I broke laws to take this
I walked past this tree in the forest the other evening. The land belongs to a few theoretical farmers - I've never seen them - whose yellow "No Trespassing" signs make them seem way crotchety. The paths run through a fairly lovely middle-aged forest, only sparsely interrupted with cornfields. This tree smelled wonderful. It was sort of, um, bridal. There's no less awkward or more suitable word for it. There was a time when I'd've seen a tree in bloom like this and instantly gone to write something maudlin about it. But now I think that there are simpler and better ways to approach it.
A return to poetry
Yes, again.*There's been some interesting back-and-forth in the comment boxes; thought I'd chime in. Tony wrote that "the poetry that interests me as 'new' lately is the poetry that can be the most up to date in its inappropriateness." Let's take as given that we're all in pursuit of not only what's new in poetry, but what's new and succeeds at making us feel something. (I'll have to chime in on Goldbarth and feeling later tonight.) But a poem's "inappropriate" qualities would therefore seem to take on a new level of complexity. Segue: I don't want to name these poems as inappropriate, because I don't think that they are, but D. A. Powell's work in Cocktails - - seems to be both new and, well, *surprising*. Again, I can't say inappropriate, because there's nothing inappropriate about these words, issues, or images. Rather, the words, issues, and images gain everything through the way this guy's staggering his lines - setting up syntactic expectations and thwarting them, thwarting them. He's doing things with rhythm that I haven't seen done before, and not because I haven't read everything there is to read. This fellow's rhythmic sense, coupled with his subject matter and his, ah, articulation of his consciousness, reads new. *This is less a response to those comment-box comments, I suppose, and more a related tangent. But I like this conversation.
Alligator Records, 35 x 35. Thirty-five years, thirty-five tracks on two discs. When you're driving to a smoky rib joint for lager and pulled pork sandwiches, make these blues your soundtrack. California's answer to Sigur Ros's glacial soundscapes. Somewhat more minimalist than that Icelandic group, The Album Leaf loves to use gentle electronic breakbeats and sunnier, less anthemic melodies. If Sigur Ros songs express a pretty full range of human emotion, then The Album Leaf's songs express that sort of emotional repose more common in small island towns. Small island towns in the future. Play this when you're travelling to a small town on an undiscovered futuristic island. Lewis Black, The End of the Universe. When you're travelling through Atlanta's airports or over Atlanta's apparently intractable freeway systems, listen to this, because Black has some insights about specifically those subjects. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas. Campbell is one of Belle & Sebastian's vocalists - she's the sultry pixie-voice harmonizing with Stuart Murdoch - and Mark Lanegan I have to research further, but his voice is Tom Waits-rough. Strange bedfellows, I know, but it works. It is, however, not good-time music. Listen to this when you're passing through, like, Wichita, and it's raining, and all the diners are closed even though it's just a typical Tuesday, what gives?Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby. Listen to this when you're driving home from seeing your sweetie, with whom you cart around a good lot of baggage. Cloud Cult, Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus. Contrary to what your ears will tell you, Cloud Cult is not another side project of Bright Eyes's Conor Oberst. Cloud Cult doesn't believe in musical genres. This disc is all over the map. Listen to this when you're using Google Random and you feel ready to investigate, at length, the next neat thing you happen across. Cowboy Junkies, Early 21st Century Blues. When you're driving through Virginia on the interstate and traffic's been slowed to like 5 MPH thanks to a pretty awful accident up ahead, and your soundtrack needs to apply itself to the beauty and the sadness of the rain and the line of red headlights stretching out in front of you, well here you go. J Dilla, a.k.a. Jay Dee, Donuts. 31 tracks of funk-soul-hip hop samples. Here's the soundtrack to that montage of your travels through New York City, the one you've been having such a tough time scoring - you know, in which you're jump-cutting scene to scene, and having a devil of a time finding your best buddy, who's arriving from the other side of the country, but all the same you're meeting garrulous and insistent shopkeepers who try to sell you baby tortoises, and speakers are toppling from apts. above you and narrowly miss crashing right down on you, and then in the intersection up ahead 8 cabs have gotten themselves into a traffic-choking jam, all of their horns and radios ableat, and you just walk between their bumpers, whistling. Goldfrapp, Supernature. I like my dance music to be a little less Spartan. This isn't exactly bare-bones, but it leaves me a little cold. Have I danced to it? I don't have to answer that question. Listen to it when you're on your way to the record store to pick up Mylo's Destroy Rock & Roll. Man Man, Man in a Blue Turban with a Face. I saw Man Man open for Okkervil River this past November. There were about eight band members, dressed alike in unembellished white tunics. The lead singer and keyboard man, Honus Honus, had a magnificent black mullet, and a killer Rollie Fingers mustache. Their sound? Imagine the Muppets - not the Electric Mayhem, but all of the Muppets - set loose in a vaudeville theater and told to play, for the first time and without sheet music, Tom Waits covers circa Waits's Rain Dogs / Swordfishtrombones era. And it's 3 A.M. And there's an open bar. Mates of State, Bring It Back. Mates of State took the "no-guitar" page from Ben Folds Five's rulebook. Mates of State consist of the husband and wife team pictured here. The members of Mates of State, when playing live, stare into each other's eyes as much as possible while pounding a fuzzed-out organ and a drum kit. Nothing here is as good as "Goods (All In Your Head)", which is on the All Day EP, but considering the rudiments involved, some of the songs here get pretty anthemic. Listen to them when you're driving to see your sweetheart. Minus the Bear, Highly Refined Pirates. Listen to this record, well, today, in case you're like me and haven't heard it all yet. Miss Kittin, Mixing Me EP. Listen to this when you're not in the mood for Goldfrapp.Sinead O'Connor, Throw Down Your Arms. This is that reggae album of O'Connor's you may have heard about. She recorded it in Jamaica with session musicians who clearly know their stuff. O'Connor does too. It's funny, but this record has gotten me into reggae for the first time. Sort of the way I came to dance music through David Gray's White Ladder. I realize that these two admissions may remove my musical opinions from serious consideration in the eys of many of you. But I'm nothing if not honest. The title track and "Curly Locks" are just radiant. Listen to this if you're taking a road trip of medium length and you want to save your Stevie Wonder for later.
Soweto Gospel Choir, Blessed. On any sunny Sunday morning, whenever you happen to have your breakfast, listen to this.Tilly and the Wall, Wild Like Children. This band doesn't use a typical drummer. Instead, they do this: one of the band members is an accomplished tap-dancer; the band records and amplifies this sound and there's your rhythm section. It's less out there than it sounds; at no point does the tap dancing-as-drumming get as complex or jaw-dropping as your average Gregory Hines routine. But still. As for the rest of the sound, well, it's quaint charming indie pop.