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)