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Showing posts from March, 2019

100 Albums: "Hair: The Original Broadway Musical Soundtrack"

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Galt McDermot, Gerome Ragni, and James Rado
Title:Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical
Released: 1968
Genre: rock musical


Every now and then a musical captures the zeitgeist of a generation--at least, the zeitgeist of that generation's starving New York art scene. For the late 60's, that musical was Hair, a ground-breaking succès de scandale that depicted the burgeoning hippie movement in all of its racially-integrated, free-loving, drug-taking, war-protesting glory. It gained notoriety--and is likely best remembered--for its nude scene, but it was a significant cultural phenomenon for its time, running on broadway a full year before the era-defining event that was Woodstock. The soundtrack spawned a number of major radio hits that have been subsequently covered. It helped launch the careers of Meat Loaf, Melba Moore, Diane Keaton, and Tim Curry, amongst others. It tells the stor…

100 Albums: "Touch" by July Talk

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: July Talk
Title:Touch
Released: 2016
Genre: indie alternative swamp-rock



For a few years there, it was just a given that an "indie" band would have both a male and female singer, the most famous probably being either Of Monsters And Men or She & Him. But aside from a few exceptions, the blended male/female typically result in neither vocalist being very memorable or distinct.

July Talk is the exception, co-fronted by Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, who sound kind of like a happier Karen O and an angrier Leonard Cohen, respectively. They sing at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, Fay with an almost keening soprano and Dreimanis with a growly baritone, which means they don't blend so much as form a two-pronged assault. Fittingly, a lot of their vocal lines aren't so much handed off to each other as they are a call-and-response. You can hear that used to great effect on Lo…

100 Albums: "Astro Lounge" by Smash Mouth

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Smash Mouth
Title:Astro Lounge
Released: 1999
Genre: alt-rock surf-pop


Twenty-two records in and this is the third surf-rock album. I may have a type. This is another album that is just plain fun. And yes, All-Star is much maligned, and I suppose that's fair. It's light and fluffy and got seriously overplayed when it came out. But the entire album holds up. I make sure it's on my iPod before any lengthy road trip, because not only is it compulsively listenable, it even sounds good on crappy car speakers with messed up EQs.

It opens with Who's There, a track that gleefully announces what you can expect for the next fifty-odd minutes: vintage-guitar-and-rock-organ dance-pop that's been bedazzled with sci-fi sound effects and theramins. It's not deep, but it's up-tempo and immensely fun. And even if the singles are kind of played out, there are plenty of other great son…

Curious Fictions (And Some Blog Cleanup)

Hey everybody!

I'm going to be doing some housekeeping around here, deleting older posts and what not. Part of that means I'll be taking down the Friday Flash Fiction posts. I anticipate most of them will be given a coat of polish and then moved over to Curious Fictions.

Which, oh, by the way...

I've got a page at Curious Fictions. It's a platform for authors to post their reprints, so I'll be migrating previously published stories over that way. If you are so inclined, you can subscribe to my posts over there.

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100 Albums: "Play" by Moby

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Moby
Title:Play
Released: 1999
Genre: alt-rock but also techno and somehow kind of archival?


Alt-rock and grunge were on the wane in the late 90s, having been displaced by nü-metal, rap-rock, and the boy-band revival. Into that melange, enter Moby, a tiny bald vegan from New York whose song Natural Blues was essentially an EDM-lite remix of a Depression-era Mississippi Delta song by Vera Hall. So when that creeped into radio playlists, my cohort's collective reaction was "Wait, what the hell was that? Play it again!"

Though Play felt like a bolt from the blue, Moby had been working in music for nearly two decades. He'd started in the early 80s playing guitar for a hardcore punk band called the Vatican Commandos and then had a career as a DJ and techno artist through the late 80s and early 90s. In the mid-90s he'd started blending those sensibilities, putting out Everything…

100 Albums: "Puppy Love" by The Kickstand Band

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: The Kickstand Band
Title:Puppy Love
Released: 2012
Genre: garage surf-rock


I got this album as part of a bundle from the now-defunct music curation service Sound Supply. Of the dozens of albums I got from that service, this is the only one that really stands out (I've discovered lots of interesting songs, but this is hands-down the best album). It's light, it's poppy, it's energetic, and while musically it hews to a fairly classic formula, it has a lot of fun within the constraints of said formula. The two singers--it's an early teens indie band, so of course there's one female and one male singer--sound great together, and the playing is tight and lively.

Puppy Love is a mere 24 minutes long--the longest of its ten tracks barely crack two-and-a-half minutes. Still Thinking Of You is one of the of the slower songs. My fave from the album is Purgatory, which gives the afte…

100 Albums: "Tron: Legacy" by Daft Punk

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Daft Punk
Title:Tron: Legacy Original Motion Picture Sountrack
Released: 2010
Genre: orchestral electropop


I've never seen the film, but I love this soundtrack. Neither am I a particularly huge fan of French EDM pioneers Daft Punk. This is simply a situation where the right elements came together to make some incredible. Instead of their normal sample-heavy dance tracks, Daft Punk crafted the music for this from whole cloth, blending their synth sensibilities with an 85-piece orchestra to create something that wasn't quite a movie score and wasn't quite a dance record, but existed somewhere in between. It's great background music. I can put it on while working on something and enjoy it without being too distracted by it. In fact, after Trouble Will Find Me, it's my favorite music to write to.

There is a single motif that runs throughout the album, and it's a great one. A…

100 Albums: "Help!" by The Beatles

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: The Beatles
Title:Help!
Released: 1965
Genre: The frickin' Beatles


I almost went with 1 instead because honestly how the hell do you pick a favorite Beatles album? On a different day of the week I might have said Rubber Soul or Revolver or Sgt. Pepper, but I settled on Help! because it's the absolute best album of their early period when they were the most like a normal band. They still played together as a group and hadn't started getting super experimental yet--which, to be clear, I love their experimental stuff, but there's something to be said for a rock band in a room playing straight-forward rock music. At a certain level, it becomes less about what songs you like on an album and more about which album has the bits that annoy you the least. And for my money, I'd rather hear George Harrison mess around with an expression peddle (I Need You) than with a sitar (Love You T…

100 Albums: "The Electric Lady" by Janelle Monáe

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Janelle Monáe
Title:The Electric Lady
Released: 2013
Genre: afrofuturist R&B


The Electric Lady picks up the tale of Cindi Mayweather, a time-traveling android, hunted in her home city of Metropolis for falling in love with a human. So, Janelle Monáe is a big old sci-fi nerd, is what I'm getting at.

This album was a bit of a slow burn for me. Dance Apocalyptic is just breathtakingly fun, but nothing else on the record is quite as immediately accessible. The songs do get under your skin, though. After a complete listen, I found myself going back to groove on Electric Lady, It's Code, and We Were Rock & Roll. Monáe mostly belts out soul, but Q.U.E.E.N. and Ghetto Woman both feature some blistering raps. But I think my favorite on the album--after Dance Apocalyptic--is Sally Ride, an ode to eponymous astronaut who was the third woman in space, the first American woman in space, and t…