The Parting Gifts: Strychnine Dandelions

Categories: Nothing Not New

parting gifts.jpg
Artist: The Parting Gifts
Title: Strychnine Dandelions
Release date: November 9
Label: In the Red

Last week, I didn't have many good things to say about the new record from Kanye West. This morning, a white co-worker walked into my office and said, "I read what you said about Kanye West. When I read things like that, it makes me hate white people." Of course, what he was implying is that white people like me (those of who don't buy into the cult of Kanye) are Philistines, unable to think progressively enough to hold up a black man as the paragon of popular culture. He may as well have asked me why I wasn't a wearing a Confederate flag trucker hat.

I wrote that I don't really enjoy much hip-hop (save for some of the '80s stuff), even acknowledging that I don't really "get" hip-hop. So what? I don't like or "get" much of the death metal, pop-country, klezmer, electronica, and Joanna Newsom that I've heard, either. Lord knows what other kind of disparaging labels you can throw on me now. Oh, I also hate Family Guy, think Dexter sucks, am bored to tears by auto racing, and don't want much to do with pugs, Harry Potter, babies, jam bands, Nine Inch Nails, and Scottsdale. What a dumb crank I must.

It's a shame that anyone has to like something to be counted about the enlightened. Is there a worst kind of cultural elitism? I'm not sure.

One thing I do like, and have for quite a while is the white, Southern (uh-oh) musician Greg Cartwright, who made his name in the Oblivians and, more recently, The Reigning Sound. He's got a new record in a collaboration with Ettes singer Coco Hames under the name The Parting Gifts. On Strychnine Dandelions, Cartwright and Hames explore (with the help of such special guests as the guys from the Black Keys) the various 1960s pop genres that have informed their past efforts.

Stylistically, it's all over the map, to the point that it's almost distracting. I wish the whole affair were a little more exciting, but it's good to see Cartwright's continued growth as a songwriter and producer. Aside from carrying the lead vocals on a handful of tracks, Hames' contributions seem negligible. In the end, Strychnine Dandelions sounds like a new Reigning Sound record. For many, that'll be enough to make seeking out this album. For me, it just makes me want to back and listen to Time Bomb High School and Too Much Guitar.

The Parting Gifts - Don't Hurt Me Now by stereomacko

Best song: "Shine," a short and sweet near-perfect piece of countrified pop-soul.
Rotation: Medium heavy.
Deja vu: I wonder what Kanye West fans would think of The Parting Gifts.
I'd rather listen to: Oblivians' Soul Food.
Grade: B

Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment hereThe "Nothing Not New" Archives:

December 3 -- Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (D+)
December 2 -- Sharon Van Etten: Epic (B)
December 1 -- OFF!: First Four EPs (A-)
November 30 -- Robyn: Body Talk (B+)
November 29 -- Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3: Northern Aggression (A-)

November 16 -- Stereolab: Not Music (B-)
November 15 -- The Fresh & Onlys: Play It Strange (C+)

November 12 -- Podcast #10

November 4 -- Salem: King Night (B+)
November 3 -- Matt & Kim: Sidewalks (C-)

October 27 -- The 88: The 88 (B)

October 26 -- Warpaint: The Fool (B+)

September 28 -- No Age: Everything in Between (A-)

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Jay, I read your last post about Kanye's album. I didn't post then but this post is exasperating. You wrote:

"Sorry, I just don't like the guy's music. My loss, I guess. But I just don't get it -- and it's not just that I'm generally not a fan of hip-hop. Given that the genre is mostly a mystery to me, I have to say that the self-importantly titled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (though, admittedly, a perfect title for a Facebook-obsessed society that can't help explaining to the rest of the world what is constantly on its mind) is a pretty big drag. A long, bloated, humorless, profane, self-indulgent drag. I know, I know, self-indulgence is part of West's shtick. Recognizing that still doesn't make this record any less a chore to listen to."

If the "genre is mostly a mystery" to you, what qualifies you to critique it? Simply acknowledging your lack of understanding, while helpful for me as a reader to know your prejudices, isn't enough. Can't New Times get someone who is qualified to place Kanye's album within the history of hip-hop and other music? Isn't there a chance that his album might have more to do with something other than (or in addition to) "self-indulgence"?

Like or hate whatever you want. That's not the issue. The issue is a lack of critcal thinking about what it means for you as a White writer to think he can give an album by a Black man (or anyone but in this case a Black man) an almost failing grade, and then try to pass off everyone's responses as "cultural elitism" when it seems there are some hip-hop classes and some classes on White privilege you need to take.

and I don't like all of Kanye's stuff, but he's kind of hilarious. and props to your colleague for attempting to get you to think a little more about what you wrote.

Jason P. Woodbury
Jason P. Woodbury

I like the Kanye record, Jay, but I think "Dexter" sucks, too. I like this Parting Gifts tune, too, though I haven't listened to the whole record yet. In the Red put out a couple of my favorites this year, Thee Oh Sees "Warm Slime," Strange Boys "Be Brave," and the Fresh & Onlys, "Play It Strange."

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