Monday, August 18, 2008

MMJ Concert

On Saturday I had the opportunity to go see My Morning Jacket in their hometown of Louisville. I expected a big turnout as they hadn't played there in a while (they usually do a Thanksgiving day show, but due to recording Evil Urges couldn't), a big turnout was an understatement. The show was at Waterfront park, which if you aren't familiar is just a huge park in front of the river. The weather was perfect, blue skies but not hot. Thousands of people lined up to get in, a friend and I took our time getting in. To our surprise there was no opener, just MMJ. For 3 hours they played and put on the best fucking show I have seen. I have seen them about 4 times and each time they get better and better. The peak for me was that they played some songs that to my knowledge haven't been played live before. Cobra (from their EP Chocolate and Ice) was one of these songs. Jim was in full force, his voice hit all the notes while his body was draped in a black cape. The highlight song for me was Run Thru (if anyone has seen them play this song live, you know what I am talking about). What I liked most about the concert was just seeing the whole city come out and support their best export since Muhammad Ali. The band grew up around these people, they played their first shows with these people, and are now beautifully progressing the live music scene with these people. I highly recommend anyone to see them and not be moved. A terrific live recording of this concert can be found on The Steam Engine's blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yo La Tengo - Summer Sun

I can't believe I haven't uploaded this album yet. This is definitely my favorite Yo La Tengo record. This album more than any other they have done sounds like The Velvet Underground performing in a Jazz club. I remember when I saw them live, and was expecting to see three low key people playing their music and saying little, jesus was I wrong. The performance was pretty insane, guitar solos, and rapid movements were par for the course. Favorites on this album are Season Of The Shark (which sounds like a childhood lullaby), Today Is The Day (tell me she doesn't sound like Nico), and Don't Have To Be Sad. Here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Nine Stories" - J D Salinger

This is a collection of short stories and vignettes which act as snapshots of the lives of the characters within them. Some are rather short and feel a bit incomplete or idle, but I think this was intended by Salinger so as to not bog down the reader with overt themes or ideology and simply to show moments in peoples' lives. I'm thinking particularly of 'Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut', 'Just Before the War with the Eskimos', 'Down at the Dingy' and 'Pretty Mouth and Green Eyes' when I say that some of the stories feel a little light on purpose. Still, they are well-written and worth reading. The remaining stories are all rather touching, each in its own peculiar way, and rival 'Catcher in the Rye' and 'Franny and Zooey' as Salinger's very best works.

'A Perfect Day for Bananafish' depicts a young man recently discharged from WWII on vacation with his wife, who spends the entirety of the story on the phone with her mother discussing her husband's mental state and reassuring her that he isn't completely dangerous. The husband, the main character, is rather indifferent and distant and only brightens up when he is talking with a toddler-aged girl with whom he swims in the ocean and tells the tragic tale of the bananafish.

'For Esme with Love and Squalor' wins the award both for best title and best story in the collection (rivaled closely by 'Teddy'). It is about a young American soldier who is in training in England not long before the Invasion of Normandy. He keeps to himself and seems to be a rather reflective guy, walking around this small English town. He meets a very young girl, maybe 13 or 14, who is having tea with her family in a cafe. She sits down with him and they share a very personal and odd conversation in which she asks him to write to her from the front and also to write her a story-- preferably "about squalor". The dialogue and strange connection between these two people, who are from rather separate worlds, shows the way people can unexpectedly find each other and have a surprising, almost spiritual connection.

'Teddy', the final story in the book, is about an extremely precocious 6 year old boy who is a dedicated Buddhist and is convinced that he has been reincarnated. He is being studied by scientists and psychologists who marvel at his intelligence and spiritual insights and who, unable to help themselves upon learning that he believes he can predict the future, demand to know their future and when they might die. The boy is on a cruise ship with his parents, an eccentric and somewhat cynical couple. He wanders off on his own and has a long conversation with a man on the deck of the ship in which he casually predicts his own death just before it occurs and finishes the story. This story is really about the conflict between logic and spirituality, the clash between the rational and irrational world. It's one of the most interesting discussions of spirituality and eastern religion that I've encountered.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea [1998]

This album is considered a modern classic and is hugely popular among independent rock circles. It's been in my collection for a few years but only just recently has it sunk in with me. These songs have been playing on my radio and in my head constantly for days on end. This album is just a really beautiful and unique experience, I don't know how to say it any better than that. You feel like a spirit is sitting in a chair next to you playing these otherworldly songs on his acoustic guitar. The album is a concept album about the experience of Anne Frank during the Holocaust, but the songs aren't morbid. They're about love and life and all sorts of things.

Jeff Magnum, who is the singer and songwriter, has become a cult figure. After this album became a success, he disappeared from the music scene and hasn't returned to it. He has only done 1 interview in the last decade that I know of -- here with pitchfork. And here is another good article speculating about what happened to him.

Get the album here

Friday, August 8, 2008

Why? - Elephant Eyelash

I will continue my Why? love-fest with the bands 2005 release Elephant Eyelash. I really enjoy this album a lot, it is very different than his most recent album Alopecia. The songs sound like Pavement but through a hip hop blender. The songs melodies and sounds change drastically throughout the album but it works. One thing that never changes with Why? releases, is that you'll always have lines or lyrics stuck in your head all day. Notable favorites for me are Hoofs, Sanddollars, and Yo Yo Bye Bye. Enjoy here.

Los Campesinos - Hold on now, Youngster.. [2008]

Los Campesinos (Spanish for "The Peasants") are from Cardiff, Wales. This is their first official full-length release, although they've been around for a little while and have released a widely circulated demo and an EP. They were signed to Broken Social Scene's label Arts & Crafts and have opened for BSS on tour. Still I hadn't heard of them until the other day when a friend of mine recommended them to me.

Los Campisenos is one of those bands who can bring you out of the mire of sad and sobering music for a little while by managing to be simultaneously rockin, fun, and also intelligent. They remind me of several upbeat indie and indie-punk bands like Architecture in Helsinki, Tilly and the Wall, The Anniversary. The lyrics are rather crafty and there's that Welsh accent that adds its own certain charm.

My current favorite songs on the album are "My Year In Lists" and "This is How You Spell 'Hahaha.'" Download it here

Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Morning/Crazy Thing

So I was woken up today by my stepmother she said "get dressed there is something upstairs" I replied "what?" and she said just to come up when i am dressed. I go through my head of what all this could be about. Was someone dead? Am I being kicked out. No, after a few moments my mind sets on the idea that this is about the POW bracelet. Some back story is needed for this tale, during Vietnam the US government sold bracelets with a soldiers name and date of capture. These bracelets were available to sell to people who wanted to pray, or just show their hopes for that person to come back alive and safe. My step mother got a bracelet which read "John McCain". She was watching TV one day 3 or 4 years after receiving the bracelet and saw that some American soldiers were returning home after a long capture. John McCain's name was on the screen, she was shocked. After many attempts to give it back to him, she finally just held on to the bracelet believing one day she would be able to give it to him. So back to this morning, I went up stairs and saw a TV crew in my house interviewing my step mom, and the story on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. So now it is basically set up that we will all get the opportunity to meet the presidential candidate and present a bracelet that was made for him while he was in Vietnam over 3 decades ago. Before you all jump to the conclusion that either my family or I am doing this as a boost for him as a candidate, I must explain that my step mom, who talked to many of his staff members wants this occasion to be a private one, especially because she is bringing her father, who was also a POW and a serviceman during Vietnam. I really am excited as how many people get the chance to see a presidential nominee in person. Now I really doubt this meeting will sway my opinion for who I think is the best candidate, but one thing I have always admired about McCain is that you can see that he is a pretty good man. Yes he may have some questionable political beliefs, but he also having been through many tough life experiences has had a good aura around him. This is not about giving this to the presidential nominee John McCain, but the veteran/soldier/man John McCain, and I applaud my step mom and family for trying to keep this as less about politics and more about the human spirit.

News Link

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Smart People [2008]

Denis Quaid plays a middle-aged widower and literature professor whose intellect and arrogance cause him to isolate himself and insult the people around him. His students and colleagues can't stand him, nor can his own son. The only close relationship he has is with his daughter, his protege in elitism, played by Ellen Page of Juno [2007]. When his burnout adopted brother, hilariously acted by Thomas Haden Church of Sideways [2004], comes to stay with him and Quaid himself meets and falls in love with a former student turned doctor (Sarah Jessica Parker), he is forced to reevaluate his outlook on life.

This movie is one of the best movies I've seen in quite some time and shows Denis Quaid at his best, in the same vein as his more meaningful roles like Everybody's All American [1988]. The acting is very down to Earth in this movie. I also love the subtle shots of Pittsburgh which give a sort of aesthetic quaintness to the film that is vert true to the city of Pittsburgh. The idea of the movie is something that probably most people who read indie music blogs can relate to on some level-- elitism and also the often conflicting relationship between the intellect and the heart. Ultimately Quaid's character learns to soften his positions a bit and put some of his ideas aside for the sake of the people around him. This movie comes out for rental in mid August.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On the Waterfront [1954]

I've heard a number of references to the film On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando. Most notably, Robert Deniro acts out a famous monologue from it in the movie Raging Bull:

"It wasn't him, Charley, it was you... You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money... I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley."

So I finally got around to watching it last night. I'm not in the habit of watching a lot of pre-1980s movies, but I gotta say it tends to be worth the effort. I think the current state of popular American films has really set a low bar. It's a shame that most movies these days are the cinematic equivalent of a Brittany Spears song, so a lot of old movies shine by comparison. "On the Waterfront" is no exception.

It's about workers on a loading dock (longshoremen). Their industry is operated by the mob and the workers are treated badly. Anyone who objects is intimidated or killed off. Marlon Brando's character starts off as one of the dock workers, content with the status quo, but a series of events lead him to stand up to the mob when no one else wants to.

I liked this movie for a bunch of reasons. The acting is really good, if a bit different than modern acting. There are a lot of mundane, but great scenes when people are just walking around and talking, sitting in restaurants, kitchens, standing in the street. The dialogue is excellent and creates great characters. It's all like something out of real life. Shocking, really, that someone might make a movie that seemed realistic... There's no car chases, explosions, or people who get superpowers from a spider bite. It also shows a lot of interesting historical stuff that isn't around anymore, like the culture surrounding racketeering, how Catholic priests functioned in society at that time, etc. Check this movie out, it deserves it's classic status.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday Looks Good To Me - Sound on Sound [2006]

This lo-fi wonderland of an album (well, collection of b-sides and rarities) is one of my favorite cds. At some point iTunes managed to delete this album from my computer -- does this happen to anyone else? -- and so I missed it for the last year. I just found it in an old cd book, so I've been driving around to it a lot lately. The recording on this is SLGTM at it's most experimental, with songs that sound like something playing in the background of a dream. Get it here