dreams really do come true

Being done with school means catching up on TV shows I haven't had time to actually watch when they're on, either by watching DVDs or watching them online. The worst part of this is that after a few hours, the season ends and I have to wait another season or year to find out what happens next.

Unfortunately for me, many of my favorite shows were prematurely cancelled. Arrested Development, Firefly, and Undergrads are the two most egregious cancellations, but this week I discovered another. Young Americans is an old Greg Berlanti series, and it certainly feels like it: small town, nostalgic summer, kids who don't belong and all kinds of taboo woven into an otherwise normal coming-of-age narrative. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Kate Moennig and Ian Somerhalder, but even Kate Bosworth isn't half bad in it. There are 3 simultaneous storylines: poor kid from the wrong side of town gets a scholarship to a private boarding school; rich kid at private boarding school falls in love with pretty local blond girl and then finds out she is his sister; and private boarding school dean's son finds himself falling for his best guy friend, thinks he's gay, but turns out not to be because the friend is actually a girl. It ends up getting even more complicated than that but the show really matures as the season progresses and despite the slow beginning ends up being pretty good.

The soundtrack is pretty run-of-the-mill as far as WB shows go, and doesn't have much variety, but one song that appears in all the right places is the Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo's cover of "Over the Rainbow." Without even checking I would guess that it is on the soundtracks of shows like the OC and Everwood, maybe even Gilmore Girls. I'm sure you've heard it a million times, but I think its the best version of this song, which happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time.

Israel Kamakawiwo: Over the Rainbow

You can find every episode of Young Americans (there are only 9 or so) on Youtube. It was cancelled after one summer season, but definitely had the potential to be the next Dawson's Creek.

Another show I wanted the entirety of this week (though thankfully not prematurely cancelled) is Weeds. It's kind of a dark comedy about the bifurcation of suburban life from all of its supposedly more dangerous counterparts. There are all kinds of interesting racial representations that I assume are deliberate, given how smartly the rest of the show is written. The narrative is especially strong in the second season, when the pretty housewife main character realizes that her job as a pot dealer is way more dangerous than she had assumed. The show has all sorts of critiques of suburban white privilege, some more subtle than others. Mary-Louise Parker's character is astoundingly similar to Lauren Graham's character in Gilmore Girls, which makes the show feel extremely weird (in a good way) but adds a good dose of wit and hilarity.

The coolest thing about Weeds, though, is the soundtrack. Scored by John Dragonetti (of The Submarines), the show ends up feeling kind of like a fairytale, which is totally appropriate for the general way it tries to cast suburbia as a filter that prevents the characters from realizing the dangers of what they are participating in.

The theme song, Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes," is pretty appropriate given the show's overall attitude towards suburban living, but in the second season, each episode features a different cover of the song. Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie, The Submarines, Regina Spektor, one dude from the Polyphonic Spree, Jenny Lewis, and some other people each got their own theme segment, and usually a song or two during the actual episode as well. You can listen to them all here. The first season soundtrack isn't bad either.

I'm working on 2-3 other shows at the moment, so when I get caught up I'll post about those.


though i walked alone, i was sure there was somebody there on my shoulder quietly guiding me

School has been keeping me pretty busy and it's hard to want to write when I'm averaging 5 pages a day every weekday for 3 months so sorry I haven't been posting a lot.

Lately, I've been trying to get myself to listen to The Finches' release from this year, Human Like a House. It isn't nearly as memorable as the Six Songs EP, though every bit as pretty and sad. I really really wanted it to be better than Six Songs but honestly, that was expecting quiet a bit because the EP is so breathtaking and impossible to stop listening to. Human Like a House reminds me a bit of childhood nursey rhymes and bedtime songs, which is great except that I am so tired these days that the last thing I need is to be induced into a 4 hour nap.

The album is crafted remarkably well, though. It comes close to sounding as if it were recorded in my living room, not in a Kimya Dawson kind of way but in a really soft and charming way that preserves the clarity of every guitar strum. I also really like that, like Six Songs, Human Like a House has a song about Goettingen, the German city where the Brothers Grimm lived and Otto von Bismark went to law school. I'm not really sure why I am so amused by this, but it seems as good of a city as any to include on two albums.

I will post some mp3's when I clear some webdrive spaces.

In other news, look for the new Joanna Newsom EP, Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band tomorrow. It only has one new song, but I am kind of excited to hear the new recording of "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie."


um, best news of the year?

The Young Marble Giants are back together, momentarily, for the Welsh Hay Festival. I really don't know anything about Hay, except that it appears to be a glorified book fair for smart people.

The Young Marble Giants are one of my favorite bands of all time for two reasons. First, they managed to distance themselves from everything going on musically in the late '70s/early 80s and produce a near perfect record (Colossal Youth) on the first try. In fact, from the looks of this list the 1979 Colossal Youth demo tape was probably the best thing released that year. Second, they influenced a host of my favorite musicians: Lou Reed, David Bowie, The Vaselines, Kurt Cobain, Stephin Merritt (not to mention bands who influenced Merritt, like Kraftwerk). Belle & Sebastian, Adam Green, and Stephin Merritt have all covered the Young Marble Giants, as well.

So anyways, if you're near Wales in about 10 days, you definitely should go see them. I can't imagine that it'll be anything but totally awesome.


dreams can still be nightmares too

I cannot believe I forgot to write about the new !!! album, Myth Takes. I've been incredibly busy the last 6 weeks or so, so sorry for the delay.

Is it better than Louden Up Now or the S/T album? Maybe. It feels really unfamiliar in a lot of ways, which I sort of appreciate, but weirds me out a little bit. "A New Name," for example, has this really strange early 90's pop kind of vibe--even more than I'd expect from an album like this. Parts of it remind me of that video where Paula Abdul falls in love with MC Scat Kat. You know which one I'm talking about. "Sweet Life" is another weird song. It starts really slow and then becomes kind of cluttered and incomprehensible. It ends up sounding more like some really mainstream rock band failing at being experiemental.

It's definitely not all bad, though. I'd say "Heart of Hearts" sounds the most like earlier !!!, except for this weird part around 1:30 that also feels very early 90's. I mean that in the best way possible--I'm probably one of the only people in the world who still appreciates non-grunge music from that period.

Another favorite is "All My Heroes are Weirdos," which is a bit poppier and faster, but less dancey. I appreciate all the variety it includes--especially because it avoids sounding as pretentious as most of the other songs on the album. It's kind of experimental and weird, but at least signals that the band is maturing and developing their sound in ways that are not boring and already done to death.

!!!: Heart of Hearts
!!!: All My Heroes are Weirdos


Bad news from PIX; Cassadega

There will not be a Plan-it-x fest this year. PIX is moving, the bands don't want to play shows at bigger venues, etc etc. I'm kind of bummed, but it seems like both the 2006 summer camp version of PIX fest and the earlier school bus tour version were really taxing for everyone.

The good news is, you can pre-order the new Ghost Mice/Andrew Jackson Jihad split for $5. Also this year, new albums from Paul Baribeau (who did Kimya Dawson's latest album art and is generally awesome) and the Door Keys. Obviously, all these new albums would have made for a great PIX-fest.

In other news, I've given Cassadega a few listens and here are my thoughts:

I was talking to someone about Bright Eyes the other night who brought up the usual objection with Conor Oberst's privileged background bringing him early success in life, and despite my history with this band I kind of agreed that it wasn't as if someone somewhere along the way had been like "Conor Oberst, you are an awesome songwriter." After the singles from Digital Ash and especially I'm Wide Awake were released (Lua and Take It Easy), I think everyone was a bit suprised and taken aback. It was clearly Bright Eyes' best work yet, and with the release of Digital Ash with I'm Wide Awake as sort of a concept album, people went nuts.

Cassadega is not nearly as exciting. My first impression was that it sounded like there were a lot of fiddles. My second impression was that it tried too hard to be folk music. These two observations are characteristic of the best songs on the album (and I mean, there are a few good ones). I really like "If the Brakeman Turns My Way" and Four Winds. It's nice to at least hear some optimism on an album that seems so confused about what its message is supposed to be. Overall, I'd say that if you're a fan, you should probably give Cassadega a listen, but if you're not, I wouldn't bother. Start with the last two, work your way backwards, and then maybe try out Cassadega if you want to hear more.

Last thing: today is my blog's 1 year anniversary. I haven't posted nearly as much as I've wanted to, but I think it has been a good year and I've gotten a lot of non-academic writing done, which is refreshing. I'm contemplating starting a separate food-only blog, but that is probably too much work. We'll see what happens.


i can't see them but they control my life

Does anyone else use Peel? It's pretty awesome because you can listen to all of the mp3's from your favorite blogs without having to go to the pages individually. If you like a song, you can read the blog post about it, too. You can also listen to things a few times and add them to playlists and things, which makes it a lot more conducive to finding bands you like than simply listening to a song once when you're reading an RSS feed.

Last week, Charles posted about Cloud Cult. I probably listened to "Chemicals Collide" 30-40 times before deciding to buy The Meaning of 8. I've only listened to a few songs from their previous albums but so far the biggest difference I can tell is that they lightened up a bit, took out some of the heavier guitar (like from songs like "Car Crash"). Instead, they've mostly stuck to this sort of ethereal, poppy aesthetic (without sounding too much like the Polyphonic Spree) that makes them really memorable. A couple of their songs feel like Tim Kasher to me, but I can't find any evidence that he was at all involved in them.

from The Meaning of 8:
Cloud Cult: Take Your Medicine
Cloud Cult: Pretty Voice
Cloud Cult: The Girl Underground

my hearts aflame, my body's strained but god i like it

TV on the Radio was maybe the second best show I've seen this semester. The audience wasn't as engaged as they could have been but there was still a lot of dancing.

I sort of feel like I missed the boat on including them in my top 15 for last year. It wasn't that Return to Cookie Mountain wasn't awesome. I was just tired of hearing it everywhere. I kind of hate how MTV/VH1, etc. do that to good songs and good bands. The best part of the show, though, was how humble TVOTR was when they played Wolf Like Me. I kind of expected it to be a much bigger deal because that song probably singlehandedly popularlized Cookie Mountain, but the band was really good about not acting like their most popular song was their best song. Some of the slower songs were really amazing live, but I was definitely excited about getting to dance to some of the newer ones. My favorite thing about TVOTR is their explosion of genres and melding of time periods--I can easily imagine them doing just as well three or four decades ago as they are now. Watching them felt like watching a piece of history--maybe something I'll tell my kids about some day the same way older folks tell me about seeing Marley or the Beatles. There was something otherworldly about it. I know I always emphasize the power in music that feels very raw to me, but this wasn't that at all. It was entirely different, not because I felt disconnected but because the music wasn't about the band's glory. It was just music. It sounded great and they played and performed it as if they were real people, not the total rockstars they are.

As an aside--does anyone else like Ugly Casanova? I can't stop listening to them lately.


no disrespect, that's just how i am

Ratatat's openers were terrible, but they were amazing. First of all, I've never seen so many old people rocking out or rocking so hard. There was this dude with a receding hairline in a sweater vest who probably danced more than I did.

Secondly, Ratatat wins the award for keeping the bass low enough not to give me a heart attack. Seriously, who wants to feel like the building will break apart at any second?

They're kind of a weird band to see live, given the lack of vocals and all but they mixed it up A LOT, with all kinds of new chords, differently tuned instruments, etc. It definitely kept me on my toes. I've listened to Ratatat enough to notice slight variations, pauses, etc. and there were a lot of them. It was like listening to a whole new band. The set was short, but I kind of expected that. There almost wasn't an encore because everyone was so dazed at the sheer glory of what had just happened that they almost forgot to cheer. Everyone just sort of sadly looked around at each other, wondering where the music went.

In other news: the new Bright Eyes album Cassadega has really awesome album art (hint: it comes with a viewfinder). My computer is being grumpy but when it decides to let me listen to CDs I'll write more about it.


Lots and lots of good news

Not that my week is not already going to be awesome (ratatat on Tuesday, T.V. On the Radio on Friday), but I'm finally done with my biggest school project for the semester, which is awesome. Also, there is a new Saturday Looks Good To Me album coming out this year (September) on K Records. Hooray!


I will stay if you let me stay, and I will go if you let go

I'm sitting here with the window open, looking into the forest that surrounds one side of my building, and the cool air reminds me of these nights I would spend sitting by my window when I was around 9, feeling the air and trying to understand why the gentleness of the wind seemed to suspend time and make everything beautiful. These were the times that I pondered the future, love, and existence, with my 9-year-old mind often feeling years beyond its time. That was a year of firsts, and so, too, has been this one. It has been over a decade since I was that little girl looking out of the window into the dark night and wondering what the world had in store for me, and I still do not know, but I see a trajectory that makes me feel safe.

I had a set of rare moments yesterday leading up to the rarest moment of all, and all of a sudden a huge part of my life was at once over and fulfilled. I'm extremely overwhelmed by it all, and its significance, despite the barrage of reminders, emails, shout-outs, and phone calls, hasn't quite set in. It is exceptionally emotionally difficult to have experienced the last two weeks in the shadow of events to come in the next month or so. There is too much finality after the changes that are about to happen. I have no idea what will be left of me afterwards.

Young Marble Giants: Final Day
Beat Happening: Cry for a Shadow

I've never had the vocabulary to succinctly express what that particular part of my life has meant to me, but I can translate some of what I feel through the art I consume. I don't want my memories of the last 8 years to be fragmented by my transition from one role and identity to another.

Iron & Wine: Weary Memory
All-time Quarterback: Why I Cry (Magnetic Fields cover)
The Magnetic Fields: If You Don't Cry

I feel sort of suspended in a moment that I can't escape. It is as if this moment has always been happening and I am merely reliving it. I always imagined the suspension of this moment to accompany some kind of mourning or sense of loss, but it's really hard for me to associate anything I feel now with lack or departure.

The Magnetic Fields: You're My Only Home
Rise Against: Swing Life Away

The last thing I will say is this: whether or not you have shared or helped create some of my memories of the last near-decade of my life, I think that anyone can appreciate the value of community, responsibility, and belonging. Community is sometimes about the repression of difference, and at other times about its celebration. I've experienced both, but mostly the latter in the hoopla about yesterday. I'd like to think I've learned a little bit more than mere tolerance, but I know that I wouldn't even have had that if I had not participated in a community that made diversity its goal.

Less Than Jake: All My Best Friends are Metalheads

That's all for now. I have a lot of sleep and work to catch up on.