Category Archives: Music

Dylan on Black.

A lot of music has come across the transom lately, not least of which is the video released today by Apple’s Bob Dylan. (Dylan came out with Modern Times, his thirty-first album.) Notes on the video:

  • The video is filmed in black. It features Bob Dylan, who is in both shadow and silhouette. His guitar is black as is his cowboy wardrobe. It’s quite beautiful. And so is the black woman seen dancing in the background.
  • The black dancer in the background sports a white iPod that shines brightly against her black dress and skin. It’s unclear, to me, why she would be listening to Dylan on an iPod when he’s supposed to be only a few feet away playing his guitar.
  • Black is the new season’s color, all around. Skulls and crossbones abound in high fashion and Apple is charging extra for its new laptops that come in black. Black is the sign of our fascination with our ends (and probably our rear ends).
  • I understand Dylan wanting to use black as a kind of character treatment. He’s the new Man in Black, again riffing off the very best our musical culture has to offer, most of which came from blacks.
  • Dylan wears a black cowboy hat. Real cowboys, the ones who worked in the fields herding cattle and stuff, would never wear a black hat. Not out in the hot prairie sun that I now know so well.
  • These days, black hat has taken on new meanings. The Dylan video can’t help but point to the technology of the black hats, our new bad guys.
  • The video ends with a black screen and a white apple. It’s enough to make one buy an iPod.

Oh, it’s a really nice video.

Silver Jews.

I’ve been a big fan of the Jews ever since my friend M.G. gave me a tape of their stuff a lot of years ago. They have a newish album out called Tanglewood Numbers as well as a nice newish video of their song Punks in the Beerlight. The whole thing is one melancholic enterprise, full of hell and high waters, sad tunes set to slow guitars and the droning voice of Jewish David Berman.
It reminds me a lot of depressing things like

  • The fact that really sucks here in Canada
  • I probably have a good 15 more really happy summers to go what with my birthday coming up and all
  • I don’t read no more
  • I bought OmniOutliner a few weeks ago and I’m not using it to keep any lists
  • I’m not going to buy Yojimbo, though I wrote about it a lot
  • There are people that called me a year ago and I haven’t returned their calls
  • It’s become obvious to me that death is pre-birth
  • Mail hasn’t been getting to me for some reason
  • Turin don’t matter
  • The dictatorship officially began
  • The color yellow seems fresh. A clear indication that I’m morose
  • The new Belle and Sebastian album is kind of silly in a bad way
  • There’s a tribute album out for my G-d-favorite artist Elliot Smith. It’s sure to be uplifting. I can’t listen to it.
  • Jeff Chester thinks the Internet as we know it is done because of corporate media consolidation and the need to monetize content that is ostensibly free
  • I used to be cute
  • It’s Thursday and then there’s the weekend

Strokes On.

The beautiful boy band The Strokes just put up an amazing little performance on SNL. You’ll be able to get to the mpegs pretty soon but for those of you who were on the phone and want to see something pretty fine, you might check out their published video of the same song, Juicebox, number two on the new album, First Impressions of Earth. (Actually, I thought I didn’t like Juicebox until I just saw the live version.)

You're Great.

We just got back from NYC and Pennsylvania last night. Ten days. That was nice. I’ll write more later.
Tonight, we were in a musical mood and happy to be back in the house. We family-cranked Tigermilk and then danced around the living room. I saw my daughter slowly empty a tin full of paints and glue and bangles and I was wondering what she was doing until she started banging on it. Twenty songs later, I put on the incredibly fine All Around the Kitchen! Crazy Videos & Concert Songs! DVD for our daughter. We watched together the zany Zanes play to a small audience of small people in the big city. It was beautiful as she put her hand on the television and said “You’re great, Dan Zanes! You’re great!”

Lazy Sunday Ass Rocks

I’m sorry for this bit promotion of an SNL piece called Lazy Sunday but I found it unpredictably and geekily funny.
*Update: This video became (thanks in no small part to Deckchairs and broadband technology) that you can now download Lazy Sunday for free on iTunes. Lazy cool. (Perhaps this is what I like and miss most about New York City – free riffing by smart folks who know their shit and can crack a smile with an attitude.)

Time to Pony Up!

As a recent immigrant to Canada, I’m kind of trying to expose myself to a bunch of new noise that is inherently of and from Canada. Not Leonard Cohen but the new stuff.
So I found this Montreal-based girl band called Pony Up! and they have a few great songs. Very 1980s sounds, of course – a kind of mix of Siouxie and the Banchees, The Pixies, and Throwing Muses, mostly. They have a curvy sound and aren’t afraid of using their sexy voices in the name of sex. Kind of sweet, actually.
In other news, I’m massively (again, kind of) reorganizing and redesigning this website. It’s going to be a few more days but I promise, it will happen. Perhaps I’ll even like writing Deckchairs more. It’s become a bit of a drag for some reason, in part because I’ve been reading so many other, better, more timely or more coherent blogs lately. And perhaps I’m slightly blogged out, though it does appear that I’ve been doing it a lot longer than most. Perhaps the symptom is the cure.
Additionally, I just downloaded the new Safari browser, along with the recent OS X update, and it does indeed support the Web Standards project’s brilliant Acid Test 2. In a nutshell, it means that Safari beat Firefox and Internet Explorer to the punch by supporting many of the most advanced features of Web standards site development.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg is growing on me. It’s not without it small-town associations but I’m also realizing that what it lacks in breadth, it makes up for in depth. On Tuesday, the new Millenium (previously the Centennial) library will open after many millions of dollars of investment. A whole new, huge space and 30% more books (open stack) will be a site to see.
Finally, I organized my office, finally. It’s not quite perfect, the pictures aren’t on the walls yet, and the windows need blinds, but it’s the most organized (and largest) office space I’ve ever had. Jason K. has written one of the most interesting pieces on tidying up that I’ve seen in some time.

The Dears

Always just slightly a few weeks behind the times, I downloaded from iTunes The Dears new album No Cities Left. It took a couple of listens but it’s quite a strong and sophisticated album, except for the occasional dumb-ass lyric. The musical styles purposefully switch, as do the lead singers, but I don’t hold it against them any more than I do U2 or other ambitious bands. It’s hard to say everything you want to say the way The Strokes do, after all.
The Dears, which perform well at many venues, is a Montreal-based boy-girl band that mix up a range of styles and musiques. Here are the apparently references: Blur, The Smiths, Leonard Cohen, Clash, Godspeed You Black Emperor, TMBG maybe. They were recently nicely featured on NPR and their moodiness, odd orchestrations, and full sound all feel appropriate to these mixed up times. My bet is that Leonard Cohen would like this album quite a bit.

Bad Boy Bands Bug

I’ve been really trying hard to like some of the “special, new” boy bands out there like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Keane and Snow Patrol. Each of these dude-groups have a few quirky, interesting songs like Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” But mostly, and sadly, these folks have pretty limited skill sets as musicians, despite their widespread popularity and alt-fan bases. Like The Bachelorette might say, I really want to like these guys. Too bad they rule and don’t rock.

New Music

I’ve been a consumer of a number of very good and very bad musical titles lately. Today I purchased Pinback’s new Summer in Abaddon and without listening to it more than once, I can say it’s a superbly rendered and sung album. Influenced by the likes of The Shins and Superchunk, two favorites, the album is sadly forceful, commanding, and while slightly derivative of bands like Modest Mouse, contemporary in all of its alt-pop glory.
I don’t love Summer, but it’s far better than Killers Hot Fuss, which sounds like it was written to compete with Interpol or at least play on the same stage with them, perhaps during intermission when everyone is smoking outside. Killers is a good name for a band. It’s too bad their “domain” name was taken by very average musicians that are riding the wave of 1980s throwback glory. (Oh, I can’t wait for the new Interpol and Elliott Smith albums to come hither.)