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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Times New Viking
Stay Awake
Matador

Rating: 7/10 ?


December 15, 2008
I remember reading an interview with Thom Yorke discussing Radiohead's plans to devote their recording efforts to EPs rather than full-length albums. At the time I read this, I really liked the idea; the direction felt like the future. Recently, Pitchfork made its way into print publishing with a book that focuses on the song and not the album as the ideal musical form. As if saying, in the future this is what will be important, worth knowing and celebrating. File sharing, MP3 blogs and sites like eMusic and iTunes emphasize the song rather than the album as popular music's definitive form. Which all makes me wonder about traditional music journalism and record reviewing -- is it passť?

Likewise, I've been thinking about an article in The A.V. Club that sought to pair down full lengths to their EPic cores and led my own revelation that works like Pavement's Wowee Zowee, so scattered and uneven, might make a brilliant EP. The pairing down and whittling away theory has me revisiting old records and reconfiguring my iTunes to include the most perfect EP versions of my favorite albums. And for the record, Wowee Zowee does make a brilliant EP.

When reviewing a record as a whole, certain factors are taken into consideration. Is a record's quality based on how well the songs are composed around a theme, the tracks sequenced, and the momentum sustained? Should an EP review look different and take certain characteristics into consideration separately from a collection of seven or more songs? In other words, should a review of an EP focus on parts rather than the whole?

I've been thinking about these issues as I listen to Times New Viking's Stay Awake, because it sounds more like half an album than an EP. It also sounds more like half-an-album than half-assed. I like to think of it as simply side one of a larger whole. The record begins with "Call & Respond," a song stuttering and shaky like The Strokes on "Last Night." It eventually finds a groove and settles in, but never really moves past that point. Hearing "Pagan Eyes," I can't escape the chorus's similarity to INXS's "Devil Inside," which should not be taken as a disparagement; I love that song.

The EP ends on a high with the 1-2 combo of "No Sympathy" and "Sick & Tired." On "No Sympathy," the band slows things down enough for you to pay attention; they make excellent use of noise elements that add not distract from the songs perfectly simple structure. A Moe Tucker melody is amplified by car horns and feedback. Before the song ends, it segues into a British post-punk rocker. Like "Part-Time Punks" revisited, Times New Viking D.I.Y.ingly make something out of nothing.

"No Sympathy" / "Sick & Tired" are better together than apart and account for combinations and comparisons the band utilize as noise; they sound greasy, their lo-fi sound unwashed rather than washed out.

The notion proffered earlier - about albums signifying excess and the EP taking on the meaning of some essential distillation, some core of quality that is worth your time and money - really doesn't hold up unless the listener does the work. Work much in the way a mixtape becomes an archive of excavation, the mining through album tracks, b-sides and live versions for diamonds is a process. It's the putting the tape together that means more than its finished form. Pairing down an album to an EP or the emphasis on the song rather than the album is a process of moving meaning to the listener, its knowing that their version of a record or placement of a song is more important than album as a work of art. This is the future I thought of after reading the Thom Yorke interview. It's also what I thought of after hearing "No Sympathy" and "Sick & Tired," because I realized they would sound better together at the beginning of a mixtape than at the end of an EP.

Reviewed by Joseph Coombe
A contributing writer who lives and works in Los Angeles, Joseph Coombe is searching for Jon Landauís future of rock and roll by rereading Lester Bangs and unreading Greil Marcus.

See other reviews by Joseph Coombe

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