Archive for December, 2010

Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Like many Jews, my Christmas season was filled with movies and Chinese food. I made two trips to my favorite Taiwanese restaurant and got to the theater to see the Coen brothers' adaptation of Charles Portis' novel True Grit. For me, the film was most distinguished by its dialogue, much of which can apparently be attributed to the Portis novel. But, this is the KWUR blog, so I'll discuss another aspect I really enjoyed: the film's music.

 

The Coens teamed up with frequent collaborator Carter Burwell, who provided the score, which was inspired heavily by 19th century hymns. In particular, Burwell draws largely upon the 1887 hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” written by Elisha Hoffman with music by Anthony Showalter, which was inspired by the deaths of two of Showalter's friends' wives. Many 20th century versions of "Leaning" tend to be joyous and fairly upbeat and deliver the final verse about being free from dread and fear with a sense of levity shared by many Americans who faithfully flock to their megachurches every Sunday for entertainment and little more.  Burwell, on the other hand, remains faithful to the original spirit of Hoffman and Showalter's hymn in the score, acknowledging the darkness without drifting into its depths.  This score complements well the quest of the film's fourteen year-old protagonist, Mattie Ross, to avenge her father's murder, a grisly task which she pursues with due righteousness. 

 

At the end of the film, as the final shot lingers on the screen before the credits roll, the Coen brothers play Iris DeMent's version of "Leaning," off her 2004 album, Lifeline.  Though the actual ending disappointed me to a certain degree, I think their use of DeMent's version was nonetheless incredibly poignant and avoids the pitfall of many contemporary versions.

 

The Intern: My Year In Music

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

It's the time for year-end roundups here on the KWUR blog. You can read Klax's here.

As written in the KWUR Constitution, it is the responsibility of every former GM to write a year end “best of” post for the blog. Believe me, I wish I didn't have to do it. I wish that I didn't have to bear this terrible burden of posting my thoughts on the Internet. But to paraphrase Spiderman, the main character of Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, with 10 watts of power comes moderate responsibility. So, here goes nothing. As past readers of my year end posts know, I have a philosophy behind it:

-No rankings, more or less ordered by when in the year I listened to them

-Not limited to this year's releases; really, it's the year in music as I experienced it

-If I didn't really get around to it, I didn't get around to it, no matter how excellent it probably is (sorry Wavves and Janelle Monae)

For a longer, more boring discussion of this philosophy and why I have it, you can read my old year end posts here and here. As a heads-up for the tl; dr crowd, this will probably be too long, and you will probably not read it. Sorry, read it in chunks or go sext and play with your Tamagotchis while I drone on and on about music.

 

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Some 2010 Favorites

Monday, December 27th, 2010

OK folks – a (very) few have been asking, so it's time again for my annual end of year record list…

[My mid-year list, 2009 list, 2008 list, 2007 list]

 

By far, the two albums I listened to most in 2010:

The (Royal) Baths – Litanies LP [Woodist]

This is dark, brooding, sexy, psychedelica at its best. Debut album featuring Jigmae Baer (ex-Oh Sees, The Perverts) and Jeremy Cox both of the under-rated Tea Elles. There are far too many San Francisco bands on this list, so please start with this one…

Big Blood – Dead Songs LP [Time Lag]

Excellent husband/wife folk psych duo from Maine. Plus, they give away a ton (all?) of their music on the Free Music Archive, so you really have no reason not to check them out. If you're into the more drone-y side of things see "Dark Country Magic," which just came out…

 

And in no particular order (let's get the San Francisco stuff out of the way first):

(Charlie & The) Moonhearts – Moonhearts [Tic Tac Totally]

These guys finally got a full-length LP out after a batch of solid 7inches and splits. This year, their garage-goodness tops Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees in my book. Thankfully they're all friends and play together so often that a diagram would be necessary to sort things out

White Fence – White Fence LP [Make A Mess]

I spun this one quite a bit in '10 as well. More classic lysergic pop from San Fran, this sounds like it was recorded in 1969 (minus the drum machines)…

Ty Segall – Melted LP [Goner] & San Francisco Rock Compilation or Food or Weird Beer From Microsoft CS [God?]

"Melted" is another strong release by Ty Segall and "My Sunshine" was definitely a '10 favorite. However, I think "Lemons" is still my favorite Ty LP. On the other hand, this little cassette, "San Francisco Rock Compilation", finds Ty venturing to an even heavier, noisy, experimental audio-collage territory and I like it. I like it a lot.

Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime LP [In The Red] & Quadrospazzed '09 12" [Castle Face]

What would a list be without Thee Oh Sees? I liked "Warm Slime," especially the 10+ minute Side A, which quickly became my summer jam. But to me, it was just not as strong as the back-to-back greatness of "The Master's Bedroom…" and "Help" LPs. But I'll take any Oh Sees I can get and luckily these guys and girl work fast  — there is a new album slated for a spring release on In The Red records.

"Quadrospazzed '09" came and went quickly but it was a nice little Oh Sees release for us completists. A one-sided 12" 45rpm release featuring a live jam, Side B had only a sprawling etching.

Sword & Sandals – Good and Plenty LP [Empty Cellar]

Yes, I know, more John Dwyer. But this free-jazz project of his turned out much better than I expected. Worth a mention at least…

Patrick Mullins – Don't Go To Sleep LP [Yik Yak]

(Relatedly and also worth a quick mention): quite literally, early Oh Sees (OCS) minus John Dwyer

Various Artists – In A Cloud: New Sounds From San Francisco LP [Secret Seven]

A little compilation which pretty much sums up why the SF scene is awesome: Sonny & The Sunsets, Fresh & Onlys, Thee Oh Sees, Grass Window, Ty Segall, Kelly Stoltz, Donovan Quinn. Check these mostly mediocre cuts, then go seek out further (better) cuts…

Dan Melchior und das Menace – Visionary Pangs LP

Blistering scornful garage

Sun City Girls – Funeral Mariachi LP [Abduction]

This came kind of unexpectedly, a beautiful swan-song for the SCG

David Cross – Bigger and Blackerer LP [Sub Pop]

Precautionary tales from Mr. Cross

Mark Sultan – $ LP [Last Gang]

Noisy doo-wop garage

The Fall – Your Future, Our Clutter LP [Domino]

This guy is still doing it and doing it well…

Pocahaunted – Make It Real LP [Not Not Fun]

Pocahaunted no more. When Best Coast took off, I pretty much called this one…

Paul Cary – Ghost of a Man LP [Stankhouse]

I think this may be the most underrated album of the year. More mellowed blues from The Horrors (U.S.) leadman.

Golden Triangle – Double Jointer LP [Hardly Art]

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Looking forward to hearing some X-Ray Eyeballs.

Various Artists – Ecstatic Music of the Jemma El Fna LP [Sublime Frequencies]

Blown-out Moroccan street jams

TV Buddha – The Golden Period [Trost]

Heavy two-piece Israeli psychedelica

Tyvek – Nothing Fits [In The Red]

It took me a while to get into these guys' garage-noise, but I dig this way more than their first LP. I think it must have been that horrific artwork on the first LP.

Sex Church – Six Songs By Sex Church [Convulsive]

Garage-Punk + Kraut

 

Singles:

Night Beats – H Bomb 7" [Trouble In Mind]

Baby Dinosaurs vs. The Soft Spots 7" [Die Slaughterhaus]

Various Artists – Their Hispanic Majesties Request 2×7" [Norton]

A Lost People – Big Booty Bitches digital single [self released]

Drop Z – Tha King of Pop [no label]

 

Vinyl-Geek Reissues/Not New:

Earth – A Bureaucratic Desire For Extra Capsular Extraction 2xLP [Southern Lord]

This one wins the packaging award this year. Beautiful gatefold with full color printed inner-sleeves, full liner notes, and THICK vinyl (some on clear, even). This early doom drone metal is so good I'm embarrassed I didn't know it before. Kurt Cobain's signature vocal-screams don't hurt on the last track either…

Amon Duul II – Tanz Der Lemmerage 2xLP

Krautrock shred masterpiece. Previously a hard one to track down…

Les Rallizes Denudes – Heavier Than A Death In The Family 2xLP [Phoenix]

Since all this stuff is so blown out I'm not so sure how crucial a vinyl release is, but it's fun to finally have my favorite Japanese band finally on vinyl…

Various Artists – Alan Lomax Southern Journey 5xLP [Mississippi]

I'm glad these important southern field recordings are available on vinyl. This was a great opportunity to put together a nice little series with excellent artful packaging. Instead Mississippi failed in the art department (unlike them) and opted for fake typewriter font and some lazy photoshop filters. Boo.

Henry Jacobs – Around The World With Henry Jacobs CD [Important]

"Absurd folklorist Henry Jacobs returns with a selection of rare interviews, odd loops, sales pitches, early
synthesizer demos, an ether-infused evening, and more!" Need I say more?

The Fall – This Nation's Saving Grace LP

Wins the award for cheapest vinyl reissue – I didn't know it was possible to make vinyl so thin. On the other hand, I'm glad to have this without having to pay $30.

The Mummies – The Mummies Play Their Own Records LP [Estrus]

Man or Astro-Man? – Is it Man or…Astro-Man? LP [Estrus]

Since Estrus isn't putting anything out anymore, at least they've started repressing the good stuff…

Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music 2xLP [Sister Ray]

NOISE

Velvet Underground – The Quine Tapes 6xLP box [Sundazed]

Featuring a whole side of Sister Ray recorded at Wash U…

Spacemen 3 – Perfect Prescription LP & Sound of Confusion LP & Performance LP & Playing With Fire 2×10" & Taking Drugs to Make Music To Take Drugs To 2xLP [Fire & Taang]

About time this happened. Still waiting for the "Dreamweapon: An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music" LP though

Mazzy Star – She Hangs Brightly LP & So Tonight That I May See LP & Among My Swan LP [Plain]

Some of the most beautiful psychedelic music ever recorded

Sonic Youth – Sister LP

My favorite Sonic Youth LP, now back in print (and in purple).

Parson Sound – Parson Sound 3xLP Box [Subliminal Sounds]

Stoned 1960s Swedish grooves. Throw this on the table and let it roll. Can't be beat.

C.C. Hennix – The Electric Harpsichord CD [Die Schachtel]

Praised by La Monte Young and frequently a Henry Flynt collaborator, it's nice to finally see this 1970s material released into the wild.

Various Artists – Excavated Shellac: Strings [Parlortone]

Guitar, oud, violin and more from the 78rpm era. Excellent.

 

2011 – Everything's going to be alright,

Klax

Local Community Radio Act Passes!

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Yesterday evening, Congress finally passed the Local Community Radio Act, as Freepress reports.  Essentially, the bill opens up the broadcast spectrum to community-oriented low power FM stations, as a public resource and an opportunity for millions of people to have their voices heard.  This is huge step forward in seizing the airwaves from corporate interests and giving them to the average citizen, and for that alone, I am grateful.  However, it also offers our humble station the opportunity to upgrade our wattage to a respectable output.  We started out with a 10-watt signal in 1976, and that's where we've been since then.  That's not to say we haven't tried to increase our wattage (this is a nice crash-course on past attempts) – but, for the first time in 34 years, because of this bill's passage, we have a legitimate chance at upgrading to 100 (or God forbid, 250) watts.  

We're not quite sure yet how the bill is going to affect the St. Louis radio market or KWUR, but ideally, it will open up a few frequencies on the band, which would be filled by low power FM stations (like ours). The LCRA does this by eliminating the "third-adjacent minimum separation" requirement for broadcast signals, such that frequencies will become available now where they were prohibited by the buffer before.

I don't want to overstate our chances here; I really have no idea if and how it will affect our wattage situation (but believe me, we're going to find out).  I do know, though, that this was our only reasonable chance at getting an upgrade, and now that we have it, we're going to do everything we can to pursue it.  The next few months (or possibly years) will be tumultuous and we've got our work cut out for us, but I can honestly say that I have never been more excited to be involved with a college/community radio station.  Stay tuned to the blog (and of course, over the air) for more information as it comes to us.  Viva radio free St. Louis!

Cheers,

Kenny

 

HUSTLE WEEK UPDATE

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Hey everyone, quick update on Hustle Week 2010.  The gift price list is here:

$10 – a Stack Sessions Sampler with hand-made packaging

$25 – a hand-made KWUR t-shirt, see info below!

$50 – EITHER a custom made station ID, airing forever, that will thank you personally OR a custom t-shirt, made for you by a KWUR DJ

$100 – we will name a part of the station after you, you get to choose which part.

**All donations above $10 come with a free Stack Sessions sampler (unless you're at the $10 level, in which case you'll already have one)**

Sa-weet.  Now, here are the shirts: