Friday, August 29, 2008

My sister Brittany: "At least Reagan got Alzheimer's at the end of his term, not during the preliminary."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Think of it like this: it's a perzine. At least I'm not blathering on about Angela being back all week and it being one of the nicest weeks of my life, right? Whoops.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I went record shopping today, and among the things I picked up was a copy of the Wounded Bird reissue of Marshall Crenshaw's Field Day, his second album, from 1983. I bought a used copy when I was 15--this, and The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, at Oarfolkjokeopus (now Treehouse Records) on 26th and Lyndale--maybe the greatest day of record-buying I've ever had. I don't think I've played Field Day in a decade, and listening to it made me a little uneasy the first couple songs--which isn't to say it doesn't sound really good on this hot August afternoon. But it's an oddly melancholy experience to hear it again as an adult, which is probably as it should be, as much for the songs and tone of the thing as for whatever memories I bring to it.

I bring a lot of memories to it: Field Day was my favorite record in high school. I don't know how capable I am of loving any album the way I did back then, and it's funny to hear now in some ways. Back when I gorged most heavily on it, Field Day fit right into my burgeoning poptimist-consciousness: chewy '50s-rock hooks, huge overproduction that exactly emulated any number of ridiculous teenage longings I was experiencing, words that looked stupid on the lyric sheet and within a couple plays hit me really hard and stayed that way for a long time. I made a 110-minute cassette that was this album three times in a row for bus trips, so I wouldn't have to rewind it. In my mind it's inextricable from getting into Keith Haring and reading old Village Voices on microfilm at the downtown library, going to my first raves and buying the first three Speed Limit 140 BPM Plus comps. I imagine I'm the only person alive who feels this way about the album, but it made sense at the time. It still does when you consider that Crenshaw was writing about hearing Michael Jackson on the radio and going to see DJs in clubs. His old-fashioned pop-rock had loads of room in it for the new. Looking back, that's what I wanted for myself too.

I didn't talk about this record a lot at the time: maybe I was afraid I'd get made fun of for liking it so much, which is odd considering that I didn't generally care what people thought of my tastes even then. Or maybe I just wanted it to be my little secret. Field Day, even for a teenager, is a profoundly dorky album: Crenshaw's hooks and vocals are whiny and his '50s-isms were, in the early '90s, the furthest thing from cool imaginable. By the time I dove into early rock and roll for real, right after high school (I'd already dug into Elvis's Sun sessions but it took purchasing The Doo-Wop Box in 1994 to fully break the dam), my longstanding fling with Field Day was long over. Consciously or not, I left the album in high school, and for me it'll always be a marker for that. Do I love it still? Of course. It's just that the love is inevitably tinged with nostalgia. For an album of songs that are tinged the exact same way, that seems just about right.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I wrote about the new Fiery Furnaces live album for Salon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm really enjoying the comments on SoulBounce's "Name a Universally-Adored Soul Classic That You Hate," whose title says it all. I like it so much I ripped it off on Idolator today, with "Alt-Rock" in place of "Soul." Those comments are frequently entertaining as well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cosign on everything, pretty much, esp. lyrics. (I'm almost there with "White Winter Hymnal" until we get to "And there you go!"--way to put a frame around a placeholder line.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Of course I mourn for Bernie Mac. I too come from a family of loud shit-talkers, including at least a couple male figures who matched him for loudness and directness and crudeness. Many of the women I know on my mother's side fit those descriptions too, or did at one point; I still fit it now, something I've been acutely aware of the past week or so. I remember seeing The Original Kings of Comedy and being stunned by Mac's closing 25 or so minutes: the absolute bluntness of it, as well as how close it shaded to something much different than comedy, had me reeling. I thought it was horrifying because I recognized it a little too much. I'm sure if I turned on Comedy Central right now I'd be seeing some more of his work, so maybe I'll do that. In any event, a loss. R.I.P.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Psyched to be contributing to Resident Advisor, a favorite site of mine. I'll be reviewing a couple albums a month, starting with this review of Studio's Yearbook 2.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lately the Easy Star All Stars version of "Let Down," sung by Toots & the Maytals, has been one of the only songs I want to listen to. I'd probably have mentioned this before if my mentioning it on my Facebook Twitter hadn't prompted Dan Gibson to post the video on Idolator. The riddim is simple and clean and taut, exactly the opposite of what you might fear if the very idea of Dub Side of the Moon (never mind Radiodread; I always liked Douglas Wolk's title idea, OK Rastafari) pushed your Patchouli-hatred buttons. (The echoed melodica on the album version's intro is its sole nod to psychedelia.) The horns blend curry and lime. And Toots! Holy shit, Toots. How many singers get old and let their past carry them, at the expense of being completely present on their new recordings? Not this gentleman. He sounds so huge, so incontrovertibly humane, so wise, so pained, so joyous, all of it at once--who sings like this now? Who ever could have? Two-dozen people, maybe, if they and we are lucky.

I've seldom been a raving Toots-head, especially compared to my man Peter Scholtes, who absolutely worships him; I'd bet that if pressed, Pete would name Toots his favorite-ever vocalist. (Since we've been friends, few are times that listening to Toots hasn't in some way reminded me of Pete.) But he has meant a great deal to me over the years. My examples are obvious: "Pressure Drop," one of the most hypnotic records I've ever heard (and, in the right frame of mind, one of the most terrifying); "Sweet & Dandy," which for about four weeks in 1997 was my favorite record of all time; the rock-hard "Funky Kingston"; both the rock steady and the hard-funk versions of "54-46 (That's My Number)"; the best stuff from Toots in Memphis, music as natural and powerful as breathing. The first album I dared put on in full after September 11 was the two-CD Island anthology released in 1996. I couldn't have chosen better, even if I had to skip "Pressure Drop."

I often hear lyrics badly, and I freely admit that having tried and failed to like OK Computer a grand total of three times I basically have no idea what Thom Yorke's singing apart from the lines everybody quotes from a few of the album's songs; I knew "Let Down"'s title mood and little more in my recent re-playings. I'm glad I didn't until I looked up the lyrics on a whim earlier today; I don't know if I'd ever have fallen quite so hard for it if I'd known Toots was actually singing something as adolescently dopey as "Just like a bug in the ground," you know? I don't know if I could have gotten there. But the line Toots is most obviously committed to in the verses is also the song's best: "One day I'm gonna grow wings." Toots sings it like he's just sprouted them. But it's the chorus he really commits to; his repeats of "let down again" are so impassioned you'd have to be a robot not to respond. It's not the only recording I've wallowed in of late, but it might be the best.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I have lately been very fearful, about moving to New York primarily but also about other things. One reason I avoided attending college is that, straight up, the paperwork intimidated me. I loathe paperwork to begin with--if I'd realized that's what I'd primarily be doing at the last real job I held, I might never have said yes. (Oh who am I kidding? Of course I'd have said yes. Anything to get out of what the previous job has since turned into--like clockwork it's turned, almost exactly in the ways I predicted, a state I get no joy from seeing it in.) I think the worst aspect of it has been A's prolonged absence. I wish my emotions could catch up with my knowledge that this is probably the greatest thing she could have done for herself; I fight against my own selfishness as a matter of course. This has been one of the most difficult summers of my life, and after A's week here (she arrives back two weeks from tomorrow, on Sunday, August 17, her flight arriving in the morning), when she goes to NYC for grad school and we get to visit each other once a month or so until we get a place out there, it's probably going to get worse. My waking hours aren't really helping. Up about 3 p.m. every day, to bed around 8 a.m.--you don't get much human contact that way, which intensifies the emotional jitters. I sit up at 3 a.m. getting annoyed with colleagues I don't even know, and then wondering why I'm making such a big fucking deal of everything, and then feeling worse. A lot of unnecessary panic goes on while alone.

I'm trying to force myself to grow up a little. (Good luck, son.) You'd think a 33-year-old would have figured out before, um, yesterday that the easiest way to feed yourself on the cheap is to buy sandwich stuff, even living near the QFC From Hell (the produce is way the fuck in back, and if you wonder why, take a minute and you'll figure it out). I will probably be dealing with long-avoided bills soon as well, hopefully on my own initiative and not that of the entity I owe.

Today I hauled two cardboard boxes (books) and a huge black duffel bag (CDs) to Second Hand Books and walked out a little richer--only a little, but getting rid of all that crap made me feel rich enough. Books--Jesus. I have already filled the duffel bag full of them, so many I can barely pick it up, with about half as many more laying on my bed, awaiting a box. There'll be even more. The CDs will be similarly dispatched. This isn't mere moving prep; I could barely move in my bedroom for most of the year-and-a-half I've occupied it. Last year I covered an entire wall with stackable shelving, stuffed everything full, and had so much left over it went into piles that obliterated the shelves from the floor up to about mid-thigh. (I'm five-foot-nine.) More has accumulated since. My goal, which I decided upon a few weeks ago, has been to rid myself of roughly 50 percent of my books and CDs. That's going well; I'll be able to walk around my room a little, though aside from the bed there's not much to walk to. There'll be less to store, or move, or whatever ends up happening, depending on my financial situation and/or the size of the place A finds us in New York. (A: Storage.)

So I finally listened to the Vampire Weekend album--my roommate was looking for something to play while cooking (and while I was out selling books). It's good!

Friday, August 01, 2008

The greatest press release ever. (Thanks, Jess.)