Great post at Moistworks today. ESPECIALLY the comments. READ 'EM.

My two cents (and I realize that I'm horribly undermatched, compared to all those professionals): Stephen Malkmus made an interesting distinction in a recent interview, something about the difference between Pavement-style indie and what he called (to paraphrase) the "Rilo Kiley, Myspace-era indie". (He called it that elsewhere, I think. Don't remember the source. I'll look for it later.)

Mostly, I just think this whole discussion shows that what "indie" has turned into, as a signifier, is mostly comical in nature. Like someone in the comments said, the only anti-mainstream thing about indie anymore is that the anti-mainstream stance itself is a method of induction, it's a cultural signpost, a badge of authenticity. But isn't the idea of an annual "indie"-themed FESTIVAL, like Pitchfork's, for instance, kind of in direct opposition to the values "indie" originally held? I think it goes without saying that "indie" has by and large shedded both its initial values and aesthetics, but the reasons still don't seem clear. Maybe it's not so much about the mainstream stealing "indie"; maybe it's "indie" trying to steal the mainstream. That would better explain the monumental changes to both the economical and aesthetic traits "indie" started with.


We Are Tired of Your Abuse

I never listened to the Dirty Projectors before. I don't know any other music they've written or (more accurately) performed. I wish I had and I plan on changing that. 
They recorded an album last year covering songs from the Black Flag album, "Damaged" (1981). 
As a second qualifying (or disqualifying) statement, I never had  the seminal punk phase. I never listened to Black Flag. 
The Dirty Projectors performed this song in a hot stuffy apartment in Park Slope last July. 
It sounds nothing like Black Flag, or what I think they sound like- loud, raw, abrasive, upset- yet in some ways I feel like I know Black Flag when I listen to this. I understand what kind of struggle they are threading through us, like a needle being forced through the cloth we hid behind.
I don't think it takes a background in DIY or FSU to feel the longing for change in this song. The power of this clip, I think, flows from the sincerity thrown into every melody. It's amazing the diversity in emotion you can find within the same sentiment: of needing social change and wanting it now. That Black Flag could be so upset and unconvinced and that The Dirty Projectors could be so optimistic and adulating. 
It reminds me of the type of change old Reggae artists asked for. They knew what they were asking for would alter their lives dramatically. And they went beyond accepting this, they worshiped this. 
It's so beautiful to them, and they take it as a fact of life that some people, fellow members of life, will not realize the need for change, the need for questioning, and above all the need to really live and not just live. To not just be dirt suspended in the stream flowing wherever (nowhere great), but to rise above the sediment, to swim to the top, to control your destiny and act and rise above and ACT.


The Wizard's Guild

It has been reported that the Wizards Guild is to host some sort of secretive end of the Semester séance to commune with past Guild members who have passed onto the "Outer Realm," what the Guild members apparently believe to be the afterlife for the chosen few. It has further been reported that these elite members often consume vast amounts of a "Special Wine" modeled after the ancient Greek eleusinian potions, which apparently helps them achieve even more frenzied states of mind the night of the séance. 
Other details are still shrouded vaguely in dark purple satin mystery...


Long time no write, eh?


Death Cab on Daytrotter (thanks again, Daytrotter)

For me, a fascinating listen - to hear how Ben's voice has changed, grown older, less stoic, but always textured. Notice how markedly different "A Movie Script Ending" and "Styrofoam Plates" sound, for starters; the arrangements are almost a little too perfect, like the guitar rock of The Photo Album is pure patty-cake compared to what the new tunes tend to require. (And personally, I prefer the bitterness and angry kineticism of "Styrofoam Plates" to the creepiness of "I Will Possess Your Heart". I think Ben is stretching out as a songwriter, which is only natural, but he might be getting into territory less suited to his skills.) DCFC is a totally different band today, this session gives the definitive proof, case closed.


Of course, nothing beats the Frog Eyes session. I'll leave you to find that one.


The Endless Link

The Field cancelled his opening act at my school yesterday. The show is today. 
I let pitchfork media know. Now we must link. Endlessly. Looping over and over. Back and Forth.

New entry soon...


I'm not much for celebrity gossip, but...

Apparently it seems, Devendra Banhart and Natalie Portman are what some people like to call an "item".  Normally this wouldn't really catch my eye, let alone be considered "blog-worthy", but I was thinking today at work (trust me, I have too much time to think at work), I wonder what it was that hooked her?   Guys like me have been hoping to catch Natalie's eye for...years, and I'm not gonna lie, most of us went nuts when she got, what was it, kind of naked in Wes Anderson's Hotel Chevalier (2007), the wonderfully done prelude to The Darjeeling Limited.

By now I'm sure you've all heard Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon and have formulated your various opinions on his latest work.  I'm not going to Pitchfork you with my out-of-ten rating system, but it's definitely high up there.  I just thought I'd post a song that, in light of this "OMG YES"-type couple, may be in poor taste.  Either way, I don't care.

O, Devendra! You sly devil, you.

for more, check out  The Brooklyn Vegan



(Occasionally, I’ll write more of a long-form song analysis/interpretation. Today’s my first. Hope you enjoy - questions and comments welcome, as always. Feel free to be harsh, ‘cause this is nowhere near complete.)

But you who philosophize disgrace
And criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face,
‘Cause now is the time for your tears.

This has always been a perplexing lyric for me; has a reputation for being one of Dylan’s most confounding, last I checked.

To say I came late to this song would be putting it too nicely. In fact, my earliest exposure to the tune came after hearing Billy Bragg’s “The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie” - same chords, same melody, same chorus, different verses, and separated by something like forty years.

Bragg’s version deals, naturally, with Rachel Corrie, a young woman whose death also sparked some controversy, although in a decidedly different set of ways. The death of Hattie Carroll, and the subsequent trial of William Zantzinger*, is a story of a different sort.

Listening to Bragg’s update of “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, I was immediately struck by the lyrics to that chorus. That was all I needed for inspiration to seek out the Dylan original.

And once I found it, I listened. And listened and listened and listened.

Back then, I thought maybe Dylan was singing about, I don’t know, fake empathy, false compassion. My sense was that “disgrace” and “fear” are not things one ought to “philosophize” and “criticize” on about – perhaps, I thought, Dylan is classifying that kind of behavior as cold, detached.

The “now ain’t the time for your tears” – which ultimately turns to “now is the time for your tears” – seemed almost like saying: “you know you’re not supposed to cry until the song is over.” For a long time, I took that as a critique of contrived emotion. But I missed the point.

Now, there are things I’m noticing about the song, about what Dylan is singing, and I see it a hell of a lot more clearly.

For starters, something I want to mention. A big reason why the song is so effective is that nowhere in the lyric does Dylan refer to Zanzinger as white, or Carroll as black. When the song reaches its conclusion, with Zanzinger receiving only a six-month sentence, we’re meant to take that as a grave injustice, and we do – but our feeling that way has nothing to do with his whiteness or her blackness, but rather, more significantly: that “she never done nothing to William Zanzinger”. And while the song makes the point of Zanzinger’s privileges – he “owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres / with rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him / and high office relations in the politics of Maryland” – it never makes a correlation between privilege and race.

Dylan’s treatment of Hattie Carroll is similarly relatable: “a maid of the kitchen,” “who carried the dishes and took out the garbage / and never sat once at the head of the table / and didn’t even talk to the people at the table / who just cleaned up all the food from the table / and emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level”. Certainly anyone who looks at the true-life story of Hattie Carroll and William Zantzinger will notice their categorical differences – race, class, gender, age – but Dylan does something more difficult: he humanizes them.

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level.

That last line there, too, is among Dylan’s most elusive. For a clue, I’m inspired to look at some of the verbs our characters get throughout the song (since, y’know, actions speak louder). Zanzinger gets killed, twirled, owns, “reacted…with a shrug”, snearing, snarling, walking (I take walking the way I think Dylan meant it, as a harsh reminder: a murderer’s on the loose); Carroll gets gave birth, carried, took out (the garbage), (never) sat (no, not once), (didn’t even) talk, cleaned, emptied, (she never) done (nothing). While Zanzinger is something of a monster, Carroll is portrayed as a remarkble, humble, gentle woman (remembering Zanzinger’s cane, “determined to destroy all the gentle”). Perhaps that’s the “whole other level” she was on: the sheer extent of her decency; which makes her murder all the more awful, all the more pointless.

But the injustices keep piling up.

In the final verse, Zanzinger stands trial – trial for a malicious crime, a crime he committed for no reason, he “just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’”.

Then, finally, the sentence is delivered, and it packs a wallop in the worst way: six months?!

Dylan leads us up to this revelation by singing about the whole justice system: the “courtroom of honor”, where “all’s equal” and “the courts are on the level”, where “even the nobles get properly handled” (referring back to Zanzinger’s privilege).

There’s an irony and a cruel joke in the description of the judge as he delivers the sentence: “he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished / and handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance / William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence”.

It was all a lie: the courts are not on the level, all is not equal, and no, the nobles will not be properly handled. Of course the “ladder of law” has a top and a bottom – and we know exactly where Zanzinger and Carroll fit into that. And it’s a cold truth.

Then, once more, the chorus – but it’s changed. (Everything has changed.) And it seems clear now: the reason Dylan sings that “now is the time for your tears” is because he was saving the greatest injustice, the real reason we ought to be crying, for that final verse.

The real coup de grâce, the ultimate revelation, is not merely that these injustices were done, no; it’s that the whole system is corrupted. Justice itself cannot claim to be just. Therein lies the tragedy.

Yet I still find myself perplexed by “you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears”. It’s not about false compassion, at least not in the way I was saying before – not about contrived feeling, not about emotion when you’re “supposed” to feel it.

But maybe it’s false in another way. As lonesome as Hattie’s death is, as terrible as Zanzinger is, and as unjust his meager sentence is, they all pale in comparison to that greater injustice, the problem that no one is adequately addressing: the world we’ve made for ourselves, a world which allows such horrific things to happen in the first place.

*Here, I spell his name correctly, since I’m referring to the real Zantzinger. When I call him “Zanzinger”, I spell it like Dylan did – referring to the character in Dylan’s song. Me, I consider the real Zantzinger and the character to be different enough to make a distinction, if only because I can’t claim expertise when it comes to either the factual human being or the factual events this song is based on. And frankly, that’s not what this post is concerned with, anyway. The song tells a story; it doesn’t give a history lesson. So, for the purposes of this post, that’s how I’ve considered Zanzinger and Carroll: as characters in Dylan’s story.

(For more information regarding the song and its basis in fact, I suggest reading this story.)


Today’s post is an older piece. I didn’t really want to post this, but...in the interest of full disclosure: this week, my laptop broke, so I’m doing all my writing in computer labs when I have the time, and usually that means I have time to do schoolwork and not much else. So, this will have to do until I get the damn thing fixed.

And sorry I can’t post the song; but if you don’t already have The Times They Are A-Changin’ you should really get on that, kid.



Sun Kil Moon - “Lost Verses”

When a song nails the trick silence loves to pull: nothing but a dark calm, the kind you can swim, dive beneath the waves or float on your back with the sun, the clouds crossing the sky like a ritual -

I wish the ocean really was that way, like I always imagine it, moving through the air, above my ears, and I have Kitty Pryde’s superpower, Mark Kozelek’s guitars, and those voices to listen to.

What if your breath could be that steady? Does love swallow you up the way it swallows me, does it rescue you from doubt, from trouble, from fate? Or does love deliver you, and all that you carry, right back to what you ran from, whispering: Find that calm; where the stillness of the moon turns the silent tide, floating lightly to the song, into the sea.


I haven’t heard the new REM album yet, but their Take Away Show is fucking great; so, you know, if that’s any indication.

Watching Norah Jones right now on Letterman, she looks and sounds divine. Think I’ll write about her next time.