25 October, 2008

"Wilderness" by Sunny Day Sets Fire

[I will be posting a "review" later. <3]

19 October, 2008

"Hip Hop" - Dead Prez

"Let's Get Free"

18 October, 2008

The Definition of Hardcore

I've been missing real soul-lifting, earth-shaking music as of late. Not because there is a lack of great music, but instead because I have been unable to stop and smell the proverbial roses for the last couple of months. I hate being busy, but at the same time, I love what I am doing (and I always want to do more).

Tonight I was reborn, refreshed, and reinvigorated by the sounds of Broadcast Live, a more-than-just-hip-hop/rock outfit from Albany, New York. The quartet form a quirky collaborative who - in the same concert - covered Dylan and Dead Prez. The music of Broadcast Live is charged with the musical activist electricity of Rage Against the Machine, and their instrumentation is tightly layered and interwoven. Songs draw on jazz, classic rock, folk, punk, hip-hop (old and new), hardcore, and jam while still remaining cohesive and natural.

Playing a mix of songs from their older album Underground, and their yet-to-be-released (sure to be amazing) album Boomerang Metropolis, the band touched on issues that cannot be ignored (gentrification, homophobia, racism, oppression, modern day US slavery, disenchantment, radicalism). At the same time the music flowed and gelled, providing the words steady passage without detracting from their weight. It is difficult to do justice in words alone to a band that uses their own poetry of words and music to convey their beliefs and spread their knowledge. All I can say is that if you are a fan of music, and a fan of justice and the beauty of free expression, listen to Broadcast Live.

Broadcast Live website

Broadcast Live MySpace

14 October, 2008

Clips from La Chinoise by Jean-Luc Godard

La Chinoise - Trailer

13 October, 2008

Soundtrack to my Fall: Glasvegas

This fall has landed in my heart holding hands with a massive case of deja vu. I cannot disconnect the two. It isn't that I can remember past events more clearly than I can the rest of the year. Those snapshots of life are still blurry. What is different, and slightly disconcerting, is that I am feeling closer emotionally to the "self" of last year, than I am to my current "self". There are only shades of difference between the two selves, and yet I often feel as if I am being haunted by my own ghost. I suppose this feeling is appropriate given my proximity to Halloween, but it is still slightly confusing.

I found the most appropriate music to soundtrack this feeling: Glasvegas by Glasvegas.

This album is epic in a way that I have not heard since Muse's Black Holes and Revelations (Wow, I just felt a wave of strong deja vu. Black Holes and Revelations happened to play a big role in my life last fall). There is a certain glamor and sheen surrounding Glasvegas which is unusual to find in new artists. I am not certain that I can even do justice to the album with the words at my disposal. In fact, I am not sure that I can process this album with constant replays of emotions from last fall running through my head. Suffice it to say that "It's My Own Cheating Heart that Makes me Cry" and "Lonesome Swan" fill some of the deja vu ridden areas of my brain, allowing me to focus on both the present and the past. Without music, I would be a real mess.

Go watch "Daddy's Gone" on YouTube: "Daddy's Gone" - Glasvegas

Then listen to It's My Own Cheating Heart that Makes me Cry - Glasvegas

30 September, 2008


This is from xkcd.com

You should go check it out as soon as you possibly can!

28 September, 2008

"Beard Lust" - Natalie Portman's Shaved Head

I know too many boys with beards.

14 September, 2008

Prodigal Daughter

Life has been wild for the last few weeks, but no less stuffed with musical discoveries, and I am taking this opportunity to apologize for my lapses as a blog writer. I have allowed this blog to sleep for far too long, and now it's time to vent.

Music defines generations, and often that music is applied to one or more subsets and subcultural movements of future generations. You'll find people in your life who know the words to every song by Bob Dylan; and then, there are those whose passion lies with the spirit of the Grateful Dead on misty mountains in New York. There are people here who own the entire Beatles' collection (in fact, multiple people, who I at once admire and fear).

The thing is, there's a point where obsession becomes less about the object, than about the consumer. There's a point where self-definition is impossible without resorting to listing brand names (band names) and singing the lyrics to other people's songs. In my major life transition, I was subconsciously afraid of resorting to these tactics. I was afraid of realizing myself through music, instead of recognizing the music in myself, so I pulled back.

What have I discovered? One thing is that I am strong enough to sleep without any music. I don't have to self-medicate. At the same time, if I'm trying to wind down after a long night, there's nothing like the Juno and Marie Antoinette soundtracks as lullabies for life. The only lullaby I've heard that made me sleepier faster was being sung the other day in the shower. It was a Hebrew lullaby, and I almost fell asleep while shaving my legs.

Gogol Bordello makes amazing party music and attracts all kinds of people. Ska-P, NOFX, and Sublime are not appropriate studying music. Alanis Morisette makes you feel better when people fuck with you, and Jimi Hendrix can lighten any mood. Rancid is a surprising point of connection for people of all backgrounds, while Apollo Sunshine devotees are almost always local. Focusing on weighty texts is best done while sitting in the beautiful tree outside of the media Yurt, as live jazz is broadcast across the campus. Stringed instruments are my greatest downfall. Live cello and violin hypnotize me like nothing else (although a heavy bass-line can be pretty magical). I love classical music, and though I am illiterate when it comes to its complexity, I cannot concentrate on another thing while I am listening. It consumes my brain.

Until very soon, my lovely blog readers, this is all I have to say. I promise my next post will be filled with musical goodies.

13 September, 2008

"Hey Jude" by The Beatles

Hey Jude, don't make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

Hey Jude, don't be afraid.
You were made to go out and get her.
The minute you let her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better.

And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain,
Don't carry the world upon your shoulders.
For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder.

Hey Jude, don't let me down.
You have found her, now go and get her.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin,
You're waiting for someone to perform with.
And don't you know that it's just you, hey Jude, you'll do,
The movement you need is on your shoulder.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her under your skin,
Then you'll begin to make it
Better better better better better better, oh.

Na na na na na ,na na na, hey Jude...

22 August, 2008

My my metrocard, think I'll go a little but then I go far

This week has been difficult for many reasons, but waking up on Tuesday to find no mood-matching music on iTunes definitely left me grasping to fill a hole in my life. The shuffle feature on my iPod was put to good use, because even when the songs failed to match my mood they were at least a nice distraction from the thoughts that were streaming through mt head. I was able to settle down (a little) and actually finish a book! Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan was recommended to me not by a person, but by a trailer directly preceding Pineapple Express. I can already tell that the book is different from the movie. For one thing, the "will you be my girlfriend for five minutes?" that starts the whole crazy night has been reversed (Norah now asks Nick if he'll be her boyfriend for five minutes). Still, the movie looks just about as messy as the book. Let's hope the director didn't banish the randomly kitschy musical references and sing-alongs from the production ("My My Metrocard" by Le Tigre...inspired).

The book gave me a little bit of a "life high", and I found myself inspired to smile and to create a playlist of my own. It's a quick read - maybe 200 pages at most - and it's one of those books that seems to take on a life of its own and suck you into its pages. When you've finished, you should listen to "My My Metrocard" and think about the random awesomeness of life.

19 August, 2008

A Small Disclaimer

This blog is for fun.

I try to write pieces with integrity, and I work hard to honestly assess the music that I review, but there are times when I am misinformed or when I am unable to see all of the facets of a particular song or artist. I have never claimed to be unbiased, and I seriously doubt that any music reviewer is completely unbiased. Because I realize that often my perceptions, likes, and dislikes are governed by my world-view and my experiences, I generally refrain from writing negative reviews.

It's easy to find things to dislike about a sound, but it is more rewarding to find a certain "twist of this" or a "pinch of that" which can bring the entire song to a new level.

That being said, if I have an issue with an album that I basically enjoyed or with a band that I believe are talented but could improve their sound, I will not shy away from voicing my opinion (and let me remind my lovely readers that it is just one opinion). If you really want to know what you think about the music I'm reviewing, then you need to go listen. There's no substitute for listening to music.

"The Story In Your Eyes" by the Moody Blues

If I were you, I would skip the movie and just listen to the song.

I've been thinking about our fortune
And I've decided that we're really not to blame
For the love that's deep inside us now
Is still the same

And the sound we make together
Is the music to the story in your eyes
It's been shining down upon me now
I realize

Listen to the tide slowly turning
Wash all our heartaches away
We're part of the fire that is burning
And from the ashes we can build another day

But I'm frightened for your children
That the life that we are living is in vain
And the sunshine we've been waiting for
Will turn to rain

Listen to the tide slowly turning
Wash all our heartaches away
We're part of the fire that is burning
And from the ashes we can build another day

But I'm frightened for the children
That the life that we are living is in vain
And the sunshine we've been waiting for
Will turn to rain

When the final line is over
It's certain that the curtain's gonna fall
I can hide inside your sweet sweet love
For ever more

14 August, 2008

"Just What I Needed (LIVE)" by the Cars

I don't mind you comin' here
and wastin' all my time
'cause when you're standin' oh so near
I kinda lose my mind
it's not the perfume that you wear
it's not the ribbons in your hair
I don't mind you comin' here
and wastin' all my time

I don't mind you hangin' out
and talkin' in your sleep
it doesn't matter where you've been
as long as it was deep, yeah
I always knew you'd marry well and
you look so fancy I can tell
I don't mind you hangin' out
and talkin' in your sleep

I guess you're just what I needed
(just what I needed)
I needed someone to feed
I guess you're just what I needed
(just what I needed)
I needed someone to bleed

I don't mind you comin' here
and wastin' all my time time
'cause when you're standin' oh so near
I kinda lose my mind, yeah
it's not the perfume that you wear
it's not the ribbons in your hair
I don't mind you comin' here
and wastin' all my time

I guess you're just what I needed
(just what I needed)
I needed someone to feed
I guess you're just what I needed
(just what I needed)
I needed someone to bleed

I guess you're just what I needed
(just what I needed)
I needed someone to feed
I guess you're just what I needed
(just what I needed)
I needed someone to plead
yeah, yeah, so plead me

you're just what I needed
you're just what I needed
yeah, you're just what I needed
yeah, yeah yeah

13 August, 2008

"A-Punk" by Vampire Weekend

Darker and Darker (My Love)

Since probably the early nineties popular alternative music has been extremely cyclical. There are definitely creative souls and bands who challenge the status quo - some, even, who have had a modicum of success - but not since the late grunge movement has there really been a new and defining alternative sound for the times. Most bands fall on a spectrum of derivation, and can be elegantly pinpointed as denizens of the recycled sounds of a different era. The Strokes, the Kaiser Chiefs, the Killers all looked to late 1970s glam rock and 1980s post-punk for inspiration. Wolfmother came tumbling fully-formed from the ear of Jimmy Page. Vampire Weekend (with one of the more creative musical recycling projects) seems to be trying to hybridize the sounds of Paul Simon, the Beatles, and Buddy Holly. You know that Amy Winehouse character? She's one talented lady, but her sound is very much a product of her forbears. Now we have two bands who have latched onto the sounds of two particular bands: Jefferson Airplane and the Doors.

Darker My Love is a band from L.A. who channel the heavy psychedelics of the Doors. On "Blue Day" off their new album 2 they buzz and hover with their guitars, while the syncopated drumming pounds the whole concoction into your head. "Northern Soul" off the same album has a wailing guitar intro that sometimes sounds like a distorted bird call (the Flying V is at it again). Consistency and length are two attributes of the songs on 2 that closely tie them to the sounds of the Doors. These attributes are coupled with a dark almost creepy sound that gives way to animated solos. Unfortunately, Darker My Love is not in possession of a front man like Jimmy Morrison. Morrison could channel the energy of the listener into a dark and distorted song, with a charisma that ran through his voice like an electric current. He acted as the translator for a sound that was almost too strange for people to enjoy. Darker My Love has very safe vocalists in their guitar players Tim Preston and Rob Barbato, and their music suffers from that safety. If the band wants to channel the Doors (which they most certainly are doing) then they should also mic the organ/clavinet ramblings of Will Canzoneri in a way that makes them a more prominent part of their music. Ray Manzarek made organ solos extremely cool, why shouldn't Canzoneri do the same?. Unless they're looking to be particularly original, Darker My Love should capitalize on the achievements of their musical forefathers.

Shock Cinema likes their literary references, and they've taken the "White Rabbit" concept to a whole different level. Hell and Highwater begins with reference to a "Leviathan" and ends with the song "Dead Sea". "Leviathan" calls to mind the creature in Melville, with dark and heavy guitar grumbling and mechanical precision; it's a deadly song. "Dead Sea" on the other hand heavily buys into guitar symphonics and mythical language that references the Devil and other familiar characters. They both have aspects of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" (and other songs like "Embryonic Journey" and "Plastic Fantastic Lover" off of Surrealistic Pillow). There's definitely some hero-worship going on here, because Shock Cinema ***vocalist Autry Fulbright*** (See Edit below) channels Grace Slick throughout Hell and Highwater. Often Destiny Montague's voice isn't as sharp or clear as Slick's, but she has found a nice balance between hard and soft sounds that gives her an added fierceness.

What can you really say about bands that so closely resemble a sound that has had its time in the spotlight? I find myself wanting to compare their music to fanfiction. You know your favorite artist is done creating, but you still want to read or listen to more of their work. What do you do? You can create your own versions of the same song, or you can come up with a sound that's new and fresh. There's nothing bad about Darker My Love or Shock Cinema, they just aren't the same as the real thing and they aren't distancing themselves enough to be genre-defining. These bands are playing to the past; but they can't live up to history, they need to create it.

***This is the kind of mistake that happens when you're writing while tired. Not acceptable, but a little understandable. If you look at the comment below, you will see that Fulbright is actually not the vocalist, but a multi-instrumentalist. Destiny Montague is the vocalist for Shock Cinema. Miyuki Furtado completes the musical trio (who according to Myspace, pull in other artists from time to time). Shock Cinema happens to have an intriguing biography The Legend of Shock Cinema on their website.

11 August, 2008

10 August, 2008

Tell me about your favorite songs (in degrees of separation)

I wouldn't say that I'm a superstitious person, but I do believe in connections. I find examples of Jungian synchronicity in so many facets of my life that it's almost impossible not to believe in a collective unconscious, and therefore an interconnectedness of all things in the universe. It's not religious per se, but there's definitely a spiritual aspect to this personal belief and the concept certainly adds to my hopefulness for the human race.

The thing is that this concept of interconnectedness is also just mad fun, especially when I'm compiling playlists. I'll randomly pick a song and then try to tie it to every song that follows. Sometimes I create rules for this game. For example, I might only be able to make connections between the artists and not between the genre or subject matter. Sometimes I play with completely personal connections. Music is tied closely to memory, and I can usually find a memory of my own that's associated to multiple songs. Often, there are no rules except finding that one required link between songs.

I encourage you guys to play this game. It's fun and relaxing. Here's a quick example of one of my music by degrees playlists. I've created better playlists (I'm sure), but this is just a quick example to get your creative juices flowing.

"Up On Cripple Creek" by the Band is my starting point, and it lends itself well to this kind of game. At first glance, it's a fairly unique song, but it also has many ties to different genres/memories/moments in time/other bands. I'm going to follow it with a song by Apollo Sunshine, who do a slamming live cover of "Up On Cripple Creek". My second song is "Mayday Disorder" off of the beautifully psychedelic album Katonah. Fantastic imagery and instrumentals are par for the course with most Apollo Sunshine songs, but "Mayday Disorder" climaxes in a smashed guitar solo and high energy percussion. The first band I can think of that also combines high energy instrumentals with psychedelics is the Flaming Lips, and the best song to showcase this kind of jamming is the "The W.A.N.D." off of the 2006 release At War With the Mystics. It would be fairly easy to tie The Flaming Lips to many 1960s bands who dabbled in LSD and other hallucinogenics (I feel like that word choice is fairly comical) given Wayne Coyne's outspokenness about his own trips. Instead, I like a bit of a challenge, and I'm going to make this connection with shared political dissatisfaction. The Flaming Lips will be followed by "Zombie" by the Cranberries, another song that uses some mystical and disturbing images as metaphors for the evils of war. There are really famous Irish bands, like the Cranberries, but there are also fake famous Irish bands like the Commitments. The book by Robby Doyle was turned into a movie with an amazing Irish soul covers soundtrack that includes a version of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" (the next song on my playlist). Another Redding song that became a famous cover is "Respect", later performed to great acclaim by Aretha Franklin. In the Redding version, the song is a mid-Civil Rights era request for "a little respect" at home. The Civil Rights era was a time of soulful and inspiring protest music which has inspired the protest music of generations since. For my generation, our standard-bearing song has to be "American Idiot" by Green Day. It has been overplayed, but it can still make me wince and then slam-dance. I saw Green Day twice while on their American Idiot tour, and they put on a fucking show. I was pleasantly surprised when one of their opening acts - Jimmy Eat World - performed with just as much energy and enthusiasm. My favorite song by Jimmy Eat World is "A Praise Chorus", an addictive ode to musical first love that has the campy chorus "Crimson and Clover, over and over". This chorus was lifted from the song "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells, a rock band of the 1960s who released "Crimson and Clover" in 1968 (the same year that the Band released their first album Music from Big Pink).

Here's a rundown for those readers who lost track:

"Up On Cripple Creek" by The Band
"Mayday Disorder" by Apollo Sunshine
"The W.A.N.D." by the Flaming Lips
"Zombie" by the Cranberries
"Try A Little Tenderness" by the Commitments
"Respect" by Otis Redding
"American Idiot" by Green Day
"A Praise Chorus" by Jimmy Eat World
"Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells

09 August, 2008

07 August, 2008

"Bring On The Lucie (Freeda People)" by John Lennon

Underwater Wedding

I've been listening to music of extremes lately. I alternate between Katonah by Apollo Sunshine which is a bubbly, kinetic, chaotic carnival that I've already reviewed in this blog and the Juno soundtrack which is full of soft, sad, freak-folk songs. I'm celebrating life changes but also kind of living in my own uncertainty, and along with the thunderstorms, this mindset it making my summer feel kind of damp and moldy.

This morning I came across the album Does You Inspire You by Chairlift, and it perfectly melded with my current mood. The music is sparse and very computerized, while the vocals and the lyrics are personal but sometimes cold in that dramatic 1980s poptastic way. It reminds me a lot of a more feminine version of the Magnetic Fields.

The album begins with the track "Garbage" which is a sleek, tongue-in-cheek ode to relationship garbage: both literal and figurative. The song has an upbeat tempo, but the lyrics are a bit of a downer. At first listen, I can imagine some kind of odd hybrid of Chrissie Hynes and Courtney Love in Chairlift's lead singer Caroline (no last name provided on their snazzy Myspace page). She's sometimes even-toned, even monotone, but then breaks into sad and angry octave shifts and sing-sighing on songs like "Territory" and "Don't Give A Damn". My favorite surprise on this album is the song "Bruises" which sounds like it should either be a depressing account of physical/emotional abuse or something emo/gothic in theme. Instead, "Bruises" is a snappy song that does discuss some emotional bruising, but in a very playful way. The lyrics: "I tried to do handstands for you, I tried to do handstands. Every time I fell on you, yeah, every time I fell..." capture a lot of emotion in statements that are kind of abstract. The song that directly precedes "Bruises" is called "Earwig Town", and it has a gothic feeling that might remind you of the song that plays while you ride through the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. The story that's told in "Earwig Town" is actually pretty gross, recounting the earwigs' residence in the singer's ear and then the laying of their eggs in her head (ewww). Moving on to something a little less disgusting, we find the song "Evident Utensil" which is actually really upbeat and campy. The "Evident Utensil" is a pencil, and the song ends up revolving around the rigors of writing.

The album Does You Inspire You isn't particularly creative in the music department. Most of the album could be labeled 1980s post-punk and pop, with the exception of the gothic "Earwig Town" and the folky "Don't Give a Damn". The creativity of Chairlift is expressed solidly in the lyrical content of the songs which bounce from a recitation of an ex-boyfriend's shit ("Garbage") to stories where the main players are earwigs and pencils ("Earwig Town" and "Evident Utensil"). I'm pretty impressed with the thematic breadth of the album, and I actually enjoy the musical shallowness. It's nice to listen to an album that isn't weighed down by it's own seriousness.

05 August, 2008


"No individual or group can block
another individual's path or change it
against what fits his nature and his
purpose. It might be done for a time, but
in the end it won't work out."

Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE


Michael Cera is cute. This is a fact. Even when he's completely the opposite of cute (Superbad), he's still cute. He's also funny which kind of goes without saying. Did you know that he also has amazing taste in music?

Well, neither did I, until I started sifting through the iTunes Celebrity playlists. He starts with a track off the completely surreal and avant-garde album Dreams Again by Dion McGregor. This album isn't really comprised of music, but instead is filled with the wild and rambling sleep-talking of Mr. MacGregor. It's weird, but it's completely original. In the same playlist I found Beulah, a now defunct California band who took after the Beach Boys and the Beatles, with a nice swirl of Heatmiser. Their music never sounded Southern California, which is a blessing for anyone who was ever forced to watch the O.C. Ironically enough, one of Beulah's songs was actually used on a soundtrack to that ill-fated and poorly written poseur show. Yoko is my current favorite Beulah album, and is also - unfortunately - their final album.

The band Microphones is also defunct in the most basic sense of the word, and yet Phil Elvrum (who is the band) still records and tours as Mt. Eerie. I'm just letting you know so you don't start thinking that all great bands are now defunct. It just isn't true. The Microphones often remind me of the Moldy Peaches, and yet their albums often feel epic in proportions where the Moldy Peaches work was always understated and rather humble. "You Were In The Air" off of the album Don't Wake Me Up sounds like the progeny of a foghorn and a motorcycle with Elvrum's soft and sweet voice floating over the noise. "Between Your Ear and the Other Ear" from the album It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water sounds like the kind of music that Leslie Feist listened to while she was writing The Reminder. The song is written like a single, and yet it's dissonant and distorted in a way that is incredibly refreshing. "I'm Like You, Tree" from the gorgeous album The Glow Pt. 2 is a tone poem that flows in your mind, and is soft but naggingly persistent in its tree metaphors.

Jim Guthrie should be a star. The thing is that most music-lovers view circuit-bending and video game music's relationship to "real music" in the same way that bibliophiles often view comic books in relation to "literature". One is for adults, and the other is just for kids and adults who want to be kids (I often wonder why you wouldn't want to be a kid instead of an adult. I don't think there are many amazing benefits, but I guess other people see things differently.) This is unfortunate, but I don't really feel bad for all of the people who are missing out. Morning Noon Night by Jim Guthrie was partially created on a Playstation using the MTV Music Generator, but you would never guess that this was the case. Guthrie has strong rock 'n' roll ties, and a voice that often evokes Elliot Smith. I can't really recommend one song over another on Morning Noon Night, because the whole album is excellent.

Last but not least we have the wonderful band Built to Spill. Cera recommends the song "Strange" from the album Ancient Melodies of the Future, and I have to concur that this song is a great introduction to Built to Spill. This is rock for the introverted and thoughtful listener. The clever lyrics and muddy guitar playing remind me of the best grunge music, but then you come across a melody or a hook that's just mind-blowing in its catchiness. Listen to "Happiness" from the same album and you'll hear strains of country music and folk, but always an undertone of harsh and grinding '90s rock.

The rest of the playlist is populated by musical gems, but I just picked out some of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy some of this music, and maybe make discoveries for yourself as you explore the albums and artists that Cera so thoughtfully compiled. There's some great music on his playlist.

In Defense of Gothic Architecture

In 2003 and 2005, Apollo Sunshine released themed albums. They weren't concept albums per se, but both Katonah and Apollo Sunshine had tying threads running through their songs.

Katonah was experimental and playful, a bit psychedelic, and undeniably original. All of the songs were well-written, capturing different emotional manifestations of the same feelings. "Fear of Heights" propels the listeners forward and in the direction of their dreams, but discusses the pain that results in watching the people around you refuse to fly, refuse even to try, and instead stay firmly planted on the ground. It's followed by "I Was On the Moon", an ode to siblings and to family with a bittersweet dose of regret at the prospect of moving into adulthood. "The Egg" discusses sexuality, and that uncomfortable place between childhood and adulthood; while "Sheets With Stars" takes on the other half of the difficult relationship equation: emotions. These are the highlights of Katonah, and you can probably see a theme peaking through the guitar solos. Katonah is about all of the fears and excitements that go along with growing up.

Apollo Sunshine was a little less delineated, but there are still themes to find, if you some careful listening. Musically, the album separates itself from the pure phantasmagoria of Katonah, moving closer to the country rock of the Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival. "Flip!" is about being transported to "the other side of the world", while "Ghost" is an eerie exploration of an out of body experience. Both of these songs are actually just great metaphors for shifts in mental and physical reality, and both explore in greater depth the loneliness and uncertainty that were so prominent on "Fear of Heights. "A Finger Pointing At the Moon" is a little interlude whose lyrics I will copy here:

What we think is
less than we know.
What we know is
less than we LOVE.
What we love is
so much less than
what there is,
We are so much less
than what we are.
Words are simply
a finger pointing
at the moon,
They’re so far away
and so out of tune.

You can see that it states clearly the inability of words to perfectly capture feelings, but this revelation doesn't seem to lead to frustration. Instead I think it flows neatly into the realization that most important things are uncertain. You aren't ever on stable ground, and the only constant is change. "Phoney Marony" and "Today Is The Day" are about capturing the spontaneity of a moment; while "Eyes" centers around regrets and the importance of following through with your feelings. "Phone Sex" is about relationships that have gone stale because of miscommunication, and "Magnolia" dances all around the discomfort that comes from returning "home" after making your home somewhere else. Apollo Sunshine continues many of the themes on Katonah, but discusses them from a different mindset, and a more mature perspective.

Today, Apollo Sunshine released Shall Noise Upon, which looks to be the most epic of their albums. At sixteen songs it's the longest album released by Apollo Sunshine, and with a quick listen it sounds like it's the most musically varied. I'm not going to break down the songs for you (today), because I feel like Apollo Sunshine's albums benefit from listening time. Many of the nuances of the songs are only experienced after many listens.

Apollo Sunshine are creating tonal puzzles, and it would be inconsiderate of me to try to review the album after only a cursory listen. Instead, I will give my lovely readers something to think about, and hopefully I will explain my post title a little bit.

The title is a small homage to the architect John Ruskin who believed that Gothic architecture was the embodiment of the purest emotional feeling in architecture. In his mind it was the epitome of architecture as art. Where the Greek and Roman arches were wishy-washy, Gothic arches were absolute and unyielding. The often monstrous decorations on the Gothic structures were viewed by Ruskin as the purest expression of freedom by the craftsmen. Many architects believe that beauty in the many forms of architecture is expressed when the artist perfectly adheres to the prescribed form, and with this in mind architects often argue that Gothic architecture is crude and simplistic. Ruskin believed that the true beauty of Gothic architecture lies in its variety and the creativity expressed with raw, harsh, and often wonderfully human (flawed) designs. As I clicked through the songs on Shall Noise Upon, I couldn't help but think of Ruskin and his Gothic architecture. Some people will argue that Apollo Sunshine's music has become less stream-lined on this new album, and they're correct, but this doesn't mean that the music is any less poignant or layered. Instead, I think the band has reached a new level of freedom of expression, one that is uninhibited by adherence to genre or structure. Shall Noise Upon is raw like the best Gothic architecture.

04 August, 2008

"Who Will Watch the Watchmen?"

The song is "The Beginning is the End is the Beginning" by the Smashing Pumpkins.

03 August, 2008

Out of the frying pan, and into the Mojave

Seasonal music transitions can be just as important as seasonal clothing transitions. What would happen if I continued to listen to my Christmas music in June, July, and August? It would get old really fast, and would probably lose some its seasonal charm to my inappropriate listening habits. Alternately, if I replayed Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" before the leaves were changing colors and falling all around, well that just wouldn't be very true to the spirit of the song, would it?

Staying on this theme Sea Lion by the Ruby Suns is the kind of album that is best enjoyed when the breaking of the clouds into flashing rain storms are a wonderful respite from the oppressive August heat. It's the point in the summer when I'm thankful for the dark of night after a long hot day. With a crackling bonfire, grilled feast, and good company, there's nothing more seasonally enjoyable than a soundtrack that feeds on primal energy. "Blue Penguin" sneaks in with the dusk, treading softly into your eardrums and relieving your brain from the heaviness that it felt as the temperature rose steadily to ninety. The song reminds me of a quietly tuning orchestra mixed with Ravi Shankar's autobiographical soundtrack. There are vaguely Eastern influences in the playing of the instruments, but there are also some science fiction sound effects and mumbling voices that give the whole song a creole texture. "Oh, Mojave" is strongly percussive, drawing on South American and African musical influences, while the whole song is a strong prayer to the intensely American desert. The music draws strongly on tribal songs, and is probably an homage to Native American music, but ends with an explosive noise and then the sound of metallic pinging off a rocky wall. "Tane Mahuta" is also dedicated to a famous natural landmark, although this time the landmark is very huggable. In New Zealand there is a tree called the Tane Mahuta which in the Maori language means "Lord of the Forest". I want to see this tree, and when I see it I want to be singing this song. The style is somewhat similar to the calypso rambling guitar lines of Vampire Weekend and Bedouin Soundclash, but this song is less accessible to the purely indie rock set. "There Are Birds" brings us back to the sounds of the Shins and New Order. The song is precision computer rock, but it never lacks heart, and it continues the Ruby Suns' album long love affair with nature. "It's Mwangi in Front of Me" sounds like some wonderful hybrid of Brian Wilson and Antony & the Johnsons, while I can even hear the ghost of a barbershop quartet skirting the background. This song is ethereal, but also heavy with humming sounds that wouldn't be out of place in a living jungle. There are hoots, and hushed whispers, and always the chattering of the insects and the wet rustling leaves. "Remember" is an uninhibited waltz, where the standards of the song are broken down. It's as if the Ruby Suns have purposely slowed down time - shutting off the rushing hustle and bustle, the ever-present need to stare at the clock or watch - and are just enjoying their commune with the real world instead of the fuzzy human construct that can so distort the important things in life. "Remember" is a sunset prayer. "Ole Rinka" takes on the musical tone of a drizzly rain, and has an almost mournful feeling. "Adventure Tour" reminds me of the Beatles more creative pieces, and is most definitely an ode to yomping (I'm not allowed to use the word "tramping", as in "tramping through the woods"). Then there's the burgeoning beauty of "Kenya Dig It?", which could have found its way onto the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory along with "Pure Imagination". It's fantastic in the best sense of the word, and it's also childlike and fun. The album finale is "Morning Sun" which has a electric whine and wail that is the tonal equivalent to the early morning rays of sunshine stretching sleepily across the sky. The pressure grows and grows, as the cool night fades away. Just remember that when the night comes again, you'll want Sea Lion in your stereo.

01 August, 2008

"The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World


Mygosh, It's August?

First things first. Can anyone else believe that it's already August? I'm a little thrown by this temporal revelation. Time is not as cut and dried as it would at first seem.

Second, I've just "discovered" Paul Baribeau, and I think I'm in love. Strike that: THIS IS LOVE. He's a male version of Kimya Dawson, who's slightly more neurotic and a little less overwhelmingly uninhibited. He strikes me as the kind of introverted boy who dresses in plaid shirts and writes sonnets to his "Dark Lady" inspired by the many twinkling stars in the Midwestern sky. At the same time, there are songs where Paul is so exuberant, improvisational, and energetic you can't help but be carried away by the sentiment. If you listen to his self-titled album (released in 2004), then you can hear the roughness of emotion like a scratchy beard on "I Thought I Could Find You", "When You Go Back To College", and the beautiful ode to beauty "Strawberry". "Blue Eyes" is about being haunted by the eyes of a person who has peered into your soul only to move across the country, and it hurts when you listen. There's also "I Miss That Band" which is about losing part of your youth to time, but having all the memories preserved on tape (or album/cd) ready to remind you of your loss.

Moving forward in that fourth dimension, you'll find Baribeau's second album Grand Ledge a bit of a departure from the innocence of Paul Baribeau. It's not that his sound is darker, and he certainly doesn't sound bitter or disillusioned to the point of hopelessness; instead, I can hear a ticking clock in the background, a more persistent knowledge that our time on this earth is not infinite. It's a subtle thread in "Christmas Lights" that is amplified by the line: "Sometimes I don't want to make new friends, sometimes I just miss my old friends." The theme is less subtle on "Ten Things" which is a wailing, deep-belly laundry list to ponder. This song reminds me of a good friend who regularly asks for my list of the top five best and worst things in my life. It's a poignant question, and it makes the answering person slow down and separate the good and bad parts of their life into easily digested bites. Sometimes you just have to make a list (and this advice is coming from a person who generally likes to throw plans out the window). "Falling In Love With Your Best Friend" recounts that feeling of falling apart when you're just starting to put things together. The friendship to love transition can be more painful than the head-over-heels effect, because (generally) you don't want to jeopardize a good relationship by forcing it into a different category. Again Baribeau hits his mark, and translates raw emotion into song. "Things I Wish" is a sweet song that gains a fantastic quality when Baribeau spontaneously breaks into "lalalas".

I guess spontaneity is really the buzzword for the Paul Baribeau sound. He seems like the kind of guy who might get nervous in front of a crowd, but for the love of music he continues to perform and eventually goes beyond caring about his audience's perceptions. It's all about the truth of the moment, and in this way Baribeau succeeds in bottling emotions that are tangible and honest. Music like this is very difficult to find, and should be savored when a "discovery" like Baribeau is made.

Strawberry (LIVE)

Ten Things (LIVE)

31 July, 2008

"If You Forget Me" by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

This is a song. The music is in the cadence of the lines.

30 July, 2008

Encouraged Listening (and reading)

I'm not a big fan of requirements. Usually, I put my entire cache of stubbornness into avoiding completing the things I'm required to complete. That said, I still think there are books that everyone should read. I would never require these books, because I firmly believe that if you come to something on your own, you'll enjoy it more and take more from the reading. So, I encourage my readers and my friends to pick up the books and very often the albums that I find particularly world-view altering.

That said, you should listen to The Third World by Immortal Technique. It's a manifesto for those who wish to challenge inequities, and a laundry list of the things that are wrong with the world today. It sounds pretty depressing, right? Well, it can be depressing, but it can alternately be immensely empowering.

Here's a little anecdote for my readers. I was in an environmental science class in 2007, and my teacher was amazing. He used to go on these seemingly random tangents before, after, and during class. He would just tell stories about people - funny stories- and by the time you got to the end of the story you could see that he was really just highlighting a point for you. It made me realize that environmental science was overwhelmingly connected to everything in my life. There's not one part of my life that's not tied to my environment in some way. It was a great way to teach. One time, he was talking about his choice to become a teacher. He had been involved in a trade (I can't remember what exactly), and he made good money, but he never had any time. He realized that even when he wasn't working, he was feeling the effects of work or thinking about work, and since he didn't love his job, he was just kind of wasting all of this time for money. Now, he came to the conclusion that time is worth more than money, in the long run. Time is not infinite for a single human being.

He said this once (I'm paraphrasing, because this was over a year ago): "The people in charge don't want you to realize that time is more important than money. If they keep you working, and even more importantly keep you afraid of not working, then they can get you to step in line with everyone else and prevent you from thinking outside of the box. But what happens to your quality of life at this point? You become dissatisfied, because you have neither the time nor the energy to do the things you really care about, and a lot of people end up equating this dissatisfaction with the idea that they're not making enough money. They work more. They become more unhappy. Usually, they don't even recognize that they've wasted their time, and this is the key to their dissatisfaction."

What does this have to do with Immortal Technique? Well, his music is enlightening in the same way, and he's calling on people to break free from the mental chains that have been imposed (and that they have imposed) upon their thought processes. It's time to open your eyes, get pissed off, and then change things. For too long, the major artists in the hip-hop community have been buying in (punny, I know) to the idea that money is what will make you happier. To a certain point, I agree, you need a certain amount of money in this world to live in such a way that your basic needs are satisfied (unless you choose to live completely off the grid, but then you negate your ability to change the system from within). I'm certainly not saying that children in Nairobi don't need to eat, or that the people affected by Hurricane Katrina can live without a stable shelter. Instead, I think it's important to realize that all the money in the world will not balance the inequities and injustices that are carried out daily. To change things, to really alter the system, you need time and a certain enlightenment from fear. You need to be willing to alter your lifestyle and to dedicate yourself to the changes that will really make you happy. This is freedom. Money is just another master.

Oh, and here's a little recommended reading for all of the people who want to know a little more about Immortal Technique: "More Articulate, Politically Charged Flame-Throwing From Immortal Technique" by Raquel Cepeda

29 July, 2008

"16 Military Wives" by the Decemberists

This is so funny.

"Electric Feel (LIVE)" by MGMT

I love this song.

Clueless and Extraordinary

I watched the movie Clueless this weekend, and although it's fluffy and undeniably Southern California, it's also pretty damn funny. The cliches are so heavy-handed, stacked so unbearably high, that you can't help but enjoy the fun. Cher's inanity and self-absorbed charity are over the top, but you have to admire some of her spunk: she's absolutely the Elle Woods of the nineties, albeit one who's a little less fit for Harvard Law School.

As I was watching the movie, I found myself thinking about Liz Phair, and although this digression may seem inexplicable, it made sense in my own mind. First of all, Liz Phair and Alicia Silverstone look alike! They're both blonde and conventionally gorgeous, but they also both strike me as "anti-blondes" who get their kicks out of playing roles that are beautifully sarcastic. Clueless was probably the peak of this popular subversion for Silverstone, while Exile In Guyville was Phair's early subversive peak. Since these career high points, they've both kind of done work that had to be done. You have to make a living, right? So, maybe we can forgive Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and "Why Can't I?", and sometimes even enjoy these blockbuster bumps when we're feeling tired or goofy. The low-points shouldn't necessarily define the careers of two strong and sarcastic women. The "anti-blonde" is probably still burning underneath the streamlined surface, so we can overlook some missteps and just enjoy the perfect sarcastic candy that Silverstone and Phair released at their peak.

28 July, 2008

"Hanging By A Moment" - Lifehouse

Lifehouse was an album-on-repeat band for ages. I <3 Stanley Climbfall and No Name Face. This has to be one of my all-time favorite songs. It's one of the few songs that I've grown with, and the lyrics twist to fit whatever situation I'm in.

Desperate for changing
Starving for truth
I'm closer to where I started
Chasing after you
I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you

Forgetting all I'm lacking
Completely incomplete
I'll take your invitation
You take all of me now...

I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you
I'm living for the only thing I know
I'm running and not quite sure where to go
And I don't know what I'm diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you

There's nothing else to lose
There's nothing else to find
There's nothing in the world
That can change my mind
There is nothing else
There is nothing else
There is nothing else

Desperate for changing
Starving for truth
I'm closer to where I started
Chasing after you....

I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held onto
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you
I'm living for the only thing I know
I'm running and not quite sure where to go
And I don't know what I'm diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you

Just hanging by a moment (here with you)
Hanging by a moment (here with you)
Hanging by a moment here with you

24 July, 2008

I'm not joiking around (but maybe I should be)

Joik (Yoik): An indigenous song/chant of the Sami people of Northern Europe that is usually improvisational and cyclical, having neither a beginning nor an end. Often performed a cappella, these songs are also usually very personal, meaning that the theme is to some extent biographical. Yet a joik is not "about" the subject, a song that objectively witnesses an event, but in fact is dynamically and affectively shaping the subject as it is sung. Land, animals, and people can all be joiked, and this is actually as integral and spiritually important as the process of naming. Most interesting and important of all, a joik is not created once and forever. Instead, joiks are necessarily dynamic and constantly shifting which is one reason why the human voice is the instrument of choice for joiking.

I've listened to a little (very little) joiking, and it musically reminds me of a round performed solo. I realize that the very definition of a round requires that it not be performed solo, and yet the Sami singers that I've listened to have this amazing and enchanting ability to throw their voices in a way that makes them sound like they're harmonizing with themselves. Repetition is ubiquitous, as are surprising endings and fades that pop up in the middle of the chants at unexpected times.

I love the music. It sounds like the babbling and play-singing of children learning how to speak, and of adults who are carefree enough to hum without boundaries. It also has somewhat of a musical sister in scat-singing, which can be extremely playful, celebratory, and personal. It is closer to free poetry than storytelling, because of the large gaps and unexpected endings that leave the listener to continue the story at a later point. The songs are not perfect circles by any stretch of the imagination, but more like winding country roads that move in a way most comfortable for the land.

Creativity is unbound because the joik was not first created to be "art", but to be a social bonding and communal experience, a celebration of indigenous history, and an opportunity to be creative. For this reason there are very few "rules" to joiking, except that for expression's sake musical instruments are usually set aside and the chants should have no beginning or end.

I find this all extremely interesting, but I really am just beginning to learn about this music. Here are a few sites with more information than I can offer at this time.

The Sami Yoik

"The Joy of Joiking"

The Complete Guide to Sami Music and Joiking Online

"Joik and the theory of knowledge" by Ande Somby

If you're interested, then you can also pick up an album containing 58 joiks on iTunes. It's called Lappish Joik Songs From Northern Norway, and contains various intriguing performances.

When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Steampunk/Magic Realist

I keep a file of my favorite quotations from books that I may forget I ever read. Sometimes I forget to update this file, but just the other day I found a quotation so perfect, I couldn't wait to rewrite it. It was in an essay by Daniel Samuels entitled "Marginal Notes" which is his stripped-to-the-soul honest ode to J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey.

Here's the line:

Reading requires a loner’s temperament, a high tolerance for silence, and an unhealthy preference for the company of people who are imaginary or dead.

Isn't that great? He goes on to explain his theory about people who become bibliophiles as children. It's not particularly complimentary, but the honesty is chilling and poetic. For one thing, reading is touted as the absolute form of escapism. It's something you can do for free if you live near a library, and you can do it completely alone. Yet, Samuels also makes the point that you're never really alone, and this is what makes reading so incredibly addictive for people who enjoy the idea of perfect social situations without all the complications of conversing with real people. It's very easy to want to be Harry Potter's best friend when you don't have to love him during his shitty moods. Another great point made in "Marginal Notes" is the connection between reading and acceptance. People who for one reason or another never quite fit in, often become voracious readers, and then look for some semblance of normalcy in copying their favorite characters. By "people" I'm talking about myself too, if you didn't pick up on my little word choice sleight of hand.

The truth is that there's a vast underground of bookish people. We're not as obvious as you might at first imagine, but you can tell us by our constantly carried reading material or the fact that we're the first to ask you what you're reading. We crave that connection that's solidified by quiet conversation about our favorite books over strong tea (or coffee, or superjuice. I won't judge.) We're also the ones who are excited by a pile of untouched reading material, and we paw through stacks at libraries, bookstores, and yard-sales looking for that story that will let us get our fix, until our favorite author releases once again. For those uninitiated it can be hard to understand.

Within the clan there are factions, of course. Nonfiction and Fiction are often battling for supremacy in an unending war like that which has long been fought between herpetologists and ornithologists. There's no way to win, but those who are dedicated continue to fight. Then there are the people who only read realistic fiction, scorning sci-fi and fantasy readers. Sci-fi readers are generally very dedicated, but even within that genre we have those who will only read hard science fiction. Many people will leave comic books and graphic novels out of the entire literary canon altogether (a big mistake in my opinion), while children's books don't often receive the praise or the readership they deserve outside of the youth community. Even I have preferences and predilections. I don't usually read books in large series because of time constraints, and I dislike stories where children are hurt (Roald Dahl was certainly pushing it, but Esio Trot has long had a soft-spot in my heart).

Bibliophiles unite.

22 July, 2008

Time Machine

Did you ever notice that A Tribe Called Quest's song "Can I Kick It?" samples the bass from Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side"? It's a perfectly placed homage, and instantly evokes the themes of drug use and addiction, and sexual confusion. Underneath the slamming drum beats, you can hear the steady bouncing vocals that meld into all the other sounds and support the song. The bass dips into the mix, and is never out of place, it bobs and floats throughout the song.

"Can I Kick It?" is the eighth song on the new soundtrack to the movie The Wackness, which is supposed to transport you back to the nineties. This tag-line makes me feel old. I'm a child of the nineties, raised on Salt 'N' Pepper, Alanis Morisette, Green Day, and Nirvana. I remember hearing Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" played incessantly on popular radio after the release of Batman Forever (the one with Val Kilmer that was released in 1995). Hell, I remember when the movie Titanic was released (1997). Although I begged to go I was (with good reason, since it's a shitty movie anyway) not allowed to see Titanic in theatres, but it did become the first rated R movie I ever watched at home (that I can recall). The Celine Dion album with "My Heart Will Go On" in the tracklist was one of the very first albums that I personally owned. Power rangers, Captain Planet, and the good Ninja Turtles shows mingle lightly with the sounds of Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing" and Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast At Tiffany's". Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake used to date! Does anyone remember that? Those were the days when we didn't know that Britney was crazy. There were some sounds that I actually enjoyed. I liked Blink-182 (I'll admit it). I used to watch the videos for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. on MTV (when they actually played videos).

So here's what I want to know? How did all of that time move so fast, how did everything change so drastically without my knowledge? I guess I didn't notice because I changed with it, slowly but surely realizing that the big budget chick flicks are just not my cup of tea, and that I greatly prefer the clever lyrics of Kurt Cobain to the gushy hook-filled pastries that the Backstreet Boys release. I can look back and be nostalgic, but it's good to know that change is a constant. It's the difference between living your entire life in one dimension, and moving through infinite dimensions holding on to the things and the people you love and letting go of everything superfluous.

The Wackness is about a boy going through this same crisis in the early nineties. New York has not yet been "cleaned up" by Giuliani. Tupac and Biggy are not dead, but some of the promise of youth has been washed away in an instant (Cobain is gone. Already, the wheels turn in Rudy's head that say "no" to boom boxes and "yes" to imprisoning the homeless. You can tell I'm not a big fan.) Everything seems on the verge of completely and utterly breaking down. The thing is that these sensations are ubiquitous throughout history. Substitute Cobain with Ledger, Giuliani with Bush and you have the same feelings felt toward different people. The names change, the clothes change, the sounds on the radio and the actors who play Batman change, but the truly tangible feelings and uncertainties are left exactly the same. The Wackness can be released in 2008 and it can be enjoyed by anyone who has ever felt apathetic, neurotic, and uncertain. These feelings are not unique to the nineties, although during the nineties musicians became very good at expressing them. You can, of course, hear the same strains and themes in "Walk on the Wild Side" which was released in 1972 by a man who was born thirty years earlier.

18 July, 2008

"Buy the Ticket. Take the Ride."

That's Hunter Thompson in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, and this summer I find myself associating with that book (along with the essay The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved) more than anything else I've read. Sometimes it's just a bubbling pool of incoherent stream of consciousness writing, with associations and realizations that often have very little to do with the events Thompson is supposed to be covering; and yet always his writing gets to the deepest, darkest soul of the issue. It's some of the most refreshing writing I have ever read.

When I was nine or ten I wanted to be a journalist. This was in between wanting to be a carpenter and realizing that I would probably need to know math (I hated math then, but now I'm kind of a big fan. Funny how you change over time.) and wanting to write fantasy novels. Journalism seemed to be such a freeing career, at least in my mind. Freelance journalism took the cake, while regular current events columns in "big" newspapers came in a not-so-close second. I craved the ability to exercise my superhero muscles by showing people (through my writing) who the bad guys really were. I wanted to "muckrake", in the best sense of the word. Uphold the principles of truth and justice, and...well, then I lost some of my innocence and realized how unhelpful the media can really be. Far from being free of subjectivity, the subjectivity is rampant and often out of control, but is also hidden by the dressing that slimes up most "news" writing. Very rarely is an article clear or coherent, and very often it's a jumbled mess. In this kind of writing, everything is about "the scandal" or the next thing that hearkens the "end of the world as we know it". First, I'm not so sure I'm that attached to the world as it is now. There are certainly aspects of it that I love with all of my heart, but there are many things I would change; many inequities I would eliminate. Secondly, scandals and fear often cover up the roots of the issue, and they also lead unsurprisingly to hysteria (which is never helpful when it comes to getting anything real accomplished.) There's a fine line between clearly reporting helpful information and important events and fear-mongering, and the line is too often crossed in contemporary journalism.

Now, Hunter Thompson was no stranger to fear. In fact, he published two books with fear in the title. What he seemed to understand though, is that people are not helping others by spreading fear and people are not helping themselves by being afraid. The world is scary enough (if you keep your eyes open) that you don't have to invent new things to fear, in fact it's more helpful to slowly but surely educate yourself about the old things. With this approach, even if you're still afraid, at the very least you will be prepared to face your fears with all of the tools at your disposal. Education and knowledge are the things that should free you from fear, not imprison you further. The other thing that helps is humor (and let me tell you, it's a big help). Thompson produced Gonzo journalism which is inherently subjective. In Gonzon journalism the journalist is generally the center of the entire story. He made precise and cutting observations about human character and post-WWII American culture, and he talked about big issues: poverty; inequity; the oppressive nature of the government; the awful things that humans can do to each other; and of course sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Nothing was too risque, nothing too disgusting or too visceral. He acknowledged that it is the visceral nature of our time on Earth that makes us human, and at the same time makes us animals.

After reading Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, I couldn't look at people without thinking: how would you behave in this situation? How would you react when confronted with A, B, and C? My worldview was turned on its side just enough to make my world a little weirder. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that my world is already pretty weird. I suppose you could call this a revelation, although I've done very few things religiously in my life. In my mind, it's more of an inspiration to spend a good portion of my time tuning in to the events that occur around me, and noticing all of the horrifying, beautiful, and strange facets of life. I'd really like to write about these things I witness, and you might see some of that in this blog in the future. If I get to the point where I'm writing more about the man on the subway than the music in my headphones, I may have to create a sister blog where I can run into my phone booth and put on the costume of my alter ego. I guess only time will tell how well this experiment will succeed or fail, but as anyone who's read Thompson can attest, the journey is always more important than the conclusion.

Stay classy San Diego.

17 July, 2008

"La La Lie" by Jack's Mannequin

Guess what, I'm done writing you songs
You'll give up your job at the bank
Proving money's not fun when you're gone
So this is the first verse
It's not very long
But I'm ready to move on

Guess what, I'm done writing your book
The ending got twisted around
But for all of the hell that it took
The electrical wires
They'll hum in the walls
In the room that I rent now

Well actually I've got friends who (la la lie)
Will help me pull through (la la la lie la la la lie)
The spaceman that can't get high
I'm coming back to my girl by July
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That's right.

So, guess what, I'm done drawing you pictures
I'm dulling the day with a drink
In the parking garage by the theater
We met for a movie
Every scene was a sign
We made out through their meaning

Well I've got friends who (la la lie)
Will help me pull through (la la la lie la la la lie)
The spaceman that can't get high
I'm coming back to my girl by July
Yeah, yeah, yeah!


Guess what? I'm done writing you songs
I'm far too unstable to settle
I doubt that the doctors are wrong
So I'll wait by a palm tree, a palm tree, a palm tree

Well I've got friends who (la la lie)
To help me pull through (la la la lie la la la lie)
The spaceman can't get high
I'm coming back to my girl by July
Well I've got friends who (la la lie)
Oh she'll help me to pull trough (la la la lie la la la lie)

The song for a long goodbye
I'm coming back ,I'm coming back to my girl
La la la lie, back to my girl (la la la lie la la lie)
The song for a long goodbye
I'm coming back to my girl by July

"I Thought of You" by Johnny Gallagher Jr.

15 July, 2008

More reasons to like Damon Albarn

This article in the Village Voice is really excellent: Damon Albarn and his Adventurous Honest Jon's Label

It's all about this great hole in the wall record store in Notting Hill (Honest Jon's) which has specialized in selling "possession music" since 1974. "Possession music" is loosely translated as the music of the former British colonies, and historically it has a similar background to that of blues and soul music which grew out of the working songs and protest songs of African slaves in the United States. Many of the musicians were repressed and functionally silenced outside of their home countries by the British government, but some of the recordings were saved and are now being released on treasure chest compilations by Honest Jon's record label.

The story is great, and the music is even better. I would recommend picking up a compilation like Lagos Shake - A Tony Allen Chop-Up or Living Is Hard: West African Music in Britain, 1927-1929 to add to your music library.

"Frankie's Gun (LIVE)" by the Felice Brothers

"Waiting" by Green Day

This song popped up on "shuffle" the other day. I hadn't heard it in a year, maybe two. I <3 Green Day.

I've been waiting a long time
for this moment to come
I'm destined for anything at all
Downtown lights will be shining
On me like a new diamond
Ring out under the midnight hour
No one can touch me now
And I can't turn my back
It's too late ready or not at all

Well I'm so much closer than
I have ever known
Wake up

Dawning of a new era
Calling... don't let it catch ya falling
Ready or not at all
So close enough to taste it
Almost... I can embrace this
Feeling...on the tip of my tongue

Well I'm so much closer than
I have ever known...
Wake up
Better thank your lucky stars
Shey hey hey

I've been waiting a lifetime
For this moment to come
I'm destined for anything at all

Color me stupid
Good luck
You're gonna need it
Where I'm going if I get there at all
Wake uuuuuuuuuup
Better thank your lucky stars

Live music delivered by AT&T

That's what I saw advertised underneath iTunes' Lollapalooza playlist this morning. It's kind of a morbid thought really, and it starts me wondering if every setlist at the festival has some unique tie-in with cell phone service.

It starts out small: free pictures of you and your friends (in front of a giant cell phone) provided by AT&T; free drinks if you stop by the kiosk and hear about the new phone service; and then before you know it, Jack White is dressed up as a cell phone and forced to play his guitar while advertising. It's a form of slavery really. Small enough even that the little acts don't realize what's happening, until crouching around Thom Yorke back at the van park they start to hear the horror stories. There was that one time when every appearing band was paid only in rollover minutes (small print in the contract), and then in order to salvage their careers after such an unprofitable tour, they were forced to sell their songs for television ads. It happens all too often, but the companies are always trying to hush it up.

On that note, maybe you feel like purchasing some new music? I know I enjoy being a consumer whore after hearing about how other people are being screwed over (even if the story is completely fabricated). I wouldn't put it past AT&T, but at this point I have no story except that they seem to now be in the business of "delivering" live music to the masses. Something about this situation does not bode well for the future, at least in my mind. Even the wording, "delivery" is icky. Why would you need such a huge company to just deliver something? Still, the Lollapalooza lineup isn't completely trashed. There's a nice mix of big and small names performing at the three day festival.

The Postelles, for instance, are one of a couple of bands who have only released extended plays. Their music sounds very 1950s early rock 'n' roll, then you start listening to their lyrics and you notice that they have more in common with the tongue in cheek of the Ramones (who were also big fans of 1950s rock 'n' roll) than with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. "Boy's Best Friend" is about a case of mistaken sexual orientation, and it makes it clear that you can no longer assume that guys like girls and girls like guys, and that if you do...well...it can lead to emotional complications. "Mr. Used to Be" is about a boy who "used to be" on top, but now is basically being ignored. "Blue Room" is a song of reassurance, unfortunately lacking in much weight. "Stella", on the other hand, is a perfectly romantic and understated song. It's an upbeat lullaby of love, outfitted with a little guitar break to banish monotony. Not that this song could be considered monotonous for a minute. It's a completely accessible and fitting song for Summer escapades and adventures. "Hey Little Sister" is a little whiny, and I find my mind drifting away from the music and thinking about other things. "White Night" moves in the opposite direction. It's captivating, and sounds like surf rock. Yet again there's a guitar solo, and the vocals stay away from whining and are closer to pleading pitch (a subtle difference that saves the ears). The eponymous extended play has high and low points. About half of the album really rocks, and the other half falls short of even really rolling, but there's definitely hope for the Postelles. Maybe Lollapalooza will be their place to shine. Who knows, maybe AT&T will offer them a commercial deal and they won't have to barter for food with rollover minutes. It could happen.

14 July, 2008

You won't fool the children of the revolution

The last few days have been full of anachronisms. I finally got around to watching Moulin Rouge, which has been on my list since 2001. I was so tired, I had to stop halfway through the movie. For those few people who haven't watched the movie yet, it's pretty trippy. I would even go as far as saying that it's weirder than Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which sent my head spinning in all of its IMAX glory.

Absinthe is big in this movie, as is the unorthodox Bohemian lifestyle which embraces artistic, sexual, financial, political, and personal freedoms above all else. Yet, Ewan Macgregor's character longs to be inextricably tied to another person by "true love", which wouldn't be very Bohemian at all if it weren't for the fact that the girl he loves is a famous prostitute who's dying of consumption. Snap.

The music in the film is edgy. If you aren't a fan of musical theatre, then you've probably only heard the famous cover of "Lady Marmalade", but there's an electronic (psychedelic) can-can by Fatboy Slim ("Because We Can"); a slow and sleazy cover of "Children of the Revolution" by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer; and the "Elephant Love Medley" which samples a plethora of contemporary love songs. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "The Sound of Music" make their way into the film as well. It's like a smorgasbord of creativity: light, color, texture, and sound are all whirled together and randomly extraordinary things keep occurring. During the "Elephant Love Medley" a metal arch shaped like a heart suddenly explodes into fireworks, and the sky starts raining glitter (which prompted my friend to say: "Love should be just like this! There should be glitter rain, and hearts everywhere, and it should all happen inside a giant elephant's head!" I tend to agree with her.)

If you are like me, and have neglected all of the pop culture cues to see Moulin Rouge, then there's no better time to embrace this fantastic movie than the present. If you haven't seen the movie for five, or six, or seven years, then maybe it's time to pick it up again, or at the very least listen to the soundtrack.

Keyhole Gardens

I think this is amazing!! (I've been writing/saying that a lot lately.)

13 July, 2008

"Middle of Nowhere" by Hot Hot Heat

This was my theme song in 2005.

Don’t get mad
If I’m laughing
Blame the caffeine
For all the 5am phone calls

I haven’t slept a single night in over a month
Not even once did you start to make sense to me
Well maybe I’m a little bit slow
I’m just consistently inconsistent
She said unpredictability’s my responsibility baby

But you’re waiting at the door
Where everybody’s hanging out just like they hung out before
You didn’t have to do it but you did it to say
That you didn’t have to do it but you would anyway

To give you something to go on
When I go off
Back to the middle of nowhere

They chewed me up
And then they spit me out
And I’m not supposed to let it bother me

But maybe I’m a little bit weak
I let my frailty take the wheel
She said maybe there’s a bit of me
Waiting for a bit of you baby

But you’re waiting at the door
Where everybody’s hanging out just like they hung out before
You didn’t have to do it but you did it to say
That you didn’t have to do it but you would anyway

To give you something to go on
When I go off
Back to the middle of nowhere

But you’re waiting at the door
Where everybody’s hanging out just like they hung out before
You didn’t have to do it but you did it to say
That you didn’t have to do it but you would anyway

To give you something to go on
When I go off
Back to the middle of nowhere

To give you something to go on
To go on
Back to the middle of nowhere

Criss Cross Circus Trailer

This looks amazing. I'm kind of speechless. It was never my dream to run away and join the circus, but now I'm kind of wishing I had a special talent so I could join these guys and travel across the country.

12 July, 2008

"Loose Lips (LIVE)" by Kimya Dawson

Rethinking my position on Death Cab For Cutie

I was never very thrilled with DCFC when they were making music that kept popping up on the O.C., and the video for "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" just succeeded in creeping me out. In fact, while many of my friends were hearting Ben Gibbard for songs like "The Sound of Settling" and "Crooked Teeth", I was finding myself enamored with his cool and collected turns with The Postal Service (I still think that "Such Great Heights" has some of the most beautiful lyrics ever written). Still, I'm rethinking a lot of my feelings and preconceived notions lately, grasping for the decisions and conclusions that make me the person I want to be. I certainly don't want to be the kind of person who writes off an entire band for one unlucky turn on a horrible television show, so I'm taking the time to listen to Death Cab For Cutie's latest album, Narrow Stairs.

However hard I try I can't get past the feeling that "I Will Possess Your Heart" is a totally creepy-stalker song. Just the choice of words in the very title makes me cringe. Hearts are NOT possessions! Still, the cranking bass intro reminds me of the Temptations, and then drums shuffle into place and the guitars buzz in the background, while the piano moves into position. It's all very calculated, and there's something beautiful about the way it's written so carefully, and seemingly with one particular person in mind. Based on some conversations I've had recently, I'm starting to get this feeling that all of us fall into that creepy-stalker role once in awhile, and maybe Ben Gibbard just decided it was time to go public with his obsession. When the vocals move into the picture, everything else fades into the background, and Gibbard never sounds like a real creep just like a boy who has jumped into love with both feet. At eight minutes long, the song never feels boring or like it's carrying on after it should have ended. In fact, everything feels perfectly proportioned for a single.

"Bixby Canyon Bridge" reminds me of Something Corporate's songs of uncertainty and longing. Who doesn't hope for a trace of something good that has long-since disappeared? The smell of Summer in the Winter time, or that feeling you got the first time you listened to your favorite album, or the first time you fell in love. That's what this song is about. It's about that place between decisions, where all you really want is to feel that way about something again, because then you'd have a clear answer as to which path you should follow. Gut feelings are sometimes the hardest thing for a rational mind to recognize, but they're also some of the most important things for anyone to recognize. I think this song is about searching for that balance between practicality and happiness, and wishing all along that you could just feel those butterflies in your stomach and know that things could still be vibrant; that feelings could still be strong; that apathy hadn't left everything hazy and unclear forever.

"No Sunlight" comes from a similar place, full of strong longing for the optimism and certainty of youth. I'm starting to see a theme on this album: dissatisfaction with growing up and a growing craving for a cause (possibly love) that will make you feel optimistic and idealistic once more. It's a theme I can definitely understand, and one that makes the album feel comfortable to my ears. Gibbard is singing some of the feelings and ideas that go whirling around my head.

"Cath..." discusses the big decision making that seems too often to follow adult uncertainty. It's all about "Cath" who got married because "her heart was dying fast", and it's actually a really sad song. I think it's important though, because these things happen all too often. There are people who have a hard time making any decisions at all because they can't feel strongly about one path, and then there are also people who decide without really thinking about their other options because they're trying to hold onto a feeling that probably won't last.

Possession seems to be another major theme on Narrow Stairs, and one that's continued on the song "Talking Bird". One of the biggest adult lessons you ever learn is that you don't/can't own other people. However much you love someone, you can never really possess them. Part of loving that person is realizing that you want them to be happy even if they need to be happy far away from you. It's much more difficult than it sounds. You have to give up some control, and learn to trust them to love you in return, and this is what "Talking Bird" is about. Deep, I know.

"You Can Do Better Than Me" is kind of a scary song in some ways. It's definitely not your stereotypical love song, because it's a song about doubts. He's tired of the person he's with (sometimes), but he's realizing that there might not ever be anyone better in his life. It's a neurotic thought, and it's set to pop music that reminds me of the Beatles. At the same time, there's something kind of sweet about the sentiment. I think everyone wonders about their choices, until they remember that the person they're with is really amazing and that they're lucky to be loved by them.

"Grapevine Fires" has macabre but brilliant imagery painted with Gibbard's soft "accountant" vocals (he reminds me of an accountant, although the long hair has made him a little softer around the edges). It's somewhat unnerving to hear him coo lines about watching the fires burn things away, but at the same time it's comforting to think of a child dancing in a cemetery (I've never thought that happiness around death was disrespectful. Happiness regarding death is completely different from happiness and the celebration of life happening near death). Then there are the final lines:

The firemen worked in double shifts,
With prayers for rain on their lips
And they knew it was only a matter of time.

I think it's important to accept that things will happen in their own time, and these last lines sum up this idea for me.

"Your New Twin Sized Bed" is full of wonderful metaphors. In the song queen-sized beds are traded in for twins, and old boys are traded in for those who might be more likely to commit. But what do you lose in the process? Well, possibilities for one thing, and patience, and hope, and idealism. They are all sacrificed for an idea of what might make you happy at some point in the future.

"Long Division" is almost stream of consciousness, but the overwhelming thought is that people don't want to be the "remainder" of their past. They're burning their bridges and their memories so fast because they don't want to be left behind in the dust and ash of their youth. It reminds me of Garden State, as does the whole album really. It's bridging that space between youth and adulthood, with all of the uncertainty and awkwardness that is so unbearably human.

"Pity and Fear" has strong Asian musical influences (Ravi Shankar anyone?), and the lyrics are even a little zen, although they're introspective and self-centered in a way that is very Western. About a minute before the end of the song, there's a rock and roll guitar solo that is very out of character for Death Cab for Cutie. It's almost messy, but it perfectly matches the conjured lyrical images. It's the kind of song that says "I've fucked up everything" in a way that's a bit less profane.

The ultimate manifestation of every major theme on Narrow Stairs is "The Ice Is Getting Thinner", which finishes the album. It's half mourning-song, and half song of adult resignation. There's no weeping or dramatic pronouncements, just a recognition that things won't be the same again and that some things are finished (including the album). It's not a particularly happy note on which to end, but it seems appropriate given the tone of the rest of the album. There are no easy fixes anymore, and sometimes you just have to bandage your wounds, make a hard decision, let the people you love be, and move forward with your life.