Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from August, 2019

100 Albums: "Stankonia" by OutKast

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

Artist: OutKast
Title:Stankonia
Released: 2000
Genre: southern hip-hop


Born out of the Dungeon Family collective in the early 90s, OutKast was the group that broke the "Dirty South" sound into the mainstream. They paved the way for acts like Ludacris and T.I. and emerged at a time when the rap community was focused on a rivalry between the East and West coasts. The duo's sound was a blend of Antwan "Big Boi" Patton's more traditional MC style and André "André 3000" Benjamin's observational lyrics and funk-rock instrumentation.

Stankonia marked a stylistic change for the duo. It's more up-tempo and driving than previous records. The lead single B.O.B. (embedded above) is a six-minute anthem that runs at a break-neck pace with touches of techno, funk, and even a church choir. The album spawned additional singles in So Fresh, So Clean and Ms. Jackson. In the 90…

100 Albums: "Warp And Weft" by Laura Veirs

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

Artist: Laura Veirs
Title:Warp And Weft
Released: 2013
Genre: singer/songwriter alt-folk


This album came onto my radar by way of the Next Music podcast, which is where I discover a lot of new music, frankly. I'd heard of Veirs before--she'd been recommended by Vienna Teng on social media--but hadn't gotten around to actually listening. When I heard That Alice (embedded above), I knew I needed to hear more. That Alice, it should be noted, is not particularly representative of the record. It's an up-tempo rock number in the middle of a very low-key album. The opener, Sun Song, does a better job of setting the right tone.

Veirs' work here feels very restrained. Her vocal melodies are bright but she never belts. The guitars always feel very controlled, whether it's the gentle arpeggios of Ten Bridges or the electric thrum of America. She describes her lyrics as personal without bein…

100 Albums: "Gone In 60 Seconds: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

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

Artist: Various
Title:Gone In 60 Seconds original motion picture soundtrack
Released: 2000
Genre: tunes for cruisin'


Summer 2000 saw the release of the Nic Cage vehicle (ahem) Gone In 60 Seconds, a goofy, okay-enough-I-guess action flick about professional car thieves that featured what we used to think of as impressive stunt driving before The Fast And The Furious came out a year later. I remember enjoying it well enough for a vapid summer blockbuster, and I remember that the biggest takeaway I had leaving the theater was that I very much wanted to own the accompanying soundtrack, and that is a decision I have never regretted. It was a blend of rock, EDM, and rap that was the perfect album to listen to in the car. Who knew?

The lead track and only single is The Cult's Painted On My Heart, a slow rock 90s power ballad in the vein of Our Lady Peace or Fuel. It's a solid starter, but for my m…

100 Albums: "Violent Femmes" by Violent Femmes

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

Artist: Violent Femmes
Title:Violent Femmes
Released: 1983
Genre: alternative acoustic teen angst


Violent Femmes' debut album was written by lead singer Gordon Gano while he was still in high school. The songs are goofy and sometimes childish, but they have a heart-on-sleeve earnestness that I find compelling. It didn't chart at all when it came out, but eventually went platinum in 1991 when several of its tracks found their way into radio rotation in the growing alternative movement. Gano's high, whiny voice and the stripped down arrangements--most of the songs are entirely played on acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and a snare drum with brushes--give it a distinctive and instantly-recognizable aesthetic.

It has all of the Femmes' most popular songs, including the iconic Blister In The Sun. The intro to that song is one of the first four or five things a guitar player learns when pickin…

100 Albums: "Thirteenth Step" by A Perfect Circle

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

Artist: A Perfect Circle
Title:Thirteenth Step
Released: 2003
Genre: alt-metal


During a hiatus from Tool, singer Maynard James Keenan got involved with a side project being orchestrated by his roommate, guitar-tech Billy Howerdel. Howerdel's instrumental demo tape was richly textured (what would you expect from an album composed by a guitar tech) but still missing something, so Keenan and some other friends--including drummers Josh Freese and Tim Alexander, bassist Paz Lenchantin, and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen--to put together an album. The result was 2000's Mer De Noms, a radio-friendlier version of the kind of art-metal Keenan was otherwise associated with. It spawned a few successful singles, but when Tool released their masterpiece Lateralus in 2001, we assumed that APC had been a one-off. But we were wrong. In 2003, APC put out a follow-up that felt less like a side-project and more like …

100 Albums: "Bargainville" by Moxy Früvous

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

Artist: Moxy Früvous
Title:Bargainville
Released: 1993
Genre: folk-pop


It's the kind of project that can only be created by bored college kids: a not-quite-a-cappella satirical band who sing about progressive politics, ecology, Spiderman, running a video store, and everything in between. The band formed in 1989 in Toronto and named themselves with a nonsense phrase that was difficult to remember, impossible to spell, and adorned with a heavy-metal umlaut. Bargainville is a charming goofball of a record in the vein of They Might Be Giants--although a bit more straightforward than TMBG.

The highlight is definitely King Of Spain in which a prince-and-pauper story ends up with the literal king of Spain becoming a pizza chef in Canada. The Drinking Song was the lullaby I sang to my kids for years and is one of my absolute favorite songs ever. River Valley is an excellent opener that sets the tone perfec…

100 Albums: "In Absentia" by Porcupine Tree

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

Artist: Porcupine Tree
Title:In Absentia
Released: 2002
Genre: prog-rock


Once upon a time, a friend handed me a burned copy of this CD, saying "You like Tool, right? Check this out." That was my introduction to British prog-rockers Porcupine Tree. While the comparisons to Tool are fair, PT is a little poppier and a great deal more mellow. I went with Trains for the embed because it captures a little bit of both worlds of what I like about this album. It's got a little of the precision math-rock chicanery, but a little of that smooth atmospheric low-key vibe as well, despite its brisk tempo.

The hardest-rockers are this album are probably the single Strip The Soul and the mid-album instrumental Wedding Nails, and they're also my least favorite songs (not bad songs, but my least favorite). The best songs are Trains, Collapse The Light Into Earth, Blackest Eyes (as solid an opener as any…

100 Albums: "Yes, Virginia..." by The Dresden Dolls

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

Artist: The Dresden Dolls
Title:Yes, Virginia...
Released: 2006
Genre: Brechtian punk cabaret



Before Amanda Palmer was Amanda-Fuckin'-Palmer, she was the pianist and frontwoman for a bizarre dark cabaret duo who wore white grease paint and bowler hats on stage and gained momentum in the early aughts. They put on energetic shows (I've seen them three times, and they're just incredible live) and sing about back-alley abortions, transitioning, evolution, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and even Holocaust deniers. Their music was dark and yet hopeful, bright and poppy despite the oftentimes cynical subject matter.

Yes, Virginia... is the quintessential The Dresden Dolls record. It has seat-of-your-pants rockers like Necessary Evil, jarring stagger-stop piano in Sex Changes, heartbreaking pathos in Delilah, and unrelenting optimism in Sing. Although, optimism in a very Dresden Dolls mould: "you …

Sale: "Autoimmune" (And Related Updates)

Hey everybody!

DreamForge Magazine have purchased my story Autoimmune for an upcoming issue. They are a print and online magazine, and it's likely the story will be paywalled to anyone without a subscription. This is one of my favorite of my own stories, as well as being the second-longest one I've sold, so I'm very excited to be able to make this announcement. I don't know when it's going to be running, but expect me to post more details when they are available.

Because I'm nothing if not a ferocious braggart!

In other news about things I don't know, I also don't know when Carpools & Coworkers is going to run at Daily Science Fiction, other than "soonish." However, A Punk Rock Future (with my story Wailsong) has been sent out to Kickstarter backers, so a number of people (myself included) already have their copies. Print and ebook copies are available for pre-order on Amazon and should be out in early October.

]{p

100 Albums: "Rockin' The Suburbs" by Ben Folds

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

Artist: Ben Folds
Title:Rockin' The Suburbs
Released: 2001
Genre: piano-driven alternative jazz-rock with jokes


Ben Folds is one of my favorite artists. I've seen him in concert I want to say six times now and will be seeing him again in February. Every show is a little bit different--I've seen him do a 5-piece rock production, a stripped down 3-piece, an 8-piece jazz ensemble, once accompanied by an orchestra, and twice solo with a piano--the most recent of those shows without even a complete set-list. The last half of that show was requests delivered via paper airplane. He's a brilliant musician and unapologetically silly. After his band Ben Folds Five split in 2000, he started work on a solo project that would become Rockin' The Suburbs. It's a weird hodgepodge of a record, although all of it sounds unquestionably like it was written by Ben Folds. The arrangements are... unor…