Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: Harry Smith's prodigious son Will Oldham and Premiere Magazine film critic Glenn Kenny.
Listed: Will Oldham + Glenn Kenny
Singer/Songwriter Will Oldham has recorded music under many different names. Among them: Palace, Palace Music, Palace Songs, Will Oldham, Bonnie Billy, and most recently Bonnie "Prince" Billy.. He is hailed as one of the best songwriters of his generation and has performed with everyone from PJ Harvey to Johnny Cash to Harmony Korine. While any one of his albums could be considered "essential" or "career-defining," this biographer believes later work such as I See A Darkeness or Ease Down the Road (both released by Drag City Records) to be his finest work to date. He starred as the preacher in John Sayles' film Matewan as well as appearing VERY briefly in Harmony Korine's film Julian Donkey Boy. His new album, Master and Everyone, will be released in January of 2003. A new EP entitled Hard Life will be released shortly beforehand.
Do you know what I am, niggah Sam, living terminally in the present, this list applies only to today (August 15, 2002):
- Turbonegro: ASS COBRA (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
- The Oxes, live
- Stina Nordenstam: PEOPLE ARE STRANGE
- WOVEN HAND
- Alan Licht: PLAYS WELL (Crank Automotive)
- Mick Turner: MOTH (Drag City)
- Roy Harper: "I'll See You Again"
- Tom T. Hall: "That's How I Got to Memphis"
- This Mortal Coil and also by Tim Buckley: "Song to the Siren"
- Little Wings: LIGHT GREEN LEAVES (K)
Glenn Kenny spends his days (and nights, actually) as senior editor and film critic at Premiere Magazine, although, as you’ll soon see, he could easily be a music critic for any number of publications. His words have appeared in the Village Voice, Playboy, and the New York Times, just to name a few. September will surely mark Kenny’s debut on the New York Times Best Seller List when his book, A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Artists and Writers on 25 Years of Star Wars, hits the shelves. Kenny served as the project's editor, overseeing the work of Dave Eggers and Kevin Smith among others.
I was flattered to be asked by Dusted to prattle on about my current listening habits. The contents of my bag will hopefully demonstrate that my ears are still open, as well as indicate why I don't do much music writing these days…
- The Red Crayola: The Parable of Arable Land (Sunspots...reissued by Drag City) - Such is my devotion to the ever-mutating, still-extant unit (beloved and covered by the likes of Galaxie 500 and Spacemen Three) that began in the mid-'60s as a very brainy psychedelic Texas trio that this disc is, oh, I don't know, maybe the third reissue of their legendary debut album I've paid real money for. And it still sounds like dogshit. "Digitally Remastered" it says on the hype sticker on the shrink wrap. From what? An acetate cut by one of my cat's claws? The thing is, I don't even mind much – even kind of like it when, on the chorus of "War Sucks," it sounds as if the signal has gone out of phase and blown a channel simultaneously. As landmarks go, this is a decidedly ragtag affair; the musicianship dodgy ("the drummer comes in weak, then falters" a friend observed of "Hurricane Fighter Plane"), the interstitial "free-form freak outs" (ah, 1966!) not terribly rewarding. But Mayo Thompson's guitar and voice – a star is born.
- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Touch and Go) - As much as my budget will allow, I've been dutifully checking out all these return-to-rock, new-style bands, and while I've found most of them diverting at least, this trio strikes me as somehow distinctive. If Teenage Jesus and the Jerks could play, and were intentionally funny, they might have sounded like this. I can't deny that some pheremonic draw to shrieker Karen O doesn't have something to do with my fascination here.
- Sonic Youth: Murray Street (DGC) - Far from being indignant over Amy Phillips' much bewailed dis of this beautiful album (much of which sounded even more beautiful at the band's great August 11 Central Park show) in the Village Voice, I commend the young scribe in her quest to become the next Elizabeth Wurtzel. I have to say, though, that at if this point in the band's career trajectory you, the fan, are more interested in Macauley Culkin than you are in Takehisa Kosugi, then it is perhaps merely time for you to move on, rather than call for the band's breakup. Don't worry, Amy, "Party Monster" will be in theaters before you know it.
- The Taj Mahal Travellers: July 15, 1972 and Takehisa Kosugi: Catch Wave (both Sony Music Japan) - Pricey imports of immaculate improvised drones courtesy of the "legendary" trio featuring Kosugi and Kosugi himself. Kosugi is abundantly evident on SY's Goodbye 20th Century collection, but these records catch the individual magic of his music-making beautifully; the stuff sounds ultra-modern and ancient simultaneously.
- DJ Shadow: The Private Press (MCA) - "I don't like rock," my 13 1/2-year-old niece commented on a recent trip to the Times Square Virgin Megastore. "I like hip-hop," she added helpfully. She didn't mean this, alas. She meant the new Nelly record. I love this record, and I understand why Shadow thinks it's hip-hop, but does anybody besides him actually think it's hip-hop? Just asking. To me it's like hip-hop from an alternate universe, one more to my liking than this one.
- Linda Thompson: Fashionably Late (Rounder) - It is not an insult to say that this sounds like it could have been released in 1972, or 1980…and lord knows it sounds fresher than her previous, MOR-misbegotten debut solo effort, 1985's "One Clear Moment." Having regained her voice after literally losing it sometime after the release of that record, her return sounds literally as though she never left. Not only is her voice intact, so's her wicked sense of humor; here, she enlists her now-adult daughter to harmonize with her on lyrics like: "It's a weary old life/better to be single than to be a married wife."
- The Pink Fairies: Kings of Oblivion (Polydor UK) - I like drolly dumb '70s Brit guitar rock as much as the next guy, maybe even more so, but why does the music press across the pond have to categorize every such musical fossil as a punk precursor? This reissue is a trifle more enjoyable if you discount the historical hype and turn up the volume.
- Henry Cow: Western Culture (East Side Digital) - Yet another reissue. A bracing dose of commie art rock. Makes me want to overthrow the state. Or at least wish I had kept up the guitar lessons as a kid, just so I could even comprehend what the amazing Fred Frith gets up to here.
- Derek Bailey: Ballads (Tzadik) - Friends rarely approach me for advice on how to best appreciate, understand, initiate themselves into, whatever, free-improvised music. But if one ever does, this is the record I'll play for them. Sexagenarian guitar master Derek Bailey, the godfather of improv, here answers the immortal question "But can he play 'real' stuff?" with a resounding, some might say nose-thumbing, "Yes." (He himself has always regarded the question as irrelevant.) The opening chords of his reading of "Laura" are as lushly romantic yet eye-openingly astringent as six-string can get. He uses this standard and a dozen others as launching pads for his ever-absorbing sonic departures. A potentially convert-making disc. I know, I know: alert the media!
- Avril Lavigne: Let Go (Jive) "Is it wrong, as a 42-year-old male, to love Avril Lavigne?" I recently asked a friend who's a former music biz bigwig and has at least one junior prom ballad monster hit under his belt as a producer. "No," he replied; "She is all that is good and pure and true and decent." Well, he didn't quite say that – something more along the lines of this Canuck being to today's 17-year-old girl what Alanis Morrisette was to 21-year-old girls five years ago. That's why I can't understand demographics – can’t do the math. And anyhow, where does that leave me? "Complicated" is an irresistible, and touching, pop song, and in a maudlin, slightly soused state, I could listen to it and say, "Avril Lavigne, c'est moi." Which is totally inaccurate. But we can all dream, can't we?
By Dusted Magazine