Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Not finished yet but...

the following is my favorite bit from Greg Egan's Distress:

"No one grows up. That's one of the sickest lies they ever tell you. People change. People compromise. People get stranded in situations they don't want to be in... and they make the best of it. But don't try to tell me it's some sort of... glorious preordained ascent into emotional maturity. It's not."

Emphasis in original.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Niche Market Music

The previous post, however, leads to comments like the following, found here:
“I feel like there has been created, in the past two to three years, an indie-yuppie establishment. Bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Iron and Wine, the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, they are great bands, really great bands, with great albums, great songs, high quality. And to me, it’s just so fucking boring,” he says. “It’s like fancy-coffee-drinking, Volvo-riding music for kids. And kids should be listening to music that shakes them up more, makes them uncomfortable. … I don’t think we’re ever going to sign an indie rock band. … I want to sign stuff that is more immediate and shakes you up a bit.”
The guy who said is with Vice Records... which boasts bands like Bloc Party, Death from Above 1979 and the Stills... so it's a pot/kettle sort of deal (they do have more unique artists like Panthers and the Streets and then a few others that I haven't heard of) but I can hear what he could be saying anyway. Even though - to me - he chose some bad examples.

Death Cab used to be (at least) very unique... until they pulled a "cash in on our indie cred" sort of deal and moved closer to basic indie pop from their old slowcore.

Iron & Wine... well, maybe Sam Beam fits. Maybe not. Then again I still don't really know their second album, Our Endless Numbered Days even though it's over a year old (and it was a release day purchase.)

I don't know enough Arcade Fire to comment but if you believe the hype they are anything but boring. I generally don't, however. Or, atleast, I am remaining skeptical until I hear more. They are playing at Coachella this weekend... and I'd like to check them out if there's not a conflict.

Broken Social Scene is a massive side-project gone awry. They were included... well, I'm not sure why. Even the (indie scale) smash You Forgot it In People is weird enough that it makes me wonder if this guy's heard more than a song or two.

Or, rather, I think, after going through that, I understand the difference between Bloc Party and Iron & Wine: BP are high energy dance-punk and I&W are laid-back and acoustic. That's it. It isn't that Bloc Party are all that innovative or new, it's just that they're loud and energetic. Death From Above 1979 are still boring, just not in a "fancy-coffee-drinking, Volvo-riding" way.

The other interesting thing I see hear is one reason this all still counts as indie music: it's niche market music. I knock his music as being generic while defending the bands he knocks as boring. It's indie because it has limited appeal, it is limited use music.

That being said Bloc Party is also at Coachella this weekend and if the schedule is kind to them I'll probably check them out too. [There's no real incongruity here, though: Silent Alarm isn't bad and for all I know they put on a kickin' live show... and maybe I'm missing something. At any rate for a large venue a good high energy act is usually a better bet than a quiet acoustic one.]

More on All Killer, No Filler

Any real "death of the album" lament should focus on consumers who prefer to listen to singles rather than albums, who want to listen only to what they already know, who skip the "bad" songs to get to the songs they've heard on the radio, TV or in movies. Who don't give the "filler" a decent chance.

I don't really mean to knock this method of whittiling down the massive amount of music available - it has to be done somehow - but I don't understand it.

iTunes, Rhapsody - like radio before them - make it easier to focus upon scattered singles rather than cohesive albums... but... but they also make it easier to hear more music - more new (to you) songs.

At any rate, by my personal reckoning, good bands are the ones where the "filler" tracks are merely the ones that aren't as immediate, songs that are just as - though in the best cases, more - rewarding even though they don't hit you as entertaining right off. Hell, the best bands tend to put out CDs that are all "filler" by this definition.

Does this make me an indie snob? Ehh, probably... but it's fundamentally an opportunity cost issue; I ignore X - who are played on the radio all the time - because I hear enough of them while around folks who like this sort of thing, whereas I never hear band Y unless I make an active choice to do so. Well, that and the fact that I value variety, what is unique and innovative over what is tried and true and done to death.

[Disclaimer: I didn't actually mean X. Or Y.]

Sunday, April 24, 2005

All Back Full

From Watching TV Makes You Smarter by Steven Johnson, as printed in the New York Times Magazine:
Judged by [a] morality-play standard, the story of popular culture over the past 50 years -- if not 500 -- is a story of decline: the morals of the stories have grown darker and more ambiguous, and the antiheroes have multiplied.

The usual counterargument here is that what media have lost in moral clarity, they have gained in realism. The real world doesn't come in nicely packaged public-service announcements, and we're better off with entertainment like ''The Sopranos'' that reflects our fallen state with all its ethical ambiguity. I happen to be sympathetic to that argument, but it's not the one I want to make here. I think there is another way to assess the social virtue of pop culture, one that looks at media as a kind of cognitive workout, not as a series of life lessons. There may indeed be more ''negative messages'' in the mediasphere today. But that's not the only way to evaluate whether our television shows or video games are having a positive impact. Just as important -- if not more important -- is the kind of thinking you have to do to make sense of a cultural experience. That is where the Sleeper Curve becomes visible.
It seems like he's making a false distinction (partially, at least) - the reason we're better off with realism is that it tends to be more complex than straightforward morality plays... then again that's just one route to complexity. The whole article is interesting.

Link via Dan Drezner [he quoted the passage I quoted too.]

Somewhat relatedly, the television critic for the Arizona Republic has been pushing the idea that we're currently in a TV golden age. I haven't seen most of the shows he's comparing... but it still seems like there's something there.

UPDATE: Now Steven Johnson's name is spelled correctly and I've added a link to his blog... two things I picked up on from reading a recent post at the Smart Bohemian. I'll also now note that the excerpt above and the article in the NYT are from an upcoming book, Everything Bad is Good for You.

All Killer, No Filler

Matt wrote (err, about 2 weeks ago. I'm slow.):
All of Pet Sounds is a fantastic album. With the rise of iTunes we should note the passing of album-oriented rock. That said, before Pet Sounds most albums were a good hit or two along with filler. Even after that, how many start-to-finish good albums are there?

Quick answer: at least 50:
  • Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
  • Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
  • Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
  • Spacemen 3 - Sounds of Confusion
  • the Cure - Disintegration
  • Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
  • Fish - Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors
  • Pearl Jam - Ten
  • My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
  • Dream Theater - Images and Words
  • The 77's - Pray Naked
  • the Jesus and Mary Chain - Honey's Dead
  • Medicine - Shot Forth Self Living
  • Ride - Going Blank Again
  • Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
  • Catherine Wheel - Chrome
  • Tori Amos - Under the Pink
  • Underworld - dubnobasswithmyheadman
  • Lush - Split
  • Liz Phair - Whip-Smart
  • Radiohead - the Bends
  • the Chemical Brothers - Exit Planet Dust
  • Marillion - Afraid of Sunlight
  • the Prayer Chain - Mercury
  • the Violet Burning - the Violet Burning
  • Weezer - Pinkerton
  • the Suicide Machines - Destruction by Definition
  • Modest Mouse - Lonesome Crowded West
  • Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane over the Sea
  • Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out
  • Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister
  • the Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
  • the Lassie Foundation - Pacifico
  • the Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
  • JJ72 - JJ72
  • Placebo - Black Market Music
  • At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command
  • Mercury Rev - All is Dream
  • Spiritualized - Let It Come Down
  • the Shins - Oh, Inverted World
  • Tullycraft - Beat Surf Fun
  • Angelica - the Seven Year Itch
  • the Get-Up Kids - On a Wire
  • Sigur Ros - ()
  • Desaparecidos - Read Music/Speak Spanish
  • Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
  • the Decemberists - Her Majesty...
  • Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power
  • Electrelane - the Power Out
  • the Thermals - Fuckin' A
All of the fifty albums listed above are packed with fantastic songs, but, what's more, they are also wholly without bad songs. To avoid repetition each artist is mentioned only once. I ignored EPs and collections (including live material) and I didn't cheat. They are all albums and they are all start to finish fantastic.

Releasing CDs where I like near every song is, basically, what seperates bands I want and/or purchase music by from bands I do not purchase music from (as long as I'm doing my homework.)

Eventually I may start comment upon the albums listed, but, well, for now, there you go.

Native Son

Did this novel actually take me three weeks? It seems like it went quicker than that.

Book One started slow but was fantastic. It set up the other two books beautifully... slowly, meticulously... and without the reader (or me, at least) comprehending what was going on. Again the first 50 pages went a little slow but they were necessary - and the last 60 pages raced by.

Book Two was about as good but twice as long. Book Three was fine; my only comment being that extended courtroom scenes were work much better on the printed page than the projected scene... though in both forms they should generally be avoided.

This is the 10th book I've finished this year. I started with 40 books in the cue (and 1 being read); I currently have 47 books to go. This means I've bought 17 books despite trying to buy almost none.

Further details can be seen at the original post (on this blog, at least.)

Playoffs, baby

NBA, that is. The Pistons played the first game of the 2005 NBA Playoffs yesterday at noon local time... the Suns will play the last first game at 7:30pm tonight.

I didn't watch the Pistons game and likely won't watch the Suns game... because NBA playoffs suck. I know they have 8 sets of games right now but I still can't handle a series lasting (potentially) more than two weeks.

Come May 8th there could still be first round "action" going on.

Suns schedule is here, their next game is Wednesday. At least the ensuing games run every other day.

The Pistons schedule... well, I guess here is the entire first round schedule... in seperate blocks so you can focus upon one series if you wish.

All I can say is World Series in not more than 9 days, baby.

Monday, April 18, 2005


April 30/May 1: Coachella - Indio, CA
May 2: Rilo Kiley - Old Brickhouse
May 12: Phoenix Symphony plays Rachmaninoff and Bartok, Orpheum Theatre
May 16: Saw Doctors, Marquee
May 21: Caribou (nee Manitoba) - Modified
May 22: Autechre - Old Brickhouse
June 6: Of Montreal, Tilly & the Wall, Peachcake - Rhythm Room
June 17: Scout Niblett, Electrelane - Troubadour (Los Angeles)
Also it looks like Oasis is playing Phoenix way out in September... with tickets going on sale this week.

I would expect more shows to come up for June and I expect to attend some local shows but I don't have any planned right now.

I probably will refrain from seeing Local H, Minus the Bear, Magnolia Electric Co., Millencolin, the (International) Noise Conspiracy... but you never know.

In other local venue news, it looks like we may be seeing changes at the Old Brickhouse which will probably change the sort of shows they host. Four words: It doesn't sound promising. (For what I want it to be, at least, which of course matters to no one but me.)

In other me news I just love being able to go to shows until 1 or 2am and not have to worry about being into work until 10:30am.

New Times Music Showcase

Last year I had a good plan for the New Times Music Showcase: Go and catch the first couple hours but then leave in time to catch Squarepusher. I probably would never have gotten to Freedom (now defunct club where he was playing) because Metric was the suprise headliner at the Showcase. I missed everybody I wanted to see because I was moving that weekend.

Had I known Metric was going to play I just would've gone and been dead tired. Metric got a horrible reception - partially because fans like myself didn't know about it until afterwards.

Anyway I basically had the same plan for 2005: Go and catch a few bands at the showcase and then head over to the Clubhouse to catch the show with Stiletto Formal headlining.

I didn't get to Tempe until about 6pm so I went to Ra (on the tiny back paito) to see the Love Blisters. They were solid, several of the songs make me think "Oh, I know this song" even though the only time I've heard them before was the show on March 12th.

Sweet Bleeders were playing at Rula Bula (also on a back patio, but a larger one) next door so I walked over and caught their first two songs before I heard Bella getting ready and went back to Ra.

There were some sound problems (guitar too quiet then guitar too loud) but it was still a good show and still the first time they'd played together (as 3-piece) in 8 months. I somehow, however, got the impression that this was also their last show, which doesn't make sense considering they reportedly have an album due soon. UPDATE: This was, in fact, their final show. D'oh.

Another thing Natalie said was that Secondhand Emotion had played their last show this past week. This is disappointing because I didn't even know they were playing much last that it would be their last show - so I obviously missed it. I first saw them in July 2003 and have seen them a couple times since (last in December 2004) and always enjoyed them/wanted to hear more. Oh, well, what I saw was good.

Anyway after Bella I headed to McDuffy's for Back ted n ted. When I have seen him before it was just Ryan, fully clothed, playing on his laptop. Tonight, however, Abe from Treasure Mammal, Corey Fogel and Jacob Koller played with Ryan... all wearing white boxers and tube socks. A unique and interesting performance... if not entirely comprehensible.

At any rate I'm very glad I went... even though when I got to the Clubhouse I found out the Stiletto Formal cancelled. I was interested in seeing the other local bands playing... but I wasn't going to pay the cover and stay just to see them. Oh, well.

As a side note I'd probably be getting home about now if SF had played.

Phoenix Symphony, 04-14-05

I have plenty to blog about... but I'm going to write about recent shows.

Thursday I saw the Phoenix Symphony. They played Mussorgsky prelude to Khovantchina, Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D (Barnabas Kelemen, violin) and Shostakovich's 5th symphony in d. Kelemen also played an encore, a solo violin piece I didn't recognize. The guest conductor was Stefan Sanderling (OK, I just looked it up, yes, he is the son of Kurt.) Seats were centered and up front this time (I'm usually about halfway back on the side) which makes the orchestral mix sound a little odd but was great positioning to see the soloist.

I like Sibelius' VC but it is quite odd; it doesn't seem to me to sound like Sibelius except in rare orchestra swells. At any rate the violin could've been louder and more aggressive at times but overall it was quite good. I just love the end of the 1st movement and it was a thrill to see it played live.

Their take on Shostakovich's 5th was interesting. The recording I know best is the famous Bernstein/NYPO from 1959. I have come to realize that this version - though justly famous for the intriguing new reading of the piece - isn't very good overall. I liked the performance Thursday night more. They began the finale very quickly - which I didn't expect from the way the Allegretto and Largo were handled - but then slowed to fit the traditional Russian style. Thus they achieved the shock and surprise and emphasis on absurdity but slowing down allowed a more serious, tragic ending.

Friday, April 15, 2005


I thought I had a good segue here but I don't.

This comic is hilarious. And I own both Coldplay albums so I know it's true.

I don't know...can you swing a sack of door knobs?

This letter to the editor suggests why this guy had better not get off. [I have edited out the guy's name from the quotes I took.]
Deputies who arrested ... on Sunday reported that he used his car to block the suspected immigrants from leaving the rest stop and ordered them to exit the vehicle and get onto the ground. Deputies said ... "ordered" another driver to help him and gave the driver a second gun to hold on the immigrants while he called police.
Sheriff's deupties arrived... and arrested him.

He apparently is not affiliated with the Minutemen - see here, here, here and so on - who aren't happy about the bad publicity for vigilantes (though don't call them that!)

The Arizona Republic has printed several letters to the editor [sorry, no archive, so no links] calling him a hero and saying that this is what we need to do because the government won't do anything... and now they have an opinon piece to counter that idea.
How different this story would look if it had turned violent. We might be dealing with international repercussions if any of the Mexicans had been hurt. Or bloodshed if ... had happened upon drug smugglers or desperate coyotes, ready to fight over their human cargo.
The worst part is that if he is let go [as various folks have suggested] then this scene is going to be repeated... not just along barren highways but in the city with a varying cast of characters. If it goes on enough then people are going to get hit. The vigilantes - the Army reservists (like this guy) and those who own a gun but've never fired it at a living thing - will get shot. Those attacked - illegal aliens, non-white citizens in the wrong place at the wrong time - will get shot. Bystanders, cars driving down the road and area business will also get shot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

10 days

When I started this I expected to be lax on posting... but not quite this lax. I tend to find myself a little boring... or, rather, I tend to expect that others will find the things that interest me to be boring. (This has not, however, stopped me from posting thus far...) Occasionally I think of something that I should write about but then later, when I get the chance to do so, it doesn't strike me as interesting anymore. Oh well.

OK. I last posted Sunday, April 3rd. That day I painted for only the second time in my current house (been here since July 2004.) I finished (for now, at least, it didn't turn out well) a larger canvas that I started back in the old house and started and finished a 10" x 14" canvas for a friend. I used a lot of paint on the canvas; it is currently drying (well, no, oil doesn't dry, but I forget what word I'm looking for.)

Let's see, I went to no shows last week. I did pick up my Trooper; it ended up just getting a tune-up and oil change.

I also renewed my Phoenix Symphony half-season ticket package. I have Classics A8 on Thursdays [sorry, the link is for a pdf of the whole booklet]; highlights include Sibelius' 1st Symphony, a concert with both Mendelssohn's 4th Symphony and Brahm's 2nd Piano Concerto, John Adams' Violin Concerto and Beethoven's 9th.

There are two concerts in the other half-season I really want to attend, a Mahler 1st in May - which should be no problem - and a Vaughan Williams 4th in March... which will be more of an issue.

The problem with the RVW is that that symphony is considered filler for Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto. PSO has a ticket exchange for subscribers where you can trade in tickets you don't want to get other shows (or additional tickets for a show you already are getting) but this March concert is one of the restricted dates - along with one with the 9th of Ludwig van - so I'm out of luck. I wouldn't even be able to trade the restricted date I have tickets for the one I don't.

Anyway Saturday the 9th I worked from 9am to 5pm. I had a hard time getting up early but it was nice going home that much earlier than normal. Lunch with friends (who are normally at their own jobs during the day) was a nice change too.

Somewhere in there I did my federal taxes; I did my state taxes last night. I'm happy, I owe money. I can understand being happy when the refund arrives but I can't understand wanting it that way. I'd rather have various governments give me the interest free loans, thank you.

Tomorrow night the 7th Phoenix Symphony Concert of my half-season ticket package (the Tchaikovsky concert over Thanksgiving weekend was seperate.) For 2004-2005 they only did 15 classics concerts so for one half-season you got 7 nights plus a voucher. I used the voucher for the show tomorrow with Sibelius, Shostakovich and Mussorgsky. After that there's only one left (for me.)

See, there we go. A nice, long disjointed post about uniteresting things. Whew.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

LA Trip

Electrelane (their main site is not currently active) are releasing their 3rd album, Axes, on May 10th. Following this they will be touring with Scout Niblett... but not coming to Arizona.

They will, however, be playing the Troub on June 17th - which is a Friday - which means I'm going to L.A.!


D'oh. Rhapsody used to have The Homosexual's Record but they have apparently lost the rights. It is great stuff, early post-punk.

Part of me says that this means that I should move the albums by the Homosexuals up on my To Buy list... but I don't want to encourage artists (or whoever owns the rights) to remove their material from Rhapsody. (I understand that the correlation may not be made... but it still bothers me.)

I have not had Rhapsody for that long but thus far is has kept me from buying CDs more than it has inspired me to buy more. I haven't gotten Push the Button, the Beekeeper or Human After All - all from artists from whom I have bought CDs on their release date without having heard anything. The Chemical Brothers, however, have been getting a little tame (but still good) and I have barely even listened to Scarlet's Walk. I'll be getting the Daft Punk, though, eventually. I figure.

I have also heard Picaresque by the Decemberists... but have been unable to aquire the CD locally. Zia was sold out last I checked. The reason I've waited on this one isn't that I didn't expect it to be good (their first two albums are fantastic, Her Majesty was my #1 for 2003) but because I'm trying to avoid going to CD shops because I have repeatedly demonstrated the fact that I lack the ability to avoid buying CDs once I get there.

D'oh. I have gotten distracted. I was getting ready to go for a bike ride and I decided to play some music while I got my shoes on and such. I set Rhapsody to play the Homosexuals but that didn't work which spawned this post. And now the post is giving off bad impressions of the usefulness of Rhapsody for both the artist and the listener.

Beyond not buying newly released CDs Rhapsody has also helped convince me to see the Futureheads and allowed me to hear Aberdeen, Absinthe Blind (leading me to buy Rings, which I had been putting off for some time because I hadn't heard more than two songs by them), Alban Berg (I don't like how they alphabetize by first name), Alex Chilton, Ambulance LTD, Anton Webern, Antonin Dvorak, Arab Strab, Arnold Schoenberg, Ash, Atmosphere, Autechre (bought Tri Repetae++) and Autolux (went and saw them open for Ambulance LTD, bought their CD)... and that's just the A artists to which I have had a good chance to listen.

Update: Shadegg responds

The Arizona Republic printed today a response - by John Shadegg - to the article I linked to a few days ago.

The weird thing is that it appears as if the original article was full of complaining about problems that weren't real. According to Shadegg Arizona still gets the same amount of money; without the "earmark" the money goes directly to ADOT - rather than to the City of Phoenix who would've turned the money over to ADOT anyway.

Thus this wasn't about turning down extra money for Arizona - the earmark would've come out of Arizona's previously set allocation - but instead about letting ADOT - rather than Congress - decide what to do with the money.