Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Phoenix Symphony, Jan 12, 2006

Sergei Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kije Suite
James MacMillan - Veni, veni Emmanuel
Antonin Dvorak - Symphony 7

Michael Christie, conductor
Colin Currie, percussion

The Prokofiev was a relatively late replacement for a Dvorak piece... I'm not a big fan of the Kije but whatever. The performance was fine but I can't think of anything to say about it.

James MacMillian's 1992 percussion concerto was quite interesting. Colin Currie started out playing a pair of gongs and moved on through a pair of pitched instruments (a marimba? virbrophone? I don't know) a trap-kit like set-up (played standing, though), ending with chimes. The best part was the third section (the piece is played without a break), Dance. The percussionist is at the trap-kit and the orchestra's accompaniment was very rhythmic... they just match so well. Throughout much of the rest of the piece I'm not sure how to describe the orchestral sound... somewhat minimalist and generically "modern" sounding.

After the intermission was the Dvorak symphony. The opening came off stilted, not as lyrical as I have normally heard that Allegro. As it went on, though, the playing slowly became more flowing. I read it as on purpose, as the tension in the opening movement was tighter than I have ever heard for that piece... and of course with all that tension the resolution was all the stronger.

The attendance was probably a little better than for the previous concerts but Symphony Hall still looked empty (or, rather, half full.) After last year's concerts at the Orpheum Theatre, though, Symphony Hall looks huge.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Top 10 Albums of 2005

OK, this is my 2005 round up. I am never happy with these lists but this year I made myself write something about each album I put in the top 10 so I have an additional element to be disappointed by. Ehh. Whatever, it should be more interesting when I look back on this late in the year... where I can try to understand what I was thinking. First I list my honorable mentions for 2005 in alphabetical order by band. The ranked list then follows. For each album I also included my favorite song from that album... though in many cases I am even less sure of my song choices than I am of my album choices. Offhand the one song not mentioned that really should be is "Anytime" by My Morning Jacket. I'm way late on the MMJ train; I like Z but I still find it rather uneven and to include it would open the door to many other albums I liked this year... but "Anytime" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

Can't Forget the Following (Band/Album/Favorite song on that album)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl - "Weight of the World"
Caribou - Milk of Human Kindness - "Barnowl"
the Decemberists - Picaresque - "The Mariner's Revenge Song"
Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me - "In State"
the Fiery Furnaces - Rehearsing My Choir - "A Candymaker's Knife"
Tim Fite - Gone Ain't Gone - "Not A Hit Song"
Low - the Great Destroyer - "Death of a Salesmen"
Mercury Rev - The Secret Migration - "Black Forest (Lorelei)"
the Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree - "This Year"
the New Pornographers - Twin Cinema - "Sing Me Spanish Techno"
the Ravenonettes - Pretty in Black - "Somewhere In Texas"
Scout Niblett - Kidnapped by Neptune - "Fuck Treasure Island"
Sons & Daughters - The Repulsion Box - "Choked"
Stars - Set Yourself on Fire - "He Lied About Death"
the Sun - Blame it on the Youth - "Say Goodbye"

Top 10

10. Tullycraft - Disenchanted Hearts Unite -- Ridiculously fun and amazingly catchy. I can't say that this is my favorite Tullycraft but it is not their 4th best. This album is simply full of bouncy singles. Favorite: "Our Days in Kansas"
9. Sufjan Stevens - Come on Feel the Illinois -- This is a light and beautiful pop record. It is full of simple, gorgeous musical lines and big, bright and happy choruses. Favorite: "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts"
8. Rogue Wave - Descend Like Vultures -- It's fully the Rogue Wave rather than just Zach and the approach is fuller as a result. Favorite: "You"
7. Sigur Ros - Takk -- It doesn't have the scope or design of ( ) but their music remains grand in scope and vision and beautiful in execution. Favorite: "Glosoli"
6. Electrelane - Axes -- At this point I've listened to it who knows how many times but my thoughts are still the same, this CD is fantastic. The basic sound is like a blend of Rock It to the Moon and The Power Out but in a way that transcends either album. And any fears that the sound was moving inextricably away from the post-rocky goodness of Rock It have been fully assuaged. Favorite: "These Pockets Are People"/"The Partisan".
5. the Kills - No Wow -- Jamie has gotten better, more adventurous. This is why a somewhat plodding song like "Dead Road 7" still works ridiculously well. And there are better songs such as "Love is a Deserter" and "I Hate the Way You Love." What really blew me away about this album, though, is how Alison sounds on the revelatory "Rodeo Town." I had no idea she could sing like that, she could pull of a song like that. I will listen to anything she records. Favorite: "Rodeo Town"
4. Why? - Elephant Eyelash -- I don't know what to say. Until I heard it I had no idea music could be made like this. A blend of genres (indie rock, hip hop, rap) and a tendancy towards sonic experimentation leads to glorious pop songs like "Gemini (Birthday Song)" and passionate, intense songs like "Act Five." Such a good record. Favorite: "Whispers Into the Other"
3. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods -- If S-K call it over now it'll do a disservice to this album. Their last album will be seen as an abberation - or worse, as an experiment that broke up the band (regardless of the reality.) An addtional album would also be beneficial for the live show; allow them to work old songs in with the new; to show that they fit together. Oh, and by the way, the songs on this album are just seering. Favorite: "Jumpers"
2. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy -- One listen and I was hooked. The music is strong but it is the lyrical richness that has kept me coming back. There are big and glorious rock songs and soft, tender pieces... and the imagery and themes in the words hold it all together. And the Black Sheep Boy Appendix EP is way good too. Favorite: "So Come Back, I Am Waiting"
1. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene -- I don't know how they did it but they topped You Forgot it in People. The singles are at first glance not singles but once you stick with them they are just so full, musically that they are a joy to behold. I'd name songs but I wouldn't stop. There isn't a misstep on this disc. Favorite: "Ibi Dreams of Pavement"

Sunday, January 01, 2006

My Reading Queue - 2006

I did this last January 1st and kept updating it throughout the year. I found it fairly intersting so I'm going to restart the queue and keep going. I am still going to try and refrain from not buying (or at least severely limiting the number of) new books because this backlog could easily last two years... but that is no longer going to be an explicit goal.

The only reason this list is shorter than what I had left at the end of 2005 is that I cut out the short story, play and poetry collections.

Currently in process:
  • Ben Marcus - The Age of Wire and String (January 11th, stalled for some time, though.)
  • I haven't started anything else just yet.

This is my backlog, currently with 48 books:
  • Acker, Kathy: Don Quixote - I've read two books by her (Empire of the Senseless; Blood and Guts in High School) and like both. I don't see her stuff used very often so I tend to pick it up when I do.
  • same: Great Expectations - (continued from above:) Hence two books from that same author where neither is exceedingly high in the queue. Other than alphabetically, that is.
  • same: In Memoriam to Identity - This is, however, high in the queue. Hmm, you know what? I'm gonna actually list my queue.
  • Barthleme, Donald: The Dead Father
  • same: The King
  • Burgess, Anthony: A Dead Man in Deptford
  • Celine, Louis-Ferdinand - Guignol's Band
  • Cervantes: Don Quixote - Bought at the same time as Acker's take-off. It's very long.
  • Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim
  • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: The Idiot - I've come a long ways from reading only one chapter of Crime and Punishment for senior (high school) English.
  • Durrell, Lawrence: Mountolive
  • same: Clea
  • Eco, Umberto: Foucault's Pendulum - This was recommended to me (sort of) like 8 years ago when I jokingly wrote a rather paranoiac analysis of the lyrics of Dream Theater. This book isn't mine; a friend loaned it to me... uhh... a year ago (to the day.)
  • Egan, Greg: Permutation City
  • Faulkner, William: Soldiers' Pay - My favorite author, hands down.
  • same: The Reivers
  • same: The Hamlet
  • Fo, Dario: Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas - I think I have one or two remaining in a separate book of plays that I'll read before getting to this one.
  • Gates, David: Jernigan
  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: The Sorrows of Young Werther - his plays are good.
  • Ionesco, Eugene: Killing Game - Of the books on this list this may be the one I've had the longest. I've read a lot of Ionesco, have not yet gotten to this one (duh.)
  • Heinlein, Robert: Assignment in Eternity
  • same: The Menace from Earth
  • Johnson, Denis: Resuscitation of a Hanged Man
  • same: The Name of the World
  • Jones, Terry: Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic
  • Joyce, James: Finnegan's Wake - I also have A Shorter Finnegan's Wake as edited by Anthony Burgess.
  • Lem, Stanislaw: The Star Diaries
  • Mamet, David: Wilson
  • Morgan, Richard: Altered Carbon
  • Nabokov, Vladimir: Bend Sinister
  • same: Ada
  • Niven, Larry and Jerry Pournelle - Lucifer's Hammer
  • O'Brien, Flann: The Third Policeman
  • Proust, Marcel: Swann's Way - I figured eventually I need to get to A la recherche du temps perdu ... but not in French.
  • Queneau, Raymond: Zazie in the Metro - Louis Malle directed a film adaptation of this book. I haven't seen any Malle. There, I've said it. As much as I'd like to end this little note on that I don't have any more Queneau in the queue so I need this space to say that Queneau is an odd one.
  • Rand, Ayn: Atlas Shrugged - OK, I hated We the Living but... I don't know how to finish that sentence.
  • Robinson, Kim Stanley: The Years of Rice and Salt - He has a newer one that I, surprisingly, have not yet bought (because I haven't started this one.)
  • Shaw, Bernard: Man and Superman - I haven't read any Shaw. There, I've admitted it.
  • Smith, E. E.: Triplanetary - Uhh. I read the first half this year. Then I stopped because, wow, this is old, dated and not very good. The scope is kinda cool... but it was kind of annoying.
  • Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath - I have, however, read Steinbeck. Just not this one.
  • Stephenson, Neal: The System of the World
  • Sturgeon, Theodore: The Cosmic Rape - I need to go back to Ellison's intro to Angry Candy (which was better than any of the shorts) and see what other sci-fi authors he lamented. The two Alfred Bester novels I read were necessary and I liked the first Strugeon novel I read. Here's another.
  • Welsh, Irvine: Filth
  • same: Marabou Stork Nightmares - Trainspotting was brilliant, I tried to start... I think this one. Several years ago. I need to try these again.
  • Woolf, Virginia: Jacob's Room - I bought this one to get The Waves (two novels in one volume.) Now I'm trying to figure out if I liked that one more than To the Lighthouse. Her prose is just gorgeous... Nabokov (when he tries for that sort of thing) and Faulkner are the only I know that are in the same class.
  • same: Orlando

The following is my actual ordered reading queue as I currently imagine it (this includes books not counted in the backlog):
  • Acker, Kathy: In Memoriam to Identity
  • Greer, James: Guided by Voices - A Brief History
  • Morgan, Richard: Altered Carbon
  • Durrell, Lawrence: Mountolive

Completed Books for 2006:
Count: 2 books, 600 pages. Updated April 12, 2006.

What I will restate is that one of the purposes of this is to garner comments from folks, like "don't read that, you idiot, this book over here is much better" or "damn, I wanna read that. Or, I mean, don't read that it sucks. It sucks so much you should send it to me to make sure you don't accidentally crack it open" or "haha, you still haven't read Finnegan's Wake" so, uhh, have at it.