mucha music (Avetts, Dylan, Hawley!) + Cindy Sherman, molasses cookies

The last few weeks saw a 2,800-mile road trip to the Glen Workshop (sans a/c, con Thermador), a stubborn cold and a laptop demise that might or might not have been water-related, hence the gap in emails. But ya'll were probably enjoying your own summer vacations, right?

This week's email is a little music-news heavy, but then September's a huge month for new releases: the Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons and Bob Dylan. There's even a new Richard Hawley out!

With the road trip, my writing slowed down a little, but I finally made a proper contribution to Paste magazine this summer -- an essay on the new book Overdressed that I wanted to title "Underwear Quilts in an Immaterial World."

I actually went to the Glen to work on fiction, but that's a more slowly gestating form. The Glen has workshops of many kinds, though -- songwriting, photography, poetry, life drawing and so on -- which is one of the reasons I'd encourage all of you to think of going at some point. I feel like I'll have to have a cocktail party where I can explain more, but it was a really great week. Get a small peek from this slideshow. It is something you might need to save up for, but if you start now, $80 a month would cover the cheapest option.

:: tunes ::

  • New Bob Dylan! NPR has the first track from his forthcoming -- and 35th -- album Tempest, out Sept. 11. Play Duquesne Whistle and try to sit still. Dylan gave Rolling Stone a few quotes on truth, the Titanic and the title's possible Shakespeare reference.
  • NPR's First Listen feature alone has really won me over to their music coverage, but I was recently reminded that they also do a decent job highlighting bands living or with substantial roots outside the U.S. A recent example is the Sierra Leonan musician Janka Nabay, who is frequently dubbed the "king" of bubu music (yeah, I didn't know what that was either). Paste has more on Nabay and his Brooklyn-based band's new album, but apparently "bubu" is a music style that draws on Muslim music and chant. In Nabay's hands, however, bubu's become a popular style in some dance clubs. Play more of his music on MySpace to see why.
  • The Avett Brothers talk to NPR about their new album, which will be a First Listen stream beginning Aug. 30.
  • Current First Listens of note: Cat Power, Animal Collective and Deerhoof, plus the wonderful Gaby Moreno. She happens to sing in Spanish, but her album's not anything like most of the songs featured as free "Latino" giveaways on iTunes. Highly recommended.
  • Late in June, NPR Music gave a preview of upcoming albums, including the Avett Brothers' The Carpenter. I didn't like all of it, but my favorites so far are Bill Fay's "Never Ending Happening," which is just wonderful; Ivan and Alyosha's addictive, harmony-driven "Be Your Man"; and, of course, the Avetts' "Live and Die."
  • Mumford and Sons will join the Avett Bros. in a September release. New album Babel is out Sept. 25. Watch the album trailer.
  • Richard Hawley has a new album out, too, but so far Paste and NPR are mum on the topic. The British Independent rounds up a few other reviews, however.
  • I don't know that many of you share my taste for jazz, but as some of you know, it extended to a couple stints as the pianist in jazz ensembles, first in high school, then my freshman year in college. Though I ultimately transferred schools, the leader of that college jazz band was a wonderful mentor and musician named Gabriel Espinosa. Imagine my surprise and delight, then, to hear his name on KCSM the other day, during a Latin-jazz program. Could it be the same Gabriel, I wondered? It must be, because his new album Celebrando, released in April has steadily risen up the jazz charts, from 342 in June to as high as number 12! Hear clips from the album on contributor Hendrik Meurkens' website.
  • Bill Cosby is probably best known for his comedic work, especially as Cliff Huxtable, but he also has a talent for scat, as shown off on "Hikky-Burr," the theme song from his first sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show. Cosby may or may not appear on other tracks from the show's soundtrack album, Original Jam Sessions 1969 (AllMusic seems a bit inconsistent on that point), but it's a great, funky album.
  • This story of "Ipanema's" enduring popularity is worth listening to for the clip of Mike Tyson's cover alone (yes, really!). 
  • I think I shared a video of this Russian-grandma singing group a while ago, but the New York Times reports their continued fame and recent second-place finish in this year's Eurovision have helped their village water pipeline and other improvements. They've even earned enough money in a rebuilding fund to finally start reconstructing a long-demolished church
  • Lastly, if you've been on the fence about subscribing to Paste's new mPlayer format ($2.99/month for weekly issues, each with seven new downloads), you get three issues free with a special offer they're running.
:: visual art ::
  • Last week's big story in visual art got so much coverage most of you have probably already heard about it, but in case not, here's the botched restoration of a Spanish fresco of Jesus that the BBC's correspondent compared to "a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic."
  • Photo-series stories seem to be the latest itiration of "listicles" (articles built around the structure of a list), at least if you read SFGate much, but these portraits of famous people jumping -- Richard Nixon, Marilyn Monroe and Salvador Dali among them -- was fun to look through.
  • In case you've missed the posters around town, photographer Cindy Sherman has an exhibit at SFMOMA thru Oct. 8. Hers is an interesting body of work, nearly all self-portraiture, that is probably all the more relevant in the age of social media and obsessive self-presentation. I actually got to participate in a focus group on marketing the show, and I believe this may be the first major show of her work at SFMOMA.
:: your stuff ::
:: food ::
  • After surviving the road trip, I managed to send my housing thank-you notes with cookies for once. One of my favorite recipes for such care packages is a yummy molasses treat from the old Betty Crocker cookbook both my grandma and mom have owned. Both dough and cookie keep well, although that may not matter if you have a sweet tooth. The recipe's fairly quick to make, but does require some chilling time in the fridge before baking (try the freezer if you're short on time).

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