I was asked over the summer to review the new David Berman album, the debut self-titled release of his new project, Purple Mountains. It was his first release, besides a one off with The Avalanches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XTrz0yvxe0), in around a decade. The album is very good, and often brilliant, like the rest of Berman’s records. And his book of poems, Actual Air. And The Portable February, his collection of cartoons and doodles. And his essays, which are not plentiful, scattered and uncollected. I planned to write about the album and its relation to Berman’s genius, and his mastery of language and form. How it is the work of an old, tired master—an album without flash. One that is smooth, perceptive, prescient, and weighted with pain. I was to finish the piece after seeing Purple Mountains play a concert at Brooklyn’s Murmrr theater. That would have been in late August. 

This plan made sense to me for a few reasons. First, the symbolic. Murmrr was once a synagogue. And as a writer of a vague and intrinsic Jewishness, I feel a sort of kinship with Berman. We are wanderers in the same diasporic and Freudianly horny tradition. And, at least to me, a devoted fan, Berman, across his output, proffered something spiritual. What one might call a rabbinic element. A gesture at a fuller life beyond bodies and their doldrums. A life of language. A life of more and less living. 

a review of Sun Kil Moon’s latest record, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans (Caldo Verde Records, 2019)

 

My mother and I drive from Los Angeles to a suburb outside San Francisco because her father is dying. At least he thinks he’s dying. His bladder has stage three cancer and his blood pressure is bad and he’s losing weight.  But the doctors say that with radiation he could last a few more years. The cancer moves slow.

We’re on the 101, just beyond King City, and I’m listening to the new Sun Kil Moon album, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans. She isn’t. I’m wearing headphones, even though she wants to talk, because I told her I’m writing a review of the album. My mother is very small. She grips the wheel tightly. She hunches forward when I tell her, “My friend Joey at The Nervous Breakdown asked me to review the new Sun Kil Moon album so I’m listening to it now, on headphones.” She’s only okay with me putting on headphones if I frame it as “a career thing.” She likes to talk to me (not about her dying father) and it’s not like I’m home very often or the best at sharing things about my life on the phone, or in person. Sometimes I don’t know if my mother trusts me. Like her, I don’t particularly like her dying father. But I think, maybe because she says I have his eyes, that she worries some nasty part of him will continue living on inside of me. And that scares her. The car is a BMW SUV.

CS1703709-02A-BIG

This past October 9, the world celebrated what would have been John Lennon’s 74th birthday. On that day, the Internet buzzed with its usual indefatigable hum of remembrances, best-of-lists, think pieces and social media posts in memoriam. We don’t need to discuss the importance of John Lennon or his impact on the collective cultural consciousness—it is there everyday. As I can attest, even three-year-olds know how to sing the tune to “Imagine.”

The Strokes

I had a strange dream two months ago. I don’t remember all the details, but it left me feeling so affected that something about it still lingers—one of those.

The general gist of the dream was that I was alone with a woman and I was in love with her. I don’t know who this woman was, but she looked like Jessica Chastain, only with rounder features like Uma Thurman, except that she reminded me of a woman that I used to work with.

Clearly, I am not doing this description justice, but I sat in a chair facing her and she told me something profound.

bleached-ride-your-heartJennifer and Jessica Clavin of Bleached have released an energetic and enjoyable debut. Ride Your Heart is a pop-punk record that will draw comparisons with other all-girl or female-fronted bands like Dum Dum Girls and the Vivian Girls.  The Clavin sisters have used their experience fronting punk bands and cutting seven-inch singles to shape and craft a record full of love and heartache and everything that comes in between.

sonvoltcoverartforweb Since the break-up of Uncle Tupelo in 1994, fans have traditionally split into two camps. These two camps seem to be less Son Volt or Wilco and more Farrar or Tweedy. Jay Farrar may never win the popularity contest with Wilco and Jeff Tweedy. And it seems as though he doesn’t care. He and Son Volt have largely stayed true to the roots of their first album, 1995’s Trace: a kind of country-infused rock. Even as Farrar moved away from that earlier sound on his solo work, he seemed to be moving towards this record. Like the albums that came before it, Honky Tonk is flush with skilled musicians and well-crafted songs dealing with matters of the heart and the human condition.

 

TNB Music’s staff picks for December, 2012. All the folk, pop, electronica, hip hop and metal a stocking can hold.

 

Editor’s Note:

Welcome to the October edition of Head Candy, snuck in just under the wire.

New music reviews and staff picks for September, 2012

 

AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA
Theatre is Evil (Kickstarter Deluxe Digital Edition)
8FT RECORDS

Kickstarter: Believe the hype

In May of this year, Amanda Palmer launched Kickstarter campaign with a $100,000 goal to fund the completion of this album; she reached her goal in a mere seven hours. By the time the after-party yellow-book pages had settled on the evening of May 31, nearly 25,000 people had pledged just shy of $1.2 million. Palmer’s Kickstarter success built up huge expectations for Theatre is Evil. Does it live up to the hype?

Juicy staff picks to take you through the back nine of the summer…

I should preface this article by stating that fans dead-set on seeing the return of James Iha and D’arcy will have to keep on hoping for an official (original) Smashing Pumpkins reunion as the line-up for Oceania features Jeff Schroeder (who has previously toured with the Pumpkins) on guitar, Mike Byrne on drums, and 2010 addition to the band, Nicole Fiorentino, on bass. With that said, hardcore Pumpkins fans should not despair. With the exception of a few songs, this album is loaded with tracks that are sure to please even the most steadfast purist.

This month, our resident music critic Kevin O’Conner agreed to give his harried editor a break and handle the lion’s share of the reviews. His one requirement was that we give him a crack at the new Fiona Apple album. Happy to oblige, Kevin…

FIONA APPLE

The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

(CLEAN SLATE/EPIC)

 

The release of a Fiona Apple album is always an event. Her second album (When the Pawn…) directed a middle finger toward mainstream conventions with its 90-word title. On 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, debates raged regarding the source and quality of a leaked version of the record (not to mention the inexplicable hype surrounding the whole “Free Fiona” campaign).

In addition to getting people laid and enhancing training montages in boxing movies, music has long salved the festering emotional wounds of humanity. Who among us has never crawled into a weepy ballad when life laid a bag of flaming dog shit at our front door, rang the doorbell and ran away?

At the very least, music soothes our savage breast; in its greater moments, music has accomplished much more. Or have you forgotten the powers of the pre-Psychic Network Dionne Warwick?

The latest round of TNB Music Staff Picks. Dig it, baby…

 

PHILM
Harmonic
(IPECAC)

Stunningly complex atmospherics from an unlikely legend

When Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo recently talked to TNB Music about his three-piece side project Philm (with guitarist/vocalist Gerry Nestler and bassist Pancho Tomaselli), he gamely addressed the various sounds the band have incorporated into their forthcoming debut: “heavy,” “bluesy” and “diverse.” Having finally sat down with that record, Harmonic, we realize that words cannot begin to approach the spectacular brew of genius, madness, terror and ecstasy that fuel one of the more fascinating releases of 2012. Harmonic is a relentless 15-song campaign that storms through the fields of Coltrane, Santana, Gilmour and Hanneman, and while attempting to identify a singular sound is a fool’s errand, punk vocals, jazzy dissonance and of course, masterful drumming appear in ample doses.

As the Nineties approached the halfway mark and grunge yielded to more pop-flavored fare, a legion of acts stormed the airwaves under the “alternative” flag, whipping the planet into a radio-friendly alt-frenzy. At the time, that epithet was pasted onto virtually any guitar-based rock that didn’t fall under a clearly-defined genre, gathering groups like Pavement and Sonic Youth under the same umbrella as the Cranberries and Counting Crows. Many of those acts have since faded away, and while some continue to make music, very few have done so with the consistency and vitality of Portland’s The Dandy Warhols. This month the Dandys, now in their eighteenth year, release their eight full-length studio album, This Machine–an eclectic listening party that alternates between punchy rockers, moody ballads and seratonin-inducing electronica. Yes, electronica.