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Showing posts from September, 2019

100 Albums: "Cowboy Bebop Blue" by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts

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

Artist: Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts
Title:Cowboy Bebop Blue
Released: 1999
Genre: various, but mostly jazz and rock fusion


Cowboy Bebop was a sci-fi-meets-spaghetti-Western anime that ran for twenty-six episodes from 1998 to 1999 in Japan. It was localized to America in 2001 as part of Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block on Sunday evenings, and it helped popularize that programming block, as well as being an introduction to the more mature version of the art form to Western audiences. For a more thorough tribute to the show and its influences, I recommend Beyond Ghibli's video essay A Fistful Of Woolongs. The key part of the show was the score, written by Yoko Kanno to evoke jazz, funk, and rock. Blue is the third full-length soundtrack album released for the series.

The highlight of the album is Mushroom Hunting, a delightful little jazz number arranged like a dance track. In terms o…

100 Albums: "Thing-A-Week Two" by Jonathan Coulton

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

Artist: Jonathan Coulton
Title:Thing-A-Week Two
Released: 2006 (sort of)
Genre: indie comedy geek-folk



Jonathan Coulton is an indie folk rocker from New York who works very much in the spirit of (and has, in fact, toured with) They Might Be Giants. He's probably best known for contributing the song Still Alive to the monstrously successful PC game Portal, but before that he spent a year from September 2005 to 2006 building a catalog and a following by releasing a new song every week. The project, which was subtly titled Thing A Week, was an attempt to push himself creatively and prove to himself that he could produce content on a deadline. Unsurprisingly, it starts out rough and it kind of peters out towards the end, but in the middle there is all kinds of amazing music.

Thing-A-Week Two is the second installment of that project, released one song at a time in the winter of 2005 and 2006 and then co…

100 Albums: "Hotel California" by The Eagles

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

Artist: The Eagles
Title:Hotel California
Released: 1976
Genre: Southern rock




Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is a scathing allegorical political satire of 18th Century Europe, but it remains a beloved story that has been adapted multiple times to the screen because even though most people don't pick up on the underlying meaning, it tells a compelling adventure story. This is basically what's going on with Hotel California. Written at a time when the band was trying to move away from their country rock origins. They lost founding member Bernie Leadon and replaced him with slide guitar virtuoso Joe Walsh. Lyrically, the album is a collection of singer Don Henley's musings about materialism, consumerism, and drugs. But he spins a great yarn with it.

The title track, famous for its extended guitar coda and its apparent depiction of what appears to be a literal hotel that you can litera…

Stray Thoughts: You Seem A Decent Fellow, I Hate To Remake You

So the other day Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures, made an off-hand comment in a Variety profile of Norman Lear, saying that people--you know, famous people--have been talking about maybe sorta remaking The Princess Bride. The internet promptly exploded, and everyone from leading-man Cary Elwes to sapient-bag-of-fetid-waste-wearing-a-skin-suit Ted Cruz voiced their outrage on Twitter. It's abundantly clear that no one in the world outside Sony Pictures wants this remake to happen, and that can only mean one thing.

It's definitely going to happen.

Some background. People grouse endlessly about the lack of original ideas in Hollywood, and how everything is a remake, a sequel, a prequel, a spin-off, or tied to a pre-existing franchise. We get the occasional Inception, but mostly these days we get superhero movies and live-action remakes of the Disney cartoons we loved in the 90s. And yeah, this is true, and there's a very good reason for this.

Movies, you see, are incre…

100 Albums: "Everybody Got Their Something" by Nikka Costa

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

Artist: Nikka Costa
Title:Everybody Got Their Something
Released: 2001
Genre: soul pop


Japanese-born Australian-American Domenica "Nikka" Costa started recording at age five. At nine, she performed on the White House lawn. Her father was a record producer, so she basically grew up around musicians. She achieved some success in Europe as a child star and then moved to Australia in the 90s to get married and form a handful of funk projects before going back to releasing albums under her own name.

Everybody Got Their Something is Costa's US debut and the most successful album of her career, mostly on the strength of the lead single and opening track Like A Feather, which was featured prominently in Tommy Hilfiger ads and found its way into MTV rotation. And... it's pretty great song. The title track showed up in Muzak mixes, usually in the afternoons when the songs were a bit dancier. Tho…

"Writing Lots!" by Dawn Vogel

Hi, I'm Dawn, and I'm doing guest post here on Kurt's blog. I write fantasy, steampunk, YA, and pretty much anything else that looks shiny for a moment. You can learn more about me here! Today, I'm talking about how I write as much as I do.

I've been writing since I knew how to do so, but I've been writing with an eye toward publication for about eleven years. As I've gotten more comfortable with the craft of writing, my productivity has increased dramatically. In the first six years I was writing seriously, I wrote fewer than twenty short stories, all told. Over the next three years, I increased my output and wrote about a dozen stories a year (with an occasional poem mixed in). Last year, I wrote 38 short stories/flash and 6 poems. This year, I've already surpassed that, and it's only September.

In analyzing how I've increased my output so dramatically, I've found three main keys to my prolific writing: 1) planning, 2) stolen moments, and 3)…

100 Albums Supplemental: Anticipointments

So every now and then you have an album you really and truly love from an artist who's really impressed you. You were looking forward to the follow-up so much, and then you get let down hard. You know the feeling. It was the feeling you got after watching Star Wars, Episode I or The Matrix: Reloaded. It's especially pervasive in music because of a phenomenon called the "sophomore slump" in which an artist has spent years on the underground circuit cultivating a playlist and their debut album is essentially a greatest hits of their pre-contract work. Then they go into the studio to record a follow up and what they put together is... Sam's Town.

So here's a list of albums that I was really looking forward to and then hated.

Hospitality - Trouble

Hospitality's eponymous debut is a little indie-pop gem with a fantastic single in Friends Of Friends. They're a little twee, sure, but it was a fun bite-sized nugget of a record and I was anxious to see what the…

100 Albums: "Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?" by of Montreal

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

Artist: of Montreal
Title:Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Released: 2007
Genre: indie glam dance-pop


of Montreal is one of my favorite bands to see live. Every time I've seen them it's just been a giant over-the-top dance party that was as weird as it was fun. The band is primarily the project of singer/composer Kevin Barnes and came out of the mid-90s Athens, Georgia pop scene--keeping in mind that this is the same college town that produced REM and The B-52's over a decade prior (both of whom have already been featured in this list!). of Montreal borrows a lot from psychedelic rock and glam, but their sound is pretty uniquely their own. of Montreal songs don't have chord progressions so much as they have sequences that modulate around. Barnes doesn't so much sing as strut around with lyrics. The music is infectiously danceable but resists sticking in your head. It's anot…

100 Albums: "Missile Toe" by Pspazz

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

Artist: Pspazz
Title:Missile Toe
Released: 1995
Genre: sophomoric christian surf-punk



This one is obscure enough that I can't even find a video for it. You're just going to have to take my word (or listen to some extremely low quality samples here) (or just do the minimal amount of googling required to download the thing for free). The 90s saw a surge in the Christian rock movement spearheaded by dc Talk's Jesus Freak and crossover success from Christian bands like Jars of Clay and Christian-influenced bands like Collective Soul. Riding this wave, a lot of Christian bands were marketed to parents of teens as wholesome alternatives to mainstream rock. Youth pastors would get promo CDs to share and one-sheets of an entire record label's catalog saying "if your teen likes Stone Temple Pilots, you should get them an album from Third Day." In 1995, my youth pastor heard this oddbal…

100 Albums: "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill" by Lauryn Hill

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

Artist: Lauryn Hill
Title:The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Released: 1998
Genre: neo-soul hip-hop r&b reggae


Hill broke in the mainstream as a member of the Fugees, alongside Pras and Wyclef Jean. She was the featured vocalist on the group's most successful hit, a cover of Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly that blended the original soulful melody with hip-hop and reggae influences. After the group rocketed to stardom on the success of their album The Score, they immediately split up to pursue solo projects. Miseducation is Hill's only solo studio album, and is something of a minor masterpiece--a deeply personal record that features commentary on motherhood, race, and culture (while she is dedicated to equality, Hill's personal politics are, not to put to fine a point on it, reactionary). The ostensible main theme of the record is capital-L Love. As was trendy in late 90s hip-hop, the…

100 Albums: "Broken Bells" by Broken Bells

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

Artist: Broken Bells
Title:Broken Bells
Released: 2010
Genre: retro indie alt-funk... or, you know, whatever it is Danger Mouse does


Indie hip-hop producer/Wunderkind Danger Mouse has collaborated with a number of artists in this list. In addition to producing albums like Beck's Modern Guilt or Portugal. The Man's Evil Friends, he's also worked on collab projects like Danger Doom with MF Doom and Gnarls Barkley with Cee-Lo Green. One gets the impression that people just walk up to Danger Mouse and say "Hey, I loved The Gray Album, wanna work on something together?" and he keeps saying yes. Which, if that's the case, good for him! Broken Bells is another one of these projects, this time working with James Mercer of The Shins after the two met at a music festival. The combination is not as flashy as Gnarls Barkley, but Danger Mouse's retro-spaghetti-western sample libraries …