"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"

This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.



Over the Empire: One Introduction to Low




So anyone that’s been reading this tumblr for a while or just, you know, talks to me probably knows that I’m a big, big fan of Low (ahem). I try not to proselytize about them too much, but when I saw that Brooke had posted that she just started listening to the band and liked them, I pretty much had to offer to make her a mix. She’s already got C’mon, so I left it off the list, but this mix is my overview of the rest of their career.

To give you some idea of what we’re working with, when I put all of my Low into a playlist and removed C’mon and a couple of duplicate tracks from other mixes I was left with 204 songs; 16 hours, 17 minutes and 43 seconds of music. I took a first pass to yank out everything I wanted to put on the mix and was left with… 34 songs, 2:31:56. So this mix might seem on the long side, but I assure you I had to cut a lot of things I really wanted to keep in order to get down to 20 tracks and a mere 83:23.

And there’s definitely stuff ‘missing’ — there’s only one track from Trust, one of my favourite Low albums, for example! I couldn’t find room for plenty of favourites, like “Days Of…” and “Rope” and “Joan of Arc,” “Dinosaur Act” and “(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace,” but that also means if newcomers like this mix there are just a ton of great songs for them to discover. I also left off the track that made our wedding mix, because it’s special (although if I left off every Low song I’ve put on a mix for Anaïs there wouldn’t be much left for me to use!). But I tried to pick a range of stuff from across their body of work, and represent the different sides of their music as much as anything else. It’s not really a best of, it’s not really a greatest hits, it’s not just their most accessible material, but I think it gives a good overview of what Low are like as a band and why they’re a great band (and why, I hasten to add, people should buy their records and go to their shows and buy t-shirts, if they can afford it and are so moved). Hopefully it’s a good introduction for Brooke and hopefully other people get something out of it too. Enjoy!

  1. Hand So Small (Low & Spring Heel Jack Bombscare EP, 2000)
  2. Belarus (Drums and Guns, 2007)
  3. Whitetail (Things We Lost in the Fire, 2001)
  4. Blue-Eyed Devil (Soul Coughing cover, originally from an unknown compilation, released on the A Lifetime of Temporary Relief box set in 2004)
  5. Words (I Could Live in Hope, 1994)
  6. Two-Step (Secret Name, 1999)
  7. Shame (Long Division, 1995)
  8. Walk Into the Sea (The Great Destroyer, 2005)
  9. Be There (live version from One More Reason to Forget, 1998)
  10. The Plan (demo version, included in the A Lifetime of Temporary Relief box set in 2004)
  11. Weight of Water (Secret Name, 1999)
  12. Laser Beam (Things We Lost in the Fire, 2001)
  13. In the Drugs (Trust, 2002)
  14. Violence (Long Division, 1995)
  15. Murderer (Drums and Guns, 2007)
  16. Pissing (The Great Destroyer, 2005)
  17. Venus (1997 single, included in the A Lifetime of Temporary Relief box set in 2004)
  18. Over the Ocean (The Curtain Hits the Cast, 1996)
  19. Will the Night (Secret Name, 1999)
  20. Will the Night (Songs for a Dead Pilot EP, 1997)

Sendspace decided to make the file impossible to download at the same time they decided they’d erase it if it wasn’t downloaded in seven days, so… I’ve reuploaded it, if anyone would like this mix. I didn’t even update it; still nothing from C’mon (let alone The Invisible Way), and I resisted the urge to add in the version of “No Need” from Paris 99 “Anthony Are You Around?”. Anyway, here’s "Wonderwall" this mix.

The Knife - “Silent Shout” (Shaken-Up Version)

So far I’m having mixed feelings about this remix collection, but I like this particular version a lot. Although I still prefer the album version; there are remixes that almost seem to supplant their sources, but this is not one of them. That little shivery synth riff they use here, though, entirely justifies its separate existence.

Talk Talk - “Today”

Today, it turns out, I succeeded. I had a day of mostly just proofing, which lends itself to a lot of music listening time, and going from this to “Inside Looking Out” (say) made for a pretty interesting afternoon. Now we’re going to go for a walk in the park.

Shit I can’t possibly be alone in thinking about: “best albums” vs. “favorite albums”



I have a list of my ten favorite albums. It has changed a bit over time, with seven remaining fairly constant and the other three spots a revolving door of albums that may or may not claim permanent positions on the list after a few more listens. However, by no means would I ever claim that my list is of the ten “best” albums ever made, nor would I foist it upon someone else as such.

When I read “best of” lists, I usually feel like this is exactly what the people behind the lists are trying to do; it’s probably why I have so much trouble taking them seriously. (An aside: I use semicolons wayyy more than everyone I know. I think I’m using them correctly, but I might just be coming off as a miseducated tool. Help me out here, y’all.) I think many music critics have a tendency to conflate “best” with “favorite” - the former seems like it could possibly be objectively determined, while the latter is the result of one’s personal, visceral reaction to the music they’re hearing. That said, feel free to tell me I’m full of shit, as I know that the best music is frequently emotionally driven and not necessarily technically correct or masterful.

My boyfriend is a guitarist, according to the literal “one who plays guitar” description, rather than the “this is my career!” sense. This is entirely unsurprising, as he is a white boy from the suburbs. Growing up, he was totally into solo guitar albums by the technically-talented Yngwie Malmsteen. Ever heard one of his albums? They’re boring as fuck. “It’s not great music, but holy shit, it’s good guitar,” Jesse said, when I mentioned that I’ve never been able to really enjoy albums by Yngwie, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or their contemporaries. I don’t deny that they can play the fuck out of their instruments, but their music is mechanical, serving only as a vehicle for their ego trips. Jesse is also an engineer in a highly technical profession, and he finds 80s hardcore, which I fucking love, absolutely unlistenable. It is totally unsurprising that he still carries a torch for prog rock and all things Favored Nations.

Did I mention I can’t play a single instrument? I’m gonna stop undermining my own point, and leave it to y’all to do so instead. Anyway, do feel free to throw in your own thoughts, even if they are just as incomplete and disorganized as mine. Eh? Ehhh.

best + favorite are totally different! the difference is that because appreciation of art is inherently subjective, “best” is totally irrelevant to music, IMO.

(bolding mine)

Keri’s post is great to begin with, but what Jess added? Write it in the sky in fireworks, put it on my tombstone, engrave it on the walls of the city, recite it to the children, etc.

If someone tries to tell you they’ve made some sort of objectively “best” list of art (music or otherwise), they are lying to you and you should think about how and why they’re lying to you (and even whether they realize that they’re lying to you). That our appreciation of art is inherently subjective is one of the great glories, joys, and beauties of art; anyone who wants to disavow that has gone wrong somewhere.

Which is to say every list I’ve ever done or will do is a list of favourites, and usually not some almost-as-illusory “favourites of all time!” either (I can’t even be sure I have a self, how can I be sure ten records are my absolute favourites?), and every single list I’ve done since somewhere in mid-adolescence has been explicitly and knowingly so.