Near Logan Circle, we found a remarkable piece of street art. Fortunately, the right person walked along at just the right moment. Leica Monochrom, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph, orange filter, processed in LR4 with a brief trip to Silver Efex Pro2. You may need to click on the image to get all the detail.
Archive for February, 2013
We had February 19th circled on our calendar ever since Spin glommed “Transmission,” a magnificent early cut from the first Deathfix album, and streamed it on their site. But even though we hit refresh on our iTunes about a dozen times last Tuesday, it only was released today. Fortunately, those nice people at NPR let us stream the whole album all week, so we haven’t exactly been waitin’ for our man. We may have set new records for streaming a single album, but we sure got our Deathfix, and as of today we finally have a renewable supply, and can take it to the limit.
And that’s the worry, for now that we have our own copy of Deathfix coursing through our headphones, we find the whole album is such a crystalline mound of glittering goodness, we could listen to it over and over until we emerge from the room — if we were to emerge — looking like an R. Crumb character. It’s that good.
Much has been made of the opener, “Better Than Bad” sounding like a Big Star track. Right era, but maybe the wrong band. It seems built less on proto-power pop than on George Harrison’s “What Is Life.” But placing the context from which Deathfix emerges is important, given how much the band confounds expectations. With musicians who have roots in Fugazi, Bob Mould’s solo career, and D.C. secrets like The Mary Timony Band, who would have imagined there is a late ’60s/early ’70s prog sophistication at work here, that in a song like “Transmission” we can imagine Joe Boyd producing a Traffic session. The musicians are virtuosi, even when you realize that singer/guitarist Brendan Canty isn’t playing the drums, which he did so magnificently for Fugazi, but instead has embarked on the same path as Chris Mars and Grant Hart and, yeah, Dave Grohl before him, going from behind the drum kit to the front of the stage.
It all works, as an incredibly catchy set of updated 10cc songs, as a staggeringly sophisticated first album made by adults who know their way around the studio, but haven’t lost a scintilla of wonder about just what can be accomplished with guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. This may seem far afield, but the only contemporary band that to us seems to be fishing with the same tackle is White Denim, and by that we mean a band that completely understands how uncool it is to play music with such a knowing understanding of pre-punk rock sophistication, and then they just go ahead’n’blow everyone away with the power of their songs, their incredible musicianship. Resistance is futile.
Despite the dance club vibe of “Dali’s House,” this is a cerebral album, clever and beautiful (at times) without being emotional. It sounds like it was made by a band as well-synced as The Soundtrack of Our Lives, but of course, they’ve only been playing together for a matter of months. Our humble belief is that Deathfix could be the biggest band ever to emerge from D.C. — we mean commercially viable and huge — and wouldn’t that be ironic, given Brendan’s roots in Fugazi? Richly deserved though, right, to have a nice guy finish first? Whether or not we’re right — we’re usually not, when it comes to predicting who’s going to be huge — Deathfix has produced a first album that we pray is just the kickoff to many more. You can start your 2013 Top 10 list scorecard now. Maybe you can even put down your pen.
We anxiously await tomorrow’s release of Deathfix by, um, Deathfix. (Thanks to NPR, we’ve been listening to it streamed all week, and yeah, it’s great! More anon.)
And yes, we are looking forward to the Atoms for Peace album coming out tomorrow.
But even after reading a great Rolling Stone interview with Tony Visconti, which goes through the new album track-by-track, we have been only mildly interested in the new Bowie album, The Next Day, which comes out in two weeks . We found the early single, “Where Are We Now,” a little too much like a boring version of “Fantastic Voyage,” from 1979’s Lodger, which come to think of it, was the last really great Bowie album. (Let’s Dance had its moments, and Scary Monsters had Tom Verlaine’s “Kingdom Come,” but honestly, the downward curve for Bowie in the ’80s matched the Rolling Stones’.) Which left us with nice ’70s memories, warm feelings, and hats-off respect, but nothing since the Golden Years would give us much to get worked up about, at least not at the thought of a new album.
And then comes today’s review in The Telegraph, and holy moly, if this doesn’t get the juices flowing. Click on the link and read Neil McCormick’s rave, but this’ll give you an idea:
“It is an enormous pleasure to report that the new David Bowie album is an absolute wonder: urgent, sharp-edged, bold, beautiful and baffling, an intellectually stimulating, emotionally charged, musically jagged, electric bolt through his own mythos and the mixed-up, celebrity-obsessed, war-torn world of the 21st century.
Musically, it is stripped and to the point, painted in the primal colours of rock: hard drums, fluid bass, fizzing guitars, shaded by splashes of keyboard and dirty rasps of horns. The 14 songs are short and spiky, often contrasting that kind of patent Bowie one-note declarative drawl with sweet bursts of melodic escape that hit you like a sugar rush. Bowie’s return from a decade’s absence feels very present, although full of sneaky backward glances.”
Read the whole thing. Wow. We’ll start poking sofa cushions to find the spare change necessary…
With his work on the cover of Black + White Magazine this month, the opening on Wednesday of a one-man show in New York’s Nailya Alexander Gallery, and finally, the publication of a new edition of his great career compendium, Here Far Away, the next several weeks will be good for Pentti Sammallahti, the beguiling and masterful Finnish photographer. Last summer, he was recognized at the Les Recontres d’Arles photography festival, and so it seems that slowly, Sammallahti is being recognized globally as a photographer of the highest rank.
If it weren’t for the example of Joel Sternfeld and Elliott Erwitt — two very different artists — one might wonder whether whimsy and charm were the death nell for a serious photographer. But over the course of his 40-year career, Sammallatti has consistently found a way of incorporating animals into his photography, always in a manner that beguiles, and makes you think not less of him, but more. In an era of online film festivals dedicated to cats, this might undermine his standing. It doesn’t. Seeing his picture of a dog stretching identically to the way a nearby tree curves, or the dog sleeping on the sacred cow in Delhi, makes you realize that, again like Sternfeld, Sammallahti makes his own luck. His is not so much the decisive moment as the patient payoff, as surely, in so many of his best pictures, he could see the ingredients in his mind’s eye, and then waited patiently for kismet to stir them perfectly in the bowl.
As Salgado can find the humanity in the most beset upon family in South America, Sammallahti finds the dignity — even joy — in those who live closer to the Arctic Circle. If you could look at his images geotagged, you would want to click on the ones from the White Sea, and other places you likely wouldn’t want to visit, in winter, the way he has.
A master is getting the recognition he deserves. Don’t miss out.