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July 5, 2011

Shorties (Bjork, Simon Van Booy, and more)

At the Guardian, Simon Reynolds calls Bjork "the last great pop innovator."

When it comes down to it, Bjork simply has no rivals for sustained pop innovation over the long haul. Who else can match her nearly 30 years of being so artistically restless, so fruitfully? David Bowie pretty much invented the model of the pop shapeshifter, but after a dozen years of unrelenting brilliance, his career dwindled into a twice-as-long coda of bold misfires and catastrophic lapses. Kate Bush, the female Bowie, has been a dormant volcano for most of the last 20 years, but made a tentative return this year with Director's Cut, which revisits songs from her least fondly regarded stretch of output. As for Bjork's partners and peers from the 1990s, charismatic sound-wizards such as Tricky, Goldie, and the Aphex Twin have either faded in potency or been sidelined into the dread zone marked "famous for being famous". After their Kid A/Amnesiac spurt of weirdness, Radiohead went back to doing what they do best. U2, similarly, became their own tribute band. Competition gets thinner still when it comes to the 00s: Animal Collective and Joanna Newsom do one thing very well, Gaga and MIA are aggregators not innovators. Bjork is peerless.

PopMatters interviews author Simon Van Booy.

The list of 2011 online summer reading lists has been updated, and includes the books Stephen King plans to read and much more.

Pop & Hiss remembers Cleveland rock critic Jane Scott, who passed away yesterday at the age of 92.

She was like Andy Warhol: iconic blond hair set in a most determined pageboy that never moved. That, and red oversized glasses. You couldn’t miss her at shows -- be it the Dead Boys, Pearl Jam or Neil Young. Paul McCartney serenaded her; the often prickly Lou Reed adored her, and young people in Cleveland had a better sense of the bands they loved because Jane Scott worked so hard to show stars as human beings.

The Spectator Book Blog ponders the value of creative writing courses.

Holy Moly! lists the 10 scariest clowns on album covers.

At NPR, Eleanor Henderson shares her love for Robert Cohen's story collection The Varieties of Romance.

It's Cohen's voice that brings such humor and emotional incisiveness to these characters. Often compared to Bellow and Roth, his prose reminds me more of Chabon's, but perhaps more avuncular, more, yes, professorly, shaping the male Jewish consciousness — in stories with titles such as "The Bachelor Party" — with muscle and irony and nostalgia but also a lacy, ladylike intricacy. His sentences are coarse, crunchy, glutinous, the kind that leave you with seeds stuck in your teeth.

Ground Zero lists the 10 best albums of 2011 so far.

The Millions previews books coming out in the second half of 2011.

The Heavenly States visit The Current studio for an interview and live performance.

JamBase interviews Bill Callahan about his new album, Apocalypse.

How much did improvisation came into play while creating the music for this album?

Not really improvisation. I mean, there's a fine line between improvisation and composition when you are recording in a quick fashion and without charts. Things change a little or a lot with each take, but it's more feeling your way through and being in the moment and happenstance than what is considered improvisation. There's something comedic about doing multiple takes of anything, so I try to keep it to a minimum. If you capture the songs early on in the process – i.e. after only a few takes - they are caught in an amorphous state that serves me well as far as living with and playing the song for the time that follows it touring. If it gets too structured, for me, I wouldn't want to play it in a live setting for long.

The Louisville Courier-Journal profiles author Will Lavender.

"Some of these reads, admittedly, are dumb, but if you search ... you can find really excellent literary-type genre novels that are fast reads and smart enough that you remember them when you put them down. That's what I'm searching for, that shadow world between genre and literature."

Stream Skying (out July 26tth in the US, July 11th in the UK), the new album by The Horrors, at the band's website.

Drowned in Sound lists the best music videos of 2011's second quarter.

The July edition of Bookslut is online, and contains interviews with Rebecca Makkai, Deborah Kay Davies, and much more.

Stuart David of Looper talks to BBC News about selling a song for use in Xerox commercials.

"Our main ideal is giving the songs away free to people. Because we can make money from the films and adverts that takes care of having to make money from it," Stuart added.

He said: "We don't sell any records anymore."

Follow me on Twitter and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" columns.

also at Largehearted Boy:

previous Shorties posts (news and links from the worlds of music, literature, and pop culture)

Atomic Books Comics Preview (highlights of the week's new comics & graphic novels)
daily mp3 downloads
Largehearted Word (highlights of the week's new books)
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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