cartwheels into your heart

Saturday, October 30, 2004

So originally I was going to make a mega-post about my trip to NYC two weekends ago, on the occasion of my band, Canasta, playing the CMJ Music Marathon.

I don't really have the interest or energy to do that anymore, but I did want to say that the highlight of the weekend for me, even more than playing at Arlene's Grocery for a receptive crowd, was meeting some of my fellow bloggers and music critics.

On Friday afternoon, I attended the panel entitled "Press Play: Rediscovering Music Journalism Online," on which sat Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog and Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork. Afterwards, I introduced myself as a fellow ILM poster, and I ended up hanging out and talking music for the better part of the afternoon with them, along with Mark Willett of Music for Robots. The four of us attended a second panel called "Spinning Wheels: Where Are the New Ideas in Indie Rock?", which was doomed from the very start, operating as it did under an unspoken premise that indie rock is the dominant site for progressiveness in music. (When panelist Tobi, an XM satellite radio DJ, declared herself an unabashed elitist, she made it clear that it was out of a simple sense that the indie-rock band Black Keys is "more interesting" than Usher -- never mind that Black Keys is a BLUES-ROCK band [who, to be fair, I've never heard] and Usher's single "Yeah" is a genuinely unique marriage of smooth R&B vocals and the new crunk sound [which, to be fair, I don't actually love].) (Fortunately, Pitchfork head honcho Ryan Schreiber managed to sneak in a few salient points, but not enough to rescue the discussion from idiocy and stagnation.)

On Saturday, I met Matthew at a TriBeCa gallery called Gigantic to see United State of Electronica, a Seattle septet who've made the year's best disco album (reminiscent of Daft Punk's Discovery both in the sweet vocoder hooks and the puzzling compression of the mix). Also in attendance were Matos, likely the band's biggest critic-booster, and Amy Phillips, who's 23 and writes for the Village Voice, so yeah, I'm envious. The show was packed and amazingly high-energy, and then the three of us walked through the rain for bland Mexican food, stopping first, of course, to pick up a copy of SPIN so that Matos could see how his Junior Boys review turned out and Matthew could check out his photo in the article on mp3 bloggers. How did I get mixed up with this lot again? Obviously, I was ecstatic.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I'm only one song in, but already the Nancy Sinatra album is way better than the Loretta Lynn album. You know, in the badass-old-ladies comeback sweepstakes.


Actually, it's song two now, and I take that back. Or at least Jack White is not nearly as embarrassing as Jon Spencer in the white-hipsters- with-blues-fetishes-making-cameos-on-badass-old-ladies'-comebacks sweepstakes.


Whoa, "Momma's Boy" sounds like Sonic Youth!! It's seriously exactly like a mid-nineties Kim Gordon track, like "Skink" or "Panty Lies," or maybe something from Psychic Hearts. Wow.


Never mind. That was Sonic Youth. I guess I didn't understand the premise behind this album. I'm glad I checked before I wrote that "Let Me Kiss You" sounds like it could be a Morrissey song -- because guess what?


Yeah, it's good. I'm very pleasantly surprised that of the three new records I listened to this afternoon, I liked Nancy better than both Pinback and Elliott Smith.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I quit my job today!

Friday, October 22, 2004

David Gordon Green has not let me down yet. Though it's not as immediate as All the Real Girls, his latest film, Undertow, is nearly as compelling, with a plot that seems at first like a conventional thriller until you notice that Green is equally interested in the classic boyhood-adventure elements of the story, for which the timeless, rural South his characters inhabit (as in all his films) serves marvelously. (Most of the critics are citing Huck Finn, but I was even thinking Goonies, which I was pleased to see was not unintentional!)

Of course, as it's centered on two kids running away from a murderous adult relative, Undertow borrows most obviously from Night of the Hunter -- which, given Terrence Malick's producer role on the film, and the long-standing comparisons between Malick and Green, makes the connections I once made between Malick and Hunter no longer seem quite so absurd. It's the missing link!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

For the last six weeks, I've been single, and so my late-night routine has shifted from watching a little TV with a significant other to staying up much later, drinking beer and staring bleary-eyed at my computer monitor as I surf familiar websites and shuffle through mp3s: I'll listen to funk, then country, then maybe Italian disco. But when I finally pack it in at two or three in the morning, I'm much more discriminating about the music I want to hear as I slip into sleep.

I've never considered "music to fall asleep to" as a pejorative, as some have: indeed, falling asleep is a delightful activity and therefore just as valid a context for music appreciation as rocking out at a raucous party. But it's true that bedtime music is a limited genre; not all music works the way you want it to when your head's on the pillow and the lights are out.

The first record that I found myself appreciating almost exclusively as bedtime music was American Analog Set's The Fun of Watching Fireworks. AmAnSet is a quiet indie-rock band from Austin, Texas, which I mention only because there's an awful lot of that Texan open sky in their cloud-drifting sound. The first minute and a half of the album is nothing but oscillating synthesizers harmonizing on a pretty drone: when the rest of the band does kick in, it's little more than a lazy, repetitive guitar figure and some hushed vocals. By the time you hear the whispered line, "Stay tired, it'll be all right," you're practically in slumberland already.

The best kind of music for me to get drowsy to, I soon realized, was music that was cozy, droning, and hypnotic. Although it helps to be somewhat sparse, so not to be too intrusive, it need not be, as long as it shares some of the other characteristics. Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, which feels like a gathering rainstorm, and Luomo's The Present Lover, which glitters like a Russian dance club at dawn, emptied of models whose mascara starts streaking from the snowflakes outside, are both, in their own way, fairly dense compositions. But they're also both cool and mesmerizing, and as long as you turn them down, they're a hell of a lot easier to fall asleep to than some acoustic song that Dylan growls through.

Lately, I've been dozing off to the Junior Boys' Last Exit, an album equally suffused with stark electro beats and gently desperate sighs (from vocalist Jeremy Greenspan). It's a beautifully austere record, one of the best of the year, but as I've lain still on my new queen-sized bed -- encased in blankets to fight off draughts, eyelids shutting out the rest of the world -- the sheer space of the record, the synths trickling over static and bottomless wells, makes me wonder if another key element of the bedtime genre, at least for me, is loneliness.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I just had one of those serendipitous iTunes-on-random moments, as the doleful Bonnie Raitt tune "I Can't Make You Love Me" (which in eighth grade I heard and thought, man, that shit's true) (and which Pharrell Williams, bless him, once called "the illest song ever") slipped into the sassy braggadocio of the Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like." Seriously, though: on a bed of tasteful synths and Hornsby-esque piano, Bonnie bucks up and asks only that the object of her unrequited affection not patronize her; weaving between a stuttering sax, Waitresses singer Patty Donahue compares her suitors to pouty children and laughs in their face. Awesome.

Monday, October 04, 2004

On Saturday night, I DJ'd a fundraiser for the Tangerine Arts Group, to support the production of Harvest, an awesome new play written by Aaron Lipke and directed by Jessica Hoff.

It was pretty easy work: I used iTunes and made liberal use of the auto-crossfade, making sure to set certain tracks to fade out before they wore out their welcome. Unfortunately, the twelve tracks that I had bothered to sequence beforehand were played before much of the crowd actually showed up; the rest of the playlist was improvised, and then I just got super-lazy at the end. (I just played longish IDM/d'n'b tracks so I could talk to people. They sounded terrible in that environment, though!)

1. "So Weit Wie Noch Die (Erlend Oye mix)," Jurgen Paape
2. "What Good," Luomo
3. "Bellona," Junior Boys
4. "(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan (Superpitcher remix)," Dntel
5. "Drop," Cornelius
6. "Everything is Everything," Phoenix
7. "I'd Rather Dance With You," Kings of Convenience
8. "Someone to Call My Lover," Janet Jackson
9. "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," Michael Jackson
10. "Love at First Sight," Kylie Minogue
11. "Climb the Walls (Umbrella of Love)," United State of Electronica
12. "Heartbeat," Annie
13. "Seventeen," Ladytron
14. "Two of Hearts," Stacy Q
15. "Like I Love You (Basement Jaxx remix)," Justin Timberlake
16. "Try Again," Aaliyah
17. "Never Leave You (Uh-Oh)," Lumidee
18. "Sister Savior (DFA remix)," The Rapture
19. "Brace Yourself Jason," Mu-ziq
20. "Circles (Album Edit)," Adam F
21. "A Journey to Reedham (7AM mix)," Squarepusher
22. "Girl/Boy Song," Aphex Twin