Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sour Milk: The Nola.com Experience - June 12, 2012

My wife and I decided that if The Times-Picayune owners thought we didn't need the paper four days of the week, we probably didn't need it the other three and canceled our subscription. One regular feature of MySpiltMilk.com (which will be live tomorrow) is going to be documenting my efforts to stay informed through Nola.com. Today's post has a particularly painful backdrop as T-P staffers are learning their fates today. As of this point in the writing, I know that news writer Danny Monteverde won't be a part of the grand online experiment. 

On my iPhone, the top stories at 8:40 a.m. are an editorial suggesting that City Council put charter changes on the ballot and move on. News leads with Jefferson Parish school system's regional parent group on the way, the charter editorial, and a story about a visiting pet program orientation on Saturday. There's weather and entertainment news - local actors and artists pay tribute to the late Ray Bradbury, the story behind Chakula cha Jua's new one many play, and Bieber fever in Mexico City. I have to click to see more. Doug MacCash is a friend, so I click on the companion piece to his cha Jua story, a video of the playwright walking in his neighborhood - or so I gather from the headline. The video player doesn't show up on my phone. Additional entertainment news includes a Joy Behar story, the That's My Boy trailer, a David Arquette story, the Percy Jackson sequel will shoot in New Orleans, Gerard Butler will shoot in Shreveport, and a recap of the season opener for True Blood. I don't get Behar, Bieber or Arquette on a pared-down version of the website, but otherwise, good enough.

Following the News link, I find stories on the Algiers Charter Schools association making changes, the Jeff Parish school system story, the City Council editorial, the pet program story, an obituary, an op-ed piece from Stephanie Grace, a BP-related editorial, an anti-bullying session at a library, a judge voids a death sentence for an inmate convicted of a 1995 triple murder, and Jeff Parish school officials' plan to deal with the system's deficit. Based on Nola.com's smart phone presence, I can't even guess at what today's top story is, though I'd think the voided death sentence might be more significant that the pet program and the bullying story for starters.

The Nola.com app includes "Headlines" and "Top Stories" as menu options, so maybe I'll get a more coherent overview of the news there. Headlines: Tangipahoa Parish introduces oil, gas drilling, the Algiers charter school association changes, the Jeff Parish school system's parent ... thing (I can't summarize this one based on the headline), the City Council editorial, the pet program, the obituary, Grace's op-ed, and so on. This appears to more or less follow the news flow at Nola.mobi, and thankfully buried is the story of the dismembered woman, whose friends say she was a "good mom." Is that really a story? What else are they going to say? Also buried because it went online at 6:45 a.m. is the story of mosquitoes being out in record number, which seems more newsworthy to me.

"Top Stories" still follows a chronological order, though there seems to be some decision-making going on regarding what appears. I thought it might be shaped by the number of comments, but no comments - a strong plus for the Nola.com app. (Speaking of - how can Nola.com plan to be a website for the city when its commenters keep the air of racism palpable?) 

Finally, a visit to Nola.com, where for the first time I learn that the Hornets turned down a trade offer from the Cavs. The reassignment of Marlin Gusman is a fixture at the top of the page along with the story about the dismembered good mom (where the comments stream took a strongly moralistic turn). Below that: "Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed 12 bills so far this session," "Keep bugs at bay as metro New Orleans gets more rain: An editorial" and "In New Orleans, not even little girls are safe from violence" by Jarvis DeBerry, followed by stories I saw on the app and the mobi site.

To be fair, the news looks a lot more like the news at 8:40 than it did when I first looked at 6:45 this morning. Early risers may be facing mundane mornings if they try to read Nola.com with the morning coffee. Also, like the AnnArbor.com site, there is a menu of top stories in each section at the foot of the page. You've got to scroll to get to it, but you can see more of the stories without having to click into the menu bars at the top of the page. Still, the chronological news feed dominates the home page, forcing readers to work around the home page for a more focused presentation of the news. 

Finally, if people want to stop the proposed three-days-a -week printing schedule, someone's going to have to protest. Employees at the paper have said they don't want it, we don't want it, and advertisers have now said that they don't want it. But if we all keep our anger and frustration between ourselves, nothing will change the plans. Polite gatherings don't make the same statement as a big group more interested in results than commiseration. Since I started writing, Brett Anderson announced on Twitter that he's been let go.

Monday, June 11, 2012

This Week's Soundtrack: June 11, 2012

This week's soundtrack is seriously shaped by last week.
1. "The Coming Tide" - Luke Winslow-King: I've been listening to and enjoying Luke W-K's new album by the same name all week.
2. "Oh Susannah" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse: The lead track from Americana. By now, a collection of remakes of folk tunes is a little been-there/done-that, and his version of "Get a Job" doesn't change enough to be interesting. Still, I love Crazy Horse's native stomp, and spelling out "banjo" gives the song a sense of humor I hope I'll discover in some of the other tracks.
3. "Hey, Hey We're the Gories" - The Gories: The Detroit garage-punk band plays Saturday night at Siberia with the 3-D Invisibles.
4. "Face Down in the Gutter" - Quintron: A lot of this last week was spent at the Music Box, where Quintron conducted the final, improvised-within-a-framework shows. He mapped out the performance and signaled players in and out of the mix.
5. "Unforgettable Super Lady" - Javelin: The guys from Javelin were two of the performers at the Music Box.
6. "Armoire" - Curren$y with Young Roddy and Trademark: From The Stoned Immaculate. With Lil Wayne, I always felt like the mixtapes were the testing grounds for ideas that would take shape on Tha Carter II and III. With Curren$y, I wonder if the major label releases are the ads for mixtapes, which are where his music really lives.
7. "Crew Love" - Drake with The Weeknd: The Weeknd plays the House of Blues Tuesday.
8. "Street Parade" - Theresa Andersson: The title track from her most recent album. Part of the reporting for my story on Theresa in the current issue of OffBeat was done when she shot the video for this song at the Music Box.
9. "I Can't Make it Alone" - Continental Drifters" Susan Cowsill singing lead on the Dusty Springfield classic. Cowsill performed Dusty in Memphis in its entirety Saturday night at Carrollton Station.
10. "No Easy Way Down" - Dusty Springfield: If I'm going to play a Dusty cover ...
11. "Pacific Coast Highway" - The Beach Boys: From the new That's Why God Made the Radio. I wasn't eager for this album despite my love of The Beach Boys because of the sound of the title track and its nostalgia - usually my least-favorite of the band's modes. Most reviews agree that the last three songs give the album a reason to live; so far, this is my favorite of the three.
12. "Dreamer" - Dennis Wilson: From Pacific Ocean Blue. I think Beach Boys' obsessives overrate this album, but Dennis developed an authentic writing voice when Brian couldn't be counted on, and that gives his treatments of conventional subject matter life.
13. "Bells" - Quintron: Like "Face Down in the Gutter," this comes from his Sucre du Sauvage album, and it's more in keeping with the experimental nature of the Music Box performances. The ambient sounds were recorded in City Park during the time when Quintron installed himself as a museum exhibit at NOMA as part of his "Parallel Universe" show with Miss Pussycat.
14. "Little Boxes" - Teenage Head: A year ago Saturday, my friend Imants Krumins passed away. He kept seeing Teenage Head and giving them a chance way longer than anyone else did. I wish the original mix of Teenage Head's debut album could be found online instead of this artificially revved-up version, but since it's what we've got, it's what we go with.
15. "I Zimbra" (12" version) - Talking Heads: Right now I'm plowing through Jonathan Lethem's entry in the 33 1/3 series, Fear of Music. Lethem's wrestling with a lot of ideas starting with the question of how to address the album now while honoring his changing relationship to it over the years, and I wish he was handling that challenge with less circular writing. I've rarely moved so slowly through a 33 /13 book.
16. "Back.te.riality" (Magas remix) - Die-6, Magas: Chicago's Jim Magas was also among the performers at the Music Box this weekend.
17. "Express Yourself" - Diplo feat. Nicky Da B: From Diplo's new Express Yourself EP. This is one of the handful of non-New Orleans tracks to get bounce right.
18. "I've Got My Mind Set on You" - Luke Winslow-King: Also from The Coming Tide. Here he and Esther Rose cover George Harrison.
19. "Free State of Jones" - Cary Hudson: Blue Mountain's Cary Hudson periodically does a solo show on the House of Blues' patio, the Voodoo Garden. He'll be there as part of a songwriter's showcase Wednesday at 7 p.m.

World Cafe Comes the the Crescent City

The radio show "World Cafe" with David Dye will focus on New Orleans this week, starting today with a tuba summit at Preservation Hall with Ben Jaffe, Kirk Joseph and Philip Frazier. The week is part the show's "Sense of Place" series, and will feature Trombone Shorty on Tuesday, Ani DiFranco, the Roots of Music and Hurray for the Riff Raff Wednesday, the Treme on Thursday, and Dr. John shows New Orleans' spiritual side on Friday.
Hurray for the Riff Raff

Unfortunately, local NPR affiliate WWNO doesn't air "World Cafe," so you'll have to listen online at NPR.org.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Last Nights of the Music Box

[Updated] The Music Box - the Bywater art installation/performance space/"Shantytown Sound Laboratory" - will play its final weekend of shows starting tonight at 7:15. Performers include Baby Dee, Rob Cambre, Donald Miller, Rosalie "Lady Tambourine" Washington, Javelin, MAGAS, Rotten Milk and more conducted by Quintron.

Advance tickets are sold out; if you want to take your chances at the door, good luck. If you can't make it, the shows will be streamed live at LiveMusicNOLA.com. Shows start around 7:30 and 8:45 tonight and tomorrow.

Updated at 5:33 p.m.
I've added the show times.

Valparaiso Men's Chorus Sails the Straits of St. Claude

Booking the Best of the Beat was one of the best parts of my time at OffBeat, and the Valparaiso Men's Chorus played one of its most contagious sets during my tenure. It was the end of the night and the Parish was thinning out, but everybody who was left stood as close to the stage as possible and sang along with woozy energy to the set of sea shanties. Their may have been 16 people onstage, but the line between band and audience had dissolved so that in fact, the Valparaiso Men's Chorus was 60 or so male and female drunken voices strong.

The Valparaiso Men's Chorus returns with its second album, The Straits of St. Claude, and it reaches through the speakers just as live they leave the stage. There are a few "subtleties" such as the shift in "John Kanaka," which shifts to a second line beat half-way through before closing at punk velocity, but the songs generally come straight at you. Alex McMurray leads the chorus with sensitivity to the songs, so his lead vocal on "Hanging Johnny" has moments of near-delicacy, but more often than not, he gives them an appropriately spirited yowl. The songs are all call-and-response, and he's answered by half of the Bywater music community, who holler as if they warmed up for a few hours in the Saturn Bar - the Chorus' live home on St. Claude Avenue - before the session.

For the most part, the band provides structure for the songs, keeping them moving without drawing attention to itself. The Tin Men are the core, and they're joined by a number of artists including Greg Schatz and Dave Rebeck on accordions, Carlo Nuccio on drums, and Joe Cabral, Rick Trolsen, Matt Rhody, Chris Lane and Janelle Perrine on horns, whistles and strings.  When they get a chance to show off on the familiar instrumental "The Sailor's Hornpipe," the sea and the second line once again meet without selling out either.

Because the Valparaisos sing sea shanties, the rough-and-tumble atmosphere not only works but is essential. The songs are bawdy drinking songs, and McMurray and Company keep them that way, favoring the more off-color lyrics. The communal, irreverent vibe is central to the band's appeal, and part of what makes it so inviting. If I have a complaint, it's that it's hard to hear The Straits of St. Claude and not want a beer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Flaming Lips to Set Guinness World Record in New Orleans

[Updated] On June 28, the Flaming Lips will come to New Orleans to the House of Blues to break a Guinness World Record for the most live concerts in a 24-hour period in multiple cities. The eight-stop tour will begin in Memphis on June 27 and move through Clarksdale, Oxford, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Biloxi and Baton Rouge before concluding at a location yet to be determined in New Orleans. The official press release promises "a not-to-miss mini-set featuring many surprise collaborations and guests." Tickets for the shows go on sale tomorrow; here's the itinerary:

June 27 -- New Fumes  & the Flaming Lips  --  Memphis, TN @  Handy Park                                            
June 27 -- Gary Clark Jr & the Flaming Lips -- Clarksdale, MS @ Ground Zero Blues' Club            
June 27 -- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals & the Flaming Lips -- Oxford, MS @ The Lyric                                            
June 28 -- Neon Indian & the Flaming Lips -- Jackson, MS @ Duling Hall                                            
June 28 -- Hunter Hayes & the Flaming Lips --  Hattiesburg, MS @ Benny's Boom Boom Room      
June 28 -- TBD & the Flaming Lips -- Biloxi, MS @  Hard Rock Casino                
June 28 --  GIVERS & the Flaming Lips  --  Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity                                              
June 28  -- Grimes & the Flaming Lips  -- New Orleans @ The House of Blues

 The shows coincide with the June 26 release of The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends - an album that includes collaborations with Ke$ha, Bon Iver, Neon Indian, Yoko Ono, Jim James, Erykah Badu and more - and the O Music Awards, a 24-hour online celebration of web excellence. The O webcast will follow the Flaming Lips on their attempt to break the record onstage and off.

 The track listing for The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends:
1.  "2012 (You Must Be Upgraded) "(w/ Ke$ha, Biz Markie & Hour Of The Time Majesty 12)
2. "Ashes In The Air" (Featuring Bon Iver)
3. "Helping The Retarded To Know God" (Featuring Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros)
4. "Supermoon Made Me Want To Pee" (Featuring Prefuse 73)
5. "Children Of The Moon" (Featuring Tame Impala)
6. "That Ain't My Trip" (Featuring Jim James of My Morning Jacket)
7. "You, Man? Human???" (Featuring Nick Cave)
8. "I'm Working At NASA On Acid" (Featuring Lightning Bolt)
9. "Do It!" (Featuring Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band)
10. "Is David Bowie Dying?" (Featuring Neon Indian)
11. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (Featuring Erykah Badu)
12. "Girl, You're So Weird" (Featuring New Fumes)
13. "Tasered And Maced" (Featuring Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory)

My 2009 interview with the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, and my 2006 interview with Michael Ivins.

Updated 12:27 p.m.
Since this story was first posted, the House of Blues has been announced as the New Orleans venue. The text has been updated to reflect this.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Curren$y on Wiz, Pharrell and The Stoned Immaculate

Saying Curren$y's back seems wrong because he never goes away. The Stoned Immaculate is his second Warner Brothers release, and like Weekend at Burnie's, it presents Spitta at his most accessible. The beats are still luxurious and he still obviously enjoys his own languorous flow, but it's all slightly more precise, 15 percent less weedy (except for "Showdown" - he's post-verbal by the end of the track). As usual, he's chasing paper and smoking as much as breathing, but while the isolation that's implied in his rhymes is touched on here ("Privacy Glass"), guest spots by Estelle and Marsha Ambrosius particularly counter that remote vibe as women enter his musical world.

Unlike former runnin' pardner Lil Wayne, his major label releases don't seem like the things that the mixtapes were building to. Tha Carter II and III pulled together all of Weezy's musical and conceptual obsessions, while The Stoned Immaculate and Weekend at Burnie's feel like ads one more gambit in the Jets Life branding effort, and the truest expression of Jets Life comes on the mixtapes.

Check out The Stoned Immaculate on Spotify.