Thursday, December 16, 2004

Surfin' USA

Rather than actually doing any of the million items on my to-do list last night, I spent a little time trawling some of the MP3 blogs listed at Mangos and Mandolins (see below) in search of music I didn't know I was looking for.

*At M&M itself I found 2 songs by the short-lived but influential Brazilian jazz combo Quarteto Novo. While I enjoyed parts of each, I'm gonna cite these as a case where the blogger's description is more appealing to me than the music itself.

*From Copy, Right?, a bunch of Christmas odds and ends, including … a crazy Luscious Jackson-y version of "Here Comes Santa Claus" (billed as "White Christmas") by a Japanese band called Melt Banana; Sufjan Stevens' lo-fi cover of "O Holy Night" (he's a guy my pal Brian has been talking up); Pond's "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" (possibly the nicest of this particular batch, though no match for Hugo Largo's angelic version); Coldplay's piano-driven cover of the Pretenders' "2000 Miles" (the original of which may be one of the best modern-day Christmas songs since Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for ..."), and Ivy's faux-vintage version of "Christmastime is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

*From Aurgasm, another little morsel to satisfy my recent Sigur Rós cravings. There's actually quite a bit more here at the moment that I want to sample, including tracks by 4Hero, Carlos Vives, Plaid, and a guy called The Gay Pimp. I really like the writing at this site, as well as the range of music explored. Gotta be checking this one out more regularly.

*From Fluxblog (which, disappointingly but not-so-disappointingly, seems to have nothing to do with Fluxus), a couple of items that, once again, sounded more interesting in words than I actually found them when I heard them: an incomprehsible Kenny Loggins cover/ripoff by a dancehall band called Elephant Man and a new song by The Kills (whose singer, praised by the blogger, sounds just like P. J. Harvey to me). I should probably head back there soon, because there are several Christmas novelties I'd like to check out (including a parody of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" replacing the various "gold rings" and "lords a-leaping" with advertising soundbites).

FYI, if you want to hear any of the above in the places I've mentioned, you'll need to visit the sites immediately, since they'll all be gone within a few days. Sort of like a Brigadoon of MP3s.

*My last stop of the night was the amazing UbuWeb, which is not a fan-run MP3 site but an online archive of poetry and sound-art from throughout the 20th century, maintained by folks just down the street from me at SUNY Buffalo. I've been on a spoken-word kick in the car lately--I'm in the middle of a 2-disc Howard Zinn lecture, which is only so-so, and the 3-disc Daily Show audio version of America: The Book, which is so smart and funny that I totally understand why the book is so phenomenally popular--so at UbuWeb I picked up clips of Frank O'Hara, Ed Sanders, and Patti Smith. The first two items were historically fascinating, but the Patti performance was easily the most wondrous find of the evening. "The Histories of the Universe" was recorded in 1975, back when she was mainly a poet, and her ongoing project of the day was a rambling spoken/sung composition called "Seven Ways of Going." Now that she's sort of evolved into the elder statesman of punk (while remaining incredibly vital; her live shows these days are beyond compare), it's easy to forget that she was once a giggly but amazingly savvy performer on the East Village poetry scene. Listening to this live recording, you can imagine yourself in the audience of St. Mark's Church in the mid70s, stumbling upon a skinny young woman who is part standup comic, part scholar, part beat poet, part space case, and god knows what else.

And so: my apologies to everyone to whom I owe a holiday card, a press release, an article, or anything else. Sometimes a fella's gotta do what a fella's gotta do.

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