Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is pop doomed to be the sound of a regional party?

Catherine, Tommy, and Yglesias complain that Pitchfork's year-end best-of leaves them high and dry. Oldsters!

I didn't quite realize until I read over p-fork's 50, but for the nu prog enthusiast, it's been an amazing year. I loved releases by The Knife, Mastodon (Mastodon!), Man Man, Destroyer (Destroyer!), Brightblack Morning Light, and Boris (Boris!). The Sunn O))) + Boris collaboration featured Kim Thayil, and therefore it is unimpeachable. I was also pleased with Joanna Newsom and TV on the Radio. I didn't spend too much time on the Grizzly Bear, Xiu Xiu, or Fiery Furnaces releases, in part because I had so many other topical entrees to sample. Some comets complete a tour around the sun in the time it takes Scott Walker to release an album, so The Drift alone makes 2006 a banner year.

So, not so strong on the pop front. Yet I don't think it was so grim as the gang's making it out to be. No whisper campaign–generating groups like Arcade Fire or Wolf Parade broke out, but pop mainstays like Cat Power, Rainer Maria, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs put out good discs. I kept expecting my friends to rally around both Lupe Fiasco and Be Your Own Pet; either my assessment of their tastes is off or some economic failure prevented BYOP from popping up on area radars. And how did everyone forget that great Final Fantasy record?

Matt thinks Pitchfork's to blame for burying pop; Tom cites a breakdown in the U.S./Canadian import–export dynamic; Catherine thinks she hasn't looked around hard enough. Ryan just really hates the Hold Steady. (Man, me too.) I'm sure dance rock will regain its footing (snicker), but for the moment it seems that popular rock musicians are fairly intent on writing songs as long as their beards. Exit polls among critics suggested that sectarian violence on the dance floor and dismal American Idol turnout also played a part in pop's poor showing.

Look on the brightside—at least you're not the jerk who agrees with Pitchfork.

MORE: Oh yeah, Clipse. Damn it all if Hell Hath No Fury isn't as good as everyone says—the best hip-hop album since Enter the 36 Chambers. "Ain't Cha" (featuring the Re-Up Gang) is required listening for fans of The Wire. Unsurprising—or perhaps a minimum bar for quality?—that a record about selling crack should appeal to fans of television dramas about selling crack. Crackheads probably just go nuts over these guys.

EVEN MORE: What about the Native Americana mini-meme (exhibits A, B, C)?

Some bris with your bread and wine

Wait for it, oh, wait for it—yeah, that's a joke about the Second Coming in an article about the stolen foreskin of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Airport enabled

Dulles is so goddamned gorgeous—of course it winds up squirreled away in Herndon, Virginia. I don't love going out to that airport by any means, and the interior is difficult to navigate and ugly to boot. If by some combination of mishaps and misfortunes, though, you come to arrive on time but miss your flight, it's the best airport for a stroll.

I love Eero Saarinen's designs: the Gateway Arch is a great symbol for America and for freedom. Susan and I drove through St. Louis once, and she double-taked when I declared my love for the place, since we hadn't even stoped. I have great feelings about that place: Any city that erects optimistic, minimalist sculpture on that monumental scale is okay with me.

Now, I don't know about those space-y lounge cars Saarinen included with the original Dulles design—downing a martini on the shuttle doesn't sound like the way to kill the time between terminals. I don't even think most people here have found the wifi network. Airports, indicators of the newfangled, seem to be getting less futuristic as time goes on.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Laura Gainey, a high-school friend, was swept off the deck of the Picton Castle, a barque on which she served as a lead seaman, when the ship was traveling through stormy weather. Though her death is tragic, she was able to seek and find the adventure she craved in life. Few seek and fewer still find the rich life she led.

O, think how, to his latest day,
When death just hovering claimed his prey,
With Palinure’s unaltered mood,
Firm at his dangerous post he stood;
Each call for needful rest repelled,
With dying hand the rudder held,
Till in his fall, with fateful sway,
The steerage of the realm gave way.

—Walter Scott

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have designs on you

The flight home for winter hibernation involves a degree of preparation that's altogether absent from my gift planning for the season. All week I've been slowing my metabolism to ready myself. The work outputs drop off; the inputs increase in scope and ambition, as I print out a diet of papers: a comprehensive survey of art theft incidence, economic explanations for the avant garde, some sources on japonisme. I've packed an 800-page, Dickensian mystery novel, and some slides by some sculptors I've been meaning to consider. I relish the winter privation.

Most of the year—or all year, most years—I complain about my parents' home near Dallas. It borders the city, but it's closer in spirit (and damn near in proximity) to an expanse of east Texas that is just about the loneliest place on Earth. It's a lunar plain, bigger than many states, crisscrossed by blue highways and farm roads that connect a constellation of towns and townships with names like Athens, Carthage, and Naples. Paris, Texas is situated here. As if these East Texas towns could just aspire so hard, they could bridge that gulf between themselves and the world's capitals, or maybe just between the local economy and that of the oil-rich west. It's not without its relics and monuments: county football stadia, derelict derricks standing like stelae. There's room in Texas for a certain kind of romantic. Don't know why, however, anyone would name a town in Texas Palestine.

There damn sure isn't anything to do where the Urban Coyote's going, so I'll be reading, sleeping, and writing.

Hibernation culminates in transformation: I hungrily welcome the new year. This one that's nearly done has been a hard year, though it didn't pass without its burning-bright moments. I don't want to linger on it any more than to say that, and sure, I know that nothing really changes with the calendar. But it's good enough for an arbitrary bookend, and I find that comforting. New year, new aspect.


I don't ever get tired of opening envelopes that are addressed to titles such as "The House That Blogging Built." Especially when they contain holiday cards, not bills! Thanks, friends.

The Shape of Posts To Come

No one's reading this one any more, right? Right. I might diddle here for a while, since the other site is down for reasons I can't understand.