April 29, 2010


A weekly sampler of what we're listening to (new and old), and what we think you might like, too.


THE KLAXONS -- "Atlantis To Interzone"
I've liked these guys for at least a year (though at least two years behind when everyone else said they liked them), but they fulfill most of the checklist points for "Jack-approved late 1990s/ early 2000s British band."

-Kind of batshit? Check. (See Super Furry Animals, British Sea Power)
-Clever without being smug? Check. (See Arctic Monkeys, Maximo Park; on the other side you have clever but TOO smug, i.e. Coldplay, Muse, etc.)
-Like to make dance-y music? Check. (See Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party)
-With synthesizers? Check. (See Hot Chip, Cut Copy, who are actually Aussies, but close enough)
-Drugs a likely influence? Check. (See, uhhh... Super Furry Animals again)

So, as you can see, there's no way I'm not going to like this band. Plus, the drumming and the bass playing in this song kind of kicks ass, and I enjoy singing along to the "AT-LAAN-TIS! TO IN-TER-ZOOOOOOO--OONE!" part in the middle.

DAN AUERBACH -- "Whispered Words"
Pretty clearly the best track on his solo album, "Whispered Words" strikes me as a song to be played in the company of friends or lovers or when you're all alone, as long as it's a bit muggy and the lighting is dim.

DONOVAN -- "Sunshine Superman"
One of the more distinct memories I have from my childhood involves this song. I loved it, unequivocally, and my parents were very aware of this.

During the summer months, when I'd be at home from school during the day, I remember my dad would call home on his way to work when this song started playing on the then Louisville oldies station (103.1 WRKA). I'd crank it...and it was the best way to start a carefree summer day.

I'm not really into buying 'greatest hits' LPs, but recently did purchase the Donovan greatest hits. No buyers remorse whatsoever...same thing with the Cat Stevens greatest hits. Of course, that's also when I bought the Hall & Oates album on LP, "Private Eyes." No remorse there either...

I find it hard to describe British Sea Power without referencing the Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen, or Joy Division. It doesn't seem fair, but at the same time, it's hardly an insult to be compared to three really great bands. BSP does, like the Arcade Fire on Funeral, have an affinity for the epic. But they nevertheless deliver a truly immersive experience worthy of their ambition. After listening to the Decline of British Sea Power, I feel like I've been somewhere else. On that note, I still need to check out the 2009 DVD release of Man of Aran, for which BSP recorded an original score.

[No comment]

DESTROYER -- "Rubies"
This is a brilliant goddamned piece of songwriting.

Daniel Silliman is a married man, graduate student and writer in Germany with keen interests in philosophy, journalism, boxing articles and link lists. In his spare time he plays Scrabble and carves wood.

HOWLIN' WOLF -- "Howlin' For My Darlin'"
I've been talking to myself the last few days. Pacing around the apartment -- out of joint, out of sorts, at loose ends and muttering.

My wife's out of town.

For a while it looked like she wouldn't be able to go because of the volcano. Which seemed, as she pointed out, like something I'd do. But then the ashes cleared enough for her to fly and she left me. Alone with this feeling of being lost. Growling around in my own damn house. I was trying to say (to myself, of course, since I'm the only one who's here) what it was, this feeling, and all I could think was that it's like a dog that doesn't know what to do. Which led me back to the music I had on a tape in my first truck, a gutless '82 Toyoto, a blues compilation that came from I don't know where that had John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Little Walter (I think) and that man among men, that raspy, growly beast of a six-foot-six blues singer, Howlin' Wolf.

There're some live performances of his on youtube that'll show you the possible, primal force of this music, why blues wasn't acceptable in polite society and why white America was scared silly of black men with backbeats -- Jeeeesus Chris' -- did he just lick his guitar and laugh!? -- but this one, Newport in the '60s, is what I've been muttering to myself:

My baby. Come on home.
I love you. Come on home.
If you hear me howlin', calling on my darling.


April 20, 2010


A weekly sampler of what we're listening to (new and old), and what we think you might like, too.


THE THERMALS -- "We Were Sick"
I've been listening to Now We Can See pretty much nonstop since the day it came out last spring,* so it took me a while to figure out just which song to choose this week. I went with this one. I'm pretty sure it's about a disfunctional sexual relationship (So far from where we started/ too far along to stop"). But it could also be about the environment ("Stick out our tongue catching the acid rain). Or mortality ("We were high! We were alive! But we were sick!"). Or the government ("another lesson that threads into man").

*The album is apparently more than a year old, something I hadn't realized. I thought it came out in October 09, it actually came out in April 09. But it really is that good; it hasn't gotten old for me even after a shit-ton of listens.

Every song on the album makes some kind of reference to the elements— earth, the air, water— and all of the songs are thematically linked somehow, with the elements being used as a metaphor for a number of things. Death, is a common theme. But is it personal death? Death of the earth? Death of the shitty government? Death of the human race? Or all of the above? Or is it none of the above and he's just singing nonsense words in every song and I was over-analyzing as I am wont to do?*

*I very much doubt this final option.

That's the genius of Hutch Harris. He's not the most verbose lyricist (as in, he's no John Darnielle or anything) but I love how he can get a few different ideas across with minimal lyrics and the very simple verse/ chorus/ verse format of a punk rock song.

THE WALKMEN -- "All Hands and the Cook"
I chose this Walkmen track to illustrate my mood at the near-end of a hellacious news day. Or more accurately, a pair of news days. People forgot how to drive, rolled their paint trucks, collided, dumped logs, etc., and breaking news web updates were breathing down our backs with video and audio clips and PDFs to share to boot. And I was taking farmers market reporting to new heights.

So the Walkmen never put me at ease, but sometimes I nonetheless turn to them in moments of stress and exacerbate milkshake headaches with eye-squinting head nods and harsh air guitar strumming.

Furthermore, we recently saw the Flaming Lips, which Katie responded to with lukewarm enthusiasm and a mention of "gimmicks." We agreed that she doesn't much care about the unique tone potentials of different guitars and organs. But if you like that sort of thing, well, here's the Walkmen.

A little tidbit from the best email I've gotten this week. I'll only be able to think of this week when I hear this song from here on out.

OF MONTREAL -- "Doing Nothing"
This is what I'm doing today.

An old classic.

THE WALKMEN -- "Thinking of a Dream I Had"
It's what I'm listening to right fucking now. And it's one of their best songs. The overdriven Farfisa in this song and "What's In It For Me?" is one of my favorite sounds ever.

TOM WAITS -- "Way Down In The Hole"
(ED'S NOTE/ EDIT: Goat was late. Our bad. But this song fits. So we added it a day late.)
Since I discovered I have easy access to DVDs of The Wire through the OU library I haven't listened to albums as frequently as usual. As a result, I've recently listened to "Way Down in the Hole" more often than any other song.

Millie hails from Louisville where she attends nursing school. With an impeccable sense of style, people and humor, Millie was an obvious candidate for picking a song for the mix. When she isn't crafting, studying or making amazing music mixes, Millie will gladly make you an excellent Bee's Knees or Gin Daisy.

CAMERA OBSCURA -- "Books Written for Girls "
Let me just start by saying, it took me a shamefully long time to decide on this song. I thought about a lot of different qualities which are valued in a mixtape, & in turn thought about a lot of different songs.

But this song - this song makes me cry. That was really the clincher. I'm not sure what it is: the tempo is slow, but the lyrics aren't especially sad. We've heard gloomier. I'm fairly certain its the slide guitar. It sounds like weeping, and the chord changes sound like catching breath. Camera Obscura are well known for their pop, but I think they've been overlooked on songs like "Books..." I've loved this song for a long time.

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April 18, 2010

NYT vs. WaPo vs. WSJ

Update 4/18/10
In the most rewarding Sunday reading of the year, the big three pleased in unique ways.

The Wall Street Journal felt more newsy than normal. They also delivered -- finally -- on their often over-touted Weekend Journal and Journal Report materials. Those sections always throw around big illustrations but rarely the depth I'd like. But the essay on states breaking into new states and their collection of analytical stories about the future of eco-minded development were superb and accessible.

One Journal fault: they again trotted out a rather pandering "quirky" feature in the lauded A1 Feature position. I'm piecing together evidence on the topic for a standalone post.

The Times did everything well, but delivered a somewhat less enticing A1 than usual. Notable exception being the Mexican drug war story. I can't get enough of the topic, but that said, this particular story felt richer than many. It had the statistics and hard news, but it also managed to stay relatively "local" in feel, thereby refraining from "over context" or adding too much unnecessary and obvious gravity to the situation.

Just a quick glance shows how they delivered good stories across the paper:
:: Ruth's field
:: Film violence
:: Modern love
:: Books essay
:: Public toilets
The Post, although a distant third place this week, nonetheless revealed a couple things I think it does really well (in addition to being excellent. Obviously). First, it put a "pure pleasure" read on A1. This story about the Skilcraft pen. And they delivered a politics story with great on-the-scene details and broader context in "Florida freefall." The Times has recently knocked home run political stories on Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel.

The Post probably suffered from batting last today.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Update 3/28/10

I've decided to introduce The Wall Street Journal into the game, in part because of a stellar weekend edition that grabbed me today. I also wasn't able to pick up a Washington Post. I read the Post a day later.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Thanks to the TNV circulation crew, we're now delivering the Washington Post alongside our MG papers. And thanks to the Garners, I'm receiving this year's Sunday editions of the New York Times!

So I'm reading a lot. ... The Atlantic and Columbia Journalism Review too ...

In thinking of what else to do with the gift of the Times, I think I'll be saving the best layouts and headlines and stories for future manipulation into handmade books. And having just read a cool CJR story about one woman's measurement of how much time she spends reading the Times, WaPo, and WSJ each day and an Atlantic story about why news stories are too long these days, I have one other ongoing blogging idea:

I'm going to pit the WaPo against the Times each Sunday. My inkling is that the Times will win easily, but today's WaPo delivered some extremely strong A1 stories that spurred me to give them the nod over the longer, but less exciting Times.

DateWinnerReason Picks
2/21Times n/a n/a
2/28WaPo sharp A1 FBI and drones; Times ditch-senior-year story
3/7Times landslide basketballs, Axelrod
3/14 Times
A1; lively
Frumin, drug killings, femivores; WaPo FOX
3/21 -draw-
WaPo's A1 vs. Times misc.
Panetta; Times Greenberg baseball story
3/28 WSJ
Strong WSJ A1
WSJ: Divided by kindness; Times was so-so
4/4Timeshonestly, the sports section
tit-for-tat coverage ... Chavez ... gangs
Post & Times
Poles vs. 'Old Man Crew'
Journal & Times
Hasids v. Hipsters, states, fleeing violence

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Cosmic Triplet: Iceland

One of the best teachers who ever taught me -- still a friend to this day -- also introduced me to the idea, however well established, of the "cosmic triplet."

That new words or strange occurrences come in threes.

It's no great revelation, but I'm always on the lookout for such triplets and it always makes me think of that teacher.

So two weeks back the Shoebox Tour visited Charlottesville. World-traveling juggler Jay Gilligan, who I see about once a year, is a great resource for all things Sweden and Finland. That I knew.

But when I (we) asked where we should visit if we only get one trip to the Nordic region, he answered Iceland! without hesitation. Jay said it's the only place he's ever been that really feels like you're "somewhere else."

Icebergs and volcanoes and moss, he said.

He also described the Iceland ring road, which vaulted itself into my must-visit list. The 832-mile route circles the island and helps bring folks to many bizarre sites: a remote hut where a man made cement sculptures, a fjord where a disgruntled ship captain crashed the country's last iron ship, and the airplane house (I think that's it).

Jay also used a drinking straw to illustrate the typical rope barrier left on the ground at the side of cliffs to (barely) warn tourists of potential danger. "They probably put it there thinking some dumb German tourist could get hurt," he said, describing the rawness of Iceland.

He'd traversed the country for Shoebox Tour Iceland in 2009.

Jay also shared thoughts on the fashions and America-hungry culture of Iceland. He said the country likes to whore itself out as well, which also surprised me. Apparently they have a habit of freezing a glacial lagoon so tools like James Bond can make films.

Then the New York Times posted Images of Iceland's vast landscape, in Iceland's vast landscape, featuring photography of sites "so beautiful you can’t imagine." Thanks to Lauren for sharing it!

And a tongue-twisting volcano blew too. It put a dent in everything, if you didn't know. Just search GoogleNews about it to see the media swirl.

I think the Washington Post's photo gallery is illustrative.

More on the Ring Road:
:: A trip in photos
:: NYT "ultimate road trip"

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April 17, 2010

It's Spring... (pt. 2)

Waynesville lost to Marshfield in extra innings.

It was not 27-3. There were few dumb high school kid plays. They played Phoenix and the Strokes during between-innings intermissions.

It sprinkled for most of the game, but in all pretty good for a Tiger baseball experience.

I ate a hamburger and a drank a Powerade as the stadium lights flickered on.

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April 15, 2010

What we're reading #013

Each Friday Every so often, we share our Web discoveries, mostly pulled from our RSS feeds and Twitter accounts. If there's something we should know about, please write to thesadbear [at] gmail [dot] com.

Cantankerous hellfighter
Hockey night in Liberia
Racy license plates
Ampersand chart

Poles feel shock at size of their loss
Pawel Skoczylas, 26, a clerk, said that he had come to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Pilsudski Square to mourn those killed “because I’m a patriot, because I’m a Catholic, because I’m a citizen of Poland, because I’m just a man, a person.”

Underfoot, Out of Reach (Pulitzer)
Fatal Distraction (Pulitzer)
Man delivers self-written obit

'Old Man Crew'
Their trip started at least 40 minutes from daylight.

The guys known as the "Old Man Crew" had finished their shift digging coal out of Upper Big Branch mine. They walked through its lattice of tunnels to a mantrip, an open-sided cart that runs back to the surface on rails.

There were nine of them in the cart, rolling through semi-darkness. "Head" was the crew boss, whom they ribbed about his giant, rectangular noggin. "Pee Wee" was the new grandfather. Benny was a recovering drinker who beat the bottle with the help of Jesus and a Bowflex machine.

They were smudge-faced miners with decades of experience doing jobs better suited for their sons and nephews. They had become friends in other coal mines, and some had worked together for more than 10 years. Now they worked here, at a high-earning Massey Energy mine.

Babe Ruth's whores
NYC destroyed by pixels
Vonnegut library gets a space
Justice Stevens strip club room
Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles"
Duke-Butler wasn't even the best

Derailment wreaks havoc
“We’ve got two cars containing corn syrup, one containing corn meal and two or three mostly empty petroleum cars,” King said. “There is one car with mineral spirits in it, which is essentially turpentine, and if you held a torch to it, it might catch fire, but that's about it."

Snopes feature (NYTimes)
Where is Tom Emanski?
German fact checkers
Earthman uniforms

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A weekly sampler of what we're listening to (new and old), and what we think you might like, too.


OUT HUD -- "It's For You"
The precursurs of my favortite discopunk band !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Out Hud are a bit more fucked-up. That is to say, their beats seem a little less user-friendly. Or at least less dance-friendly. I think they're out of their mind. In a good way. This album (Let Us Never Speak Of It Again) has a song called "Dear Mr. Bush, There Are Over 100 Words for Shit and Only 1 for Music. Fuck You, Out Hud." Which is not near as good a song as "Me And Guliani Down By The School Yard (True Story)" but it's the thought that counts.

PIXIES -- "Caribou"
This 1988 live clip shows Pixies doing their best blend of beauty with grit. "Caribou" is the kind of song that you can almost play for your mother. Its structure is theatrical -- what a tantalizing opening -- and it waltzes along before boiling over. Because of its peaks and troughs I find I can listen to it on repeat, over and over again. Pixies know how to deliver on a tease. "I live cement."

APPLES IN STEREO -- "Dance Floor"
This pick was easy for me. I like the fact that they incorporated Elijah Wood (who owns the record label, Simian, of which they belong) into the music video. This song is the first single from The Apples in Stereo's new album, Travellers in Space and Time.

APHEX TWIN -- "Lichen"
I've just started easing into Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2. Aside from being more polished and complex than its predecessor, Selected Ambient Works 85-92, Vol. 2 possesses an altogether different texture, and the two works together are more primal and modest than his later work, such as the Richard D. James Album and the numerous EPs he released in the 90s (all marvelous, by the way, with few exceptions). "Lichen" isn't exactly a representative song, but it works well for a collaborative playlist.

AVETT BROTHERS -- "Murder in the City"
[No comment]

THE FLAMING LIPS -- "She Don't Use Jelly"
I had watched the documentary about the Flaming Lips called Fearless Freaks several days ago. Of course I should have expected that the stories of members of the Flaming Lips are interesting, but the documentary illuminates episodes I wouldn't have expected. There are a few scenarios I won't ruin, but one I found especially poignant was Wayne's response to Drozd's heroin addiction.

In any case, this is a great Flaming Lips song, and I hadn't realized that the Lips got super popular, or that they were on 90210 until after I had seen the documentary.


April 7, 2010


A weekly sampler of what we're listening to (new and old), and what we think you might like, too.


STIFF LITTLE FINGERS -- "Suspect Device"
I've been in a No Thanks! type mood lately. 1970s punk and post-punk has really been hitting the spot. Especially the early English stuff. Maybe it has to do with the fact that sometimes I feel like I need to go kick someone's teeth in. Not in a malicious way. More in a good, clean WWE Monday Night RAW! kind of way.
Regardless of my pent-up anger issues, these guys are from Northern Ireland, which adds some intrigue. The song's about The Troubles, and rocks only slightly harder than their other popular song about the same subject.
It has a better, catchier chorus, though ("Gotta SUS! SUS! SUS! SUS!SUS!SUS! SUS SUS-PECT DEVICE!"). This masks how depressing the lyrics actually are. I mean, the tune doesn't necessarily give me any specific historical insight into anything that went on in Northern Ireland. It does, however, make me want to punch an Englishman in the face.

The Action -- "I'll Keep Holding On"
I've been listening to the Detroit Cobras cover version of this Nuggets-era gem. The original (both actually) has the sing-along power that woos even Katie to go duet-style with me.

DANGERDOOM -- "Benzie Box"
A walk down memory lane led me back to this song.

KOOL & THE GANG -- "Jungle Boogie"
This is pretty rockin'.

AVETT BROS. -- ""Will You Return?""
Harmony and a break-down.

WOLF PARADE -- "Beyonce" (no video link, just listen)
Dan Boeckner would like his fuzz pedal back.

BLACK SABBATH -- "Paranoid"
If only Ozzy had remained drugged up and intelligent, we might have thought major drug use doesn't sap one's intelligence. As it turns out, if you want to rage against vaguely specified things, you have to devote some of your time to what was it again? Somebody did something worth protesting.

The editor-in-chief of the Toledo Free Press. It's a good paper. And we're not just saying that because two Sad Bears worked there.

Each year, the magazine “Oxford American” publishes a Southern Music Issue. The issue includes a CD or 2 of previously unavailable (or just previously unappreciated) music, then fills its pages with stories about the artists on the CD. This year’s 11th annual issue contains more than 50 such songs, bringing the series total to nearly 350 tracks. These songs run the gamut from Tom Petty and John Hiatt rarities to a Laurel & Hardy track rescued from a 78 rpm record and a bluegrass/hip-hop collaboration between Earl Scruggs and Billy Bob Thornton. Every year, the disc contains at least one song that fails to stand out upon first listen, but eventually burrows into the part of the brain that embraces music and fuses to those cells.
This year, that song is “Papa Was a Rodeo” as sung by Kelly Hogan. It is an unassuming song that is clearly in no hurry, and Hogan relishes the space the band gives her. The tale of a “will they or won’t they” one night stand that ends up being about a much larger universal truth, “Papa” is by turns acridly funny (“I won't be back till next year/I see that kiss-me pucker forming/but maybe you should plug it with a beer”) and achingly sad (“The light reflecting off the mirror ball/looks like a thousand swirling eyes/They make me think I shouldn't be here at all/You know, every minute someone dies “).
It’s not possible to know what inspires the weary sadness Hogan brings to this recording, but if you listen closely, you will find the inspiration for the slight smile that she also allows to seep through.
Bonus points for naming the protagonist “Mike.”

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April 3, 2010

It's Spring...

On the highway home from work tonight
The first insect of spring burst its life
On my windscreen.

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April 2, 2010

What we're reading #012

Each Friday we share our Web discoveries, mostly pulled from our RSS feeds and Twitter accounts. If there's something we should know about, please write to thesadbear [at] gmail [dot] com.

Pitchfork guide to spring releases
Moscow by camera phone
Vinyl search

How to land a plane on a highway
[T]he FAA's Les Dorr, after looking through the database himself, put it to me in an e-mail: "Highway landings are rather more frequent than I would have thought."

Drug dealers' animals
At almost every turn at Villa Lorena, animals display indignities suffered at the hands of man. A caiman with a severed limb stretches under the tropical sun. A macaw with a sawed-off beak flutters in its cage. Luís, a cougar who once belonged to a drug trafficker, limps around his cage, the result of having a front leg cut off.

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