Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Recent Listening, and Steelaarrrghh

Light posting all around after Thanksgiving, apparently. For my part I've been spending the week waking up before sunrise to go to the gym and slowly working my way home through the usual near-immobile flotilla of taillights on I-66 East well after the sun has set, with the margins filled in with David Attenborough bird documentaries on DVD and the pesky perceived need to spend a plurality of my waking hours at my job.

Anyway, below are the meatier parts of what was becoming an unwieldy omnibus post.

Recent listening:
I came away from Pittsburgh with the envelope of CDs that Pete recently lent to Jack, so during my commutes I've been starting to work my way through various un-overengineered albums with the Pete stamp of approval on them. Too soon to have a well-formed opinion on most of it, though I have an early preference for Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation (particularly "Candle", which strikes me as likeably rangy with harmonies that are incongruously upbeat, if battered out of shape) and the long opening track of Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die, which sounds a lot like a grittier-than-normal Philip Glass landscape and, at about the 14-minute mark, remarkably distends and folds in on itself, with a new pulse forming out of the distortion in a way that reminds me of some eerily magnified, slowed-down chemical process. Fun stuff.

I finally got ahold of the county library's copy of Radiohead's OK Computer, which is a solid album but not the colossal pop landmark that it seems to be made out to be in places. Mostly I'm put off that there's so little friction between the lyrics and the music -- I think the songs that are best at being bitter undercut happy-ish music with sad-ish words or vice versa, but most of the stuff on here, while finely detailed musically, is just too uniformly dour to seem very interesting to me. An exception is "No Surprises", which works in a worn-down, glockenspiel-accented way through its treacly harmonies... "Karma Police" feels too familiar to me already just through my incidental exposure to radio-friendly music, though if I let my guard down it'll get its pop hooks into me. And I like chasing "Fitter Happier" with Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger", which is similar in its title format and electronic underpinnings but not much else.

I'm also getting more and more into Maude Maggart's still-small discography -- Her albums work almost exclusively within the early-20th-century American popular repertoire, which is a niche I'm not too familiar with, but she's got a gorgeous, pure, versatile voice. Her most recent CD of Irving Berlin songs is probably her best: "Slumming on Park Avenue" is a highlight, full of pep and subtly textured class envy. It hasn't virally infected my head the way her take on "Yiddisha Nightingale" has, though; from what I can tell she takes a snazzy, comical tune about the courtship of two Jewish city-dwellers and plays it improbably straight, resulting in a dreamy, seductive lullaby of a love song with detached, faux-Asiatic whiffs of Erik Satie in the chamber accompaniment. Probably best enjoyed in small servings, like some kind of rich, sweet-savory pastry.

...If I were going to write a post about the Steelers at this point in the season it would be titled "Steelaarrrghh". I have absolutely nothing to say about the Steelers at this point in the season, though, except that after last Sunday's game (the first half of which Jack and I disconsolately listened to on an AM radio station out of Hagerstown, MD on our way down I-70) certain cultures would now consider the Baltimore Ravens to be the Steelers' legal husbands. This last sentence was going to be a wisecrack about how long it is until the Pirates start spring training but that thought turns out to be too monumentally depressing for words, at least within the scope of sports fandom.


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