New Feature: The Passions

To get me back into the business of maintaining my own blog, I have a new feature in mind. This is no fly-by-night blog feature, but one I’ve been thinking about since I renamed this blog almost a year ago. It’s only parameter: I’m passionate about it. I passionately love it, or I passionately hate it, or I am passionately neutral about it. It will melt your face off. As soon as I find a suitable blog theme.

Wandering Rocks

  • Do you want to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but have shied away for its reputed formidability?
  • Have you seen its title top numerous “Best Books” lists and felt a deep and irreconcilable shame that you consider yourself a literate person and have yet to take on Western Culture’s highest literary achievement? 
  • Do you like people sometimes? Especially the aging English major types comically frustrated by contemporary culture’ vapidity and who vainly long for interesting engagement of challenging texts.
  • Do you really think Atlas Shrugged was best book *ever* written?(!!!)

Wandering Rocks could be for you.

Wandering Rocks could be an online reading collective that will take on James Joyce’s Ulysses on June 16th, to commemorate the single day Ulysses depicts, June 16th 1904. Participation is open to all. Participation may involve posting an entry based on a week’s reading or it just may involve making snarky comments from the sidelines. Hasn’t been determined yet. And I’m not sure how much we’ll read per week. Ulysses‘ density varies throughout. We’ll probably fly through “Nausicaa” and “Circe”, but then get slammed by “Oxen in the Sun.” We’ll take it as it goes and make the decisions in the field. 

However, the goal is clear. We will read Ulysses. And we will do it awesomely, by sharing our own insights and befuddlements on the text. We will help each other understand or we will share in confusion. Either way, it will be a blast. As high-minded and esoteric as Ulysses is, it’s all the more profane and hilarious fun.

I strongly suggest familiarizing yourself with Homer’s Odyssey before the 16th, but that’s not necessary.

This is your chance to read, enjoy, and marginally understand what is often considered THE GREATEST BOOK OF ALL TIME. This will be quite a feather in your cap, in a time when cap feathers are so very hard to come by.

Join the team and we’ll figure out the details.

Jerry Grit’s Year In Albums #13: December (The End!)

A significant shuffle of priorities has long delayed me from finishing my project to document every single album I bought in 2008 (for example, real life and things on cats). But always the completist, I will bring this to a close…a quarter of the way through 2009.

  • Andrew Daly – Nine Sweaters There was a funny comedian on Mad TV. Too bad he wasn’t allowed to be funny. Freed from that show’s painful banality, Andrew gets his laughs solo with longform occasionally subtle (and mostly obscene) character routines inspired by wearing 1 of 9 distinctive sweaters. Although you can’t see the sweaters (it being a recording and all) the characterizations are rich enough to imagine the sweaters. DO NOT listen to it with grandma. Or do, pervert.
  • Blue Giant – Target Heart EP A kinda pacific northwest supergroup: the Viva Voce couple with help from members of the Decemberists, Circus Lupus, Swords Project, Sleater-Kinney and Bradford Cox. But mostly, its Viva Voce on an alt-country kick. Which is awesome. The distinctive vocals and swaying guitar, filled out with the pedal steel, organ and fiddle. Also, stars in the Blue Giant phase are middle-aged massive stars in a transitionary period prior to becoming either a planet nebula or a supergiant.
  • David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today I haven’t yet learned to fully appreciate Byrne or Eno*, supergiants in a music universe I mostly like. And I don’t think I’m helping myself by starting with this album. It’s fine and there are some nice weird parts. But overall it’s a little too adult contemporary for me to be comfortable about it. That could be just because I’m uncomfortable being adult now.
  • Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life I freaking love it. Takes me back to the smart hardcore or Fugazi or Negative Approach. And still, they manage melodies and some neat uses of not-hardcore instruments. (Is that a flute in the beginning?). Father Damien’s vocals come in like the earth is opening up. Takes me back to high school, driving nowhere in small messy cars and watching other people smoke.
  • Dr. Dog – Fate It’s alright. They’re the Band, at an impressionable age, teleported to our time and embracing modern weirdness. Nonetheless, a step up from the last album.
  • Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill For those who can’t keep up with Beach House, Grouper might be the perfect porridge for you. Reverbed drenched vocals moving at a somnolent snail’s pace…like actually dragging a dead deer up a hill. I have yet been able to listen all the way through without a dose. So also perfect for insomniacs.
  • Hercules And Love Affair – Hercules And Love Affair I’ve made a significant investment in my attempt to appreciate Antony Hegarty. I’m not there yet. It’s always overkill with that ridiculous vibrato. And yet I have 7 albums of this. The disco beats here breaks it up a bit. 
  • Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue I don’t think I like this. Loved the Rabbit Fur Coat, and I can even defend that last Rilo Kiley album. But this one’s annoying. Is it a joke? That “Where’s Fernando?” song puts me through the roof. Along with “Bad Man’s World,” “The Next Messiah” (8 and half minutes and it has Elvis Costello) and “Jack Killed Mom”…yech. A lot of stinkers here. I’m still onboard with Jenny, but slowly shuffling exitward.
  • Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak I’m sorry, it’s awesome. A part from the irony of his critique of consumerism turned into a product (unlike Tim Fite and his excellent Over the Counterculture, Kanye’s not giving it away).
  • Love Is All – A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night Oh, it’s fun. But it’s not for the ages. And I do not need to have fun.
  • Marching Band – Sparks Large It’s just so nice. I bet these guys wear sweater V-necks and drop people off at airports. I like it because I think they’re nice. But not enough to give them a ride to the airport.
  • Richard Swift – Ground Trouble Jaw EP Indie do-wop? Who knew?
  • Rodriguez – Cold Fact Supposedly buried treasure from the 70’s and I’m not one to appreciate buried treasures from the seventies. But this one’s alight.
  • School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms It sounds like the brother from the Secret Machines hooks up with Au Revoir Simone. And half of that’s true. Also, this album compels and bores the same ways of the Secret Machines and Au Revoir Simone.
  • The Faint – Fascination Not as great as Danse Macabre or even Wet from Birth. Nonetheless all the elements are same and it still does what a Faint album is supposed to do. Which are good things.
  • The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound If Plato was ever to try to identify the ideal Jersey Band, I think the Gaslight Anthem are pretty much it. Other Jersey bands are only Jersey bands insofar as they share characteristics with this Jersey Band. Epic blue collar anthems from shore trash. Love it.
  • The Mae Shi – Hlllyh More ecstatic high-energy youth ranting. Does not suit my rocking chair at all. I won’t be seeking any of these tracks in the ever-accumulating clutter of my digital music library. But if one happens to come up in the shuffle, I won’t skip it. Unless I’m in my rocking chair.
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns Sounds a little too much like Neutral Milk Hotel. So much so it feels more like theft than homage.
  • Why? – Alopecia This is awesome. Cool beats. Smart rhymes. Self-deprecating white boys being inventive.
  • Women – Women I like the weird catchiness of the album. I even like the experimental parts. And I really like how the entire album hangs together. It’s one of those strange small albums I cherish, like the Ruby Suns’ Sea Lion I got earlier this year.
  • Camera Obscura – Underachievers Please Try Harder From a few years ago. I realized I hadn’t bought a Comera Obscura in a while. So buying an old one will do. No surprise. It’s great.
  • Isobel Campbell – Sunday At Devil Dirt The 3rd Mark Lanegan album I managed to buy in this year alone. But once you get past his cheesy growl, you appreciate that its more about Isobell Campbell. And it’s to its tremendous benefit.
  • The Delgados – The Great Eastern An old album from a band I don’t know I was compelled to buy for no other reason than I thought it might be good. Actually, it happens to be the second back catalogue album from a Scottish band I bought this month (see Camera Obscura). Seems to be a good strategy.
  • Starling Electric – Clouded Staircase Sound like Guided by Voices, but with longer songs. I like it.

There it is. All the albums I bought in 2008. All 176, give or take (but mostly give). Did I learn anything? Do I appreciate more? Maybe, but I’m not consuming less. So far I’ve already long surpassed my 2008 number and it’s only early April (but I’m doing much less buying…I’ve discovered the library, much to the librarians’ chagrin).

The more I have the more I want. Alas, it seems I’m like everyone else.

*This was written 3 months ago. I have since come to appreciate Eno and Byrne in their individual distinctive greatness. Buy Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World and Remain in Light.

www.StuffOnMyCat.com’s Moral Decline Confirmed

I recently tried to promote this wonderful and seemingly wholesome website, http://www.StuffOnMyCat.com, which devotes itself to the equation stuff+cats=awesome. However, I have since documented the appearance of some less-than-wholesome images. Not all stuff on cats, it seems, is awesome. Sometimes, it equals filthy depravity.

I had hoped that the site had just momentarily strayed from its family-friendly content. However, a recent post has confirmed that the website persists in perversion. This image of Kyle the cat was posted with the headline “Look who I met at the movie theater!

20090306_kyle2

Explain that to the children.

C’mon, StuffOnMyCat! Clean your act up. Stick to bows on kittens or cats in baskets. This walk on the wild side is not appreciated.

www.StuffOnMyCat.com Has Gone Too Far

I’ve been pushing www.StuffOnMyCat.com for the past couple months as a fun and family friendly pastime to indulge in heedless cooing of kittens. However, the site has taken a turn in the last few days with compels me to qualify my endorsement.

The site poses and, for the most part, proves the equation that stuff+cats=awesome. Harmless stuff like…

20090227_chloe…wicker hats…

20090303_max…a fitted yellow Snuggie thing…

20090303_boka_maylee…or another kitten’s kisses.

Absolutely adorable, without a doubt. And totally PG, unless you find kitten PDA offensive. However, recent postings have suggested a darker (but still furry) underbelly to the site.

For example, Tuesday featured “Latte”…

20090227_latte…in an image recalling the morally fraught Demi Moore in that scene from Indecent Proposal.

But we should give the site the benefit of the doubt. Without the pop culture reference, its just some bennies on a cat.

However, the same cannot be said for yesterday’s posting of “Big Fatty”…

20090305_bigfatty2

We are officially over the line. That’s not cute. That’s a semi-automatic. 

Greed. Violence. Can fetish wear be close behind? 

Let us hope this was a mere aberration. Perhaps the site momentarily lost its way and maybe it’s wiser for it. Maybe the site found that the equation, stuff+cats=awesome, is not as sound as it initially seemed. Perhaps the equation could be adjusted, so that (some)stuff+cats=awesome, but (other)stuff+cats=disturbing.

Today, it seems www.StuffOnMyCat.com has returned to its heartwarming decency with poor “Boris” getting out of a box…

20090305_boris3

Awww. Look at those toes!

Excuses, Stuff on Cats

So yes, I’ve been delayed in completing my 2008 project to document every album I got that year. 3 reasons:

1. As expected, December was a doozey in terms of CD purchases. I think it’s at 26, but I think I’m intentionally ignoring a few. Did I really buy “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”…uhg. Yes, I did. 27. And what am I doing with yet another Mark Lanegan album? Arg! He got me again. 28!

2. I am treading the uncertain waters of these economic times. I know: BORING. But at least I have 28 more CDs to sell. What is that, like 28 cents? 

3. I discovered a website and its two books devoted to the foundation-shaking equation: stuff+cats=awesome. Stuff like…

20090222_yoda…really unfortunate glasses…

 

20090224_mrpidzington3…really unfortunate holiday outfits…

…and the best stuff of all…

 

20090211_jarvis_martha…another kitty!

Ah! I can’t take it. I am going to scream.

We’ve spent the last month devoted to our own attempts freighted feline photography (which, btw, is not easy). We humbly submit…  

img_200411Stuff On My Cat as stuff on my cat!

 

It’s totally meta. 

Don’t try this at home. We all have graduate degrees. And we’re probably infected.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #12: November

I only bought 15 albums this month. It is the calm before the storm that will rain down recorded music on me. In December, I know will succumb to the suggestive powers of numerous Best of the Year lists. I will ask for and receive a lot of music. I will have to account for every CD I bought this year that I haven’t yet mentioned yet for various good reasons.

But before I face that monster, here’s what happened this month. I seemed to go for the freewheeling ladies this time, with some degree of success.

  • Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls appeals to the 15-year-old goth girl in all of us. Or maybe just the one in me. You don’t have Yes, Virginia… by now, whatever. That said, Amanda’s solo album is not the place to start. There’s something definitely worthwhile in “Astronaut” and “Guitar Hero,” but only because they should be Dresden Doll songs. The weaknesses seem to be when she goes beyond what I’m expecting…which could just be me and my 15-year-old’s problem.
  • Ane Brun – Changing Of The Seasons “Treehouse Song” is probably my song of the month. Ane Brun is a Nordic Dolly Parton, which is actually pretty awesome. It can be a touch adult contemporary though and I did not havethe fortitude to listen to her (or anyone’s) cover of “True Colors.” Still, “Treehouse Song” is an awesome song. Did I say that you should probably hear “Treehouse Song”? Please listen to the “Treehouse Song.” (I don’t really stand behind the video)
  • Deerhunter – Microcastle I was not a huge fan of their last effort, Cryptograms. I definitely liked parts. I liked fewer parts of the solo Bradford Cox effort Atlas Sounds. But now, it’s liked they took whatever made those best parts and madean entire album. And after seeing their excellent live show, I now stand fully within the Deerhunter camp. I am ready for a T-shirt.
  • TV on the Radio – Dear Science, For my money, they don’t hit it out of the park this time. But it’s no whiff either. No “Wolf Like Me” on here. Nonetheless, the Vores like it enough to collectively hop into the proverbial bed with TVOTR. I think they’re moving a little fast and that they should be thinking about their reputation, but they could do—and have done—much, much worse.
  • Parts & Labor – Receivers P&L got a lot better. Kinda felt ripped off by the last album, even with all the critical praise. This new almost makes up for it. I half recall reading/hearing the duo expanded by two. And I can say they became twice as good. Actual melodies this time. They went from No Age-type noise to Secret Machines-esque anthems. I would recommend it to all my dudefriends. Probably not for the ladies. Even freewheelers.
  • Lou Reed – Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse Lou Reed is like a freewheeling lady. And I don’t really know what to make of this thing. It’s a live performance of a concept album that I never heard. There’s an awful sax (hah hah! as if there’s any other kind!) and gratuitous gospel backup. And Antony is mooning on it, which is never a good sign. Still, where these elements would doom a download to digital oblivion, I’m still listening, and I kinda like it. That has more to do with Lou than with any change of heart regarding Antony, the saxophone, or rock songs with gospel backup singers. Those are treacherous rocks and Lou steers the ship clear. But I should probably know more about it.
  • Frida Hyvonen – Silence is Wild I kind of wish I was one of Frida’s ex-boyfriends. That’s probably why my ladyfriend hates her (but she says it’s the grating off-tune voice and mundane literal lyrics). Nonetheless, Frida’s expressions of nostalgia are excruciating in the frustrating funny-sad-important way that makes you want to be implicated in them. I loved her last album, Until Death Comes, as a perfect small singer-songwriter album. This one has greater ambitions, and it may not be perfect, it’s better for those ambitions. I hate songs about cities (or maybe just about New York City…and Memphis), but “London!” is an ass kicker.
  • Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love Cut Copy’s release earlier this year, In Ghost Colorshas been fungally growing on me and my freewheeling ladyfriend (gets no mention in Paste’s top 25, of course). But of course all the supercoolindiekids say it’s not as good as this album (oh, supercoolindiekids…your nostalgic attachments belie your avant garde pose). And this album is good. But I—the true avant garde—like the new one better. I may be burned out on eighties retro this month from repeated listens to Ladyhawke.
  • Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke Ladyhawke is freewheeling it back to the eighties. And yeah it’s a little gimmichy , but we’ve been hearing the eighties retro for years now (probably since we left the eighties), so it shouldn’t surprise or yield novel enthusiasm. Even though some of us may have lived through it, we need to dispassionately accept it as a valid idiom for expression. Once you get past the gimmicky synths, there are some pretty great songs here. Again, I hate songs about cities, but “Paris is Burning” is a new running song.
  • Joyce – Hard Bossa Brazilian lady recommended by Mac McCaughan on his superb dozen. Mac doesn’t let me down (Get Back Snowball, aside…which was probably more Bob Pollard’s fault, anyways). Lady’s singing gibberish (or Portuguese). I’m pretty sure there’s some pan flute on here. Nonetheless, it keeps pretty close to the bossa nova thing. So it’s “hard” insofar as it’s real bossa, not that it’s like metal bossa (which doesn’t make sense, but I was still a little disappointed). I like “Garota de Ipanema” like anyone else and this will keep me warm as the Wisconsin freeze begins. Plus, she sounds a little like a Brazilian Joni Mitchell, which is alright.

 

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  • Desolation Wilderness – White Light Strobing Straight up. I bought it on the strength of the album artwork alone and that they may sound a little like Deerhunter. A little, but it’s Deerhunter-lite. Deerhunter is expanding their sound while these guys are comfortably ensconced within hazy reverb and indecipherable lyrics. Palatable enough, but it won’t make any lists. Not that it should. They’re a new band and they’re on the right path.
  • Deerhunter – Weird Era Cont. This one seemed to be made with more of the parts I didn’t like from Cryptograms. That said, it’s still pretty great and better than Cryptograms. And, from the story I heard, it was released in anger because Microcastle was leaked early. An amazing feat that Bradford Cox can pull off two pretty great albums. He’s like Axl Rose, but completely opposite. Get him a Dr. Pepper.
  • Mates Of State – Re-arrange Us I am a little embarrassed I own this. And I wouldn’t otherwise admit it if it was not the case that full disclosure is essential to the integrity of this project to document every album I buy this year. I was moved to buy it for its mention on the Paste best of list for 2008. Oh “Best of the Year” lists, I am weak to your suggestive powers, even when I know you’re terrible (to my credit, Re-Arrange ranks pretty low on that terrible list, which to my mind, meant that it should rank pretty high on mine. I’m not sure it will.) BTW, this album’s alright!
  • The Whispertown 2000 – Swim The lead vocal is a little precious, in that lazy-cute-drunk way. I’ll still listen, but I need to follow them up with a chaser of Marnie Stern, or drill sounds. And they may be under the guidance of Gillian Welch, which can only mean good things. Good for Sunday mornings.
  • Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He When Angus Young finally quits AC/DC to join Deerhoof, they’ll be surprised to find their intended terrain well trod by Marnie Stern. She’s got the wicked licks (especially on “Transformer”…which I keep thinking is “Thunderstruck” creeping out from the darker less-visited corners of my digital music library) and she can appealingly grate like Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzakie. Definitely not for Sunday mornings. But there’s a whole week to get through.

Bring it, December.

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