Happy Halloweekend, y’all! Pictured above is Toddler YHT is dressed as your classic tiger-panda-fairy hybrid. Can’t wait for trick or treating. Until then…
I’m off to have a semi-serious conversation with Mrs.YHT about whether we should do the Jimmy Kimmel thing where you pretend you ate all your kid’s candy and videotape the reaction. I’m not that mean… am I?
So I’m sick. On vacation. This is, as they say, a first world problem, so instead of whining about it, I’d like to tell you about how I’ve been spending my time (leaving out the tissue-box-monopolizing, ibuprofen- and pseudoephedrine-swilling parts, of course): I’ve been reading books! That’s right — the plural form of “book”! An ocean of quiet, peaceful reading time is a pretty fantastic substitute for being well enough to enjoy the actual ocean, and I’ve been taking full advantage.
First up was I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), by a favorite writer of mine, Chuck Klosterman.
I love me some good marketing. I loved the promotion for Delicate Steve’s last album (which involved a hilariously fictional press release from the desk of Chuck Klosterman), and I love the way Steve Marion introduced the world to the songs that make up his upcoming release, Positive Force. On June 26, he had a committee of 11 musician friends (musiciends?) tweet links to individual tracks from the new album that had been uploaded to YouTube. Through this “Positive Force Friendship Stream,” each song got its own “premiere,” with YHT-beloved groups like Yeasayer, Ra Ra Riot, Yellow Ostrich, tUnE-yArDs, and Akron/Family joining in on the fun.
Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 5: tUnE-yArDs
(click here if you missed Day 1: Todd Snider, here if you missed Day 2: Justin Townes Earle, here if you missed Day 3: Radiohead, and here if you missed Day 4: Mariachi El Bronx)
I hate it when famous people I like don’t get along.
The subject of music feuds came up a few hours before my friend Coyle and I saw Radiohead in Washington D.C. And before you ask, no, the music feud I’m talking about isn’t the one about us buying the same M. Ward shirt, though I am wearing it as I type this — hear that Coyle?!? No, the subject came up because our pre-show listening regimen leaned heavily on Arctic Monkeys, to whom Coyle’s been listening quite a bit recently. As we talked about Suck It and See, Arctic Monkeys’ most recent album, it dawned on me that I hadn’t given the band a fair chance over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of something Thom Yorke said a little while back. Of AM and their rapid rise to fame, Yorke was quoted in 2006 as saying:
“The fact that poor Arctic Monkeys are getting so much attention is purely based on the fact that the mainstream music business is such a bunch of fucking retards as far as I’m concerned.”
Looking back at this incident with the benefits of hindsight and Google, it seems totally unfair (and dumb) for me to have let a single utterance, especially a flippant one that was mainly directed at the mainstream music industry, steer me away from a group I’d been starting to enjoy. But a half decade of tepid listening, a heavy Radiohead bias and the fact that AM drummer Matt Helders had fired back a shot about Radiohead being boring all worked together to warp my memory, and I found myself saying to Coyle something like, “I haven’t listened to them much. I think they said something not so nice about Radiohead at one point.” It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I seem to have passively chosen a side in a disagreement that took place 6 years ago between two people I’ve never met, which means that I’m just now finding out how great Suck It and See is. Crazy, right?
Well, the crazy train keeps on rolling, with a stop two days later at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, where I was set to see tUnE-yArDs for the first time.
The story surrounding Delicate Steve’s album Wondervisions is a one-of-a-kind fable of authenticity that begins with Yale Evelev, the head of record label Luaka Bop. Evelev had a crazy idea. To generate interest in Wondervisions, he asked one of my favorite authors, Chuck Klosterman, to write a press release on the album without interviewing Delicate Steve or listening to the record. What resulted is a hilarious combination of fiction and satire that transforms the one-man band into a five-piece “hydro-electric Mothra,” touching on everything from post-rock minotaurs and a mountain of General Tso’s chicken to Big East football and a band member who will “fight a dog for no reason.” You really have to read it. While the NPR story that alerted me to the whole episode seemed to paint the press release in a somewhat negative light, I think the moral rings true: take the time to explore new music, because shows and albums are often promoted by people who don’t actually listen to the bands. All lessons aside, Wondervisions is fantastic. The real Delicate Steve, Steve Marion, is a wildly talented composer who, with an array of guitar effects, pedals and samples, crafts elaborate melodies that stretch across octaves and lodge themselves deep in your brain. I’m always impressed when an artist can string together so many notes in a memorable way, especially without the benefit of words. He clearly has a gift, and I encourage you to check out “Butterfly” below and the rest of Wondervisions and find out why I’m so excited to have found him, minotaurs or no minotaurs.