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Friday, June 27, 2014

Rules of Summer (Best of June, 2014)

It's not really a summer "break."  In fact, you could argue these days are more aggravating, and fleeting.  Is it easier that your kid doesn't have a set place to be for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?  Sure, some of you transition your children right into camps that last anywhere from 3 days or until September.  But that is hard work too.  You have to find the right fit, at the right cost.   And then get all the stuff you want to get done while they are away.  Don't kid yourself- that is a deadline.

Work hasn't stopped either.  (more) Deadlines, anxious clients, and the unhinged co-workers you would like to escape from, most likely never leave.

You try to expedite the minutiaa so you can enjoy all that sunshine.  We passed the longest day already, right?  Was it last weekend?  Damn.  The days are already getting darker,right.? I try not to think of November afternoons that darken around 4pm. But they are coming!!

No!  Seize the day.  I even managed a walk before the work day this morning.  Of course, a stranger pushing his infant boy felt compelled to inform me "It looked like I had a rough night."   Thanks random stranger!!

Um, I kinda didn't.  Home early, better than average sleep, early shower, and up and at em.

What is it I look like?  Felt pretty good actually.

the writer enjoys breakfast

Whatever, I'm still gonna rock this bitch.

But wait, this isn't a camp day.  How is she going to be emotionally when she wakes up?  Are friends around or will I have to come up with about 4 hours of activity?  And what about food?  Will I have enough?

The day to day struggles and many joys, aren't going anywhere.  Like all the seasons, summer is about time management and setting realistic expectations.

There are also rules.

1)  Get a third party opinion on your choice of swimwear.  I dig that you are confident and secure with your body.  But there are things that should not be seen in public.  Things you cannot unsee.  That goes for me too.  I plan on wearing the latest Haz Mat bathing suit.

2) Posting pictures.  Refer to rule 1) in particular.  But let's all be extra careful about oversharing.  New locations or the first day of your holiday are great.  We do not, however, need to see every breakfast, or every monument.  It's cool, you are away.  But I don't do the tour guide stuff when I go away.  Watch, I am going away next week and I am gonna be a total d bag over sharer.  *insert band pic here.  * dinner spot  * feet at the pool  * head in sand  * baseball stadium  * zoo/museum  * 3 generations of something  * 99% of people can't watch this video for 5 seconds  * shameless Buzz Feed poll  * onion headline.

3)  While we are talking about the beach, another reminder.  Boom boxes are off limits.   Its hard enough to find time to play music.  Now, with everyone having headphones, you decide to bring the Casio and play the Hits (n)one FM channel.  I would never force my shit on dozens of strangers.  Thats called a party.  And you didn't invite me...  and I didn't show up uninvited.  We are all here.  And sometimes we don't like what you like.

4)  No power tools til 9am.  Yeah, yeah, yeah...  I know what you are gonna say.  "Its the only time the landscaper can come." or "Its my only time off that week."  Probably both fair points.  But I am sleeping.  I get maybe 4 Saturdays a year I can stay in bed until 8am.  I will help you even, like 7pm or something.  Hell, you can pay me and I might have time to do it during the week- ya know, business hours.

5) No fireworks after 11pm.  Or whatever.  Do what you want.

Don't forget to build on your summer soundtrack too.  Iggy Azelea and Lil Jon don't need your help.  They have a young fan base and 30 somethings need not apply.  Take command of the Volvo's dial and check some of these tunes out.  The Best of 2014 (so far) can be found here.  Like the page, connect, join the conversation.  And whatever your quest is this summer make it amazing!

Happy Summer all.


Boy & Bear "Southern Sun"

Aussie Aussie Aussie.  Soft folk rock!!!  Formed in 2009 the South Wales rockers have 2 very successful albums- a World away.  They are making a name for themselves with this 70s California guitar inspired, smile inducing, road song.  It speaks of "waiting for the day/to be able to run."  If that does not define the first days of summer- at least for kids leaving school.

Lana Del Rey "Brooklyn Baby"

It is clear Ms Del Rey is a contrivance.  She burst onto the indie scene a few years back with her debut record, Born to Die.  She appeared on Saturday Night Live.  Critics in the alt world revolted.  It was in part due to her failed pop act Lizzy Grant (her birth name.)  They pointed to her transformation into moody, pout stricken ingenue.  "It wasn't authentic!" they cried.
They might still protest- but her follow up, Ultraviolence, is a wonderful record.  Like Boy $ Bear she borrows a lot from 70s LA- "West Coast" for instance is a blatant "Edge of Seventeen" ripoff.  Black Keys' Dan Auerbach produced the record in Nashville and its hillbilly roots are quite visible.  This song, a goofy mediation on millennial hipsters (yeah Williamsburg, she is talking to you) is just great.  Weird all that transformation works in the pop world (Madonna, Britney, Miley).  But when a girl goes from pop to alt- Fader and Pitchfork be trippin.

Milky Chance "Stolen Dance"

OK, German pop-folk, reggae, electronica.  Maybe that is why I protested this song so much.  After all, it was released about a year ago.  I like it way more than the German soccer team, that's for sure.  They better not win the World Cup!  But man, they are friggin talented.  Like a machine I tell ya.  But who can watch those games and think they are nothing more than WWE Mondays.  Men writhing in pain and grabbing each other for 90 minutes.  Refs who seem in on the joke and pull cards out of their pockets and send them to their room.  Expect them to make fair calls?  HA!!  Its cool the US moved on- but lets be honest, they should have won the damn group.  Bradley's play at midfield against Portugal cost us a certain win.  Then to back in after losing to said Germans.  That's kinda lame.  I.  I believe.  I believe we are still on the outside looking in.  Go prove me wrong!!

Big Data (featuring Joywave) "Dangerous"

I like the fact that Big Data wrote the content of their Wikipedia page.  It might be more original than this song.  Beeps and boops with a catchy hook.  Sometimes that is all you need.

Waters "Got to My Head"

San Francisco rockers who sound an awful lot like Grouplove.  That is all

Spoon "Rent I Pay"

Britt Daniel is a force.  And his Austin band, Spoon, is back!  In August they will release their 8th studio album, They Want My Soul.  That is very good news for those who like guitar music.  Its hard to find these days.  For every Jack White there are a dozen Jason Derulo's and Adam Levine's.  Not putting those guys down, just saying they are way more popular.  Ok yes, I am putting those guys down.  Why are they more famous???

OK Go "Writing's on the Wall"

At this point, Chicago alt-rockers OK Go are more known for their visual work, than they are their songs.  Their latest project, is an art nerd/film geek's wet dream.  They have come a long way from the treadmill video.    Take a look.

Grimes "Go"

Rhianna turned this one down.  Hmm.  Has Grimes lost her touch??  This is definitely a huge lead toward dub step, which should raise eyebrows.  What say you?

Parquet Courts "Black and White"

Post-punk rock from Brooklyn.  Their latest effort brings a bit more horn to the party.  The results are post-punk and ska, as evidenced here.  "Black and White" is an appropriate title.  There is little nuance here.  What you hear, is what you get.  If what you like is power chords, booming bass, and hastily shouted ramblings this is your scene.

Sam Smith Live at Letterman "Stay With Me"

As David Letterman begins his farewell tour it should be noted he has ALWAYS been a champion of the alt music world.  Kimmel and Fallon would be nowhere without him.  It is a big reason I could never take NBC seriously.  You hitched your wagon to uncool folks (Leno?  Really?)  His reactions to artists has always been fun.  Recently he gushed over the Orwells and asked the Dum Dum Girls if they could come back every night.  When Smith performed his mega hit Letterman was left fumbling for words.  This guy (Boy George's doppleganger, right?) can bring it.  What an amazing voice.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What'd I Miss?

Remember back in the 1970s when some do-gooder would give up television for a month and then write about it?

They would take a break from M*A*S*H, Welcome Back Kotter, and Kojak. By the end of the experiment, the spouses would be honeymooners again, and their formerly slack-jawed, glassy eyed children would be speaking three languages and playing chamber music while mom oil painted and discussed Voltaire with dad while he recited Shakespeare's sonnets.

I always hated those people. 

Their smug superiority. Their strident puritianism, like the reformed whore in her starched black dress and Amercian Gothic severe bun raging about sin and virtue.

When I took a month off from Facebook and Twitter I had these schoolmarmy types in mind. And I knew I would return to blog about it and post it on Facebook and Twitter.

So this will not be a soul searching rant about how Facebook and Twitter, in the wrong (my) hands can reduce the entire spectrum of human experience and interaction, like a Shrinky-Dink, into a glowing palm sized rectangle.

Instead, I will say that I learned just one thing:

Sometimes we like to think of ourselves as having a "real me" that is separate from what we do day to day. I think this is an illusion. There is no "real me". We are, in fact, exactly what we are doing at any particular moment.

So, at one moment I am wearing tan shorts and a red shirt listening to my friend talk about how her boss is a jerk and maybe its time to find a new job and while she is annoyed she is also kind of excited about a new opportunity and meeting new people and learn a new business and I am drinking a martini while I stand leaning against the bar with one arm on the back of the barstool feeling the martini's magical cool warmth trickle into my chest....

And at the next moment I am wearing tan shorts and a red shirt listening to my friend talk about hey there's another like on my post with the link to my blog who is it oh its John he left a comment I feel good he liked it i'll like his comment what's that her boss is a jerk that's too bad let me post a quick comment that plays off John's comment ha ha that's a pretty good one if I say so myself wait let me take a picture of my martini and post it i bet David is the first one to like it so she might look for a new job huh hey a tweet awesome "Community" has been renewed for another season I'll re-tweet so glad Dan Harmon came back as showrunner.

I am 45 years old. Statistically, its likely that I have fewer moments, or "Me"s left than I have already used up.

Spend wisely.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Best of May 2014, is anybody out there???

I have been hesitant to do full on concert reviews the past few months.  Let's be honest, this readership either wants to see live music or it doesn't.  If you are in your late twenties and never found live music compelling, than it is most likely not going to click for you.  When you do the math, it's a tough sell.

Drive or train into the busiest City in America.  That, in itself, is a costly proposition- both in time and money.  From the 'Burbs it is an hour on the best day (door to door at least.)  Rarely do you go just for the show.  You have to eat right?  And drink...  boy do you need to drink.  Sounds like $150 to $200 before you make it to the venue.  I am assuming your sorry ass can't find NYC free street parking.  If so, add $20.  If its Midtown double that.

Should you make it to the venue and find the bar, add $10 to the drinks you order.    How does that $12 beer taste?  $20 cocktail?  Little more yummy in that plastic cup isn't it??

Now, get ready to stand with 300-1500 of your friends.  Please note, they are loud, drunk and mostly obnoxious.  Some of them are half your age too.  

Right.  You guys are mostly out of that- why wouldn't you be?  Especially having never been in it.

Me?  I am in it for the long haul.  

I will put up with the aggressive head case calling out song requests.  I love seeing kids trust one another and crowd surf.  Beer on my foot??  Sure, no problem.

Eels at Apollo Theatre.  

Cage the Elephant at Terminal 5 earlier this Spring.  Do get to see them if you can.

The Jam band Dopapod at MHOW last month.  Good times.

For me, it is spiritual.

When the house lights go down my heart still skips a beat.  Watching the roadie duct tape a play list to the ground and setting up the drinks gives me goose bumps.  Hearing my favorite song, like I have never heard it before, provides a smile.  Sharing a moment with a friend who is sensing the same thing is incredible.   Better, seeing your wife or girlfriend embracing the moment, laughing and dancing is like nothing else.

For me.  I get it, not you so much.

Still, it is what I know.  And when the time permits, it is what I find I can write most intelligently about.

Seriously, you want me to talk about College Softball?  Reruns of Louie?  My take on the hostage release or Benghazi?  

I saw Of Mice and Men on Broadway with James Franco and Leighton Meester Sunday?  Yeah, double booked and missed about 1/3 of the eels show at the Apollo later that night.  Tragic.  Quick note about that event.  The Apollo Theatre, and most importantly its staff, were easily the most friendly and accommodating I have seen in NYC in a long time.  The Theatre itself is a wonder.  Like The Stone Pony, which I first visited earlier this year, I am glad I finally entered the place.  That eels, easily my favorite show, played it, was icing on the cake.  

My friend was injured in a freak accident last year and has been wheelchair bound since.  He and I share the same passion for E and his mates.  When we arrived to the show several attendants opened the door, asked if we were al together, did not bother to look at our tickets other than scanning them, and personally escorted us to a front row private box.  Amazing.  

E and his band were in fine form.  As mentioned, we were held up so it felt short to us.  Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Steve Perry's absence.  He had played with E in Minnesota and Washington, DC.   Next time Mr E...  cause you can be certain when you play next, I will be there.

A word of encouragement to my pal DC too.  Many people in his condition would be locked down at home with a "woe is me" attitude.  

Last weekend DC, wheelchair and all, went to Yankee game, college alumni dinner and eels show.  What did you do last weekend???

His path may have taken a crooked road.  But his ambition and perseverance are straighter than most.  
He continues to inspire me and many, many others.  I am now more encouraged than ever that he and I will walk into an eels show in the not so distant future.   Although I will miss getting the VIP treatment his chair provided.  Settle down, he can take a joke too.  

Back to Franco and the his play...  care for my two cents?

I didn't think so.  Do yourself a favor though, watch Freaks and Geeks or Bridesmaids instead.  Start a pledge asking for Meester to be voted out of all actors unions to while you are at it.

Well that's that.  Music good.  Hours in day not enough.  Summer can't get here soon enough- school over for God's sake!  

A summer without a soundtrack is like JLO without an endorsement deal.  The following represent what's on my radar and playlist over the past 30 days.  What will your summer soundtrack sound like?  What is the best of 2014 (so far?)  Any concerts on the horizon?  Festivals?   

Have a great summer all, wherever you are.  Thanks as always for reading/following. 

Baltimore duo Wye Oak

Editors Note:  6.6.14

A Friday afternoon, after a sleepless and restless night.  Funny what can get you going these days.  Last night it was rules interpretations on the 5/6th grade softball field.

In one game, I told the other team they were batting out of order without being a dick and calling them out.  Another time a girl tried to score from third on a dropped strike (you can't steal home in the league) and I had my girl tag her out.  Ump reversed call.  He did not call dead ball so we lose out. 

Finally, girl on first with one out.  Ball hit to pitcher and she goes to first.  Runner on second looks to advance to third so our girl throw a dart to third preventing it.  Girl panics, after touching second base, and retreats toward first.  My thought was she established herself at 2nd so I have my girl once again find her on the field and rage her out.   Other team protests and call overturned, again.  

Whatever, we won in a rout anyway.  But everything, I mean everything, is a fight.  Hell, we are 13-2 now and playing in the semis of a 15 team tri-town league tomorrow.  But I find myself more miffed and frustrated than anything.  Are the kids having fun?  Are they learning??  Why do adults make everything so damn hard?!  

I just passed a truck full of kids who were clearly on their way to the Shore for the weekend.  Maybe they just graduated?  Perhaps they are home for the summer?  

One thing is certain.  They were smiling.  Just like I should be.  My kid is working her ass off and doing well in school.  My wife is amazing.  We have a roof above our head and probably spend 2 grand on organic strawberries every year.  

Every now and then I get a little sad though.  And that is ok.  How can you not really?  Life can be overwhelming, a challenge.  Who knows if we will ever get it right?  This weekend I will try to find some more joy in the World.  

It might be on a softball field, or at a concert hall.  It might be on the couch with the ones I love.  

A June sunset would be nice.  Watching fireworks on a lawn too.  Summer is here.  Time to cut the shit and rock this bitch.

Coldplay "A Sky Full of Stars"

My Name is GTS and I like Coldplay.  There, I said it.  Yes, the Paltrow coupling and un-coupling scores Chris Martin major douche points.  Naming their kid "Apple" doesn't help either.   Only selling their new record at Target gets under my skin a bit too.  But we still sing along to notorious child molester Gary Glitter at every sports arena in the World.  Martin and Company write simple and catchy songs.  He never apologizes for it and damn it I will not apologize for digging it.

Woods "Moving to the Left"

Brooklyn, NY based Woods is a folk rock act in the Wilco, Portugal, the Band, Band of Horses vain.  Gutiar and psych grooves and trippy vocals are abundant here.  They have been plugging along since 2005 and cranked out a lot of material.  Yet another band that has escaped my attention for nearly a decade, until now.  There latest record, With Light and With Love, is a little treasure.  This song is an addictive stand out.

Black Keys "Turn Blue"

Ohio based duo Black Keys are another polarizing band, like Coldplay.  After Jack White ripped into them, that divide has been further lengthened.  His argument, they have a guitar and drummer so they are ripping off The White Stripes.  Oh, and there is a love triangle involving White's ex wife too- sure that has nothing to do with it.    Their new record has a more psych, trip feel to it.  Perhaps Ray Manzarek will come after them next.  Is he still alive?   Anyway, I am not their biggest fan either.  But I think I know what qualifies as good material.

Fear of Men "Descent"

Brighton, UK dream pop led by Jessica Weiss- art student turned singer.  Two things, this drum line has all the tendencies of an early The National song.  Secondly, this song and style has been done about a thousand times.  But unlike Jack White I choose to see the originality and elegance in the presentation.  Could it be 80s Throwing Muses?  2010's Frankie Rose?  You bet it can.  Won't stop me from chilling on the easy chair smiling to it.  "Easy Chair?"  Who says that???

Wye Oak "Glory"

Uh oh.  Baltimore duo- but lead singer/guitar (Jann Wesnter) is a girl and drummer (Adam Stack) is a boy.  Bizzaro White Stripes??  I remember them as headliners a few years ago at a small NYC show that featured Caveman.  Seemed like an odd pairing as these guys relied on computers and overdubs for their live act- and Caveman simply kill it with rock!  They were featured on an episode  of The Walking Dead soon after I saw them.  Now they are back with Shriek, their 4th full length LP.  Here they continue to polish their sound.  The results are good.

Ejecta "Eleanor Lye"

There are two things that impress me a little more than some.  One, the ability to go on stage and perform- especially sing.  Two, getting naked and letting the World see.  Leanne Macomber does both here for her side project, Ejecta (she has performed and been associated with Neon Indian to this point.)  I came for the nudity, but stayed for track-  a celebration of synths and pixie vocals.  Try it without the first.  I am sure that swayed my vote.

Moon Taxi "River Water"--

Granted, this record from Nashville alt-rockers was released last year.  I would ask you grant me some leeway.  Easy going southern rock on the menu here.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Wild Cub "Thunder Clatter"

Another Nashville 5 piece, but way more poppy.  Think Atlas Genius meets Kings of Leon.  Hated and ignored this song for most of this year.  Now, it has got me.  Maybe it will enter your bloodstream too.

Hamilton Leithauser "Alexandra"

Just heard a poor live show from him on Sirius.  His voice was shot, from overusing it no doubt.  How these guys go gig to gig, city to city, without sleep and likely boozing and abusing their body...
Whatever the case I am not itching to see Mr Leithauser live anytime soon.  He has left The Walkmen to release a solo record, which this joyous track comes from.  The voice is quite nice on record thank you very much.

Thee Oh Sees "Encrypted Bounce"

Unsure if these guys are broken up, active, fooling with us...  etc.  California garage and psych rock straight out of Haight-Asbury ladies and gentleman.  Picture an opening credits motorcycle ride through the desert.  Yeah, this will be playing.

Enjoy responsibly.