Stage Names demos + other new things

The deluxe editions of The Stage Names come with an extra disc of all of the original acoustic demos. My friend, Blake, was nice enough to send them my way, so here they are, in case you aren't one of the lucky 5,000. These two were the truest to the album's versions. I wasn't so much of a fan of the slowed-down acoustic versions of the faster songs.

Okkervil River: A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene
Okkervil River: A Girl in Port

Just a few housekeeping things:

Hope everyone had a good Unturkey Day and avoided Black Friday like the plague. I am rather enjoying the season, and all of the thermal shirts, new socks, and layers of blankets that accompany it. The trees around my house (which is apparently a cottage, I recently found out) are all kinds of gorgeous red and yellow colors, and even the dullest, cloudiest days seem so full of life. Ironic, for a season that wilts everything away.

I can't believe how fast this year has gone by, and its almost time to start my Best of '07 Lis, which is at once exciting and dreadful. The first half of this year seems so long ago, and my tastes have probably changed quite a bit, as well.

I've changed my RSS/Atom feeds to help me stalk you while you stalk me. Just kidding. But only kind of. So if you haven't added the new one, please do that.


Happy Unturkey Day!

Despite its ultra-colonialist roots, Thanksgiving is a good opportunity for veg*ns to show off awesome food that doesn't have to contain Turkey, Ham, or Turducken (gross!). For that reason, it is the only traditional holiday that I actually celebrate from time to time (among Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc). It is also the holiday that is surrounded by a lot of radical, anti-consumption activism, like Adbusters' Buy Nothing Day.

So in the spirit of celebrating life and family and friends and all kinds of warm fuzzy things, some gifts for a happy day of non-animal consumption:

The track listing for the new Magnetic Fields album, Distortion, from The Music Slut.

'California Girls'
'Old Fools'
'Xavier Says'
'Mr Mistletoe'
'Please Stop Dancing'
'Drive On, Driver'
'Too Drunk To Dream'
'Till The Bitter End'
'I'll Dream Alone'
'The Nun's Litany'
'Zombie Boy'

And, a few songs for today:

Mike Park: Thankful All the Same
Ghost Mice: Free Pizza for Life
Operation: Cliff Clavin: I Used to Be a Meateater

Lastly, if you have $20 to spare, you should Adopt a Turkey. Today's turkey farms are some of the worst factory farms, and today's turkeys are some of the most genetically manipulated farm animals. Most turkeys are killed before they reach 14-18 weeks. Even "organic" and "free-range" turkeys are mutilated, de-beaked, and all kinds of mean things. Just say no to eating turkeys!!!


If life was fair

nothing would be beautiful or real. But today the world is beautiful because the first song from The Magnetic Fields' new album, Distortion is out.


The Magnetic Fields: Three-Way


I knew you when you were you, before they twisted all your views, before you came unglued

Streetlight Manifest is probably the only redeeming thing about New Jersey. Everything Goes Numb is still my favorite third wave Ska album, if for no other reason than that it is ridiculously fast, though its morbidity is also kind of a nice touch. Fast, awesome, literary songs about the absurdity of life are, of course, right up my alley, so I was hoping that the new album, Somewhere In Between would include some of the same elements.

Awesome and morbid, it definitely is, though fast and literary it is not. Aesthetically, everything is slower and sounds more like a modernized reggae or rocksteady album than a ska album. The only literary references, as far as I can tell, are Biblical. Littered through the album are references to salvation, purgatory, and unfulfilled prophecy. The overwhelming thematic element of response to sin and judgement is kind of strange. I can't decide if it is supposed to succeed all of the references to death in Everything Goes Numb, or if the whole album is supposed to deliver commentary about the inability of religion (or maybe other valorized ideologies) to deliver on their promises ("no one here can save you, why would they try when they can't quite save themselves"). A couple of the biblical allusions are hilarious ("The Blonde Lead the Blind") while the obsession with death definitely carries through with the same temerity as before ("nobody's gonna hold your hand on the day you die").

There are a couple of songs that straddle the fence between being songs about love or politics, and a few others about memory and responsibility. "Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe," apparently intended to be on Catch 22's Keasby Nights before Tomas Kalnoky left, is my favorite song for perhaps that reason. Other songs like "Watch It Crash" have those big loud choruses that makes Streetlight Manifesto so awesome.

Streetlight Manifesto: Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe


I've read your horoscope and now I've given up on hope

Insomnia has chosen a bad time to rear its ugly head, though the last few weeks, I have slept better than in a long time due to a mix of long late night conversations and a lot of high stress work during the day. It's something about the light-too many flourescent lights make me forget what time of day it is. Right now, my body is in denial about the changing of the seasons and the dark setting in earlier. Outside my window, I see the slow buildup of traffic and definitely think it is great that I don't have to be at work until noon. Who leaves for work at 4:15 a.m.? Seriously?!?!

When I feel like this, my disconnection from reality grows greater and greater until I have no idea what is going on around me at all. Did the last three weeks really just happen? If I wake up in the morning and it was all a dream, it will not have been a nightmare.

Two songs with really long titles that express the general harumph! that I feel:

Pretty Hot: the monsters under the bed aren't real but the ghost in the kitchen is
The Most Serene Republic: The Protagonist Suddenly Realizes What He Must Do In The Middle Of Downtown Traffic

And it is now 4:26 a.m. and I am going to bed. Hopefully. Bah.


Who are you really after? Who are you trying to find?

I've heard a few people accuse Help Wanted Nights of sounding like it should be a Coldplay album. Those people probably don't have the same emotional investment in The Good Life that I do. Tim Kasher is so much better singing sad sad songs in The Good Life than angry ones in Cursive. Which isn't to say that I don't like Cursive. I just relate to this particular album a lot right now.

Anyways, the album. It has a lot more back country Americana than the previous few, which focused almost entirely on relationships and were very deeply sad. It is hopeful and optimistic while preserving memories of total, earth-shattering pain. Every song captures a random in-flux moment in which every whirring, whizzing object or action just stands still and the world is critically examined. All of these moments feel like they is on the cusp of something huge and beautiful, without real closure about what its leaving behind. That fragility is what makes the whole album so beautiful. Memories lingers so lightly, so barely that they are almost not even there. I like the idea of frozen, in-limbo moments that play themselves over and over again, because repeating those moments does not resolve them at all, which is what the album is about, and which, I think, life is all about.

The Good Life: So Let Go
The Good Life: Playing Dumb
The Good Life: Rest Your Head

Buy the album here for bonus free stuff.


Speaking of Mr. Merritt

NPR has just launched a live streaming music website that has a lot of cool videos and things on it. One new series, Project Song gives an artist 48 hours to write and record a song in a studio, inspired by a photograph and a word. I am, of course, delighted that Stephin Merritt was the first one they chose. Watching someone who has been my favorite singer-songwriter for a decade go through the process of writing and producing a song is so so awesome, even though he explains at the end of the segment that his usual writing process is much more drawn out.

Watch the video and hear the new song here.

The Magnetic Fields Tour a bunch of places where I don't live

I'm considering flying out to see one of these but I don't know which one to choose.

From the House of Tomorrow:

The Magnetic Fields are touring! We're looking forward to playing a few US shows in early 2008 following the January release of our new album, "Distortion." Tickets are available starting this week, with a limited number of advance pre-sale tickets for select shows available now through MusicToday. Tickets are also available at venue box offices and other online agents. (Note: Venue box offices and offline resellers always have lower ticketing surcharges.) Ticket availability dates, costs, and surcharges vary by location, so please visit our website's calendar page for further details. All shows are all-ages.


Shows marked *** are selling pre-sale advance tickets through MusicToday starting November 5 at 10AM EST:


Mon & Tues
Iron Horse Music Hall
Northampton, MA

Thursday & Friday
FEBRUARY 14-15 ***
Somerville Theater
Somerville, MA

Friday & Saturday
FEBRUARY 22-23 ***
Town Hall Theatre
New York, NY

Thursday & Friday
FEBRUARY 28-29 ***
The Herbst Theatre
San Francisco, CA

Sunday & Monday
MARCH 2-3 ***
The Henry Fonda Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Thursday & Friday
MARCH 6-7 ***
Town Hall Seattle
Seattle, WA

Friday, Saturday & Sunday
MARCH 14-16
(Two performances per night -- six shows total)
Old Town School of Folk Music
Chicago, IL


Dear 2003-me:

Come back. I miss how you never cried over stupid things, only super-important-world event things like wars and hurricanes, which were always much more important than whatever was going on in your personal life. I miss how political you were, and idealistic, too. How did you get so lost? Are you hiding somewhere, under a pile of clothes I haven't worn in years, or perhaps between the pages of books I started, but never finished? I can remember the exact day and time that I lost you, when I was suddenly struck with a simultaneous sense of disaster and hope on a cold February day when everything happened really quickly. It was beautiful and dangerous. You lost and forgot me. Where did you go?

More importantly, who are you? I wish I knew, because then I could reunite you with 2007-me and maybe we could be friends. Maybe then I wouldn't feel like I have lost my other half completely because maybe it was just hiding, too.

Beat Happening: In My Memory