• The Passion of the Weiss
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  • Greencine Daily
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  • Fact
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  • Chuckmore
  • Anthem
  • It's the right thing to do
  • Something is wrong here, something is terribly wrong
  • There ain't no life for me on land
  • The greatest #8: The Dreaming
  • Still I walk in darkness
  • Home of the cheesesteak, the beef piled sky high
  • Blogiversary #2
  • Blood rain
  • The best 15 films of 2007
  • The best 30 albums of 2007
  • The best 30 singles of 2007
  • The best 30 songs of 2007
  • The Greatest #6: Veedon Fleece
  • Behind the blog: Blogs Are For Dogs
  • It's winter again and New York's been broken
  • Blogiversary
  • Up high and ugly: Xiu Xiu MP3s
  • The Greatest #2: New Skin For The Old Ceremony
  • Behind the blog: The Passion of the Weiss
  • The best 15 films of 2006
  • Good clean fun: Clean Guns MP3s
  • Behind the blog: Music Is Art
  • United 93
  • The best 30 albums of 2006
  • The best 30 songs of 2006
  • The best 30 singles of 2006
  • The chapter in my life entitled San Francisco
  • The Up Series
  • Review #4: Ys by Joanna Newsom
  • Happy Yom Kippur
  • Rock bottom riser: Smog MP3s
  • Justin Ringle
  • Dan McGee
  • Sebastian Krueger, pt. 2
  • Sebastian Krueger, pt. 1
  • Bry Webb
  • Greg Goldberg, pt. 2
  • Greg Goldberg, pt. 1
  • Benoît Pioulard, pt. 2
  • Benoît Pioulard, pt. 1
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    Location: Brooklyn, NY

    The MP3s available here are for sampling purposes. Please support the artists by buying their albums and going to their shows. If you are the artist or label rep and don't want an MP3 featured, let me know. Links will otherwise stay live for about two weeks before they vanish into the ether.

    If you'd like to send music, art, writing or promo material for consideration, email me at nerdlitter[at]yahoo[dot]com. This site is designed in Firefox and may not look optimal in other browsers. You can get Firefox here.

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    Monday, August 27, 2007

    Let's get out of this country #2

    As my loyal three to four readers may remember, last year in November, I left you in the lurch when I jetted off to Thailand for two weeks. Now that I'm up to ten readers, get ready for the separation anxiety to triple as I set off to backpack around Asia for six weeks. The regularity of posts will take a hit, but I will be traveling with my laptop and updating when I can. I'll probably also be posting some travelogues and photos of my stops along the way. I'm posting my rough, tentative schedule below in case anybody has any suggestions of good things to see, do or eat in the cities included:

    Aug. 27th - Tokyo, Japan
    Aug. 30th - Kobe, Japan
    Sept. 2nd - Singapore
    Sept. 6th - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Sept. 10th - Phuket, Thailand
    Sept. 15th - Bangkok, Thailand
    Sept. 17th - Phnom Penh, Cambodia
    Sept. 20th - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    Sept. 25th - Guilin, China
    Sept. 28th - Hong Kong
    Oct. 2nd - Shanghai, China
    Oct. 6th - Beijing, China
    Oct. 11th - Tokyo, Japan

    * MP3: "Let's Get Out of This Country" - Camera Obscura from Let's Get Out of This Country [Buy it]
    * Previously: Let's Get Out of This Country #1

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    Listening booth #24

    Photo by Rose and Olive

    * MP3: "Crimewave" - Crystal Castles from "Crimewave" Crystal Castles vs. Health EP [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" (Quarterbar Fast Remix) - Birdman and Lil Wayne [Buy other Lil Wayne]
    * MP3: "Daemon Meeting" - Old Time Relijun from Catharsis In Crisis [Buy other Old Time Relijun]

    Check out more photos by Rose and Olive here or at their website Tethered To The Sun.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    The greatest #6: Veedon Fleece by Van Morrison

    There’s not that much mystery left in music. For everything that’s not readily disposable, there’s a lineup of reporters, publicists, critics, interviewers, and yeah, bloggers ready to compress works into digestible angles. Backstories get told, lyrics get explained, and meanings get narrowed down. It’s just a fact of business marketing that sales depend on publicity and that publicity depends on access. But sometimes I can’t help longing for a time before 24-hour information cycles, before news stories documented every footfall of a band, before we were all plugged-in infovores. In this pre-dialup utopia, all we have at our fingertips is a general sense of an artist, a few vague reference points in his biography, and a round vinyl disc of music in front of us. Buying an album is still an event, and we’re still practically trembling as we undo the plastic.

    There’ve been a few albums this decade that have retained their mystery for me. Even in the face of magazine covers and analytic reviews, works like Joanna Newsom’s Ys and Sigur Ros’s catalogue are still too dense and singular for me to reduce. Even with backstories, even with identifiers they’re constantly tagged with, they've kept on dwarfing and defying their categorizations. But the work that's most successful at enchanting me endlessly is an older one, Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece from 1974. No matter how closely I listen to it, or what I read about it, it only seems to take on more folds. The more I admire its simplicity, the more complex it paradoxically grows.

    Confident I won’t be able to demystify it too much, a little background: Veedon Fleece was a back-to-basics reboot for an artist who never hewed too closely to genre specifications anyway. After his divorce and disbanding his orchestra, Morrison returned to his hometown of Belfast for the first time in eight years. There and upon his return to America, he wrote Veedon Fleece in a few weeks, infusing a healthy gulp of Ireland into the subjects, lyrics and music. Closest stylistically to his classic Astral Weeks, the album also relies on a stream-of-consciousness and is largely acoustic. But unlike that other work, critics mostly dismissed it and the record-buying public shunned it.

    Now for the more intangible: Morrison’s always been a leading figure in blue-eyed soul, but on Veedon Fleece, his voice sounds weirder and more idiosyncratic. The soul is still very much there, but his impassioned phrasings and ethereal falsetto are all his own. It’s hard to forget his anguished howl at the end of “Cul de Sac,” his guttural, throat-clearing guffaws on "Bulbs." His tendency vocally to adapt and elongate at will fit the lyrics perfectly, which also tend to meander and drift like a backcountry river. Every song, even the largely straightforward “Comfort You,” bends and twists on repeated listens, stripped-down and cryptic and multifaceted all at once.

    Along the way, Morrison cites Poe, Thoreau, Wilde, and Blake and his Eternals. That set of influences gives us a sense of just how poetic, natural, supernatural, and mystical his own work is. On the longest song, the sprawling eight-minute-fifty-second “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push The River,” he details a homecoming to the fluttering strands of flute: “We're goin' out in the country to get down to the real soul,/ I mean, the real soul people,/ We're goin' out in the country, get down to the real soul/ We're gettin' out to the west coast/ Shining our light into the days of bloomin' wonder/ Goin' as much with the river as not.” Those issues of authenticity and self-discovery in nature seem especially Wordsworth-Romantic and Thoreau-transcendalist, with Ireland, "God's green land," standing in for Tintern Abbey or Walden. From there, specifically alluding to Blake, he sings of a search for the titular Veedon Fleece. As far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s a mythical object of Morrison’s own invention, his own Holy Grail much in the way Blake dreamed up his Beulah.

    Earlier, Morrison composes another mythical figure, Linden Arden, who’s a little easier to parse. Led by a sullen piano intro, “Linden Arden Stole The Highlights” is the tale of an Irish man adrift in San Francisco. In just a few lines, Arden’s memorably described: “Loved the morning sun and whiskey ran just like water in his veins/ Loved to go to church on Sunday, even though he was a drinking man.” But the apparent peace is quickly undercut when some neighborhood toughs threaten Arden, and he cuts their heads open with a hatchet. It’s a rare and stunning intrusion of violence on the otherwise peaceable album. Its closing lines are even more powerful when Morrison sings, “He said, ‘Someday, it may get lonely.’/ Now he’s livin’, livin’ with a gun.” The song is just as much an outcast on Veedon Fleece as Arden is in America, and among references to Killarney lake and Arklow streets, the mention of San Francisco can be jarring. And yet it also fits beautifully in an album indelibly defined by struggle and searching, of people looking for home and existing in flux.

    There remain moments on Veedon Fleece that I wish I understood better. Sometimes, I can’t help wishing I knew which references are directly autobiographical, which are simply fantastic, and which are a redolent mash of the two. At the same time, I’m glad that this album came out in the '70s, when artists still had auras and works could still permeate listeners on their own terms. But I have a feeling, even if it were just being released today, that Veedon Fleece still wouldn’t unravel or surrender its knots of mysteries. It wouldn't be any less of a soothing antidote or a roving puzzle. After all, even after ten years of having it in my collection, it’s still just as alluring and affecting and incredible as it’s ever been.

    Veedon Fleece is currently out-of-print, but there are still a few used copies on Amazon.

    * MP3: "You Don't Pull No Punches, But You Don't Push The River" - Van Morrison from Veedon Fleece
    * MP3: "Linden Arden Stole The Highlights" - Van Morrison from Veedon Fleece

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Video Tuesday #42

    "The Seedling"
    Bonnie "Prince" Billy

    "Rotten Hell"

    "Smoke and Mirrors"

    The Chemical Brothers

    "Bakin Soda"
    Hangar 18

    "Everyday I Write The Book"
    Elvis Costello

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    Everybody, just clap your hands

    There used to be a dividing line, a gap as sharp as East Coast versus West Coast. Radio hip-hop and indie hip-hop lumbered over the landscape like two warring philosophies, and at least where I lived, you listened to one or the other. (And Outkast probably.) After tiring of Hot 97, I went off in the latter direction. I dismissed any track that didn't namecheck Betty Shabazz by the third verse. I scorned any song that didn't lay out a cogent vision for black empowerment. I blasted the gross materialism and vapid gun-talk that characterized most mainstream rap, but secretly, I thought some of it had some pretty hot beats too.

    But now, it hardly seems like there's a choice. Rap's kept on fissuring into ever-more microgenres, accommodating a vast range of possibilities between the disparate tentpoles of nerd-rap and hardcore. While the radio isn't any more diverse, digital media's liquidity means anybody can now throw together a playlist that samples styles prodigiously. The proliferation of hip-hop culture means that whole new fusions are taking place worldwide. J-Direct, a duo out of Chicago, represent a particularly notable dissolution of either/or. If they needed a label, they could comfortably be categorized as mainstream indie or indie mainstream, adopting many of the best features from both sides of the divide.

    Fitzgerald, J-Direct's MC, spits ably about a impressive variety of topics, sounding natural no matter his target. He brings the puffed-out-belly bravado of top cats, calling out challengers to step the fuck up, and shouts out to his hometown in a mix of local pride and hardscrabble nostalgia. On "Hand Be Free", he's nursing a broken heart and depicting himself as a vulnerable victim to swelling strings. Soon after though, he's recovered, pounding over a sizzling club banger, "Clap/Twerk," and imploring, "Young girl, just twerk that ass." He relies on the time-tested rap trope of building around hot hooks, but he's conscious of the formula, ending one sequence by playfully instructing, "This song ain't go no hook, so fade it out cuz I'm finished." He also condemns the usual route of hitting it big in commercial rap: "They want to follow their A&Rs, sorry mixtapes/ Payola radio, that's the shit that I hate."

    J-Direct's other half, Griff, backs Fitzgerald up every step of the way with some very fresh beatmaking. Throughout Live and J-Direct, his production stays exciting and novel, with particular shining moments on aptly named "Marvelous," "Integrity," and "What Is Better?" At times, it starts out humbly utilitarian, a wingman's superego reining in Fitzgerald's ferocious id. But Griff manages to infuse plenty of thoughtful details that distinguish his soundscapes. High-octane flourishes and bouncy electronics slip into the mix, and he has a clear talent for matching his beats to the raps' energies. He's also as versatile and style-promiscuous as his partner, which makes sense given the explanation that "Marvelous" offers. The album's opening song and an origin story, it recalls the group's first meeting: "When we hooked up with Griff/ He like El-P, I like Missy Elliott."

    These days, that kind of style clash isn't that strange or that anomalous. In a borderless era, where contemporaries like Clean Guns are shouting, "Many styles" as a mission statement and Timbaland's collaborating with Bjork, J-Direct fit in perfectly as a group blazing their own trail. They're not carefully crafting an image or hewing to what's marketable, but they're also not dismissing the notion of having fun, partying and talking shit. They're just making great hip-hop any way they please. They're engaging every weapon in their arsenal and coming out swinging, taking whatever they touch as their own.

    * MP3: "What Is Better?" - J-Direct from Live and J-Direct
    * MP3: "Clap/Twerk" - J-Direct from Live and J-Direct [Buy it]
    * MySpace: J-Direct

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Listening booth #23

    Photo by Kitt Amaritnant

    MP3: "No More" - Dirty Projectors from Rise Above [Preorder it]
    * MP3: "They Come Home" - WHDQ and Clean Guns from Producers Series, Vol. 1 [Download the album]
    * MP3: "Child Traumatismes" - Vincent Bergeron from Philosophie Fantasmagorique [Buy it]

    Check out more photography by Kitt Amaritnant here.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Behind The Blog: Blogs Are For Dogs

    I've got no evidence to suggest Josh McDonald is a supertaster, one of those genetic exceptions who taste everything with greater intensity. But even if he's not, there's no arguing that the guy's got some pretty awesome taste. He's notably consistent in his championing, zeroing in time and time again on acts that deserve the spotlight. Six days a week, he builds Blogs Are For Dogs into a solid site with a strong focus and a reliable level of quality. In fact, if I were to compare it to any band out there, I'd say Blogs Are For Dogs would be the Spoon of the cyber-set, subtly refining and fine-tuning amid a steady output marked with hard work and good taste. Here's my talk with the man behind the blog:

    Blogs Are For Dogs: Hi, Nerd Litter.

    Nerd Litter: Hey man, how's everything going?

    BAFD: Fantastic. It's a good time to be a music blogger.

    NL: Why's that?

    BAFD: I think this has been a pretty good year for new music, at least as far as my tastes go.

    NL: Yeah, it's getting better. Are you still infatuated with Ga

    BAFD: Very much so. It’s pretty remarkable how a band can vary so little in their style and yet sustain everyone's interest over almost a decade together. If Spoon keep it up for a few more albums, I may have to start one of those oeuvre blogs.

    NL: Kill The Insight. I could see it.

    BAFD: What, do you have some sort of clever title generator program over there at Nerd Litter HQ?

    NL: Yeah, it's a pack of indentured elves. They're like Oompa Loompas, but with no health benefits.

    BAFD: Keeps your overhead down.

    NL: Exactly, keeps the blog millions rolling in. You said recently that you realized Spoon was your favorite band. What were some of the others in contention?

    BAFD: I don't think about my absolute favorite all that much, but I have fallen for bands before—embarrassingly enough, I loved Dave Matthews for a period in college.

    NL: Yikes, you know there will be other people reading this.

    BAFD: It seems pretty incongruous now, but my friends and I listened to Radiohead and Dave Matthews and the Pixies and didn't feel all that weird about it.

    NL: Yeah, I was looking at my first booklet of burned CDs and it’s such a weird mix of cool and mortifying and coolly mortifying.

    BAFD: Hey, even Ryan Schrieber has his embarrassing P-fork archives to live with.

    NL: Which is all of them.

    BAFD: Well, that Rapture review was only a few years ago

    NL: I’m nervous my archives will embarrass me eventually, if they don't already. Oh well, that's the price you pay for putting yourself out there.
    What do you think of your predictions about the best albums of 2007? Are you still standing by those?

    BAFD: More or less, yeah—what I think really helps about those albums is keeping them in my memory as the year goes on. So much of blogging is disposable that you tend to forget about what you loved a few months ago, so remembering what impressed me back in January gives those early albums a chance. Menomena, for instance, I really like that record.

    NL: Yeah, that's still my favorite album this year. I'll get into fistfights over that one. Or really for any other reason. What's been your biggest surprise this year, either positively or negatively?

    BAFD: I think Sky Blue Sky was really a surprise. Especially the reaction it received, which tended to inspire a few fights itself. As much as I've listened to it, I still don't know if I like it that well.

    "I'm like Scrooge McDuck.
    I come home to a pool of money."

    NL: Yeah, they kind of lost me after YHF. I still can't really get into A Ghost Is Born either.

    BAFD: it was sort of a sidestep in my mind, but SBS is a whole other thing.

    NL: Definitely, I can't get into them for totally different reasons. I see what they were intending with both, but I dunno, I never have the urge to put them on. I'd rather hear Summerteeth or Mermaid Avenue any day.

    BAFD: Now you're talking, Summerteeth is pretty much impossible to argue with.

    NL: True. All right, I'm going to backtrack a bit now, since we kind of leaped into the thick of it. Why'd you start your blog originally?

    BAFD: Like most bloggers, I read a lot of blogs originally and so I decided to try my hand at it. At first, I was writing mostly about pop culture with MP3s occasionally tossed in, but that genre was so dominated by writers with such original voices that I wanted to go in a direction that wasn't so saturated. Music blogging was a natural choice, because no one writes one these days and there’s no competition.

    NL: That's true. We're total pioneers. In fact, I usually have to explain what MP3s are to people. They're like, my typing box will play melody-beats? And then I'm like, yes Mom, please stop calling me. Where'd your name come from?

    BAFD: My wife actually—she was getting angry over all the time I spent online and jokingly said, “blogs are for dogs” in a derogatory sense. Next thing she knows, I'm spending even more time writing one of my own and using her words as an inspiration. It's a miracle we're still married really.

    NL: Has she come to terms with it yet?

    BAFD: More or less, although unlike most of my friends and family, she rarely reads it.

    NL: That’s interesting. Did she say why? Unresolved resentment?

    BAFD: That’s probably it—it’s hard to live with someone whose musical interests border on obsession.

    NL: I feel like I'll have to marry a music blogger. That'll be the only way to ensure sympathy.

    BAFD: As “mainstream” as they've become, explaining blogs to the uninitiated still makes you sound impossibly nerdy.

    NL: When I hang out with other bloggers, we mostly just commiserate about how it takes over our lives. And we drink like alcoholics.

    BAFD: Hey, if you're going to do something, do it right.

    NL: So you're from Garland originally?

    BAFD: Yeah, the suburbs.

    NL: How much like King of The Hill is it?

    BL: Parts of it, very. There are a lot of trucks and high school football is everything, especially on Friday nights. I went to a few games my senior year, and I have to admit it's quite a spectacle. I think if you took a poll of MP3 bloggers from Texas, you'd find them much more inclined to like sports than the general MP3 blogger.

    NL: My high school football team played on a field in the Bronx two hours from our school. I think four or five people went per game. Do you like living in Texas?

    BAFD: Not particularly. Until we bought a house this year, my wife and I were always hatching harebrained schemes that involved running away to Hawaii or Fiji that never quite materialized. And also it’s too damned hot, although lately so is everywhere.

    NL: But Texas is still a world onto itself. I haven’t been there yet, but I doubt I'd fit in there. I'm so East Coast, I'm practically European.
    I rock a beret and everything.

    BAFD: There are enclaves of liberalism here, or else I don't think I'd survive.

    NL: Yeah, that’s how I felt about living in Virginia.

    BAFD: And on the plus side, being so close to Crawford makes it easier to protest Bush.

    NL: Yeah, one more protest, and I’m pretty sure he'll see the light
    . He's right on the cusp of total enlightenment.

    BAFD: We're so close!

    NL: I'm gonna go make my sign right now. I think it'll say, "My dick would make a better Vice-President" or something equally charming.

    BAFD: At least it gives me an excuse to wear my Point Break-style Bush mask.

    NL: Dude, you don't need an excuse for that. Just waking up is all the excuse you need.

    BAFD: It's called Casual Friday.

    NL: No, that's when I wear my wifebeater and cutoffs to the office. And the beret, natch.

    BAFD: You're quite the sporty dresser. Did you like Public Enemy a lot or what?

    NL: I'm also single-handedly reclaiming bowties for the Democrats. Yeah, I do like Public Enemy a lot, but really, who doesn't? Racists, that's who.

    BAFD: I'd take Prof. Griff's style over Flav's any day.

    NL: Yeah, and to Griff's credit, he hasn't appeared on any VH1 nonsense.
    Who are some of your favorite philosophers?

    BAFD: Heidegger has been very influential on the way I think, probably many of the other well-regarded existentialists—Sartre of course, Nietzsche is very trendy, but Heidegger is the one who probably dominates my bookshelves the most.

    NL: That's impressive to me. I find Heidegger and others like Hegel too impenetrable to delve into on my own.

    BAFD: That's why I got the degree—to impress people—that, and the money of course.

    NL: Yeah, between the BA and the blog, you must be edging up into the seven-digit range. I make a lot of money in my job too though, which is counterfeiting money.

    BAFD: I'm like Scrooge McDuck. I come home to a pool of money. My backstroke is Olympic-caliber.

    NL: That show made no sense to me. How the fuck do you swim in a vault of gold coins? Have you tried that? It hurts like hell. What are they teaching our poor, impressionable kids?

    BAFD: Okay, but what’s not to get about Launchpad? He was awesome.

    NL: He promoted bad messages about air traffic safety.

    BAFD: Also, we just transitioned from Heidegger to Launchpad McQuack in less than a paragraph. That's got to be some kind of interview record.

    NL: Sadly not for me. What's your favorite part about blogging?

    BAFD: That's easy—I'm a whore for the audience, I get a kick out of knowing that people are reading what I have to say and the conversations it engenders.

    NL: What's the worst part?

    BAFD: I think it's changed the way I approach music. Though I still blog out of a sense of fandom, it also carries a certain feeling of obligation and an urge to keep moving on to newer and shinier things. It makes the music even more disposable than it already is in MP3 form.

    "No, sir, I'm Spencer Krug Fanboy #1.
    At least that's what my T-shirt says."

    NL: Yeah, especially when you're getting bombarded by so many publicists too.

    BAFD: Thank God for Gmail’s spam filter. Although a few gems do turn up that way, mostly from the bands themselves.

    NL: How do you find out about the music you write up?

    BAFD: Message boards are a great asset. You hear a lot of good recommendations that way. Going to the fans of a band you like tends to get some pretty passionate opinions. Sometimes, the rare promo find, or even some MySpace trolling will turn up something really good. Just reading a lot of blogs and participating in this sort of ad hoc community we're creating, it exposes you to a lot of music you wouldn't otherwise hear, so even if you aren't the first to discover a band, you can still write interesting and passionate things about it.

    NL: Yeah, but if you're not first, what's the point?

    BAFD: Look at blog comments—people are always eager to shout FIRST!, but the more interesting comments are the well-thought out ones that come later.

    NL: Yeah, but being thoughtful can get depressing. I get way more hits from a Justice remix with no text than a review that took me three days to write.

    BAFD: If you were in it for the hits alone, I doubt we'd be doing this interview though.

    NL: What do you mean? Don't you write Stereogum?

    BAFD: No, dude, he's from New York.

    NL: Ahh, fuck.

    BAFD: I'm from Gorilla vs. Bear.

    NL: I went to this Idolator party once and people kept asking me who I was. Of course, all the girls were like, Nerdy who? So I told one of them I was Gorilla Chris and she actually got really excited. I told her I wasn't Chris in the morning at least.

    BAFD: Right, blogging gets you laid! When I go to shows around Dallas and people find out I'm a blogger, they always ask me if I'm Chris.

    NL: In New York, nobody asks because literally everybody in the front rows is a blogger. It's like a who's who of sad geeks.

    BAFD: Awesome!

    NL: So how much of an ongoing and deep-seeded rivalry with GvsB do you have?

    BAFD: We might leave the odd comment on each other's blogs, but dude doesn't have time for rivalries, I'd imagine. When both of our blogs were in their infancies, I entered a contest of his and won, but I gave him the wrong address—it was a fiasco. You can try and create a rivalry out of that if you want to get creative.

    NL: “Gorilla vs. Dogs: ‘Chris’s Contests Rigged,’ charges livid Josh.”

    BAFD: Mostly, I just try to craft a niche in the giant shadow of his daily awesomeness.

    NL: Who's a musician you think deserves more attention than they're getting?

    BAFD: I think Emily Haines should be getting more attention. Maybe people just know her as a Metric/BSS member, but her solo debut and recent EP are awesome.

    NL: I didn't like the album that much, but I love "Doctor Blind." I pretty much just play that song and look at a picture of her.

    BAFD: Or you could just watch the video on your typing box.

    NL: Yeah, it is a pretty sweet video. Why did you decide to feature short stories recently? Was flouting musical copyrights not enough for you?

    BAFD: Right—it makes me a little nervous, but I wanted to live on the edge. I'm a full-fledged intellectual-property rights outlaw.

    NL: I sell printouts of Harry Potter on my lawn. I figure if J.K. Rowling has a problem with it, she'll email me.

    BAFD: I haven’t read Harry Potter, but the Chinese bootleg versions are pretty entertaining.

    NL: I'm about to go to China. Maybe I can write my own out there. Harry Potter and The Litter of Nerds.

    BAFD: Dude, pick me up a copy. I’m dying to find out if Darth Vader will kill Hermione before Gandalf comes back from the dead.

    NL: Spoiler alert! He turns out to be Hermione's father.

    BAFD: Actually, the screen just cuts to black at the end.

    NL: And it turns out it was a flash-forward, not a flashback.

    BAFD: And to totally kill this joke, Harry wakes up at the end with Suzanne Pleshette and it was all a dream. Ta-da!

    NL: I haven't read any of the books, but if it actually ends any other way, I’ll now be disappointed. Thanks for ruining a decade of whimsy in one fell blow.

    BAFD: It's what I do. I'm a ruiner.

    NL: All hilarity aside, tell me about the short stories.

    BAFD: I thought of it while reading Said The Gramophone or Tuwa or someone who practically writes short stories of their own with every MP3, and since I'm not talented or brave enough to share creative writing of my own, I thought I'd just steal from others, more or less.

    NL: What are some of your dream concerts? Without resurrecting any cadavers.

    BAFD: Fair enough. Actually, I'm pretty excited about the Spoon/New Pornos show coming up in Dallas, but a dream come true would be some sort of Last-Waltz-era The Band supergroup with Tim Rutili from Califone and Feist and the guys from Grizzly Bear, with St. Vincent on guitar and John Stanier on drums. Reading that now, it sounds really weird and I would probably hate it, but that's what I've been listening to lately.

    NL: Is John Stanier the guy from Helmet and Battles?

    BAFD: Yes. Weird pairing, I know, but I think he would do great with St. Vincent. Some sort of proto-prog fantasy.

    NL: I actually had no idea who he was. I just pretended I did and then looked it up. Ahh, if only I had Wikipedia in real-life dialogues, I'd be unstoppable. But anyway, yeah, I agree that St. Vincent's great. She can pretty much do anything. I'm eagerly awaiting for her nu-rave and reggae albums to surface.

    BAFD: She's pretty amazing. I think Sunset Rubdown could do a pretty great reggae record.

    NL: I think Spencer Krug will progress to something so dense and thick, he'll invent a whole new genre called sludge. I feel like I need rainboots just to wade into Random Spirit Lover. What are some of the best concerts you've seen over the last few years?

    BAFD: I recently caught Menomena for the second time, and they're pretty mesmerizing live. St. Vincent of course too. Her natural charisma is probably what makes her so appealing.

    NL: I keep missing Menomena by some weird fluke. I’ll either be out of town or on the run from the law or something equally disappointing.

    BAFD: They pull off the density of the record pretty well and the harmonies are even better live. And I know what you mean about Krug. He's on the verge of something great, maybe with this new Wolf Parade record.

    NL: When I saw him live, he was really depressed because it was his birthday and he barely even wanted to play. Even after I hugged and high-fived him, it didn't help. But I would say Shut Up I Am Dreaming is great already.

    BAFD: True, it was my official favorite of '05, whatever that amounts to. But I think he could do something like Kid A-level great. No, sir, I'm Spencer Krug Fanboy #1. At least that's what my T-shirt says.

    NL: Shut up and keep dreaming.

    BAFD: Haha.

    NL: He was my artist of '06 after all. Top that.

    BAFD: '06? Yeah, that's what I meant. Shut Up came out in '06, didn't it?

    NL: Yep.

    BAFD: Damn it, you can have my shirt now. I don't deserve it.

    NL: Yeah, that was a pretty humiliating flub on your part. Meanwhile, I don't even know what day of the week it is. Yesterday, I was like, I'm so glad it's Saturday, I don't have to blog. And my friend, was like, I don't think it's Saturday.

    BAFD: Now with these short stories, I only take Sundays off.

    NL: Wow. I'd like to write every day, but it's hard to be a writer and a blogger at the same time. I have only a small reservoir of creative energy and only so much time.

    BAFD: I tend to get burned out pretty fast myself, but there’s usually enough music to keep my interest.

    NL: According to elbo.ws, there are 2300 or so blogs right now. If we all just combined our efforts into one superblog, we could each contribute our very best effort every six years or so. I could definitely put together one hell of an amazing post in six years.

    BAFD: Agreed, but by then we'd all have moved on to some other band.

    NL: Damn, that's true. Other than that, it'd be really viable though.

    BAFD: Right, that's the one hang-up.

    "If for no other reason than
    tax purposes, I can't wait to claim
    some little dependents in the future!"

    NL: If I ever retire my blog, I'm just going to write occasional posts in your comments section.

    BAFD: Look out—my spam filter is pretty rigorous. It'll probably assume you want to transfer money from Nigeria.

    NL: Yeah, in June, Blogger took away my blog because they thought it was spam.

    BAFD: It isn't?

    NL: No, it is. I sent them an email congratulating them for figuring it out. But somehow, through a series of unfortunate coincidences, it got reinstated and now I have to write it again.

    BAFD: I hate Blogger now, although it did once play host to my inauspicious beginnings.

    NL: Yeah, everybody has their own domains and hosting but me. I'm the only dude still keeping it real. And by real, I mean poor.

    BAFD: Whoa, right. Rock the old-school PE beret and kick it Blogger-style.

    NL: I'm living like it's 1989. Ms. Pacman is the biggest thing in my life right now. I just figured out how to warp to World 4 in Super Mario Brothers. Madonna is still somewhat relevant.

    BAFD: I got in an argument about this once, but if blogging was around in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, how would it have changed indie back then, and how would blogging have been different? Could we have kept the Pixies from breaking up?

    NL: No, even bloggers couldn't hold back that hate. But I do think that the indie community would've been more vibrant and able to reach lots of undiscovered listeners. It's just hard to throw down fourteen bucks on a band you've never heard and that nobody is covering. Streaming and sampling before you buy make it easier to wade before you dive.

    BAFD: I guess we would’ve just been like zines, only online. I dunno if it would've been that different.

    NL: Right, but I don't think blogs would've looked very good in QBasic.
    And hey, at least our collective powers willed the Pixies into reforming.

    BAFD: If you can call it that.

    NL: I dunno, they were still amazing when I saw them in '05. Frank Black can still wail like a banshee on steroids. Plus, now we’re keeping Britt Daniel in jewels and furs and making bands like Spoon, that got so unceremoniously dropped by Elektra, into household names. Well, if college dorms and crappy studios count as households.

    BAFD: I know, things get scarier every year—you can't watch TV without listening to Iron and Wine.

    NL: What's a TV? Oh, you mean non-interactive typing boxes?

    BAFD: Exactly. Now that I realize 30 Rock is online, I don't have to watch NBC anymore.

    NL: It’s online? I've been meaning to check it out. Tina Fey is a UVA alum and I’ve gotta support the Cavaliers.

    BAFD: Yeah, the whole first season is on nbc.com, I think. Tina Fey is my nerd crush.

    NL: I'm still suspicious of officially released media. I'm like, wait, I don't have to download it on a torrent? What's the catch here?

    BAFD: They still have crappy ads is the catch.

    NL: Hmm, my nerd crush is... God, I'm so unnerdy. All my crushes are stunningly hot in the usual ways.

    BAFD: Jessica Alba supposedly likes LCD Soundsystem. Make of that what you will.

    NL: I’ll pass. I need the total package of hotness and good acting. So I was thinking of getting married. Do you recommend it?

    BAFD: Definitely. If for no other reason than tax purposes, I can't wait to claim some little dependents in the future!

    NL: That's both sweet and economically savvy. Okay well, I guess I'll start looking for someone then. I suppose that's the first step.

    BAFD: I know, right—plus, you get to make a little bet with yourself: which will last longer, my marriage or my blog?

    NL: Hmm, that’d be a tossup for me. On the one hand, I think about quitting this blog every morning I have to post. On the other, I saw this really amazing coed, and I thought to myself, wow, she'd make a great third wife. How'd you meet your spouse?

    BAFD: It's a pretty sappy story actually—we went to high school together. We didn't actually start dating until the day of graduation, so it isn't a textbook high-school-sweethearts thing, but it’s pretty close.

    NL: Hmm, that's a good idea. I'll start hanging around high schools more. And also graduating from them more.

    BAFD: That’s the ticket. Pull a Billy Madison.

    NL: Hey man, this is a PG-13 blog.

    BAFD: Sorry, as it turns out, most of my advice leads directly to felony charges and grand juries. I once told Michael Vick to get a pet and look how that turned out.

    NL: Too soon, dude, too soon. Who are some writers you really like, other than your already revealed short story favorites?

    BAFD: As far as music writing, I really admire Jim Derogatis. Obviously, he's great, but for fiction, I never outgrew my adolescent admiration for Salinger. I also really like Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, and Michael Chabon as contemporary writers. Don DeLillo is great too; his new one is growing on me.

    NL: Yeah, I recently read Falling Man for my book club. DeLillo's the first serious writer I really got hooked on and I love Eugenides too. Franzen and Chabon I like, but sometimes, they get on my nerves. Like when they appeared on The Simpsons instead of me. Tell me three facts your readers may not know about you.

    BAFD: 1. I like old school hip-hop more than I let on, and would write about it more often if there weren't already so many better such blogs out there. 2. I was a major debate nerd in high school and college. 3. I actually don't own a dog at all.

    NL: Wow, I feel like I don't know you at all anymore.

    BAFD: I know. I desperately want a boxer, but my wife wants something smaller and cuter, like a papillon.

    NL: Don't get a papillon. That's not even a reference to the National.

    BAFD: I know, right, I try to work that into every decision I make—What would Matt Berninger do?

    NL: Drink in lonely bars and occasionally scream psychotic things probably. But yeah, if I get the tie-breaking vote, which I don't see why I wouldn't, I'd say go with the boxer.

    BAFD: It's settled then.

    NL: What should my last question to you be?

    BAFD: Something witty and offensive like that adorable Carlos Mencia.

    NL: He is so adorable. I was just thinking that.

    BAFD: I love him so much. How can we fit more of his commercials into The Daily Show or The Colbert Report?

    NL: What's the best thing about you?

    BAFD: I just grew my first beard at age 27. It looks glorious.

    NL: But you have a babyface. There’s so much cognitive dissonance there.

    BAFD: I know, that's why I had to have the beard. Otherwise, people confuse me for Nick Carter or some other boy-bander. Now I look like Nick Lachey!

    NL: I think that might be a step down. Like, a whole step in the evolutionary chain down.

    BAFD: Oh crap. I should've gone with Sam Beam.

    NL: I just grew a beard too. It's really ugly-looking and scraggly and weird. I kind of like it because I look as tortured as I feel. I'm also ready just in case grunge decides to come back.

    BAFD: Oh yeah, any day now.

    NL: Hell, I'm just one plaid shirt away from digging up all my old Candlebox CDs. [Editor's note: I don't really have any old Candlebox CDs.] So is 27 turning out to be everything you hoped it’d be?

    BAFD: That and more—when we finally have kids, I think that'll be the sign that my marriage has finally outlived my blog.

    NL: You could spinoff your blog too though. Blogs Are For Puppies. Write about indie children's songs and lullabies on vinyl.

    BAFD: But until then, it's daily MP3s with a healthy dose of marital resentment.

    NL: I'm still kind of daunted by the fact that you're already married and have a house.
    I'm 25 and I'm just happy when girls return my calls. Maybe I should quit taking them to Red Lobster and then to the backs of Buicks on every date.

    BAFD: It's been four years of marriage now, and five years of dating before that. We're almost at ten years together.

    NL: Holy fuck, I'm intolerable after about a year of knowing me. And even that year isn’t all that full of sunshine. I'll have to get a wife per year just to make it work. Oh, and also, for some reason, the main thing I picture doing while married is parasailing with my bride. I have no idea why i imagine that.

    BAFD: That’s pretty surreal, but also pretty awesome. Is she in the wedding gown?

    NL: No, we're both wearing wetsuits and grinning wild jester grins. Oh, and she's wearing a Cheney mask too. But it’s hot younger Cheney, not scary older Cheney. Yeah, I should probably just go ahead and learn to parasail. That’s probably what’s been holding me back.

    BAFD: Everyone knows that’s the first step in wedding planning: 1. Learn to parasail 2. Buy the dress. I thought that was assumed.

    NL: I think I'm going to wear a kilt at my wedding and my wedding song's going to be "Work It" by Missy Elliott.

    BAFD: It's good that you have a plan.

    NL: Yeah, "Work It” is going to be the dealbreaker.

    BAFD: Oh, it certainly will be that.

    NL: When you have kids, can you name one or more of them Charlie?

    BAFD: If I do get that boxer, my wife will probably want naming rights for all the kids.

    NL: If you get the boxer, can you name it Matt Berninger then? Or Abel or Karen or Ada at least.

    BAFD: Deal. Abel, I kind of like that. It’s certainly catchier than Mr. November.

    NL: Or The Geese of Beverly Road.

    BAFD: Haha.

    NL: Man, talking to you is like a dream I never want to end. In a straight way, that is.

    BAFD: You sure know how to make a guy feel comfortable.

    NL: Only online. In person, I'm a sweaty, stuttering nebbish.
    My handshakes are like melted candy bars.

    BAFD: Tasty.

    NL: Do you think we should end it on that stunning note?

    BAFD: I suppose so.

    * MP3: "The Underdog" - Spoon from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Doctor Blind" - Emily Haines from Knives Don't Have Your Back [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Slow Show" (White Sessions, 5-24-07) - The National [Buy other National]

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Video Tuesday #41

    "They Made Frogs Smoke 'Til They Exploded"

    "Don't You Evah"


    "We Are Your Friends"
    Justice vs. Simian

    LCD Soundsystem

    "Listening Man"
    The Bees

    Review #6: Kala by M.I.A.

    Kala - M.I.A.

    Globalization mouthpiece Thomas Friedman’s fond of declaring the world flat. It’s a recent leveling that’s been achieved, he claims, by the endless possibilities of technology and globalization. But Friedman’s conclusion seems reductive for the sake of a unified theory, and, perhaps most damaging to his ideas, he hasn’t even taken M.I.A.’s startling new album Kala into account.

    Because Kala is world music in the truest sense of the term, one of the most literal products of globalization I’ve ever heard. From the globetrotting efforts of Maya Arulpragasam to the international addresses of her producers and collaborators to the flawless synthesis of sounds to the worldwide marketing effort and tour (not to mention the cheap overseas manufacturing of the CD itself), the album is a fearless border-crusher. It’s twelve tracks better traveled than Carmen Sandiego and a passport so punished its stamped papers are crumbling.

    But Tom Friedman, take note, flat is the one thing that Kala most certainly isn’t. It’s a seismogram of spikes and peaks, the inexhaustible bounce of a ricocheting pinball. It takes cues and alludes to influences from all over, but rather than getting mashed into a melting pot, every feature gets duly feted. It time-travels back to 1982 Bollywood to update “Jimmy Jimmy Aaja” into cyberdisco lovejam “Jimmy” and it stirs old Modern Lovers, Clash and Pixies classics into sleek new hybrids. It also flashes forward to invent a genre all its own, some musical utopia where robopop, baile funk, ragga and tribal rhythms can coexist in pop-scored harmony.

    While the sounds mesh seamlessly, the subjects aren’t quite as agreeable. M.I.A. isn’t as militant as on her debut Arular, but she’s still fiercely engaging the world. When she lists a travelogue of “Somalia, Angola, Ghana (Ghana Ghana), India, Sri Lanka, Burma,” it’s as much a call-to-arms as a roll call. She wants to be a missionary in reverse, preaching the gospel of the third-world to the colonizers. When she complains, “Do you know the cost of AKs in Africa/ Twenty dollars don’t mean shit to you, but that’s how much they are,” it’s striking how strongly the rhetoric hits. It also comes off a lot more organically than, say, an awful Gwyneth Paltrow ad or wearing a red shirt from the Gap.

    That’s not to say that it doesn’t feel problematic at times. On “$20,” she boasts, “I put people on the map that ain’t never seen a map.” That may indeed be true, with guest spots by unknown Nigerian rapper Afrikan Boy and a group of Aboriginal kids called the Wilcannia Mob, but it can come off as presumptuous too. Throughout, M.I.A. projects herself among the poor and downtrodden, but the unspoken reality is that she’s an emerging and well-paid star on a major label. She’s still at a pretty sizable remove from the grime as “Jimmy” most honestly confirms. There, she asks her suitor to “take [her] on a genocide tour,” which is at once a well-meaning witnessing and an unavoidable exploitation.

    Among the other slight quibbles I have with the work are the adjacent placement of “Hussel” and the didgeridoo-laced “Mango Pickle Down River.” Afrikan Boy and the Wilcannia Mob, respectively, both contribute fresh and original turns that enliven the album, while speaking directly to its themes. But pairing them together gives Kala’s center a strange heft, making the flow of the guest-free songs feel somewhat imbalanced. The only other guest comes at the very end, on the bonus track “Come Around,” and he’s the one conspicuously unfortunate presence. I’m obviously talking about Timbaland, whose production on the closer is exciting enough but still feels peskily phoned-in. Of course, that’s not as objectionable as his limp come-on rap, which bombs as per usual. Most offensively of all, it robs the outspoken M.I.A. of getting the last word on her own album. In my Winamped version of the playlist, the superior “Hit That” replaces “Come Around” as the bonus, which is what that substitution actually sounds like.

    Nonetheless, those are minor drawbacks in what still reigns as a revolutionary effort. Kala ultimately is an inexhaustible world of possibilities, it’s a clash of cultures in a dialectic dreamscape. It’s knowledgeable and funky and incisive and insightful, the very antithesis of a flattened landscape. It’s a new crest in M.I.A.’s already towering trajectory and a new high for up-and-comers to strive for. Most importantly, it marks a sharp and serious uptick in the quality of music in 2007. 8.9/10

    * MP3: "Bird Flu" - M.I.A. from Kala [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Hit That" - M.I.A.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    Listening booth #22

    Photo by Howard French

    * MP3: "Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End of Your Feral Days" - Sunset Rubdown from Random Spirit Lover [Buy other Sunset Rubdown]
    * MP3: "Sarah" - Bat For Lashes from Fur and Gold [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Can't Take That Away" (Mariah Carey cover) - Will Oldham from Guilt By Association [Preorder it]

    Check out more amazing photography by Howard French at his Flickr page here and his website here.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Feeling the bright sunshine all around me

    When we last saw Desmond Reed a few months ago, he was a man in a bedroom. He’s still a man in a bedroom, but now he also has a just-released EP on WeePOP! Records. It’s no surprise that good things are coming his way, because his recent output continues to be remarkably good. Much of it's happily on pace with his most beloved song, “Guinea Pigs.” In the case of one track, “Window Shopping,” it may be even better. His signature style, lo-fi indoor-pop that makes ordinary, mundane life sound magical, is still firmly in place. Lately though, he’s been sounding even more confident, adding little tweaks and stylistic tics to the mix.

    On “Dizzy,” Reed plumbs fresh emotional depths, discussing love at a charmingly askew angle: “I’m sick to my stomach and I’m feeling kind of dizzy/ I think I’ll feel better if I just drink something fizzy.” He also sprinkles in some seeming non-sequiturs that are too wonderful to overlook: “Salty-lamacchia is the biggest name in baseball” and “College taught me all about the frozen food industry.” But every time it edges toward cuteness, Reed edges the subject back to something a little graver: “You’re the devil on my shoulder/ I’m getting older because the weather’s getting colder.” It's first love as physical malady.

    But it’s “Window Shopping” that may rank as his best yet. It’s an anthem for a suburban teenager that turns an average mallrat into an indie Don Quixote. In a double-time cadence like a bolt of inspiration, he sings that “Sometimes, I just need a break/ So I sit on the bench by the fountain and pretend it’s a lake/ Pretend that I’m outside feeling the bright sunshine.” It might feel like a throwaway line at first, but on further examination, it becomes extremely sad. Instead of actually going outside, leaving the carefully arranged rows of recycled-air stores behind, he just dreams about doing it. At least it's good to know he still has an island of comfort in the cruel commercial ocean: “ [I’ll] buy some Sbarro’s pizza/ But only one piece of cheese-ah/ I’m being responsible!” Who knows? Maybe he’s saving up his money to leave the bedroom for the eventual world tour.

    * MP3: "Window Shopping" - Desmond Reed
    * MP3: "Dizzy" - Desmond Reed
    * MySpace: Desmond Reed
    * Previously: Just a really happy guy: Desmond Reed MP3s

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Party for your health

    "During this tour our drummer Jonas got a toothache and had to get it pulled in San Fran (true story). It costed him 1400 dollars. But what could he do? He was miserable and getting weird on pain killers (he got from strangers at clubs) trying to hold off the procedure. He was always kind of drunk on whiskey too, bumpin' around in stairwells and stuff. It's because he doesn't have health care. None of The Teeth have health care so as far as we know we're perfectly healthy. We can't afford checkups so we'll never know really. I could be rotting on the inside for all I know."
    - Aaron MoDavis, The Teeth

    Since I've spent the last eighteen months without health insurance, the topic of a national health plan is one that weighs heavily on my mind. It's just as central to most working musicians, who don't make enough change to afford luxuries like physicals or prescriptions. Injuries that should be easily treated go unchecked. Illnesses that could be prevented go ignored. Thankfully, it's an issue that's gaining prominence, with some progressive local governments leading the way. It's also the guiding reason behind Saturday's Brooklyn Day, a Party For Your Health raising money to bring adequate health care to all.

    As important as the cause is, this Shebang Productions- and We Be Illin'-sponsored event promises to be a really great party too. There'll be four bands, three DJs (Nick Catchdubs, Cool Hands Luke, Sammy Bananas), a graffiti muralist (SUE), and free cocktails and cans of PBR. Even better, though they're bands you may not have heard of, all four acts performing are pretty cool and worth hearing. From the frantic punk of The Death
    Set to the quirky, performance-artsy Peelander-Z to the pop miscellania of the Teeth to the dancy genre-mash of The Boggs, there'll be something for every ear. Between the great music and the important issue, you've got no excuse to call in sick this weekend.

    Brooklyn Day is taking place on Saturday, August 11th at The Hook, 18 Commerce St. in Red Hook. There will be shuttles from the F stop at Carroll St. Doors open at 3 p.m. and the first band, The Death Set, goes on at 6. Tickets are $20 and available here.

    * MP3: "Arm In Arm" (Shy Child Mix) - The Boggs from "Arm In Arm" 12" [Buy it]
    * MP3: "So Long" - The Teeth from Carry The Wood EP [Buy it]
    * MP3: "S.T.E.A.K." - Peelander-Z from P-Bone Steak [Buy it]
    * MP3: "Paranoia" - The Death Set from To EP [Buy it]
    * MySpace: The Boggs
    * MySpace: The Teeth
    * Website: The Teeth
    * MySpace: Peelander-Z
    * Website: Peelander-Z
    * MySpace: The DeathSet
    * Website: The DeathSet
    * Also: Shake Your Fist on The Boggs

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Video Tuesday #40

    "Hold Music"
    Architecture In Helsinki

    "Boy Void"
    No Age"

    "Disconnect The Dots"
    Of Montreal

    "Maybe Sparrow"
    Neko Case

    "Time To Go"
    John Vanderslice

    "Mr. Clean"
    Viktor Vaughn

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    It's winter again and New York's been broken

    Photo by Teddy Maki

    New York is a ghost town. Maybe not aerially or in the swells of a Midtown crush or the traffic jam of subway bodies. But once you peel back the surface, the city will reveal its desolate veins and haunted hearts. Even the most beautiful streets will carry a tinge of sadness. Every weathered brick and crumbling wall will hint at a sordid story. The third-rail rats and skittish roaches will suggest an underworld just under our feet. It’ll confirm we're the most populous city in America and probably also its loneliest.

    Luckily, Martin Walker, a Brooklynite expatriated from London, is a ghost-writer. He sings in the language of the languishing, his voice as deeply steeped in melancholia as his subjects. His album, Nylon, is full of sad, soft-edged elegies. Sometimes, the specters are implied in weighty verses like, “Remorse is for the bees, my friend/ Regret is for the orchard/ This fruit has gone to ferment now/ We’re drunk but not hung over.” At other moments, they’re practically literal, such as on the title track. There, Walker’s daughter Dorothy sings of London Bridge falling down in a way that feels unsettling and eerie. The remaining songs split the difference, but they're almost all overcast with the looming shadows of death, finality, mortality and farewells.

    Walker’s forthcoming about the other ghosts that inform his work, that is, the lingering influence of what came before. He cites Lou Reed’s Berlin as a guiding force and readily and rightfully compares his sound to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. Like those men, he has a tendency to position himself as an outsider and an isolationist, a fellow observer of fallen angels. Like them, he writes at times of women, alcohol and politics, but what resonates most loudly is the deep voice and the deeper depression.

    If New York is a deserted island full of eight million people, what hope does one man have? Walker, as if to stem the tide of surrender, does admit, “This fervent atheist does pray.” But throughout Nylon, the darkness still reliably finds its way in, via crevices and keyholes, up fire escapes and transmitted between lips. It sets an ideal mood for these slow-burning night-songs, where every minor chord strikes a nerve and the piano always sounds possessed.

    * MP3: "Fools" - Martin Walker from Nylon
    * MP3: "We Are All One" - Martin Walker from Nylon [Buy it]
    * Website: Martin Walker
    * MySpace: Martin Walker

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Listening booth #21

    Collage by Heather Bradley

    * MP3: "What We Don't Know" - Aaron Schroeder from Black and Gold [Preorder it]
    * MP3: "Last Words" - The Real Tuesday Weld from The London Book of the Dead [Visit them]
    * MP3: "Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo" - Jens Lekman from Night Falls Over Kortedala [Buy other Jens Lekman]

    To check out more mixed-media collages by Heather Bradley, head to her Flickr page here or her website here.