Furr. Blitzen Trapper. If there is anyone who has both James Taylor and Ween on his IPod (besides me, that is), it's probably Eric Early, leader of this Oregon-based indie band. With Furr, Blitzen Trapper made an album that's more diverse, yet more consistent that last year's surprising Wild Mountain Nation. There are tons of late 60s/early 70s grooves over the whole album. Those grooves turn to groovy on the disco-like Saturday Nite. And then there's the sadly sweet ballad Not Your Lover. But there's enough harmonica, acoustic guitar and pounding piano for Trapper to hold onto its alt-country label. Early told LAist that the album is about civilization and "the impossibility of returning to nature." One of the best albums I've heard this year.
Budding Prospects. TC Boyle. This early Boyle novel (1984) is a great introduction to his work, marked by great character development and offbeat humor. Felix, who has quit everything from college to marriage, receives an offer from his friend Vogelsang to cultivate a pot farm out in the boonies. Vogelsang has bought the land. His colleague has the horticultural knowledge. All Felix, and two others, need to do is cultivate the plants. They'll even receive instructions. After a year, they'll walk away with enough money that they won't have to work again. The plan seems simple enough, but quickly goes awry. Nature, the town and a vindictive cop all seem to be against Felix. And this time when he really should quit, he doesn't.
Everything All the Time. Band of Horses. I don't know how this band flew under my radar (thanks for the heads-up Tom), but I'm just awed by Everything, their 2006 debut. Like Blitzen Trapper, they hail from the Pacific Northwest, they're on the SubPop label and they have alt-country leanings. But the comparisons end there. Where Furr is all fits and stops, Everything shimmers throughout. And it has an epic feel. This band probably plays great in a small club, but you can see them rocking a big stadium. It's dreamy music with a kick, as illustrated by the album's first song, titled appropriately enough The First Song. Give it a couple listens and it will grow on you. Eastern Sounds. Yusef Lateef. I first heard of this classic 1961 recording on the Guest Playlist author Matthew Quick did for us. Lateef brought Middle Eastern music into traditional jazz and could be considered one of the pioneers of the World Music genre. But it's serious jazz. In fact, Lateef was an influence on John Coltrane who began experimenting with Indian modes around the same time as Eastern Sounds.
I hope your day is filled with fun, food and family. And now that I got that crap out of the way, I have to get something off my chest. And I'm going to say it politely. Please, please,PLEASE don't anyone else ask me ever again if I'm eating Tofurkey today.
I think I understand what it would be like to be the lone Jewish kid on the block at Christmas. I would love to go through one November without a Tofurky comment. Just because I don't eat turkey or any other kind of meat doesn't mean that I feel so excluded that I'd spend a ton of money on a blend of tofu and wheat carved into the shape of a bird with four drumsticks made of tempeh.
How many foods are served during a traditional Thanksgiving dinner? I can, and will, eat most of them, including all of the desserts. But I won't eat turkey. So what? Big deal. Look, it's not as if you really care what I'm eating. I can tell by the snicker that often accompanies the question. Is it because Tofurky is a funny word, kind of like Spam. I think so. So why don't you just get it out of your system now?
There, I feel better. Do you?
So go ahead, eat your turkey. But pass the mashed potatoes, string bean casserole, veggie stuffing and the pumpkin pie. And yes, I'll have another beer, or three.
Besides Thanksgiving, it is also the first birthday for Distractions, which started last Thanksgiving with this initial post.
(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)
Do you remember the good ol' days a few months back? The economy wasn't looking so hot, but we didn't have the massive bank and credit failures yet? And there weren't all those lost jobs and the threats of many more? Remember, back when the price of gas was what we all worried about?
This week's Treasure comes from the last great Kinks album -- the 1979 Low Budget.
I grew up on Brady Bunch reruns. And I secretly wished I could be a real part of that fun faux family, tossing the football with Greg, riding my bike with Peter and Jan. Oh, and I'd want to just hang out with Marcia. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. (I'd ignore Bobby and Cindy. They were annoying.) And I wasn't alone. Millions of kids longed to be a Brady. That includes the actress who played Marcia -- Maureen McCormick. The television run of the Brady Bunch was the highlight of her young life, not just because it gave her money and fame. But it gave her the only stable family she knew. McCormick's book tops this week's Playlist, followed by a couple of musical geniuses.
Here's The Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice. Maureen McCormick. This book has been tagged as one of those gossipy tell-alls. Yes, there's quite a few good nuggets in there -- McCormick's date with Steve Martin, Florence Henderson's habit of walking around her house topless, and the pages and pages of McCormick's coke use. She details the disasterous therapy she received from the controversial Eugene Landy. Landy, our Weekly Wikipedia link, was most know for his work with Brian Wilson. And there were more nuggets we already knew -- Robert Reed's running arguments with the producers and the Greg-Marcia lusting.
As the Brady Bunch run ends, not only is McCormick looking to escape Marcia Brady, she's trying to cope with her own family's dysfunction and her mother's long-kept secret. By the time Maureen feels good about herself, strangely enough after an appearance on a celebrity weight loss show, she finds her family truly falling apart. Her mother dies and her drug-addled brother is controlling or, possibly, abusing her father. It makes for gripping reading -- something beyond the usual Hollywood bio.
Arena. Todd Rundgren. Upper Darby's own Todd Rundgren hit 60 a few months back. But you'd never know by listening to his latest album -- the aptly titled Arena. This is loud, turned-up-to-11, fist-pumping rock, full of massive riffs that we haven't heard from Todd in almost 20 years. No doubt about it -- Todd is a musical genius. But if you haven't been following his career lately, I don't blame you. The keyboard-heavy Liars, his "interactive" persona, the bossa nova With a Twist and the embarrassing New Cars would be enough to drive any fan away. But he's back. No, this isn't another classic, but it is something you don't see much these days -- a great hard rock record. Atmospheric Disturbances. Rivka Galchen. When Reva comes home one day with a dog, pyschiatrist Leo Liebenstein's realizes that his younger wife has been replaced by someone who looks exactly like her. He wants to find the real Reva. A man losing his mind? Or is he involved in some strange conspiracy with groups that aim to control the weather? Although it's most likely the former, Leo winds up in Pategonia, seeking out work with the Royal Academy of Meterology and its departed leader Gal-Chen along with his patient Harvey. The use of photos of Gal-Chen (I'm guessing their photos of the author Galchen's family) lends an eery feeling to the book. I expected a little more from this clever premise. Galchen's debut novel is smart. And quite odd, though sometimes weighed down by thick prose. Still, it's worth checking out if you're an adventurous reader.
Imaginary Diseases. Frank Zappa. There's the novelty/dirty Frank Zappa. Then there's the pure musical genius Zappa. File this under the latter. Great guitar work. An excellent10-piece band playing everything from jazz to blues with ease and originality. If you liked Frank's Grand Wazoo-era work, you'll live this live recording from that period.
(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)
As I look out here on the bright lights of Sin City, I think about Gram Parson's ode Ooh Las Vegas, one of several great songs on his second, and last, solo album -- Grievous Angel. Sadly, Parsons' life of excess, which is what Vegas is really all about, led to his death before Grievous Angel was released.
As with all Tuesday Treasures, you can listen to the song on the right-hand side of the page on the Hear This! Playlist.
If you ever come down to Palm Beach County, I have several great restaurants I can recommend. And one I suggest you not go to. That would be 264 The Grill. While the rest of the nation was celebrating Barack Obama's historic election and basking in the glow of new politics, Patricia Gatti, the owner of this casual dining spot was practicing some old racism. She told her mostly minority employees that if they voted for Obama, they'd be fired. And the day after the election, she wrote KKK on all their timecards, according to thePalm Beach Post. She also, reportedly, wrote White Power on memos and hung it up in several places around the kitchen. That's the terrifying part. Now, here's the funny part. You didn't think Gatti would own up to her actions, did you? Guess who she blamed? Fox News. Gatti told the Post that she "got crazy watching too much Fox News." Remember the concern everyone had about the tone of the campaign that John McCain and Sarah Palin were conducting? Well, Fox just fed into that baloney. And this is what you get. But then Gatti switched gears, telling the Posts' Frank Cerabino that this was all just good-natured ribbing and was never meant to be taken seriously by the help. Oh I get it. And Ms. Gatti, when I suggested at the start of this article that people never visit your restaurant, which, again is called 264 Grill, I was just doing a little good-natured joshing. That's all. (Insert your Sarah Palin wink here).
(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.) Back in 1990, Yo La Tengo recorded Speeding Motorcycle, a song by the innocent, child-like Daniel Johnston for their cover-filled album Fakebook. Early that year, the band was making an appearance on New Jersey radio station WFMU. Daniel Johnston called into the station from his parent's home in West Virginia and the result is this true treasure. I particularly love Johnston's exuberance at playing the song.
This version of the song can be found on Genuis + Love = Yo La Tengo. And, as with all Tuesday Treasures, it can be found leading off the Hear Now! music playlist on the right of the page.
The White Tiger. Aravind Adiga. I don't know how accurately White Tiger portrays India's caste system, but Adiga gives us a heartfelt, funny and bitter tale of class and greed. The book unfolds as a letter from Balram to the Premier of China. Balram, one of the funniest and oddest literary characters, recounts his life from the days in the hopelessly poor Darkness to his job as a driver/servant. And he explains how he became a murderer, or as he calls himself -- a social entreprenuer. Adiga's debut novel won the Man Booker Prize.
Throughout the book, Balram talks about the four great poets. One of them, Iqbal, is the focus of this week's Wikipedia link.
The World's Most Inoffensive Graffiti All right, let's hear it for graffiti! No not the spray paint kind. The knitting kind. Yes, there is a group of urban knitters, with names such as knitta please who are doing some incredible "tags." Check it out at Deputy Dog.
Auditorium. The Radar Bros. I just recently discovered the Radar Bros., but their sound is so familiar, I swear I've heard it before. It's no wonder they've been compared to everyone from Neil Young (hasn't everyone been compared to Shakey?) to Pink Floyd. Jim Putnam reminds me of Smog's Bill Callahan. The Radar Bros. have been tagged "slowcore", but I hear well-written California-drenched, hazy yet roots-enfused pop songs. Auditorium was released earlier this year. Check out When Cold Air Rises and Warm Rising Son on Hear This!
I'm a big fan of MSNBC's evening lineup, especially Rachel Maddow. But I decided to do a bit of switching around Wednesday night, moving from network to network to track the election results.
I think most of the high-tech gadgetry CNN is using was pretty cool and useful, particularly the screens that were able to break down the voting by various subsections and John the Map King's pieces were actually useful, particularly as they showed how President-elect Obama outperformed John Kerry in some very red areas.
But did you see the holograms? Yes, holograms. When I saw reporter Jessica Yellin's 3D replication show up, I thought she was going to take out a light saber on Wolf Blitzer.
Seriously. Did anyone else see it? Was there any reason for it? They talk about how much money was wasted on the campaigns. How much did the hologram thing cost?
I could almost see the pain on Anderson Cooper's face as he said something he probably never thought he'd never say. "Thank you Will.I.am for taking the time to be a hologram."
(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.) Our inaugural Tuesday Treasure is in honor of Tina Turner's recent visit to the West Palm Beach area. Here's a little dose of Tina and Ike doing their funky version of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. Check it out -- the first song on the Hear This! over to the right.
This morning, I woke up and drove my son the student to the bus stop. My wife the writer took my other son the student to school and waved to Lori the Principal, then picked up Sandra the piano teacher. And we all went to vote.
No Playlist this week as I've been totally immersed in the World Series. In the meantime, thanks to Jacqui and those who e-mailed me wake-up responses for my son. It's not too late to give me your suggestion. See here. I'll wrap up the contest and share all the responses next weekend.
Yes, it's been a great week, but my wife had a great day on Wednesday. See here.