Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New York New Year's (my best of)

the days (at least) are sleepy (at least this week) in the city that never sleeps.
every music office in town (practically) is closed for the holidays.
(who would've guessed that folks in the music business had families?)

the nights are a bit different.
Patti Smith's currently finishing up night two of three at the Bowery Ballroom, and Amanda Palmer is playing after her tomorrow evening (read: New Year's morning). I believe doors for the AP show open at 2.
and there's an opener.
will I be awake? most probably.
will I be there? uh, no.
(and I liked Amanda Palmer's latest album a great deal)

Akron/Family finishes off a minimum five-band night (including Deerhoof and Deertick, two of the 23 indie bands with either Deer or Crystal in their name (where oh where is Crystal Deer? or better yet, Deer Crystal?) my next band, I promise (with fingers crossed)) on the Knitting Factory's final night of Leonard Street existence.
and in recognition the Voice posted our summertime Possibly 4th Street visit with Seth and Dana and Miles, nice boys all.

this year I wrote about Magnetic Fields, Kaki King, Robert Forster, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Liz Phair, the Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers, not quite two dozen former Mets and Yankees, Jimmy Cobb, the last remaining member from Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool sessions (now almost 50 years old itself), the 25th anniversary of R.E.M.'s Murmur and writing a song with Marnie Stern for print, Possibly 4th Street episodes with the Deadstring Brothers, Nicole Atkins, Say Hi, Kaki King (a two-for-one there), the Shout Out Louds, Peter Case, Menomena, Falcon, the Alabama 3, Amy Ray, IAMX, Basia Bulat, Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, the Annuals, Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning, Howlin' Rain, Bonerama and, of course, the just-posted Akron/Family, and long-form interviews with El Perro del Mar, Frank Black (a/k/a Black Francis, a/k/a Charles Thompson III), Aimee Mann, Jick percussionist Janet Weiss, Victoria Legrand of Beach House, Beth Murphy of Times New Viking, the Annuals' Anna Spence, Steinski (twice), Randy Newman, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, Exene Cervenka of X, Michael Lachowski and Randy Bewley of Pylon, Hank Jones, Chris Keating of Yeasayer and Lindsey Buckingham.
(I'm fairly certain that I may have skipped a feature or two, pretty certain that I missed at least a couple of Possibly 4th Streets and damn near positive that I left out a handful of interviews (ed. update: like Laurie Anderson, Robyn Hitchcock, Emmanuel Jal, Blondie's Chris Stein). sorry.)
no wonder I feel a bit peaked, eh?

and while getting to query folks like Robert Plant, Randy Newman and Liz Phair for the first time is a major fringe benefit of writing about music, I'm going to try to be a little more objective when it comes to singling out the best, you know, pieces of the year (I may feel differently tomorrow, and differently again the day after) in case your New Year's Eve is as slow as the music business.

my favorite self-penned feature from 2008: Robert Forster's Long Goodbye

my favorite Possibly 4th Street of the year: #18, the "better shut us down" episode with IAMX

and my favorite self-penned long-form interview: Pylon

and if I don't read any more books in the next 22 and a half hours (likely), see any more movies (questionable) or listen to any more music (not a chance in hell), then

the last book I ever read (in 2008): Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

the last movie I ever saw (in 2008): Kung Fu Panda

the last album I ever heard (in 2008): Bob Dylan's Tell-Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8

have a safe, healthy and happy New Year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

it's over

the holidays (the all-important rounds one and two, at least), the birthdays, the overeating.
snow still covers the grounds of New Jersey, though it's uglier, patchier than three days ago. like it can't decide whether to stay or go.
but at least the ice is gone.
time to head back home. again. even though we didn't get nearly as far away as originally planned.

just before Christmas (and I mean right before, like Christmas Eve) our holiday (2007) Possibly 4th Street session with New Orleans' Bonerama (one of my buddy Michael's favorite bands) posted online, as well as a feature on my songwriting session with Marnie Stern in print (though it hasn't reached nearly as many eyes, I'm guessing, as Harvilla's spot-on column regarding the Neil Young concert we attended; pretty damn funny, the number of vehement NeilHeads writing in to accuse Rob of any number of untoward things (first and foremost, I believe, a condescending arrogance). if I didn't know better, I'd say that the similarity of phrasings suggests not only that the commenters aren't reading the piece they're responding to, but they've become participants in the Rove-esque tactic of unleashing the hordes to drive home a singular talking point, true or not. how very ironic).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dock Ellis and the New World Order

I hadn't planned any blog entries for the next little bit. Holidays, traveling, etc.
But former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis died yesterday from a long-term liver ailment. He was 63.

Somewhere around 18 years ago, on an assignment for Esquire magazine, I spent a little more than a week with Dock, first in Los Angeles where he was living with his mother, then in Fort Lauderdale during the delayed opening of the Yankees' spring training.

Esquire changed editors soon after I returned. I was paid a kill fee and then many, many years later Chin Music published this piece for the first time. Then it later appeared as a chapter in the Starting Pitcher book.

I'm very sad to see Dock go. He was a good man and, to my mind, controversial only because of his enduring desire to be understood.

Rest in peace, Dock Ellis. You will be missed.

* * *

In Los Angeles, Dock Ellis and I stop at a Fatburger. Dock is a baseball original, a former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher best known for throwing a no-hitter on acid. This Fatburger, though, is not the original, Dock tells me. Dock is just back on red meat after his mother replaced turkey with ground round in his tacos.
“After you've been off the stuff for a while, you can smell it," Dock says. He offers the expression of a child who's just tasted liver for the first time. After one bite of the cheeseburger before him, Dock loudly hails the attention of the Asian cook behind the counter.
"Hey man, this is not a Fatburger."
"Yes," the cook replies. "This is a Fatburger."
"Bullshit," says Dock. "You may have that Fatburger sign up there but I've eaten Fatburgers and this is not a Fatburger burger."
"We use fresh meat patties," the cook protests.
"I'm not saying anything about your fresh meat patties. All I'm saying is that this is not a Fatburger burger."
The cook and Dock turn to face other business. "See, I understand what he's saying but he don't understand what I'm saying," Dock tells me.
This Asian grillman in a franchised Fatburger has no idea how much he and the institution of baseball have in common.

I deleted the rest of this piece on Thursday, August 23, 2012.
Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, December 19, 2008

tying up loose ends

and not all that effectively I might add.

but my discussion with Elisabeth Sussman, Curator of Photography of the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, on the current William Eggleston exhibition, Democratic Camera, has posted (and if you have any interest at all in photography or the South you should see this show. it runs through January 25th).

my songwriting with Marnie Stern piece has been submitted, edited, and will hit print on Christmas Eve. a Possibly 4th Street with Bonerama will pop before then (maybe even tomorrow) with an Akron/Family P4St before New Year's.
throw in a Pylon show on Monday and a not quite four and a half hour performance by Everest, Wilco and Neil Young on Tuesday, and it's been a fairly busy week.

so last night I thought that, for the first time in seven or so days, I might see the bed while on the soft side of 4 a.m. but it was not to be.
somehow I stumbled across Amazon's mp3 download section (by the way, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the Wrens' The Meadowlands is currently available for a mere $1.99. fear not hyperbole when I say that the chances that you will ever find a better album for less than two dollars are slim indeed. I mean, this is almost unbelievably good. I have even requested the included "This Boy Is Exhausted" to be played at my funeral. and no, I'm not kidding) and discovered that Love Tractor has released a Christmas album (on sale for $6.99). but I have eMusic credits that must be used before we leave town in less than 50 hours now.

and somehow in some ill-advised and patently twisted search I found many, many offerings to and fro, here and there (three cheers, however, for my new favorite website, feelin' kinda froggy) of songs that used to be in my record collection back in the day.

in fact, I even found my own voice on the web: the Even Greenland "Another Place to Hide" single backed by "The Four."
you see why I didn't make it to bed until after 4.
the blogger offering the aforementioned single (find it yourself) wrote that I (as vocalist) could be "a dead ringer for the lead singer of the Moody Blues," which amuses me to no end.

currently, thanks to some wonderful guidance by a good friend (you know who you are), my thirst is partially quenched. but this late night misstep (for now) has opened a proverbial new world, at least temporarily, and I find myself near aching for tracks I haven't heard in probably more than 15 years.

most wanted: "Tear My Soul" by The Neats.

if you can point me in the right direction, please, please, please do so.

last book I ever read: The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

last movie I ever saw: Charlie Wilson's War

last brush with greatness I almost had: Bill Murray

last item delivered following a knock on my door: t-shirts

the item before that: pears

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

so earlier this evening

(much) we went down to the Knitting Factory (probably our last trip as the club's closing on New Year's Eve) to celebrate WNYU's 35th anniversary (they gave away free t-shirts; thank you) and, of course, to see Pylon headline.
and we weren't disappointed by a single thing (other than standing on the downtown track when the uptown N pulled through).
thanks to Randy and Michael and Vanessa and Curtis for a great show.

listening now to Fall Out Boy's Folie a Deux which releases today (available, today only, for $3.99 on Amazon) after an aborted "impromptu" performance in Washington Square.
tonight they play a sold-out show at Nokia, followed by an 11:30 in-store signing at the Virgin in Times Square (right across the street), but I will likely be attending a much more expensive performance (Neil Young and Wilco) at the Garden.

Friday, December 12, 2008

how expensive is New York?

three packs of Marlboro and three 2-liters of Mountain Dew: $25.03
(yes, I do have a big weekend planned. thanks for asking).
and both items were on "sale."
(and it's cold and windy here, too)

but my long-form interview with Michael Lachowski and Randy Bewley of Pylon is available for weekend reading at the Voice.
and for one week only, there's a free accompanying download of "Cool," the band's first single.
Pylon (who provided the above photo) plays the Knitting Factory this coming Monday night (and it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if you wanted to give me tickets as an early Christmas present).

quick listens #1

(with a nod towards Robert Christgau (who is currently some place dry, I'm betting))

feelings of dread and foreboding abound.
Bettie Page died, Bank of America will lay off something like 35,000 workers once they swallow Merrill Lynch, KB Toys has filed for bankruptcy, again (this time they won't be coming back) and the Nikkei dropped nearly 6% overnight on the news that the Big Three bailout won't pass the Senate (and that item, of course, will have a much greater effect domestically).
happy Friday.

it is precisely nights like these that I wish that I worked in a more honest field (not that writing is dishonest by any means), that I worked with my hands, something like farming where there's a more direct relationship between the cause (the work) and the effect.

I received my Pazz & Jop ballot at the end of last week, and while I'm happy to be included my immediate thought upon receipt was, 'Well, that's one more thing to deal with.'
to combat and/or deal I created a playlist of everything in my iTunes released in 2008. but it didn't take long to discover that I'm missing a good bit.
not that I don't have the music at all (though there's some of that, obviously), but that for whatever reason a lot of 2008 music I do own isn't marked as such.
haven't come up with a great plan for gathering the strays yet.

but in the midst of errands - trips to the post office, the grocery store, the infrequent trip to the laundry room - I'm trying to work it through.
much, obviously, I'm already familiar with, but many discs have received little if any attention.
so, I try to work through a few songs from every album, giving each the slightest chance to catch my ear before they're deleted from the 2008 list and therefore removed from the opportunity of making the final cut of 10 albums and 10 singles.

Age of Rockets' Hannah
I can only assume that this is a concept album where I missed the concept as the phrase "you whisper" popped up in at least two songs in the 10 or 15 minutes I gave this. definitely a Death Cab chip on this band's shoulder, whether ending lines with harmonic falsettos or beginning them with a rather tepid, non-threatening (recently graduated emo fans welcome) whisper (both sung in and about in "Elephant & Castle" and "H. Soft Escape")

Chairlift's Does You Inspire You
the song in the iPod commercial, "Bruises," sounds like Camera Obscura meets the Thompson Twins. and that ain't a bad thing. but the rest of the album, at least what I made it through, is hardly reminiscent of that vibe at all. in fact, the lyrics of the first two tracks, "Garbage" and particularly "Planet Health," are so didactic and dumb I'm rather surprised I made it all the way to track four (the aforementioned "Bruises," which actually stands a chance to make my top ten singles).

Alejandro Escovedo's Real Animal
I've always been a touch suspicious of the No Depression/non-comm radio worship here, and suspect that most is a continuing and cumulative lifetime achievement award (not that there's anything wrong with that). I like "Always a Friend," but "Golden Bear" calls unnecessary attention to itself (and to producer Tony Visconti's previous work with David Bowie) with a too on the nose, bastard love child intro combo of "Ashes to Ashes" and Chris Isaac's "Stupid Game."

Alina Simone's Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware
yet another Brooklyn resident, though the only one (to my knowledge) covering an entire album's worth of material by a deceased "Russian punk-folk legend" I've never heard of. sung entirely in Russian, of course. as I do not have time to learn a foreign language before turning in my ballot, this one gets deleted.
as does . . .

Shugo Tokumaru's Exit
(though for some reason I've got that marked as a 2007 release).
and . . .

Sigur Rós' Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust
though one of the singles may make the cut as four minutes of patience is much easier to find and store than, say, fifty-five minutes of the stuff.

Crystal Castles' Crystal Castles
some people like feeling stuck in a video game version of a bad, early '80s club scene. I am not one of those people.

(and today's Amazon mp3 Deal of the Day is Jimi Hendrix' Electric Ladyland (not a 2008 release) for $1.99)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

sunday morning, and I'm falling

the anniversary of Pearl Harbor (also a Sunday, if my memory of hearing other people's memories serves). Sunny von Bulow's gone, as are Alabama's hopes for a national championship.

this is likely the only time you will see me write that I'm listening to Maroon 5 (it's the album following Marnie Stern's this is it and I am it and you are it and so is that and he is it and she is it and it is it and that is that and Marnie's album played through while I was changing the battery in the recharger; I'm meeting with Marnie this afternoon for a Voice feature).

yesterday I made a big pot of red beans and rice, watched the Alabama-Florida game (but no other sports; I think "overshadow" would be a fair description, but I did notice that Duke went down to Michigan while the SEC championship was decided), a couple of 30 Rock episodes via Netflix and wished my uncle Steve a happy birthday.

Friday I conducted my first video iChat interview (see above) with Michael Lachowski and Randy Bewley of Pylon. they're playing the Knitting Factory (part of the WNYU 35th anniversary show) on Monday, December 15th, and I believe it's just their 6th show of the year. obviously a rare opportunity to see them (highly recommended) if you're anywhere near the neighborhood.
also, my interview with Yeasayer's Chris Keating popped. the band played their final two shows of the year (and likely their final two shows until, say, around Easter) in Brooklyn on Friday and Saturday (which I forgot to mention; also forgot to mention that Rite-Aid was selling Phillips earbuds for $4.99 with a $4.99 rebate through, well, yesterday. sorry about that)), so I'll try to recompense (is that a word? am I using it correctly?) but making their All Hour Cymbals the Album of the Week.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

although yesterday

was World Aids Awareness Day, as well as Woody Allen's 73rd birthday (I had no idea he was quite that old), the majority of the news came closer to presaging the end of the world as we know it: Venice flooded, the Dow dropped almost eight percent, the mayor of my hometown was indicted on a mere 101 counts and, more troubling, a New York City bus driver was stabbed to death in Brooklyn for refusing to hand over a free transfer to a fare beater (according to MTA statistics, the bus route in question, the B46, already suffers approximately 4,000 theft of services each week, which is just astounding).

we'll consider the victory by Saxby Chambliss (you know, the man who six years ago ran a campaign against Vietnam veteran Max Cleland so unconscionable it alone will qualify him for a lengthy stay in hell) a hangover from Monday.

but the waters around (and temporarily above) one of the world's most unique cities receded (some), the Dow crawled back by about a third of yesterday's loss, the NYPD is interrogating a "person of interest" in the bus driver murder, my review of the 25th anniversary re-issue of R.E.M.'s Murmur (to continue the end of the world as we know it/devil went down and ran for office in Georgia theme) popped at the Voice and Britney Spears is back with a new album on her 27th birthday (news of such import that iTunes (though not yet enabling affiliate banners to assist in the celebration) has declared the first quarter of the last month of the year "Britney Spears Week").

hallelujah (I feel like a real blogger now that I've mentioned Britney Spears).