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Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
by Adam Perry
A friend of mine who grew up in SeaTac, Wash., told me the other night that The Fleet Foxes’ epic folk-rock is nostalgic for him, because “their sound is so Olympian/rainforesty/woodsy.” And yes, the young band’s self-titled debut LP (just released on Sub Pop) is pure emerald goodness, straight outa Seattle. Indeed, if this is the new Seattle sound, Crosby, Stills and Nash will be mighty proud: These boys can sing. Which would make sense, seeing that frontman Robin Pecknold has apparently been belting out impressive versions of stuff like “Boots of Spanish Leather” since he was in junior high. “Sun It Rises,” Fleet Foxes’ opening track, sports gorgeous group harmonies that wouldn’t have sounded out of place alongside the timeless David Crosby-led vocal heaven that is If I Could Only Remember My Name. And it only gets more beautiful from there, spanning influences from classic L.A. vocal greats like the Beach Boys, CSN and Jackson Browne to current rootsy/spacey greats like Midlake, Panda Bear and even (slightly) My Morning Jacket. Lyrics like “you walk along the stream with your head caught in a waking dream” (from “Your Protector”) and “the woman of the woods came by to give you the word of the old man” (from “Ragged Wood”) let you travel through time and space wherever a set of headphones is available, yet not in the banal sense of something like “Stairway to Heaven” — and the production is just perfect: not too polished, not too obviously saturated with reverb and not lo-fi for the sake of being lo-fi. In short, pick up Fleet Foxes if you feel like leaving the civilized world behind to take mushrooms and live in the forest but can’t quit your day job.
Rose Hill Drive, Moon is the New Earth
by Douglas McDaniel
One of Boulder’s best-known bands moves further out of orbit, ever closer to Mars, finding reasonable rent on the lit side of the moon. The new release, Moon is the New Earth, fully declares the power trio as breaking out with a bigger, thicker, perhaps even dirtier guitar-based sound. The first track, “Sneak Out,” reminds me of Fleetwood Mac’s classic bust out rocker “Oh Well.” But “A Better Way” might be a better indicator of what has been achieved in Boulder’s Coupe Studios: post-Pearl Jam space romps, with glassy low-register vocals, high-flyin’ riffs. Muddy in all of the right places and guitar solos tending toward short sprints, rather than long hikes, this is a much bigger sound than I remember from a Telluride gig for the band a couple of years ago. Lots of smart dissonance here, too. “The 8th Wonder” comes out with heavy distortion and bits of arabesque, then it goes into a lunar launch. A nice arching finale at song 12, “Always Waiting” makes for a document round and whole. Yeah, it all works. Best tracks for a single (or radio, or satellite, or wherever music gets popularized these days) is the more acoustic, catchy “One Night Stand” or “Do You Wanna Get High?” because, yeah, after listening to this, I do.
Creature Feature, Greatest Show Unearthed
by Brian Hicks
Fans of goth-themed electric rock music can rejoice. There’s a hot new band that formed in 2005 and is starting to really make a name for itself in the music industry.
Horror lovers are guaranteed to find delight with Creature Features’ debut CD, Greatest Show Unearthed, a collection of morbidly rocking songs offering a fine variety of twisted tunes released in 2007 through Sumerian Records. The opening song, “Greatest Show Unearthed,” drew inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s famous novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is about an evil carnival that arrives in town and lures people to it with the promise of having one’s every desire fulfilled while warning that “there’s always a price to pay.” “Buried Alive” takes place from the perspective of fright master Edgar Allan Poe and invites the listener to participate in some of his ghoulish day-to-day activities, including burying a man alive and waxing nostalgic about his lost love Lenore, both in the space of just a few minutes.
Other frightful ditties from the two-man band — composed of lead vocalist and guitar slinger Curtis Rx, and keyboardist Erik X — include “Bound and Gagged,” about a man who has kidnapped an innocent girl and is holding her for ransom, and “How To Serve Man,” a tribute to the eponymous Twilight Zone episode and featuring cannibalism. There’s also a warped necrophilia number aptly titled “A Corpse in my Bed.”
Whether or not you dig horror-related music, this band is an undeniably quirky and enterprising duo that’s ready to horrify the industry.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie (translated by Ina Rilke)
by Brian Hicks
Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress recounts the author’s “reeducation” in a rural Chinese town during the Cultural Revolution. The narrator (who is nameless) and his best friend, Luo, the son of a dentist persecuted for bragging about fixing Chairman Mao’s perfect teeth, are sent to live with ignorant peasants and slaves so they will sympathize with the common people and the followers of Mao. The aim is to bring them down a notch and make them realize their elitist upbringings were shameful and wicked. As the two teens labor, however, they gain a new education that will change their lives forever.
The first night of their arrival, the narrator is persecuted for playing the violin, denounced by the mob of villagers surrounding them as a “reactionary toy.” They intend to seize and burn the musical instrument, but Luo’s quick thinking saves the day. He tells the narrator to play a tune called “Mozart is Playing for Chairman Mao.” The narrator starts to play, and the peasants are heartened and excited, truly believing a man called Mozart wrote a song in praise of their beloved Chairman Mao. This scene is one of several demonstrating the gullibility of the peasants and the intelligence and worldliness of the urbane upper class.
The narrator and Luo have a passion for reading, and their friend Four-Eyes happens to have a treasure of hidden literature in his room. These books are reactionary Western literature, the works of great authors such as Balzac, Dickens and Twain. Four-Eyes (so named because he wears glasses) is a misfit in the village, the son of a writer and a poetess but with no ability to write himself. He pays visits to the local miller, a filthy man who knows a number of songs from the region, in order to plagiarize them and turn them into Maoist tunes. Although the narrator and Luo do not approve of his actions, they covet his collection of books and manage to steal them during a celebration honoring the completion of Four-Eyes’ reeducation.
During one assignment, the boys are introduced to Little Chinese Seamstress, the beautiful and slightly sophisticated daughter of a wealthy tailor in the village. Although both boys are attracted to her, Luo initially denies this, arguing, “She’s too unsophisticated for me!” The boys include her on their quest to read forbidden literature, even using her home to squirrel away banned books. Luo falls in love with her, and the boys teach her to read, instilling within the girl the same passion they have for literature. Little Chinese Seamstress’ education, however, results in a shocking action that no one, not even the girl’s father, could have foreseen and leaves a lasting impression upon the boys.
Knowledge and imagination work hand-in-hand in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, showing the protagonists’ craftiness and intelligence are much more effective than the peasants’ brawn and arrogance.
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