Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The results of the 2007 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll are out. My Top Ten is here. I think this may be a new record for me, as I was the only person who voted for six of my 10 choices (Tego Calderón's El Abayarde Contra-Ataca, Arch Enemy's Rise Of The Tyrant, Belanova's Fantasía Pop, Wisin y Yandel's Los Extraterrestres, Demiricious's Two (Poverty), and Behold...The Arctopus's Skullgrid). The fact that no other critic in the whole U.S. of A. thought most of those discs were Top Ten candidates doesn't bother me much - I suspect that Wisin y Yandel were hampered by a late release date - but seriously, folks are sleeping on that Tego album and it's their friggin' loss. Not only is it a brilliant album, but not recognizing it as such speaks volumes about their cultural blinders, if not their taste, period.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I am in Sweden for a couple of days to work, but of course I found time to go record shopping. (Hey, I'm the editor of a music magazine - not only will I be reimbursed for what I pick up, but it's a tax write-off to boot.) I hit Megastore, which is the Stockholm equivalent of Tower or Virgin, only apparently not dying or dead. I asked the dude for early '70s Swedish progressive and/or hard rock without knowing any specific band names to request, and he (being about 19) drew a blank; he told me they'd had a CD in stock by the band November the previous day, but they'd put it on the house system for about two minutes and someone immediately snapped it up. I'm not surprised by that - November are a heavy power trio I'm dying to check out. There's a single track by them on the one thing I did buy, the 4CD boxed set pictured at left, Pregnant Rainbows For Colourblind Dreamers: The Essence Of Swedish Progressive Music 1967-1979. (That's a very good price at that link, by the way - I paid 499 kronor, which breaks down to about $80 US.) It's got 71 songs by as many bands/artists, some of whom I'm familiar with (International Harvester, Träd Gräs Och Stenar, Baby Grandmothers, November, Pandora, Bo Hansson) but the majority of whom are brand-new to me. Hope it doesn't suck!

What's Stockholm like, you ask? Well, the city is clean and old and European, the cabbies are not from Sweden (So far I've ridden with one Ethiopian dude who liked it here very much but said I shouldn't move here as coming from the U.S. Sweden would seem like a village, one Iranian woman who didn't like it here because the people are cold and unfriendly, and one Iraqi man who's been here seven years and has family stuck in Baghdad and wanted to know who I wanted to be the next U.S. president - I said my choices were, in order, Edwards, then Obama, then Clinton.) My hotel room is tiny and frighteningly efficient, with a hard wood floor and blank white walls and a TV hanging from the ceiling. In the bathroom is a shower not unlike one you'd find in a YMCA locker room - nozzle attached to a pole in the wall so you can raise and lower it, and a drain in the middle of the floor. I haven't really risked much in the way of local cuisine, but neither have I been desperate enough to eat McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, or the local fast food place, Max.

That's all for now!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The results of the 2007 Idolator critics' poll are up. My individual ballot can be viewed here.

Monday, January 14, 2008


There's a fuck of a lot going on in Metal-world as this week kicks off. The full-length Dead Child CD, Attack, is a pretty major improvement over the self-titled EP from last year, which was mind-roastingly shitty. As I type this, though, I'm listening to the Genghis Tron album Board Up The House, which is also kinda awesome, if maybe a little too much for my present, already somewhat frantic 'n' skittish, state of mind. GT have one of my favorite band names ever, and their music, which mixes crunching and somewhat spazzy riffage with John Carpenter-esque oozing analog synths and staticky noise, matches it very well. Other promising things in today's mailbag: the self-titled Kingdom of Sorrow album (which features Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Kirk Windstein of Down, two bands I am alternately neutral on and consumed with hatred for, but somehow I'm still hopeful), Grief Of War's A Mounting Crisis...As Their Fury Got Released, the Earache nü-thrash compilation Thrashing Like A Maniac, with tracks from Bonded By Blood, Evile, Municipal Waste, Dekapitator, Fueled By Fire, Decadence, Warbringer, SSS, Gama Bomb, Merciless Death, Deadfall, Lazarus, Toxic Holocaust, Mutant, Violator and Send More Paramedics, and the reissue of Hellhammer (pre-Celtic Frost) demos from Century Media.

In other news, the 2008 Gigantour lineup sounds fucking great (Megadeth obviously, plus In Flames, Children Of Bodom, Job For A Cowboy and High On Fire), and I will definitely be there when the tour hits NYC in April. Oh, and my new Iron Maiden Vans (with artwork from "The Trooper") came in today. They'll be in stores in February, and one more pair, with the artwork from Piece Of Mind, is supposed to come out later this year. Horns in the air!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I'm making my triumphant return to the EMP Pop Conference this April, once again flying the flag for metal. (The text of my 2005 paper can be found here.) My topic this year is "Charred Neighborhoods: The Rise Of The Colombian Death Metal Underground." Basically, I'm going to be interviewing Colombian death metal and goregrind bands to see how - if at all - the violence and chaos of Colombian society impacts their music, which is some of the most brutal in the genre. (Check out the excellent compilation A Bombardment From The Southern Paradise; the other big recent Colombian comp, From Colombia With Hate Vol. 2, contains a broader range of sounds, including some pretty ambitious black metal acts.) I'm also going to talk about the relative futility of couching protest in a medium like death metal, which features indecipherable vocal grunting and an instrumental mix of downtuned, grinding guitars and pummeling, machine-gun drums that's pretty much guaranteed to send the uninitiated straight out of the room.

I had a lot of fun last time, and realized some tangible benefits, too - a good 1/3 of the Marooned roster was folks I met, or heard speak, at EMP '05. So I'm very much looking forward to getting back. If you're gonna be in town for the event, find me!

Monday, January 07, 2008


Wavering On The Cresting Heft
Boston to L.A. post-metal titans Isis specialize in slowly drifting soundscapes with just enough rif power to keep an audience from totally nodding off. On recent albums like 2005's Panopticon and 2006's In The Absence Of Truth, they've been getting more traditionally melodic, and vocalist Aaron Turner has even expanded his range beyond the flat bark he possessed early on. This is the second solo disc by Isis guitarist Michael Gallagher, following last year's Nova Lux - he's also released Impromptu, a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Melvins pal David Scott Stone - and it's closer in spirit to group work than he's allowed himself to get before. This means that, despite the presence of the Capricollis Quartet's strings on opening cut "Allusions," what you're basically getting here is an Isis album with no drums or vocals.

And that, in turn, means it teeters on the edge of tedium. There are moments of great beauty on Wavering, especially on "Ruminations Of Before," which mixes delicately plucked individual notes with waves of noise to create an emotionally charged soundscape worthy of Keiji Haino. But ultimately, like so much ambient music, it just winds up making you wonder whether it was really worth it for Gallagher to go to all this trouble (overdubbing, composing gently interlocking sequences of plangently lovely guitar notes, picking just the right effects pedal) for a record likely to send most listeners straight to dreamland. A disc like this should come with a free trial-size packet of pharmaceutical speed, just to make sure the maximum number of purchasers actually hear it all the way to the end.


There's an interesting article on about the David Fincher movie Zodiac, which comes out in a 2DVD Director's Cut edition tomorrow. The writer argues that Fincher, in making the movie about the slogging police work that led to the ultimate non-resolution of the case (rather than making it more dramatic than it really was), is critiquing the traditional Hollywood version of police work. I would argue, though, that Zodiac is more like Fincher critiquing himself - specifically, his breakthrough film, Se7en. That movie's been so thoroughly aped and absorbed into pop culture, from the TV series Millennium (the pilot episode of which was basically a made-for-TV version) to eight million knockoff supernatural-supergenius-serial-killer movies, never mind its influence on music videos, etc., etc., that I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Fincher views it, at least in part, as a Frankenstein's monster that grew way out of his control. And by doing a resolutely low-key, head-down, ultimately futile and kinda depressing (realistically depressing, not the showy bleakness of Se7en) movie like Zodiac, he's both countering and atoning for his own earlier, more glib and less thoughtful work.


CD I got in the mail today:
Xasthur, A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors (Hydra Head reissue)

CD I bought at Best Buy today:
Don Omar, King Of Kings: Armageddon Edition (Machete Music)

I am looking forward to both in more or less equal measure.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Today I attended the PBR (that's Professional Bull Riders) competition at Madison Square Garden, where weirdly, I did not hear a note of country music all day. Instead, the sounds being pumped through the loudspeakers as gigantic animals attempted to catapult and then stomp on little, skinny (I swear, every competitor was under 5'10" and under 160 lbs.) rednecks and a surprising number of Australians and Brazilians were from the likes of Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, ZZ Top (both '70s and early '80s) and that hip-hop song that samples steel drums. Heard that latter one three or four times. Oh, and the national anthem, for which they dropped the most ginormous fucking flag I've ever seen in my life from the rafters - seriously, you could drape my apartment building with this thing, Christo style, and it was loaded with glitter, too - was sung by the frontwoman for Lilith-fair-headliners-if-Lilith-Fair-still-existed Antigone Rising, a band on the Starbucks record label. Oh, and immediately before the national anthem, there was a prayer, something I have never experienced in Madison Square Garden before, though it might have livened up the Ozzy/Rob Zombie concert I saw there on 12/22.

The bull riding itself was awesome. A lot of the riders wore what looked like lacrosse helmets instead of cowboy hats, which I thought was kinda pussy until one bull caught one dude's helmet on its horn-tip and ripped it off his head and pretty much in half, at the same time launching the rider into the corner, where he flopped like a Raggedy Andy, then stood up after a few seconds with about half his face covered in blood. "He's fine, folks!" the announcer assured us, his only evidence for that assertion being that Mr. Cowboy was, for the moment, vertical. That was the only major injury, though - almost the only serious incident, too, except for one other guy whose spur got caught in the rope wrapped around the bull's midsection and was dragged through the dirt a little before the rodeo clown guys could haul him loose.

Attending this event was my wife's idea, which utterly baffled me at first, and inspired me to do a bit of scoffing, but I had a great time, would absolutely go again next year, and recommend it highly to anyone reading this.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I admit it; I love bloated '70s prog. Not the wussy Canterbury stuff, with the flutes and lyrics about hobbits 'n' shit; I like the big, stadium-rocking prog. King Crimson from Larks' Tongues through Red, and especially the live albums: USA, The Nightwatch, the recently reissued Great Deceiver. Yes from The Yes Album through Going For The One. Van Der Graaf Generator from the debut through Still Life. And Emerson, Lake and Palmer from their debut through Works, Vols. 1 and 2.

I just got a box in the mail containing all of the latter: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends, and Works Vols. 1 and 2. Plus the 2CD, 28-track, roughly 2 1/2 hour Essential Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which honestly does kinda cover all the bases, but when you're going prog, go all the way prog, that's what I think anyway.

Good thing I bought myself a 160GB iPod for my birthday.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


"Severe Confection"
from Normal Love (High Two)
The jazz-grind tumble of Flying Luttenbachers, the short/sharp shocks of early Orthrelm, the poke-’n’-twist of DNA, the fiery electric work of avant-jazz violinist Mat Maneri—Philly-based instrumental quintet Normal Love appeals to all of these sensibilities with a unique approach to punk and jazz. Two guitars, bass, drums, violin, all herky-jerky in a very precise and through-composed way. There’s no soloing to speak of, but there are plenty of jagged edges to catch your ear on. “Severe Confection” opens their debut CD, which makes its fanfare-like qualities a plus, and also makes the simultaneous-but-not-together aspects of the first two minutes or so all the more powerful, once they congeal into unison riffing that recalls vintage no wave and contemporary post-punk, but without the fashionable clothes. [Go here to download the MP3.]

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


A down year still yields plenty of power and exhilaration for adventurous jazzheads

2007 seemed like kind of a middling year for jazz, upon casual reflection. The big deaths—Andrew Hill, Oscar Peterson, and Max Roach—were losses keenly felt in my house. But other than mourning, there didn't seem to be as much going on with the music as there was with my other favorite genre, metal. (Chicago's Yakuza once again blended both—and threw in some other stuff, too—on their third full-length, Transmutations.) After some thought, though, I recalled 10 better-than-decent releases deserving, as jazz CDs so often do, a wider hearing.

[Read the rest here.]