Music

Various Artists: Fields and Streams

Adrien Begrand

Various Artists

Fields and Streams

Label: Kill Rock Stars
US Release Date: 2002-05-07
UK Release Date: 2002-05-20
Amazon
iTunes

Fields and Streams, the newest compilation album from Olympia, Washington's Kill Rock Stars label, is overwhelming: New tracks by 45 indie artists, about two and a half hours' worth of music to listen to. Combining a few well-known indie artists, a few lesser knowns, and lots of virtually unknown bands, this double-CD collection is an excellent sample of some of the best that indie rock has to offer right now. Typically, Kill Rock Stars favors the women-fronted bands, as 37 of the 45 tracks have female singers.

Where to begin? How about with the more well known artists? One of the best songs on this huge CD is "Modern Things", a brand new song by Hot Band of the Moment, New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Vocalist Karen O swaggers in with her super-sultry rock goddess persona, as she sings "Try me out / For what I'm all about / And we can make some noise / Not like the other boys" while the other two-thirds of this bass-less band shifts the song into overdrive. Another great NYC band, the Mooney Suzuki, contribute a killer track in the form of "All the Evils of This World", yet another searing combination of garage and '60s funk; it's such a good song that it easily matches anything on their excellent recent Electric Sweat album. San Francisco's wonderful the Aislers Set contribute "Through the Swells", a continuation of their trademark breezy, lo-fi Wall of Sound music with soft vocal harmonies with piano and trumpet accents. Former Geraldine Fibber Carla Bozulich is her typically witty self on the singsong "Blue Boys". Riot Grrrl pioneers Mecca Normal are back with "Blame the Glass Man", a song that will please some and annoy many, depending on your tolerance of Jean Smith's vocal stylings. Mary Timony's "Tiger in the Forest" has the former Helium frontwoman continuing her foray into the more esoteric, with a more piano/mellotron and electronic influence (think Fiona Apple singing about fairies). But again, for what seems like the kazillionth time, alt-country goddess Neko Case steals yet another compilation, this time with her astounding cover of "Knock Loud" (originally by Vancouver indie musician-slash-veejay-slash-renaissance woman Sook Yin-Lee), a song previously found on Case's own covers album Canadian Amp.

The rest of Fields and Streams is a pleasure to hear. You discover a new favorite song with each listen. One day it could be Manda & the Marbles' early Go-Go's sound ("Sex Object"), and the next day you'd be grabbed by whacked-out French outfit Stereo Total ("The Monster (Oh qu'il est vilain)"), which sounds like a cross between Stereolab and the Shaggs. There are loads and loads of songs to discover; Gene Defcon's "Caeser's Planes" sounds like a New Order tribute, the Lost Sounds' "Total Destruction" sounds heavily influenced by bands such as the Raincoats and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Quails' "Memo From the Desk of the Quails" is an irresistible, shuffling bit of silliness (complete with "boogedy-boogedy-boogedy" backing vocals). Chicago band the Reputation's intoxicating "For the Win" is dreamy guitarpop that sounds great; such musicianship from an unknown band is somewhat disarming.

And that's just the first disc . . . Disc Two is even better. Tender Trap ("That Girl") contributes a whimsical, new wave song, while Bangs continues where the Donnas left off with the raucous "New Scars". Fifth Column's "Imbecile" sounds like the Cramps fronted by a woman, while the lovely acoustic song "Hiding Behind the Moon" sounds like a woman, but it's a guy, in the form of castrati-voiced Jeff Hanson. The Long Goodbye is a real revelation, as their "Dawn of Understanding" combines hard rock with female harmonies as well as Veruca Salt did on their debut album. Erase Errata ("Leg Night") is a bit of Beefheart-inspired weirdness, while Deerhoof's "Song of Sorn" is just plain weird, in a good, Fugs-ish way. Dirt Bike Annie ("Ode to the Go Cart") is wonderful, straightforward guitarpop, while both Danielle Howle and the Tantrums and Virginia North and Them Wranch contribute some great alt-country tunes. Sherry Fraser's goth outfit Two Ton Boa closes out Fields and Streams with "Porcelain Throne", a bombastic cross between PJ Harvey and Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom", a one-trick-pony sound that would sound repetitive on an entire album, but here, it works well on its own, and to be fair, is very catchy.

There are so many songs to discover on Fields and Streams, that if I was to critique each one, I'd be going on for another thousand words, and I've subjected you to my inane ramblings long enough. Heck, I didn't even mention Quasi's White Stripes-like treatment of Curtis Mayfield's "Queen Majesty". Based on the songs I've highlighted alone, this CD is well worth your hard-earned cash. There are a couple tunes that are sure to annoy (for me, it was Kim Gordon's self-indulgent project called the Supreme Indifference), but the gems far, far outweigh the dreck. Play this for a couple weeks, and find some new favorite bands. Go buy it now. Satisfaction is absolutely guaranteed.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image