Four for One
A whole bunch of albums came out in recent weeks (no, really? you’d almost think it was an industry or something), and I don’t have the time to write a multi-paragraph, track-by-track retrospective for each one. I did it for The Strokes, because I was particularly inspired, but I thought I’d just throw these four all together. Because… I don’t know… it’s my blog and this is how I do things now? Here they are, presented chronologically:
The Milk Carton Kids: The Ash and Clay (released March 25th)
This one’s easy- the California-based folk duo doing what it does best: austere vocal harmonies, delicate acoustic guitar-playing, and gentle, sincere lyrics. Honestly, the few times they try for a rowdier sound, like “Heaven” on this album or “I Still Want a Little More” from Prologue, it doesn’t do anything for me. Some people might think it’s depressing, and sometimes they’re right, but for the most part, for me, it’s deeply comforting. If they keep churning out albums exactly like this one, I don’t think I’ll have many complaints.
Kurt Vile: Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze (released April 9th)
This is a wonderfully warm, lazy-sounding record. Shimmering, multilayered guitar and woozy vocals combine with abstract, occasionally playful lyrics to create a mellow, groovy vibe. Occasionally, there are streaks of darkness, like on the marvelously spooky “Girl Called Alex” and the surly “Snowflakes Are Dancing”, but for the most part, it’s purely laid-back Americana. I hope I get the chance to see this guy live someday; I have a feeling it would be a great time.
Frank Turner: Tape Deck Heart (released April 22nd)
Okay, this one is a bit difficult. Let me just say this: I love Frank pretty unreservedly. I’m glad he’s famous. I’m glad that there are kids out there who will grow up listening to his stuff. But man, I hope this album’s just a fluke. I loved the hard-edged folk of 2011’s England Keep My Bones like I’ve loved few other albums. This time around, I felt like there was something missing. It’s not that his songs aren’t heartfelt- they are, sometimes painfully so. Instead of feeling embraced, though, I felt shut out, like I was eavesdropping on an argument in the apartment next door. There are also a few cases of lyrical sloppiness, which was particularly upsetting, because normally I consider his writing very solid. And there are good songs on here- “Good and Gone”, “Polaroid Picture”, “Plain Sailing Weather”, and “Recovery” being a few of the standouts. For whatever reason, though, a good third of the album just left me cold. I don’t know what it is. Here’s hoping the next release is better.
Sam Amidon: Bright Sunny South (released May 14th)
Sam Amidon’s music exists in a strange, hermetic universe of its own. Most of his songs are taken from traditional folk music, including Southern Harmony shape-note hymns, songs from the British Isles, and the Appalachian bluegrass canon, but he creates intricate arrangements for each one, making them into tiny symphonies. The songs range from the quietly pious “Weeping Mary” to the raucous “As I Roved Out”, which is constructed from the bones of several old songs, including a personal favorite of mine, “Bonny Tavern Green”. There’s a stunning cover of Nashville stalwart Tim McGraw’s “My Old Friend”, that practically bubbles with innocence and joy. Every once in a while, he gets too gimmicky, like the otherwise-lovely “He’s Taken My Feet”, which ends in two minutes of dissonant electronic squawking, and a vox-and-piano cover of Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off”. On 2010’s I See The Sign, he gives R. Kelly’s “Relief” the acoustic/symphonic treatment to much better effect. I’ve been using this album as a study soundtrack; it really is another gorgeous addition to his body of work.
That’s all for now; I’m sure I’ll have more to be excited about soon. To everyone out there plowing through finals/exams/whatever, good luck. I’ve been in moderate panic mode for about a month now. Hooray!
8:58 pm • 17 May 2013
Important Conclusion I Just Reached
I accomplish so much ground-breaking thinking while I’m procrastinating…
I finally figured out why Seth Meyers annoys me so much: he oversells every single joke. Watch any Weekend Update and you’ll see what I mean. He’ll get to the punchline, and do one of several things: wink at the audience, say the punchline again, and/or crack himself up. The thing is, with a joke, there’s only two options: it’s either funny or it isn’t. No amount of mugging is going to make an unfunny joke funny, and if a joke is successful, that means it can just stand on its own. I shouldn’t have to be told when to laugh. The whole point of a joke is that it’s a surprise, and that’s why we laugh at it. It’s one of those weird instinctive reactions no one’s quite figured out, like yawning.
Also, some of his jokes just cross the line from satire right into cruelty. It’s a fine line, almost indecipherable, and very easy to stumble over, but someone who’s been at it this long should know better.
9:25 pm • 13 May 2013
A Brief Note on the Cancellation of “Southland’
I wrote a big long post about this earlier but then something happened to it, and I don’t feel like repeating the process. Let me just say that I’m thoroughly disappointed in TNT for not renewing this show, especially because the season 5 finale was such a horrible cliffhanger. Southland had everything- compelling storylines, dialogue that sounded like things real human beings would say to each other (which should be such a no-brainer, but…), and absolutely brilliant acting. Michael Cudlitz’s John Cooper and Ben McKenzie’s Ben Sherman were some of the most morally complicated, subtle, vivid protagonists I’ve ever seen, particularly for a network cop show. Really, everyone on that show was great. I’ll hold out hope for the proposed 2-hour sendoff special. Maybe I’ll actually start watching The Wire, like I keep saying I’m going to.
11:45 pm • 10 May 2013 • 3 notes
I’m sort of tipsy and I’m not going to edit this, so here goes:
Three years ago, a friend took me to see a musical called Bloodsong of Love: The Rock ‘n Roll Spaghetti Western. The script/music/lyrics were conceived by a man named Joe Iconis, a rising star on the New York theatre scene. After one of the shows, I summoned up every nerve I had and approached the man himself, gushing for several minutes about how amazing the show was, what a great experience, etc., etc. His response was a simple, bemused request for a hug. I obliged, and trailed out of the building, and I remember walking down the warm spring street with the biggest, dopiest grin my face had probably ever grinned.
Since that evening, I’ve seen many performances by Joe and his family of amazing actors/singers/musicians. I’m astonished that I’ve never written anything about him on this blog before, but maybe it’s appropriate that I’m doing it now, for reasons I’ll discuss soon. His songs resonate with me on a fundamental level. They’re about human beings, in all of our fucked-up, anarchic, emotional glory. Sometimes, they might be sung by a velociraptor, or a werewolf, or a robot, but these are all about the struggles that we navigate on a daily basis.
I’ve come a long way since I first met Joe. I’ve made friends and actually learned about a lot of the things I used to pretend I knew. I’ve skipped classes to see bands. I’ve wandered up Houston Street at three in the morning crying my eyes out. In a few weeks, I’ll walk across a stage in a black cap and gown and shake hands with my professors. After that, I’ll get a piece of paper in the mail that says to the world “I have knowledge about these things”.
It seems wholly appropriate, then, that my time in New York ends much as it began, sitting with my best friend watching Joe Iconis, Eric William Morris, Katrina Rose Dideriksen, and a whole host of others sing about family and whiskey and longing. I was glad, too, to see Joe outside and tell him an abbreviated version of this. I don’t know for certain, but it may very well be that I’m leaving New York for the foreseeable future, and if it is, I’m grateful that I can leave knowing that a writer as gutsy and true and talented as Joe is out there.
10:36 pm • 5 May 2013 • 3 notes