josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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16 Dec '01 10:19:23 PM

Megamix of the moment (i.e. the five CDs shuffling in Josh's CD player):

Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs, Vol. 3. Mobb Deep, Infamy. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde. Beta Band, Hot Shots II. Nels Cline and Gregg Bendian, Interstellar Space Revisited.

So far all the discs have a strange way of taking over the changer, or at least taking over what I want it to do. The Cline/Bendian is most successful at this just because its songs are so much longer, but even the short songs on the Magnetic Fields disc do something similar because of their concentrated potency (and tendency to come up more frequently in the rotation because of the large number of short songs on the disc).

Most out-of-place: Dylan. Far more than the Magnetic Fields, interestingly enough, which seem to fit well with the others despite the obvious contrasts.

16 Dec '01 10:05:36 PM

Ooh, also the first show started playing the Avalanches, the first two tracks from Since I Left You. I didn't get a chance to hear how long they continued on.

16 Dec '01 10:03:09 PM

I gave this sort of round-robin record tournament a try last night with just the 2001 releases that stood out most for me. I thought the smaller tournament size might make things easier on me. It turned out not to. After the first four, which I already had a conviction would be the first four, in that order, I could only make a handful of the required 36 or so comparisons (36 instead of 72, because of symmetry). So I decided to award ties, heh heh, just to make the point that there was some ranking.

1. Dismemberment Plan - Change - de Soto
2. Beta Band - Hot Shots II - Astralwerks
3. Jay-Z - The Blueprint - Roc-a-Fella
4. Mogwai - Rock Action - Matador
5. Avalanches - Since I Left You - Sire
5. Basement Jaxx - Rooty - Astralwerks
5. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Ease Down the Road - Palace
5. Fugazi - The Argument - Dischord
5. Labradford - fixed:content - Kranky
5. Radiohead - Amnesiac - Capitol
5. Stereolab - Sound-Dust - Elektra
5. V/A - Kompakt Total 3 - Kompakt
6. American Analog Set - Know By Heart - Tigerstyle

I left more than 10 in because it seemed right. It also shows how I at least thought some of these things beat the AAS record.

All of this is hopelessly provisional anyway. If I listen to one of these records a lot in the next six months (especially one that's lower down on the list), then I would probably end up ranking it a lot higher. I don't think that necessarily says anything about the records which are ranked lower, or higher, except maybe that how much I listen to them has a lot to do with it.

Also, it's an interesting December. Depending on whatever, maybe I would rank Mobb Deep, Mystikal, and the Wu-Tang Clan. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Some things that I bought this year like the new Dave Holland record seemed really good to me, but I haven't gotten caught up in them enough to put them here. That one especially is a grower, heh heh.

This is the first year Low have released a record that I didn't particularly feel like listing. "Laser Beam" is one of my favorite songs ever, but I just didn't connect with Things We Lost in the Fire. Maybe I will someday.

And then there are the reissues and things released before 2001...

16 Dec '01 09:15:54 PM

I caught a lot of two shows on KFAI last night, the Groove Garden and 2 the Break-a-Dawn. The first played "Connect the Dots" and the new Outkast track (which is great if maybe a little tiny bit lazy-sounding). The second got into a long beat-matched set with a lot of old-school stuff, but started off with "Pinky Ring" from the forthcoming Wu-Tang album. It's got a horn section!

16 Dec '01 09:11:46 PM

... Zelda looks lonely, I want a zeeeebbbrrraaaaaa

16 Dec '01 09:11:14 PM

Tim mentioned listening to a lot of Mobb Deep lately, and I can't tell from what he wrote whether he's picked up Infamy yet. But what he writes seems to me to apply quite well to that album as well.

I haven't followed the lyrics well enough yet to tell if there's a response to Jay-Z's "Takeover" (though really Prodigy is barely mentioned since so much of the track is given over to tearing Nas a new one) on the album, though I think I read somewhere that there is. There's a spot in one track where the rapper's phrasing sounds uncannilly like Jay's in part of "Takeover," so I wonder if that's the right track. The lyrics don't jump out, though. There's something about such a subtle comeback, if it is one, which seems eminently appropriate to Mobb Deep's sound. It also makes Jay seem a lot more paranoid - something that can perhaps be forgotten when you start to hear The Blueprint as boasting and overconfident bluster justified by Jay's skills and the incredible tightness of all the tracks.

Tim is also on the money about the beats. In a way they seem like Timbaland's more gentle beats, the way they're often all clicky and sort of symmetrical. (?????) But they don't really sound like Timbaland at all. And the song structures seem a lot less pop-oriented (though I'm not happy with saying such a thing without going into what I mean, in more detail, since this sounds very much like something you can easily hear on the radio).

16 Dec '01 09:00:05 PM

There are plenty of interesting things to think about in this Frank Kogan piece for the Voice on the Coup and their newest album, Party Music. I've only just heard the album a bit, so I can't say much about what Frank says, but the first read through I was struck by how angry the piece seemed. More than anything else, that made me sit up and want to pay closer attention to the record, which has received pretty damning because stereotypical praise in the other things I've read. So, over my winter vacation, I hope to think some more about this.

The music sounds strange to me, maybe because of a part of music history I'm missing out on. I can hear the ties to 80s p-funk, but it seems much less nasty (or fun!) and much more motorik, if that makes any sense. Some of it is very very good because of this, and on other tracks the music fails to overcome dangerous repetitiveness. (It has a harder job at this than it really has to, because Riley's flow is so tied to repetitive phrase structure mostly aligned along the structure of the samples or beat loops, and to end-of-phrase rhyming.)

Despite my saying it sounds a lot less fun than its ancestral p-funk, there is still something very exuberant about a good deal of the record.

16 Dec '01 08:50:01 PM

Simon Reynolds' annual favorites roundup is now up on his site. I only really have one thing to say at the moment. It's interesting how much of his list I'm familiar with, and even in agreement with, this year - and conversely, how little of it I've never heard of. I think that says quite a bit both about what I've been listening to this year, and what he's been listening to.

Note casual references to wunderkid Tim Finney and the ILM massive!

The director's cut of his post-punk piece, which I've been looking forward to since I never picked it up in print, is now also up.

14 Dec '01 07:04:41 AM

Jimmy wrote to me remarking on Electr-O-Pura and "trigger points" (little arrangements in history which create synchroneity, he said, citing novelist Richard Powers), and pointed out part of an essay on Dancing About Architecture by Peter Gorman that he appreciates in connection with why the album "seems so poignant as a 'trigger point'":

"There is a song on Yo La Tengo's 1995 album Electr-O-Pura called "Pablo and Andrea," a plaintive song of gentle longing. Georgia Hubley's vocals evoke a feeling that evening has come and gone, but it is too early to sleep. She sings, "Show me where you keep your secrets upstairs," and about a lonely stare and stolen roses. It is very late; a slide guitar solo slips in, little more than a note sliding up, hanging there, and sliding down, four times through, a lovely thing. The tension builds but only modestly, then a guitar erupts out of the speakers, it breaks out and celebrates, melodic ecstasy over a noisy rumble down below. It is the sound of being set free and running down the street, or driving down the road on a flight to freedom, however temporary. I know of few guitar solos that better sum up a song, or that for a single shining minute capture the sound of euphoria.

Robert Frank's children were named Pablo and Andrea; they were the subject and title of many of his photographs. I don't know if Yo La Tengo named their song after Frank's photographs, or if they meant the song to have any connection to him or his children, or if they were simply being ironic. But I do know that Frank is deserving of a song as beautifully written and performed as Yo La Tengo's, and so I'll leave it at that."

(After some searching I found my copy this morning and listened to it on the way in. It made me want to go back home, to bed. Not to sleep, but just to be in bed.)