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September 13, 2011

Shorties (St. Vincent, Chad Harbach, and more)

The Line of Best Fit interviews St. Vincent's Annie Clark.

What is a strange mercy?

AC: Well, in the instance of the song, you're telling someone a merciful lie. You want to protect someone so you give a half truth… or, like in 'Chloe In The Afternoon', you’re looking for catharsis through an S&M scenario. You know there's a lot of strange mercies in the world. There are lots of mammals, that when they give birth – cats for example, if there’s a runt in the litter, if it's clear it won't survive, the mother cat will devour it.

On sale for $3.99 at Amazon MP3: St. Vincent's fantastic new album, Strange Mercy.

Baseball America reviews Chad Harbach's impressive debut novel, The Art of Fielding.

Every writer who crafts a world revolving around baseball would like to pitch it as something with appeal beyond baseball fans. Judging by the limited market for baseball novels, few truly do. Harbach has pulled it off, though, thanks to the sheer mastery of his writing. It doesn't hurt that the baseball details are so realistic they seem stolen from an actual small college somewhere in the American heartland.

Nick Lowe talks to Pop & Hiss about his new album The Old Magic.

"It's an enormous amount of work to make a song sound like you've just knocked it off,” said the man who spent a little over a decade married to June Carter's daughter, Carlene, which also made him Johnny Cash's son-in-law. "I do work very hard getting the balance right. I want to keep [the listener] entertained without going over into something that's too maudlin or too mawkish, because we're sort of grown-ups now."

The Guardian reports that a national poll has named Harper lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird the UK's best-loved book.

The Times-Picayune lists blogs that feature Louisiana music.

The Austin Chronicle interviews singer-songwriter Randy Newman.

G: What's more challenging, songwriting or sitting down and composing for a movie? Or is there a difference at all?

RN: There's a big difference. I think the hardest thing is to write a song for myself. Starting on a movie is difficult and it's every day – when you don't know what you're going to do. I've always found writing difficult.

The Guardian on twenty years of grunge:

For a brief moment after grunge hit it big, it was possible to see where that relative innocence (or the fight to retain it) was lost. It was part of what made grunge bands unique: their conflicted, angry lyrics were often manifested to some degree in real life. They had a genuine annoyance with the status quo, and the only solution was to scream about it into a microphone. None of that anger is anywhere to be found in the hipster rock revival of the early 00s. Modern rock isn't emotionally vapid, but there's an inherent cynicism, an exhausted acceptance of the system. Even a track like Arcade Fire's 2004 "Rebellion" is immediately qualified parenthetically with "(Lies)". If Cobain's generation was the last with any innocence, then this generation is perhaps the first that never had any.

The Daily Beast lists the eight best debut novels of the fall.

Prefix compares streaming music websites, and handicaps their long-term viability.

At The Browser, Jay McInerney lists his essential New York novels.

Codex interviews author Blake Butler.

Sonos offers an infographic look back at this summer's music festivals.

Bon Appetit lists its favorite chef cookbooks of all time.

When Worlds Collide interviews cartoonist Johnny Ryan.

Aquarium Drunkard interviews singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet about his new album, Modern Art (out September 27th).

AD: The new album has this recurring theme of memory – whether immediate, strong memories or how they fade, or how they can be sharp and poignant or how they can be misleading.

MS: That sounds right. Why I get into that, or why I do that is harder for me to say. In particular on this record, I thought about things very little and instead went for whatever basic feeling I had for things. Part of it is getting older and feeling like it's time to look back a little bit, but then partly I'm a person who only looks forward and I think 'memory schmemory,' you know. [laughs] So, it's a mixed emotion about it that leads to the various ways I come at it.

The Guardian offers tips on teaching the works of children's author Roald Dahl. interviews Megafaun drummer Joe Westerlund.

Ali H. Soufan talks to All Things Considered about his new book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.

The Quietus looks back on Talk Talk's Laughing Stock album 20 years after after its release.

Laughing Stock is now considered to be a masterwork by many, its commercial shortcomings more than adequately justified by its artistic leaps. It's difficult to listen to, but only initially, due to its alien, groundbreaking characteristics: sounds emerge from nowhere, guitar solos are made up of one solitary note, Hollis' vocals are often mumbled, even murmured, it leaps from moments of quiet quasi-ambience to rushes of angry noise. It's also breathtakingly beautiful, uncannily bewitching, unlike almost anything else recorded before or since, and full of moments of melodic, poignant wonder. But if it was an uncompromising album, it also made uncompromising demands of its audience.

NPR reviews and excerpts from Erin Morgenstern's new novel The Night Circus.

Morgenstern is both a writer and a visual artist, and the world of The Night Circus is elaborately designed, fantastically imagined and instantly intoxicating — as if the reader had downed a glass of absinthe and leapt into a hallucination. Like Rowling, Morgenstern conjures a setting so intricate and complete that imposing a plot on it feels almost worthy of extra credit. But that's where the comparison ends. The Harry Potter saga, played out through the hijinks of its young wizards, was propelled by an epic battle between good and evil; The Night Circus uses romance, not morality, for fuel.

Amazon MP3 has 100 albums on sale for $5.

Follow me on Twitter, Google+, 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, books, and pop culture)

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