Monday, March 16, 2009

Nibbles: Edgar Sawtelle, Beirut, and more...

I'm catching up on a backlog of reading and music-listening today, so lots of little nibbles for you!

First off a report on Finding Beauty in a Broken World. The report mainly consists of the confession that I have not yet finished it. I got to the section on Rwanda, and then I wrote this post, and then...I just never picked it up again. Sigh...I really hate not finishing books, but my  hand just keeps passing over this one... Have you finished the book? Is it worth finishing? 

Next up, Beirut's new double album, March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland. I'm undecided how I feel about this album. I really like their previous few albums, particularly Gulag Orkestar, but this's different. First off, both albums are very short. As in, less than 15 minutes each short. Or at least it feels that way. I'll just be getting into it, starting to groove (in so far as I actually "groove"), and then the album is over. It makes me cranky. 

Secondly, the two albums feel very disjointed. The first is Beirut's take on the music of the Zapotec people and was influenced by Zach Condon's recent trip to Mexico. The songs on this album are a shift away from the Beirut we know from previous albums, but (in my mind) represent an interesting change of pace. The second album...the second album. It's also interesting, but it sounds a bit like music you might expect to find in a hot European night club. It's not bad, just very...unexpected.

I find myself playing these albums again and again at the store. I wouldn't say that I like them, exactly, but there's definitely something that keeps drawing me back. Have you listened to this album(s) yet? What do you think about them?

I just tore through all 575 pages of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. Given that it contained two of my most un-favorite literary themes, tales of woe from the midwest and epic-ness, I wasn't expecting to get past the first chapter. I like it when a book surprises!

It's hard to sum up what makes this book so special in just a few sentences (I'll hopefully get a full review out sometime soon). With threads of magical realism and scenes that read like poetry, it's not like any other story you've heard elsewhere. If it were told by any less gifted author, I bet the whole premise of the story would sound contrived and insubstantial. As it was, the book was beautiful and engaging, and its climactic ending scene felt utterly inevitable. I want to immediately start reading it again. Definitely recommended.

Let's see...what else?

Hold Time by M Ward came out a few weeks ago and is a great album. It's very in keeping with his previous work - dreamy and lovely. It still manages to sound fresh, though. I like it and play it in the evenings when I want to decompress from a long day.

Neko Case's new album Middle Cyclone is also recently out and it's fantastic. She's such a unique musician and singer as it is, but you can really see her pushing herself in this new album. It's a good one to play while cooking dinner or getting ready to go out.

Oh, and I almost forgot about Santogold! This album came out a while back, but has definitely stayed in my heavy rotation. It has a little bit of everything - from R&B-esque songs to forays into electronic mixing (not to mention an appropriately disturbing album cover). It's a bit dark and edgy - definitely keeps you on your toes. I love it and feel like I hear something new in it every time I play the CD.

Finally, if you're a fan of Dave McKean, I want to point you toward an excellent interview with him that was recently posted over on Seven Impossible Things. (Click on the link to go to the interview. The interview itself starts about halfway down the page.) As if I didn't already have enough respect for this man.

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