Monthly Archives: January 2010

Timber Timbre: Love in the Death-world

When Euridice dies, Orpheus descends into the underworld where he plays a love song begging the god of death to restore her back to life.  The song is so great and touching that for a few moments even Sysiphus takes a break to listen.  Hades is moved to consent under one condition: Orpheus is forbidden to look upon his beloved’s face until they’re all the way up and out.  Sounds easy, but at the last minute, Orpheus turns to check if she’s still following.  She was, but now he’s lost her forever.

Imagine that instead of returning home where a love-maddened mob of women jealously rip him limb from limb, the bereft Orpheus just stayed there, unable to move on, inside the mouth of the cave, neither dead nor fully living, playing rockabilly blues to a growing cult of dirt and worms.

It might sound a bit like Timber Timbre’s Timber Timbre (2009), which I’ve been obsessive-decomposingly listening to for the past week.  Taylor Kirk’s combination of old-timey American blues with eerie reverb, a ghostly chorus, and morbid lyrics makes this album sad without being saccharine and nostalgic without being dated.


Timber Timbre – Demon Host
Timber Timbre – Until The Night Is Over

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Wild things when they're bound

Tune-Yards eating Björk's Medulla

I don’t know how I could have missed The Tune-Yards’ Bird-Brains. Said the Gramophone had one of her songs as the 5th best song of 2008 and another at 11th of 2009. Both are on this album.

I’ve been trying all day to figure out what this album reminds me of. Neutral Milk Hotel sounds nothing like her but my reaction has been the same: listen to the album, blabber about it to people, repeat. The best I’ve come up with is: this is what Björk would aspire to now if she hadn’t lost everything north of her Medulla oblongata.

West African yodel ukulele? Freak folk? Bizarre quasi-rap? Beatific morning melody? It’s there, it’s all there and beautiful. If you’ve heard hype, forget it. If you knew that this album was recorded only on a digital recorder and mixed with Audacity (?!?!), erase that memory. Or don’t. Press play and this album will eat your brains regardless: just ask Björk.

Listen free at

Tune-Birds, “Hatari”

Tune-Birds, “Sunlight”

P.S. Tim Robbins’ widower spanked pigmen at Of Montreal’s show last night.  Wild.

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Music to Write To

Before working on a dissertation and at a full-time job, I might not have distinguished quite so readily between work/writing music and other music, though I’ve always had albums I loved to work or fall asleep to, such as Colleen’s Golden Morning Breaks and Brian Eno’s Apollo Soundtrack, respectively.

While I cannot say that working and writing have changed the kind of music I like, these realities have changed the way I listen and the time I can spend letting an album unfold its mysteries over time. Working 40-hour work weeks gives me patience, you might say. While I’m driving, walking, exercising, or just hanging around, I’m unlikely to pop on a sleepy album, which meant in the past that I got to listen to more subdued albums less frequently. I’m usually on the hunt for albums with a ton of energy.

But at work, my constant task-shifting and the need to think while reading admission applications or writing text for a publication has compelled me to spend more time with more ambient, quiet, contemplative albums than I have in a while. Or perhaps it simply is that being pinned to my desk as I am for so much time, I need musical accompaniment. Thanks to, I’ve been able to listen to dozens of albums a day and get connected to many other listeners who work full-time jobs and need constant aural companionship.

So I attribute my being drawn to Keiran Hebden of Four Tet’s recent release, There Is Love in You, to the power of the office. I almost dismissed it out-of-hand after the first track, one of the least compelling on the album. But then I found my way to “Love Cry” and “This Unfolds,” the latter an apt title for a song that begins slowly and adds more layers, depth, and complexity as it builds, or unfolds, if you will.

And with that, back to working on my dissertation.

Four Tet, “Love Cry”
Four Tet, “This Unfolds”

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Lhasa de Sela (September 27, 1972 – January 1, 2010)

Breast cancer.

My inaugural post is a serious bummer.  Some of you know that Lhasa was my top pick for best album of 2009, which makes this sort of a re-post, but I can’t recommend her enough.

From the NYT obit:

Born in the small Catskills town of Big Indian, N.Y., in 1972, to a Mexican father and an American mother, she had a nomadic childhood and began singing in San Francisco when she was 13.

By the early 1990s she was living in Montreal, where, she told an interviewer in 2004, she performed in bars and learned “how to reach people, even people who were there for beer and conversation.” She was soon reaching hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Though difficult to pigeonhole, Ms. de Sela’s songs were most often classified as world music.  Her Spanish-language debut album, “La Llorona,” released in 1997, won a Juno, Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy, in the “global” category. Her trilingual second album, “The Living Road” (2003), was named one of the 10 best world music albums of the decade by The Times of London.

Her third and final album, “Lhasa,” recorded entirely in English, was released last year.

Watch! (youtube)  This clip was filmed by Vincent Moon on April 11, 2009 in “the Loft” at Montreal.


Con toda palabra, from The Living Road (2oo3)
The Lonely Spider, from Lhasa (2009)

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Tropical vacations with jj & Gucci

Philly boy Diplo’s remix of Gucci Mane’s “Dangers Not a Stranger” brings in Jason Waterfalls-esque piano to back up Gucci, taking the hardness of the original and sending it on a vacation. One can only assume to Jamaica. Also, Diplo may have just bought a strip club to go along with his mausoleum. So there’s that.

Gucci Mane, “Dangers not a Stranger” [via The Walrus]

Recently, jj released two very solid new tracks, “Let Go” and “My Way.” I was not blown away by last year’s jj n° 2, but these two tracks make me stoked for jj n° 3 (out March 9) even if “My Way” will never get cleared for release by Lil Wayne and Charles Manson. I’m lucky to be seeing them with fellow ee cummings fans The xx at the sanctuary of the First Unitarian in Philly on March 29 (unfortunately now sold out). Also, Pitchfork, shut up.
jj, “My Way”
jj, “Let Go” [via Stereogum]

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Mapping hip hop, this site, and Philadelphia

Hip hop makes no equivocation about the importance of place and origin. The importance of what city’s taking, making, creating or faking. North vs. South, East vs. West. Representing where you’re from and never forgetting.

So what happens when a rapper is from somewhere and nowhere? When he’s born in New Orleans then lives in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, D.C., Denver, and Detroit?

Jay Electronica (up to this point best known for his indescribable beatless melding of rap and the soundtrack for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind answers with his beautiful “Scenario C,” mapping a geography of rap:

While you was debating who the truth was, like Jews and Christians
I was on Cecil B, Broad Street, Master
North Philly, South Philly, 23rd, Tasker
6 Mile, 8 Mile, Hardwell, Brasher

Flipping through Philly’s hip hop (and violence) hot points then detouring into Detroit, he constructs a narrative that underwrites the importance of place, then undermines it with a Walt Whit laundry list of places he encompasses. A man from everywhere and nowhere. And while he’s at it, he brings back the overprocessed soul of three years ago and makes it breathe. Can’t wait to see where he goes next.

And so, on this placeless note that includes the best Philly-streets-only lyric I’ve ever heard, I introduce this collaborative music blog and one of its features, “Where You’re From,” where contributors will brag about music from or about their fair cities. Enjoy, wherever you are.

Jay Eletronica, “Exhibit C”

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