Wednesday, September 30, 2009 

I need two heads

I am feeling more than a little swamped right now, which is funny; I'm unemployed, I shouldn't be so busy I feel like I can't make any progress, right? But between (unpaid) writing, some big, exciting (unpaid) projects, an exceedingly busy weekend coming up, personal stuff, emails and facebook messages piling up for what feels like months now, a messy apartment (and brief window of opportunity to clean it up a bit that involves me finding time to go through a lot of my shit and figure out what I don't need), always increasing piles of stuff I need to hear, read and watch, a broken-ass old computer that makes everything I do on it feel twice as slow, a lack of money, waiting for a job I've been semi-offered to actually get posted etc etc etc...I'll get caught up soon enough, I'm sure. But my apologies in advance if you run into/talk to me anytime soon and I seem a bit... frantic.

In the meantime, I've got another capsule review up at PopMatters, this one on the fine new Tangled Star EP.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 

(Sad trombone)

An anonymous commenter has pointed out that the story I linked to about using hair to run solar panels is apparently false. Another neat idea crushed by the cold weight of reality. Ah well - I'd rather know the truth, in any case, so thanks to anonymous.

Friday, September 25, 2009 

Murderer's row

I think the Singles Jukebox is one of the better things I've been involved with (writing-wise), so it's nice to see it getting some praise. It's really interesting to me that the writing there, while generally excellent, comes from a mix of really well-known critics, critics I know (mostly ex-Stylus people) and then people who as far as I know mainly write about music only for the Jukebox. It's a good mix. And as I was just talking about with my friend Erik the other day, writing there keeps my pop muscles nicely exercised.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 

Not just happy little trees

It's going to be kind of a weird day for me due to sleep deprivation - I'm doing my best not to go sleep for hours so that I can get to bed at a reasonable time for once, but doing so means that I'm not sure I have the mental focus necessary for the things I ought to be doing (writing, responding to emails, sorting through my books for the big sale the library is having). It stresses me out; I feel like I have all this stuff I should be doing (well, I do) but I can't and even shouldn't do it right now. Of course, when I'm stressed out I tend to watch an episode of The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, who I've eulogised for PopMatters as part of their big feature on celebrities and death.

Less important to me personally but still hopefully kind of edifying, my short review of the Shortwave Set's slightly underwhelming sophomore effort went up at PM a few days ago. Between being away last weekend and how busy I've been since I got back, I forgot to link it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 

I believe my little soul is blown

Fell good hits of the 22nd of September, 2009:

David Bowie - Afraid
Blue Rodeo - Somebody Waits
Low - Heartbeats
Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing!
Andrew Bird - Fiery Crash
Ola Podrida - Pour Me Another
The National - Karen
The Chameleons - Mad Jack
Belle & Sebastian - You Made Me Forget My Dreams
Tindersticks - Travellin' Light

Just got back from Cleveland tonight. It was a really fun time, and I had an exceptionally good time hanging out with Todd Hutlock (and his wife Melanie), Chris Gaerig and Mike Orme. I wish more weekends were that fun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 

I want less

I love the underheralded band Wheat, particularly in their poppier moments, but I don't love many of their albums. Despite too much filler for a 33 minute album, their new White Ink Black Ink comes the closest to anything since their stellar, undervalued (by even the band) Per Second Per Second Per Second... Every Second album, still a shining example of why major label polish can be a good thing and seriously one of my favourite albums of all time (if not top 20, then lurking around it).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 

What's a boy to do?

After a very fun, satisfying weekend wherein I got no work done on anything (and for my purposes this Friday/Monday are included in that), I seem to be getting back on things today, but I still have the nagging feeling I'm behind on everything. So apologies to anyone whom I owe correspondance, writing, etc. For now, I've got a brief review of the Sir Lord Von Raven album up yesterday at PopMatters.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 

Hair, wonderful hair

A teenager in rural Nepal has figured out a way to potentially cut the cost of solar panels by 75%: Human hair instead of silicon. At first he was just thinking of his village, but now he's thinking a bit more global. After all, if the hair is good for a few months, that means that even in remote, developing areas people will have grown the replacement parts necessary by the time their solar panel stops working. Properly distributed, I have to say it sounds like this could actually be a pretty significant step forward.

Friday, September 11, 2009 

Nothing you can sing that can't be sung

I admit, I resisted for a few days; the Beatles are far from my favourite band, primarily because for a group that made so many songs that I genuinely love, they also made a bunch of songs that I kind of hate, and only ever made two albums that I love enough top-to-bottom that I'd want to own them (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver, if you're curious). But while I was cautiously getting into the new remasters with the intent of only sampling a few, I managed to hear the mono version of Sgt. Pepper's for the first time, and it was a genuine fucking revelation. Not just the obvious stuff like the slightly speedier take on "She's Leaving Home" (which improves a song I'd already loved, frankly) or anything so obvious; the whole thing sounds gorgeous now. It turns out that all that was keeping the Beatles from cracking my all-time top twenty may have been the shitty 1987 CD masters. I haven't heard the stereo version yet (although I understand they're quite different) but if they'd have the decency to release at least some of the mono versions as standalones I'd be buying it the day it came out.

So that led to me spending the rest of the day listening to Beatles remasters (partly mono versions) and while nothing was straight-out gobsmacking in the same way (and I was confirmed in my opinion that the last three albums are inconsistent (yes, even the White Album) and that the earlier stuff isn't really for me with a few exceptions), it's been a hell of a day. Part of the fun has been talking it over with music-crit friends, arguing over what's their best, and so on, but I think I am firmly with Andrew Unterberger on this: While cultural veneration of the Beatles is as entrenched as it can/should get, setting aside a day or two every year (or maybe every few years) to just gorge on it, all of it, is pretty satisfying and fun. I own non-remastered copies of the two albums of theirs I love, and I can't say I play them very often, but when you're in the mood few things scratch that itch (and few 60s bands discographies genuinely hold up) the way the Beatles' albums do.

At one point, I was pressed to come up with my top ten Beatles songs, and off the top of my head I said this (unranked, except that the first one is always always always always the best Beatles song and I am not arguing with you about it):

A Day in the Life
Good Morning Good Morning
Tomorrow Never Knows
Eleanor Rigby
Back in the USSR (or some days, "Helter Skelter")
All You Need Is Love
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Hey Jude
Strawberry Fields Forever
Glass Onion (which in my heart I'd like to combine with "I Am the Walrus" as one entry but if I have to pick the amazing middle eight that Danger Mouse used to such great effect on The Grey Album seals it)

Andrew Casillas then pointed out something I hadn't noticed or considered, which is that all of these songs came out within one three years. Which highlights both that I am a person who loves a very definite subsection of the band's work, and that the Beatles really were a kind of unrepeatable marvel - whereas novels have Ulysses and superhero comics have Watchmen as the peaks of their form, towering successes that nothing else in the genre really feels like, rock music has not Sgt. Pepper's or whatever but their whole career.


So what's an own goal, then?

First of all, Tom Ewing is a fucking genius and has been for years (I was definitely reading him when I started writing, so he's a formative influence on me as much as glenn mcdonald, Chris Ott (for better or worse!), Nick Southall and the rest of the Stylus crew, et al), so respect is due on that account. But this post of his on "music critics as football positions" is so casually brilliant it set me back a bit. We've been talking about it on the Stylus boards today and one of my favourite Stylus writers put me down as a holding midfielder, which I'm quite flattered by. And I'm glad someone assigned me somewhere, because I'm sufficiently Canadian that when I read that post all I could think was that it would be grotesquely egotistical to say that I was any of those positions.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 

Putting the argument below the surface of the prose

This is an article that all academics should probably read. Certainly philosophy doesn't rely on the kind of rigid structure that Hornstein mentions applies to the social sciences, but jargon-heavy and obtuse is something that, sadly, we're very good at.

An example: I really, really tried to make my thesis accessible to laypeople, to the extent of running a few hard to understand sections past my brother to make sure I was making sense to people without a philosophy background. My mom, a very smart woman, was unable to get anything out of the precis at the beginning except for confusion - and that was purely because several of the words I used were technical, something I completely didn't notice (being so used to them) until she pointed them out.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009 

"That's for her."

I have what you might say is a professional interest in this interview with John Darnielle (I'm reviewing the new album for PopMatters), but as a huge Mountain Goats I'd have found it compelling anyway. Darnielle really is one of the more fascinating guys working right now, and practically everything he writes is worth following; I have yet to read an uninteresting interview with the man. It makes me regret, again, that I was such a huge fanboy dork when I met him (especially given that I don't normally do that!).

Saturday, September 05, 2009 

All wrapped up in cotton wool

Feel good hits of the 5th of September, 2009:

Radiohead - Blow Out
The Verve - Come On
Crowded House - Pineapple Head
The Mountain Goats - Mole
Third Eye Foundation - Semtex (Version)
Fight Like Apes - Jake Summers
The Pogues - Sally MacLennane
Talk Talk - It's My Life
The Fall - Clear Off!
ABC - Many Happy Returns

Friday, September 04, 2009 

Oh I guess it's Friday

(early Friday morning, anyways - a few more capsule reviews done and I'm going to bed)

After that last post I feel I should point out that my mouth is just fine - after my morning coughing fit I was fine all that day as well, and at this point just over a week after getting two wisdom teeth out I've been eating solid food for 4-5 days, haven't had any painkillers for roughly the same time, and am almost done my antibiotics. My oral surgeon is pretty much a genius, as far as I'm concerned.

Meanwhile things are going well, with the exception of the fact that the couple from Tallahassee (well, like that but with crack replacing alcohol - literally crack, I talked to the cops who showed up today and they're all "known to the police" apparently) moved in across the hall from me, but they're getting evicted on the 8th so all's well that ends with the Sherriff showing up, I suppose.

For now, I am immensely pleased both with my review for Florian Hecker's unsuccessful (I think) Acid in the Style of David Tudor, which I really slaved over, going up on RA today. It's the closest thing to philosophy I've written in a while, and even better the comments there (which, perhaps still being in the mind of the trolls we got at Stylus, I was kind of dreading) are at the very least mild in their disparagement, and mostly are actual, you know, conversation. I really do love Resident Advisor, enough so that I wish I listened to more electronic music, but I've got a few more reviews lined up and I hope to write for them as long as Todd lets me (and again with Stylus in mind, that might be for quite a while...).

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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imathers at gmail dot com

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