Talking Three Mile Pilot

Following my earlier thoughts for Flavorwire on their new album The Inevitable Past is the Future Forgotten, I have some additional thoughts on Three Mile Pilot up at Vol.1.

There’s a steadiness to these songs that recalls Pinback’s entire discography, and a more complex emotional spectrum to Pall Jenkins’s vocals that hits a different space than his work in the Black Heart Procession. It’s a good reminder of why this band is, in fact, beloved by some, and of how potent Jenkins and Armistead Burwell Smith IV are when working in tandem.

You can read the whole thing here.

Taking Apart / Putting Together

Aaron Burch wrote a short, strange, beguiling book called How to Take Yourself Apart, How to Make Yourself Anew. And in the new edition of Word Riot, I have a review of it.

Aaron Burch has arrangement on his mind. Biology and lineage and anatomy all fill the pages of this collection, some sparsely, some nearly bursting. And yet classifying this book is next to impossible: the ever-popular “prose poems”? Aphorisms? This is a book concerned with taxonomies, yet it defies that sort of classification for itself. Which, one suspects, is the point.

You can read the whole thing here.

Riposte!

I reviewed Buke & Gass’s debut, Riposte, for Dusted. As my invocation of The Ex in the opening paragraph suggests, I thought it was pretty terrific — an album that’s half controlled dissonance and half wary beauty.

…there’s a savagery to the playing here that unquestionably puts this in a punk rock tradition. There’s the low-end squall putting momentum into “Medicina” and the frantically strummed “Bundletuck”; the Branca-as-chamber-pop salvo that’s opener “Medulla Obllongata” and the obsessive, frenetic rattle of “Outt!.”

You can read the whole thing here.

A parade….of mice

Today at Dusted, I reviewed Mice Parade’s What It Means to Be Left-Handed.

What It Means to Be Left-Handed is less one coherent longform document and more a collection of singles – all of which should probably prompt some sort of rumination on the album as art form, and what that means in the midst of what may or may not be a digital-format-led single-song revival. But those debates can be read about elsewhere.

You can read the whole thing here.

Lisbon!

Today at Dusted, my review of The Walkmen’s fine album Lisbon is now up.

The group has, however, always possessed the ability to make beguiling music. Admittedly, “The Rat,” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows, was a frenetic cry of frustration that still resonates. But we shouldn’t forget that one of the group’s earliest high-profiles songs, “We’ve Been Had,” from their debut Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone, was not exactly a rager – until You & Me‘s “Red Moon,” it was probably the prettiest song they’d written.

You can read the whole thing here.

At Flavorwire: Welcome Musical Comebacks

Also up now at Flavorwire: a piece on 2010’s best musical comebacks.

At their best, albums made after a long absence can be essential: a restatement of what made an artist great, or a revelation of something fresh and unexpected. What follows are 10 of the year’s most notable musical comebacks: some from recently reunited bands, others from long-dormant projects that never really went away, and a few from musicians bringing new projects into the spotlight. They range from minimalist electronic music to classically-inspired post-rock, from autobiographical ruminations to three-chord punk.

Artists covered include Three Mile Pilot, Gil Scott-Heron, Corin Tucker, and The Vaselines. The whole thing’s up here.

At Flavorwire: Pulp & Beyond

Up now at Flavorwire: ten capsule reviews of novels and collections, past and present, that take different pulp traditions to interesting places.

There’s a reason that acclaimed authors of literary fiction, from Borges to Atwood, from Houellebecq to Moody, find resonance in the pulp tradition. Detective stories, science fiction, and tales of horror can inform and influence novels that seem to be more rooted in reality or mundane life. But some of the most interesting work occurs in the space between the two – novels and stories that aren’t necessarily rooted in one literary tradition.

This is a list that encompasses Muriel Spark and Terese Svooboda; Tony O’Neill and Patricia Highsmith. The whole thing can be read here.

Some notes on “Family Man”

In late April, I was in Portland, Oregon for this year’s Stumptown Comics Festival at the suggestion of the esteemed Molly Templeton. While there, we caught a panel on comics and history featuring Kate Beaton (whose work I was familiar with) and Dylan Meconis (whose work I was not). I was intrigued by what I saw of Meconis’s work, and spent quite a bit of the subsequent week — in which I was supposed to be making headway through writing a short novel — reading through her ongoing Family Man, and ultimately pre-ordering the print edition.

familyman

Yesterday, my copy of the first collected edition of Family Man arrived. It is indeed quite good — a look at 18th-century Germany from the perspective of  Luther Levy, a theologian whose life puts him at the intersection of Christianity, Judaism, and atheism. There are also hints through this volume of something older — something ritualistic and pagan — just beneath the veneer of the isolated town in which he finds himself.

Meconis’s artwork has an expressiveness and a flow that reminds me more than a little of Carla Speed McNeil, which is a fine thing. And some of the things that she does with her text can be thrilling –  this sequence in particular. It works well online, but the cumulative effect in print is even more impressive.

Also, Meconis is behind this bit of artwork, which is total genius. (Hint: “They are hot for liberty — and you!”)

Conversations With Ben Greenman

Newly up at The Rumpus, a conversation with Ben Greenman. Which is, in some ways, a followup to an earlier conversation with the writer in question.

You mean how much reality has to be in unreality? I’d say that it has to be mostly real: what is extraordinary about those locations, about those times and places, have to fade away pretty quickly so that they seem like normal places. The strangeness of them remains, of course, and hopefully it gives the stories a certain quality: alienation, oddness, a face glimpsed in a funhouse mirror.

If you’d like, please give the whole thing a read.

ATPNY 2010

Also: figured I should, perhaps, say something about my time at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival this past weekend. Which I’ll do very quickly, with some brief rundowns of the festival’s musical highlights:

* Fucked Up: I’m planning to write something lengthier about their set for Vol.1, but for now: damn right, that’s some hardcore. And it’s hardcore that I can enjoy both as straight-up hardcore and complex, challenging music in its own right.

* The Breeders: For me, the most ebullient, joyful moment of the festival. Spot-on pop songs old and new.

* Sunn 0)))/Boris: Liked this quite a bit more than I was expecting; Jesse Sykes’s vocal turn provided an emotional connection that helped pull me in. Unintentionally bizarre/hilarious moment: at one point, one of the guys on stage, clad in black robes and a hood, began playing the trombone. Which made sense sonically, but created a visual image that evoked the Grim Reaper playing in a Dixieland band.

* Sleepy Sun: Damn good expansive rock music. I heard the harmonies and was reminded of Bonnie Prince Billy’s The Letting Go; the esteemed Daphne Carr heard the expansiveness and volleyed out a Storm in Heaven reference.

* White Hills: Psych-rock songs that were, in fact, songs, and a stage presence that found quiet precision mixing with explosive, violent energy.

* Hannibal Buress: Dude pretty much had me when he started making fun of guys with handlebar mustaches.

* Explosions in the Sky: I’ve had tickets to see this band three times, and three times I’ve been laid up with a 24-hour bug. Finally got to see them live, and they did not disappoint; the the loud/quiet/loud/really, really loud dynamic was in full effect, and it was kind of glorious.

Montreal & the novels set there

In brief: I’ve just finished Emily St. John Mandel’s Last Night in Montreal.

montreal_pb_lrgAnd it’s quite good — the sort of book that opens suggesting it’ll be one thing and rapidly becomes something very different, a narrative that seems straightforward at first giving way to something much more fragmented.

I don’t want to go into too much detail on the book, but it’s got a bit of a love story and a bit of noir and a bit of travelogue and some smart ruminations on language.  The fractured structure works quite well, and Mandel’s honest y about her characters’ flaws is impressive; the novel as a whole comes highly recommended.

Hallucination Punk

So! Not long ago, I talked about Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps at Vol.1; Ms. Krilanovich has now contributed a Book Notes column to Largehearted Boy. And it’s terrific, not just from the music chosen, but because of sections like this:

I wanted the music to play into the idea of “excess.” That is one of the great things about the form of the novel, that possibility of (invitation to?) excess. Here you have this vast space you can run amok in, with so many places to hide.

Seriously, read the whole thing. She also uses the phrase “a garage rock Fraggle,” which I need to begin incorporating into daily conversation.