Albums I heard

The single advantage of Thanksgiving traffic: Playing all the way through album’s I’d purchased completely legally (and not downloaded or burned) but not listened to yet. The big achievement of the 3.5 hour DC-to-DE haul was the Rilo Kiley Project, during which I listened to every song by the loveable indie overdogs.

The Actual Friend EP (3/10). I can see how they got signed off this – hot singer, two perfectly adorable pop songs (“The Frug” and “Glendora”) but most of it left me cold. Waaay too much amateur shoegazing, too much “let me noodle on these four notes for three minutes, it’ll be hypnotizing”-ing. “Teenage Love Song,” in particular, is a wreck I never want to listen to ever again. Yes, yes, you’re using pre-Beatles teenpop cliches for a fractured story of romance. Have a gold star.

Take Offs and Landings (5/10). More even than the EP. Nothing truly bad, but lots of barely entertaining stuff like “August”. In retrospect, knowing the full-throated songstress she’d become, it’s tough to listen to Lewis in her cutesy phase.

The Execution of All Things (7/10)
. One of the bigger leaps-forward I’ve ever heard. From the opening snaky guitar figure on “The Good That Won’t Come Out” this worlds more mature, melodically and lyrically, than what I thought the band could do. Obviously the band didn’t write and record the songs in order of how they’d appear on the LP, but the closing two-step of “With Arms Outstretched” and “Spectacular Views” is an eerily perfect preview of how the band’s sound would change as they “sold out.”

More Adventurous (9/10). I loved this record. Fans don’t? Hey, fans are wrong. The giggly experiments are kept to one song (“I Never”) and the pop songsmithery has improved dramatically, by Charly-taking-the-pill proportions. So “Portions for Foxes” is on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack? Fine: It’s an amazing song.

Under the Blacklight (8/10). It falls apart at the end but I don’t grok the loyalist umbrage about this record. They got some money, they got sonically interesting, they started playing with effects. Good for them. Yglesias gets it wrong, I think, about the pop triumphs here. He doesn’t think they exist, and I do. “Under The Blacklight” and “Dreamworld” and “Silver Lining” are all as good as “The Frug” or anything from Lewis’s (really great) solo record.


Finally read Joe Matt’s “Spent,” a graphic novel I’d picked up at SPX on a couple recommendations and a deal at the Drawn and Quarterly booth. I realized something, and that’s that “slice of life” comix are softening and softening in their appeal to me because… I’ll sound like a dick saying this, but because my life is more interesting than that of a cartoonist.

This wasn’t always true! When I was 17, 18, 19, and I was a frustrated high school/college kid, the lives of guys like Harvey Pekar were illuminating and fascinating. Middle-class lives of drudgery flinted with occasional celebrity, troublesome romances, sexual frustration. Right now, though, I’m out of college and 1)living in Washington, DC with 2)a job reporting politics and interviewing prominent people and 3)friends who do the same, and are themselves prominent essayists/pundits/scoundrels. Despite that–and even though I have a blog–I really don’t think my daily personal struggles are that interesting.

“Spent” is nothing but daily personal struggles. Joe Matt, a truly talented cartoonist, crystallizes four moments in his life from 1994 to 2002 where… not much happens. In the first he buys a comic strip collection that Seth wants, then borrows some porn to create his own dubbed tape. In the final one he masturbates 21 times in a day, gets in a fight with his editor, and wails about his wasted life. I was left thinking… “so?”

You people are scum

A good idea: Make an airport drop-off, then camp out at a coffee house to write a book review. A wrinkle: I am trapped next to a terrifying beast who keeps coughing, picking his face, and rubbing his greasy hair, refusing to let other people take the seat even after he walked away for like 10 minutes.

I don’t think you get squatting rights in a coffee shop, do you? Work or read or converse. Don’t sit around and creep people out.

UPDATE: Apparently he’s “a disabled person” with strong views about how “you can’t have greaseman cops.” I learn this through a cloud of cigarette breath and flecks of lung. Why the fuck do I go out in public?