Friday, December 30, 2005

The Wind of Strange

So this is how you get your New Year's weekend started. On the way home from work, school, whatever, blast these songs by Dandi Wind, from her upcoming Concrete Igloo. It's new wave, with balls, and it throbs stronger than a New Year's hangover.

Flooded Grass (mp3)

Safety Dance (mp3) - from her myspace page, where you can also download the fantastic einsteinbrains and Balloon Factory, and listen to Apotemnophilia.

Happy New Year's!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sometimes Less Is More

I'm just about to go on break until the New Year, and, as bandwidth is about to be exceeded, so is the Smudge. So this might be my last mp3 post of the year...and the mp3 is coming down tomorrow.

Everyone's curious about what effect Sonic Youth collaborator Jim O'Rourke had on the new Beth Orton album, Comfort of Strangers, and how the album stands up to her previous work. If you're Jim O'Rourke, you know you can't get in the way of that voice, and you have to preserve the arpeggiated acoustic guitar & piano chords that hold her songs together and mark her as a singer-songwriter. You've got to try to not so much embellish those things, but to showcase them.

Here's the title track, written by Beth Orton, M. Ward, and Jim O'Rourke. After you listen to it, you're going to have to replay it. That isn't a recommendation. You'll be compelled to play it again, trying to figure out how a song that seems so lightweight can hit you so hard, and how a song that shouldn't hold up longer than two minutes makes you want to hear more when it ends at 3:12. All you get is all the song needs: bass, piano, light percussion, acoustic guitar, her voice, and great songwriting: I know there's an answer to your question/but I don't know if I can word it right/Say what you mean, don't tell it like it could be/I don't know, should I say it out loud?

O'Rourke & Orton could have gone deep with the percussion, and could have fully arpeggiated the guitar chords, rather than holding the first note and playing the last two together, but though the song would have sounded fuller, sometimes less is more.

Comfort of Strangers holds up. It's her best record yet.

Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers (mp3)

(Another) Holiday Mix

The good people at Relative Theory Records, in Norfolk, Virginia, compiled a damn fine 24-track holiday* mix called "Wreck The Halls." You can download the zip file and cover art here. I love the fine print at the bottom of the page:

©® 2005 - All copyrights belong to their respective writers / publishers / etc. Used without permission.

I could use that last sentence for about 99% of my mp3 posts.

The tracklist is:

1. The Free Design - Christmas Is The Day
2. James Brown - Soulful Christmas
3. Run DMC - Christmas In Hollis
4. Stevie Wonder - What Christmas Means To Me
5. Wesley Willis - Merry Christmas
6. Polyphonic Spree - So This Is Christmas
7. Grandaddy - Alan Parsons in Winter Wonderland
8. Pat Benatar - Please Come Home For Christmas
9. Mogwai - Christmas Song
10. Danny Elfman - Edward Scissorhands Ice Dance
11. Carpenters - Carol of The Bells
12. Saint Etienne - My Christmas Prayer
13. Eels - Christmas Is Going to the Dogs
14. Low - Just Like Christmas
15. Erlend Oye - Last Christmas
16. Sam Cooke - Christmas Means Love
17. Rufus Wainwright - Spotlight On Christmas
18. The Raveonettes - The Christmas Song
19. Badly Drawn boy - Donna and Blitzen
20. Feist - Lo How A Rose E'er Bloomin
21. Sufjan Stevens - Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
22. Matt Pond PA - Holiday Road
23. Murder City Devils - Dead By Christmas
24. David Banner - It's Christmas Time

*The word holiday is from the Middle English holidai, meaning "holy day." So is "Holiday Mix" more politically correct than "Christmas Mix?"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Things Are Going To Change

The Islands (ex-Unicorns, plus Richard Parry & the lovely Sarah Neufeld of the Arcade fire guest appearing) hold up under the great weight of indie hype. Take this song: these guys understand that there's nothing like upbeat apocalypse music with a country twang to soothe the weary shopper's soul this wartime holiday season. It has nothing to do with shopping, maybe something to do with war, but none of that really matters when the Day After Tomorrow is the day after tomorrow, now does it?

Well, okay, so the record won't be out until January, in the UK. I saw something glowing, and it's going to cause an early thaw.

Islands - Volcanoes (mp3)

Flippant dread. It's an American tradition. And apparently, the Canadian Islands get it, too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This Naked Flame of Suffering much as it may sound like it, is not a line from an Arcade Fire song. It's from The Word, a short story by Vladimir Nabokov, in next week's New Yorker (International Fiction Issue).

The flowers spilled their humid sheen in flight; the sleek, bright beasts played, whirling and climbing; the birds chimed with bliss, soaring and dipping. I, a blinded, quaking beggar, stood at the edge of the road, and within my beggar’s soul the selfsame thought kept prattling: Cry out to them, tell them—oh, tell them that on the most splendid of God’s stars there is a land—my land—that is dying in agonizing darkness.

Suck I Do

Because I take forever to work out the "HARD" Sudoku puzzles.

The literature of Sudoku is growing. Check out these excerpts from recent publications:

Complexity classes such as NP do not measure the difficulty of any specific problem instance but rather describe the rate at which difficulty grows as a function of problem size. If we can solve an order-n Sudoku, how much harder will we have to work to solve a puzzle of order n + 1? For problems in NP, the effort needed grows exponentially.

Most discussions of the complexity of Sudoku refer to the work of Takayuki Yato and Takahiro Seta of the University of Tokyo, whose analysis relates the task of solving Sudoku to the similar problem of completing a partially specified Latin square. The latter problem in turn has been connected with others that are already known to be in NP. This process of "reduction" from one problem to another is the standard way of establishing the complexity classes of computational problems. Yato and Seta employ an unusual form of reduction that addresses the difficulty of finding an additional solution after a first solution is already known. In Sudoku, of course, well-formed puzzles are expected to have only one solution. Yato and Seta say their result applies nonetheless. I don't quite follow their reasoning on this point, but the literature of complexity theory is vast and technical, and the fault is likely my own.

Your fault and mine, dude. From Unwed Numbers: The Mathematics of Sudoku, a Puzzle That Boasts, "No Math Required!" in the Jan-Feb 2006 American Scientist.

We provide a simple linear time transformation from a directed or undirected graph with labeled edges to an unlabeled digraph, such that paths in the input graph in which no two consecutive edges have the same label correspond to paths in the transformed graph and vice versa. Using this transformation, we provide efficient algorithms for finding paths and cycles with no two consecutive equal labels. We also consider related problems where the paths and cycles are required to be simple; we find efficient algorithms for the undirected case of these problems but show the directed case to be NP-complete. We apply our path and cycle finding algorithms in a program for generating and solving Sudoku puzzles, and show experimentally that they lead to effective puzzle-solving rules that may also be of interest to human Sudoku puzzle solvers.

I don't need no stinking rules. All I need is a sharp pencil, a good eraser, and a few hours of uninterrupted time, so I can hit the Sudoku Zone for a few minutes here & there. From Nonrepetitive Paths and Cycles in Graphs with Application to Sudoku, in the 20 July 2005 Computer Science.

More on the Mathematics of Sudoku in Wikipedia.

Synth By Numbers

Synth Pop 101: Intro To The Break: See how the synth gives way to piano, followed with some na-na-na vocalizations, then the rhythm guitar throbs again, and lo, the synth comes back with the chorus. Meanwhile, the lead singer dances, flirts and plays with band members and the audience. Who cares what's being sung? The listener has no choice but to just go with the moment, captivated by the sights and The Sounds.

The Sounds - Painted By Numbers (mp3)

Monday, December 19, 2005


Bert Williams, largely forgotten today, was the first African-American star: the most famous “colored man” in America during the early years of the twentieth century. The team of Williams and Walker put together the first all-Negro musical comedy to play a major Broadway theatre...their popularity among audiences both black and white allowed them to force the integration of first-class theatres around the country...through it all he continued to perform in blackface, embellished by giant lips painted over the cork, an ill-fitting suit, a preternaturally unhurried style of locomotion, and a cringing “Uh-huh, boss” lazy drawl. According to another Follies colleague, W. C. Fields, Williams onstage was the funniest man he ever saw, and offstage was the saddest.

Both Williams’s reputation and the remaining record of his work—a number of scratchy vocal tracks, some suggestive photographs and reels of film—make one long to ask: What on earth was he thinking? How does a mind maintain its balance when professional pride is so bound up with personal shame?...

-from BEHIND THE MASK: On the minstrel circuit, by Claudia Roth Pierpont, a review of Caryl Phillips' novel "alternately fascinating and frustrating novel 'Dancing in the Dark' (Knopf)," in the Dec 12 New Yorker.

Bert Williams mp3s:

Eve Cost Adam Just One Bone
Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting

From Bert Williams 1915-1921.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Live - Pixies

eMusic has a new exclusive double-disc live Pixies album, titled Hey - Live Pixies. It features 28 stellar live tracks from various venues--highlights of their reunion tour. You need a membership to get the album. If you've been thinking of becoming a member but haven't yet, I highly recommend you go ahead. They've got an encyclopedia of great music. Browsing through their collection is like immersing yourself in a dusty record store.

Anyway, Hey goes something like this:

1. Planet Of Sound (Manchester, England - 8/30/2005)
2. Debaser (Norfolk, VA - 12/6/2004)
3. Gouge Away (New York, NY - 12/16/2004)
4. Ed Is Dead (Washington, DC - 6/13/2005)
5. Bone Machine (Cleveland, OH - 6/8/2005)
6. No. 13 Baby (Leeds, England - 8/272005)
7. Holiday Song (Raleigh, NC - 6/12/2005)
8. I Bleed (London, England - 6/2/2004)
9. Is She Weird? (Leeds, England - 8/27/2005)
10. Caribou (New York, NY - 12/12/2004)
11. Crackity Jones (Norfolk, VA - 12/6/2004)
12. Something Against You (Washington, DC - 12/7/2004)
13. Into The White (Raleigh, NC - 6/12/2005)
14. Dead (New York, NY - 12/11/2005)

1. La La Love You (Los Angeles, CA - 6/2/2005)
2. Cactus (Edinburgh, Scotland - 8/28/2005)
3. Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf) (Indianapolis, IN - 6/7/2005)
4. Mr. Grieves (Indianapolis, IN (6/7/2005)
5. Nimrod's Son (Washington, DC - 12/8/2005)
6. Subbacultcha (Leeds, England - 8/272005)
7. Monkey Gone To Heaven (Denver, CO - 6/5/2005)
8. Velouria (Toronto, Ontario - 7/9/05)
9. Wave Of Mutilation (San Francisco, CA 5/30/05)
10. U-Mass (Boston, MA - 12/9/2004)
11. Here Comes Your Man (Newport, RI - 8/6/2005)
12. Hey (Dublin, Ireland - 8/23/2005)
13. Vamos (Washington, DC - 12/7/2004)
14. Gigantic (Norfolk, VA - 12/6/2004)

This post goes out to our young friend, co-worker, concert buddy, exotic food experimenter, and greasy hashbrown donor, Randy, whose last day at work was yesterday. Among others, I saw Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire, The Hives, and The Pixies with him. We'll miss seeing your mug every day, RC. But we'll still get out for lunch or a show.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sufjan REM Cover

Clever Titles Are So Last Summer has a non-rocking Sufjan cover of REM's The One I Love here.

High School Reunion - Uncovered

A few days ago, I mentioned how much I love the High School Reunion compilation. The two covers I posted are fantastic, and there's so much more worth listening to: The Dresden Dolls' 80's-baroque cover of Pretty in Pink, Frank Black's dark Repo Man, and solid covers of Somebody's Baby, A Million Miles Away, Weird Science, The Specials' Little Bitch, I Melt With get the point.

Earlier this year there were compilations with companion discs. There was Verve Remixed 3 and Verve Unmixed 3, there was Motown Remixed and Motown Unmixed, and even last year, we had Daniel Johnston Discovered, and where's the High School Reunion Uncovered?


isn't she?

Jackson Browne - Somebody's Baby (Fast Times)
Plimsouls - A Million Miles Away (Valley Girl)
Tom Petty - American Girl (Fast Times)
The Vapors - Turning Japanese (Sixteen Candles)
Oingo Boingo - Weird Science (Weird Science)
Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me) (The Breakfast Club)
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes (Say Anything)
Thompson Twins - If You Were Here (Sixteen Candles)
The Specials - Little Bitch (Sixteen Candles)
The Psychedelic Furs - Love My Way (Valley Girl)
Echo & The Bunnymen - Bring On The Dancing Horses (Pretty in Pink)
The Cars - Moving In Stereo (Fast Times)
The Psychedelic Furs - Pretty In Pink
Pixies - Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf) (Pump Up The Volume)
The Smiths - Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (Pretty In Pink)
Modern English - I Melt With You (Valley Girl)
Wayne Newton - Danke Schoen (Ferris Beuller's Day Off)
Iggy Pop - Repo Man
Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark - If You Leave (Pretty In Pink)*
The Replacements - Within Your Reach (Say Anything)

* If You Leave is not on the High School Reunion compilation. I don't have I Go Crazy by PC Munoz, so I substituted in the OMD.

NOTE - These are coming down tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Beck vs. Mae-Shi: Que Onda Guero

Mae Shi are offering a really good Beck remix, not found on Guerolito.

From yesterday's message to many mp3 bloggers:

On the eve of the release of Beck's Guerelito, we
offer a Beck remix you won't find on the remix CD:

"Que Onda Guero (Team Shi Latino 96.3 Remix)"

So much of Beck's '90s output was a mythologizing of
the 80s Los Angeles he grew up immersed in –
lowriders, mariachi, turntables and microphones. Sure,
it's patronizing at times – "Odelay" was his gringo
approximation of "orale," as in "orale vato" – but for
some, it's the perfect whiteboy synthesis of
pre-Rodney King Riots Los Angeles.

However, the sound of the city has changed. With this
remix, local L.A. surprise punks The Mae Shi have
tried to capture the sound of a summer in Los Angeles
in 2005 – the sound of Daddy Yankee selling out
Staples Center, the sound of narcocorridos booming
from the car next to you as you drive down Pico Blvd.
This year saw a new radio station take over the
streets of Los Angeles, Latino 96.3, a bilingual
station "blazing reggaeton and hip-hop." In the hot
windows-down summer of 2005, the station was
impossible to ignore, and its rise in public presence
coincided with Daddy Yankee's newfound ubiquity (as
well as his ability to sell out Staples Center).

"Que Onda Guero (Team Shi 96.3 Latino Remix)" is The
Mae Shi's attempt to capture the sound of 2005 in the
same way Beck captured the sound of 1985.

Back to School With Kristen and Matt

My High School Reunion CD, which features covers of 80's movie songs, finally came in the mail yesterday. It was worth the wait. For the most part, the songs are faithful and reverent, yet almost always fun. It's already one of my favorite compilations of the year.

Matthew Sweet - American Girl (Petty cover) (mp3)

Kristin Hersh - Wave of Mutilation (cover of Pixies' UK Surf version) (mp3)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nellie McKay Got It Right

Dear Nellie,

Recently, according to Defamer, you had a meltdown at a recent performance. A reader reported:

She was talking to the audience about the problems she’s been having with Sony and someone shouted “Shut up and sing!” This seemed to touch a nerve with dear Nellie. After politely explaining to the miscreant that “If this continues with Sony, I will leave the music business, BITCH. And NEVER SING AGAIN,” she started screaming and crying and “They say I’m just pulling a Barbra Streisand,” and “You have NO IDEA WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH,” and corporations are raping the world, etc.

You tell 'em, Nellie. Raping the world with greed(leavingartistscrumbsofthepie)&greenhousegasses&rootkits&whatnot.

You tell 'em, but please, PLEASE do not stop singing!

First of all, I'm going to try to see you at the Birchmere in January.

Second...what would we do without your spunk & flair? And now, you've got ditties like your Beatles cover on This Bird Has Flown, and this euphorically harmonic duet with k.d. lang, from your forthcoming Pretty Little Head:

Nellie McKay & k.d. lang - We Had It Right (mp3) (radio rip)

And third and finally, if you quit, that would leave us with the likes Springfield?...well, this defamer commenter doesn't care so much:

My God, I've lost touch. Who the fuck is Nelly McKay and why should I care? Write more articles about Rick Springfield, for Christ's sake, man! I care about REAL entertainers!

YEAH! REAL entertainers, for Christ's sake, man!

See (and hear) you soon.

With all our love,

The Smudge

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Teri Hatcher. Here's A Little Gift From The Smudge.

Happy Birthday to Teri Hatcher, who turns 41 today. You'll always be one of our favorite Desperate Housewives, though we know that you're neither, despite the caption on the above photo.

To celebrate your birthday, we dedicate this song to you:

Commodores - Brick House (Original 12" Mix) (mp3)

What's a Brick House? Ms. Funkyflyy knows.

Bull Moose Jackson Pulls Out His Big Ten Inch...

...record. But of course, it's not the size of the classic blues record, it's how you use it. 1952, King Records.

Bull Moose Jackson - Big Ten-Inch Record (mp3)

The young boys don't do anything for Little Esther. She likes her men like she likes her whisky - aged & mellow. 1952, Federal Records.

Little Esther - Aged and Mellow Blues (mp3)

Both songs taken from Dealing With The Devil: 25 Essential Blues Classics (out of print).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Ballad of Tourettes

La Ballade de Tourette (mp3) may be the most tragic, poignant song you hear about Tourettes today. The fake French band, Nous non Plus (Us No More or Neither Do We), previously named Les Sans Culottes before a lost legal battle, touche your heart with lyrics like these:

Personne dans mon cœur
Mes propos orduriers n’attirent que les fumiers,
comment leur expliquer qu’je suis sage?

that is:

Nobody is in my heart
My dirty language only attracts lecherous men,
how to explain that in reality I am a good girl?

Not so touching, or even more touching, depending on how you look at it, is One Night in Paris (mp3), a warped tune about Paris Hilton (via

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pabst No Ribbon

Yesterday afternoon, Uncle Tom, RC666 and I shared our bad feelings about Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. It was a tender moment among men. I concluded the conversation with the proposition that one of them should eat about a dozen deviled eggs, chase them with a six-pack of Pabst, and see what happens. They're thinking about it. Meanwhile, any takers out there in the blogosphere?

After our talk, I thought of the following Untamed Youth tune with profound lyrics, from Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The Second Psychedelic Era, and a related companion piece from the same collection, which, by the way, makes a fantastic gift for aficionados of the off-center.

The Untamed Youth - Pabst Blue Ribbon (mp3)

The Swingin' Neckbreakers - I Live For Buzz (mp3)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I wanna walk around with you

Isobel Campbell's voice is delicate and refined, and carries schoolgirl charm. Mark Lanegan's is harsh, and carries a bit of barroom menace. Put them together, and you would expect...well, maybe you wouldn't know what to expect. What you probably wouldn't expect is to hear them sound convincing in this infectious lullaby.

(Do You Wanna Come) Walk With Me - Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan (mp3)