One-minute, one listen review: Ys by Joanna Newsom

One LP, five songs, fifty five minutes. What is this, a jazz record? (No, then it would be Mingus by Joni Mitchell, although parts of this remind me of Joni's more experimental long works.) It's daring, alright, especially for an artist already known for a warbling weird voice some find irritating who plays harp for indie rock kids. The production is higher (string arrangements, which are all pretty nice, by Van Dyke Parks, best known to most for writing the Smile lyrics...that hints at the aspirations of the record, don't it?). The songs go as deep as 16 minutes, and after one listen, I've got no real idea what they're about, although the lyrics sound impeccable. The songs are also hard to hear structure in; these aren't exactly several songs in one, more like pocket suites.

A lot of people will call it pretentious; it is, but so is anything that aspires to capital-g Greatness, so pretentious unto itself is not a bad word: pretentious for the sake of pretentious is the dangerous thing.

With the shortest song being 7:17 ("Cosmia," surprisingly placed as the last song, the very slot you might expect a 25:14 song to appear), this isn't a record you can just dabble around in, and I don't think they're gonna find a real single here.

There are chords and moments in here that just go Ping! with me. You know, that feeling where you hear a certain set of notes that just make you melt through your headphones and puts a massive smile on your face or a tear on the edge of your eye, scaring the other subway passengers either way. Other than that, I can't say if this is daring and amazing or daring and amazing to me for the moment for being daring; in the latter, the magic will wear off pretty quickly. Maybe in a few days I'll give this a re-review. I can say for certain that the Rolling Stone review is full of shit, but so is the continuing existence of the magazine, so what else is new.

Apropos of nothing, there's a new Madvillain video for "Monkey Suite." I like it; reminds me of a cross between The Nightmare Before Christmas and that one Tool video:


"Easy Street" (Thelonious Monk, Underground)

This featured beer at this weekend's Brewtopia festival wasn't something I encountered in the midst of a drunken ramble through it, but it sounds good. Wonder if the beer actually tastes like the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk: "Smooth, but with an occasional dissonant, jarring DAH-DAH flavor." I'm not even sure Thelonious drank beer--seems too far from being a normal guy to really like liquid bread--but beer made after other jazz artists could work. Like Billie Holliday Bock, a bittersweet flavor so delicious, it makes you want to die.

Or Miles Davis' Time After Time Lager. The only beer as awful as his 1980-1991 output. Well, the only beer except this one.


quick world series thoughts

1) tony la russa is not a genius.

2) david eckstein had the two luckiest doubles imaginable in game 4, one a wet center field seeking one poor centerfielder to the ground, the other an okay line drive out turned double by a left fielder playing way too shallow. but he's short(er than me!) and thus scrappy and thus...well, he got his hits.

3) the detroit tigers were the team of this year, but they were the bipolar team of this year. the good tigers dominated most of the season; the bad ones fell off most of august-september, especially as they were swept by the royals and found a way to lose their division. the good tigers destroyed the american league in the playoffs; the bad tigers had too much rest and played some very sloppy baseball and somehow had their pitchers commit a lot of errors, like pitchers need to field, and lost in five games to an 83-win team of "destiny" (term reserved for those teams that always run into other teams as those teams beat themselves). they shoulda won this goddamn series (bad?), but they were a young team no one expected to see here(good?).

4) for the record, I'm not a tigers fan. I'm a baseball fan. when a team as bad as the 2006 st. louis cardinals wins, everyone loses, people. that, and yankee fans start telling me the most ridiculous shit.

5) tony la russa is not a genius. he wears sunglasses at night, on national tv.

6) during the glorious coronation known as the 2004 world series, while this same tony la russa wore the same creepy sunglasses, my mom, not a baseball fan by any definition, said la russa looked like a pedofile. I couldn't top that if I tried.


Halloween= Class

Via Bill Simmons' link, the Tara Reid costume in all its malfunctioned glory. They don't look like female breasts to me though. They kind of look more like Super Macho Man breasteses:

"Computer Love" (Zapp, The New Zapp IV U)

Fridays are for vocoder. Well, this one is. Because I said so, that's why. Some live talkbox jams:

Yellow Magic Orchestra- Behind The Mask (Live)

Probably my last posting of them for a while, I swear. Dig the color effects added in. Are those real drums or drum pads? I'm still not sure.

Zapp- Computer Love (Live)

Zapp was underrated; even the way the band of two brothers ended (murder-suicide) is unfairly in the shadow of that Marvin Gaye Jr. and Marvin Gaye Sr. thing. Is that tube a comfortable fit? Has a talk boxer ever accidentally have one imbedded in their throat for life? Wouldn't that be awesome?

TALK BOX'S WIFE: Are we out of toothpaste?
TALK BOX: Yeeeesssss! Weeeearre...yeeeeeah. Baby!
TALK BOX'S WIFE: Don't call me baby.

No one said computer love would be easy.

Neil Young- Transformer Man (Live)

Part of the infamous Neil Young period that led Geffen to drop him from his project for not making the product they signed him to create, namely, "Neil Young records." I still don't really like this song or Trans, but I still wish more really well-known artists did vocoder records, perhaps during a particular early-80s period, with the same force disco had upon Kiss, The Rolling Stones, etc. Five artists I'd have liked to hear on vocoder, for better AND worse.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five- Scorpio (third-party video)

The song's simply the jam. The video's just fun, especially with that robot/Moonite in the background. Get down.


and the streets will flow with wine and cheese.

Enough people have told me to get out of Williamsburg, BKLYN (even though I live north of it in Greenpoint) that a lot of it rolls off me, but I know the end is nigh; my only argument is that this "end" is the same end New York is generally on the way towards every time another shiny hideous condo building goes up. You know, like this one

or if the New Jersey Nets get their way as the Brooklyn Nets, this one.

Every area has its new new ugliness, although in Brooklyn they tend to stick out a bit more amongst far smaller buildings. You ever seen Batteries Not Included? Remember that tiny, tiny building between two skyscrapers at the end? It's an exaggeration, not a falsehood.

The people these buildings bring into my neighborhoods aren't all bad people, but they are slowly pushing my friends into Bushwick, or Chicago, or their parents' house. (Actually, the last one is more his fault than escalating rents.) Regional character nationwide's been going swiftly downhill ever since John Steinbeck first complained about the coming of franchising in Travels With Charley. New York still has its neighborhoods, but if unsustainable trends continue, more and more of it'll look like the same neighborhood. That and the young professional set bring their shitty rock bands (their "passion") into the clubs around here, and we have enough bad indie rock here.

AND they're taking my cheese.

I've only been here three years, so yes, I'm technically part of the problem, but I've moved from one tiny room in a three bedroom aluminum-sided three-story to a two-bedroom in an old brick facade joint, so I'm not attached to the new mutation.

The Upper East Side needs more corporate finance rock bands anyway.

(Gowanus Lounge post that inspired this tirade. Thanks to Jim for sending it.)


most awesome album cover ever?

not really, since I vote for this, but there's something so off-center about the cover new Joanna Newsom it's irresistible; the record's also all of five long songs including strings arranged by Van Dyke Parks, so the cover's definitely not the craziest thing about the record, but the painting style is like a late Joni Mitchell cover, and the renaissance faire look is in full effect. I'm reminded of the story my friend told once of making out with a girl who played the Jester's Daughter in a faire, someone he'd met right there.

that's pretty much the whole story.

anyone who has heard Ys, through the Pitchfork leak or whatever, feel free to drop a comment; I'm probably going to find it later today, but I have yet to listen to any of it, and I'm curious, especially since I'm hearing wildly mixed opinions.

"The Message" (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 12")

I mistakenly chose to take option B to work and ended up taking three trains all equally packed with angry New Yorkers; I forgot not to tangle with any route that crosses near Park Slope, an area of Brooklyn as densely populated as mine with richer, more complaint-prone residents, and just as underserved by the trains as most of the newly populous Brooklyn. Beats the two-fare run I had last weekend going to a gig as a poker dealer, riding to the end of the subway line and taking a bus plus a second bus after I missed my stop on the first.

At least no punk-ass kids were blasting vapid commercial hip-hop from their cell phones, the newly portable form of 80s-style boomboxing, only without the style and the Run-D.M.C., or the sound quality. Another New York thing to be falsely nostalgic for.

On the transfer from the G to the V, the back of my feet got stepped on like three times.

They didn't have any eggs at the lazy-ass cafe around the corner of Driggs. Across the way near the park, they did have that one drunk Polish guy, maybe around 75, maybe just self-aged, who usually sits on the ground mumbling with his shirt off. It's in the 40s today, but his shirt was still off. I'd like some of what he's drinking.

Last night, I had three drinks in a bar and spent $20 on 'em. They were all Yeunglings.

Something about this morning has me thinking of moving.


"Rydeen" (Yellow Magic Orchestra)

Several of my friends have already been indoctrinated into the Yellow Magic Orchestra, but still not enough, still not enough. Feel the sheer force of the Japanese Kraftwerk and the greatest music video ever. Don't stand too close to your monitors, your face may melt off from overexposure to the awesomeness.


ho-oh-ly shit.

baseball fans, if you have yet to see the gyroball in action, you have yet to see baseball. well, baseball simulator 1000, in any case, in the ultra league setting. coming in 2009: the ball that explodes on contact with the bat. watch your back, Ichiro.

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