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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.


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."


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.

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