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February 23, 2012

Shorties (Musical Moments of the Presidents, A Literary-Themed Dinner Party, and more)

Pop & Hiss shares musical moments of U.S. presidents.

The Kitchn offers tips to throw a literary-themed dinner party. recommends six websites to discover new dubstep music.

Contributors to The Millions share their writing spaces.

Kurt Wagner talks to the Telegraph about the new Lambchop album, Mr. M.

If you're going to try something new, you might as well learn from the best. There aren't many records categorised by iTunes as indie rock that can plausibly claim to take their musical cues from Frank Sinatra. But Mr M, the sumptuously affecting eleventh studio album by Nashville country-soul chamber orchestra Lambchop, does just that. The Sinatra influence lies not so much in the gruff but tender vocals of Lambchop's songwriter and creative powerhouse Kurt Wagner, but in some of the loveliest string arrangements you'll hear this year. These opulent orchestrations, filtered through the guitar pedals of producer Mark Nevers, create a captivatingly subtle effect that the 53-year-old describes as "at once present, but not overarching" down the line from his Tennessee home. "We were trying to make things as spare as we could," he explains.

The Leonard Lopate Show interviews William H. Gass about his newest collection of essays, Life Sentences: From Literary Judgments and Accounts.

Anders Parker talks to Seven Days about his new album, New Multitudes, a collaboration with Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, and Jim James of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs.

Bookworm interviews Edmund White about his new novel Jack Holmes and His Friend.

The Guardian Music Blog interviews one of my favorite music bloggers, Sean Michaels of Said the Gramophone.

The finalists have been named for the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

PopMatters compares the Americana and country music genres.

Haaretz interviews cartoonist Guy Delisle about his new graphic novel Jerusalem: Chronicles from a Holy City.

The Quietus interviews Clodagh Simonds of Fovea Hex.

Fovea Hex's music uniquely orchestrates traditional instruments ranging through the ages - from the ancient (psaltery) through the classical periods (lyre) to the more familiar 'early modern' sounds of piano and strings - together with computer-based ambient electronica. What first attracted you to the new manipulations afforded by modern technology, and has it affected the way you set about writing songs?

Clodagh Simonds: Ever since I first heard Phil Spector, I've been enamoured of the artificial enhancement of sound, so it started early. I did try right away to emulate it - I heard 'Da Doo Ron Ron' on a jukebox in a cafe, when I was around 10, and as soon as I got home to the piano, I discovered my formula for the next few years: keep your foot hard down on the sustain pedal at all times, play fast and extremely loudly, round up a few friends with equally loud voices, and all sing at once.

Fawzia Koofi talks to Morning Edition about her new book, The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future.

Rdio is streaming the new Deer Tick EP, Tim.

All Things Considered remembers publishing pioneer Barney Rossett.

Barney Rosset gave American readers their first taste of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, as well as uncensored classics by Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence. To do that, Rosset fought literally hundreds of court cases and was largely responsible for breaking down U.S. obscenity laws in the 1950s and '60s.

The Ms. Magazine Blog profiles the band Girl in a Coma.

Making a political statement is something the band does effortlessly and almost accidentally, says Phanie: "We just love music, not really thinking about the fact that our band is two-thirds queer, all Latina and all female. We are doing the best that we can with what we have."

Fresh Air interviews Joseph Turow about his new book, The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth.

Two A.V. Club reporters review one of Jeff Mangum's recent concerts.

This was not an event for the casual Neutral Milk Hotel fan. I'd read accounts of passionate, even weeping crowds at Mangum's recent acoustic concerts, but even those didn't prepare me for the sheer intensity of this show, where the crowd greeted him with a reverence more fitting for a messiah than a musician. I'd underestimated how deeply his fans have internalized the prevailing narrative about the "second coming" of the reclusive singer-songwriter, his return to the stage after a decade spent away from the public eye. At first, the seated audience was palpably nervous, seemingly afraid that any sudden movement might scare him away, back into exile. But once Mangum encouraged the crowd to stand, that anxiety lifted, and fans rushed to fill the aisles. He asked the crowd to join in, and they again followed his command, matching his nasal foghorn with their own full-lunged bellows. The rest of the show was an impassioned, theater-wide sing-along. At times, fans seemed to be competing to drown each other out, using volume as a display of admiration for the man on stage. ("You think you love these songs? Well, I’m singing them way louder.") Other fans struggled to contain their emotions.

NPR reviews and excerpts from Thomas Mallon's new novel Watergate.

Win two graphic novels (Keshni Kashyap's Tina's Mouth: An Existential Diary and Matthew Forsythe's Jingalo) and a $100 Threadless gift certificate in this week's largehearted Boy contest.

Amazon MP3 has 100 digital albums on sale for $5.

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

also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
List of Online Year-End 2011 Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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