Sunday, July 31, 2011

Downton Abbey's Emmy Nominations

Downton Abbey, the miniseries that debuted in America in January (which I reviewed here and here), has been nominated for a smashing eleven nominations.

The biggest award, for Outstanding Movie or Miniseries, will be tough only because Downton will have to beat out Mildred Pierce. Most of the other nominations were much more serious works, or in the case of The Kennedys, totally maligned by critics. Downton will also have to beat Mildred Pierce for Outstanding Art Direction for a Movie or Miniseries, Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or Special and Outstanding Casting for a Movie or Miniseries, along with Downton's obvious rival, the new version of Upstairs Downstairs. The three miniseries are also up against each other in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actress, with Kate Winsley for Mildred Pierce and Jean Marsh as Rose Black for Upstairs Downstairs squaring off with Elizabeth McGovern as Countess Cora, the Crawley matriarch for the Lead Actress award and three different actresses for Mildred Pierce and Eileen Atkins as Lady Maud Upstairs Downstairs against Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, the past matriarch for the Supporting Actress award. Whew! That cinches it: this is the year for early 20th century dramas.

The casting of Downton Abbey was impressive, particularly with Dan Stevens playing Matthew and Michelle Dockery as Mary, who, as a couple, managed to be both antagonistic and clearly in love with each other in a way that was not put-on like every screwball romantic comedy. (It is a pity neither of them achieved a nomination.) That said, it is going to be a hard push for Downton, jut because it is going up against some great shows and other talented people.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground

Out of much of the music I have been listening to in the last month or so, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground's "Bowie the Desert Pea" is one of my favorites. There is something very 70s pop rock about this particularly song. And given the promotional photos of them, this sound is very much on purpose. The song "Birds (On A Day Like Today)" has a Paul McCartney feel to it, but not so much his work with the Beatles as his later band, Wings. Their songs are often very lush, especially in "Oh Lord, I Hate You California," and they employ a large number of musicians in their live shows to achieve that sound.
Kay Kay is associated with Gatsby's American Dream (they share a member), another band that is polyretro, drawing from a wide variety of genres for inspiration.

One of the other fascinating things about this band is how often they release their work on non-modern forms, like cassette tapes and vinyl records. Given their retro sound, this is all too fitting and is evocative of McLuhan's ideas of "the medium is the message" mantra, though in a way McLuhan may not have anticipated.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fleet Foxes

So, Dan, my friend-who-was-not-interested-in-talking-about-music, mentioned during the same conversation that everyone had been telling him to check out Fleet Foxes. And it was one of those bands that I myself had been hearing snatches of things about. So finally, I gave in and gave them a listen.
They are good. They are clearly influenced not so much by indie music but by folk, and their music is simple, pure, and peaceful. The band members were apparently influenced by Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and Neil Young, and there is something of those two musicians in Fleet Foxes, though there's a delicacy in this band that Dylan, Williams and Young lack. They were also influenced by Brian Wilson, and the harmonies of "Mykonos" could easily be described as Beach Boy-esque.

One of the most surprising things about Fleet Foxes is that they are on Sub Pop. Sub Pop is so famous for its connection to the early 90s grunge scene (and the related riot grrrl and punk scenes in the Seattle area at the same time.) I would never guess Fleet Foxes, just at a listen, would be on this band.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stockhausen's "Gesang der Junglinge"

Taking a break from the current Seattle band series, today I listened to Stockhausen's "Gesang der Junglinge."
There's something strangely powerful about what is mostly a collection of voices, and, from the sound of it, mostly adolescent boys' voices. There's something Dada like in the repetition of sounds, which, since I do not speak German, mostly have no meaning to me, though I suspect that at least part of this has the children counting.
I can also hear the connection between this piece and the Beatle's "Revolution Number 9." The Beatles had to have been aware of Stockhausen, since his image appears on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The voices and other noises that come in and out of this piece are similar to Ringo's voice coming in and out of the Beatles infamous piece.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Veils

Finn Andrews is The Veils, or at least is the most famous member. An aspiring painter, he eventually changed over to music, and moved from New Zealand to London to start his band.
The band is famously influenced from a wide variety of artists and bands, including David Bowie, Joy Division, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits. The above song, "The Letter," does sound lyrically like something Bowie would write and it has a distinctly New Romantic/general 80s feel to it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Women of Color Fashion

One of the saddest aspects of studying history is how it is mostly told from a white point of view. Sources, throughout history, were far more likely to be written by white people, and they were more likely to survive. But far more depressing is how history is frequently taught from a white point of view.
There are historians, professional and amateur, whose work is changing this, and the Internet has become a great place for the forgotten, often-untaught histories to find new life. My newest favorite is Of Another Fashion, a blog covering the fashion choices (and the related life issues) of women of color. The tumblr has tons of pictures and personal testimonies as to the sartorial choices of women of color. A recent great post discussed the cultural history of the lunch counter.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Despite Mirah being on K Records and attending Evergreen State University, she is actually based in San Francisco. She has collaborated with Seattle-based musicians, such as Lori Goldstein and Phil Elverum from The Microphones.

Her music is lo-fi indie rock. There are often these moments where her music becomes dissonant. In the song "Nobody Has to Stay," (below) her voice actually pushes so far higher than her range that it breaks. There's something particularly charming in this simplicity in the song "Engine Heart." In that song, she uses the phrase "carbonated thighs" which is delightful.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Halo Benders

What makes the Halo Benders so famous is actually one of their members, Calvin Johnson. After forming this band and his more famous band, Beat Happening, he went on to found K Records, one of the most famous indie record labels and the home of many of Seattle's best bands. (Johnson is the one singing the low backup in the above song, "Snowfall.") All three of The Halo Bender's albums were released through K.
The Halo Benders are what would happen if the lyrics of the Hollies were combined with the melodies of the mellower Beach Boys songs, and this is what I love about them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kandi Coded

Despite the name, Kandi Coded has a hard rock and metal sound. The band is made up of Jamie Lynn, a skateboarder and artist. Considering the band is associated with Volcom, the extreme sports connection makes sense.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Foo Fighters

Looking back on 1994, no one ever expected the drummer from Nirvana to emerge with a band that might actually rival the success of his former band.

Dave Grohl is not the only one from the band that has an impressive C.V. Two members of the band, Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith, were formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate who would later form The Fire Theft, a 90s rock band. One of their guitarists played with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a pop punk band. Pat Smear ofter toured with Nirvana and had been part of the first hardcore punk Grohl had been in, Scream. And the drummer for Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins, once toured with Alanis Morissette.

What is surprising about Foo Fighters is how they were and were not influenced by Nirvana. They sound nothing like Nirvana, since Foo Fighters do not have any of the punk, metal or grunge sound that Nirvana was so infamous for. Foo Fighters famously has connections to Led Zepplin, Queens of the Stone Age, and Queen, and they are much more similar in sound to these bands than Nirvana. However, many of the songs sound lyrically, like they could be love letters to Cobain, who Grohl had a close relationship with, even though Grohl only claims that "Friend of a Friend" is about Cobain. In addition to being in a band, they were roommates and dated, at the same time, two of the members of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail.
The band also has a wonderful sense of humor, seen in videos like "Everlong" and "Learn to Fly." These videos often combine Saturday Night Live-like sketches with their music.
I am so happy to read that Novoselic will be part of Foo Fighters. Grohl choose not to have Novoselic as part of the band originally because it would have encouraged people to view Foo Fighters as "Nirvana without Cobain," even though the band's sound is far more arena rock and less punk than Nirvana ever was.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Las Hermanas

History that focuses on lesser-known groups of people is important. Enter Lost Womyn Spaces, which gives mini-histories of important womyn-centered spaces.
Their recent post on Las Hermanas, a Californian cafe that catered to women and lesbians, is wonderful. The stories, of insane-asylum-escaping-cowgirls, biker chicks, and students from San Diego State's women's department, are a reminder both of the incredible ignorance non-heterosexual people face and their victories.
What I like about this place (which is unfortunately closed), is that it served as a place for multiple events and groups. There was a regular meeting place for lesbians but also a performance space for politically-conscious bands like Amazon Spice.
Also, I wonder if it is possible to get some recipes from the place. I am curious as to what Joy Balls are like.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures are a lovely bit of classic, blusey rock. The band is a supergroup, with members of Led Zepplin, Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age, all amazing rock bands with blues influences in their own right. The band has won Grammays, appeared on Saturday Night Live and Austin City Limits and has played with other well-loved bands like the Arctic Monkets

I particularly love their song "Caligulove," which is one of those lovely rock portmandeus.

I love how in "Elephant" the introduction is typical blues and then picks up with faster guitar playing, similar to that you would hear in hard rock and metal. The lyrics to this song are particularly impressive because they use imagery and implications instead of most modern lyrics, which simply make direct statements.
Something tells me that seeing this band in person would be fun in part because of the intense talent of these musicians.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End of Harry Potter

This past weekend, the last Harry Potter film came out. And considering it broke box office records, I would say the world is still Potter crazy.

While reading this little personal retrospective of Harry Potter, I was struck by the idea that maybe this is one of (and maybe the last) time that people will line up at night to get books, that everyone will insist on reading it immediately. I really hope that kids and adults will fall so in love with books, authors, and series that these sorts of things will continue to happen, but, given that books are now buyable online and can be sent immediately to devices like a Kindle, maybe people will not need to get together to celebrate the books coming out. I loved those parties when I was a teenager. I would get dressed up, drink Butterbeer, play trivia games and hang with other fans. I am so glad that Quidditch is around because that seems like a nice way for Harry's world to live on, but I will miss those late nights where I hung with fans at a bookstore, went home and read rabidly on my bed, catching an hour or two of sleep, and then getting up the next morning for a party at the library. Those were good times. I love the books because they were about Harry discovering a community of people who were different than him, sometimes quirky, but always loving and well-meaning. The books let me find a community that was the same, and I am glad I did.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer at the Beach

I love National Geographic, especially old ones. It is fun to read the old articles, often knowing what happens after the story was written. And the photos, especially of people, are always strangely intimate. They easily could be shots of people that your parents or grandparents once knew, if someone in your family was a professional photographer.
This great beach shot from Vintage National Geographic Scans is beautiful too.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Le Tigre

One of my disappointments with Bikini Kill was that members of the band got married and became comfortable with mainstream work, so much so two years ago they were reportedly in the studio with Christina Aguilera (how is that radical feminism, the major influence on their lyrics?) So I avoided Le Tigre, Kathleen Hanna's other band.

I like the music, though the politics are not nearly as overt. I like the combination of electrobeat with the delivery of the lyrics, which reminds me of the yelling quality of so much punk music. That said, they are not nearly as fascinating as Bikini Kill, but it would be hard for any band to beat that band in that way.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Favianna's New Graphic Novel

Favianna Rodriguez, one of my favorite artists, is now in the process of working on a graphic novel talking about immigration. She recently received a grant from a foundation, but to receive it, she has to raise the same amount of money. For her, this means ten thousand dollars. Yikes.
I would love to see Rodriguez get this comic book out. She is a talented artist and her work has always been about telling stories about the oppressed and forgotten. Also, comic books rock.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Homophobia and Religion

One of my friends recently pointed me to this article in Time Out London that discussed a mosque putting a ban on homophobic rhetoric and speakers. This is a great victory for the LBGT Muslim community, one that should be celebrated. It is particularly important to note since an unfortunate number of hate crimes has been recently committed against LBGT Muslims, and this is one way to discourage the kind of hatred and fear that Islam works against.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mother Love Bone

Mother Love Bone was the band that most of Pearl Jam cut their teeth on before becoming one of the most popular bands of the 90s. The band included two former members of the band Green River (a great band in their own right) and a future member of the band Mudhoney. This band had been founded to make more arena-styled rock, which you can certainly hear in "This is Shangrila," which could easily pass as a Guns and Roses single.
Mother Love Bone is a perfect bridge of 80s pop metal and 90s grunge pop, even though most of the descriptions of the band list it as glam and/or punk. The band seems to be a perfect encapsulation of the kind of rock music that was popular in the late 80s in other parts of the country in addition to Seattle.

The band had a tragic end: the singer, Wood, died of an overdose. Later on, when interest in Pearl Jam peaked, there was a resurgence of interest in Mother Love Bone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys are a great punk band because they were so politically-oriented. Many of their songs deals explicitly with oppression and power. "Kill the Poor," one of their more famous songs, has them ironically calling for the death of poor people. Their polticial critiques often incorporated darker humor, like when the band stopped midway through a song to adjust their wardrobe, making each of them look like they were wearing dollars signs on their shirt.

The person that interests me most from the Dead Kennedys is not the infamous Jello Biafra (though he is his own fascinating person) but East Bay Ray. Looking at Ray's life, it seems as if he was destined to be a punk. His parents participated in the Civil Rights Movement. He went to Berkeley, a notoriously liberal school. In addition to that and playing guitar for the band, Ray was D.I.Y., mixing numerous Dead Kennedy's material and later setting up a record company when they could not find anyone else to distribute their music.
Listening to them now feels just as relevent today as it probably did in the 80s. Politically, little as changed. Instead of talking about Cambodia, we would simply talk about Iraq or Afghanistan, but very little of their music needs to change. Problems with power still exist, and many of The Dead Kennedy's thoughts on the subject are as relevant as ever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dead Low Tide

In that time before myspace and Wikipedia, finding information about bands was hard. Often, the only sources of information about them was what their labels put out or what a zine said about them, if they said anything at all.
Researching some of these bands, which were before Web 2.0's time, I found myself running into those difficulties. This band, Dead Low Time, which was actually right before Web 2.0, is one of them.
Some of the sources I read have said the band was breaking up as their debut album was wrapping up, others claim earlier. In any case, someone seems to have put an album out under their name.

Out of all the bands I have researched so far, these have been the most unabashedly punk, with the half-screamed lyrics. The singer has this quality to this voice which makes it sound as if the band is going to fall apart at any minute.

I love the title to this song: "Lazer Lazer Lazer Love." I love the lyrics "The past is none of our business now."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Temple of the Dog

Everytime I turn around, it seems like Chris Cornell is founding another band or project. This one was created as an homage to a friend of Cornell's, Andrew Wood, who died of an overdose. In addition to having Cornell (most famous from his band Soundgarden), the band also featured current and future members of Pearl Jam.
One of the things that is interesting about the one and only Temple of the Dog album (self-titled) is that it was recorded before Soundgarden or Pearl Jam became such mainstream hits. The album was actually re-released after both bands had achieved mainstream success, since it functioned as a collaboration between members of the two bands. Later on, Cornell would join Audioslave because of how positive his collaboration with Temple of the Dog was.
Their song "Hunger Strike" is a good 90s rock anthem. It is accessible and enjoyable and just rock enough. This song could easily be playing in the background during an episode of My So-Called Life.
The combination of Cornell's and Vedder's voices here are strangely perfect. They need to do more duets with each other.

In the introduction to "Say Hello 2 Heaven," there is a small moment where the notes are slighly dissonant. Usually 90s rock would never do something like that, but here it is perfect. When the song is meant to break into an uplifting chorus, it fakes you out by thinking it is about to explore, but then pulls back, instead going for a slow walking beat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Melvins

The Melvins, outside of Seattle, are remembered as the band that "created" Nirvana. Kurt Cobain famously tried out for the band, but was so nervous he forgot everything. Cobain was a friend and groupie of the band for most of his life.
Listening to them now, it is easy to hear the similiarities between them and Nirvana. On "Honey Bucket," the song has the fast metal that grunge famously co-opted.

The video for "Talking Horse," in addition to having a great song, also has a wonderful combination of live action and cartoon elements. The image of a woman who has a mouth for an eye is particularly striking.

The Melvins are one of those lucky bands that inspires cult-like fidelity among their fans. This song, "Boris," became the name of a band that does covers of the Melvins.
It is too bad in some ways that the Melvins are remembered so frequently in connection to Nirvana, because they are their own great band.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Music Series

A few months ago, my friend Dan complained that he could never find anyone to talk to about music. Since I sometimes feel the same way, I suggested he talked to me about music, suggesting Radiohead's recent album, The King of Limbs, as the first bit of music we could talk about. For whatever reason, Dan was not interested, and the album went undiscussed. As my recent photography has illustrated, I recently spent some time in the Pacific Northwest, including the lovely city of Seattle. While there, I found myself wanting to learn more about Seattle bands.
Seattle has a strange relationship with music. Unlike most major American cities, up until the last twenty to thirty years, it did not have much of a music tradition. New York City was infamous for jazz, as being where Bob Dylan recorded some of his best material, and as the first place punk could be heard in the U.S. Los Angeles has pop music and its Sunset Strip is the home of 80s metal. Detroit is a the home of Motown Records and techno. New Orleans has blues, Chicago has more jazz, Nashville has country. Seattle had...the high school of Jimi Hendrix? "Louie, Louie?" Because of their relative geographical isolation, a small but important, and, eventually, influential independent music scene formed. In the coming weeks, I'm hoping to explore the bands of Seattle through watching their music and reading up on their history.
By Seattle bands, I do not just mean bands that started within the city limits, but bands that were part of the larger area, in Washington towns like Bellevue, Aberdeen, and Olympia, and even farther away from Seattle-proper in towns like Portland, Oregon. I will also be including bands with no geographic connection but a musical one: bands that influenced Seattle area bands in a notable way.
One of the great traditions in Seattle music is D.I.Y. ethics. In doing my own research and writing my own notes on their music, not being an "expert" in any sense of the word, I will be working in the same spirit of D.I.Y. ethics. I am not expecting my notes to be particularly revolutionary or perfect, but just a collection of thoughts concerning these bands, especially as it adheres to politics, one of the things Seattle bands (especially those connecting to punk, riot grrrl and queercore) have been connected to.
Do not worry: there will still be posts regarding other art and generally nerdiness throughout the coming weeks.
We start tomorrow with the band The Melvins, possibly the most influential and least remembered, Seattle area bands.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Karp was a 90s band located in Washington State.  Like many other bands in the Seattle area, they were associated with K Records and influenced by the Melvins.

Listening to their music, it is easy to compare them with Nirvana, Seattle's most famous band.  Like Nirvana, they were clearly influenced by punk and metal, but their songs were more pop-like than bands like the Melvins.  This song, "Bacon Industry" comes from their Self-Titled Ep, which, yes, is the actual name of their EP. This song is clearly very metal.

Their song "Connect 5" is far more pop, but you can clearly hear grunge and punk influences.
And, finally, their song "Lorch-Miller" reminds me of the slow, meancing rock of Nirvana's Insecticide.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Painting and Poetry

Rob Miller is this incredible artist, usually making beautiful nature pieces, like he did last week.  What I like most about this painting is that he said he was inspired by the poetry of Coleridge. 
Looking at this painting, I can think of a couple of Coleridge's poems and lines that conjure up this image, including his "Fears in Solitude."  That poem mentions a special green spot, and this is how a reader might imagine that spot. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Olallie State Park

Olallie State Park is located near Seattle, Washington, and I decided to practice taking nature photographs, since most of my recent work has been in cities. 

Twin Falls, as park of the park, is forty-one meters high.&

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Women-Only Subway Cars

As a recent New Yorker, I'm interested in the history of the city, which is why I loved this mini-history of women-only subway cars, which were tested briefly for about six months. The subway never struck me as a dangerous place, but I am saddened to see women report that men are the best protection. (Gender roles being reinforced all over again.)
The mini-history also discusses other women-only transportation systems in other parts of the world.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Victoria, Canada

Recently, I went out on the town to photograph Victoria, Canada, a lovely city. Here's some of my favorite photos.

This is the Legislative Body of British Columbia from across the nearby harbor. The lighting done on the building is similar to the Eiffel Tower.

There was a fair amount of sidewalk chalk art in the downtown area. Here's a Mona Lisa.

In addition to the sidewalk chalk art, there were lovely pieces of art just on the corners. This piece was one of my favorites. It has a poem ("You who/lift a penny/from the gutter/with the same hand/point out stars/find me.") has part of the art. I wish there was more poetry-art decorating the world.

Victoria has many chocolate shops. This was a white chocolate Hello Kitty. How cute.

Despite how upscale the city is, there is a fair amount of punk music and bohemian culture here. This was one of my favorite band posters. I love the bright colors and the use of Alf. (Also, the TransAm Burnouts are a great name for a band.)

Victoria even has its own Chinatown.

Chinatown has two lions guarding the neighborhood. Legend holds that if an honest politican crosses between the two lions, they will spring to life. Here's one of those lions. Looks like no one could find an honest politican. Shocker.

This lion is even a little crabby about it.

Chinatown is decorated with all sorts of fun art like this.

I love the way the lights behind the clock turned out in this photo.

A part of a mural map. Here is obviously Victoria, on the British Columbia/Canada side, and Port Angeles, on the Washington/U.S. side.

Another bit of the same mural map.

I love this little bit of graffiti, which depicts a panda bear with two guns. (A commentary on animal rights and violence perhaps?) If it's not Banksy, it sure looks a lot like his work.

People are really into Killer Whales in the Pacific Northwest.

The Empress at night. I really love that I captured someone looking up at it.

The Empress. This might be one of their conference rooms.

This last photos are the inside of the Empress.

I have other photos of the Empress on my Flikr page.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gender and Trials

Rod Blagojevich's trial recently ended, where he was convicted of most of the counts on which he was accused.  Mary Schmich asks if Blagojevich's trial would have worked the same way if the jury had not been predominately women.
I would also think it would be interesting to compare the idea that women juries are different with the idea that Latina judges are different a la the debate when Sotomayor was up for election during the Supreme Court. 
But as I read this the article in question, I was struck by the essentializing nature of the article, which placed women and femininity with certain stereotypes like being nurturing and apparently talking about feelings.  It is not that women cannot or should not do these things, but women are always being defined by those stereotypes, and those stereotypes prevents them from expressing themselves in other ways.  (And if they do exhibit other characteristics, they are immediately deemed variations of "unwomanly.")