The countdown continues with two very different indie-rock records — one whose appeal is strongly tied to lyrics, the other more well … um … sonic.
Songwriter John Darnielle has released some 16 albums under the Mountain Goats moniker since the mid-’90s, but Tallahassee was a breakthrough — a more polished record on a more prominent label than his hard-to-find and lo-fi earlier albums. It's also a songwriting tour de force, a concept album about a couple that makes a cross-country move only to watch their relationship disintegrate. It's set in the titular town, where plums grow heavy with nectar in the front yard, but in this paradise their love passes out on the couch and their house — no longer a home — drips blood. Tallahassee's mid-album peak, "No Children," is so intensely dark it's also intentionally comical. But the wordplay is dazzling throughout. Samples: "I am not going to lose you/We are going to stay married/In this house like a Louisiana graveyard/Where nothing stays buried." "Our love is like the border between Greece and Albania/Trucks loaded down with weapons/Crossing over every night/Moon yellow and bright."
Song Sample: "No Children"
The countdown (which started here) continues with the first indie-rock entry and an unintentional "Lil" theme on the singles list:
From my 2007 year-end piece:
I never fully connected with the drama on Arcade Fire's beloved-in-some-quarters 2004 debut, Funeral, but on Neon Bible this Canadian band of ex-pat Americans take their previously private agonies and anxieties public by naming what they fear: "holy war," inherited debt, salesmen at the door, a rising tide that could drown us all. Musically, this sweeping, mournful lament is more stirring than engaging, in a manner that I've rejected in other bands. But this music is more intimate, more ragged, more organic. I think the range of voices — male and female — helps considerably. I've also decided that, rather than an indie-rock U2, they're more a middle-class Mekons. Clincher: "The Well and the Lighthouse," a subtle parable about cultural (read: indie-rock) isolation in which the band chooses the lighthouse and the responsibility that comes with it.
Song sample: "Windowsill"
Hairy, hard-rockin' Israeli trio Monotonix are a couple of days late for Gonerfest, but this loud band with a reputation for chaotic live shows would have fit right in. After being purportedly banned from half the clubs in their native Tel Aviv, Monotonix have been taking their provocative, head-banging show (think AC/DC meets G.G. Allin, or something like that) across the U.S., releasing a strong American debut, Body Language, on the Chicago indie label Drag City.
Monotonix plays the Hi-Tone Cafe tonight, headlining a bill that also includes local metal band Evil Army and Turbo Fruits, a spinoff of sorts from defunct Nashville punks Be Your Own Pet. Showtime is 10 p.m. Admission is $10.
Here's a taste of Monotonix, at a show in Dallas earlier this year:
Among the five candidates open to public voting, Lebowski won big, garnering 38% percent of the vote. The runners-up were Shaun of the Dead (22%), Dazed and Confused (17%), and Monty Python & the Holy Grail (17%). Caddyshack trailed behind with only 6% of the vote.
The Big Lebowski will screen at roughly 10 p.m., after the music docs. Admission is free. In the event of inclement weather, the screening will be rescheduled for the following Friday, October 16th. See IndieMemphis.com for more info.
The current decade — the "aughts" seems to be the closest we have to a consensus on this — is coming to a close, which is, of course, a great excuse for rampant list-making. I'm starting here with my own Top 50 albums and singles of the decade, counted down over the next month. End-of-decade material on film and local music will follow.
The bulk of the music on this list comes from three general areas — guitar rock of most types and any level of popularity, hip hop both mainstream and indie/underground, and country both Nashville and alt. For me this is where most of the action has been, with strong contributions from three other general areas — R&B/soul, African music, and chart pop. (I lack a better term for what is typically dred ’90s teen pop all grown up.)
There are a few more song-oriented examples of the disparate dance musics I'm ill-informed/gauche enough to still collectively call "techno," but generally I don't know as much about this stuff as I'd like to. If I'd expanded the list out to 100 (and believe me, I was tempted) there may have been token blues (Corey Harris) and jazz (James Carter) entries, but the former has sadly not produced many records that break out (or even deserve to break out) of its niche and the latter is more tangential to the music I care about. There is, I believe, one non-English-language/non-African record on the list. If I had more access and more time it would not be so lonely. As for other genres, I've never been able to drum up much interest in dancehall and I'm lost with metal that has any degree of purity. Anything else is pretty much off my radar.
Finally, where this list will veer from critical consensus the most will be on the presence of mainstream country (which critics don't take seriously enough) and African music (a personal interest most of my demographic ilk don't share) and the relative lack of the tasteful indie rock that outlets like Pitchfork Media and NPR have helped turn into cultural status items for educated, liberal white people. The way I heard the past decade, semi-obscure songwriters like Amy Rigby, Todd Snider, and Bobby Pinson had a lot more to say about the world than Beck, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, or Radiohead's Thom Yorke.
Those caveats out of the way, here we go. I'll be counting down albums and singles in pairs at the rate of a new post every day or two (25 total) throughout the next month:
I had every intention of creating a completely hilarious blog post juxtaposing scenes from Clanjamfry, a Scottish festival and Gonerfest. But I got caught up in the spirit of things and the only surviving footage is of some guy dancing with a broom:
Gonerfest 6, the annual garage/punk festival put on by the Cooper-Young-based record store/label continues today, first with a day party at the Buccaneer starting at 2 p.m., then with another full slate of bands at the Hi-Tone Cafe tonight starting at 8 p.m.
The headliner tonight is the return of ’90s-era Memphis band the Compulsive Gamblers, featuring Greg Cartwright (Oblivians, Reigning Sound) and Jack Yarber (Oblivians, Tearjerkers). They'll take the Hi-Tone stage at 1 a.m.
But here's a taste of a couple of the more intriguing out-of-town acts scheduled for today:
First, the Shitty Beach Boys, the Austin cover band set to open the day party at 2:45. Here they are going through the motions of "Surfin' USA":
To celebrate, I believe a list is called for. Top 40 U2 songs. Go:
Gonerfest 6, the annual garage/punk festival put on by the Cooper-Young-based record store/label kicks off today, first with "opening ceremonies" at the Goner store at 5:30 p.m., then with a full slate of bands at the Hi-Tone Cafe tonight starting at 8 p.m.
The Reatards headline tonight, with rising star Jay Reatard in the original lineup of his infamous teen band. But there are also a couple of the strong contingent of Bay Area bands on the bill. Here's a taste:
The Fresh and Onlys open tonight's Hi-Tone bill at 9 p.m. Here they are in a semi-controlled environment:
So saith Variety: "Jesse Eisenberg will play Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; Justin Timberlake will play Sean Parker, the Napster co-founder who became Facebook's founding president; and Andrew Garfield will play Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who fell out with Zuckerberg over money."
No word yet on who will be playing my current Facebook status: "Writing on Sing All Kinds about the David Fincher/Justin Timberlake Facebook movie."
With Gonerfest kicking off tomorrow, this seemed like the perfect time to check in on the garage-rock world with four fest-connected releases, two on In the Red and two on Goner itself:
"Hole in My Head":
Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has taken quite a razzing for his fist bump of the Dalai Lama. And he probably deserves some of it. But nobody seems to have noticed that the Dalai Lama, after discussing the need to replace fear and violent activity with affection, ended his address by giving Mayor Lowery a fist bump of his own. His Holiness used the classic dap as an example of how a violent action can become an act of affection. It was really kind of beautiful.
"Hello Dalai" may not be the most dignified way to greet a great spiritual leader but the fist bump turned out to be a real winner. Here's the complete unedited video.
As we announced earlier today, the Indie Memphis Film Festival is having a public vote to determine which comedy film will screen outdoors at the Levitt Shell at 10 p.m., Friday, October 9th, following a screening of Elvis Presley's "’68 Comeback" television special. You can vote here.
In order to help in your decision, here are some choice samples from the candidates:
The Big Lebowski — The Dude speaks words of great righteousness:
After more than a decade, free outdoor movies are coming back to the Levitt Shell on Friday, October 9 as part of the 12th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival -- featuring a 20-foot wide screen and sound pumped through the Shell's amazing sound system!
The evening kicks off at 7 pm when Elvis returns to the site of his historic 1954 performance in the Elvis: '68 Special concert film, presented by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., the Levitt Shell and the Memphis Flyer. Then, at 8:45 pm, Memphis Music @ SXSW makes its big-screen debut, featuring the likes of North Mississippi Allstars, Amy LaVere, The Bo-Keys, The Tennessee Boltsmokers and Snowglobe, to name few, during their showcase at the 2008 South By Southwest music festival.
But at 10 pm, the fun really gets funny with a classic comedy experience with a few thousand of your closest friends -- and we need your help if picking the film! One lucky voter will win one (1) Silver Pass to the Indie Memphis Film Festival ($85 value)!
The Big Lebowski
Dazed and Confused
Monty Python and the Holy Grail or
Shaun of the Dead
Check out IndieMemphis.com for full festival info!