Monday, September 26, 2011

Graduation Day

Hi! This blog has officially moved to a new home with a new name, and even a new entry! Wow!

You will find brand new material (and all the old entries and comments, too) here:

Please add the new site to your RSS or Follow it or whatever it is you kids do these days. I apologize if there's an automated way to do this and I don't know about it.

Thanks for reading!

Read the rest of this entry...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The latest and greatest season mix

"Almost Anything" - Spring 2011

1. Friendly Fires - Live Those Days Tonight
2. My Morning Jacket - Holdin' on to Black Metal
3. Here We Go Magic - Hands in the Sky
4. Dodos - Good
5. Beastie Boys ft. Nas - Too Many Rappers
6. Land of Talk - Hamburg, Noon
7. Tune-Yards - Bizness
8. LCD Soundsystem - Pow Pow
9. Wild Nothing - Chinatown
10. The Mountain Goats - Estate Sale Sign
11. Junip - In Every Direction
12. TV on the Radio - Will Do
13. Peter, Bjorn and John - (Don't Let Them) Cool Off
14. !!! - Heart of Hearts
15. Radiohead - Codex
16. Panda Bear - Afterburner
17. Fleet Foxes - Grown Ocean


-This was a tough one to put together because there were a LOT of close calls. I would've loved to include Crystal Stilts' "Through the Floor", Battles' "Futura", and Iron & Wine's "Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me", but a CD's only 80 minutes.

-Also Fleet Foxes' "The Shrine/An Argument", which I have the clearest memory of from seeing their concert in May. Awesome show and awesome song, but it was just too long for the mix, and "Grown Ocean" is no slouch at all (the more I think about it, the more it feels like my favorite song on the new album).

-"Pow Pow" is supposedly the last song LCD Soundsystem ever made, so it feels like a fitting representation of the season that saw the band bid us farewell. (Too bad it wasn't actually played at their farewell show, but oh well.) Speaking of, I never got around to writing up a blog entry about the retirement of one of my all-time favorite bands - and experiencing their last show via webcast in a house full of friends - but maybe I'll get around to that at some point.

-John Darnielle does righteous anger better than just about anyone, and I'm not saying this was an angry season for me (could've been, but wasn't), but you can't help but get swept up in his enthusiasm on songs like "Estate Sale Sign". Darnielle sounds more alive here than he has in a good while, and the rest of All Eternals Deck is pretty great, too. Also: Pomona gets another shout out!

-Junip is the new band of Jose Gonzalez - who everyone in the world except me is already familiar with, I think. The production alone on this album, and this song especially, is just incredible. There aren't many albums that make you feel like you're in the room with the dudes while they're playing, but this is one. Now I have to go out and track down Gonzalez's other work, too.

-I dunno if it's a happy accident or I'm just that awesome, but a lot of the transitions just KILL on here. "Good" into "Too Many Rappers" shouldn't work nearly as well as it does, and the fade from "Codex" to "Afterburner" feels sublime to me. Overall I think this is one of my best sequencing jobs yet, so allow me to pat myself on the back.

Read the rest of this entry...

Friday, April 8, 2011

In the great bus ride of life, there is no brake pedal

this is a thumbnail experiment.
I recommend that you click the comic to read it at the widescreen jumbo-size in which it was intended to be seen! Whoa!

Read the rest of this entry...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Frequently Avoided Answers

I'm just too busy catching up on my DVR, you know how it is

Read the rest of this entry...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yep, still doing these.

"All Best Guesses" - Winter 2010/2011

1. Grouplove - Don't Say Oh Well
2. !!! - All My Heroes are Weirdos
3. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Home
4. Circulatory System - Overjoyed
5. Cut Copy - Where I'm Going
6. Peter, Bjorn & John - Second Chance
7. Kanye West - All of the Lights
8. The Chemical Brothers - Swoon
9. Wolf Parade - Cave-O-Sapien
10. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Round and Round
11. Smith Westerns - Weekend
12. Vampire Weekend - Holiday
13. Iron & Wine - Rabbit Will Run
14. The Go! Team - Buy Nothing Day
15. Deerhunter - Fountain Stairs
16. Donovan - Season of the Witch
17. Sufjan Stevens - I Want to Be Well
18. Oh No Oh My - Summerdays

(Who knows how long any of these links will last, so listen early, listen often)

Read the rest of this entry...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The End of the Neon Meate Dream

Whatever you may think about SPIN Magazine, a little over a decade ago it was solely responsible for introducing me to Captain Beefheart.

Back when most websites had MIDI soundtracks and ugly wallpaper best viewed with Netscape Navigator, the blog culture hadn't yet developed and magazines were basically the best way to keep up with the culture of music. Or at least, they were the best way for young turks like me, voracious readers and anxious learners just discovering the world of music beyond the mainstream.

One month, nestled between articles on the new exploits of Christina Aguilera and the Beastie Boys and whoever else was a curious piece on a man who hadn't released a record in nearly twenty years. His name was Captain Beefheart. He looked nothing like anyone else in the magazine, and the article went to great lengths to explain how his music sounded like nobody else's, either. It explored the early years of his career, his spark of popularity, and then his retreat into the California desert, severing all ties with the music industry. Though he had spent nearly two decades as a recluse and many of his albums were difficult to find, his wildly experimental concoction of blues, folk and rock continued to inspire artists to that day. And the album widely regraded to be his masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica, had just been re-released.

For a culturally suffocated midwestern teenager like me, looking for anything at all to help separate myself from the Abercrombie-clad high school herd, desperately if need be, this was like discovering the holy grail. I found a copy of Replica and purchased it sight unseen (no small feat for me; in those poor days, I would heavily vet every album at Streetside Records' listening station before purchase). I took it home and put it on, listening with a half-frown because parts of it were so jarring, but also with a half-smile because I was prepared. This was an album I knew I would not love on first listen; it would require some effort from me, but it would be worth it in the end. I reminded myself that, according to the article, this was the all-time favorite album of Matt Groening, of all people.

I listened to it over and over again. I played it for my friends, and I even played it for my parents. I wrote a five-star review of the album in my high-school newspaper. I don't remember specifically how I described his sound, but I'm pretty sure I quoted "Fast and bulbous!" somewhere in there. And I took immense pleasure in playing the album for the rest of the newspaper staff, a grin both wicked and smug plastered to my face when my fellow teenagers cringed or yelled "turn it off!" or "this is terrible!" or just left the room.

I rarely made it all the way to the end of the album. 28 tracks of Captain Beefheart was a little much even for me, but that didn't really matter. I considered picking up other albums like Safe as Milk, but still being a neophyte (and, frankly, an idiot kid) when it came to music, I had figured everything else could only be a diluted form of Replica, so I passed. At that time, though, those were only details. I had found a brash badge of individuality and I did not hesitate to show it off. And I was beginning to realize, too, that you could appreciate music without always wanting to listen to it: this music, so intensely honest and unflinchingly enthusiastic, most definitely had its time and place.

I was also really proud when one of my friends purchased The Spotlight Kid of his own volition. To me, still, there are few better things in life than knowing you've helped someone discover a new favorite artist.

I went off to college and began working as a DJ at the radio station, quickly finding myself surrounded by like-minded individuals who were far more versed in indie rock than I. And anyone can tell you that a group of liberal art school hipsters can get pretty insufferable: their codes of necessary knowledge and aloofness are as strict as anything they loudly rebel against. So while I came in not knowing Merge from Matador or Ian Curtis from Ian MacKaye, I did possess one unshakable piece of indie capital in the form of Mr. Beefheart. Our fiercely underground library included most of his albums - all on vinyl, of course - so I played him on my show whenever I could.

Eventually I realized that my show needed a name, and I settled on "Captain Beefheart Rides Again". That meant (to me, a least) that I had to play at least one Beefheart song per show. It was a shtick, but one I was more than happy to repeat. Usually I played songs I knew from Replica, but I would branch out every now and then, too. One day I finally dug out the vinyl copy of Ice Cream for Crow, Beefheart's final studio album, and played the title track. It was my virgin listen, and I was as curious and confused by it as the first time I had heard any other Beefheart song. It was ramshackle crazy, its blind enthusiasm unspooling at speeds almost impossible to conceive. Even his voice sounded more surreal than usual. But this is what I should have expected from the man, I thought: the unexpected. Always.

Then the phone rang. I picked it up; it was a listener.

"Slow it down, man!" He bellowed.

"Uh, what?" I thought for a moment that this was his way of saying I was playing so much great music that he could barely handle it.

"The record, man!" He said. "You're playing it too fast!"

I looked at the record player: it was at 45 RPM. I switched it to 33 RPM, and the hyper jamming slowed to a dirty, bluesy stomp, Beefheart's signature howl now as deep as I remembered it.

"Oh shit," I said, and thanked the listener.

But I regretted fixing the RPM in the middle of the song. In some ways, it felt like it would have been more appropriate to let it run at the same crazy speed. For Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, there almost seemed to be no one right way to play a song, or sing, or even maintain a rhythm. Theirs was the sound of ultimate musical freedom, with all the highs and lows and rushes of inspiration and quagmires of confusion that come with it.

After college, I listened to Captain Beefheart less and less frequently, and eventually stopped altogether. Too much time spent keeping up with the music culture and its symbiotic relationship with the blogosphere. SPIN magazine continues to this day, though I haven't read it in years. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to get an editor to sign off on a Captain Beefheart article back in the late 90s, but I hope they're continuing to take those risks. It's one of the only articles I still remember from that era.

Captain Beefheart's real name was Don Van Vliet. He passed away yesterday, at the age of 69.

The more I think back on my minor obsession with the man's music, the more I realize I didn't really understand much of it at all. But that's partly the point, I think. With that unique authorial voice, that singular outlook which inspired such a daring and unforgettable body of work, any of us would be hard-pressed to say that we truly understood a man who began his career with Frank Zappa and ended it in the desolation of the Mojave.

My familiarity with his work didn't end up being as encyclopedic or everlasting as I thought it would, but Van Vliet still had an undeniable effect on my musical tastes, strengthened my appetite for experimental art, and helped show me the endless possibilities that creativity can offer beyond the measured pleasures and well-trod roads of most other artists.

If I had ever been able to meet the man, I would have liked to thank him for that.

Read the rest of this entry...

Monday, December 13, 2010

This Fall (but without The Fall)

"I'll Sleep When I'm Rich" - Fall 2010

1. Pavement - Box Elder
2. Crystal Stilts - Shake the Shackles
3. Kanye West - Power
4. Shit Robot - Take 'em Up
5. Of Montreal - Enemy Gene
6. Sufjan Stevens - Get Real Get Right
7. Sleigh Bells - Straight A's
8. Hot Chip - Hand Me Down Your Love
9. LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean
10. Klaxons - Echoes
11. No Age - Glitter
12. Tokyo Police Club - Bambi
13. Caribou (Manitoba technically) - Skunks
14. Land of Talk - Goaltime Exposure
15. Les Savy Fav - Yawn, Yawn, Yawn
16. The New Pornographers - Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
17. Los Campesinos! - You'll Need Those Fingers for Crossing
18. Arcade Fire - Suburban War

For lack of time and interest in discussing every single song, select annotations below!

-A few years back, I would have killed to see Pavement in concert. And now I've seen them twice in one year, which feels weird, in retrospect. Partly because I was a little underwhelmed the first time I saw them, and kind of apathetic about the second show. Not that they sounded bad; just very ramshackle and lo-fi, which is really how they should sound live, I guess. Both venues I saw them at (Coachella main stage and, worse, the Hollywood Bowl) were way too big for their "just a bunch of dudes" charm - something like the Henry Fonda or (yeah, right) The Echoplex would have been perfect. But I end up feeling like that about most indie rock acts I see at the Bowl, so...who knows. At any rate, "Box Elder" was not a song they played, but is one that I really hoped they would play, so here it is.

-Again on the concert train, I have an Of Montreal song up partially for the Halloween show I attended (and partially because its themes are similar to a script I'm working on right now), but just realized I forgot to include a Janelle Monae song, too. Whoops. Maybe that'll go on the deluxe re-issue 10 years from now. At least this one half-counts.

-Sufjan Stevens is an interesting case. I wasn't really a fan of his, I guess, "singery-songwritery pleasantness" on previous albums (whether that was true or just my perception of him), but his new work, at least since his Dark Was the Night offering "You Are the Blood", has gotten pretty nuts, and "Get Real Get Right" is a pretty perfect example, overstuffed with nervous strings, impending-doom horns and dizzying vocal acrobatics that grab you by the ears and demand your attention. I also realized after maybe a dozen listens that the song has a Christian overtone that's pretty blatant once it's uncovered, but - I can relate to the idea of needing to get your shit together for whatever reason, religious or otherwise. So, many reasons to include it here.

-The Sleigh Bells/Hot Chip/LCD progression is a pretty blatant chronological snapshot of their awesome Hollywood Bowl show a few months back - one of my favorite concerts in recent memory (and maybe of all time). "Straight A's" as a song is about as loud and brief an encapsulation of Sleigh Bells' set as possible, and "Hand Me Down Your Love" is, well, one of the few Hot Chip songs I haven't put on a mix yet. "Dance Yrself Clean" was the first song LCD played, and it immediately knocked me for a loop: I never expected them to play that song, and it signaled the beginning of a show full of awesome surprises, focusing on the best parts of This is Happening with some welcome throwbacks to the band's first singles. And unlike bands I mentioned earlier, LCD is completely wired to play gigantic venues; they play with such force and enthusiasm that they can't help but envelop even the sprawling Hollywood Bowl. Did I mention I was in the fourth row? Yeah, it was a great concert.

-I've been listening to a lot of Caribou lately, but honestly had no clear frontrunner to symbolize this. I feel like a lot of his music works better in album form than individual tracks - I've had Swim on heavy rotation for months, but I'd be hard-pressed to list my three favorite tracks from it. But I've really appreciated "Skunks" for a long time, all the way back to 2003 when Caribou was Manitoba, so it felt as appropriate as anything else.

-Another one of my favorite albums from this year, still, is Romance is Boring, but the Los Campesinos! track this season is from 2008's We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, a strange 2008 release following the band's smash debut album earlier that year. It really is LC!'s Amnesiac, overall not as strong as the album released months prior, but it does feature some of the band's best tracks, from "Ways to Make it Through the Wall" to the title track to the one on this very mix, "You'll Need Those Fingers for Crossing". One of the few LC! songs that's a definite grower, this one is less about Gareth's tragicomic character sketches and sugary mixed-gender shoutalongs than it is about the band's secret weapon, multi-instrumentalist Tom Campesinos!, whose melodies keep the songs together when all else seems seconds from bursting at the seams. Even if the song wavers into melodrama occasionally, it's an easy flaw to forgive every time that soaring guitar chorus washes everything else away.

-The Arcade Fire track here was very nearly "We Used to Wait" - and it's tough, when I'm considering a track that got really big and popular and possibly over-played during that season. The hipster part of me says "fuck it, dude, you missed the boat, now it's cliche and you won't even want to hear it again for a long time", while the realist part says "fuck you, dude, you can't pretend you don't sometimes discover a song at the same time as everyone else." And then they fight for a while, until a third part of me shows up and says "uh, dude, it's all about what the song says to you, not anyone else." And this third part is always right. So, whether I missed the boat on "We Used to Wait" or not, here's "Suburban War", another in a long line of Arcade Fire tracks that seems permanently relevant to me and, I'm sure, to a lot of you.

Read the rest of this entry...