National Public Viking

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Damien Jurado...

For the longest time, I wanted to write songs like Damien Jurado. His earlier contributions to the "indie-folk" fare were more imaginative than Elliot Smith, at least I thought so. He carried depression like Mark Eitzel, but found most of his inspiration from Dylan and Neil Young's more folky material. Narratives filled his lyrics, but not as boring literary tropes (Decemberists, I'm looking at you). He never covers these stories with grossly exaggerated metaphors or sickenly bloated images, just presents the stories as themselves.

Jurado lost my attention after the one-two punch of Ghost of David (2000) and Four Songs (2001), arguably his best work. The former feels like a confessional: warmingly dark like a bottle of cabernet after a funeral. While Elliot Smith's "Needle in the Hay" perfectly accented the attempted suicide scene in The Royal Tenenbaums, "Tonight I Will Retire" is the contemplation that fingers the revolver sitting on the bedside table.

He followed with a straight-ahead indie-rock album, a rather boring traditional folk outing with Rosie Thomas (whom I love), and last year with a mish-mash of stripped-down folk and a couple songs ripped straight off The Lioness (by Jurado's tour-mate Songs: Ohia). Needless to say, I lost interest. Not that I didn't appreciate Jurado moving into different musics, just that his newfound tastes lacked his strong songwriting.

I'm happy to write that And Now I'm In Your Shadow (out October 10, 2006) is a great album. As much as I love her, it's good that Rosie Thomas does not collaborate here. Jurado relied too heavily on her sweet harmonies. Instead, an unknown from Berkeley, California named Jenna Conrad sings along. She doesn't particularly stand out, but it's what Jurado needs. He sticks mostly to his acoustic guitar with light arrangements of violin, piano, electric guitar/bass, and drums scattered throughout. It's not a full-on return to any particular part of his discography, more like a realization that he stretched his songwriting styles too thin and has found himself in a more comfortable place that pushes his craft further.

Jurado comes to the Black Cat with Rosie Thomas on October 9th.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A dirty joke about Liberace...

|current sounds| Jefferson Airplane- Surrealistic Pillow

I am now the current owner of this delightful Baldwin "Orga-Sonic" Organ!
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'd been wanting some kind of junky/antique-y organ, keyboard, or synthesizer for quite some time now and came across this old beaut on Craigslist last Friday. Only $50, a steal, though it's a little temperamental. Nicole, bless her heart, drove out to Laurel, Maryland with me (got lost both ways, of course) to purchase the instrument from some retired Navy man. Nice guy, but didn't say the most PC things about the Mexicans currently living in his daughter's old residence. Example: "I'll sell the 'Spanics for a dollar!" *Pulls collar to side, makes Erin's patented awkward noise*

Speaking of noise, the Warehouse Nextdoor just announced their Sonic Circuits DC festival line-up for October. Four straight nights (and one afternoon) of broken electronics, harsh noise, humming drones, and EAI (some acronym for the more destructive or even more esoteric free-improvisation). I'm trying to get Phillip and Zach to come up (come on, Zachary, you can play and record on the new organ all you want!) and one my publications to get me a press pass.

Thur 5
Los Glissandinos
Koen Holtkamp
Scott Smallwood
Andy Hayleck
Ben Owen
(in the Warehouse Next Door & Black Box Theatre)

Fri 6
Harvey Bainbridge (of Hawkwind!) w/ Spaceseed
Yellow Swans
Robert van Heumann
(in the Warehouse Next Door & Black Box Theatre)

Sat 7
If, Bwana
Michael Gendreau
Northern Machine
Jeff Carey
(in the Warehouse Next Door & Black Box Theatre)

Sun 8
Phill Niblock
(in the Warehouse Big Theatre)

Sun 8
Wolf Eyes
John Wiese
Mr. Natural
Mat Weston & Tone Ghosting
(in the Warehouse Next Door & Black Box Theatre)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A tale of two record stores

|current sounds| Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & Trinity- Streetnoise

This past summer I purposely avoided record stores in DC as I had very little money (to the point of dumpster diving... yup, my inner Athenian punk came out), but this past week I've had nothing but time to explore the neighborhood. Stumbling upon Crooked Beat in Adams Morgan and Som Records off U Street was, therefore, inevitable.

I walked into Crooked Beat (2318 18th St NW) sometime late last week after finally finding a Julia's Empanadas (even though I'd just eaten, I gleefully wolfed down a spinach empanada). The first thing I hear coming into the below street-level store is '80s music, a continuous mix of synth-pop. I can only take so much synth-pop, but I was there to scope out the selection, so suffered through New Order I did (sorry, I've tried to like New Order, but to no avail). On the whole, the selection is decent, if a bit... okay, quite hipster-oriented. Lots of vinyl, which is a plus in my book, though mostly Merge, Matador, and other top-level "indie" label material (two points for tons of Soul Jazz LPs). The metal section was weak consisting mostly Southern Lord titles (that's not a diss on Southern Lord, by the way) and the jazz CD selection... it made me want to punch the clerk in the face. Literally, all Miles Davis and John Coltrane with scattered Atavistic and Thrill Jockey releases (those two labels only included likely because they also put out more indie-rock friendly stuff). The '60s/'70s section also left something to be desired, especially with all these great reissue-specific labels popping up in the last few years. Needless to say, I left a little disappointed.

Feeling particularly adventurous, I walked the length of 14th Street this afternoon all the way down to Rhode Island Avenue (quite a hike) and on the way back I saw Som Records (1843 14th St. NW) tucked away under some hair salon. I'd read earlier in the summer that one of the dudes from Crooked Beat went off and started his own record store and boy am I glad I found it! ALL VINYL. Do I need to repeat that? 80% of the store is prime used material and seemingly all in moderate to mint condition with great selections in jazz, rock, country, soul/r&b, and even some space set aside for soundtracks, kids records, and spoken word. The other 20% of the store are new releases mostly from labels I trust to buy from without even hearing the music. Good deal. The owner's a nice guy and went to school in Athens (that would explain the obscure '80s Athens band posterbills on the walls). I smiled widely upon finding this most coveted treasure (it's the "current sounds" above):

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Yay for record stores!

Did I say daughter? I meant Octopus!

|current sounds| Ali Farka Toure- Savane

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I read the Athens alternative weekly paper Flagpole less and less these days (slowly converting to the Washington City Paper), but I do head over to the website every now and again to catch up on Athens music gossip via Gordon Lamb's "Threats & Promises." More importantly, though, I make sure I read the new Patrick Dean Big Deal comic. I was sore to learn today that this past week's strip will be his last for Flagpole.

For the past nine years, Dean has pen and inked the up-until-recently third page comic (how Flagpole could ever think to stick him in the back with the passable "local comix" page I'll never understand). Admittedly, I didn't like Dean at first. I remember the first semester of my freshman year at UGA when Laura came running up to our group of friends at Blue Sky Coffee (RIP) exclaiming, "This week's comic is genius!" All that I can remember is something about the College Avenue four-faced clock battling some kind of monster and looking at Laura with my patented "You're an idiot" face. Gradually, Dean grew on me and every week his absurd humor became something of an obsession. Who knows where came up with characters like the Hillbilly Yeti or a college-educated Frankenstein pretending to be stupid just to make the acquaintence of a prestigious Ivy League professor? Dean rarely repeated characters or extended situations (though he loved to tease his readers with "Next week on..." end tags), which could make for a dizzying experience if all his strips were read in one sitting, but I'd still buy an anthology in a heartbeat (hear that, Flagpole? Hill Street Press?). Heck, I even bought one of Dean's prints at Bizzaro Wuxtry that featured some train-robber looking guy with mosquito wings (unfortunately, it currently sits in my parent's basement - so many things my little station wagon couldn't contain).

I think Dean still has plans to continue his comics or at least that's what his blog leads me to believe. I have too many favorite strips to list here, so check out his website and that blog to scroll through some more recent material.

Oh, okay, here's a classic.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


|current sounds| Hate Forest- (some compilation I found floating on the internet- warning: only for those who seriously, deeply enjoy and thrash out to buzzsaw metal... I'm looking at you, Drew and Jace)

Metalocalypse is the best new show on Adult Swim... ever. Well, nothing will beat Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law or Space Ghost Coast to Coast (classic), but tonight's episode, "Dethfam," literally had me squeel and laugh with brutal delight at the silly metal references. The restaurant the band Dethklok takes their families to: Burzum's; the wheelchair store for the bassist's stroke-ridden grandpa: Gorgoroth's; and something was called Marduk's, too. All legendary and slightly obscure black- and death-metal bands (well, at least to kids who think Korn is metal). Brilliant.

For the hey of it, Immortal will pile-drive all you suckas. Death to false metal!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

R.I.P. Dewey Redman (1931-2006)

Dewey Redman was a phenomenonal tenox saxophone sideman, most notably to Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. He also managed to make some ensembles with Pat Methany and Keith Jarrett quite remarkable (which is a feat in itself because I'm not particularly a fan of either). His work as band leader was of equal and often greater value pushing the instrument to new sounds, yet remaining accessible, especially when he followed Don Cherry's example and began to incorporate African musics into his playing.

As soon as I can find Tarik (and some choice live bootlegs) in two boxes of recently converted plastic sleeves, it's going on full blast.

The former NPR interns take over Columbia Heights! Locals stunned and amazed.

|current sounds| The Cramps- Songs the Lord Taught Us

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Welcome to the new abode in the Columbia Heights/Petworth area! It took a few days to get everything moved in mostly because I always take my sweet time when it comes to settling into a new place. I rented a pickup truck from Zipcar for a total of $75, which is a heckuva deal considering U-Haul is nearly 3 or 4x as much, to get the bigger items transported from Capitol Hill (muchos gracias to Nicole for the help). Jamie and Nicole are moved in, Sarah should stake her claim in the next day or two, and mystery roommate Remle (a cohort of Sarah's) comes in two weeks.

Now the tour...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Erik, my subletter and owner of Lujo Records, is getting married soon and didn't need some of his furniture, so he gave it to me! An Ikea bed.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
A swank desk (I bought the Ikea leather chair yesterday off Craigslist for cheap... of course got lost on the way to Arlington, VA doing so).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
And this great shelving unit currently holding clothes, records, books, cassettes, and sound system (how I've missed you, turntable, this summer).

Instead of clogging the blog (that sounds downright nasty) with photos, know that our place has two floors and a basement apartment (complete with full kitchen and bath). The main floor is quite spacious and will take some time to fill. Thankfully, the previous tenants left a big table for the dining room. The kitchen's narrow, but full of cabinet space for all five roommates.

Late Monday night after a Trader Joe's run (my life has new meaning), we ordered pizza from Radius (a great place Nicole and discovered on Mt. Pleasant) and drank three-buck chuck for our first dinner-on-the-floor.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Jamie and Nicole.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Nicole and Emilia, the latter who's not our roommate (though came close!), but doesn't live far away and will host tonight's Project Runway party.