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Transcendental Youth & Tallahassee Turns Ten

I’ve been meaning to write a review (or opinion piece, might be more appropriate) about this for a while now: Transcendental Youth, the new album from The Mountain Goats. New meaning, it was released in October 2012 and they haven’t come out with another album to usurp / surpass its newness as of yet.

The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth

The album is pretty much more of the same, with the band steadily heading down the standard rock band route they’ve been heading down the last few albums. As with the previous albums, it’s overall a bit underwhelming, there’s nothing that really feels new and exciting, but it has a handful of decent-to-great songs to make it worth a purchase.

Or actually, that’s a slight lie. This album does have something new: horns! On the album’s promotional track “Cry For Judas” – which was made available for free downloading before the album dropped, and which now has this music video to go along with it – horns are prominently featured. That was a first, and it created certain expectations as to how the album would sound: horns, horns everywhere! Unfortunately they’re only used (from what I could hear) on four songs out of twelve, and three of those are among the more slow and unexciting songs on the album.

My favourite tracks on the album are, in order from most to least favourite: “Cry For Judas”,  “Amy Aka Spent Gladiator 1”, “Counterfeit Florida Plates”, “Harlem Roulette”, and “The Diaz Brothers”. These I’ll occasionally return to for a quick listen.

If you were among the first to pre-order, you got a bonus 7″ vinyl single containing “Steal Smoked Fish” and “In the Shadow Of The Western Hills” plus a convenient download code. As with the album, I found it a bit underwhelming. The songs are both guitar-and-vocals demo songs and not studio outtakes, and are both fairly forgettable. The vinyl doesn’t come with a proper cover either, just a white sleeve, further contributing to the underwhelmingess. It’s a neat little bonus for hardcore fans, but definitely not a must. If you got the Japanese version of the album, you’d also get the studio version of “Steal Smoked Fish” plus a cover of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. Unfortunately these aren’t easily available outside of Japan; you can only buy the two songs digitally if you actually live in Japan due to region restrictions, and importing the physical album costs a small fortune. I think I’d have preferred getting a CD-single containing these two songs rather than the vinyl.

The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth Bonus Vinyl

The Transcendental Youth pre-order bonus vinyl.

Now let’s turn our attention to Tallahassee Turns Ten, another album I’ve been meaning to write about. It’s a tribute cover album released last year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Mountain GoatsTallahasse album. The tribute album was funded through Kickstarter, and they even had an open call to fill a few spots in the track list.

Tallahassee Turns TenOverall, and unfortunately, this turned out to be a pretty big disappointment. I have problems distinguishing one band from another as I move from track to track, as the overall sound – including the vocalists – rarely changes much. This is run-of-the-mill semi-professional indie music, and it isn’t very exciting. The only real standout song is to me “Small Arms Traffic Blues” by Tiger Waves, almost turning an excellent low-key song into a rockin’ surfer-song. Unfortunately the vocals (or at least they way they’re mixed) leaves something to be desired, and there are no typical surfer-song harmonies.

The most disappointing song is Jeffrey Lewis’ take on “See America Right”. It feels like a totally unrelated, improvised, ramshackle rock jam, with Jeffrey’s distorted vocals barely audible as he tries to shout out the song’s two verses.

I actually submitted a song to this compilation myself: “Idylls Of The Kings”, one of my all-time favourites. I wasn’t super happy with my version, and I wasn’t too surprised when it was rejected – though I must admit I was disappointed. Instead they went with a version by Miracles Of Modern Science. And their version isn’t bad – it’s one of the better tunes on the album! But it could’ve done with a slightly different production to help it really pop. Maybe something more akin to Smells Like Happiness, the energetic debut album of The Hidden Cameras, as they seem to be roughly in the same ball park of indie chamber pop. But I digress!

I hate to be “mean”, especially as the people behind it seem very approachable and passionate,  but I don’t want to be dishonest. In the end, I found it a pretty boring, forgettable affair. Which is a shame, as Tallahassee remains one of The Mountain Goats‘ career highlights, and the idea of a track-by-track homage is very appealing. I do recommend you give the album a listen yourself to see how you like it yourself.

To finish off, two tunes: “Steal Smoked Fish” from the pre-order bonus vinyl, and Tiger Waves‘ cover of “Small Arms Traffic Blues”. As always, support the artists if you enjoy these.

The Mountain Goats – “Steal Smoked Fish”

Tiger Waves – “International Small Arms Traffic Blues”

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Fleamarket Rundown Spring 2013

A rundown of some of my more interesting findings at various local fleamarkets this spring.

Løvenes Konge VHS

A Spanish title VHS copy of The Lion King 2, and a still sealed VHS copy of the Norwegian special edition re-release of the original. I don’t think either has any real value – maybe it would have some slight value if the Norwegian VHS was of the first edition rather than the re-release. But they’re still neat, displayable, decorative items for a casual collector of wares related to The Lion King such as myself.

Alf Leker Detektiv - Eventyr Bånd

Finding one sealed copy of an Alf story book and cassette tape would be peculiar enough, but two? Well, that’s twice as peculiar. I’m not exactly a big fan of Alf, but I’d already paid for a grab bag at this particular fleamarket, so I decided I might as well just put them in. Not as if anyone else would be wanting to buy them, and leaving them would mean they might get more dinged up or even be thrown out. If these were in English and not Norwegian, they might actually be worth a few dollars as well.

PS2 - Tekken Tag Tournament Onimusha 3 Flintstones Bedrock Racing

Three PlayStation 2 games, including a still sealed copy of Onimusha 3. As it was a grab bag sale, I also got Tekken Tag Tournament and The Flintstones – Bedrock Racing, both unsealed and not in the best of conditions. I’m a casual fan of the Tekken series; I remember renting and enjoying the first game in the series, then buying and playing the heck out of the second game. But then we sold our PlayStation, and I never really got to play any Tekken games after that. I’m not exactly a big fan of The Flintstones nor of kart racing style games, but I figured it might either be halfway decent or delightfully bad.

Misc. Bootleg Mega Drive

A collection of bootleg Mega Drive games. I only wanted the Mega Drive 16 In 1 game, but the one handling the sales at the time actually told me I could get all the other ones for the same price, since there’s very little interest in games this old and they’d just get thrown out. One of my more pleasant fleamarket experiences, as usually they’ll want to skin you for what you got and overcharge, insisting that their wares have some value (which they rarely do) and being reluctant to go down any in price. I’m guessing these are all identical to the actual real games, and are just cheap pirates versions, and not rare mods. Except for the Pocahontas game…

Bootleg Jurassic Park

… which has a cart labelled Jurassic Park.  So it’s probably a Jurassic Park game, unless it’s some obscure Pocahantas in Jurassic Park title I’ve never heard of. Which would be pretty neat. Note that the label says Genesis and not Mega Drive. So I’ve no idea if it’s for the Mega Drive or the Genesis. I don’t actually have neither a Mega Drive nor a Genseis system right now though, unfortunately. But a Mega Drive and Mega-CD combo is pretty high up on my wish list, so hopefully I’ll be able to procure one some day.

Løvenes Konge Disney Kult Poster

A poster for The Lion King – or Løvenes Konge. Taken from the magazine Disney Kult which I bought just to get this poster.

Min Bror Bjørnen Poster

Another Disney poster, this time for Brother Bear – or Min Bror Bjørnen. Taken from a movie tie-in children’s activity magazine, which I also bought just to get the poster.

PS2 Whiplash Promo

A promotional copy of the game Whiplash for the PlayStation 2. I hadn’t ever heard of the game, but it looked potentially interesting, and I got it for a low price. They had some other PS2 promo games there as well, but none of which were terribly interesting. If it was the last day of the fleamarket I might’ve tried making a play for them, trying to buy them all cheaply. I was tempted to come back the next day and give it a try, but in the end I didn’t.

Puss In Boots McDonald's Toy

A still sealed McDonald’s toy of Kitty Softpaws from the film Puss In Boots. The design of this toy could be better, but hey, it’s sealed, and it was a good film.Giant Michelangelo Fightin' Gear + Splinter

Definitely one of my best finds this spring: a giant size Fightin’ Gear Michelangelo! Plus, a normal sized Splinter. Both from the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. I was even able to find some of the accessories for the giant size figure when I came back the next day, which included his helmet and one of his two nunchucks…

Michelangelo Fightin' Gear Nunchaku

… but I had actually seen his other nunchuck the day before. Except I didn’t quite know it was his nunchuck at the time, due to the odd design. I had a feeling it was related to the figure though, but I wanted to go home and check online first. No reason to be stuck with plastic you don’t need, and to potentially ruin someone else’s happiness by inadvertently buying the accessory for another toy that they are coveting. But yes, I should’ve just picked it up then. A couple of other items I was considering buying had disappeared when I came back the second day as well, including a tube of POGS and a cute 101 Dalmatians bag. I guess I was lucky I was able to find the helmet and the one nunchaku though. (But the nunchaku is actually pretty strange looking and won’t fit easily into either of his hands, so I guess it’s not a great loss per se. Though not having it complete does rather reduce its collector’s value.)

Now onto a selection of small, decorative figurines and toys picked up at different fleamarkets…

Loppemarked Figurer

Here we have Wolverine from Marvel’s X-Men, Puss from Puss In Boots, Donald Duck, a strange disco / rockabilly / no-good-dog figure I’ve no idea where is from, Lady from Lady & The Tramp, and of course Simba from The Lion King.

The Simba figurine actually looks really nice, and might be the nicest figurine I have of the character yet. It’s a bit more simple, since the colour of the body is the same all over (no different shade on the throat-belly area), the eyes are all black, and the tail is “stuck” to his body and has been molded with it. Still, it’s vibrant, he looks happy, and there are no awkward painting mistakes. A few of the other Simba and Lion King figures I have look a bit derpy  due to slightly lacking paint jobs with the eyes. A simpler design means there’s less chance of messing up.

The mystery dog  character I thought looked both appealing and hilarious, so I picked it up. But again, no idea where he’s from, or even if he’s from anywhere. For all I know it could be from a Kinder Egg series, or some Indonesian comic book.

Loppemarked Figurer

Two identical(-ish) Donald Ducks, a Daffy Duck, Bambi from Bambi, and two different figurines of Fozzie Bear from Muppet Babies.

It’s interesting how the Fozzie Bear figure to the left looks a lot more appealing than the one to the right, though the one to the left was made in China while the one to the right was made by the well-known German toy company Schleich. It’s also peculiar that I stumbled over these two figures at two different fleamarkets. They’re from the mid-80s and don’t seem terribly common around here. Not as peculiar as stumbling over two sealed Alf story tapes, but still peculiar.

Loppemarked Figurer

Robin Hood and Little John from Disney’s Robin Hood, Ash from Pokémon, Tigress from Kung Fu Panda, and two figurines related to the (now sadly mostly defunct) Danish Bonbon candy brand. I believe the two Bonbon figures are of the Hurlumhej Mix and Hundeprutter mascots.

Nintendo Magasinet + Power Play

Twelve copies of the Scandinavian gaming magazine Power Player, plus one copy of Nintendo Magasinet, the Scandinavian equivalent of Nintendo Power. All in pretty bad shape, but perfectly readable. I think I might already have copies of all of these Power Player issues somewhere, as I used to subscribe to it as a kid. My brother used to subscribe to Nintendo Magasinet, and I’d borrow them to read the comics. Ah, nostalgia.

De Tre Bukkene Bruse Print

A framed, signed and numbered limited edition print of a painting based off the Norwegian fairy tale De Tre Bukkene Bruse. Got it pretty cheap just as the fleamarket was ending. I rather like it, even if I might’ve preferred the more typical fairy tale style than neo-impressionism (or whatever style this can be said to be in). But still, I like it. Even if I’ve recently come to the realization that the bulk of Norwegian fairy tales are utterly nihilistic, including De Tre Bukkene Bruse, with not much in the way of a plot and no real moral to speak of.


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Funds: Denied

So, I’ve had this idea to try going on a UK mini-tour with The Society Of Poor Academics. Playing a handful of small venues. It’s hard finding places in Norway to perform, as there’s not much of a singer-songwriter anti-folk lo-fi indie Casio-pop scene over here, and the UK seems like it might be more receptive to my music with more fitting venues.

Unfortunately, I’m not exactly financially well off at the moment, and that probably won’t change anytime soon. So to make the tour happen I’d need some sort of financial support. Fortunately Norway is a socialist paradise where they supposedly throw money at anyone who utters the word “culture”, and there are several funds and grants which can potentially aid you in your creative endeavours.

That is, if you’re good at filling out paper work, and you know how to press the right buttons of whoever’s administrating the grant you’re applying for.

I’d applied for funding to help cover the costs of touring from two different organizations: FFUK and Fond For Lyd Og Bilde. I’d applied for 3,200 kroner to cover my travelling costs; plane tickets back and forth, then some bus and train tickets. My British musician friend Tom had helped getting me the ticket costs so I could scribble together a rough-but-accurate budget. Tom had also helped “pre-emptively” booked me for four different venues in the UK. (It’s a bit tricky, since you’ll need to have the venues confirmed before applying for the funding, but you don’t know yet whether or not you can actually show up and play at those venues until you get a response to your application for funding. So the deals with the venues need to be fairly loose.)

Last week, I got response letters from both of the organizations. First was a letter from Fond For Lyd Og Bilde. Before opening it I was saying to myself, “Better not get your hopes up, it’s probably a rejection.” But then, feeling at the letter, it was thicker than just a single piece of paper – and rejection notes are usually just a single piece of paper. I thus deduced it was probably some sort of contract I had to read and sign to get the money, and with my excitement renewed, I opened it!

Only to find that it was indeed a rejection letter, but that they had included a printed list of those who had received funding, and how much they had received. The lowest application they had granted was for 10,000 kroner (about three times as much as I was asking), and the highest was 60,000 kroner. Among the granted applications was 50,000 kroner for Kaizers Orchestra, one of Norway’s most successful bands.

Then later the same week, I got the letter from FFUK. This one was thinner, so I didn’t get my hopes up, and I wasn’t as disappointed when I found – of course – another rejection letter. This time without any list of who the lucky receivers were – but the list is available online! So I figured I’d give it a look.

Their list seems to be a bit less detailed than the one from Fond For Lyd Og Bilde, and it isn’t just focused on financial aid related to touring. But the list includes 75,000 kroner to Morten Abel – one of Norway’s most successful native solo artists – as well as 80,000 kroner to Moddi – an artist who’s gotten some media exposure lately, and who’s about 2 to 3 years younger than me.

This probably comes off as snarky (which I guess it is), but it just seems a tiny bit unfair. Rather than giving me what is apparently to them a fairly small sum, and helping a fairly obscure but enthusiastic would-be artist to get some more experience and exposure, they dump huge sums on already established acts. The majority of which probably aren’t all that good, either. Not to say that I’m good or any better than they are – they can probably hit the right chords most of the time, whereas I’m more like 80/20 – but at least I’m considerably cheaper!

I know I’m not in any way entitled to funding, to getting grants, and I should just be thankful that there some folks out there who are getting some of this money and who’re able to grow artistically because of it and realize their creative visions. But it’s just frustrating when it seems you already have to be professional and established to receive those grants. In a way, you need to already be successful to get help becoming successful.

I’ve attached the letters to this entry, for those who’re curious what they look like. They are, however, in Norwegian, so they’ll be unreadable for most of my (very few) readers here. Of course, the letters don’t really say much, and neither of the letters specify exactly why the application was rejected. Here’s the relevant part from each letter, with a rough translation:

From FFUK:

Vi beklager å måtte meddele at styret av budsjettmessige årsaker dessverre ikke har funnet å kunne imøtekomme søknaden, som således er avslått.

Translation: We regret to inform you that the board for budgetary reasons unfortunately did not find it to meet your application, which is thus rejected.

From Fond For Lyd Og Bilde:

Styret har ikke funnet å kunne prioritere søknaden innenfor utvalgets aktuelle budsjettramme og den er derfor ikke imøtekommet.

Translation: The board has not been found to be able to prioritize the application within the committee’s current budget and is therefore not met.

This doesn’t really tell you anything constructive. It doesn’t say anything about why your application was rejected while others were approved. They basically say: “Look, our budget is limited, money doesn’t grow on trees, and we have decided to not give you any.” Gee, thank you. That’s not very helpful. It doesn’t tell me what I need to change for the next time I apply for either of the grants, how I can help increase my chances of receiving funding from them, nor anything else. Somewhat ironically, both letters specify how to proceed if I wish to complain about their decision – but how can I legitimately complain when I don’t know the basis for the rejection, and the general standard by which they judge an application good and worthy of being accepted? It might be my application was quite awful and needed a good overhaul, but I’m left with no idea as to how it could have been improved.

So, I guess that’s it. The tour will have to be put on hold for now. I might know of one more fund I can apply for, and I’ll see how that goes. I guess I can also try re-sending my application to both FFUK and Fond For Lyd Og Bilde when the time comes, and just update the dates for my suggested mini-tour. But without making any other changes, and without knowing what changes would need to be made, I fear it might be a useless and ultimately soul crushing endeavour.

Rejection letter from Fond For Lyd Og Bilde.

Rejection letter from FFUK.

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Vi overlever uten Eivind Kirkeby

After two to three years of over-ambitiousness and self-doubt, the third full-length album by The Society Of Poor Academics is here: Vi overlever uten Eivind Kirkeby – or “We’ll survive without Eivind Kirkeby” as it roughly translates to. But can you survive without this album? Most likely yes! But the question is, are you willing to take that chance?

With more guest appearances than an average episode of The Simpsons, the album features over a dozen contributing artists, coming together to offer a plethora of different soundscapes in this corpulent collection of music, from pseudo electronica to quasi folk-rock, while (mostly) keeping true to the spirit of home made low-fi do-it-yourself naïve minimalist music.

This is definitely the most ambitious album I’ve put together to date, playing around more with layered recordings and increasingly complex (well, by my standards) arrangements rather than just going for the record everything at once in one take approach I’ve been most fond of in the past. This opens up new possibilities, as well as creating many new challenges (like how to make the vocals sound natural, how to avoid computer noise, and how to resist the temptation of adding reverb to everything).

I was also very happy to get to work with some musicians who’s work I’ve really enjoyed and admired, as well as lesser known but no less skilled musicians, all of whom are far more talented than myself.  To those who contributed: thanks again.

As a treat (or as a clever ploy to lure you to buy an actual copy), I offer one of my favourite tracks off the album for free download. It’s called “There’s A Tiger Underneath My Bed”, featuring Dennis Driscoll on the vocals, Jack Hayter on viola and Korg, with MIDI strings by Carl Schlachte. Oh, and a Casio PT-80 backing track by me.

“There’s A Tiger Underneath My Bed”

In addition, here are two cover songs of the do it all at once in one take variety: “Beast For Thee” by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (aka. Will Oldham), and “Then The Letting Go” by The Mountain Goats (aka. John Darnielle).

“Beast For Thee”

“Then The Letting Go”

The album is currently available through bandcamp both digitally and as physical home made CD-Rs, and it will eventually be available digitally through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other such venues.

For the album’s press release, I  asked all who’d contributed to the album a unique question. Some of the questions were a bit on the random side, while some were based off of something I knew about them, or maybe something I was genuinely curious about knowing myself. The idea was to let the reader get to know the contributors a bit better, and to make for some potentially interesting and varied reading. You’ll find their answers below (minus two contributors). Enjoy! And apologies for the poor formating.


Tom Butlin Yossarian

Why the fascination for glitch art?

Because it involves the world of underground art, which I’ve always held in the highest regard, validating something I’ve always felt: that the world has the wrong idea about perfection in art. The Society Of Poor Academics is an excellent example, in that his humanity shines through not despite but because of his glitches. You wouldn’t catch U2 giggling in the middle of a song.


J.S. Dahl

What is your favourite video game?

It’s hard to say what’s my definite favourite game, but there are several games I remember with delight and nostalgia. Super Mario World is maybe the first great game I played, and probably the first I played through. Donkey Kong Country had unprecedented graphics, but the music was great too. Resident Evil scared the hell out of me, but Silent Hill was more psychologically disturbing. Final Fantasy 7 was the most epic (and time consuming) game. Games aren’t the same these days…


Dennis Driscoll Dennis Driscoll

How did you get into farming?

I became an oyster farmer because my maternal grandfather started to farm oysters in the late 1930’s or so. The oyster business was handed down to my mother and her sisters. My father took up oyster farming when he was very young. He and my brother still work in the oysters, as do I. It is very scenic but a bit lonely out there in Oysterville, Washington. It is near the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.


Jonathan Fuller Jonty

What has been your most memorable live performance to date?

The stage was tiny, and with a low ceiling that you could probably scoop a hefty DNA sample of my scalp tissue from. The crowd was generally unresponsive, the sound man bellicose. This time though, everything just came together. It was the first time I’d ever heard a bunch of strangers singing along to the chorus of one of my songs, and the only time I’ve had a clown in the crowd come to front of stage and interpretive dance his way through our whole set. That memory is what I cling to when I’m overcome by self-doubt.


Logan Miles Goulet


Why the fascination for industrial music?

I think it’s the idea of taking harsh, mechanical sounds and turning them into music. What other genre gives you the excuse to record yourself kicking your washing machine to use as a drum sample? While pure industrial isn’t really something I delve into, so many genres have evolved from it such as EBM, Aggro-tech, and Goth industrial. The mechanical and synthetic mashed into raw human emotion is a beautiful thing! I anticipate I’ll continue to delve further into it as my life progresses, and find new ways to push the musical evolution of its respective sub-genres.


Jack Hayter Hefner Jack Hayter


What’s the most rewarding part about being a school teacher?

The best part about being a schoolteacher is working indoors in the winter. Before I was a teacher I rode motorbikes for a living and got very very cold. I bet you thought I’d say something about teaching being my vocation… or how great the long summer holidays are. Sorry to disappoint you!


What is your favourite GameBoy game?

Hmm, it’s been a while since I’ve played a game boy game, but if I recall from the long car rides of my youth, Kirby’s Dreamland was a favourite of mine until I lost it.  To tie into a somewhat more relevant point, I really remember loving the music, I liked the music to a lot of games, but that soundtrack was probably one of my favourites; I actually remember liking video game music before I really cared about music on the radio or on tape, etc.  I’ve always found it interesting and a little sad that though some incredible music was composed and programmed into these games, because of the medium it isn’t exactly seen as “real” music, though many pieces of video game music are some of the most memorable pieces of music composed in the last 30 years and are very emotionally tied to the people who played the games in their youth or otherwise. But anywho… yeah, probably that Kirby game, even though you couldn’t steal the enemies’ powers yet.


Lisle Mitnik Fireflies

What are your top three anime soundtracks?

  • Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai – Character CD4 – Shiomiya Shiori OST

I’m a big fan of Kana Hanazawa. She has the kind of voice that would sound lovely singing the phone book, but this particular single is among my most favourite of her work. The harmonies in “Kuchibue Jet” are just heavenly, and the chorus and “la la la” fade out of “Koi no Shirushi” always makes me smile. Both songs avoid the pitfalls of being excessively sappy sad or crazy intense… it’s just the right amount of cute and bitter-sweet.

  • K-ON! Gekichuka Shu Album: Ho-kago Tea Time

K-ON! revolves around the antics of an all-girl high school pop music club. This album is a compilation of the four main songs that the group writes and performs together at their school during the first season of the show. Though obviously the show is very successful and commercial, the spirit of the story and characters is DIY fun and the songs are pure bouncy power-pop.

  • Amagami SS Character Image Songs “For You…”

I flat-out loved pretty much every song from this show. “For you” is an 8-song mini album with one song sung by each of the characters, and the final song, “stories,” sung in chorus by all of them. Rihoko’s song, “Sweet Message” has a surprising noise-pop feel and “Stories” is probably my favourite among all the great songs from the show. Hearing all the talented voice actresses singing together in harmony back and forth in Japanese and English is kawaii heaven. Also from Amagami, I recommend the equally good “ending song compilation” album and the opening song singles, sung by Azusa.


Carl Schlachte

What is your favourite Christmas song?

On Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, the last track is their version of “Silent Night,” performed over a clip from the news that gradually rises in volume as the song progresses. The newscaster is talking about discrimination legislation, a drug overdose death, civil rights activism, a murder trial, anti-war protests, and the ongoing Vietnam war. The two lines are so at odds–the straight delivery and troubling subject matter of the news contrasting starkly with the beautifully delivered traditional Christmas carol, and yet in their combination the beauty of the performance proves more powerful than the grim realities of the world. That’s why it’s my favorite Christmas song.

Pål Gauslaa Sivertzen Swamp Things

Why did you pursue a career in music?

I have always been very fascinated by music production. When I was listening to my favorite albums before starting my education, I tried to imagine how they made the sounds so distinctive on each one, and what kind of musical and technical details were combined to make a certain mood or promote a message. I always felt like I had a lot of thoughts and ideas I wanted to bring into life, and music is my preferred way of doing this.


Daniel Trombley

What is your favourite the Mountain Goats’ album?

Well it’s hard to play favorites, and there are so many ways to make that determination. But, gun to my head, I’ve got to go with All Hail West Texas, for a few reasons. First, on top of just being full of fantastic songs, it was the album that got me into the band. Third (since “first” was really two reasons), my disposition towards songs yelling about Satan. But also, finally, given the musical direction of my host, Herr Kirkeby, I thought it would be appropriate to pick an album with at least one Casio song.


Now, as for the future plans of The Society Of Poor Academics

I’m looking into the possibility of going on a short tour through the UK together with friend, musician, and album contributor Tom Butlin (see above). But this all depends on funding. I have so far applied for one grant here in Norway that you can apply for to get touring expenses covered, and am planning on applying for a couple more. Yes, we have grants here in Norway for that! And many other things. You just need to know about them, and be skilled at doing paper work. If I can get any of those grants, then the tour is a reality. If not, then probably not. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Trying to get more gigs here in Norway too, but it’s not easy. There are very few venues here specializing in indie low-fi Casio pop-folk music. Audiences here seem to have enjoyed my music and my performances so far, but I don’t have many contacts in the local music scene so gigs are few and far between. Which is a shame.

As for future releases, I’m hoping to have a tie-in album EP available sometime this spring, complete with a new music video. I’m also speculating maybe doing a series of digital pay-what-you-want EPs rather than focusing on doing another LP.  I’ve always loved EPs. They allow artists to focus more on a smaller collection of songs, making it a less daunting task for them, while also allowing them to explore certain concepts and sounds without having to stretch it over an entire album. They’re often also better listening experiences, giving listeners a more focused experience while not rudely demanding their attention for 30+ minutes. For each EP I could try a different approach, a different sound, maybe collaborating with a different musician (or “producer”) on each EP. Maybe trying approaches that allow me to focus more on lyrics and composing. I think I’m far better at those (especially lyrics) than I am at recording, playing, or mixing music.

I also have a decent backlog of unfinished and unreleased songs, maybe even enough to make up an entire new album. Here are the songs that didn’t make it for various reasons: “Occupy My Heart” (finished demo, a musician cancelled so the proper arrangement for it was never done), “Autumn Sky Indignation” (finished demo), “I Hope It Won’t Be Like Yesterday” (pretty much completely finished, recorded on my own), “Tanker Går Dit Tanker Vil” (finished demo), “Let’s Go To Germany” (mostly finished, need to figure out a functional melody for the song’s bridge), “Ser Meg Nå” (piano backing done as well as vocals by Jack Hayter), and “Manners” (finished lyrics, two potential melodies),  “I Don’t Want To Be / Fall In Love” (in development, melody and most of the lyrics done), “If At First You Don’t Succeed You Will Die Miserable And Alone” (in early development, chorus melody done, chorus lyrics mostly done), unnamed song #1 (first verse and melody done), and “I’ll Be Big When I’m Dead” (in very early development). I’m listing them in part so I won’t forget about them myself! Plus, might be of interest to my, ahem, mostly non-existing fans.

There is also the long awaited Lonely Boy follow-up EP. Hopefully there will be some progress on that this year, too. We have some really good demos done and I think it features some of my best lyrics so far.

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To Anyone Wanting Me To Check Out Their Music

To anyone wanting me to check out their music, for potential mention or reviewing in this blog: give me a direct download link to whatever release it is you’re trying to promote. I’m not interested in manually downloading each song from your SoundCloud nor streaming the music through bandcamp. I want to be able to easily download the songs to my hard drive, easily put them onto my digital audio player of choice, and then listen to them at my leisure.

Thank you.

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Fidelity Wars #126: Kirsty MacColl – “He’s On The Beach”

Kirsty MacColl was a British pop artist and singer-songwriter, passing away far too early at the age of 41. I’m not terribly familiar with her discography, and like most people I was first exposed to her through her vocal contribution to The Pogues‘ song “Fairytale Of New York”, which has now become a juletide classic.

I recently stumbled over her delightfully cheesy cover version of Billy Bragg’s “A New England”, which lead me further on to what I believe is a digital only compilation, The Stiff Years, compiling some of her singles released on Stiff Records. Which is a pretty decent compilation. The highlight for me is definitely “He’s On The Beach”, which is an upbeat summer type song about how someone has up and left due to feeling unhappy, and is currently on a beach (which is later revealed to be in Australia). It’s cheerful, but with a touch of contemplation and melancholy. Just how summer music should be.

Kirsty MacColl – “He’s On The Beach”

I’m still not very familiar with Kirsy MacColl’s discography, but I’m looking forward to exploring it further. Too bad they haven’t done any affordable box sets collecting her albums, singles, b-sides, and various rarities, as they did with Billy Bragg. (See Billy Bragg Volume 1 and Billy Bragg Volume 2.) Would’ve been a convenient way to get my hands on all her music in one swoop, rather than having to hunt down separate releases and having to decide which are most worthy of my time and money.

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Songs I Have Yet To Write

I believe it was Darren Hayman who once said something akin to how coming up with a good title is half the work of making a song. Once you have a good, evocative title, the rest of the song will pretty much fall into place. While that might be a slight exaggeration, there might be something to it.

It has rarely been how I’ve worked with songs myself; often I will hammer away at it, getting down a few verses and maybe a chorus, and I may not decide on a title for it until after it’s fully done. Sometimes I’ll have a tentative title, something that’s short and usually not terribly clever, and sometimes it sticks. There have been cases where I’ve had the title from the outset as well, perhaps more frequently when working with song for Lonely Boy rather than The Society Of Poor Academics.

Regardless, I’ve tried getting into the habit of writing down potential song titles. Sometimes I will have specific ideas as to where I can take these titled-but-unwritten songs, what they should be about, whereas other times they just have a neat sound, and I would have to do some more hard thinking before deciding what the topic would be. Here are the bulk of the ones I have so far. Some are pretty decent, while some are rather silly sounding. Enjoy!

  • Learning to love the beast
  • Multitasking for Satan
  • The man with no middle name
  • If at first you don’t succeed, you will die miserable and alone
  • Happiness is reserved for the affluent
  • Demons won’t consort with themselves
  • Otakus vs. hipsters
  • The cruelty of children comes as news to no one
  • The clouds don’t know my sorrow
  • I’m sure there’s a German word for it
  • Folk flest er døde
  • You get more attention than you deserve
  • Diluted love
  • Bisexuals got it easy
  • Learning to ignore you
  • Apprehensively apprehending apprehension
  • Apprehensively apprehending the apprehender
  • Our love is a non sequitor
  • Give me love or give me death (but preferably love)
  • Tragedies are good business for florists
  • What would Mufasa do?
  • Dogs are dumb
  • Create a princess room for your little princess
  • There is something in my head which shouldn’t be there
  • Don’t have too much fun without me
  • News about sports aren’t real news
  • It hurts me to see others happy
  • Please don’t let me dance alone
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Fidelity Wars #125: Red Shoe Diaries – “Ice & Snow”

I came upon the band Red Shoe Diaries on a brief tumble through bandcamp, searching for potential bands for an ongoing pet project of mine. Contemporary acoustic indie pop with a touch of twee, not dissimilar in sound to Allo Darlin’, Sambassadeur, Camera Obscura, or the heavy weights Belle & Sebastian. It’s nothing ground breaking, but it feels cozy and comfortable with just a touch of under dog-ness,  and sometimes that’s just what you want.

Earlier this year they released a three-song EP, Ice & Snow, and I’ve been binging on its title song all week. I can’t get enough of it. (That is, until I’ve actually gotten enough of it, at which point I will probably listen to it more sporadically and casually rather than five + times in a row.) If I am to point out one possible flaw with the song, it’s that the chorus is maybe repeated one time too many without any lyrical variation. But on the plus side, the outro of the song is great and  could’ve  easily been the main chorus. I like it when songs don’t slavishly follow the verse chorus verse chorus bridge / instrumental chorus structure, but manages to pleasantly surprise the listener by going a slightly different route. Also props for the delightful lines “But hope is deadly, it killed us before we reached the shore” and  “We named our child after the hurricane”.

So of course, this is my selection for this week.

Red Shoe Diaries – “Ice & Snow”

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Fidelity Wars #124: Ali Dee And The Deekompressors – “Go, Speed Racer, Go” (Film Version)

I wasn’t expecting to like the movie Speed Racer. I hadn’t been a fan of the orignal TV series, never having watched it as a kid (but still knowing enough to enjoy the homage / parody episode in Dexter’s Laboratory), and not being a fan of The Matrix films, as Speed Racer as also directed by the Warchowskis’.

But, I loved it.

While CGI heavy – and I’m generally not a big CGI fan – the visuals were so stylized, cartoony and over the top that they rarely came off as clunky or unnatural (as CGI often does). The car races were exciting, there was some good camp thrown in, it has a near-acceptable plot, it seemed to respect the source material, and there were  a couple of genuinely funny moments. (And some less funny, more groan inducing moments involving the chimp and the kid – including a very awkward scene at the end which detracted from the film’s climax and helped remind you that what you’re watching might actually qualify as a childrens film.) This is what blockbuster films should be like; flashy, easy to digest, action scenes that are easy to follow, without being insultingly dumb or disrespectful. Should definitely be enjoyed on a large screen in the highest definition, with sufficiently loud surround sound.

The film also has a catchy as heck, modernized, slightly cheesy version of the Speed Racer theme song that plays at the end credits. Complete with rapping. To spice things up, these rap sections are actually in different languages, and apparently (if Wikipedia is to be believed) these are all the languages of the countries in which the anime originally aired. Which is pretty neat. Sort of a nod to the international fans.

This, of course, is this week’s featured track. Happy Halloween!

Ali Dee And The Deekompressors – “Go, Speed Racer, Go” (Film Version)

If you want to buy the music properly, and receive an ever so slightly different mix of the song, as well as karaoke versions, you can do so here.

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