The Weekly Roundup: 3.26.2010

Ghost Ranch
This week The Picture Show on NPR featured a series of photographs entitled Ghost Ranch by Craig Varjabedian. Using a large-format view camera, Varjabedian went out to the New Mexico wilderness, and took photos that make Ansel Adams fans like me drool with envy. Black and white, perfectly exposed, Western landscape photography that makes the topography loom and the sky expand. All the photos are from Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, the award-winning book he published last year. It has officially been added to the long list of coffee table photography books I desperately want.
Ghosts, Dudes And Ranches: A Large-Format View Of The American West by Claire O'Neill

The Morning Benders & David Dye
As any regular follower of this internet publication already knows, I really love The Morning Benders, and I want to be David Dye when I grow up. So, clearly my Monday was made when The Morning Benders were featured on World Cafe. Greatness recognizes greatness. I can't wait until David Dye actually interviews Chris Chu. The inevitable music nerd out will probably cause me to simultaneously drool and faint all over my radio. Go to the World Cafe website to hear some of David Dye's thoughts on The Morning Benders along with a couple of his picks from their new album, Big Echo.
The Morning Benders On 'World Cafe: Next'

Cocoa and Child Labor
You should know where the things you put in your body come from, and how they are made. I find it really sad that we've become so disconnected from our food. Even though we eat it every day and it's essential to our livelihood, most people know nothing of basic ingredients. How many people ate chocolate today without knowing what a cocoa tree looks like? Paul Kenyon, a BBC reporter, posed as a cocoa dealer trace chocolate back to its source. He discovered slave labor, child labor, and dangerous work conditions. Even fairtrade organizations have trouble enforcing their ethics. Read the full story from the BBC to get a better idea of where your Easter candy comes from.
Tracing the bitter truth of chocolate and child labour

Free Song Downloads
The National and Blitzen Trapper are offering free downloads of the first singles off their respective forthcoming albums. The National will be releasing their new album, High Violet, on May 11. The National is offering a free download of Bloodbuzz Ohio, a song composed mostly of slow buildups, which is just how I like my music. Blitzen Trapper will be releasing their new album, Destroyer of the Void, on June 8th. Heaven and Earth, the free download Blitzen Trapper is offering, is pretty epic compared to the simple folk sounds of their earlier work that captured my attention so firmly, but I'm still enjoying it. Stay tuned for more information and reviews.
Download Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National
Download Heaven and Earth by Blitzen Trapper

Snail Mail
I love snail mail. It takes a lot of patience and attention to detail. There’s no spell check, or automatic formatting. It costs money and takes several days to send. But, it’s personal and permanent. I have several friends I pen pal with from around the world, and I think our friendship means all the more for it. So this goes out to my pen pals: Marissa in Edinburgh, Dan in Los Angeles, Becka in Brooklyn, Alex in St. George’s, and Cricket wherever the wind may take her. Letters of Note posts the correspondence of such respected personages as Jack Kerouac, Nikola Tesla, and Iggy Pop, including both scans of the original and transcripts to decode cryptic handwriting. Here are a few of my favorites.
From Jack Kerouac, To Lucien Carr
From Nikola Tesla, To the American Red Cross
From Iggy Pop, To Laurence (a fan)

Be Human
Pop punk was the genre of choice when I first got into my local scene, and ever since I’ve had a soft spot for it. Brighten’s first full-length, King vs. Queen, embodied some of the best aspects of pop punk: sincere teenagers playing simple, catchy chords with witty lyrics. Unfortunately, the album’s release was plagued by legal issues (distributor suing label) that hampered promotion, and caused a distribution nightmare. But that was 2007, and since then Brighten has been committed to being indie and away from label drama. This week they self-released their newest album, Be Human. Though there are no hard copies available yet, you can buy the album as a download. Also, many of the tracks are available to stream on their MySpace. This album offers a more mature, and polished sound from the band. It makes me a little nostalgic, but it’s good to hear that they haven’t let themselves get stuck in high school sounds. Kudos to Brighten for growing up.
Brighten on MySpace

Everyone's talking about this, so I might as well mention it and give my two cents. With an official release date of April 9th, the new album from MGMT, Congratulations, has actually been leaking all over the place for the last couple of weeks. In a smart move to curtail the bloodshed, MGMT is now streaming the album in its entirety on their website. So far reactions and reviews have been mixed. Congratulations is clearly an eclectic departure from their last album. However, mostly I'm surprised that other people are surprised. MGMT have consistently evolved as artists, and rarely play it safe. I don't always dig what they throw down, but I always respect them. Give it an open listen, and form your own opinions.
MGMT's Official Website

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