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For better or worse, I've been paying about as much attention to music lately as I pay to books and movies—i.e., I'm a consumer, not a connoisseur. I do a bit of digging on my own, but most of my non-video game media purchases are helter-skelter, word-of-mouth affairs. Just the same, there was a bunch of music that came out this year than I bought and liked, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

Delorean - Subiza. You never think that an album is going to be able to live up to itself. After the first minute of this record I thought to myself, "This... this can't be, like, my favorite album ever, right? It can't keep this up." But it does. It's billed as dance music, but it's really just good music. Perfect blend of upbeat and melancholy, of ragged and polish. If you don't like this album, we can't be friends.

Four Tet - There Is Love In You. Rounds is basically my desert island album. There Is Love In You is the first thing Mr. Hebden has released in a while that stands up to it. It's very different from Rounds but just as rich.

School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire. Over the past few years, I have been discovering new things about myself, such as my deep-seated fetish for shoegaze and classic-era 4AD. So yes, the offspring of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins is every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.

Guster - Easy Wonderful. The album's title consists of two adjectives that describe the album! After many long years, Guster has learned how to make music without trying too hard. This is the album of a band (finally) firmly in their comfort zone, and it is so much fun to listen to.

(Check out this post on Warp Skip for my top three video games of the year.)
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She's the One - Caribou
Two Points For Honesty - Guster
Halfway To A Threeway - Jim O'Rourke
4th Time Around - Bob Dylan
Five Ten Fiftyfold - Cocteau Twins
From A Motel 6 - Yo La Tengo
Schottkey 7th Path - Aphex Twin
8 Ball - Underworld
#9 Dream (from Walls and Bridges) - John Lennon
Number Ten - Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
Eleven Twelve - Braces Tower
Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 - Bob Dylan
Thirteen - Elliott Smith
14 Cheerleader Coldfront - Guided By Voices
15 Step - Radiohead
Sixteen Maybe Less - Iron & Wine
Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl - Broken Social Scene
18 Sekúndur Fyrir Sólarupprás - Sigur Rós
The Density of the 19th Century - Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd
kiwi maddog 20/20 - Elliott Smith

Meme via [livejournal.com profile] pyrop, except I ignored the original restriction stating that the number had to occur at the beginning of the title. (otherwise I wouldn't have been able to get past 9!)
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I would like to tell you the story of how "Heart of Glass" let me down.

I knew the song only through a late night television commercial for some random "Greatest Hits" collection. You know the commercial, or at least its kind: two or three seconds of a dozen music videos or so, mashed together in sequence, all played behind scrolling text that recounts the names of the songs in the collection (with the currently playing song highlighted). This isn't the exact one, but it's very similar. "$22.95 for two CDs, or $19.95 for two cassettes. Call now!" I was probably eleven or twelve or so when I first saw it.

The excerpt of "Heart of Glass" in the commercial was the opening four measures of the first verse ("Once I had a love, it was a gas/Soon turned out had a heart of glass"). Up until recently, these four were the only measures of the song that I had ever heard. I contend that they're four of the most evocative measures in contemporary pop music.

It all starts with Debbie Harry's nonchalant delivery—simultaneously crystalline and mumbled, it recapitulates the subject matter of the lyric from both sides. The vocal processing (just a chorus effect, I guess) and the synth warbling and the blinking lights in the background of the video all convinced me that this, this was the music of the future, even if it was from 1979. (This impression was possibly influenced by the similarity of the song's name to the Heart of Gold. I didn't know jack about pop music at the time, but I'd read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.)

There's also the fact that Debbie Harry's face filling the frame like a newscaster is undeniably transfixing, and that little jerk of the head that she does while singing "glass" is... weird. I don't know why she did that. Is something wrong?

Read more... )

Music Meme

Jan. 11th, 2008 11:02 pm
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via [livejournal.com profile] g3k

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random: The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3: The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/: The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Now, pop open your imaging program, and create that album cover.

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I'm not saying we're coming close to a Complete Theory of Gender Roles in Music or anything here, but it's been interesting to read everyone's responses and posts. My good friend Josh has gone the extra mile and parsed out his song titles by semantic role (subject, object, agent, patient, etc.). It's very interesting, and bears out my suspicion that you'd have fewer hims than hers.
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She Calls - Slowdive
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window - The Beatles
She Dreamt She Was A Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field - godspeed you! black emperor
She Is the Daylight - Flying Saucer Attack
She Is the Swallow - The Ivytree
She Loves Me Not - Creeper Lagoon
She Moved Through The Fair / Destruction - Flying Saucer Attack
She Moves She - Four Tet
She Said She Said - the beatles
She Sends Kisses - The Wrens
She's Actual Size - They Might Be Giants
She's Fantastic - Sondre Lerche
She's Leaving Home - the beatles
She's Losing It - Belle & Sebastian
She's the One - Caribou
She's Your Cocaine - Tori Amos


He Lays In The Reins - Iron And Wine / Calexico
He Play All Day Long - Vibracathedral Orchestra
He's Realistic - the Vandervoorts
He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot - Grandaddy
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In celebration of my birthday, a present for everyone: Cause and Effect, another little video game chiptune (224kbps MP3, 1:34). Here's the original .it (~12k, four channels), which loops correctly—those of you who download the MP3 will have to imagine the song looping from the end back to the point just after the pickup notes at the beginning of the song.
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And now, a chiptune, from me to you. Available in MP3 format (192kbps, 1:42), or you can grab a copy of the original .it (~16kb, 3 channels, I haven't tested it in anything other than Schism Tracker).

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Alison - Slowdive
Beneath the Balcony - Iron & Wine
Chicago - Sufjan Stevens
Deception - Blackalicious
Eagle In Your Mind - Boards Of Canada
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
Glenn Tipton - Sun Kil Moon
Hands - Four Tet
I Never Lose. Never Really - Belong
Jeane, If You're Ever In Portland - Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Kamera - Wilco
Little Eyes - Yo La Tengo
Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett
November Mist - Flying Saucer Attack
Old Love Haunts Me In The Morning - Marissa Nadler
Point of Disgust - Low
Queen Jane Approximately - Bob Dylan
Rose Parade - Elliott Smith
Seeing Other People - Belle & Sebastian
Thicker Than a Smokey - Gary Higgins
Undo - Björk
Vaka - Sigur Rós
Wondergirl (You & Me) - Radix
X-Ray Eyes - Guster
Young Shields - Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
Zero - Smashing Pumpkins

commentary )

Music; ITP

Sep. 5th, 2006 10:25 pm
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1. From an old MeFi post, I present to you the Tromba Marina, a massive and obsolete one-stringed instrument played with harmonics rather than entirely depressing the string against the fretboard. The instrument's signature "brassy buzz" results from a loosely fitting bridge (helpful visualization). In combination with the 7th grade orchestra at Chippewa Middle School (mp3 link) the tromba marina makes a noise that can only be described as "a great way to get the neighbors to call the police if you play it pretty loud."

2. Speaking of cacophony, here's my Reverse Organ, a little Processing sketch I worked up last night in response to a recent e-mail discussion with Josh. (This is, incidentally, Blog Post for Josh 2 of N.) The discussion concerns methods of notating music that specify which notes not to play, rather than the other way around. I already sent this to him but I thought you folks might enjoy it too.

It works like this: each of the vertical bars represents a note in the C major scale. By default, all seven notes are playing. To make a note stop playing, depress (and/or hold down) the key on your keyboard corresponding to the note, as follows (if, like me, you've used Impulse Tracker, this is already muscle memory):
  • z: C
  • x: D
  • c: E
  • v: F
  • b: G
  • n: A
  • m: B
So to play a C major chord, hold down X, V, N, and M; to play a D minor chord, hold down Z, C, B, and M.

3. Tonight was my first night of class. Specifically: Vito Acconci spoke in my "Applications of Interactive Technology" class. Up until this point, I didn't know Mr. Acconci by name—I had only read about his performance art from the '60s (e.g., Seedbed). He spoke about that for a while, but for the most part he focused on what his design firm has been up to lately. Like this.

Oh man was this talk awesome! I'm not even all that into architecture but the concepts and techniques he presented are universal and really got me thinking about applications in my areas of interest. If ITP wanted to convince me that it's worth taking out loans for this stuff, they couldn't have started out with a better speaker. They sure as hell would never have had a performance artist speak in a linguistics Ph.D. program!

The real value of ITP, I'm coming to understand, lies in its engagement with art. I've always been a technical person, really, a nerd. For a little while, though, I get to think of myself as an artist. This is a new thing for me, and I'm enjoying it so far.
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Here's what I've got. It's pretty meager owing to the fact that I've been playing video games instead of paying attention the music press.

Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Belong - October Language (overwhelmingly excellent)
Brightblack Morning Light - s/t
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette
Cat Power - The Greatest
Chihei Hatakeyama - Minima Moralia
David Mead - Tangerine
Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - Fear Is On Our Side
Thom Yorke - The Eraser
The Weepies - Say I Am You

What good stuff have I missed?
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A new interview is up on autofish, which includes a link to new songs. Some of you have already heard some of these songs, but they appear here for the first time carefully sequenced and credited to a nom de plume. An "album," of sorts, though there's no cover, no liner notes, no physical media. Anyway, it's free for the taking. (I'm considering cutting ''Walk With Me'' from the rotation, since it's the most cloying and faux pastoral of the bunch. Download the thing and tell me what you think.)

Back to the interviews. Each and every one is a stimulating read. It's kind of like a nerd atlas, a map of where everyone's train went after it stopped at ZZT Station (Computer Science Street, Aspiring Novelist Park, Bring Down Capitalism Square). I look at the list of ZZT games that interviewees were working on but never finished:
  • [livejournal.com profile] casey's medieval murder mystery
  • [livejournal.com profile] emmzee's non-traditional adventure game
  • [livejournal.com profile] thedexter's "invasion of the Body Snatchers [...] all in grayscale"
  • [livejournal.com profile] wynand's six-game epic cycle
  • [livejournal.com profile] noi5e's "four-part Rashomon-like game that would require you to play through the same scenario as a plankton, a seahorse, a person and an angel"

... and, damn, I'm inspired. I want to play those games. I want to finish my futuristic/noir-style comedy about a boy genius who runs a society for the promotion of the duodecimal system. Hell, I almost want to be a member of a "company" again. (FILTERware 4evah!)

But then I remember ZZT's austerity. I don't mind the primitive graphics (see flimsy's remarks on a "world actually CONSTRUCTED of symbols"), but a programming language where you have to pretend that integers exist? That's self-flagellation. I've long since abandoned such childish things.

(I was going to ask when someone was going to interview cly5m, but it's apparently already happened.)
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... and by all accounts I've done some pretty damn nerdy things in my life. Head on over to happyfrappy.com to download my NES-ified adaptations of two popular Guster songs: What You Wish For (from Lost and Gone Forever) and Manifest Destiny (from the upcoming Ganging Up on the Sun). Members of the Guster messageboard rave, "holy crap! someone has nanoloops!" before getting distracted by an animated GIF in someone's signature.

I didn't do it with Nanoloop, actually (69 EUR? Who can afford that?). I did it in Schism Tracker. There are a number of people on my friends list for whom NES music and its faithful reproduction are an abiding love and concern. Guys: I'm sorry if I messed this one up. I tried to be as faithful to the NES sound as I could!

(And yes, I know I'm about six months too late for this kind of thing.)
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1. ITP let me in! If I can scare up some funding, I'll be fiddling with PICs and Processing there starting this fall. Man, you guys are going to get so sick of all the BoingBoing posts about my projects.

2. I will be attending the 1st Language Creation Conference next weekend at UC Berkeley, there to attend lectures given by such conlang luminaries as Sally Caves, Matt Pearson, and my old college bud David Peterson. I'm super stoked about this. Folks in the Bay Area interested in (con)linguistics: consider attending, it'll be fun! Folks in the Bay Area not so interested in (con)linguistics but who might want to hang out anyway: send me an e-mail.

3. Right now, there are for me only three great albums in the world: Songs of Green Pheasant, Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and a third album which I cannot name ('cause it's not out yet and I'm not technically supposed to have it). Together, they obviate any need for further musical expression in this lifetime. As a consequence, I've sold my guitar and my CDs and I've deleted all else from my iTunes library. I suggest you do the same.
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Disregard the meaningless pseudonym; this cover of Guster's "Dear Valentine" over at happyfrappy.com is all me. Sarahoneyface on the happyfrappy.com message board says, "i LOVE it!" for whatever it's worth. Anyway, give it a listen if you have a second. (This bootleg recording will give you an idea of what "Dear Valentine" will actually sound like when it comes out on Guster's upcoming album.)

Here is my post about happyfrappy.com from last year.

The Sigur Rós show last week at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden was a disaster. Amina's set was obscured behind the sight and sound of hundreds of people taking their seats, noisily stumbling in the darkness, the light of the ushers' flashlights constantly shining in everyone's faces. The couple seated behind me thought Sigur Rós' set would be an ideal place and time to carry out a lover's tiff, conducted mostly in whispers but occasionally emerging, butterfly-like, as barked invective ("You're an asshole." "Shut up, you whore."). Two rows ahead of me a large man, baked as biscotti, he was fried, constantly waved his arms in the air, either in an attempt to lend a little Bernstein to the affair, or to fly. It was impossible to tell. At intervals he chose to sing along in a screeching falsetto and, at one point, earnestly yelped "GODSPEED, EVERYONE!" During the pause in "Viðrar Vel" people started shouting insults at each other. Had the band not been so awesome and the venue's sound engineering so impeccable I probably would have gone home in tears.
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ITP. I attended the group interview today for admission to ITP. My gut was twisted with anxiety: I was sure I'd be the squarest kid in the room. Turns out everyone else there had at least as many right angles as I do, and some even had sides whose lengths were equaler than mine. I think I distinguished myself with my witty banter - most everyone else was stuck on their dour stories about how being a programmer in the finance industry affords them no opportunity to be "creative." All I want, I said, is to study at a place that will reward me for my relentless dilettantery. Like Douglas Rushkoff, I want to write comic books, have an article in Arthur about the occult, learn to fly, teach an online class about neat yo-yo tricks, etc.

Animal Crossing Wild World. This game is like pure bliss crack cocaine. I never realized before how much I needed to have a sheep send me a cactus in the mail; how I could have even existed before such joy is a mystery unfathomable. S & I spent the whole weekend fishing, transplanting flowers, collecting shells, re-arranging the house, paying off the mortgage and otherwise exploiting this convenient outlet for one's domestic proclivities. (Other games recently enjoyed: Super Mario 64 DS, Final Fantasy I & II on the GBA. Now that I beat FF I finally understand what everyone else was going on about back in the MegaZeux days ...)

Recently discovered songs. Ducktails (Moon Stage) - the Advantage. Soon it will be fire - Richard Youngs (this is the most beautiful song ever written and/or sung). Heartbeats - Jose Gonzales. Anadromous - Mirza (the whole album).

Sumana and Leonard move to town. Last week we all had pierogi and kielbasa in the Village and Leonard took me on a brief yet insightful tour of the sci-fi section at St. Mark's Books. It was fun. I hope we get to do it again soon.
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Top Ten Albums

... excluding anything Jewelled Antler Collective-related, which will likely require a separate entry.

10. Hippocamp Ruins Pet Sounds

I like the mythology behind this one: A ragtag bunch of Internet sine-slingers got together to squish and smash one of pop's greatest albums, copyright law be damned! Fortunately the music lives up to the backstory. Some of the tracks test your patience (the 12 minute ambient version of "here today," the rap over "pet sounds" proper) but by and large this album consistently hits the mark.

9. Countless Times - Diane Cluck

Sort of a sleeper hit for me - I kept bringing this up on the ol' iPod without really thinking about it. Countless Times is like having Blue all over again, but with some non-Euclidean geometry thrown in. The chords, the harmony, the lyrics never quite go where you expect them to go. Doesn't hurt, either, that the background noise and the obviously-recorded-in-the-living-room reverb scratch my lo-fi itch.

8. The Milk of Human Kindness - Caribou

The quiet ballad "Hello Hammerheads" makes this album for me. Gentle, yet driving. The psych response to Four Tet's instrumental free-jazz hip-hop.

7. The Saga of Mayflower May - Marissa Nadler

I can't resist music that loses itself in its own world, and Saga of Mayflower May is about as insular as it gets. Nadler makes you want to believe that her beautiful land of broken hearts and smooth-skinned women and placid seas and so forth exists, somewhere out there, tragic though the happenings of that land may be.

6. School of the Flower - Six Organs of Admittance

Inscrutable lyrics? Trance-inducing acoustic guitar ragas? Drone? Free jazz drumming? Drag City sure knows how to sell me music. Somewhere in the middle of this album the high-concept abstractness melts away and leaves behind a minimalist, moving skeleton. Its boney fingers grab up to strangle you and you welcome their embrace!

rest of the top ten; disappointing albums; essential singles; top ten songs not otherwise mentioned )
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This is just to let you know that my Mario Kart DS friend code is 154680193305. Are people even playing this anymore?

Also, a meme. )
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Guster clambered up the ladder of commercial success early in their career, mostly through sheer tenacity and showmanship (nary a female have I met who, after seeing Brian Rosenworcel's frantic conguery, did not want to have his babies). As a result, we've been able to witness their maturation from Indigo Girls-aping, Jackopierce-covering weenies to literate, confident musos with, well, chops.

Last Friday at the Nokia Theatre they demonstrated their surprising prowess: Great Escape (from their second album) rose like a hot air balloon from all the new life they breathed into it - the tinny strums on the record gave way to fat distortion, and the nonsensical bridge we all know and love (circle circle dot dot dot) was replaced with a tease from the Violent Femmes' Kiss Off. Diane is now not just their best song on record (from Keep It Together, their latest) but also one of the finest songs in their repertoire: they used to fudge this song badly when played live, but now it's brilliant. Even Center Of Attention - one of the weaker songs in Guster's post-Parachute catalog - sounded punchy and new. Compare it to an early bootleg and you'd think a different band was playing it.

Keep It Together bore witness of a newly liberated band's growing pains - every song seemed to pull the band in a different stylistic direction - but the new material debuted on this tour has a clear direction and clean execution. I fully expect Ganging Up On The Sun (or whatever they decide to call the new record) will be the Damn Pop Record of 2006. (Listen to Manifest Destiny, The Captain, The Beginning Of The End, and One Man Wrecking Machine on this excellent bootleg.)

This is my fear, though: confidence leads to stagnation. Guster compels us because of the lengths they're willing to cross to compensate for their shortcomings: their heartfelt, wide-eyed ballads, their humorous on-stage shenanigans, their insistence on "no sticks!" on Lost And Gone Forever. They're quirky, which attracts obsession and the establishment of an identity. Guster's quirks are their fan's quirks - they're our quirks. Outsiders couldn't hope to understand them. In their attempt to become the band they've always wanted to be, Guster needs to make sure that they don't become just like everyone else.

Pelt's latest recording seemed bland and boring to me - I like drone, but I could find no compelling reason to sit through their lengthy, unmoving, thirty-minute tracks. The record, however, is a cadaverous shadow of the live experience. A monochromatic cacophony of frantic Fahey-esque guitar, squeezeboxes, double-stop violin and harmonium builds into a crescendo, spins out of control, then crumbles into a chorus of gongs, which Tibetan singing bowls gradually slice and dice then fade to nothingness. The denouement came when the sines from four bowls emerged as a major chord, bringing with it the trembling, unexpected sense of well-being that sets apart all great music. Pelt convinces you that making noise is no easy feat, and then make it seem effortless: You may think that their music is chaotic, until you see them tiptoeing across the stage, moving to a new instrument, in an effort not to interrupt it. The experience was akin to being a frog boiled alive and I must have looked mighty strange at the end of the performance, huddled up next to the stage, agape.

Marissa Nadler was the first of three performers on a bill with Pelt and Earth Sunday night (I didn't stick around for Earth, wasn't in the mood for doom sludge metal or whatever). She's this year's Joanna Newsom and if you like the folk music and you don't have her new record then, quite franky, you disgust me. Her songs and arrangements are briskly laconic, and her sense of her chosen style is so clear as to be almost forceful. She is a British folk singer (Scottish, actually, judging from those velarized L's), modern trends have placed no fingers on her, she exists entirely within her own forgotten and/or imaginary world. I was captivated.

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