Playlist 26 -- Three-day Weekend = No Depression

Hope everyone is enjoying their three-day holiday weekend. If you Tivo'd The Office or Desperate Housewives and haven't watched the season finales yet, you should skip the bottom part of this week's playlist, which begins right now ...

Fanon. John Edgar Wideman.
At the end of Part II, main character Thomas writes to Frantz Fanon. The letter clearly explains my struggle with the book.
Dear Frantz Fanon:
As you can probably figure out for yourself, I'm reluctant to say whether my evolving project is fiction or nonfiction, novel or memoir ...
The widely acclaimed Macarthur genius grant winner Wideman set to write a novel about a writer tackling the life of Fanon (who happens to be the subject of our weekly Wikipedia link). Fanon was a philosopher, psychiatrist, political activist and author who fought against racism and oppression. A worthy subject indeed. Fanon, the inspiration of the Black Power movement is making a comeback on college campuses.
Thomas is writing a book about Fanon. Or he may write a book about a severed head arriving in the mail. And he visits his brother in jail. And talks to French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard. And then the author himself shows up in the book.
It takes place over neverending, sometimes page-long, paragraphs.
And I found it all very confusing.
However, there is joy in reading Fanon. Wideman's prose has been called "poetry" and been compared to jazz. Those long paragraphs are sometimes beautifully rendered and make this difficult book a joy to read. Here's one such example:
After all, watching the news is to verify the single fact that counts: survival. The flood, car bombing, drought, AIDS, train wreck, cancer, death in all its menancing spectacularly repeatable forms didn't zap me. Those terrible things happen to other people. I'm still safely sealed in my citadel, a viewer above, beyond the fray. Not immune, of course. I'm not dumb enough to think that, but who knows. I'm still peering through my window, watching the news. For a minute or two after 9/11 my viewing habits, along with my fellow countrymen's viewing habits, may have altered a little bit, but we've settled back on our sofas, watch like NASCAR fans, numbed by the noise and power of super turbo-charged cars, racing around and around an oval track secretly hoping against hope that a fiery crash will lift us out of our seats again.

No Depression, Issue 75, May-June, 2008.
Blender, April 2008.
I finally got around to reading some magazines that were piling up, including the last issue of No Depression. (See Playlist 14.) It had been a while since I picked up the magazine, but one read through issue 75 and I'm already missing its devotion to roots rock and its excellent music writing and criticism. This last issue had wonderful in-depth pieces on the Old 97s, Billy Bragg and Blue Mountain. And a great review of Alejandro Escovedo's latest album.
Fittingly for ND, it chose its artist of the decade (yes, in 2008) and it is alt-country's everyman -- guitarist Buddy Miller. The magazine reminds me a lot of Buddy Miller. It was steeped in the traditional, but created honest, new and timeless quality art. Though the magazine was started in response to a musical trend, it was never relegated to the whims of the buying public. It was about good music.
Blender, well, let's say it's no No Depression. But if you have five to seven minutes, it's a fun read. And I learned five interesting things from the April issue.
1. Steve Malkmus played Scrabble a lot when touring. (Am I the the only person to find that really really cool?)
2. The music industry has made a lot of mistakes, from Pretty Boy Floyd to Napster.
3. Taylor Swift is cute.
4. It took a long time and a lot of LA session musicians (think Toto) before Warren Zevon got the right sound down for Werewolves in London.
5. Beatle Bob (photo at top of blog) is a great story. Beatle Bob has been to a live rock show every dayof his life for the last 11 years. No days off. That's an interesting story. But who is Beatle Bob? Does he work? Does he have a family?

Read the amazing story of Beatle Bob here.

In Rainbows. Radiohead.
I'm late coming to this party, but thanks to eMusic, which added this to its catalog this month, I'm here. I have not listened to any of Radiohead's work since OK Computer and this is being heralded as a return to that more band-focused sound. But this is a much warmer and more accessible record than OK Computer. I'm most impressed with how the swirling guitars and lush strings work so well with Thom Yorke's voice.

The Instigator. Rhett Miller.
When the Old 97s singer released this solo album, the band had already started to move away from pure alt-country into more pop territory. But this Jon Brion-produced album was pure pop. Nary a twang to be found. That's OK, because this is a masterpiece. That it sold so few copies just amazes me. Listen to a song once and it'll stick in your head for days.

The Office.
Angela and Dwight? What a way to send out the season. And hasn't poor Andy just turned into a miniature version of clueless Michael? What will happen when Pam leaves for art school? Will there ever be a proposal? The highlights -- Kevin as a "special" person. And the connection between new HR person Holly Flax and Michael before Jan's surprise. Looking forward to next year already.

Desperate Housewives.
Look, I swear I only watch this to spend time with my wife. Honestly. The season finale was excellent, a much needed boost after a somewhat lackluster season. The anchor of the show remains the Scavo family, but finally some interesting story lines involving the other housewives. And the new family, led by Dana Delaney, was much more interesting than the previous year's son chained in the basement story. But I hated the Lost flash-forward like ending.

Other songs I've been listening too ...
-- Ever Fallen in Love/Noise Annoys. The Buzzcocks. Singles Going Steady.
-- At Least That's What She Said. Wilco. A Ghost is Born.