years old. What a world-weary song for someone so young. There's a casual tone to the singing of Emily Haines, part amazing, part lovely, part mean.

"I once loved a woman, a child I'm told
I'd give her my heart but she wanted my soul
Don't think twice, it's alright."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sonic Youth - Shadow Of A Doubt

From Sonic Youth's third album EVOL, released in May 1986. I used to listen to this album circa 1992. My favorite album of theirs is still the one after this, Sister.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Monday, 11:48 PM

From the song "Maria's Little Elbows" by Sparklehorse:

She said, "I've really come to hate my body
And all the things that it requires in this world."
I bet you're out there getting drunk, with all your friends
And it'll get you in the bathroom of a Texaco.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A B-Side I Once Recorded

I made this a few years ago. I was trying to record an album or some shit like that. But once I started recording, I was like "How many yearning, evocative, romantic, navel-gazing songs can I possibly write???" So I wrote some shit that was just me rocking out. This is one of them. I wrote it and played it and sang it and mixed the whole thing in a few hours in my living room on 112th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam. Whatever. I'm feeling exactly like this now. Anyone wanna play in a band w/ me? The song is called "Paul Westerberg."

Me - "Paul Westerberg" [mp3]

Monday, April 29, 2013


This is a repost from my original internet(s) newsletter Fred. It's about the band Tool. I wrote this in 2001. I know it's embarrassing to like Tool. But like Fleetwood Mac, they are a guilty pleasure. I know I should write about all the new cool stuff that's coming out these days (new album from Boards of Canada!) but honestly I'm feeling so fucked that I can barely have an original thought about anything these days. But anyway, here it is, in all it's original 2001-era vintage glory. Behold: my fan letter to Tool:

So someone I know encouraged me to write about the band Tool. I had some trepidations.
Well, for a start, it is embarrassing to admit to the general public that you like a band like Tool, especially at my age. This is because Tool plays a kind of music that might be loosely termed "metal" although reviewers of recent have been using such creative phrases (I hate rock music critics for this) like "industrial crypto metal" or better yet "art-damage-metal." Tool is essentially considered adolescent music -- for teen males with an overload of testosterone. Once we move into our late twenties and early thirties, we want something a little more sophisticate

d. The second reason I was trepidating [sic] was that Tool is very difficult to describe for me, because they embody many of the things I hate about rock music and many of things I love about rock music, often in the same song at the same time. They're not very punk rock (aesthetically speaking). Yet they're weirdly punk rock. 

Which brings me to one thing about rock (and pop) music in general: the age issue. Why is it not appropriate to listen to a certain type of music past a certain age? This, I admit, is not a very original question, but it's been bothering me of recent as my hair turns grey and I get bald and fat. It's been bothering me because I don't want to give up something I truly love just because it's socially frowned upon. But I guess you could counter that I've been frozen in time, and I remain an adolescent male inside my aging body, unable to give up my (quite genuine) fantasy to pick up a guitar and ROCK OUT on stage. Yet, there is something odd about old people singing young people's music. The lead singer of Tool just turned 37. I'm sure he invests a lot into his vocation. I'm sure it means a lot to him. But what does it mean to him when his words, which probably relate to his existence as a 37 year old rich white male in the United States, appeal for the most part to 18 year old rich white males in the United States? This is not a new problem. I mean everybody from Keith Richards to Madonna to David Bowie to James Brown faces that conundrum. The problem of relevance. We aim to please the young folks. This is always rock music's goal. And this is its failing too, I suppose. 

So, Tool. Well, there's one thing I can say about Tool. 

They fucking rock. 

I don't mean they rock in the way Nirvana or (early) Aerosmith or the MC5 rocked. They rock with a capital "R." Think of the Who playing in 1976 (not 1970 when they were punk) at Wembley Stadium or Led Zeppelin on their Physical Graffiti tour in 1975 at Shea Stadium. These four guys in Tool go out on stage, they stand miles apart from each other and they blast out regimented music with martial beats. They are there to ROCK and nothing else. They're not fucking around. They are not kidding. They are not having fun. They are serious as shit. They are there to ROCK. In that sense (and many other senses), Tool is a quintessential '70s band -- they have the mystique of Led Zeppelin, the gloom and doom of Black Sabbath, the balls of the Who, and they project sheer power and grace beyond anything you have witnessed in your life. 

They do differ in one sense from the '70s archetype: they are explicitly anti-macho, and don't play up to any of the stereotypes of metal or rap-metal. The singer often wears drag on stage (really ugly drag), and none of their songs are about hot chicks or anything like that. 

I've seen them three times in concert. Each time, I felt that a huge tank, the size of a giant elephant, was approaching, slumbering forward, pushing ahead to run right over me. They stretched that moment, the moment before impact of the elephant's foot with my head -- into two hours. It was like being in a train wreck while it was happening, except all you heard was the sound of the train wreck, and you'd lost your sight. 

Tool's best album is an album called Ænima. They dabble in all sorts of high-falutin' concepts (you know, the usual male college student fare like C. G. Jung and other insufferable fools), but there is also something genuinely sophisticated and smart about their dabbling on this album. The lyrics are never pretentious (at least on Ænima). THey are perhaps vitriolic, but here's what is most odd -- there is always an underlying sadness. This is what puts them above the pack. They inhabit this absolutely odd place between anger and sadness. If you think for one second that gosh, this dude is a little pissed off, next moment he's about to make you cry. It's also not the kind of grating sad drivel that Morrissey or Robert Smith used to dole out -- it is not about self-flagellating sadness. It is the sadness of ETHER in our lives, the background. As far as the music, it's mostly regimented as I said. A few odd time signatures here and there. But what is most striking is that they take the most bonehead of metal riffs and then turn them into gorgeous music. This is something Led Zeppelin would also do in their best moments. But what takes the album Ænima to another level is the near absence of riffs. Most of it is just sets of random notes strung together, repeated over and over until you recognize some semblance of a pattern.

I could write about each song on Ænima at length (for each song is brilliant), but I'll pick two. The last song on Ænima is called "Third Eye" and is about 13 minutes long. The first oh 800 times I heard it, it just sounded like a morass, a mess, a mudbath of weird noises and sounds and burps and bleeps during which nothing much happens. I guess nothing really culminated -- which is what I wanted from all good 13 minute songs. Or at least nothing seemed to culminate. It was just these weird angular movements without any discernible groove, the aural equivalent of some really way out post-modern dance troupe doing their shtick. Of course, over time, it began to make sense. And after about five years of listening (I swear to God, five years) to the song, I finally discovered that it did indeed culminate. For about the first 12 minutes of the song, the band never shift from their modus operandi which is never to provide relief, never to hit any note that might give breathing room. But then in the thirteenth and final minute, the band lock together in this amazing groove, the guitarist suddenly begins PLAYING as opposed to whatever he had been doing the past 12 minutes -- and it is fucking gorgeous. They soar, they fly, you now understand what the whole song was about, you just know, you don't care, you are there, with the guitar, with the noise, with the infinite, as you lock into their groove. But it required twelve minutes of morass to get there. It all ends suddenly as the band come back into their angular coda, as the singer yells, no screams the phrase "Prying Open My Third Eye" repeatedly (about ten times) until you are numb. The album ends. And you remain numb. What the hey was that about?

The second song I'll mention is one with the least sophisticated (or abstract) lyrics. It's downright stupid in its simplicity. The title track (actually spelled "Ænema") is ostensibly about flushing the city of Los Angeles down the toilet. Over a fast waltz-beat, sort of like riding a horse at trot, the singer of Tool gently lists the things that must be on your mind as you're living and dying in LA:

Fret for your figure and
Fret for your latte and
Fret for your hairpiece and
Fret for your lawsuit and
Fret for your prozac and
Fret for your pilot and
Fret for your contract and
Fret for your car.

Later, he adds, again quite gently: 

One great big festering neon distraction
I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied

Learn to swim.

His wish is for California to fall into the sea. But the best is yet to come, especially for all you Tom Cruise fans. By now, he's getting really angry, and bitterly spitting his words into the mike as the guitars reach a crescendo over that self-same waltz-like beat that began the song:

Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and
Fuck all his clones.
Fuck all those gun-toting
Hip gangster wannabes.

Learn to swim.

Fuck retro anything.
Fuck your tattoos.
Fuck all you junkies and
Fuck your short memory.

Learn to swim.

Fuck smiley glad-hands
With hidden agendas.
Fuck these dysfunctional,
Insecure actresses.

Learn to swim.

And then. the most unexpected thing happens. The entire band hits a minor chord, and the bass and the guitar descend on this beautiful melody that reaches deep down into the most gut-wrenching melancholia. The singer changes his tone. And you hear his voice, and it's no longer angry, in fact, it's a little pleading, a little sad, a little drowned out and exhausted:

Cuz I'm praying for rain
And I'm praying for tidal waves
I wanna see the ground give way.
I wanna watch it all go down.

The band accompanies him down...down...on this minor chord sequence as the guitar with an echo soars in the background, reminding us that we are in fact listening to real people with real lives. This is the moment where it all connects in great music. These people are no longer abstract. It's you and me, baby:

Mom please flush it all away.
I wanna watch it go right in and down.
I wanna watch it go right in.
Watch you flush it all away.

Time to bring it down again.
Don't just call me pessimist.
Try and read between the lines.

I can't imagine why you wouldn't
Welcome any change, my friend.

And then his rage rises to the top again. He's back in your face:

I wanna see it all come down.
suck it down.
flush it down.

The band ends on a single note, all together. Not in a crash, but as if they had all turned off their amplifiers at the exact same time. Then there is dead silence. So that's Tool. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I was a few months short of nine years old when I first heard music that felt really important to me. Like it could make me really happy. Or at least that music could connect me to some place of happiness or accentuate it. The first song I heard that was like that was Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom." Since then, I've grown up and listened to lots of "important music." But recently, I've been coming back to the songs that meant a lot to me from the age of 9 to about 12. Before I got all "serious." Many of those songs are rather silly, but even more of them still stand up today as music that is about the simple joys of melody and beats.

Here below are three songs. The first two are songs from that magic period, when I was a completely happy boy with not a care in the world. They are such lovely pieces of music.

The first one is by Slade is called "Merry Christmas." I'm not a terribly big fan of Christmas (the holiday). In fact, I don't even celebrate it. But this is the best song ever written about a holiday. It takes me back to being nine in my parents' house in Manchester, running around, chasing after Lipi, and watching "Swap Shop" on Saturday morning. I can smell the fish and chips in the afternoon.

The second one is a song called "Runaway Love" from a band called Natural Mystics. Such a lovely lead guitar solo at 1:40. Completely brilliant. I had this song on a cassette which I wore out, wishing that one day I would love a girl this much.

The third is a song from my "serious" period. This is Tool doing "Aenema." It's pretty much the only thing I can listen to now. The only song that makes any sense to me right now. How things change.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

That's the evocative title of a recent, well-known book on Soviet history. Which I haven't read. But probably should.

What a fucking last couple of weeks. And continuing.

Back to grading and listening to Tool.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

He wrote:

“Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

A. R. Rahman - Earth

I've been listening to the soundtrack to the movie Earth (1998) directed by Deep Mehta, a movie set during the trauma of partition in 1947 in British India. Earth was the second installment of a trilogy of movies by Mehta, the first being Fire (1996) and the last being Water (2005), all of which, for various reasons ended up being very controversial in India. Despite being a bit heavy-handed, Earth is a moving film and leaves you with a sense of ineffable loss. Much of that feeling is due to the soundtrack by A. R. Rahman (who, of course, later became even more globally famous working with Danny Boyle on the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire).

I confess that the soundtrack makes me want to be 15 again, riding rickshaws, eating guava, taking tabla lessons, listening to my parents' music collection, and just being delinquent in a city that seemed to hold possibilities. The music here is understated, not the traditional Bollywood song-and-dance routine. There's some lovely work by the Tamil singer Anuradha Sriram, among others, whose voice floats above the subtle electronic flourishes in "Ishwar Allah" like a ghost, gentle but haunting:

But the real star here is A. R. Rahman and the wonderful and subtle arrangements. There are traces of Western pop (a bit of trip hop, for example) weaved into melodies that are rooted in old pre-mega-dance-number Bollywood. The lyrics (by Javed Akhtar) make a play for the common language of South Asian culture. And all of it conveys the possibilities that were lost in 1947 when the British slashed up India, possibilities now completely impossible. Especially here, in the song "Yeh Jo Zindagi Hain" by Srinivas and Sukhwindara Singh. A nation divided indeed.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Prince - Screwdriver

So tonight I was just hangin' around doin' nuthin', just having a drink and goofing around, when I suddenly came upon this here video, and pretty much fell off my chair. The royal one apparently performed this yesterday. Last night! Not 30 years ago! No, just last night, here in New York!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

My Bloody Valentine - mbv

Apparently, My Bloody Valentine have released a new album. Yes, that's exactly what I just said. Their last one was 21 years ago. Also, it was a good one. Hell hath frozen over. You can buy it on their website but don't count on it because apparently it totally crashed due to millions of people clamoring for it.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Smiths Complete

I bought this for myself as a self-Christmas present. Sure, I have been hoodwinked into partaking in capitalist exploitation. How many times can one buy the same music, after all? Some of these albums I first bought when they came out as records. Then I bought them when there were released as CDs. And now I buy them again as "remastered" CDs. I am told that this time, The Smiths Complete contains all the tracks that the Smiths released, remastered by boy-wonder-genius-guitarist Johnny Marr. I have the ears of a deaf mule but even I have to admit that the music sounds wonderful here. Fresh, crystal clear.

As many others have noted, The Smiths Complete is actually incomplete. Yes, the box set includes all the albums released by the band but not every song released by the band. By my count about 30 tracks were never released on the albums and it would have made for a nice extra couple of CDs to round everything out. But that's a small gripe. Here we have pretty much 90% of what the band released in their lifetime and it sounds fantastic.

I will have a longer post about the Smiths later. Yes, I will address the fact that many people find their music insufferably sophomoric, maudlin, childish, immature, self-absorbed, etc. Yet, although I am close to retirement age, I still think they produced one of the most impeccable catalogs of music in the history of modern pop. I would not hesitate to mention them in the same breath as the greatest bands of all time. You would think that their music would date them. But remarkably there is something timeless about the package.

Perhaps my enduring fealty to the Smiths is explained by the fact that I lived and went to school in Manchester in the mid/late-1970s. I was a little boy lost in the grim post-Oil Shock landscape of industrial England. For a while I went to Plymouth Grove Primary School (Junior 3 and 4) and then moved to Central High School for Boys (1st and 2nd Forms) which no longer exists, alas. (Although there is apparently an actual history book about the school). I imagine that at some point somewhere I crossed path with either Johnny or Stephen. Perhaps we shared a bus ride, unbeknownst to each other. I do get a lot of the arcane 1970s-era allusions to Manchester and England in the songs of the Smiths. I know what they're talking about. "The Headmaster Ritual," the opening track to Meat Is Murder, one of the finest opening tracks in rock history, begins with the couplet:

Belligerent ghouls / Run Manchester schools

I couldn't have put it better.

But I don't think that the Manchester connection is really the main thing. Like all bands/music that we hold dear, I think it was the age at which I heard the Smiths for the first time, which was roughly in my late teens/early twenties. Besides the Replacements, I can think of no other band, whose music I processed on such a personal level. Even as youthful angst predisposed me to feel like an outcast, their music slung me into a world where outcasts and uncool people had songs written about them. Of course, with the distance of middle age, I now understand that all teens and young people think that they are impossibly different from everyone else when in fact they're (mostly) just like everyone else. But nevertheless the experience itself was defining.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my (still unfinished) rock'n'roll memoir. It's the one on the Smiths.

One of the girls I hung out with a few times that fall [1986], A., was pretty. Some— in fact, many—said she was beautiful. She was not overweight, but everything about her physical appearance made you think round, her lips, her pretty eyes, her hair, her cheeks, her shoulders. There was one particular moment, I remember with her that fall, it might have been the last time I saw her for many months. [My roommate] B. had just bought a car, a blue Toyota or Mazda hatchback. He was driving with A. and myself as passengers—and I had taped The Queen Is Dead on a cassette which we were wearing out listening to; the act of driving and listening to music seemed to elevate our lives beyond the ennui of small town American life. A., who may have been listening to the album for the very first time, wanted to listen to one of the slower songs, “I Know It’s Over.” Her roundness came together in the ‘O’ she made of her mouth: I Know It’s Over. So we played it, as we drove past our apartment, B. unwilling to stop the car since if he did it would leave us in silence, a silence whose uncomfortable imminence was building minute by minute, second by second as the song gathered strength. We followed Morrissey’s voice from one spectacular verse to another, and amazed at where he was taking the song, the song reached a crescendo; we laughed nervously at the ridiculous lyrics, and gosh, how true were they, huh? That’s sort of how that album was, it was ridiculous, but gosh, how true was it, huh? But through it, through the ten songs, the band starts with small premise, and takes the songs to places that seemed unattainable when the songs began.

I would have to say that The Queen Is Dead is one the best albums of all time. On some days, I think it is the best single piece of music released during the rock era. I felt this way in 1986 and my opinion has not changed although I suspect most people who are above 30 would not make such an admission (or indeed believe such a thing) since the Smiths are indelibly linked with the idea of youthful angst, not with the idea of graceful adulthood.

The inside cover of The Queen is Dead shows four young men. The one thing that always struck me was that all four looked self-assured and self-possessed and…adult in that photograph. They didn’t look like weak English boys like the Cure. These guys, especially Morrissey standing right up front, looked totally in control. And the music on that album reflected that feeling. Was this was their response to anybody’s accusations that the Smiths were effeminate or soft or too emotional? The first song lays to waste that motion. Its as if the band deployed an army of guitars and platoon drums, and carpet-bombed it across the musical landscape. One time, maybe about three years later, I had a friend over at my apartment in ___ and we were making dinner. She could take or leave the Smiths. But I spread out my two speakers on opposite corners of the empty living room and put on the title track, the opening track of the album, and turned the volume up. It was like rolling thunder—even then, after listening to it a hundred times, it was like getting a sudden dose of uppers. My friend, for a second, was converted. Johnny Marr, the guitarist uses a wall of fine-tuned amazing subtle guitars that seem to rage, while Morrissey, the singer, grabs hold of the song, and goes where you wouldn’t expect the melody to go. And for all the clichés that we throw at the Smiths about their clichés to self-involved loneliness, Morrissey never took the easy way out with lyrics. In a flurry of words tripped over words tripped over words, chaos comes to live. By the end of the song, the song stops for a second, as if to gather breath, and then runs headlong back into a fantastic vortex with a tremendous drumroll. A minute later the song is over. What a fantastic rush to begin an album.

And that was just the first song. Each song on the album played like a little symphony, a self-contained short story that packed enviable amounts of imagination into it. Those songs are so indelibly linked to 1986 and 1987 that even now, it’s hard to be objective of their beauty and the little moments inserted into songs to elevate the songs from brilliant to breathless. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” the penultimate song on the album begins on a multiple crashing cascade almost identical to the Velvet Underground’s “There She Goes Again,” but then takes you into an entirely different world, the mind of an adolescent dismissed by his guardians and fleetingly adopted by a friend. There is a moment in the song after the first verse and after the first chorus, when the song pauses, then lurches back into the second verse, a moment when literally it’s as if the song lifts you up and gently sets you down to revisit the story, a moment that lasts maybe a second, maybe less, but is sublime, in the timbre of a bass note pulled up between the beautiful strums of massed acoustic guitars. Soon Morrissey opines:

And in the darkened underpass / I thought Oh God my chance has come at last
But then a strange fear gripped me / And I just couldn’t ask

These lines are horribly embarrassing on one level, and yet I think every person has suffered through such a moment in their lives.

The album ends with “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others,” a strange song whose words meant so little to me that they puzzled. Yet the music, the guitars, the melody was another stab of genius. An arpeggio guitar figure of stark beauty built on reverb propels the song literally and methodically into the stratosphere. Over it all, Johnny Marr strikes sharp stray guitar notes randomly during the coda. They feel like little shiny sparks, maybe shards of light, punctuating the shiny surface of a glorious melody. Strange, incandescent, and unbearably melancholy. These songs were so deceptively simple that it is a deceptively meaningless thing to say so. Marr not only played but wrote guitar parts so complex that it’s nearly impossible to figure out. Meanwhile, Morrissey’s genius was to direct the vocal melody to odd places, perched often between notes, uncomfortable.

The Queen is Dead was the original soundtrack for 1986-87, and perhaps I heard it too many times. For many years after, the Smiths became my favorite band, no, not my favorite band, but one of two bands I lived and died for. Other bands were favorite bands, but not the Smiths. In a quest that lasted several years, I tracked down pretty much every song they’d ever released from the most obscure b-sides to rare compilation tracks. I became a music completist, one of the most expensive and ultimately pointless projects of a music fan. I also rediscovered their two previous proper albums (The Smiths and Meat Is Murder) as well as various compilation disks (Hatful of Hollow and Louder Than Bombs). They were all brilliant pieces, especially Meat Is Murder, which is much deeply affecting than anything they’d done or would do, a statement that barely kept your head above water. “The Headmaster Ritual,” the first song off of Meat Is Murder was a song evidently about Morrissey’s experiences in public school in Manchester in the 1970s, an experience that I shared with him. All those lines made perfect sense to me, since I also fucking hated to go play football in the stinking dirty mud on the playfields on dreary rainy afternoons at school in 1977. I hated it. And the more you hated, the more the fucking gym teachers would torture you over it. The same old stodgy bastards. Same old suit since 1962. And can we please stop talking about the bloody fucking Second World War?

Eventually, liking the Smiths became an albatross since many people in our circle in ___ identified me, especially me, with them. Naturally, this opened me up to ridicule for being self-absorbed and self-pitying, a charge that, let’s face it, was pretty much impossible to defend against. Yes, I get it, I’m feeling sorry for myself because no one loves me and I’m ugly and the world sucks and the people I like don’t like me and why should I even bother to get to know anybody because in the end you always get rejected and even if somebody liked me I’d probably still fuck it up and sex is such an alien idea since no one in their right mind would want it with me because I suck and the world sucks and heaven knows I was looking for a job and then I found a job and I’m miserable now. So yeah, people made fun of me. I would have too! Naturally, one of the occasionally repeated charges was the I liked being depressed, that it was an act, an artistic statement, a way of being cool, that I wallowed in it when I was perfectly capable of being normal and cheery and optimistic. Exhibit A was my music. Cue up the Smiths. And you know what, the accusations fueled my snarky negative comments about life and shit which themselves fed my friends’ feeling that it was all an act. Circular. What can I say? Thank you Morrissey and Marr.

Friday, January 18, 2013

When Ye Go Away

Second beer. Friday night. Feet hurt. Wish there was third beer at home. Alas, no.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC2

I was exposed to a massive amount of music between 1985 and 1990. This song, from 1985, was the soundtrack for many an evening, dancing in the living room in College Station, Texas. I knew every single word. Still do. I loved all the film samples, the cutup techniques, the drum machines, the electronics. Mick Jones was way ahead of his time.

I may be going back to College Station for a visit in April! Excited! Haven't been there in 19 years.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Favorite 19 Albums of 2012

So I (re)listened to a lot of 2012 music the past few days to get some perspective. It wasn't a bad year, but as always, I tend to end up listening to a lot of older music than new music. This is because I am old. But it's also because I don't really have a good way to introduce myself to new music. I pretty much don't trust most of what the blogs and websites say. I mean I have a few favored websites that I do visit fairly regularly but as far as the 'newsmaker' institutions (Pitchfork, Stereogum, The Quietus, Rolling Stone, Billboard, etc.), I find that my tastes have wandered way off from what The Young People listen to these days.

As others have noted probably, truly innovative and good music in the popular music mainstream is a thing of extreme rarity these days. For the past 10 years or so, we have been recycling older musical idioms in new packaging. (This doesn't mean that people are not making innovative music, just that it it no longer ever intrudes upon the mainstream). I suppose that's OK. But what that means is pretty much all music that is supposedly the "best of 2012" sounds like it could have been released 10 (and in some cases 20 or 30) years ago. My list below is like that too. Nothing on it would have been that out of place in 2002, 1992, or even 1982. Move along now. Nothing to see here. There's one major exception to that rule, and that is the album by Alt-J (see my no. 4).

So here are my favorite albums of 2012 (with quick thumbnail reviews since I'm too lazy to really go on about them). The general trend (as you'll see) is pop albums, i.e., stuff that's melodic and short on the one hand; and very noisy aggressive sounds on the other. I don't know what that says about me. I've provided links to my prior writeups on the bands.

19. Wild Nothing - Nocturne: I really liked their earlier album Gemini. Sounds like 1980s British pop but from Virginia. This would not have been out of place on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack or any other John Hughes movie. Pretty indie pop that just kind of washes over and makes you believe (erroneously) for 40 minutes that you might have had a better life a while back.

18. Metric - Synthetica: Seamless introspective electro-pop from from Canada led by Emily Haynes. Perhaps you've heard "Help I'm Alive" from their past album. Or the new song "Breathing Underwater" which was one of the best pure pop songs of the year, in my book, harking back again to the 1980s. It could have been a hit in 1986, for sure.

17. Grizzly Bear - Shields: One imagines a group of very talented, intelligent, and well-read people (who read the New York Times) working self-consciously to produce 'clever' music. Grizzly Bear has been doing this sort of thing for many years now but with the new album, they don't seem to be afraid of letting some emotion show through all the intricate arrangements. The emotions break through particularly well when they perform, as in this clip "Half Gate" from Shields. Unlike 'clever' pop musicians from the past (like XTC, for example), Grizzly Bear can be enjoyed without realizing how complicated everything is. Really great stuff.

16. Four Tet - Pink: This is basically a compilation of sorts, collecting a bunch of singles released this year by Kieran Hebden. It's really hard to describe his work, barring some very vague suggestion that it's electronic music. For a few years now, he's been putting out strange yet alluring albums that build on keyboard-based melodies over frenetic drumming. It sounds 'organic' yet off-kilter. (I would recommend both Rounds and Everything Ecstatic). Here, he moves more toward the club world. The melodies are still beautiful but the loops are made for the experimentally-inclined dance party.

15. Pinback - Information Retrieved: This came out and dropped out of sight. It was Pinback's first album in five years, which is a long time in the scheme of things. I'm still a fan (a massive fan) of their early albums (Blue Screen Life from 2001 and Summer in Abaddon from 2004) but the last album (Autumn of the Seraphs, 2007) was a bit underwhelming. I've written gushingly about them before so I won't repeat that stuff, but their m.o. is really the perfect 3 minute guitar-based indie pop song, immaculately produced and delivered. The new album doesn't deviate from that format much although there's less variety. Somebody put together an amazing video of probably the best song off the new album ("Glide") interspersed with images from from the 1965 French documentary Pour un Maillot Jaune about the Tour de France.

14. The xx - Coexist: This is the "difficult" second album. It's actually very much in the vein of the first but a bit more quiet and downtempo if that's even possible. So pretty much everything I've written about them before still applies except that if I said before that this was music made for 3 AM, now it's more like music made for 3:30 AM. Key lyric of first song: ".... being as in love with you as I am..." A quiet 37 minutes to recover from a party before you finally succumb and close your eyes.

13. Tame Impala - Lonerism: They are from Australia. Led by a guy named Kevin Parker, the band basically does late 1960s-era psychedelic pop. A bit like early Traffic or early Pink Floyd with some late period Flaming Lips thrown in, this is ostensibly an album about being alone. But don't let the retro affectations fool you, this is really a worthy update to psychedelic rock, along the lines of what (I think) Flaming Lips or Primal Scream or even the Chemical Brothers were trying to get at with their '90s albums. Rich and lush.

12. Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory: This is one of the handful of very aggressive rock albums on my list. If you're hearing them for the first time, it's safe to say that you'll think of Nirvana. They do indeed sound at times (or evoke at times) aggressive guitar rock rooted in minor chords. What's different is that Cloud Nothings, led by one Dylan Baldi, has a bit more versatility with props to the Velvet Underground and krautrock. In fact, the album's centerpiece, "Wasted Days," sounds a bit like a minimalist merger of Nirvana and VU jamming for 9 minutes. In places here and there it sounds young, in a way that suggests Baldi searching around a bit, but I think this restlessness will pay off bigtime in the future.

11. Japandroids - Celebration Rock: Another throwback rock record about being young. I wrote before about how they write songs about youth slipping away. It's not necessarily something I relate to (since youth has long ago slipped away for me) but the high octane energy is infectious. This is anthemic rock'n'roll, a little bit like 1970s-era Springsteen on steroids. I guarantee that the fantastic melodic hooks of every one of the eight songs on this album will make a permanent home in your brain by the time the album is over. Standout track here is "Younger Us," a great lost track that could have been on the Replacements' Tim.

10. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse: Ty Segall is a guy from California in his mid-20s who puts out like three albums every year. This is aggressive guitar-based rock'n'roll whose goal is to rock your brains out. I think I read a review somewhere that it bears similarities to the Stooges' Fun House. Certainly there are some overlaps: they're both incredibly heavy and loud, but Ty Segall is not necessarily interested in the apocalypse (like Iggy was); instead he wants you to sing along. His vocal style is actually a lot like late 1960s bands--lots of harmony and drama. The best way to describe this is that it's a bastard combination of the Stooges, Black Sabbath, and late 1960s pop if that makes any sense. It's a welcome record in a time when it seems people have forgotten their guitars and are (still!) unable to give up the controls to their autotune gizmos. Standout tracks: "I Bought My Eyes," "Wave Goodbye" (live) and  "Death."

9. Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light: I could on and on and on about Spiritualized but what's the point? You either like them or you don't. By this time, nearly two decades into the Spiritualized phase of his career, J Spaceman (aka Jason Pierce) has three basic musical approaches: the songs about love-lost sung in a hapless/pathetic puppy voice; the songs about Jesus and light and angels that sound like mega-church choirs; and the songs about heroin/drugs/Jesus that veer between VU-grounded rock'n'roll and 10 minute long skronk blasts. You know the drill. The new album has a bit of all that although the focus here is on melody and song construction. Seems Pierce wanted to do more of a conventional pop album than anything else. Representative pop track here: the beautiful "Too Late."

8. Orbital - Wonky: Forgotten by hipsters, Orbital (basically the two brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll) 'reactivated' after a long break and came out with a new album this year. I really didn't know what to expect but was greatly surprised at how good it was. As with almost all of their music, the melodies are simple and gorgeous. Even as they lift up your mood into a celebration of life, there's a hint of melancholia in all of it. And you can dance to all of it. I'm not engaging in hyperbole when I say that this is the best Orbital album since 1996's In Sides, one of the greatest (in my mind) albums of that decade. Read my entry about Orbital from earlier this year, and take a trip through "One Big Moment" (the opening track on Wonky) played live at Royal Albert Hall earlier this year (2012).

7. Chromatics - Kill For Love: Another throwback to the 1980s, Chromatics put out this longish album (an hour-and-a-half!) this year that doesn't outlast its welcome. They were definitely trying to capture the vibe of 1984 and if you listen hard enough on headphones, they have fake "record scratchy noises" throughout the album. Pretty much every song on this album would not be out of place in the mainstream Top 40 although the subject matter does veer into darker (or at least maudlin) waters. Most have probably heard the awesome cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" (which they re-title simply "Into the Black") but there are many more electro-pop gems on this album. You can't go wrong with the title track. They also had a song last year that was featured on the movie Drive ("Tick of the Clock") although it's not on this album. My brief writeup here.

6. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man: I've been listening to this a lot on my iPod. A very winter album yet warm and inviting. She (Natasha Khan) is one of the most talented singers around now, but it's not just her vocal delivery but her self-assured sense of what she wants out her music as a total package. For sure, she has a bit of Kate Bush in her--especially her aesthetic vision of music as a total experience--but also some Annie Lennox and perhaps Siouxsie Sioux; this simply fantastic album displays all of that. In fact, this is one of the most emotionally resonant albums I've heard in a long time, one that is not about being smart or ironic or obtuse. "Laura", a solo piano song, is the obvious standout vocal tracks here, but "All Your Gold" underscores her Top 40 aspirations very clearly. She's also something of an enigmatic but elusive star in Britain. Interviews with her here and here.

5. Dead Can Dance - Anastasis: Another band that has "come back" after years and years of being in limbo is the duo of Dead Can Dance. Anastasis is a bit like their late nineties period albums but with (slightly) more concise songs. It's amazing how well-preserved their voices still sound (both Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard are in their early fifties). They are still exploring all sorts of genres and idioms and ages and eras but they are not quite as willing to let go of the ground these days, so their songs tend to come from an older more reflective place. I saw them earlier this year in New York and it was one of the best shows of the year for me. Key tracks here are "Children of the Sun" and "Return of the She-King." My previous writeup on them here.

4. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave: This is probably the only album on my entire list that actually doesn't sound like something familiar from another decade. This is a thoroughly original album that takes from its influences but builds to make a startlingly wonderful pop album. It's not something you'll hear once and think magnificent (the lead singer's voice particularly is an acquired taste); instead, it rewards repeated listenings. An Awesome Wave is only the debut album by this British band but they already show mastery of multiple musical strands: you will find here scraps of pure folk, electronic music, hints of jazz, Top 40 pop, hip hop, trip hop, 1970s pop, indie rock, etc. etc. all packaged in strange tunes full of odd twists and turns. None of the songs really begin and end where you expect them to. This is the most original pop album of the year bar none. Check out the videos of the standout tracks "Tessellate" and "Fitzpleasure."

3. Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action At A Distance: Harking back to late 1980s indie pop, this is the dreamiest and prettiest album of the year. The architect behind Lotus Plaza is Lockett Pundt, whose main job is to play guitar for the band Deerhunter. So this is more like a side project, but it is a worthy side project, nearly as good as anything Deerhunter has ever done. The album has lots of reverb and echo and guitars playing minimal melodies that transcend up to some heavenly place. You close your eyes and drift away. If there was one album that was the soundtrack for my 2012, this was probably it. You can probably guess that I drifted in and out of reality a lot this year, important given that my work commute (through Harlem and into the Bronx) often necessitated a disconnect from my surroundings. Not sure if any of that made any sense. My previous writing on Lotus Plaza here and here. Standout tracks from Spooky Action At A Distance were "Strangers" and my absolute favorite "Remember Our Days."

2. Swans - The Seer: Ah, we finally get to the heavy stuff. Well, what to say about this new mangled horrifying creation of the Swans? This nearly 2 hour epic of noise, endurance, and catharsis? I saw the band this fall in New York and it was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had in a live setting. The sound was bone-crushing loud and martial. There seemed not a single note out of place as Michael Gira (pronounced jeera) led the band through the ups and downs of his mini epics. Even all the way back in the early 1980s when Gira began the Swans, the backbone of his aesthetic was one of submission-through-repetition, i.e., the idea that two or three notes repeated endless at bone-crushing volumes will eventually make you submit to the beauty of noise. Now, about 30 years later, the music is a lot more polished and planned and executed with clockwork precision (and yes, more melodic) but it has no less the effect. One thing about the The Seer: although the album is technically quite long, it actually doesn't feel tired. There's a lot going on here in terms of the dynamics of a band cruising through the limits of its abilities, wringing sound and fury out of its instruments. Yes, it will make you feel exhausted at the end, but in entirely a good way. There are genuine moments of tenderness amid sonic epics, real melodies that weave in and out, drawing your attention to the beauty of sound. Well worth the investment. I have written about Swans many times over the years on this blog, for example here and here. Standout tracks on this album include "Mother of the World" and "Avatar." There is also an interesting mini-documentary about the 2012 tour of this newest incarnation of the band, worth watching here.

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!: Wow, what an album! I know, that's not exactly a review that says much. Well, the last album Godspeed put out was a long time ago, maybe 10 years ago, and it was fine but except for a song or two  it isn't something I go back and listen to that much. But this album, which seemingly came out of nowhere is perfect on every count. The album itself is structured around two lengthy instrumental pieces (about 20 minutes long) connected by two shorter (6 minute) pieces of drone music. The two longer tracks are actually older pieces the band played on their previous tour in 2003 but now have finally recorded as studio pieces. They sound sonically amazing, the first building into an epic army of guitars and the second, a loud but melodic instrumental piece that is almost redemptive. Unlike, say Swans, who often inhabit that fine line between ugly and beauty, Godspeed is at a fundamental level hopeful and about the future. The vinyl, packaged wonderfully as usual, comes with some oblique messages of support for the Occupy movement but is never at a polemical level. They invite the listener, through the music, to find spaces of hope. And you know, you don't have to even be political: the power of Godspeed (or at least, good Godspeed) is to connect with very personal struggles (loneliness, for example). Music for the beaten down, music for the empowered. It's all here. My previous posts on Godspeed are here and here. The first track off the new album is still being streamed here.