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Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Sunday

Steve Largent's Seahawks will beat the Pats 27-17.  

Winter's cold has gripped the Northeast and seems poised to hang on for a while.  February is upon us.  A short, but cruel month.  Valentine's Day is here to remind us that you are doing it wrong, if you are doing it at all.

A bloated Super Bowl awaits us this weekend.  The past few weeks have reminded us how our proud game is nothing more than the WWE with helmets.  We now have "deflate-gate" in our collective heads.

In Paris they march a million strong to support each other against the threat of terrorism.  We worry about how much air we have in our balls.

Never mind the combatants beat each other for 60 minutes with lasting health consequences.  And lest we forget the violence that takes place off the field.

Its been a rough year for the NFL.  However you can bet (which they love by the way) that they will record record profits for the year 2014.

As harsh and ugly the sport, and more specifically the folks that oversee it (yes, you Mr Goodell), you can bet we will have a blast at my Super Bowl Party this Sunday.

Maybe it is the diversion we all need.  Just wish it was a little more civilized.

How long until we are all cheering for someone like Jason from Rollerball.  And I am talking about the James Caan film too- I refuse to accept a re-boot.

The Academy Awards are a nice diversion too.  My colleague Doc S wrote a nice piece about Best Pic Nom American Sniper you can read here.  What of all the controversy over the protagonist Chris Kile.  Seems like more folks thought Henry Hill was a more likable chap than this accomplished soldier.  Its war people- there are a lot of gray areas- and you don't have to like it all.  Speaks again to how we are incapable of hearing, or more specifically understanding contrary opinions.

There were days, not long ago, I would have seen all the nominees.  Ever since they went to 20 nominations, or whatever the hell it is, it has been tough.

Hollywood has an editing problem, so the bloated nominations fit in nicely.

I know Doc S thinks Boyhood is this years best.  That film, Wild, and The Grand Budapest Hotel were the only ones I have seen, so far.  Of the three Boyhood is a stand out.  The 12 year filming is an interesting side note, but the film is far more than that.  Richard Linklater has always been great at capturing "small" moments.  And Boyhood is a collection of them.  That is, life after all.  As much as we like to think of a finish line.  In reality, who among us is going to retire at 65 and buy a nice home in the south?

The blueprint is more like:  work til you die.  Enjoy each moment when you can.

So, when you are stuck in the thick of it- take some time for you.  What do you like to read?  What gives you happiness?  If it is your work, I commend you.  If not, waste no time and remember it is ok to be selfish sometimes.  No, not in the Ayn Rand way.  In a, let me sneak an hour in to get to the gym.  Let me see that new movie.  Or, as is the case with this reporter, what new music can I delve deep into.

Below are this months selection.   Enjoy Responsibly!

Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield)
Panda Bear "Boys Latin" from Jimmy Fallon

The first of several bands, solo projects, acts that I want to dislike.  Noah Lennox is Baltimore, MD raised and now calls Lisbon, Portugal home.  His music can be described as John Waters meets Cristiano Ronaldo.  See what I did there?  It's a stretch.  But, like Waters he is experimental.  His synths and layered vocals are NOT for everyone.  This song, from his much hyped record Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, has a slow build- that at first I could not take much of.  Give it some time.  Maybe it grows on you too?  For deeper research take a listen to his other project, Animal Collective.

Sleater Kinney "No Cities to Love"

Admittedly Carrie Brownstein in Portlandia entertains me more than her band Sleater Kinney.  Their reunion album and upcoming tour are fine, for nostalgia alone.  The first single, "Bury Our Friends" never resonated with me.  Their second release plays far better.

Courtney Barnett "Pedestrian at Best"

Lo-Fi Aussie Barnett is back quickly from her solo effort.  There is little, if any flash on Ms Barnett's vocals.  But what she lacks in enthusiasm she more than makes up for with wit, confidence and grit.  It isn't quite spoken word.  But it isn't quite singing either.  This is a girl who is clearly having fun.

Matt and Kim

Matt and Kim "Get It"

These New Yorkers can be polarizing, I get that.  Matt's voice is super high.  His synths, samples coupled with Kim's frenetic drums take some getting used to.  And if you don't like the first thoughts, odds are you won't stay with it.  Having seen them perform live a few years back I am firmly engaged.  What say you?

Avid Dancer "I Want To See You Dance"

Jacob Dillan Summers is Avid Dancer.  It isn't what you might think.  This is a rock outfit, very much new to the scene.  Occasionally I find a band with limited followers (they have less than 3000 Facebook likes and NO Wikipedia page.)  Let's make these guys more popular.
Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile "Wherever Is Your Heart?"

A little unsure how this hard singing pixie isn't as popular as, say,  Melissa Etheridge was in the 90s.  Big, booming voices and a penchant for jeans and a flannel shirt.  She will be releasing her independent label debut shortly and this is the first cut.  Huge voice from such a slight thing.  Alt country in the spirit of Wilco, Ryan Adams, and Emmylou Harris(think Wrecking Ball.)

Waxahatchee "Air"

Philly girl Katie Crutchfield is also bad with another record.  Sisters are doing it for themselves.  Moody pop delivered quite nicely.

Modest Mouse "Lampshades on Fire"

Northwest rockers will release Strangers to Ourselves on March 3rd.   It has been a little while since we have heard from them, and if "Lampshades" is any indication, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Toro Y Moi "Empty Nesters"

SC indie soul compliments of Chazwick Bradley Bundick.  His record, What For?, will be out in April.  Until then he has shared this song, which is a complete departure from his last album.  Not a complaint, simply observing he evolves with each record and the sounds are always quite rewarding.

Django Django "First Light"

London based band premiered the above song a few weeks back.  Their debut record a few years back was a critical hit.  "First Light" is a strong follow up and indication the sophomore slip may have been avoided.
Django Django

Look for us here and here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Off Target on "American Sniper"

"It takes all sorts to make a world" - English proverb

It was just after the Hollywood celebrity slap fight among professional Debbie Downer Michael Moore, professional stoner Seth Rogan, and professional has-been Dean Cain, and the ensuing political hyperventilation, that I finally saw "American Sniper".

Bradley Cooper is particularly good, as evidenced by the fact that this is the first movie I have seen him in where I forgot he was "Bradley Cooper". An Obama-supporting Democrat in real life (he's even fluent in French, for pity's sake!) he disappears into the role of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
The combat scenes are spare and workmanlike, conveying the grittiness and shattering anxiety of combat without glorifying or aggrandizing the violence. I generally like action and war movies, but the action here set my teeth on edge.

Go see it for yourself. What I got out of it were two things that I think many people missed - both of which I think director Clint Eastwood, and Cooper, intended:

1) This movie is told entirely from Chris Kyle's point of view

This is not a portrayal of the War in Iraq, but how the war was experienced by one exceptional soldier.

Bradley Cooper is in just about every scene of the movie. Very little happens that is not part of his character's experience. He is only excluded in those scenes that show his rival enemy sniper preparing for battle, and even these have a very stylized Hollywood Western cast to them, as if it was how Kyle imagined it.

Similarly, the brief dinner table discussion showing how Kyle's values grew from his father's stern moral lessons seem stylized and simplified. Liberals complain this is right-wing propaganda -- but what I see how a man with a very black and white view of the world recalls his childhood.

Some also complain that the Iraqis are reduced to one-dimensional characters, that the nuances and complexities of the decision to go to war in Iraq, and the method of the prosecution of the war are not discussed.

I think this is because Chris Kyle was not one to reflect on them. He did not see that as his job. In Kyle's world there are good guys and bad guys. There is "God, Family, and Country", and those who seek to undermine or even destroy them.The who and why? Those were decisions to be made by higher military and civilian leaders.

While Kyle was certainly sensitive to the horrors he witnessed perpetrated by the enemy on his fellow soldiers, he is portrayed as claiming to be untroubled by the 160 plus people he killed (mostly men, but a few women and children ), saying he will "stand before my Creator and defend each shot".

Which leads to my second point:

2) Some of the characteristics that make one an excellent soldier may not be something all of us find appealing in another human being.

Kyle was a highly skilled professional soldier, and by all accounts a brave and effective one. He was also a sniper.

Kyle remained mostly high above the ground. He saw the enemy from a distance, trying to kill his comrades. And his job was to kill the enemy to protect them. A sheepherder, as he learned from his father, protecting the sheep from the wolves.

I've read a few books by former Special Forces members (Eric Haney's book "Inside Delta Force" is particularly good). Many SEALs and Delta Force members conduct intelligence and counter insurgency operations within foreign countries. They immerse themselves in the study of history, geopolitics and strategy. They speak multiple languages. They absorb the indigenous culture in detail so they can both build alliances with,and sow dissension among, rival factions.

That's not the type of soldier Kyle was, at least as portrayed in this movie.

He questions a potential Iraqi informer, and its clear that, despite multiple tours in Iraq, he knows not even a word of the local language, and seems baffled by local customs. To him, they are faceless "savages". Perhaps learning more about them would have made him hesitate to pull the trigger.

Several of Kyle's fellow soldiers express grave doubts about the overall mission in Iraq. Kyle rather coldly attributes a comrade's death not to the enemy ambush, but to the soldier's doubts. Doubt, for Kyle, could lead to his death, or the death of the soldiers under his protection.

In fact, in his fourth tour in Iraq, Kyle feels himself wavering while targeting a child (not his first) trying to fire an RPG at a company of Marines. Soon after, in the midst of a battle where he otherwise bravely acquits himself, he calls his wife,  tearfully telling her he is ready to come home.

I think this movie shows that for certain types of soldiers, with certain types of duties, someone who sees the world as black and white, as enemy and ally, as true believer in the cause and apostate, is the best person to have in that role.

Sometimes we all think that everyone has to be the same, and, particularly nowadays, we seem very anxious about anyone who disagrees with us, or sees the world a bit differently than we do.

I mean no disrespect when I say that Chris Kyle may not necessarily have been the kind of guy I would want to have a beer with. And likely the feeling would be mutual.

But if I were a combat soldier, he sure seems like the guy I'd want on top of a building watching over me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Call Me Doc S

"Call me Ishmael" - Moby Dick, Herman Melville

In lieu of the expected list of New Year's resolutions to lose weight, save money/spend less money, or finally writing that screenplay, I'm focusing on attitude.

I think we have become an exceedingly anxious culture. We see doom and threat everywhere -- in our food, in our realtionships, and in our political leaders. Every event is fraught with neurotic significance. I think this is, in part, fueled by our immersion in the online world (of which I consider myself a passionate devotee) 

Every crime, every tragedy, every mistake is magnified and repeated and commented upon at an exponential rate. And much of our discussion around it is a swarm of chest beating, tough talk, and posturing. We complain that our leaders fuel this fire, but they are only giving us what we want.

Its almost like our anxious psyches mirror the increase in allergies observed over the last twenty years. One theory posits that because we have become so "clean" via antibiotics, our immune systems are hypersensitive to a wider range of "foreign invaders"

Perhaps this is happening to our spirits as well. Perhaps we have become so fat, warm and secure that our sense of living is hypersensitive to the new, the different, and the unusual that "invade" our minds.

One of the most important books in my life is Moby-Dick. I was forced to read it for an honors English class in High School and write a report on it. I hated every minute of it, not only trudging through its dense 19th century prose, but the hours I had to spend at nearby Lafayette College library reading books talking about its allegory, symbolism, and literary significance.

Since entering adulthood, I have re-read it (in part and in whole) at least ten times. In retrospect, it served as my primary "religious" text before I eventually picked a more established religious practice.

It is, I think, a core American spiritual text.

As a result, I think Ishmael's quote above is an apt statement to kick off the new year.

I always liked the mystery behind the first sentence of Moby-DIck. It suggests "Ishmael" is defining himself anew (he does not say "I am Ishmael"). 

There is nothing so essentially American as making a fresh start and plunging into a new adventure in hope of new and better things to come.

So, like Ishmael, let's all take our restlessness, nervousness, and anxiety, and, instead of stewing in it, find a ship bound to voyage, gather a sturdy crew, and head out to sea.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Best of 2014

It is the little things.  A warm cup of coffee on a blistery winter's day.  The smell of a Christmas tree after a shitty day at the office.  The sound of your daughter's voice after a particularly good test score or sporting event.  A shared laugh with an old friend.  When your head hits the pillow late at night and the eyes looking back at you are your soul mates.

This winter, and in particular this month, has sucked real bad.

But with all the moments described above littered into the mix, shit ain't half bad either.

We all get sick.  We all (well, most of us at least) have anxiety about money.  The Holiday brings about a special set of tension and hostility.

So, if we do not embrace those little things, however fleeting, what on Earth are we doing this for???

This space attempts to filter out the noise and show you some pieces of beauty you may have missed during your tumult, er, life.

Between my colleague Doc S and I we try to cover some film, television, literature, and music.

We ask that you join the conversation during the year, either here, or on our way more active Facebook page.  I know, I know...  what kind of blogger/social media person uses Blogger and Facebook? you ask?  An out of touch one, that's who.  We tweet and have dabbled with Instagram.

But who has the time?  This will have to do for now.  Sorry, not sorry.

In order to do a proper Best of 2014, it has to start with Philadelphia rockers The War on Drugs.  If you have been paying attention to this column, and many other publications, you would know their record, Lost in The Dream, was one of the most highly acclaimed records of the year.  Adam Granduciel's soaring guitar vibe record is high on energy, positive on vibes, and, according to my Spotify playlist, absorbed for nearly 20,000 minutes.  It is a glorious ode to 70s icons like Mark Knopfler, Don Henley and Warren Zevon.  No frills.  No fuss.  Maximum pleasure.

Start with "Under the Pressure", the albums' hypnotic opening track.  From there, pay close attention to other gems like "Red Eyes" and "An Ocean In Between the Waves".

My attention span prevents me from listening to many "records."  That is, a track, or a couple singles, are often my only exposure to a band or artist.  I wanna be exposed to many different styles and varieties.  Albums and long plays take time.  Sure, I could stop listening to The War on Drugs so much.  But I am also compulsive.  Each year I happen to latch on to a record and cannot put it down.  Given that, the other down times I cram in as much as I can.
The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream is my record of the year

There were a couple other records that got some extended play.

Runners up include First Aid Kit's Stay Gold.  

The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers (which includes "Dancehall Domine" amongst others.)

Lana Del Rey's sophomore effort, Ultraviolence, was a nice early year surprise.

Any record by Ryan Adams, this year a self titled one, is worth a listen.  This record had more than a few memorable tracks.  Who knew a married and contented Adams would exist?  And who would have guessed his records would be this good???  Adams also produced  Jenny Lewis' excellent The Voyager.    Pay close attention to "She's Not Me" which brings both of their talents together in a very Linda Ronstadt/Don Henley 70s SoCal vibe.   It is also reminiscent to the work Eric Clapton did for Scorsese's The Color of Money

Spoon's They Want My Soul was the Austin's band finest effort since, well, their last effort.  This band is as formidable, consistent and entertaining as any American band making music today.  Sorry Weezer, Foo Fighters, and whomever the hell you might be thinking of.

Speaking of the Foo Fighters, they had a huge year too.  But it is not for their music.  Let's all be honest, Dave Grohl is the luckiest man in the music business.  Nirvana was a lightning in a bottle moment he happened to watch from the drum kit.  And no, this isn't shitting on Grohl's ability and song making.  He plays just fine thanks.  But many a drummer could have done what he did with Cobain's words and hooks.  His Foo Fighters are, sorry, a rather average rock and roll band.  Grohl's range is limited, as are his chords, and overall his songs.  Yes, "Everlong" is a classic.  And there are others.  But c'mon, enough already.  It's like letting Green Day in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That said, his HBO show detailing his record, Sonic Highways, was a television wonder.  Grohl's travelogue through 8 cities as he records his new record was informative, well edited and highly entertaining.  What it lacked in detail, diversity and/or whatever else Pitchfork or Stereogum bitched about it more than made up with in heart and sincerity.

Back to the music...

Tove Lo's debut was special.  So too Alt-J's latest.  Merchandise, Beyonce, Interpol, Parquet Courts, Lykke Li, new Eels!, Cloud Nothings, and Walk the Moon also had records that were on heavy rotation in our executive offices.

Tove Lo produced a smart and sexy debut album
The band Strand of Oaks came from nowhere to critical acclaim.  Their album, Heal, is well worth the hype.  The title track and ode to the late nineties, Goshen '97 are highlights.  The fact that Tim Showalter, pretty much the entire band, spent some time living in Wilkes-Barre, PA makes this story all the more sweeeettt.   

The child band, Orwells, released their record Disgraceland earlier this year.  It had some great cuts and an overall positive vibe.  Their live show, witnessed by this author at Asbury Lanes, was far more rewarding.  As they are, like 20 years old, expect them to come around often over the next decade or so.  Do yourself a favor and see them.  Hell, I will drive.  Til then:  "Southern Comfort" recorded in The Live Room  and The Orwells Live at Letterman- Dave loves it- "Who Needs You?"

Speaking of Letterman, Baltimore journeyman Future Islands made the most of their appearance earlier this year.  Their version of the synth heavy "Seasons (Waiting on You)" was fine.  It was the lead singers, Samuel T. Herring performance that catapulted it into "viryl" status.   Herring is like a demonic, lovable cookie monster- and it all works so wonderfully.

We won't get too detailed.  You like what you like.   We like what we like.

However, 2014 was a fun and diverse year.  Artists as diverse as St. Vincent, Real Estate, Phantogram, Vance Joy, Taylor Swift, , and Lana Del Rey made memorable albums.  The definitive collection can be found on Best of 2014 and at our alternate home, GTS on FB.  

Truth is, things are freaking busy.

Not complaining, just stating facts.

There are no concerts on the horizon.  Songs, and albums, are listened to primarily going to and from.  Work, sport, school, HOLIDAYS wreak havoc on the social calendar.  Bands are often holed up for a few months too, which helps.

Let's all catch our breath as the New Year approaches.  Resolve to live a little.  Resolve to smile more.  

Earlier today, while crossing 23rd St and 5th Ave, I walked toward Bill Clinton.  Yeah, President Bill Clinton, smiling and shopping in midtown Manhattan, was standing right in front of me.  "Hello Mr President."  I said.  

"Hey" he replied.

Off he went, perhaps looking for after Christmas bargains.  I met my ladies for pasta and an espresso.

America, a country where former Presidents can share City streets with schlubs like me and exchange pleasantries.  That is what I prefer to think at least.

It is NOT the pussy whipped Nation that either a) succumbs to a dictator's request to scrap a movie or worse b) plays us for a bunch of fools and uses a canceling ploy to cover the fact their movie sucks.

It is NOT a country of hate mongers, racists, cop hating, con-artists.

It is NOT war hungry.  It is NOT corrupt.   

"I'm in my finest hour/Can I be more than just a fool?/It always gets so hard to see/Right before the moon."   *

Happy New Year all and...

Monday, November 17, 2014

November, 2014

Merrill Garbus- the brains behind tUnE-yArDs

It's a dark and gloomy Sunday.  Maybe the best kind in my opinion, on a November day.  A few trees are holding the last remnants of life.  The colors range from vibrant red to dull beige.  Starbucks on the other hand is awash in red.  It's like a Christmas blood letting.  Thanksgiving is still weeks away.  Remember that Holiday?  With the food, and football, recollection of all we are thankful for.  A kind of excused gluttony is you will.  Airing of the grievances.   Bull shitting by the fireplace.  Coffee and whiskey on a brisk morning.

Do kids still meet up with old high school friends the night before Thanksgiving?  Amateur hour, right?  And, with the exception of the amateur hour drinking and driving that night, a rollicking good time.  

Hell, back at my place the Christmas China is making its way into our display furniture.

If you can't beat them, join them.  

It gets bleak pretty soon during the Northeastern winters.  Darkness travels with you during the morning commute and guides you home on your way home. Scraping car windows kind of sucks.  And if it is anything like last winter, shit's gonna get real cold.  Old(er) bones get a little colder, don't they?

I always thought that was baloney.  Now I can feel it wasn't.

This will be my last Sunday off for a while.  The basketball season starts up next week and will continue through March.  That means no more concerts for a while.  Time to write and update this blog and Facebook page becomes more scarce.  

I know I am not alone.  If your town is anything like mine folks have two calendars in their kitchens. They are white boards filled with test schedules, practices, social events, work events.  You are well versed in Team Snap and subscribe to more calendars you would care to.

So we are all moving fast, taking less time for ourselves, racing.

Why wouldn't the seasons move fast with us?  If you have a free moment you only have to get MORE done.  Idle time?  What is that?

Essential if you ask me.  Buying that new Swavorski Christmas ornament is not going to add value to your life.  And it sure ain't helping anyone else either.

Except of course Starbucks.

Here is hoping you all find a little cheer, and chill, during the frantic end of year rush.

It's another year.  Another victory.  Another reason to be hopeful.

Starting this month and through the end of the year we are counting down our favorite films of all time.  Tune in here daily to follow along and join the conversation.

*  Editors Note:

So that was last Sunday.  It's now this Saturday.  The Saturday before Thanksgiving.  The first real big one of the Holiday.  This morning found me roaming a suburban mall and growing increasingly anxious.

At 9:50 am, 10 minutes prior to the mall's official opening, a 10 store line had begun at the Frozen "Take a picture with Santa" display.  Shit got real in a hurry.

Little girls in Disney princess dresses mingled with varying degrees of Real Housewives and their effeminate husbands and kids.  Every store was a sea of red.  Clerks and sales people were cheery enough and polite.  In a few weeks the banter becomes less friendly as the tensions begin to rise.

For now, smiles and salutations.  And pity the poor "Take a pic with Santa" workers.  We are mostly ungrateful, selfish pricks.  Add to that a miserable wait in line and we all teeter close to the edge.  Kids screaming- hunger pangs- expectations unfulfilled.  All in an effort to get out that perfect card.  The one that adequately conveys "things are going just fine, thanks or WE ARE DOING BETTER THAN YOU!"

We actually needed some things.  Phones have to be upgraded.  Clothes for a growing girl have to be factored in.

I prefer to think of this as an anomaly.  In a few days we will all be with loved ones.  We will drink and eat without regard for our health.  We will all hopefully smile.  Not for the latest gadget.  Or a new pair of shoes.

We are all on the right side of the dirt.  

In the meantime, here are this months selections for best in song.   Take some time to enjoy, maybe with your favorite warm beverage.  Or whatever substance you might need to get you through it.

Happy Thanksgiving all.
The Decemberists have a new record coming.  That will make the winter a little warmer.

Merrill Garbus project released their record very early in 2014.  This first single was inescapable in the spring on the alt dial.  After nearly 6 months it finally beat me down.  They happened to play one of my favorite shows, Jools Holland, last month and make an impact.  After nearly 6 months it finally beat me down. They happened to play one of my favorite shows, Jools Holland, last month and make an impact.    When someone likes Robert Plant takes notice, I thought maybe it was time I took a harder listen.  Better yet, I WATCHED her perform it, from that program.  And it resonated far more than hearing it on the radio as I have for months.  I kinda get it now.  That has to explain why I catch myself singing it most days.   

Posted more for the video, which features Michael Shannon.  A more fascinating working actor I dare you find.  He is mesmerizing.  The song is pretty darn rocking too.

Father John Misty "Bored in the USA"

J. Tillman has an amazing voice.  He debuted this song, from his forthcoming record, on the David Letterman show a few weeks back.  The laughter as her performs is unusual.  In fact, the whole damn thing is awkward.  This is a power, piano ballad.  Tillman brings a full orchestra.  You wait for the slow build to have a thunderous ending.  It never does.  Sure, Tillman and the strings take flight, and even soar for a bit.  Take a look/listen and decide.  I am on board, but tentative.  

The Decemberists "Make You Better"

Colin Meloy, vocalist and brains behind Portland, OR The Decemberists, can be galvanizing.  He is the embodiment of geek rock.  The "Keep Portland Weird" creed passes through his thick rimmed, Clark Kent looking glasses.  Worse, or better if you ask me, is his voice.  Too nasally for some, or most- but not me.  So it was good news that, not only is keyboardist Jenny Conlee back after a battle with breast cancer, but that Meloy et al are releasing a new album.  Here is the first track- and it's wonderful.

Sleater-Kinney "Bury Our Friends"

Speaking of Portland, Carrie Brownstein has taken a break from IFC's brilliant Portlandia, to get her band, Sleater Kinney, back together.  90s lo-fi rock and roll served up with sass and/or frass.  It is just like I remembered.  

Palace "I Want What You Got"

London rock and roll.  I can't find much about these guys or this song.  I heard it somewhere.  And I keep wanting to hear it.  Good enough for me.  For fans of Kings of Leon or White Denim.

Grouper "Call Across Rooms"

Seriously!  Another Portland, OR artist.  Liz Harris is the one woman "ambient" project, Grouper.  Nuff said.

Parkay Quartz "Content Nausea"

They changed their names and put out another record all within 6 months or so.  Parquet Courts is, for now, Parkay Quartz.  Who cares about the name.  Its still post punk noise with a beat you can stomp too.  No friggin frills fun.

Chet Faker "Gold"

Australian Nicholas James Murphy is Chet Faker.  He is riding the George Ezra, Passenger, Vance Joy folk thing that has mesmerized many of us.  Soulful voice, charisma and a little tongue in cheek on your next ride to the wall.  Or, if your lucky, headphones on your easy chair in front of a warm fire.  Smoking jacket and dog at your feet optional.

Foo Fighters "Outside"

The Dave Grohl show Sonic Highways on HBO is the best thing to happen to television this year.  The album that the show supports I cannot tell you much about.  I appreciate and understand Grohl and his band have on the rock and roll landscape.  I was never, and probably will never, be a huge Foo Fighters fan.  Maybe it's Grohl's voice, or how many of the songs sound alike, or the fact I was never into ALL those guitars.  Who knows?  But I do know I like and respect Joe Walsh, who is on display here.  Grohl's legacy is intact, and his documentary series about the

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hard Truths

So I have a birthday next week.  Anything over 25 is old, right?  Let's be honest.

Sure, folks run marathons, keep fit, and are clearly live longer.  But to be young, that is a different story.  To go out on a Tuesday, get shit faced, roll into the office at 8am and do it all over again the next night.   Its way easier doing that in your 20s.  Now, don't get me wrong your 20s are for the most part pretty miserable.  You don't know who you were.  You have to find a career, soul mate, "American Dream."  You desperately try to find your place.  It kinda sucks.

But boy were you fit.  It would take an exceptional bender to knock you out of commission.

Around 40 you can go out and close bars.  Ain't no way you are gonna be productive at work the next day.  And more often than not you are feeling nauseous days after the big night.  Recovery time is what defines "youth."  If I have as much as a beer tomorrow I know I will feel differently in the morning.  Lame.  Ass.  Punk.

Not that I obsess about age.  Any day above ground is a good one as far as I am concerned.

Each year is more valuable though, and I get that.

And it occurs to me that I am not like everyone else.  Certainly not in the suburban setting I find myself living in.

I am not really good at making money.  So how can I correct that?  Where does that drive come from?  What is it that prevents me from wanting more?  It is not for lack of effort.  This year I have done more than any other, and McMansions we aren't buying.   Not a complaint, rather an observation.   We have had way better financial years but that did not necessarily make our lives any better.  In many ways it may have caused greater issues.

So it has been a leaner year, yet somehow there is an inward peace telling me, "its gonna be ok."

Over the last year or so our daughter, a 7th grader, has been diagnosed with ADHD.  It has been a challenge.  Mostly though, it has been enlightening.  My wife and I have joked for years about how we suffer(ed) from it.

We all knew kids on Ritalin during the 70s and 80s.   It was the "overactive" kids remedy.  The term "ADHD" was not in our collective vocabulary so for the most part those kids were labeled "problems."  If you grew up in a town like mine their school districts were ill equipped to handle them.  Worse still, if those kids came from lesser means and would inevitably drop out of school and find trouble.

Maybe my wifes' parents and mine had just enough to get us the help we needed.  For us, it meant private schools that shielded us from bullying and let us find our place amongst a smaller band of misfits.  Let's not underestimate nuns with rulers as a persuasive tool to gain one's attention.

But I think if we were tested using today's model my wife and I would both fall somewhere on the ADHD "spectrum."

The rules are way different now.  Whereas I hate the idea of "participation trophies" in youth sports I think leveling the playing the field in the classroom works just fine.

In sports it is pretty easy to keep score.  Lacrosse team 1 Other Lacrosse Team 0.  Easy.  Winner and Loser.

Although ice skating and gymnastics is a different story.  How on Earth can you tell who wins some of those events??

But in Math, Science, Language, we don't all process the same way.  And that is ok.  I know I see math differently than many of my friends.  The fact that they see it at all makes them more an expert than me.    I look through it.  I avoid it.  It humbles me like very little else.

That is not to say I could not have done well in math.  But I did enough to get through it and once I went to college I did not need it again.  I know my daughter sees math very similar to me.  The trick is to convince her 1) no she does not and 2) get everyone else on board with it.

Her report card for the first term comes home later today and I would be surprised if she didn't have an A in math.  Shit I most likely don't understand.  But with parental knowledge comes the ability to parent efficiently.

Do I want to medicate my daughter?  Of course not.  This is a decision we did not take lightly.  Richard Friedman wrote an outstanding piece in the New York Times detailing the evolution of the "disease" and suggests it might not be an illness after all.  His notion that those diagnosed are not unlike nomads or ancient hunters.  We move from one thing to another out of boredom, out of the need to learn and discover more, to evolve.

Should that be looked at as a disability?  Or even a hindrance?

People are just different.  Everyone has a skill set that needs to be cultivated.  Now, to somehow navigate through it with the least amount of tears.

It will be age 42 next week.  And it is about time to start putting some wisdom to good use.

Our job is to move forward.  To leave this place better than how we inherited it.

Because that is what maturation has is all about.

Maturation is nothing more than tempering expectations, minimizing and/or avoiding bullshit, and eliminating persons and things that fail to yield positive results. Oh, and eating well and exercising. But F that last part!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 2014

Hot coffee.  Homemade gingerbread cookie.  Fall colors.  Tunes on in background.  Things could suck way more.

Cause I could sit here and bitch about tuition bills.  Still not sure if/when I can cut that check.

The looming basketball season is on my mind too.  How are we going to make it all events with 1 car?!  Nevermind the coaching!  Don't these kids deserve better?

And parenting?  Don't get me started.

Since when did going to the mall for a pair of jeans mean Neiman Marcus and $200?  She better wear those things 200 times.

Two menstruating women in the house is a game changer too.

"Thanks dad, I love you" can get to "Get out of my room I am done to talking to you!" all during the opening credits to Vampire Diaries.

Homework?  7th grade? you ask.

Yeah, that kinda sucks too.

But all the shit, all the minutia, is worth every ounce of sweat (and healthy amount of my tears.)

The vibrant leaves and temperate weather has served as a reminder of nature's beauty.  These are the colors you just don't see all the time.  And any reproduction, although sometimes brilliant, is never quite the same.

Tonight, in Kansas City, MO of all places, baseball will determine its champion.  One game decides it all.  For San Francisco, an opportunity to become a legitimate Dynasty.  Should they win tonight they will be crowned a 3rd time in 5 years.  *editor's note- Madison Bumgarner is amazing!!!  A better October performance I never witnessed.  Congrats SF- you are worthy Champions.

IF KC wins, we have the culmination of an extraordinary Cinderella run.  * sucks.  sorry KC

But most of you won't watch.  Last week, Game 1 of America's pastime lost in the ratings battle to Geeks (Big Bang Theory) and the undead (The Walking Dead).  The Baseball is a regional sport- and New York, LA and Boston are no longer playing.  This country is tuned out.

Too bad.

I am not one of those George Will, "baseball is life" devotees.  However, when the game, especially in October, is played right, no other sport matches the drama.  The Super Bowl is one event and the  games are too often non-competitive.  Hockey playoffs are close, with the physical intensity and rivalries.  NBA?  No.

In baseball managers are second guessed dozens of times a game.  Players need not be physical deities.  Look at Escobar, the KC shortstop.  That kid is tiny.  And think of this:  You could probably play a few innings in RF and no one would notice.  Could you line up a TE in an NFL game?  How about skate the third line for the Maple Leafs?  NBA?  No.

Missouri had a rough summer/early fall.  Each night Ferguson , MO has the potential for a race war. For a few weeks the Royals have proven a nice diversion.  Which, when you think about it, is the purpose of sports.  We can get away from all the nonsense that is out there.

Ebola is not going to kill you.  ISIS is not going to kill you.  Gluten is not going to kill you.

Its the little shit you have to concern yourself with.

And there is a lot of it.

And its fantastic.

Tonight I can cross of a bucket list band:  Wilco at the Capitol Theatre.

It will mark the end of a productive live show month.  See below clips for a small selection.  Note, Orwells and Skaters at Asbury Lanes was a great double bill.  Unfortunately I deleted those videos.  Trust me, the bands AND venue are worth a look.

Wilco "Walken" at Capitol Theatre

Tove Lo "Habits" at Webster Hall

Foxygen "Shuggie" at Webster Hall

Lemon Twigs at Webster Hall

Caveman "Easy Water" at Babys All Right

Public Access TV at Babys All Right

Icewater at Babys All Right

As of this moment, mere days from November, we still do not have a platinum record for 2014.  It would be the first time this has happened since they started keeping track of record sales.  One million units is platinum.

Taylor Swift figures to save the day when she releases 1989 next week.  Forecasts show it selling a million units in a week.

What does that say about the industry?  Or is it saying the same thing (just louder) since Napster was born and began its assault on the studio system?

I know I enjoy listening, maybe now more than ever.  But I don't BUY music.  I pay to see it, lots of it.  But I want to purge my CDs and digital streams are just fine for me, thanks.

So am I part of the problem?

I don't see it that way.

Seeing bands and promoting their efforts is how bands make their living.  Dave Grohl, who is the the midst of rolling out his new LP, recently said "We used to tour to promote the record.  Now we promote the record during the tour."

His new show, Sonic Highways on HBO, is amazing television.  In it, Grohl examines the history of rock music in America.  His exploration takes his to Nashville, Chicago, New Orleans among other cities.  Each town has a club, or engineer, or local legend that has helped provide the soundtrack to Grohl's life.  He, and his contemporaries, have helped carry on the lesson.

It is our responsibility to pass on the knowledge.

That said, here is the monthly list.  Enjoy, spread the word, and support an artist today.

Tove Lo
The Rua "Fight for What's Right"

The Rua is a brother and sisters act from Windsor, United Kingdom.  The video caught my eye a few weeks back.  Anyone have Palladia?  If so, season pass the Epic Awesome Videos morning show.  I know, the show name is super queer.  But over the three hour show (fast forwarding most of it) the producers present some unique and sometimes obscure songs.  This rallying cry from today's youth is about what you expect from kids who think Oasis' Whats the Story Morning Glory is better than Abbey Road.  Everyone thinks their generation is better than all else.  Least these kids are taking their angst and making song from it.  Beats Xbox any day.

Linus Young "Fun in the Sun"

Local duo Iris Belson (Freehold, NJ's own) and Joseph Walker are Linus Young.    I was introduced to them when they opened for Tove Lo earlier this month.  Their live act is still, shall we say, maturing.  Sharing the bill with Tove Lo did them no favors as they really aren't as "pop" as she is.  On record, and on this track in particular, they showcase groovy guitar licks and solid harmonies.  The video is a campy trip down music video history (which my Facebook page did a lot of this past month.)

Broncho "Class Historian"
 Tulsa, Oklahoma band who, among other things, will open for Billy Idol at the Beacon Theatre in January.  If that rebel can dig them, you should really give a listen.  Guitar straight from 80s John Hughes soundtracks.  Skinny ties, oversized sunglasses and Louden freaking Swain.  Easily one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Perfume Genius "Queen"

Perfume Genius is the brainchild of Mike Hadreas.  Their/his 3rd album "Too Bright", has garnered much acclaim.  Like many of the songs that appear in this space, I needed my hand held.  The Rolling Stone writer and SiriusXMU DJ Jenny Eliscu raved about it during a talk up a few weeks back.  I figured, if she likes it, I gotta pay close attention.  And I did.  This is a lesson in slow build.  Its the kind of song you just know would highlight a live act.  One day, I hope to see/hear just that.

Ty Segall "Tall Man Skinny Lady"

Segall has been doing it for a while and it seems like he puts out 2 records a year.  This month I finally got a chance to see him and it was NOTHING like I expected.   If you listen to this song it is clear Segall has some deft touch and can craft a song.  Live, he just unleashes fury.  Guitar strings be damned!  It is thrash punk California style.  Mosh pits.  Bloody noses.  Blood, sweat and tears.  On a Wednesday this old man can't handle it.  That is, I need a heads up.  Moving forward I will enjoy Segall in the comfort of my home.   You should to.

Walk The Moon " Shut Up and Dance With Me"

Let's not kid ourselves.  Walk the Moon is pop!  Like Neon Trees, Maroon 5, Train, whomever...
And that is just fine.  Their sophomore LP, Talking is Hard, will be released 12.4.14.  If this first single tells us anything, is that the quarter from Ohio knows a hook when it sees one.   Expect a spring tour- and note they are capable of good things live.

Gerard Way "No Shows"

I kinda missed the Emo days of late 90s into the 2000s.  My Bloody Valentine through My Chemical Romance totally escaped me.  Had I been dialed in I would have known who the F Gerard Way is.  First, he grew up in Summit, NJ (mere minutes away from this computer.)  Secondly, he was the voice behind My Chemical Romance.  Now, while I hated all they did, I certainly understand their significance.  I also know many who love/adore them.  When this single started making the rounds I took it for what it was worth.  When he sold out Webster Hall I paid a little more attention.  Now, I pass it on to you.  You can thank me later- or bitch slap me depending on how you feel about it.

Alvvays "Archie, Marry Me"

Toronto, pop band with an ear for nostalgia.  Their self titled debut record was released in July.  Molly Rankin's nasal twang is not offensive as you might think.  In fact, she conveys longing quite well.  A distinctive Lo-Fi gem on your otherwise nondescript radio dial.  And who is named Archie anymore??  Maybe she is thinking of the old comics?  Would 20 somethings even know that Archie???

Manchester Orchestra "Every Stone"

Atlanta based Manchester Orchestra are on their (6th) record.  Cope was released early this year and this song is a winner.  Hard driven guitars combined with Andy Hull's somewhat distorted voice make for a hard charging joy fest.

Twin Atlantic "Heart and Soul"

It comes full circle don't ya know.  These Scottish lads are influenced by My Chemical Romance and their brethren.  Emo for the 2014 set.  Lil angry.  Lil cocky.  Lil fun.

Enjoy your month folks.