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November 16, 2006


The Philadelphia City Paper explains why the Hold Steady deserves fame and fortune.

Finn uses his language like a mannerist. He's easy to criticize as repetitious and self-referential, spending much of Almost Killed Me telling you what people looked like and how they liked to get off or asking that you call someone something or other; he goes off on repetitions and variations of words and phrases. But Finn's songs have the same feeling that Tom Waits' writing does — that he's whittled down his dictionary to the important words, those words most fraught with meaning, and he doesn't need the variety.

Singer-songwriter Todd Snider talks to Harp about the characters in his songs.

“I know all the people in my songs, and I’m defensive of them,” offers Snider. “I feel defensive when Oprah Winfrey wants to give them a makeover. I get defensive when the newspaper wants to help them figure out how to be better. I just want to say, ‘How do you know you’re better? How do you know I don’t feel unburdened by the non-pool in my backyard?’ I guess that makes me sing about those people."

The Honeydogs perform live in the Minnesota Public Radio studios.

Drowned in Sound has musicians list their favorite bands from the past six years.

Quarterbar has remixed several sad Motown classics.

Mac McCaughan talks to the New York Press about the Superchunk hiatus.

“It was really a case of burnout,” McCaughan says of Superchunk’s laying low these past few years. “We just wanted to take a break from touring and once we did that, everyone got busy doing their own things. It’s a double-edged sword because we do miss playing, but we wouldn’t want to tour unless we had a new record out.”

McCaughan is also interviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Would you say you're getting more and more confident as a singer?

Not really. In some ways, my singing has been something that means that the music will only ever achieve a certain amount of appeal -- for people who will put up with the voice. I don't feel like I'm uncomfortable, but I don't feel like I'm more comfortable either. Many songs I'll write and when I get to the studio, I think, "Why did I write it in this key?" Every song is a different struggle when it comes to the singing.

The busy Portastatic frontman also managed to squeeze in a conversation with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"The majority of Portastatic is mellower than the majority of Superchunk," McCaughan says. "But the live band for Portastatic right now is a pretty loud rock 'n' roll band. It's definitely as loud and fast as a Superchunk show. There's just a greater dynamic range."

The New York Times profiles the documentary, Before the Music Dies.

For as long as there has been a music industry, there have been music lovers criticizing it. What’s new is that, as CD sales continue to decline, slowly but steadily, the insiders’ critique has come to resemble the outsiders’ critique. Bob Lefsetz, the longtime music-industry gadfly, publishes a splenetic e-mail newsletter (archived online at that is, if anything, even angrier than the film; one typical recent riff began, “This business is so rotten, it’s unbelievable.” (Full disclosure: You’re reading a writer whom Mr. Lefsetz seems to like.)

The Mountain Goats appear on The DL, a new show from AOL Music.

Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy talks to LA Weekly about his love for musical theater and possible future career plans.

Meloy, who “grew up doing musicals,” admits he is a closeted Sondheim fan. “It’s sort of a guilty pleasure of mine,” he confides — with no apparent guilt. “I would totally consider doing a musical. I’d love the challenge, if only I had any other time besides working on Decemberists music.”

The holiday gift for the music lover who has (almost) everything: a fog-free mp3-playing mirror.

Singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom talks to the Independent Weekly about her music education.

"A lot of the ideas I was interested in were considered passé," she explains. "Most of the students were writing incredibly dissonant music on their laptop computers. It might have been smarter to go to a less experimental composition school where I would have gotten a more neo-classical education. But I went to this experimental school and became alienated, which in a way I'm grateful for, because that alienation drove me even further in the direction I'd felt embarrassed by previously—an obsession with melody, rather than a rejection of it."

She is also interviewed by GoTriad:

How much thought goes into your lyrics? Are you the type of songwriter that obsesses over every word, or do you just let it flow out of you?

I'd definitely say the former is true. What flows out of me is the idea for the song. I will start the process of writing a song with a pretty complete idea of what I want to say or a story I want to tell, but it takes me a really long time to say it the way I want to — to choose the words that seem the best to me and that convey the meaning I want to convey in the most accurate and truthful way possible.

The Minneapolis City Pages asks three questions of actress/author Amy Sedaris.

Reviews are rolling in for Joanna Newsom's new album, Ys:

LA Weekly:

Setting aside the overly fussy production, Ys is an album of great moments that wears and feels claustrophobic over the course of an hour.


In fine neo-folk fashion, Newsom straddles a sonic chasm, effectively bridging the gap between classically influenced dreamscapes, pastoral vistas and Appalachian simplicity.

The Nashville Scene:

For all its quirks, her first record had the heart of a pop artifact. But Ys, hampered by an orchestra that becomes too distracting, shoots for the moon and hits the roof.

Minnesota Daily:

"Ys" is an album testing in its length and almost exhausting in its rabid ambition. However, it is an achievement that no other peers of Newsom's, or perhaps anyone in all of modern music making, could have properly pulled off. "Ys" could have fizzled into mere grand folly, but Newsom proves she finally has the chops to steer her music into astonishingly grand territory.

The Globe and Mail:

Her songs are dolorous with the feeling of traditional folk ballads, though she's not much interested in regular verses and refrains. Her tunes tend to be riff-based, like indie rock by other means, and to vamp along (too much, sometimes) to encompass her texts, which sprawl with the additive exuberance of Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

Time reviews Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day.

At 3 lbs. 6 oz., Against the Day weighs just 3 oz. less than my toaster. But my toaster doesn't offer the tantalizing music of Pynchon's voice, with its shifts from comic shtick to heartbroken threnody, its mordant Faulkneresque interludes, its gusts of lyric melancholy blown in by way of F. Scott Fitzgerald, its ecstatic perorations from Jack Kerouac. And my toaster will never lay before me a vision of a world in which technology is stripping away all the ancient, vital magic while shepherding mankind to the brink of destruction. On the other hand, my toaster makes toast, and nothing quite so graspable ever pops out of this predictably bewitching, predictably bewildering book.

Singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan talks to X-Press Online.

“I’m in a much better position now all the years on - I was very shy when I was young. I really didn’t understand how the music industry worked at all.

“And now I think, partly because I’m older and can handle things a bit better - but also because the music industry, or certainly the people that I have come across in the indie part of it - have all been so good and thoughtful and generous and giving of their time and thought. I can’t tell you how different the experience has been.”

Connect Savannah interviews Andy Runton, creator and illustrator of the Owly series of graphic novels.

Connect Savannah: Why do you think people relate to Owly?

Andy Runton: People relate to Owly because he’s this predator by nature, but he chooses to be kind and nice and make the world a better place. That’s rare these days. For me he’s sort of based on all the stuff I loved as a kid, wrapped it up into this little owl.

Another reason people like it is they can sense I enjoy it. There’s a certain amount of purity that comes with that. Other than that I really have no idea. He’s just a little owl and it’s just me.

The Isthmus reviews a recent My Brightest Diamond Madison performance.

Had Edward Gorey written The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy would have been named Shara Worden. In her sparkly heels, wild hair, doll dress, and red tights, she single handedly saved my dying faith in the music industry with her pure, vocal raindrops and mystical songs.

Seattle's Stranger reviews Alan Moore's graphic novel trilogy, The Lost Girls.

At $75, this isn't just a book to get some nerd boys off (although it definitely will!). Rather, Moore is attempting to explore the disconnect in society between what is considered highbrow (art, literature) and lowbrow (pornography, comic books). He's hoping his juxtaposition of dirty visuals and complex characters will flummox his readers enough to get them to think about why that contrast feels so weird.

The Associated Press reports that Richard Powers' novel, The Echo Maker, has won the national Book Award for fiction.

Blender lists the "most disastrous albums of all time."

Information Leafblower polled music bloggers (myself included) to compile the top 40 bands in America (I will post the list I submitted today or tomorrow).

Indiefolkforever unveiled a new feature yesterday, Uncommon Folk, where musicians "talk about the music that inspired and influenced their own work." Kicking off the series is singer-songwriter Laura Gibson.

see also:

this week's CD & DVD releases


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