Catacombs - Ghost Stories
The Upper Ten/The Lower Five - Ghost Stories
Five years ago, the twisty, eccentric pop of The Shins' Oh, Inverted World dug warrens in my brain, built bunks and took up residence. But the band lost me with Chutes Too Narrow and, based on what I've heard of the forthcoming effort, I'm not finding my way back anytime soon. I know it probably seems like I bear a grudge against second (and beyond) records, and maybe I do. I love the imperfect fits and starts of translating heretofore private poetry, secret songs into the wider world's vernacular (what else was "New Slang" if not that trying trying trying?). Ghost Stories' aptly named Quixoticism has much of World's awkwardly effective hooks and emotional s-curves. One-man bedroom band Ron Lewis veers erratically between melancholy and elation, abject chin-to-the-floor guitar strum and effervescent hands-to-the-sky electronic keys and bells and whistles (literally). I don't usually post two tracks from one album anymore. But the above two--the sad, faltering "Catacombs" tumbling into the sparky beats and starry-eyed synths of "The Upper Ten/The Lower Five"--neatly map in miniature this very good album of bipolar pop.
And hey, have you noticed there seems to be a run on ghost names lately? Simon Reynolds tracks it.Around the World of Web:
In case you weren't following it as closely as I was, the VU acetate auction closed at $155,401 last night.
Everybody's got a list (or will soon). These are a couple of the better, atypical 2006 best-ofs I've seen:
Alex Ross/The Rest Is Noise
Yeti Don't Dance
Sound Opinions message board
For a running, monster list of favorite 2006 music see Largehearted Boy.
And related, The Guardian's music blog calls for the death of best album lists.
Out of 5 (fellow Chicagoans) offers weekly mixes assembled by 10 contributors, one track each. These people seem to know one another, but I'd love to see this idea executed with 10 strangers and no theme.
Oh, speaking of children's books, I'm thrilled to see that Esther Averill's Jenny and the Cat Club series is back in print, courtesy of The New York Review of Books. My grandmother gave me a set when I was about six, and until I came across L. Frank Baum's Oz series in my school library, they were my favorite imaginary world. Averill and I also share an alma mater. There's more about how personally significant these books are, but I'll end with this: Maybe eight years ago when I was thinking about getting a small tattoo on my lower back (I didn't), the only image I ever seriously considered worthy of the physical commitment was the little black cat with the red scarf. If you have children (or children at heart) in your life, these books make great holiday gifts.