Current Month

What the hell? Don't worry, that's right - "jon blog". Jon Stewart has taken over! Josh will be back in 2001. Bitch to Jon at

December 30, 2000

2:04 PM
(Obviously the Al Green worked. Jon, you hoser. - Josh)

December 26, 2000

My female companion of choice, who lives in Wisconsin and goes to school in Massachusetts and therefore doesn't get to see me as much as she would like (and vice versa), is coming down from WI to visit me today and stay around until the 3rd. Homemade soup and a rented movie are in the works for tonight, as well as our Christmas gift exchange. So, most of my day will be spent cleaning and preparing, in order to make her stay as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.

What music, then, to set the mood for a romantic evening?

Well, I figure I'll start off with my new Getz/Gilberto, in all its "Girl from Ipanema" glory, since I know the ladies can't get enough of Stan once they've been properly introduced. Then we'll proceed on to Blood on the Tracks for dinner. It's possible to make polite dinner conversation over Dylan, but during those chewing-filled silences, Bob's got words you can dig in the company of an intelligent person, yo.

What else? If Bob runs out before it's time to start the movie, I think a little Al Green is in order. It's a cliche, I know, I know, I know, but it works, mysteriously. Sometimes, you've gotta' go with what you know. So, anyway, I think I really need to pick up the Rev. Al Green's Greatest Hits today, among my many errands.

I'm sure more music will be needed later on, and I'll probably go back to jazz. Yeah, I know you're thinking "Josh talks about listening to jazz all the time, but he's still hopelessly single", but you, dear reader, must understand that even jazz is not entirely infallible when it comes to ROHmance, although Josh really is just a special case, IMHO. So, more jazz: I'm thinking John Coltrane's Meditations, since it's a short enough album (not a skronk monster like Interstellar Space), and it follows a very clear progression as an album: chaos, calm, beauty. You can't go wrong with Kind of Blue, either, but I think I'd rather throw in Miles Smiles tonight -- Miles Smiles has a smokier atmosphere to it when compared to KOB, chiefly because of the absence of 'Trane and, especially, the ever-cheery Cannonball Adderly, and the presence of Tony Williams' angular drumming. In KOB, almost everyone has a strong personality, which makes for pretty diverse soloing; in Miles Smiles, I get the sense that Miles is the central focus of the group and his talented proteges help reinforce his personality instead of asserting their own. That's all to a degree, of course.

At any rate, I'll probably be leaving "Bolero" on the shelf.

Also, before I forget: all of us here at jon blog would like to wish josh blog a well-deserved happy birthday! Yes, that's right, josh blog is officially one year old today.

Festivities will commence tomorrow evening, central standard time.

Goodnight, folks.

Jon's Christmas Loot:

So. I'll be blowing my Best Buy g.c. on a couple of CDs tomorrow and will get you my thoughts on my latest acquirings sometime tomorrow night. Also, last week I was sent Dylan's Blood on the Tracks from a well-wisher. Good stuff.

I think I will spend my Prairie Lights money on Of Mind and Music, by Laird Addis, who is a philosophy prof at Iowa and, in the interest of full disclosure, is also my cousin, through some convoluted genealogical maze. It sounds intriguing, and, of course, this guy's also related to me, supposedly, so I'd like to read it. I'm kind of afraid he's full of shit, though. I'll let you know by the end of the week.

The Dismemberment Plan, "I love a Magician"

Oh, here we go again!

This is a followup to Josh's prescient previous post: I was going to write about this phenomenon well before the topic was a glimmer in Josh's eye (it's just a cliched metaphor; it may not be true). Anyway, one night a few weeks ago, while avoiding preparing for my finals, I was surfing through a bunch of reviews (I'll find the link later, when Google is more cooperative) of Emergency & I. Most of the reviews were very positive, if not declaring the album the absolute greatest of 1999. However, many of them mentioned "I love a Magician" in a bewildered, sometimes even negative, way. Why is this?

Yes, "I love a Magician" is out there. But Jesus Christ, listen to it. It's fucking beautiful is what it is. Do you not hear Eric's bass-matic mastery? Everyone says they like the Plan's funky bass, and it doesn't get any funkier, L's & G's. Do you not hear Joe keeping time on his set, keepin' things together like Joe Morello? And, lyrically speaking, who can't relate to the black magic that is a controlling relationship?

But -- and more related to Josh's previous post -- I also like "I love a Magician" for external reasons. I like that last half of the disc much better than the first. The album as a whole isn't very long (45 minutes), but I like the last half so much that I think it could almost be an album in its own right, and this mini-album would obviously start with "I love a Magician". So, when the near-moribund "Jitters", which seems to take itself too seriously, a trait not found on many Plan songs, comes to an end, and Travis screams out "Oh, here we go again!", I get pretty damn excited, because the song signifies that the Plan are picking it up and hurtling towards the end of the disc, to the ultra-sublime "Back and Forth". Mmmmmmmm... anticipalicious... <drool>

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce myself... My name is Jon Stewart, and I am the Ebert to Josh's obvious Siskel, the Calvin to his Hobbes. When you think of Josh, I'm sure you think of French cinema and German art music; when you think of me, think of Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the works of Led Zeppelin. Still, like Ebert, I'll try my best to hide my essentially white trash values and sound like I'm educated and erudite. Or something.

Anyway, I probably own fewer CDs than anyone else who reads josh blog, so don't expect me to comment on anything too obscure. What I lack in breadth, I make up for with (look! 3 consecutive prepositions!) blind insistence. I fully expect to exhaust my thoughts concerning all things musical by the end of the week, when Josh will resume his public pontificating. As if that weren't apology enough, I probably won't be able to post as frequently as Josh normally does, as I am busy with holiday-ing. Still, I'll make a good-faith effort.

A brief bio, for those who care: 22, fifth year senior at the University of Iowa (NOT Iowa State University, for you out-of-staters), double-majoring in CS and Linguistics, lazy, poor, employed part-time by a subsidiary of The Man, Inc., 6'2", black hair/blue eyes, muscular build, devilishly handsome.

To bitch, send email to:

December 25, 2000

11:59 PM
With that, I leave you until January 1, 2001, in the capable (I hope) hands of my friend Jon.

11:57 PM
Against my better judgment I am going to list the rest of the songs here - I hope to say a few words about them next year (!) when I return from my holiday.

"The Flood"
"Casablanca Moon"
"Risingson (Underworld Mix)"
"Unfinished Sympathy (Perfecto Mix)"
"Sly (Underdog Mix)"
"Inertia Creeps (State of Bengal Mix)"
"The Plan"
"The Diamond Sea"
"Welcome to the Terrordome"
"Ysabel's Table Dance"
"The Ice of Boston"
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
"Norwegian Wood"
"Return of the 'G'"
"Skew It on the Bar-B"
"Da Art of Storytellin' (Part 1)"
"Da Art of Storytellin' (Part 2)"
"Wheelz of Steel"
"Elevators (Me and You)"
"Decatur Psalm"
"13 Floor/Growin' Old"
"The Night"
"Take Me With You When You Go"
"Be Thankful for What You've Got"
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"
"Trans-Europe Express"
"Girl from Ipanema"
"Highway 61 Revisited"
"Words and Guitar"
"Dig Me Out"
"Turn It On"
"The Drama You've Been Craving"
"The Size of Our Love"
"Memorize Your Lines"
"8pt Agenda"
"Twice the First Time"
"Your Revolution"
"The Thrill is Gone"
"25 Minutes to Go"
"Haitian Fight Song"

So, there you go - another fifty or so of the songs that I liked most, listened to most, was most changed by, or otherwise found it meaningful to list, for 2000.

11:55 PM
Arab Strap, "The Drinking Eye"

Scottish indie g-funk?

11:54 PM
The Dismemberment Plan, "Respect Is Due"

I need a woman, so I can break up with her, and then play this a lot.

11:53 PM
Arab Strap, "Cherubs"

I'm not sure what's more surprising, that it got me to buy an Arab Strap record, or that it got Tom to.

11:51 PM
Arab Strap, "New Birds"

I've never had quite the experience chronicled in this song, but the way he puts it, I feel that I have.

Modern rock radio needs more love (?) songs like this.

11:51 PM
Charming Hostess, "Dali Tzerni"

Modern rock radio is just crying out for a bassline like this.

11:49 PM
Diamanda Galas, "My World Is Empty Without You"

I still haven't heard the original - Diana Ross I think? - but I still maintain that by recordings alone, Diamanda's world has to sound emptier than Diana's.

11:47 PM
Thelonious Monk, "'Round Midnight (In Progress)"

From the Riverside box, 28 minutes or so of Monk practicing "'Round Midnight," with the tape left running. Listen to one of the architects of modern jazz fiddle with the pieces - what could be more fascinating?

Works surprisingly well as a drone record.

11:45 PM
"Gasoline Dreams"
"Ms. Jackson"


This entry was brought to by the letters "M," "K," and "J".

11:37 PM
Autechre, "Eggshell"

Merely helped confirm my hypothesis that they have always been from another planet all along.

11:32 PM
Einsturzende Neubauten

I read somewhere the bass described on this album as "subterranean," and that does nicely. "Nocturnal" should be in there too, though - which is too bad, because this music seems most fit for being played loudly at 3 AM, which is not such a good time for my neighbors.

11:29 PM
Thelonious Monk, "Japanese Folk Song"

Part of the reason I'm going so slowly through the complete Riverside recordings is this album, Straight, No Chaser, and in particular this song. Monk's music is very hard, very angular, and the production on the album and the music here just emphasize that even more. Compared to this, a lot of the Riverside box feels a little rounded-off.

11:27 PM
Thelonious Monk, "This is My Story, This is My Song"

My old single review still says it best, I think.

This Christmas I was reminded of what a great song "Silent Night" is, too.

11:25 PM
Lamb, "Cotton Wool"

Amazing - despite the stuttering drums, more like gunshots to the skull than parts of a song - it still feels like a love song.

And, am I ever a sucker for upright bass.

11:23 PM
Miles Davis
"Filles De Kilimanjaro," "Mademoiselle Mabry," from Filles De Kilimanjaro
"He Loved Him Madly," from Get Up With It

Main Entry: protean
Function: adjective
1 : of or resembling Proteus in having a varied nature or ability to assume different forms
2 : displaying great diversity or variety : VERSATILE

The tie to Proteus (a sea-god from Greek myth) is probably one reason this word seems reserved for especially towering figures: and Miles, he was fucking towering. Some time ago I told myself, "self, you've got to stop buying so much Miles Davis, or you'll never find out about any other jazz." But it's so hard to stop - he's got an enormous catalogue, and most of it is at the very least good, and lots of it is just plain excellent. Records like the above are overshadowed by In a Silent Way or Nefertiti or Bitches Brew, but coming from a lesser musician, they would have been career-defining. Miles just dropped them along the way to other things (though, notably, Get Up With It was dropped on the way to Miles' "retirement" and eighties decline). This is why I continue to buy Miles Davis records, against my desires to expand my knowledge: he's got more for me to learn than a million other records. There are things here, in just these three songs, that probably still haven't been adequately explored by Miles' successors, in jazz or not.

11:09 PM
"Youth Decay"
"The Professional"
"Was It a Lie?"
"Milkshake 'n' Honey"

I wish I had been able to write about this album, All Hands on the Bad One, right around the time of my epiphany, but I just couldn't get anything down on paper that I was happy with. Now a lot of that's lost.

There's something very artfully casual about their guitar playing here; many songs and riffs sound as if they're begun in-progress - as if you're hearing something that's already been playing for a bit.

Much has been made of the more reserved Sleater-Kinney on display here. Well, some of us needed it. I had Call the Doctor, on the basis of some hype that I bought into, and was a little disappointed because to me it seemed their great innovation was little more than "sing screechy and make everything else sound that way too." Oh, how wrong I was. The reservedness here, compared to Call the Doctor or Dig Me Out, only served to show me what exactly they were doing before. The vocals in particular seem more expressive to me now - and thus the older ones seem purposeful, not simply uncontrolled emotional leakage. To the contrary: highly controlled emotionas. Cutting. Piercing.

But it's the songs that pulled me in. I still think, even after being pulled in by the band's back catalogue, that these are their best, in the conventional sense, songs. And because most of their catalogue's songs still follow conventional forms, I don't see why one shouldn't take that as a sign of their continual development as a band, despite the qualms some people have with them becoming "more commercial" (whatever the hell that means - wouldn't you rather hear this on the radio than matchbox twenty?)

I'm still not sure how to take the gender-switch on "Milkshake 'n' Honey," and I don't think I ever will be.

In part, just the fact that this music hit me was enough to endear it to me - it had been a while since I had felt so powerfully drawn to an album. And this was after circling around it for weeks at KURE, playing a track here or there.

10:55 PM
Mr. Bungle, "Pink Cigarette"

So I was in the throes of the spring semester at this point, by now probably totally in cruise-control mode - hoping that my brain would get me through despite oversleeping, not sleeping, not reading, reading when too sleepy, etc. I must've been both very tired and very concerned about getting things done that day that I bought California, because, tucked into a chair somewhere on the second floor of the library, I kept alternating between drifting off, and waking up and flipping through some boring book, berating myself. And wishing the air conditioning was more powerful, because it was hot that day.

Mr. Bungle didn't make thing any better. What the hell is this? Are they serious, or not? About what, exactly? The most beautiful thing about this track is that you can't even play it to demonstrate to your friends how weird Mr. Bungle is, because it doesn't sound weird enough, until you've heard the "weirder" tracks on the rest of the album. Then - oh, then - at least for me, it sticks out like a beacon. It is, you see, a ballad - delicately, expansively crooned by Mike Patton.

Not good music for the sleep-deprived. Or maybe, perfect music for them. Later that day I was walking around playing "Ars Moriendi" on repeat. And trying not to grin sinisterly at people I passed.

10:48 PM
The Dismemberment Plan:
"You Are Invited"
"The City"
"Girl O'Clock"
"8 1/2 Minutes"
"Back and Forth"

It took me the whole year to be sure, but now I know that Emergency & I is one of my absolute favorite albums, above everything else save two by Miles and one by Low (and I don't even know how to compare them). The rest of the album is great, but it was these songs - not coincidentally tracks 7 through 12, in order, the whole last half of the album - that hammered it home for me.

What do I write about songs like these? Songs that I've listened to so much, in so many different times, places, moods, situations? Maybe that is, in part, why the album did make it so high onto my list (which is really just another way of saying, so deep into my head, so much a part of me) - hardly a day or two went by that I didn't play it, at least once.

I can tell you this: that if you start playing "You Are Invited" just as you walk out the northwest door of Carver Hall on the ISU campus, and then walk northwest whichever way it was I walked, through the forest in Emma McCarthy Lee Park, and then up Michigan Avenue, if you slow up just right as you're making your way up Michigan (because you see you've sped up on the way through the woods, hearing the other songs), "Back and Forth" will finish just as you reach the front door of 1234 Michigan Avenue, where I lived for 3 years.

My walk home barely takes me through "Gyroscope" now, so sometimes I get the urge to just keep walking.

10:35 PM
Sonic Youth, "Sunday"

Maybe it's slightly ironic that the song that helped re-open Sonic Youth to me is the "commercial" "single" from A Thousand Leaves, but hey, whatever works. From here I warmed to the rest of the album, great in its own right, and then to much other Sonic Youth that I'd never liked, never bought, or had never realized was so good.

I detect a kinship here between the center section and the solo in Yo La Tengo's cover of "Little Honda".

10:26 PM
Masada, "Bith-Aneth"

When I was a teenager I made it a point to learn the names of all the songs on my CDs, but I sort of gave that up somewhere along the way. Maybe it just got too hard - I was spending too much time listening to the CDs, trying to keep up.

John Zorn's Jewish roots jazz project makes things even harder on me, because all of Masada's songs are named in Hebrew, and thus not really distinguishable to me. I had to look the name of this one up, and it's one of my favorites of Zorn's - a slow, smoldering vamp in a Middle Eastern mode typical of Masada. The music makes a case for Zorn as an improviser, performer, and composer. Hey, Wynton Marsalis: what the hell is wrong with you?

When I think of the song, I don't think of its name, of course, because I can't remember it. I think: "that second song," it being the second song on the first disc of Live in Jerusalem. I also think of it as simply "<the bass line>" in my head, perhaps sort of subvocalized, however it is exactly that I "hear" music mentally (I'm still not sure how that works).

The first time I heard this was some spring afternoon; I had gone to the library to wait for Lisa, who showed up late and then took me out on the bus to where her car was parked. So, now I always think of Lisa when I hear this.

10:19 PM
Yo La Tengo, "You Can Have It All"

OK, so obviously I liked this record a lot. There's a reason it was at the head of my albums list. I could pick more songs off of it, if I wanted.

I could cite the hypnotic indie-fied disco shuffle, or Georgia Hubley's vocals, or the men's (I think James helps Ira out here) ba-ba-ba-ba-ba backing vocals, or plenty of other things as reasons for liking the song over the others on the record. None of those quite do it, though, because they're reasons I like most of the songs on the record.

Buy this record and give it a few months, dammit. It's good.

10:10 PM
Yo La Tengo, "Cherry Chapstick"

For a long time I was a bit let down by this song, the only guitar-freakout on And then nothing turned itself inside-out. Let down, mostly because for all the restraint shown elsewhere, I wanted a really big release.

I've since grown to like the song a lot. Most of the album is hazy, the way you would expect something that sounds so rooted in long-ago memories to be. The guitar freakout sounds accordingly hazy - warm, somewhat muted. More glowing that the situation depicted in the song might have been, experienced firsthand.

10:09 PM
Yo La Tengo, "Tears Are In Your Eyes"

I make it a point to not play this on my headphones. I've only ever cried a couple of times listening to music, but I suspect this one could do it. No reason to go bawling in public.

10:07 PM
OK, take a deep breath. I'm going to start throwing out brief thoughts on my list of songs for the year. I know I could collect these all on one page, but I feel I'll get a perverse satisfaction out of blogging them as I go.

Plus I have to mark my territory well before Jon steps in at midnight.

8:58 PM
I always love a good Christmas tale.

5:13 PM
A not altogether serious article about synaesthesia and music which Fred should enjoy anyway.

12:08 AM
Or maybe I'll listen to the whole thing.

December 24, 2000

11:41 PM
I still have time to walk home from my office so I can make a symbolic gesture (I do make a few every now and then, you know) and listen to Low's Christmas album. Probably just "Blue Christmas" though.

2:39 PM
Three thoughts

Last night coming home I heard "Silent Night" coming from a neighbor's apartment. It was enormous, with full orchestra, backing choir, etc. I hated it. Low is the officially approved josh blog performer of "Silent Night".

Second-period King Crimson is also one of the heaviest bands ever. In that they share something with Soundgarden. It comes, I think, from their rhythm section, especially Bill Bruford's "Chinese" drumming - undercuts forward motion just enough to make the beat seem slow. I heard Ozzy's "No More Tears" at the restaurant last night, and let me tell you, Ozzy was never all that heavy. King Crimson: heavy.

I am noticing that my listening choices are carefully skirting around the more depressing music I own. I hate to call it that, because it's much more than that - I don't want to be limiting - but at the moment, it's depressing. I would love it if I have some more Motown right now.

3:01 AM
Someone on r.m.p. said

I also listen with friends who are record collectors and after similar stuff. We usually have a large listening session meeting every Sunday afternoon where everybody brings his new acquisitions and we stay till late night commenting and chatting on music.

I used to do that with Damon. Just whenever new music arose, though.

2:56 AM
On taste - something I also often think about is, what could it be about some peoples' tastes that would make them not like this music?

2:49 AM
Also, Robert Fripp's "one note" (he really plays lots of notes, he just sits on on figure and modulates it upward repeatedly) guitar solo on "Starless" reminds me:

Once I was sitting with Damon, listening to I think some kind of jazz CD, and the soloist had gotten onto one of those bits where he played the same note, repeatedly, for a long time. Damon articulated the following, which I always think about now whenever I hear a similar solo:

It's great when they do that, because you don't know where they're going to go.

A little more on what he meant, maybe: even in rock guitar solos, where the idea of "development" is replaced more by some kind of standard of progressive freaking-out-edness, or something, the way most solos go implies a kind of direction, most times - it makes sense that they do certain things, because of what they've previously played. When a player hangs on one note long enough, the recent memory of that development is kind of erased - a brand new context is established, which makes for bigger surprises when change does occur.

Fripp's "one note" solo takes advantage of this even further, because there's a double effect: that of the tension and surprise from the repeated notes, and a longer-term tension made apparent once you realize that he's going to continue ascending the scale with his repeated single-note cells. So on the short-term, you get the one-note effect, and you also get it on the long-term.

2:25 AM
So I'm listening again to the new remastered edition of King Crimson's Red album, and have a few thoughts.

1. I am very stricken, at the moment, by how much my liking this music seems to be in large part a simple matter of familiarity and exposure. By that I mean: the music is at the very least well-done according to some set of criteria. The more important part seems to be that I find it acceptable. This is why it's called "taste" - there are affinities, similarities, with food. Ten years ago (?) I might have told you that my favorite food was steak. This is not so today (in fact, I'm not sure I have a favorite food). Steak hasn't gotten any worse, really, I think - it's just that I no longer have the same desire to consume it. Similarly, I didn't used to enjoy tomato juice, but I've grown to like it. Some familiarity has been established, built up.

When I first started listening to King Crimson, I was more receptive - my tastes were in such a state that it was easy for me to like King Crimson. Musically, I'm somewhat still receptive, I think, but if I were to pick up something similar, the lyrics would be a much bigger deterrent to me (King Crimson's lyrics not being terrible, but not the greatest in the world either - their most unfortunate aspect, though they are head and shoulders above most progressive rock). There's something fortuitous about it - I was lucky. Because it's good music in that first sense - well-done according to some set of criteria. (This is an idea I come back to a lot, that music can be somehow divided into "good by some rules," and "good because I like those rules".)

2. I love the packaging for this album, and also the remastered Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Slightly oversized cardboard CD folders, replicas of gatefold LP covers, with excellent printing. There's something more substantial-feeling about them because of the packaging. I just want to sit and hold them in my hands.

3. On a somewhat related note: I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I am still highly amused at one of the clippings in the Larks' Tongues notes. The new liner notes to both reissues include lots of newspaper clippings about King Crimson from the times of release. Larks' Tongues includes - get this - a columnist from Cosmo - yes that Cosmo - giving a favorable review to a new King Crimson album. And she's hot, to boot. I'm not sure what parallel this could have today. It could be a current-day Cosmo columnist reviewing The ConstruKction of Light, but a) King Crimson are no longer contemporary, exactly, and b) oh how far they have slipped. A Mogwai review, then, perhaps?

December 23, 2000

5:44 PM
And what's more -

It occurs to me that "we" probably shouldn't be sitting listening to Arab Strap. You should be sitting listening to Arab Strap, alone.


This summer I helped my friend Neil move, and we found ourselves in his grandparents' flash day-new car on the way back to Ames at night. And since we happened across a record store in Cedar Rapids that was actually open past 10, Neil picked up Elephant Shoe, which made for very quiet listening for the first forty minutes or so of our trip. Also very solitary - we didn't talk much.

2:15 PM
>So, we're sitting listening to Arab Strap, and what we're wondering is how
>important the lyrics are to an Arab Strap fan, as opposed to the general
>feel of it or just the music. So we thought we'd ask an Arab Strap fan, i.e.

A little from column A, a little from column B. For instance, at the moment I can only recall two of the lyrics from Elephant Shoe - the post-rave hallucinations from Cherubs, and the beginning of Pro (Your) Life ("you never say aborted/you always say terminated"). Otherwise the lyrics matter some, obviously, but in the sort of glancing way that lots of lyrics matter for me - I pick up words here and there, follow the sentences for a bit but then maybe not, etc. I can't remember what the lyrics to Drinking Eye are about at all, and it's my favorite song on the thing.

Also I must've listened to Elephant Shoe like 7 or 8 times before lots of it started sinking in - it was subsisting on mood.

2:03 PM
"fade it on outta here, I gotta go anyway"

December 22, 2000

6:21 PM

2:12 PM
Two Fugazi songs that I am just today noticing the lyrics of.

do you like me - your eyes like crashing jets fixed in stained glass but not religious you should pay rent in my mind like the french say bon soir regret a demain do you like me i guess white witness moves to petition the state of virginia for 27 prisons while in bethesda an office flaming youth group singing firemen calling in lockheed lockheed martin marietta do you like me i guess end of the lesson time for one question end of the lesson time for one more question do you like me

bed for the scraping - i'm sick with this i'm sick with this situations avoided or just missed? my own sweet time says it's tentwentyfour hardlyrecognize simple things anymore i don't want to be defeated this is the point this is the manifest bed for the scraping dirty little secret reason for the gathering consequence what else is there to do but go outside look around look around

I may not be keeping track well enough to use josh blog for this in the future - that's a matter to be determined then - but I think it will be helpful in letting me see what I thought of music before I liked it. Red Medicine, for example, the album that these songs came from, is one of my favorite albums ever. I can remember a time, though, when I thought it was abrasive as hell, and probably just plain shitty and worthless. Also perhaps reedy and thin-sounding. But these are all just suppositions, because I don't remember very well what I thought. I do remember that I owned In on the Kill Taker before Red Medicine, and that I found it used (because it still has the sticker on it), and that I bought it on the recommendation of someone from a bulletin board on the computer, because I was dissatisfied with how limited my musical selections were - even walking into a larger store, I had no idea what to buy beyond, mostly, what I heard on the radio. As for Red Medicine, I don't remember if I owned it when I came to college or if I bought it because Rob told me to.

During my freshman year at college I met Rob Ruminski, who is shall we say a "character". Passionate, intelligent, fervent, frustrated, uncouth, experienced - but devoted to so many things that I wasn't, like politics and labor and injustice. And also he thought most of my music was crap (some of it he was right about, but some of it he wasn't). So we chafed at one another, a little bit, but in good ways.

Anyway, Red Medicine was, he claimed, perhaps one of the GREATEST ALBUMS EVER, so for some reason or another (probably just stubborness) I took it upon myself to figure out why. Much to my roommate Damon's annoyance, because, really, it is a pretty abrasive album when you're not used to it. Especially the "singing"; the feedback that closes "by you"; hell, most of it.

I moved out of the dorms the next year and didn't see Rob much, and he dropped out anyway. I've encountered him again a couple of times, and we clashed some more. Maybe we will again.

The thing is, I can't remember when I started liking that album. Or how. What I thought. Anything. I know it was soon - maybe I can cap it by the summer after that, or the next one. I don't know.

You see, josh blog is also helping me build a framework for my memories. Which is another good reason to put those song lyrics up there.

2:46 AM
This week's TWAS is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Up to the part where the music review starts, about 7/9 of the way through. It's funny, that used to be my favorite review site, but now I read it every week for the preambles, and skim the rest.

Which means, of course, that the part I mean for you to read isn't actually about music at all. It's about Evil. And what kind of new car Kant would buy.

December 21, 2000

7:21 PM
And, though I don't know how I can indicate to you how remarkable this may seem without your hearing this music for yourself, it makes me calm and peaceful and sleepy. This jagged mass of honking and battering and dissonance. This is not unlike my reaction to Coltrane's other late-period work, and remember that I don't regard the fact that music can make me sleepy as a flaw - rather, it's a virtue.

If you don't understand the music within at all, Alice Coltrane's comment in the liner notes could seem almost like she's enjoying a cruel inside joke to which the reader (listener) is not privy:

The music of this album is reminiscent of so much of the spiritual joy and peace we felt during our most memorable stay in Japan.

6:48 PM
I can't really say that there's much "swing" in the way Rashied Ali plays most of the time, but it's very interesting how he suddenly plays much more conventionally beneath Alice Coltrane's long solo, about 40 minutes into "My Favorite Things". It could be mistaken for swing, even. He's still very choppy, though. I've always thought Elvin Jones' playing with Coltrane often had a choppy feel to it, which I suppose makes sense because of all the polyrhythms he played. Ali is far moreso, though.

Point of comparison: the drums in "Airbag" from OK Computer.

Alice Coltrane's solos are always ringing, flowery, full of heavily pounded left hand chords, and often right as well, as she blends together resonant clusters of chords with insistent, endless glissandi. Very, very different from McCoy Tyner.

When John re-enters late in the song on soprano, the sound is so pinched that it sounds like an oboe.

6:26 PM
The sticker on the front of the Arab Strap album I also just received, The Week Never Starts Round Here, says

First domestic release of the ARAB STRAP debut album. Containing at least one bonus track.

At least one?

5:39 PM
Among other things, John Coltrane Live in Japan has arrived in my mailbox, a Christmas gift from my parents.

I don't know how, but I expected it to sound as big as the sky.

It doesn't, but it is still very great. The 57-minute version of "My Favorite Things" (the sole track on disc 4) is: soothing, stable, solid, soaring, cacophonous, jittery, roiling, churning, majestic, inscrutable, intense.

Also, some questions come to mind:

  • Why was Coltrane so generous in alotting bass solo time to Jimmy Garrison? His solos are very good, but it still is a bit unorthodox, I think. Though it's not as if that were the only unorthodox thing about this highly idiosyncratic group.
  • What the hell is Rashied Ali doing? And why do I still like it?
  • Why have the Japanese treated jazz so well?
3:53 PM

6:24 AM
It's 6:24 in the am (see time above ha) and I just did a logic puzzle. Be afraid, be very afraid.

2:00 AM
Last spring when taking a philosophy of mathematics seminar I had something of a revelation when I realized that, because the people we were reading were not dead (this being something of a rarity in lots of philosophy), I could mail them and ask them direct questions about points I was confused on. Philosophers sort of having a problem with being one hundred percent understandable all the time, you know.

So I never did get around to that, finishing my big paper and the course without recoursing to direct badgering of busy philosophers. But it occurred to me the other day that when I get some things done and find time to finish Generation Ecstasy, I can bother Simon Reynolds directly. How cool is the internet?

December 20, 2000

9:06 PM
A sentence from the biographical entry for Roger McGough in my copy of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry copyrighted 1973.

In the early Sixties the rock group called the Beatles made their first reputation in Liverpool.

Oh, academics.

In context, this sentence seems intended as purely informationally as e.g.

Liverpool is a large industrial city in the north of England, a rather grim product of the Industrial Revolution.

which is the first in the entry.

I'm surprised I didn't see things near the beginning of the book like

Near the end of the eighteenth century a man named George Washington became the president of a country called the United States of America.

8:44 PM
So the last cut on that Coltrane album is "The Drum Thing," which though it has a head and tail with Trane blowing and some bass transitions for those, is mostly Elvin soloing. I would say that this is a prime example of how drum solos can be good rather than bad, but I don't really want to hunt through my CDs to find a bad (is that redundant?) rock drum solo, which is the likely place to look. On a live album no doubt. Oh, that's not fair, because I own some live Rush, and Neil Peart's solos aren't terrible. He knows his limits, at least. But it gets much worse elsewhere, very quickly.

Anyway: the Elvin solo. Churns and rolls. I think at a moment or two I'm even tempted to attribute psychedelic qualities to it. Yes, to a drum solo. He's really good. Really.

8:38 PM
I forgot below to say why the straight jazz.

It's precisely because of the emotional qualities jazz has, which qualities I've pointed out before. When I listen I have emotional experiences, but they're abstract, not the same kinds of emotions as I get listening to lovelorn indie rock or superfunk or whatever - and more importantly, they're not negative, for the most part. They unnerve me less when I'm looking for comfort. Tom remarked to me tonight that he usually pulls out the trusted favorites when he's feeling down. But a lot of my trusted favorites are not to be trusted when I'm down, even as much as I love them.

7:37 PM
Miles Davis' "Rated X" - the version from Get Up With It - is genius. It's similar to the version from On the Corner, but the band is busier and it battles Miles on extremely dischordant organ. The band is repeatedly muted with studio trickery, so that they drop in and out at a moment's notice, and the track is all the more jarring. The rhythm, when it kicks in at the beginning, is monstrous. This wipes the floor with all kinds of contemporary music.

Now, I know there's no "Rated X" on On the Corner, because I just checked. Ha. It so sounds like a mutant track from On the Corner, though. So I will leave things like this. I'll listen to that album again though - maybe it sounds like "Mr. Freedom X", and was just given a new name.

This too is amazing to hear, more amazing, at loud volumes. In fact it turned my room into a DENSE, SEETHING DEN OF FUNK this afternoon. I took it with me on a walk, which turned out to be a mistake as I was upset and the tenor of the music exacerbated things. By the time I neared home I was practically running.

So for the rest of the night I've been listening to straight jazz. Well, Impulse-era Coltrane and also "Ole", but still. It struck me that Elvin Jones sounded incredibly boring for Elvin Jones, on Crescent. So I looked at the credits and said, aha, it's because it was not Elvin Jones. But, I must have been tripping. It is Elvin Jones, it says so right here. It's been that kind of night.

I can whistle along with lots of the solos on this album, so I guess I'm more familiar with it than I remembered.

The last memory I have sitting around in the head about it is from a year, maybe two, ago - sitting in the extended entryway to the library, listening to "Wise One" on repeat, writing proofs and watching the pretty girls walk by.

It's a nice memory.

2:25 PM
So yesterday the manager of my local music store called me up and offered me a job (but retracted it when he found out I would be gone at the end of the summer) - he said he liked to hire people from the pool of regulars. There are obviously two advantages to doing this.

First, he knows that they know a lot about music, in some respect. Assuming they aren't coming in all the time and buying music that they don't listen to. Like they go shoot skeet or something.

Second, he knows the employees will turn around and spend lots of their pay in the store. Ha.

It was nice to be asked, though.

4:28 AM
Now listening to: Satie, "Three Flabby Preludes (for a Dog)". Ha.

December 19, 2000

11:33 PM
Listening to Autechre's Amber, borrowed from a friend because I still don't have it. Definitely bridges the gap between their first and last albums. However, listening to it I wasn't completely sure if it was before Tri Repetae, or after. (Before - Chiastic Slide was after.) It has similarities to Incunabula, for sure, but also to LP5.

I don't really know what to say about "Teartear," but it's very good. I would much rather "experimental" rap followed this up, than, say, rapping over DJ Spooky tracks. Or e.g. Kool Keith - he could sound more like he really was from outer space, less like he's from a bad porn flick.

A nice review by Ned again, too, in his endless quest to de-suck the AMG.

9:51 PM
One thing that must be kept in mind at all times when listening to Miles Davis' fusion era music: live, he played this stuff loud. So what about at home? Shouldn't we too?

The answer is: I hope the neighbors like "Calypso Frelimo".

9:48 PM
It just occurred to me that with my recent acquisition of Q and Not U's No Kill No Beep Beep, I now have a CD to file under "Q". Hooray me. Hooray collectorism. Hooray not owning a Queen CD.

8:36 PM
Now, I like rock music. Music with guitars and such. Insistent rock backbeats. Various kinds of yelling, screaming. Higher-than-normal frequency of the words

  • baby
  • yeah
  • no

However. If there's one thing I hate, and which makes me not want to hear a band, it's reading them described with "rockers" used as an adjective.

It always seems to come up when used by (a) journalists who wouldn't know rock if it bit them on the ass, and (b) people describing Metallica or Tommy Lee.

3:54 AM
Regarding year-end lists, "Chit Duree" wrote me with another very salient point that I really should've mentioned myself already: year-end lists generally happen at the end of the year, which means they're almost decided by the end of November anyway. But music that was good to you in June might not be in December, and music you hear in December might sound great, or not, and then sound differently six months down the road. Making a list at the year's end puts a too-arbitrary cap on one's appreciation. Couple this with the other problems I mentioned, and, well...

I should mention, then, the number of things that I put on my own little lists below, which I've only heard recently. The Mekons and Arab Strap in particular. Remember that my lists just pick out the things that hit me hardest, impressed me most. There's some equivocation there. Releases from earlier in the year have had more time to wear off. If I had heard Built to Spill's live album for the first time last week, I might've been enamored enough with it to mention it.

List as a snapshot in time; no claims to normativity.

3:07 AM
Splendid interview with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats.

I find it somewhat odd and cool that Darnielle currently lives in Ames. In fact, the new Mountain Goats CD The Coroner's Gambit contains a brief missive from Darnielle in the notes, where he talks about how he lives a couple blocks north of Emma McCarthy Lee Park, which is pretty much where I used to live for the past three years.

I think perhaps I'm a tiny bit awed by this just because CDs still have some kind of fetishistic power for me. Obviously. CDs are special, things out there - so when one that even garners national attention (I first found out that Darnielle lived in Ames thanks to Ned mentioning I think Darnielle's fanzine for a completely unrelated reason), even on a small small scale, finds its way to me, with a connection that seems personally relevant to me, there's something... unbelievable about it.

(Same goes for CDs that people I know have appeared on. Moreso even.)

December 18, 2000

10:55 PM
Richard Crawford is cool: an academic who writes about American music and has his head on straight enough to understand the role popular and folk musics (and performance and records and a number of oter things) have had in it.

5:35 PM
Miles Davis, Get Up With It - very nice.

3:30 AM
And another thing about year-end lists...

In addition to my not being happy with their focus on the past year specifically, to the detriment of the remainder (as if it were small) of one's listening activities, I don't like how they also seem to be regarded as things which somehow end the year: by December 31, if an album hasn't made it onto one's year-end list, it's to large extent forgotten about. There are a few stragglers the year later, but mostly, lists often serve as some kind of codification of the "good" releases of the year.

Listening is not a contest.

If I like an album, what would be a better thing for me to do, if I want to share how much I like the album? Put a "1." next to its name, or try to write (at whatever length necessary) about why I like it so much?

Of course, these can go hand in hand. But I suspect that the presence of a list engenders feelings of pronouncement, oracularity, in many writers. As if little needed to be said about an album with a "1." next to its name, as if it were self-evident why one would want to hear the album.

I like some lists. They have their purposes. Ned and Tom and Fred and Maura have all written lists that interest me, fascinate me, inspire me.

What follows may be a little presumptuous, I'm not sure.

In terms of writing, a list is a formal constraint. An organizing principle. Tom and Ned's lists in particular feel to me as if they don't even need the constraint. For Tom, the list feels as if it was the germ of the resulting collection of writing - it provided the guide for him as he wrote, but the end product, because he took the time to focus in writing on everything in the list, became much broader: encompassing thoughts on the course of pop history in the 90s, the nature of sound and music and the listening experience, Tom's own personal experience. As for Ned, personal experience feels even more key. There are 136 albums, because that's what seemed right to Ned. The constraint here was a limiting one: how else to cram your life, with music, over 10 years, into something to share with others? Answer: try to figure out which things feel important enough, and stop when you've got enough that that feels right too.

I like Fred's list because of its focus. Also lack of it. Maura's too. I care more about their lists because I like them as people. I interact with them. I'm interested in what they have to say about music, as I am with Tom and Ned, because I can connect what they say to the whole complex of things I know about them and their tastes.

I don't need personal connections to make music writing interesting to me. But it certainly fleshes out the experience of reading lists, which are an impoverished mode of communication when delivered with no sort of commentary or reflection. I'd be interested in Tom's and Ned's lists even if I didn't like Tom and Ned, simply because there are enough indications throughout the lists' contents that individuals' tastes and lives went into them. Compare this to the much-discussed (well not really) Pitchfork year-end-list, which was obtained by consensus - voting. I'm not all that interested in what groups have to say about what music was good, as opposed to people. That tells me that lots of people liked something; it often misses on the why.

(A lengthy analogy between grocery lists and year-end lists has been snipped here, but I'll talk about it with you if you're really interested.)

3:23 PM
I actually found this via Greil Marcus' real life top 10. But I can't be bothered to find the link to that again.

From Extracts from the Teenage Diary of Colin B. Morton, which runs in Clicks And Klangs, which is good and which you should look at.

Interestingly enough, William Hague, leader of the UK Tory Party, has recently come out in defence of a man who shot dead a youth who was trespassing on his private property. Even more recently the UK Tory Party has used, without permission, the music of Massive Attack to help promote the idea that we shouldn't have to pay tax or care about the sick. Hagues own logic dictates, therefore, that Massive Attack's Daddy G and 3D should have the right to shoot all members of the Tory Party dead for trespassing on their intellectual property. Either Intellectual Property doesnt exist, or they have that right. Hague cant have it both ways (well he can, but thats another story entirely).

12:51 AM
John Szwed, author of a book on Sun Ra, from an interview at Perfect Sound Forever:

The punks got on this pretty quickly- that he was a prototype of what they were doing. But Sun Ra began to lag a bit though. When he got into disco, the disco thing was already well under way. When he recorded Languidity, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was also out. He was really lagging. I really love that record though. It's sort of rare because people threw it away. It's a kind of disco where you say 'I know what this is' but it's kind of gnawing at you like warrior ants. He had the band listen to Donna Summer. One of the band members said 'Sonny, this is some corny shit.' He said 'this corny shit is somebody's dreams and hopes and aspirations. Don't be so hip.' He would be quick to move to these things. 'UFO' has drum machines and the band softly chanting 'UFO, take me where you want to go' over and over. It's disco but it's so perverted that you'd feel foolish dancing to it. He was ahead of things up to that point and then he went into other modes, one of which was to go backwards.

December 16, 2000

11:05 PM
OK, so I can't stand feeling like I don't really know it any more so I'm listening to Sonny Rollins' unaccompanied tenor solo on "Body and Soul" on repeat until I really really know the song. Then I'm going to listen to Monk's two versions from the Riverside box - one with Coleman Hawkins, and one with Coltrane. Repeatedly.

Hawkins established a definitive tenor version of the song in 1939, and for a long time afterward it was the mark of a tenor player how they interpreted it. So, what we have here are three of the most prominent tenors of all time. (The liner notes by Leonard Feather to the Big Brass album, ca. 1958, even argue that Rollins was the most influential tenor player of his day - I think it's funny then how he was maybe outstripped by Coltrane, whose first really big year was just one later with Giant Steps and his solos on Kind of Blue - or even the other stuff with Miles' band the previous year).

10:04 PM
Today I chatted, graded, lazed, and moped, not necessarily in that order (which is alphabetical). Not much to report on the musical end of things, save what I listened to:

The Jawbox comp mentioned below, obviously
Jawbox's self-titled album, the one released on Atlantic then pulled
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Live Seeds
Low, Christmas
Keith Jarrett's standards trio live in gay Paris
Sonny Rollins and the Big Brass

Still thinking about a list of songs for the past year.

3:45 PM
Jawbox, "Savory"
Recorded 6/96 live at HFStival, RFK Stadium Washington, DC.
From the career retrospective My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents

So, the part halfway through or so where the bottom drops out, and I know Kim Coletta's going to re-enter with this monster bass gliss, and she does: perfect. Astounding. Suddenly I am having troublle breathing, and I'm choking, I'm so excited at how right everything seems. A tear reaches my eye - one of happiness, not sadness. Jawbox, and Kim Coletta in particular, have kicked my fucking ass.

Thanks, Kim.

December 15, 2000

7:07 PM
repeat times ten
you're happy again

1:30 PM
Sorry for the sparse updates. I'm "busy".

Here are some walking songs for you to ponder.

"Five Man Army," "Protection" - Massive Attack
"Droppin' Like Flies" - Firewater
"What Goes On" - Velvet Underground
"13th Floor/Growin' Old" - Outkast

12:55 AM
review of a book about a handful of famous first performances of classical works (including Beethoven's 9th and Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps).

December 14, 2000

2:54 PM

Almost. Except for the grading.

This calls for some celebratory music...

December 13, 2000

11:15 PM

Can you tell it's finals week?

6:01 PM
you got more juice than Zeus
slingin' lightnin' tryin' 'a frighten

1:55 PM
And more importantly -

Malediction and Prayer is a live recording, but it's made up of tracks split over a half-year tour. Perhaps that's reason for the way the audience is faded in and out, but I think, more importantly, Diamanda just didn't want the audience in there - it seems the only sounds they make on the recording are those picked up by the voice and piano mics. Solo recording in a very strict sense, maybe.

Contrast this to Keith Jarrett's recent live stuff with the standards trio (in fact, most of their releases are live recordings), or his solo concerts. The audience is always clearly audible, surprisingly loud even, for their respectful applause at the appropriate places. So loud that it seems maybe Manfred Eicher deliberately attempts to capture the audience sound. That's probably not unusual for live recordings of rock music - the producers might want to capture the "live experience" better - but it seems to be for jazz.

1:47 PM
Diamanda Galas, "The Thrill is Gone"

Probably I shouldn't laugh, but it's hard not to. Maybe I'm laughing in part as a defense, shaking off how searing her singing is here. Yes, it's that "Thrill," a B.B. King cover, though in the beginning and later on you wouldn't be able to tell on your own, as she's barely voicing the separate sounds on the word, "the thrill is gone," instead running them into enormous shrieking howls. For the verses, she's more conventional, but no less awe-inspiring. I think motion, when they reviewed this, called her a true modern blues singer, and nothing fits better. Completely idiosyncratic, but totally in line with the blues tradition, in a way.

I think I shall include this in my Christmas-day listening, yes.

December 12, 2000

8:45 PM
No wait it IS

8:45 PM
Oh god if I didn't know better I'd say this was an IDM version of 'Bolero'

6:38 PM
GETchoo, ah ha
GETchoo, ah ha
GETchoo, ah ha
ah ha (in a falsetto)
this is beginning to hurt (repeat to end)

5:52 PM
Some days I get really good reader mail.

From: "Tom Ewing" <>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2000 20:53:57 -0000

Greg and I are worried.

Hahahahahahahahaha. Ha!

2:16 PM
yeah I think I'll write a haiku
yeah you know as well as I do
you got ta have a high eye kewwwww

2:05 PM
Christmas music, of a sort: in the middle of "Dawn" Slapp Happy break into a chorus of "Come, All Ye Faithful". Twice, actually - it seems to be their own chorus. Not sure yet but the rest of the song seems to not exactly have much to do with the faithful coming, etc. as I remember from church and Christmas carols.

12:45 PM
Soul Coughing, "Mr. Bitterness"

What's this? I seem to be dancing. Must put a stop to that immediately. ;)


I'm throwing this one in here too because, well, it starts with a J, which is rare, and I'd like to get rid of that list of letters over there eventually. But this is not mere J-tokenism! ;) Because it's good too. And I notice Tom has it in his current top ten.

"if you were the Baltic sea and I were a cup, uh-huh"

In Rachel Murdy, who performs the song on the answering machine, they seem to have found someone even more off-key than M. Doughty. Ha.

It even manages to work Al Roker in without losing its easygoing romantic charm. Ha ha.

12:40 PM

11:40 AM

10:03 AM
After that I suppose I should note that Maura, too has a list which you can read.

9:42 AM

I idly note that there are some people who just really like Sleater-Kinney. ;)

9:41 AM
I am also thinking about a list of songs, but that is harder because I don't have a big list of information to throw around.

9:30 AM
So, for the next list, I should acknowledge that I am making some kind of cutoff - things that I purchased this past year. This is mostly because it's easier for me to keep track of that. And I am lazy. I could look through the josh blog archives to glean a bit more information about releases of days gone by that I found myself particularly enamored with this year, but. Lazy.

Here is a list of I think every disc I've bought (a couple I've been given) in the past year. Because it just wouldn't be josh blog unless we showed you all the dirty parts that go into this list I'm making.

The preliminary list below I obtained simply by going down the above list, and saying "yes" or "no" to myself. When I said "no," that didn't mean I didn't like the release I was considering. Just that it didn't meet some unspecific internal criteria for being on this list.

This one just goes in the order I entered them into my computer, oldest to newest, with a couple out of order because I forgot to put them in.

Yo La Tengo - And then nothing turned itself inside out
Masada Live in Jerusalem
Sonic Youth - A Thousand Leaves
John Zorn - The Circle Maker
The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
Mr. Bungle - California
Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One
Talk Talk - Laughing Stock
Stuart Dempster - Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel
Miles Davis - Filles de Kilimanjaro
Thelonious Monk - Straight, No Chaser
Einsturzende Neubauten - Silence is Sexy
Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings
John Coltrane - Stellar Regions
Massive Attack - Singles 90/98
Autechre - Incunabula
The Sea and Cake - Oui
Dave Holland - Emerald Tears
Stan Getz with Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto
Shellac - At Action Park
Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out
Sleater-Kinney - The Hot Rock
Outkast - ATLiens
Mekons - Journey to the End of the Night
Arab Strap - Philophobia
Arab Strap - Elephant Shoe

So now the question is, do I want to do anything else with this list? What purpose would it serve for me to rank them, if I am even able to do such a thing?

Yes, I am aware that there are two Arab Strap albums there, two John Zorn projects, a boxed set, and three Sleater-Kinney albums. That's just the way things happened this year.

9:16 AM
And in case it isn't obvious, read that from top to bottom.

9:07 AM
Goddammit, everyone is getting all listy for sure now. So I suppose I should get to it.

This list doesn't mean as much to me as the one I'm going to put here later. This contains only things released this year. However, when I'm listening to albums I don't listen with a 2000-mind and a 1973-mind and a 1988-mind etc., so my relationships with my records are not so simple that I can in good conscience rank say the new Godspeed over a number of other records that I loved this year.

The order here is very rough. I don't like ordering things.

Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One
Yo La Tengo - And then nothing turned itself inside out
Arab Strap - Elephant Shoe
Mekons - Journey to the End of the Night
Einsturzende Neubauten - Silence is Sexy
The Sea & Cake - Oui
Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Shellac - 1000 Hurts

Some notable things are not here. Radiohead. Outkast. I liked them, just not like that.

12:53 AM
Open Letter To Nick Cave

Dear Mr. Cave,

You are a genius. Please record another album.

That is all.


Josh Kortbein

December 11, 2000

9:58 PM
Phil Turnbull was exceedingly kind, and sent me a CDR of Slapp Happy tunes, and one of three punk/post-punk type bands he was in in the late 70s / early 80s. I am not done with my first listen through yet but am already quite pleased with the Slapp Happy.

I would just like to take this moment to point out the names of some songs from the Art Bears' (a band involving members of Slapp Happy and Henry Cow) third album:

1. Song of Investment Capital
7. Song of the Martyrs
9. Song of the Monopolists.
10. Song of DIgnity of Labour

Now, tell me those aren't cool names.

1:46 PM
Maybe "wonder" isn't quite the right word, but there's a quality like it in lots of Sonic Youth's music that makes me think they were more prescient in choosing their name than one would immediately think. Sure, now they're prone to all kinds of lame comments from reviewers about how "they're not so young any MORE, heh heh!" But: read the noun in the abstract.

1:20 PM
Interview with LD Beghtol of Flare, Magnetic Fields, etc.

1:01 PM
And of course the lyric, from "Weather Report" -

it's indie on the radio waves

12:52 PM
The American Analog Set, The Golden Band

Some days it seems the band recorded this just for me, personally. Loud brushes on the drums. Vibraphone. Bass-driven impressionistic "songs". Warmth.

2:34 AM
Small moment of brilliance:

The way Matt Cameron keeps the cymbal going for two beats during the chorus to "Drown Me", right near the end where Chris Cornell sings the title, right before his dramatic pause.

12:50 AM
I guess I can't just let that sit.

1. The main point is that Evans is not unable to swing. Certainly it's not all he does, or even the best thing he does.

2. The worst thing about Crouch et al is that their criticism is built on a kernel of truth. The blues and swing (as a quality, not a genre) are at the core of much of jazz. But fetishizing some notion of "authentic" jazz which holds those two things as necessary components of good jazz is the most wrongheaded part of Crouch's thinking. At best it gives a head-in-the-sand "genre" that's cordoned off from the rest of jazz; much of the music that these people revere, after all, is really great. At worst, it excludes so much good stuff that it's just pitiful. Obviously Mingus's experiments with orchestration and tone rows, Evans' explorations of impressionistic harmony, Coltrane's "anti-jazz", Miles' modal and post-bop work, and fusion, Getz's samba, Jarrett's standards interpretations (in the vein begun by Evans, certainly), Dave Holland's (and Ornette's and etc. etc. etc.) group improve - obviously these things are all "jazz" in some sense. I'm at least sensitive enough to acknowledge that there's some rough dividing line - European improv people like Derek Bailey are off doing something else, related to jazz by virtue of improvisation's presence, for example - but to be as arbitrary as Crouch about where the line is is simply foolish.

3. "When you're swinging, swing some more." - T. Monk.

Jon, you really, really should reconsider your miniature swing diatribe below. As a genre, sure, I'm no big swing fan. But as a quality of music, jazz in particular, well... a lot of excellent stuff, post-Swing Era, swings. Monk. Mingus. Bird. Diz. Miles. Coltrane. Even Stan fucking Getz swings playing Latin music (it's the clave beat, which isn't really a swing beat, but it still has the feel). A Jew playing music from a foreign country, and he swings. What better indication that swing is not some intrinsically black thing, a la Crouch?

December 10, 2000

11:57 PM
Jon has a point (his missive to me follows below), but I am disturbed that he would give up such an important word as 'swing' to fuckers like Crouch.

From: I Was Invited <>
Subject: Josh, Josh, Josh...
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2000 19:31:01 CST

By arguing in Crouch's particular language of criticism, on his terms, so to speak, you lend credibility to Crouch and his technique. Instead of stating, "Yes, Bill Evans can _swing_", a word that Crouch and his trumpet playing sidekick have misappropriated for their own malevolent ends, perhaps irrevocably so, you buy into Crouch's assertion that swing is king. This cannot be allowed to happen.

I once read a transcript of a public internet "chat" with Wynton Marsalis. One participant asserted to Wynton: "Bach swings."

Wynton concurred: "Bach swings."

BACH DOESN'T FUCKING SWING. Bach does lots of things, and is one of the towering figures of Western music, but BACH DOESN'T FUCKING SWING. Swing had not been invented when Bach lived. Assertions that Bach swings is so much double-talk rhetoric that one is pressured into accepting simply for its creativity.

And have you listened to swing? Benny Goodman? Woody Herman? Glenn Miller? Dude, swing sucks. Swing, as a musical form, is dance music and is intended to serve an audience of dancers. Therefore, the music is wildly constrained, and only the greatest of musicians can overcome so many compromises to produce great work: Count Basie, sometimes; Duke Ellington most of the time; everybody else, hardly ever.

So, who cares if Bill Evans can't swing? We'll leave swing, which we have established as sucking as big-time as Dick Cheney, to morons like Crouch. Meanwhile, we'll progress beyond the limitations of swing, and we'll bop.

And bop Bill Evans can.

11:53 PM
"our love is the size of
these tumors inside us"

4:03 PM
A brief
rant about rock music and lyrics.

2:28 PM
I heard "Lebanese Blonde" last night because a caller to my show requested it, and it was quite pleasant.

3:55 AM
Soundgarden, Superunknown

I just don't know what to say.

I don't listen to this much any more. Perhaps it's time for that to change. Hearing it now, it's simultaneously as if I've been playing it every day since 1994, and as if I'm hearing it for the first time.

A lot of the music I liked before I came to college is very hazy in my memories. Perhaps this is just in part due to the way I remember things. But it must also have something to do with the way I lived and listened. Even though I've usually had a much larger collection of music than my peers, and I listened to lots of it frequently, I get the impression that I only listened to the same handful of CDs in high school, sometimes - this being one of them, for the last two years of it. My memories are foggy just because it's so hard to differentiate them from one another. Certainly, I was probably listening to one of Soundgarden, or Nirvana, or Alice in Chains, or Pearl Jam, or a number of other things, at any given moment. It all blurs together.

Which is why this record seems like I never left it. But I did leave it, sometime after I first moved into an apartment. I wouldn't be so quick to label my attitude 'snobbery,' but it was something akin to it. Much of my old music just didn't seem right for me any more.

That leaving it did something for me, though - it's allowed me to hear the record in a new light. The production, the singing, the winding (everyone always says 'winding') guitar lines... they're all just the kinds of things that I stand in awe of in other music I currently like. The psychedelia, sorely underappreciated by me years back - maybe I did appreciate it, but I didn't know that I did, or why, just that it was fucking cool how there was all this noise whenever Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell played their guitars. And it's heavy. Oh, god, is it heavy. Whenever I hear a nu-metal track on the radio or wherever - this includes rap-metal, post-grunge ripoffs like Godsmack, and whatever else it is exactly that populates the charts these days - I'm sorely disappointed by how lightweight it seems. This is the kind of mainstream metal that angst-ridden, pissed-off teens are being fed these days? Sheesh. "4th of July" has to be one of the heaviest songs, ever, period.

Hearing this, it seems eminently reasonable that I would get into King Crimson a couple years later. And that I would prefer the Wetton-era band. And that I would not particularly care for lots of other first-stream progressive rock. And that I would pick up an interest in noisy shit.

Listen to it, it's great. Even 'Black Hole Sun' and 'Spoonman'.

I think I probably went a little deafer tonight.


I don't know. There are so many things I want to say about this music, so many that I have no idea where to start. This is one of my favorite records, and I had better not fucking forget it again.

December 9, 2000

8:15 PM
I'm not sure but I think YLT's "One P.M. Again" is about oatmeal.

6:53 PM
Stanley Crouch can suck it.
Yes, Bill Evans can swing.

6:27 maybe
Listened to: the Raincoats' (somewhat) new EP Extended Play, recorded after their reformation due in large part to Kurt Cobain, to whom they dedicate the EP. Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley drums (as drummers tend to do). Some of it is interesting but so far I don't like it nearly as much as the old Raincoats I heard a few days ago, via mp3.

One impression I do get very strongly: that they had fun.

2:33 PM
What I listened to last night and this morning and afternoon:

John Coltrane, Ole Coltrane. Thelonious Monk, live somewhere (disc 14 from the Riverside box). Arab Strap, Elephant Shoe. Fripp and Eno.

Something else which I can't remember right now.

December 8, 2000

8:21 PM
Today I was listening to Dig Me Out and it occurred to me that I didn't know how I would describe Sleater-Kinney to people who had never heard them - like, people with little musical knowledge, besides. "Punk" (or "punk fucking rock") don't seem entirely accurate. Though they are definitely, at least, punk fucking rock. "Girl-punk," my first thought, I discarded because a) it gives people the wrong impression, b) they're more punk fucking rock than that, and c) in a very important sense it really doesn't matter that they're women, even though it does matter, in a very different, important sense. And S-K are far, far more than "a rock band." So, I'm not left with much.

"Sleater-Kinney are a band."

8:09 PM
Two things that have stuck out at me already about Generation Ecstasy:

"Unlike rock music, rave isn't built around lyrics. For the critic this requires a shift of emphasis, so that you no longer ask what the music 'means' but how it works. What is the affective charge of a certain kind of bass sound, of a particular rhythm? Rave music represents a fundamental break with rock, or at least the dominant English Lit and socialist realist paradigms of rock criticism, which focus on songs and storytelling. Where rock relates an experience (autobiographical or imaginary), rave constructs an experience. Bypassing interpretation, the listener is hurled into a vortex of heightened sensations, abstract emotions, and artificial energies."

Maybe I'm just fucked up, but I want to ask both questions - what it means, how it works. Good rock criticism certainly can't overlook how the music works. How else do you get at the way a bassline makes you feel? And how can you not find so much rock to be a "vortex of heightened sensations, abstract emotions, and artificial energies"?

OK, it was only one thing.

5:47 PM
The Neutral Milk Hotel song "A Baby for Pree" always makes me think of the Simpsons. Compare.

"...and with bees in her breath..."

Homer: Or what? You'll release the dogs, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you? Well, go ahead -- do your worst!

3:20 PM
Mr. Daddino, you are bangin'. And also a bit evil for sending me Generation Ecstasy before I've finished with my finals. ;) Thanks all the same though. :)

12:07 PM
I never knew about
this - the difference between UK and US releases. Apparently I own the UK release. I wonder how that happened.

12:06 PM
A good article slash interview with Mangum circa Avery Island.

11:56 AM
"Song Against Sex" - Neutral Milk Hotel

Oh, this is sooo one of the absolute best lines in music, ever. About this there shall be no argument.

and all the drugs that I don't have the guts to take to soothe my mind so I'm always sober

Really the part before "so" fits together as one lyrical line, and the rest with the next line, but it's vital to get that last rush in there, the "so" almost completely subsumed into the surrounding syllables, because Mangum is singing so perfectly in sync with the band that he just can't give that up.

But, the first part. How to explain it? I'm not sure if I can. If you can't hear his delivery here - rapidfire syllables spilling forth almost apparently by accident, but still deadly rhythmic - then, well, goddammit, go listen to the song yourself. You've got Napster, use it.

1:36 AM
Tonight I listened to a couple more things I've otherwise neglected over the past year (the Damon & Naomi being another such disc): Pole's 3 and Lambchop's Nixon.

I liked the Pole fine when I first heard it. I suppose I haven't listened to it much since then just because I haven't really felt like it. In some ways the record is very specific - it's got a very peculiar sound, sort of a combination of expansiveness and claustrophobia. Tonight I constantly had the impression that someone was in the room when it was playing. It's also got a very contradictory motion to it - very static, slowly changing, yet the bass lines are very jumpy, owing probably to the dub influence. Yet: at the same time, it seems as if it should be a very adaptable piece of music, appropriate to play at many different times. Perhaps I've just been too focused on other music to take advantage of that adaptability.

Lambchop. Lambchop. Hmmm. I'm still not sure what to make of it. When I first bought it it was very much not what I wanted to hear, so I didn't, for quite some time. I've listened to it a couple of times since then - and this is like 6 months ago. But it never really made much of an impression. Tonight I found it pleasant, if still slightly distasteful in places (I don't like being reminded of the music playing in doctors' offices and other waiting-room type places, which is where I'm sent, immediately, by a lot of the string arrangements; also, Kurt Wagner's falsetto often seems overly affected). At times I wanted to go to sleep - and I regard that as a compliment. Still, though, I don't find myself jumping up to hear it again - and once through was plenty.

This reminds me of Cat Power's Covers Record, which I bought at the same time as the Lambchop, and which I've also not listened to in a while, though I've heard it more than Nixon. It's a good record, not outstanding, but very decent. So why haven't I listened to it more? Good question. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" will probably be among my favorite tracks of the year. So... hmmm.

1:25 AM
Annotated Yo La Tengo discography - comments from the band members themselves.

December 7, 2000

10:33 PM
And -

I seem to be in agreement with all the reviews I've read - the two longest songs, "The Great Wall" and "Tanka," are the best of the lot. Though the guitar freakout at the end of the former gets a little overwrought, I think.

Notably, these two tracks are longer because they have more stretched out instrumental passages. Which equals less Damon singing, and less Naomi singing. Something to think about.

10:22 PM
So I gave Damon & Naomi with Ghost another try tonight. It went better - I found myself pleased, in a passive sort of way, by lots of the music. But at the worst moments I found myself thinking, variously

  • fey, fey, fey
  • boy would I like to smack Damon Krukowski in the nose
  • (or maybe a nice sucker punch right in the gut)
  • am I sitting in a goddamn coffee shop? what is this?

So, reaction still mixed.

1:26 AM
I don't have ideas in this form very often, but it really seems best to say things with a
picture here.

(I'm not quite ready for the notebook yet though, Maura.)

December 6, 2000

7:07 PM
I wanted something a little less singlemindedly bleak. So I took off Arab Strap and put on some Morphine.

I understand some might not see this as much of an improvement.

1:12 AM
Have been listening to: Arab Strap, Elephant Shoe, since coming home after a dreary sleepless day. So of course I conked out (I was hoping to make it to midnight so I could try for a normal sleep cycle plus a bit). So in and out of sleep, plus since being awake for the past 4 hours, I've listened to this a lot. I still don't know what he's singing, and I'm not sure how much of that is due to my being really really tired, or to Moffat's lyrics being less prominent here. I'm amazed by how captivated I am by the music, because so much of it seems kind of lame at first. Well, not lame: as if it should be lame. I did think it was lame, when the album originally came out, and I heard a few tracks.

Hearing "Cherub" repeatedly was what got me interested, eventually. So I must note the irony in this, because the beat (from a drum machine!) in the song is remarkable like the ones I've been talking to Tim (see immediately below) about. It is, of course, a bedroom-recording style kind of 4-4 beat, but, you know.

1:00 AM
Well, of course there are usually
other elements that interact with the primary beat - I don't think that my focusing in on specific parts leads me to neglect those other elements, in general. It's just that the beat overrules those other things.

I have heard a little trance and "remorseless" seems an entirely appropriate word for that particular sound - neverending kick drum, and ALMOST NOTHING ELSE. :)

December 5, 2000

10:49 PM
And in other Jon related news, he sez

Why are letters disappearing from your alphabet "quote"? And don't tell me to figure it out for my own damn self. Your archives are such that I can't go back and figure out the sequence of disappearances, and besides, it's the end of the semester. No time.

Nothing mysterious; I'm just keeping track of the letters for which I "review" songs, since I started doing the last alphabet rundown. "Review" is of course a misnomer, but, you know, they feel a little different than the usual babble here because I'm deliberately casting about for appropriately titled (and thus lettered) songs.

10:46 PM
There will be a little experiment during my Christmas - New Year vacation; my friend Jon will be 'guest blogging,' as it were, though since this is a lo-tech blog that means I'll just post stuff for him when I get it. Jon will be writing on music, of course, and claims he will endeavor to think and such before writing. And not to be too antagonistic, except that (and I quote) "Tom sucks".

5:36 PM
Read Greg's well-done
list starting here.

8:02 AM
So "why did you link to my essay with an ellipsis" Maura wants to know, and well just because. But this reminds me, dear readers, to tell you: I linked to it because Maura always makes me think twice about women - this is no exception.

6:01 AM
I went to my office at 5:30 or so. There was a blanket of silence over the streets, and the faint rumble of a train in the distance. It was the most beautiful thing I've heard all day.

Now the cars are already streaming by, a sad reminder that there really are other people out there; it felt special for a minute or two.

some time
Listened to Underworld. Surprisingly non-boring in this state despite extreme repetitiveness.

some time
What the hell made me decide to play the White Album? Oh well, at least I know the misanthropy's set in.

1:21 AM
Staying up all night to grade calculus homework. Listening to Arab Strab, which is great. Will see how my opinion of it changes in five hours when I'm bitter and misanthropic.

(Presumably, nothing will change.)

December 4, 2000

10:38 PM
New stuff today: Arab Strap, Philophobia; Mekons, End of the World; Charming Hostess, Eat. Comments to come at some undetermined date.

10:35 PM

2:50 PM
"New Birds"

1:35 PM
Aaron passed along this Keith Jarrett interview from Salon.

11:56 AM


2:48 AM
How about that.

1:00 AM
OK, some more thoughts regarding Tim's thoughts. So, second-order thoughts. But his were in response to my original thoughts in this discussion, so I guess that makes these third-order thoughts. But then mine were in response to Bjork's, in a way. But...

I like "Alarm Call" too. ;)

Would I happily listen to an hour's worth of "Pluto" remixes? Well, that remains to be seen; remixes often radically alter the original song, these days so much that the original is unrecognizable. Cf. my favorite dance track, the Underworld mix of "Risingson" - if it weren't for the "toy like / boy like" vocals, I think it would probably be almost totally unrecognizable (it's a separate song, really). But even the more respectful (?) remixes in say the Massive Attack singles box seem to often dramatically change the music, even if it's still quite recognizable. So, I just don't know - it depends.

(You're right, punk and post-punk definitely do ruin your argument.)

It's not repetition per se that I don't like; a look at my tastes will somewhat back that up. Even a lot of the rock and other popular music that's somehow similar to it (rather than being more similar to dance music) is highly repetitive, really, especially against the backdrop of my minor interest in classical music. (Notice how I like jazz a lot: I think it combines very many qualities of repetition and "development" in the Western sense.)

When I find it most unappealing, a straight 4/4 house beat seems just... crass. I can hear the beat, even when it's not actually played on every beat (two uses of "beat" here). When I was learning to play music in band class, we always dreaded the metronome, which was brought out when we were having particularly bad trouble keeping the beat. Dreaded, because it was hard having an external notion of time imposed over our shaky group-preferred notion. But working with it helped strenghthen our ability to "hear" time in music, to the point where later, metronomic time just seemed incongruous because there's always a little breathe, a little wiggle, to people time.

So... I'm not sure if that makes this any clearer. I don't quite mean that I don't like very mechanical, robotic time. I like that in places, too (hello, programmed hip-hop beats). I'm still thinking here of a notion of compositional appropriateness, I guess. It's as if the main essence (and I know what an awful way of talking that is - as if I could pin down what the "essence" of any music is) of any straight 4/4 house is the 4/4 house beat itself. So I don't agree with your analogy between the beat and guitar riffs in rock music, because it seems as if the better analogy is between the beat and the beat (oho, tricky!) - and not the played one in rock music, but the implied one I mentioned above, that you can feel even if the drum isn't hit on every quarter note. And when it is hit, it's generally seen as either (a) unimaginative drumming, or (b) a stylistic choice, which can be appropriate or not (here's where punk music et al come in) - this includes smaller portions of songs where direct emphasis of the beat is used, well, for emphasis.

It's funny - often classical fans will profess to dislike popular music because the beat is emphasized so much - rock and classical. Similarly, jazz fans often find rock beats too boring and repetitive (this, among many other things, was what offended some people so much when jazz fusion began - they felt much subtlety had been sacrificed). But even in those genres, metronomic beats are still regarded as boring, unless they're in the service of some other aesthetic choice.

Sigh. This all sounds very rationalized.

December 3, 2000

11:51 PM
And: when she sings "I'm just about to lose my mind" at the end, I kind of believe her.

11:40 PM
The Slits - "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

I can't tell if this is the live version from In the Beginning, simply because it's an mp3 and it doesn't really sound live. It sounds GRATE. This makes the second song in less with a week, with a disco beat, that I've found myself drawn to. Of course, there are also reggae-style, clipped guitar chords. So things are confusing, maybe. Signals crossed.

Their biggest strength, though, has got to be Ari Up's voice. She's got... personality. Yeah. That's it. Personality.

And: there's humming, almost moaning, low in the track, carrying the melody through the entire track, along with the bassline. Brilliant.

9:01 PM
Why is the store always closed when I want

5:13 PM
And that Mekons record... well, I've played it a whole bunch. I like it a lot. It's going on my year-end list. The qualms I had before seem not to have been obviated so much as... it's as if I never even had them at all.

3:12 AM
Awesome news from the Low list, which came actually from billions -

"In other news worthy to note, Mimi Parker has recently recorded vocal contributions to three tracks intended for the next release from Spiritualized."


Oh happy day.

2:18 AM
I wish I had one of those A-B loop programmers on my CD player, so I could leave Jimmy Garrison's beautiful solo on "Jimmy's Mode" running all night. Because Coltrane comes back in after the solo, which is basically the whole piece, and recapitulates his opening - typical "pretty" (harsh) Coltrane, which though it's pretty and all scares the shit out of me after I've been gently lulled to sleep (this is a good thing - and I really mean it, I seem to listen to Stellar Regions a lot when I'm tired, and everything gets so quiet and subtle during Garrison's solo... so sleepy...).

1:35 AM
Tim has more interesting things to say that I'm still thinking about.

12:22 AM
The Beulah song I was deriding the other day is called "Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut." I know this because someone called me during my show tonight to request it. Ha, ha, ha.

I played it, though.

December 2, 2000

2:21 AM
No, no, no, it's not at all an insult,
Tim. You know your shit. I'm not suspicious of labels; I think that they have their place. I just don't really know enough about dance to sort out what's what. (I need to buy a bunch of comps, is what I need to do.) Plus I am just joshing you a little. Har har. I said "joshing".

mu-ziq, maybe, but he's a lot more... hmm, not sure, but he doesn't quite seem right, from what I've heard. I've not heard any Plastikman from before Consumed or Artifakts [bc].

I think the answer to your question "would I like it if Bjork wasn't on it and it went on for twice as long?" is: yes. The screaming does help though.

You're right, I don't really like straight 4/4 house beats. But here it just seems appropriate. It's hard to separate how I think the music fits in as kind of an emotional high on the album, dance as a mood as it were, from how I think it works on its own. But I think, compositionally, formally, it's richer. The synths complement the beats, make it seem as if the beat wasn't just an afterthought, or the first thing they laid down.

Anyway, to summarize: Tim = good. Read skykicking, I do.

10:52 AM

3:14 AM
I thought Tom might be interested to know: my favorite song thus far on the Mekons album is "The Flood," which is the one with a disco beat.

2:10 AM
"and often should be" -

Not because of what I want out of reviews, though that would be nice to have. Rather, because I would prefer that people understand better what's going on when they like something, and it seems as if people who respond this way (e.g. "electronic music is unemotional, and this Radiohead album makes it emotional, and therefore good") are... being somehow untrue (but I don't want to imply that I think they could make some objectively true aesthetic judgments, or anything like that). Confused about their own natures.

1:59 AM
The only reason I can think of that one would want to say something like

Kid A challenges the idea that electronic music will never be as emotional as guitar music.

is if one thinks that electronic will never be as emotional as guitar music.

Why might one want to say this? You could be prepared to say that it's due to the guitars. Electric guitars. Rock guitars. But this seems to also imply that soul will never be as emotional as guitar music. Same goes for jazz. Funk. Rap. Folk. Klezmer. Western art music, aka "classical." And so on. Perhaps maybe you think some of those aren't capable of as much emotion as guitar music. But this seems pretty absurd to me (well, this all does, but stay with me).

OK, so maybe it's that the guitars are "real instruments" and stuff, with people "actually" playing them. I'm sympathetic to this view, just because I am fond of "real" instruments. But it's shit. There are people behind electronic music, too, you know.

I think more people just need to acknowledge that "emotions" are a lot more complex than we commonly will admit. What is my response to an Autechre track? I'm not prepared to say it's less emotional than my responses to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." Those reponses have qualities which I can identify as very intense - but how can I compare them to qualities I associate with electronic music, or any other music, when they seem so utterly different?

Talk like this can be rephrased as statments about personal values. And often should be, I say.

1:38 AM
Also I listened to Ege Bamyasi tonight and it seems eminently reasonable to me that they later drifted toward making ambienty film soundtrack type music. There were many things jarring about their music here, though less than on Tago Mago. But. Always, there were flows of music - very malleable things, much like the stuff they did later.

Which I've never heard. Ha. But I bet this makes sense. Gruf?

12:55 AM
I made two purchases today.

R.E.M. - Document

OK, so I felt jangly. And I wanted Murmur or Reckoning, but I don't think they had them. This has a curious feel to it, in some places. Though this was supposed to be their first big commercial advance, from what I read, it's supposed to typify a big part of the developments in "alternative rock" of the time. To me, now, it just sounds relentlessly mainstream. Well, it feels that way. I can identify all kinds of things that definitely separate this from the mainstream of 1987 rock. But, there are songs, with choruses and verses and such. "Meaningful" lyrics. Fucking enormous airplane hangar drums - will I ever grow comfortable with 80s drum production? And so on. The lyrics are far too arty and/or aware for me to lump it in, really, with, say, OU812, Van Halen's 1988 album, surely a representative of the mainstream if there was one. The "underground," in many ways, seems a lot more obscure than this to me.

Still, it's been pleasant, the first time through. "End of the World" is a lot slower than I remember it. And with that and "The One I Love" right smack dab in the middle of the disc, listening sort of feels like an exercise in patience, waiting for the hit songs. Hopefully I'll like this a lot and will listen to it obsessively, like I did with Revolver - for, with that record, I no longer latch on to specific things I'd heard before like "Yellow Submarine" or "Good Day Sunshine."

I still would've rather bought the new Le Tigre album than this, but oh well.

Mekons - Journey to the End of the Night

What to say about this. It's my first encounter with the Mekons, and it's not at all what I was expecting. It's not that I was looking for amateurish (?) punk, or boozed-up cowpunk, or anything, though if I were I would've been disappointed. I read up, I had some idea of what it might be like (in fact, see the first link for this month, below). It's just... the music is a lot more generic, or straightforward, or something, than I anticipated. It's less weary-sounding, too. I suppose really when I think "weary" I think something like Bonnie Prince Billie's I See a Darkness, which is pretty limiting. But.

There are so many things here that I don't especially like, that I am baffled. Because I do like it - it feels very comforting. A lot of the music seems unimaginative. There are too many words. I don't like the singing. All kinds of things. And yet, I'm still listening. So obviously, I don't fucking know what I'm talking about. In fact, I have liked this more, the first few times through, than I liked the new Radiohead - and that is full of things I like. So. Hell.

I will say one thing - this actually makes me want to use the word "unpretentious." And I fucking hate the word "pretentious," so I'm not very well justified in using its negation, now am I?

It's very British. And conforms very much so to the vague concept of "British indie" that's split off in my head, in the past year, from "indie" (which I still think of as American).

12:29 AM
Yo, readers.

I know (I have eyes everywhere) that there are plenty of you out there, who have never written me. But please consider doing so now. What I'd like to know is, why are you reading this? Why do you read it consistently (because you are nothing if not consistent, dear reader)?

Also, I'd just like to know a bit about you. Who are you? What does the Man pay you for? What do you listen to? Anything else you like really. Questions. Anecdotes. Recipes. You name it.

You see, after almost a year of doing this I'm experiencing doubts. I have some idea why my readers read, but despite receiving some nice comments I remain unconvinced; going through the archives I find them incredibly shallow, often of little interest to me (who I would think should be most interested in them).

I started doing this on the day after Christmas. So Christmas 2000 will be the last day I do this - for a short time. I am going to take at least the time between then and the New Year off. Those few days don't seem like much, perhaps, but they will be symbolic for me (plus, I think I need them). After then, there will perhaps be a change. I just don't know what.

So. Please drop me a line.

If I have heard from you before, of course you're welcome to say anything you like, too.

December 1, 2000

11:48 PM
Bjork, "Pluto"

I understand that Bjork is not all that popular (people probably best remember her for being the chick with the weird name from the video with the bear in it), but it sort of impresses me that a track like this sits among the rest of the tracks on Homogenic, just because this seems far more extreme than any number of "extreme" things (rap-metal in particular) that one can find in the mainstream Bjork ostensibly skirts. And Bjork's not even sterotyped as being an "angry" woman or anything of the sort; freakishly odd, yes - angry, no. Add Fred Durst and Papa Roach to the list of things that can suck it, because this song kicks their asses, handily.

The moment after her most intense series of howls, where her voice drops out and the kick drums re-enter, is fantastic. It's got some kind of... almost athleticism to it. She sounds as if she's casting something off, with the last little scream, and the force of the ensuing beat carries through with that velocity, that force.

I wonder if Tim can tell me what exactly micro-micro-micro genre of dance music I might listen to to hear more things like this track.

Of course, the rest of the album is excellent as well, but because one of Bjork's strengths is flitting between various styles, and melding them together, the other tracks vary quite a bit from this.

8:49 PM
"I can't listen to music too often. It affects your nerves, makes you want to say stupid things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell."

- Lenin

3:55 AM
Isn't just
any discipline good enough, really, you singles whore you?

2:41 AM
Is it obvious how I get the inclination to ramble when I start a new month? That first entry always looks awfully lonely.

2:39 AM
Prior to Mezzanine Massive Attack tracks that Horace Andy sang on really felt like "Horace Andy tracks." On Mezzanine, not so. I don't regard "Angel" as an Andy track at all.

2:33 AM
But how are they different, Josh?

Um... tough to say because I'm listening to the "Angel" single right now, and would like to have the sounds "in front" of me. Not that I'm going to put on a new CD just for that. But. I'll take a shot at anything.

"Safe from Harm" - driving. forboding. sweeping.
"Blue Lines" - smoky. liquid.
"Five Man Army" - blunted, duh. menacing.
"One Love" - languid.

Maybe it looks like I didn't try very hard (well, I didn't, OK) - but I don't think I have to. That the tracks have identifiably distinct-enough characters to them, seems to be enough. Indistinguishable, my ass.

2:21 AM
Sigh. I don't know why I read the AMG sometimes. I like the breadth, I suppose. And I really shouldn't deign to pick on Stephen Thomas Erlewine since he's obviously somehow mentally handicapped, or deaf or something. Here he indicates that the songs on Blue Lines are indistinguishable from one another. I'm still not a huge fan of the second half of the album, but the first half is some of my favorite music, ever, and to me those songs seem so markedly different that it's UTTERLY INSANE to claim otherwise. And I don't think this is just me talking; if I look at other albums I love, I can find many more that people might say are filled with indistinguishable songs, which I can tell apart. Often that's just due to their unfamiliarity with the genre at hand, I think, but that's another thing. For this album, though, "Safe from Harm," "One Love," "Blue Lines," and "Five Man Army" especially are just so... different. Ugh. Add ol Mr. Erlewine to my big list of things that can suck it, as if he wasn't up top already.

2:08 AM
OK, so suddenly from "Inertia Creeps (State of Bengal mix)" I am getting the following: before the drum n bass slash Indian percussian takes over, the hi-hat programming is super-straight, and all I can think is: super-sleazy, a strange mechanical grimace of a mockery of an attempt at swinging. But, it works.

2:01 AM

to November 2000
jon blog


old blog
jazz review project
old notes

mail josh

to bring [me] [your] love



catherine's pita
dancing about architecture
dj martian
freaky trigger
i hate music
in review
loafer's discourse
pearls that are his eyes
vain, selfish, lazy