My “Now” page is where I share stuff I’ve enjoyed recently, in the hopes that you’ll find something you’ll enjoy too.
This is the follow-up to what was my most-played ambient record of 2020, and while it doesn’t quite hit those heights, it’s still better than most ambient released this year. Four long-form pieces, 44 minutes, great for deep work.
Shades of the poppier sides of Guided by Voices and Ty Segall, plus some straight-up low-fi pop and odd instrumentals, from a Chicago indie stalwart. If you care about songcraft and vibe, but you’re not married to a single style, and your tastes are in any way influenced by ‘80s music, you’ll probably love this. Lust is a recording engineer, so it sounds terrific on headphones.
This is from 1992, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s appeared on Bandcamp. I took a flyer on Sweatertongue based on the blurb in the Ajax Records catalog, which at that time was a multi-page booklet that arrived in the actual mail. It ended up being one of my favorite records of all time. It’s a little like if Sonic Youth and Slint had invented Mogwai, and frankly, I would have been fine if instrumental post-rock followed this vector instead of the quiet/loud/quiet formula that it’s largely turned into. Go straight to “Immortality,” a song which was my go-to mix-tape closer back in the day.
(I link to Bandcamp whenever possible, since it’s the platform that returns the most money to the artists.)
The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underground and the American Dream, Patrick Radden Keefe
Having been impressed by Keefe’s Say Nothing, I next picked up The Snakehead. This is a story of a human smuggling pipeline from China to the States, those who profit from it, and the system that creates and enables it. As with Say Nothing, parts of it will leave you wondering how things like this can happen in a modern age, such as the section about the overloaded, barely-seaworthy vessel that goes the wrong way around the globe and has to port in Africa for months. Keefe does his research but he also tells a compelling story.
The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
I’ve gotten to most Vonnegut by now, but this was my first reading of his second novel. This is an imaginative sci-fi satire with more true “plot” than the typical Vonnegut novel, and his voice had not yet softened to that of the plain-spoken Midwesterner he’s known for. Sirens deals with free will (which he’d later approach head-on in Timequake, a book I seem to like better than most people), religion (he presaged the hoax of the “prosperity gospel” way back in 1959) and class/caste structure. This is the book that gave the world at least three classic Vonnegut one-liners:
“The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.”
“I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
At this writing (Sept. 20), I’ve completed 29 books this year, 15 of which will make my list of year-end recommendations.
We spent two quick nights in the Cincinnati area over Labor Day, visiting friends I’ve known since my days as a Cincinnati Bearcat.
Beer drinkers, I’d recommend both Narrow Path, where you’ll find a spacious outdoor area adjacent to the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Loveland, and Taft’s Ale House, in a renovated church in Over-the-Rhine.
We also caught an FC Cincinnati game at the brand-new TQL Stadium. (Why they gotta wait until I move away to build a soccer stadium?) The stadium’s terrific; the product on the field needs some work.
Also, we visited a friend’s farm, where we met several horses and donkeys, a dozen or so chickens, about 30 goats, three basset hounds, and a handful of cats, one of whom is named Thundercat Murderman.
Coming up: Cannon Beach & McMinnville, OR and Maui, HI.
Wifey and I celebrated the six-year anniversary of our first date with a truly outstanding meal at Rose Mary. Rose Mary is the new Croatian-Italian spot by Top Chef season 15 winner Joe Flamm, and he and his kitchen really know what they’re doing. We arrived hungry and enjoyed grilled cucumber salad, zucchini fritters, grilled clams, spinach cappelletti, skradin risotto, pork ribs pampanella and chocolate-stracciatella gelato. And my first glass of refošk, a full-bodied Croatian red wine. We’ve already booked our next reservation, and the only thing that will keep us from repeating the exact order above is that there are so many other things on the menu to try.
I also ended my nearly-two-year drought of live music, the longest such drought, by a margin, since I was 15 years old. I couldn’t have chosen better than a trip to Thalia Hall for Thee Oh Sees, the underground legends of punk/prog/psych/garage, who adhere to a strict “all bangers” policy for their live shows. This was preceded by a characteristically fine meal at Avec (bacon-wrapped dates, farm salad, oysters, cheese & truffle focaccia, and some excellent wine recommendations from our server) and cocktails at Punch House (there’s a chance we didn’t need the third round, but we were enjoying ourselves).
We’ve been into orange wines (made with white grapes with the skins on) lately, and our favorite is the Field Recording Skins wine.
Orange wines in general are good summer sippers, especially if you just can’t choke down another goddamn bottle of rosé. Skins is dry, with some nice citrus & mineral notes. And Field Recordings is fast becoming like a favorite record label – whatever they put out there, I’m likely to try it.
Skins is $20 direct from Field Recordings, though I’ve found it for the same price at Whole Foods and a little less at Binny’s.
I’m pleased to report that I smashed my target of 800 Peloton miles for the thirty days ending Sept. 2. I’ll move that goal up to 825 or 850 next time.
For the current 30 days, I’m alternating weights & light cardio days in my building’s gym with heavier-resistance days on the Peloton.
At this writing (Sept. 20), I’ve exercised 249 of 263 days this year.
I enjoyed David Sedaris’ “Storytelling and Humor” MasterClass; in particular, I appreciated his curiosity about life and his willingness to engage with anyone in conversation (which is why his book signings can take hours). He shares one anecdote in which he asks a stranger, “When was the last time you touched a monkey?” Her reply: “Oh, can you smell it on me?” If you’re curious about MasterClass, here’s a guest pass.
Questions on any of the above? Got something to share of your own? Drop me a line: matthew(at)threedeuce(dot)com.