Thursday, May 26, 2016

Make America Drunk Again

Not so unusual to have a madman close to running our county considering America was founded upon the abuse of alcohol. Susan Cheever's slight but pleasing "Drinking in America" clarifies our major malfunction, beginning with the Mayflower's decision to put in at Plymouth only because they'd run out of beer. Those Revolutionary War stories of political and strategy meetings? In taverns, patriots shitfaced. Americans taking on well-armed British regiments despite being outgunned? Shitfaced. Civil War drags on for four years? Shitfaced generals. Temperance movement? Women tired of shitfaced men coming home from work shitfaced --or maimed because they were shitfaced while working. And publishers, if you're looking for someone to hire, I would've pushed for "Shitfaced in America" as title, if you were wondering how to sell 25% more copies. Susan: call me.

Nice to read this prior to Joseph Alexiou's "Gowanus: Brooklyn's Curious Canal," at least for context on the very central role the Gowanus creek played in the Battle of Brooklyn. Not Alexiou's fault that his book slogs through a 19th century swamp of boring city projects and political chicanery -- some excellent takeways, nonetheless, for local NYC history junkies: baseball played on ice skates for a time in Gowanus, and the particular history of getting Prospect Park planned. Of course the startling pollution of the canal and recent efforts to rethink it are solid, as is the section on the arts community's use of the factories lining the canal in the 80s heyday of NYC visual art. Would have been interested to know how many of them have cancer now, given the coal tar and lord-known-what-else they were exposed to, and sometimes used as site-specific installation materials.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blog retirement: over.

Elena Ferrante hangover: not over. After word of mouth drove me to the killer first of her Neapolitan novels, frustration with a library waiting list longer than a movie theater concession line necessitated my cash forkover for the next three (shout out to the Mysterious Bookshop, NYC). To say they didn't disappoint understates overstatements. Sadly, a fifth volume is impossible in a narrative sense -- taken together, all four make a cohesive Neapolitan novel, and had she been American, publishing for a larger press, and a man, Ferrante probably would have been pushed to make it a "big book" one-off to satisfy the publishing industry's occasional doorstop jones.  Because of Ferrante, I now follow Europa Editions like I used to follow music labels. They're my Drag City (Gene Kerrigan's crime novels set during the Celtic tiger: get them post haste).

Philip Roth's "When She Was Good" came to mind often while I read Ferrante. I wondered what she would think of him, in that many of her male characters seems to be plucked from his list of first-person narrators. If she hates him, he deserves it; she's his equal or better as a writer, at least in translation -which is so good as to almost be questioned; add in that Ferrante is a pseudonym, and she gives only one interview per country ... nah.

And dig: oh how Ferrante buries Knausgaard as far as the Bildungsroman zeitgeist; unforgettable characters the least of her gifts. Book one of his "My Struggle" (I know it's a sly joke to name a book "Min Kamp" but I'm not sure how funny, for a book set in Norway, Axis country during WWII) included a harrowing and unsurpassed, for me, depiction of an alcoholism-related parental death. Book two had me rolling...over, snoring.  Without a the grounding of a sensible tragedy, like in book one, the fictional Knausgaard is kind of a tool. I sort of knew this, I suppose, but it's hard to care about the type of sophomoric lout Kafka would have strangled if he had the time. To Knausgaard's credit, he'd probably agree. For a portrait of the struggle Knausgaard only shadow boxes, check out Asene Seierstad's "One of Us," if you can get through it without the panic attacks and nightmares that almost made me stop.

At the same time, I occasionally vacationed from Knausgaard and Ferrante by losing my Donald Westlake virginity, starting with his Parker books, written as Richard Stark. There's no greater polar narrative opposite for Knausgaard, short of Proust, than the Stark novels. But I'll be damned if there isn't a link between Ferrante's titular friend and Parker. They're both sociopaths. Maybe both murderers, in a utilitarian sense. The Stark books were the reprieve I'd wanted from the Knausgaard books, but they also had me realizing there was a bit more noir to Ferrante than she lets on. It's even more evident when you take her prior novels "The Lost Daughter" and "Troubling Love." No wonder I found them at the Mysterious Bookshop. Shout out again.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Seven Ways of Thinking About "The Art of Fielding"

Chad Harbach's Art of Fielding via My Laziness. Overused poetic trope, I know, but for book reviews? Maybe novel.

1.When amazing-hitting infielders lose their ability to throw to first, they become outfielders. See: Chuck Knoblauch, Gary Sheffield, etc. The book gives no reason why this change isn't made. Henry Skrimshander is the best hitter on the team. Which means someone else can play shortstop while his bat stays in the lineup. Coach is stupid, but team isn't, and would demand the switch.

2.This is about small-college love lives. Baseball setting could be Frisbee, & nothing would change.

3. Plot lines of aging academic - college student romances are gripping if you don't read much (and Blue Angel is the best place to go for that).

4. Plot lines of aging academics losing their religion with a college student are an improvement, but give him a (living) wife, maybe; otherwise, who cares?

5. There's one major female character. That's ok. She's ok. But one? See #4

6.The Art of Fielding is a book to read while reading other books. I still haven't finished it.

7. Since beginning The Art of Fielding last March, I've read, among other stuff: Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, Parry's People Who Eat Darkness, Benjamin Black's Vengeance, Hilary Mantel's Bringing Out the Bodies, Wilkerson's Warmth of Other Suns, Peter Carey's The Chemistry of Tears, Peter Ackroyd's London Under, Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night Dream and The Tempest, Graham Greene's A Gun For Hire and The Heart of the Matter, and maybe pages 503 to 613 of Pynchon's Against the Day. 

Reading is a sickness. Please send medicine in the form of books. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Last week: big for indie music geeks.

And the winner is:

Deerhoof - "Breakup Songs." Short and to the boogie-woogie-point, the point being your butt.

Cat Power's "Sun." I saw Chan Marshall in concert in 1997, and I saw her on the street last year near my home. Better-looking through chemistry. Better albums? Maybe. "Sun" departs from the soul formula of her last two albums, which, while admirable, had me listening no longer than I would to a Norah Jones album (34.6 seconds). 'Sun' also returns to the complex, beat-rich arrangements found intermittently on "Moon Pix," and includes the melancholy drama abandoned after "You Are Free." And then there's auto-tune and Moog stuff. Which is okay. It's her Radiohead album. It's an ok listen. And SFJ of the New Yorker was listening to a different album than I was, his talents eroding after challenging his I Am Critic! muscles by repeatedly wasting words on technically un-reviewable pop pap like One Direction.

Jens Lekman - " I Know What Love Isn't." Lekman lost heart halfway though this album, it seems. "He Don't Want You Anymore" is among his best songs, but the rest aren't. I can't listen to Paul Simon's "Heart and Bones" all the way through, and I bet you can't, either.

Bob Mould -"Silver Age." One of my sad,old-guy achievements: Still a teenager, I saw Sir Bob live in 1990(89? 91?) at the now-defunct Marquee with Tony Maimone and Anton Fier his only accompaniment. My ears rang for days, and as a 7th grader I saw Fascist Nugent, and he's a pussy compared to Mould in the volume department. My achievement? I haven't lead a champion's life, but life has lead me far enough to name-drop: Mould is a friend of a friend, Maimone is a friend of a friend, and that night's semi-famous opening band's svengali is now married to my wife's boss. I was still in more movies than any of them, though. They could name drop me if they dig 80s B-movie horror flicks.

And the "Silver Age" album? Once in a blue moon I dig hanging out with that old friend who goes by the name "The 90s," but it's still sad since he sounds slightly off, and maybe that's age, and it only makes me wanna go home and forget about time and not see him again for a while. Trick metaphors aside, "Copper Blue" is being reissued, and so hurrah, but then for me (and maybe you?) Mould's defining Sugar-moment was the 'Beaster' EP, which was not topped by anything he did post-Husker aside from "Workbook" and most of "Black Sheets of Rain."

The Loser: Animal Collective. No comment.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Arms Are Open But My Hair Is Thin

Heard myself some Arcade Fire today, and realized I hadn't listened to them much since 2006 because they make music that lends drama to those young lives that lack any real drama of their own. And now I'm too old for drama. Thus: the music of people giving up. Like Nico's Chelsea Girl, or any Hank Williams. Codeine. Alex Chilton pre-1985.

With maybe the exception of this.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ariel Pink, and Why

Ariel Pink first flashed across my radar maybe in 2003? A video on the defunct New York Noise (a tear falls): low budget, washed images of a live band, as inchoate as their impressionistic song, less a tune than pulses of noise, as if the Partridge Family had been embedded in a warped, chip-damaged Atari 2600 console.

And then I forgot about him. Until some years later, maybe in New York Noise's final year, I saw the vid for "Politely Declined," a lovely teenage symphony to .... maybe psychotic breaks, stalking, and opiates.

This was great too. 

Talking about his new rekkid "Mature Themes" in this past Sunday's NY Times, Pink states "If people are into it, they're weirder than I am." I'm weirder than Ariel Pink. I'm not even done with his previous album yet, and between that one and this one he probably made four more unreleased records' worth of material.

Today P-crack gave "Mature Themes" a best new stamp. Maybe, but this record isn't for mass consumption, in a good way. To wit: super-great single "Only in My Dreams" is only on the record in order to fool the straight-laced toward the real trip. Can't wait til some Wilco-lovin' or Rick Ross-lovin' Pitchfarters barf when their cloud unspools "Pink Slime" or "Symphony of the Nymph." When he sings "shemales hopped up on meth" on the sweet, bouncy "Kinski Assassin."

Although I'm sure he isn't serious, Pink sounds serious, which is all the funnier, probably, to him. It is to me. I can't wait til someone mistakenly recommends "Mature Themes" to their suburban friends who prize an ability to dig Adele, and Pink starts singing about G-spots ("Is This the Best Spot?"). No, this is not the album for Those People, although it'll be great if, somehow, it makes it there.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crying Like a Car-Struck Cat

By everything, I didn't also mean writing.

Forgive me, oh blog. My separately occurring lows (parental death, physical injury, cyclical thinking requiring chemical adjustment, etc) outnumbered my highs in 2011 and 2012.

But whatever happens transforms into never-again. How about that? 

The music never left. There were taste changes. There were hate changes. New loves. One of my young kids loves jazz and can play horn by ear (<-- one of the highs). My own musicianship weirdly flowered into an ability to play & sing the likes of Scott Walker and Nick Drake (another high). Weirder things have not happened. Although coming from a musical family as I do, and having done my best to abandon them since I was 17, and then being dunked under their roiling sea for a few recent, dark months can have an odd way of making  some of that prodigal stuff work like a sudden life preserver. Talent, I never knew you. Howdy. Stay awhile.

I'm also back because it's a tad enraging to hear better-paid content-spouts try to diminish their recent, online plagiarism by crying that they found it too, too hawd to keep up with the Internet Beast's relentless feeding schedule. You wanted to keep up with the checks, guys. If you don't have anything to say, don't say it, and don't get paid that day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010: Faves and Duds

The swirling drain owned 2010: Chilton, RS Howard. None is the number. And yet, Swans & Three Mile Pilot came back from the beyond, so, hey.

(not proofread. Like you care.)

"Troublesome Houses" - Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang (off Wonder Show of the World)
Oldham will never top this. So have sympathy for this album's other songs; while nice, none approach the melodic fountainhead of this heartbreaking paen to compulsive behavior's sad and inevitable destruction of relationships. "I once had a house / and my family knew/ where to find me / if ever they needed" changes to "but now they can't find me / they don't have my number." Thank God my two year old doesn't understand the lyrics, because it's the only song she wants me to sing to her at bedtime, and because it hits so close to home personally for her father.

As soon as a I heard it, I thought 'fuck, I'm gonna have to listen to this a gazillion times and get tired of it.' As gorgeous pop melodies go, total winner, and the eurodisco synth arrangement belongs equally in a Stockholm disco as it should pump from the lousy dashboard speakers of some 17-year-old girl's beat-up Honda in suburban Ohio. While the lyrics catch that universal dilemma of stagging it to a dance situation and watching your object of desire grind someone else, the triangle's gender makeup seems certain (there's "Stilettos and broken bottles" "I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her") until Robyn sings "I'm not the guy to take you home."

The bloopy bleepy, & it sounds exactly as the title advertises.

Like it before you hear it in a Levis commercial (or am I too late?). Also: Close your eyes, and it's 1993, and you're listening to Scrawl.

"Cloudbusting" -- Neil Halstead
Halstead (viva Slowdive!) does everything wrong here, from whisper-singing to attempting to cover the un-coverable Kate Bush, and yet his banjo, like Wilde's one comma, makes all the difference. Maybe one of only two Kate Bush covers I've heard in 30 years that succeeds (see the Futureheads' Big Country-esque take on "Hounds of Love"). From a children's album (Sing me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies) but so transcendent of that usual trash-bin.

Mark Ronson and the Business Intl
One of maybe four highlights on an otherwise swing-and-miss album. Lebon sings the silly chorus with his now weathered pipes (I only want to be in your ... etc) which we wouldn't believe and believe even less after Ronson's chuckle-some, Brit-accented, faux hip-hop boasting: "I ride around town in a chariot/I get preferential treatment at the Marriot." And the beat kicks well.

The Soft Pack - S/t
The best straight-ahead guitar album I've heard in a long time. Lots of healthy fuckyouness. They won't make bad records anytime soon, either, because the Soft Pack don't have a stylist, don't live in Brooklyn, and look like they surf and get stoned. They're funny and hate posers. Not a single track fails. Probably my favorite album of 2010 overall.

Gayngs - Relayted
They had me at their mutant cover of Godley & Creme's underrated "Cry," the best country song of the new wave 80s (that's how I always heard it), but the remainder of Gayngs's odd, auto-tuned-down and perverted r&b comes across like Tears for Fears giving electronically voice-modified testimony, in the dark, under a hood (thus it sounds like Peter Gabriel II&III) And then some cheesy brass cuts through the murk, and it kills anyway.

Capstan Shafts - Revelation Skirts
Relentless indie-pop, possibly overlong by five tracks, but there's no heir to GBV other than this one-man-gang. Improved studio skills have only hardened the punch.

Gareth Liddiard - Strange Tourist.
Perth's Liddiard is as good as Bob Dylan. Really? Yeah, really, and he might be better than Dylan because he hasn't made an album like "Down in the Groove." I don't care for lyrics; if something worked on the page without music, [Dylan, et al] would have put it on the page, wouldn't they? Liddiard routinely drops stuff like this in his haunted growl; here singing via a mail carrier in south Australia: "There are more things that you can know / than there are bodies in the snow / you don't have to be dead to walk the netherworld." With the Drones, Liddiard dropped similarly hard-wrought narratives ("She Had an Abortion and Made Me Pay for It") few other songwriters could earn, even without the Drones' rockist squall and gothic guitar noodlery. Here, Liddiard sets his guitar virtuosity (yeah, he's that too) to the background of slightly electrified acoustic picking, achieving a hybrid of John Fahey and Townes Van Zant if TVZ was angry as shit and sounded like Mick Jagger with an Aussie accent. Yeah. Sign on or ignore at peril.

Sadies - Darker Circles
Dark Canadian psych-country. What the Grateful Dead could have been if the trust fund kids hadn't taken over around 1976.

Aloha - Home Acres
There's absolutely nothing wrong with Gabriel-era Genesis, and these guys know it. They don't always ape the prog-kings, but the influence is there in the marimbas and keys. Aside from Deerhoof's Greg Saunier, Cale Parks is the best drummer currently playing.

Foals – Total Life Forever
They remind me of the Police, that rhythm-lock thing, and although Foals fortunately avoid being fronted by someone like Stink, 65% of what they do is intolerable, just like the Police. But I didn't stop listening to almost every other track.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Fucked up stuff. Truly. Billy Ocean on shrooms. "Round and Round" might be a Ratt cover, but only the bassline.

Caribou – Swim
Most electro noodlers sing, and most go back to pumping gas. Only Aphex Twin got away with it, and what he does can't really be called singing (because it's better than that).

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
I'm back on the wagon, Deerhunter. Keep it spacey.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
Didn't think it possible, but this never slacks. Proof BSS is just making records they love rather than towing the line so Springsteen can jump onstage.

Tracey Thorn
Love and It's Opposites
Which is indifference. I didn't feel that for this album, nor hate it, so it's love - because I'm an adult now. Thorn's insistence on writing about the life of a middle-aged mother of a teenage daughter while luckily hailing from England rather than Nashville is instantly endearing. "Oh the Divorces," if you're my age (this year it gets Bad), hits bullseye.

Richard Youngs - Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits
As if John Cale made an album with Brian Eno, and it really sounded great (wait a second ...). Youngs's eerie baritone-tenor floats above electro pops and whirrs until an undistorted electric guitar tears off a straightforward rockist solo, and then the whole thing spins out into spaceagain. Scottish funeral acapella set to 70s space soundtracks.

Hon Mentions: Wavves, Three Mile Pilot, Walkmen, Matthew Dear, Brian Eno's "Small Craft"

dissapointments & duds:
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way
See title.

Here We Go Magic - Pigeons
They're onto something, but I miss the space-i-ness of their debut. Here, MWGM forgoes Luke Temple's melody-ready pipes for a chugging jamrock that never really leaves the atmosphere.

Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard
Holy moly. The less said the better, and I love The Rhumb Line.

Sleigh Bells – Treats
And where do you go from here? Because someone does this every once in a while, this comes to mind.

The National – High Violet
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Mediocrity wins the day. And I think someone in this band must have stolen Nick Dawidoff's girlfriend, because his fawning, hyperbolic NY Times Magazine piece did more damage to the National's street cred than working on their next album with Diddy ever would.

Perfume Genius – Learning
in 2021, this'll embarrass someone who's 23 right now.

Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
It pains me. It ... pains me. I promise to try again soon.

Menomena - Mines
Did this even come out?

Gonjasufi - A Killer and a Sufi
There are hundreds of dub records from the 70s twice as good as this, and they all cost a dollar.

Working For a NFC - Jojo Burger Tempest
What the fuck happened? Are they trying to get out of a contract, or did the band dissolve during recording? At least they didn't buy matching cars and speed around town first.

Monday, October 18, 2010

semi-never roundup of newish album releases

But first, a word from Otto, our literary editor, on Franzen's Freedom: As usual, NY Times critic Michiko Kakutani's intern was reading a different book than I read. A surprisingly trashy (in comparison with The Corrections) 800+ pages of gossip following mostly unlikeable people as they fail or succeed despite their personality flaws, Freedom's only defense could be as a comedy, in the vein of Henry Fielding, Sot Weed Factor, et al. Yet I can't shake the suspicion that JF just phoned this one in, knowingly or inadvertently entitling the novel in reference to his life after the Oprah-money hit(s) his checking account. He certainly betrayed his literary intentions with The Corrections by denying Oprah in '01, back when no novelist with high intentions wanted that self-fulfilling notch on their word processor (nowadays, money talks&immortality walks). Franzen's first novel (The 27th City) remains his most entertaining, his second (Strong Motion) his biggest failure, and The Corrections his high water mark. Freedom is his gift to sales. I will bet beer that his next novel takes 20 years while he meanwhile achieves his current goal of becoming an eminent essayist, which will keep him off Oprah's list, forever and then some.

Fresh & Onlys - Play it Strange
A music writer needs to name the current (Wavves, etc) reverb-drenched punk pop movement. Oh, I think I should? Ok I, I will: Beachpunk! you heard it here first, and probably nowhere else second. The F&Os travel in Beachpunk's cleaner avenues, less distortion, more Johnny Cash/Sadies than Deerhunter. And, like many of Beachpunk bands, they owe the Rock-a-Teens a royalty check.

Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea
Enough tracks surpass and advance his work to date ("2 Forms of Anger" and "Dust Shuffle") to make up for those so reminiscent of earlier work ("Emerald and Lime," "Slow Ice, Old Moon") as to suggest outtakes or, to be unfair, lazy re-hashings; the fair argument being that when no one else, to this day, executes what you achieved in 1983, you can do it again in 2010. Fans like me have been waiting for this, and have no reason to be disappointed.

Deerhunter -- Halcyon Digest
Hurrah. I went away after Cryptograms, but I can return for this. Real songs, real songs, creepy reverb and clickety-clack percussion. Guitar in the right spots. Grownups!

Bryan Ferry - Olympia
If we won't have a new Roxy album, this could suffice. Immediate listens yield un-mistake-ably Eno touches, like the syth-keytar, or electric piano salted on most tracks. A pointless cover of Buckley-T's "Song to the Siren" should have been a b-side; otherwise, there hasn't been a more solid batch of solo Ferry originals (note I didn't say Roxy Music originals) since the late eighties.

Belle & Sebastien - Write About Love
I can't imagine being them. The bar is so, so high, and the fans getting so, so, old. I was never as gaga for B&S as some, and I suppose you're either all the way in or out. This release is no more than other albums, no less. I can always close my eyes and re-catch them on the Sinister tour. They were delightful.

Glasser - Ring
The duo is the new power trio. Glasser's perfectly executed combo of soaring soprano-alto vocals and inventive production leaves them acceptably unidentifiable from maybe five other current, similar bands. Their carefully placed quirks (yelping, hand claps) leave no doubt that NPR will do or has done a piece on Glasser.

Gareth Liddiard - Strange Tourist
Dudes try to write songs, and most go back to pumping gas. Or go back to pumping gas after they hear Liddiard, (formerly?) of the wonderful & noisier Drones. Solo con guitar here, rage-ful and dour, playful, sarcastic, and versatile -- he can bring it with tightrope walkers over Niagara Falls (Blondin Makes an Omelette") or narratives unique to his Perth hometown, all with turns of phrase grabbing a listener by the neck: "There are more bodies in the snow/than there are things you can know/you notice you don't have to die to walk the netherworld" ("Highplains Mailman").

Mark Ronson and the Business International - Record Collection
Anyone who can fully hate this is a buzzkill. What's more fun that a song matching Ronson's silly boasts ("My teeth are bright and my hair is clean / I wear Paco Rabanne like I was Charlie Sheen") with a chorus sung by Simon Le Bon? Or a tune about enjoying a bike? This isn't rocket science, it's tossed off pop, totally for sale, from a producer who's making coin and art elsewhere.

Catpsan Shafts - Revelation Skirts
Wowza. Most quirky lo-fi pop outfits seem to lose something when they go hifi (GBV, Blank Dogs), the trick being to go hifi before the songwriting powers have faded a tad. Like Arile Pink, the Capstan Shafts' mastermind Dean Wells has chosen the right moment, delivering a set (if overlong by three) of his best songs to date, rounded with a Superchunk-type rock arrangements sprinkled with power solos that, if not for their slight distortion, wouldn't be out of place on a Ratt record. Or a Superchunk record.

Zola Jesus - Stridulum 2
I'm not convinced.

Older but no less relevant:
LCD Soundsytem - That Happened
This might be the best record with a terrible single I've ever heard. "Drunk Girls" approaches self-parody, although therefore might also be his first legit hit. The less-ignorable rest of the album does it for me when my ear gets lazy enough for spiraling 1982-via-2003 guitar and oozing electro textures.

Beach Fossils--S/t
Finally, some youts' who listen to Felt and Durutti Column. Me likey. Live, a total failure, but I saw them with a brand new drummer.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffitti --Before Today
I think it takes appreciating what a mindfucker Pink chooses to be; much like Beefheart deconstrcuted R&B, Pink has chose to the do the same with eighties synthpop. "Round and Round" is not a Ratt cover, and yet it is.

Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang - The Wonder Show of the World
The first track, "Troublesome Houses," ranks in Oldham's top 5. With the size of his catalog, that's saying something. Also, lyrically, it sounds like he knows what he's talking about, unfortunately. The rest of the record? Good napping music, I suppose.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Release Roundup: Alex Chilton Took a Piece of Me Upstairs

New Orleans, you stole something from me, and I want it back.

Here We Go Magic - Pigeons
Not a turn for the better, but: moments. Less collage&mood and more Eno-ish pop than their still-unassailable debut. But - did Luke Temple injure his voice? On some tracks, he misses.

Aloha - Home Acres
What can I say? I just flat-the-fuck-out dig the emo Genesis (Gabriel-era, thanks). Darker, this one, but no less pretty and catchy.

Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back
Sometimes, while I'm not rejoining Genesis for a one-off, four sold-out nights of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" start to finish for a bazillion dollars a ticket at the Beacon Theater, I'm recording an abrasive yet innovative throwback, a 'melt'-era batch of covers of songs written by the African & Brazilian musicians I've employed over the years. I'm definitely not a great enough singer to justify orchestral backing on a mostly yawnfest batch of covers, like on "Scratch My Back." Hopefully, "I'll Scratch Yours" a tribute collection on which artists will cover my excellent stuff '77-'85, will asskick.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
Ted! With this, you're almost back. It was funny to recently hear P-fork trash your last album, in a track review for the new one, and then edit it out because they gave that last album a way overblown 7.9 when it came out, a rating so inflated, for your only obvious failure of an album, that nobody was embarrassed of suspecting payola. Still gotta' work on those sometimes corny lyrics though - "no one lives forever?"(Even Heroes Have to Die) c'mon now. Luckily, songs like "Bartolomeo and the Buzzing of Bees" make up for it, and some some.

The Soft Pack - s/t
All the wrong attention is being paid to the wrong guitar bands. This albums kills. "Parasites."

Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Bomb. What were they thinking? Like Lindsay Buckingham produced by Jellybean Benitez.

Fang Island -s/t
Spare me. Didn't Naked Raygun do this thirty years ago? Also: Please don't sing.

Magnetic Fields - Realism
Nice enough, but I'll take last years "Distortion," thanks.

Sambassadeur - European
You might not be stopped in your tracks, but Sambassadeur will never hurt you. As light as a fly wing, and seemingly ornate by chance.

Hot Chip - One Life Stand
Hot Chip, reliably decent electro-pop dudes, simply don't boast the songwriting chops to justify the handful of ballads on here. With auto-tune.

Rogue Wave - Permalight
Do I hear Autotune here also? Zach, you don't need it. Someday you'll drop a greatest hits album that'll be the greatest. "We Can Make a Song Destroy" indeed.

Surfer Blood - Astrocoast
If I didn't need the last two lackluster albums by the Shins, why do I need this?

Shearwater - Golden Archipelago
While it may not be a scintillating an effort as previous Shearwater albums, no other contemporary band could this ably execute an immigration concept record of gorgeous piano-based art rock.

Robert Pollard - We All Got Out of the Army
There's so much, Robert. So much. Here's a challenge: At the end of 2010, take everything you write this year, and force yourself to write only nine songs out of all of it. Just nine, and each one must be under 3:35. I suspect it might be the greatest album any of us hear for a long time. While this one surely isn't, it's ok, but Robert: there's so much.

Horse Flies - Until the Ocean
Don't laugh. In 1986, the Horse Flies released "Human Fly," one of the creepiest yet prettiest records of the late eighties (their 92 release, " was uneven, but no less unique). Then, as now, they're erroneously stamped as folk, or of similar ilk to the jam bands they share stages with for their infrequent gigs. But "Human Fly" was Cramps-inspired (said so on the sleeve), and garlanded with lush violin lines, and propelled by electric banjo so heavily delayed it sounded like an alien helicopter. Word was a member had been homeless, and when they sang of sleeping out among the pines or living where it's grey, you believed them. Their upstate NY locale has only grown more depressed, and so "Until the Ocean," appearing 20+ years later, is equally effective, with eerie standards ("Drunkard's Child, "Oh Death")

Four Tet - There is Love in You
Bloopy-bleepy winner, ornate, rhythmic headphone music for those who prefer their beats with beauty. Nothing innovative, though. Eurythmics did this 30 years ago with their aborted 1984 soundtrack.

Titus Andronicus - Monitor
If we needed proof that indie rock is being made by kids too young to remember any of the albums made by the robot who replaced Bruce Springsteen around 1987, these NJ howlers provide it by cramming 1000 words per song into bloodshot swamp anthems of forlorn love, drinking, and not-giving-a-fuck (all that noise about the Civil War? huh.). That sounds better than it is after 3 songs. I sure hope they know how funny it is that their name, on this album's cover, appears in the same font as Big Country's did throughout their career.

Clipse - Til the Casket Drops
ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Sadly, hip hop’s legacy includes a litany of riveting breakthrough records (Clipse’s “Hell Hath No Fury” being one of the ten best, ever) followed by boring albums limply celebrating newfound fame. Which means “Til the Casket Drops” might gain video airplay for Clipse, but rock-guitar-backed boasting about hitting the bling-time simply jumpstarts my narcolepsy.

Blacroc -s/t
I couldn’t pick a better rock band to collaborate with rappers like Raekwon, Pharaoh Monch, RZA, Mos Def, and the ghost of ODB, than the Black Keys, whose rock albums always retained a swagger other bands lack. On this, they don’t merely back MCs but add choruses and leads. It works about half the time. But EPs don't sell.

Gorillaz -Plastic Beach
Maybe. Blur fans will need to change their underwear, I suppose. Never understood the Blur craze, tho. Saw one of their first ever shows, found it very pedestrian.

Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
I found the duo version of FB unbearable. This full-band approach better suits FR's arena-pop anthems; it especially works if they continue to insist on singing with Scottish accents intact. Although they could have added a violin.

Stroke: Songs for Chris Knox - Various
An amazing lineup covering Knox's songs with and without Tall Dwarves, all to benefit his bills following a stroke. If that isn't reason to buy it, this may also contain one of Jay Reatard's last recordings.