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by Nikki Tranter

21 May 2008

Bright Shiny Morningby James FreyHarperCollinsMay 2008, 501 pages, $26.95

Bright Shiny Morning
by James Frey
HarperCollins
May 2008, 501 pages, $26.95

Funny how Bright Shiny Morning is referred to as James Frey’s first novel, while A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard are referred to as “false memoirs”, as though a genre exists that removes certain books from categories of fiction or non-fiction. Those book aren’t themselves fiction—just fakes, false and full of lies. A Million Little Pieces, the book that inspired a Smoking Gun investigation into its many inaccuracies, still sells, so someone’s reading it even with that new descriptor. Perhaps they’re the same people who read Andrew Morton’s bestsellers? Because, you know, it’s okay to publish lies as fact so long as those lies aren’t about you.

So, Bright Shiny Morning is doing quite well on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble lists. It’s received a handful of really good reviews, including a very positive one from Janet Maslin at the New York Times. And Frey is coming off as the damaged hero trying to make good, and actually kinda succeeding. Frey himself reckons he’s put 2006 behind him, and his new book is his first step towards building the career he should’ve had.

Susan Larson from the Times-Picayune shares her thoughts on accepting Frey as a novelist. She’s harsh, unforgiving about Frey’s earlier deception, but her view on the new novel is ultimately positive. There’s a good NPR interview with Frey up, too. That one opens with the word “fabricator”, but ends on a somewhat positive note as well.

Frey is proving himself quite the resurrectionist. His once-dead career actually looks like it may have a chance. Then again, unless you’ve been found hording child skeletons in your kitchen cupboards, there’s very little you can’t come back from. Especially in the entertainment world.

by Terry Sawyer

21 May 2008

The new Flying Lotus LP will be released on June 10th.  In my reckoning, it couldn’t come soon enough.  For some idea of where he’s coming from musically, here’s the video from one of the best tracks from his Reset EP. 

“Tea Leaf Dancers” provides a compact starting point for what makes Flying Lotus such a great producer and sound sculptor.  Flying Lotus’ sound is very much DJ Screw meets Tricky, with loops that knot in on themselves and a pillowy disorientation that constantly interrupts the forward momentum.  The video doesn’t so much tell a story as it does mirror the sonic mood.  In between sleep and consciousness, breakneck speed and stasis, the video has the effect of producing eye-flickering relaxation.  Okay, that’s probably just a fancy way of saying that it’s like slipping into a k-tunnel.  The unreal color and float-walk transport are narcotic and hypnotic, reproducing the same camera work that captures the light trails in sped up recordings of urban night traffic.  As far as narratives go, sleepwalking to the beach to watch the sunset isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but rendered with such dizzying simplicity and beauty, it doesn’t have to be.

by Rob Horning

21 May 2008

As I was reading Rob Walker’s feature about dead brands—brands abandoned by their owners that firms are now acquiring and trying to reanimate—I was wondering how long it would be before he got into what I think is the most interesting point about them, namely, that the product that goes out under these brands is ultimately superfluous to their value—their “brand equity” seems entirely the product of their advertising and not at all of the original quality of the products. So the names can be purchased and a new product released under those names with no effort to simulate the original. The new Brim coffee probably won’t taste the same as the old Brim but no one will care. As Walker points out, most people won’t remember that it was decaf only. (I didn’t.)

Earle [founder of River West, a zombie-brand clearinghouse] says that this imperfection of memory can be used to enhance whatever new Brim he comes up with. This is “a benefit of dormancy,” he says. The brand equity has value on its own, but it can be grafted onto something newer and, perhaps, more innovative. “Consumers remember the kind of high-level essence of the brand,” he says. “They tend to forget the product specifics.” This, he figures, creates an opening: it gives the reintroduced version “permission” to forget that decaf-only limitation as well and morph into a full line of coffee varieties.

Brand value seems to be a matter of how memorable the jingle is—which points to the conclusion that branding has nearly nothing to do with guaranteeing specific qualities, as sometimes is claimed. If anything, it might remind consumers who to hold responsible if the product disappoints, but as the sale of brands from company to company shows, that now doesn’t really apply either. Brands are a language in the Saussurean sense, a collection of signifiers, with no necessary relation to any signifieds, whose meaning is established through grammar and custom alone—that is how they are used in the moment and what we collectively remember about their previous meanings. And our memory is very faulty.

Walker eventually gets into this through the way brands live on in people’s memory in a different way than the utility of branded products does. The brands connote emotional qualities—the bundles of characteristics of goods that economist Kelvin Lancaster argued (see Krugman’s synopsis here) were more relevant to consumers than specific products. These bundles, as brands, compete in the marketplace, the specific products in their particularity recede from the picture. Best of all for marketers, the connotation of the brand is fairly malleable—more so than, say, the taste of robusto beans. So marketers can bank on the brand’s sheer familiarity as a kind of abstract notion—not famliarity with some particular aspect, just familiarity in general. Brands, then, are like celebrities who are famous for being famous.

by Vijith Assar

21 May 2008

Look, I’m not going to pretend to have the ethnomusicology background necessary to really decode this on its own terms and accurately explain it to you people.  That’s kind of the point, though—quite unexpectedly, Burkina Electric is decidedly outside my comfort zone.

New York percussionist Lukas Ligeti is the son of noted Austrian composer and perennial Kubrick fave György Ligeti.  In 2000, he began working with Maï Lingani, a popular singer from Burkina Faso, by producing her debut album.  A few years later, the pair decided to call it a collaborative project and pad it out into a quartet; the first album with the new format came out in 2006

At first, Rêem Tekré came across as the sort of alien folk tradition that just served to remind me how little I know about music in the grand scheme of things.  Everyone needs a little worldly education every now and again, but eventually I found Ligeti’s incorporation of Western drums and electronics really unsettling.  I’m generally pretty comfortable with both, but here they are entirely inconvenient because they make it impossible to just file the songs under a catch-all term like “World Music” and think myself more educated for the listening.  As it turns out, there are people using those same tools in the parts of the world we generally don’t bother with.  Oops.

I’ll let you define your own philosophical ramifications for this one.  Personally, I just come back to it periodically to see if I’m comfortable yet; no luck so far, but I’m still glad to hear sequenced drums that aren’t accompanied by a filter sweep.

by PopMatters Staff

21 May 2008

The Charlatans
You Cross My Path [MP3]
     

Buy at iTunes Music Store

M83
We Own the Sky (Maps remix) [MP3]
     

Sloan
I’m Not a Kid Anymore [MP3]
     

Amos Lee
Ease Back [MP3]
     

Electric President
Monsters [MP3]
     

The Morning Benders
Boarded Doors [MP3]
     

Crosseyed [MP3]
     

I Love Math
A Good Flying Bird (GBV Cover) [MP3]
     

I Remember When I Loved Her (Zombies Cover) [MP3]
     

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