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May 19, 2008

Shorties

The New York Sun reviews Benjamin Nugent's new book, American Nerd: The Story of My People.

Thinking deeply about nerdiness, examining it in book-length detail, is a severely geekish thing to do, akin to analyzing a joke. Mr. Nugent is aware of this and, luckily, his sense of humor is fully intact. A former dweeb who once spent childhood lunch hours playing Dungeons & Dragons with other nerd boys, he has since emerged into the bright sunlight of coolness.


The Independent examines the financial problems facing Edith Wharton's estate, The Mount.


New York magazine profiles Mates of State.

For all my mistrust of their perky good life, the only thing preventing my inner jury from hanging Gardner and Hammel is Re-Arrange Us, Mates of State’s fifth album, out this week on Barsuk. Early releases like My Solo Project, from 2000, and Our Constant Concern, from 2002, struck me as virtually unlistenable: Hammel bashing out jarring rhythms on his drum kit, Gardner honking and baying on a beefy organ, and the two of them shouting excited harmonies and cryptic lyrics on top of one another. It felt like psychedelic math homework. Bring It Back, from 2006, was more melodic and less stressful, but Re-Arrange Us is a bona fide breakthrough. Gardner and Hammel have opened up their sound, adding cello, trumpet, bass, and guitar to the mix; Gardner’s also traded in her organ for piano, lending new delicacy to the arrangements. The vocals are breathy and sweet instead of antsy; the orchestral textures and multipart harmonies evoke the Beach Boys’ 1966 landmark, Pet Sounds, with Gardner a long-lost Wilson sister. Mates of State admit that suburban living has helpfully mellowed their music. “I want to make sense,” Gardner says. “I want people to relate to us. It’s way harder to write a concise, meaningful pop song than it is to write chaotic rock songs.”


Pitchfork interviews former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg.

Pitchfork: There's a great quote from you in the Hootenanny notes, back from 1983, saying: "I think this is the first album that sounds just like us."

PW: I remember reading that, and I guess I remember saying that. It's true. It's the first record that really defines our-- everybody stands up, we're going to sit down. Everybody goes left, we're going to go right. There's an obstinacy to us. But also it was back to the influences that were more than just straight punk rock. Punk rock was the key that opened the door, but we played our little white blues and stuff. We liked all kinds of stuff.


The New Yorker has launched a new literary blog, The Book Bench.


The Guardian follows author Orham Pamuk's "literary trail through Istanbul."

It's timely then that as budget flights are opening up Istanbul as a weekend destination, the perfect literary companion exists in the form of the childhood memoirs of Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul's Nobel Prize-winning author.


LA Snark lists the top 50 Los Angeles blogs (and includes the music blog Aquarium Drunkard at #11).


The New Yorker features new short fiction by John Updike, "The Full Glass."


PC World lists "groovy sites" for free music downloads.


The Los Angeles Times examines the critical renaissance of Hall and Oates.

Praise flowed from hip-hop artists too -- Chicago crew Gym Class Heroes even went so far as to record a "matchup" album, combining their songs with H&O classics, though a legal notice from Atlantic Records (not from H&O, who fully endorse the project) has put it on hold for now. This overflow of love for H&O has been taken up by music writers, who’ve dug into the group’s deep catalog and discovered that its merits extend beyond the forced frivolity of camp.


Wikipedia lists zombie films.


The Telegraph lists the 50 best British songwriters.


NPR's All Things Considered examines how debut novelists are leveraging the internet to spread word about their books. Marisha Pessl's take:

"I hate to think of a day where a compelling book or a compelling authorial voice would be lost simply because that person doesn't have a Web site," she says. "But I think that, to use the Internet in a positive way, to turn people on to reading, is something that authors shouldn't really shy away from necessarily."


Oregon Public Radio features streaming audio and video from teh in-studio visit of DeVotchka.


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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