08 July 2010

The Sound of Silence

Currently pushing: The artist who did the inset illustration is Nanami Cowdroy, originally from Australia. If I could, I would link you to everything she's done because it's just great stuff. Google her or check out this compilation and you'll see what I mean. She combines a few familiar elements and themes -- graffiti, gold fish, paper cranes -- but makes it all her own. My friend just bought some prints of hers and I can't wait to see them framed and displayed on his walls.

One of the endorsements from Slate's Culture Gabfest this week was music critic Robert Christgau's reviews. Christgau is known for his "terse capsule reviews," often summing up an entire album in less than a hundred words. A comprehensive collection of his stuff is being collected at his site. Make sure to read the User's Guide to the Consumer Guide and his grading system before diving in.

As a sample of his stuff, I checked the bands I normally cite as my favorites: Alanis Morissette, Gang Starr, Jewel, Tribe, and The Roots. Then I started just throwing random bands in there and found gems such as Christgau's review of Warren G's "Regulate...G Funk Era."

"Where his homeboy Snoop plays a well-chilled sociopath whose indifference to pain is the centerpiece of his carefully plotted menace, Dr. Dre's kid half-brother is more like a mischievous seventh-grader. Giggling at Bootsy's funny glasses one minute, selling crack on the corner the next, he could go either way, or both in tandem. His cool and his tough are less practiced, less cocksure, hence more dangerous -- and more tragic. Teamed with the tunefully murderous Nate Dogg, he's nasty in a new, neurotic way. Giving work to the Twinz or Dove Shack, he's one more G."
There's a lot of great stuff in there, even if the reviews are light on the current stuff (mainly because they seem to be excerpts and maybe there are permission issues?). For example, there's only four words given to Jason Mraz and just one sentence for La Roux. Then again, maybe Christgau's just getting more concise as his reviews of John Mayer's oeuvre demonstrates that less is often enough. Recent reviews include A-minuses for Tegan and Sara, Girls, LCD Soundsystem and The National. Plus a sterling A for The xx, who I've been getting into.

The RSS feed for Christgau's MSN Music hosted reviews is a must add. It isn't easy to sum up an album, a movie, a book, a person, anything, in less than a hundred words but Christgau has made it an art form.