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Posts Tagged ‘four stars’

Before I bought At Mount Zoomer, I read reviews about how they recorded it at the church owned by the Arcade Fire. My heart caught in my throat. The Arcade Fire treatment, I thought, was the last thing my lovely Wolf Parade ever needed, because Wolf Parade is all rough edges and the Arcade Fire is all sandpaper. To sort of mix a metaphor, I like the Arcade Fire okay, but I feel like they’re in third gear all the time and need to push it to overdrive. I realize this is not a popular opinion among the skinnypants-and-ironic-shirt wearing crowd.

It’s not as bad as all that. Actually, that’s not fair to say–At Mount Zoomer is downright good. It’s full of the howling synth and vocals, both always sounding a little off key, that I loved on their first album. It’s downtempo, it’s got melodies and hooks. It jams. It has lots of those driving grooves that make you tap your foot and nod your head and you don’t even realize it, along with my favorite rock & roll trick, which is the mid-song tempo change. Lots of eighties-style singing along the lines of New Order (see also: Modest Mouse, Interpol) that some other blogger doesn’t like but I do.

The thing is, though, that I can’t talk about this album or the show I went to a few weeks ago without comparing it to their first album, Apologies to the Queen Mary. Calling that one frenetic and raw wouldn’t be amiss, and that’s something that’s just not there in Zoomer. It doesn’t have the same wild, screaming-at-the-rafters energy of the first, the near desperation you can hear in all their best songs. And who knows, maybe they really were desperate. Maybe the sound of Mount Zoomer is the sound of relief.

The concert crowd agreed with me, though. They cheered for the new songs, but they went berserk for the older stuff. Hell, I went berserk, sitting up in the balcony in my padded seat I was waving my arms, singing along and probably looking a little like a lunatic. I felt like a lunatic, and it was great.

I couldn’t really find a decent concert video of these guys (although they were amazing), so here’s a great regular video.

At Mount Zoomer: ★★★★☆

(Apologies to the Queen Mary: ★★★★★)

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Probably almost everyone reading this has already heard about YouveBeenLeftBehind.com. It’s about the rapture–you know, that special time in a Christian’s life when the End Times come and he or she gets whisked on up to heaven. This fancy little website will email your friends and family after the Rapture has taken place, so they still have time to repent before the Second Coming.

All this for the low, low price of $40 / year!

I love this. Ever since I was a kid and I saw a bumper sticker that said, “In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned,” I’ve been fascinated. Of course, as a kid I thought those bumper stickers were a little prideful, something my fundamentalist Christian fifth-grade teacher taught me all about. I still think they are, though in a different way–I would totally like to see the rapture happen, and then all those people with the bumper sticker get out of their cars, confused, and just start kicking the bumper.

The site actually works on a similar principle–there are five “Christian” employees, and if any three of the five don’t log in for six days, the email goes out. What if they just go on a really hard bender, though? I would love to see that email: “Dear Subscribers, we apologize for sending out a false Rapture email…” Of course, there would be lots of pissed Christians worrying for days that the rapture hadn’t taken them.

So, I kind of applaud this website for finding a new way to separate the gullible from their money. Everyone else: read Revelations. When the rapture happens, you will know about it.

★★★★☆

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I hear Old Man Luedecke has a new album out. I haven’t gotten my copy yet (it’s only available on the Canadian iTunes store – weird), so I thought I would review a previous album of his.

Old Man Luedecke - Hinterland

Hinterland is a nice album. That may sound like faint praise, and those who demand that their music be edgy and challenging at all times may find little here to like, but I mean it in the best possible way.

I found Old Man Luedecke the same way I found the Ditty Bops – on Pandora. I believe the station for both of these was a mix of Townes Van Zandt and Dan Hicks. If you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it.

The title track came on, and I liked it immediately. The low-key banjo and the melancholy chorus got under my skin. Hinterland is a song you can live in. After it popped up for the third or fourth time, I bought the whole album.

None of the other songs match the power or feeling of the title track, but the album is full of nice moments.


The song proper starts around 1:15.

The songs are catchy enough to be immediately enjoyable, and simple enough to stand up to repeated listens. The lyrics are… well, they seem sincere, and appropriate to the music. Really, the main draw here is nice melodies in an upbeat pseudo-traditional style. I’m looking forward to hearing his latest.

Old Man Luedecke – Hinterland: ★★★★☆

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Slab City
Photo of Slab City, outside Niland, CA, taken by Alex.

After a recent camping trip in Death Valley (more on that to come!), and being in my early adult years, I’ve been reflecting lately about where exactly I want to live, and how people choose their homes. Death Valley is one of the more remote and inhospitable places in the U.S. People have lived, or worked, or mined, or otherwise subsisted in Death Valley, and continue to. However, it seems as if the natural state of that stretch of land is uninhabited. It is marked by the occasional ruined mining operation, or ghost town, or abandoned buildings. It is over 200 feet below sea level, one of the hottest places on earth, and the track record of humans in Death Valley is spotty.

Of course, as a society, we no longer depend on the land we live on for subsistence – look at desert cities Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Palm Springs somehow made the desert into a resort location. However, there’s always the possibility that your chosen community, businesses, or homes will one day fail, like the attempts to populate death valley.

The Salton Sea is on the ropes. It’s in the middle of the California desert, somewhere between Palm Springs and Mexico. And it’s huge. And no one knows about it. I lived much of my life in Los Angeles, and I never knew it existed until I drove past it on my way to Salvation Mountain. I was struck by how empty it was – no boats, no jet skis, no open restaurants. Plenty of buildings, but everything was run down, and not much was open. A documentary, Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, came out last year, and traced the rise and fall of the Salton Sea as a tourist destination. The sea was an engineering mistake – water was diverted there accidentally, flooding land. And still, the water intake of the sea is not regulated in any way, meaning that it has risen to envelop what used to be property. It’s difficult to watch the nearby residents try and fail to raise money to build a wall to stop the water.

The residents of Niland and other towns around the sea dream of the sea becoming vacation destination, like Palm Springs to the north. It was once, before thousands of dead fish started washing up on the shore and avian botulism spread through the birds of the area. The cause of the decline into poverty of the area can’t be pinned solely on the sea, though. Various plans have been floated to lower the salinity to a normal level, which would prevent the fish die-offs. They’ve all seem to fallen through. The problems of Niland and nearby towns are the same problems facing cities across America, at a greater magnitude. Watching these people try to put a working society together, and seeing the lack of support they get, it’s hard not to think of the aftermath of Katrina. It’s nice to see something grapple with these problems – what exactly do we need for a successful community? How much support do we owe to people who’ve fallen on hard times? How much protection do we need to offer, and what kind of protection? Protection from financial hardships? Or at least protection from rising water levels?

The movie doesn’t have many answers, of course. Still, worth watching. It looks at one of the stranger places around, but identifies familiar problems. It does play up the strangeness of the area, though. John Waters narrates the doc, for some reason. Although, I have to say, living in a remote desert does seem like a strange choice to me personally. As I try to figure out exactly what type of place I should be living in, it’s clear to me that I’m a city person. Rural life isn’t for me, but I can understand it. Desert dwelling, on the other hand, seems almost unfathomable. And while the movie shows that the desert has the same planning and community-wide problems cities have, it doesn’t exactly answer the question of why – what is that continually leads people to try to live in the most remote place they can?

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea: ★★★★☆

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Making Money

Snazzy, no?
Check out the stylin’ new coins of the British Empire (via Ezra Klein’s blog). They can be put together like a puzzle to make the royal coat of arms, and look good on their own. Plus, the British have long gotten bonus points on their coinage for including non-circular shapes and varying widths to make them easily identifiable without looking.

I read once that the U.S. can’t use similar designs on their coins, because Big Vending Machine doesn’t want to have to redo all the machines. I probably should get a reference or double check that or something, but I’m not gonna. It’s the internet.

British Currency: ★★★★☆

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