76 posts from December 2006
I mentioned previously that two artists have been in my top 10 records three years in a row – Josh Rouse and M. Ward. These two artists are operating at a creative level that few artists obtain. They are putting out great record after great record, year after year.
M. Ward makes my favorite kind of music; inspired, unique, intense, beautiful, guitar driven folk rock. He plays guitar with the best of them and he can play any style and does it brilliantly.
This record, called Post-War, is for some a let down after the masterful Transfiguration of Vincent and Transistor Radio. But I was not let down in the least. Post-War is what it is, a treatise on life in a world gone wrong. From the title track:
I know when everything feels wrong
I got some hard hard proof in this song
It moves from melancholy to upbeat and back again for twelve wonderful songs, each one perfectly timed.
The song that makes the record for me is Requiem, an obituary for a man who “was a good man and now he’s gone”. The guitar solo in the middle of the song is classic M. Ward.
The whole record can be summed up by this line in the song Rollercoaster:
Rollercoaster, it was the best of times
Rollercoaster, it was the worst of times too
Because you lift me up so high
It’s the most unbelievable ride
And so it is. You should give it a try.
It is an amazing city. I couldn’t stop thinking about how they built the city. How did they get all those foundations built underwater?
And when you ride up and down the Grand Canal, you can’t help but think of the life the merchants of Venice lived in the glory years. Everywhere you can see the signs of the influences from India and the east. It’s such a cool city.
But it’s also pretty much a dead city. At least in the winter. There’s nobody there. We’d often walk back through the city streets after dinner and barely pass anyone. I suppose that’s a lot better than what happens in the peak tourist time in mid summer. But it makes you realize that Venice is mostly a tourist destination today. Not much else happens there.
Cruising around town on the water bus, Venice’s version of the subway. I love public transportation and we got a day pass and took the water bus everywhere. You can walk anywhere you want, but the water bus has the views, and they are spectacular.
Dinner last night at Al Gondolieri, across from the Peggy Gughenhiem Collection. Wonderful vibe, great food, and very friendly. The owner had a photo of Union Square in New York City that could easily have been taken from the roof of our building at 915 Broadway.
The Palazzo Grassi Museum and Ca' Rezzonico, two great Venice homes turned into museums across the Grand Canal from each other. Ca Rezzonico is all about Venice in the 18th Century, both its art and its décor. The Grassi is all about modern art. This basketball hoop by David Hammonds with its chandelier style decoration is hanging in the Grassi right now. It reminds me of the chandeliers we saw being made on Murano Island, the home of Venetian Glass. And it sort of sums up the Venice of 2006 for me, wonderfully beautiful and magical but not used in the real world.
The Gotham Gal's mom got the kids a Garmin eTrex as a hanukkah gift. She figured they'd love the GPS/map combo for our trip to Italy. It was a great gift.
Jessica figured out how to use it and we've found it handy at times, but it could be so much better.
As it stands now, the eTrex is useful but not the killer app.
Probably my favorite band that is still at the top of their game (rules out Rolling Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, etc) is The Flaming Lips. They put out a new record this year called At War With The Mystics. I listened a bunch, liked it, but did not think it was at the level of The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi.
Until I saw them live twice in the span of one week, first with Gotham Gal and friends at ACL, and then with Jackson at Hammerstein. It was at the second show, with Jackson, that the brilliance of three songs in the middle of the record hit me; The Sound of Failure, My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion, and Vein of Stars.
After those shows I put At War With The Mystics back into heavy rotation and its been there ever since. I love this record.
My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion is a classic Flaming Lips song, up there with Do You Realize?, Waiting For A Superman, and Turn It On.
If you are a Lips fan and haven't gotten into At War With The Mystics, give it another chance. It grows and grows on you.
In my family, the artist that fits that bill today is Belle and Sebastian. Everyone loves Belle and Sebastian.
They put out a terrific record this year, called The Life Pursuit. It's full of that wonderful Belle and Sebastain sound, but its a bit more up tempo than their usual efforts. And that's a good thing.
I'll post a couple tracks from this record later (having Internet issues in Venice).
then Plaza San Marco is infested.
But I like pigeons as long as they don't mess with me.
We took a stroll through town to visit the Peggy Gugenheim Collection and the Palazzo Grassi.
We loved both of them but the Palazzo Grassi was a bit more fun for the kids. The Jeff Koons stuff was fantastic.
Josh Rouse is the more accessible of the two. He sings wonderful songs that are catchy and easy to sing along with. This record, called Subtitlo, is right up there with Nashville and 1972. And that is saying something.
The wonderful Summertime is the highlight of the record, but the whole record flows like a lazy summer afternoon.
If you haven't heard Josh Rouse, you really need to check him out.