Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Below are some albums I've heard so far this year that I know I like to some degree or other. They're alphabetical, though Erykah is my definite favorite, with Etran, Portishead, Ellen, Hercules, Quiet Village, and Todd Barry close behind in terms of enjoyment/total plays.

Ellen Allien, Boogybytes Vol. 04 (Bpitch Control)
Awesome Color, Electric Aborigines (Ecstatic Peace!)
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (Universal Motown)
Todd Barry, From Heaven (Comedy Central)
Be Your Own Pet, Get Awkward (Ecstatic Peace!)
Blood on the Wall, Liferz (The Social Registry)
Booka Shade, The Sun & the Neon Light (Get Physical)
Boys Noize, Suck My Deck (New State)
Cafénéon (Station 55)
Jennifer Cardini, Feeling Strange (Kompakt)
Clinic, Do It! (Domino)
Carl Craig, Sessions (K7)
Raheem DeVaughn, Love Behind the Melody (Jive/Zomba)
Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)
Etran Finatawa, Desert Crossroads (Riverboat)
Al Green, Lay It Down (Blue Note)
Hercules and Love Affair (DFA)
Moby, Last Night (Mute)
Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, Two Men with the Blues (Blue Note)
No Age, Nouns (Sub Pop)
Noze, Songs on the Rocks (Get Physical)
Plantlife, Time Traveller (Easy League/Decon)
Portishead, Third (Mercury)
Quiet Village, Silent Movie (K7)
The Roots, Rising Down (Def Jam)
Santogold (Downtown)
Sick Girls vs. Syrup Girls, Shotgun Wedding Vol. 8 (Violent Turd)
Tapes ’n Tapes, Walk It Off (XL)

I'm quite aware of my limitations here. I left off reissues (DJ mixes don't count, which is why I included Carl Craig, a record I'm on the fence about in terms of category); of those, I've most liked the Willie Nelson box, the Steinski double CD, New Jack Swing Gold, James Brown's complete singles vol. 5, the 1969 Motown box, the August Darnell comp on Strut, the Horace Silver's Newport '58, and the first Nigeria Special comp (like the other two so far, too, just not as much), none of which I've given as much time as I'd like. Despite having a small poster in front of me (it was free at the Sonic Boom near my house), and despite liking the singles I've heard fine, I still haven't cracked the shrinkwrap on Vampire Weekend, or on Malkmus or the live Brad Mehldau Trio, and I still haven't played the Magnetic Fields, the Gutter Twins, the triple Jarrett reissue, or the Helio Sequence, just to stick to stuff that seems interesting in one way or other. I'm woefully behind on hip-hop and no serious jazz fan need pay me any mind whatsoever, though I like the stuff and need to hear more of it.

In country I've been trying out singles--basically been doing the new-chart-adds thing a few other writers and bloggers have been up to. As the sidebar indicates, I monitor a number of charts and some reviews and MP3 blogs, and that's made my listening much more singles-centric--something I enjoy a lot, but it can be hard on tracking albums. The two charts I've paid the most attention to have been the Billboard Country Top 60 and the BBC Radio 1 UK Indie Top 30, whose respective level of turnover are pretty different: two or three new songs per week on average for country, around eight to ten for indie. I use a lot of my free eMusic downloads for the latter; it's introduced me to a number of goodies (my favorite being Johnny Foreigner's "Our Bipolar Friends"), and so has the country list (fave: "Every Other Weekend" by Reba & Kenny). I need to dive deeper into Hip-Hop/R&B chart items too. And thanks to Resident Advisor I've heard plenty of good dance 12s so far too. (Probably wrong to call them "12s" when most of what I hear is digital, but you know what I mean.)

For the personal reasons described earlier as well as hearing more singles-qua-singles, this has been an odd year for me musically--probably more impressive overall than 2007, but messier; I have a looser grip on it than I felt like I did last year. My upcoming road trip will probably not alleviate that too much, and that's fine. I do need to work harder on doing longer, better paid work--the great thing about writing lots of short reviews is you get to listen to a lot; the downside is that you're always too busy to relax. Or as Douglas Wolk inscribed into my copy of Reading Comics last year, "Always on vacation, always on deadline."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh! The whole reason I started the previous post was to express my irritation at New York people of whatever vintage who smilingly dismiss the idea that you might not possibly want to live there with a "you do too" or "you know you're going to." These people are my friends, but seriously, here's some advice: don't tell anyone, ever, what they "really" want to do, because you sound like the smuggest, most pig-ignorant prick on earth. You might as well be saying, "Don't tase me, bro."

I'm moving to New York sometime early next year. I've known this for a while now: Angela got into Columbia's grad-school social-work program and starts in the fall; I'll follow her sometime in winter, probably during a break between semesters. (Not Christmas, I don't think.) Right now I am preparing my room, as best I can, to be inhabitable by two people for a few days, which will not be easy considering that it's small as is, never mind with all my stuff in it. (At the end of the week, we will fly to NYC and embark on separate trips: hers to Asia and Africa, lasting three-and-a-half months, me to six cities on my way back to Seattle via Amtrak.)

I will not pretend to love the idea of living in New York again. My last time through there remains in my mind a vividly etched eight-month nightmare, from Office Space bullshit to housing bullshit to side freelancing turning into a Catch 22 (laptop dies, can't fix it because I don't have any money since I can't freelance because my laptop died, and because I have nothing left from my job after bills are paid--I'll never forget the night I called my mother in tears for an emergency loan so I didn't bankrupt myself thanks to having been fucked over by so goddamned many people, from roommates to employers). Two people in particular I could happily never speak to again, though I have already in the time since because I'm too nice for my own fucking good. The main relief I had came from playing bridge on Mondays at the Magician and a handful of friends I'd have seen more often if I hadn't been trying to avoid thinking about everything I was dealing with. I didn't enjoy explaining my idiotic circumstances anymore than I enjoyed being in them.

So what better time to return to a city I stopped actively liking years ago than when my profession is dying? It's gonna be great! I'll beg for bylines from people I stopped talking to years ago, when I could afford to be principled enough to not bother pitching those who don't respond to pitches from people who've written for them for years! (Hahaha OK I won't.) I'll get into yelling matches I'd really rather not get into with friends because I can't help myself, and also because the bars are loud! I'll pay more than twice the rent I pay now and have less than half the space! I'll either get to pay for storage for three years or sell most of my belongings in order to move out there in the first place!

I'll also play bridge again, Paul permitting, and I'll be able to pitch stories for real money, not that I expect to sell any of them, and I'll be near the book industry and possibly get this one really good idea I have off the ground and onto the shelves, and I'll be around more friends than I have anywhere else, and I'll be with the woman I love and want to spend the rest of my life with. Fuck you, New York.

Here is a brief interview I did about my book.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I write this very late, as usual lately. My hours keep skewing away from the rest of the world's, maybe because I have too much energy to burn off, though that isn't how it feels most of the time; maybe because I feel like I've given up on something, though I'm not exactly certain what. Maybe I just feel like I'm getting away with something, still: 33 years old and I still keep an undergrad's hours, or a privileged teenager's. Yesterday I went to bed around 11 a.m. and woke up about 5 p.m. That isn't doing me any good, and I've attempted to rectify it, but without much luck.

I used to think doing lots of drugs would help. Stay awake for a couple days and then crash, sleep it all off, go back to normal. Well, it doesn't help--it just makes me more wired than usual after I wake up, a live wire running through me since I more or less haven't eaten in a couple days. Or smoke tons of weed and live my life as a sloth--a sillier sloth than usual, I definitely like the way it improves my mood, but when you can't even feel it anymore it's not as if there's much in the trade-off. I still enjoy getting high sometimes, but don't think they help anything, per se.

Actually they do help one thing: ignoring everything. I remember when I realized I wanted to do them all the time: four years ago, living in Eastlake with a cool roommate since moved to San Francisco. 2004 was a year when I had a kidney stone, a root canal, and a pilonidal cyst; it was also the year my teenage sister got pregnant. I had a lot to ignore. I also had money for the first (and probably last) time in my adult life and I wanted to get away from it all. The roommate could get weed, another colleague could get me cocaine, my frequent hospitalizations had gotten me an overabundance of Vicodin and Percocet. That was the beginning: access. Eventually I had, or got, too much of it. Lately I've been talking to another, very good friend and we've come to agree that we're too old for this shit at the rate we could, and occasionally have, indulge(d). This will probably sound silly, but sometimes you wonder. Why mention it here? To keep myself honest. It's the least I can do.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Havana, April 6. Usually I alternate between CDs and an iPod set to shuffle and forwarded until something I like comes up. This time I spent a lot of time going between two iPods, which gave this more random a feel than I feel satisfied with; I switched over to CDs with Etran Finatawa for a while, then back to two iPods with “Butch” but then alternated with CDs again starting with Johnny Osbourne. That seemed to work pretty well, and lord knows it helped not having as much to carry over. The set:

1. Marvin Gaye, “Nuclear Juice (Instrumental)”
2. Kirsty MacColl, “They Don’t Know”
3. Robert Glasper, “G&B”
4. Carlo Rustichelli, “Dart Theme”
5. Frivolous, “The Duct-Tape Mechanic”
6. Broadcast, “Come on Let’s Go”
7. Etran Finatawa, “Asistan”
8. Singing Loins, “Cheeriotatatoodaloobyebye”
9. Richard and Linda Thompson, “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”
10. Japancakes, “Only Shallow”
11. Jens Lekman, “If I Could Cry (It Would Feel Like This)”
12. Imperial Teen, “Butch”
13. Germs, “We Must Bleed”
14. Gogol Bordello, “Avenue B”
15. Pantha Du Prince, “Florac”
16. Eric B. & Rakim, “What’s on Your Mind (House Party Version)”
17. The Four Tops, “Standing in the Shadow of Love”
18. Khun Kan Chwain, “Naung Ywe”
19. Johnny Osbourne with Bunny Brown, “Love Makes the World Go Round”
20. The Police, “Roxanne” [forgive me, everyone]
21. The B-52’s, “Give Me Back My Man”
22. Queens of the Stone Age, “I’m Designer”
23. Fastbacks, “In America”
24. The Marvelettes, “I’ll Keep Holding On”
25. Moby, “I Love to Move in Here”
26. Cannonball Adderley, “Tensity”
27. Dinosaur L, “Go Bang! (Francois K Mix)”

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Been catching up with The Onion's T.V. Club blog about Top Chef, by Scott Tobias, which I'm enjoying a lot, more so than Bravo's blogs, which all say essentially the same things and aren't especially insightful. (Actually, Ted Allen's is pretty good; his writing has the most personality, at least in this setting. I've never read Food and Wine and therefore have no idea how Gail Simmons is on the page, though since she's an editor I'd guess she doesn't do much writing, per se--that's how it seems to be at glossy mags.) I've been a big fan of the show for a year now; Angela comes over every Wednesday around 9 and we watch it at 10. Good season so far, and Tobias has things scaled about right contestants-wise. (I'm guessing the Chicago-specific stuff is dead on too, and I'm heartened that he says Chicagoans don't really eat deep-dish pizza, in part because I still cannot understand for the life of me how anyone could eat deep-dish pizza.) (Actually that's a fib: I've eaten deep-dish a couple times, didn't hate it outright, but even then it seemed more like a stunt than a meal.)

Angela took a pretty instant dislike to Zoi; because I have a soft spot for butchy girls in general I liked her right away, but at this point I don't have any patience with her--I could really stand never seeing her tear up again, and I can't see her making it to the season's halfway mark. I wish Manuel hadn't been kicked off instead of Spike, who is starting to work my nerves even more than spazz-case Andrew, but given Spike's verging-on-smug disinterest in, you know, following the actual challenges' instructions (see Tobias's list of show rules), not to mention his habit, whenever he makes it to the spank round at judges' table, of all but flipping his quasi-bosses off, I have a very hard time seeing him lasting long either, and he hasn't seemed to produce much of note--in other words, a taller, hairier, hat-wearing Howie, only Howie seemed open-minded enough not to snivel about another team's dish--the team that won, for Christ's sake--having, you know, obviously not tasted it. I liked Manuel as a personality--he's the definition of a team player, the kind of guy you want working broiler or the pizza oven during booked-solid weekend dinner rush, solid and steady and unlikely to crack under pressure, and his gracious goodbye really kind of said it all. But yeah, not much seemed to be happening food-wise there, either.

Stephanie is my pick to win--she's got pluck but without the cutesy-wootsiness that word normally connotes, she's won two of the four elimination challenges, and she's plainly one of the smartest people there, maybe the smartest. Richard is likely to go high--Tobias (and a lot of T.V. Club commentators) have him slotted to win it, and I'm sure that could happen; Dale is an easy No. 3 choice, though he seems more remarkable on-camera for his constant impatient glower than his food itself. (Again: on-camera.)