Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lord knows it happens all the time

I started to watch this morning's match at Anfield before I remembered that Arsenal's season ended a few weeks ago and there wasn't really a match at all. My bad. So I turned off the TV and took the dog for a walk instead.

Took another trip to DC Friday and it was an opportunity to finish another book. This time I had tons to do for work but fortunately I only had a few pages to finish, but that also meant I could spend a little more time on those few pages, savor them, whereas usually I'm speeding through right to through the end. The Intuitionist (that's the book) gave me bad dreams and daydreams all week. I missed a stop on the subway wrapped up in it. It was a pleasure to read.

It's billed on the cover as 'the freshest racial allegory" since Ellison's and Morrisson's best stuff, which had me a little wary, but I shouldn't have been. The allegory comes through, but not at the expense of humor, or genre play, or a dozen enjoyable little things that built into and onto the book. It's not a heavy-handed lecture at all. None of this is to say there but it's a good novel and Recommended.

Here is part of a passage I really liked and am saving for my own reference at least.

Another mid-tempo number begins. The ballroom is appreciative. Without knowing when, she has taken the lead from her partner and now she guides their steps. His eyes are closed and she sees the small brown bumps on his tight eyelids. It is safe here in the eye of the storm. Outside, down the stairs, out on the street, the city retreats under abgry wet assault, high pressure. Low spirits out in the city tonight. It came unexpectedly. The news said a little rain, that's all. Not this. The sewers are full, the gutters are drowned and disgorge litter, doctor's bills and bank statements, they float higher, to the sidewalk levees and over them. The citizens pull the shades back and wait for the end.Lobbies and delicatessen floors are wet now.

Friday, March 30, 2007


POISON CUP by M. Ward.

M. Ward's "Post-War" disappointed me a little, to be honest. Too many of the songs feel like they're building up to a big climax if only because he's got more money this time around and wants his arrangements to fit an extra violin or guest backup singer or whatever. The songs are too big.

Having said that, the opening track, Poison Cup, just about makes you understand what he was going for. It's a cinematic, sweeping, love song that benefits from the more treatment, but also has a sense of restraint that preserves the energy in the song.

("She said 'If love / If Love / Is a poison cup / Then drink it up")

Verdict: It's no At Last, but an interesting, inspired choice from Chris and Katie to introduce themselves as a couple. Have a good weekend!


Photo: Cousins at Easter.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


LOVELY DAY by Bill Withers.

This one is kinda odd for me to put up on this, because it seems so obvious to me, such a part of my musical furniture. Nevertheless, more than a couple people at the reception asked what this song was, very possibly including some lurking blog readers, so here's a copy for them. Listen to it again and you'll agree that it's a classic.


Photo: Mountain fever.


Monday, March 26, 2007


(YOU) GOT WHAT I NEED by Freddie Scott.

We just got back from Katie & Chris's wedding and we all agree it was a resounding success by any measure. Played some tunes at the reception. I always hear that weddings are difficult to DJ... Some tunes worked, some didn't. One that did was this one by Freddie Scott. The older folks thought it was a nice old soul singalong, and the younger folks were briefly fooled into thinking it was Biz Markie! (The greatest video ever by the way.)


Photo: Goofy Pluto, duh.


Friday, March 23, 2007



Granted, I've done more than my fair share of Grizzly Bear blogging in this website's short life, but hey, get your own party. This would have been the opening track from "Yellow House," except it wasn't. It's a lot closer to their live version, and a little less cloudy, if that matters to you. I like it. Enjoy your weekend, and speaking of parties, if you find yourself in Stillwater, stop by!


Photo: Pier 40


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Where have all the hobos gone

One nice thing about taking the train is it gives you a chance to catch up on your reading. On the way down from New York, I sat next to Scooter Libby (yeah that one), who was reading a Naipaul book, and I was finishing up a really enjoyable little book, Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster. I won't go into plot details, but there are a ton of moving passages on the great plains (the narrator spends a lot of time in and around Wichita) and on mortality. Well, the whole book is about living and dying, but mostly about the living. It's an easy, approachable read and I really recommend it.

On the way home I finished a book I got in Oklahoma last time called Land Of Bright Promise: Advertising The Texas Panhandle And South Plains, 1870-1917. This was just a punt, but I had a feeling it would be interesting to read about selling the Texas Panhandle, more interesting than the area itself at least! Unfortunately whatever promise it held wasn't really delivered. There was a lot of decent research and some good trivia, but not much narrative flair. Next.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007



Welcome to spring! This track would have been the opening track on "Bulletproof Wallets" (warning: don't look too closely at that saucepan on the lower left!) except Ghostface couldn't get sample clearance or something. It was also going to be the lead track on last year's holiday mix (in place of This Could Be The Night) except I lost my nerve at the last minute. Too bad, because this is one of my favorite "morning" songs and a true lost classic.


Photo: Coke bottle.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stuck Inside of D.C.

I'm getting my apologies in early for having no music Wednesday and my apologies in late for having no commentary on Monday. Sometimes the job must be respected, and this week is one of those times. We'll catch up when we can!


Monday, March 19, 2007



This would have been the title track from Spiritualized's 1997 album if it weren't for Elvis's fleet of lawyers.


Photo: No snow.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

My name is Mudd

I'm sure there are lots of people that haven't read Catch-22. I never knew, because I was too embarrassed to ask. Until I finished it on Friday. So, have you read Catch-22? ...Anyhoo, I really enjoyed it, made me laugh, made me cry, etc.


Friday, March 16, 2007


KRAKKEN by Acid Casuals.

This week's tour of new (or newish) music ends with Krakken by Acid Casuals. As you may know and as you can read elsewhere, Acid Casuals are a project affiliated with the Super Furry Animals, and you can hear a family resemblance here in the drum sound and the keys.

But Krakken (and Clash of the Titans is the obvious allusion for me, go right to the end of this) works on its own terms, most remarkably in the gorgeous vocals. They float over the track, never really fully connecting with the beat but not needing that connection to succeed.

Anyway, enjoy it, and give your loved ones a hug this weekend!


Photo: Behind the pharmacy.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Martin, Dog of Danger

...Speaking of Martin, she nearly got me into trouble. While I was wishing her a happy birthday on the blog, with the Arsenal match on replay in the background, I was wondering why there was a helicopter hovering over our building. When I took Martin downstairs for her evening walk, I found out there was an armed man on the loose that did this up the street from our building. We are happy to report that we survived our walk.


Two years of Martin

Two years ago today, Martin, the girl with the boy's name, was born. I found her for sale on a website while I was sitting at home from my latest (and hopefully last) knee surgery instead of being in Paris at Emily & Milos's wedding. Windy went up to Washington Heights and picked her out, and we had photos in time for our fifth year anniversary, and she was home by May. She's helped us through the good weeks and the bad weeks and we hope she'll be around for many years to come!




You might have picked up Spring Hall Convert from Pitchfork if you have nothing better to do. It's also been making the rounds on the blogs, but I've yet to read a decent description of the song. And you won't be reading one here, because for some reason the one song that it keeps reminding me of is Oceans by Pearl Jam(!) And I mean that in a good way, even though I haven't listened to "Ten" in ten years, at least. The more usual way you'll hear it described is some reference to Spiritualized or a Wall of Sound or shoegazing which are all nice things to say about a song.


Photo: Martin's Bar & Grill.


Amy and Bill say Hi to Ava Danielle

Yesterday afternoon, Caryn and Brian welcomed Ava (by consensus, a lovely name!) into their world. We're really happy for them!


Monday, March 12, 2007

Reigning Sound / The Ribeye Bros. at Southpaw

Corbett and I caught the Reigning Sound out in Brooklyn Sunday night.

First up were the Ribeye Brothers, who neither of us had heard of before. But we really liked them, which was a nice bonus. If you're interested in aggressive, drunken British Invasion tunes, I'd check them out sometime. Reigning Sound were next... but not Mary Weiss, who we had gambled on seeing there. But I did get a copy of the album they're releasing in a week or two and I'm listening to it as we blog. So putting aside the disappointment of not seeing the former Shangri-La play her first gig in New York since who knows when, we took in the rest of the set. I have three of their albums, but had never seen the band live before, and it was a trip. Out of those three albums, I only recognized about four of the tunes, because the melodies were nearly obliterated in speed and volume. Quite amazing, as I said, but even more remarkable was the crowd. A hard core of 15-20 people up front were ape sh*t for the band. They knew every vocal, pogoed constantly, and called out favorites incessantly. Very impressive, and a little intimidating! Catch Reigning Sound WITH Mary Weiss Tuesday night on Conan.




Today's song is the 51st song we've posted to the blog, if my iTunes math is correct. Out of the previous 50, very few have been new or current, but we're going to change that this week. First is Comfy in Nautica by Panda Bear. Panda Bear is Noah Lennox, and he/it has a new album out this month, "Person Pitch," and Comfy in Nautica is the first single.

And I can't stop listening to it. As a Beach Boys fan, I've had to kiss a lot of frogs in recent years every time some crap indy band releases some "Beach Boys-influenced" record, usually meaning "whimsical" lyrics with "harmonized" two-part (or sometimes three part) choruses. Notwithstanding all that, I'm going to invoke Brian Wilson for this tune.

The Beach Boys comparison is valid here not only for the robust melody, but because of the otherness of it. You always get the sense with Beach Boys songs that there's an artificiality and concreteness that mediates the basic tune and makes it different, off, more interesting. With Comfy in Nautica I get the same feeling, even though you suspect it was made in Lennox's bedroom rather than in a big expensive studio. Comfy in Nautica is constructed with a limited number of parts (handclaps, backing vocals, chorus, verse) that are layered and sampled and looped. Doing it this way, Comfy in Nautica is a little different, off, more interesting than the tune would be were it recorded all in one take.


Photo: Baldwin Belting.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Happy Birthday!

I'm not great at dates, but for some reason I always remember John's birthday. So, happy birthday papa! Bad luck it's the shortest day of the year...


Saturday, March 10, 2007

They Thought They Were Free

So a lazy Saturday morning, the first in-season weekend without football (at least any that I care about) in living memory. Amy, Martin, and I are going shopping soon, then off to Luke's 100-day birthday party.

This morning I woke up around 7 a.m. and finally finished one of the books I'm reading, "They Thought They Were Free," by Milton Mayer. Subtitled "The Germans, 1933-1945," it's about how and why 'decent Germans' became Nazis. Mayer interviewed ten Germans from K(C)ronenberg, Germany about their lives under Nazi rule. With two big swastikas on the front and back covers, I'll be glad to not have to carry it onto the subway anymore!

The book was released in 1955, and so it's had a long time to build a deserved reputation as worth reading and worth grappling with. From this remove, some of the most interesting insights (or at least theses) come from Mayer's observations about life in Germany, 1933-1939, and life in the United States in the early 1950s. This was pre-Godwin's Law, which enabled Mayer to un-selfconsciously make some unsettling comparisons. But as I'm writing post-Godwin's, I'll leave most of them to the book itself. I did dog ear a few interesting passages, which I'll note below. A very worthwhile read.

- P. 154: In comparison to the Social Democrats, "'There was one thing you had to say for the Bolsheviks,' said the Nazi Fanatiker Schwenke. 'Their "No" wasn't a three-quarters "Yes."'"

- P. 246: Quoting a convict acquaintance, "'I'll tell you what's wrong with the indeterminate sentence. If you tell me to pick up a big rock and carry it, and I say, "Where to?" and you say, "To that pile over there," and the pile is a mile, or two miles, or five miles away... I can pick it up and carry it. But if I say, "were to?" and you say, "Until I tell you to put it down," why, I can't budge it. ... I am just too po' to tote it.'"

- P. 299: "If any occupation ever had a chance of succeeding, it should have been the American Occupation of western Germany. As occupations went, it was probably the most benign in history... That the Occupation did fail... is now clear, I think, to anyone who does not define peace as order and democracy as balloting. It failed because it was an occupation, and no occupation has a chance of succeeding."

- P. 311: On remilitarizing the Germans (an understandably unpopular notion among Germans after the war): "'The Germans are great fighters,' said Senator Thomas of Oklahoma in late 1949. 'If the United States gets into a war, we shall need fighters.'"


Friday, March 9, 2007


GONNA DIE WITH MY HAMMER IN MY HAND by The Williamson Brothers and Curry.

Our last oldie this week comes from our roster of "John Henry" songs. This is a fast, string band version of the John Henry saga by the Williamson Brothers and Curry. It's one of the oldest commercially produced versions of the song, but thanks to its inclusion on the Anthology of American Folk Music (surely the first box set every American should own, except maybe Star Time), it's one of the better-known. Check out this list (scroll down) of all of the different versions of the song, and even that's not exhaustive (we've got about twenty versions here).

If you're interested at all in American folk music, and the John Henry song in particular, consider buying this book, Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry: the Untold Story of an American Legend. The author thinks he has found the historical John Henry, and gives a really thorough treatment of the legend and the song. We wanted to go visit the Big Bend tunnel in West Virginia where according to legend John Henry died (but read the book!), but decided we didn't have time and visited Foamhenge instead.


Photo: Power lines.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hopin' my karma ain't comin' back here to harm me

That's the way it usually works: the first leg decides the tie. The Arsenal have such potential to be a great team, but for now we can't score goals. We absolutely battered PSV but we didn't make chances our forwards or our midfielders could finish. Alex was immense for PSV. And the Dutch had a dead cert penalty not given against Denilson (who really is going to be some player). So, a year after living the dream, it's over for a year. Now, it's off for beers and the Beach House / Grizzly Bear show.



BOLL WEEVIL by Leadbelly.

This particular recording of the Boll Weevil song is from one of my favorite albums from recent times, "Lead Belly Sings For Children." Leadbelly's playful, light touch on it is so winning. The Boll Weevil song is a good example. Most people have at least heard of the boll weevil epidemic, especially in the South where people are still traumatized. This history of Henry County, Georgia (from the Henry County Libertarian Party!?!) summarizes very well what happened in the 20s all over the South:

In the spring of 1920, with prosperity in the air, many Henry County farmers notified local lumberyards to of plans to build new houses as soon as the crop was laid by and instructed the yards to have the materials on hand. The progress and prosperity which our people had fought and worked five long generations to attain was not to last. Those who remember recall the cotton crop of 1920 as a near total loss to the cotton boll weevil. It is hard to imagine that the great Cotton Boom of 1919 could become the Boll Weevil Crash of 1920. This leads to our fourth era “The Boll Weevil Depression” which lasted from 1920 to 1940. If we read the national history books we read about the “Roaring 20’s” and usually find little or no mention of the Boll Weevil Depression.

The population of Henry County topped out at over 20,000 in 1920 and by 1940 had declined by 25% to about 15,000. Most of the banks closed, thousands lost their homes, farms and businesses because they couldn’t pay their creditors. Mr. Am Mitchell, a farmer on Chambers Mill Road in the Sixth District of Henry County, used to say “times were so hard in the 20’s that a dime seemed as big as a wagon wheel”. Not only was the crop devastated, the price was minimal. Then in 1925 the County experienced the worst drought in our history. For two decades everything in Henry County was in decline. Many present day residents recall this period with stories of getting by, of cars on blocks in the barn because they couldn’t afford a gallon of gas and of general hard times. The economy of Henry County did not turn up again until World War II.
So by the time 1945 rolled around, when this set was recorded, Leadbelly could afford to cast the black humor of his Boll Weevil song as a droll singalong for kids. You'd never know from this recording that the silly little boll weevil brought a decade of hardship to countless families, killed King Cotton, and changed the South forever.


Photo: Thompson Street.


Monday, March 5, 2007



This weekend we saw Man United steal one from Liverpool, we beat Reading 2-1 in a mostly comfortable and much-needed win, and West Ham finish off their season by somehow losing to Spurs 3-4. Meanwhile, in real life, Amy and I visited Milos, Emily, and Luke on Friday, and went on an epic twelve bar (though we skipped one) pub crawl (warning, the auto red eye correction really did a number on a few of those. I'll need to fix them).

I put a little more into Friday's song so I'm putting a little less into Monday's. We All Gotta Go Sometime is a great little song and a nice thing to keep in mind. It's a blues, but someone put a lot of thought into the arrangement, with its stop-start chorus verse and general jauntiness.


Photo: Out on Pier 40.


Friday, March 2, 2007


LET MY PEOPLE GO by Darondo.

The release of Eve of Destruction by (Oklahoma City's own) Barry McGuire may be the first documented case of "rocket envy" in the history of mankind. In the last verse of that famously cranky and odd hit, McGuire sang,

You may leave here for four days in space /But when you return, it's the same old place.
Rocket envy really took off after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in July 1969. "Giant leap for mankind"??? Come have a look at my broke down house and my hungry kids and tell me about a giant leap for mankind! Indeed, before it became one of the more hackneyed lines around, there was some great music wondering how if we could a man on the moon we couldn't do more for people here.

Probably the most famous of these songs is Whitey on the Moon by Gil Scott-Heron ("A rat done bit my sister Nell /and whitey's on the moon"). But there are lots of others, like Sign O' The Times by Prince ("Sister killed her baby 'cause she couldn't afford to feed it and we're sending people to the moon"). And the bitterness and resentment wasn't limited to the black community--step forward Lynyrd Skynyrd (Things Goin' On: " Ask them why they spend millions on the moon"), and more recently Drive-By Truckers' Puttin People On The Moon ("Double Digit unemployment, TVA be shutting soon / While over there in Huntsville, They puttin' people on the moon").

So that brings us to Let My People Go by Darondo. This guy was more or less rediscovered a few years ago by Gilles Peterson, and has had his entire recorded output (just nine sides) re-released as "Let My People Go." The title track has some of the best elements of early 70s funk and soul. The first sounds you hear are a simple bass lick and a metronome (in a "There's A Riot Goin On" style). Add to that the live drums (and in an endearing, ramshackle touch, a very occasional handclap doubling up) and a couple guitars and you've immediately established a menacing, loping groove (the vibe is not dissimilar to Sign O' The Times, really). Once those breathy horns come in, the stage is set for Darondo's high, nasally, drawling vocal--and he really does sound like a "street savvy Al Green," as one reviewer put it.

The second verse isn't much different from the first or third, but I do love it:
Man builds a rocket ship, / Take you to the moon, /
A billion dollar mission, just to bring back a piece of rock, /
We got starvation, panic over the land, /
And here's a fool in a rocketship, / Trying to be Superman.
One final comment. As much as I love the song, and not to take anything away from what I've said before, I do feel like the premise of the song isn't really carried through. There's bravado... but no real threat to his warning "You better let my people go." Every time I hear it, I automatically ask, "or what?" And I'm not really sure what the answer is. The pleading tone of the backing vocals "let em go let em go let em go" during the bridge seem to be more representative of the message, but anyway... Just enjoy the song! (Sorry for the late post today, and thanks to the ILM borg for a few song suggestions. Have a good weekend!)


Photo: Buffalo Bill (1).