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Friday, April 25, 2014

The World We Live in (and the best of April 2014 music)



Maybe these things should be called "worst" of...

That isn't to say my World and the World around us, is not filled with joy and beauty.  I can sit here and rattle off a dozen things that put a smile on my face.

The green grass, and white buds that have enveloped Main Street.

The first sip of an overdue coffee.

The laugh from your child when she thinks what you said was funny.

My dogs reaction to us returning home.

The smell of hot peanuts on a cold New York City evening.

My wife's head on my shoulder at the end of a long day, or at the beginning of a new one.

Reading something my daughter has read.

NHL playoff hockey.

Portlandia.

When the hair stands on end listening to your favorite band kill a song.

A nice pint.

The vicarious thrill watching my middle schooler compete.  Not just sports either-  I mean compete.  She studies to make the grade.  She navigates the social World of school, adolescence and this brutal, unforgiving section of the Northeast.

It's a battle.  But one worth fighting.

But there are times, and boy do I try to ignore them, that I wonder.

For instance, I do a bit of youth coaching.  This year I took over my daughter's schools middle school softball team.  They had not won last year.  I had a bit of success with the basketball team.  A marriage was formed.

It is a terrific group of girls, and easy to root for and attempt to lead.  The season is short, too; it is 8 games and a playoff.  After 2 games we hadn't lost.  Things were looking up.  Before spring break I held one more practice before everyone went to an Island.  We did too, work in Manhattan, but who is keeping score?  Right, everyone.

As the practice ended and we gathered our gear to leave, one of the kids mothers approached me.

"Hi, Im (insert mom name).  How are you?"

Soon I was being told where her daughter preferred to play.  And that she played there "all last year."

Yeah, well, that is not very safe anymore.

Then she gave me the line of the year:  "I was not aware it was merit based."

Huh?  Isn't everything?  If not, what the hell are we doing here?  I can get a bowl cut and be Kim Jung Un's bitch I suppose.  Or I can try and work real hard to get ahead in life.

And you better be sure I am not telling my kid to sign up and expect greatness.  Some kids are not capable to do ONE certain thing.  If we keep telling them to try everything and expect to excel.  And if, for some crazy reason, you are let down or fail- blame everyone else.

My girl is not a scholar.  If I sent her to the math bee and had her school's reputation on the line there would be a lot of unhappy people around.  Most of all my daughter would suffer psychological wounds.

All these kids want is an opportunity to succeed.  We, as parents, need to present options that best suit  them, not us.

There are 30 NFL quarterbacks, maybe 15 that are talented.  Clearly not every kid playing Pop Warner is gonna make it.

Lets let these things work themselves out a bit, shall we?

Nurture skill sets.  Teach them to wake eye contact and communicate with words and complete sentences.  Make sure they are polite and respectful.

Steer them in, what you think, is the right direction.  It is understood that there will be issues along the way.  We can't all agree on things and what fun would that be anyway.

But do we want them to end up like the other story that resonated over the Easter season.

A friend of mine is a City cop in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  He does some serious shit.  Task force stuff.  Buying drugs and making arrests.

Whether I agree with the efforts or not, I can assure you he works hard.  Maybe harder than anyone I know.

We shared some beers a few nights back and he told me of his latest shift.

It was a good one.  He took weapons off the street and made dozens of arrests.  Dozens I said.  1 shift  I said.

As he was bringing one of the suspects back to the precinct house his captive had some chilling words.

"Yeah, you did good tonight copper.  You did good.  I will do 3, maybe 5.  But I'm 23, I will be back out here.  And when I come back, I will still be your worst nightmare."

Lovely.

I have got a pal out there busting his ass and risking his life.

And he is chasing after kids who value NOTHING.  They go to school in Wilkes-Barre to learn how to sell drugs.  Gangs from Philly and New York send their youth there to nine their craft.  Once they learn how to deal with a hard scrabble town of 30k they graduate to the big leagues.

Funny, they have minor league hockey and baseball up there too.  They can only wish to be as successful as the drug trade.

Ok, so that is pretty freakin gloomy.  We are all better than that, right?

We are all going to prioritize and make sound decisions.

Or die trying.  Starting.....  now!!!




In other news, let's keep pushing new music.  The following are the 10 tracks that have caught my attention.  Use them wisely.  On the treadmill, or in the car. or chilling in your favorite easy chair, these songs represent what is hot or at least should be, in all things alternative.  Enjoy.

And don't be scared to share your opinions.  What are you listening to?  What do you love?  Hate?

Who are you seeing on tour this summer?   What is the best festival?  Worst?

Happy Spring all.  Let's all shake off the winter from hell, shall we?
From Fun, to maybe the most fun song of 2014- Jack Antonoff from Bleachers.

Bleachers "I Want To Get Better"

Jack Antonoff is today's "It" alt rocker.  He is on sabbatical from his immensely popular band Fun.  Nate Ruess might get all the headlines from that act, but Jack plays lead and writes his share of music.  He is also dating Lena Dunham, who is herself the "It" girl of TV.  He grew up among privilege in New Jersey and attended exclusive schools including NYC's Professional Children's School (where he took Scar Jo to prom.)  I should probably hate him.  But nope, I root for him and respect the hell out of someone who could come out of that scenario with hit after hit.  And this song, and the video his girlfriend directed, are a joyous romp.

Lily Allen "Sheezus"

A cockney accent, little bit of attitude, and a penchant for talking shit- yeah, I missed Lily Allen.
Here she takes on Lorde, Gaga, Katy Perry and of course Kanye.  It is as much spoken word as anything.  But when you speak "Give me that crown bitch/I want to be Sheezus" you have my attention.  Love it!

Paramore "Ain't It Fun"

Sometimes a pop song just knocks me out and puts a smile on my face.  Maybe it was because Hayley Williams impressed the hell out of me at MSG last year.  Whatever the case, this simple pop diddy (with some gospel thrown in) is infectious.  She said it was written as an anthem of adulthood after her band went through some inner turmoil.  Or at least that is what my 11 year old told me based on her Instagram knowledge.  There are worse sources, believe me.

Gardens & Villa "Colony Glen"

Yes, I am a sucker for synths.  In particular, I dig me 80s inspired synths.  Harold Faltemeyer and Thomas Dolby must be endorsing this track from California "Galactic rockers" Gardens & Villa.


Kongos "Come With Me Now"

I know I heard this song sometime last year promoting a cable show.  Was it Vikings?  Or something else on AMC?  Point is, it is not all that new.  It is gaining in popularity, that is for certain.  Toe tapping arena rock performed by Aussie brothers- yes they all share the last name Kongos (Johnny, Jesse, Dylan, and Daniel.)  A little pedal steel, organ, and wait, is that an accordion??  Totally digging it.

In The Valley Below "Peaches"

LA duo Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob have created a moody, 90s inspired, synth power ballad.  Both kids sing, trading verses and harmonies effortlessly.  Just when you thought you heard the definitive "Peaches" song this thing comes along.  A nice, easy going mediation on fruit, and the feeling one gets enjoying it.
Swedish sisters First Aid Kit have a new record coming out.  Dig it!


First Aid Kit "My Silver Lining"

A few years back these Swedish sisters rocked not only my World, but the alt World as a whole, with their dreamy and elegant debut record.  One wonders how they became so polished, so fast?  Their influences are clearly rooted in 70s alt country like Gram Parsons and their muse Emmylou Harris.  They could sing the phone book and I would be interested.   When everyone these days seems eager to mimic the 80s, 90s or otherwise let the auto tune do the work, these ladies are a welcome throwback.  Hell, the repeating lyric in this first single from their sophomore effort is "Try to keep on/keeping on."  Old school indeed.  And I am very much on board.

Lykke Li "Gunshot"

Another Swedish songstress, Lykke Li will be releasing her third LP, I Never Learn, in the very near future.  This is the third single released and it is easy to tell she is a Stevie Nicks disciple.  Having seen her live it is as much visual as her singing.  She favors dark lighting, long flowing clothes, and more than a little mystery.  When the Fleetwood Mac tribute album was released a few years back she destroyed (in the best way) Nicks' wonderful "Silver Springs".   She will be playing Brooklyn Bowl Monday 5.5 to promote the new album.  Wishing I could be there!!

Real Estate "Crime"

NJ band done good.  These guys are labeled a lot of things, repetitious and monotonous is one.  I for one dig the low key, surf rock sounds they are pushing.  Their latest record is full of god vibes and chill tunes like this one, which is probably my favorite.

Lydia Loveless "Really Wanna See You"

A few years back I stumbled out of a lifeless Tanlines show at Webster Hall.   Before leaving the venue I walked through the Studio (Webster Hall's intimate basement club.)  The evening was instantly transformed by a spirited set by Lydia Loveless.  It comes as no surprise that her debut record is full of life.  This is country rock, make no mistake.  Like First Aid Kit, Loveless herself is a throwback.  Simple lyrics.  Simple chords.  Simple happiness.

Enjoy all!  Remember to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter



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. 

“Hello?”

“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 anxiety, 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 with 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.