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Music Marathon 2009, Postscript

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It was sorely tempting to let this blog just sort of fade out, since Raina and I have largely moved operations to the low-maintenance, quick-update-friendly Tumblr.  Since it’s getting to the end of 2010, however, and I’m about to start another (and, with any luck, better fated) annual music marathon, I thought I might as well tie up loose ends on last year’s, which was sacrificed for the sake of last-semester-of-grad-school sanity.  Here are the albums I didn’t write up (but did listen to in the marathon):

Tegan & Sara – Sainthood
Key songs:  “Hell,” “On Directing”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Good, frivolous guitar-pop, but it’s not one that I dig out a lot, aside from “Hell,” which I put on my year-end mix.

U2 – No Line on the Horizon
Key songs:  “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” “Moment of Surrender,” “Unknown Caller”
Requisite Post-Achtung Baby Stinker Single Award (past winners:  “Lemon,” “Discoteque,” “Elevation,” “Vertigo”):  “Get On Your Boots”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Not so great.  I was pretty happy about No Line… when it came out.  In its more atmospheric moments, like “Unknown Caller,” it had superficial similarities to the best of U2’s late 80s material, particularly The Unforgettable Fire.  “I’ll Go Crazy…” takes the stiff white boy funk that they’ve been doing so long that it’s gone from irritating to sort of charmingly misguided and affixes it to a positivity-spouting chorus, that despite a clunker of a title phrase, is on a par with their best pseudo-spiritual pop songs.  But.  Despite the band’s attempt to inject their new songs with the kind of grandiosity they haven’t attempted in years, the songs themselves are just a little too thin, Bono’s lyrics too hit-and-miss.  It had a shelf life of about a month for me.

John Vanderslice – Romanian Names
Key songs:  “Fetal Horses,” “Too Much Time,” “D.I.A.L.O.”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Not bad, but for Vanderslice, “not bad”‘s not all that good.  Romanian Names is easily his slightest effort since Mass Suicide Occult Figurines (way back in 2000), but this seems to be by design.  As far as I can tell, it’s not a concept album, and Vanderslice seems to have finally gotten 9/11 and Iraq out of his system.  Unfortunately, Vanderslice is at his best when he has a solid through-line (or a set of serious topics, as he did on Pixel Revolt, one of the decade’s largely unheralded best) and, along with a less meticulous approach to production and arrangement, Romanian Names just doesn’t carry the weight his best work does.  Still a pleasant listen, though, and it’s not that out of step with his other albums.

Visqueen – Message to Garcia
Key songs:  “Hand Me Down,” “Jimmy Vs. James”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Eh.  Visqueen has their sound, which is sort of a supercharged poppy punk thing, but the major appeal has always been Rachel Flotard’s vocals.  Message to Garcia is mostly more of the same (and not as spirited as their previous releases), although the band sounds the best when they step out of their comfort zones, like Flotard showing off some newfound Neko Case-style phrasing on “Hand Me Down” (Flotard has toured as a backup singer for Case), and the band rocking a shuffle on “Jimmy Vs. James.”

Volcano Choir – Unmap
Key songs:  “Island, IS,” “Still” (a dense, double-stuffed version of Bon Iver’s “Woods” from the Blood Bank EP)
How it holds up in November 2010:  Really, really well.  Anyone who was knocked out by the vibe on Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, would have been wise to pick this up last year, as it takes that wintry color scheme and paints it out on a bigger and weirder palette (as for those knocked out more by the folky songwriting on For Emma, I guess mileage may vary).  This isn’t to sell short the contributions of Collections of Colonies of Bees, full collaborators with Justin Vernon on this.  These songs take serious chops to play; it’s to their credit that you barely notice this if you’re not paying attention.

M. Ward – Hold Time
Key songs:  I don’t know – that one tune from the beer ad?
How does it hold up in November 2010:  It sounds as much like an M. Ward album now as it did last year.  Which means I barely ever listen to it.

Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Key songs:  Maybe “Bull Black Nova”?
How does it hold up in November 2010:  I don’t know.  I don’t want to listen to it again because it disappointed me so much last year.

The XX – XX
Key songs:  They all sound pretty much the same.
How does it hold up in November 2010:  It’s okay for background music, but nothing I need on the regular.

So that’s it for last year’s music marathon (and possibly this blog, at least for a while).  To be continued over here.


Written by Dave

November 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Dave’s a Person You Don’t Know, Too

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Well, kind of – somewhat to my relief, it wasn’t the full-on interview treatment that Raina got, so I didn’t talk have to talk about myself much.  Instead, I participated as a guest on a Spotcast episode of Euge’s People You Don’t Know site, in which he talks with someone about a particular topic.  In this case, we talked about U2.  I’ve been told it’s interesting and that I’m speaking in “my nervous voice.”  I’m not sure what that means.

Give it a listen here.

Written by Dave

March 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Dave, Friends, Meta, Music

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Raina is a Person You Don’t Know

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Well, you may know her, but she’s one of the first guests on our friend Eugene’s new podcast interview site, People You Don’t Know.  Here’s his explanation of the site: 

PYDK is a semi-professional interview show where I talk to normal, everyday people about their story, where they’re from, how they got to where they are now, and their views, opinions, and beliefs on politics, culture, media, art, or anything else that comes to mind. At the end of each interview, they recommend someone else I don’t know who’d be interesting to talk to.

To be completely honest, I was initially skeptical about how much entertainment value he might be able to squeeze out of semi-random people in this format.  But I’ve since listened to every one of these podcasts so far, and each is compelling in its own way, due in equal parts to the folks being interviewed and Euge’s engaging, creative interviewing style.  The guy’s cranking them out at an amazing pace, too.

Raina’s interview (about librarians, feminism, and the phenomenon of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl) is here.

Written by Dave

February 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Music Marathon 2008, Part 13 (Vampire Weekend – Wolf Parade)

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And a sprint to the finish (which means I’m going proofread-free)!

Vampire Weekend – s/t
The members of Vampire Weekend just dare you to hate them.  They’re a bunch of well-educated, upper-class guys who look less “amiable, troubled Wes Anderson artiste wannabes” and more “obnoxious, privileged Whit Stillman bores”.  They dabble in African music that seems more derived from Paul Simon, David Byrne and Peter Gabriel than from any firsthand experience.  Then there’s that name… that ridiculous name. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dave

January 31, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Music Marathon 2008, Part 12 (Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – TV on the Radio)

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My original intent was to finish this by the end of January, so I’m going to have to speed things up a little.  Forgive me if my reviews become a little… impressionistic from here on out.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash
One of the problems I have with iTunes and iPod technology is that it’s kind of a pain in the ass to maintain sort order by last name where it should apply.  So I ended up manually moving all of the albums in my master 2008 playlist into alphabetical order, and I missed this one. Read the rest of this entry »

Overkill River, Or ‘That’s an Awful Lot of Analysis for Some “Mid-Level Band”‘ Part 5

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‘Not Sailing Just for Sport’:  The Biographical Songs and Transport

Not content to simply tell stories, Will Sheff injects an ongoing symbolic motif into his ruminations on fame and artistry.  The Stage Names and The Stand Ins are largely about transportion, whether on a personal or social level.  His characters aimlessly sail, take shore leave, and look back upon their bad trips with disdain. They also occasionally pull others along for the ride.  In a bit of inspired parallelism, both albums end with biographical pieces on doomed artists, but the respective journeys they embark upon couldn’t be more different. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dave

January 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Overkill River, Continued Again…

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So if you’re actually wading through this series we’ve got going, part 4 is up at The Geek Prospectus.  Check it out. 

Written by Dave

January 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Dave, Music

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