Dear Pitchfork,

STFU. I really doubt you think that Plan-It-X is "excellent," as evidenced by the fact that you do not even know what to call them. Yeah, yeah, I still miss Against Me!'s PIX days, but I doubt you really know anything about that. "In a post indie-rock world where the Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie and even Mastodon were cheered for making the major label leap, Against Me! became the first band of the 21st Century to actually succeed at selling out." What does that even mean? Why don't you give yourself a pat on the back for pointing out that a band may have signed a record deal to make some money. I don't see you chiding Bad Religion for their Clear Channel tour or Anti-Flag for their support of seriously mainstream, anything-but-radical electoral politics. Let's be serious-it really is just music after all. Few people, even the folks at Plan-It-X expect it to change anything, why can't you just sit back and enjoy it like the rest of us? I really don't know why I am so angry about this, except that I think there is just a point at which pointing fingers and calling bands out for selling out is totally useless. Even anti-capitalists care about and need money. Sometimes that means they produce albums that aren't distributed as hand labeled CDs with Xeroxed liner notes. Is that really so bad?

You should obviously still buy the new Against Me! record on No Idea, unless you think that is really just a front for Warner Bros. evil empire, too.

I love when you tell me not to speak

I’ve been mulling over this one for a week or two, trying to take it in. The biggest problem with me and new albums is that I’m usually in a bad mood, which usually yields bad reactions to music that is otherwise awesome and beautiful and deserving of high praise.

So I listened to it as I sat in quiet libraries, on noisy airplanes with crying babies, as I walked around small town streets, as I looked out my window at my garden, watching the summer sun rise, and as I lay sleeplessly in bed in places that, once familiar, I have to leave. In Our Bedroom After the War has become to this summer what Begin to Hope was to the last: the soundtrack to the softness of a season well spent. While Begin to Hope ushered in the summer, however, In Our Bedroom After the War will end it, capturing the sweetness of near-autumn and combining it with the slow but steady rhythm of summer.

The song that seems to stand out the most is, I think pretty consistently “Take Me to the Riot.” The whole album has a ton of synth, but for a song with so much obvious new wave influence, “Take Me to the Riot” has none, if any at all. I especially like all of the light-related imagery juxtaposed with facial imagery. It is a good season for songs about both of these things, especially when they sound this good.

There are a few other stand-outs on the album (though I find deeper appreciation for the songs I initially wasn’t crazy about every time I listen to them). “The Ghost of Genova Heights” (soooo Morrissey), “Personal” (whispered so sweetly), “Barricade” (a slow, melancholy ballad), and the themes of heroism and revolution sprinkled throughout really made this album for me. I’m not sure yet if I like it better than Set Yourself on Fire, just because it isn’t quite as familiar/pop culture pervasive yet, but it’s getting there. It’s definitely the most successful album I’ve listened to so far this year in that I don't think it was overhyped or too greatly anticipated.

Download it here or wait ‘til Sept. 25 for a hard copy.

Stars: Take Me to the Riot
Stars: Barricade
Stars: Window Bird

In other news, I'm reading a really great book that I'll definitely write about when I finish.


Movies worth seeing

About that small town thing...there isn't anything to do here but see movies. The first (Evan Almighty) was a major disappointment, but the rest have been decent.

Live Free or Die Hard: I'm a sucker for action movies, especially ones involving weird destructive shenanigans that could never really happen in real life. Live Free or Die Hard has a long list of them. There were generally a lot of interactions between flying and driving vehicles including a few scenes involving helicopters that were so ridiculous that I laughed aloud. That is to say, they were totally awesome. There were some hokey events along the way, including the Mac kid making a pass at Bruce Willis's daughter.

Overall, it was good in a "holy crap, did that really just happen? That was totally sweet" kinda way. My only complaint is that all of the action came at the expense of character development. Characters ended up being stereotypes rather than archetypes--the NYPD cop, the hot, sort of useless daughter, and computer geeks in three varieties: naive, isolated, and angry. I also would have liked better villians. Timothy Olyphant wasn't really believable as an ex-computer nerd turned evil. His character either needed to be more official/militant (like all those other government dudes), or sort of a dirty pseudo-hipster turtleneck wearer. Despite all that, definitely worth seeing, and so much better than that piece of crap, Evan Almighty.

I had to head over to the big city to see Sicko last night. There were so many things wrong with the scene: the giant theater (complete with food court), the long US Army commercial before the movie, and the fact that a ticket costed nearly TWICE as much as the cute little theater in town. I was probably just grumpy as a result, because I thought the beginning of Sicko was pretty slow. Michael Moore seems to have generally toned it down a bit, a bit too much. I loved Bowling for Columbine and thought Farenheit 9/11 was too critically subdued and patriotic, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot of virulent political commentary from Sicko. I was right. More of an expose than a documentary, Sicko tries to communicate two basic ideas: that universal healthcare should be accepted as a public good by everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, and that greed causes ordinary people to ruthlessly accept the deaths of others in order to make a profit.

Surprisingly, there wasn't as much anti-corporate commentary as anti-insurance industry criticism. Moore fairly successfully exposes the systematized norm of profiteering that pervades an industry that thrives on creating and maintaining sickness to keep itself afloat. A key part of the expose is the contrast of the American privatized healthcare system with the socialized/state-run systems of Canada, England, France, and Cuba. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are probably some problems with those systems too, but I thought Moore captured the culture created by nationalized healthcare pretty well. Doctors were well off, people had all kinds of services (including mandatory sick leave and childcare), and the average family wasn't swimming in taxes.

If I had made this movie, I don't think I would have been able to contain my anger quite as well as Moore did. Overall, it was too tame for my taste. Besides the occasional sarcastic comment, there wasn't much finger pointing, nor was there a strategy or plan of action (except for the socialization of medicine, maybe). Perhaps the radical in me feels that Moore is moderating himself too much to avoid criticism from the right.

Two of my friendss who have movie blogs and saw both of these movies with me should be writing about them soon. Check them out.


Small towns mix

I'm spending most of my summer on college campuses in extremely small towns. Although I've recently enjoyed the cute towny-ness of new urbanism in the city, I've never experienced anything quite like the quaint storefronts, holiday celebrations, and the quiet stillness of summer nights in a rural small town. It all makes me feel like I’m from the “big city,” where nothing is so spread out and everything is bright and constantly flashing.

In the spirit of celebrating the stillness and quiet, and in lieu of some of the other mixes I planned on making but never got around to, I threw together a few songs as a soundtrack to my small town summer. Mostly just a bunch of folk songs I like, and a few other things that make me miss my record player.

1. Sufjan Stevens: all the trees of the fields will clap their hands
2. Yo La Tengo: I Feel Like Going Home
3. Beat Happening: Indian Summer
4. Saturday Looks Good to Me: All Over Town
5. Belle & Sebastian: Waiting for the Moon to Rise
6. Stars in Coma: Life without the community
7. Devendra Banhart: Poughkeepsie
8. The Album Leaf: The Outer Banks
9. The Finches: A Stranger Song
10. Nina Nastasia: So Little
11. Beulah: Slo-Mo for the Masses
12. Josephine Foster: Three Day Days
13. Grandaddy: Everything Beautiful is Far Away
14. The Decembrists: Summersong
15. Belle & Sebastian: My Wandering Days are Over
16. Jack Rose: Mountaintop Lamento
17. All-Time Quarterback: Sock Hop
18. Erin Tobey: Secret Letters
19. Hope Sandoval: Lose Me on the Way
20. The Magnetic Fields: Railroad Boy


Resistance and patriotism

Strike Anywhere: Timebomb Generation

Lest we forget, amidst all of the waving flags, scintillating fireworks, and long parades, that the 4th of July is the celebration of of resistance to colonial rule, I hope we can all spend today remembering the spirit of resistance that once provided a model for revolutions around the world. Enjoy your backyard barbeque, but also be thinking out what being an American used to mean: having a duty to resist, question, rebel, and distance oneself from a government that has become unjust and unresponsive to its constituents.