All the 2013 Crime Writing You’ll Need

Linking to anything from Slate feels weird these days — they themselves have starting reflexively using #slatepitch in articles and tweets. But I never feel weird linking to Justin Peters’ Crime blog over there. Guy is always on point.

Perfect example: a post he put together recently linking to crime writers’ best pieces of the year. I’m working my way through the list now, and it’s already great. Like Doug Brown’s piece on a series of Cleveland heroin arrests. A sample:

The 2008 music video, for example, of “Out Tha Roof” with Chip Tha Ripper and Ray Jr., has all the classic “Chase” elements: holding handfuls of $100 bills, making it rain, driving his Mercedes Benz, wearing expensive jewelry. One shot that accompanies the line, “Money ain’t a thing so we throwing stacks out the roof” shows Chase standing through the sunroof of a moving Rolls Royce tossing an amount of cash worth more than many of the vacant homes away on those streets. Growls Ray Jr. in the song: “Fuck what you heard / Nigga I’m the truth / This is a hundred grand / And now it’s out the roof.” In another cash-tossing scene, he’s leaning against his Mercedes parked in front of the local corner store with a clearly visible sign that reads “WE ACCEPT FOOD STAMPS”.

Okkervil River Have All the 80s Covers for the Holidays

I feel like I do OK at not letting my Okkervil River fanboy-ism get too out of hand on the Dog Blog. Sure, I may have gone on not just about their most recent record, this year’s fantastic The Silver Gymnasium, but also the album’s fantastic artwork later on the Dog Blog.

But when they came out for a computer game for the record? I kept it to myself. When they started a Kickstarter to make a short film based around the centrepiece of the album? I was also quiet about that.

So I don’t feel like I’m spamming you too much to point you towards their third Golden Opportunities mix. For a few years now, the Austin-ish based folk-rock band have put out a free covers EP around the holidays. The first was a rougher, fans-only kinda thing, mostly featuring frontman Will Sheff and a cobbled together assortment of covers he’d played.

This time around, the whole band plays everything live off the floor, giving this batch of songs a raucous bit of life. As with Okkervil’s live recordings, Sheff’s a little unhinged, close to the edge of howling at times. Elsewhere, he tones it down, like for a simply wonderful and moving cover of Rosanne Cash’s “Seven Year Ache”. The songs are all from the 80s, in keeping with the setting of The Silver Gymnasium, but they’re all firmly in line with the sound of Okkervil. Wang Chung, George Benson, Cyndi Lauper and Don Henley have nothing to complain about with what the band’s done with their songs.

A Mix For “Regina’s Music Underbelly”

Carl Johnson has a long musical resume around this town. He’s currently a part of Library Voices, Coldest Night of the Year and the Florals and has a long list really good former bands, too.

Now, Johnson’s taking his Dude From Around credentials and using them to document the scene. Prairie Shag is a 16-track mixtape of Regina bands (and one Saskatoon act, too). It looks and sounds pretty cool.

Side one features the Extroverts, Robin and the Hairy Bats, Black Thunder, the Lazy MKs, Lambta Das, the Weird Years, Snake River, Kitchen Party and Andy Shauf. Side two has the Spoils, the Florals, Herb Exner, the Peanut Butter Genocide, These Estates, Wizards, and Jeff Morton.

You can get actual cassette copies of the mixtape at the Prairie Shag Tumblr. (Or just download it for free, if you don’t have much use for cassettes.) While there:

– marvel at Orion Paradis’ mastering;
– fawn over the rad accompanying art by Phomohobes; and
– follow the Tumblr, since Johnson promises more from Prairie Shag in the future.

Johnson answered a few questions about the mix via email today, which you’ll find lightly edited below.

When and where did you get the idea for a mixtape of mostly Regina musicians?

After a show in town this summer the drummer for Ketamines was asking about the local music scene. I blabbed a bunch of names at him until he asked me to just make a mixtape.

How did you decide on which artists to feature?

There are a lot of artists in town who are making art and music that’s thoughtful and spirited and unconcerned with following the chongo line. Maybe there always have been. I wanted a sample of artists I enjoyed and admired. There’s many more I would have liked to have involved with the mix.

Why the name “Prairie Shag”?

There’s a mysterious loner-type living in Regina’s northwest who’s candor and musical taste I appreciate. The name sort of evokes them.

How did a single Saskatoon band sneak on there?

Why wouldn’t you put one on? I’d be excited to see a Regina band on a Saskatoon mix. Plus, Wizards rule.

Quote of the Day, Alice Munro-Related Edition

Alice Munro’s a Nobel prizewinner. Bring on the haters.

Her game is so impossibly tight that she can take it. Her bibliography has not just produced consistent quality but built brilliance on top of brilliance for much longer than I’ve been alive. That much is more or less inarguable, as can be seen by the adoration from all corners when she won the Nobel Prize in Literature last week.

So we come to MobyLives. In a post titled “Who among us is brave enough to speak out against Alice Munro?” Dustin Kurtz replies to the charge from the screenwriter of The Canyons that Canada’s favourite Nobel prizewinner is “overrated”:

God bless you, Bret Easton Ellis. Only you can save us from pensive, fraught stories written by a gentle, hard-working eighty-two year old Canadian with a nice smile.

This is perfect.

Newish Music: Parquet Courts, Tally All the Things That You Broke

455Parquet Courts
Tally All the Things That You Broke
What’s Your Rupture?

Parquet Courts — they’re three years old, their official website is a WordPress site and if you like rock music you should check them out. Their 2012 full-length, Light Up Gold, is essential listening for fans of sloppy indie-rock everywhere. Whatever they’ve got planned to properly follow that up, Tally All the Things That You Broke is more a quickie to sate new fans.

The EP from the Brooklyn band opens strong, “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now” working flute accents and haphazard guitar distortion to great effect. “The More It Works” intersperses Strokes-style garage-rock with Railroad Jerks-style 90s punk blues. Pretty great stuff.

The 90s influence is rockier with closer “He’s Seeing Paths”. Near eight minutes of free association flow, ambling and goofy. When Beck was deep into this kind of music back in his Mellow Gold days, he was at least mostly on point. Whatever — when you spell your band name “Parkay Quarts” on the record cover, you can do a thing like this.

Okkervil River Does Two LPs Right

Okkervil RiverI really like the new Okkervil River album, The Silver Gymnasium. I said as much in the most recent review section of Prairie Dog. That said, they could’ve just covered Keith Moon’s Two Sides of the Moon and I still would’ve bought the record. I’m a big fan.

Okkervil RiverHaving pre-ordered the album, I’m lucky on a couple of fronts: first, that the record is so good; second, that packaging is so great. Longtime Okkervil cover artist Will Schaff came up with some beautiful work to evoke the town singer Will Sheff is singing about on this album. If you’re going to do a double-LP album, this is a good way to do it.

The regular vinyl version of their last album, I Am Very Far, was more of a two-LP “fuck you”. Sure, they had a $100 special edition on sale the minute the record was announced that was probably nice, but I was flat broke then. (Or relative to now, at least.) What did I get for buying the regular edition of Very Far? Two LPs in a slightly larger sleeve with the CD booklet dropped in there in case I wanted to read the lyrics. That’s some bullshit. You think your band’s worth a double-LP album? Then your double-LP album is worth putting some effort into. And that normally means a gatefold, or production notes and/or lyrics that are at least blown up to be record sized.

When It’s An Even Worse Time To Visit North Korea

Dennis Rodman again visited North Korea, again meeting with his “friend for life” Kim Jong-un. An issue this time around: his refusal to ask for the return of a U.S. prisoner in the country. From the New York Times:

“Guess what? That’s not my job to ask about Kenneth Bae,” Mr. Rodman said, according to The Associated Press. Then, referring to President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, he added, “Ask Obama about that. Ask Hillary Clinton.” Then he criticized the two with an expletive.

It’s not his job, but more worrying than Rodman not lobbying for the release of Rae is the timing of this trip. These bro-downs pull media focus from the parade of atrocities that seem to be constantly happening within the country’s borders. Just the other week, for example, there was this item about the fate of a woman it’s believed was involved with Kim. The National Post passed on a report from a South Korean paper, who said the former pop singer

…was arrested with 11 others on August 17. All 12 were machine-gunned down by a firing squad three days later, while members of their immediate family were forced to watch, the paper reported.

The family members were then sent to prison camps.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that could just be the word on North Korea for a bit? If when the country came up for a few weeks, the first thought would be, “Oh yeah, word is that power-mad fuck killed the woman who sang ‘Excellent Horse-Like Lady’. Jesus”? Getting mad about something Dennis Rodman does is a fool’s game, but c’mon. This isn’t great timing for a friendly visit.

New To Bandcamp: Foreign Fields And Neighbors

I heard about Foreign Fields from Pat Book’s SoundSalvationArmy. He loves them. I think it’s safe to say we’ll see a novella-sized review sooner or later from him on their new EP, Tuscaloosa, and all the gorgeous Andrew Bird-style vocal wailing held within. As long as that adorable baby of his doesn’t get in the way.

If you want physical copies of just about any of Neighbors music, you’ll probabyl have to track it down on cassette. Let’s hope they grow out of it. If they keep at the quality of their new EP, Power Country, I wouldn’t getting some of this on vinyl, otherwise known as “the physical media I’ll actually listen to”.

The Seattle band is managing their mess better than they did on the 2012 full length John in Babeland. They nail the happy medium between charming and complete wreck, nailing catchy rock and singing reminiscent of Sloan.

The Holy Mountain Remake

I’ve never seen The Holy Mountain, the 1973 Mexican film. I’ve also never been to one of the movies from Regina Public Library Film Theatre’s Art-Rated Films series, since tonight, Wednesday, September 4 is the first one, I think.T heir calendar says the series will feature

Dunlop-exhibiting artists and curators introduce a film of their choosing. These films provide idiosyncratic insights into Dunlop exhibitions and artist practices, underscoring the critical relationship between the moving image and visual art.

So yeah, I don’t have a lot to tell you about all that. But! I have watched DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez!, the self-described Holy Mountain remake from Everything Is Terrible!

Previously, the mad VHS hounds made two movies: Everything Is Terrible: The Movie and 2 Everything 2 Terrible. Both dug deep into their found footage archives to mix thematically linked clips with funny, interesting and upsetting results.

DoggieWoggiez continues in that tradition. They gathered movies, T.V. shows, ads and more, all featuring dogs. Talking dogs, dogs dying, supernatural dogs and all regular dog stuff, too. The one place where DoggieWoggiez doesn’t live up to the EiT name might be in the depth of its resources. They still dig up some amazing stuff, but they also pull a little too often from some broad sources like the Buddies series. (Snow Buddies, Santa Buddies, et al.) They’ve done great things with recognizable movies in the past — I keep going back to their two-minute Boat Trip — but pulling more from the obscure material in a movie like this would’ve helped.

So — if The Holy Mountain, tonight at 9 p.m. at the RPL Film Theatre, is anything like DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez!, watch out for the bit where all the dogs are jumping through windows. That’s rough.

Swimmer Makes It From Cuba To Florida

Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old swimmer who’s attempted the 180-kilometre journey four times before, made it to Key West, Florida from Cuba today. She isn’t the first to make the epic swim, but she’s the first to complete without the aid of a shark cage.

Jellyfish were a roadblock in her previous attempts. Of course those beautiful fucking jerks of the sea stood in the way of something this cool. From the Guardian:

Her fourth attempt, made in August 2011, was called off early after she was stung in two separate attacks by box jellyfish whose deadly venom has claimed more human lives in the past 50 years than shark bites. Nyad said the stings felt like having her entire body submerged in hot, burning oil. “I was yelling: ‘Fire, fire, fire!'” she recalled.

In other “feats of endurance” news, I’m about to put on pants for the first time today.

R.I.P. Seamus Heaney

“Irish poet Seamus Heaney has died in Dublin at the age of 74,” reports NPR. “He was one of the world’s best-known poets. In 1995 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t had too much contact with Heaney’s poetry proper. His translation of Beowulf is fantastic. It’s the only version I’ve read in full, and none of the others I’ve encountered match it. I’ll leave the real eulogizing to others, like Dan Chiasson over at the New Yorker.

Justice Ginsburg Is Performing A Gay Marriage Tomorrow

From the Washington Post:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.

The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in recognition of same-sex unions.

“I can’t imagine someone I’d rather be married by [than Ginsburg],” Kaiser told the Post. Well, duh. She’s a Supreme Court justice. In terms of people down in the States who would be a bigger get to marry you, you’ve got, what, maybe if Prince got one of those internet certificates that said he was a minister in the Life Church or something.

Today In History: March On Washington

Fifty years ago today, over 200,000 people came together in Washington, D.C. to protest racial inequality in the United States. Basically, one of the raddest events in American history. As with any anniversary, the occasion has media types revisiting the August 28, 1963 event:

– The alway fantastic public radio history show BackStory has a whole hour of programming related to the March on Washington.
– A couple of years ago, WNYC’s On the Media did a piece on Matin Luther King, Jr.’s oratorial style.
– And speaking of MLK, Mother Jones is one of the many outlets bringing up the persistent copyright problems attached to his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Not Ben Stein’s Nixon

This comes via the Dissolve. Ben Stein decided to trash Our Nixon on the Daily Beast. The documentary uses Super 8 footage to make a more personal picture of the disgraced president. Thankfully, the producers spoke out, again at the Daily Beast, answering Stein’s allegations. They even had the restraint to not bring up Stein’s awful doc.

You can check the movie out for yourself. Our Nixon playing from Thursday, August 29 to September 1 at the Regina Public Library Film Theatre.

Latest Challenge To The Death Penalty

The latest challenge in the United States, at least, is just how to get it done. The New York Times reports on the unavailability of the drugs that had become the standard for executions. From the piece:

In the beginning, it was relatively simple and uniform. Several dozen states adopted the three-drug cocktail for executions first used by Texas three decades ago — a sedative (usually sodium thiopental) was mixed with a paralytic agent (pancuronium bromide) followed by a drug inducing cardiac arrest (potassium chloride). The idea was to provide a quick, painless method to replace the electric chair, gas chamber and firing squad.

But a shortage of pancuronium bromide a few years ago led some states to switch to a single-drug method, often simply administering enough sodium thiopental to cause death. The manufacturer of that drug, however, the Illinois-based Hospira, stopped providing it to corrections departments after workers at its Italian plant, and European officials, objected to the use of the drug for executions.

The Times quotes a pair of guys from pro-execution groups, one of whom calls the situation “a conspiracy to choke off capital punishment by limiting the availability of drugs.” “Conspiracy”? If a bunch of people don’t want to be part of a killing process, that sounds pretty reasonable.

Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again After RFF

The Weather Government is saying the rain should clear around noon and probably stay away through the evening. Then, tomorrow should be mostly sunny and a high of 25. So better times ahead, as far as they can tell.

The view from my window is saying it’s wet and chilly, meaning damp grass and cold ground to sit on.

When you’re going down to Victoria Park for Regina Folk Festival day sessions, be sure to stay warm and wear something where you’re not afraid to get your butt wet. The odds of that seem relatively high.

But still be sure to go down for day sessions. Amelia Curran’s probably going to be great, and now’s your chance to see acts like Close Talker and Northcote in the daylight, even if it might ominous, grey daylight.

In Case You Aren’t Already Excited For Neko Case

Maybe you aren’t familiar with Neko Case. You haven’t listened to her years of alt-country greatness. You haven’t caught her contributions to the New Pornographers’ records over the years. You didn’t read Emmet Matheson’s piece on her for Prairie Dog‘s RFF feature.

But anyone with any experience knows everyone should be excited for her Regina Folk Festival performance. If you need an introduction, or a little extra boost, here’s a new song from her: “Night Still Comes”, from her upcoming album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.

(via Slate’s Browbeat)

Read Our Reviews Then Make Up Your Mind For Yourself

The new issue hits stands today, which means a new page of reviews for you to read. Did Aidan Morgan like the new Dinosaur Bones? Nope! Did part of my Pop. 1280 review send my editor rushing to Wikipedia? Probably!

You can actually listen to the two other records we reviewed in their entirety, online, right now. CBC Music is streaming all of Rae Spoon’s My Prairie Home, along with an interview with the folk/electronic/everything artist. Emmet Matheson loved the record, saying in the new Prairie Dog that

Spoon has developed into a real master of intimacy over the course of their songwriting career, and this fundamentally human story of a person who longs to be loved for who they are, even as they try to figure out who that may be, connects.

Dog Party have all of their debut, Lost Control, up over at Rookie. There’s also plenty of great interview stuff happening over there, too, with the teen garage duo talking about influences, playing when you’re too young for bars and all that good stuff.