Tag Archives: pynchon

The Year in Music, I Suppose

Last.fm provides such a great service. For those of you unfamiliar with it, last.fm basically keeps track of what music you play on your computer, and compiles your top-played artists and songs into weekly, monthly, yearly, and overall charts. Sundays are always a joy for me: I bake bread in the morning, watch football in the afternoon and evening, and check my music charts before I head to bed, all the while completely avoiding and/or forgetting about the massive amounts of work I traditionally have due on Mondays, which of course I didn’t get done on Saturday. My own charts are linked to in the sidebar on the right, though I guess I just linked to them earlier in this sentence too.

To close out the year, I was going to post my top 10 albums of the year, but then realized what a pointless exercise that’d be, seeing as how I’ve had the thing constantly updating on my RYM page for the entire year, so what’s the point? Instead, here’s the artists and songs that I listened to the most in 2006 according to last.fm, ignoring the entire month of December for whatever reason. Maybe I’ll go back and update in a few days when we find ourselves in the new year.

Top Artists of 2006

1. Yo La Tengo – When people ask me what my favorite band is, YLT are usually my default answer, so it’s no surprise that they top this list, especially since they released an excellent new album this year which I listened to quite a bit. The band has an incredible talent for being amazingly eclectic while somehow also keeping a consistent high level of quality; it’s really hard to not like them. I’m not sure if they actually are my favorite band, but at least I know that I won’t be embarrassed by that answer in a few months time, unlike…

2. Destroyer – …who I recklessly proclaimed as, “…my favorite band of all-time…” (Shaw, 2006) in a hastily written WSRN review for Destroyer’s Rubies, the new album released early this year. Really, there’s no way that they’re actually my Favorite Band of All Time. There’s just no emotional resonance in Destroyer’s music; it’s all about the clever turns of phrases and general mischief, and though that works fairly often for me, sometimes it’s really not enough. Granted, when I do get on a Destroyer kick, no other band in the world can match Mr. Bejar and his witticisms, hence the high play count, but I should know by now that the high won’t last for very long, and next week I’ll be completely embarrassed by the Destroyer-dedicated AIM/Facebook profile changes, over-exalted album reviews, and, uh, blog names. Hah. I’d feel pretty cheap if I changed the name of this thing just because of my mercurial tastes, so like it or not I think I’m stuck with it.

Those were the top two artists of the year for me by a very wide margin, so in a distant third are…

3. The Mountain Goats – just a consistently rewarding band that I always seem to come back to. ‘Song for Mitch Williams’ is not included in this count, and probably never will be, sadly.
4. Tom Waits – I’m not counting Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards on any of my year-end lists, since I really can’t decide if I should categorize Orphans as a compilation or as a new release. I’m just going to play it safe and count it as a compilation. Anyways, most of this year’s plays came from a Bone Machine and Closing Time kick over the summer, I’ve only been able to slog through the entirety of Orphans once or twice.
5. The Decemberists – At one point The Crane Wife was something like the 5th best album I’d heard this decade, you’d have to dig back into the blog’s archives to find that post for me. In any case, that’s definitely not true anymore, it’s fallen pretty hard. This high play count is an artifact of that initial obsession with the album, and the subsequent revisiting of the band’s back catalog.
6. Pas/Cal – The new Dear Sir EP was a little inconsistent, but I’m still in love with this band, and played their other two EPs in bunches. The forthcoming debut LP Citizen’s Army Uniform is due to be released sometime next year, and so I’m sure this band will show up on this list again at the end of 2007.
7. The Replacements – If Last.fm could somehow include all the times I played Let it Be as I drove around over the summer, this would be much higher.
8. The Toms – I’m very pleased that this band showed up so high on the list. Probably the token ultra-obscure band that I’ll be pimping from this list.
9. The Beatles – This will undoubtedly move up with the December update, so stay tuned. Is there anything else I need to say about this band “The Beatles” ?
10. Teenage Fanclub – I’ll admit, as much as I love the Fannies, I’m kind of surprised that I played them this much. I only have three of their albums, one of which I don’t particularly enjoy, and one of which I don’t recall listening to at all this past year. So have I seriously listened to Songs From Northern Britain that much? Interesting. With the December update, I’m sure that Talking Heads will probably bump these guys down.

Not bad. Now…

Top Songs of 2006

1. The Pipettes – Pull Shapes
Oh my goodness. Completely embarassing. Just look at the band’s picture. Does this band look like something I’d normally enjoy? I really wish my top song could’ve been some black metal band like Drastus; maybe I’ll play nothing but one Drastus song for the rest of today and tomorrow to save my integrity in the December Update. But alas, for now at least, I’m stuck with these women wearing matching polka-dot outfits, singing songs about how much fun it is to dance with cute boys. I’ll grudgingly admit for now that ‘Pull Shapes’ is one of the most perfect pop songs I’ve ever heard.

2. Voxtrot – Trouble
This probably got pushed close to the top just because of two consecutive nights when I had this song on repeat, you know how those nights go I’m sure. Anyways, I don’t think I’ve listened to the song since then. I mean, I still don’t think it’s a bad song, but I probably wore it out on those two long, dark nights (as opposed to the short, sunlit nights of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, I guess).

3. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country
Still a great song. Not quite a Study Abroad Anthem like the title would seem to imply, the lyrics are a little screwy, but the song’s music is completely addicting to me. I just wish that I wouldn’t get addicted to stuff that was so fey.

4. The Replacements – Alex Chilton
Songs released in 2006 dominated the top of these charts it seems, so here’s the first ‘oldie’ on the chart, and a fine song it is, probably the only Replacements tune that everyone can agree on, a true stone-cold classic of the rock music canon.

5. Pas/Cal – C.A.U. (Sans Muscle)
Not my favorite song off the Dear Sir EP, but it was the one song I had in advance of its real release, and so I really played the heck out of it, way before the EP proper showed up in my mailbox.

6. The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet
I’ve decided that this is the best rock song ever. I consulted Pat and a few other trusted WSRN tastemakers past and present, and they all agreed. ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ is the best song in the history of rock music, and that’s no exaggeration.

7. Paul Westerberg – Love You in the Fall
This is off Westerberg’s soundtrack to the animated film Open Season. I really like this song for some reason. It’s really MOR and mindlessly fun, and somehow I haven’t gotten sick and nauseous over the syrupy over-production yet. So I feel really guilty for liking this, but gosh guys, it’s so good.

8. Pas/Cal – Little Red Radio

This is my favorite track off the EP, it’s only below C.A.U. due to the aforementioned reasons.

9. Destroyer – European Oils
The ‘fucking maniac’ line and the subsequent rockout continue to slay me without fail, every time I hear this song. One of the best moments in music that I’ve heard in ages.

10. Teenage Fanclub – Speed of Light
Where did this come from? I guess I really have played Songs from Northern Britain a lot, but I would’ve expected a song like ‘Mount Everest’ to appear on these charts, not ‘Speed of Light’, one of the more average tunes on the record. I faintly recall one night where I played this song a lot, but this much? Not sure.

So that’s what Last.fm sez were my favorite artists and songs of 2006. Outside of playcount, the master top albums list is still located at RYM. I also tried to compile a list of favorite movies, but I just realized that I really haven’t seen any movies this year. Unless I’m missing something, I’ve only seen…three. Well, regardless of what else I see, I doubt anything will top The Departed, which continues to slay my mind. I really need to see it again.

I’ve got some other completely separate issues to address. First is my spelling. I’ve always been a great speller. Yet for some reason, this entire semester, I’ve been spelling the words ‘separate’ and ‘correlate’ incorrectly. With ‘separate’, I use an e in the place of the a, while with ‘correlate’ I can never remember if there’s two r’s or if there’s two l’s, or both. I never had trouble with the words before. Strange. I guess it’s part of growing old, you know.

Second, I was reminiscing recently about the infamous Harvard Debate Trip of my junior year of high school. At the time, it was a really miserable experience, in hindsight the whole thing was completely absurd and hilarious, I love laughing about it, and it’s one of my favorite memories of high school.

One thing I remember is that for a good period of that long walking tour in subzero temperatures, The Dismemberment Plan song ‘The Ice of Boston‘ was stuck in my head, for fairly obvious reasons, and I’m pretty sure Bryson was groovin’ to it too. The cover of The Ice of Boston EP features this shot of a building at night, and I always wondered whether or not it was some sort of Boston landmark, and I remember searching for it during our walking tour. I may have even found it, maybe in the Boston Commons area? But at that point I may have gone crazy from the cold, and I probably couldn’t even lift my head anyways, haha. Anyways, I revisited the song just now, and man, it hasn’t aged well. It’s so awkward and emo! How did I not notice this at the time? Probably because I was in high school. Yeah, that’d explain a lot. Anyone recognize this building? It’s probably not even in Boston, I’m sure.

On another note, now that I’m home, I’ve finally got some time for reading, so I’m now working my way through Against the Day. I’m 80 pages in right now, and surprisingly, it’s actually…readable? Coherent? Accessible, even?! I’ve been told that there’s some impenetrable morass to come ahead, but so far, this isn’t Pynchonian at all, it’s quite a breezy and fun read, though some of the language is still distinctly Pynchonian, plus the occasional bursts into song and dance and such. Not sure if I like it so far, but we’ll see, there’s still a lot of pages left to be turned until we reach the end.

And finally, I’m reading my high school’s newsletter right now, which just arrived in the mail, and I see that this year they held a Dark Ages Bazaar, to complement the Renaissance Faire later in the school year. A Dark Ages Bazaar?! The whole concept is incredible. I think they just called it ‘Y1K’ in past years, but I like ‘Dark Ages Bazaar’ a lot better.

Also, I just remembered that back in 10th grade when I was in the Renaissance Faire, I got to play the part of Machiavelli, of all people. Brilliant. I think I tricked the pope into giving me thousands of dollars and being my patron, after Lorenzo de Medici rejected me. I think I also stole some rare jewel from the English queen, and Lorenzo de Medici got beheaded just because he ratted me out, while I got off the hook without a scratch. Seriously brilliant.

I can see them getting along quite well, really.

On with the links, then:

  • A biochemist claims that he’s discovered the chemical basis behind the unique sound of a Stradivarius violin. Legit or not?
  • Noka chocolate is the most expensive chocolate that you can buy, but is it worth the cash? This devastating expose by some chocolate-obsessed blogger is a great read.
  • This Japanese arcade game tests how hard you can kick.
  • Dean Karnazes just ran 50 marathons in 50 days. What.
  • Rob Cockerham of Cockeyed.com discovers how different Omaha is from California. I love these travelogues, another great read, Cockeyed is just a great site in general, mad props.
  • PC Magazine gives out its list of the Top 10 Wired Colleges. Hey, is that…Swarthmore checking in at number four? Funny that they don’t mention our DC++ hub, yet they pimp the SCCS Video Pit, which has never even been used by anyone that I personally know.
  • More people are posting their year-end mixes.
  • I really enjoy Running From Camera

    The rules are simple: I put the self-timer on 2 seconds, push the button and try to get as far from the camera as I can.

  • That’s pretty much it. I hope the past year has treated you all well, and that the coming year proves to be even more memorable for you. Good luck with things.

With Against the Day

Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, entitled Against the Day, was released this week, nine years after his last novel Mason & Dixon. I preordered Against the Day when it first became available on Amazon, but to be completely honest, I almost forgot that it was supposed to come in around this time. Books are difficult to hype up; the critics who receive them in advance will require a lot of time to finish, especially a dense tome such as this; I’m not even convinced that every critic was able to finish the thing before the deadline forced them to toss up a ‘Pynchon is brilliant’ review or a ‘Pynchon is pretentious garbage’ review. Advance copies of books can’t be easily pirated and downloaded like music and movies are these days, and even if they were, even the fastest readers would require some time to hype it up. The final Harry Potter book is probably the only book I can think of which could potentially reach that stage, just because the interest in it is that high. Then again, I read an article somewhere which basically stated that Against the Day is the only other book which could rival Harry Potter in terms of release-date-anticipation and hype. Understandably so. Yet despite this, any hype that existed was largely beneath my notice, and so I nearly forgot that it was supposed to arrive.

Instead, I’ve been expecting something like five or six packages to arrive around the same time, so yesterday morning I checked my mailbox about nine or ten times, each time coming up empty. For some reason though, just before I left for class, I decided to check my mailbox yet again, almost as a conditioned reflex I get from being in Parrish at all. Yet, lo and behold, a package slip sat quietly in my box.

Could it be printer toner? Could it be a replacement keyboard for my busted Thinkpad? Could it be a band’s t-shirt? Or could it be…isn’t Against the Day supposed to arrive around this time? Well…GUESS WHICH ONE IT WAS?!

Wait, I guess that wasn’t much of a surprise. You’re right, it was the printer toner.

No really, here’s my unboxing of Against the Day, performed surgically on the round table in the Underhill Music Library.

Heck yes.

The goods exposed. If you’re curious, I added James Joyce’s Dubliners as a cheap filler to get free shipping. Thanks SlickFillers! Not a bad filler at all, I’ll probably read it on the flight back home or something.

Amazon’s new packaging method, shrinkwrapping your items against a slab of cardboard. I ordered one CD from them, and they did the same thing, and gave the contraption its own large box. Hey, whatever works, the shipping was free I suppose. I’d love to goto an Amazon warehouse and see the machine that performs this shrinkwrapping, it’s probably the best machine ever, I think it would give me beautiful dreams.

The Book. The Book!!! THE BOOK!!!!!!!!!!! By the way, those are actually drop shadows behind the title, not an artifact of an unstable hand on the camera. I’m not sure I like the shadows too much, plain and simple would’ve done it better for me.

Close-up of that stamp/seal on the cover’s lower-right. It also makes an appearance on the cover page inside. Something tells me that it may be integral to the book’s plot. Or, more likely, not. The plot probably has nothing to do with this seal. Or, more likely, there is no plot. Knowing Pynchon, the dude probably found this at some remote monastery in the Cambodian jungle which used to be the home of the guy who invented gunpowder.

The spine, replete with additional drop shadows and a section of the stamp.

The back. Lookin’ pretty good there, Thomas.

You can’t be serious. How much did this hack get paid?

Book appears to be relatively lengthy. Also, beautiful.

That’s my copy of Against the Day. So what are my thoughts on the book? Haha, you thought I might’ve finished it already? Yeah, lol. I’m not convinced that anyone will actually ever finish this book, sort of like Finnegans Wake or something, except three times longer.

No, but seriously, I’ll probably try and make a dent into it on the flight to Australia next semester, since that’s crossing half the globe latitudinally as well as longitudinally. I’m sure it’ll make me look like an obnoxious and pretentious jerk, which I guess is the only problem. Then again, who else would even try to tackle this thing? I can’t blame anyone for the typecasting, maybe it’s even somewhat accurate. Nonetheless, I’ll have to work through it at some point, and a long flight is as good a time as any.

For now, I got through the first page, and it was basically incredible. Quite a contrast from the stunningly poetic opening page of Gravity’s Rainbow, this one opened with this fun, lightweight scene of dirigible enthusiasts heading off in their airship, en route to Chicago and the World’s Fair. I’m looking forward to seeing how the second page matches up. If I had one complaint about The Crying of Lot 49, it’s that the opening two pages are really boring, so I’m glad that Against the Day has avoided that pitfall. Hopefully its quality will continue to arc upwards. I like how I’m micro-analyzing individual pages of Pynchon novels, but that’s sort of given to you by the writing style.

Before I get to the links, just thought I’d point out that I’ve made some changes to the sidebar links, as I doubt that many of you were interested in reading more about Ornithology in Pennsylvania (sad as that is to me, haha). Not that these are any more interesting, but at least they’re more relevant to what I’m doing with the blog now. Also, on the campus birdlist, I’m now noting updates at the top of that page, so that you can actually tell when stuff happens.

On with the links:

  • New Scientist has asked 70 of the world’s most brilliant scientists to offer their predictions on what the next fifty years have to offer.
  • Various surveys have been conducted over the years, but this Wikipedia article compiles the results to rank the Presidents of the United States. Unsurprisingly, Abraham Lincoln and FDR top the list, but where do Bush and Clinton fall? Or William Henry Harrison? Reading this article reminded me of how much I loved history in high school, what in the world happened?
  • If you’re at the store for holiday shipping, and you want to know if you can find a certain item cheaper online, try Frucall, where you can check online prices from your cellphone. I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds like a great idea, and others have gotten it to work.
  • Forbes has just published its annual list of the 15 wealthiest fictional characters, and this year, they shook things up by taking Santa off the list! After all, he’s not really fictional, amirite. Witness the aftermath by checking out the list.
  • I’ve never watched CSI: Miami before, but this compilation of hysterical one-liners really makes me want to start, one of the better YouTube videos I’ve seen. The Roger Daltrey scream is what totally makes the video. “You don’t spend $1000 on clothes…that you’re never gonna wear…YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • Equally hilarious is the Nietzsche Family Circus.
  • And finally, the Madagascar Pochard has been rediscovered!
  • Have a great Thanksgiving. Enjoy the turkey turkey.