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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Best of September, 2013

Arcade Fire, love them or hate them, you cannot ignore them.

Its funny, cause I have no idea why our Government is shut down today.  I mean, a little bit I guess.  The Affordable Healthcare Act of a few years back is now the law of our dysfunctional land today.  House Republicans, it appears, are not thrilled about it.  I have heard things about "Single Payer" options and "Tea Party backlash" in the limited media coverage I paid any attention to.  Are The New York Post and Brooklyn Vegan reputable and accurate news sources?  What of The Today Show and Project Runway?  Modern Family and Ray Donovan?

I do know that my wife and I have to work, pretty hard, to afford a mortgage, raise a family and try to make through each and every day alive, and hopefully happy.  There are days we settle for alive.  There are days that end with little, if any smiles.  It's damn hard.

So you will excuse me for being uninformed.  After all, how has our Government helped me to this point?  Are they relevant to my World at all?

After high school I began a career of financing them.  It started with student loans.  That was about 15 years of my life.  The final payment, made late last year, remains a highlight in my adulthood.  Sad, but true.

When we bought our money pit, er, house,  our taxes have sucked up a nice chunk of our humbled coin.  Sure, I choose to live in the heavily taxed Garden State.   I can still bitch about it though, no?  Self deprecating humor is every Jersey kids birth right.

We have fought in several wars over the past decade too.  I don't remember wanting any part of that.  And I was witness to the fire coming from the One World Trade Center.  I remember attempting to drive someone into Manhattan a few days after the attack.  We were all still shocked and most likely not believing the news/footage/reality that was 9.11.  Why else would the woman think I would be able to drive her to Wall Street office?  Why On Earth was I agreeing to take her?

That drive was eerie.  I remember thinking this road should be so quiet for a NYC morning commute.  It was gray too.  Whereas 9.11 was a picture perfect day, the clouds were dark.  It was all dark.  Many, many days after.  It still depresses me down there.  I have no desire to see the Memorial.  And I am leery what the Freedom Tower will ultimately do for Lower Manhattan.

It didn't help that the economy shit the bed shortly thereafter.   Did we all have to bail out Fannie and Freddie back then?  Were our taxes poached to bail out the big banks?

My memory is clouded, probably because I was living check to check around then and trying to keep a marriage together and raise a child.

But right, about the wars.  We hit Iraq.  We hit Afghanistan.  Syria and Iran are concerns too, they say.

Those are four countries I have no desire to visit.  Those are four places that should really have nothing to do with us as a Nation, let alone me as an everyday Joe.

Yeah, they have oil.

But I really don't want to need oil.  It would be far better if our ailing transit system was more advanced than those in developed countries like Germany or China.  I have a train to NYC mere blocks from my home.  20 miles west to the greatest city on Earth.

Today there was a delay due to wire problems.  Yesterday it was congestion on the Northeast corridor. Tomorrow, who knows?  But make no mistake there will be issues.  And the 45 minute ride it should be will turn into a three hour tour.

How much have the wars cost us?  What if we never spent a dollar on any of it?

What if we spent money went into re-imaging and re-inventing our trains and transport system.  Imagine bullet trains connecting LA to Boston.  What if freight wasfound more on commercial tracks. than clogging our freeways.

Could those small steps lessen our demand, eh, voracious thirst for oil?  And ultimately foreign oil.

It's hard.  Eye for an eye they say.  It quenches our collective thirst.  Its why people clapped and celebrated at the news of Bin Laden's death.

Its primal.  Its human nature.

Its the kind of nonsense that lands us here, today, October 1st, 2013.

And there is nothing we can do about it.

Sure, you can vote the bum out, in your district...  in your state....  in your Nation.

But do any us really like the guy or gal on the ballot in the first place?  Who wants that job?  Yeah, the guy and gal who just shut down the government (all the while collecting their checks to do so.)

These clowns have no idea how I live?  They do not know what I really need.  How could they?

They rep a guy, from a group, that will undoubtably pay them handsomely to be his/her spokesperson.  Special Interests.  Lobbyists.  Make believers.

They will not help me decide what to do with my kitchen renovation.  They will not guide me on the best high school for my daughter.  They debate things that should be decided long ago.

Seriously?  Gay marriage, decriminalizing drugs, eliminating the dh...  these are all things that states should have handled, long ago.  But we can't even commit to laws that have already passed.

We are failing to compromise.  Everyone wants to win so no one understands what it means to lose.  And more importantly how to act when you do lose.

So, we can never get better.

We all fail.  We all make mistakes.  I have been using that lecture with my 6th grade girls basketball team.

Last week we lost for the first time in two years.  And I loved it.  During the game I was out coached and lost focus during a critical point in the game.  Not being able to adjust, call time out, and find a way to stop a pivotal run by my opponent transformed a close game turned into sound defeat.

The girls were upset, and so was I.  But here is the thing,  we are now a better group as a result.  I was able to see some weaknesses, both with me and my team.  We can work on things.  We are going to take what we learned last week and make adjustments, find each others skill set, and become a better unit.

Accountability.  It is lost around here these days.  We gonna be able to find it?  Before it's too late?

I gotta go on living.  This is my only life, and I have already wasted enough time addressing that happy horse shit.

Its friggin Rocktober.  Concerts galore start tomorrow in Brooklyn.  Thank you art for being the diversion needed to escape the madness.

Find your love.  Enjoy the lovely Autumn season.

Take a look and listen to the crop below.  It is once again a bountiful, eclectic and riveting list.  What say you?  Join the discussion and tell us your favorite tune/album/artist of 2013.

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White Denim "Pretty Green"

Texas rockers played a average gig promoting their upcoming record, Corsicana Lemonade last month. They bring the guitars and a sound very similar to that of The Black Keys.  This first single has a simple, but effective hook.

Empire of The Sun "Alive"

Pure dance pop from these costume wearing Aussies.   My guess is they saw a lot of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert when they were young.  Seeing Patrick Swayze in drag can do this to you.  Swayze would dig this tune though.  It is very easy to picture him and "Baby" in a carefully choreographed routine to this diddy.   Thinking a montage scene trying to nail their signature move.  Finally he has her above his head spinning, and spinning, and spinning.  "And I, had, the time of my life..."

Au Revoir Simone "Crazy" and "Somebody Who"

Williamburg, Brooklyn gals have two songs on this months list and for good reason.  First, both songs are terrific, as is their record, Move in Spectrums.  Maybe the best part of the trio, Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D'Angelo, have a sly sense of humor.  The video for "Crazy" is a fun little parody/homage to Martin Scorsese's under rated and amazing 80s film After Hours.

Cults "High Road"

NY duo Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion are back with their second album, Static, which is due out 10.15.  They scored big a few years back with "Go Outside".  The catchy hooks and dreamy vocals are still intact and this album promises to be a nice soundtrack to Sunday morning by the fire.

Arcade Fire "Reflecktor"

Unsure if there is a bigger band on the planet right now.  They have spent several years crafting their follow up to the Grammy winning and game changing 2010 album, The Suburbs.  October 29th they will release Relecktor, produced by LCD Soundsystem visionary James Murphy.  They were the guests on the premiere of SNL and even had 30 minutes devoted to them with the pretentious, but fascinating short film "Here Comes the Night."   This is as much theatre as it is music.  Costumes, make up, and creepy paper mache masks don't necessarily scream rock star.  Subtract all of that and what you are left with is song.  And then songs are usually pretty darn good.  The build on the title track is infectious and joyous.  I want to hate them and Murphy.  Instead, I anxiously await absorbing every track.

Naked and Famous "Hearts of Ours"

The alt World is very diverse.  Here New Zealand is represented.  Like Cults, they rely on a dreamy female voice, here Alisa Xayalith.  Synth pop straight outta 80s Manchester.  Nothing fancy here, but sometimes that is the best kind.  Think little, smile lots.

Kendra Morris "Banshee"  from Ray Donovan finale

It seems like I might be the only person who was not caught up in the Breaking Bad phenomenon.  Whole seasons of shows are a difficult proposition in this house.  Over the past few weeks of summer, and a little into September, I managed to binge watch the first seasons of Netflix's House of Cards and Showtime's Ray Donovan.  They were both fantastic and left me wanting more.  Apologies Walter White.  And RIP.  This song played as the end credits rolled on the finale of Ray Donovan.  NYC blues gal with a voice and style not unlike Amy Winehouse or Adele.  Not saying she is either, just in the ball park.

Franz Ferdinand "Right Action"

Post-punk is still all the rage, at least in my World.  This year I will have seen Savages, Palma Violets,  and Parquet Courts.  There are about a dozen acts doing the same thing.  These guys from Glasgow have been doing it for over a decade.  They have another record, Right Thoughts, Right Actions, that was released in late August.   The traditionalists have become the tradition.

Frank Turner "Recovery"

Turner started off as a post-punk.  He was the singer for post-hardcore band Million Dead.  When they split he put away the electric guitar in favor of acoustic.  Think David Gray with more balls.  It's pub rock.  Raise a pint and revel.  No fuss.  No muss.

Chvrches "Lies"

Like Franz Ferdinand, these kids hail from Scotland.  Unlike them, they favor the keyboards over guitars.  They recently released their much played and much buzzed about debut record The Bones of What You Believe.  I dismissed many of their initial offerings, due mostly to the voice of their pixie singer Lauren Mayberry.  This song won me over.  Her voice is strong (and probably enhanced/aided.) But it is the simple hook on the keys, reminiscent of Human League or Thomas Dolby, Danny Elfman, that really gets your attention.

San Fermin "Sonsick"

Sometimes I get to a band/song before they have an internet presence.  Ellis Ludwig-Leone is the brainchild behind San Fermin.  He is NY based and champions "Chamber pop."  Well he must, because that is how his debut record has been described.  Why?  Guess cause it has horns, and Ludwig-Leone is a composer, not front man.  His background is in in Classical music and it can be assumed he grew putting tracks together incorporating both Garage Band and reel to reels.  This song is both gritty and elegant.  It is dissonant and melodic.  It's my daughters new favorite, and ain't that enough?

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