Tuesday, April 28

We Can't Read Poetry

So I have to give a presentation on Yeats in about an hour and a half. I’m looking forward to it. I knew he would be someone I’d like: angry, drunk, Irish… sign me up, right? I now understand why everyone like him though. Wow, even the crappy early stuff about fairies is entertaining. I particularly like “Sailing to Byzantium,” “Easter, 1916” and “”Second Coming.” Wish me luck with the thing.

I was hanging out with Mike on Saturday and got tons of new music, which was awesome. I also drank way too much for the first time in a while. Strangely I was sick the day after and not the night of, which has never happened to me before. Scotch and soda, you are a cruel mistress. Seriously, they incapacitated me for all of Sunday.

Nando and I watched “How I Met Your Mother” on Friday. He too has caught the horrible disease. I mean… CBS… really!?!? It’s just so damn entertaining. They banter well; it doesn’t seem forced like in so many sitcoms these days. It isn’t just actors waiting to say their next line. I’m not trying to defend it… I just think if you were to try and justify watching it in your head that would be a good point to make.

On the new music front (which does not include the old hardcore and emo stuff Mike and I got this weekend) I have a few notable finds, but I’ll try and keep it brief, just one quick one before I go:

Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health (Album)
Great band, fun album, cool artwork, sentimental rocker songs (not rock going sentimental, rock that happens to be sentimental, there’s a fine distinction but an important one). They’ve got an all-over-the-place sound that I have been digging lately but they keep it from getting stale or too over-the-top. Four out of five stars…

Listening to “Niagara Falls” by Harlem Shakes, the title of this post is brought to you by Piebald, from Barely Legal/All Ages. The picture is from a couple days ago outside McKeldin Library, I put it in as I am enjoying this taste of summer a lot right now.

Thursday, April 23

Don't Talk About My Music

So Elizabeth told me about this thing: you gather up the twenty-five most important albums of your life and turn this list over to your peers. I guess so they can see what it is you listened to when you didn’t know them.

I’m going to try and do that here, if only because I’m bored and feel like making a list. I think the result will be rather strange. I entirely dropped the person that I was when I went away to school. It was a reinvention but because I went away with four good friends who I hung out with all the time and who call me on my bullshit it didn’t quite work as completely as one might have expected. There are also some truly embarrassing moments here. Please remember that I went through most of my early musical development in a white-breed cultural wasteland.

Anway… here is the list in chronological order as best I can remember (autobiographic not release date):

1.) Genesis – The Best of Genesis
I can remember dancing around to this while my parents cleaned the house in the summer. I was maybe five. I would make them play it over and over again until I was too tired to move anymore. Phil Collins is a genius.

2.) Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
This was the other CD I thought worth busting a move to while they cleaned up. I can still vogue with the best of them.

3.) Elton John – Mad Man Across the Water
“Indian Summer” was the first song that I actually listened to for lyrical content. The music had been around for a while but I think I was seven and suddenly realized that there was a story to the song. I believe this is why I love “Dances with Wolves” as much as I do. And you can’t beat the line: “The New York Times said God was dead, and the war’s begun, Alvin Tosteg has a son today!”

4.) Moody Blues – Moody Blues Greatest Hits
My mom was a huge fan and I really like the sound of violin mixed with pop music. Why she never played me more Beatles when I was little I’ll never understand but this was my first foray into “classic rock.”

5.) Enya – In Memory of Trees
My mom bought this CD for my dad thinking that it had the radio hit “Sail Away” on it. When it turned out that it didn’t contain the single I started playing it. The first three songs still make me feel like I’m eight.

6.) Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I got my first CD player for Christmas in 3rd grade. I had begged my parents for it since October (when my cousin Terri got her Walkman). The huge 3 CD boom box was awesome but I had no CDs of my own to play. I had recently been allowed to start listening to DC101 (though not in to morning since my mom objected to Elliot’s crude humor) and “Bullets with Butterfly Wings” was everywhere. I thought I sounded awesome and heavy so I asked to go to Tower Records and a sales clerk helped me find the CD. Two discs of mind blowing music later I was sold on the whole grunge thing. I must admit that I also bought the Lisa Loeb debut album and Weird Al Yankovic at the same time but still I think I get points for liking the Pumpkins at age eight.

7.) Green Day - Insomniac
“Basketcase” from Dookie was all over my school in 5th grade so on another trip to Tower (man, I miss that place) I looked for it. All they had was the new release, “Insomniac” so instead of leaving empty handed I went for it. I couldn’t believe how weird it was but I thought it was awesome anyway. “Babs Uvula Who” is a great name for a song… Still one of my favorite punk records.

8.) A Perfect Circle – Mer De Noms
A Perfect Circle was the first band I was truly obsessed with. I bought this CD because I liked “Judith” in (I think) 7th grade. I listened to it non stop. “3 Libras,” “Sleeping Beauty,” all of them. For a kid who thought he was never going to kiss a girl APC was full of the longing and lonely anger that I craved. I still think it has some great orchestration.

9.) Lincoln Park – Hybrid Theory
There is no accounting for this radical shift from grunge to rap-metal, I can only say that it was on the radio a lot and I thought it sounded angry, which at 13, seemed a prerequisite for my music—the longing sadness having turned to being pissed off at the world.

10.) Bush – Sixteenstone
I had, without my knowledge, been listening to Bush for a long while on the radio. When I finally figured out how many singles this CD had on it that I loved I bought it sophomore year. I could not stop listening to it, on road trips that summer, on my new portable CD player, everywhere. “Glycerin” is such an amazing song.

11.) Jimmy Eat World – Bleed America
My first “discovery.” I was watching MTV late one night and an ad came on for the Real World or something and I liked the song that played in the background. Well the ad kept on popping up and the song had this catchy guitar and plaintive vocals. I finally looked up what it was on the internet and bought this the next day. I’m still in love with this album.

12.) Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
My friends in high school listened mostly to techno. I didn’t put any of that on here because it was all via mixes one of them made. Drew (the mixologist) also burned me a copy of this since I was Irish and he thought I would like it. I did… a lot! These guys are still the only band I’ve seen more than twice.

13.) Brand New – Deja Entrendue
While I could try and play this one off like I did Lincoln Park (damn you Shinoda!!!) I stand by this. I bought it my junior year and I credit it and Jimmy Eat World for my love of emo. Without “I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” I’m not sure if I would have been ready for Braid or the Get Up Kids… “Sic Transit Gloria” is also the encapsulation of how I left about girls. I can still remember singing it at the top of my lungs with John Hogan after we had taken over the music one night at a party in St. Mary’s. Good times.

14.) International Noise Conspiracy – A New Morning
Jimmy Streeter threw this at me while we were looking in a record store one afternoon and said: “Hey bitch, this looks like something you would like.” He was very right. Lyrics about philosophy, Guy Debord and breaking the system… I hearted anarchy.

15.) The Clash – London Calling
Senior year saw some pretty big changes in my listening. The ground work had been laid by INC, Brand New, Flogging Molly and Jimmy Eat World in the preceding two years but it wasn’t until someone, and I can’t remember who, told me I might like The Clash that it really happened for me. I bought London Calling and was converted. Everything from “Lost in the Supermarket” to “Hateful” to “Spanish Bombs” blew my mind. I went on to The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Stiff Fingers, all of it but The Clash was my first true punk rock love (despite loving Flogging Molly they can’t qualify as my first since punk died in 1981).

16.) The Mars Volta – De-Loused In The Comatorium
Watching music videos on Yahoo one day this band came up as a suggestion based on what I was watching before. The song was strange, the singer’s voice was too high-pitched and I couldn’t figure out if the lyrics were awesome or too pretentious even for me. Having listened to the album probably a gazzilion times since that fateful day the music is strange, the singer is too whiny and the lyrics border on un-listenable. But I learned of At The Drive-In because of it and when I told Mike Musser that I liked them a lot he told me of the wonderful world of GSL (which the band members had partial stake in). For that I’m eternally indebted.

17.) Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Here we being the story of my collegiate music experience. It was just another night at St. Mary’s and had climbed up to the third floor of Caroline dormitory to partake in 40s Forties night, in which we dressed up like we were from the 1940s and drank Old English forties. I met Mike that night as he hit on my then girlfriend’s roommate. He made an off hand joke about Joy Division I went back to my room and found it on the network of shared music and have never been the same since. I later claimed that I knew about Ian Curtis and Martin Hannet’s production and all of it before I had come to college but that was me trying to be cool. I sat and listened to Unknown Pleasures all the way through that night and cried my eyes out while the world seemed to crumble around me. (Side note: that was not the first or last time that forties made me emotionally unstable… its worse than red wine)

18.) Party of Helicopters – Please Believe It
As Mike took me under his musical wing the first thing I picked up and really liked was this band. “Good Punk” really spoke to me. I wanted to be all the things I thought a punk should be but couldn’t get behind the fashion. “They’ve got a unicorn on the album over, but I think I’ve been a good punk” was how I made peace with myself.

19.) Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles
That scream in “I Luv the Valley, OH!” haunts my dreams still. “Brian the Vampire” still makes me shake uncontrollably when I hear it sometimes. Xiu Xiu was the most out-there thing I had ever heard but when Mike played it for me and Ricardo at 3am one morning after long bouts of drinking and talking I just got quiet. It reminds me more than anything else of St. Mary’s.

20.) Her Space Holiday – Manic Expressive
When I left St. Mary’s I had fully expected never to see any of my friends ever again but Mike called me up one day and we hung out and he played this for me. I credit “Ringing in My Ears” for getting me through the depression that went along with getting kicked out of school, even though Manic Expressive is maybe one of the most depressing albums ever.

21.) Indian Summer – Science: 1994
I had enjoyed “Angry Son” when it was shown to me freshman year but it took until the Autumn of 2005 for me to figure out that this was among my top 5 all time favorite albums. The blues sample, the crescendo, Indian Summer is why I’m an emo kid.

22.) The Locust – Plague Soundscapes
They are Mike’s favorite band but it wasn’t until I was making fun of them with Shah one night out on the town in 2006 that I really gave them a chance. I went home and played the 23 minute cluster-fuck of an album twice. My head spun, my ears hurt but I liked it. I got, at long last, what Mike saw in them. It isn’t for everyday listening but I love the Locust!

23.) Braid – Frame & Canvas
I can’t really describe how it was that this came into my life. It took me a while but when it happened I was not the same after. It is my favorite album.

24.) My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
See the very first blog post I made on this site for my introduction to My Bloody Valentine. I am fairly sure this is number 2 on the list of all time favorites.

25.) Orchid – Gatefold
Number three. Every song should be a radio single. This is bar rock for kids with white belts. I have never heard lyrics like these. I’ve never wanted to start a band more than when I first heard this record. “Sex sells more records than rock / So let’s fuck and forget / The background hum.” “Buy a book / Read up / I’m on every page.” “And in 1999 all the kids stood in line / And our party’s a bore / And we don’t care / We’ll take Brooklyn over Manhattan any day of the week / Our party’s mystique will be our capability to think.” I get weak in the knees.

So that took too long. I told way too many stories. I had fun though. There is something deeply satisfying about taking stock of your life. For me, my life since turning 16 has been about music. Making this list and listening to all these records again (yes, even Lincoln Park… and I still can’t figure that one out) was like seeing the spot on the wall where your parents would measure how tall you were getting. I’m not saying it was a linear journey but at almost 23 these songs are my lines on the wall—there for all to see how I’ve changed.

The post title is from The Violent Femmes off Viva Wisconsin (Live), and you should feel free to talk about my music... I just thought it worked well as a title.

Monday, April 20

End the Washington Monument (Blinks) Goodnight

Things have been better. End of the semester blues times 10. And it’s pouring outside. Is there such a thing as reverse seasonal depression? I think I just want it to be nice outside so I have a better excuse to go outside and avoid work.

Speaking of which: I went to Baltimore this weekend. That was fun. Mike and I have a music-and-scotch night set aside sometime soon. Though those tend to make me depressed too. Emo kids should not keep the company of other Emo kids, especially when it involves rare Joy Division live recordings. I shaved my beard too. It feels very strange.

I’ve become obsessed with this insipid sitcom from CBS called “How I Met Your Mother.” Its terrible escapism but I’ve been entertained. I can’t say I recommend it for watching but thought you all should know what I’ve been up to.

I do recommend for all the other Spring-time funk dwellers out there: the Silversun Pickup’s new album “Swoon,” the new Peter Bjorn & John album, and the first EP from Mumford & Son. Fuzzed out guitar, minimalist pop and sad banjo music are good for remaining in your bed longer than you have since you were 13.

Favorite lyrics? I’m so glad you asked!

Swoon: “What’s keeping my tounge tied? / I see you when you roll your eyes.” (Sort Of)

PB&J: If you have problems, why don't you go solve them? / At least you wont be so out of touch /
If your a poet, why don't you lift your tong and show it? (Nothing to Worry About)

Mumford & Sons: “Take all the courage you have felt. Waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head.”

Looks like tomorrow so I’ll say good night.

Post from Q and not U

Wednesday, April 1

Something Good

Long time no talk, Interwebs. I’ve been busy lately and that makes me a bad blogger. What’s new, right?

The month of March has been really quite good. Last weekend Elizabeth and I went down to Charlotte, NC to see her family. Her brother is buying a house and her dad was there on business. The rainy drive down on Thursday was rough but there weren’t many people on the road. We got in late Thursday night and went to bed. After getting ready late Friday morning we went to the big mall, in what I think is a neighborhood called Southpark. That might just be the road. Let me tell you, Interwebs, it was the nicest mall I’ve ever been to. Megan (Elizabeth’s sister-in-law) had said that the mall “doesn’t mess around” so I figured it would be nice but wow. It puts Tyson’s Corner (the previous holder of the nicest mall award) to shame. Palatial is really the only I can describe it. If there we a temple built to worship consumerism I would highly recommend they find the architect that did this place.

Even the Cheesecake Factory there was staggering. Vaulted ceilings, huge columns and delicious avocado spring rolls… Friday night we went to a local bar for dinner and I had me first real Carolina barbeque. I’m not a big fan of pork or BBQ sauce but the brisket I got was fantastic. When we got back to Jim and Megan’s house they broke out Rock Band 2 for wii. I’m in love with the game. Character customization has been taken to new highs.

Saturday we had another fantastic meal at Zinc in the uptown (which is where their downtown is) and saw Duplicity at this insane nightclub/theater that had lounge chairs instead of seats. The movie was great, a lot of fun, and had pacing and tone similar to Ocean’s 11 (or 12 or 13, though 11 is my favorite). I also bought a pair of bright blue skinny jeans at Ross (one of two in Charlotte, and we went to both). This was earlier in the day. Before that we saw the new house, a charming craftsman style in an up-and-coming part of the city. There was also a delicious brunch.

We left Sunday and made great time back to DC (going 90 most of the way back helped with that) and you couldn’t ask for better weather. I may have missed the Say Hi show at The Black Cat on Thursday but it was worth it to get out of town for a while.

The upcoming weekend is family-filled too, though this time its mine. Saturday is the papa bear’s 56th b-day and Sunday is Jackson’s 1st. Hopefully it won’t be too painful to spend all that quality time with the people I’m related to, fingers crossed.

The week before was Spring Break, which was sad. A guy I went to school with passed away. I was nice to see some many people from the class come to the funeral. A lot of us went out to a bar the day after to have a drink and raise a glass to the dead. Strange how easy it is to fall back into the same group of people after so long. It seems wrong that we had to be reunited under such circumstances but I’m glad I got see all of them again.

The New Stuff playlist is hot off the presses and April looks good to me. Neon Gold brought me “Your Four Limbs” by Kurran & The Wolfnotes, a haunting voice set on top of a tap-tap-tapping drum and acoustic guitars sings “did you feel the burn, did you, baby?” and later “and how I’d love to assist the burning that rushes to your hips as I turn to dust in the blink of an eye.” Yeah, it’s really good. “Happy Valentine’s Day” by Dishwasher is ill timed but amazing. The lyrics are just “Do You Want To Dance?” by Bobby Freeman but the minimalist instrumentation backing it up and the sound of the voice come together and make it more than just another cover. The coda is a sample from Charlie Brown, I think, in which Charles hopes for a Valentine’s Day card from the Little Red-Headed Girl but is too afraid to check the mail box. Who can’t relate to Charlie Brown? Or at least to Snoopy?

“Optimist vs. The Silent Alarm (When The Saints Go Marching In)” by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is another highlight. The story in it, one of bank heists, get-away car chases and being on the lam has never sounded so bitter sweet. “Spieltier” by Emperor X is a mid-tempo barn-burner if ever there was. It sounds like driving fast in the country on a summer night with the top down and fireflies whirling around your head. Their other song, “A Violent Translation of the Concordia Headscarp” sounds like that too. Check them out at Said the Gramophone.

Morrissey has a new(ish) release out and “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” has this catchy guitar riff that I can’t seem to get out of my head. I’m a little hit or miss on Morrissey’s more recent solo career. This sounds like something he wrote circa Bona Drag… I may need to get the new album. “Brainiac’s Daoughter” by The Dukes of Stratosphear is a curiosity. I sounds like the Beatles. No check that, it doesn’t just sounds like the Beatles, it sounds like these guys are plagiarizing the Beatles. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a lot of respect for anybody who can replicate that level of pop goodness and I think this song is great, Dr. Dog has the same quality (though in a Revolver-era way as apposed to this more white album-era feel).

Lastly, Peter, Bjorn & John have a new album out called Living Thing. I got two tracks from it: “Nothing to Worry About” and “Just the Past.” The first is just as catchy and fun as anything of Writer’s Bloc. There’s a children’s choir (or at least some high pitched back-up singers that sound like kids) on the chorus and a groove that will be perfect for hot days and lounging in the near future. “Just the Past” is a slower number. It’s sweet at first but not saccharine. Its minimal but well arranged. There is just something about it that bores me. Only a little, it’s a good track, I think it will grow on me. I hope the new album favors “Nothing to Worry About” though, as it seems to be as immediate a hit as “Young Folks” was all the way back in 2006 (has it really been that long?!).

There are a few more to talk about but I’ll give you time to digest these musical morsels before I heap another generous portion of random songs and new releases at you.

Listening to “The Reeling” by Passion Pit (from the forthcoming LP Manners), the post title is a song by Red River from Grassblades.