February 23, 2011

Going to NYC

In light of our departure tomorrow (already!?) for New York City, an excerpt from a recent travel chat between Chase and I:

Chase: so the bus departs @ 7:30. it takes 2.5 to get [to Washington D.C.], then we need to find parking, call cab, get to the bus stop. I think we should leave by 4. we'd get to DC proper at 6:30 (if no traffic problems) -- and it would leave 45 minutes to call cab, get to stop (usually 20-25 minutes). It'll still be too close for comfort, but i think 4 is the latest we should leave

Tony: One thing: where's the bus stop?

Chase: downtown

Tony: because GMaps says the fastest way to DC is 2 hours and 50 minutes ... not 2.5.

Chase: oh shit

Tony: AHEM

Chase: hmmm...i always feel like it's just an hour and a half

Tony: I know you assume it's about 45 minutes to DC, but ...

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February 20, 2011

Blues Masters

Among many gems I've turned up this month by listening through my dad's old Chess Blues Masters records, and reading the liner notes, is the fact that Little Walter did in fact die from injuries sustained in a fight.

But perhaps the best insight provided by those notes came from a record that I almost didn't bother to read up on:

If your girl or boyfriend has any soul at all, John Denver, Andre Kostelanetz, Rod McKuen or Barry White don't stand a chance against Sonny Boy Williamson when it comes time to select a disc or two of fuck music for that special moment in your horny little life. He is the stone master of the low down, go down, and the get down.

On ... "Sad To Be Alone," he blows a chorus that grabs the belt buckle of your jeans and pulls your pants down to your ankles. This is not merely my opinion. The erotic potential is exemplified by the fact that last week while playing the tune on the jukebox in my living room with the front door open, by the time Sonny Boy had finished his harp chorus, outside my door were three bill collectors, the mailman, a door-to-door hockey puck salesman, the neighbor from across the street, my sheepdog Zero, and a 4-year-old girl, all willing to pay for the privilege of dry humping my jukebox. - Cub Koda
With that, my recommendations from a handful of Chess Blues Masters Series recordings:

(For one playlist, click here.)

Sonny Boy Williamson: "Keep Your Hand Out Of My Pocket" and "Santa Claus" (ode to Wolf)
Little Walter: "Blue Light"
Muddy Waters: "Honey Bee"
Howlin' Wolf: "I Asked For Water"

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February 18, 2011

Alternate personality

Looks like a little change in personality?

This is the new single by Radiohead:

A far cry from the Yorke of years past?

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February 17, 2011


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


Song: "To Bring You My Love"
Artist: PJ Harvey

I haven't heard her new album (yet... I'm going to get around to buying it, eventually) but until then I've been really getting into some of PJ's older stuff. To Bring You My Love has some powerful stuff, especially on songs like this where she just belts it out and plays that dirty, dirty guitar. Also, Beefheart fans among us would be advised to check out "Meet Ze Monsta," which sounds like a metal cover of something on Trout Mask Replica (an influence on the album) or a precursor to Mule Variations-era Tom Waits. ("Big In Japan," anyone?)

Song: "This Charming Man"
Artist: The Smiths

I've been dipping into the "Left of the Dial" compilation a lot lately. It's like eating your 1980s vegetables and like a lesson in where today's indie folks came from.

Song: "Back It Up"
Artist: Caro Emerald
So I'm a faithful follower of Charles Apple, a freelance visual journalist who used to work as the graphics director at The Virginian-Pilot and the Des Moines Register. These days, when he isn't finding new Star Trek collectibles, he's traveling to far away places in Africa to teach design and graphics to media groups.

I ran across Caro Emerald while reading one of his recent blog entries. Man, Emerald is damn catchy...and pretty popular in the Netherlands right now. Or so I have read. She's a jazz vocalist with a modern pop twist, and if you liked this song, you should check out some of her others (they're quite...errr...visually pleasing). Here's another. Some of her sounds remind me of that great French animated film from a few years back, Les Triplettes de Belleville (give a listen to the popular song from that movie if you want to hear the similarities).

Song: "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger"
Artist: Of Montreal

Song: “Any Way You Want It"
Artist: Journey

Song: "Kiss The Devil"
Artist: Eagles of Death Metal

Who will kiss the devil on his tongue? I will kiss the devil on his tongue!

Song: "rapping 2 u"
Artist: Das Racist

A song where they prove they're actually good and not just a novelty act ("they called us joke rap... we kinda weed rap"). One of the things I love about this group is the way they take standard hip-hop fare and put a slightly goofy spin on it that ends up sounding awesome (in this song, check out the background, high-pitched "what?").

And they're really clever. "Stock is rising–wait–don't scalp the tickets yet / older white women say I'm very articulate."

Song: "Nude as the News"
Artist: Cat Power

Eds. note: This is not from Kyle. It's from Vanessa, his wife and another friend of the Bear. I think they worked together on this one.

The truth is, I rarely listen to new music. There are a couple of newer bands I've added to my will-love-forever list, but basically, I don't deviate from that list. I've been listening to the same stuff since high school. I know there's a lot of good new music out there, but I don't care. The bands I love mean so much to me that I can't imagine anything else moving me again, not like that anyway. Maybe I just wish I could be sixteen again. When you're young, everything seems so immediate, so passionate and I think that translates into how young people listen to music (at least, this is how it was for me) . Instead of listening for all of the musical nuances on an album or wondering how they mixed a track to get it to sound a certain way, I used to "feel" the the album as a whole. I thought about what it meant or what the writer was going through at the time. I thought about the person making the music. Like "Oh my gosh, I know what she's talking about. I feel that way, too!" I guess I'm just more mature now. Maybe music was a bit more honest when I was in high school. I was moved by bands back then. They weren't trying to move me though, they just did. This all seems very ridiculous, I know, but there's no way to ever listen to new music that way again. How can I trust a band to move me now that I'm not so naive? How can I be sure that I won't be let down when the album is over? Well, I can't be sure. Getting let down sucks. I stick to what I know is good and moving. So, this song, is a staple from my past. I still remember hearing this for the first time. It meant so much to me at the time. Cat Power wrote this song about having an abortion. I didn't know that at the time, but something about it seemed haunting. Like "Oh Comely" or something. She was very good. Early Cat Power still hits me. Sorry this is so long.

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February 15, 2011


Damn. I miss my Big Wheel. - Chase


Damn. I miss my handlebar streamers. - Tony

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February 12, 2011


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


Song: "Oh"
Artist: Sleater-Kinney

I think Janet Weiss stole the main drum like for this song from classic 50's Phil Spector songs like "Be My Baby." (Which, BTW, is not a bad thing.... it's a very good thing, the drumming in "Be My Baby" is badass) Only Janet somehow manages to make it even louder than the guitars on this song, which is no small feat. Also love the vocal interplay here: Carrie does the verses and Corrin the chorus. And, oh, what a chorus: " Nobody lingers like your.... HANDS on my HEART...." coupled with that cool whirring guitar line that I can't do justice to with words on a page. It sounds almost like a synthesizer but I'm pretty sure it is not.

Basically, it all adds up to my favorite song on an excellent album.

Song: "Natural Disaster"
Artist: Headphones

I bought this record for $1 in Baltimore simply because of it's album cover, figuring I'd chop it into a handmade book cover, then discovered a pretty interesting indie/electronic record inside. One thing I've noticed is how some of the songs are exceptionally slow, if not inconsistent, in tempo, which is sort of unnerving when listing on vinyl. But I'm pretty sure it's intentional, and not just my turntable. Wikipedia tells me that band members are formerly of Pedro the Lion and Fleet Foxes. I think they're pretty solid, and this song reminds me of the famed Lake Zurich Middle School South juggling club, "Natural Disaster."

Song: "Maps"
Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Memories of playing Rock Band. The video was created by a deranged person, so ignore it.

Song: "The Gaudy Side of Town"
Artist: Gayngs

Destroyer's Kaputt sent me looking for tasteful re-imaginings of 80s soft rock. Relayted delivers.

Song: "Electric Feel"
Artist: MGMT

Naomi here. Jon has the flu, I have been pretending to be him all week. I submit to you all this groovin' tune that always picks me up at work. It's not a song with which Jon is familiar, but the song I was going to submit as a joint, well-loved-by-the-Dunns piece was "Don't Stop Believing." The best video had an obnoxious ad, however, and I felt it would ruin the flow of the mix.

Song: "Sing Me Spanish Techno"
Artist: The New Pornographers

Aside from some entries in Sadbear mixes, I haven't listened to a lot of interesting new music lately. Here is another older song.

Song: "Red"
Artist: Okkervil River

My favorite Okkervil River lyrics.


February 4, 2011


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



Their break-up shook me a bit more than I expected despite the fact that they haven't put out a justifiably brilliant record since Elephant. Hence my selection this week. (That badass version of this from Conan has been taken down by the NBC fun police. Sorry.) Anyway, this is maybe the one band I would've killed to see live. It feels weird to write "R.I.P." since they're not physically dead or anything, but still.


Discovered this song, mostly because of its video, back in Koon Dorm during sophomore year. Then I lost it. Then I got turned on to Grandaddy. Then a week back I was wondering what happened to that "old computer music video," and I was humming it and thinking about it and started to realize that it might be by Grandaddy, and it was.


When I first found this cover, I didn't expect I'd like it much. I was wrong. It made it on a couple of mixed tapes I've really been into.


Song: "YULIA"

Not a very inspired pick, I know. We've been over and over Wolf Parade. However, it inspired a new thought in me this week: whatever happened to the space craze? Sure, we "beat those Reds" and landed on the moon. Hurray for us. But how is it possible that the craze stops there? Is it over? Mission accomplished, let's go home? It's space! I know NASA is still buzzing around up there, but it seems to have lost steam in the public consciousness. Anyway, that's one thing I appreciate about this song (and Dan Boekner in particular). This song seems to think space is still interesting and worthy of metaphor, and I agree. Incidentally, check out the comments to the video. Who are these people?! Yeah, Dante, the whole hell thing...that was a hoax too...certifiably.


I have a high fever, just finished lecturing, and now have to write a letter of recommendation for myself. Maybe my choice will not make sense later.


I watched this shortly before arriving at Hillsdale. I learned it is OK shortly thereafter.

Song: "MARRY ME"

Can't really stand the studio version, but this live version is stunning and moving.


At the end of December I happened to see on the Club Congress website that Destroyer was coming January 4. I had fairly recently checked their upcoming shows and not seen the show listed, so it was a very pleasant surprise. That sent me on a big Destroyer kick. On January 4 I discovered that they had wrongly listed the site, and the show was actually on March 23. No matter. I haven't stopped listening to Destroyer since.

This was the title track on an EP he put out a year or so ago. I remember listening to it when it came out and being bored. Then I saw that "Bay of Pigs" was going to be the closing track on Kaputt. So I went back and listened again and found it was actually incredible.

That buzzing synth at like 4 1/2 minutes got me jazzed, and then I wondered why it never came back. But that pulsing beat stays, and the airy whatchmacallit sound. I love the ambiance of the whole track, and I love the pop song that breaks out seven and a half minutes in. The lyrics are, of course, weird and inscrutable and picturesque. The following lines make me laugh: "So now I live well / I live in the mind / I'm still slinging mud in the towers all the time / I took a walk / and threw up in an English garden / nun da da ha da dum ha dum..." and so forth.

I gather this is the album version. The background singers who show up just after the ten-minute-mark aren't on the EP version. Also the EP closes with two extra minutes of ambient sound to match the opening. Other than that the two versions seem pretty much identical.

K.R. is a grad student at the University of Illinois, where she is studying library science. She went to Hillsdale College before that, and now she lives in Chicago and likes to make stuff and read stuff.


I was originally going to go with some good yellin’ music, but there’s something aggressively whimsical about Freelance Whales, something I can’t resist (something that may make you, dear reader, want to punch them in the face). Maybe it’s the harmonium.

Anyway, “Generator Second Floor” doesn’t have the best lyrics on the album, but it’s a great mix of macabre and carefree noises. It’s a little insidious, a little perky, and kind of sad (if you actually watch the music video, feel free to call it creepy). It’s perfect for the bus or for multitasking. And if your dog is anything like mine, he will hate it.

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February 2, 2011

What does "shoo-in" mean?

Someone had said to me, a few weeks ago, that the Patriots might as well mark their names on the trophy, because they were so obviously favored to win the Super bowl, to which someone else responded "they're a shoo-in".

I took this to mean that it was a given that the Patriots will win (no longer a live possibility), and that the term "shoo-in" is used to describe someone or something who is a surefire bet to win a competitive event.

Just a few days ago, I misspelled the term as "shoe-in," and I imagined it should evoke an image of a shoe brushing something in a certain direction, probably past a certain line, or into a goal. Hyphenated words, when made up of two real words, are not marked as misspelled, but, although I had used the term, I later had the impression that I did not know the meaning of what I had written.

A quick internet search leads to many conflicting opinions about the spelling of the phrase. Some would say "shew-in" or "shoo-in." Someone said that the proper spelling is "shoe-in" because "it just makes sense to me." Bullshit.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED, as we learned to call it in college), traces "shoo-in" back to 1928, when it was used to refer to a fixed horse race. Following that usage, "shoo-in" refers to a horse that is going to win a fixed race.

Though intuitively meaningful, the phrase that "the Patriots are a shoo-in" is infelicitous, unless the speaker means to say that the Patriots will win by underhanded means. The Patriots, though the failed, would have had no relationship with a "shoo-in", because at no point were they supposed to win by someone fixing the game.

The OED gives little history for this incarnation of the term. One which appears closer to current use simply means "A certain or easy winner; a certainty, a 'walk-over'." Now I had never used the term "walk-over," so it can't well be used to elucidate any term, let alone "shoo-in," in my native vocabulary, but perhaps its history will shed some light on the term in question.

The OED's most salient entry is about "walkover." Now a 'walkover' is quite different from a 'shoo-in'. A walkover is someone who, as in a foot race, because of a general lack of competitors, needs only to walk over the line in order to win. "Walkover" refers only to some competitor who will easily win, but not because she is unbeatable, but because there is no qualified competition.

On the contrary, a "shoo-in" is someone who might win through foul play. On the account of the OED, the shoo-in is not guaranteed to win, but if he does, it is because of a shoo-in, namely a fixing of the match. The secondary usage involves something equivocal.

In particular, the present day usage of "shoo-in" does not distinguish between winners who win because they're overpowering and winners who win because they've been fated to win by the relevant gamblers. Perhaps those who use the term don't know what they're saying, or perhaps they know enough that we shouldn't bet against them.