Monday, December 22, 2014

Songs of 2014

  Here are a few songs I enjoyed in 2014. I didn't listen to as many full albums this year, that's okay. I did hear some songs here and there that I thought were pretty rad, so I'm going to tell you about them.

  The Decemberists - Make You Better

  I have liked The Decemberists for a long time. Almost a decade at this point, which is kind of crazy.  I first heard their single, "Make You Better" and thought "This doesn't sound like the Decemberists I love, its far too polished, etc" But I've heard it more since then and the slight changes to their sound haven't taken away from their old sincerity. There might be less jangliness, but underneath the polish its still them. The rock's gone through the jumbler a few rounds, but its still the same rock. There's still that cutting guitar, and Colin Meloy's intricate lyrics. "Make You Better" is about needing someone, that person needing you and how our expectations don't always match up to reality. Its a song I needed.

  Broncho - Class Historian

  There is an irreverence, an inescapable energy, as well as a snarl to "Class Historian" by Broncho. Their sound feels like The Kinks by way of Devo with a touch of Duran Duran but really none of those at all. Its a good song to jump around to.

  Alvvays - Archie, Marry Me

 I have a thing for bands with female volcalists, I also have a thing for songs that reference fictional characters. And this call out is especially good since it references the improbable Archie who constantly has to choose between his love interests Veronica and Betty. The fuzzed out shredding guitars and vocals that seem lazy yet desperate make "Archie, Marry Me" a song that would have fit in well in the 90's era girl bands.

 George Ezra - Budapest

  A song about leaving it all behind and starting anew if given the chance with the right person.  A toe-tapping beat and Mr. Ezra's deep vocals that allow for bedroom harmonizing make "Budapest" heart-felt poppy song.

 Hozier - Take Me to Church

This is a song I enjoyed greatly this year. It was a good song for driving to this summer. And I am happy to see how popular it has become. It is a spare, raw song that is filled with soul. "Take Me to Church" is about an intense romance, rather than a religious one. The piano and drums with subtle guitar work with Andrew Hozier-Byrne's voice truly create a truly electric mix.

The New Pornographers  - Champions of Red Wine

Swirling synths pull you into "Champions of Red Wine", then Neko Case starts singing and everything is right with the world. This is a song for me tinged with nostalgia, of those parties that would devolve into anarchy of pouring drinks over anyone and everything in sight. Those are parties that end in drunken sing alongs and craziness. This song is harkening to that sort of cathartic party rage and the serenity that also exists in that moment. I love it.

Spoon - Inside Out

  "Inside Out" builds slowly, letting the listener fall into the cloying beat before Britt Daniels desperately wails, "Time's gone inside out!" He is sounding the alarm, but yet the beat reasures us everything is just fine, and the dream continues. The entirety of Spoon's newest album, "They Want My Soul" is tightly solid. Its a compact album that satisfies from one side to the other.

Weezer - Cleopatra

  Only Weezer could make such a catchy ode to a dying romance with an older woman.  (Eat your heart out Simon and Garfunkle/The Graduate) The guitars shred and the band chants the years that have gone by leaving Cleopatra more distant and frigid. It feels like vintage Weezer - so good.

TV on the Radio - Happy Idiot

  The Music video for Happy Idiot is a sublime tribute to Speed Racer featuring Karen Gillan and Paul Ruebens. So watch the video and then just bask in this delight of a song heralding the wonder of the happy idiot; safe guarded from worry, marching towards adventure.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

George Ezra - Budapest

  George Ezra was recently on SiriusXM, and he talked about how a lot of his lyrics come from people watching when he was a bartender in a pub and how he would just absorb various conversations as he worked. I think this video  portrays that voyeuristic point of view, with a crowd nearly frozen and all the microcosms that are taking place simultaneously.  People living, each in their own world all following their own paths. Listen to the song, watch the video, and enjoy.

George Ezra

Monday, June 23, 2014

On Meditation (The House and the River)

  I started meditating a few years ago. Not regularly, I'm not great at committing to habits, but that's okay. Here and there I get myself to stop; to stop wasting time on the internet, to stop watching television, to stop stressing about little stupid things, and just go somewhere quiet and breathe and try my best to clear my head.

  I try to escape from all those constant distractions, the flood of frenzied thoughts that persist. But meditation does not shut the brain off. Or at least, not that I'm aware of.  A better way to view the mind with and then without meditation might be the following : a) Let's say the non-meditative mind is akin to living in a house. The house sits comfortably next to a powerful flowing river. The river symbolizing our thoughts. day after day the river erodes the banks that the house sits upon as each worry and responsibility, grief and dread, boredom and melancholy, along with whatever else all flow past. As this continues the shore and foundation grow smaller and smaller until little bits of the house drift into the river and float away. And we wake up to board up the holes and gaps in the floors and walls where the rushing water gets in. Becoming a refugee in our own minds.

b) Let's say on the other hand that the meditative mind is akin to walking outside of that house, and wading into the middle of the river. There, in the river, you just breathe and let it all flow around you. Its inhale and exhale, feeling the flow of those thoughts and the world outside yourself. Breathing in, letting the thoughts and the world mesh together. Then breathing out. Its knowing that you're safe in the river, you won't drown and the house won't get carried away. And mostly its sitting and breathing. In and out. In. Pause for half a beat. And let it all out.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Forgetting

  He takes another drag of his cigarette. All around the snow billows, flying in waves. The smoke feels cool in his mouth and warm in his lungs; he can feel the microscopic burns in his alveoli.  To be honest it feels good with the stark blasts of wind freezing his fingers inside his worn gloves.

  The forgetting is the worst part. Worse than the pain. Worse than the soreness for weeks. Worse than the alien feeling in his own head. He allows the smoke to come out his nostrils, mixing with the frost-bitten air. To be an amnesiac is one thing, he thinks, to wake up one day having no memory of what came before; left with only general knowledge; that was one thing.

  To know when the forgetting was coming on, to brace yourself and let any possible regrets go; to wake up with the gap, the black nothing; that was another thing entirely. To live this way meant being the Swiss Cheese Man. Each time it happened, another hole was created, another memory gap. Only those crazy indigenous who practiced trepanation knew what it means to have holes in your head. Except of course that his were all internal.

  He takes one last drag from his cig and lets the butt fall onto the icy sidewalk. He crushes it under heel as his hands begin to crack in a hundred places. His arms start to elongate and expand, muscles and sinew double wrapping like a mummy's cloths. His fingers extend longer and longer, but there are no talons, no claws, no fur. Not this time.

   At work they all plead and cajole, trying to get him to come out for even just one drink. But to start a routine, to have that added familiarity waiting would simply be too much to handle. There are already enough regrets and mysteries clouding his head. Suppose he did go out with them, had a great time and kept on going week after week and got too drunk one night and lost control? What then. It was easier on everyone to just wave and say, "Maybe next time!"

  He walks down the alley toward the park. His hip shifting downwards awkwardly as his tibias and femurs shorten. His eyes start to glow with a faint green phosphorescence. This is when it always goes fuzzy. Like when you're driving and the radio gets caught between two stations. Eventually, if you drive far enough the static takes over.

  His nostrils sniff at the air, creating tiny clouds of mist. He smells cold water. The water in the retention pond a few hundred yards away. The ice is sure to be frozen as thick as cement, but his brain is no longer likely to yield to such logic. He lopes off toward the scent of the body of water, feet and dragging knuckles working in tandem.

  Reaching the water he extends a long tongue to take a drink, but the cold water gives resistance. A bellow escapes his lungs. His arms thrash wildly toward the unsatisfying water.


After several hammer blows of his arms the ice gives way. There's a sizable hole in the pond surely big enough to drink from. The animal in him still isn't satisfied and thrashes out one last time. The momentum carries him through the piercing cold water. This is when the static takes over. This is when the memory ends.

  Above the water his tail swings for purchase before plunging under the cold.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

DJ Snake & Lil' Jon: Turn Down for What

  Sometimes you hear a song and you think, well, that was okay, but really that was nothing special. And then you see the music video for that song and you realize, oh, this changes everything. "Turn Down For What" is one such song, at least in my opinion. The video is slightly horrific, artfully done, over the top, and incredibly ridiculous. After watching the video the first time before bed, I was left laughing, but also still wondering what the title of the song signifies. I'm gonna let you watch the video and then i'm going to talk a little more about that.

DJ Snake and Lil' Wayne
Turn Down for What(video NSFW)

directed by The Daniels

Okay, did you watch that? Good. It was insane, right? And you really want to crash through a ceiling in a preposterous way, don't you? Back to talking about what the phrase "Turn down for what" means. Given the video I would say its about not stopping your partying due to complaints or outside forces, rather bringing the party to them and drawing them into your party tornado until everyone is part of your relentless drive to party. Much the same philosophy as Andrew W.K. Perhaps I'm taking a simplistic view of it, but that's alright.

Anyway, I hope that video made you laugh or entertained you for a moment. And I am going to try to feature some other videos by The Daniels in the future.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chromeo - Jealous(I Ain't With it)

  In a week's time, my favorite electro-disco-funk band is releasing its newest album entitled, White Women. I am excited as its sure to be a fantastic excuse to dance and get down. Especially if the singles they've released so far off the album are any indication.

 Jealous(I ain't With it) is classic Chromeo with big bass, synths and crooning and a ridiculous video to go with it. I hope you enjoy P-Thugg and Dave 1's latest; its an epic of funky envy.

Jealous(I ain't with it)

ps this is my 400th post, so that's pretty neat!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Came a Tabby

The babe lay
in the crib
a-cryin' and cryin'

Footsteps in the hall
were not to be heard
no one rushin'
out of bed
  to comfort
     and soothe

No, the house
  it sat vacant
hushed and hidden
  in the middle
  of the lane

from the woods
  behind the house
came a tabby

She snuck in
wand'rin' the house,
 drinking a bit
  of milk
from the fridge

upon finding the crib
  that tabby,
well, she said,
       shush now,
close your eyes
the world will go away,
if but,
    for awhile,
just close your eyes

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardner

  Not a ton of music videos feature sporting events. And yet the video for Courtney Barnett's Avant Gardner is one of three that I can think of off the top of my head featuring tennis. The other two being "Giving Up the Gun" by Vampire Weekend and "Calamity Song" by The Decemberists, but that one actually has a variation of tennis from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Anyway, I guess indie bands like tennis?

  Avant Gardner is a strange stream of consciousness song that kind of winds around and around, detailing a not so average morning. The dream waves of the guitars and Barnett's mesmerizing mostly spoken word will draw you in. You'll be singing about breathing problems in no time. Hope you enjoy.

Courtney Barnett
Avant Gardner

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams

Today The Hold Steady released their 6th studio album and I am so excited. Here's to another album about broken boys and girls in america, psychic druggy visions, growing up, cigarettes, heavy drinks, and trying to stay positive through the haze. Craig Finn writes these catchy, beautiful songs that always seem to get scratched into your head, stuck there between everything else.

Here's a song from the new album that rocks pretty hard.

The Hold Steady

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Evaporating Anger

  I took a walk through the city center one night after a long fight. It was about something dumb, like the dishes or who had fed the bird last; but it had ended in shouting. The kind of shouting that becomes blinding, that fills up the air with a red haze of anger and you just lose sight of anything resembling reason. And so I was walking through the early summer evening air. Trying to let the anger evaporate. I was doing my best to think of the many reasons I still loved her. Trying to think of the glue that held us warmly together, but with each warm thought of love the anger would rise up from the depths and swallow the love. The more I tried to love, the more I just felt overwhelmed with bitter anger.

   This went on for several blocks until I heard a voice mournfully singing. I looked to find a man with thinning hair perched atop a stoop with an accordion. I stopped to listen.  This is what he sang:

                                         Take me....
                                              Take me...
                                       Take me back to the land
                                           that tore the iron curtain down

                                          Take me back to
                                              The salty air
                                                 and colorful houses

                                         Take me...
                                              Take me...
                                       Take me back
                                                  to Gdánsk

                                         Take me back to Gdánsk
                                    Sometimes Danzig
                                           but my darling city
                                             will always be only
                                                 Gdánsk for me

                                        Take me...
                                               Take me...
                                       back to Gdánsk
                                            my one true love

  I felt tears at the corners of my eyes. I slipped the few dollars from my pocket into his accordion case. He smiled and just shook his head sadly, as if to say this was a heartbreak that a plane ticket could never mend.

   The stars had begun to blot the blue out of the sky. I walked on, finding that the old man's song had blotted the anger out of my heart. I was left with only longing and love.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

San Fermin - Methuselah

  San Fermin is a large group with orchestrated songs from the mind of Ellis Ludwig-Leone. They have songs about modern love and mythology. The horns and voices and strings intertwine on each song to create these utterly beautiful things. Their song Methuselah is about a lost love and it references the character from the bible, Methuselah, who was said to be the oldest person ever at 969 years of age when the flood came.

San Fermin

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tokyo Police Club - Argentina (Parts I,II, III)

I've liked Tokyo Police Club since they came out with their EP, A Lesson in Crime, full of frenetic energy and post apocalyptic songs. Their two full lengths were each a bit different, with the initial freneticism of A Lesson in Crime lost for more thoughtful avenues. I think it was the summer of 2010 when my brother and I saw them, they were pretty damn great.

  They've released two singles from their forthcoming album, "Forcefield" available March 25th. One of those singles is this sprawling three-parter, Argentina. It contemplates how much love you can find in a life time, temporary relationships, falling asleep to to infomercials, and wondering what it'd be like to be a lighthouse. And for a video mainly comprised of the lyrics, I really really like it.

Tokyo Police Club
Argentina (Parts I, II, II)

video credits:
Directed by Jared Raab
Shot by Mike Mclaughlan
Produced by Matthew Miller
Production Assistance by Graham Wright and Earl Oliveros

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sleeper Agent - Waves

Sleeper Agent is a six piece group out of Bowling Green, Kentucky. They make stomp and clap along alt rock that sounds a bit like a mash up of Paramore and Rilo Kiley and something else entirely. They sound like summer nights. And it is great. You've got gang vocals, attitude, slightest of slight country tinges and synths to create an entirely upbeat sound.

   The video for their song Waves is mostly made up of inverted camera angles that can seem a bit dizzying. Though I found it to be entrancing. Hope you enjoy!

Sleeper Agent

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Wombats - Your Body is a Weapon

 The Wombats are a three piece indie rock band out of England full of energy, synths and lyrics about failed sleeping patterns, doomed crushes, and dancing to depressing 80's music. So, yes I love them. "Your Body is a Weapon" is a single off of their forthcoming, yet to be named third album. The music video is like a Schoolhouse Rock cartoon gone wrong, it's fantastic.

The Wombats
Your Body is a Weapon

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tired Pony - All Things at Once

  Tired Pony is a super group. I did not realize this when I first heard them, and originally thought it was a solo project with a unique name. Tired Pony is made up of Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Richard Colburn from Belle and Sebastian, Iain Archer a singer song-writer out of Northern Ireland, Peter Buck of R.E.M, Scott McCaughey from The Minus 5, and Troy Stewart. The band was formed in 2009 and just released their second album last year entitled "The Ghost of the Mountain". Their sound is somewhere between country, folk, 80's Sting and U2, but more than anything it is heartfelt and sorrow tinged.

Tired Pony
All Things at Once

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gotye - Bronte

  I really enjoyed the music videos that accompanied the songs from Gotye's 2011 album Making Mirrors. I featured a few of them here at the time. Bronte is one of the more solemn songs from the album, the characteristic large beats and percussion are mostly absent. Its a floating song with an animated video that feels sentimental and nostalgic, like a Miyazaki film; full of imagination and the feeling of leaving childhood behind all too quickly.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dale Earnhard Jr. Jr

  Hello, I've been away from the blog for awhile. But here I am. I would like to introduce you to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., yes that name is right/real. They are an indie-pop band out of Detroit, Michigan with some fairly dance-able catchy tracks. Checkout this one by them called "Run". Also quick warning, for possible nudity. I say possible because it might not be, but it looks like it is?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

52 Weeks of Books in 2013

  I read a lot of books this past year, 57 to be exact. I was doing the 52 book challenge for the second year in a row, the challenge is basically to read 1 book a week for the entirety of the year. I read some stunners and some that were just so-so. I traveled through history, across the galaxy, lived two life times in South East Asia, grew up with some characters, went to Japan, got chased by a killer, and chased some conspiracies. It was a wild ride for sure!

Here are the books I read this year, and then I'll say a little about a few of the stand-outs afterwards.

1.)  Best American Non-Req Reading 2012, Edited by Dave Eggers
2.) HHhH by Laurent Binet
3.) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
4.) The Dude and the Zen Master by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman
5.) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
6.) after dark by Haruki Murakami
7.) Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
8.) It Feels so Good When I Stop by Joe Pernice
9.) The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
10.) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
11.) Girl Walks into a Bar... by Rachel Dratch
12.) Lost at Sea - The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson
13.) The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
14.) The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
15.) Life, The Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
16.) So Long, And Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams
17.) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
18.) Shopgirl by Steve Martin
19.) The Magicians by Lev Grossman
20.) To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
21.) The Little Bookstore of Bigstone Gap by Wendy Welch
22.) Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
23.) When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
24.) Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
25.) Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
26.) Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
27.) Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
28.) The Writer Who Stayed by William Zissner
29.) The False Friend by Myla Goldberg
30.) Joyland by Stephen King
31.) Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
32.) Something to Remember You By, Gene Wilder
33.) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
34.) Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
35.) Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
36.) Fearless by Cornelia Funke
37.) Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
38.) I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
39.) A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
40.) Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen
41.) Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
42.) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
43.) Call for the Dead by John Le Carré
44.) Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
45.) How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
46.) Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
47.) Forgive me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
48.) Runaway by Alice Munro
49.) Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner
50.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
51.) The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
52.) Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
53.) A Monster Calls Patrick Ness
54.) The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
55.) Love, Dishonor, Marry, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff
56.) Imagination in Place by Wendell Berry
57.)The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson

                                                HHhH   by Laurent Binet

                              HHhH or Himmlers Hirn Heisst Heydrich, which translates to "Himmler's brain is Heydrich", is a novel about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during WW II. It is a book about history, about the author's process of writing, and a commentary on how history is perceived and recorded. I thoroughly enjoyed and was moved by this one.

                                      A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

                         A beautifully/uniquely illustrated book that looks at nightmares, stories and impending loss. Short, powerful and never pulls a punch.

                                 I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman

                     Klosterman, a writer who previously looked at entertainment and pop culture such as The Real World and showed how it was a metaphor for society, now takes on Evil. Klosterman sets out in this essay collection to answer two questions: a) what is the nature/benefit of doing evil? b) Is he, Chuck Klosterman, evil? I really like this one, he makes some good points and talks about good and evil using pop culture and a real life vigilante that maybe wasn't very heroic at all.

                                The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

             Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I was very excited about this new novel. It is short, not even two hundred pages. Gaiman is indeed a master story teller, this is a modern fairy tale, a coming of age story and scary.

                              Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

          This book has it all, and by all I mean astronauts, a woman with alopecia, autism, a love story and well...I guess that's about it, but I mean don't those sound like disparate things to all be in the same book? You should read it to find how they fit together!

                                  Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

     Maria Semple wrote one of the funniest books that I read this year, which is not surprising since she is a former writer for Arrested Development. A book about an increasingly agoraphobic mother, a daughter who just wants to go to Antarctica and an oblivious father concerned with his project at Microsoft.

                                   To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

           The best book about time travel and strict Victorian society that you will ever read. And the dog is probably the best character!
                           Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

            The Shambling Guide was one of my favorite books I read this summer. A woman gets an editing job, the problem is she is the only human at a work place of the undead. Now you might be thinking, but I don't want to read Twilight! Good, I don't either. Mur Lafferty writes a book that makes you want to travel, makes you wan to see New York City and takes modern fantasy seriously. Where do out of town zombies stay? What's the best succubus bar in town?

                                   Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

                   The time is early 2001, our protagonist is a mother of two with a decertified Fraud investigation business and a separated husband sets out to make sense of more than a few conspiracies after the collapse of the Dot-Com bubble. In spite of a novel that features 9/11 this is Pynchon at his most optimistic I would say. Dizzying with mysteries and full of pop culture references, I never thought I would see Thomas Pynchon mention Dragon Ball Z in a book.

I enjoyed almost all of the books this year, but that's just an idea of some of what I read. You'll just have to check out the others on your own. Also gonna put out my best music of 2013 later this week. Stay tuned!