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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quiet Please

Will you be able to relate to your teenage child in 10 years?  Can you understand and socialize with twenty somethings in the work place?  Has technology and social media killed the conversation star?

My 11 year old daughter uses text messaging, and Instagram.  There are rumors she is “dating” a boy in her school.  Oh dating in 6th grade…  is there anything more adorable?

My guess is they have spoken, you know, with their voices, only a handful of times.  I cannot envision a World in which she would lock herself in a room and talk on the phone for hours.  I can remember vividly hanging on the phone getting to know a girl.  Who can remember the content?  Probably nonsense for the most part.  But there were real topics mixed in there.  Sometimes it was counseling.  Sometimes you both helped each other navigate your way through adolescence.  There were laughs.  There were tears.

Emoji’s and cryptic texts have replaced phone calls and face to face dialogues.  You can’t capture a sigh through a text.  You can’t hear the pain, or longing of a voice.  There is no subtlety, no nuance.   You think debate club was a skilled group 20-30 years ago.  What about today?  Can you get a kid to look you in the eyes? 

The other night I misread the caller id and told her she missed a friends’ phone call.  There were a few issues.  One, who calls our home phone??  Why do I still own a home phone?  Oh, right, my carrier informed me it would be MORE expensive monthly if I dropped it.  “My bundle package is tied into it.”  What kind of life is this?  Could it really be more expensive to NOT have something??   If true, and I continue to abide by it, does that make me America’s biggest fool?  Seems like a lot of work.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, the phone call.  We fought a bit, and she ultimately relented and phoned her back.  Turns out I read the name incorrectly and her friend did not call.  When that awkward couple of seconds passed so too did the phone call. 


“You called?”

“I didn’t call.”

“Oh, sorry.” 

Click.  That was it.  I don’t think they even said each others names.  Or laughed.  More importantly I do not think they knew how to talk on the phone. Don’t get me wrong.  They are able to talk.  But it’s how they are talking that makes me wonder.  What is being said in person has more power than what’s read smart phones or computer monitors.  Communication is weighted, and the scales are not balanced.

The inability to communicate is a social problem as these tweens age.  Because judging by how they behave at concerts things look pretty bleak.  The past few weekend I was able to attend some concerts in NYC.  They were both weekend shows with a younger crowd.  Without sounding like the crotchety hipster, oh who am I kidding, allow me to be the aging hipster.  At both shows we were forced to move all over the venue to avoid loud and incessant chatter.  Imagine a tiny club and a full set of blaring Marshall stacks.  Now picture not being able to hear the music.  Because that is how it is anymore.  Is this the only time these kids talk to one another?  It’s cool to need a little liquid courage.  But if you don’t have courage outside the bar, who needs you?

Oh, and show a little respect.  People in the audience are there to hear/see the show.  If I wanted to watch awkward, clumsy courtships I could binge watch My So Called Life or a good John Hughes film.  There are a thousand bars in NYC- take your talk there.

Or will that be too quiet?  Too intimate? 

Scary right?  Who wants to talk to someone? 

Well, I do.  But only if it isn’t at my concert.  There are countless social mores in this crazy World of ours.  Many of them are under attack.  IDK   WTH?  TTYL

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Think Like a Real American

I've made a conscious effort to lay off blogging on politics for a while.

I figure with all the ideological clashing and gridlock, it helps to get back to basics. My undergraduate degree is in philosophy. I went to Rutgers, which then had, and continues to have, one of the best philosophy programs in the country. What does that mean now? 

Not much. But a few things stuck.  One was a disdain for ideology, which includes periodically checking myself for my own ideological rigidity. And I think there is something about this clearing of the cobwebs that is downright American.

One of the best observers of American culture ever was Alexis de Toqueville, a French aristocrat  who visited the young United States for two years in the 1830s and in 1835 published his classic Democracy in America.  His words from 1835 described a new nation full of bold, enterprising spirits trying to prove to the world that common people could actually govern themselves:

"I think that in no country in the civilized world is less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States... Nevertheless it is easy to perceive that almost all the inhabitants of the United States conduct their understanding in the same manner, and govern it by the same rules; that is to say, that without ever having taken the trouble to define the rules of a philosophical method, they are in possession of one, common to the whole people:

To evade the bondage of system and habit, of family maxims, class opinions, and, in some degree, of national prejudices;

To accept tradition only as a means of information, and existing facts only as a lesson used in doing otherwise, and doing better;

To seek the reason of things for one’s self, and in one’s self alone;

To tend to results without being bound to means, and to aim at the substance through the form;

– such are the principal characteristics of what I shall call the philosophical method of the Americans.
[In] most of the operations of the mind, each American appeals to the individual exercise of his own understanding alone."

We have alot of troubles in this nation, and in our hearts I think we all know they can be mostly remedied (along the new ones that will inevitably crop up to replace them) if we look at them as problems to be solved, rather than points to chalk up on an ideological scoreboard. 

So maybe, as Toqueville suggested, the most American philosophy is no philosophy at all.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taking it for Granted

The author hard at work.

Rainy Saturday afternoons can be a real downer.

This will likely be my final "free" Saturday this "Spring ." (lets be honest, this spring has sucked as much as this winter, but we all know about how sucky the winter is so let's try and move on.)

Coaching, house chores, and various other events, fill up the calendar April through June.   And that ain't bitching.  Eventually all the snow will melt and we will continue on with our lives.  If you aren't enjoying outdoor cookouts, sitting on lawn chairs watching kids compete, drinking your favorite cocktail, gossiping about friends, and counting Mets losses than you are not doing the suburbs correctly.

And I will get all that.  And I cannot wait.

It does however, seem to be a good time to take reflect on the past few months.  What the hell happened over this winter?

The short answer in my world is added weight. And that shit has gotta come off.  Two things.  The first, as many of us know, is its way harder to lose the pounds the older you get.  Secondly, how the hell am I gonna do it?

After some detective work it turns out I have a gym membership.  Yeah, been paying for it for months too.  Apparently they allow you into the building.  Once inside you are provided with state of the art equipment and an overly eager (and so many of them!) staff waiting to "pump" -pause- "you up!"

So that has been happening.  And it ain't easy.

For one thing I was never really a gym guy.  Getting fit for fit sake?  Who does that?

Well, me now.  Cause I should probably stick around.  A January physical alerted me to some minor concerns.  Not surprisingly my weight was chief among them.  Now, we are not talking Mike and Molly weight here.   But I am not blind.  My profile looks slightly different than a few years back.

It's fine.  I can do the stuff.  If I continue making the effort results will be forthcoming.

But I do need to set some ground rules, ok?

What exactly is your deal waiting for me to pull out of my parking spot?  This is a gym right?  Park a bit farther away and walk a bit.  You are just gonna be walking on a treadmill in 5 minutes.  Get that heart rate moving damn it.  And who cares if its cold or snowing out?  You will live until you get through the doors.

Also, don't judge me for what I am wearing.  What, dress socks and referees sneakers are not good enough for you?  Put it this way-  I am not going to judge you for your tank tops, muscle shirts and spandex shorts. Editors note: perfume's, cologne's, excessively teased hair might be viewed as objectionable too 

So leave my oversized (or mostly undersized) concert tee and bed head alone.  The purpose is to get fit.  I am in the building and I am getting a workout in.  That, in itself, is a winning day.  To expect me to understand and execute an appropriate ensemble is asking for the unattainable.  Not to mention, if I can both work and exercise in the same clothing I have saved myself a load of laundry.  If you saw how much this friggin gym cost me you might be lavishing praise, not condemning.   At the very least you can understand how I rationalize my appearance in this way.

There is a social contract in the locker room too, no?  The first and really most vital rule, should be to button it up a bit boys.  Now, if you read the first couple paragraphs, you understand I might have some body issues.  But I don't hate how I look.  That said, if I shave in the privacy of my home, I typically keep a towel or underwear on.  And that is the privacy of my home.  Who cares, right?

Well, I care if I see a grown man shaving naked, ball sack nice and cozy with the sink, in the our locker room.  I don't care if you just showered.  I don't care if HAZMAT scrubs the place down every 5 minutes.  No one needs to see...  be subjected to...  or even imagine it.

At what age do men stop caring in the locker room?  And it seems the worse their body, the more the feel compelled to display it.

Look pal, I do my best to cover up my old ass.  Return the favor!  Pretty sure your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend is sick of seeing it.  What makes you think we are all into it?  And so close to where I might want to shave or wash my hands?

Who am I kidding?  Planet Fitness has created a marketing campaign about gym culture.  These are people I have to co-exist with.  They would not like going to Music Hall of Williamsburg on a weeknight to listen to some hipster synth band whine about losing a lover.

It's these moments of conflict (both real and imagined) that unite our various sub-cultures.  We cooperate in our shared goals.  I want to get fit so I can stick around for my family and enjoy all life has to offer.  Others want to work out because they look so damn good in the mirror.  Or maybe they are putting maximum effort in to get laid.  However you keep score, that is all net positive.

I will get over my insecurities and deal with it.  We are all VERY different.

There is a kid that lives on our street that used to work at our local coffee shop.  We see each other enough that we are friendly.  I know he plays music.  He knows I listen.

Last time I saw him Fleetwood Mac came up.  It was announced this week that Christine McVie has rejoined the band after 15 years away.  My barista friend told me his band is having difficulty finding a lead singer.  "Have you tried a female?" I asked.

"We did for a bit, but it was the guitarist girlfriend so it was weird.  He kept defending her."

I replied, "Oh, like Fleetwood Mac."

He looked confused.  This kid did knew all about the band.  He knew Rumours.  But he was blissfully unaware that Mcvie was married to John.  Or that Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham were a couple.

Youth.  Amazing.

All of the sudden I am that old guy.  The guy who needs to get a workout in.  The guy looking for a sensible,  fuel efficient vehicle.  The guy giving up pizza and boxes of Lucky Charms.  The guy spinning yarns about 70s rock bands and giving "sage" advice in the middle of a coffee shop.  Egads.

Wait, the guy who uses the word "egads!"

The best part is I am not hating it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Best of March 2014- War in Drugs (pun intended)

There have been several superlatives and endless articles on America's "War on Drugs."  I can still remember those Nancy Reagan ads during morning cartoons imploring us to "Just Say No."   The "This is your brain on drugs" spot still resonates to this day.  I am curious how my 11 year old would view those commercials.  It is clear the drug problem still exists.  My affluent Northeast suburbs high school kids are very much active in the prescription pills and heroin game.  And that game is serious.  The Reagan's were talking about coke/crack and maybe a little weed back then.  And by back then I mean like 30 years ago.  This is not exactly recent history.

How is that war working out anyway?  Should we ask Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Too soon?

Fact is this country, and in particular Generation X and their offspring, might be pushing back just enough to start making a difference.   It is bad enough we are losing lives and countless billions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Do we need to be throwing more bad money on fights we are unable to win.

This is not to belittle the efforts and/or noble reasons that put us in this uneasy position to begin with.

Is it bad/dangerous/irrational to take illegal substances?  I think we can all agree that yeah, you could probably make a better decision.  But sometimes a night out smoking a couple bowls or snorting lines of coke is an easier (and way more fun) way to go then, say, a spinning class and tofu burger.  And don't judge!  Chances are you or someone very close to you had a slip up not that long ago.  Maybe even last night.  We are a flawed group of humans.  Sometimes, ok, lots of times, we need a little help getting through life's twisted sense of humor.  Shame on us.  But let's get us all help and make some sound fiscal and legal decisions based on our inability to think clearly.  And if we are only hurting ourselves and not endangering others what exactly is the issue?

Look to Colorado and Washington state, will you?  Marijuana has been legal for recreational use for several months now.   They both have not gone into disarray.  I don't remember reading about recent mass murders there.  Looting, to my knowledge, has not been occurring.  Things seem to be pretty much as they were before they became "green" states.  Except for maybe one thing.  The states are seeing enormous revenues from their decision to legalize a plant.

We are a nation of beer drinking, gun toting, football loving, meat eating, gossip hungry, miscreants.  And that is on a good day!

Why are we still arresting and incarcerating non-violent drug addicts?  It is Friday night and I am thankful.  But a part of me is thinking about all the folks buying liquor right now.  An how many more will be operating vehicles after imbibing.    

Anyway, that is it.  The ramblings of a jaded, middle aged man who thought it would be clever to rant about what he visions as an absurd cultural pattern.  Oh, and the "war" happens to share the same name as the incredible Philadelphia based rockers he saw Wednesday night at Bowery Ballroom.

"The War on Drugs," meet The War on Drugs.

The War On Drugs, 3.19.14 Bowery Ballroom, NYC
Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile were fast friends after meeting in Philadelphia a little over 10 years ago.  They shared a musical inspiration in Bob Dylan and their similar styles are evident in their recorded work.  They both love brooding guitars and mumbled, yet cogent vocals.  For a while they were in a band called The Violators.  They formed The War on Drugs soon after and right before the release of their debut record Vile departed.  You can't blame him.  His solo stuff, in particular last years Waking on a Pretty Daze, have been spectacular.  

But before you bury Granduciel as the "less successful" part of the duo...  go listen to The War on Drugs recently released 3rd record, Lost in the Dream.  Better yet, go hear them play it live.  

Wednesday night, at Bowery Ballroom,  they started a sold-out 3 night stay in NYC (3.20 at Bowery and tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg. )

As far as I am concerned there was only one thing wrong with the evening.  For an old stiff like me Wednesday evening concerts (ok, Sunday thru Wednesday concerts) require a Herculean effort.  And I might have, like 5 Herculean efforts in me for the year.  That is down from the 7-8 I had last year...  and 10 or so I had 5 years ago.

It's tougher still for my better half who worked an entire day and met up with us around 6 for dinner and drinks.  But I get it, rock and roll is a young kids game.  More than that, it's a City game.  Adam and his band are not concerned with soccer moms and PTA meetings.

Nor should they be.  But I would hope they understand they have some fans out there who would desperately like to see a full set.  Starting a set at 11:10pm on a school night is tough man.

What makes it tougher is when the act comes out and lives up to the hype that has followed their records release.

Granduliec's is not a virtuoso on guitar.  But his instruments sound evokes 80s Don Henley and the best of Mark Knopfler.  Incorporating a bass sax adds a little Tina Turner shirtless Thunderdome guy to the mix.  And let's not forget Dylan...  because the vocals share more than a passing resemblance.  Not the Rainy Day Woman Dylan either.  More like the 1987 Fiona film Hearts of Fire Dylan.

The new album is full of slow builds, and a The War on Drugs concert is a refreshing works cited page.    It took a few songs to get loose.  But around the third song the band took it out of 1st gear.  "An Ocean In Between the Waves" and "Under the Pressure" were both celebrations of controlled chaos.   With the bass sax and jazzy drum beat they run the risk of sounding like a high school talent act.    This is rock and roll though.  The kind that, even on a Wednesday night in rainy NYC, makes it all worth while.  The kind that hits you right in the gut... and makes you move around a bit.  The kind that far too many people will never hear about, let alone hear.

This space will continue to tout many artists like The War on Drugs.  It was the longest winter known to man, but it's over.  With spring comes the hope that good things are coming.  Green grass, days at the beach, and Mets losses.

And music.  Sweet, sweet music.

What shows you seeing this summer?  Which album have you been playing on repeat?  Where the hell is that Malaysian Airlines plane???

Here are this months picks.  Don't forget to like us here and follow us here.

Cloud Nothings "I'm Not A Part of Me"

Cleveland, OH lo-fi, post punk kids 4th LP, Here and Nowhere Else, is scheduled for an April Fool's Day release.  But do not be fooled by their simple, but aggressive style.  Sometimes a few power chords and raspy vocals are just what the Dr ordered.  The first single is full of fury.  Dylan Baldi (vocals/guitar) does not have a unique voice.  Bassist TJ Duke and drummer Jayson Gerycz are not re-inventing the wheel in their rhythm section.  But darn it the hooks are catchy and this song is super fun.  They hit the road to support the album this spring.  Check em out if you can:  Cloud Nothings official site

Sylvan Esso "Coffee"

It is March, so Durham, NC is always big in the news.  But this duo, not the Duke Men's Basketball program, is what has my attention.  Amelia Meath is the sultry vocalist behind this synth heavy ear worm.  Nick Sanborn is the producer/arranger/synth man.  The forced "My baby does the hanky panky" lyric is ridiculous, I admit.  But there is something here that has me wanting more.  Is it the strength of the vocal?  The easy keys that make me wish this winter would end?  The title?  Who does not like a nice cup of joe?  Whatever it is, I can root for it far easier than Coach K and his pituitary cases.

Future Islands "Seasons (Waiting on You) live on Letterman

These folks got their start in NC too...  Greenville to be exact.  They call Baltimore, MD home now.  Their new LP and recent stint at SXSW are buzz worthy, if for lead singer Samuel Herring's stage presence and antics as much as the music itself.  This clip and song from David Letterman are terrific indicators of both.  Herring's voice is reminiscent of Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals.  His moves like Tom Jones.  He is worth watching...  especially for Letterman's reaction.

Speedy Ortiz "American Horror"

Hard not to like a band who defines themselves like this:  "we play shows and eat stuff."  If Liz Phair still made music, or more specifically music with an edge, it might sound something like this track.  Massachusetts native Sadie Dupuis started this act as a solo project in 2011.  Their debut record, Major Arcana, was released late last year.  This guitar heavy, grunge inspired song has finally made my radar.  Maybe it will find yours too.

Ray LaMontagne "Supernova"

You always know when Ray LaMontagne is singing a song.  His earthy rasp is recognizable.  So too is his songwriting.  This single, from his upcoming LP (Supernova) is more light than most of his work.  There is more hope and joy than you might expect.  And that is a good thing.  For someone who has a reputation for throwing fits and having some pent up anger, perhaps he is softening a bit in his older age.  Old?  He just turned 40.  Hell I can relate.  I heard Joan Rivers tell Louis C.K. "things don't get better, but we do."  I think that might apply here- to the musician and listener.

Quilt "Tie Up the Tides"

The third New England band in a row here...  Ray LaMontagne is a Maine boy via New Hampshire.  Quilt is a Boston trio.  Not much else is known via the inter web.  They released a self titled LP in 2011.  A new record is forthcoming and this track will surely appear.  It is 60s inspired pop with more synths than guitar.

Sharon Van Etten "Taking Chances"

Ms Van Etten has a new record coming out soon, Are We There?  Perhaps I only like her because she grew up in Clinton, NJ and now calls Brooklyn home.  She got out!  And is living where I would like to and making music!!  Score.  Her voice, especially here,  has a PJ Harvey meets Thom Yorke thing- ya know, like their brilliant collaboration "The Mess We're in"  It has a grittiness, and dare I say sexiness.  Or is all because of the organ that is featured prominently here.  Did someone say organ?  Ugh, it's been a long week.

Lykke Li "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone"

Swedish songstrees Li is also releasing an LP later this year.  The word is it is power ballad heavy.  Judging by this first release I can see that.  Her concert a few years ago was an eye opener.  This girl brings it.   Good old fashioned love song here.   Somewhere a teenage girl has her Beats on listening to this and crying that Johnny Football didn't ask her to the Spring formal.  Or, in this case, a dorky middle aged man is listening on his beats in his local coffee shop.

Youngblood Hawke "Pressure"

Youngblood Hawke, the LA rockers, headlined one of my least favorite live shows in recent memory. It wasn't all their fault.  The venue sucked.  It was too cold for a spring day.  We ran into a rat colony on the street walking to our car.  Bla.  Bla.  Bla.  Perhaps I will not forever stay bad at the band for the litany of things that went against them that night.  This new single, although super derivative, has juts enough to keep you humming along.  Clearly its roots are in 80s John Hughes movies.  Approved.

Polica "I Need $//So Leave"

Synth pop Minneapolis act that leads with vocalist Channy Leaneagh (and can just stop there.)  Soft sounds not unlike Sia and Zero 7.  As elegant and lovely a song you will hear.  Please enjoy.

The War On Drugs "An Ocean Between the Waves" live from Philly 3.14.14

See above.  A highlight on an album of highlights.

Lo-Fi kids from Ohio- Cloud Nothings

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Best of February, 2014

This is me for the past 4 months

Listen, I had a pretty remarkable experience playing basketball in high school.  This time of year brings back very fond memories.  I was an average player at best.  My ball handling was adequate.  I had a pretty nice jumper.  More than anything I could play defense.  It was my calling card and it was probably the only reason I was allowed on the floor.  Nothing was better than leading a break and knowing I had two strikers on my side able to score.  We were a bunch of West Jersey punks with no business doing as well as we did.  My last two years we were 45-6 and won our league easy.  Usually we made it to the second round in States and take a beating from an urban school, like the legendary St Anthony's Friars from Jersey City.  Sure, we would lose by 50 in their famed Armory/home gym.  But I could tell my grandkids that I was on the foul line next to 5 future D-1 players.  My game was more suited to awkward, lunch-hour, YMCA business executive's runs.  For a goofy dork like me this was pretty cool.

I was never in better shape.  I was never more eager to play.  It was a joy to be in the gym in late February.  The stakes were a little higher.  I remember our locker room steps.  Walking upstairs and hearing the music start.  Getting ready to take the court the rush of adrenaline was paralyzing.  The crowds were bigger.  It was louder.  I was a real basketball junkie.  Which is why I never really left the game.

I was a hack player.  But my coach was a rock star.  In his day he was a gifted player.  He was our school's leading scorer.  He led them to a state title.  He went on to become a college star and has since had their gym named after him.  Local.  Freaking. Legend.

And as good a player as he was, he was probably a better coach.

He taught us all the right things.  His drills kept us fit.  His nasal voice was stern, encouraging and forceful when it had to be.  His sense of humor kept practices entertaining.  But he could lash out if you were not on board.  He played kids that deserved to play and would never consider listening to a parents opinion on how to run his team.

As I get ready to coach March Madness, 6th grade Catholic league edition, I wonder if his methods would be frowned upon in today's World.   I know mine are.  And I think I do a pretty good job.

At what age are you comfortable having someone really coach your kid?  Is it middle school?  Before that?

Is it too harsh at any time?  Can they swear at your kid?  If so, what age?

If your son/daughter is not performing up to potential when can coach say "you suck."  Never? Really?

If we never hear that how will we learn when we are sucking?  I read the news (ok, I read the internet  from borderline reputable websites.)  More specifically I read The Onion and 1010wins.  But I get the sense we are still in a down time economically.  Far as I can tell we still are at war.  And if it isn't us someone else is fighting.  Syria, Ukraine and Sudan come to mind without much research.  They are killing people there right?

Point is, we are not all perfect.  We should start hearing about our imperfections as soon as is humanly possible.

We need all the time possible to correct them.

If we fail to inform our youth what is needed to succeed, we have failed them.

We are not all winners.  We don't all get trophies.  We can complain about it all we want.  And all of that is just fine.

That said, I am going to go win this bitch.

Getting excited for the brackets to be revealed  

We still do music here.  And although the hoops season has rendered live concerts obsolete, some key music has stayed in focus.  Please add these songs to your latest playlist.  Lots of new releases coming up and many live concerts on the schedule.  The spring should be a blast.  Now, if Mother Nature just gets her act together and cooperates.  Have a great March and be well!!

Reputante Album Art

M83 "I Need You"

Synth composer/producer/performer M83 has mostly been doing soundtrack work since his hugely successful last record, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.   Last year he worked on Tom Cruise's Oblivion.  His latest, featuring a sax solo Tina Turner could sing to, appears on the Divergent soundtrack.   I have little, if no interest, in watching either of those films.  But I can listen to this all day.

Dum Dum Girls "Rimbaud Eyes"

LA based girl band led by Dee Dee Perry released Too True in January.  The ladies are sexy, let's just say that right up front.  Take a look/listen to David Letterman salivate over them on the clip above.  In it he asks for them to come by every night.  All that aside, their mix of 60's rhythm and blues and rock and roll is refreshing.  This song, referencing the French poet, is a fine example.

Sun Kil Moon "Ben's My Friend"

Lots of California on this months list.  Mark Kozelek is the man behind this folk rock act.  This song, an ode to Death Cab/The Postal Service alt hero Ben Gibbard, is effective in it's simplicity.  Benji, the band's 6th studio album, was released this month.

Hospitality "I Miss Your Bones"

The NY based punk-pop trio will soon release Trouble,  their follow up to their critically acclaimed successful self titled 2012 alt-debut.  Lead singer and guitarist Amber Papini leads the power trio.  It is no nonsense, bass driven, rock and roll.  The first single is addictive.  Give it a try.

St Vincent "Digital Witness"

Annie Clark gets herself a lot of buzz.  She has appeared on Portlandia.  She toured and made a record with David Byrne.  Hell I saw her appear at a National show last year in Brooklyn.  Her PR machine is strong.  Her music?  Well that is up for debate.  This song, and visually stunning video, are both impressive.  I hear lots of Annie Lennox and maybe Siousie Sioux when Clark is at her best. This might be that moment.

HelloGoodbye "Everything is (Debatable)"

California synth pop.  These cats have been around for a little over 10 years and released their 3rd LP,  Everything is Debatable, late last year.  The title track echoes 80s feel good bands like Culture Club, Human League, Thomas Dolby, Level 42 and many more.  It's a very comfortable song.  Sometimes that is all you need.

Gap Dream "Fantastic Dream"

Fullerton, California is where  Gabriel Fulvimar calls home.  He has described his pop project, Gap Dream, as "an attempt to find a chill spot just to organize his mind."  Lots of synths and vocal effect dominate this track.  I can't get enough of it.

Kevin Drew "Good Sex"

Canadian musician Kevin Drew cut his teeth with the baroque-pop band Broken Social Scene.  His solo record, Darlings, should arrive in a few months.  The opening track exults the virtues of good sex.  Who am I to argue?

Eels "Agatha Chang"

There are few bands that get me quite as giddy as eels.  News of a new record and tour probably fell under your radar.  Not here.  This is the first release from the forthcoming (April 14) Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett.   Everett's droopy, soulful voice is best when he sings about longing.  This is about as dreary as I get.  But no one does it better than E.  His NYC tour will hit the legendary Apollo Theatre in June.  You really should be there.  For more: eels official

Damien Jurado "Silver Timothy"

Mr Jurado has, like, a million albums dating back to 1997.  He is Seattle, Washington based and has released music under both the SubPop and Secret Canadian labels.  Being the true pro I am my introduction with him was about 2 weeks ago.  This song is a trippy nod to the "Girl with Ipanema."  I could see Hunter S Thompson listening to this as he rode through the desert.  Smooth, velvety lyrics layer nicely over howling guitars and a groovy organ.  I may have missed a huge body of work.  The beauty is I can go catch up on all I missed.

Annie Clark, aka St Vincent

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Cocktail Hour - Seven and Seven

Following up on my call to bring back Cocktail Hour, Hank B picked up the ball and set it up.

We all met at a pleasant but non-descript hotel bar in Hank's neck of the woods, which is about midway of my daily commute.

Hank assembled about seven or eight of his friends; two couples, a couple singles, and a floater who stopped by for a quick one.

Hank B and I go way back, all the way back to Back In The Day. So while we took separate paths in life and, as a result, there is about a twenty year gap in knowledge of the details of our lives, we know each other pretty well.

So besides Hank, I didn't know anyone. 


It made for a true test of Cocktail Hour.

I had two Cocktail Hour rules for myself: 

1) Do not talk about my job

Why no job talk? Well, for me the Cocktail Hour is a transition ritual, shedding the persona that serves as a uniform in the corporate world.

I am grateful that I have a decent paying job and work with cool people. But my job is how I make a living, not my life's mission (if your job is aligned with your life's mission, mazel tov!)  Also, whenever I talk about my job I find it turns into a networking discussion which, for me, may often be necessary but still is part of making a living and, therefore, like part of my job.

2) Two drink maximum

Why only two drinks? That's my personal limit when I am going to be driving; and, I am sure not coincidentally, more than two drinks is the point at which alcohol stops simply subtracting what I want to subtract --- the residual stress of the day, a few loose strands of self-consciousness --- and starts to add to what I don't want it to enhance (a taste for sharp verbal sparring, intellectual or otherwise)

My drink of choice was a 7 and 7. Seagrams 7 whiskey and 7-Up.

The 7 and 7 has a great refreshing combination of cool, gingery not-too-sweetness plus warm whiskey kick. 

And I love its cinematic pedigree.

I think cinematically. Classier people than me may think of scenes from Hamlet or Wuthering Heights. My favorite metaphors come from the movies.

The 7 and 7 speaks of a casual manliness. It was Tony Manero's drink in Saturday Night Fever (as my friend Jim the Brooklynite reminded me, to wash down those double decker pizza slices "two, two, gimme two") 

It was Jimmy Conway's drink when he first meets the young Henry Hill in Goodfellas, stuffing a twenty in Henry's shirt pocket while telling him "Hey, kid get me a 7 and 7 and keep 'em coming."

And it was cinema (and I include television in "cinema" since it is so good nowadays) that informed a great Cocktail Hour conversation. 

We marveled at the haunting twists of True Detective.  Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle were compared and debated. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman's incredible career was assessed, with Hank B,  who hated The Master, nevertheless extolling Hoffman's performance.

Two drinks later, most of us peeled off, heading home, awaiting the next Jersey snowstorm.

Until next time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Surviving February

I feel you Mr Torrance.  Haven't I always been the caretaker???
This was to be the year of positivism.  Although someone who never really bought in to resolutions it was my intention to look on the brighter side of things.   Growing older allows for certain luxuries you might not have in your youth.  For one, you may be forced to spend time with someone you would ordinarily might not associate yourself with.

At age 40 you should be able to call the shots as to who you are surrounded by.  That does not count employment, obviously.  Fortunate is the person that loves his job.  Better still that person that loves both job AND co-workers.  

My job is not the worst thing in the World.  And I happen to dig where I live (or rather its proximity to NYC) so money is kind of important.  That, and apparently we have to spend about 40k a year for middle school.  Suburban white person problem, right?  Well what can I say?  I am a suburban white person, in the most suburban of towns.  The goal is to have your kid succeed where you might not have.  A brother has got to try.

I am not socializing with my co-workers though.  It's fine.  They are ok enough people.  But they don't like the same things I do.  They have their own families, and lives.  It is totally cool.

This winter I haven't had a chance to even try.  Mother Nature has been a monster in the Northeast.  Winter is cool and all.  My youth was spent in gyms playing basketball, so the elements were never really an issue.  Skiing, skating and all that outdoor winter stuff, was unheard of.  All I can think about is how cold my feet and hands would be.  Who wants that??!!  I know, lots of you.

That is why you are glued to tv sets watching the snore fest they call The Olympics.  How do you find the events?  Far as I can tell Bob Costas has an eye infection, Bode Miller cried, the gender line has been further blurred in the figure skating competition, Pussy Riot got arrested and whipped, people had to break out of bathrooms, its raining and warm, and athletes continue to be injured due to unsafe conditions.  Oh, and Russia's hockey team is out.  Their game with the US was an overrated dud.  Seriously folks, shoot outs do not make for a classic game.  Nor do preliminary round games littered with NHL talent.  

As for the games, they are hidden between product placements, sad sack profiles and meaningless set pieces.  The press has become the story.  And I am tuned out.

Back to the snow.  There is a lot of it.  And after 40 the shoveling episodes, especially in such abundance, are tiresome chores with the power to smack a bitch (I am the bitch in this poorly constructed imagery.)  

And now it is melting.  Where will it go?  Was that water mark always on the floor?  Will the basement hold up?

Who, in their right mind, thought homeownership was a good idea?  With every weather related event the angst deepens.  

Since Thanksgiving my daughter has been in school for about 4 days.  The added expense was something I had not factored in when the school year began.  Oh well.

Her hoops season has provided some rays of hope.   It all happens close to town, and for not nearly enough time.  

Once I get in a groove something pisses me off.  

The Grammy's sucked.  Philip Seymour Hoffman's death and the media maelstrom that continues sucked.  The State of the Union sucked.  Bridge-gate sucks.  

I am in a rut.  I can't muster the energy to binge watch True Detective on HBO or the new season of House of Cards.  Sleepless nights are spent watching Property Brothers and repeats of Modern Family.  Have I thrown in the cards?

Not quite.  The winter of discontent will soon end.  Pitchers and catchers are practicing in Florida (and ok, Arizona too.)

The live music scene is gearing up as well.  You should always having something to look forward to. And you should not be hanging around anyone who brings you down.  That is the mantra of 2013.

Who will join us on our next events???  Only good people wanted for Cocktail Hours:  The next event will be very soon.  You know where to find us.

And in terms of the concert season.  We plan on covering these events over the next few months.

To name a few.  Come join us.  Together we can make seasonal depression a thing of the past.

Or at the very least drink enough to forget it.

Matt Berninger at The National will be performing at Brooklyn's Prospect Park this June.  You should really be there.