Listed: Jonathan Meiburg + Boyjazz
Jonathan Meiburg was first heard from in 2000, playing on Okkervil River's debut album, Stars Too Small To Use (Orchard). Their subsequent two releases, Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See and Down the River of Golden Dreams were released by Jagjaguwar in 2002 and 2003 respectively. All three albums found the ensemble (generally led by Will Sheff) combining soulful fold with gentle indie rock tendencies, making music that is pleasantly unique, yet comfortably familiar. Meiburg, who plays banjo and handles some singing for Okkervil River, is the leader of Shearwater (which also features Sheff), whose music is a folkier, more easy-going variation on that of Okkervil River. Shearwater's new album, Winged Life (Misra), is their third overall and second for Misra. Meiburg contributed to this week's Listed feature.
1. Talk Talk - Laughing Stock - I-10 between San Antonio and Phoenix, about 4am on an all-night push, approaching El Paso. You drive toward the glow of the city for over an hour before you come within sight of it. More than any other major highway at night, this one's like space travel; truck stops are like interplanetary outposts, and there's a feeling of incredible speed and motionlessness at once. Talk Talk’s dislocated and beautiful album, with its swirling organs, frozen guitars, distant drums, and contemplative (but somehow urgent) vocals fit right in and kept my eyes open. [See also: Califone - Heron King Blues.]
2. Baptist Generals - No Silver/No Gold - A snowy dirt road in the middle of the night in the mountains just outside Denver. The higher we climbed, the slicker the road became until we fishtailed into a ditch. We made the last mile to the cabin where we slept by pushing the van while Howard (keyboard/lap steel) tapped on the throttle and the brake at almost the same time to get traction. I kept slipping and banged up my knees. It was very, very quiet up there, and I could hear (and see) everyone breathing. The gritty, fumbling pilgrimage that the BGs’ record evokes was comforting, especially songs like “Creeper”.
3. Anus - s/t - The dumb, endless, uniform orchards that fan out around Chico, California. We were punch-drunk and a little down after a sparsely-attended show at an uncomfortable coffee shop, and Thor (drums/vibraphone) cued up this disc to lighten the mood. Here's what we know about Anus: They are (were?) French. Their album cover features three middle-aged men dressed as Roman centurions playing tiny keyboards. And the 7-track nugget of genius that is this record would make a cow laugh. Anus pounds out the most inane melodies you've ever heard with a manic gusto that borders on the delirium of utter despair; meanwhile, distorted voices shouting along in the background seem to have mastered neither French nor English (and, in the last track, go all-out pre-verbal). It's a guaranteed belly laugh when things are grim. Please let me know if you can find out anything else about this band; Googling for "anus music" was a mistake I won't repeat.
4. Correo Aereo - Lo Que Me Dijo El Viento (roughly "Things the Wind Told Me") - The long stretch between Spokane, Washington and Billings, Montana, through the austere coniferous forests of the Bitterroot Range and winding river valleys where ravens perched in the cottonwoods. My general ignorance of Latin American music makes me unable to place Correo Aereo in the context of a particular tradition, but their spare, lovely, spirited songs lent a joy to the landscape that was all the more powerful for its loneliness.
5. Michael Nyman/Damon Albarn - Film score for Antonia Bird’s Ravenous (the cowboy cannibalism flick of 1999 starring Robert Carlyle). - The tail end of still another all-night drive, this time an 18-hour odyssey that began in Omaha and ended in Austin. The sun rose and set, and by the time we put on this scary masterpiece (which sounds like a ride on a wagon train to hell, circa 1885) we were hurtling past Waco, with only 100 agonizing miles yet to go. As we listened, I-35's pedestrian ugliness seemed portentous and looming, and it felt like we were deep inside the belly of the beast.
6. Nico - The Marble Index - I-10 again, between Tucson and Phoenix, in the blurry speed-crash of an all night drive propped up by ephedra, ginseng, and coffee. The military aircraft graveyard on the outskirts of Tucson was eerie in the morning sun, which reflected off the shrink-wrapped fuselages of what looked like every fighter and bomber the air force ever owned. That light, the severe headache I felt coming on, and the evil wheeze of Nico's harmonium and John Cale's violas combined in a way that was painful, piercing and gorgeous, "close to the frozen borderline."
7. Joanna Newsom - Walnut Whales - Eastern Wyoming, between Spearfish, SD and Cheyenne. The interstate cuts straight across some of the most desolate country I've ever seen there, sandhills and and pronghorn antelope and broken-down windmills. But like Correo Aereo, Joanna's music managed to wring lightness and joy from a landscape that would have otherwise seemed dull and brutal. Her new album is excellent, but I think I prefer this one, her first; her voice is stranger and more childlike, and the recordings have a rough-hewn quality and mystery that cuts beautifully against her ethereal harp and piano. "Peach, Plum, Pear," in which she pounds on a Wurlitzer while singing that "we are galloping, manic/to the mouth of the source/and we are swallowing panic/in the face of its force," always lifts my spirits. To a touring band it sounded like a manifesto.
8. Jon Wayne - Two Graduated Jiggers – Stuck behind any convoy of semis, anytime, anywhere. We’re split down the middle on this record; Thor, Travis (violin) and I find it a work of pure, hilarious brilliance, while Will (keyboard, guitar, vocals), Howard, and Kim (upright bass) think it’s intolerable, and run for their earplugs whenever we reach for it. Jon Wayne sounds as if a dreadful (and dreadfully drunk) country/punk band had somehow wandered into a day camp run by the Butthole Surfers, Tom Waits, and Frank Zappa, where they were forced to make an album without really understanding how to play or record. The singer vacillates between two emotional states:
9. Minus Story - The Captain is Dead, let the Drum Corpse Dance – I-35 between Oklahoma City and Lawrence, Kansas. The terrain rolls so gently along this road that it seems almost entirely flat, one cut-over cornfield after another, and Minus Story’s, fuzzed-out, ecstatic record seems like an out-and-out rebellion against the landscape. “It’s joyless, joyless!” exclaims singer Jordan Geiger, “the place where I live!”, but he turns a lament into something triumphant and stirring, a battle cry.
10. Artist Unknown - "Ay, Vida" - The suburban wasteland between Cheyenne and Denver, where bulldozers push mounds of dirt around and tract housing sprawls in every direction. This song, from a "Trios Mexicanos" compilation that my indulgent boss at my day job bought from a vendor on the subway in Mexico City, is a perfectly theatrical gem that sounds like it might have been recorded in the late 40s or early 50s. It comes complete with a dramatic prologue in which a postman delivers a 'dear John' letter to the hapless narrator. We hear the woman in question's voice as he reads. "Forget me," she says. "My love for you is dead. I hope this letter doesn't seem too cruel." He, of course, bursts immediately into song. "Oh, my love," he weeps, in a quivering tenor, "Why have you sent me this fatal letter?" (Luckily, none of us received letters like this on the tour.)
11. Bruce Chatwin - The Songlines - Not an album, or even music, but a weird, wonderful, and severe travel book, ostensibly about a trip into Aboriginal Australia, but really more of a meditation on the meaning and origins of nomadism, wanderlust, music and the human mind. Why do homo sapiens have such big brains? "For singing our way through the wilderness," he writes, and he means it. I’ll drink to that.
Boyjazz launches rock and roll into the distant future with huge riffs and howling vocals propelled by unstoppable electronic beats. Starting off as a studio collaboration between Sexmouth (Adam Hobbs) and Supertouch (Aaron Levin) in 2002, Boyjazz is rapidly making a name for themselves on the live circuit with their full band featuring Eric "Stiff Digits" Murray on lead guitar, "Masculine" Dan Brubaker on rhythm guitar, and Alex "Clay Hunt" Pauley on bass.
After a year of stirring the cauldron and careful incantation, Boyjazz has released their debut album In The City Tonight on Frenetic Records.
So, since we catch so much flak for our own name, we give you:
"Top Ten Best-Slash-Worst Band Names"
1. Limp Bizkit
2. The Negro Problem
3. Double D Nose
4. Reel Big Fish
5. Jesus Jones
6. Hot Tuna
8. Hootie and the Blowfish
9. Toad The Wet Sprocket
By Dusted Magazine