This has been a busy, weird little week. First I had last Friday off of work, then there’s that whole U2 concert thing (and yes, a review is forthcoming, you’ve gotta give me a little time, baby) for which I took two more days off, and then the week is further shortened by a half-day at work tomorrow (the ultrasound is tomorrow afternoon,) so I’ve been thrown off of any semblance of a “normal” schedule. I still feel like I’m catching up, but with what I don’t know.
Anyway, the weird personal news item of the day for me is that we found a message from our local newspaper, the Arizona Republic, on our answering machine. It seems I’ve been chosen to take part in some kind of discussion about how people get their information today. Yeah, that’s a little cryptic. The upside is that they will pay me $75 for my time. The downside is, well, let’s just say I’m more than a little antisocial and have to seriously weigh whether $75 is worth the nerves and hassle of dealing with talking in front of a bunch of people I don’t know, with no real idea of what this shindig is even about. Let me repeat myself to make this clear: I am so antisocial that getting $75 in exchange for a night with other people is actually stressing me out. I’m actually a little weirded out that I might be mentioned in the paper, or that this site will be mentioned . . . I’m a little paranoid, too, I guess you could say. I guess I should call the woman who left the message and at least find out what this deal is about.
Other “exciting” news is that I picked up the new Beck album, Guero, at Best Buy tonight, opting to take the “deluxe” edition home as it has 7 extra songs on it plus a DVD. If the record labels are going to pull this “deluxe edition” nonsense, at least do it the day the album comes out and not 6-8 months later, as Elvis Costello did with The Delivery Man. And I have to say, this is a really nice package – a DVD-sized case bound like a book, with big thick, glossy pages filled with lots of interesting pieces of artwork that I assume aren’t featured in the standard jewel-case edition, or at least not in their full versions like here. And the music? It’s great. Much “happier” than the dreary (but occasionally pretty) Sea Change, and kind of like a best-of Beck but featuring all new music. A little of this, a little of that, and it all adds up to a lot of great music (especially the deluxe with those extra songs.)
Also picked up the Yo La Tengo best-of/rarities package with some trade today (as well as the two albums below,) and I’m having a hard time figuring out why I need all those YLT albums when this best-of is so successful at presenting the basic outline of this very defined niche the band has carved out for itself. At $18 (that’s $6 a disc, kids!) this is a must-buy for anyone that finds the band even remotely interesting. You really can’t regret a deal like that.
I was shocked to find out that I had somehow not heard of a brand new Peter Himmelman album being released this week. Hot on the heels of last year’s Unstoppable Forces is Imperfect World, which finds him in a more stripped-down setting, often with only drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello’s drummer) accompanying him, and mining more straight-ahead rock-folk territory (not folk-rock – because he’s less folk than rock) he really hasn’t touched since the amazing 1994 album Skin. It’s a much easier album to warm up to than Unstoppable Forces, which makes it a decent starting place for new listeners.
Also picked up Toad the Wet Sprocket singer Glen Phillips’ new solo album, Winter Pays For Summer. If you were put off by the dark, mopy nature of his previous solo album, Abulum, you weren’t alone. Breathe easier, however, because this sounds like the follow up to Toad’s final album, Coil, that never got made. So Toad-like are these songs that I wondered if maybe Glen hadn’t held these close during the short Toad reunion tour in the winter of 2003/2004 with hopes that the band might work out whatever likely stupid issues broke them up. In this dumb scenario I concocted entirely out of thin air, I surmized that Glen kept this notebook of all these great, catchy songs by his side, hoping that after a particularly great show the guys would all realize what needed to happen and permanently reform the band, at which point Glen could whip out his handy notebook, saying “Well I just happen to have some songs I think would work great for us.” Of course, it’s entirely possible this happened and instead of the warm, welcoming response, the other guys got pissed, threw some pizza at Glen, and stormed out of the room yelling “We’re song-writers, too, Glen!” I still think Toad’s break up is one of the more pointless things to happen in rock. It’s not like these guys ran off to do some drastically different material – Glen’s the main voice of Toad, but the other guys formed Lapdog and proved that they were just as essential to the band sound. The only thing is, they don’t need each other to make decent music, except maybe to get that tiny little spark of magic that a group-setting like Toad had. Well, make up whatever fantasies you want – Winter Pays For Summer is likely the closest thing to the music of Toad the Wet Sprocket we’re going to see for a while.