Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm back in the glut of new music this week and I like it. Some great finds over the long weekend and some disappointments. Some things I've wanted for some time and others I didn't know existed. All in all...a lot to be thankful for as is always the case with music.

Karen O and The Kids - Where the Wild Things Are: I bought this because I remembered really enjoying the music while watching the film. This is one of those rare soundtracks that when removed from the film is still an amazing listen. Karen O sounds fantastic and the kid choir mixes well. The songs are dreamy and frantic and beautiful. I wish the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs album sounded more like this than that horrible '80s disco that it did resemble. I love this album.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Doomsday EP: I've had this for weeks and have been loving it for weeks, but realized I neglected to include it in the roundup before. Now, I fully admit to being biased as Elvis Perkins is probably my favorite songwriter to emerge in the last five years, but this is a great EP. It's a departure from the two albums, a little more fun and loose but equally as beautiful. Stay, Zombie, Stay and the slow version of Doomsday are incredible. 

Lucero - 1372 Overton Park: Lucero plays alt country rock and when they are on, they are better than anyone. That Much Further West is one of my favorite southern rock albums of all time. This album is not nearly that good, but it's decent. I found it to be up and down. Some songs were great and others were kind of same-same. This album was more on par with Nobody's Darling. Worthwhile if you like the band or the genre, but if you are unfamiliar, then I definitely recommend That Much Further West

Portugal. The Man - The Majestic Majesty: A few weeks ago, I falsely reported on this blog that this album was the same as The Satanic Satanist. Thankfully, my friend set me straight, informing me that this is an acoustic version of that album. WHAT? I had to hear it right away and by god, it's unbelievably good. Two songs into it, I replaced The Satanist with The Majesty on my ipod. 5 Stars...easily.

Porcupine Tree - The Incident: I've been into this band for a half a decade now, and though I've always preferred their mid-90's work best (The Sky Moves Sideways is a must have album) I still enjoy their recent prog-metal inspired work. This new album has been much talked about mainly for the 55 minute title track that takes up Disc 1. Personally, I wasn't too blown away with that. It was kind of a mess and something Mars Volta does much better. But surprisingly, I really enjoyed the 4 tracks on Disc 2 that many seem to see as toss-on tracks. This album is a solid OK, but the band is capable of much better. We'll see though. Their albums tend to grow on me.

Noah and the Whale - Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down: This album surprised me in a good way. The missus and I had seen their prior video and weren't thrilled. But she was brave enough to give it a listen at the listening station and we both agreed it seemed worth a shot at its sale price. I really enjoyed it. It's sort of a cross between Okkervil River and Peter, Bjorn, & John. Definitely a little on the pretentious side of folk-pop, but smartly done. 

Dead Confederate - Dead Confederate EP: I've been listening to this band's debut for most of the fall and am still impressed by it. This is the earlier EP that most likely got them their record deal and it's easy to see why. Much less produced, this is one of those sad sounding heavy rock albums and it's fantastic.

Stars - Heart: This early album was the only one I was missing by Stars, a indie-pop band from Canada, so I picked it up. It fits seamlessly in with the rest of the band's catalog. Though Stars is definitely more poppy that I usually go for, I've always liked them. They remind me a little bit of the Smiths, if the Smiths were from North America in 00's. 

Raised by Swans - Codes and Secret Longings: I fully admit to getting this because of the cover (the image is from the film Grave of the Fireflies which is one of the best animated films ever made). The album was a decent moody piece. It's a melancholy shoegazer album that wallows in the darkness...basically, the kind of album I would have loved in college and still appreciate now, though certainly don't love.

The Famous Jug Band - Sunshine Possibilities: A little back story here. I'm one of these people that thinks most any band can be improved if they had someone on the jug. I frequently make this observation, in earnest, while listening to things with the missus. So, she spotted this in the record store and showed it to me. I had to get it, even before I realized that Clive Palmer (of The Incredible String Band and C.O.B.) was in the band. Not surprisingly, it's very much in that line of folk, but also different in many ways as it is indeed a jug band. The result: Brilliant. This is one of those albums that I'd have expected to see all over the freak-folk blog world. It's an absolute must for any fan of '60s avant-folk. I can imagine I'll be listening to this album a lot over the winter...I'm looking forward to it. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Simply Fantastic

There is not a Wes Anderson movie made that I don't absolutely love. I've been a fan since Bottle Rocket came out (to this day, I still Ca-Cooo to get some one's attention from across a room). I would rate The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic probably in my top 25 favorite movies of all time. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, when I first learned he was doing an animated film adaptation of a novel from one of my favorite children's book writers, I was pretty darn excited. 

The verdict? Well in short, it was the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time. Everything about it was practically perfect. What I loved most about it was that it was very much a Wes Anderson film. It flawlessly fits in with his other films. George Clooney, in his humorous mood, is great fit for Wes Anderson's quirky style. He didn't compromise the artistic style that makes his movies great simply because it was going to be animated. That's the way it should be. 

What makes Fantastic Mr. Fox so much fun is that it's obvious everyone making it is having fun. It doesn't feel labored. And unlike most children's entertainment these days, it doesn't fit some marketing mold that for some reason has been etched in stone. I'm talking about movies like Planet 51 in it's oh-so-obvious jokes and storyline as if there is some list distributed to studios (and let's be honest, children's book publishers as well) that states THIS IS WHAT KIDS LIKE AND NOTHING ELSE. Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of those movies that dispels that myth, showing that kids entertainment doesn't have to can be different and succeed.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, Thanks

In the spirit of the weekend, I thought I'd give thanks to my own newest main character. We got off to a bit of shaky start. I'm not sure she trusted me completely until after I lived in her skin for many and many now deleted scenes. 

Much like the other characters in the books, I was growing rather frustrated with her. 

The other day, she decided to trust me. For the last few days, she's begun to speak to me clearly and without hesitation. I just wanted to say, I'm thankful we are now friends.

Now...not to be greedy...but if a good title presented itself, I wouldn't complain. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I know I skipped a week, my sincerest appy polly ogies. As I mentioned before, I've been using the last few weeks to really dive deeper into some of the more brilliant music that I've acquired of late. My friend, and former roommate of four years, were talking this week about how when we were poor and music was something we splurged on, often spending would-be meal money on two CDs instead, we used to live with those albums for months. I still do that, but not as often. Yet, there's something about getting to know a great album intimately that I need.

However, I'm always in search of the next great album that will stir something inside of me. So, I haven't abandoned checking things out either. Here's a list of some worthy albums of late. There are also some albums on here that aren't so worthy, but for one reason or another need mentioning if only because they are of note to my music autobiography. 

Liam Gallagher - The Acoustic Collection: Throughout the decade, Liam apparently used to do radio appearances here and there in the UK where he'd play solo acoustic sets. This is a collection of those and it's brilliant. The songs take on a very different tone. "Supersonic" becomes very angry..."Live Forever" very solemn...etc. Yes, I know you're all probably sick of the Oasis love already, but I'm in one of my "Oasis are brilliant" phases, you'll have to bear with me.

Dark Meat - Truce Opium: I've been anticipating this second album for quite some time. Their first album Universal Indians was a treat of two summers ago, a genre bending blast of up tempo intrigue. This is very different but just as enjoyable. It's much more experimental and psychedelic. Definitely not a record for lets the freak flag fly high.

Brett Anderson - Slow Attack: There was a time when Brett, as leader of Suede, was one of those daring front man with a view of the world that felt revolutionary. Then, in his own words, he lost his demon. There was a short lived revival with The Tears, but then came a really boring solo album. This second solo album is better than that for sure, but still quite disappointing. I'm not one to kick someone when they're down creatively. I understand that feeling. My problem is that it just doesn't feel personal. I don't expect everybody to be brilliant all the time, but I do expect the art to feel personal and I just haven't felt that from Brett for awhile. I still hope for it in the next album. 
The Morning After Girls - Alone: Another second album that I've been waiting over two years for. The band's first album was like a revival of the Smiths into a much darker world. Though trying to be faithful to that sound, this album falls a little flat. It's by no means bad, but at times it as boring as the cover. If you don't know the band, definitely go out and get yourself their first album Shadows Evolve. It's fantastic. And I have faith this is just a bit of sophomore slump. 
Rain Machine - Rain Machine: Solo album from TV on the Radio singer, this was a pleasant surprise. Though in many ways, it's very much a sort of hold-over album for fans, it's also very different. You can certainly hear TV on The Radio in this album. But where TVOR cuts there songs in short produced bursts, this album lets itself wander through the songs (many over 5 minutes long to nearly 10 minutes). The result is something very pleasing and fuller almost than disco-ness of TV. 
Soulsavers - Broken: Yet another long-anticipated follow-up to an album of two years ago. Here's the thing about this's really good but I couldn't help but compare it to the last album. It's almost just as good (which is saying a lot because It's Not How Far You Fall is AMAZING). Had I never heard that album, I probably would be saying that about this one. My only complaint is that there's no song quite as grabbing as "Revival". Still though, probably one of the stronger albums of the year.

Horrific Child - L'etrange Monsieur Whinster: Nothing like a dose of French prog from '76. This album was interesting, though certainly not something to get into more than a few listens. It feels very much like a story album, almost like listening to an audio play or old radio show. It would probably be more interesting if I spoke the language and knew the story. Still though, love the band title. 
Bevis Frond - North Circular: I've had, and loved, this album for years but recently listened to it again for the first time in a few years. The Frond had two albums that came out in '99 (this being one and Vavona Burr being other). At the time, I was more obsessed with Vavona Burr and tended to put that on instead of this one, possible because this is a double album and needs more time to digest. Now, I'm not sure this isn't the better album, or just as good. It's certainly an album out of time, by that I mean it would be very hard for a listener to place when it was made. It could be any time in the last 30 years. The Frond has always been that way, part classic rock, part pioneer and just great melancholy indie rock that is as American as the Brits can get. 
Alice Cooper - Love It to Death: The more I get into the early Alice Cooper albums, the more obvious it is that he really started the whole hard rock, glam sound. Listening to this, it's hard to believe it's from 1971. Easily a few years ahead of it's time. It has the rawness of the Stooges and the coolness of the New York Dolls...and all before they really got into the glam scene. 

Dave Mason - It's Like You Never Left: Dave has been one of my favorite singer/ guitarists as a member of Traffic and his first solo album Alone Together is one of my favorites of that early '70s era. This album is three years later ('73) and there's a shift to be sure, but it's still great. While there's no "Sad and Deep As You" moments, as a whole I found the guitar playing to be almost better, or more evolved on this album. All in all, a great, little known album of the period.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Themes

We are all creatures of habit. This seems especially true when it comes to artistic tastes, at least for me. There are certain themes that put in a movie or a book, no matter how bad the entirety, I will walk away and with a feeling of yeah, that's pretty cool

I've been thinking about this lately as I bemoan the endless vampire onslaught and ramped up New Moon hype (vampires are not one my things) and the 2012 glory of destruction (again, not one of my things). Though, I get it. Because like I said, I got my own themes that suck me in. 

Here are some of my weaknesses when it comes to entertainment.

POST APOCALYPSE: Something about viewing the world after the end, always gets me interested. Partially because, even as a child, I've always had a feeling I'd witness it. I've been addicted to Fallout 3 of late. I love Waterworld. I even sat through The Postman. So, needless to say, I'm looking forward to The Road

DARK FAIRY TALES: The idea of resourceful children lost in some twisted world and prevailing is always a crowd pleaser. Three of my favorite movies ever fall into this genre: Pan's Labyrinth, The City of Lost Children, and yes, Tideland. I'm sucker for it visually and I love the idea of using children's story elements in serious cinema. I use this technique a lot in my own writing as well. 

ALIENS: Not so much the attack-the-world kind of alien, but more the intelligent life, blending of culture, needing each other for survival kind of alien. Or the devious kind like those in V or Dark City. Again, this goes back to a wish-fulfillment thing in that as a child, I always wanted to meet an alien, be it an Ewok or a Vulcan. HOWEVER, there are expectations. (ie. No desire to see Avatar

GRAINY ART HOUSE HORROR IMAGES- What else is there to say. Be other dimensions, ghosts, or evil in any of its various forms, nothing quite captures it like images that look they have been plucked from another place.

SPACE: I can watch any number of sub-par movies if they are set in space. Example A: I thoroughly enjoyed Wing Commander and it wasn't very good.

TIME TRAVEL: often related in the sense that I prefer time travel to the future, which generally leads to a setting in space.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ringleader of The Death Carnival

Last night, I went to see one of the performers that have been on must-list for in, bands or artists I must see before it's too late. I've been lucky enough to shrink that list over the past few years. There was really only one last glaring glitch...Mr. Robert Zimmerman.

Two days ago, I was offered the chance to see Bob Dylan play. (Thanks Danimal!). I had to shuffle around some things, but how could I say no. So yesterday, I packed a shoulder bag and bussed it down to the Big Apple to see Dylan play in my old neighborhood of Washington Heights.

Now, I'm no stranger to seeing some legends far beyond their prime. I've seen Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and others who were far removed from the iconic albums that I obsess over. So, going into this, I wasn't expecting to see "Don't Look Back" era Dylan. That said, I wasn't quite expecting to hear all those songs I know inside out having morphed over the years into a wall of sound interpretation that nicely compliments Bob's voice which has been reduced to something near a growl. It felt like I was hearing something new, and that was almost better than something I've heard a million times.

Dylan himself was great to behold, looking the part of an old outlaw sheriff that stepped out the Rock N Roll Circus, my initial thought was..."Wow, he looks like the ringleader of the death carnival." And it held up throughout. "Ballad of a Thin Man" was delivered with an almost William Burroughs air about it.

It wasn't a perfect was pitchy at times...the sound was a little too loud in places..."Baby Blue" was awful...but it hit a stride and there were a lot of A+ moments that more than outweighed the B- moments. I was never unengaged and never without the feeling that I was watching one of the greatest performers and artists of my shared cultural heritage.

"There's something happening here, but you don't know what it you? Mr. Jones?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Looking Glass Wars Have Ended

Yesterday, I finished reading the last book in The Looking Glass Wars trilogy. I had read all but last thirty pages by mid-morning and decided to save the end for bedtime. That's the kind of books these are...those rare books that you can't decide whether to plow through because you're enjoying them so much, or the kind you savor slowly because you never want them to end.

This last installment (though, does anyone really believe it will be the last, there are certainly open doors for more books) wasn't a let down at all. It did what a third book needs to do...wrap up the bigger story, but also introduce new satisfying storylines. 

I loved the Catepillar Oracle plot. It was very inventive and kept me guessing. I also enjoyed the House of Clubs anti-imaginationist plot, though it sort of disappeared half-way through. And of course, the further development of Lewis Carroll's character along with more time in Oxford was a treat. My favorite part however was the many twists the conclusions of Redd's storyline took, which is odd considering her stories in the previous two books weren't my favorite by any means.

Are these the best books ever written? Absolutely not. Do they benefit from my obsession with Wonderland and the real lives of Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll? Absolutely. But that's what makes these books so special. Their inspiration comes less from the Alice books and more from the legend that surrounds the books' creation. In many ways, they look at our world with the same kind of imaginative lens that the characters in the story use to look at our world. 

As a whole, the trilogy is packed with intriguing ideas to ponder, as any good sci-fi fantasy should. At the same time, it never loses its heart. There's nothing cynical in these books and for me, that was a bit refreshing. 

For anyone who hasn't read The Looking Glass Wars, but wants to...may I make the following suggestions. Certainly read the Alice books first because a big part of these books' strength comes from the stark contrast between the two Wonderlands. Secondly, read up on the history of how the original Alice story came to be...because as I said before, these books are about the real little girl Alice and not the literary character. My last recommendation...just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Small Miracles

Friday, I woke up to the unthinkable.

I looked in the fridge only to find I WAS OUT OF DONUTS!

The entire morning was lost to unproductiveness as all I could do was lament the cruelty of the universe at leaving me in such a horrible predicament

I moped through Saturday morning as well. But shortly after midnight last night, a stop was made at a gas station for gas, milk, and pepsi. As I stepped in, the florescent lights beckoned me to the neon Dunkin Donuts cabinet. How could I resist?

I neatly packed three scrumpcious, yummy chocolate delights into a box and went to pay for them along with the other necessities. When I notice the cashier hadn't rung them up, I reminded him that there were three donuts in the box.

"Oh, don't worry about it. Gonna make more soon anyway."

Free donuts? Free donuts!

"Keep cool," I told myself. "Don't freak out or he might make you pay for them after all."

I held my composure all the way into the car, at which I point I let out a joyous "FREE DONUTS!" As we drove away into the rain and fog, I couldn't help but think my luck was taking a turn for the better.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Which Way Do I Go?

Navigating your way through a novel as you write it can be a tough course to plot. The seas can get rough out there on the white ocean of the blank page. There are all kinds of traps lurking to pull you down in the undertow or set you sailing for the wrong shores.

There are always several critical junctures in the first draft process where as an author you must choose a path. The way you go at that moment will then set your course for the next thick chunk of pages. No amount of outlining or pre-thought will prevent you from making the wrong choice every now and then. How will you know it's wrong? Because will lead you toward a dead end. The tricky part then becomes finding out where you made that wrong turn.

But then there are also those times when the road ahead is so clear, you start seeing several moves ahead. You're making connections with the material that you missed in the planning because there are some deeper things that you can only discover once you've gotten in and started mucking about. 

I share this as someone who was in the first predicament last week, only to go back and find myself in the wonderful latter scenario this week. The writing process for a novel is quite a journey and it never ceases to fascinate me no matter how many times I go on the adventure. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Try, Try, Again

There are many aspects to being a full-time professional writer that take some getting used to...long hours with a sleeping (sometimes farting) cat in your lap whose paws manage to find keys you never knew existed on your keyboard ... or microwaving the third cup of coffee because there are no other office workers to run the endless cycle of the machine. You just have to adapt and these things get easier.

One part that doesn't ever really get easier is having a project rejected. But you still have to get used to it, because every writer (really every creative professional) gets rejected ... a lot. It's part of the process. That doesn't mean it feels any less like a punch in the gut each time it happens. 

It's never as bad as the illustration I did to show my point. It never comes back with a bold "You're Stinky" on it (well, not most of the time anyway). But no matter how kind the rejection, basically it's the same as a six year old sticking their tongue out at you and telling you that you are a stinky monster. It always feels personal. That's because as the author, you invest so much personally in the characters who you're trying to find a home for within the pages of a book. Being rejected is basically someone saying your characters are not welcome here. 

That's how it feels anyway.

The reality is, publishing is not only about coming up with a great entertaining story, it's also about finding the right partner to pair it with. There's a lot of trial an error there. (Which is where an agent helps). This is the fact that I always keep in the back of my mind. It's what helps me lick my wounds and get up again the next day and try, try, again. After all, these characters need a home. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Traveling the Internet

For today's post, I want to direct you to an interview I did about The Heights. I talk about all kinds of good things about the development of the idea, how I went about tackling the task of contemporizing a classic, what I changed and why.

You can find the interview on a blog I read regularly called edge of seventeen. [link]

Also, the new paperback cover is now up, so I thought I'd share it. The hardcover painting was done from this photo test, so it's very similar but different enough to be worth a look.

I'm very happy with it. Hopefully the stores will be too. It comes out in December, so if you missed the hardcover (or didn't want to pay the hardcover price), mark your calendar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm doing a slightly abbreviated roundup this week, not because I'm lazy, but because I've got a novel to write, leaves to rake, furniture to move, etc. etc. etc. Though I do realize that five albums is probably plenty for the average music fan, so I guess I don't feel so badly about it. Well, possibly a little. That's why I'm throwing in a single for some level of atonement.

Oasis - Falling Down (A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in your Mind): I hadn't heard about this limited edition vinyl until I saw it at the Princeton Record Exchange. The song, taken from the latest album, is reworked into a double sided 12" clocking in at over twenty minutes long. I was intrigued because as Oasis fans back in the day, my friends and I always hoped the band would expand into something more experimentally psychedelic. Though far from perfect, this is definitely worth the listen. It's very much just a remix, but it does have an expansive feeling to it that adds new life to the song and adds something to the bands already impressive catalog.

Omar Rodriguez Lopez - Old Money: For the last several years, Omar (half of the creative force behind Mars Volta) has been releasing these prog-jazz solo albums. Some have been more interesting than others. Some have been more Mars Volta while others have been more jazz fusion. This one is kind of in between. There are elements of both. The music is always fascinating and there's always a story within it...if you have the patience to listen for it.

Sebadoh - Rebound EP: Part of my ongoing rediscovery of Sebadoh, I've been listening to this five song EP version from '95 (there's also a just an A/B side single version). All the tracks on here are examples of the Sebadoh sound that I love, that being the acoustic Lou Barlow sound. A great talent, he was really doing things that didn't become popular for another decade.

Country Joe & The Fish - Electric Music for the Mind and Body: This one blew me away, which is saying a lot because after loving their later I'm Fixin' to Die album recently, I had very high expectations. It surpassed them all. A blistering psychedelic record, this album is like listening to an artifact from some other place.

Lou Reed - Transformer: This is one of those revered albums that has always been on my "I Need To Check This Out At Some Point" list. Though, I must admit, I was always skeptical. It just didn't appeal to me for whatever reason. But, I've been surprised in the past, so I gave it a shot. My verdict: What does everybody hear in this album that I don't? I mean, it's certainly not bad, but it's certainly not amazing. It's a slightly above average singer/songwriter album by a musician and lyricist who is obviously feeling a bit bankrupt creatively. Listening to this is the equivalent of listening to the worst Velvet Underground album...I'd rather listen to the better VU albums.

Television - Marquee Moon: This one falls under the same category as the I always was told to listen to but it never appealed to me. My thinking was, ehh another New York late '70s CBGB's band, heard it. The difference from this and the above album is that I couldn't have been more wrong. WHAT A FANTASTIC ALBUM this is. It doesn't sound like those other bands, it sounds way, way ahead of it's time. 

Friday, November 6, 2009


When the end of the world comes, 
there will be me
  and nothing else.

the lawn will stretch out forever,
  the green, beautiful to see.
the trees, never drop a leaf.

A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my office and sifted through mountains of old scraps and notes, searching for anything that might be useful. The above is something I found on one and thought was rather good. It seemed like a proper poem to share on a Friday when the sky is shedding flurries and appears ready to shatter. (The photo is the farm I lived on for two years when I was five...also seemed fitting)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finding a Path Through the Forest

I have the maddening process that I go through on every novel. I find my character and place her in the proper setting. Then I let them wander and see where they take me. Inevitably, I find that 20 pages later, they've taken me some place I never wanted to be. In every book I've written, there are early scenes that no one has ever read. This used to result in lots of swearing on my part, or the punching of computer screen monitors...but I've long since gotten used to the fact that this is how I write. I adapt. I'm not a caveman, after all. No need for punching things.

My newest character led me to this place yesterday. I looked over the first two chapters and thought to myself, this wasn't the book I wanted to write. It wasn't bad. I thought the writing was fairly good. But it wasn't the book I wanted to bring to life. was time to sit and comb through the forest of notes again and find a new path for her to skip along. 

After a long day of frustration and thinking, I finally sat down in the evening and began to move forward. I'm happy to say, I now have a clear path...a path that should lead me to the place I want to go. No sense ending up in Kentucky if you're aiming for Kansas, if you know what I mean. Just have to keep the leash a little tighter this time around.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup (Monday Evening Edition)

I didn't have time this past weekend to get in the needed music roundup, but better late than never. This week was somewhat slow in new acquisitions, mostly because I'm still digesting the deluge from the weeks before. But not to worry, on my way home from Philly today, I made a detour at Princeton Record Exchange and picked up some key wishlist items that will be on here next weekend. But enough of the future, I need to focus on the present.

Elizabeth and the Catapult - taller children: So I'm cheating a bit here because this is one I actually got at the record exchange, but I'm really loving it as I listen to it. This feels very much like a '70s soul folk record but still very modern. Great voice (ala Amiee Mann) and a groovy beat. Plus, the cover art is amazing at LP size.

Natural Snow Buildings - Shadow Kingdom: This is the "new" one I spoke of last week and it's fantastic. Clocking in at around 2 hours, this is another drone folk masterpiece. It's somewhat of a mix of my two favorite NSB albums, combining the kind of drone of Daughter of Darkness with the folk of The Dance of the Moon and the Sun. Could drag for some, but a great record to listen to while writing.

Brendan Benson - My Old, Familiar Friend: Part of the $9.99 mall blitz, the new one from Brendan is a solid effort. After leaving his solo career behind for a few years to be with the Raconteurs, he returns to "familiar" territory. It covers the same range of his previous solo albums and satisfies. I'm hoping to discover further listenings will reveal more depth to this album, compared to the previous. Even if it doesn't, this still a good set of indie pop.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast: The newest album from one of the smartest song writers today. What I love about Andrew Bird is the way he combines brilliant, innovative lyrics with brilliant innovative musical compositions. It sets him apart from the pack and makes his albums consistently feel like your listening to something special.

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges: For some reason, I always want to like this band more than I do. Again, picked this up during the big sale because I'd wanted to hear it for some time. I really liked the video that was on heavy rotation last spring. I was hoping this would be their album that reached me. And though it certainly wasn't, it is still rather good. It reminded me of The Flaming Lips in pieces. I liked it, I just didn't love it even though I wanted to.

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II: I was far from excited when I saw this one announced some months ago. I'd heard the latest Chef mixtape and found it only okay. In my NYC late teens and early 20's, I heard the call of Wu as members of the Clan released classic after classic. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was among those classics. The shine on the flying W has waned on this decades releases and this Part II felt like an attempt to cash in on former glory. Then I started reading about others like me who were unconvinced being won over. So I got it...and yeah, it's tight. As good as the first? Never. But still the best to come of the Clan in nearly a decade for sure.

Gnarls Barkley - St. Elswhere: This was one of those albums that has been sitting on the wishlist for about two years. I never committed for whatever reason. I bought the second one before this one, and loved it. I sort of always felt that this one couldn't be as good. It isn't. The great thing about Gnarls Barkley is their unique sound. However they were still finding their sound on this album, so it's hit and miss, unlike the second album which is all hit. That said, there are still a handful of tracks on here that are fantastic.

The Beatles - Meet the Beatles: This is the Beatles at their earliest. Of course, I know most of the songs on here (though some were new to me), but I bought it on vinyl because I sort of wanted some Beatles on record and this is one of the few albums I don't have already on CD. I've always liked the raw garage sound of the early Beatles and that's what this is. The songs "Little Child" and "Hold Me Tight" were good additions to my Beatles catalog.


O'Death - Broken Hymns, Limbs & Skin: One of my favorite albums from last year, this one came out a few months before I started doing this blog, so it never made it on. O'Death are one of the best bands around, playing their peculiar brand of death folk (or gothic country if you prefer that term). "Home", "On An Aching Sea", and "Angeline" are some of the stand-out tracks that showcase this album...howling vocals, bone rattles, and furious pace. This ain't your parents folk.

The Family of Apostolic: This is a psychedelic folk album from 1968 that I adore. A lot like The United States of America only there is no intention on here to ever make this a commercial album. While listening to this lo-fi gem, you can sort of hear the roots of the kind of indie lo-fi of The Microphones, Neutral Milk Hotel and Guided By Voices. This album is available for free by the band here.