Author Archives: Material Lives

Generating Excitement

It’s a writing day, and what better than a N.E.R.D. leak from their upcoming album Nothing (available Nov. 2) to put me in the writing mood. Here’s “Nothing on You.”

And as for music I’ve been listening to while writing, I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Library Tapes, a Swedish post-rock/ambient outfit whose music is frustratingly not all easily available through Amazon. Fittingly, I learned of Library Tapes through a friend whom I was interviewing for my dissertation, which involves the writing process. does have a few albums available for streaming, and the band seems to have a new release slated for 2010. Hopefully, they’re not writing at the same pace I am. And since I couldn’t post the song I wanted to post, I’ve linked to a vid below, for “Skiss Av Trad.”

N.E.R.D.: “Nothing on You”

Library Tapes: “Cold Leaves For The Violent Ground”

You can pre-order N.E.R.D.’s album Nothing here.

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Object Attachment

The last time +/- {plus/minus} updated their blog was on my birthday, Jan 3. The last time I saw some of the band members’ previous outfit, Versus, live was Jan 3 some years ago. Isn’t that a pointless, delightful little coincidence that absolutely no one cares about but me?

On the subject of object attachment, I recently read research that has found that people–duh–attach special significance to the number of their birthday. But I would argue that there’s no bias here; 3 is clearly the best number.

+/- {plus/minus} just released a CD of previously unreleased tracks, Pulled Punches. So far, so good. But, plus/minus: Could you have thought about the industry & bloggers when you constructed this stupid, stupid band name? FYI, you are pretty much unfindable on

I’m posting the track “Pencil Me In.” Does anyone know if the track “All Dead, All Dead” is an Elliot Smith tribute? It certainly sounds like it is, in content and form.

I’m also posting a Versus track, one of my faves, “Shooting Star.” Anyone who makes an album titled Deep Red deserves our respect. Because deep red clearly is the best color, and not because my birthstone is garnet.

+/- {Plus/Minus}: “Pencil Me In”

Versus: “Shooting Star”

You can buy Pulled Punches on the band’s website or download the MP3 album here.

Posted in New Music Tuesdays, Where You're From | 1 Comment

a little bit of nostalgia never hurt anyone

My friend Andy recently introduced me to Twin Shadow’s debut release, Forget. Twin Shadow is the brainchild of Brooklynite George Lewis, Jr., a man who was recently hailed “one of the most stylish New Yorkers” by Time Out magazine.

The record, Forget, has a little bit of that 80s nostalgic sound that always turns my head, and this album’s quite possibly catapulting itself into my top ten of 2009. Since it’s a great listen just about the whole way through, it’s worth heading over to Hype Machine and checking out a few of the tracks, but below is one for you, “I Can’t Wait.”

I’m confused about the official release date, because the album’s been up on Rdio for weeks, though it’s release date was listed as yesterday on many sites. You can head over to 4AD or buy the album on Amazon.

Twin Shadow: “I Can’t Wait”

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Stars and Stripes and Sufjan

The first time I saw Sufjan Stevens he played in a church in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite the church’s every nook and cranny being crammed with the hundreds of bodies in attendance, you could hear a pin drop. At the end of the show, we were rewarded with Sufjan’s revision of the National Anthem. It gets a little political towards the end. We Madisonians were a little weepy.

A couple of years later, I saw him perform in San Francisco, and I wanted to hear him play the song again. So I passed a note to the stage requesting it on behalf of his Madison fans.  He read the note and played the song.

All of that is to say, if you don’t know it already, his latest album, The Age of Adz, is streaming this week on NPR’s First Listen, and so far, I give it a wow.

Below is Sufjan singing his revisionist national anthem in San Francisco. I can’t remember if this is the show I attended, but I like to think it is.

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Eddie Fisher: In Memorium/Childhood Ignorance

David already posted about Eddie Fisher’s passing, but I need to give my eulogy as well, in honor of my childhood ignorance. Eddie Fisher was my father’s teenage idol. Years later, once my father had an established practice as an attorney, Eddie Fisher’s representative, Victor Jarmel, contacted my father and asked him to represent Eddie. My father agreed and became Eddie’s attorney, friend, and confidant.

Unfortunately, my father could never convince me in my childhood of Eddie’s greatness, even after forcing me to listen to thousands of hours of his music (granted, he would play Eddie Fisher in the car while smoking cigars with the windows rolled up, which could produce an aversion in anyone) and watching every film he ever starred in. Even as Eddie would play our piano and sing in our living room, I stuck my unproverbial tongue out at the 50s sound I hadn’t yet become enchanted with. And once, to my deepest embarrassment, my father sent Eddie to my school to pick me up. Because my name is Cydney, he roamed through the echoing halls crooning his famous tune, “Cindy, Oh Cindy.” Being the nerd I was, I really didn’t need anything else to set me apart from the other kids. Little did I realize how much cultural capital could later come from knowing Princess Leia’s father.

Upon hearing of Eddie’s death today, I feel a strange sadness for this man who was the equivalent of my Madonna, Prince, or Andre Agassi. Perhaps it is because Eddie’s death reminds me of my father’s mortality. Or because I know that my father will undoubtedly feel a greater sense of his own mortality with his friend’s loss.

Below is a clip from the show Eddie hosted, Coke Time, ironically representative of the drug addiction that would plague his life from that point out.

Eddie Fisher, “Cindy Oh Cindy”

Eddie Fisher: “Oh My Papa”

You can buy most of Eddie’s music, including his greatest hits, on Amazon, by clicking here.

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Punk rock hairstylists everywhere

will be all over Frankie Rose and the Outs’ debut album. Not to essentialize hairstylists. I love and am fairly dependent on mine. And she would love this CD, which for some reason, catapults me back into a red or black vinyl chair. With stars on it.

The album’s a little uneven, with its strongest contributions coming from the more lively surf/punk/noise-inspired tunes. The song I’m posting, “Candy,” is not only my fave from the album, but the kind of song I wish I’d hear at the next house party I attended, knowing full well that I won’t. Yet.

Frankie Rose and the Outs, “Candy”

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1 + 1=10

I’ve been a Stereolab junkie for quite some time. Laetitia Sadier’s vocals and lyrics catapulted the band far beyond its Neu! foundations, creating a lush, layered, and hypnotic sound that was driven by 60s ambient pop, yet still politically grounded and fresh. I’ve always been curious to hear solo work from Sadier, because I’ve always understand her Stereolab partner Tim Gane to be the mind behind the instrumentation and Sadier to be responsible for lyrics and vocalization.

And so I am not surprised that I’m feeling unsure about the first song off Sadier’s first solo release, The Trip, to be traveling around the I-way, “The Million-Year Trip.” It’s stripped-down Stereolab, beautiful, but without the punch and complexity, sonically speaking. What remains are Sadier’s lyrics, which betray the depth Stereolab has always been famous for. In “One Million Year Trip,” Sadier sings her sister’s suicide:

“My little sister’s voice / Forever muted, inaudible / She went on a million year trip / And left everything behind.”

Just as I’d always go see one of my acting heroes, such as Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren, even if they were in B heist police procedural horror films involving Poltergeists (just combined all of my least favorite genres), I’ll buy Sadier’s album and give it the full listen.

Laetitia Sadier: “One Million Year Trip”

Although I was not a fan of Atlas Sound’s full album last year, despite Brad Cox’s new status as the darling of the indie world, I loved what I consider to be one of the strongest tracks off it and that 2009 had to offer, “Quick Canal,” the one Sadier sings on and obviously had a strong role in, because the song is much more layered than most of the other tracks on the album and features Stereolab’s classic drone and repetition.

Atlas Sound: “Quick Canal”

Also out this week are two things I have less to say about. People are losing their lunch over The Hundred in the Hands’ new synth pop post-punk release, their debut album. Here’s “Dressed in Dresden”:

The Hundred in the Hands: “Dressed in Dresden”

I waffle over Gucci Mane, but not over this track of his sophomore release The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted, which features N.E.R.D. frontman Pharell Williams and Nicki Minaj. I refuse to say “Haterade” out loud, though. Luckily, this is a music blog, and I don’t have to.

Gucci Mane: “Haterade”

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New Stuff

My favorite album from last week, good experimental electronica to write to from Gold Panda’s mixmaster Derwin:

Gold Panda

Gold Panda: “You” [Buy]

The experimental:

New York outfit Mice Parade plays around with various genres on their well-titled album What It Means to Be Left-Handed, an interesting, although perhaps not start-to-finish compelling, release. The first track plays with African instrumentation and somewhere near the middle, they cover the Lemonheads’ Mallo Cup, what ends up being the most accessible song on the album, although a disappointingly straightforward cover.

Mice Parade: “In-Between Times” [Buy]

The hyped:

Kings of Leon: “Radioactive” from their upcoming (October) full release

The jury’s out on:

There’s nothing offensive or particularly intriguing about Junip’s release release Fields. Junip is Jose Gonzalez, whose music I like very much, plus two others whose contributions to the album are kind of hard to note, and that’s why my early reaction to the album is not terribly positive. Junip is basically Gonzalez with a little pip. What I love about an artist such as Erlend Oye is that in each of his side projects (such as Kings of Convenience), I recognize his voice, but the different sound compels me to ask, “is this Erlend Oye?” Not the case here. Although this track probably has the most aural interest:

Junip: “Sweet & Bitter” [Buy]

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Hot Tub Rock Show: Material Lives

This week, Noise Narcs answers the age-old question: What five bands would you travel back in time to see in their prime? To see other responses, jump in the hot tub.

I have to admit that I’ve not been keen on making this retro-fit bucket list and have been dragging my feet a little, largely because I am not obsessed with live performances, for the very reasons that have likely influenced all of our lists: shows these days are largely stripped down, more about selling merch, and involve bands getting on stage and sounding exactly like themselves. I keep trying, but it’s a rare case when a show in Madison or Milwaukee that should be uproarious (Of Montreal, for instance) is outfitted with a crowd that’s not totally footloose.

There are times when sitting in a seat and passively listening is good, like when I’m in the dentist’s office and rocked out on nitrous oxide. Or when the music calls for it, as was the case when I saw Sigur Ros, whose purpose seems to be to call for the type of reminiscence that only happens when you’re glued to one spot. Otherwise, you might fall down.

But there’s also something to venue fit. A number of years ago, we lost our indie darling venue, the Catacombs coffee house, when the church that housed it decided that the young kids who ran it were not “evangelical” enough. Turns out that “evangelical” meant “We want to rent this space to Subway and make $$$.” We lost the $3 daily organic, local lunches the coffee house provided and also the space where I first saw Stars, Smog, and Ida. The only other performer who of late got outfitted with just the right spot was Joanna Newsom, who played in our student union’s Great Hall, a remarkable room, one that provided the quiet echo her music demands.

So when I think about what shows I’d like to have seen, I’m not thinking about technical skill; I’m thinking about the energy of a particular moment in time, a time when people were hearing something new or thinking they were, experiencing the transformative power of a crowd, or witnessing an artist on the verge of popular or underground stardom. And I’m thinking about the sensory aspect of place. Or so I am telling myself in order to make this list cohere.

1. Elvis. Despite people’s claims that Elvis simply rearticulated the musical forms and body movements he learned from the blues musicians whom he learned his trade from, Elvis still popularized rock-n-roll and transformed the musical landscape of his time. If you ask your parents or grandparents what it was like seeing Elvis in the 50s, they’ll likely tell you how shocking it was to see a man move his hips the way he did and sound like he did. Katherine Hepburn once said, “I don’t know what starpower is, but whatever it is, baby I’ve got it.” And she is so right that it’s hard to fault her hubris. When you are faced with a performer with starpower, charisma that is beyond anything knowable or traceable, it is something else. I felt this when seeing Phoenix’s Thomas Mars perform live the year of the band’s debut album’s release. I must admit that every time I see Elvis’ face, I turn into a melty teenager. He had the looks, but he had that indefinable something else. And that’s why I understand both the police force presence in the below vid, but also the sentiments of the woman who storms the stage, which he seems to find amusing.

2. Björk, circa early 1990s. Björk is one of our genius vocalists and performers, a person who bends her chords in unimaginable ways. I knew a girl whose father took her on a trip to Iceland and then, mid-plane, surprised her with Björk concert tickets. I wanted to trade parents. I accidentally saw Björk perform with the Sugarcubes in the late 80s, when my cousin and I stayed out later than we were supposed to at New York’s Jones Beach (at least that’s where my memory is telling me this took place) and happened upon their concert. And believably, Björk was just as audible from the parking lot. Still, the Sugarcubes do not equal Björk, and Björk’s recent albums do not equal what her debut, Post, and Homogenic were.

Björk, “The Modern Things (Live)”

See the rest of Material Lives’ picks after the jump…

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And for more dancin' fun, some Treasure Fingers

Here’s a link to Treasure Fingers’ July 15, 2010 live dj set at San Francisco’s Temple. Treasure Fingers is one of my sister’s and my favorite djs du jour. And below is one of my fave July dance tracks, which also happens to be track one on this live set (Minus the intrusive overlay of a dude continuously saying “TREASURE FINGERSSSS.”).

Off to Chicago to dance Kaskade-style with my sister. Shake it!

Tensnake: “Coma Cat”

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