Friday, December 09, 2005

Assorted Ramblings

Stuff I'm listening to:

The Shout Out Louds - Wow! Not a single track on their debut album that I don't like. A couple of them are real stand outs. A last second entry for my "best of 2005" competition in several different catagories. A really wonderful album that I can't recommend enough - kind of a cross between 60's pop and 90's rock. Plus, the opening of the opening track on the album (a song called "The Comeback") is the opening for the old Atari classic game (arcade and home) Pole Position. Took me a listen or two before I figured that out, but I'm still guessing it's intentional.

Matt Pond PA - Their latest album (Several Arrows Later) came out in October and I'm only getting around to it relatively recently. Good stuff. I've liked "chamber pop" for awhile (a new phase, I suppose) and they have a good sound. This new album has something of an autumn feel to it. Good for music while I'm trying to pretend I'm right now!

Ryan Adams - Finally. Ryan's third album this year (29 - out on December 20th) is the album I've been waiting all year for. I liked most of Cold Roses, his double-cd with his new band The Cardinals, but found Jacksonville City Nights left me rather cold. 29 brings Ryan away from some of the more country aspects of his recent albums and into a more personal style, which is what attracted me to his music in the first place. Some of the songs just break your heart, and that is where Ryan is at his best. I know he wants to be everything...rock star, country artist, etc. But this is what he needs to be focusing on. Just my two cents, mind you

Nickel Creek - Their latest album, Why Should the Fire Die is a simultaneously less poppy than their previous album...but less bluegrass than their debut. A bit of a cross between the two. In some ways I like this album better than either of the others and in other ways, it leaves me empty. It's good...I like it. I just don't know if I love it.

The Magic Numbers - The debut album from another "it" band from Britain. Came across them this week after listening to their session with Nic Harcourt on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic program (confession: I'm a huge Harcourt fan, in case I haven't mentioned it before - his program, arguably the single most influential radio program in America as far as pop music goes, has become must-listen material for me...and KCRW is a public radio station!!... check him out sometime. This is the guy who "discovered" Norah Jones and Coldplay in North America - for more info, read this profile of him from the NYT Magazine from June). The Magic Numbers have an interesting style...sort of Beach Boys meets 80's meets 90's. I feel their stuff is a lot better than their terrible review on (which I'm not going to bother to even link). This isn't my favorite new group of the year (that's a secret...I'll announce that in another post), but I do like the album.

Stuff I've been reading:

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem - Okay...I really, really liked this book. Loved it. I have the feeling that the other folks in the book club who read it either will not or have not enjoyed it as much as I did. This was a perfect novel in a lot of ways, even if there are minor little quibbles I could have had with it. I'd like to write a longer review of it, which I'll get around to at some point, but...I thought I'd point out that I've recently read and enjoyed it.

Goshawk Squadron by Derek Robinson - A wonderful little novel on the absurdities and pointlessness of war. A gripping story about WW1 fighter pilots and the reality that what they were doing was little better than murder in the skies...and a far cry from the "knights of the air" rhetoric of the governments of the time. A powerful indictment of war in general and a moving story. This novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize when it came out back in the 70s, but it's somehow less well known than his more "popular" novel Piece of Cake (about WW2 fighter pilots, which was made into a BBC/Masterpiece Theatre miniseries). Robinson has taken some flack for daring to speak the truth...that the fighter pilots of WW1 were hardly "noble" in what they were doing...and that RAF pilots didn't "win" the Battle of Britain. Both of these novels are important works of fiction as well as powerful indictments of war. Highly recommended - not for the faint of heart.

Gary Benchley, Rock Star by Paul Ford - Just started it. Laugh out loud funny. Plenty of references and jokes about music snobs, rock bands, Craigslist, New York, Brooklyn, the modern workplace, being young and hip, etc. Very amusing. The main character reminds me of KA, whom we all miss now that he's in Florida.

Things I've been watching:

The World Cup 2006 Draw - Right I write this. The Americans kinda got shafted out of a seed in the tournament, but that was expected (considering the same formula was used as last time and we're just outside the top 8). Of course...they say they're going to do the draw at 2:30 (EST)...but it's now 2:46pm and they've yet to really start. 2:30 was when the "festivities" started. Yawn.

Good Night and Good Luck - Finally saw it a few weekends ago. Fantastic film. I know Clooney denies it, but there are clearly some digs at the Bush administration and their demonizing attacks at anyone who doesn't agree with them. I wonder how I would have felt during the McCarthy stuff. Probably uncomfortable - but then again, my sympathies would seem to indicate that I would have found a home with the communist party. Hmmmm.

And that about covers things for today. I might have more to post later. Or this weekend. Or not. Who can say! Until then...stay cool!


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