A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: Bahhaj Taherzadeh, We/Or/Me

It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.

We/Or/Me (Bahhaj Taherzadeh) occupies a unique place in the musical world: he’s a Persian/Irish singer-songwriter. He grew up in Dublin and now lives in Chicago; he got his start when, after years of writing songs on the sly and sharing them with only a limited circle of friends, Glen Hansard called him to the stage one night and commanded him to sing.

His first record, Everything Behind Us is a Dream, will be turned loose upon the world at the end of January 2016. I have listened to it, and, ladies and gentlemen, it is a delight. His songs are spare, delicate, elegantly constructed, and overall just lovely.

Sea Wall is not the first single, but it is my favorite:

And with that, I turn the floor over to Mr. Taherzadeh, who joins us today to share a favorite book, song and drink:

Photo credit: Liza Mitchell

Photo credit: Liza Mitchell

A Good Read

Werner Herzog — Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the making of Fitzcarraldo

A filmmaker’s production diary doesn’t necessarily scream “highbrow literature” but Werner Herzog is not an ordinary filmmaker, nor was his film Fitzcarraldo an ordinary undertaking. In recent years Herzog seems to have become a caricature of himself, an uncompromising and severe man who makes nothing but extreme and bleak statements about art and the futility of existence. And while he seems to have lightened up enough to be in on the joke, that doesn’t make his convictions any less real. You won’t learn a lot about filmmaking by reading Conquest of the Useless. You won’t even learn a lot about the specific film that the book documents.

What you get is the internal landscape of Herzog’s mind as he navigates life in the Amazonian jungle. He observes the unyielding savagery of nature, he confronts cobras, witnesses death (both animal and human), curses financiers, negotiates with native tribes, and embraces a wild conflict with one of his actors. That he has to oversee the dragging of an actual steamship over a mountain in order to realize his vision and complete his film seems perfectly natural in the context of everything that surrounds it.

The action described in this book is chaotic and disorienting, but Herzog’s voice is steady and calm throughout and it is rendered in achingly beautiful prose. If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by an artistic project, read this book. It will likely put your struggles in perspective and it might make your convictions a little firmer.

A Good Listen

Songs:Ohia — Farewell Transmission

I don’t understand anything about this song. I don’t know what it’s about. I don’t know what he’s saying exactly, what he is describing, but it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time. Jason Molina’s music has always had a harrowing, damaged quality to it, but since his death it is all the harder to listen to. There is something transcendent about this track though. Something indefinable. No one is quite sure if this is a Songs:Ohia record or a Magnolia Electric Co. record. It now serves as a transition between the two identities. Almost everything leading up to this point in the Molina canon had been sparse and lonely sounding. Suddenly it sounded as though there were a lot of people in the room.

It was the opening track on a record that represented a new chapter in the life of an extraordinary artist. To me it is the sound of a man putting all his cards on the table. It is triumphant and desperate all at once. I met Jason on a train once. I was listening to his music on an ipod, and I turned around to find that he was standing behind me. We were the only ones in the car. It was a strange, dreamlike experience. We spoke for some time and then kept in touch a little after that. If I didn’t have some record of our correspondence, I’m not sure I would be certain the encounter was real. John O’Donohue wrote that “transience makes a ghost of each experience.” It is a line that seems to pretty well sum up my connection to Jason and his music.

Songs: Ohia - Farewell Transmission

A Good Drink

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, so I have no craft beer suggestions or cocktail recipes to share. I drink a lot of coffee, usually Americanos. I use an aeropress at home but I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’m struggling to think of something to recommend. Oh, I’ve got it! Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew. It is the most refined soda you will ever drink. They claim to sweeten it with “Canadian white-water clover honey.” I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but the taste is unreasonably good. Maybe if everyone who reads this tweets about it to Reed’s, they will send me a lifetime supply of the drink for free? Please everyone do this. I’m counting on it.

Video: Brooks & Dunn, Boot Scootin’ Boogie

I’ve recently taken up square dancing, and, while Brooks & Dunn‘s Boot Scootin’ Boogie hasn’t been on during class (yet), it invariably serves as my internal soundtrack.

Also, check out that hair and . . . well, pretty everything happening in this video. The ’90s, it was a time, y’all.

Brooks & Dunn - Boot Scootin' Boogie

Late Night Listening: Springtime Carnivore

Late Night Listening: a home for things that might be fleeting, might be soothing, might be weird, might be soothing and weird. The blogging equivalent of sitting in the garage twiddling radio knobs just to see what might be out there.


Between the vaguely apocalyptic bandcamp art and the band being called Springtime Carnivore, I was expecting heavy metal. Spoiler alert: *bzzzzzt* try again!

What it actually is: a little bit ’60s dance party, a little bit Venice Beach when the sun’s gone down, the boardwalk is almost empty and there’s a distinct chill in the air.

And then there are the videos, by Eddie O’Keefe, which also wobble back and forth between charming, nostalgic and super-freaky.

Springtime Carnivore :: Collectors from Eddie O'KEEFE on Vimeo.


Springtime Carnivore – Creature Feature from Eddie O'KEEFE on Vimeo.

You can listen to the whole thing at bandcamp, or, if you prefer vinyl, scoot on over here.


MGMT is MGMT‘s third record.

One of my professors used to say, “Some books you read. Some books read you.” I think this is a record that is going to read a lot of people. It certainly read me.

Honestly, the reason I picked it up was I saw so many reviews that were basically “what is this weird quarter-life crisis nonsense??!!” which as it turned out were right, in a way. The songs are more introspective – there is actually a song called Introspection, which I love – and do grapple with more adult topics, specifically, the alarming sensation of being an adult, and all of it is filtered through a musical fun house mirror.

Or: MGMT’s answer to “What do you do after you become super-famous, then make a record your fans kind of don’t like because it wasn’t the same as the first one?” is “Become aggressively weird.”

Here are three songs from the record, all of which are very good. I decided to share them in video form because the videos are also aggressively weird.

Alien Days: colonial-era alien abduction as a metaphor for how your most precious things are sometimes caviar for unfeeling creatures. (Ooooh subtle, MGMT!) Also, aliens doing ballet.

MGMT - "Alien Days" (Official Video)

Your Life is a Lie: A bit of a modern echo of Once In A Lifetime; the moments after you have realized you have let the water hold you down and you don’t know where you are and you have to tell this nice lady next to you that she is not your beautiful wife.
MGMT - Your Life Is a Lie

Cool Song No. 2, in which Michael K. Williams engages in some skullduggery and then a dude slowly turns into a tree.
MGMT - Cool Song No. 2

Video: The Pixies, Dig For Fire / Allison and Here Comes Your Man

The Pixies are one of the bands that I can put on shuffle and listen to for a morning, or even all day. I don’t think there’s a single track that makes me stop and mutter oh, not now.

I have picked this particular set of songs today because they are three of my favorites. Here Comes Your Man was the #1 most played song in my iTunes for several years, until it got (accidentally) dethroned by a Vienna Teng song, and on a Pixies-only playlist, Allison and Dig for Fire are right behind it at two and three, respectively.

The first video is the “official” video, from 1990. The music holds up; the visuals are endearingly dated. Especially the part where they’re playing in an empty stadium. Some of you may not remember but that was a time when there were a lot of videos made in empty stadiums.


The second one is a live video shot during their 2011 tour, which I picked over the “official” video because the official video is weirdly terrible and not in an entertaining way.

If you’d like to hear more, there are free live downloads – including one from Coachella 2011! – and much more in the blog posts on their website.

August Video Challenge: Dwight Yoakam, Fast As You / Turn Me On, Turn Me Up, Turn Me Loose

This, again, was a very difficult decision, because of the strength of Dwight Yoakam‘s musical and video catalog. In fact it was so difficult I decided I couldn’t contain myself to just one.

So, first, because it’s Friday, and the heat of summer still lingers in New York, and there are very few things I like better than watching him sing and dance with his guitar, here he is cutting the rug while playing Fast As You, from This Time (1993):


Second, Turn Me On, Turn Me Up, Turn Me Loose from If There Was a Way (1990) which does include dancing but is beyond that is probably my all-time favorite Dwight Yoakam song. Also, there is some seriously freaky business going on in this video.

I mean, there’s the filmic set piece at the beginning, and then he (or the character he’s playing) falls face-first into a brothel, and then there are men line-dancing in lederhosen and scantily-clad ladies wearing enormous headphones riding partial mechanical bulls that are suspended from the ceiling.

Meanwhile, Dwight Yoakam is both on the stage singing his song in a fancy sparkly jacket and in the audience, watching himself sing. It’s basically what would happen if an Elvis Presley movie had been directed by David Lynch.


As a bonus: in the course of picking out these videos, I learned he’ll be putting out a new record this fall, to be called 3 Pears, and include collaborations with Kid Rock and Beck. In all seriousness I cannot wait to hear what that might sound like.

Video: Sisters of Mercy, Jolene

The first time I heard this song was in the late spring of 1996.

I was sitting on the floor of a friends’ flat in Glasgow, half listening to them talk and half listening to the music coming out of the stereo – everything they played was new to me, at the time – and when this tune came on, I listened to two verses in stunned baffled silence before finally asking Who is that and is he for real singing a Dolly Parton song?

The answers are: a) Andrew Eldritch, of the Sisters of Mercy, b) yes, yes he is.

It remains one of my favorite versions of Jolene, as well as one of my favorite cover songs of all time.

Video: Erasure, Oh L’Amour

For no other reason than sometimes this song gets stuck in my head and I have to put it on repeat for a little while and then tell the Internet get your glitter and your heels we’re going out.

Okay maybe one other reason: check out those harmonies at the beginning. Angels never sounded so good.


Erasure - Oh L'Amour (Original Video)

They’re still singing, as well; there was a new Erasure record last year (Tomorrow’s World) and Andy Bell is headlining Poptronik in Spain in September. And they have a new live record out too!

Video: Fireworks after Midnight, Gold Motel

Fireworks after Midnight is one of my favorites from Summer House (2010), but – ALERT ALERT, Gold Motel fans – they just released a WHOLE NEW RECORD just yesterday.

It’s called Gold Motel and you can listen to it at Spinner and (if/when that link dies) at their Facebook. And then (most importantly!) you can buy it here.

They’re headed out on tour later this month as well, so also be sure to check the tour dates and see if they are stopping near you!

Gold Motel -- Fireworks After Midnight