More at Random.

1. Sometime last month I officially became a soccer dad. (I’d post pictures, but action shots are not my forte.) Izzy’s the only girl among about a dozen other boys (and I’m pretty much the only dad, at least the most regular one, among all the moms), but she’s totally unfazed by this. Now she has a new vocabulary: “squishing” the ball, i.e., putting your foot on the ball to stop it (usually accompanied by pointing to the ball and shouting, “Stop right there, ball!”), the “power kick,” and… I can’t remember anymore. The sight of her scoring a goal is just too cool for words.

2. After receiving a completely unexpected (and totally cool) e-mail message yesterday — more details later — I thought I’d at least post an old picture of Izzy (and Shelby) from July here.

3. “Please take me along when you slide on down.”

4. MISIA’s “THE GLORY DAY” is now officially enshrined in my 1600 Greatest Songs Of All Time list.

5. I would love to have the vocabulary to write articulately and at length about watching (and teaching) Marlon Fuentes’ Bontoc Eulogy (and Orson Welles’ F for Fake!), but I don’t.

6. And what was supposed to be a quick walk through the campus bookstore mutated into more lingering by the remainders table, and then taking advantage of a 25%-off “educator’s discount” at Borders (but hey, I got some presents too):

– the fourth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm: this set includes one of the greatest CYE episodes ever, “The Car Pool Lane.” Up there with “Porno Gil,” “The Nanny from Hell” and “Mary, Joseph and Larry.”
– Ann Satterthwaite’s Going Shopping: Consumer Choices and Community Consequences (Yale U Press) (remaindered!)
– Joel Sternfeld’s Stranger Passing (remaindered!)
William Eggleston’s Guide (finally!)

7. And I’ll end with a lengthy quotation from Dennis Cooper, found in James Greer‘s Guided by Voices: A Brief History (Twenty-one Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll) (it arrived from Amazon today, where Greer also describes GbV as “a kind of Grateful Dead for the drinking set”):

Robert Pollard is easily one of the great rock lyricists. Personally, I think he’s the greatest rock lyricist of all time, period. Actually, I think he’s the greatest living artist in any medium, but that’s another story. His songs are positively enjambed with an almost insanely comprehensive knowledge of what a rock song has been in the past and could be on a regular basis now if songwriters believed in rock as a form and dedicated themselves to using all of it to give fans the most startling and pleasurable experience possible in a span of thirty seconds to seven or so minutes. I can’t think of another artist working with the English language (poets included) who has his appreciation of the fucked-up beauty of the lazy, accident-prone, anti-exalted way Americans speak and write.


Some GBV Links.

Got back from the Philippines last night. Listening to “Ester’s Day” by Guided By Voices as I waited for my suitcase at the baggage carousel made me feel sad.

Some GBV-related links:

– Mindy Hertzon’s beer-soaked Orlando concert photos.

– a tribute at Nude as the News (check out in particular the Top 100 GBV Songs of All Time link at the bottom)

video footage from the last-ever concert in Chicago (“Over the Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox” and “Don’t Stop Now” were the set openers and closers, respectively)

– and more videos from the day before (Sprout doing “Gleemer” is especially sweet)

– and if I had to pick only 49 GBV songs, in no order (though a good chunk of it comes from Bee Thousand:

A Salty Salute
Watch Me Jumpstart
Game of Pricks
Motor Away
My Valuable Hunting Knife
Blimps Go 90
Little Whirl
Hardcore UFO’s
Buzzards And Dreadful Crows
Tractor Rape Chain
The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory
Smothered In Hugs
Yours To Keep
Echos Myron
Gold Star For Robot Boy
Awful Bliss
Queen Of Cans And Jars
Ester’s Day
I Am A Scientist
Teenage FBI
Things I Will Keep
My Kind of Soldier
My Impression Now
Fair Touching
Chasing Heather Crazy
Glad Girls
Don’t Stop Now
Sad If I Lost It
I Am a Tree
Bulldog Skin
Now to War
Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox
Exit Flagger
14 Cheerleader Coldfront
Drinker’s Peace
Cut-Out Witch
The Official Ironmen Rally Song
To Remake the Young Flyer
Atom Eyes
It’s Like Soul Man
Wire Greyhounds
Back To The Lake
Pretty Bombs
Gleemer (The Deeds Of Fertile Jim)
Wondering Boy Poet
Choking Tara (Creamy)


The Best Music of 2004.

As usual my list is composed of the best music I heard this year, and is not limited to those released in 2004; I’m usually a few years behind the curve, so to speak, though my list is coming out a week or so early. (My old lists can be found at the bottom of this page.)

Laura Cantrell‘s Not the Tremblin’ Kind (2000)

   This year I revisited / discovered to a lot of alt-folk and country music (not the classic albums — that’s next year’s project): the sublime Daniel Lanois-produced albums Wrecking Ball and Teatro, for starters. A good amount of Gram Parsons, and, as usual, a lot of Gillian Welch. But one of my favorite discoveries this year was Laura Cantrell’s Not the Tremblin’ Kind — a near-perfect mix of joyful melancholy. Though her lovely voice doesn’t have the same… wise quality as Emmylou and Willie above, there’s still something wonderfully appealing about this gem. Laura, where have you been all my life?

Wild Billy Childish and The BlackhandsPlay Capt. Calypso’s Hoodoo Party / Live in the Netherlands (1994)

   Billy Childish, one could argue, has a discography and work ethic that borders on the scarily obsessive, with a dedication to replicating an almost primitivist ethos to lo-fi garage/rockabilly again and again. This twofer CD from 1988 is something of an anomaly, because it doesn’t revolve around 1966, but it’s something out of time. This is Childish’s shambolic Caribbean garage take on calypso — and “Anarchy in the U.K.,” and “I Love Paris,” and “Rum and Coca-Cola” — and it’s an absolutely joyous affair. When rock and roll came to Trinidad, indeed.

Guided By VoicesHalf Smiles of the Decomposed (2004)

   It isn’t just because it’s Guided By Voices’ swan song: “Half Smiles of the Decomposed” is one of their most solid albums since Universal Truths and Cycles and, at least according to these ears, is up there already as one of the top ten GBV-related titles. It’s also retrospective (in the same way “Mule Variations” was, mixing up echoes of their lo-fi glories) and innovative (the excellent “Sleepover Jack” was actually mistaken for an Interpol track by a colleague, not that that’s necessarily a good thing). But it’s a flat-out solid indie rock album — chock-full of pop hooks (see “Girls of Wild Strawberries”), great Gillard guitar work (see “Sons of Apollo”) — from (at least for three hours last November) the greatest rock and roll band in the world.

Jolie Holland‘s Escondida (2004)

   Jolie Holland’s Escondida is, again, one of those timeless albums — or so one thinks. It digs into Harry Smith’s anthology for atmosphere and swerves into folk-singer-in-a-coffeeshop delivery. And then something like “I got a couple of food stamps and a caffeine buzz” stops you in your tracks. The result: a stunner of an arch indie-folk album.

N.E.R.D‘s In Search Of… (2002)

   I completely slept on this one — an even more egregious omission considering the fact that one of my people, Chad Hugo, is in it. N.E.R.D’s In Search Of… is unlike any hiphop / R&B / rock hybrid you’ve ever heard; like the Childish album above, In Search Of… is simultaneously inflected with fat keyboard sound from ’70s soul and ’90s raunch (as heard in the excellent “Tape You”).

The StreetsA Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004)

   The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free isn’t really hiphop, though it uses hiphop beats. Mike Skinner’s shaggy-dog stories — about popping pills, returning a video, getting drunk, fighting with his girlfriend, losing money, meeting women, breaking up — seems to come from a more English tradition: that of the kitchen-sink, working-class, angry-young-man drama, like John Osborne’s “Look Back In Anger.” Consider it an anti-bling song cycle, if you like.

Kanye West‘s The College Dropout (2004)

   Kanye West’s album The College Dropout breaks no new ground; it isn’t distinguished by his lyrical delivery or ingenious samples (indeed, the sped-up chipmunky samples are getting kind of old). But there is no denying the brimming, talented vitality at work here. We hear about “assured debuts” all the time, but this one bolted out of the gate like a rocket. Listen to the transcendent “We Don’t Care” and you’ll hear what I mean. Probably my favorite album of 2004.

And some runners-up:

Ghost, Hypnotic Underworld
Not from Japan, but from another planet: Ghost melds prog, metal, psych and folk into one tight maelstrom.

Hot Club Of Cowtown, The Continental Stomp
It’s described as Django Reinhardt meets Bob Wills; whichever way, it’s joyous contemporary Western swing.

Diana Krall, The Girl in the Other Room
Her strongest work since her Nat King Cole tribute, this album sees Krall (helped by her hubby Elvis Costello) blossom successfully into a singer-songwriter-pianist.

Merzbow, Merzbird
Merzbow released maybe over a dozen titles this year. Can I tell them apart? Heck no! But this one, yes: a return to Merzbeat-style beat-noise.

Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender
Cockles and caravels, karate kicks and bean sprouts.

John Zorn, Filmworks XII, XIII and XIV
Caught up on the Filmworks series glut this year: this is gorgeous, vital music, and if it seems a little polite for Zorn — XIV is practically dinner music — they’re nonetheless testaments to Zorn’s astonishing musical genius.

And four that just barely made it:

The Arcade Fire, Funeral
Coil, Black Antlers
Eagles of Death Metal, Peace Love Death Metal
Les Savy Fav, Inches

Earworms 2004:

Belle And Sebastian, “I’m A Cuckoo (Avalanches Remix)”
N*E*R*D, “Tape You”
Bic Runga, “The Be All and End All”
Kanye West, “Through the Wire”
J-Kwon, “Tipsy”
Kanye West, “We Don’t Care”
Emmylou Harris, “Wrecking Ball”
A Certain Ratio, “Do The Du”
Gillian Welch, “Black Star”
Shirley Horn, “Where Do You Start?”
Wilco, “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”
Aimee Mann, “Observatory”
Rilo Kiley, “With Arms Outstretched”

And finally, Disappointment of the Year:

Tom Waits, Real Gone

   Don’t get me wrong; I love Tom Waits. But his albums since Bone Machine (including the wonderful Mule Variations) have been stamped with the same Waits template: rattly instrumental here, the two-hanky weeper there, the barfly song here, the hobo song there. It’s almost like the formal equivalent of your run-of-the-mill hiphop album: slow jam, gangsta track, club song, mix and match as you please. This time around the gravel in his voice grates; the overdriven sound rankles; the clank and wheeze wears you out. At least it’s a fantastic Marc Ribot album.


Guided By Voices, SF, 11/13/04.

Posted a shorter version of this last night (more like early morning).

Too messed up to remember
Eardrums still ringing
Head still aching
Feet hurt (from jumping)
Neck hurts (from headbanging)
Throat hurts (from shouting)

Met PBers at the Toronado
Sat with Spence and Kogan
Ended up six people deep from the stage
Saw Franken’s back move farther and farther
from the middle
Keene played

Then sunsets and seagulls
GBV the crowd yelled
Bob with Cuervo bottle in hand
Beers aloft
Opened with Do The Earth
Lots of songs from SIAN
Bob rant on “old cuntry”
Willie Nelson and Rob Thomas
Called Lyle Lovett a pussy
Pissbreak during Window of My World

We got Gloomtown / Pricks / Jumpstart
We got Sad If I Lost It
We got Exit Flagger
We got Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
We got Beg for a Wheelbarrow
We got Redmen and Their Wives
We got loooong Secret Star
We got My Impression Now
We got Demons Are Real
We got Gold Star for Robot Boy

Mic troubles for Bob
Guy wanted to pass out next to him
Folks bumrushed the stage
on A Salty Salute
Woman bumped and grinded
Bouncers disarmed the settlers

Then homerun after homerun
Myron / Motor / FBI
Unleashed / Girls / Scientist
And the lights came up
And it was all over


A 747 in Your Living Room.

The now famous Ed McGowan, who bought a copy of the Guided By Voices album Propeller on eBay for $6,200:

I’ve seen a lot of bands in my day and GBV when they’re “on” are far and away the most exciting rock and roll experience you will ever have. Remember when you were a teenager, the feeling you got when you blasted “The Punk Meets the Godfather” into your headphones while looking in the mirror? Or, oops, was that just me? Expand that feeling over three hours in a room full of screaming, sweaty, jumping people and you have a typical GBV show. To paraphrase Bono, the live GBV experience is like having a 747 land in your living room.