Latest Blog Posts

by Tyler Gould

1 Oct 2009

James McMurtry
Live in Europe
(Lightning Rod)
Releasing: 13 October

McMurtry’s latest is patched together from the finest, hand-picked recordings made on his very first European tour, in early 2009. The performances come from Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Geislingen, Germany, and the album will come with a bonus DVD with video from the Amsterdam set.

01 Bayou Tortue
02 Just Us Kids
03 Hurricane Party
04 You’d a’ Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)
05 Fräulein O.
06 Ruby and Carlos
07 Freeway View
08 Restless

01 Choctaw Bingo
02 You’d a’ Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)
03 Freeway View
04 We Can’t Make It Here
05 Laredo (with Jon Dee Graham)
06 Too Long in the Wasteland

James McMurtry
Bayou Tortue [MP3]

by Faye Rasmussen

1 Oct 2009

In celebration of the September 29 release of Yeah Ghost, Zero 7 has released four videos of live performances of songs off their new album.

The UK band is expected to announce their US tour dates in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the four new songs:

by Ashley Cooper

1 Oct 2009

Zombieland wants to make zombies funny. Other zombie/infected people films have done so, some intentionally (Shaun of the Dead) and others not (Doomsday). It’s a hard feat because the idea of being devoured by a creature is anything but funny, but the fine line is successfully drawn and tip-toed on by Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer.

Inspired to make the film by the aforementioned Shaun of the Dead, Fleischer says that it is America’s turn to laugh at the grunting, moaning and bloodthirsty creatures that scared us so in the landmark film Night of the Living Dead He promises that his zombies are not the slow, mumbling and easily defeated creatures of the original Romero presentation, but more the 2004 Dawn of the Dead version, who can run, sprint, climb, and are strong enough to be formidable foes and also have the ability to solve logical problems, like opening and unlocking doors.

The film takes place in an post-apocalyptic United States, where a super virus is turning most of the population into zombies. A group of uninfected survivors begin to fight back. The movie focuses on the dynamic between two men, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) who is a fear-driven coward, and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a gun-toting lover of killing zombies who is on a quest to find and eat the last Twinkie before it expires. They join up with sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) to seek solace in an old amusement park that they believe to be free of zombies, but with plenty of shooting and maiming to be had along the way.

by Rob Horning

1 Oct 2009

A recent David Brooks column in the New York Times foments about the “erosion in economic values” that he expects to launch the “next culture war.”

A crusade for economic self-restraint would have to rearrange the current alliances and embrace policies like energy taxes and spending cuts that are now deemed politically impossible. But this sort of moral revival is what the country actually needs.

If it sounds familar, it’s because he wrote the same op-ed a year ago. There he wrote:

There are dozens of things that could be done. But the most important is to shift values. Franklin made it prestigious to embrace certain bourgeois virtues. Now it’s socially acceptable to undermine those virtues. It’s considered normal to play the debt game and imagine that decisions made today will have no consequences for the future.

Basically, Brooks is unsatisfied with the much-heralded New Frugality, and he discounts the data that indicates the U.S. savings rate has surged in the past year.

Over the past few months, those debt levels have begun to come down. But that doesn’t mean we’ve re-established standards of personal restraint. We’ve simply shifted from private debt to public debt. By 2019, federal debt will amount to an amazing 83 percent of G.D.P. (before counting the costs of health reform and everything else). By that year, interest payments alone on the federal debt will cost $803 billion.

The logic here seems suspiciously nonsensical. Conflating public and private debt is a subterfuge if you want to rail about personal morality. If there is a connection, as Krugman notes, it’s Reagan’s fault. (He proved, after all, that “deficits don’t matter,” as Dick Cheney put it.) Kevin Drum, channelling Elizabeth Warren, notes that Americans stopped saving when their wages grew stagnant and their bills kept increasing, and banks were deregulated enough to lend recklessly to them.

And as Andrew Leonard argues at Salon, morality has little to do with our tendency to respond to economic incentives:

Americans ran up a lot of debt in the last few decades. There’s no question about that. But one of the most striking developments of the last year has been how Americans have responded to the financial crisis at an individual level. We made a collective decision to start saving and stop spending. Is this because we woke up one morning last fall and suddenly became born-again Calvinists? No, it seems clear that we were responding rationally to economic incentives. The economy crashed, unemployment surged, home prices plummeted, and presto: We all started pinching pennies. Morality, insofar as expressed via our spending habits, is merely a reflection of the economy.

That’s why I’ve generally been skeptical about the new frugality—we’ve been trained by being raised in capitalism to respond to the economic drift and call that morality; the idea that we have a morality that supersedes what is happening in the economy is outdated, which is what I think Brooks is lamenting. He wants morality to drive the economy rather than vice versa, but for that to be the case you have to question the conservative tenet of trusting the market to arbitrate social conflicts. You would need to champion a resistance to economic incentives, a dismantling of the market-made consciousness, a rejection of the idea that there is justice in economic equilibria, of the idea that markets are fair. Religious conservatives can probably make that case and argue for a subjectivity grounded in religion, not the market. Brooks seems to want it both ways, though: He wants to condemn consumer desire as evil but champion the prerogatives of the businesses that have ushered in the consumerist era that have done so much to instigate that consumer desire.

When we respond to incentives, ideologically it seems as though we are being allowed to choose freely. If we are expected to adhere to some higher set of values, often these register as constraints, prohibitions and proscriptions—curtailments of freedom. The problem is that “freedom” has come to be defined in terms of the breadth of consumer choice so that other sorts of inequalities (income inequalities in particular) could be allowed to persist. Not clear how a return to Calvinism can be sold as liberating.

by Eleanore Catolico

1 Oct 2009

Daniel Johnston
Is and Always Was
(Eternal Yip Eye Music / High Wire Music)
Releasing: 6 October

On the precipice of the October 6th release of Daniel Johnston’s newest album, Is and Always Was, we can feel our beloved indie hero’s presence flaring up more and more in mainstream culture. Just the other day I saw “Hi How Are You?” T-shirts stacked to the 9s at my local Urban Outfitters. Apple also seems to be riding the Johnston wave by developing an iPhone game featuring his art and music. Johnston has teamed up with big league music producer Jason Faulkner, who has worked with the likes of Beck, Air, and Paul McCartney. How will the commodification of Johnston’s once-upon-a-time esoterica affect the way we listen to his music now?!

Well, breaking away from lo-fi is a very interesting move by Johnston, since lo-fi is so in vogue as of late. Listening to Is and Always Was’ lead single “Freedom”, you don’t lose any of the music’s swing and romp. Exhale everyone, it still sounds like him! The production values just give the song more depth and a little oomph.

01 Mind Movies
02 Fake Records Of Rock And Roll
03 Queenie The Doggie
04 High Horse
05 Without You
06 I Had Lost My Mind
07 Freedom
08 Tears
09 Is And Always Was
10 Lost In My Infinite Memory
11 Light Of Day

Daniel Johnston
Freedom [MP3]

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