Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup (Out of the Blue and Into the Black Edition)

By now, it should be known to followers of the Roundup that I suffer frequently from bootleg fever. But I'm not one of these bootleg collectors looking for every live concert. No, I search out the fuzzy labyrinth of these shakey recordings in search of those lost tracks or special moments like Neil Young telling a Boston crowd to "Shut the F*%K up or I'll split!" or hearing Axl Rose give his justification for "One In a Million" before playing "Outta Get Me" in front of the L.A. faithful in 1989. Anyways, I've come down with a bad case of bootleg fever lately and have gathered a bunch from two of my favorite bootleged artists who will forever be connected by the line It's better to burn out than to fade away...

Nirvana - The Curio Box: This started popping up all over the Internet recently. It's a pieced together album of pretty rare Nirvana songs. However, many of these songs appear on the stellar official box set release With the Lights Out (and at much better quality). Those songs that aren't on the box set, I have the same versions of the tracks on other bootlegs (again at much better quality). It's also an odd arrangement of songs. As a Nirvana bootleg expert, I would avoid this for some of the superior bootlegs listed below.

Nirvana - The Chosen Rejects: THIS is the one to find if you so desire a wealth of unheard Nirvana bliss. A four disc box set that can really be seen as a companion to With the Lights Out, it breaks up the tracks into Home Demos, Studio Sessions, Broadcasts, and Live Rarities...which is quite clever as Nirvana is one of those bands that sounds differently in all of those arenas. Perhaps the best part about this is the quality of the Fecal Matter demos (Kurt's pre-Nirvana experiment). Somebody spent a lot of time cleaning these up and they sound fantastic. This is a must have for any fan.

Nirvana - Rennes, France (2/16/94): This radio broadcast of the band's concert, one of the very last concerts, is well worth a listen. There's this image that Kurt was a zombie by this time, but you'd never know it listening to this. The band sounds great, giving a full-effort performance. In fact, I've never heard a show where they didn't give a full-effort. There's also this image the Kurt was somber when actually he was often quite funny. This concert shows the playful side. The opening jab at The Who's "Baba O'Riley" is priceless.

BONUS: The Best Of Nirvana Bootlegs
As a Halloween Treat, here's my choices for not-to-be-missed Nirvana bootlegs, all of which I acquired in college, payed exorbitantly for and played endlessly.

Nirvana: Outcesticide Series was a bootleg series which in all numbered 8 releases that by the end had included nearly every rare song worthy of note. The only downside is there are a lot of mixed quality throughout.

Nirvana: Into the Black is a six CD box set, much rumored to have been released by a member of the band, set up in much the same way as The Chosen Rejects. Many of the songs would later appear on With the Lights Out and the of course The Reading Festival set was officially released last year. But there are still gems on here and shockingly, the quality of some songs is better than on With the Lights Out (I'm talking to you "Opinions"). Also includes a wonderful book with amazing never seen photos...again, as many Nirvana bootlegs, it's rumored to have been released by a band member.

Nirvana: unhappy (Dead Man's Paradise): My first Nirvana bootleg still stands as the best single disc of unreleased Nirvana tracks. Of course now many can be found here and there, but there's something darkly tragic about the way this album plays from beginning to end that it is perhaps my favorite Nirvana album.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Tribute to Neil Young: This is a two part album. This first documents the band's 1970 concert in NJ, billed as a farewell concert as Neil set to depart. The show is an incredible early career spanning extravaganza that I enjoy better than Deja Vu. The second half of the album includes very bare Neil Young early demos. Much like Kurt, Neil often sounds his best in comfortable surroundings, singing songs in their fragile early stages.

Neil Young - Well-Known Secret: Neil is teamed up with his backing band Crazy Horse for this '76 show. They of course sound great as always, playing a standard set of Neil classics, but unfortunately the recording quality is far weaker than many other Neil live bootlegs. Also, there are plenty of official releases of Neil with Crazy Horse Live. Instead, seek out his shows with "The Stray Gators" as backup for something a little different and better quality.

The Mynah Birds - The Lost Recordings: It's a little known secret that Neil and future members of Steppenwolf and Buffalo Springfield recorded with a fellow named Rick James in mid-60s. Yes, "Super Freak" Rick James. The legend is that they came to his aide in a street fight. They met in the studio later to lay down this collection of mostly forgettable instrumental tracks. However the two Rick James vocal tracks are interesting bits of Motown soul. Really for music historians only.

BONUS: The Best of Neil Bootlegs

Seeing as how I live in the middle of nowhereland where Trick or Treaters don't venture, I'm handing out more extra treats with two of the best Neil Young bootlegs around (not counting ones I may have reviewed here in the past).

Neil Young: Chrome Dreams is one of the most famous bootlegs of all time, a scrapped album of songs that would later appear in various forms on albums to come. There's just something legendary about an artists scrapped album. Music history is full of them and they are often revered by fans. This is no exception. A country rock classic with "Sedan Delivery", "Powderfinger" and "Like a Hurricane". Apparently Neil agrees with fans on this one as he just recently released an album entitled Chrome Dreams official sequel to a bootleg. Awesome.

Neil Young: Carnegie Hall 12/5/70 is probably one of my 25 or so favorite albums of all time. A very personal show with Neil on acoustic and nothing else. To hear songs like "Helpless" "Southern Man" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" played in this atmosphere is perfect.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cyber Traveling

Over the past couple of weeks, I've done a few guest posts and interviews here and there. Some of them have been quite fun and I thought I'd share the links in case anyone feels like adventuring into unknown blogs this weekend. Enjoy.

My Advice to Alice as She Wanders Wereland: This is piece I did for vvB32 Reads, one of the most creative blogs out there in my opinion which mixes reviews, book information, and online storytelling. One such theme was werewolves and cleverly putting Alice in Wereland. I wrote a little verse in the Cheshire Cat style, giving Alice a warning of her predicament. I also created a piece of art for it, also found in the post.

My Commentary of Zombies: For the fabulous review site Paperback Dolls, they asked me to write a little piece about my take on modern zombies. Here my English Literature degree pays off as I can talk topic with the best of them.

BONUS: Here's their review of Zombie Blondes.

A New Interview Where I Discuss Pure Sunshine and Perfect World: The blog Actin' Up With Books has decided to do a series of interviews with PUSH authors and I'm honored to be the first one. In this interview I discuss my road to publication and some of my experiences from when I was a writer just starting to discover myself as an author.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooky Treats! Picture Books of the Week

'Tis the Season for things that go bump in the night, may they be under the bed, in the back of the closet, or simply waiting in the dark corner of a dark room. Picture Books have always explored the seedy world of our fears. Something about the medium of illustration allows for the horrifying to seem beautiful and in the safe world between the pages, they reassure us that there's no such thing as monsters.

Well just for that, I've chosen two stories that debunk that myth. Monsters are very real in these stories...even if they are not all that scary. Also, for a change of pace, this week I decided to review Picture Books for older audiences. The first is for adults and the second is for children in grades two and above. And because Halloween is coming, I'm treating you with two reviews. Enjoy.
(Chronicle 2001)

In my opinion, Monsters, Inc. is far and away the very best of Pixar's movies. Not only that, it's one of the most imaginative stories I've ever encountered in the way that it links our world with another ala Wonderland or Neverland or Oz. If you agree, than this insightful look about the development of that world is a must read.

This oversized picture book is exactly what the title says it is: the art of Monsters, Inc. Published in the book are dozens of sketches and concepts created by several artists, each revealing an entirely different look for the story. Among the artists hired to dream up their ideas for the story were top name Children's Book illustrators such as Lane Smith and J. Otto Seibold. Comparing the different art styles is a great study of imagination while also allowing you to use your imagination to envision the movie in new ways.

Arranged by different themes such as character and setting, the reader really gets to see the artists' visions side-by-side. In most cases, you can see the elements from each that went into the final look. One of the most fascinating studies is the evolution of Boo. I love the final version of this classic character, but honestly, all of them would have done fine in the role. The study of the different monsters is great too. Each person pictures monsters differently. In the many, many pages of monster pictures, readers get to see some the best artists put their version of childhood spooks to paper.

As a writer, this book has another dimension that I loved. Before I write a book, I often sketch out the world in which it will take place. I sketch out the characters and try to pinpoint the "look" of the narrative in my mind. It was interesting to see this process applied to illustration.

Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson
(Sirus 1997)

It's Hannah's first Halloween trick 0r treating with the big kids and she's a teeny bit afraid that there will be monsters. However, she trusts her older cousin to protect her. Big Mistake!

It turns out Hannah's older cousin doesn't want to be slowed down. He and his friends come up with a plan to spook poor Hannah so badly that she'll want to go home. But when they trick Hannah into entering the scariest house in town, they only get spooked themselves.

Hannah on the other hand isn't so afraid anymore, not after she meets her Scary Godmother who shows her that the monsters are nothing to be afraid of. They befriend her and even help her get back at the meaner older kids, making her the truly brave one.

Published outside the major New York children's houses, this book is very different than the average picture book. I can't imagine many mainstream houses allowing a story where the older kids are so rotten and treat Hannah in such a manner, even though it's an incredibly realistic portrayal of kids being mean. In this way, I think it would really appeal to and be meaningful for slightly older children.

Another interesting aspect of the book is that it's told in a combination of traditional picture book style and graphic style. There's a ton of art in the book. I can see the style turning some off, and there certainly are weaker panels, but overall I really love that it doesn't look like everything else out there. And Jill Thompson is able to do extreme expressions about as good as anyone. Definitely for the collector of unique picture books.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Art of Taking Notes

Going through a pile of old notebooks that were buried in my office yesterday, I found a bunch of interesting fragments. I remember the one above very clearly. It dates from a grey winter day sometime in early 2005.

I was working on my novel Dirty Liar at the time and I remember feeling stuck, which happened often during that book. I took a short walk into the small patch of woods near the cabin I was living in at the time in search of inspiration. The above note is what I saw that day.

The text from this not appears almost word for word in Dirty Liar. Sometimes a good note is all you need.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Hauntingly Good Book

A perk of being a professional writer is getting a chance to read books before they come out. Over the summer, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of author (and all around great guy) Lewis Buzbee's newest novel The Haunting of Charles Dickens. I'd seen some of Greg Ruth's illustrations for it beforehand and was immediately intrigued. Once I started reading...I was captivated. The good news for everyone is that this amazing Middle Grade book hit stores yesterday. You might want to treat yourself to a copy of it as soon as you can.
(Feiwel & Friend 2010)

Sometimes there are stories that float around in my mind that I want to read, but know not within what pages they lie. As soon as I began this book, I knew it was one of those stories I'd been searching out for a long time.

This book is so wonderful on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin praising it. But I'll start with what is always the make or break for me and that is character. The main character, twelve year old Meg, is one of those characters you don't want to leave off and keeps you reading. She's smart, courageous, and altogether real. I love when the child characters are real heroes in middle grade novels. And though set in Victorian London, Meg is not unlike a modern character. After all, a twelve year old is a twelve year old no matter what scenario you drag them through.

The story moves at great pace, always leaving the reader wanting to push ahead. The central mystery is full of adventure that unravels perfectly. And the book doesn't talk down to the reader, even at its most complicated, it's direct but never condescending. This is something that I think young readers will really respond to.

The themes of this book are incredibly relevant to our world. In many ways, I think our world has reverted to the industrial and corporate greed of Dickens time. Child labor is as much a problem today as it was in Victorian times. Just because it's not happening in the streets of Western Civilization's shining cities, it shouldn't be ignored. It's important for children today to be reminded of the cruelty that comes with this practice, especially when the very same practice is partially responsible for most of us to have cheap electronics and clothing.

There isn't anybody I wouldn't recommend this book to. It's one of those rare stories that can transport you into it's world and make it so you want to stay. I can't imagine any reader not cheering Meg on and feeling proud of her each time she succeeds.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 41

Excerpt from The Cadet Manifest 005 (access previous Communications)

We saw the light in the sky to the south before we heard the blast. The evening was lit up with the green glow of twilight long after the sun had gone to sleep. Then the sonic the discharge swept through the settlement, rattling every object that wasn't nailed down and shaking the very stones that build our protective wall. As I sank my blade into the throat of one of the charging Rabbit Soldiers, I knew Bianca has succeeded.

The Scouts fought with renewed intensity following the explosion. Every cadet was aware that the sound that shattered the air and deafened even the cries of war was the song of our victory and our enemies defeat. The rabbits knew it too by the way the noise made their long ears bleed and left them disoriented. They fell quickly under our swords and knives and makeshift guns until every last one was dead. No prisoners in this battle, only slaughter.

The Rabbit-Eared girls emerged into the bloody streets, singing beautifully as they danced around the dead, gently petting the fur of each beast before the Human settlers dragged the pelts to the center of the square to burn. Our Angel called everyone to her and the people held hands and circled around her, joining in a new song for a new world as the last of the Great Rabbit Empire burned before them. But there was still business for the cadets--at least for me there was.

I headed through the streets to see if Bianca needed my assistance. The south wall was crumbling from the sonic assault. At the edge of the woods, the bodies lay scattered among the scorched leaves. Scout uniforms. Long Patrol. All lay together in death. There was no longer a mystery as to why Bianca hadn't returned. She was dead too. Her body in the center of it all, and beside her lay a white rabbit with a genera'sl rank. She must have waited until the last moment, making it impossible to escape the blast.

She gave her life for our cause. I will make sure our new society honors her with a heroes memory.

- Scout Master 155

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board...Literally

I woke from a dream late last week with a story burning a hole in me wanting to get out. As always, I took some notes but I really wanted to return to a project I'd already been working one. However, every time I opened that document and tried to work, this other story haunted me.

I tried to be disciplined and resist as long as I could, but the other night it wouldn't stay in any longer. I sat at my drawing table and the main character emerged effortlessly as if she was always there waiting to be seen. I hand-wrote the opening scene beside her at a pace my hand could barely keep up with. There are still many questions that I'm mulling over and still a lot to discover about this world I've trespassed into, but it's too late leave. I'm hooked.

There's one thing I've learned about publishing and that's to follow your imagination. You can't necessarily worry about who will publish your story. The only think you can be certain of is that if you don't love what your writing, it's pretty much guaranteed nobody else will either.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup (Vintage Vinyl Edition)

Since last week ended up being mostly newer indie fare, I thought this week it would be good to review all old school vinyl that I've gathered over the the past several weeks. This list spans from the '50s to the '70s and includes all genres of goodness. Now I must confess that my hi-fi is not set up in the office, so these are albums that I don't listen to while working. But music is always inspiring whether in the moment or not. Some of these will be familiar to most, but hopefully there's something for you to discover as well.

Pete Seeger - Strangers and Cousins: I picked this up several weeks ago, mostly because Pete Seeger used to run a children's music camp up the road from where I currently live and figured I should represent. Released in 1965, this is a collection of songs recorded on his world tour and plays a bit like a college course with Pete giving a lot of history to these traditional folk songs from around the world. It's an interesting listen and fascinating to hear the similarities between songs from very different cultures. More for folk enthusiasts than anyone else.

Tanya Tucker - Greatest Hits: This is the country singer's 1975 Greatest Hits album that was released after only three albums (she's had a gazillion GH albums since). This one surprised me. I didn't expect to like it too much, but her voice is amazing. It's '70s country in the style of Loretta Lynn. Just solid songs that I'm sure Gram Parsons would have loved.

Jack Starr - Born Petrified: A Texas figure from the late '50s and early '60s, Jack Starr played a raw savage style of garage rock that is essentially proto-punk. Perhaps the most accurate comparison would be to his contemporary Texas rocker Roky Erickson. Both were obsessed with monster horror flicks and fast-paced rock. About two years ago, I found a digital copy of this album online and was very impressed, but the quality was terrible. When I saw the vinyl last weekend at a record store in city, I snatched it up. Hearing it clearly, I was totally blown away. "I Need Your Luvin", "Beat Doll," "Pain (Gimme Sympathy)" and "Love Me Today" are pure brilliance.

Brenda Lee - Bye Bye Blues: Brenda's output in her teen years ranks up with some of my all time favorite music. This album from 1966 really marks the beginning of her mid-career work and though not quite as magnetic as the earlier work, this is a very nice album. A little more Big Band Pop sound than the raw country sound, it's very nostalgic. But covers of "Yesterday" and "Flowers on the Wall" are amazing.

Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band - Jug Band Music: I'd never heard of this band before but when I saw it in the stacks, I picked it right up because I love anything with a jug. What I discovered is one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. This Boston outfit plays old timey music with a Beat Generation sensibility. Released in 1965, this album could be seen as a precursor to the San Fran sound of Country Joe and even Jefferson Airplane, but still unmistakably a '60s folk jug band complete washboard and kazoo. In fact there's a kazoo solo that will totally blow you away. Standouts include "I'm a Woman", "Morning Blues," a ragtime number "Vamp of New Orleans," and the perfect "Memphis." Stellar stuff.

Graham Nash - Wild Tales: Graham's second solo album is not unlike Crosby's "If Only I Could Remember My Name." It's the sound of the '60s folk rock legend trying to find himself in the suddenly bleak landscape of 1973. There has a nice mix of haunting moments and cheerful ones that come together to make a decent album but a bit unfocused. "Music gets you high" Nash sings on one song...that and the piles of drugs that clearly can be heard in this recording.

The Outlaws - Outlaws: This 1975 debut album is a southern rock album that emulates southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's heavy on grooves and decent riffs, but suffers from weaker than needed vocals. Whereas Skynyrd tempers their rock with a sadness in songs like "Simple Man" and "Freebird", this album remains upbeat throughout and lacks that emotion. Still though, the playing is great and the songs keep a good rhythm. They certainly saved the best for last, with the fiery last track "Green Grass and High Tides".

The Monkees - The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees: Between November 1967 and December 1968, The Monkees released three of the best records of the decade. This one falls in the middle of that trilogy with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. coming before and Head coming after. Like those two albums, this is just a perfect piece of pop rock. Side A is fun and catchy. Side B is slightly more experimental, something the Monkees did very well and aren't given much credit for.

Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories: Oddly enough, I'm not a big fan of greatest hits albums. My parents are though and both of the ones on this weekend's list came from the pile of albums in their garage. Now, I have all of the songs on here on other albums, but I loved this record. This is still one of those rare greatest hits albums where every single song is amazing. I really hope there's a Jim Croce revival at some point, this legend needs more respect and recognition as one of the best singer songwriters of the '70s.

Don McLean - American Pie: This is one of those albums like the Eagles' "Hotel California" that a large number of people LOVE and large number of people LOATHE. I'm somewhere in between on both, mostly because neither inspire that much passion in me. This is a typical sort of melancholy early '70s singer songwriter album. I'm admittedly a sucker for that genre and I found this to be a solid okay. The title track, though played to death, is still a hard song to hate and the other tracks are decent enough.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Picture That! Picture Book of the Week

This week's featured Picture Book is one that's very important to me personally. I came across this book when I was in college and it heavily influenced my own writing. In fact, the very first draft of my novel Thief included an opening scene where the main character discovers this book in a book store and steals it (she's thief after all). I ended up cutting the scene early on, but the spirit of this book's main character can be found in mine. So, I'm pleased to share with you this little known book in honor of the first flurries fluttering outside my window today.

The First Snow by David Christiana
(Scholastic Press 1996)

A long time ago, Mother Nature was just a little girl who loved summer. She loved it so much that she never wanted winter to come. "I hate Winter," she would say. "And that friend of his, The Wind, is a monster." She decides to try to scare off Winter, but every season must have it's turn and eventually Winter comes.

Essentially, The First Snow is a new imaginative myth. It takes an element of our world that we take for granted and views it in a unique way. It's also a very creative way of presenting a story of compromise and making new friends. Through sparse dialogue and brilliant illustrations, the two child characters come to life and feel incredibly real in their stubbornness, confusion, and ultimately their compassion. An absolutely beautiful book perfect for early elementary school children.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Here, Story, Story, Story...Here Boy!

Once I start writing a new story, I hate taking even one day off from it until I've finished. I don't like to break rhythm or character. But sometimes, it's oddly the best thing for it.

I started writing a story about fifth grade a few weeks ago and though I liked what I was getting on the page, I was fighting to get it there. I don't like to admit it, but I was a bit thankful when the edits came in for my new novel, forcing me to temporarily quit fifth grade.

Then came the movie script I've been writing with my friend. Whoo! Another week of playing hooky from higher elementary school. Once that was done, there were a days worth of errands to run. But time was running out. It was either I get back to it or I start something else.

This morning I woke up and realized a perfect opening scene for my fifth grade story. I also realized that what I'd written before was more of a character study for my self and not an actual story. It all started to come together in a burst.

The lesson today is that sometimes you must wait for the story to come to you instead of running to find it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 40

Excerpt from the Journal of Undercover Agent Bianca Eldon 005 (access previous documents)

---(Day of the Rabbit Offensive on New Society Settlement)---

I knew that little girl would fail fantastically in her attempt to slaughter General Nippon. She never stood a chance. That is exactly why I chose her for the mission. I discovered her journal a few months back. She had buried it in the sand near the settlement. Hardly covered, it was easy to find after she'd been taken to Fival for her final re-education. Her hatred for that pest made it obvious to me that she'd kill Fival if ever given the chance. Predictable as any brat, it's exactly what she did. It's only a shame one of our best cadets had to die in process.

But the plan is working perfectly. General Nippon naturally brought the remains of his ragged army to my doorstep. Silly Rabbit. He believes they've evolved but those rodents still behave as impulsively as their ancestors. One quick strike in his mighty Great Warren and he couldn't help himself. He marched day and night to our fortress for a chance at revenge. But his Rodent Army is depleted and my cadets are fresh. Our settlement, well defended. They lashed out with untold violence and haven't made a dent. We're taking loses to be sure, but nothing significant. The greenest of our young cadets were put in the line of fire. Our experienced fighters are strong and rested.

The rabbits have entered the walls, but they have no idea of the ambush waiting for them inside. I ordered my cadets to let them advance just far enough to make that long-eared runt Nippon think he was winning. Surely he's out there fluffing up his fur in anticipation of victory.

However, I'm preparing a little welcome for him in the unguarded rear entrance of the settlement. Already I can see his Long Patrol moving through the brush. I will walk out there and meet them, armed with a sonic explosive developed in the last days of the Underground Human Settlement acquired in a simple trade with the feral children living in those caves. Several dozen of our children added to their ranks in exchange for access to the laboratory where the secret weapon was stored. Fools didn't even know the value of what they gave me. When I set the device off, it will shatter the Rabbit Soldiers' sensitive ears and the autumn leaves will shake with my laughter as they lay bleeding from their mouths and noses and slipping slowly into death.

I've given the order for a small troop of cadets to join me. We will meet the Long Patrol in combat, waiting until Nippon is in sight. Then I will wipe those beasts from the map in one stroke. In the aftermath of this war, our new society will claim all lands that were once part of the Rabbit Empire and the Human Cities before that. Unfortunately, Our Angel will have to meet with a little accident I've planned for her, but lucky for the people of our society, I will be there to lead them through their grief.

I face the Scouts in front of me. I can't help but smile when I give them the command, "Move out, boys! Glory is at hand."

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Surely, Even in Dystopia...

Let me begin by saying I love Dystopian fiction. I also love post-apocalyptic tales of any kind and have since I was young child. It's true folks, I can be a bleak person. But one thing about most visions of post-disaster Dystopia that I can't fathom is the nearly universal idea that books will be valued merely for starting campfires.

This doesn't seem to jive with our human need for entertaining our imaginations. And surely, even in a world where one is forced to fight to the death over a bar of soap, there are down moments where he or she wants entertained. When all those DVD players and hi-fi portable stereos fail to work, would books not benefit from their low technology? Would not their value increase in a community to a level they once were before television?

Of course, I must rule out any future where people forget how to read. In that situation, well, naturally a book burns real good. But I don't see that happening unless everyone surviving is illiterate. I will also give a pass to stories where books are a metaphor for thoughts, I'm talking to you Fahrenheit 451. But otherwise, I happen to believe books would benefit from a global meltdown. It's the current trek of Western Society that threatens the value of a book more than any downturn.

So why does this flaw so often appear in such stories?

Simple. It's a writer's worst nightmare. When thinking up a nightmarish society, we always want to include a place where books are used as toilet paper. But if we stop to think just doesn't seem logical. Besides, books are already being recycled to become things like egg cartons and yes, toilet paper.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm bringing the music to you a day earlier as I will be spending tomorrow in the company of old friends, getting up to old troubles if I'm not mistaken. Every so often, I feel it's important for me to remind readers why I do this music list. It's not only because music is probably my biggest hobby, taking up even more time in my life than books, but it's also because music is a huge influence on me as a writer. I listen to music at every stage of the writing process and could certainly give a short list of albums that were in heavy rotation for each book. The two arts are very connected for me and I like to share what sounds have been occupying my mind. So that's the deal. Without further rambling, here's this week's list...which is unintentionally geared to the indie kids.

Jenny & Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now: The first album by the musical pairing of Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley) and Jonathan Rice takes it's cue from a nearly identical concept known as the band She & Him. To be honest, I had high hopes for this, but in the end it turned out to be an average indie folk pop album. It's all very easy to listen to and easy to forget. One of these days Jenny Lewis is going to make an album I adore, I know it. This just wasn't it.

Skunk Anansie - Wonderlustre: It's been ten years since this political London band's last effort and they seem to have become less angry in that time. The music is still powerful and aggressive and the lyrics are still message driven, but lead singer Skin seems to be less in your face with what she has to say. This album is certainly more mainstream than the band's '90s albums, but as always Skin's voice is so incredible and makes it worth the time. If you don't know the band however, don't start here. Begin with the band's superior 1995 debut, Paranoid & Sunburnt.

Papermoons - New Tales: An album leftover from my 2008 wishlist, this was is one that I definitely shouldn't have waited so long to acquire. This is a subtle indie rock album, bordering on Midwestern folk in the style of Saddle Creek bands such as early Bright Eyes and Lullabies for the Working Class. It's very mellow and sounds to my ears like what Built to Spill might sound like re-imagined as a folk band. Good stuff.

Ladyhawk - Fight for Anarchy: This EP from one of my favorite bands of the last several years dates back to 2007, but I finally got my hands on it this week. Falling between the Vancouver band's two full length albums, these six songs rank among the band's best. There is an incredibly intimate feeling to this album that makes it sound like the band is playing around a campfire, singing Neil Young inspired indie rock.

The Village Stompers - Washington Square: This 1963 debut album from Village beatniks is pure Dixieland heaven. Having spent my college years in the Washington Square area, I felt obligated to listen to when it popped up. I wasn't expecting such a treat. There's something about Dixieland music that stirs the imagination. There's a line in the movie Killing Zoe where one character expresses his love for this kind of music stating that nothing else on the planet sounds like it. He's right. Pure cartoon jazz that seems to tap right into the mind.

Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown: Gone is the furious rage of the band's early catalog and here to stay is the softer sound of last year's breakout album. Having been a fan of this band since the days of their 2003 debut EP Holly Roller Novocaine, I must confess to missing the band's raucous youthfulness in the days of indie stardom. But as we all do, the band has grown up and mellowed out. That said, they still know how to craft deeply emotional songs. This album, probably in response to such grand success of their last album, does see the band take a small step back into Southern Rock sound of their roots and it benefits from it.

Piano Magic - Home Recordings: This London dream pop band has been around for nearly a decade, but up until this, their 2010 effort, I'd only heard one wonderful single. Using slowcore vocals mixed with dreamy folk music, they create a very enjoyable sound reminiscent of Low. Of course the line about being fed "a steady diet of Brautigan" on the song "I am a Sub-Librarian" surely made me bias to like it.

Johnny Flynn - Been Listening: The new album from London folk singer/songwriter is certainly no sophomore slump from 2008's A Laurm (one of my favorites from that year). Johnny Flynn has a gift for clever songwriting and apt observations of our current culture that make him one of the best of the ever growing number of folk artists. He also sounds original. A lot of his contemporaries are busy aping the sound of '60s and '70s folk artists whereas he is simply inspired by them. There is a deluxe edition with an extra CD of bonus tracks (demo versions of album songs) that is very worthwhile.

Lou Ragland - He says "Understand Each Other": This 1977 debut from Cleveland native Lou Ragland is something of a soul classic. Though solid, it sounds like a standard soul album to me. There isn't really anything that sets it apart from other well-known artists in the genre that I've heard before. I enjoyed it, but would much rather put on some Marvin Gaye when in the mood for such a record. But if soul music is your lifeblood, this one is probably not to be missed.

Jason Webley - Counterpoint: It's easy to compare Seattle's Jason Webley (also of Evelyn Evelyn) to Tom Waits because they have similar rough voices, but the sentiment is very different in my opinion. This 2002 album certainly has a familiar sound of such Waits' classics, but Tom is more of a storyteller, telling tales of characters. Jason Webley's songs are more spiritual testaments, songs of personal salvation more in the style of Leonard Cohen. Either way, it's a totally engrossing and brilliant album. I can't wait to hear some of his others.