Since you’re here, chances are you know this already. But in case not: Eric Martin and Phil Caruso from the Neats joined James in the WZBC studios today for an extensive interview. Rick Harte from Ace of Hearts Records joined in, too, for a conversation that lasted almost two full hours and covered highlights from the band’s legendary past, present, and future. A truly historic event, capping off a truly amazing year for Boston rock.

If you missed it, or if (like me) you’re planning on listening to it again, you can download the entire session from James’ radio interviews page.

Atlas Sound – Quick Canal

December 23, 2009

I looked in the dirt/And found wisdom is learnt/Through a costly process/Of success and failure

South China – Washingtons

December 20, 2009

South China are a duo/couple from Portland, Maine. And “Washingtons” is, I believe, their first full-length lp; yet another excellent local release on Peapod Recordings.

With Jerusha Robinson on cello, piano, and vocals and Jeremy Robinson on guitar, accordian, and vocals, South China add sparse but really interesting instrumentation to their folk-rock sound. Though their Myspace page lists quite a few influences that I can definitely hear in their work, another who immediately came to my mind is Julie Doiron — maybe its a bit of the Acadian heritage lingering on in Maine, since many of the songs on this new lp are either about Maine or at least conjure up images of the place.

Including my favorite — the superb “Sun Sets on Washington Ave” — which you can download for free from the Peapod website.

Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo

December 18, 2009

#1 on Resident Advisor’s 2009 list and I find it hard to disagree.

Yeti – Volume 8

December 17, 2009

Just finished reading through Yeti’s Volume 8. A lot of excellent stuff, as always.

Including a great interview with Jim Dickinson, an insightful essay about the lost tapes from the 1981 collaboration between Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, and Johnny Mathis, and a quite interesting short article on synthesizer design by Jessica Rylan. That last piece features my favorite quote: “I spent a long time teaching myself electronics, but eventually I went back to school to get a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering …. It’s helped a lot to learn to analyze things mathematically. Though the most interesting, chaotic stuff that my synthesizers do can’t be explained mathematically. That’s why I know I’m still an artist–I believe in science and magic at the same time.”

The Moritz Von Oswald Trio’s “Vertical Ascent” stands out, in my mind at least, as one of the year’s most interesting albums of electronic music. I suppose my excuse for not writing about it until now (it came out this past summer) is that it’s a complex work that reveals itself only gradually over time. So while it didn’t really jump out at me the first time I listened, it’s been on my playlist pretty regularly now for six months running.

Repetitive percussion plays the key role on all four of the extended tracks on this lp, though the overall feel is much more contemplative than dance-oriented. My favorites here, “Pattern 1” and “Pattern 3,” might best be described as jazz-influenced dub/techno — it almost sounds like early-to-mid-1970s-era Herbie Hancock is lurking there, someplace in the background.

This music is “thought-provoking” in every way. Regardless of whether you’re listening closely, thinking about the compositions themselves, or using the music as background to focus on something else, you’ll come away feeling more enlightened each time.

The American Dream takes place in California, of course. But there’s probably an American Studies PhD thesis to be written, if there hasn’t been one already, that resets the story in New Jersey instead.

After all, long before these days of Intel and Apple, Edison spun out innovations one after another from his research lab in Menlo Park. In a twist of irony, in fact, it was Edison’s zeal for harassing his competitors that drove the motion picture industry out West in the first place, at least according to Jonathan Lethem’s essay on the subject from Greil Marcus and Werner Sollor’s “A New Literary History of America.” (hmm, a high-tech giant behaving anti-competitively — now why does that sound so familiar?) Plus, you’ve got the poetry of Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, and the films of Kevin Smith.

Add Real Estate‘s self-titled lp to that list too. Ten tracks, hazy and romantic, all of which speak in one way or another to the paradise of suburban life on the East Coast: singing the praises of Budweiser and Sprite, rocking the beach, and “sweet Jersey.” Maybe not even the Boss could have put it so well.