It always seems that just as you’re trying to get in some final seasonal fun during the last weekends of summer, the weather turns in sheer mockery of such a plan. Add in a rare earthquake plus a nasty hurricane here on the East Coast in the same week, and you can’t blame me for wanting to call this playlist “Late Summer 2011”. After all, the official start of autumn isn’t until September 23rd this year. With thoughts of calmer skies and more warm days ahead, I offer another compilation of new music to enjoy. From German electro to laid back bands from the Northwest and some new chill wave, recent releases are featured in a streamlined listening session with notes below.
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The team captains may have changed (again) and George Dawes may no longer be giving the scores, but the level of crazy remains the same. Since its first appearance on UK screens in 1993, Shooting Stars has baffled and terrified its many celebrity guests, from an utterly confused Larry Hagman to the remarkably easygoing Curtis Stigers.
Reeves and Mortimer, arguably the most influential double act on the British comedy scene, manage the mayhem in their role as quizmasters. They’re aided and abetted in the current series by legendary curmudgeon Jack Dee and long-suffering Ulrika Jonsson, the only survivor from the original team. Angelos Epithemiou (comedian Dan Skinner) has kept score since Matt Lucas finally left his role as the iconic overgrown baby, George Dawes. Hapless contestants must endure the nonsensical clip round, beckon the Dove From Above and attempt to decipher Reeves’s unintelligible club singer turn.
Each summer, my hometown of Columbus, Ohio holds one of the largest sponsor-free music and arts festivals in the nation: Comfest. One stage that I always try to check out every year is the I Wish You Jazz Stage at the corner of Park street and Goodale Boulevard. Closing out the stage on the night of June 25th was Descendre, a self-described 70’s Film Jazz (???) outfit that has been in existence for only three years. Although they were not my favorite act of the night, they do deserve points for providing more than 42 minutes of free music on their website: “Funky Jam”, “Strangers”, “Suicide Is Painless”, and “Tutu”.
When Bill McGowan decided to take on Ma Bell in 1974, no one quite expected that he’d win except the people who knew him. Among friends and colleagues, McGowan was notoriously determined, wily, and sure that he was right. And so, his decision to fight AT&T’s efforts to keep his company, MCI, from offering long distance service. At the time, AT&T was a monopoly, and its lawyers and chairman, John D. deButts, argued that this was a good thing, a “natural” development also, good for consumers. Without such control, deButts submitted, clients would face a “degradation of service and higher cost.” McGowan made the opposite case, that more choices meant better service, that competition led to better efficiency and lower costs.
His story is mapped out in Sarah Holt’s documentary, Long Distance Warrior, premiering on PBS’ World Channel on 13 September. The film offers a portrait of McGowan by way of his life story—series of episodes illustrated in photos and footage, as well as interviews with relatives (including his widow Sue Gin McGowan), lawyers, and associates. Everyone is impressed by his gumption, ingenuity, and stubbornness: a working class kid who became a self-made millionaire and venture capitalist, he’s described here as “in a sense, the American Dream.” An inveterate salesman who made a lot of money but never seemed to care much about it, except as it seemed a measure of his skills, McGowan is presented here as a regular guy who brought down the corporate bullies at AT&T.
Bad Sports’ three-chord, ever-so-slightly-punky, hook-filled pop recalls late ‘70s British pop-punk with a vengeance and this new tune “Can’t Just Be Friends” evokes the tuneful blast of Northern Ireland’s the Undertones most specifically. And they are even a power trio like Britpop gods, the Jam. But this contemporary band hails from the currently fertile musical hotspot of Denton, Texas, not from across the pond. Bad Sports wowed the crowds at SXSW this year and are headed out on the road this fall for a high energy tour. The band’s latest album is Kings of the Weekend, which came out last month via Dirtnap Records.
// Notes from the Road
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