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February 14, 2009

Shorties (M. Ward, Erica Jong, and more)

The Los Angeles Times' Pop & Hiss blog profiles "singer-songwriter-plus" M. Ward.

In categorical terms, Ward is a singer-songwriter, but really he's a singer-songwriter-plus. He's a gifted guitarist known for his fleet finger-picking and loose, improvisational style; a singer who has developed a distinctive, creamy croon sprinkled with sugary grit; a lover of the American songbook spanning country, classic pop and blues, who doesn't rest in any of those avenues. His seventh solo studio album, "Hold Time," comes out Tuesday on Merge Records. It's a high point in a consistently thought-provoking career, comparable to Joe Henry's "Trampoline" or John Prine's "Bruised Orange."

The Phoenix New Times gets annoyed by a Bonnie Prince Billy promo disc for Beware, calling it "the worst promo CD ever."

I loaded the disc in to my iTunes to listen to -- as I do for a living -- and was digging the first track "Beware Your Only Friend" when a voice broke in to assure I was "enjoying a promotional copy of Beware by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy." Before the first song was even over, I was reminded again: "You are enjoying a promotional copy of Beware by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy." Again and again. Then, the interruptions started saying it in fake little Scottish and German accents. Ugh. This would be pretty annoying no matter the genre, but seemed especially grating given Billy's knack for crafting slow-burning folk ballads, which were invariably interrupted at key points.

The New York Times profiles indie one-man bands, including Phosphorescent and Loney, Dear.

KUAR's To the Best of Our Knowledge talks to Micheal Chabon, Richard Price, Judith Freeman and others about genre and fiction.

Seth Godin examines the state of both the music industry and music listeners in a digital world.

Digital is about to surpass the CD, and once it starts to happen it’s going to happen faster and faster and faster. The more interesting thing to me is who is going to control the playlist. If there is an infinite amount of music available – and I would argue that as soon as the amount of music available exceeds the amount of time you have in your life, that’s infinite – somebody will have the leverageable spot of deciding what to listen to next. And it’s unclear whether someone will charge to tell me that or will pay to tell me that. It’s still up for grabs in every one of these vertical silos. Who are the tastemakers and how do these ideas spread?

The Boston Globe reviews Jeff Smith's new graphic novel, Rasl: Book 1, The Drift.

Smith is a master of the cartooning medium, and the pacing in "Rasl" is absolutely perfect. The warm drawing style that worked so well in "Bone" has been replaced with hard lines and shadow-filled panels that evoke the bitter life Smith's new hero leads. Where "Bone" was a light story that lent itself to big panels and color, "Rasl" is a story told in black and white. The artwork consists of both long and close-up shots; the panels vary in shape, helping to give the book a claustrophobic feel that echoes Rasl's state of mind. This mood underscores the book's theme: If you play with the gods, there's a price, and self-redemption doesn't come easily.

Daytrotter's Saturday session features in-studio mp3s from The Boxing Lesson.

Will Ashton has made his novel The Heritage available as a free and legal download. He explains his motives on his blog.

The Financial Times interviews author Junot Diaz.

What book changed your life?

I would say Enid Blyton's Five on a Treasure Island , which I read when I was seven, because it turned me into a reader. But Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon also transformed me as a reader and as a person, when I was a callow youth of 18.

TIME interviews author Erica Jong.

Your new book is a poetry collection. You began as a poet, didn't you?

Yes. I guess the thing that I'm most proud of is that I kept on writing poetry. I understand that poetry is sort of the source of everything I do. It's the source of my creativity. I go on using it as a way into my deeper mind. Often I find that poems predict what I'm going to do later in my own writing, and often I find that poems predict my life. So I think poetry is the most intense expression of feeling that we have. I've never given up writing it because it's essential to me. And poems don't come over time. Sometimes poems don't come to you at all. But when they come, you have to sit down and write them.

In the Guardian, Irvine Welsh reviews Richard Milwald's unique novel, Ten Storey Love Song.

Some readers may have issues with Ten Storey Love Song less for the graphic drugs and sex than for the fact that they occur in a chapterless, paragraph-free, continuous block of third-person narrative. This bold device, where structure and subject matter perfectly match, won't be to all literary tastes; the good or bad thing (depending on the reader) is that it can give the feeling of being trapped in the corner of a pub listening to somebody's drug-fuelled tale, relentlessly recounted from the novel's opening acid trip to the dramatic suicide of the last word.

In the Financial Times, Will Oldham explains his Bonnie 'Prince' Billy songwriting alter-ego.

“With Bonnie, I have the opportunity to inhabit every song,” he says. “Because if Will thought it was always him inhabiting them, he’d be f***ed up and destroy lots of relationships or whatever. As long as there’s this knowledge that there’s this other thing, this parallel universe, it has to be OK on some level ... If you’re working really intensely, pulling stuff from inside, you think like, ‘Woah, I’m not sure if and when I’m crossing the line here, and if and when this is fit for public consumption.’ But Bonnie could be an expander or a magnifier; he could be granting licence too.”

Captain's Dead shares mp3s of a recent Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel) solo show.

At Drowned in Sound, Aidan Moffat breaks discusses his new album, How To Get From Heaven From Scotland.

Music Like Dirt lists the top 200 tracks of 2008.

The Virginia Quarterly Review has made every issue of the literary magazine (from 1975-2003) available online.

NPR's All Things Considered profilesAndrew Bird.

Bird's lyrics often feature archaic language — words such as radiolarian, plecostomus, dermestids, coprophagia — which he chooses mainly for their sound, but not at the expense of their meaning. When selecting words for lyrics, Bird says, he's more interested in feel than in exact, specific definitions.

"Honestly, I don't really care about the details," Bird says. "It is the sound. And the meaning, and what kind of path it leads you down in conversations with people, like, 'What could it mean?'

LaundroMatinee features video and mp3s from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson's recent in-studio session.

nyctaper is sharing mp3s of the Black Keys' February 6th NYC performance.

IGN lists 10 great punk drummers.

also at Largehearted Boy:

Online "best of 2008" music lists
Online "best of 2008" book lists
daily mp3 downloads
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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