Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Like a Young Marvin in His Hey

April 21, 2008

Saw this video on the Fader last week, and figured it was awesome enough for me to post, too.  Go on, Barry, brush ya’ shoulders off.



April 10, 2008

I consider myself a reasonably bright guy. I’m no scientist, but I’ve read a few pop-sci books (A Brief History of Time, The Elegant Universe) and I feel like I understand the concepts well enough. Not only that, I’m a pretty big sci-fi nerd, and have loved the concept of time-travel since I was a little kid. That being said, the first time I watched the movie Primer it made my brain go “ow.” The plot follows the exploits of two Dallas-area engineers named Abe and Aaron, who stumble upon the ability to travel backward into time by accident while attempting to construct a gravity-degrading superconductor in their garage. They become aware of the enormous space/time implications as they become more brazen in their use of the machine, which causes some serious time-fuckery. I really thought I was following everything just fine for the first 2/3rds, but by the last half hour I was wallowing in a puddle of my own mind-goo. Abe and Aaron travel backward in time again and again, creating duplicates of duplicates as the plot’s comprehensibility (and the quality of their penmanship) disintegrates. As the movie wore on, it became increasingly unclear which timeline I was watching, and which copy of the characters were acting out the increasingly byzantine script.

And I loved every second of it. I watched it again shortly thereafter, and understood a bit more. A few months ago, I watched it for a third time, and just recently for a fourth — enough to think that I have a pretty decent grasp of the film’s machinations. It really is a sneaky little fucker, but there is a lot of pleasure to be had in unraveling its structure. Which makes this temporal map of the movie’s time-lines such a great resource. Taken by itself it’s nearly as confusing as the movie, but used in conjunction it can be an invaluable, ah, Primer primer.

Also worth checking out is this A.V. Club article about Primer and the “New Cult Canon.” It has a few clips from the movie and provides a more thorough explanation of the film’s creation and plot.

The Needle That Sings In Your Heart

February 12, 2008


Today Pitchfork is featuring a retrospective of Neutral Milk Hotel’s album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which turns 10 years old this year. They have a number of indie-rock luminaries discussing their love (or lack thereof) of the album, so I thought I might take the time to remember how it came into my posession, and how it has remained my favorite album for the better part of the past decade.

These were still the nascent days of the internet, before it became ridiculously easy to pilfer any album in a matter of seconds, and as such the discovery of music was far more of an adventure. As a 15 or 16 year old, I would spend hours in the few secondhand record stores that existed in my hometown, obsessively combing through stacks of albums, often purchasing them based solely on their cover art. During this time, my friend Amanda generally served as a musical bellwether, and it was she who first introduced me to Neutral Milk Hotel. If memory serves, she downloaded a 96kb, static-filled version of “Two Headed Boy,” while she and I were hanging out at my parent’s house. I then proceeded to play the song ad nauseum. I had never heard anything like it. The next week, I had one of the record stores order a copy (which was a chore in itself, considering the album was not on a major label, and that the record store clerk was completely unfamiliar with it.) A week after that, I had it in my hands. This came after the initial release, and as such my copy did not contain the lyric sheet that came with the original pressing (and I believe comes with current copies, as well) — only a cardboard insert with the cover art. And God, what perfectly bizarre art it is — the drum-headed girl in the starry dress, saluting in front of an ocean of bodies and wreckage; the motley crew of parading animals on the back; the Victrola-cum-aeroplane — it was all so surreal, yet seemingly grounded in the same alternate past where these things could, and did, exist. It felt as though the album itself was an artifact of a bygone era, hidden away in some cobwebbed corner, waiting to be discovered anew.

And I suppose that aura is a major reason why the album has resonated so forcefully — it’s not just the music, but the entire package, the mythos that comes along with it. Like Loveless, it is more perfect because nothing has come since. It has become something larger than Jeff Mangum, larger than Elephant 6. Even as it has grown in renown these past 10 years, it still feels like a personal treasure to hold and to play. And that’s the way I like it.

Remain in Graceland

January 28, 2008

Vampire Weekend

Well, it seems like everyone is talking about the self-titled debut album from the band Vampire Weekend that’s due to drop tomorrow. Though I’m annoyed by the incessant hype of a band that has only released a single CD-R EP, I begrudgingly admit that the album is (mostly) worthy of the praise. Clean, tight guitar rhythms that recall former NYC-hype darlings the Strokes combined with African-influenced percussion that borrow equally from the Talking Heads and Graceland-era Paul Simon create an indie rock that is straightforward enough so as to not offend but creative enough to sound fresh. Phew.

High points: “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (which is OBVIOUSLY indebted to Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”), “Boston,” “Walcott”