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October 13, 2006


The Houston Chronicle interviews Stephin Merritt.

Q: Rumor has it there's a new Magnetic Fields record in the works. Is this true?

A: We're recording it now. Actually we're very nearly finished. We're in the background-vocals stage.

Q: The past two have been very thematic. Is there a theme this time out?

A: Well, I find they have a theme whether I intend them to or not. Some albums it seems more strict than others. It's a pretty strict theme, but I'm not going to say what it is just yet.

Washington City Paper reviews the new Hold Steady album, Boys and Girls in America.

Drug talk? Check. Meaty classic-rock hooks? Check. Overwrought Catholic guilt? Check. Twin Cities boosterism? Double check. The most apparent improvement is that, opposed to the nasally, nerdy scat that Finn employed on previous albums, he’s actually crooning now, which is a lot more suitable for fist-pumping, crowd sing-alongs such as the anthemic “Massive Night.” But what’s most noticeable about the Hold Steady’s new model is restraint, especially on album opener “Stuck Between Stations,” about the suicide of poet John Berryman in Minneapolis.

The Washington Post previews the Small Press Expo independent comic book showcase.

In this environment, the expo's thrived, luring high-profile guests over the years, including Frank Miller ("Sin City") and comic-book writer Harvey Pekar. Such is the spirit of the event that aspiring comics creators approached Pekar last year with samples of their work, and he actually looked at them . In all, about 300 artists and publishers come to meet readers and one another, to promote their careers and talk trade -- keeping it real (and indie), of course.

Poetry Daily excerpts from Making a Poem: Some Thoughts About Poetry And the People Who Write It (Paperback), by Miller Williams, acclaimed poet and father of Lucinda.

Popmatters interviews Portastatic's Mac McCaughan.

Your songwriting seems very eclectic. You draw on a lot of different areas that other bands might stay out of. Do you pick projects that are going to expand your songwriting toolbox?

I like to take on things that are going to be new. In terms of writing pop/rock songs I feel like I can always get better at doing that but I kind of have an idea of how to do it. Where something like a film score I’m being to get into a little bit of unusual territory I might not otherwise push myself into. It gives me an opportunity and a challenge.

see also: McCaughan's "note books" essay Largehearted Boy

NPR's Morning Edition talks to author Orhan Pamuk about winning te Nobel Prize for literatuure, and excerpts from his novel, Snow.

Author Margaret Arwood pays homage to Pamuk in the Guardian.

Orhan Pamuk, the celebrated Turkish novelist, has won the Nobel prize for literature. It would be difficult to conceive of a more perfect winner for our catastrophic times. Just as Turkey stands at the crossroads of the Muslim East/Middle East and the European and North American west, so Pamuk's work inhabits the shifting ground of an increasingly dangerous cultural and religious overlap, where ideologies as well as personalities collide.

T-shirt of the day: "Yuri Gagarin" (because like PJ Harvey, "I wish I was Yuri G")

Neil Young and Jonathan Demme talk to the Guardian about their concert film, Heart of Gold.

The majority of concert films are hobbled by their limitations. As Young put it: "Mick Jagger has his ramp to run down, and once he's run down it one time, that's it." But here, by dint of observing Roger Corman's number one rule, "Never let the eye get bored", the factual bluff of the concert-that-never-quite-happened-this-way is irrelevant, as the viewer delights in the old-fashioned personal chemistry between the musicians on the screen.

Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn talks to Australia's the Age about his career choice.

"I always thought I'd be a lawyer," he said. "I was just writing so many songs in college and playing them to my friends. I realised I had my whole life to go to law school so why not go for it? My parents were nervous and still are. My mother used to tell my older brothers to try to get me to give it up, and they would really back me up. My mum was was scared but she's my biggest fan now."

The Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr., talks to the Independent about his solo album, Yours to Keep.

So he'll willingly put the solo career on hold for the sake of the day job he really doesn't seem to enjoy much? "Well," he says, attempting a smile and then watching it fade, "I can't, here and now, say... No, what I mean is, you never know what's going to happen, do you? Time changes a lot of things. In fact, time changes everything, so... so we'll see, yeah?"

The Toronto Star examines product placement in books.

The Sun excerpts Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography Of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz.

The New York Times profiles Daniel Handler's Lemony Snicket series. The final book, appropriately titled, The End, is released today.

“Basically the moral of the series is that bad things happen and you should fight it and by fighting it you find out what your talent is,” said Gabe Cohn, 12, who — true confession — is this author’s son and an avid Snicket reader. “What happened to the Baudelaires was horrible. That’s what gave them guts.”

The Harvard Crimson reviews the theatrical adaptation of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity.

Let me now be so presumptuous to assume the position of this venerable critic and condemn the newest attempt at a book-to-film-to-stage adaptation—“High Fidelity” is the most egregious insult to popular culture ever to grace a modern theatre and anyone who sees it betrays his entire generation.

The Independent talks to author Kiran Desai about her Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Inheritance of Loss.

In the novel, that history repeats itself, as America becomes the focus of Indian diaspora dreams. "I see so many parallels with my generation," Desai explains. "Going to America, because it's clear where the balance of power lies, wanting to join in and learning the accent, learning the right lines to say - trying to make up a version of yourself to fit the picture."

Business Edge talks to Canadian independent bookstore owners.

Samara Walbohm, who opened the boutique-like Toronto bookshop Type in May 2006 with business partner Joanne Saul, sees her store's selection as intended to steer her customers toward the kinds of books and authors Type wants to support.

"We've been calling it a curated collection. We're very sensitive to the fact that we can't have everything, so we stand behind everything that we have in the store, and our customers love that."

In the Guardian, Nick Southall examines the ridiculous rule that kept Beck's new album off the UK charts.

The charts need to be about music again, not bonus DVDs and free gifts. Current multi-format and download rules enable gerrymandering because they're so complicated. They even penalise musicians - EPs are banned for having too many tracks, even though a multi-formatted release that contains an album's worth of tracks over multiple CDs and download versions is allowed.

NPR's Talk of the Nation offers an audio tour of the United States' largest cartoon library, The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.

NPR will stream live (and later offer as an mp3 download) Jenny Lewis's Sunday evening Washington performance.

The Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood talks to Tandem.

Hood readily admits to a love/hate relationship with The South. "There are a lot of things about our heritage to be proud of, especially artistically, in music and literature and the visual arts. At the same time it can certainly be frustrating. My political views are certainly in the minority in this part of the country, and you can get frustrated with that, especially as you sense that people are voting for the very people that are holding them down. Here in Athens, we have a tiny liberal oasis in a sea of red Republicanism. We may have to build a fence though cos they're trying to run us out of here too!"

Hood also speaks with Scripps News.

There is no generation gap when it comes to the music of the Drive-By Truckers. The band is just as likely to appeal to 16-year-olds drawn by the act's in-your-face raucousness as 50-year-olds attracted to the group's classic-rock edge.

Patterson Hood, the most prolific of the three singer-songwriter-guitarists in the quintet, is incredulous that his group's wide appeal is lost on the music industry.

"The music industry is so inept that they view that aspect as a negative," says Hood from his home in Athens, Ga., where the band is now based. "They only know how to focus on one select demographic and (brainwash) that one demographic until they go, 'Uhhh ... must ... have ... Black ... Eyed ... Peas!' or whoever it is at any given moment."

And because we've never pandered to any one demographic or even been interested in any one thing, it's always been viewed by the industry as a shortcoming ... The industry is sucking all over, and, hopefully, my band is going to be dancing on their graves."

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle and Smog's Bill Callahan (among others) talk to the Guardian about songwriting and literature.

Darnielle still writes poetry. "I like bizarre images, collages. I really like the sounds of words," he says with relish. Would he hinge a whole poem or song around one particular word? "Oh yeah, I'll bite down on one," he grins broadly and displays a fine set of teeth. "If there's a word I want to play up. People have words they say well." And what are his? "It's been observed that I say window, hair and water a lot. Fire is a nice one always. Monkey is an outstanding word but you have to go light on it. You can run it into the ground."

The Daily Californian reviews Sufjan Stevens' Tuesday night Berkeley performance.

Stylus examines the pop music of Vietnam.

The dance numbers have a titillating cultural bent—willowy ladies in gaudy, sumptuous dress, smiling and swaying to oriental strings. The singing betrays no cultural heritage whatsoever, only the pure language and universal symbolism of pop—eyes rolled upwards and squeezed closed, sweeping hand gestures and well-shaved armpits, cute turns and tossed heads, immense crescendos, slack sax solos, even (once) a mirrored jacket.

Harmonium shares "The Cure for Insomnia: A Sleep Mix."

see also:

this week's CD & DVD releases


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