Peripatetic Postcards

Miniature Disasters

When peripatetics get out on the road, all manner of trouble can result: from bags redirected to a different city to a failure to pack enough underwear. A belt goes missing, a tie has to serve as a sash. That's called "making do" and it is one of the peripatetic rules of the road. But there are some things that are less amenable to adjustment--difficulties acclimating to time, weather, food--oh, and people. Feisty, hard to fathom, difficult to suffer, human beings.

In the trips I have detailed over the past five years here on these pages--to cities and thereabouts in South America, Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East--I have encountered all such difficulties. But, you know . . . in the grand scale of things--say compared to a crucifixion, genocide, an atomic bombing--none of these really rise beyond simply irksome and discomfiting; they are all relatively piddling concerns. Nothing more than a "miniature disaster", to coin KT Tunstall's turn of phrase. Surely nothing dire enough to get worked up about, since none ever amount to more than "minor catastrophes".

And with that in mind, with KT's tune swirling around in (and over) my head, here are some of the miniature disasters--real and imagined--that I have bumped up against over the years; this time in pictures, set to song. This batch primarily--though not exclusively--from Paris, Kyoto, Oslo and Sendai--with a little Hiroshima, San Francisco, Vienna, Tokyo, Barcelona, Miyajima, Macau, and Stockholm spritzed around the edges.

Now that you've watched the show, I hope we have succeeded--KT and me--in convincing you that, when on the road, there isn't much more to do than smile through whatever crops up. A disaster--sure, possibly, perhaps--but probably not really. In the largest scheme of things, maybe just a miniature disaster, a minor catastrophe, a maximal inconvenience.

And, if whatever assailed you wasn't enough to make you succumb--if you were able to live to tell about it--then it wasn't a full-blown cataclysm, now was it? Those disasters were minimal enough to enable you to keep on motoring.

. . . Still and all . . . they may just have been good enough to result in a passable slide show one day.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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