December 28, 2006
As most of you probably know if you've read any prior installments of this weblog, Michael is my boyfriend, best friend, living-in-sin co-homeowner, life partner, etc etc etc. Charity Girl is his third novel, and its official publication date is January 3rd... however, if you head over to your bookstores now, you'll very likely find it on the shelves. (I recommend trying your local independent bookstore, if you live in a town lucky enough to still have one.)
So far, things are going well for Michael's book: it's already been a January 2007 Book Sense pick, and it's getting great early reviews, some of which I'll post later. In the meantime, you can head over to his newly-redesigned website, once again the creation of our friend Michael Borum with etherweave.
If you're in Boston on January 16th, Michael will be reading at the stupendous Brookline Booksmith, sort of the "official hometown launch" for the novel. Check his website for other scheduled reading dates in NYC, LA, SF, and elsewhere. And really, it's a fantastic, haunting, skilled, important book; even if I didn't know him, I'd be recommending it here. But since I do know him, and live with him, I'll recommend it even more highly... also, maybe if it does hugely well, he can become rich and support me and I'll never have to sink into the existential depression of trying to finish my own damn novels!
(For further information on the book, you can also check the Houghton Mifflin website.)
December 12, 2006
17 Magnificent Post-Shoegaze Gems
Ready for some pretentious music-geek ramblings?
Anyone who's seen my CD collection or iTunes lineup knows my weakness for "shoegaze" music. There are the obvious classics of this pseudo-genre--My Bloody Valentine; Slowdive; Ride; Chapterhouse; Lush; Pale Saints; early Boo Radleys; early Catherine Wheel; Swervedriver. But here are sixteen CDs from the past decade that aren't as obvious or recognizable as those. I suppose it's true that these bands wear their influences pretty obviously on their sleeves at times (and sometimes on their album sleeves, too--just look at the Loveless-inspired "blurry guitar photo" on some of the album covers) but they've nevertheless gorgeously carried on that tradition of swirling, swooning guitars and blurry, breathless drugginess. I have a huge collection of this stuff, but these are my favorites from the past decade or so. In no particular order, then:
Bethany Curve, You Brought Us Here
favorite track: "Silver"
Gray, rainy-day shoegaze music. Their latest Flaxen is fantastic, too. Their motto is "Atmosphere | Arrangement | Sound | Layering | Noise," and that pretty much sums it up.
Sway, "The Millia Pink and Green" ep
favorite track: "Fall"
Don't know much about Sway, unfortunately. The website listed on the back of this EP seems to be defunct. Apparently they had a self-titled full-length, as well, but I've searched for it for ages with no luck. This old interview with the band is just about all I can find. It'd be a travesty if Sway were no longer--this EP is gorgeous, probably the most rightful heir to the "Just For a Day"-era Slowdive, with a guitar sound like the Victoria Falls waterfall.
favorite track: "Aquila"
They only recorded one album; it was on the mostly all-ambient Silent Records. And this album starts out very spacey and ambient-ey... but then the guitars start layering and layering and layering. Closedown obviously took their cue from Slowdive more than My Bloody Valentine or Ride. Oh, and the drummer was fantastic.
favorite track: "Claroscuro"
Excellent Peruvian shoegaze band. Here's their website.
Silvania, Paisaje III
favorite track: "Niño Unicornio"
Like Resplandor, here's another band from Peru. Their latest records are more experimental electronica, sometimes interesting, sometimes not--but when they started they were very Cocteau Twins-ey.
favorite track: "Space In Your Mind"
Great German shoegaze band. Their lean toward synthesizers and dance beats make them sound more like the Slowdive of the "5ep" period than the "Just For a Day" style. More information here.
The Daysleepers, "Hide Your Eyes" ep
Favorite track: "Threnody"
This one is utterly amazing.
The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, "Pigment" ep
favorite track: "Square Wave"
The Czech Republic's coolest band. Like Peru's Silvania, they went all IDM and electronic in the mid-90s, but before that, EOST were probably the most blatant My Bloody Valentine ripoffs since Secret Shine. Unlike Secret Shine, though, EOST's songs were fantastic. The four songs on this ep and the eight on the full-length Susurrate (an excellent, and fitting, title) are right up there with some of the music on Isn't Anything.
All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, Turning Into Small
favorite track: "In Between and After"
These guys sound like they had memorized Loveless better than anyone else. They take care to vary the songs, and their noise is often a little poppier than most of these other bands. I read a review that compared them to Stereolab, as well... maybe if Kevin Shields and Letitia Sadier had a baby, it would sound like this.
Auburn Lull, Cast From the Platform
favorite track: "Building Fifty"
...and their Alone I Admire cd is equally great. They're often called "space rock" more than shoegaze. (Who cares. I'm kind of embarrassed I'm even using these dumb categorization labels in this blog entry anyway.) They're from Michigan, like the equally wondrous Windy & Carl. My friends played "Building Fifty" at their wedding; it almost made me want to get married.
favorite track: "Moinaexquisitewallflower"
The brainchild of Scott Cortez, who does amazing things with a guitar and a zillion different effects and a female vocalist. This album sometimes takes a lot of crap for (a) its obvious My Bloody Valentine influence and (b) the fact that it was released on the "darkwave" label Projekt. Big deal--it's still stunning and fun to listen to, if only to see what odd or amazing sound will come from the speakers next. Cortez has another (one-man) band, the even more shoegazey Astrobrite.
The Meeting Places, Find Yourself Along the Way
favorite track: "On Our Own"
Sounds very Nowhere-period Ride at times. More here.
Spectacle, Developing In a World Without Sound
favorite track: "Sophie"
This band's a total mystery to me. Their label, listed on the back cover as Constellation Records of Royal Oak, MI, doesn't seem to be the same Constellation as the Godspeed You Black Emperor label. This cd (an ep, I guess?) has six songs; the last three are mediocre, but it's the first three--"Lovelier," "Sophie," and "Withered"--that are utterly amazing. If you're into this sort of music, this little gem is totally worth searching the cheap / used / no-barcode bins for.
Starflyer 59, Starflyer 59
favorite track: "Sled"
Starflyer 59 are on Tooth & Nail Records, a loosely Christian-based label, but their music (thank Christ) sounds a lot more like Ride than Sandy Patti. Or at least it used to, as evidenced by this debut album, often called "The Silver Album." Their lineup has shuffled over the years, but the band is basically Jason Martin. They've have put out a ton of records since this, and there are great tracks on each one, but this debut remains the most distorted and effects-driven and "shoegaze."
Stella Luna, "Stargazer" ep
favorite track: "Change"
One of the many stellar (pun intended) releases on Clairecords, one of the coolest indie labels in the US, and certainly the most devoted to this brand of music. I could've stuck other great bands on the label--Air Formation, The Brother Kite, and Electro Group, to name a few--on this list just as easily.
Whirlaway, Letting Go
favorite track: "Transport"
Great little-known US shoegaze band, sometimes sounding a little like early Ride. "Transport" is an unbelievable song. Their latest cd Pompano ain't too bad either.
favorite track: "Stellata"
I loved all those related, incestuously tangled bands out of Bristol that appeared in the late 90s--Flying Saucer Attack, Crescent, Third Eye Foundation, Movietone, etc. Out of all of them, Amp were the most shoegaze. Or at least for a brief time, anyway, as exemplified on this fuzzy, creepy, harsh-yet-gentle album.
December 04, 2006
Italian Edition / Party Invite
After all these years, Mysterious Skin is finally getting an Italian publisher. The house is Playground, and pictured at below left is the cover (I like it because it's totally different from any of the other editions of the book). The official launch was this week, I think, and I just did an interview for Italian Rolling Stone (so if anyone sees that and can read Italian, let me know what it says!).
Pictured above right: an invite for the holiday party being held Monday, December 4th at the Paradise Lounge here in Boston. The online Boston Globe has a little more news about it... basically, six literary journals from the area--Ploughshares, Agni, Post Road, Salamander, Quick Fiction, and Redivider--are hosting a party. I'm reading, as well as Elizabeth Searle, Pagan Kennedy, and Daphne Kalotay (but not the globetrotting Tom Perrotta as promised in the invite, darn it). The catch: we're not reading our own work, but SONG LYRICS. The song I'm reading remains secret until tomorrow night; however, here's a hint, for my sister at least: it's a song that was banned from radio stations in the 70s, and also the only song that made my sister cry with horror when we were kids... especially if we were at the dinner table. Any guesses?