The time spent in airports and hotels this past week allowed me to catch up a little on my reading. But before this week's Playlist, a little reminder: Don't be shy. Click the comment button. Let me know: What are you listening to? What are you reading?
Oxford American's 9th annual music issue.
As if attempting to complete your meal with supersize fries, several magazines provide readers with bonus CDs and/or DVDs to complement their content. I particularly enjoy two specific "literary" magazines that do this with their "music issues" -- The Believer and Oxford American. What makes Oxford's music issue stand out is that it doesn't just toss together a CD of indie rock or confessional songwriter types and call it a music issue. The issue carries the same well-written pieces this quarterly Southern magazine is known for. It delivers some of the artists you have heard about (Dwight Yoakam, Percy Mayfield and Thelonius Monk) along with a collection of long-lost nuggets from those artists who you may recall, but can't tell why. Or, quite frankly, you've never heard of. This wonderful mix tape isn't stuck in one genre or one era. Teddy Grace's jazzy blues of "Hey Lawdy Papa" from 1939 sits between Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and that extremely nasty Betty Davis. But you don't just get the songs. You get the story behind the songs, and the artists -- the sad, addiction-riddled life of the powerful folk singer Karen Dalton as well as the rise and demise of the Parchment Prison Band. Great stories that fill these otherwise unknown songs with life and passion. And there are other great articles, ranging from a tale of Dylan's recording of Blonde on Blonde to this piece on the "blog band of the moment" culture of indie rock.
Upcoming music releases to look forward to ...
So who is the blog band of the moment? It appears to be Vampire Weekend, who are all over the blogs and, now the mainstream like the St. Paul Pioneer Press list of 5 bands to watch. (Note, you have to register for free to read the Pioneer Press article)
I guess if they're in the newspapers, they're so over now. Truth is, Vampire Weekend's blend of African- and classical-influenced pop is very catchy and comes with the Distractions' seal of approval (based on their Mansard Roof EP). In the blog buzz, the comparison they most often get is to Graceland-era Paul Simon. Definitely check out their self-titled album when it drops on January 29.
I'm also looking forward to the soon-to-be-released heavy riffs of Black Mountain and the heartful, Cat Power sound-alike Thao Nguyen. You can hear some of Thao's music here.
And a final interesting music-related read before we move on ... Can you really trust a list of 120 essential pop albums when Beyonce and Ghostface Killa are on the first page? Maybe. There are some otherwise interesting choices in the Telegraph's list.
You Shall Know Our Velocity! By David Eggers.
I'm making my way through the David Eggers' catalog backwards and hope to eventually get to his one book that everyone has already read -- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Though I haven't read all his books, I'm a huge Eggers fan. His McSweeney's publishes some terrific books and magazines and a kick-ass Web site. YSKOV is a modern tale that has a classic feel to it. The characters are trying to give away $32,000 in a week while traveling around the world. Sounds easy, but not for our characters, particularly Will who can't get rid of the pain, voices and little librarians in his head. It's a book that moves at a fast pace, as the boys jaunt from to places like Senegal and Estonia, but also stands still. The book opens with ....
Everything within takes place after Jack dies and before my mom and I drowned in a burning ferry in the cool tannin-tinted Guaviare River in East Central Colombia with forty-two locals we hadn't yet met.
Makes No "Diferentia" to Me
Or Pour the Coffee, Pass the Eggs, Let's Read About My Vasectomy
Since Distractions has a smaller circulation (I'm just guessing here) than the Palm Beach Post's 200,000+ (on Sundays), I think it's safe to share. I'm married to a writer, an incredibly gifted writer. But living with a writer means that your life, warts and all, is sometimes shared in print. Our attempts to kill bugs, clean the house, raise two boys, etc. have been great fodder for wonderful articles by my wife. But when she asked me: Can I write about your vasectomy. I said sure, but where's the humor in this horrific event? I asked just one thing. Leave my name out. So my wife did that, referring to me throughout the article as "Hubby," which would've been great if the editor didn't decide to "out" me in a PHOTO and caption on the article, which ran on the front page of the newspaper's Sunday Accent section! At least the online version leaves out the photo.
Scrimshaw and Acme Pale Ale
Both of these beers from the North Shore Brewing Company are light-tasting, refreshing beers that I highly recommended. Scrimshaw, a Pilsner, in particular, has a very subtle, yet rewarding, taste. Good stuff!
And, finally, some songs I've been digging this past week.
-- Walk Where He Walked, Golden Smog, Down by the old Mainstream. Super song, underrated super group.
-- Suite for 20 G, James Taylor, Sweet Baby James. It has folky guitar, soulful horns, call-outs to the various instruments, basically summing up 70s soft rock in one song (and it's on the quintessential soft rock album).
-- Psychotic Reaction (live), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Playback. Drummer Stan Lynch takes over vocals on this Yardbirds-sounding tune .
-- Anti-Love Song, Betty Davis, Betty Davis (and the Oxford American music issue CD). Miles' former wife put out two classic funky rocking albums in the 70s, then disappeared to Pittsburgh. I hate to repeat my adjectives, but this stuff is Nasty -- capital N.