National Public Viking

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Show Me Your Quorum of Teeth

|current sounds| FM3- Buddha Machine

So in my dizzy sickness I didn't even notice until just now that my second "Song of the Day" was posted. This one is for Earth, kind of Black Sabbath meets Ennio Morricone.

Earth: The Sound of Desert-Swept Doom

RPM Challenge Update:

The awesomely-titled Quorum of Teeth (thanks, Stephen) is finished. I recorded nine tracks in two nights this past week. (I imagine recording in our very cold basement might have something to do with my current physical state.) It's lonely, haunting blues akin to my musical guitar hero, Loren Connors. Because I know little about recording equipment and recording programs (and had little time to learn both), it sounds very lo-fi despite the very nice microphone Erik recommended to me. All the same, it only adds to the album.

Only having spent a day with it at most, I don't know how I feel about it. There are some improvisations I'm extremely pleased with, some not as much. I do, however, love the artwork. Might be worth it to print up 50 of these just for the hey of it to put on my label, but I have ten projects to think about first. (My tragic flaw: devising ambitious projects too big to handle in the time allotted... yet I always find a way.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

R.I.P Larry Norman (1947-2008)

When I read that Larry Norman had died, I immediately called my mother. For both of us, he had profound impact on how we developed our musical ears and philosophies -- her as the Jesus Movement of the '70s began to take form, me as a nine year-old first learning what it meant to love music and perhaps understand the role of music as worship. We'd listen to her well-worn In Another Land LP together, and in some cases, actually discussed what Larry wanted to communicate with his words.

The Father of Christian Rock was a pioneer, a heretic, a saint and a madman. He was outspoken against the Vietnam War. He sang about the hypocrisy of the church, drug addiction and the end of the world, but above all, as Paste contributer Andy Whitman so poignantly wrote, he sang about Jesus. Though he'd constantly alienate both the churched and the un-churched, challenge both of them to re-think God and love, his main focus was Jesus... sometimes with a childlike innocence, others with a harsh inward glance.

All the while, Larry Norman was a gifted songwriter with a voice that could belong on any CCR or Grateful Dead record. And in some cases, a truly angelic voice, like on "I Am a Servant."

"I Am a Servant" is a ballad worthy of Carole King's touch, and even in its simple lyrics, I've always had an emotional reaction to it. You'll have to forgive the Youtube montage, but it's what I could find.

To live is a privilege, to love is such an art
But I need your help to start
Oh, please purify my heart,
I am your servant.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lars Pillages Office, Leaves Behind Few Survivors

|current sounds| Lair of the Minotaur- War Metal Battle Master

I have finally made my debut on NPR Music as a contributing writer, well, at least an acknowledged one. I've been ghostwriting for music pieces on All Things Considered and other news programs for almost a year now. I already have a Song of the Day in queue for Earth, but when we discussed our Oscars coverage at a meeting mid-last week, I volunteered to write a piece on Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's disqualified score for There Will Be Blood.

Without further ado... Jonny Greenwood: Where Oscars Fear to Tread.

It's step one in getting more avant-garde and "out" music on NPR Music in a way that's accessible to the NPR listener/visitor. I have a number of ideas in the works.

I'm also slowly infiltrating Morning Edition's segue way music. My friend Nicole is now directing the show a couple times a week and asked me for music advice. She left my house one afternoon with 25 CDs. So now you might hear music by Ester Drang, Map, J Dilla, Matthew Shipp, Steffen Bascho-Junhjans, Crooked Fingers and various Numero Group compilations to put more soul & funk on ME.

Here were the first two shows with some of my music suggestions sprinkled throughout: Mon., Feb. 18 and Tues., Feb. 19.

Speaking of the Oscars, how wonderful was it that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won Best Original Song for "Falling Slowly"? Or better yet, that Jon Stewart recognized just how earnest and real these people were to bring Marketa back on stage to give her acceptance speech?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ancient Mariner Returns

|current sounds| V/A- The Garden of Forking Paths

I'm going to gracefully bow out of my original idea to make a pop album for the RPM Challenge. To be quite honest, a month is not enough time for me to record the album I want, especially with limited resources. There are many sketches and rough demos now, which is great, but the perfectionist in me wouldn't want those to get out.

So I'm going to spend the rest of the challenge recording a solo guitar and organ CD sounding something like Keiji Haino meets Alan Sparhawk (Low). Thus, I'm returning to my Ancient Mariner moniker.

Nigel Tufnel: "It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black." (Requires Washington Post login, although I think you can use a NY Times password.)

Friday, February 15, 2008


|current sounds| Alemayehu Eshete- Ethiopiques, Vol. 22 (1972-1974): More Vintage! + drills

Photo: Tom

I don't know how much longer I can last.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Grand Introductions" Demo Up

|current sounds| Brian Blade Fellowship- Season of Changes

First RPM Challenge demo is up. It's very rough, unmixed and unfinished. No vocals or drums, yet.

Here "Grand Introductions" here.

What was originally conceived as a pop project has become anything and everything. Songs are bursting from eight years worth of ideas, so one morning I'll spend an hour on a psychedelic-folk song while I spend the rest of the day on shimmering Brit-pop. Thus, I'm not quite sure how this is all going to turn out, especially since this first demo sounds more like Sonic Youth than any of the chamber-pop bands I thought I was going to take inspiration from.

A friend suggested this just means I'm a versatile songwriter. This is a good problem to have, I suppose. I walk home from work at night dreaming up cooing pop melodies and then sit down in my makeshift basement studio conceptualizing ridiculous albums like After-Dinner Mints: 10 Exotic Pop Arrangements for Strings and Guitar a la David Rose.

17 days left.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Male Bonding

"I wuv you, Andy Pettitte!... or do I?" (Requires NY Times login)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Yes, I *Heart* Paramore

|current| guess...

I very well realize that we're well past the period when today's up-and-coming bands are more familiar with "The Middle"-era Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional than the earlier stalwarts of the heavily pop-flecked punk/emo of my high school years. Bands like Mineral, Jawbreaker and Braid are all but nostalgic memories for the 23-27 year-old age group, which is just a sign that this now-casual music critic (yet still full-time nerd) is getting older. (Imagine how original Rites of Spring fans must feel.)

Imagine my surprise, then, that I'd fall for a band that -- just a year ago -- features a lead singer who just got her driver's license. Now, I'm not becoming a J. Edward Keyes here. I haven't quite hit the odd mainstream pop fetish most late 20s rock crits attain (usually out of boredom), but there is something about Paramore I can't deny.

Yes, Paramore. The "Christians in a band" pop-punk wunderkids that sound something like a mix of every artist that churns major gag reflexes: Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, and just about every overly-energetic and cartoonishly-styled pop-punk band of the last four years.

I should have known this would happen. Every now and again, I like to pull out Designing a Nervous Breakdown by The Anniversary or that My Spacecoaster CD with the awful "Hamburgers" song, because they were very formative. These CDs were just as sappy and trite as the pop music on the radio, just cooler (?). So I hear this very young band Paramore pulling a lot of the same hooks, but better, and unafraid to release a well-manicured, very-compressed pop album (perhaps at the behest of the label, but it works in the band's favor). Then there's Hayley Williams with a voice that every faux-effeminate pop-punk frontman wishes he had. It's bright and biting, like if Kelly Clarkson actually made My December the rock album she wanted it to be.

I have to say, though, the mental picture of me at a Warped Tour concert watching Paramore with a bunch of Jnco-wearing (the kids still wear Jnco, right?) 14 year-old punks is hilarious. I almost want to do it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Celebration of Gluttony and Suffering

|current sounds| Kronos Quartet and Wu Man- Terry Riley: The Cusp of Magic

Shaking hands with the winner, Nick, he of five fried chicken breasts and five thighs. (Photo: Beth Novey)

Eight thighs and two breasts later, I am the silver medalist of Chicken Bowl XII. (You may remember my pathetic introduction last year to the world of amateur competitive eating.)

I had originally planned to start gorging on Thursday per Stephen's suggestion, to expand my otherwise small stomach's lining for maximum stuffage. I ended up eating lots of salads instead. Turned out to be a half-way decent plan of action. I knew things were changing for the worse when my greased hands began to shake around the eighth piece of Popeye's.

After some Tylenol, Pepto Bismal and a restless night of sleep (most dramatic dream I think I've had in recent times), I'm eating nothing but vegetables all week, perhaps some Zucchini Chocolate Crinkles to sweeten up the week.

RPM Challenge Update

The RPM Challenge has already hit a few snags. The mixer I want is on backorder everywhere and I'm quickly realizing I can't quite make the album I want given the resources at my disposal. I'm going to spend the next few days finding creative ways to accomplish the same ideas in different ways.