and i try and i try, to no avail



John Medeski's hand moves in a strange & confounding manner (but in a good way).

MP3 Medeski Martin & Wood - "End of the World Party"
Downtown NYC legends Medeski Martin & Wood released their latest album, the solid John King (of the Dust Brothers) produced End of the World Party (Just in Case), back in September. This is the title track from that record, and as per usual it's a masterful piece of instrumental groove as MMW do it best. King's production work may give the song added density & ambience, but it's drummer Billy Martin & bassist Chris Wood holding down the thumping rhythm section while keyboardist John Medeski does his "thang" that makes it a real keeper (and a rump shaker). Groovy, indeed.

MP3 RANA - "It's So Hard (Believe Me)"
I received the new RANA record, entitled What It Is, in the mail (thanks again, Matt!) last week, but I'm not ready to share it with the rest of the world quite yet - at least not until it's available on the band's website. Besides, this nine-plus minute track, which closes out the Jersey boys' 2002 debut LP Here in the USA, just seemed more appropriate for me at the moment. There's little chance I am going to describe it any better than Bill Stites did a couple years back, so I'll just let him do it for me:
The final track's first ninety seconds sound like nothing so much as morning coming to life, as sounds of all shapes and sizes scurry about, foraging for sustenance, preying and being preyed upon. Then the drums kick in, and for the next seven minutes the band glides along instrumentally, just barely building, no longer applying their impressive synergy to writing and arranging, but to defining a psychedelic rock environment unlike any other I've ever encountered [...] Scott's guitar hums and wails, Matt's keyboards converse, cascading ambient sheets tumble over one another, and all the while Andrew and Ryan pulse along primally, crafting a breathing, lifelike sonic space that somehow seems to last much longer than its running time would allow, yet is always over far too soon.

After coasting along, sculpting sound, for longer than the combined running time of any two of the album's other tracks, Scott begins to sing. Thirty seconds of pop perfection later the song and the album are over, and you realize that RANA don't just play rock and roll, they are rock and roll, more than any band to come down the pike in years. First they turn in an impressive array of not-a-second-too-long rock chestnuts, fast and slow, full of hope and longing. Then they abruptly pull a 180 and prove themselves to be completely unhurried conceptual improvisers, seemingly willing to explore a simple drumbeat all day if necessary. And then, in the end, the improv turns out to be in the interest of the song as a whole, as it always should be.

Thanks, Bill. Well said.

Matt from RANA will be performing as Leafcutter (w/support from Ryan & Noah of Brooklyn's Sam Champion) for a couple of upcoming east coast dates, including next Monday (11/15) at the Tap Bar in NYC's Knitting Factory (with friends The Wowz) and then again at Boston's Zeitgeist Gallery on December 9. Mark your calendars, people. Don't miss out on the fun.

it's the aftermath, stupid


This blog has seemed like a Ted Leo fansite of late, which is not all that surprising given that his latest album Shake The Sheets is one of the year's very best IMO. I may never know what to say about last week's presidential election precisely, so we might as well read Ted's thoughts on the matter:

November 3, 2004 - Morning in America

So let me tell you about my week: I left on tour tired. After the first few days of rather long drives, it sinks in that my new cousin (by marriage) Jeff has just been shipped off to Iraq. This hits me as we pull into Orlando, to play at the Social -- the same club we played at the night the bombs started dropping 2 1/2 years ago. The weight of all the work of the entire past 3 years makes me fall, as I sit there, unable to "get it up," to perform, for the people who are there to be there, to be together, to be part of something, and for the people who are owed some return on their $10 investment, and I'm staring at a dressing room wall covered in drawings of dicks -- just like every other dressing room wall in America, and I lost it. I lost the thread, I lost confidence in so many things, but most importantly, in the fact that what I do is something worth doing. In retrospect, I realize I must have looked like Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now" (you know the scene). But I get up the next day, and I almost make it all the way back. By the time we get to Houston, a few days later, I'm on it.

Then our van breaks down in Austin, after the show during which my amp breaks and my Echoplex tape snaps. I wake up the next day to find out that we won't be able to get the van out until the NEXT day, which means we have to cancel Tucson for the second time in a row (the previous time being when I injured my vocal chords), and then to a tearful call from my parents informing me that they had to take the action of putting our dog to sleep while I was away. She was 15. I don't live with my parents, but I did for a number of the past few years, I still live relatively close, and when I'm not on tour, I spend about half of every week in New York and New Jersey for work-related stuff anyway, the point being that she was very much "my dog" as well. I took care of her often, and spent time with her when I didn't need to care for her more often. She was omnipresent in my life. She was so much love, and her loss is huge.

We got out of Austin at 5 PM on Monday, taking our friend Che with us, planning to drop him off in El Paso. About 2 hours into the journey, we drove straight into what seemed (seriously) like a tornado. The way things were blowing and floating on the wind in front of us, and the pressure on the van made it seem like we were under water. Luckily, those conditions soon gave way to just rain and wind, until we got to Kent, Texas, population 65, formerly called "Antelope." Here, we hit snow. And not just snow, but a blinding blizzard so intense that I was assessing the blanket situation for four in the van, because it seemed more likely that we'd be snowed in here or on the side of the highway than that we'd make it out or the snow would end -- uh, oh yeah -- did I mention that this blizzard took place IN THE DESERT OF WEST TEXAS??? But with a little cell phone help from home, I figured out that the next town with motels was 40 miles away, and understanding just how ridiculous our situation was, I figured we might as well make the "snowed in" thing happen on the side of the highway, if it was gonna happen at all. So off we went, at 20 miles an hour, into the Great White South. As our elevation dropped a bit, though, so did the snow, and we found ourselves in blessed rain once again.

We made it to El Paso, dropped off Che, slept for a few hours at the Travelodge right off the highway, woke up, and drove straight to San Diego (made it in just a little over 10 hours, too!), listening to election coverage the whole way. I had predicted a decicive Kerry win. I got off stage in San Diego to four voice mails with people crying, including my (now) wife, and my father, both of whom had also lost almost too much already last week BEFORE Tuesday. I went to sleep feeling shell-shocked, not knowing how I'm supposed to get on stage and finish the rest of this fucking tour, let alone go back to living in this new theocratic (yet hypocritical) landscape that I see as so fundamentally opposed to me and my world. I woke up this morning feeling the same way. Then I talked to my father, who told me, through tears of sadness and rage, that having that dog made him love more, and that he wasn't going to let this make him hate. He was waking up this morning, and he was getting back to work. That was all I needed to hear, because I'm getting up right now, and I'm going to fucking war. I won't be driven out of my home by these Huns unless they drive me straight to Hell.

So hopefully I'll see you all there -- bring percussion.

PLAYLIST: Everyone should bring many percussion instruments to the shows. They won't hear us, but we'll hear each-other...

LATE MORNING ADDENDUM: I was just sitting here doing the books covering everything from Austin to today (see below for explanation), and I found it interesting that, with all that was taken, we still came out exactly one dollar in the black, which is slightly better than if the last few days had never happened...

On a related note, everybody has gone maps-crazy (and I'm not talking about fellow NYU alum Karen O)! Moebius Rex pointed me toward some odd-looking maps that balance out the red/blue divide by compensating for population density, while Oveis points out that the US is not red nor blue, but actually purple. Oveis also draws some eery parallels to the electoral college of 1896. If pink is the new black, then are gays the new slaves?

ETA: Hey world, we're sorry. (via Zoilus & Good Times Roll)

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