My regular trawl for meaty music writing yielded some particularly good stuff this past weekend -- sharp essays, free music and an old-fashioned writers' spat. Let's jump right in:
In the new issue of the New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones takes a nice look at the long-running indie-rock band Spoon. In advance of the band's new album, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," due on July 10, Jones does a wonderful job of elucidating the way the Austin, Texas, quartet achieves a "dignity that comes from self-control."
I'm not sure what occasioned it, but over on the indie-centric Pitchfork, columnist Mark Richardson has a lovely piece about the jazz pianist Bill Evans that gets at both the melancholy beauty of the troubled late pianist's music as well as the way his influence has filtered down into other genres and styles. "I'm bringing some of my own baggage to this, I realize," writes Richardson. "But when you combine Evans' approach to piano, remember the details of his often miserable life, and then picture the way he positioned himself when he played -- crouched over, head a few inches from the keys, like he wishes he could crawl in the thing and disappear -- the phrase 'Bill Evans alone' seems like a precondition for the saddest music you could ever imagine."
Jazzheads, and anyone else with even a passing interest in music that lives outside the mainstream, needs to read the essay Marc Ribot published on the All About Jazz Web site. In it, Ribot, a mainstay of New York's downtown music scene whose wild, unpredictable guitar has graced albums by John Zorn, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, discusses the dire predicament American avant-garde musicians find themselves in. "We're facing the consequences of a lack of U.S. public funding," writes Ribot. "As the expressed will of the American political majority, this radical market liberalism seems hard to oppose. Nationally, 'we've' made our choice, 'we' will live with the results: America will finally get the culture it's paid for."
If you're thinking about buying "Era Vulgaris," the new Queens of the Stone Age album, when it comes out tomorrow, you might want to check out the band's Web site first, where you can listen to it streaming in its entirety. QOTSA have been responsible for some of the best mainstream hard rock/heavy metal in recent memory, but I don't think the new album is in the league of the band's last two studio discs (you can read my review of "Era Vulgaris" tomorrow). Give it a listen and let me know what you think.
Finally, there was a bizarre exchange last week regarding the recent New Yorker feature story about Paul McCartney by John Colapinto. Writing on her blog, sometime Village Voice and Nextbook contributor Mollie Wilson criticized the piece for being "dull, shapeless and devoid of insight." That's not the weird part -- I sort of agree with Wilson -- what's strange is that Colapinto felt compelled to fire off some nasty, condescending comments in response, even stooping to the line, "And that's why you're a blogger and not a writer." The McCartney piece isn't available online, but you can listen to a podcast of Colapinto discussing it here.
-- David Marchese