Disruptive Juxtaposition

Friday, June 02, 2006

Recently acquired

This is what happens when I acquire more music than I can possibly listen to in a reasonable amt. of time, much less index and blog about: backlogs form.


Aphex Twin, Richard D. James Album. Besides posing one of the most frightening album covers ever, Richard D. James enjoys his status as one of ambient techno's foremost innovators. Witness "Girl/Boy Song" for proof.

Erin Bode, Over and Over. I can't say this disc has wowed me yet. Comparisons to Norah Jones are not unwarranted. Ms. Bode has a dusky, alluring voice, and a willingness to re-arrange Paul Simon's "Graceland" into something quite different, and that's admirable. If you're a windowsill type of soul, may I present Ms. Bode.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah, you've heard all about these fellows by now. I've just recently gotten my hands on a copy, and shame on me. This disc is killer. A little derivative of certain indie-rock trends, one might say, but I'll expand that to say it's the best kind of derivative: you have the attractive and earnest yawping of bands like the Shins and Wolf Parade, and the driving post-punk / dance rhythms of countless sub-par outfits who shall remain nameless, and an overall aesthetic of what I'll have to call "sweet punk", in which there are few chords, there are many lyrics about outraged and injured youth, and all of the keys are major keys.

Dave Chapelle's Block Party, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. The film which accompanies this album comes out Tuesday. It's a who's-who of banner rap: The Roots, Talib Kweli, Mos Def. You know, the good stuff. Also, there are conference call outtakes between the songs: Chappelle & co. are discussing the planning and logistics of the block party to come.

The Dirty Three, Whatever You Love, You Are. Ambient and sparse shoegazing post-rock. Think Low, or Yo La Tengo at their dreamiest. Lots of emotional violin solos. This is one of those albums for which the cover serves as a good representation of the overall sound.

Elbow, Leaders of the Free World. In a world where Coldplay does exist - for better and for worse - I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to like this disc. But it grew on me rather quickly once I started to consciously not care about the stadium-ready pace and the radio-ready production. These are good, big rock songs, and damn the comparisons.

Sarah Harmer, I'm a Mountain. Elegant mountain balladry from a young student of the country's rural tradition. It's simple, sure, but extremely accomplished.

Hem, No Word From Tom.

Jolie Holland, Escondida.

Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You. In the vein of Cat Power. Jolie Holland is part of the Be Good Tanyas when she's not putting out amazing records which are amalgams of folk (of course), blues, and jazz flourishes. The generally even keel on which this record rides doesn't prevent it from sounding like one of the year's most accomplished records so far. It's this Recently Acquired's Reigning Top Disc.

Charlie Hunter Trio, Copperopolis.

Choir of King's College, Cambridge, Gregorian Chant. Pretty standard devotional Masses.

Shooter Jennings, Electric Rodeo. Son of Waylan Shooter turns in this batch of somewhat bombastic electric country. See Hank Williams III (at bottom).

Kids, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Daniel Johnston contributes some excellent material to the soundtrack of this rather disturbing 90s film about that era's kids with their sex and their drugs and their lost innocence. Daniel Johnston was an inspired choice for this project, if you ask me; not only has he struggled for mental well-being for most of his adult life, but despite / because of this Johnston allows his performances an admirably slack character. His voice has an endearing squeak, an awkwardness, about it; there's a fey sweetness to his melodies; and the lyrics often involve imaginative youths and harmless ghosts and magical thinking. Juxtapose that with the more ominous work of Folk Implosion (which is less folky and more implode-y), and you get a pretty apt aural analog to Kids' subject matter and take on same.

Loose Fur, Born Again in the U.S.A. Lousy with A-listers from Wilco (Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche among them), and with avant-garde-minded console-minder Jim O'Rourke on board, we have Loose Fur's 2nd album. These are songs that were probably left on various cutting room floors for being too "easy" or "straightforward," but I won't call them that. I'll call them "fun" and "good." Check out the video of "Hey Chicken." There's a dance-off with a monster at the end.

Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Hang It High, Hang It Low. Sadly, after three or four listens, I have to say that this band's name is more fun that it is. The zydeco cha-chas the Zydeco Cha-Chas offer up here sound pretty much all alike. As a set of music seen live, it would make you nod along and tap your foot, but you wouldn't be impelled to get up and dance. And zydeco must make me dance.

The Notorious Bettie Page, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. What a soundtrack. I haven't seen this film yet, but the soundtrack's tangible and tacile enough to make me feel as though I have. This has it all: well-chosen jazz cuts from Art Pepper and Charles Mingus, a sassy novelty tune by Jeri Southern, a heartbreaking number from Julie London (of whom you must have more) and impeccable boom, BOOM BOOM boom kinds of numbers from Mark Suozzo that'll have you hopping in the car with all your buddies, aiming for the seedy side of town, and changing all your twenties for singles.

Robinella, Solace For the Lonely. With a sound that's very near to Jolie Holland's - and to various other songstresses rooted in folk - Robinella nearly beat out Springtime Can Kill You for this week's Reigning Top Disc. It was a bloody fight. Broken banjos all over the place. Freshly plucked posies lay on the eyes of the wounded as they convalesced. Reams of sheet music belonging to both sides made a gentle do-si-do on the field of battle. And when it was all over, the voice of Robin Contreras floated up over the scene, renascent, indomitable, in the same tone you use to whisper your promises.

Otis Rush, All Your Love, I Miss Your Loving. Just a killer set of live Chicago blues. Get this. Everything about it is right.

Igor Stravinsky, Les Noces and Other Russian Village Wedding Songs.

T.I., King.

Hank Williams III, Straight To Hell. There's a lot to love here. In his disregard for the world's shame-shaming his drinking and cussing and rabble-rousing, Hank III blusters and stomps like Back to the Future's Biff and sings in a reedy sneer like Back to the Future's Marty McFly. Speaking of Back to the Future, you know that scene in BttF III, in which Marty and Doc are trapped in the old West, and one night they go down to the Hill Valley Hoedown or whatever, and there's a killer fiddling outfit barnstorming it up under the stars? Here, Hank sounds like that but three times as fast. I can't remember the last time I heard such manic, excellent playing in a country record. Hank III also takes modern Nashville and the country contemporary machine to task for putting out, well, terrible music. And that's just Disc 1. Disc 2 is one of the strangest aural documents ever committed to record. Even Pink Floyd with their signature freak-outs and slowed-down monster voices has nothing on this disc. I want to say that it's an aural representation of a ramble across the country, with very long trains whistling and rattling by, and gurgling streams suddenly appearing ahead, and so on, as though we're somehow telescoping at a great rate through the middle of the country... but there are too many other interjections for that to hold all the water: tape loops, ambient noise, sudden flourishes into ditties and song. It's completely unpredictable and completely captivating.


I don't usually weigh in on political matters, although God knows my brow darkens when I read the news. I like to keep DJ relegated generally to matters that involve music, poetry, fiction, media / cultural studies, post-postmodernism, how to make a sandwich, and my lost brother Jon.


But I have GOT to weigh in on gay marriage before our President Chimpy McSmirkster weighs in. The GMA refers not to Good Morning America, but to the proposed gay marriage amendment. Word from CNN is that a statement is to come down the pike sometime on Monday night, in which Bush is to finally offer an amendment to the Constitution to ban gay marriage. This idea has been batted around quite a bit, but the matter seems about to escalate.


I for one am feeling the burning white hot indignation of a thousand suns.


I understand that opinions on this matter run deep. I understand that personal issues of faith and tradition seem to demand a conservative approach.


However. All day I've been continually returning this comment, made this morning on MetaFilter's comment boards. Sure, MetaFilter runs toward the blue side of the spectrum. Listen:

Amberglow: "Our country's history is [a history] of the continual expansion of rights, and not [of] votes on whether certain people should have rights or not."

I submit to you that Amberglow's right. Try and think of an example of this country's proud history of *rolling back* rights. I'm being serious. Do we want to live in a country that will one day have reason to look back on its history and say, "Ah yes, remember when we disenfranchised the Xs or marginalized the Ys? Weren't those good times"? One of this country's core values - I don't use that word lightly - is the extension of rights to others. The very nature of the Constitution is the safeguarding of rights, not the selection of rights as applicable for a special few. It has taken decades, centuries even, to make demonstrable progress in extending full-on, no-shit rights to women, African-Americans, the disabled... so on and so on. And even after the rights are extended, society's slow to catch up. The thought that this country's leadership, and its base, would consider the deliberate discrimination of its own people appalls me. It submit to you that you, too, should be appalled. No matter what your own personalbeliefs may be. Because personal beliefs are precisely what's under threat of Constitutional ban. It is precisely the individual's right to think and act according to one's own inclination that's in peril.


I realize that this site's (modest) readership might come from various parts of the political spectrum; I realize further that religious stances are going to similarly vary. But I submit to you that THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS ISSUE. IT IS A POLITICAL ISSUE. I ask you to divorce your personal and/or religious views from your consideration of this matter. I ask that you remember that this country is built on, is built from, a tradition of tolerance and understanding. A tradition of listening to the drunk nut at the corner of the bar, letting him say his piece, paying up, saying "Hey buddy you've got some nutty ideas! Take care though!", and going on your way.


I ask the opponents of gay marriage, in all seriousness, if you think that the marriage of a homosexual couple is going to impact your life in any way.


I ask why in heaven's name these Americans, who want nothing more than to be allowed to live committed monogamous lives, should not have that right.


These are serious questions, and I invite responses. I don't want DJ to merely preach to my own assorted choirs.


Against my pretty basic argument of "live and let live" / "as long as you're not hurting anybody, knock yourself out" is this: someone might argue that gay marriage actualy does exact harmful effects on individuals and families. You might hear someone raise the point that "the family is in danger" and even that "the forces of hell itself" are evidenced in the pro-gay marriage movement. I say to you now that this is not true. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Families are not in danger. No matter what acronym comes after your name, you cannot make blanket statements about "the American Family" and blame its decline on "those gays." I'm sorry, but fuck that noise; it's an impossible correlation to make. The burden of proof is too high. Like Iraq having nothing to do with 9/11, this is a fact. In other words, even if you don't believe that gay marriage has nothing to do with "the integrity of the American Family", you cannot prove that it does. Because there is no one generic "family," people; like homes, families are what you've got. Families may not look like your own. Your mileage may vary. THIS IS A GOOD THING. Have we really forgotten to affirm and celebrate this country's essential diversity?


"Our country's history is [a history] of the continual expansion of rights." This country cannot allow itself to abandon its tradition of tolerance and essential freedom. That seven-letter word has meant less and less these past six years. I'm tired of seeing it erode and erode. I ask, whatever your political or religious stripes may be, that you consider the meaning of that word in a nation that restricts its applicability to those who meet a certain norm.


No Chicken Little, I must admit that the odds are low that Bush's agenda will go anywhere; the Senate is having a hard time mustering even fifty votes. This is a good thing. But I urge you to say something. This issue may sound tired and old-hat; it isn't. Its moment is very much right now.


Write your representative.

Write your senator.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Breakthrough, poetry-wise

Feeling very alive right now. First real poem in months. Very, very alive.

DJ updates

Added a shot of my gnarly mug to the upper right corner: you can see it now, can't you. The text on the paper reads "I am very sorry for not listening well." Long story.


Added many neat blogs to the blogroll. Say hey to Lizzie Laroo over at Viva Las Vegas and The Pangrammaticon, a poetry blog where currently there are some interesting comparisons being made between Ryan G. Van Cleave and Michael Magee about whom more in a moment.


Added a new section to the Links at right: "Why not read some webcomics?" is the shortlist of the webcomics I make time for. Sometimes more time than I really should.

Almost forgot to shamelessly plug

There's a somewhat-untimely poetry review of Spencer Reese's The Clerk's Tale over at Half-Drunk Muse.

Save the date

There's a pretty well-known Halloween (or "Treehouse of Horror") episode of The Simpsons in which Homer sells his soul to the Devil (ably played by Ned Flanders) in exchange for a midnight snack. Homer chooses a donut, and BAMF a donut he has. Luckily, Marge intervenes, and stops Homer from eating the last crumb of the donut; even more luckily, Marge points out that Devil-Ned won't have ownership over the soul until the donut's been eaten in full. This explains the shot, in the Simpsons' fridge, of a smidgen of donut with a little white folded sign propped upon it, which says "Homer's Soul Donut - Do Not Eat!"

Segue. In the basement freezer, there's 3/4 of a Stolichnaya bottle. This is Jon's Soul Vodka, and is labelled as such. It is not to be drunk until July 8th, 2006, when it will be parcelled out by the dram (or perhaps by some larger unit) and held aloft in a toast. Why this date? By whom will this Soul Vodka be imbibed? Who will be there to become steward of Jon's spirit and spirits? These are good questions.

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

1 PM to 10 PM (although of course no one will kick you off the grounds)

Camillus, New York

will be the date, the time, and the town to which we welcome everyone who knew Jon, as well as everyone who helped us and helps us still with the fact that Jon's gone. I may sound as though I'm overstating the matter when I say that I extend this invitation to absolutely everyone I've ever met or had contact with; I'm not overstating the matter. This is one of those situations that absolutely depends on hordes of family and friends. Sheer numbers of people are required too because we hope to tell our Jon-related memories, impressions, stories and legends at great volume and with much joint sadness and mirth.

Bring some towels for the pool, and that spiffy folding canvas chair you said you'd use on all of those camping trips you haven't gotten around to yet, and whatever else makes you happy. Drinks, needless to say, will be served. And there will be Dinosaur barbecue crew present to handle the catering; if you don't know the Dinosaur, well, then that alone is a big reason for you to come.

Once again, wherever you live, whatever you're up to, please feel free to come if you have the ability and inclination to do so. Email me for the address and directions. These were exactly the sorts of revelries at which Jon seemed happiest. I hope to see all of you there.

Music Review: Josh Rouse's "Subtitulo"

Following the old-soul smoov grooves of 2003’s 1972 and the general excellence of last year’s Nashville, much was made of the fact that Subtitulo, Josh Rouse’s next LP, was recorded in Puerto de Santa Maria. Spain, that is. Stickers affixed to the jewel case herald this fact specifically, as though it’s some Nintendo Seal of Quality or royal imprimatur. Sure, if an artist wants to incorporate another region’s sound, it befits that artist to put some boots on the ground. It worked for Paul Simon at least once—twice if you count The Rhythm of the Saints. But these marketing dudes wanted to imply that recording studios in Spain are set up right on the high tide mark of a scalloped sea that’s just lousy with bathing maidens, and intrigued gulls perch on the neck of your cherrywood guitar as you play, and the distant cries of kids at play aren’t loud enough to rouse you from a light and blissful doze.

Well, to listen to Subtitulo, all of that may as well be true. But the canny listener should contextualize this origin story. Contrary to what you may have heard, Subtitulo is no mere exercise in regional airs and traditional instrumentation. Instead, it finds the Josh Rouse sound in full effect, with benefits. And yes, these benefits do take the form of subtle triangles, an affection for the bossa nova beat, and a host of lightly-picked acoustic guitars. Quiet Town” starts us off on this vacation with a tambourine beat, a dependable finger-picked riff, and Rouse’s perfect perfect coo. For Rouse does possess one of the smoothest voices in pop music today. Moving on: “Summertime”’ could be a Sea & Cake / Sam Prekop outtake sans the time changes and paranoid rhythms; its acoustic guitar runs to and fro the way sandpipers do. As a competent instrumental segue piece, “La Costa Blanca” comes across as slightly heavier stuff than the rest of the album’s material, but it still belongs on that Pacific Coast Highway mix you’re planning to use this summer. “It Looks Like Love” is the most rocking of the tunes, and the nearest example of Rouse’s previous work. Monster hooks, an impeccable lead vocal, flirty lyrics delivered with a roguish half-grin, and a footstomping lull 2/3rds of the way through that makes the reiterated chorus sound even more lush.

There are missteps: “Givin’ It Up” has a few too many pious strings, as though trying to make up for the liquor-based debauchery described in the lyrics with orchestral flair and a driving beat that’s a little too steady. And the end of “Wonderful” features a needless (and thankfully faint) ethnographic outro; this brief faux-Survivor theme sounds like Rouse’s proof that he really was in Spain, he swears. But all’s not lost: Subtitulo heads into evening with “The Man Who…”, a coy bossa nova duet that tries too hard to transcend its influences via a stock backbeat that struck this listener as pretty incongruous… but then a slide guitar comes in, and another acoustic guitar comes in, all twang and one-raised-eyebrow, then Rouse counts off a whispered 1-2-3-4 like some anti-Springsteen and kicks the song back into its particular sort of delicate overdrive. And finally there’s album closer “El Otro Lado”, which sounds like what we can expect from Iron & Wine if Sam Beam ever writes a song from a hammock.

He’s always been a traditionalist, this Rouse; in the course of acknowledging the 70s soft rock he loves, he’s risked committing the same sins of overproduction and too-smooth sonic textures. With Subtitulo, he avoids the trap yet again primarily because he’s a such a canny student: he knows his AM radio, he knows what makes a song sound like a sunshot island’s soundtrack, he knows his own developing aesthetic. Rouse’s grasp of pop music history and where he fits in it is what lends him his distinction, and it’s what makes this record seem—at a scant 33 minutes—like the passing seabreeze it really is. Which is a strong selling point. I’d put it on a sticker.