Archive for January, 2008

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Listen local: The Franklin Kite

January 30, 2008

blog readability test

According to the Blog Readability Test at Critics Rant, the reading level of this blog is ‘genius’ — in the same category as The Economist and Nature, and considerably less readable than, say, Boing Boing (‘elementary school’) or the New York Times (‘junior high school’).

However, in my (admittedly feeble) defense, I’d like to point out that Cambridge, MA, probably has the world’s highest concentration of literate, geeky bands with overeducated lead singers. So instead of talking about bands whose lyrics are in the ‘yeah yeah yeah baby’ school, I get to enthuse about bands like The Franklin Kite, whose lyrics include words like ‘disambiguate,’ ‘conducive,’ and ‘malignant.’ Lead singer Ryan Hickox just got his PhD in astrophysics from MIT (and to celebrate his successful thesis defence, they held a concert). He’s still local though, having joined the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as a postdoc. If you are in the neighbourhood, go check them out at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square on Friday, February 1st, 2008 (I think it’s some kind of Harvard-oriented concert, but don’t let that put you off).

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MP3: The Franklin Kite – Miraculous

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Read: Love is a Mix Tape

January 26, 2008

Love is a Mix Tape cover

A friend of mine, who knows how much I enjoy making mix CDs, lent me Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, a memoir by Rob Sheffield, who’s a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. The book is structured as a series of vignettes, each framed by a mix tape from the time of the events.

I have built my life around loving music, and I surround myself with it. I’m always racing to catch up on my new favorite song. But I never stop playing my mixes. Every fan makes them. The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with—nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they add up to the story of a life.

While Sheffield does reach back to his childhood, most of the book centres around his relationship with his wife Renée, her untimely death, and the reality of living as a young widower. Sheffield’s personal narrative is poignant and well-told, and he paints a touching portrait of his deceased wife. I occasionally found the prose to be (in the words of Julien Temple and David Bowie) a little clever-clever, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable and touching read.

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Update [January 27, 2008]: By strange coincidence, Rob Sheffield is about to visit the Boston area. He’ll be reading from this book at Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008.

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PhD dissertation on Chicago House

January 23, 2008

TB-303

Specifically, on the rise of sequencing and sampling in the early 80s, the democratization of music production that was enabled by the use of inexpensive equipment like the TB-303 and TR-808 and the ability to ‘test-drive’ music on the dance floor before committing it to vinyl, and the resultant development of the Chicago House sound. Hans T. Zeiner-Henrikson, a PhD candidate in the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo, presented a paper on this work at a conference in Manchester. A copy of the paper, complete with QuickTime beat and music samples, is archived here.

Damn. I wish my dissertation had drum breaks.

(via RA)

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Play local: Harmonix

January 20, 2008

xkcd.com

An excellent xkcd.com shoutout to Cambridge, MA game developers Harmonix, creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Scroll down to the ‘bonus songs’ in Rock Band to see songs by Harmonix employee ‘side projects,’ local bands like Bang Camaro and Freezepop.

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Incoming! New music and upcoming concerts

January 20, 2008

British Sea Power at the Middle East

Three albums that I’ve been looking forward to:

Just released: The new Magnetic Fields album, Distortion, which Stephin Merritt describes as inspired by Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Psychocandy, ‘Just getting to a sound that’s raw and dirty and not inaudible takes a lot of work.’ Their two nights in Boston are sold out, unfortunately, at least at the moment (thank you, TicketBastard) but you might have better luck elsewhere.

Also just out, British Sea Power‘s third album, Do You Like Rock Music? Hell yeah, especially if it’s the new BSP. Unfortunately, looks like they don’t have any East Coast tour dates yet, but I’m optimistic.

And coming out next month: Heretic Pride, the gazillionth release by the Mountain Goats. They are hitting both high and low culture in Boston, playing at the Museum of Fine Arts and at the Middle East Downstairs on consecutive nights.

MP3: The Magnetic Fields – Too Drunk to Dream

MP3: British Sea Power – Waving Flags

MP3: The Mountain Goats – Sax Rohmer #1

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2007 in review: The National

January 19, 2008

The National – how I love thee. Their album Alligator, released at the end of 2005, may be the first CD that I’ve destroyed through overplaying (it hasn’t left my car for two years, and is now skipping uncontrollably), and they almost single-handedly elicited a trip to Chicago, where they played the 2006 Pitchfork Music Festival. Their 2007 followup, Boxer, with its gorgeously moody B&W photograph on the cover, matching the gorgeously moody music within, turned out to be worthy indeed, also going into permanent rotation and landing on a many a best-of-2007 list. But where The National really shone were in their live shows, which somehow manage to be compelling without being theatrical. I also love the way that the magnetic lead singer, Matt Berninger, can gracefully stand aside to let the musicians have the spotlight. I ended up seeing them four times, in three cities (and two countries!) in 2007, including two nights in a row at the Middle East, Cambridge, and they just keep getting better.

website myspace emusic amazon

MP3: The National – Fake Empire

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2007 in review: The Weakerthans

January 19, 2008

Weakerthans jacket

One of my most-anticipated albums of 2007 was Reunion Tour, from Winnipeg-based The Weakerthans, and it turned out to be worth the wait. Each song is a beautifully-crafted short story, marrying narrative, emotion, and music into a memorable package. The tales range from the fall of a high-flying executive, to the heartrending continuing saga of Virtute the cat, who has now left her owner and is struggling to survive a ‘Peg winter, to the best use of curling as a metaphor for relationships that you’ve ever heard (okay, possibly the only use of curling as a metaphor that you’ve ever heard). Small wonder they are starting to earn the sobriquet of ‘Canada’s band.’

Image: Weakerthans track jacket. Photo by Flickr user the queen of subtle, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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MP3: The Weakerthans – Tournament of Hearts

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Venn diagram for the indie rock snob

January 14, 2008

Venn diagram

From the webcomic Diesel Sweeties.

Buy the t-shirt.

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Capturing the zeitgeist

January 11, 2008

Apparently, I’m not the only person who thinks that LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” is the defining song for the year.

Pitchfork’s Top 10 Singles of 2007.

Someone Great,” also off Sound of Silver, is at number 7.

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Listen local: Hallelujah the Hills

January 11, 2008

Hallelujah the Hills upcoming shows

Boston-based sextet Hallelujah the Hills had an unusual trajectory, reaching national prominence early, as a finalist in Salon’s Song Search contest for best unreleased song in December 2006 with their eponymous fight song. Their debut album, Collective Psychosis Begone, marries complex instrumentation with tuneful power-pop – like Animal Collective, but much more fun to sing along to. Check out their songs or go see them at the Middle East Downstairs on February 16, 2008.

website myspace amazon emusic

MP3: Hallelujah the Hills – Wave Backwards to Massachusetts (live)

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The quintessential Boston New Year’s song

January 1, 2008

Pop open a bottle of bubbly – here’s to another goddamn New Year.

MP3: Dismemberment Plan -The Ice of Boston [live]

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