You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Literary folk

Since I'm reading Rick Moody as we speak (Garden State, his first) I was interested when I learned that if I want, I can listen to him, too, being that The Wingdale Community Singers, his Brooklyn-based singer-songwriters collective, just released their second album, Spirit Duplicator, on Secret Shame. Moody and the rest of the foursome share the songwriting duty equally. This includes Hannah Marcus (who's played with American Music Club, Red House Painters and Godspeed You Black Emporer), David Grubbs (of Red Krayola, Squirrel Bait, and Bastro) and Nina Katchadourian. Moody also recently served as guest editor for an issue of Magnet Magazine.The album manages to sound remarkably old-timey without being cloying, exemplified by "Give it a Kiss," with its instantly memorable hook.

Since I spent the better part of semester researching the NYC folk scene for a grad school class, I've taken personal interest in the survival of folk music in New York, After the '60s revival waned, it seems most folkies have moved far away from this admittedly hyper-ironic scene. The Wingdales (like Sharon van Etten) are an incredible treasure located right here, and I'm glad they're carrying the folk torch for New York.

Actually, after, a while I realized that the Wingdales' music, springlike and rustic , full of old-fashioned harmonic singing, doesn't exactly match up to Moody's book, with its gloomy industrial spaces and early-twentysomething ennui set to the backdrop of northern New Jersey in the '80s. But hey, I prefer The Carter Family anyway, their beautiful, spare cover of which is below:

Mp3 - Wingdale Community Singers - Death is Only a Dream

What's the deal? Your weekly Publisher's Lunch deal snark (Blogiana Edition)

Publisher's Lunch says: Comedic writer and former radio host April Winchell's REGRETSY, based on the popular blog of the same name; featuring a collection of the oddest, most humorous, and most disturbing crafts the world has ever seen, along with commentary provided by the author, to Jill Schwartzman at Villard, for trade paperback publication, in a pre-empt, by Meg Thompson at LJK Literary Management (world English).

Indichik says: So yeah, speaking of regret? Books based on blogs. Whatever happened to that one based on Stuff White People Like? I think I saw it in the 75% off bin at Urban Outfitters, like six months ago? There's a reason online media is taking of while print is (arguably) dying: disposability. Blogs are, quite rightly, written to be transient. When you spend good money to try to convert that concept to glossy covers and acid-free paper you lose what makes them work. Not everything is meant to be printed. Let's let blogs be blogs, okay? An end in themselves. (Confidential to book agents: contact me for my 78-page proposal for Indichik: The Novel.)

Princess Tiana revisited

The Princess and the Frog, after months of criticism, retconning and hand-wringing, has opened, and as of today has an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course I'm using this opportunity to invite you to revisit my PopMatters article, contrasting Princess Tiana and her predecessor, Uncle Remus, and encouraging viewers to revisit the latter. All cultural controversies aside, I'm just happy that today's kids finally get to see a Disney film made the way it was MEANT to be seen: in flat, glorious 2-D.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Road map to pop stardom

Behold: the "Fame 500" map, a nifty little scientific tool to map which British counties have the most talent per capita. Probably the most surprising revelation (those those of us of a certain age, perhaps, and by that I mean 23) Merseyside and London, the homes of The Beatles and Bowie only finished second and third, respectively, behind the relative isolated northern county Lancashire, home of Oasis and Morrissey. Imagine if this were transposed to the U.S.: While New York and California would obviously have strong showings, I would expect that Minnesota would naturally emerge somewhere near the top, what with Prince, Bob Dylan, and one of the dudes from "Dude, Where's My Car?"

Lately, with the debut in the UK of "Pop Idol," which later gave birth to, of course, "American Idol" with its cattle calls throughout Middle America, and the current British, Simon Cowell-driven talent show juggernaut, "X-Factor," has essentially democratized the achievement of national exposure and fame for aspiring performers. Now UK grocery chain Tesco is taking it one step further by introducing the 1Click2Fame talent competition. Using HD Green Screen technology placed in specialty audition pods inside Tesco stores during a national tour, residents of even the smallest hamlets can create professional quality audition videos, and not only send them instantly to friends, but upload them to the Web site for a chance at winning cash prizes, recording contracts and other goodies. Case in point: the first round winner was Lucie Evans, an impossibly lovable 16-year-old Lily Allen-esque pop singer who went from making her own audition video to recording in L.A. and auditioning musicians there for her touring band:

There's hundreds of videos already available to vote on, and a quick visit to the site proves there's a lot more where Lucie came from. You know it's only a matter of time before this hits a Stop 'n' Shop near you. So could this mean the end of "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere?" Personally if it means the New Yorks and Londons of the world will lose their strangleholds on the entertainment industry, and no longer compel hopefuls to pay outrageously high rents for the privilege of being spat upon by talent agents and record execs, then 1Click2Fame may be the best innovation in entertainment scouting since FM radio. Long live the democracy of talent.

Mp3 - Lucie Evans - No Blue Sky

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Join me Thursday for story time in Greenpoint

Here's your chance to hear me tell whatever stirring story I come up with between now and Thursday night (and that will most likely involve a penis, because as I've come to realize, at readings, much like in kindergarten, penis references are invariably gold) and if you're so inclined, join me and the other talented readers before and/or after for a drink and a hang. It happens this Thursday, November 19 at 8 pm at Bar Matchless, 557 Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint. Detailed directions can be found here:

Vol. 1 Brooklyn Storytelling Series

Come wish us a happy winter break as we present our final Vol. 1 Brooklyn Storytelling of 2009. This month, we present two contributes to our site, and three newcomers to the Matchless stage.

:Porochista Khakpour
::Clay Mcleod Chapman
:::Tobias Carroll
::::Aaron Hartman
:::::Claire Shefchik

Hosted by Jason Diamond

What's the deal? Your weekly Publisher's Lunch deal snark (God Bless America Edition)

Publisher's Lunch says: Todd Gitlin's UNDYING, about a philosopher, who is diagnosed with lymphoma while struggling to write a book contending that Friedrich Nietzsche's thought stemmed from his ill heath, and who is also compelled to contend with a severely errant daughter, as well as the trauma of George W. Bush's 2004 victory, to Jack Shoemaker at Counterpoint, by Ellen Levine at Trident Media Group.

Indichik says: That second obstacle (after the daughter) is priceless. Or maddening, I can't decide which. In any case, eight years of Bush were bad enough -- do we really need to start reliving them through fiction?

Hartzveytik roundup, plus: The Shondes at SLC

First, over on Jezebel, Niina did an unbelievably complete job with recapping last Saturday's Hartzveytik: A Survival Society Social, a charity fundraiser at Southpaw, featuring the Low and the Lonesome, Royal Pink, Soft Power and of course, The Shondes (shown here).

Also: You can see The Shondes! But only if you go to Sarah Lawrence College. Or possibly, if you formerly went to Sarah Lawrence, as I did a relatively short time ago in another life, and still know your way around really, really well and/or still carry your expired student ID around in your wallet. If that's the case, they play Saturday, November 21 at 9 p.m. in The Blue Room.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ben Yagoda writes in praise of the memoirist

Salon's Laura Miller has a long review of Ben Yagoda's new Memoir: A History (Riverhead) up. The book delves back in history to explain the motives of memoirists as early as St. Augustine. I suppose there are those who are interested in such things, but to me, the more intriguing aspects are Yagoda's arguments in defense of the current craze for memoirs of all types, and all levels of quality. One of these is that the current popularity of memoir now allows mediocre writers to get published. And that astonishingly, this is somehow a good thing.

Now missing The Shondes

I've now managed to miss Brooklynites The Shondes twice: once before Rasputina's last show at The Knitting Factory, and once Saturday at Southpaw at Hartzveytik: A Survival Society Social, because I had to leave before their set for a very oddly-timed work-related thing. If heir brand of riot-grrl-meets-traditional Jewish music appeals to you, than you must feel my frustration. I was however able to see Royal Pink, a shamelessly gimmicky '50s girl group throwback band (complete with pink poodle skirts) that got a little less gimmicky at the end, and a very small part of Soft Power, who play lovely laid-back pop. However, when The Shondes' album comes out (soon I'm told), Louisa has promised me VIP status (or something resembling it) and I'll have to be satsified with that. Meanwhile, here's their video for "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," courtesy of Niina.

Friday, November 13, 2009

If I ran the circus, it would look a lot like this

Photos from the cave of daring freaks and spectacular wonders, courtesy of testosterone-heavy email newsletter Thrillist party, Friday at Carnival. In the top photo are the beginnings of the balloon Elmo I had so generously mademe, complete with googly eyes (that kept popping off before he was finished). You could also win live goldfish by tossing ping pong balls in their bowls. The whole event was sponsored by Jolt Energy Mints and Canadian Club Whiskey, complimenting each other perfectly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Small Black at Market Hotel, 11/7/09

Saturday night, the four members of Small Black spent so much time setting up their various electronic tools and toys onstage at Market Hotel that you couldn't help but bristle with anticipation of what sounds these local dudes (whose self-titled EP came out this fall on CassClub, and who I kept trying and for various reasons failing to see during CMJ) might come up with. Happily, they energetically run the gamut from cute, plinking piano trills and chippy electronic riffs, with the lyrics unintelligible most of the time. The showpiece being "Despicable Dogs," not nearly as neat as it sounds on the record, but rather a lilting drunken Irish pub-crawl melody, punctuated by a dizzy merry go round calliope accompaniment.

Mp3 - Small Black - Despicable Dogs

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The cool kids

How often do you get to hear fiction writers read entire stories in one sitting? In my experience, almost never. But last night at NYU's Lillian Vernon House was different. Contributors to the past and current (shown above) issues of Epiphany defeated the Curse of the Fiction Reader (i.e., when you can only read three pages of a 12-page story, nobody knows what the hell you're talking about).

Editor Jeffrey Gustavson plays emcee.

Lara Tupper steams things up with "Ting!," a tale of hot encounters between cruise ship crew.

April Naoko Heck gets in our face with her non-confessional confessional poetry (note that's an index finger, not a middle!).

Your next chance to experience current Epiphany work will be Wednesday at 7, upstairs at Pianos, during the official issue release party. Rumor has it there will be people reading, but it will be business as usual, at only about 5 minutes each, so, alas, poets win again. But as always, we fiction writers have liquor to make up for that.

Saturday Night Lit

UPDATE: See corrected date for issue release party below:

Grab this chance to hear writers read their selections from the past two issues of Epiphany Magazine; last spring's Naked Psyches and this fall's Who's Still Alive, at the Lillian Vernon House at NYU, 58 W. 10th St. It's the first of two Epiphany events taking place this week; the second one will be Wednesday at 7 at Pianos. The lineup tonight is as follows:

Part 1
7 - 9 P.M.
Last Spring’s Classic:

Keith Hendershot, “I Heart You Past August”
Susan Ruel, “Medium Shuffle Blues in E”

Part 2

9:30 P.M.
The New Issue:
WHO’S STILL ALIVE . . . / (l)ove = (o)cean
Lara Tupper, “Ting!”
April Naoko Heck, two poems
Michael Ferch, four poems
H.V. Chao, “Jewel of the North”

It's all curated by Epiphany editors Jeffrey Gustavson, Willard Cook and Karol Nielsen. Who knows, maybe next issue it will be YOU reading. Or even me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

As Elvis would say, it's Girls Girls Girls

Grass Widow seem a lot like the Vivian Girls. There's three of them. They play rather lo-fi, melodic punk. Most of them are refugees from various other bands. They're even playing with the Vivian Girls tonight at 8 at Market Hotel. But the song"To Where," a terrifically melodic track which accomplishes more in a few minutes than I thought any lo-fi track could, goes from spare and dissonant to lofty and meditative, and kind of beatific. In an-ever-more crowded club of Me Toos, it's a lovely standout. With new records on out this month on Captured Tracks and Make a Mess, they're they're poised to distinguish themselves from every other Girl out there.

And speaking of Girls, if you weren't one of the lucky ones to who gets to see Girls at Bowery Ballroom tonight, maybe you're luckier than you think, because there's a Girls afterparty going on at Market Hotel after the show, so if you see Grass Widow, you can get the best of both worlds. Though I'm not sure if Girls themselves will be up for making the trek all the way over to Bed-Stuy, (Market Hotel is a pain in the ass to get to even for me, and I live in what's technically the next neighborhood over). But the good news is no matter what, there will be Girls in some way, shape or form. Plenty of 'em.

Mp3 - Grass Widow - To Where

Thursday, November 5, 2009

If friending the author of bad-ish review of your book on Facebook is inappropriate, then I take everything back

So my review of "How to Be Inappropriate" by Daniel Nester went up early this morning on Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and before I'd even gotten a chance to look at it, the author had already posted a link on Facebook and sent me a message thanking me for writing it, apparently before I'd even woken up. Indeed, not everything in the review is glowing, but for the record, he perhaps thought I disliked the journalistic pieces more than I actually did. In any case, he was gentleman enough to not take it personally. Is that the ultimate impropriety? Or is it perhaps, actually, old-fashioned politeness? In any case, well played, Mr. Nester.