Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deckfight's 2009 Recap

Bye, bye 2009, don't think it was too much of a disaster. But if you want to rubberneck some more we won't be back until 2010. In the meantime, here's some essential Deckfight reading from the past year:

Favorite Deckfight stories of 2009:

1) Mike Fretto of Rosa Loves & Leo McGovern of Antigravity Mag.
2) Corndogorama
3) Michael Jackson is a Thriller
4) John Wray
5) I Was Totally Destroying It
6) 5 Favorite Southern Novels
7) 5 Most Important Brand New Songs
8) Red Collar
9) 5 Favorite Indie Rock Songs for College Football
10) Duncan's 5 Favorite Albums from Merge Records

Favorite Deckfight Book Reviews

1) The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno
2) Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
3) Shake The Devil Off by Ethan Brown
4) Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon by Hosho McCreesh and Chris Cunningham
5) Arkansas by John Brandon

Favorite Deckfight Album Reviews

1) DD/MM/YYYY: Black Square
2) Jeff The Brotherhood: Heavy Days
3) Brand New: Daisy
4) Nathan Oliver: Cloud Animals
5) Midtown Dickens: Lanterns

And in case you forgot---

Favorite Albums of the Decade
Favorite Books of the Decade
Favorite Albums of 2009
Favorite Books Read in 2009

Technically, 2009 was not Deckfight's first year but it definitely was its most active. It's been on a regular basis since April of this year and we came over to this site in June. 2010 looks to be wonderful. I'm going to be changing some of the posting schedule and I've had some recent talks about a site redesign. Let's make this thing look sharp.

It's been an awesome learning experience with more ups than downs. A lot of stuff I didn't get to, and probably won't get to, as that is the blogging dilemma. But it's been great connecting with a lot of different people. And those people I'd like to thank:

Thanks to all the blogs in the Albums of The Decade Tour. Thanks to those 10 guys who had never heard really heard of Deckfight before and decided screw it, let's do it.

Thanks to all the random sites and blogs that have linked to us in the past year, but especially to Vol. 1 Brooklyn and The Lawn Chair Boys for being super supportive for no apparent reason.

Thanks to Dave at Largehearted Boy for randomly linking to my stuff and answering random emails from me even though he's an indie-blog superstar.

Thanks to Josh R. & Andrew J. for writing and contributing and my wife for being so kind to me in this extra-writing endeavor.

Thanks to you for reading.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

We'll be taking a short break for Christmas. We'll probably be back next week in some form or another, I kind of want to recap & highlight some of the cool stuff Deckfight put out this year as well as pre-cap (just made that up) some of the stuff for 2010.

I have a long list of thanks that I'll give next week.

If you're looking for an awesome selection of indie/punk Christmas songs, Can You See The Sunset has an awesome list going.

But in the meantime---Merry Christmas.

"God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." (John 3:17, The Message)
More after the jump...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

mp3s: The Octagon, Adam Green, Dragon Turtle, We Are Wolves, Barzin, Why Write?

The Octagon: "Suicide Kings"

Read Zach Mexico's book earlier this year, now here comes a release from his band, The Octagon. Their new single is "Suicide Kings" and will be on their January release,
Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever from Serious Business Records.

The Octagon is embarking on an early year tour with dates on their MySpace page.

Adam Green: ""What Makes Him Act So Bad"

Dragon Turtle: "Island of Broken Glass"

We Are Wolves: "Holding Hands"

Barzin: "Look What Love Has Turned Us Into"

Why Write?: "Burning Holes"

More after the jump...

review: Holiday Shores---Columbus'd The Whim

Holiday Shores
Columbus'd The Whim
Two Syllable Records, 2009

Holiday Shores: "Phones Don't Feud"

Wanted to review the Holiday Shores album for a few reasons. #1 CMJ buzz. #2 The album's name is "Columbus'd The Whim." Nice verb action. #3 Tallahassee. #4 It's the holidays.

Columbus'd has some nautical feelings going on, as well as the word "Shores" so get ready for some laid-back sailor tales. But instead of hard-charging, hard-cussing metal, there's a lot of pseudo-Carribean playfulness punctuated with an Animal Collective high-pitched experimentation, which in the clash of buzz bands means: Vampire Weekend meets Animal Collective. For reals. Sickening, I know.
The only prob with that is that Holiday Shores doesn't have either band's proclivity for melody or memorable experimentation, which means very few things stick. Maybe this is "lo-fi" too, and I'm a little conflicted about not only what that means, but what that sounds like in this digital age.

All that came out bad. Real bad.

Holiday Shores - Errand of Tongue from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

But then "Dens" makes me like this band, with its quiet distorted, hollowed creeping, and I like the "steel-ness" on "Phones Don't Feud." I like the round of "oh-oh-ohs" on"Errand of Tongue," which is like a lava lamp haphazardly place on a keyboard. "Bradley Bear" is that minimalist beach song that the hippies play for the tourists in Ft. Lauderdale and "I'll Spend Money I Don't Have" is experimental audio at its honest best, again the echo chamber, again the wandering keys. Founder and key member Nathan Pemberton is like any promising musician--thinking, wondering, wishing, creating.

Another winner--"Edge of Our Lives." This is a key track, it has some funky breakdowns in it, adheres to a tighter structure, maximizes its keyboard parts, has the requisite hip fuzziness, encapsulates all of Holiday Shores' unique sounds, but packages it in concisely. I like this song a lot. "Experiencer" is another like that, as the chorus intones "I don't know things I don't know..." and on and on and on, with Pemberton's warble and newly fashioned surf rock, it holds together well, is "experimental" without too many key changes and ups and downs to be typically deemed as "experimental." This isn't of course Animal Collective or Vampire Weekend, but Holiday Shores--an entity in their own right.

All that came out well. Real well.

More after the jump...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lit Randomness: What Line is your fav. novel?, Kevin Killian, Max Decharne & more

Not really a 'headliner' here, but these are enjoyable:

Interv. w/ Max Décharné: At 3AM.
I'd never heard of this guy, but now I'm glad I have. He wrote a dictionary of hipster slang entitled, "Straight from the fridge, dad." That's enough of a selling point.

Interv. w/ Kevin Killian: At L Magazine.

The Watch List with Caleb Ross:
At Orange Alert.

What Line Could Represent Your Favorite Novel?: At Maud Newton.

Big Other is doing a lot "Best of 2009" lists. Here's one from Justin Sirois, in praise of his grill:
At Big Other.

BTW--Had never heard of Big Other until the other day, so thanks to these guys for pointing me over there.

More after the jump...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Five: 5 (or 10) Christmas Things with Matthew Paul Turner

For a Friday Five at Christmas, I could think of no better person than author Matthew Paul Turner. He's the author of several books, including the Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and The Holy Ghost which drops in February.

He also blogs regularly at Jesus Needs New PR, and includes this recent funny post about live nativity scenes.

And, there's a Christmas bonus. Not only did Matthew give us the 5 best things he's read recently, but also lets us know 5 things he likes about Christmas and 5 things he doesn't like about Christmas...

5 best things about Christmas

1) Baking pies

2) Spending time with family

3) Singing Christmas carols

4) The Charlie Brown Christmas Special

5) The traditions--decorating, putting my son in Santa's lap, fireplaces, and holiday parties with friends

5 things he doesn't like about Christmas

1) Holiday consumerism and busyness

2) The Shrek Christmas Special

3) "Silver Bells"--a ridiculous excuse for a song in my opinion

4) Spending more than three days with family

5) The struggle I have to engage the hope of Jesus

5 Best Things Matthew Paul Turner has read recently...
1) Entertainment Weekly

2) The Twitter feed of @FakeAPStyleBook--Hilarious.

3) The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

4) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

5) Psalm 23

More after the jump...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We read books in 2009. Here are our favorites.

There were a lot of books that came out in 2009 I wanted to read. We know the motto though, time is of the essence. I will not pretend to act like I know what really happened in the lit world in 2009.

All I know is that I started
Inherent Vice and couldn't/didn't want to finish it.

All I know is that 2009 made me tired of one of my favorite authors (here's looking at you, Dave Eggers. I still like you, I just kind of OD'd on you. For the record, Vol. 1 Brooklyn was my pusher).

All I know is that Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer are more of a threat to literature than ebooks.

All I know is that I haven't made room yet for
Scorch Atlas (gasp!) or Chronic City, two books I'm pretty sure I'd like. Also right now, I'm in the middle of 2666, Simmons' Book of Basketball, Lipsyte's new one and have Blood's A Rover and Amigoland on hold at the library. Those may have found their way on here if I finish any of them before the year is out.

So this is a list of the books we enjoyed the most this year and had never read before. Some of these books came out in 2009, some of them didn't. This is not a "best of" list; it's a favorites of 2009.

My list is up first, followed by Josh Rank....

1. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
2. Hopscotch by Cortazar
3. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
4. The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno
5. Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon by Christopher Cunningham & Hosho McCreesh
6. Hard Times by Studs Terkel
7. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Calvino
8. Columbine by Dave Cullen
9. Arkansas by John Brandon
10. Shake the Devil Off by Ethan Brown
11. Lowboy by John Wray
12. Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott
13. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
14. A.D. new orleans after the deluge by Josh Neufeld
15. Our Noise: the story of merge records by John Cook
16. Floodmarkers by Nic Brown

Josh Rank's

1. Deliverance - James Dickey

The writing style had me hooked from the second page. I bought the book because I heard there was a pretty gnarly sodomy scene but there turned out to be a really good book on both sides of it. It ended up being based around a group’s struggle with morality when faced with the possibility of zero repercussions. Is it okay to kill when it’s necessary? The group answered in a scene so vividly described I felt as if I were climbing the trees right beside them.

2. What is the What – Dave Eggers

If you think your life sucks, read this book. The main character, Valentino Achak Deng, is a real person. Yeah, this actually happened to somebody. The book outlines Deng’s journey out of war-torn Sudan and into Atlanta where things continue to go wrong. You think it sucks that your girl/boyfriend broke up with you? Well at least you don’t have to worry about lions eating your head after you just watched your mother get shot in the face.

3. Pygmy – Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk has made a name for himself taking fiction into new directions. Pygmy takes that idea to another level. Written in the voice of an adolescent, non-native English speaker, it is a chore to trudge through at first. After getting used to the style, though, the story lives up to Chuck’s level of story-telling.

4. When You Are Engulfed in Flames – David Sedaris

A main concern for musicians and writers alike is to not repeat yourself. However, when your style is as good as Sedaris’ this doesn’t need to be a concern. If you like anything he’s every written, this book doesn’t disappoint.

5. A Father’s Story – Lionel Dahmer

I may have an unhealthy interest in serial killers. When I got a chance to read about the childhood of my favorite one (is it wrong to have a favorite?) I jumped at the chance. Be prepared to actually think of Jeffery Dahmer as a person and not a monster. It’s a little strange.

6. Blindness – Jose Saramago

An epidemic of blindness takes over. People freak and lock up the infected in an old insane asylum. Shit gets crazy. Beautifully chosen words drag us through the mud of blindness and we come out with a great story.

7. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If you like books that give you characters you become attached to, this book is not for you. Characters come and go constantly from page one until the end. However, the manner of their entrances and exits provide a narrative that makes you feel like you’re reading a dream.

8. Women – Charles Bukowski

Watch an interview with Bukowski and then read this book. Everything will make perfect sense. However, feminists should stay far, far away.

9. Dream House – Valerie Laken

A young couple buys a house together only to find it to be the scene of a crime from years before. The writing style is enough to pull you through but the consistently moving action acts as a motor that doesn’t let you stop until you’re finished. Plus, the author is a pretty sharp dresser.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lit Randomness: Goodreads, Noah Cicero, Keith Gessen & more

Enjoyed this blog book, "Best Behavior" by Noah Cicero & referenced by Tao Lin in some interview I just read:
At Noah Cicero.

Nervous Breakdown's Top of '09:
At Nervous Breakdown.

David Foster Wallace memories: At GQ.

And Keith Gessen's Top books of 'o9: At HTML Giant.

Goodreads gets millions: At Jacket Copy.

Lit Drift is giving away Pasha Malla's book again, I guess: At Lit Drift.

More after the jump...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Red Collar Makes It Mean Something

Red Collar's Pilgrim was Deckfight's favorite album of 2009. Here's an article I did on them for the December issue of Bootleg magazine. Red Collar can be found on MySpace and over here on the interwebs. Pilgrim is now available in vinyl and in stores in conjunction with Suburban Home Records.

Red Collar: "Pilgrim"

If you read a lot of music journalism pieces, they tend to involve restaurants - neutral places that aren't intimidating for the band or journalists. So you'll get elaborate descriptions of what your favorite band member ate at that one time in their life, a single meal immortalized forever in the annals of rock and roll. This piece will be no different, except that it is, because though I ate with Beth and Jason Kutchma, the originators of Red Collar, I don't remember what they ate, well maybe I remember a little bit, but it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t mean anything. The band, its people, the music – it should MEAN SOMETHING. Because that's what this is about, this piece, this band called Red Collar. Because why else would it happen?

Why would four people ride around the country in a van to spread music? Though I don't know the ages of Beth and Jason or Mike or Jonathan, they're not young (they alluded to that), they're not naive, they didn't just graduate from high school and doing this for kicks. There's a lot of music. There are a lot of bands.

"Cities used to be defined by their music and their scene, and that's not the case anymore," Jason said. "Every town looks the same when you're going through on the highway." That comment was prompted when I asked Jason to tell me about The Boiler Room. Much of this crazy story is detailed in three parts of their blog, but it's essentially a case of mistaken venue identity, in two different Kentucky towns with a venue both named The Boiler Room, both with club-type people, not punk rock people. Jason wrote on the blog:

"These two bars were so similar that if Nate (one of the Boiler Room promoters) said, “Meet me by the guy with the bleached tips, the stonewashed jeans, pink polo shirt, and a gold chain with a gold Taurus attached to it,” then I would’ve been able to say “Nate, I’m patting him on the head, how can you not see me?”"

They eventually found twenty-plus towns with a Boiler Room of some sort, showing how ridiculous and how so many towns are in fact, the same. Beth and Jason didn't directly say this, but in a lot of ways Red Collar wants music to MEAN SOMETHING again, and it might just be their job, nay, their responsibility to show us all.. Music will only mean something if the band makes it mean something. The band’s live performances are a testament to the energy and passion for playing, echoing the live shows we’ve seen by famous bands in the course of our lives.

The band played a show at Reggie’s in April 2008 with Hammer No More The Fingers. In the midst of an outstanding set, Jason, on guitar, throws his instrument down, not as contrived bravado but internal energy erupting as an impulsive blast of expression. The band works up a fury, as if exorcising the devil right there in the room, to give old Scratch the beating of his life. The band’s rhythm is tribal, guttural, a musical transformation from harmony to rough and brazen musical crash and burn. Their set is as powerful as it is electrifying, redefining what a rock show should be. It’s a tough decision for an audience, the body goes from riding the groove to standing there transfixed, taking a close look at the distinct musical detonation on the floor on display

Afterwards Hammer’s drummer Jeff Stickley says, “We gotta follow that,” referring to the fury filled set their fellow Durhamites.

Red Collar has found a way to make it happen, though practicalities get in the way - a van. Twenty-five days gone, nineteen days gone and nineteen more days gone for an unsigned band touring in two circles around the Midwest and the South. Though it's repetitive, the up and down back again, load in, plug in, load out of the road, it's necessary, it's part of the deal.

"Without going back and hitting these cities, it's hard to build up an audience for them,” Beth said. "I can't imagine doing a one-off, then never coming back." She sums touring up: "It's not easy, it's fun as hell."

Beth and Jason are from Pennsylvania and moved to Durham , North Carolina for the weather. They put an ad on Craigslist, found their guitarist Mike and hit it off. During a live show it’s more than apparent with Jason and Mike displaying desperation coupled with energy that makes a show a show.

Red Collar released an EP in 2008, and their full length album Pilgrim earlier this year. In that time, everyone has tried to put Red Collar into categories, into a place. But much to their liking and Jason's spur-accessorized sneakers, they haven't found a place. They've been featured on uber-hip Seattle station KEXP, their album has streamed on PunkNews as well as

Blogs have made their mark on the album in between it all. Most describe their sound somewhere between The Hold Steady and Fugazi. People are intrigued by the band’s live shows, their catchy choruses, their feel for melody and for excellent lyrics.

The EP shares some material as the full length, and they've been playing those songs for a year or two, maybe three. Beth estimates they've played ‘Used Guitars’ five to six hundred times, but enjoy the longevity of their songs, because they are good songs. Jason says he tosses many, and even though technology is really easy these days, it doesn't mean that everything written should be recorded. He feels a lot of it should be trashed. "Bands go and record without knowing if (the songs) have any life to them. Bands make this huge tactical mistake,” he said. "People say, 'why don't you play that song anymore?' Because those words don't have any meaning to me anymore."

Instead the band prefers to work hard to maximize the life and meaning of those songs. To hold and cradle and cuddle and lift and let free songs that will stay, keep and preserve and last and mean something.

"What I've discovered through the years is that the music, that's what was important. The music is what grabs you. But after the twelfth time, you come back for the lyrics," Jason said.

Everyone has that feeling that something big is about to burst, but Jason and Beth really do seem to not care, and just keep plugging away at their thing. It's that individual thing again, about not making a mark, but reclaiming a mark from The Boiler Room-sub-sub culture that has rendered all punk rock the same. They talked a little bit about being an "exhibit" at a festival like South by Southwest where every band is hoping to mean something, and it turns out they all MEAN NOTHING just by them all being in the same place.

Mike at Troika Festival

I met Jason and Beth a few weeks prior to the October CMJ Music Festival in New York City , which they and Hammer No More The Fingers played in conjunction with a lot of other indie bands. Jason said they used to check their CMJ application religiously, "every fifteen minutes," but this year happened as a fluke when Beth happened to be checking her email and almost missed the invitation. The year they didn't care anymore was the year they made it. In a sense that hardworking blaisé attitude defines the Triangle scene these days. I've gotten in a habit of asking everyone about the "Triangle scene" to see what they say, but Jason and Beth provide really good answers.

"I think the caliber of music in the Triangle is by far the best I've seen. I don't know if it's what I'm used to, I just feel the caliber, the bar has really been raised,” Beth said.

"The Triangle is really strange. There really isn't a Chapel Hill sound, there's not a Durham sound, there's not a Triangle sound," Jason said. “What do they share? They all play notes. That's the only commonality. I think it's a really great area, where people are encouraged. I could list fifty right now, and none of them would sound alike and they're all excellent at what they do, with a unique sound.”

Sounds great. All the bands are unique. All the bands have vision. All the bands are trying their hardest. Sign each and every one of them.

"It's a real blessing to have that, but also a curse,” Jason said. He says everyone says they want individuality, but they all want the same. Like the slogan in a chain of House of Blues venues across the country - "Unity in Diversity” - words that really MEAN NOTHING.

"As much as the public likes to say, not the bands themselves, the public, as much as they like to say ‘I want something individual’ - they don't. They want a stamp. The Athens sound. The Seattle sound."

I'll stop Jason here, because I do agree, but he'd be lying if he says his band doesn't sound like anyone. They may not sound like a lot of bands, but as he says "they all play notes" and Red Collar is kind of in this punk rock vein that relies on certain nods and winks to get by as he said when they were at the wrong Boiler Room. "This was a place that we shouldn't be. You just got that vibe with the social identifiers.”

Doesn't Red Collar depend on the stamp just a little? I didn't ask him that.. But maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe it's not always the exact output of sound, but the attitude that comes in making the sound. The attitude that's confident enough not to replicate another band and the attitude to not care if some of the influences are worn on the sleeve. It's an attitude about not caring either way.

"They're striving, they're being individual," Jason continues about Triangle bands. "There's no pressure on any one in that town, in those three towns, except for the way they want to sound."

"Sometimes there might be stamps, there might be connected dots, there might be similarities. Maybe the only similarity is that Red Collar only cares about being the best band they can be and playing with whomever they want, making their songs, their albums, their shows, their tours, MEAN SOMETHING. "To us, we're human beings that play music and we're all great friends," he said.

After the interview, Jason played a solo set to about fifteen people, none of which stood closer than five feet to the stage. It was an opening slot for a folk singer. I couldn't tell if Jason cared or not, but I firmly believe he didn't.

More after the jump...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Swing South: Floating Action

Floating Action: "Lost All My Money"

The Generationals were one of my top bands of 2009, and Floating Action maintains the same soulful sound, but with a low-key flow and diverse percussion bent. That both bands are on Park The Van is no surprise. Floating Action is Seth Kauffman and his new album is
Floating Version.

Kauffman and Co. is making a roundup of the south with Giant Cloud. Dates & vid of "50 Lashes" below.

Dec 16 2009 9:00P
The Drunken Unicorn - w/ Giant Cloud & Imagination Head Atlanta, Georgia

Dec 17 2009 10:00P
Ole Tavern on George - w/ Elegant Trainwreck & Giant Cloud Jackson, Mississippi

Dec 18 2009 9:00P
Thirsty Hippo - w/ Giant Cloud Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Dec 19 2009 9:00P
the Saint - w/ Giant Cloud New Orleans, Louisiana

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: 2010-The Year of Reading Faulkner, Bill Simmons, Moby Dick, Padget Powell, Kirkus

2010: The Year of Reading Faulkner.

Okay, okay, okay, I admit I've never really dug into Faulkner. I've read him here and there, but haven't spent a lot of time with him. That's all about to change. Deckfight has picked out six Faulkner books to read in 2010. Some got left out. And I really wanted to read the whole Snopes Trilogy. But alas, we can probably only stand so much Faulkner in one year.

Call us crazy, call us insane, call us courageous. I'll post thoughts/reviews as we go along. We're going to do this. I don't want to set a time on anything, just an order. This loosely follows the publication schedule and I only picked the ones set in Whatchamacallit County. Here's the order and list:

1) Sound and Fury
2) As I Lay Dying
3) Sanctuary
4) Light in August
5) Absalom! Absalom!
6) The Hamlet

Who's with us? Bring it 2010, bring it! We'll officially get going in January, but no one's stopping you from getting a head start.

And now...some lit randomness you can dig into.

Tackling Bill Simmons' behemoth: At NY Mag.
W/ Sherman Alexie, Freedarko's Shoals, Sam Anderson & more. From these comments, I'm glad I didn't get this book for my dad. Simmons uses a lot of ahem, 'colorful' and 'explicit' metaphors apparently. Still waiting on my copy.

Padget Powell Double:
Ricky Moody on
The Interrogative Mood at The Millions.
Then Jeff Parker on The Rumpus.

Should anyone care about Kirkus? At Jacket Copy.

Moby Dick Illustrations, with Matt Kish: At Vol. 1 Brooklyn.
I may have challenged them in Dave Eggers entries, but they take the cake for Moby Dick.
"These pieces are really immediate and intensely personal reactions to the book and how it has impacted me. A much more fragmented and multifaceted approach to the text."--Matt Kish
Best of 2009: at Salon. (h/t Maud Newton) Some really good book picks from some really good authors.

More after the jump...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Five: Five Best Things Ben Tanzer has read recently

Ben Tanzer (right) at a recent CCLaP party.

There's no doubt Ben Tanzer is a man of exquisite taste. Tanzer is not afraid to inaugurate a publisher with Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine or take a chance on a e-publisher with his short stories, Repetition Patterns.

Publisher Jason Pettus of CCLaP said Repetition Patterns "is Sherwood Anderson with a fair dose of Sam Shepard injected into it, plus a dash of Chuck Klosterman for good measure, all of it filmed with a flattened lens by Robert Altman; yes, they are related stories about small-town life that are sometimes nostalgic, but with a pitch-black sense of despair many times thrown in, tales of rural smothering and the tragic consequences that can sometimes ensue, most of it tinted through the grimy filter of '80s pop-culture gone to seed."

My kind of story. One of Tanzer's chapbooks, "I Am Richard Simmons" has also dropped over at Mudluscious.

Tanzer also blogs like mad over at This Blog Will Change Your Life, where he publishes his portrait regularly. Here are the five best things Ben Tanzer has read recently, as of late November.

1. "Protects minor cuts, scrapes & burns." This was on the label of a very dusty 3.75 OZ. container of Vaseline I bought at a truck stop in Michigan. I'm not sure why other people need to buy Vaseline at truck stops in Michigan, but I was having some chafing issues and I should probably leave it at that.

2. When the Cats Razzed the Chickens & Other Stories by Mel Bosworth. I got to read an Advanced Reader Copy of this and it is the goods.

3. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I was asked to write about a piece about the intersection between running and writing and I decided to read this first. Murakami comes off as low-key and slightly compulsive. It has highlighted for me how not low-key and highly compulsive I am about both running and writing and how I want to capture that in this piece.

4. "Bulldozer love powers." This was the subject line of an e-mail I received at work. My wife was especially excited about this one and the possibilities explicitly and implicitly promised there in. The results were not exactly what we were hoping for, though you should in no way read this as having anything to do with (1) above. Nothing.

5. "Ezra Furman's song just for you." This was from an article I read about
this local Chicagoland singer Ezra Furman and how he is writing a song for
every fan who buys his latest album - Ezra Furman and The Harpoons' "Moon
Face: Bootlegs and Road Recordings: 2006-2009." I love everything about

More after the jump...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deckfight's favorite albums of 2009

In most respects, 2009 was a pretty good year for music. For me, personally, most of
my favorite bands released albums--Brand New, Thrice, Thursday, Viva Voce, Animal Collective, The Decemberists, mewithoutyou--if there had been a Five Iron Frenzy re-union show, then that would've covered all my base instincts.

But actually two (kind of) new acts captured my attention at the here's a list of Deckfight's favorite albums this year, followed by 5 faves from Andrew. Also somewhere in there, Deckfight's favorite record labels of the year.

19) Mountain Asleep, Hello Anxious

Raw, raw, raw from Louisville, KY. Frantic breakdowns that defy hardcore and strut too much for math-rock. Watch out for the madness on "Tom Hanks." I think you can still download it from here for free.

18) Lonnie Walker, These Times Old Times

Alt-country, folk-rock, singer-songwriter, just remember there is no one named Lonnie Walker. Much pleasure here, and great song structures.

17) Wilco, (The Album)

Of course not as great as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Ghost is Born, but a step up (again) from Sky Blue Sky. They're working on finding the happy medium between ambient feedback and bowing to becoming the flavor of the month.

16) Avett Brothers
, I and Love and You

Potent lyrics (dare I say emotionalism?) carry this one above the wannabes.

15) Cursive, Mama I'm Swollen

Desperate soundscapes meet desperate lyrics. Love "In the Now." Let's see where they take this next.

14) The Winter Sounds, Church of The Haunted South

Some might call it Killers-lite, but as I said back in June: "It's the combination of its bop meeting its earnestness that makes me fall for it." Find the song "Trophy Wife" as soon as possible.

13) Shark Speed,
Sea Sick Music

Minus The Bear with a loose swagger.

12) Animal Collective,
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Surprised everyone is still swooning over this, to me Feels is still the album to beat. But, who would've thought AC would be making catchy songs over & over again? Somehow they've created high interest in the high pitch.

11) Brand New,

Remember "Vices." Don't forget "At The Bottom." And respect "Sink." There's yet another interesting transformation going on here.

10) mewithoutyou
It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's Alright!

Initially confused, then disappointed, then surprised at their boldness. Only move that could've been made to keep the band together, and exploit Aaron's talents while setting the band up for a great future.

9) Hammer No More The Fingers,
Looking For Bruce

Great debut from CMJ darlings. Perfect for minimalist-alt-grunge-sarcastic set.

8) The Decemberists,
Hazards of Love

Played this so much this year, almost forgot it came out this year. I don't mind "grand" and "sweeping" and sounding "epic" on vinyl. Don't mind those things at all.

7) Japandroids,

Short, but sweet and every song is a winner. Let's hear it for the noise.

6) Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band

Thought there would be more buzz for this band, as this is some of the wittiest, catchiest best rock songs with cool bass I've heard all year. Oh yeah, the percussion is great too. Maybe think of the Beach Boys decamping for the mountains and gathering some distortion for a campfire. Love "Who's Asking," "Cheer For Fate," "Albatross, Albatross" and "Going on a Hunt."

5) Generationals,
Con Law

Generationals: "Angry Charlie"

Guess this would be my pick for "breakout" band of 2009. There are stories here, actual narratives told to sweet grooves. Its simple, dance-able, soulful easygoing ways prove hard to resist. Especially when they play "When They Fight, They Fight."

4) Manchester Orchestra,
Means Everything to Nothing

Manchester Orchestra: "I've Got Friends"

I didn't want to like this album, but I did. I really did. Maybe I love it. "Shake It Out" is incredible, incredible. Ditto for "I've Got Friends" though the opening sounds suck. These are karaoke faves for the new generation. Whatever this new brand of southern-rock that Manchester Orchestra and the bands of Favorite Gentleman are ushering in, I'm excited to hear it.

3) Castevet,
Summer Fences

Here's a live vid of "Berwyn to Bryn Mawr":

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not all the kids were duped by Warped Tour emo/screamo bands and still have a healthy respect for math rock and want to see it proliferated. Just found out their new album comes in February. Wow, wow, wow.

2) Fun.,
Aim and Ignite

Fun.: "Be Calm"

They hit bull's eye. With a penchant for pizazz and a flair for the fantastical, Fun channels everyone's desire to sing and dance in their kitchen (try not to with "Be Calm"). If there was any justice in the world, "All The Pretty Girls" would be the dance club hit of the year. There's so much drama here. If Glee ever wanted to do an indie rock show, they should cover Aim and Ignite.

1) Red Collar, Pilgrim

Red Collar: "Pilgrim"

Usually with semi-local bands (they're a few hours up the road) I wait for the flaw, the fatal flaw where everything works except for..... . But with Durham, NC's Red Collar, everything works. Their stage show is knockout. Mike and Jason bring it every night. Their blend of punk rock bar anthems will grab you, their working man screeds will keep you.

And here's a Tues: an article on Red Collar.

Two favorite record labels of the year:

1) Count Your Lucky Stars: Releases from Castevet, Empire! Empire!, Joie De Vivre, Perfect Future

2) Dead Oceans: Releases from Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band, John Vanderslice, Phosphorescent, Akron/Family, Bishop Allen, Bowerbirds

Album from 2009 I was most disappointed with: Thursday, Common Existence

Album from late 2008 that I loved all of 2009: Peachcake

Andrew's Top 5 Albums of The Year

1) 200 Million Thousand - Black Lips
Buncha kids from Atlanta making psychodelic garage rock songs that are innovative while sounding like something that might have come out in 1966.

Volume 2 - All Your Science
Crazy club beats over indie rock guitars? Yeah, something like that.

3) Time to Die - The Dodos
Follow up to last year's Visiter is not much of a departure from the last disc, but who cares with percussion this good.

Losing Feeling EP - No Age
On this EP, this duo demonstrates that they are the best noise/punk/avant-garde/art rock band on the planet.

5) Post-Nothing - Japandroids
Yet another duo and yet another album that sounds familiar, then busts out all sorts of surprises.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lit Randomness: Bolano, Banned Books, DFW's story & more

Deckfight's favorite music of 2009 is coming tomorrow...

Bolano is America's new Garcia Marquez: At The Morning News.

Banned books with Carolyn Mackler: At Bookslut.

A "best of" 2009 fiction list I like: At Salon.

That DFW New Yorker story: At The New Yorker.

More after the jump...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Swing South: Crystal Antlers

Crystal Antlers: "Tentacles"

Crystal Antlers... a game of slow-motion Twister on an organ (except for maybe the song above).

Southern tour dates & vid of "Andrew" below.

Crystal Antlers - "Andrew" from Touch and Go/Quarterstick on Vimeo.

Dec 9 2009
THE PILOT LIGHT (w/ AUDACITY) Knoxville, Tennessee

Dec 10 2009

Dec 11 2009
CROWBAR (w/ AUDACITY) Tampa, Florida

Dec 12 2009
BACKBOOTH (w/ AUDACITY) Orlando, Florida

Dec 13 2009
CAFE ELEVEN (w/ AUDACITY) St. Augustine, Florida

Dec 14 2009
BOTTLETREE (w/ AUDACITY) Birmingham, Alabama

Dec 16 2009
SPANISH MOON (w/ AUDACITY) Baton Rouge, Louisiana

More after the jump...

review: Perfect Future S/T

Perfect Future
Count Your Lucky Stars, 2009

Perfect Future: "In Hopes"

I don't know how old Perfect Future is, but I only have one question--have you ever heard Twothirtyeight? The same spare math-rock, with mesmerizing percussion and even the vocalist sounds a little like Chris Staples. A perfect match made. Comparing a band to Twothirtyeight is one of the highest compliments I can give, actually--I respect them too much to pull their name before swine, meaning then that Perfect Future is not swine, but a great incarnation/reminder/meditation on Sunny Day Real Estate, Two Thirty Eight, et al. Perfect Future is not afraid of bareness. They don't make sound, just to have sound, instead there is meaning and power in the absences, and the intensity is notched higher when the volume does rise. They manipulate the volume, like it is an instrument. Catch the strolling melody of "Make Fun," the poignant and pointed statement, that yes, we will make fun even though the factories suffocate us all, with a chorus out of nowhere, left field perhaps, if left field has a smooth glide over thorny clover patches. Don't worry, something is saved with a song like "Mother Earth," there are quick yells and definitiveness in those yells: "I am too ashamed to be your son," yes, yes, that uneven but wide open, honest pace, awesome, awesome.

Track 6 can probably do without K-Pax (I think), but what results in the rest of "If We Dance..." is this rawness barely seen at this stage in the game, again that math rock not dependent on distortion but perfect melody.

I've listend to this album repeatedly, multiple times over, and tracks 9-13, are more determined, more focused, more right on. In something like "Roses & Roses & Roses" there doesn't seem to be as much variation, the lead stays lead, the rhythm stays rhythm. The surprises are more pleasant rather than jarring. "In Hopes" almost has a beat to it, a real noticeable groove, like a slow disambiguated earthquake underneath a songwriter's night at the local coffee shop. I want them to find some Polvo just to see what they do.

Except some people will find Perfect Future too unsettling, like a neighbor with a nervous tic or a distant relative with a weird goiter that you have to be nice to anyway. All I mean is that sometimes people don't want to be unsettled, don't want any part of the unheimlich, dont' want to be disturbed, with what's unexpected, so much of that screamo/hardcore/Hot Topic punk hits the screams in all the right places, and Perfect Future instead turns those moments into silent concentration, like trying to move an Etch-a-Sketch with mind power.

Don't worry, I'm just as fascinated by Perfect Future as you are. I'm still trying to figure them out. I hope it takes all the time in the world.

***Let's just take this time to note that Count Your Lucky Stars has released a whole bunch of awesome albums this year. Castevet, Joie De Vivre, Perfect Future, Empire! Empire!, some band called Football, Etc. that I haven't heard yet but keep hearing about...CYLS is on quite a run.

More after the jump...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lit Randomness: McSweeneys & The Nervous Breakdown & Ha Jin

Awesome interview with McSweeney's publisher, Oscar Villalon. This interview is so good, it should take up two spots in the Lit Randomness list:
At The Rumpus.

Behind The Nervous Breakdown: At Jacket Copy.

Ha Jin visits Flushing:
At NY Mag.

More after the jump...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Swing South: The Whigs

The Whigs: "In The Dark"
The Whigs: "Hundred/Million"

I don't know much about Athens, GA-based The Whigs, but I'm digging these two new tracks they've released. It's all in preview of their upcoming album,
In The Dark, hitting early next year. Meanwhile, they're playing out some dates with The Features and probably with these tunes in tow. Check the remaining sked and a vid after the jump.

Dec 4 2009
The Variety Playhouse w/ The Features and Thayer Sarrano Atlanta, Georgia

Dec 5 2009
Rhythm & Brews w/ The Features and Mean Creek Chattanooga, Tennessee

Dec 8 2009
Visulite w/ The Features and Mean Creek Charlotte, North Carolina

Dec 10 2009
Black Cat w/ The Features and Mean Creek Washington, DC, Washington DC

Dec 11 2009
The Fillmore @ Irving Plaza w/ The Features and Mean Creek New York, New York

Dec 12 2009
North Star w/ The Features and Mean Creek Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dec 14 2009
Local 506 w/ The Features and Mean Creek Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Dec 15 2009
Pour House w/ The Features and Mean Creek Charleston, South Carolina

More after the jump...

Friday Five: 5 Favorite Books of the Decade

We already listed our favorite albums of the decade, now it's time for books. Man, I love these books.

5) Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

This did not immediately occur to me as a favorite, but then I realized I had recommended this book to several people and always think about it in my own meager efforts. While much of these decade lists shower those books that somehow connect the "now" to the "past," Lipsyte makes us unflinchingly aware of the present. In all of its humorous glory. It also struck me that books, serious literary books, are not funny. There aren't many funny novels in general, and there aren't many as well-written with so many zingers as Home Land. If you do not know what is to fail as a Catamount, then you don't know what it is to fail. Just to let you know I'm not completely crazy, Believer named this one of their best books in 2005.

4) The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Forget the weight of history, let's just relive it through the inexhaustible weight of pop-artistry achievement. Using comics as a motif, Chabon makes the grand connections between history and the human condition (see above), but presents it with classic suspense. As a reader, I really want to know what happens to these characters, so much so I plunge through its heft and am satisfied all the way through.

3) The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Liked this book the first time I read it, surprised by all the accolades its receiving. Apocalypse now.

2) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Fiction/non-fiction, it doesn't matter. In recent books, Eggers has traded postmodern garrulousness for more sparse words, and I sorely miss that style. It was compulsive overanalysis on the state of being young and responsible and a word explaining is rarely misused. His Real World stunt would've been a gamechanger for sure, both for the series and for the resulting stories. Instead, we only have a book that changed us.

1) House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

Don't approach this book with the same frame of mind used for reading other novels, but think of it instead as a graphic novel that doesn't have as many illustrations. The connections between the words, the footnotes, the font will open up a new structure that mirrors the narrative structure of the house. To write off this book as only a gimmicky esoteric exercise is to possibly write off all interesting books in the future.

AHWOSG and HOL were released in the same year and they've held up over the past ten. The books were prophets to what was to come in the decade--a focus on the concept of reality TV and the desire to chronicle all our moments.

Most important book of the decade: Million Little Pieces by James Frey
People, real people!, discussed the differences between fiction and memoir unprompted by grades, college admission essays or the teacher's dirty looks. Amazing!

Honorable mentions: the devil and the white city, a generous orthodoxy, nickel and dimed, fast food nation, ovenman, blankets, the great perhaps, the known world, the lost boys of sudan, await your reply, on beauty, interpreter of maladies, arkansas, moneyball, then we came to the end.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

review: Shake The Devil Off by Ethan Brown

Going to try and do this book review from memory, as it was part of last week's theft.

Shake The Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans

by Ethan Brown
Henry Holt, 2009

On the surface this is a story straight from the deepest, darkest macabre tales of New Orleans. A guy and a girl, part of the New Orleans French Quarter and bar scene get in a dispute. The guy cuts girls' limbs, puts pieces of her in various apartment appliances and he writes frightening messages all across his walls. All of this occurs only a year after Hurricane Katrina.

This is not a Hurricane Katrina book per se, more of a book about the aftereffects and emotional toll that two national tragedies wrought on the psyche of one young man.

Zack Bowen and Addie Hall's tale was spread across the local and national news as gruesome evidence of what Hurricane Katrina had wrought. I remember reading about this back in 2006 and being fascinated by what everyone else was fascinated by--not the violence, but the unusual nature of it. That it happened in the French Quarter, among folk so strange, yet so familiar to one another made it seem even more odd
. (The website Nolafugees did one of the first interesting introspective pieces about it--I think they pulled it down, but it's now in their book).

Ethan Brown seems like kind of the wrong guy to write this book, he was visiting New Orleans soon after the murder happened, and sensing a story, started interviews and later moved his family down from New York to write the story. Brown, though somewhat an opportunist, seems to have the right deposition for the legwork however. He obviously spends a lot of time at the various stomping grounds of Zack and Addie, especially at Matassa's, a grocery store in the Quarter. He is also able to convince Zack's ex-wife to speak with him along with several fellow "Quartericans"--some drug dealers, some landlords, some waiters and waitresses.

The life of Zack is fully excavated by Brown, for whatever reason (maybe it becomes clear in the last 1/8 of the book I didn't get to read) the life of Addie before New Orleans is barely touched. But we learn that Zack was a tall and nervous sort, who had a sense of depression about "mistakes he had made" before he had really made any. He had dropped out of high school in California, bounced around a bit, ended up in New Orleans bartending and eventually married a stripper named Lana. Bowen got his life together and joined the Army shortly before 9/11 and then served in Kosovo and Afghanistan. This service, as Brown makes clear, is the turning point for Bowen's life--it filled him with duty, but also filled him with post-traumatic stress, a situation that he would never fully recover from.

Brown rightly points out that Zack was involved in two of the greatest government debacles of the decade, first Afghanistan, where he witnessed children being killed and then later New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where Zack had a front row display. But, as Brown finds, it wasn't Hurricane Katrina that Zack had a problem with, it was the post-traumatic stress worsened by Hurricane Katrina.

During the storm, Zack and Addie played "house," essentially--they befriended other holdouts in the Quarter and performed a series of odd jobs and chores during the day to make Quarter life better while hanging out with the other holdouts at night. This lasted for a month, and as every good student of Katrina knows, the Quarter was barely touched in the flooding and most that stayed practiced their drinking skills to full effect, while managing to pull off some basic Boy Scout survival skills during the day. This was the happiest and best times for Zack and Addie.

What unhinged Zack was the undoing of this war-like world, the camaraderie involved in it dissipated into a broken government system. Brown lists incidences where Zack and Addie felt disrespected by the National Guard sent to their area, as if they deserved immunity from forced evacuations and the rule of law. On Addie's side, she was plagued by extreme mood swings--sometimes violent in nature, setting her at odds with roommates and other Quarter confidantes.
Their behavior was exacerbated by the free drugs they were allowed from helping out a friend.

The very eccentricities of the people that make the French Quarter a bohemian and party mecca also make those same people unstable and volatile. The two, at least in Brown's account, go hand-in-hand.

More after the jump...

Swing South: Unwed Sailor

Always liked Johnathon Ford. Big fan of Roadside Monument. Remember seeing Unwed Sailor in Nashville, maybe with Saxon Shore, and instead of falling asleep and hating Unwed Sailor for sounding nothing like Roadside Monument, I fell in love with their engaging, not repetitive melody lines. I recognized the bass as a real instrument, with real capability, not background filler.

Haven't followed Unwed Sailor through all of their albums, but it sounds like the newest, Little Wars, is similar to the earlier incarnations.

Now with all that said, let's all declare what we really want to say: ROADSIDE MONUMENT DIED TOO SOON!

Unwed Sailor is on tour with Ford's other band, Native Lights. Southern dates & another vid after the jump...

Dec 3 2009
The AllWays Lounge w/ Native Lights New Orleans, Louisiana

Dec 4 2009
The Spanish Moon w/Native Lights Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dec 5 2009
The Bottletree w/Native Lights Birmingham, Alabama

Dec 6 2009
The Fly Bar w/Native Lights Tampa, Florida

Dec 7 2009
Propaganda w/Native Lights Lake Worth, Florida

Dec 8 2009
The Engine Room w/Native Lights Tallahassee, Florida

Dec 9 2009
Redlight Redlight w/Native Lights Orlando, Florida

Dec 10 2009
Caledonia Lounge w/Native Lights Athens, Georgia

Dec 11 2009
Drunken Unicorn w/Native Lights Atlanta, Georgia

Dec 12 2009
The End w/Native Lights Nashville, Tennessee

Dec 13 2009
Vino’s w/ Native Lights Little Rock, Arkansas

More after the jump...
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