Posts Tagged ‘music’

Two losses

October 18, 2010

Wow, two big losses while I was away from the blogging. Both made their marks as outsiders, and both excelled at making complexity simple. Many would be upset with my mentioning Eyedea in the same sentence as Benoit Mandelbrot, but he was a mindblowing MC and a Twin Cities native. That said, Mandelbrot was perhaps the most important mathematician of the last half-century.

Benoit Mandelbrot has been a major influence on the way I view the world. For the record, he’s a lot more than fractals. He used his unique ability to visualize and conceptualize mathematical concepts to create connections throughout fields from biology to finance. Along with behavioral finance, Hindu philosophy and existentialism, his ideas spoke to me at basic levels: With everything I believed and disbelieved as I grew up, the ideas made much more sense than some of the “all-encompassing” answers I was being taught in finance classes. In my opinion, a finance-heavy MBA program is a waste of money without serious study of the objections posed by Mandelbrot. The (Mis)behavior of Markets is required reading–the first half, knocking down established theories of finance, is much more important than the second half. Anyway, read that, and go from there. If you want to stay away from numbers, James Gleick’s book Chaos is an incredibly well-written second read.

“In a different era, I would have called myself a natural philosopher. All my life, I have enjoyed the reputation of being someone who disrupted prevailing ideas. Now that I’m in my 80th year, I can play on my age and provoke people even more.” – Benoit Mandelbrot

Mandelbrot’s now officially retired from the business of disrupting others, and has departed onward through the fractal.

Richard Swift and Damien Jurado release free covers album

September 2, 2010

Tourmates Richard Swift and Damien Jurado recorded nine covers a couple of weekends ago. That they recorded on fourtrack, then released the album within two weeks, is proof that DIY is alive and well. It’s also free and it’s really good. Other People’s Songs, Vol. 1 is worth a listen if you at all like ’60s folk and R&B.

I first heard Richard Swift opening for Stereolab. The entire set was amazing, but when he performed Lady Luck it felt like Al Green was in the room–I am not exaggerating in the least. RS writes and produces incredible time-faded folk and R&B music, and I’d put him up there with Neil Young for his quality and breadth of songwriting. If the world were just, he’d be co-headlining arenas with The Arcade Fire. I randomly stumbled onto the album, which was announced this morning on RS’s myspace, while listening to the Mynabirds (another Swift project) on

Three new Elliott Smith concerts and one rad Soundgarden single

August 25, 2010

It was a good night of music for me: I found three newly uploaded Elliott Smith concerts (ES concerts are legal to post  on and I heard the new Soundgarden single.

That Soundgarden song should have been on Bad Motor Finger! But it’s not; it’s on a “retrospective” album. I believe I’ll pass on the $109.00 delux package with both vinyl and CD versions of songs everyone my age already has. I’ve been waiting for Soundgarden to get back together ever since I moved to Seattle; of all the grunge bands that could get back together it was the only major one left. Even Green River played a Sub Pop show, but no Soundgarden. I knew they were around–I’d hear Chris Cornell sightings at a coffee shop, and I sat near Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron at a DEVO show (and I believe my wife sighted Kim the next night as well). They were all in town with time to sit around and wait for the mail… it’s about time. Hopefully they write a few songs because coming out the gates with a second “Best Of” album is a bit disappoint. It does have some seriously gnarly artwork, but if they were trying to sell this to youngsters new to the band they should have put a vampire next to that wolf.

In other cashing-in news, a new Elliott Smith “introduction” album is coming out this year. I already alluded to it, but if you want an introduction, go to and listen to one each of his acoustic and electric concerts. If you like that, I’d buy Either/Or or X/O as a first album, not a mixtape. I will admit the song selection is good–almost all from his non-major-label records, except two of my favs, Waltz #2 (X/O) and Happiness (Figure 8). King’s Crossing and A Distorted Reality is a Necessity to be Free are two of the best songs ever written and are missing, but they included the awesomely simple Angel in the Snow. I think ES knew that one was good but was ashamed of it in the same way he always seemed a little embarrassed to play Say Yes live.

Image: An Introduction To Packshot

So if you’re young the Soundgarden album is a must, if not buy the single, and listen to Elliott Smith choosing his own mixes on

Music journalism in Vancouver is by no means well

April 19, 2010

Vancouver’s weekly entertainment guide, the Straight, has a seriously malfunctioning music section. I’m just throwing it out there as I’ve spent many weekends up in Vancouver, and have never found a good issue of the Straight’s music section. I’ve tried, and in the beginning I thought it might be possible Vancouver didn’t have a music scene. It turned out the paper just inadequately covers it. Wouldn’t bring it up, but I wish better things for such an awesome city.

This weekend there was a pitiful anonymously written rant about an artist (La Roux) who stood up the interviewer, not once, but OMG twice!!1! Here’s how it started:

Hey, here’s a tip for all you musicians out there, up-and-coming and otherwise: if you don’t want to piss off the people whose job it is to convey information about you to the public—in other words, the lowly class known as music journalists—it’s best to refrain from repeatedly jerking said people around.

It ends with Anonymous Newswriter calling La Roux a “fucking skrag” and insinuating her music’s bad because she wouldn’t interview. That wouldn’t fly in a community college newspaper, let alone a city that just hosted the Olympics. At least some of the commenters gave Anonymous Newswriter a little hell for it. If this were posted in The Stranger (Seattle’s paper), it would come across as a fake rant to poke fun at music writers–no way it could be real.

But in Vancouver, it’s real. And if I hadn’t checked online before I left the states, I would have missed a concert, ’cause the Straight didn’t have space for it with posts about Lady Gaga concerts in freaking August. Someone help Vancouver… there’s a kick-ass music scene with no journalists to cover it.

Pulitzer board: ‘Know who’s great, Hank f’n Williams’

April 13, 2010

The Pulitzer crew had one of those, “dude, we should totally… ” moments in bestowing the Pulitzer on Hank Williams. Williams appears to be surprised with the win, given that he stopped writing music half a century ago. I’ll agree that he deserves recognition, even when it doesn’t make too much sense.

The win has also spurred Hank’s son Bocephus to renew his clamor for an overdue Tea Party Fashion Luminary Award.


… please…

Who is this Mr. Beerland bouncer and how can I be like him?

March 19, 2010

funny pictures of dogs with captions

The bouncer at a place called “Beerland” is apparently a man of the written word. A NY Times blogger posts that he tacked this to the door:

“Once we are at capacity, it will be a one-in/one-out situation. I don’t care how many hits your [naughty language] blog gets a month. [More saltiness] Google analytics. And besides, bloggers aren’t real writers. Sorry, I just don’t respect you.”

What kind of conversations happen in the lines at SXSW? Do people really go around telling each other their hit stats? I can see getting annoyed by that. In fact, that’s about the least “rock and roll” thing I can think of. Don’t let them in. But, not knowing this guy, I’m imagining a Techno Viking type with a large collection of unread Stephen King novels and an issue of Vice kept conspicuously on his coffee table at all times. (Can you see him right now, pointing his finger at you and snarling “I’m sorry, I just don’t respect you.”)

Funny thing is, they may or may not be “real writers,” but SXSW is not a real music festival. It looks like one, and it consistently gets great lineups, but it’s actually a marketing gimmick for an industry that just so happens to have great things to market. This dude fills “Beerland” to the brim once a year and he gets to be surly to the masses of student journalists filling the streets. I’d love to be there, but let’s call it what it is: a herd of bloggers going to “Beerland” to see bands whose labels paid SXSW.

Alex Chilton died!

March 18, 2010

He was was only 59 and about to play SXSW with Big Star. His only real pop success came when he was a teenager, but he has had a huge influence on indie music and ’80s alternative music. The tribute and “I met Alex once” articles have just started, and there’s no doubt they will pick up momentum. I’m not going to add to that beyond saying I like his stuff. This is from one on Rolling Stone online:

Nobody bought these albums at the time, and radio wouldn’t touch them, but all three became classics. Big Star invented a vision of bohemian rock & roll cool that had nothing to do with New York, Los Angeles or London, which made them completely out of style in the 1970s, but also made them an inspiration to generations of weird Southern kids. Especially girls — for hipster gals who couldn’t necessarily relate to the abrasive machismo of Lou Reed or Iggy Pop, Alex Chilton was a dude who let female fans hear themselves in his music. Nobody was ever better at making Southern girls feel cool.

photos from

Quasi gets extra press out of WaPo error threepeat

March 4, 2010

After a review of Quasi’s new album, American Gong, the Washington Post’s editor had to make three corrections. That’s a lot for three paragraphs of mostly opinion. The main issue was that had an error. Amusing article about the mistakes and’s pervasive use in the music journalism industry here.

All that aside, Quasi’s a terrifffffic band and this new one is their best ever.

Wu-Tang Clan ain’t Nothin’ to Hug With

December 29, 2009

saw it on

Music reviewing 101

December 28, 2009

“I like everything! You know everything? I love it. You know books? I like all of them.” That’s paraphrased from random banter on the super-rad British music gameshow, Never Mind the Buzzcocks. I’m not  sure why I’m gunning for Yorkshire twice in one day… maybe because it’s a slow day. I originally saw a good book article I was going to link to, then decided against it once I saw all of this nonsense. I’m relatively sure there’s someone there responsible for the arts section, and he or she should consider cutting the star system and/or giving the reviewers some input on the way it’s supposed to be used. Otherwise, it’s York University Chamber Choir 1, Gary Neuman 0.

I’m not from the UK. Just wanted to get that out of the way, as maybe this is just a culture thing. But I have spent a little time in the dismal world of music journalism (the single biggest factor in my deciding to leave journalism, akshully). A four-star album or concert is a rare event. A reviewer will see a five-star show only a few times a decade, if the reviewer’s lucky. Or maybe a few more five-star reviews if the overlords say that’s what it takes to sell ad space.

But here’s how they roll in Yorkshire:

  • Review: Leeds Festival Chorus and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Wright *****
  • Review: Pascal Roge ****
  • Review: The Mars Volta *****
  • Review: Orchestra of Opera North ****
  • Review: Joe Bonamassa ****
  • Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs *****
  • Review: Gary Numan ***
  • Review: Manchester Camerata, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus ****
  • Review: Arctic Monkeys ***
  • Seattle’s best bookstore found out where I live, moved closer

    December 11, 2009

    I’m screwed. So’s Pioneer Square. Elliott Bay Bookstore, the best bookstore in Seattle hands down is moving from Pioneer Square to CapHill (my hood). As it is, I have a hard enough time stopping myself with all of the bookstores and record shops in the blocks around my house. I swear Elliott Bay tracked my moves, studied my ways, and is banking on the fact it is going to take every cent I have. Coincidentally, Sonic Boom is moving its record shop from 15th to right in front of Bauhaus, and I will have to walk by that twice a day. Drugs aren’t the only hustle in these here parts.

    I’m glad to see Elliott Bay stay open, but it’s really too bad they couldn’t make it in the location they’ve been at for almost four decades. That’s the place where, in our first week away from everything we knew in the Midwest, my wife and I saw a book reading by Tom Robbins. That’s where everyone in that area goes to kill 20 minutes. Elliott Bay was where I first knew I’d moved to the right city. It was the Dude’s rug–it really tied the neighborhood together (and smelly miscreants pee on it). Now it’s going to be in a place with no lack of hangouts and bookstores.

    Maximum Queen/Mario/Muppets Youtubage… This is great!

    November 30, 2009

    Two Queen covers, one awesome and one incredible…

    I think I saw them both on the Daily What, can’t remember as I’ve done a looot of surfing with school and work being slow.

    The Beatles: a look back in the year 3000 (Scottie Pippen was my fav Beatle)

    November 24, 2009

    Saw it here

    August 21, 2009

    Crazy good video. The music’s by a band from Berlin called Lali Puna. For more, go to 100 Thumbs Up. Nice.

    Heavy Metal Farmer

    June 9, 2009

    When I miss Des Moines, all I have to do is watch this video and I’m back. This is what the Des Moines music scene sounded like for years. Really.

    Kanye West: Proud non-reader. Readingarefun: Proud non-Kanye fan

    May 29, 2009

    I’ve never been big on Kanye, mainly because of his ego. He’s done some creative stuff; I respect his creativity and like a lot of his music (as in 3-out-of-5-stars-like). I’ve actually seen him live. But sooner or later his ego just gives me a headache. Nothing personal.

    BUT, now he’s a “proud non-reader.” IT’S ON… IN ALL CAPS.  Here’s the best part: “Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed,” West said. Self-absorbed? How would he know? He’s busy being self-absorbed. Can’t read a bit and still spend the rest of your time experiencing life? Prefer to get all you know from only the incredibly small number of people who are currently alive rather than from among all who have been alive? Perhaps find out that 99 percent of what’s being said now has been said hundreds of times before? Whatevs. Sounds like someone’s got to be proud about whatever he does, even if it’s something not really worth being proud about.

    Shel Silverstein sings with Johnny Cash

    May 21, 2009

    The Daily What dug up this awesome video:

    David Lynch’s new project gets odd, and the coffee in Twin Peaks really is damn fine!

    May 16, 2009

    I just got back from the diner from Twin Peaks. That’s a damn fine cup of coffee. We had the cherry pie too. It’s in North Bend, Washington if you are ever near Seattle. I really wanted the autographed Log Lady photo.

    Anyway, by now everyone knows David Lynch has been at work with Danger Mouse and a member of Sparklehorse on an album/photography book project  called Dark Night of the Soul. Very limited release, and so far it’s been mostly word-of-mouth news on the project. What would have been awesome will now will be an odd affair: It’s reported that the album was scrapped because of a record label dispute. So apparently the book will now be released with a blank CD stating something like “For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.” For now, NPR has a stream of the album, which has input from the likes of Frank Black, The Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop on it. Really, why does anyone sign with a major label anymore? Buy DIY.

    Leonard Cohen–Definitely worth catching live

    April 24, 2009

    I saw Leonard Cohen last night, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to. It lasted about three hours–he’s in amazing shape for someone in his mid-seventies. I will probably have to pick up the new Live in London album or DVD. Should pick up one of his books, too.