Friday, May 30, 2008

Reinventing the Sacred

This is a really interesting discussion with biologist and complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman, who argues against reductionism and for a sort of evolution of the relationship between science and religion.

Kauffman takes issue with what he considers the more antagonistically atheistic camp, including Dawkins and Hitchens.  (Though he does not believe in a supernatural god, he refuses to label himself an atheist.) Essentially, he is advocating a middle ground on which religious and non-religious can cooperate in advancing a rational worldview based on science and reason but that doesn't neglect what he seems to consider a human need for worship.  As Leonard Lopate says, Kauffman is searching for a "new conceptual framework of god."

The conversation is maybe most interesting when Lopate asks why Kauffman even maintains the word "god" in his new framework.

Kauffman's new book is Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion.

Is this for real?

Click on photo for details.

...or is it Coco Fusco?

Update: video coverage from the BBC.
Update: Rush Limbaugh is still a moron.

Sarah Jessica Parker gives me nightmares

This was on Charlie Rose last night, and it somehow managed to make me absolutely livid.  I've never been a fan of "Sex and the City" or even Charlie Rose's interviewing style, but something about this particular interview seemed to epitomize so many of the weakest parts of American culture.  Only a short segment is available on YouTube, and they've of course selected one of the least infuriating portions, but it still gives a glimpse of what gave me nightmares last night:

Can anyone explain to me what I'm missing with this whole phenomenon? "Sex and the City," from the admittedly little I've seen of it or heard about it, seems to represent so many of the societal ills we've been trying to progress beyond for the last several decades.  While it claims to advocate female empowerment, everything I've seen seems to work against that, emphasizing superficiality, vanity, materialism, and reductionist gender stereotypes over anything actually enlightening or progressive.

They showed a bunch of clips on Charlie Rose, and it seriously looked like the most appalling movie ever made.  And yet people go crazy for it!  When they were shooting in the city last year, enormous crowds would gather and go apes%@t as if the cast were Michael Jackson or the pope (both of whom have their own issues, but are inarguably more important than any of the (atrocious?) actors involved with "Sex and the City").

This article in The New Yorker sums it up nicely:
"When the wedding hits a bump (look out for Kristin Davis screaming “No! No!” at Chris Noth like a ninth grader auditioning for “The Crucible”), and the bridegroom veers away, our heroine’s reaction to the split is typical: “How am I going to get my clothes?” What, honey, even the puffball skirt that you wear to the catwalk show—the one that makes you look like a giant inverted mushroom? That plea gets second prize for the most revealing line in the film, the winner being Miranda’s outburst as she hunts for an apartment in a mainly Chinese district: “White guy with a baby! Let’s follow him.” So that’s what drives these people: Aryan real estate."

To cleanse the palate of the putrid taste left in your mouth after all that, here's someone who I think truly does present a hugely respectable and inspirational model for a modern woman. Author (and my former neighbor) Jhumpa Lahiri:

"A democracy cannot function long without an informed public"

Now this is some straight talking...

Click here for more.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Older, not Cooler: a demographic dilemma and some over-sharing re: my childhood.

When I first realized that commercials for, say, Cingular and the Ford Motor Company were featuring music by artists I liked, I felt this very sudden and very urgent kind of pride. For approximately 5.5 seconds after such a commercial, I'd think to myself, hey, I know that band. This has happened twice in the past year or so, and both times, I was actually a little excited to hear these songs on television.

First there was this:

and then there was this one:

Immediately after that initial proud and possessive feeling of recognition, though, I'd inevitably feel this really palpable sense of disappointment. But I'm not jumping onto that whole "that band sold out" trolley. I mean, if somebody wanted to buy a song I wrote and I didn't object to the product they were shilling, I'd be thrilled to accept the check and I'd probably appreciate the exposure (unfortunately, nobody seems to want my cover of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy").

What kills me, though, when I see such an ad, is that if music I like is being used in major national ad campaigns, I must necessarily fall into some kind of target demographic that's defined, at least in part, by musical tastes. (Also, note that the above Ford advertisement also features Marlow & Sons, which despite being constantly packed, is a pretty great place).

Case in point using the Cingular and Ford examples: I have a cell phone. I have a car. What if I wanted to switch services or buy and SUV? It's not that hearing Band of Horses in the Ford ad is going to make me run out and buy their cheesy-looking SUV, but I will probably remember the commercial for a long, long time. And in an age when we're marketed to actively (like watching a commercial) or passively (like glancing at a billboard as you drive to work), standing out and sticking to the inside of a viewer's ad-saturated skull seems to be the point.

I think a lot of us are vaguely uncomfortable knowing that we're being directly marketed to, but ultimately using "indie rock" in a cell phone or car commercial is not that different from grocery stores putting candy on the low shelves in the checkout lanes. As a kid, I begged for a Kit Kat or a York Peppermint Patty virtually every time we went shopping. How my mother didn't strangle me is a mystery. Back then, though, I wasn't aware that I was a walking, squalling target for the Mars and Hershey companies. Indeed, ignorance is bliss.

On the rare occasion that my frazzled mother caved and bought me a Kit Kat, I'd be elated, pliant, an all-around better child. This helps explain my little "weight problem," but doesn't explain why I'm still sort of bothered by the Cingular and Ford ads. Neither a new phone (even an iPhone, seriously) nor an SUV would make me happy, not the same kind of Kit Kat happy I'm talking about anyway.

Maybe it's just that I'd like to be part of a cooler demographic. If anyone has any ideas about how best to make that happen, I'm listening. Failing such a dramatic paradigm shift, I fear that in the years to come I'll be that lame father who tells his teenager that his/her generation's music is inferior. Swap Pink Floyd's The Wall with Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam, and trade "Mick Jagger" for "Mike Stipe" in the sentence "Mick Jagger is an incredible rock lyricist" and I'll be my father.

Actually, I kind of have a point on that last one.

My head's on fire and high esteem
Get drunk and sing along to Queen
Practice my T-Rex moves and make the scene
Yeah, I'd rather be anywhere doing anything

Mike Stipe: you slay me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Air Waves: 5 Gems (including one song named "Gems")

Singer Nicole Schneit has a voice that creeps up on you, the sort of subtle but infectious haziness and rasp that turns an understated melody into something that echoes with depth and nostalgia.  The new self-titled EP (Catbird Records) from Schneit's band Air Waves (limited to 200 copies and housed behind the lovely cover art above) features 5 songs, without a single misstep or wasted moment.

The music is made for those hours of unwinding; the insomniatic early morning hours after a long night and waiting for the first light.  "Gems" is sparingly constructed—just a rough-strummed guitar, some subtly lilting piano, and a steady tambourine—giving full reign to Schneit's voice, which conjures an atmosphere akin to the gaussian soft-focus of Mazzy Star while remaining of no other world but this one.  It's interesting: her voice seems to possess some inherent sepia tone, even without the reverb other singers drown themselves in to achieve an ethereal quality.

Only a bit more fleshed-out than "Gems," "Lightning" throws in some drums and harmonies, employing simple imagery to sublimate basic emotions into forces of nature ("Oh I'm gonna be / the lightning that strikes down your tree").  The short and sweet "Kingdom," with its minimal embellishments (some keys that sound like a melodica), is almost like an earthbound Lavender Diamond.

The disc closes with the set's most rollicking number, "Keys," which has some driving drums and darker tones ("the old man died without any pals / his family left before life began").  But throughout the five songs, the lyrics often betray an essential optimism, a readiness—though with weary and tired eyes—to greet the dawn's blinding light.

"Shine On" by Air Waves:

Bonus: here's a muxtape featuring more of the Catbird Records roster.

And here's the band performing "Shine On" at The Apartment:
And just for the hell of it, here's fellow Catbird anti-folksters Forest Fire at The Apartment performing the stupendous tune "Fortune Teller":

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Linkage: (Cool) Hunting the (Cool) Hunters

HT over at Probably Awkward has a recurring feature called "We're Not a Filter Blog, But..."

Well, we probably succumb to regurgitative filter blogging (I had to look up what that meant, too) more often than PA, but we'd still like to think we're at least a bit original. And, seriously, who needs to do any filtering or funneling of all the cool stuff out in the interweb when these folks do it so well?! Art, gadgets, fashion, happenings, and more...

Some particularly good recent finds have been the transparent Post-Its, the art of Walton Ford (which completely blew me away when I saw his exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum a couple years ago!), and this incredibly cool aquarium.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Soul on Fire

J. Spaceman has been busy as of late.  He recently contributed to the soundtrack for Harmony Korine's new film, Mister Lonely, along with the superb Sun City Girls.  And Spiritualized's new album, Songs In A&E, comes out next Tuesday, May 27th.  Listen here.

Video for "Soul on Fire" from Songs In A&E:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bring on the Strings: Devon Williams makes an argument for lushness

Ben at Ba Da Bing! has stumbled upon another prodigious young talent.  Now that Beirut's Zach Condon has ascended to indie royalty (with hair chops like that, of course he did!*), there is room for Devon Williams, who—like Condon—is particularly adept at updating classic sounds with lush arrangements.  I'm really loving what I've heard so far; it brings to mind power-pop giants like Big Star and the Go-Betweens.  The LA-based Williams also shares an affinity with more recent slanted melodists like Dan Bejar* and, especially, Cass McCombs*.

"A Truce" by Devon Williams (download)

With so much of the current indie-world trending toward the bare-bones sparsity of lo-fi acts like Times New Viking and No Age*, those sprightly string arrangements (by Steve Gregoropoulous of Lavender Diamond) are a reminder that while less is sometimes more, more is sometimes pretty stunning too.  Williams' songs make grand statements that are hard to overlook, and seem destined for repeat listenings.  I must have listened to "A Truce" and "Elevator" at least ten times straight, and I've yet to get sick of those strings!

The album, Carefree, is out out now.

1 I readily admit I'm jealous of his hair...and his chops.
2 aka Destroyer, for whom Williams is currently opening on tour.
3 whose latest album, Dropping the Writ, is an underrated masterpiece.
4 both of whom, of course, have their own refreshing, visceral immediacy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Linkage: Charles & Marie

A discerningly stocked online shop full of smart design and artful items from around the world, with a curatorial bent akin to the MOMA stores, and an eye toward the innovative mix of aesthetics and utility.  Some of the stuff is pretty reasonably priced as well.

Some favorites:

"A glorious day"

... Finally!  The California Supreme Court decision is definitely a step in the right direction.  Now hopefully more states will follow the precedent...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

FOXY! Coolest dog in Manhattan!

And definitely within the Top 5 in the Mid-Atlantic states, and probably in the Top 25 (at least!) presently living in the western hemisphere.  

Visit her at Bluestockings in NYC!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Deserving Hyperbole: Wall Animation by BLU

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

...Bring May Flowers

photo by BJK

I think Fred might object if he saw that I'm posting this song (it's an oldie!)... I once asked him to play it at a show and was denied ("I wrote that when I was 12"!).  I don't care what he says; it'll always be one of my favorite songs by him.

Saturday Looks Good to Me — "Spring"

Here... to balance it out, I'll post one of his awesome new jams as well!

City Center — "Bleed Blood" (download)

Be sure to check out his blog for lots of new tunes!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"like you'll never see me again"

I listened to pop radio for the first time in a long time the other night, while stuck in traffic nearing the Holland Tunnel.  It's weird when you're out of touch with Top 40 for a while... Anyhow, this one song came on... It had a great little arpeggio riff and legitimately powerful female vocals.  I looked it up—all I could remember was "if you hold me blah blah blah, if you kiss me blah blah blah"—and it happens to be by Alicia Keys (Google is magical like that!).  It's been stuck in my head ever since.  I tried to post the video, but it's not permitted apparently.  So I found this instead...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Am I gonna explode?"

Here's the trailer for a new movie starring Zach Galifianakis, called Visioneers:

And have you all seen this? It's superb...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Etsy Stalking: The Art of Matte Stephens

I first saw the art of Matte Stephens when I stumbled upon his Etsy Shop last year while attempting to find earrings for my wife's birthday. The color combinations, the humor and whimsy of the work, and the rate at which he produces new prints and paintings kept me coming back to the Etsy shop for over a year until, eventually, I shot him an email to ask him a few questions about his work. He was gracious enough to grant an interview and to let us post a few of his paintings below.

NB: Can you tell me a bit about yourself—specifically, how you came to painting and paper sculpture? Were you formally educated as an artist?

MS: I am from a small town in northern Alabama called Boaz and had lived in Birmingham, Alabama for the past five years (though we just recently relocated to Portland, OR). The only formal education I've had was high school. I painted as a kid and it seemed to be the only thing I was good at. I just kept on painting and studying after high school and decided early on that this would be what I would do forever. I was introduced to modern design by a librarian in my home town who saw my drawings and thought I would like a book called Pioneers of Modern Art, which was published around 1961. I instantly fell in love with the book and still have it. It has everything in it, architecture, painting, industrial design, and film. It is a really great book! So from that time on, I was obsessed with high design. The paper sculpture started with a book that Better Homes and Gardens put out in the 60's that showed kids how to make animals out of oatmeal cans. After I saw that, I became friends with designer Irving Harper and visited his home in New York, where he had hundreds of sculptures made of paper using his training as an architect as a way to make models for himself. So I started making them after that. They are nowhere near the caliber of Irving's but I do enjoy making them.

NB: I'm really drawn to your color palate—often a mix of muted grays, browns and greens and bright yellows and blues—and to your use of asymmetrical or ovoid patches of color. Has your aesthetic changed drastically over time and, if so, how has it developed?

MS: I have always leaned towards muted colors, there just seems like there are so many more possibilities in muted colors. I have always loved mixing color so I have always stayed clear of primary colors. I'm sure the paintings I made in the 90's are a lot different from the ones I make now, I guess it was a slow change. Over time you learn tons of different things. It's hard for me to pinpoint when my work really changed.

NB: Your use of shape and color reminds me somewhat of the 1950s domestic design of Charles and Ray Eames, but your subject matter (be it an owl, a hat-wearing giant Bear, or a row of apartment buildings) also communicates something more whimsical—something more like the illustrative work of Ludwig Bemelmans or even Maurice Sendak. Can you tell me a bit about what or who inspires your work? Is there a particular artistic mode, school or movement you find particularly appealing?

MS: The office of George Nelson and Associates from the 40's-60's has always inspired me. Charles and Ray Eames, Ben Shahn, Paul Klee, Cliff Roberts, Alexander Girard, Paul Rand, and Herbert Matter. I always loved how the Nelson Office always seemed to have a sense of humor with their designs. Alexander Girard really had a sense of innocence to his work. I love light-hearted subjects. I try to stay away from anything with angst in it. To me, life is tough enough, so adding to it with disturbing images just seems a little silly to me.

NB: While I'm somewhat loath to ask you about the business end of things, I'm curious to know what you think about selling your work through a site like Etsy. In some ways, it seems to me that working through Etsy (rather than through an exclusive deal with a gallery or an agent) gives the artist much more control over the sale and distribution of his or her work. Then again, the artist then become responsible for the business of mailing, pricing, payment, etc. Could you talk a bit about how you balance your creative energies and the business of getting your work out there?

MS: I have an agent and work with lots of galleries and shops. Etsy is something I really love to do. For many years I represented myself and I had to do every aspect of it. Now I can focus on Etsy and painting and don't have to worry about other stuff which is wonderful. My wife, Vivienne helps me run my Etsy shop, it would be hard to do it without her now.

NB: Are there any trends in contemporary art that you find particularly appealing or unappealing?

MS: I have loved the nature theme that has been in contemporary art for a while now and the move towards innocence. I was saddened to see the work of Guillermo Habacuc Vargas. I think cruelty in any form is a bad direction to go in no matter you feel the meaning is.

NB: Often, critical or academic conversations about art address individual works of art in broad terms that may, for instance, discuss a piece as a reaction to a particular aesthetic, or as a response to another artist. Do you ever feel that your work is a part of a broader conversation or a broader aesthetic, or is that kind of analysis best left to critics, collectors and academics?

MS: I do think that kind of analysis is best left to critics, collectors and academics.

NB: Can you tell us a bit about your day-to-day studio work? Do you paint every day? When the mood strikes you?

MS: I do paint every day. My studio is set up almost like a separate home, I have a tv so I can watch old movies all day long while I work. If you wait until the mood strikes you, you'll never do it. Vivienne has to force me to take breaks to eat or get outside and go for a walk. Painting and making things is my entire life so it really doesn't feel like work. I'm very very lucky to be able to do this.

Burrowing through the astral plane

Tunnels is the Portland-based drone-fre(e/ak)-folk project of Nicholas Bindeman, sometime contributor to the fantastic Jackie-O Motherfucker

His new (limited edition!) CD-R on Abandon Ship Records is tellingly called Astral Collage; it's full of psychedelic guitar mystrionics (I'm making that word up right now!), sometimes menacing/sometime blithe semi-improvised soundsc(r)apes, percussive pulses/percolations, and buzzing drones à la Jewelled Antler and that ilk: Thuja, Blithe Sons, Grouper (also from Portland), and, of course, JOMF. 

It's easy to detect older touchstones like Tony Conrad or John Cale in the resin clouding off the bowed and buzzing strings. And some of the darker, more fuzzed-out passages even call to mind Siltbreeze stuff like Dead C.   There are even some serious shamanic psych excursions that summon the spirits of Angus MacLise and La Monte Young (the latter is still alive, but I'm sticking with the seance metaphor nonetheless).

blithe?... "Golden Twigs" (download):

menacing?... "White Stains":

Friday, May 9, 2008

Plantastic! (Mangosteens!)

drawing by BJK

The mangosteen is the latest exotic fruit to find itself surrounded by a pulpy sea of hype.

First (within recent memory at least) was the pomegranate, which made a huge mainstream splash a few years back, extending its reach beyond the organic health-food niche crowd. Its success was boosted thanks in no small part to an aggressive ad campaign from P♥M, the juice-maker that capitalized on the pomegranate's significant health benefits as an antioxidant and whose uniquely-shaped bottles became iconic of the fruit.

The pomegranate is native to the regions around Afghanistan and looks like an alien hive. The process of extracting the seeds (which are called arils and, along with their encasing pulp, constitute the edible portion of the fruit) makes for a fun date! But the challenge contributes to the high price of the fruit's juice.

Once the pomegranate gained produce-aisle prominence, the next fruit trend was the açaí—another antioxidant-rich fruit common in Brazil and now a key ingredient in health-conscious yuppies' smoothies. The açaí is considered one of the newly-anointed "superfruits," along with the pomegranate and the mangosteen, which is next up in the exotic fruit spotlight.

This latest fruit fad is garnering both serious press and the support of doctors and nutritionists who tout the fruit's high antioxidant value and apparent impact in preventing and treating various diseases, particularly auto-immune diseases like MS, though no definitive research has fully proven the potential benefits. The positive effects appear to be linked to xanthones, biologically active phenols that have been shown to boost the immune system.

I've personally tried the fruit only in its dried form, which I've only been able to find at Trader Joe's. But I'm sure it will become more common as the superfruit's profile continues to grow.

Apparently the fruit has some passionate devotees, some of whom double as Final Cut novices...

XanGo®, made from mangosteen juice, is at the center of a new juice craze! It's a miracle juice!

"A juice that can take someone's pain away!"

Here's one more very peculiar video featuring a soundtrack of Aerosmith:


Just watched Henry & June the other night.  Have you seen it?  Anaïs Nin was one cool lady, huh?  Has anyone read anything by her?  Any recommendations of where to start?  I can't believe I haven't read any of her stuff until now, or anything by Henry Miller for that matter (I'm in the middle of Tropic of Cancer right now, and fully enraptured by it).  

Some quotes from Anaïs...
"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person."
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say."
"The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery."
"The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle."
"People living deeply have no fear of death."

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Canale della Giudecca I, Venezia, 2007
From the series Horizons
Chromogenic Color Print
© Sze Tsung Leong, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, NYC

The Morning News has a great gallery and essay feature on the photography of Sze Tsung Leong, which I fell in love with at this year's Pulse Art Fair.  

What can I say?  I love negative space.

I was reminded a bit of this recent photo by Nik (taken with her Lomo LCA in Central Park), which I'd like to title "April Showers":

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

That Summer Feeling

photo by BJK

I'm not sure who, if anyone, understands summer better than Jonathan Richman. "That Summer Feeling," "Ice Cream Man," "Summer Morning," ... "The Beach"!

Naked Frog People, Root Beer, & Dancing Bears: The Art of Marcel Dzama

Even the Ghost of the Past by Marcel Dzama (an homage to Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés)

I'm a bit late posting about the recent Marcel Dzama exhibition at David Zwirner in Chelsea.  It was an ambitious installation of drawings, dioramas, and—perhaps the most spectacular piece—a film with live piano accompaniment. 

Dzama is a Canadian artist known most for his earthy ink/watercolor drawings populated by fabulous characters.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes sinister, ... often both.

Though some were underwhelmed by the show, I left even more awed by both the breadth and depth of Dzamas work.  The film (The Lotus Eaters) especially gave a glimpse into the Dzama's surreal dream-realm.  Like Henry Darger, but less hermetic, Dzama's individual pieces are all part of a larger gestalt, an alternate, manila-hued reality brought to life with Dzama's palette of red wine and diluted root beer syrup.

The work is accessible in its simplicity and directness, but also enigmatic and deep with psychoanalytical meaning and literary/historical allusions, in the same way that old fables and fairy tales are.  Much of the work deals with human/nature interactions, mythical creatures and hybridization, detainment/escape, disguise—old fantasy tropes, but catapulted into a modern world of terrorism, fetishization, and political antagonisms.

On the Banks of the River by Marcel Dzama

I really think the power of Dzama's work lies in its handling of the ambiguity between fantasy and nightmare.  Just as much of the Brothers Grimm tales related seemingly simple moral lessons with dense and dark substrata of psychological fears.  There are so many rich politico-social implications to the common theme in Dzama's pieces of sleeping/dancing with the enemy/predator.  The sexualization of antagonism.  Just as with the macabre erotic undertones of "Little Red Riding Hood," interesting tensions and power dynamics are lent a whimsical but disturbing sensuality.  Dzama's characters are often being chased by the bear on one side of door and dancing with it on the other.  

The show, for me at least, further established Dzama's strengths as an artist.  His interests and inspirations are wide-reaching, and his art is likewise open to varying levels of appreciation and interpretation.

McSweeney's just released their second collection of Dzama's "elegant, enigmatic bears, bats, and sexy ladies," titled The Berliner Ensemble Thanks You All.  In typical McSweeney's fashion, it is a stunning future artifact, consisting of an envelope with 28 loose-leaf prints plus other assorted treats.  It's a fantastic package and a great way to peek through the peep-hole into Dzama's singular dreamworld.

Also worth noting is The Royal Art Lodge, which Dzama helped found in Winnipeg in 1996.  The group collaborates on drawings and paintings that must make Dave Eggers giddy

Some selections from Little Sweethears by The Royal Art Lodge

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Punk Rock Academy

I've been thinking a lot lately about nostalgia, sentimentality, and self-identification. Believe me, it's not as fancy as it sounds—it's way closer to navel-gazing self-indulgence than an academic pursuit.

So, yesterday, while on my bike and fully engaged in such serious pondering, I passed a parked car with a "Punk Rock Academy" bumper sticker. At first I couldn't place the phrase, but then I remembered: Atom and his Package.

This is Atom and his Package:

And these are the lyrics to his song, "Punk Rock Academy":
I was fighting the mold in the bowl with my pee
When a thought popped in through my brain
If all of us hated high school so much
Why was nothing ever changed?
So I called Brian up with my plan that's red hot
Got a private institution in the name of punk-rock
We got some government funding & our own
Private road & 666 for our radio snow code.

I had a dream when I was in high school
That I attended the Punk Rock Academy
I had a dream when I was in high school
I attended the Punk Rock Academy.

Chris Jensen's teaching science
& he's still running mountain.
We fired the guy from Bad Religion 'cause he
Sold punk rock out & we'll give the dirty punks a
dip & get rid of all their fleas.
and we'll never buy anything with a UPC.

I had a dream when I was in high school,
I attended the Punk Rock Academy
I had a dream when I was in high school,
That at the Punk Rock Academy no one made fun of me

At the punk rock academy
Where all the students, they're diagnosed with A.D.D.
Take me home tonight,
I dont want to let you go 'til the feeling's right,
Take me home tonight,
I dont want to let you go 'til the feelings right

We'll import a token jock & then we'll
kick his token ass & there will never ever be
A physical education class.
Think about, you'll agree. It's the bizzity
Bizzity bomb & maybe we can get the F-bombs to
Play the senior prom.

I had a dream when i was in high school,
I attended the Punk Rock Academy
I had a dream when I was in high school,
That at the Punk Rock Academy no one made fun of me.

This is Atom (a.k.a. Adam Goren) performing the song in 2002 or 2003, not too long before his last performance with The Package:

According to his Wikipedia page, Adam Goren now teaches Chemistry and Physics at a high school in Philadelphia.

This all makes me think about a few things:
  1. There are other people who remember "Punk Rock Academy" as fondly as I do, and that makes me kinda happy.
  2. I never got to see Atom and his Package when I was in high school, and that makes me kinda sad.
  3. Do his current students have any idea? 
  4. Bumper stickers, while generally annoying, can sometimes be quite apropos.

Cigarettes will kill you, but cigarette ads kill me!

In researching vintage cigarette ads, I've come to find that my favorites are all print ads of the late 1960s through the early 1980s, prior to legislation that severely limited how cigarettes and alcohol could be advertised in print and on television.

As opposed to the ads of the 1940s (patriotic Camel ads, for instance) or 1950s (Kools, Chesterfields, Lucky Strikes), these later ads don't point to lower amounts of nicotine or a better filter as a way to promote "healthier" smoking. Instead, it seems that by the late 1960s, tobacco companies like Muriel and Benson & Hedges had long given up on trying to promote a healthy cigarette, and instead embraced humor and sexuality as the primary vehicles for shilling smokes.

These are a few of my favorites.

I'm fairly sure they're not talking about smoke here. Either way, I don't think it's a true statement. But boy is it cheeky.

See, it's like he didn't even know he was smoking! It was so casual and cool that he just answered the phone without realizing that he still had the cigarette in his mouth! Plus, it's a 100, which is, like, a super-long cigarette and this man is African-American. Sexuality, subtle racism, a kooky facial expression, it's all here! Craaaazy!

Wait a minute. If she's going to try to study, but philosophy is all "Greek" to him, what can he possibly be interested in? What a scallywag.

Friday, May 2, 2008

We ♥ Desmond Dekker: Shooby dooby dooby dooby dooby doop doop...

Have you gals checked out  Kind of cool, right?  

This one is pretty rad.

I haven't listened to Desmond Dekker in too long!  One of the last times I did I got a speeding ticket, cuz I was grooving out too hard.  Be advised...

We ♥ Stars of the Lid: Music for Twin Peaks Episode #30

Stars of the Lid in Seattle
Originally uploaded by rrriles

I'm super thrilled to see Stars of the Lid tonight!  They've been one of my favorite bands for some time now, and they rarely tour.  Plus, it's part of the superb Wordless Music Series, which has been responsible for some of the best shows I've seen in recent years.  They pair more classically-minded musicians like Michael Harrison or Max Richter or Nico Muhly with artists that are (for want of a better term) more "indie rock" (Grizzly Bear, Beirut, etc.) in grand settings like the gorgeous Society for Ethical Culture.  I can't think of a band better-suited to this format than SoTL.

Word has it the recent shows, for which the duo is accompanied by a string ensemble and a projectionist, have been spectacular.  Tonight's show is at the Good Shepherd-Faith Church, and I can't think of a better reason to sit in a pew!

From their most recent double-album, And the Refinement of the Decline:

From the rare, tour-only release, Carte-de-Visite (download):

Thursday, May 1, 2008

High Places Sign to Thrill Jockey!

Congrats to Mary and Rob of High Places!  Respected Chicago label Thrill Jockey just announced that the duo—which has been getting some due recognition for their rad, neo-primitive, super humid pop music—is their latest signing.  Sweet!  

"Golden" by High Places:

Cobblestone Pop: 'Alison Statton' by Pants Yell!

You might find yourself in the mood now and then for some simple, understated, unencumbered indie-pop. And for those moods there is Pants Yell!, a Boston trio that pulls off the whole preppy-poppy-artsy-bookish- smart-guys-in-argyle act a hell of a lot better—and a lot less self-consciously— than (the overrated?) Vampire Weekend.  Where VW steal (a bit too blatantly?) from a thief, Pants Yell! are at once more sophisticated and somehow more refreshingly approachable. 

They sure wear their hearts and influences on their cardigan sleeves...and their record sleeves... The title of their second and most recent LP is 'Alison Statton', an homage to the singer in quiet-is-the-new-loud pioneers and classic twee forebears Young Marble Giants.  And the ode is telling.  That band, along with kiwi-pop-kings The Clean, are probably the two major touchstones for Pants Yell!.   

Jangling guitars, horns, glockenspiels, and literate lyrics that'd make Stuart Murdoch blush...  Spring is as good a season as any to bounce around to these lads' tunes.  It sounds unapologetically anglophilic at first (like an American version of Clientele, on Zoloft), but there's something distinctly New England, even specifically Boston, about the music (think Jonathan Richman, Galaxie 500, not Aerosmith).  It's perfectly suited for cobblestone streets and bookshop romances, little city side-street moments...  

Andrew Churchman's lyrics braid post-academic ennui with romantic flirtations and an observational sublimation of the banal.

A few good characteristic lines...
"I wore that t-shirt / and I thought of you. / I want to be good. / Is that not enough / when you love the city?"
(from "Tried to Be Good")  

"I was looking for a job / and when I found a job / I took it out on everyone I knew." (from "Two French Sisters") 
We can all relate to that!  More than to forced wit and forced rhymes, no? (Louis Vuitton and reggaeton? Come on!)

"Magenta and Green" by Pants Yell!:

'Alison Statton' is out now on Soft Abuse.  

Funny Ha Ha: You make me touch your hands for stupid reasons...

I know this is old, but some of you might not have seen it yet...