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January 24, 2008

Shorties

The Detroit Free Press profiles local band Mason Proper.

The surreal sonic sensation generated from unorthodox five-piece Mason Proper is an experience like few others in Michigan. Blurring the boundaries between catchy pop and arty fare, the indie rock outfit's sound is unforgettable but can be tough to describe. Lyrics can be bizarre but contemplative, and spazzed-out guitar signatures might break into soothing electronic symphonies before exploding into an apocalyptic crescendo.


The Los Angeles Times lists its favorite mystery books of 2007.


Jambands.com interviews Vampire Weekend drummer Christopher Tomson.

JH- The first time I saw Vampire Weekend was in a small literary society townhouse at Columbia a little less than a year and a half ago. Since then, you’ve caught the eye of David Byrne, shared the stage with Animal Collective, and just got off a European tour with The Shins. How has that transition been?

CT- I’ve never done this before with a band that’s tried to be a capital “B” Band so it hasn’t felt that weird. It seems like maybe we haven’t spent as long at each step as some bands coming up but we played the shows at school a lot, a small pizza/candy store in Brooklyn, and the Mercury Lounge in NYC a couple of times so it has definitely felt like a natural progression. It hasn’t felt forced. To me one of the better parts of it has been that the main reason we’ve gotten bigger is because people are interested in the music and what they’ve heard. It seems like that’s what’s driving it. It’s not like we’re on a major label and they’re putting a million dollars into our marketing and all of a sudden we’re playing the Bowery Ballroom. So I think in that way it hasn’t felt forced and it’s been like we’re going through these steps. I don’t know where we’re going necessarily but we’re kind of doing it in steps.


The Los Angeles Times music blog, Soundboard, gathers staffers' reactions to this year's Coachella lineup.

Around the L.A. Times, the reaction to this year’s Coachella lineup runs the gamut from vaguely hopeful to open disdain, with most of the hubbub centering on Pink Floyd papa Roger Waters.


Daytrotter features singer-songwriter Tim Williams this week with a live performance and interview.


Tim Butcher, author of Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, lists his favorite books about the Congo in the Guardian.


Minnesota Public Radio's The Current features the Carolina Chocolate Drops with an interview and in-studio performance.


The Los Angeles Times reviews the finest biography I read last year, Schultz and Peanuts: A Biography.

"Schulz and Peanuts," by David Michaelis, tells the story of the cartoonist from first strip to last, capturing Schulz in all his bitter, melancholic, Midwestern glory and clearing away the decades of merchandise and clutter that surrounded him, to show us the original vision: one man's expression of longing and fear. In this sense, "Schulz and Peanuts" resembles "Last Train to Memphis," Peter Guralnick's biography of the young Elvis: That book too showed you something you thought you'd lived through and known, yet made you see it for the first time. Michaelis gives us back the skinny Elvis and, in the process, shows us how truth turns into sentiment.


Dot.tunes offers a plugin to listen to your iTunes music collection through a Wii.


NPR's Day to Day profiles singer-songwriter Baby Dee.

About eight years ago, Dee left New York and moved back to Cleveland to look after her ailing parents. Safe Inside the Day is a happy career resurrection. The producers, intense folkie Bonnie Prince Billy and guitarist producer Matt Sweeney, urged Dee away from her trademark harp and toward her piano music. The resulting songs burrow into some of the hard terrain of Dee's Cleveland childhood and then use it to reflect on the unusual twists and turns of her adult life. In that process, she manages to grow a kind of sinewy, deceptively simple poetry that matches her fragile emotional core with bursts of toughness and joy and artistic fearlessness.


/film interviews Clark Gregg, who is directing and writing the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke.

Did you use any music while you were writing?

Yes. Different parts I wrote with different music. One of the things that drew me to the material was how it managed to have scenes that I found hysterically funny in a black comedy vein and then two minutes later a really heartbreaking exchange that felt like Chekhov. The days when I was working on those scenes I would be in moody, Radiohead world and when Chuck came he told me he wrote the book while listening to “Creep” which I thought was funny. Then other times, the world of Choke can feel dark when you’re in it, when you’re writing it and I wanted to – I think what’s great about the book is the way the main character and other people respond to this stuff in an irreverent way, with a sense of humor, so I wrote to stuff that I thought was funny. I wrote to The Shins album, which had just come out.


Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla talks to the Portland Mercury about his new solo album, Field Manual (out January 29th).

But if anyone is behind the deafening silence that surrounds Field Manual—a near flawless pop record that doesn't stray far from the Death Cab template of perfected pop songs, pristine recordings, and intelligent lyrics—it's Walla himself. "Death Cab has an agreement about it. Once it's time to be on rock band time, it's what we do, and everyone understands that." Walla continues, "Were this a different world and I wasn't part of Death Cab, of course I'd be touring, and of course I'd be promoting it more. It's an eternal understanding that we all do willingly."


Time Out Chicago examines the effects of music bloggers on the music business,

But according to Matt Rucins, who books shows at live-music venue Schubas, bloggers who cheerlead for bands can sometimes create an echo-chamber effect that gives a short-term boost to a band’s notoriety, but doesn’t always mean long-term ticket sales. “[Bloggers] are pushing what they like, and I think they feel like they’re doing the band a favor,” he says. “I think a lot of clubs might have gotten hurt [by this]. More than once over the past year, there have been bands that have been riding ‘basement critic’ buzz that just didn’t translate into anything.”


The Stranger interviews New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise.

Two weeks ago there was a crossover concert in Seattle put together by a cellist playing Messiaen and Radiohead. Hasn't it become a cliché to use Radiohead for classical recruitment? You've written great profiles of Björk and Radiohead, exploring their classical influences. But it's starting to feel like these artists are the beginning and end of the connection between classical and pop.

It's a little bit of a cliché, definitely. There's a lot more there, but the artists are just not as well known.

Like who?

Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens. They have strong interests in classical and 20th-century music. Joanna Newsom trained as a composer; you wouldn't guess that, but once you factor that in, it actually makes sense—the long structures and the ornate harmonies. With Sufjan Stevens, you have these long-form minimalist things protruding on the ends of his records, and his instrumentations, well, he has these little orchestras.


The Village Voice has released the results of its 2007 Pazz and Jop music critics poll.


Toonlet is an online community to create and share webcomics.


The American Library Association has released its 2008 graphic novels for teens list.


The Dylan Daily is a blog dedicated to "celebrating the art of Bob Dylan."


New York magazine's The Comics Page blog excerpts from Marc-Antoine Mathieu's graphic novel, The Museum Vaults.


The Seattle Post Intelligencer interviews cartoonist and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi about her film, Persepolis.

On why she chose the graphic novel/comic book medium for her story.

I have a brain that functions with text and images so this is it. It's funny ... nobody would ask a writer, "Why did you write a book and why didn't you dance?"


WNYC's Soundcheck examines the causes behind the vanishing television theme song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

2007 online music lists
Daily Downloads
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
this week's CD releases


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