Category Archives: Music


I bought the Wrens’ Meadowlands album because the cover is cool and because a massive 49 reviewers on Amazon gave the album an average of 4.5 stars. Also because “Customers who bought this title also bought: Broken Social Scene, The Shins, Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab for Cutie, Decembrists, Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, and Walkmen.” Why else would I buy it?
I’m pretty into this little album, by a bunch of guys from New Jersey. Their influences are many, and the album builds in that the each tightly written song on the list is better than the next one. The entirety is accomplished but I mostly appreciate the odd sonic surprises throughout, mostly during a song’s bridge.
Bands seem more heavily influenced by other bands than ever before. Here are Wrens’ recognizable influences:

  • The Pixies
  • Lush
  • My Bloody Valentine
  • Flaming Lips
  • The Vines
  • The Strokes
  • Grandaddy

Music Plasmosis

Every so often there’s a little surprise out there on the Web, this time it being musicplasma, a superfine Flash-based interface that takes any band and maps out the most minor and most recognized relationships. I typed in “Trail of Dead” and it noted that The Postal Service, Interpol, and Broken Social Scene are in the mix (as they indeed are for me) but on the outskirts are Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, TV on the Radio and Deftones (who are not).
The interface is most likely based on Thinkmap‘s far more robust and supremely elegant Visual Thesaurus, a product which I was invited to work on in 2001 but turned down for a variety of reasons. (Thinkmap used to be Plumb Design, an innovative web development company located a few blocks from the World Trade Center). Long before Thinkmap was a fascinating “knowledge” interface called The Brain, which I used in one of the first sites I developed back in 1998. The Brain was started by Harlan Hugh, whom I also met; Harlan never sought to support his product on the Mac and he’s still true to form — the whole applet falls apart in Safari.
In any case, it’s good to see that the spirit of visual relationship mapping has a few feet and I’m sure that many government agencies are trying this technology to study terrorist subjects.

Will Come To Me

The new Wilco album is finally here in my G4 tray and I can’t tell if this album, A Ghost Is Born, is ghastly or ghostly.
It feels like the band, for whom I have great respect as the inheritors of Radio(head) alt-rock, wrote up 12 songs that were substantial and melody-driven. They then took each and every song, pared down the beats, the melodies, the vocals, the content, and the cream of each one and then made a recording. I can’t tell what the hell happened with these guys as they colored everything gray and white, including the album cover itself.

The White Rap

I downloaded the new Beastie Boys album, To The 5 Boroughs, off iTunes today and it’s quite good for a bunch of older, Jewish, white men. I of course mean that as a compliment.
The album is relatively heartfelt and does aim to please the folks who have it tough in New York City since 9/11, which is probably 2/3 of the population here. But the beats sound like they came off a tin can and only a few of the rhythms feel very original. Mostly, the lyrics are righteous which is how the B-Boys always have been. I need to listen to the album a few more times before making a more final verdict, but the album comes off as new-ish.
I didn’t mention that I accidentally downloaded the CLEAN version of the album. My dumb. Gee, could this possibly effect the above perspective?
Finally, I like the cover art a lot. It’s a flat-out fine drawing by the otherwise average illustrator Matteo Pericoli.

Son of God

As I noted a few days ago, I’ve become a big fan of Sufjan Stevens. When the album came to me, I put the music on and was immediately fascinated — it’s a perfected combination of many Elephant 6 bands, my favorite of which is The Music Tapes. A few minutes into listening to Sufjan, my wife realized that the album is replete with Born Again lyrics, which surprised me and astounded me because it’s so unacceptable for truly religious lyrics to be part of contemporary “alternative” music. I’m not a believer in Christ but I believe in this artist, perhaps the son of the late Elliot Smith.

Sufjan Stevens

About one week ago, I was at a used/new children’s bookstore and heard the dulcet, torrid sounds of Sufjan Stevens who sounds a bit like he met Neutral Milk Hotel on a strange night in the middle of a rough-and-tumble Michigan bar. That probably doesn’t do justice to his music, which is plaintive, solemn, and surrendering – a bit like Steven Merrit but more down-home, more straight for lack of a better word. You can purchase his music on Amazon, but you might as well buy the goods for $12.00 each, postage paid, on the SoundsFamilyre label site.
I listened to the Magnetic Fields’ new album in the car this weekend and was moved almost to tears by the last song on the album, It’s Only Time, on which Merrit cries “Marry Me, Marry Me” with a warble in his voice that defies gravity.


I downloaded via iTunes the new Magnetic Fields’ I. Here’s my review:

  • I adore “I.”
  • “I” is Cole Porter wrapped in John Cash and covered in the sexual melting pot of Morrissey and Modest Mouse.
  • “I” puts the lie to the death of AOR.
  • “I” is a coherent, sad, and ultimately guilty explication of what happens when a person loves falling out of love with someone.
  • “I” is somehow timely yet impotent in the face of gay legal marriage.
  • The Magnetic Fields has a very fine website which also houses info about sister/brother bands Future Bible Heroes, The 6ths, and The Gothic Archies.


Add more thing to the list:
Adobe InDesign 2.0.2 is not working. I guess that means that I’ll need to fork over another $169.95 for the upgrade.
I’d rather just sit in the front of the computer and listen to the new Courtney Love which is very good. It’s nowhere as powerful or inspiring as her first few albums but there’s little question that this woman feels and feels messed up.

E.S. P.S.

In my haunted quest to own every album of the late Elliott Smith, I acquired his Roman Candle and Mic City Sons, the latter of which is technically by Heatmiser, his 1996 Portland band. Both are pretty great after about 30 listens each.
That skating guitar plucking, melancholic, gravel-up and gravel-down voice, and troubador melodies appear throughout both albums. I was wondering when Spin would cover this artist’s life and they do so in this months’ issue. And, if you’re a fan, take a look at’s special feature on Smith, replete with a rare interview and live tracks. Caution: The hated RealAudio Player is needed to listen to these. And here is one of his last interviews ever.

2003 Stands

The year ends with a repeat entry, two albums that have paved their music into my head. Though these albums were not released in 2003, they were for me, sadly. And here they stand as inspiration for a new year, a new realm of the possible, a new space of the marvelous in its infinite beauty:
Elliott Smith, Either/Or
Elliott Smith, Figure 8.