some birds are funny when they talk








Stuck in my Head
"Kiss Me Harder" by Bertine Zetlitz
"Hot" by Avril
"Brain Problem Situation" by They Might Be Giants

Now Reading
Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro

Recently Finished
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Mad Tony and Me by Carl Hoffman
Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guaralnick
This Must Be The Place: Adventures of Talking Heads in the 20th Century by David Bowman
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Movies Lately
4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour
2 Days in Paris
United 93
The Savages
The Bourne Ultimatum
Sweeney Todd
The Departed
What Would Jesus Buy?
Ghost World
I'm Not There
She's The Man
Lars and the Real Girl
Romance and Cigarettes
No Country for Old Men
Into the Wild
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With
Across the Universe

Shows Lately
Damo Suzuki/Stinking Lizaveta @ Mill Creek
Death and the Maiden @ Curio
Devon Sproule/Carsie Blanton/Devin Greenwood/John Francis @ Tin Angel
Assassins @ The Arden
Oakley Hall and the Teeth @ Johnny Brendas
Isabella and Flamingo/Winnebago and Map Me and Gatz and Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Sonic Dances and Strawberry Farm and The Emperor Jones and No Dice and Hearts of Man and Principles of Uncertainty and Isabella and BATCH and Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's 20th Century and Car and Sports Trilogy and Explanatorium and Wandering Alice and Must Don't Whip Um and Festival of Lies and A Room of Ones Own and Recitatif @ the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe
Martha Graham Cracker and Eliot Levin and Kilo etc. @ the Fringe Cabaret
Lullatone and Teletextile @ Boulder Coffee [Rochester]
TV Sound @ the M Room
Aretha Franklin @ East Dell, Fairmount Pk.
Romeo + Juliet in Clark Park
Daft Punk @ Red Rocks
Spoon @ Rockefeller Park
Ponytail at Pony Pants' House
Mirah/Benjy Ferree @ the 1UC
Tortoise @ World Cafe Live
Hall & Oates...ish
"Nuclear Dreams" - Mascher Dance Group, x2
The Four of Us @ 1812
Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines by Rainpan whatever
Mascher Dance Group/Nathaniel Bartlett
Cornelius @ TLA
Sloan @ World Cafe
In Fluxxxx
Slavic Soul Party!/Red Heart the Ticker @ I-House
the Fantasticks @ Mum
Peter Bjork + Jorn/Fujiya + Miyagi @ fkaTLA
John Vanderslice @ Johnny Brendas
The Books & Todd Reynolds @ 1UC
Into the Woods @ LPAC
The Fishbowl @ the Frear
Caroline, or, Change @ the Arden
Low & Loney, Dear. @ 1UC

Monday, September 15

Quasi - Hot Shit
Quasi’s finest album, 1998’s Featuring Birds, starts with half a minute of chaotic banging and skrawking, the sound of primitive machinery going berserk, an opening that bears little relation to and even sharply contrasts with the precise, tuneful, and almost mechanical pop-rock that dominates the album. Conversely (or contrapositively?), the bed of cinematic, organ-like synths that open Hot Shit, the Portland duo’s fifth full-length, while certainly sinister, don’t prepare us for the sheer ragged humanness of the discordant slide-guitar licks that gradually overtake the synths. There’s more humanity here than past Quasi discs, partly due to the prominence of guitars over Sam Coomes’ beloved Roxichord, but also to the nicely broadened expressiveness of Coomes’ vocals, which are sometimes joined by those of (Sleatter-Kinney drummer, ex-wife; there, I said it) Janet Weiss. There’s also a lot of raggedness – in that the tunes are much looser in both composition and execution, many sporting a distinct blues influence (Coomes released an album of blues covers last year as the Blues Goblins), but also, I’m sorry to say, in a marked inconsistency of quality. For every high point (the appropriately-titled, tempo-shifting "Good Time Rock’n’Roll," the folksy stomp "Master and Dog,," the eerily tender lullaby "No One,") there are at least as many less successful tracks that either approximate the endearingly heavy-handed lo-fi-prog of earlier albums, but without the requisite melodic charm, or stab at new directions without much authenticity. Coomes’ trademark cynicism remains intact, in lyrics that tend towards the political more than ever, either very thinly veiled ("the elephant wields the rod/while the donkey throws you a bone") or stupid blatant ("White Devil’s Dream" offers cursory and echo-laden ‘fuck-you’s to the Bushes, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, et al), but he also offers a hint of hopefulness. Just before a final descent into surrealism, the penultimate "Good Times" (which opens with some gospel sampling) finishes of its litany of social ills with some arena-style riffs and a sarcastic-but-not-irredeemably-so promise: "good times, happy days/in spite of it all." As long as you’re not too picky, that might be a fitting summation for this album. The shit is indeed quasi-hot.

Town and Country - 5
Neither country-western nor township jive (what a nifty genre-fusion that would be!), the music of this Chicago ensemble – which, while theoretically evocative, doesn’t conjure up any specific locale for me, rural or urban – doesn’t yet entirely gainsay their moniker. They share an ideological sophistication with contemporary art ("classical") music (that would be the town part), and their shtick, such as it is, is an oldfangled insistence on employing only acoustic instruments to make their noise (there’s something country about that, right?) The basic approach here is drone – think, just for fun, of the tone processing of someone like Keith Fullerton Whitman, but executed without the aid of electronics. So, on this fifth release (titled after the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Joan Baez), we get things such as opener "Sleeping in the midday sun," which takes ten minutes to build from sustained tone-clusters played on cornet, viola, and double bass (fun fact – bassist Josh Abrams is a Philly native and founding member of the Roots) to a veritable rhythmic frenzy of chekere and triangle. Up next is "Aubergine," a blend of gently repeated chimes and lingering bass clarinet that feels startingly static by contrast. "Lifestyled" offers some inspired jangling and sawing, and "Shirtless" blossoms into a nice mechanistic thrumming rhythm, but essentially there’s not a whole lot of variation among these six tracks.

Needless to say, Town and Country are functioning rather outside the realm of pop music; their provenance and label affiliations would suggest tagging them post-rok, but that isn’t quite right either. When you get right down to it, there are only a few very limited ways to approach this music within a context of band names, song titles and record albums: it’s either boring or soothing/sweeping/haunting/otherwise emotionally transporting – but these types of descriptors are focused essentially on the sound and have little to say about the music itself. This is chamber music in a very traditional sense, and despite the fascinating ways that ensembles such as this one attempt to bridge the gap between popular and art music, the perplexing experience of trying to come to terms with this album is itself an indication that the intermediate ground is not yet fully colonized.