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january 2009

1.5.09
For our week-long string of trips to visit various parts of the family over Christmas this year, I decided to use my aging 40 gig iPod as the music source for the car instead of my iPhone. One reason for this is that battery life (and reception, for that matter) on iPhones is for shit in North Carolina for some reason, and I don't have any officially approved car rechargers for the iPhone (the charger for the iPod fits, and it seems to recharge the device fine, but it always gives me a scary warning whenever I plug it in).

The other reason is that right before we left, I went on a real bender of listening to stuff from the 1990s, and the iPhone doesn't even come close to holding even the 4 star or better tracks from that era in my library, whereas my iPod easily holds all the 4 star or better tracks from my entire library with room to spare. It was real joy to have so much music at my fingertips again. I know the day is coming when I'll be carrying an iPhone in my pocket that either has the hard drive capacity to carry my entire music library or that can access my library via the cloud, and when that model is released, you can bet I'll plunk down however much Apple demands of me.


1.6.09
I've given up on finding the no-longer-all-that-new Los Campesinos and Cool Kids records in my local independent record store, and since they are both contenders for my 2008 best-of list, I went ahead and threw them into my Amazon order for my 2009 calendars. I thought about ordering the Titus Andronicus CD as well, but that's about to be reissued by a larger label and I'm hopeful that will show up in the record store in the next couple of weeks. I'm usually a real slacker about posting my end-of-year lists anyway, but I definitely won't be making any final decisions until I've heard these three discs.


1.7.09
Rufus the Baptist, meet Kevin Barnes. I think he just might be the gay messiah you've been waiting for. Better pray for your sins, all you nonbelievers...


1.8.09
If "Lover's Day" was the last song TV on the Radio ever wrote, it would be the perfect way for them to leave us. But I hope that's not actually the case.


1.9.09
My Amazon package with Los Campesinos and the Cool Kids arrived yesterday, and even though I've only listened to it all the way through twice so far, I feel confident telling you that the Cool Kids' The Bake Sale is hands down the best rap/hip hop record of the year. I regret not having this disc in my life sooner.

Los Campesinos, I'm sure your album is just as perfectly charming as your previous releases, but it might be a few days before I get to you.


1.12.09
As much as I like some of the records that I've bought since I fell hard for of Montreal——the Cool Kids, TV on the Radio, the Faint——I just keep coming back to Kevin Barnes' band of misfits. When I finished my initial gorging on the Cool Kids, I had every intention of spending some time with Los Campesinos, but somehow my playlist ended up back on of Montreal and I haven't listened to anything else since.


1.13.09
Not only is there not a lot to write about because of the paucity of releases for the past couple of months, but also because even if I had new releases to consider, I'm not sure they'd get much play because of my current obsession with of Montreal. Are you tired of me talking about them yet?


1.14.09
808s & Heartbreak hasn't completely won me over yet, but it's getting there. I don't think I'll every get into "Live Bonus Track", and I don't know if I'll ever come up with a way to compare this record to Kanye's previous three efforts, but I find myself choosing to spend some time with this record some days, whereas right after I purchased it and heard it for the first time, I purposely stayed away. At any rate, I think my initial prediction was wrong: I'm not going to end up hating it, and I'm not going to end up thinking it's his best record yet.


1.15.09
It's just a small thing (or it would be to most people), espeically because I think I might be the only person in the world who looks at my last.fm list of recently played tracks (which combines data from my various computers and iPods), but for some reason, some song show as having played twice in a row when I know they only played once.


1.16.09
Satanic Panic in the Attic is nowhere near as complex or layered as the of Montreal discs that followed it, but you can see the beginnings of their current style in that record. The bad news for me is that I don't really like their simpler sunny 60s pop sound as much as I do their more recent evolution, so even though they have an extensive back catalog that I don't own, I have a feeling I've gone back about as far as I can without falling solidly into Elephant 6 territory. And while I generally like the Elephant 6 sound and a lot of the other bands that came out of that movement (Beulah, Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel), that's not the sound I want to hear from of Montreal.


1.20.09
I've finally given Los Campesinos' We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed some serious attention, and it's as good as expected. "Between An Erupting Earth And An Exploding Sky" is a little pointless, but it's the first bit of instrumental wankery the band has made fans put up with in its short career, so it's forgivable.


1.21.09
of Montreal is pretty much all I'm listening to and thinking about these days, so prepare for a steady stream of minor observations until something else catches my fancy. Here's what you get today:

There was a point when I had only rated one of Montreal song as a five-star track out of their last three albums. This has grown considerably to sixteen songs now, and there are still a few four-stars on the bubble that could be upgraded.


1.22.09
Some bands are great as closing tracks. The Cure and the Hold Steady leap immediately to mind, but I know I could come up with a bunch more if I put my mind to it. But of Montreal is not one of those bands. Their closing tracks, while sometimes great songs in and of themselves, are not great closing tracks; they usually sound like they belong in the middle of the album, which is perhaps why it's so easy to throw all their albums into a big shuffle mix. Their closing songs are lacking that feeling of punctuation, of summary, of conclusion, that make great closing tracks great.

The one exception to this is the final track on the Icons, Abstract Thee EP, which is somewhat ironically titled "No Conclusion". Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it could belong to either the album that preceded it, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, or the one that followed it, Skeletal Lamping; it's really several smaller songs blended together Fiery Furnaces style, but it ends with a long passage where the lyrics

And I never ever wanted to write this song
I always thought things would change somehow
And we would start getting along
But it's hopeless

are repeated over increasingly prominent strings and tinkling keyboards until the vocals drop off and leave us with nearly two minutes of a repeated instrumental passage. And when the track fades to silence, you know the record is over, and you know what it was all about, and you feel that sense of conclusion that a great closing track should give you.

Sadly, this song always makes me think of my sister Tori, especially that closing passage. I used to feel closer to her than anyone else in my family, but she's made some bad choices and we've had a series of falling outs, and now, well...it feels pretty hopeless.



1.23.09
of Montreal's last three records——The Sunlandic Twins, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, and Skeletal Lamping——along with the companion EP from Hissing Fauna, Icons, Abstract Thee, are pretty much perfect, with these exceptions:

  1. "Wraith Pinned To The Mist (And Other Games)" is all but unlistenable after its prominent and continued use in an ad campaign for Outback Steakhouse.

  2. "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" is about five minutes too long. But I can't tell you which five minutes I would cut.

  3. I'm generally not on board with the whole bashing-Kevin-Barnes-for-emulating-Prince on Skeletal Lamping, because, you know, if anyone this decade can pull off a sincere update of Prince's over-the-top sexuality, it's Kevin Barnes. But "St. Exquisite's Confessions" and "Id Engager" maybe could have been toned down a little bit.


1.26.09
I'm not a big fan of remix albums/EPs, but I'm a huge fan of Jon Brion and of Montreal, so I was excited to discover the Jon Brion Remix EP for Skeletal Lamping. I was less excited to discover that it was only five tracks long with remixes of just two songs, one of which was an instrumental. I couldn't convince myself to buy the whole thing after listening to the 30-second sample clips, but I did buy (and highly recommend if you're a fan) the "First Time High (Of Chicago Acoustic Version)", an acoustic take on "An Eluardian Instance".


1.27.09
Thanks to of Montreal (and Wikipedia), I now know both what the Koster Islands are and what a K-hole is.


1.28.09
There are now twenty of Montreal songs I've rated at five stars in my iTunes collection, up from sixteen last week. And that's not included the only new song I've added to my collection in that time, the Jon Brion remix of "An Eluardian Instance".


1.29.09
I always liked this part in of Montreal's "An Eluardian Instance":

I remember riding bikes on Koster Island
Plotting midnight raids
On the Swedish plum trees
That summer
It was too cold to swim
So
We climbed upon the rocky shore and freaked out on
The mountain goats
But they were not impressed or scared of us

But now it's become one of my favorite lyrical passages, thanks in no small part to its prominence in Jon Brion's acoustic remix of the song. I'd would dearly love to see him produce a record for them, but I think Kevin Barnes is probably past the point of working with other producers at this point.



1.30.09
I keep reading on various of Montreal-related discussion boards that Kevin Barnes wants the "of" in the band name to always be lowercase, and that's the case they use on the band web site and the record company web site. But I can't just start doing that now; I'd have to go back and change every entry I've ever written about the band. And maybe I'll do that at some point, but now today.

However, if you are discovering this entry years from now and see that of Montreal now has a lowercase "of", then you'll know that I eventually broke down and edited all of my past entries to use the band's preferred capitalization (although to be honest, even though I usually prefer lowercase letters to uppercase, here the capital "O" actually looks better to me).