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February 26, 2009

Shorties (Alela Diane, Leonard Cohen, and more)

Pitchfork reviews the new Alela Diane album, To Be Still, giving it an 8.0.

When people speak of Diane's voice Sandy Denny's name comes up with increasing frequency, and the young American certainly shares her British predecessor's grace and gusto. But To Be Still is rooted in a different geography-- jagged California hills and faded towns that might be populated by doomed Steinbeck characters. In "The Ocean", the thick thump of bongos and a nervous flutter of mandolin sketch the numbing existence of a mountain woman who, landlocked by "dirt ditch paths and pine cones... old hubcaps on the picket fence," dreams of the sea. It's a hybridized folk idiom and undeniably American.

NPR is streaming Leonard Cohen's recent New York performance.

Philip Glass discusses his song cycle, Book of Learning (based on Leonard Cohen's poetry), with the Claremont Courier.

The two men decided to collaborate, but Mr. Glass didn’t know how this would work at first. “Leonard is a songwriter and had written a lot of songs, but when I asked him about it, he said he didn’t want to do the music. He wanted to hear what I could do,” Mr. Glass explained. Apparently, Mr. Cohen’s only request was that the music be no more than an hour and a half long.

Filter profiles Andrew Bird.

Oftentimes Andrew Bird is reduced to a triptych, not because he only does three things, but because three of the things he does, he does so much better than anyone else. Most strikingly, there is the whistling—trilling, lacy adornment that typically soars and loops throughout his recordings. That he can perfectly reproduce his whistling in the chaos of a live show, guitar slung and arms akimbo with violin and bow, is difficult to believe. “I’ve been doing it since I was six or seven years old, and I do it incessantly.” Questioned beyond that, and Bird doesn’t think whistling is a particularly unique ability he possesses—it’s something that most people can do. “You don’t want it to become a novelty. I resisted it at first when I started because it’s too easy. I’m used to playing the violin…it’s hard. It took years of pain and suffering. And suddenly everyone goes for the whistling? You want to believe that everything you put yourself through is for something,” he says.

The Santa Barbara Independent interviews A.C. Newman about songwriting.

You’re known for your ability to write really good hooks. As a listener, what draws you to a song?

Um, I guess it’s usually melody, but it changes. I like things that are kind of unexpected. I like when music moves in places that you don’t really expect it to—but not in a jarring, Frank Zappa kind of way. Like Animal Collective’s album Feels; I remember that record really was amazing and weirdly melodic and the groove of it and the direction that it went in. I’ve always loved bands like that.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviews Ben Kweller.

What if they asked you to open for Tim McGraw on his tour or something? What would you do?

I'd probably do it, man. Look, if I got offered to open for Tim McGraw or Alan Jackson or something, I would totally do it, man. At this point, I've paid my dues, I guess you could say, in the indie circuit. There's no reason for me to try to prove any cred anymore. Deep down, I love watching those huge country singers perform on TV, so if anything, I would do it so my family back in Texas would know that what I'm doing is legit now.

Ohio State University will offer a course that focuses on President Obama's favorite books.

Locus Magazine interviews author Jonathan Lethem.

“The book I'm working on now again takes realism and a very extreme kind of fantasy and smashes them together like a Robert Chamberlain sculpture -- it just forces them to coexist. But the flavor's very different, I hope totally new for me. Its principles are derived from the way Fortress of Solitude works, but it doesn't have the nostalgic patina, and it doesn't have all the music references of the LA book."

North by Northwestern examines the state of independent bookstores.

The Guardian has news of Philip Roth's next two novels.

Share and view setlists from music performances at (via)

The Sonic Youth Live Recordings Lossless Archive is a treasure trove of live performances by the band, and also includes live mp3s and videos.

Daytrotter's Thursday session features in-studio mp3s from Pontiak.

RIP, Pylon guitarist Randy Bewley

The Jackson Free Press profiles the Dexateens.

The core of the group’s sound is their allegiance to both the punk ethos and country-influenced rock. Prior to starting the group in 1998, singer and guitarist Elliott McPherson led a punk band. During the same period, guitarist John Smith spent time in a group that explored country-rock sounds. The Dexateens brought these two worlds together, creating a sound Smith describes as “Black Flag meets Blackfoot meets Black Oak Arkansas.”

CHARTattack profiles singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell.

Artificial Fire is a 15-track collection of lush instrumentation, vocal sensuality and stunning musical flourishes. Mandell is part sass and part soul and has harvested her inner diva. She can be cocksure — the album's title track relays a betrayal of sexual confidence — but she quickly tumbles into the sauntering sunny day love song "Right Side" from there. The closing horn arrangement may inspire even the crustiest cynic to march in her whimsical sound parade.

Read Mandell's Largehearted Boy Note Books essay.

RIP, Philip Jose Farmer

To promote's fundraising efforts, the site produced a video featuring former poet laureate Robert Pinsky crooning the site's virtues.

T-shirt of the day: "I'm Walken on Sunshine"

AbeBooks' Reading Copy Book Blog lists ten books that would make great movies.

SXSW has started a YouTube video channel.

also at Largehearted Boy:

Online "best of 2008" music lists
Online "best of 2008" book lists
daily mp3 downloads
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists