Monday, November 30, 2009

Lit Randomness: Neil Gaiman's hair, comics for disintegrating families, The Oregon Trail & writing, why self-publishing doesn't work

Neil Gaiman and his hair: At The Nervous Breakdown.

7 comics about disintegrating families: At The Faster Times.

Writing and The Oregon Trail (yes, the video game...duh): At Lit Drift.

Why self-publishing doesn't work--a complaint: At 3AM.

More after the jump...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday at South of the Border

For the uninitiated, South of the Border is the greatest place on earth. It's a kitschy tourist trap (yes, they still exist!) just south of North Carolina's border in South Carolina. Driving past at night reveals a great neon sombrero above a water tower with every building lit up declaring such things as "Pedro's Coffee Shop" and "Ice Cream" (I think). For those that don't stop (but why wouldn't you?) many laughs and jollies comes from the billboards leading up to the place, such as "You never sausage a place!"...ha!

Three years ago, I wrote this piece for Pine magazine about shopping at South of the Border on Black Friday. Some highlights: bullwhips, Martha's Vineyard hats and large cut-outs of Richard Petty. It's still one of my favorite pieces, not sure why.

Back to a more regular schedule next week--hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.
More after the jump...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lit Randomness: ATL, burglars and the striated spaces of Deleuze and Guattari

Here's some lit randomness.

Parked on a side street in Atlanta's Little Five Points neighborhood, it's early evening. In the ATL for the holidays and my car has an out-of-state license plate. Threw most of our stuff in the trunk, including a laptop computer and newly purchased chip clips from IKEA. Also in the trunk: clothes, more clothes and some tennis shoes.

Fast forward through a trip to Acapella Books, a trip to Criminal Records, my wife getting her nose pierced, another trip to Criminal Records, a beer with Josh, then Thai food and sushi with other friends and then yet another trip to Criminal. This time we picked up My Maudlin Career by Camera Obscura on vinyl, some out of date magazines and a new Slingshot 2010 organizer. Then a return trip to the car to find the passenger rear window shattered.

Didn't think anything was missing until the next day when I realized several books for my thesis project were stolen, including A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari, The Rustle of Language by Roland Barthes, a postmodern narrative theory book, all university library books. Also taken was Ethan Brown's remarkable new book, Shake the Devil Off (also a library book) and a beat-up copy of Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory.

Some unsuspecting burglar just got a lesson in rhizomatic theory and the biography of a hardscrabble folk artist during The Great Depression. Can't wait to see what emerges from that.

The next day, I checked the local Borders and found a new copy of Bound For Glory, but no copies of Deleuze and Guattari or Barthes of course.

I also wonder the shock of the burglar on realizing that he had stolen some of literature's great theorists. Next night, I went back to Little Five Points and went into Acappella Books. Indeed, the burglar had tried to pawn off all the books, but was told they did not take library books. But in fact, they did take my beat up copy of Woody Guthrie's autobiography, which was promptly returned to me. For more clues, they sent me down across Freedom Parkway to the Atlanta Book Exchange, but hadn't seen anything like Deleuze and Guattari all day.

So the trail ends, and I have a $200 bill for a new window along with some anxieties about revealing the truth to the librarians, as they tack on several fees above the cost of the actual books lost.

I have a few anxieties about whatever garbage can those books are dumped into, maybe they recycled them. I also hope they didn't spend the 75 cents they received from a beat-up copy of Bound For Glory all in one place. Maybe these books created as much of a headache for the burglar in having the books, as they have for me in not having them.

More after the jump...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

review: All Your Science Volume 2

All Your Science
Volume 2
Self-released, 2009

Review by Andrew

The new album from Durham duo All Your Science is appropriately titled Volume 2 given that it follows their debut Volume 1 and that this second record seems, in some ways, a continuation of their first effort. The sound of the sophomore work is nearly identical to the first record's clean but lo-fi feel, which certainly isn't a bad thing. The guitar and drums (and other assorted instruments) and sparse vocals echo on each song like you're standing in a dimly lit basement watching the band live. It's the perfect sound for All Your Science. As far as the songs on Volume 2, the band has not strayed too far from their difficult to describe style of shoegaze meets drum and bass meets indie rock. However, on this latest effort, it's clear that the band has taken more time to fully realize their ideas, adding unexpected instruments and some really interesting rhythms.

"Club de Sons" opens the record with Dave Z. laying down a quick, almost tribal drum beat that guitarist Lu Lubenstein quickly tags along with, playing bent, surf rock guitar notes that fall into the gaps of the staccato rhythm. The sparse and clean guitar sounds almost cheerful, but also haunting before finally devolving into a distorted musical car crash in the final twenty seconds. Both members sing on "This Time," a slow song about lost love that floats along on a gentle lilting guitar riff and plodding drums. The song has a catchy chorus that sounds honest and actually quite pretty with the duo's voices simultaneously clashing and meshing.

The songs “Burried” and “Powder Down” both feature intricate playing by this pair, while also demonstrating a new versatility. “Burried” contains a few brief measures of banjo playing that could not be more unexpected or welcome. The guitar line the banjo apes is an intricate, almost metal sounding riff that—both on guitar and banjo—adds a really interesting texture to the song. The rhythm of “Powder Down” is fast and driving, with Dave Z. slamming his snare drum along to a subdued guitar riff that somehow sounds great with a frantic accordion. If anyone ever needs music for a scene in a movie with a high speed unicycle chase through a circus, this just might be the perfect song.

Dave Z. plays a mini drum kit, one he designed to be carried on his back while riding a bike, and this is the set he also uses when recording. That he's able to get so much noise and provide such interesting and varied beats to the songs with this limited set-up is a real testament to his drumming abilities. Likewise, Lu Lubenstein manages to do a lot with her guitar (and piano) playing, which has become more intricate and captivating since the last album, as she has as good a sense for when to play a note as when to leave a space empty.

Volume 2 is an enjoyable record that is especially satisfying because it demonstrates a good deal of growth since All Your Science's debut. If you have the chance to catch the band live, you probably should check them out, as they put on a really fun show. Until then, though, you can enjoy both of their records for free at

You can also check out a short documentary all about the backpack drum set:
More after the jump...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lit Randomness: Movie Trailers & books, bookstores as third places, Robert Lopez & Raymond Carver

Do books need movie trailers? At Slate.

The foolishness of the ABA's complaint against the big-box stores and how bookstores need to change: At Clay Shirky.

"The core idea is to appeal to that small subset of customers who think of bookstores as their 'third place', alongside home and work. These people care about the store’s existence in physical (and therefore social) space; the goal would be to generate enough revenue from them to make the difference between red and black ink, and to make the new bargain not just acceptable but desirable for all parties. A small collection of patron saints who helped keep a local bookstore open could be cheaply smothered in appreciation by the culture they help support."

Michael Kimball interviews Robert Lopez, author of Kamby Bolongo Mean River: At Faster Times.

Good genre books from 2009: At The Library Journal.

Raymond Carver review: At NY Times.

More after the jump...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday 5: Five Best Things Shya Scanlon Has Read Recently

Everything is new again, so Shya Scanlon is serializing his novel, Forecast. Its 42 weeks over 42 blogs, which both honors the literary blogs while also throwing in some others to try and gain some new readers (I'm just guessing...nobody told me that's the exact purpose, but I'm sure that purpose is not disagreeable).

He got Kottke to sign on, so I'm impressed. The whole thing wraps up in a couple weeks and Shya recently announced that Forecast will be released "properly" (I'll let you define that word) in by Flatmancrooked.

Shya's "crazy" method has garnered him quite a bit of attention on the interwebs, but this interview with JacketCopy sums it all up nicely. In the midst of this, Shya was nice enough to tell us the 5 best things he has read recently (submitted about 2 wks ago):

5. An email from my dear friends Chad and Megan, saying they’ve gotten engaged.

4. About half of the pieces in AM/PM by Amelia Gray. I think many of the short prose pieces in this collection are terrific. She has an amazing sense of humor, and although there’s a bit too much filler in the book—I think her concept got the best of her—it’s well worth the read.

A Jello Horse by Matthew Simmons. It’s somehow incredibly concise without being dense, and highly emotional without being dramatic. It’s a remarkable novella.

2. The fifth chapter of
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. It’s mindbendingly funny. I’ve read the passage many times, and it still very nearly brings me to tears it’s so damn good. I first encountered it at a talk given by David Wilson of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, who read it aloud before giving a slideshow about miniature art. I thought I was on drugs.

1. Terese Svoboda’s
Black Glasses Like Clark Kent. It’s a memoir and it’s a war story and it’s a mystery and it’s all told in a neat fractured narrative based on rhythm and breath.

And some housekeeping---I've done a few of these now, so does everybody like these from the authors? Or would you prefer a 'traditional' interview in addition or instead of? Let me know.

More after the jump...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Swing South: Chuck Ragan and The Revival Tour

Chuck Ragan: "Rotterdam"

I always liked Hot Water Music. Not really sure about Chuck Ragan as a songwriter himself and his Americana-binge. Seems like he's one of the guys that kind of set this "alt-country is the new punk rock" thing in motion. So here's credit where credit is due. I like punk. I like alt-country. I probably would like Chuck Ragan. His new record, Gold Country popped in September.

He already had a bunch of southern shows, but The Revival Tour has a little steam left. In addition to Ragan, there is Jim Ward of Sparta and Sleepercar, and Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price of Drag The River among others.

Remaining ATL & Florida dates after the jump...

Nov 19 2009
The Masquarade Hell Stage- The Revival Tour 2009 Atlanta, Georgia

Nov 20 2009
Common Grounds- The Revival Tour 2009 Gainesville, Florida

Nov 21 2009
State Theatre- The Revival Tour 2009 St. Petersburg, Florida

Nov 22 2009
The Social- Last Show of The U.S. Revival Tour 2009 Orlando, Florida

More after the jump...

review: Ask For The Future---Satellites

Ask For The Future
Self-released, 2009

With the cavalcade of emo-punk bands passing by, it's hard to write about all of them. And I have a problem with that, because I like this stuff--all of it for the most part. Like Santa on Christmas Eve, all the cookies taste the same, but they're always good to eat.

But here's Ask For The Future which immediately recalls Jimmy Eat World, a slower Yellow Card and The Starting Line. The second track, "The Same Dream" sets the tone early with a free-wheeling optimistic intro that hits all the poppy notes and will make the kids sing alot to "We all want what what we can't have" told in the familiar "I" vs. "You" narratives so popular in the angst-ridden, relationally frustrated young adulthood.

But once they throw a bone to their core demographic, Ask For The Future opens it up with "Magic 8 Ball"--an extremely clever song about trying to foretell a relationship's future. It hits on all cylinders, so to speak, letting the band tick at its top level while still adhering to the music the band likes. But really the song's structure is perfection pop--a head-shaking bridge with a soft hit charms and even memorable verse lines and an added guitar solo smacked on for no extra charge.

Ask For The Future isn't all lollipops and hopscotch. "Neither Seen Nor Heard" does ominous loss turned apologetic very well. "Keep Myself From Falling" may even trip into roots rock territory slightly, but thankfully they shelve that pretty quick in the choruses.

Poppy pop punk is this band's sweetspot though finding a rough edge would do the band well. Often, even for an unsigned band, Ask For The Future seems a bit too slick, dangerously close to becoming just an empty shell. More rock, I say, to punch up their otherwise well-crafted sound.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lit Randomness: Paul Auster, Robert McKee, Molly Gaudry & Miami Book Fair

A Rumpus Double:

Interv. with Paul Auster.

Interv. with story guru, Robert McKee.

Interview with Molly Gaudry, author of We Take Me Apart. She seems to be a nice person: At HTML Giant.

Ben Greenman at the Miami Book Fair: At The New Yorker.
More after the jump...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

review: Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Await Your Reply
by Dan Chaon
Ballantine Books, 2009

Have no idea about how the differences between say, thrillers and literary fiction came to be about, but it's nice for someone to bleed into each Chaon has "capital L" credentials, but this book is plot-driven without being predictable.

Twins Hayden and Miles have an inventive childhood to say the least, causing Hayden to confuse the real with the imaginary and Hayden takes that wonder to its fullest ends. It's not giving anything away to say this is about identity theft, but it goes deeper than just theft, it becomes identity inhabitation.

As fanciful as that sounds, Chaon constructs a world of vignettes about modern gangsters, guys that do not intimidate with guns or knives, but with pieces of self-scrap that all modern day humans are leaving behind. It's not a case of electronic presence vs. a non-electronic presence, but our personal identity is distancing itself farther and farther from the physical person.

Await Your Reply is compelling because it fully utilizes what literature does best--unknown faces, hidden personas and untraceable physical features manifest itself best in the written word. In other words, Await Your Reply is not ready-made for a movie, serious reconfigurations would be the only way it's possible, eviscerating it for what it is. As our society is now almost all visual, it's refreshing to read such a thoroughly modern book with modern subject matter that can only be told in a old-fashioned way, so to speak.

Await Your Reply reminded me of William Gibson's two later works, as they try to deal also with modern conundrums of travel and electronic presence. Chaon is not so heavy-handed in wonder about the technology, instead its presence is leveraged rather than just admired. Fascinating read.

Also check this review from Three Guys One Book.

More after the jump...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Swing South: Company of Thieves

Company of Thieves: "In Passing" (live)
Annuals: "Brother"

This Chicago band
is mostly hitting up midwest dates on tour with Raleigh, NC-native band Annuals. Both bands have sweet pop down pretty well with glint of jazzy classic rock. Company of Thieves is kind of like Silversun Pickups and Regina Spektor with a backing band. Worth checking into, but I figure most people won't have super strong opinions about them either way. But vocalist Genevieve Schatz can flat-out sing, so that's a plus. The album from Company of Thieves,
Ordinary Riches is out now. Good tracks include "Oscar Wilde" and "Under The Umbrella."

I know that's an old Annuals track, but it's cool. Tour dates & Rushmore-inspired vid of "Oscar Wilde" after the jump...

Nov 17 2009 8:00P
The Nick w/ Annuals Birmingham, Alabama

Nov 19 2009 9:00P
Tremont Music Hall w/ Annuals Charlotte, North Carolina

Nov 20 2009 8:30P
The Masquerade w/ Annuals Atlanta, Georgia

Nov 23 2009 8:00P
Third and Lindsley w/ Annuals Nashville, Tennessee

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: On poets leaving NYC, Generation A, Brockmeier, Await Your Reply review

Poets! Dare to leave NYC at the risk of your social lives! Daniel Nester explains: At The Morning News.

My complaint, if there is one, is not that New York Poets are rude. It is that New York Poets are too nice, that they don’t tell the truth to each other enough. In New York, you see, it also helps to have someone else say you are a poet. Beneath the surface politesse and modesty of the New York Poet runs an undercurrent of exclusion you only sense years later. To be coddled in New York City as a poet is to be killed slowly.

Review of Coupland's Generation A...does that title sound familiar?: At The AV Club.

Questions with Kevin Brockmeier: At Papercuts.

Not only am I jealous of Dan Chaon, I'm jealous of this review as well: At Three Guys One Book.

Now I'm interested in reading this. Q&A with Michelle Huneven, author of Blame:At The Elegant Variation.

More after the jump...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Five: 5 Bests Things Jeff Parker Has Read Recently

Somehow I got a copy of Jeff Parker's Ovenman a few years ago and was smitten. Being a punk kid from Florida, it was awesome to read about a punk kid from Florida. Adding post-it notes and pizza made it even better.

After that book, Parker compiled an anthology of Russian stories called Rasskazzy and now has a set of stories called The Taste of Penny from Dzanc Books in April.

Here's the five best things Jeff Parker has read recently:

5. Padgett Powell’s new novel The Interrogative Mood – 164 pages of questions. Sample: “If we were told that Einstein secretly carries a very small pet in his pocket, would we seek to discover what it is? Do you feel all right? Would you be embarrassed or rather thrilled by yourself if you were caught by Einstein with your hand in his coat pocket? Would you prefer to explain yourself in such a moment to Einstein, to Freud or to Picasso? Are you not past the point of explaining yourself in earnest? Would you like to go to the big new grocery store and marvel at packaging? How have we gotten so stoned, on nothing? Can what we have come to be explained merely by fatigue?”

4. "There is somewhat low even in hope." --Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

3. "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." --Lamar Odom

2. Description of Carl Jung's secret novel stored in a safe in Switzerland, by Sara Corbett, writing for The New York Times Magazine: "Man skids into midlife and loses his soul. Man goes looking for soul. After a lot of instructive hardship and adventure — taking place entirely in his head — he finds it again."

1. Когда мой губы и язык будут упиваться твоим прекрасным, сочным телом, твои (1) стоны / (2) крики (3) наслаждения / (4) экстаза будут слышны в Южной Африке. (When my lips and tongue revel on your beautiful, luscious body, they will hear your (1) moans / (2) screams of (3) pleasure / (4) ecstasy in South Africa.) --English-Russian Dictionary Phrasebook of Love: Words and phrases to win hearts, stir desire, and express feelings by Marina Frolova and Robert Powers

More after the jump...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

mp3s: Capgun Coup, The Bravery, PJ Bond, Tim Williams, Motherhips & more

Capgun Coup: "Sitting on the Sidewalk"

Enjoying the few songs I've heard from Capgun Coup's new album,
Maudlin. Released last week from Team Love, the Omaha group spent some time in the famed Hotel Frank making some nice lo-fi, complemented with some cool 60s surf vibes. I thought of Birds of Avalon, Be Your Own Pet, The Vivian Girls and Times New Viking (gotta stop posting about them). Maybe they're all similar in style rather than substance.

Check Capgun Coup here at Team Love and on MySpace. Also on tour this fall with Cursive.

The Bravery: "Spectator"

PJ Bond: "You, Too"

Best Coast: "When I'm With You"

Hurricane Bells: "This Year"

Motherhips: "White Falcon Fuzz"

Midnight Masses: "Walk on Water"

Will Stratton: "Your California Sky"

Golden Shoulders "Mountain"

Tim Williams "Murderous Air"

More after the jump...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pop Prick: "Whatcha Say?" by Jason Derulo

Another installment of Pop Prick by Josh Rank.

"Whatcha Say?" by Jason Derulo

Jason Derulo’s top song is downright depressing, and frankly, a little pathetic. First of all, why would he date a girl that would dump him just for being hard of hearing? Second, what kind of girl dumps a deaf guy?

“Mmmm, what’cha say?”

Throughout the song, he’s simply trying to figure out what the hell is going on. He asks her to repeat herself throughout the chorus and asks for further clarification in the verses.

“I was wrong for so long.”

Don’t blame yourself, Jason. She should have been nice enough to learn sign language for you.

“But when I become a star we’ll be living large.”

It amazes me that he wants her back, but, what do I know? Maybe she gives really good massages or something. It also amazes me that she left a deaf singer. Can you imagine how marketable that is? He at the top of the charts! He’s like Stevie Wonder except he doesn’t bump his shins on the coffee table.

“I know what I did wasn’t clever
But me and you were meant to be together.”

He’s continually blaming himself for his disability. Maybe that’s why she left him. Girls dig confidence, Jason!

“Tell me, tell me whatcha said (said)
I really need you in my life
Cuz things ain't right, girl
Tell me, tell me whatcha said (said)”

Pathetic or not, this guy got a raw deal; He’s deaf and his girl left him without saying why. I wish you all the best, Jason. But hey, you have a number 1 song now! I know you can’t hear it but people are singing your praises in dance clubs around the nation.

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Brian Evenson, NanoWriMo tips, Self-publishing confessions & more

The Faster Times are reeling out the great literary interviews. This time w/ Brian Evenson: At Faster Times.

A Pank Double
Admitting that you self-published.
An interview w/ author Steve Gibbon.

Evenings Empire, about the author's father being murdered in Phoenix: At Salon.

More after the jump...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Swing South: Times New Viking

Times New Viking: "Move To California"

Love the amped-up lo-fi. Love Times New Viking. From their MySpace "Sounds Like" section:
Breath in: snuff a line speed, a half hour jump on your cheap amplifiers, salad yet once a half hour with you yet cheaper guitar against the wall. Write eleven popliedjes, lay the emphasis on cryptic and forget everything your song teacher you ever learned has. Seek your neighbor girl on and tell her that your musics will make...
Seriously, what else can I say?
Hitting up a slew of southern dates...more after the jump.

Nov. 10 Black Owl Trading Company Florence, AL
Nov. 11 Bottletree Birmingham, AL
Nov. 12 Star Bar Atlanta
Nov. 13 Local 506 Chapel Hill
Nov. 14 Sonar Baltimore

More after the jump...

review: Tallest Trees--Hey There Little Nebula

Tallest Trees
Hey There Little Nebula EP

Download Tallest Trees here.

Tallest Trees: "Aloutte!"

Tallest Trees: "Learn"

Never was sure what a "buzz" band was until I heard Nashville's Tallest Trees. Not sure where I first downloaded their free album, but Out The Other threw it up on Twitter about a month ago and as I went to download it, I realized I already had it. Just never spent much time with it, never got to know it in a proper way, only that fleeting way which is the state of inboxes and status updates.

Here's another blog post for the wash of white noise over you--Tallest Trees is good and excellent in some cases, but still needing some refinement. Maybe Nashville is all atwitter because they finally have their own Animal Collective/Of Montreal to call their own. Tallest Trees is THAT type of band--instantly alluring, in that non-threatening way that indie stalwarts like Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors and the aforementioned bands have so, so, so perfected.

"Alouette!" is the strongest song, precisely because it depends so much on its percussive beats and the cascading French words step so perfectly right into tune, like a marching band of misfit string players. Theirs a high falsetto with intriguing lyrics--yes, Animal Collective is a strong influence and much of this 5-song EP feels like

Is that bad? Of course not. Too much of a good thing? Maybe. Though "Alouette!" is original, it's hard to find a "non-derivative" song after that one. "Non-derivative" is in quotes, because the quality is extremely high, it's just that Animal Collective has got almost a decade and several albums and side projects tucked in their pockets. Finding a niche in that scene will always be tough--too many parts, too many elements always teetering on the edge of failure. But I love the violin(?...never sure w/ instruments) in "Skinny Little Wrists," the deeper, darker beats of "Finally Home," the twinkling electronica melody on "Learn," and the clever lyrics on "All My Fears."

All the while there is more electronica swirls (not electronica ambiences) than on Animal Collective; combining some standard beats with indie rock strings and a compelling, but familiar sound is made--you know like getting Breyer's Ice Cream instead of Haagen-Dazs. It still tastes good, just very similar.

More after the jump...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Troika Festival Wrap-Up Links

Future Islands on Friday night of Troika. Photo by Jeremy from Secret Carrboro Ninja Patrol

Didn't make it to
Troika in Durham, NC this year. I'm a loser. If I was a real media outlet, I would've "dispatched" somebody. Too bad. Luckily, a few fine folks were there:

The Secret Carrboro Ninja Patrol has a breakdown of many of the sets, along with pics, pics, including Lonnie Walker and The Love Language. And don't forget the Beard Patrol, either.

Wallow in the goodness here (Day 1), here (Day 2) and here (Day 3).

Mann's World comes through with a video offering of Rat Jackson, The Loners, and The Love Language with some advice for the fest organizers.

Daily Tar Heel lays it out with Day 3 love.

In retrospect, here are the Scan's picks and the Daily Tar Heel's picks.

If you find some more reviews/pics from other sources, let me know in the comments and I'll add them.

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Philip Roth, Stephen Elliott, Joel Osteen, Shoplifting, Chronic City & Kristina Born

Oh shoot, we're all screwed after Philip Roth: At Guardian.

Joel Osteen promi$e$ the money: At Jesus Needs New PR.

A good Stephen Elliott interview: At Maud Newton.

Interv. w/ Kristina Born, author of One Hour of Television: At The Faster Times.

Shoplifting from Strand Books: At The Nervous Breakdown.

Good Chronic City review: At Identity Theory.

More after the jump...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Five: 5 Best Things Jamie Iredell Has Read Recently

Yesterday was a review of
Prose. Poems. A Novel by Jamie Iredell, which contains stories from three chapbooks that he previously published. Jamie also designs books for C&R Press, blogs at and from all hints and clues, lives in Atlanta. I asked Jamie to let us know the five best things he's read lately. This is what he sent back in mid-October:

5. The turning of the leaves in Georgia for fall. No, it's not as spectacular as New England; it's not particularly spectacular at all. But I'll take what I've got, and it's felt good this year to attempt to be very aware of how the planet changes as it goes through the seasons. I've been noting (a la Thoreau, even if not as formally) the dates when the sycamores and dogwoods first sprout buds in late March and when the blackgums start reddening in September, for example. I guess it makes me more here here.

4. Frank Stanford's The Singing Knives. There's really nothing to say about this book except that if you're not a reader of Frank Stanford you're not a reader.

3. I recently re-read Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and, for whatever reason--maybe I never noticed before, assuming he was just one of those "early American writers" who are boring--but, that guy (and that story in particular) has got some serious prose styling going on. I love this: "The revenue arising from his school was small, and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda." Any time you compare one's dilating powers to that of an anaconda--describing a human in such a way--you've got my attention.

2. I didn't really read this, but made it up, although there's probably a recipe out there for it, even if I didn't follow it. I've done this twice now, and it's awesome, that is: I am truly full of awe when eating.

Bourbon Steak Marinade & Sauce

1/2 cup Maker's Mark
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp back pepper

Marinate 4 tenderloin steaks for at least three hours in the refrigerator, turning once.

Grill the steaks on a charcoal grill, or over the embers of a wood fire. You can use a gas a grill, but I don't think you're grilling. You might as well just throw the steaks in the oven if you use a gas grill.

Save the leftover marinade, transferring it to a sauce pan. Heat over medium low and add 1 tbl of brown sugar, and two tbl of ketchup, and mix well. The marinade makes a great sauce to pour over the steaks. This is some of the best eating, if you're not a vegetarian.

1. The best thing ever (in the last week or so): Uncle Shuck's Pumpkin Patch and corn maze, where I took my sister (who's form California) and who said "no" when asked if--after visiting Uncle Shuck's--she wanted to move to Georgia. My wife also took this photo of me there.

More after the jump...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

review: Prose. Poems. A Novel by Jamie Iredell

Friday Five w/ Jamie tomorrow!

Prose. Poems. A Novel.
by Jamie Iredell
Orange Alert Press, 2009

Contained in three sections, Prose. Poems. A Novel is a series of loosely connected vignettes about the narrator's time "Before Nevada" "In Nevada" and "In Atlanta" heavily dependent on the surroundings and the people surrounding the narrator.

All of the tales (usually contained on one page) describe an element of growing up and aging--and how relationships change with the ages--they are stories/examples of relationships in adolescence ("Before Nevada"), as young adults ("In Nevada"), then settling to more quiet bars with mature conversations ("In Atlanta").

The stories open with a bear in a neighbor's cabin, and I didn't understand this example at first; how it RELATES--but it does, it does, the narrator is that BEAR, stumbling around trying to navigate an unfamiliar world. These are stories/examples/specific incidences of that navigation.

Don't worry, there are not broad sweeping generalizations weighing this book down like weighs this review down; nothing is heavy-handed or overanalyzed--instead it's a pleasure to read.

I'm not really fascinated by landscapes, not that this book is all about landscapes, but most of it is about the WEST which I don't know much about and there are a couple of raucous scenes of DRINKING, PARTYING, and DRUG USE but not really in the way you think about those scenes, not in an MTV/The Hills sort of way--not that Iredell discusses them passively, those events are presented as more of a way to pass the time, to deal, to understand the relationships between FRIENDS.

Connections must be sought between each story, each piece of a story, or they don't have to be sought at all because each piece stands on its own.

Most pages end not on a couplet, but with a memorable image, a phrase that turns and captures everything set before it, such as these: "Instead of trout, there are tourists, which are almost the same thing" and "It's only now that I can look back and say what kind of idiot I've become."

Those two sit only a page apart, in the first section, mostly about a cabin in the woods and the narrator's memories about cabins, and this was my favorite section. More interesting here are the strings that Iredell attaches between the first residents of Lake Tahoe and its landscape and what the landscape has now become--small cabins and Taco Bells and whatever James Michener has written about and whatever he writes about. It is change, it is not change, it always changes.

Section two is more of the same, but not: an older voice emerges, something fraught with the heave-ho give and go of the modern (or the perceived-modern) "going out" to somewhere culture, even if there is nowhere to go. And fights break out and there is a good illustration of a bitten ear, like what Mike Tyson did to Evander Holyfield.

Again, this section goes back to nature, to snakes, to trying to understand if we know anything at all, which it is generally assumed that we don't, except for where to find drugs, but even that is nonchalant in Iredell's descriptions.

Section three, I enjoyed the specific mentions of Atlanta streets, because I used to live in Atlanta. Selfish. Excellent parts about the narrator and a character named Sally trekking Kennesaw Mountain, once again landscapes and the narrator's interaction with them--always kind of sort of stumbling, like that bear again.

Don't think I really like or "get" the illustrations, but there are some funny captions and I'm glad the illustrations are there, just didn't do much for me. I want this book to go a bit longer, to explore a little more, especially section three, I feel there is more to add, more to be had in the exploration stages of Atlanta, like the other landscapes of the novel are explored, maybe that these are three chapbooks adds to that, but I'll take what is given.

Those expecting a novel, don't go into it with those eyes, go into it expecting an in-the-moment meditation on people and circumstances without context and you'll be much more satisfied. I'm against genres and classifications anyway, for the most part, and I think Iredell is too, except I don't want to speak for him, so I won't except to say, if you find yourself an opportunity to read this slim volume of goodness, I would do it.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2009 Troika Fest in Durham, NC

Troika Festival is this weekend in Durham, NC.
Was just going to make some picks for the Troika Festival this wknd in Durham, but screw it, here's the whole schedule with some nice vids scattered in.

Thursday, Nov 5

Durham Central Park

7:45 Megafaun
7:00 The Beast

Backstage at the Durham Performing Arts Center
11:00 Bowerbirds
10:00 The Future Kings of Nowhere
9:15 Humble Tripe
8:30 Ghost Cats

The Pinhook
117 W. Main St

11:15 Max Indian
10:30 Aminal
9:45 House of Fools
9:00 The Desmonds

Duke Coffeehouse

11:45 Future Islands
10:45 EAR PWR
10:00 The ExMonkeys

Broad St Cafe
1116 Broad St

11:45 The Moaners
11:00 The Dry Heathens
10:15 Pink Flag
9:30 Regina Hexaphone

Rest of the schedule after the jump...

Friday, Nov 6

"Troika Evenings" at West End Wine Bar

601 W. Main St

8:30 Birds and Arrows
7:45 Liza Kate
7:00 Tea and Tempests

Marvell Event Center

119 W. Main St

10:30 Embarrassing Fruits
9:45 The Proclivities
9:00 Wembley
8:15 Ryan Gustafson

The Pinhook
117 W. Main St

11:00 Bellafea
10:15 Caltrop
9:30 Grappling Hook
8:45 Scientific Superstar

Trotter Building
410 W. Geer St

12:30 Dex Romweber Duo
11:30 Gentleman Jesse & His Men
10:30 Hammer No More The Fingers
9:45 Brett Harris
9:00 The Huguenots

Duke Coffeehouse

Duke University
East Campus

12:00 Birds of Avalon
11:00 I Was Totally Destroying It
10:15 The Pneurotics
9:30 The Ringing Cedars

Broad St Cafe
1116 Broad St

12:15 Pipe
11:15 The Dirty Little Heaters
10:30 Whatever Brains
9:45 Jews and Catholics

"Late Night" at Bull McCabe's
427 W Main St

12:15 Beloved Binge
11:30 All Your Science

Saturday, Nov 7

"Rock, Paper, Scissors" at Trotter Bldg

Arts & crafts marketplace!

410 W Geer St

2:30 Mount Moriah
1:30 Tin Star
12:30 Three Days in Vegas

"Troika Evenings" at West End Wine Bar

601 W. Main St

8:30 The Tender Fruit
7:45 Jasmé Kelly
7:00 Sequoya

Marvell Event Center
119 W. Main St

10:30 Luego
9:45 Lud
9:00 Bright Young Things
8:15 Sea Cow

The Pinhook
117 W. Main St

11:00 Gray Young
10:15 Citified
9:30 Veronique Diabolique

Duke Coffeehouse
Duke University
East Campus
Trinity Ave & Buchanan Blvd

11:15 Lonnie Walker
10:15 Schooner
9:30 Veelee
8:45 D-Town Brass

Trotter Building
410 W. Geer St

11:30 Red Collar
10:30 The Travesties
9:45 Maple Stave
9:00 The Bronzed Chorus

Broad St Cafe
1116 Broad St

12:00 The Love Language
11:00 The Loners
10:15 Rat Jackson
9:30 Dynamite Brothers

"Late Night" at Bull McCabe's
427 W Main St

12:15 Pistil
11:30 Butterflies

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Book ads, Gentrified Lit, Ben Tanzer & more

Not just NY novels now, but Brooklyn novels. All writing is local right? At N+1 (h/t Vol1Brooklyn)

Ben Tanzer is awesome. About to read his book. I love Chicago writers right now: At Faster Times.

Adam Langer is awesome. I'm reading his book Crossing California right now. More Chicago: At PaperCuts (h/t Vol1Brooklyn)

NaNoWriMo sounds like something Mork would say. People actually do this? At LitDrift.

Book ads were the first print ads: At Jacket Copy (h/t Maud Newton Twitter)

More after the jump...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

review: Manchester Orchestra--Mean Everything to Nothing

Manchester Orchestra
Mean Everything to Nothing
Favorite Gentlemen, 2009

Manchester Orchestra: "I've Got Friends"

I know, I know this one has been out for a little while, but I just picked it up. I'd heard a few of the songs and became intrigued. This, for all intents and purposes, is/was a big album for Manchester Orchestra. Their time to make a statement about the hype, about their style, about WHAT IS TO COME. Almost indie to the max in starting their own record label (Favorite Gentleman), they've somehow found fair mainstream success (notice their list of shows punctuated with radio call numbers coming up) all on their own terms. That's not necessarily "indie" in sound, but indie all the way in style.

Hyped big time by Paste Mag, Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra sometimes missed the mark with their early ventures. Lead singer Andy Hull was ahead of the rest of his bandmates, both in talent, maturity and commitment. Hull's strength has always been his lyrics and finally with
Mean Everything to Nothing the band matches Hull's vocal intensity. I liked the previous EP, but this destroys it--in its complexity, its subject matter and its heady, hook pop.

Manchester Orchestra is slow-mo Southern punk. This is Pearl Jam with a twinge of the South, CCR with an amped-up attitude and a gothic, almost debilitating fixation on man's relationship with God, rattling between dependence and denial.

The album's opener "The Only One" is built on an opening whine, a melody of little deflection, with Hull's contrasting lyrics on religion and sexuality nestled into a thick fold of clean distortion. "Shake It Out" actually starts out very similarly, except with the energy at another rung up the ladder. The lyrics, (this kid can write) center on individual spiritual realization: "Are you the living ghost of what I need? /are you giving me the best of me./ we, will see."

Try this one on for size: "I am the living ghost of what you need/ I am everything eternally, god just speak." Of course, the genius of this song is its climax at the 3:30 mark or so (it could have ended here) before it delves (or moves, transforms, glides) into some balladeering that is not cheesy, but surprisingly effective. Why, oh why does the song break? The intensity, the speed, all is fine and dandy, but it's like we would forget the point of music if the break wasn't there: music is meaning.

By the third track on the album, I'm not sure how I can keep up with this onslaught of goodness, but Hull and co., keep bringing it in much the same way. "I've Got Friends" seems a bit grander, the guitar parts deeper, the structure a little tighter. But Hull never lets off the pedal, the border of screams vs. non-screams vs. singing is a fine one and the timing is delicate.

The fourth track "Pride" is no slouch, though its quiet trickle into the blistering now-familiar Southern grunge sound isn't as surprising here. In fact, the first half of the album is some of the best modern rock being developed, the second half falls off, though "Everything To Nothing" feels more like the previous band's EP, thrown together quick with a intro shading what is already known. "The River" is Bright Eyes long-view pop with more confidence and no waver in his tender voice.

Essentially, though quibbling with the last half of the album is like expecting every player on a baseball team to hit .400, when only having three hit .500 is almost just as fine. Because the other songs are good, outstanding even, just perhaps not achieving the level of excellence as the first three songs. To bring it back on course: Manchester Orchestra delivers and delivers fast and hard with sweetness, like the UPS man charging into your mailbox, but delivering everyone on the block a box of gold bullion. Sure, it's an inconvenience that the mailbox is knocked down, but no one cares. This is gold.

More after the jump...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swing South: Brand New

Brand New: "Sink"

Wasn't going to let this one slip by. One of my favorite bands, one of my top albums of the decade. If you're still unfamiliar with Brand New, strip away whatever prejudices you have about Alt Press cover bands, scenesters and even punk rock in general. After their first album, all generalities have morphed into persistent questioning. Punk rock made into solid rock. Their devolution is an evolution. Though Daisy is alright, it is a letdown after The Devil and God, but I think the best is still to come.

Oh yeah, Thrice is on this tour too. The were (are?) one of my fav. bands, though all their new stuff has left me less than enthused.

Southern tour dates & "At The Bottom" studio session video after the jump...

Nov 1 2009 8:00P
Voodoo Experience New Orleans, Louisiana

Nov 3 2009 8:00P
The Tabernacle w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Atlanta, Georgia

Nov 4 2009 8:00P
House of Blues w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Orlando, Florida

Nov 5 2009 8:00P
The Ritz Ybor w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Tampa, Florida

Nov 6 2009 7:00P
House of Blues w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Orlando, Florida

Nov 7 2009 8:00P
House of Blues w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Nov 9 2009 4:00P
Manifest Disc (acoustic mini-set) Charlotte, North Carolina

Nov 9 2009 8:00P
The Fillmore w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Charlotte, North Carolina

Nov 10 2009 8:00P
The National w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Richmond, Virginia

Nov 11 2009 8:00P
Sonar w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo *SOLD OUT* Baltimore, Maryland

Nov 13 2009 8:00P
The NorVa w/ Thrice, Crime In Stereo Norfolk, Virginia

More after the jump...
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