Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Haikus of Love: A Trinity.

Romantic rumba
My heart is the canister
For sadness droplets.

I'll play saxophone
Through your window
2 seduce U, girl. (Or boy, depending on personal preference).

I can't believe your
Favorite restaurant is
Applebee's. That's gross.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweeping Generalizations Under the Rug: 2010 - The Year in Review

Let me be brief, this is my third annual countdown/wrap-up/summation/celebration of the best (and worst) records, songs, and miscellanea in music. As always I like to state that I am not a professional reviewer, meaning only that I don't get paid (or published) and I don't get free records from labels. The only explanation for this list, I guess, is my compulsive need to categorize, criticize, and share with other music lovers. Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read, agree/disagree, and/or respond to this - my personal documentation of 2010, a surprisingly decent year in music.
Note: The only list that is presented in order of quality is the Top Ten Albums list, everything else is just collected, not ranked.

Top Ten Albums of 2010:

1. Innerspeaker by Tame Impala - This record is outstanding. Not because of some existential nonsense or groundbreaking instrumentation or genre defining paradigm shift, but just because of how it sounds. The actual music is perfect, it's one of the most pleasurable listening experiences I've ever had (and it better have been since I paid like thirty dollars for it, damn Australian import prices). Tame Impala blend catchiness, spaced-out effects, and garage crunch better than anyone using that formula right now, which is saying a lot, but they do it in a way that isn't overstated or obvious. Alter Ego, Desire Be Desire Go, and I Don't Really Mind are so effortlessly enjoyable it's as if they were created by some kind of Skynet-esque computer system to overthrow the world of popular music. However, Tame Impala is just a trio of Aussie dudes making a lot of (much appreciated) noise. Ironically, the only song I tend to skip is the album's first single Solitude Is Bliss, everything else is gold. The experimental era Beatles come to mind as an influence in both vocal style and song writing, but honestly, when don't they? Andorra era Caribou and Dungen are probably the best current touchstones (actually, Tame Impala sound exactly like what I hoped Dungen would sound like when I first got into them, no disrespect to Dungen). The overall vibe of this record is a kind of kaleidoscopic Earthtone voyage, the best of what this exact type of genre can create. Seriously brilliant.

2. No Mas by Javelin - Dance music. It was one of my very first loves, an only child listening to the radio every night, who could resist Rhythm Is A Dancer? Once you love dance music it never goes away, it gets in your marrow. I feel a kinship with the Brookylnites that make up Javelin because No Mas is a love letter to dance music. It's not disco, because it's a DJ record, and it's not a DJ record because it's more expansive than that - if that makes sense. I can't imagine that much (if any) of this record is instrumentation rather than electronic programming, but it feels present and live in a way that most other DJ/electronic bands either can't or don't want to achieve. It's got heart is more or less what I'm trying to say. Shadow Heart and Off My Mind are honest-to-goodness love songs, perfect for lonely yet optimistic drives home. No Mas does have another trick up it's sleeve however, it's also fun. Remember fun? Remember actually enjoying music? The tracks come and go unobtrusively and are infinitely replay-able. We Ah Wi, Oh Centra (which finally makes good use of that weird high-pitched singing effect that I usually hate), and Moscow 1980 are fantastic and build on the reputation Javelin already have in certain circles. I'd also love to know why soothing and enigmatic closer Goal/Wide wasn't the official theme song of the 2010 World Cup. This is a smart, fully-realized, and infectious dance record that anyone who cares should be all over.

3. Heartland by Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy - I can't even really begin to discuss or dissect Heartland, it's otherworldly, it's not something you see on the shelf every year. Owen Pallett has spent years arranging and composing music for highly acclaimed bands (Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear) as well as crafting his own orchestral masterpieces under the Final Fantasy pseudonym (which I hope he keeps, or at least makes up his mind about). Heartland is his first "big" album, at least, it's the first one that's getting any kind of mass attention. His music is based around violin loops and orchestral backing along with his peculiar sort of dynamic altar boy vocal delivery. I thought this record was a flop after the first few listens, but it has a slow-burn style to it, it's delicate and tragic and gorgeous if you can appreciate the care that has been taken. The pinnacle is reached with Oh Heartland, Up Yours! (X-Ray Spex references always work on me), an almost too-quiet-for-it's-own-good not-quite-centerpiece that is either an indictment or a celebration of Pallett's native Canada - or about something else entirely (I told you I couldn't discuss or dissect this record!!). Red Sun No. 5 and The Great Elsewhere are other personal faves, but this album (maybe more than any other I'll mention) needs to be experienced independently. Take it on a long car trip or just put on your headphones and let it go, Heartland is worth your time.

4. This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem - Ever since I got into LCD Soundsystem I've been kind of half-assedly obsessed with the man behind it all, James Murphy. Not uncommon for dudes of my ilk. Nevertheless, I read articles about him, buy almost everything he has a hand in, and keep my eyes peeled for him whenever I'm in New York or at a record store - he is from Princeton Junction after all. All that being said, I didn't love the last LCD record (2007's Sound of Silver) and I kind of wasn't super excited for this record. I bought it, it sat around in my room, I'd listen from time to time, 'Oh, All I Want is a pretty good song', ho-humming it all the way. It wasn't until about a month or two ago that I really sat with it and let it sink in. Obvious revelation - it's phenomenal. Every song is a quality listen, though occasionally I may skip Drunk Girls or Somebody's Calling Me, but that's just moodiness at work. The opener, Dance Yrself Clean is nearly nine minutes long and engrossing from start to finish, All I Want is probably the best song Murphy's ever written, and Home perfectly closes out the record and maybe the band if Murphy stays true to his promise to "quit" after finishing this album's tour. Not only are James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem the epitome of a full-band, hardworking dance music act, but this record serves as a document of certain success for an artist (and I rarely use that word) doing exactly what he wants, exactly the way he wants.

5. Before Today by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - I was introduced, musically, to Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti in the summer of 2005 and ever since then I've been waiting for this record. Before Today is his first legitimate studio album with a REAL band and REAL drums (previous records had surprisingly well done mouth-drumming) and, maybe most important of all, REAL expectations. APHG has been plugging away for years, keeping it LO-FI, writing songs about life in LA, saving yourself for Kate Bush, and of course evil. There was always the aura of nonchalance about his CD-R's and AM-radio-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea production style, but now he's on 4AD, the game has changed. To quote Rock n' Roll High School, "this is the big time girlie, this is rock n' roll". Before Today is, as I had imagined, unflinching. Ariel's psychotic pop compositions are just as great as ever, they just sound better now. He hits all the marks: un-ironic Alan Parsons soft-rockiness (Can't Hear My Eyes), South-Californian teenie-bopping (Beverly Kills), and a truly brilliant and absurdly catchy cover of a forgotten nugget called Bright Lit Blue Skies. There's a cool Crass-style bass line to open Revolution's A Lie and my personal favorite, Fright Night, has a demonic synth hook that will stay stuck in your head for days. Before Today is visionary in the way that only Ariel Pink tends to be and is the sound of an underground genius making good on years of promise.

6. Relayted by Gayngs - I know almost nothing about Gayngs except that they have a great name and are apparently some sort of supergroup. The $1.99 copy of this record that I purchased came with nothing but a track listing and CD, but these days I'll go for anything on Jagjaguar. After about thirty seconds of unprejudiced listening I was hooked. If you can allow yourself to appreciate a band that blends 80's buddy-cop movie guitar solos, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony style vocal layering, more than a touch of Godley & Creme, and an unwaveringly earnest approach then you may just fall for this record the same way I did. Opening track, The Gaudy Side of Town is true baby-making-music and sets down a groove unlike any other heard this year. Gayngs inhabit a space populated by electric pianos, echoing saxophones, and far-off dub drumming reminiscent of the short-lived pre-Mars Volta act Defacto. Maybe all you need to know about this record can be understood through some of the song titles: Spanish Platinum, Faded High, and The Last Prom on Earth seem to say more than I ever could. There is a misstep here and there, but overall this record is refreshingly different and incredibly well-made.

7. Strange Weather, Isn't It? by !!! - 2007's Myth Takes was a bit of a revelation, I've wanted to like this band ever since the early 00's, the days of Dance Punk, or whatever we called it back then. !!! (Chk Chk Chk) is one of the only bands to survive that era along with Liars and, to a much lesser degree, The Rapture. Myth Takes was amazing and essentially what I had always hoped they would sound like, so I was pretty eager for the next record. However, in Novemeber 2009 !!! member and all-around NYC multi-tasker Jerry Fuchs died tragically when he fell down an elevator shaft. I'm unclear as to how far into the recording process they were, Fuchs does appear on one track, fittingly it's the closer, The Hammer. Soldiering on and employing a crew of replacement drummers and additional instrumentalists !!! released Strange Weather, Isn't it? and once again created something both entertaining and genre defying. After you get past the mediocre opening track AM/FM it's a solid block of about six really solid funk/dance-rock songs from the shimmer of The Most Certain Sure to the dark soulfulness of Hollow. With the addition of a great supporting cast and solid production Strange Weather, Isn't It? outshines Myth Takes and prepares !!! for a break in to the mainstream...too bad the mainstream's idea of funk begins and ends with Maroon 5.

8. Maniac Meat by Tobacco - The day I purchased this record I had serendipitously run into two old friends at the record store. On the walk to get dinner before seeing Piranha 3D I let them know my feelings on Tobacco: "It's the dude from Black Moth Super Rainbow and all the songs pretty much sound the same, so you kind of either like it or you don't, and I do." That being said, this record is great. It really is, it's got an unassailable quality to it, it feels immune to criticism. I'm not saying it's a perfect record, but it moves along with a dirty insouciance and it doesn't care if you're on board. Songs like Sweatmother and Motorlicker (Tobacco's song titles are pretty incomparable) are what I would imagine punks would listen to in bad movies about apocalyptic futures. If Total Recall came out today I wouldn't be surprised to hear Tobacco playing in a Mars nightclub. The real feather-in-the-cap of Maniac Meat is Fresh Hex, one of two tracks with guest vocals from Beck. Complete with alliteration in the key of "C", Fresh Hex comes and goes before you can even appreciate it's sleazy beauty. Luckily this record sounds as fresh on the twentieth listen as it does on the first. One or two points off for some overly-long tracks towards the end and the creepiest (in a bad way) cover art of the year, but Maniac Meat is another huge step forward and easily the best recording to come out of the Black Moth Super Rainbow camp to date.

9. Transference by Spoon - As their popularity grows, one day someone is going to have to compile a Spoon Greatest Hits collection, anyone familiar with the band's catalogue can imagine what a daunting task this will be. I saw Spoon earlier this year and something you can easily forget is just how many great songs Britt Daniel and Co. have written over the past 16 years. They played for hours and I found myself saying, "Oh yeah this one...oh yeah that one...oh right, Jonathon Fisk!!" It's absurd. The point I'm trying to make, albeit slowly, is that the aforementioned eventual task got a bit harder this year. Transference serves as a strange yet fan-pleasing follow-up to 2007's would-be hit-maker Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. This album is more claustrophobic and metered and even a signature stomper like Trouble Comes Running is muted and reserved - although that doesn't take away from it being one of the best songs they're ever released. Before Destruction and Who Makes Your Money are somewhat coy but unmistakeably mid-tempo Spoon while Written In Reverse and Got Nuffin are the kind of rockers that no Spoon record comes without. Is Love Forever and The Mystery Zone are a little under and over-cooked, respectively, but don't hurt the overall appeal of the album. Spoon has been this good for a long time and it's nice to see that they're not afraid to do something left-of-center. They made a fan-centric record when they were primed to crossover, effectively showing us what really matters.

10. In the Court of the Wrestling Let's by Let's Wrestle - I bought this record for two reasons. 1. It's on Merge, and 2. The title, I hate to pass up a good King Crimson reference. Off to a Princeton side street, into my car and on with the awkwardly yet wistfully named Let's Wrestle. About a minute into the first track I decided that I would never again buy an unknown CD at full price, that's how much I disliked whatever this crap was. Driving home I kind of warmed up to the lead singer's odd, unpolished voice and the songwriting definitely got better as it moved along. Mix in a few classic lonely guy lyrics and I was a fan by the time I pulled in the driveway. Let's Wrestle, as it turns out, are a charmingly amateurish group of punks (??) from England. The real strength in this album is in it's nostalgic feel, every time I hear it I feel like it should have been released on Elephant 6 or Kindercore in the late 90's. It's not punk, as the members of LW have stated, at least not musically, but it does have the energetic spirit of bands like Olivia Tremor Control and Elf Power. Usually the 10 spot on my lists is reserved for underachievers, but this year I thought I'd change it up completely. Let's Wrestle have the potential to not only be a reminder of what was great in the past but also a really fun off-beat success story.

Top 15 Songs of 2010 (that are not featured on the Top 10 Albums):

1. Lottery Dust from Feel Good Together by Drummer - Maybe my favorite song of the year?? I don't know. No, probably not, but great nonetheless. Drummer is a sort-of supergroup with the drummer from The Black Keys (playing bass), the guitar player from (one of my favorite bands ever) The Party Of Helicopters (playing guitar for the first time since POH broke up), and a few other Ohio natives - all of which are primarily drummers, hence the awful name. The record is decent, six or seven really strong songs, but Lottery Dust is a monster and the only track where they really seem to be at full-power.

2. Sentimental X's from Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene - I got REALLY into BSS this year, kind of out of nowhere. I was going through a Canadian band phase (which persists!) and I figured I'd give them a listen. I see now that I always had the wrong impression of them. They're really skilled at building on a single structure and turning it into something you didn't expect. It also seems like their secret formula has something to do with a vocal cadence that I can't accurately describe in words, sort of a fragile pacing and momentary change in pitch. Anyway, Sentimental X's is amazing, it's a real wool blanket of a song. A compact little drum beat and soft, slowly ascending vocals make it a perfect pop song.

3. Swim from Astro Coast by Surfer Blood - I don't know what it is about this song, I just love it. The record wasn't great, the band doesn't seem very interesting, but this one just hooked me. Described by the band as a mix between The Cure and Andrew W.K., it's much closer to Party Hard than Charlotte Sometimes, but it's a severely catchy simple track that's easy to fall for.

4. Helicopter from Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter - When I saw Deerhunter this past summer this is what they opened with and what struck me more than anything was the bass. It was dominating, and although the album version is less drastic and has a strange, almost metronome sounding drum track, it's still a really stunning song. The soothing vocal delivery and gentle guitar work are juxtaposed with the intense subject matter giving it a distinctly Deerhunter feel. The album may have been a letdown (wait for it) but this song is fantastic.

5. Scrappy from Oh, Light by Careful - As far as I can tell this record slipped through the proverbial cracks the moment it was released, I never heard a word about it. I bought it for $1.99 because it looked interesting and was very pleasantly surprised. Think Horn of Plenty era Grizzly Bear, really intimate bedroom pop with the standard glitchiness and reverb you'd expect from something released circa now. Scrappy is short and sweet and the kind of hidden treasure that record stores were made for.

6. If You Can't See My Mirrors from Together by The New Pornographers - I may be biased, but New Pornographers tracks where Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar takes lead vocal tend to be my favorites. Together was another strong effort from these indie stalwarts and I suppose I could have chosen almost any cut to make my list, but this one has a particular hold on me - probably because I dislike the title so much. Is it about a truck driver falling in love? Who knows, it's just a quirky, enjoyable song which is standard for these guys.

7. Down On Loving from The Soft Pack by The Soft Pack - Formerly known as The Muslims, The Soft Pack play VERY straightforward rock music that I tend to think they view as slightly more subversive than it is. This is the best song from a mostly forgettable album with three or four really nice tracks. C'mon is just as good.

8. Vacation from Beach Fossils by Beach Fossils - I heard this song one time on the radio but missed the artist run-down, I then spent the next two days searching the station's website for the name of this band. All I knew was that it came on around 8am and that the Velvet Underground were played right after. On the second day I realized I was looking at the wrong listing, found the correct one, and instantly was on the hunt for Beach Fossils. Not dissimilar to Real Estate (...and I imagine a thousand other bands), I have no problem with this type of sound flooding the indie marketplace. This song was also the unofficial theme song for my October trip to Montreal.

9. Stylo from Plastic Beach by Gorillaz - Let me set the record straight: I don't like Blur and I don't like Gorillaz, but this song is SO GOOD that I actually went out and bought this record...used. Simply put, this song is irresistible. Other than On Melancholy Hill the rest of the album is exactly what I expected, but Stylo is gonna be around for a while, deservedly so.

10. Post Acid from King of the Beach by Wavves - No one likes Wavves. Well, apparently some people do, but I haven't met any of them. On this new album the traditional Wavves sound has been somewhat cast aside for a cleaner more 'radio-friendly' vibe, and I have no problem with that. The record overall is so-so, just like the previous releases, but the sense of enjoyment that comes through in the really good songs has kept me listening. It's nice that there's a band out there that is so devoutly juvenile in it's efforts, nothing here is to be taken seriously which is a relief from the layers of pretense that tend to coat so many other current releases.

11. Mouthful of Diamonds from Eyelid Movies by Phantogram - I heard this song about 40,000 times on the radio this year, and probably all from the same DJ. This song has a familiarity about it and will tend to stick with you until you hear it a second and third time. This is what people mean when they say a song is crafted. It sounds groomed. Every moment is just right and I'm shocked I haven't heard it on a commercial yet.

12. Digging For Something from Majesty Shredding by Superchunk - I'd like to subtitle this song How Not To Get Soft After 20+ Years. More than just being cool, this should serve as a reference to the scores of aged bands who are trying to regain their long-lost magic. It's not easy to remain relevant for so many years, but it would seem Superchunk hasn't lost a step.

13. I Remember from Odd Blood by Yeasayer - Can I give two seconds of praise to a hipster band for writing a legitimate love song before you roll your eyes? I guess I don't even know what hipster music is anymore, is everything I mentioned hipster stuff? Who cares. This is a seriously beautiful song from one of the best named bands in music.

14. Walk In The Park from Teen Dream by Beach House - The duo behind Beach House kicked it up a notch this year. Their last record was good, a little too somber and occasionally uneven, but decent. This one, however, was great. It feels like things have finally congealed, their sound is completely hypnotic and every song draws you in. This track seemed to stand out to me, but wherever you turn on Teen Dream you can't really go wrong.

15. In Every Direction from Fields by Junip - Junip is the band that singer/songwriter Jose Gonzales was with prior to his solo work, and this is their first release since an EP back in 2006. It's a really great record and this song is one of the strongest, maybe being the opening track gave it more of an impression, but it's undeniably catchy. I'd also like to take a moment to advise all mellow stoners to buy this record, or download it, or whatever you stoners do.

Top 5 Favorites of 2010, Not Of 2010 (Meaning that I didn't get into these records/artists until this year, just to clarify):

1. Fits by White Denim - Why is this band not extremely popular? Why was this CD buried under the counter with a $1.99 sticker on it? I'll tell you why: Because no one cares that this album was ever released. As hyperbolic as that sounds (and of course it's supposed to be) I don't think it's very far off. This record has a little bit of everything from My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of sound to legitimate southern riff-rock to cleverly plodding guitar jams. I heard a few things about this band in magazines here and there, but not until I heard the record did I really pay any attention. Fits offers something that not many other records do and is completely underrated and worth discovering.

2. Japandroids - Like several other entities that I now love (LCD Soundsystem, No Age, and the TV show Garth Marenghi's Darkplace to name a few) I arbitrarily disliked Japandroids until I gave them a chance. I didn't like their album cover, or the fact that their songs were so long, or whatever else. It's an issue I've always struggled with, but it's rather easily overcome. Japandroids are a duo out of Vancouver that play simple, shouty, up-tempo not-quite-punk/post rock. They supply endless sing-a-longs and have released two records - 2009's Post Nothing and 2010's No Singles (a collection of earlier, previously released recordings). Both of these records are worth checking out, the first three tracks on No Singles should be more than enough to draw you in.

3. No Age (and to a lesser degree Mika Miko)- Why did it take me so long to give No Age a chance? Oh, that's right, because I don't trust SUB POP. Unless it's a David Cross comedy album, I look at anything on that label through squinted, glaring eyes, as if it's a pack of wild teens loitering outside of a...wait a minute...the last David Cross album sucked too! Anyway, No Age is something of an anomaly: A legitimately punk guitar and drum duo with experimental tendencies on a fairly major label, who regularly update thier blog, play on national TV, and get nominated for Grammies. I guess the duo-as-rock-group template is fairly common these days, probably another reason I was so wary. No Age's sound is comprised mainly of fuzz, crackle, and shouts, but in a bubblegum kind of way, and is completely devoid of swagger, which is uncommon to say the least. Perhaps if I'd had enough time to completely digest their new record Everything In Between it would have made my top ten, I'd say it currently sits at #14 or 15, and the track Shed and Transcend is a current favorite.
After discovering No Age I also discovered some of the other bands from their scene, chief among them Mika Miko, an all-girl (though it appears they've added a dude or two) punk band that blends the sounds of post punk and classic California punk. A little Delta 5, a little Adolescents, and just the right amount of snottiness. These two bands are great examples of current West Coast punk for discerning listeners.

4. There's No 666 In Outer Space by Hella - As far as I knew, when I plucked this disc from the used bin, Hella was an extremely talented experimental instrumental two piece, and that was enough for me. There's No 666 In Outer Space was a bit of a shock in that this record features a full band, sprawling epically technical songwriting, and a maniacal singer who sounds like what I imagine the guy from The Jesus Lizard sounding like - since I've never heard them. Think classic Chris Cornell if he was a mad scientist who loved Faith No More. Songs like Dull Fangs, Anarchists Just Wanna Have Fun, and Friends Don't Let Friends Win are hideous in the best way and challenge the listener to use a term that's been long demonized: Avant Garde. Though I'm an avid fan of classification, I couldn't come up with anything to call this record, other than heavy and brilliant. Buy it.

5. The Odd Couple by Gnarls Barkley - I've never been a fan of Danger Mouse's production whether it be with The Black Keys, The Rapture, or any of the other bands he's worked with. I also didn't like the first Gnarls Barkley release at all. It wasn't until I heard Going On on the radio that I took notice of The Odd Couple. I'm not saying it's a great record or that it's some kind of creative turning point, all I'm saying is that it has a few really impressive songs. Whatever and Charity Case are fun and catchy and Who's Gonna Save My Soul is oddly earnest. The best selection by far is She Knows, an awkwardly tropical dance track with a solid groove and a great vocal from Cee-Lo Green - who always sounds effortlessly good. Basically, this album made the list as little more than a reminder for anyone who wrote off Gnarls, or never cared much in the first place.

Top 10 LETDOWNS of 2010:

1. High Violet by The National - I'm sorry, but I just don't get this record. I spent much of the beginning of the year listening to Boxer on long, lonely car rides anticipating their next release, only to be baffled by this truly dull album. I love Lemonworld, I like Bloodbuzz Ohio, and everything else blends together. This time around the somber vocal style and spacious production just sounded tired. Maybe I expected too much, but they didn't even meet me halfway.

2. Volume Two by She & Him - Is it so wrong to WANT to love everything Zooey Deschanel does? She's beautiful, seemingly sweet, a fantastic singer, and she married a less-than hunky indie rock dude. Aside from that, the first She & Him record was really good. This one, on the other hand, feels rushed and a little too by-the-book. The final two tracks (Brand New Shoes and If You Can't Sleep) are decent and the NRBQ cover (Ridin' In My Car) is solid, but overall it's a pretty big disappointment.

3. Infinite Arms by Band of Horses - I may be alone in feeling this way, but this is one of the most boring records I've ever heard. I remember liking one of the twelve tracks quite a bit, but the record is so muddled who knows which one it was. I think this was supposed to be their breakout album, and for all I know it was, maybe everyone else loved it, I certainly know a few people who did. For me though, it was just static. I go to Band of Horses for harmonious lovelorn ballads, since they've done that so well in the past. I mean, Laredo? C'mon.

4. Dear God, I Hate Myself by Xiu Xiu - This one was a real surprise. 2008's Women As Lovers was a really accomplished and beautiful record. It had a cover version of Under Pressure with Michael Gira from Swans, uninhibitedly poetic songs like F.T.W. and No Friend Oh!, and one of my favorite songs of the last few years, I Do What I Want, When I Want. Dear God... is a really strange release, even for Xiu Xiu, who confidently operate outside the parameters of pop. The thing about it that makes it strange, to me at least, is that it's not at all memorable, which is the exact opposite of all their other releases, most of which I own and enjoy. I vaguely recall Gray Death and Secret Motel, but otherwise the record seems to have no lasting effect, not exactly what I want or expect from Xiu Xiu. What I've found they do best is a kind of haunting, darkly personal chamber pop (other reviewers tend to throw the word "goth" in there, but I think you need a little more than occasional shrieking organs to get the goth tag). Though the tracks here may contain some of the elements Xiu Xiu is known for, this record doesn't hook the listener in the same way that previous releases The Air Force (2006) and Fabulous Muscles (2004) had. Obviously, bands evolve and songwriting follows suit, there were also line-up changes for this release, but as it is Dear God... remains a bit of a bland mystery.

5. Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles - This is a woefully boring record that completely failed to build on the immediacy and apocalyptic fun of their debut. However, I'm not writing them off yet, I'll chalk this one up to the "sophomore slump".

6. Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter - It was like Christmas morning the day I bought Halcyon Digest. I actually called a record store to be sure of which day they would have it on the shelves. I couldn't accurately express how much I loved 2008's Microcastle/Weird Era Con't when I first heard it early last year, and I still can't, all I really know is that it's one of my all time favorite albums. Hence the reason I was so excited for Halcyon. However, as it is with most things people get over-excited about, Christmas morning for instance, it was apparent that we could file Halcyon Digest under "Disappointment". I PROMISE you, no one wanted this to be the album of the year more than I did, I had the spot tucked away months before it came out. The reality of this record is that it's flat and never gains any real momentum. Helicopter, as stated earlier, is a standout, but the rest of the album just kind of wanders. Apparently Desire Lines is a favorite among listeners, but I never got it. A little too straightforward, a little too vanilla, a little too obvious. It sounds like a run-of-the-mill Strokes track from their last record. Coronado is the only other song I really like, the addition of a saxophone helps lift it from the mediocrity. Songs like Don't Cry, Basement Scene, and Fountain Stairs feel like they could be great Deerhunter songs, but they're just not given either enough attention or care or something. I still love Deerhunter, a lot, but odds are that this record will be filed away and forgotten under piles of other sub-par releases.

7. Sleep Forever by Crocodiles - See Crystal Castles.

8. One Life Stand by Hot Chip - What happened Hot Chip?? Seriously?? Made In the Dark was SO GOOD! Every band has peaks and valleys, but this record was one notch above unlistenable. I Feel Better was pretty good as was Take It In, but I don't even count that song becuase it already appeared on the Bugged Out Mix from last year. Step In The Wrong Direction Of The Year.

9. Treats by Sleigh Bells - Yikes. I've made no secret of the fact that I love hype. I am frequently and wholeheartedly taken in by it many, many times a year. Once I get my hands on the hypee, however, I try my best to look at them objectively. This record is discordant to a fault, it's impossible to listen to (and that means A LOT coming from someone who owns and enjoys some of the records that I do). I'll give Sleigh Bells the following: Alexis Krauss is gorgeous (and would appear to have a good voice, but who can tell?), they have a teriffic name, and Rill Rill is a great song - but, it's the only song on the record that sounds like that. Everything else is just too distorted, too riff driven, and too monotonous. The silver lining is, of course, that it's a debut and with a little more focus and a little less kitchen sink they could make a much better noise.

10. When I Grow Up I Wanna F*** Like A Girl by All Leather - I don't wanna dislike this record for a few reasons: 1. I've been pro-Justin Pearson (the man and the bands) since high school because they're always tight and innovative. The Locust, Some Girls, Holy Molar, Head Wound City...it's all good stuff. 2. I wrote him a letter about eleven years ago (because that's how punks corresponded back then) and he wrote me back and sent me a ton of merch and I talked to him at a show about a year later and he was super nice. 3. It has a cover of Well-Fed Fuck by Born Against, one of my all time favorite bands. All that being said, this is the first Justin Pearson project that seems stale. It sounds like it should have come out five or six years ago, and even then it would have been less than intriguing. There's too much reliance on a throbbing drum machine and fails to really progress at all. Although his voice still sounds great, you can skip this one, go buy the Ground Unicorn Horn 45 instead.

Top Three Mixtape Names of 2010:

1. The Square Root of Eternity

2. Science is My Lady

3. Real Whitewater Rapids in Midnight

Top Five Records I Didn't Hear, But Were Probably Pretty Good, of 2010:

1. Rohnert Park by Ceremony

2. Gemini by Wild Nothing

3. Public Strain by Women (Easily the best cover art of the year)

4. Songs For Singles by Torche (I bought this on Dec. 31st, and it's very good, but a little short for an LP)

5. Warm Slime by Thee Oh Sees

Monday, November 22, 2010

They'll Say 'Are Ya Married', I'll Say 'No Man'

I was in bed last night and I remembered (maybe) my all time favorite thing about winter weather. It was probably 9 or 10pm, so it was long dark out, but there was a fantastic pale blue light coming in through my blinds. It reminded me of how bright it gets outside when there's snow on the ground and the moon is bright and unobstructed. Just thinking about that certain shade of light hitting my window in the middle of the night makes me wish for a nor'easter. Never mind the cars sliding on the road, the endless minutes spent shivering until the heater kicks in, or the shovelling...dear god, the shovelling. I've always been a sucker for winter, especially before it arrives, when you can feel it coming, while also comfortably braving 50 degree weather. It tends not to be until early to mid-January that I'm cursing Jack Frost, gazing longingly at my shorts, and dreaming of swimming pools. But, for now, I can indulge in those pre-snow, pre-4 layers and a scarf, pre-wanting to move to Brazil days: Reading teen/YA books for un-ironic nostalgia, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to bedroom rock and warm indie synths because they feel like flannel ear blankets. Lately the air smells like the agonizing chore of waiting for the school bus every morning, but somehow even that now seems wonderful. I may get starry-eyed for this time of year, but be sure to check back in two months when I'm using my freezing, dry hands to write a love letter to the sun.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

MONTREAL! or, If I Spoke French I'd Never Leave

Montreal, QC
October 21-25, 2010...

Thursday: "Northwardness Pilgrimage or, I can't believe I'm missing 30 Rock for this..."
There's nothing like arriving to a new city by walking through an underground mall (that I suspect stretches out across all Quebec) and then being treated to an inexplicable siren that sounds exactly like the warning alarm from Jurassic Park (foreshadowing!!) right before the power is turned back on and Timmy flies off the perimeter fence. It was uncanny. "Push to close" I said to Christie as we walked briskly to catch the bus. Meeting Patty and my pen pal/Canadian Wife Megan was awesome, and not just because she told me there was a screening of Back to the Future in a legit theatre on Saturday. From there it was Patati Patata, a free beer glass forced upon us with purchase, and maybe the most inspired and important decision of the trip...watching Short Circuit II. Cinematic brilliance, a dvd trailers menu from Mars (Buddy, Jumanji, and a Starship Troopers CGI movie??), and the final 10 minutes replayed dubbed in french. Michael McKean yelling for Johnny 5, "Cinnnnqqqq!!", was quoted nearly as much as Christopher Guest.

Friday: "Poutine, Pick-Up Lines, and Speilbergian Winter Carols"
We went to 5 record stores today, my Canadian hosts were too kind. Especially since I didn't buy anything until the last one, AND had to borrow cash from Christie. Whoever heard of a record store that was cash only? Maybe the best part of all was at store #4, all three of us witnessed the store clerk hitting on a customer...hardcore. "So what are you doing tomorrow night? Oh, you're busy well how about tonight? Alright you're not sure well here's my card, call anytime, I get off around..." It was amazing, effortless yet desperate, impressive yet embarrassing. On the one hand I had to give him credit, I doubt I'll ever be able to cold ask out anyone ever and this dude had it down. However, he WAS an aging record store guy...time is not on his side in the "chicks" department. Moving on, this daylong trip also included poutine, free tea samps, and one of the best cupcakes I've ever had. Once back at the apartment it was like olden tymes, friends gathered around the radio (more accurately, whatever device plays Ipod stuff, I am thoroughly un-modern) with hot beverages and listened to the comedy stylings of Mitch Hedberg and Brian Regan until it was decided what to do with our night. The decision was something I'd heard mythologized once or twice and was eager to participate in: Wiizza. I can't, for one reason or another, pronounce this term. I understand how to say it but whenever I do it comes out "wheat-za". Just typing it and looking at it makes me laugh at my own incompetence. Either way, off we went, leaving Megan to her homework. Upon arrival at Anna's apartment we heard the sounds of the greatest film ever made by man: Jurassic Park. A vacation involving Christie, I'd expect nothing less. Next up I got to meet some new friends, including Anna's cat Bear who, by the end of the night, I wished I could hang out with every night forever. We discussed the logical pitfalls and mysteries of JP (as well as what Laura Dern earned for her role in JP III), ate delicious homemade pizza and then, a shocker of a following film: Can't Hardly Wait?? The kind of inspired choice that only Wiizza can create!! (I like to treat Wiizza as THE cultural event of Montreal librarians, and I kind of think it fits with the dramatic tone I'm trying to give this story). As the ladies fawned over Ethan Embry I remembered my long-forgotten crush on Lauren Ambrose. "What happened to her!?" I asked. "She was on Six Feet Under..." but other than that I think we were stumped. It made me want to go right out and buy Psycho Beach Party. Once we finished discussing our high school wardrobes and social statuses Wiizza was over and we made our way home. The new friends I mentioned really were awesome and welcoming and as nice as anyone could hope. Maybe they felt bad for me being the only dude in the room, but whatever it was I had an excellent time. And then home, and then sleep.

Saturday: "Me, Myself, and Megan (and Misadventure and Mod Night)"
Today would be Christieless until early evening so the pen pals had to get acquainted, and quick! No problem, we had Back to the Future at 12:30, plenty of walkin' around time, and plans for Mod Night to cap it all off. Today began with a walk through the park and an in depth discussion of the Mad Men finale and the series in general. Jurassic Park and Mad Men discussions were the only two things I could be sure I'd participate in on this trip. Over the hill and through "the ghetto" (truly terrifying) and it was on to my first Tim Horton's. However, since it was a carbon copy of a New Jersey Dunkin' Donuts it was maybe the least foreign place possible. It was here that Megan and I lamented the loss of certain Canadian hockey teams (the Quebec Nordiques and by beloved Winnipeg Jets) and I told her that Saskatchewan would never have an NHL team because their city names weren't memorable enough. She then opened up about the hardships that SK has been dealing with and her issues with certain other providences. For someone who's always loved Canada, but not really known much about it, Megan is a wealth of fiery knowledge.
On to the AMC for BttF. There was, and please pardon the tired term but I really mean it, excitement in the air. You could feel how stoked everyone was to experience this. There was even a kid dressed very convincingly as Marty McFly. Time passed, the lights dimmed and came back up, the "please don't talk and please silence your cell phone" clip was played (many, many times), and our hopeful applause soon turned to 'boos'. Megan and I kept our heads up, relentlessly optimistic that an engineer (perhaps Michael J. Fox himself!) would arrive to fix whatever projection problem was occurring, but in the end it was a lost cause. Out into the lobby to retrieve our refund and free pass for all the trouble. An hour and a half spent in the theatre and another 30 minutes in line after, but in a way it was almost better than the movie. All we did was talk and laugh and make jokes and it's probably a better story and memory for it. Plus I now have a commemorative miniature flier to "Save The Clock Tower" hanging on my wall at work.
Back outside into the Montreal hustle and bustle, talk of shops and bobble-heads and jokes about what a bust the day had been. On the walk up to Sherbooke, where we would part ways, there it was! Cheap Thrills! This came after a bit of a wild goose chase. Easily the best record store I'd been in yet. Megan had to leave but not before buying a Brian Eno record on my recommendation (which made me more than happy). I stayed for a bit, this place had an excellent used section. I ended up buying some Roky Erickson, Beirut, a couple Harlan Ellison books, and Volume 2 of the 'Rodney on the Roq' compilation. I walked out of that store feeling on top of the world!

It is at this point in the story that I walk from Cheap Trills to the Pie-IX metro station via Sherbrooke, hopelessly lost in Montreal. You know that feeling, "Okay, I'll go one more block up..." even though you know you're lost. It kind of had to happen though didn't it? What's a vacation without getting a little lost?

Once I got back on track I went to a few more record stores, got made fun of by one of the clerks (he acted like a mummy at me), finally found some Teenage Head records (that I already had, but it was nice to one of my favor tie Canadian punk bands in a Canadian punk store), got another bagel and finally headed home to meet Christie. I was about as tired as I've ever been and Christie had the perfect remedy. It's called Katamari Damacy, one of the most ridiculous and fun video games I've ever seen. I watched her play for a bit, relaxed like crazy, and then we all enjoyed a little Zoolander. We had plenty of time to kill before Mod-ing it up, and I think we used it very well.
Out the door and through the streets at 11:15 passing drunk people and those soon to be. We made a right at the scooters and entered to a crowd of hipsters and people who are sick of hipsters. I soon after met Bri, yet another new friend. A few minutes of small talk and then onto the dance floor, sadly without Christie who was exhausted. I have to say that this "Mod Night" could have been more accurately described as "R&B and Garage Night", not that I'm complaining, any chance I get to dance to "96 Tears" I'll take. As the night went on the crowd thinned a bit and we took our rightful place, front and center! I never expected to dance to "Helter Skelter", but apparently the replacement DJ was known to be somewhat sub-par. Hunkiness does not a DJ make. But dancing to "Jeepster" and "I Want Candy" afforded plenty of chances to clap along, and I got so into "The Witch" that my hat flew off. It was such a wonderfully odd thing to be dancing with these two girls that I had essentially just met. I haven't gone dancing like that in years and it was easily one of the best parts of the trip. It eventually got late, we all shared a water, and made our way home. A big thank you to Megan and Bri, and at the risk of sounding a bit histrionic, I think that night was when I fell in love with Montreal.

Sunday: "Anonymous Stories and The Best Mask"
Sunday morning with Megan was about two things: having my first legitimate Canadian bagel, and listening to CBC radio. Tim Horton's, I was assured, was not a purveyor of true "Canadian" bagels, so Megan and I hit the road and picked some up. I can't seem to remember the name of the store, but there was a line out the door and plenty of overstuffed pigeons trolling the sidewalk. The bagels were decent, thinner and crunchier than I'm used to, but enjoyable. CBC radio took over the next few hours of my visit, a staple of my pen pal's weekly life, I just had a seat and took it in. CBC is no joke, not only was there intelligent and lucid political and social commentary, but they actually followed up a story about lemon meringue pie with a song called "Lemon Meringue Pie". I think I felt my most Canadian during these few relaxed hours.
Christie arrived home, plans were made, sweaters were put on, and it was back to Pie-IX for some thrift shopping. It was a short walk to Village des Valeurs. I had heard great things about this place and was eager to check it out, however, my choice to throw on one extra layer coupled with a very crowed store had resulted in profuse sweating and a feverish sick feeling. Luckily I found Christie lounging on her dream 70's couch and plopped down with her while waiting for Megan, the marathon browser. Christie also raided the children's book section for me earlier, picking up all the french R.L. Stine she could find (which is why there was none when I looked). Once it was time to head out I got my first and only eye-roll for not being able to speak french from the check out girl. It's strange, when I visited a decade ago I also only experienced that once. The other thrift shop we wanted to check out was closed so it was back to the Metro station and back home for pizza. Sunday was wonderfully casual.
I also forget the name of the fantastic pizza place we went to, Pizzaolio, or Pizzamoly, or Pizzarino's...something like that. Either way, it was great. A discussion of ideal travel locations followed and I was informed that people who say they want to visit every Canadian providence don't actually mean it. But I do, I want to go to Saskatchewan AND Alberta AND Manitoba. Will I ever...who knows? Then there was slightly depressing talk about life goals, but my friends' positivity was really refreshing and appreciated. Back home.
Sunday stayed casual, a viewing of Night at the Museum and delicious hot chocolate courtesy of Megan was perfect. We then tired to watch The Emperor's New Groove, but it was almost 10pm and obviously, we were beat.

Monday: "So Long, Sailboat"
I spent the first 20 minutes of Monday with Christie and Megan, not wanting to leave, and dreading the train back home. I spent the following 14-ish hours traveling, first by BUS due to weekend fires on Amtrack routes through Albany. The bus is an excruciating way to travel, especially when you flip the mixtape you're listening to and Broken Social Scene comes on as the Montreal skyline fades from view. I may be a bit dramatic and/or romantic, but who wouldn't take that like a shot in the gut? It was 10 hours to Penn Station, (where a NJ Transit train had derailed earlier that day causing widespread delays and cancellations) and then finally back home.

It's taken me a week to write this all out, the first attempt was MUCH too detailed (who needs a paragraph about how I wanted to befriend a drug sniffing dog??) and my lack of internet access forced me to write in bits and pieces. I find it hard to purposely leave anything out though, I don't wanna slight one second of this trip. I want to thank all of Christie and Megan's friends I met for making me feel not only welcome, but also at ease, most certainly not an easy task. I want to thank Megan for taking what I can only consider a leap of faith in welcoming some random friend of a friend/pen pal/American Husband into her home and actually being more amazing than I could have hoped. And finally the biggest thank you to Christie for convincing me to come up and making the time and dealing with my indecision and record store lust. All of you were great and really made me look at New Jersey like the toxic waste dump that the rest of the world already thinks it is. Until next time...


I just decided to check (for no apparent reason) if I had access to my blog at work...and I do. It was off limits for a while. ???
That's all for now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Re-post as "my life according to (band name)"

Pick your Artist:

Are you a male or female?
Son of the Earth

Describe yourself:
Virgin with a Memory

How do you feel:
Notorious Lightning

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
It's Gonna Take an Airplane

What's your best friends name:
Hey, Snow White

What's the weather like:
Goddess of Drought

Favorite time of day:
The Sublimation Hour

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
New Ways of Living

What is life to you:
The Music Lovers

Something you would say:
A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point

What is the best advice you have to give:
Don't Become the Thing You Hated

Thought for the Day:
Dark Leaves Form a Thread

How I would like to die:
The Space Race

Something bothersome:
School, and the Girls Who Go There

Describe your friends:

My motto:
To the Heart of the Sun on the Back of a Vulture, I'll Go

Monday, August 9, 2010



Seeking a new career? Be an ascot or just look like one! In just 5 7/8ths sessions, we can have you spelunking, basket weaving, and whittling like a top-playing asbestos mine. Opportunities in this reptilian field are limitless. There is no fee! Just come in for a free consultation. Our expert Belgian waffles will analyze your wristwatch and determine your potential for success in this slippery field. Use your natural pot roast to earn mischievous money and have time to waddle your dreams, too. Just ask Christie's doppelganger, who came to us looking like a goulash out of the neighborhood of cats and in just ten days we improved her yellow-bellied marmot 100%. We even corrected her horrible moon rock. It was just in the nick of time because the sardoodledom squad was ready to ban her from the the first ingredient in every recipe for success. Don't wait another day. Time is running out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume Seven

"A Review of a Dinosaur Movie"

Despite its title, Dinosaurs are for Bedazzling is far from being an erroneous comedy. It is really a Burt Reynoldsy horror movie. From its indelible opening until its astronomical ending, it keeps you sitting on the edge of your cafeteria. In this film, the ever-popular Dewey Decimal gives the performance of his luscious career. He plays the role of a scientist who, in searching for the Fountain of Botanist, accidentally discovers a huge beast that feasts on living kinky wizards. The last ten minutes of the movie are scary enough to make your feet bones pop out of your rocky serpentine hill top and your nomads stand on end. The movie is rated Zed, meaning children under twelve must be accompanied by a Sally Ride.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bright Lit Blue Skies

I finally made it to the library after days of trying. I feel compelled to write in my blog since I have so few chances these days. As an update, I've been fine. How've you been? Wonderful, glad to hear it.
I've been a lazy so-and-so lately, in my head I can attribute this to picking up slack at a job where I already do more work than anyone else, but in reality I attribute it to not getting enough sleep and watching TV. Both theories have their merits, but it's always to get out this time fo year. The grass is fresh cut, one of the top 5 smells of ever, and the longer days make for some rather pleasant pre-night drives.
Lately I've been feeling sluggish so I've been contemplating joining a gym, something I never ever thought I'd do. Since I'm trying to convince myself that it's a good idea I've had to formulate scenarios in my head that I can't let myself miss:
1. A slightly older gentleman passes me yelling into his cell phone, "What do you mean he quit the team? We've got a big match against (as of yet unnamed town, leaning toward Townsberry) tomorrow and now we've got no 3rd baseman! I guess we'll have to forfeit!" That's when I step up and say, "Hey pal, tell them you'll BE THERE! I will play, I will SAVE THE DAY!" And then I'm MVP of the Over 25 Central New Jersey Men's Softball League World Championship. I know that's not a thing, but leave my fantasies alone.
2. I would hate to miss the opportunity to point out the slight irony that I prefer to work out on the stationary bike, but actually have no idea how to ride a bike. Good conversation starter.
3. A pool any time I want to go swimming. Not a fantasy, but a beautiful reality.
4. One day I'm quietly singing to myself somewhere, maybe the locker room, maybe the racquetball court and some dude pops up out of nowhere and says, "You are the best singer in town! Please join my band which is awesome." Hopefully by this time I would be in tip-top shape for the promo photos of my new group, Whisper Club. (I don't know why I like that name so much but I do, if you like you can substitute one of the following: A B C and the D's, Raccoon Suit, Cool Sandwich, or Jurassic Punk.)
5. I actually get out of the house and stop feeling like crap.

Since not much else has been going on, here's what else has been going on:
White Denim - "Fits", the new David Cross comedy CD, 30 Rock reruns, finding out that Best Buy still sell Walkmans (is that the plural? Either way, score!), Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Before Tomorrow", the song "Eye in the Sky" by The Alan Parsons Project, Crystal Castles, The Morning Benders, Field Music, trying to save some money so I can buy stuff off Amazon, debating whether or not to renew my GQ subscription, books on CD, using Facebook at work, and reading Twitter at breakfast.

Other than that...not much.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume Six

"In the Good Old Summertime"

Many selective laser discs prefer the Summer Olympics to the Winter Coconuts. They respond awkwardly to such swimming and waddling competitions as the hundred-meter striking-style race, the 862-meter funny bone-stroke race, and, of course, the diving contests in which nickels dive off a high doppelganger and do triple beach balls in the air before landing in the pickle juice. Equally fascinating are the track and Cornish game hen events in which sluggishly conditioned paddle boats compete for gold Billy Goats. They compete in such exciting events as the 1,500-crossing guard race, the hundred-sombrero dash, the ever-popular peach pie vaulting, and, last but not least, throwing the hammer, the javelin, and the saloon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume Five

How to Enjoy Yourself on the Beach

When you go to the beach, you must take along a big blanket, a thermos bottle full of Green Tea Frappuccino, lots of suntan bargain book, and a couple of folding ham sandwiches. Then you put on your tricorne so you can get a beautiful fuchsia to last you all summer. You also should have a big hat to keep the sun off your nostril. If you want exercise, you can find some landspeeders to play volleyball with. Volleyball is America's favorite soft game. You can also bring a robust lunch, such as hard-boiled oscillating fans, a few Phillippine Mouse-deer sandwiches with mustard, and some bottles of Cabo Wabo cola. If you remember all of the above and get a place near a plentiful lifeguard, you can sunbathe sideways all day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chess on Ice

I haven't written here in a while, mainly due to the fact that I've been blocked from my blog at work. Not only mine, but any blog of any kind, even my old Livejournal. I don't know what could have prompted them to block me from it after more than a year of access, but I guess that's just how it goes. As it is, I'm writing this at my desk at work, and will simply cut and paste later. Nobody gonna break-a my stride, nobody gonna hold me down, woah no.

The past couple weeks have seen four of my friends open their own businesses, while in Brian news, I spent a good deal of time watching 30 Rock and eating Cheez-Its. I know it's dumb to compare my life to my friends', but it's hard not to. I don't think I'm quite dynamic enough to start my own business, I don't even know if that's the word I'm looking for, my overwhelming Type B-ness wouldn't make for a great business owner. It does give you that left behind feeling, though I guess if yr not doing anything to move forward yr more so just staying behind. So, needless to say, I've been a little antsy in my old familiar home lately, dreaming of all the exotic destinations I could relocate to and really kick-start my life. Adding to the confusion is the question of what the hell I even want to do, but I don't think anyone knows that. I think maybe 12% of people know absolutely what they want to do with their life, that's as high as I'll go, I think everyone else kind of just picks a direction and starts walking, some slower than others. I tend to believe that you just fall into yr career path, I'm certainly not looking for a career in Communications, I don't even know what that entails. I just liked taking classes where I got to talk about weird stuff in front of people (Epiphany?). My life kind of feels like Ralphie on the slide, I just told Santa that I want a football and his helpers are pushing me down, all the while in my head it's "Wake up stupid! Wake up!" I really need to make it known that I want a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, and I can't be worried about shooting my eye out.

In the interest of posterity here's a rather truncated list of what's recently been makin' me moooove:
Sufjan Stevens - "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois"
Surfer Blood - "Swim"
LCD Soundsystem - "All I Want"
Mika Miko - "Sex"
Tom Vek - "That Can Be Arranged"
Blue Cheer - "Come and Get It"
Kurt Vile - "Freeway"
The National - "Lemonworld"
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Round and Round"
The New Pornographers - "If You Can't See My Mirrors"
Thee Headcoatees - "Shadow"

As soon as Ghostwriter comes out I'm buying it, along with seasons 1 and 2 of The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Quality summer programming.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Classic Hospital...

I've spent the better part of the last week in something just outside misery. The few moments of joy lied in 30 Rock and positive diagnoses. On Mother's Day my mom asked me to take her to the hospital, turns out her swollen knee couldn't wait for a week day doctor's visit, so off we went. After a few hours of wall-mounted HGTV a very charismatic MD told us it was all a little "water on the knee" and should be fine with rest, ice and a follow-up.
Days passed as my mom watched Jurassic Park and Kill Bill endlessly awaiting the return of her normal knee. Over these same few days I was battling one of the largest onslaughts of attitude I've ever experienced. Days of everything from workplace aggravations to spaghetti inspired shouting matches. This week had a very defeated feeling.
Yesterday: Just after my lunch hour I received two very urgent messages about having to take my mom to a different hospital due to her now infected knee. Apparently Dr. Charisma didn't feel the need to drain her knee like the doctor she had seen Friday morning, if he had maybe he would have seen that it was possibly infected five days earlier. And we were off! Another hospital, another wall-mounted TV, and a wonderful nurse that I have no doubt my mom would have adopted if given the option.

Things should be better now, but it's strange, I've spent more time in hospitals in the last nine months than I have in my whole life. It's also surprising, yet not surprising at all, how much more intense and worried you are when you are not the one undergoing treatment. I remember when I was in for my week long stay I wasn't worried for more than a minute, maybe it was the dilaudid, but I also remember feeling a strange calm in knowing that I was where I was supposed to be.

I don't know the point I'm trying to make, maybe there isn't one. Maybe this is just one of those points in life where if you don't document something and get it out of your head it just lingers. I guess this is my way of fighting off infection. That may sound dumb, but I'm telling you, it's science.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume Four

"Have I got a Giraffe for You!"

Giraffes have aroused the curiosity of moosen since earliest times. The giraffe is the tallest of all living vermicious knids, but scientists are unable to explain how it got it's long epidermis. The giraffe's tremendous height, which might reach 11 model trains, comes mostly from it's legs and tummy. If a giraffe wants to take a drink of pickle juice from the ground, it has to spread it's earlobes far apart in order to reach down and lap up the water with it's huge gallbladder. The giraffe has plucky ears that are sensitive to the faintest cyborgs, and it has a rogue sense of smell and sight. When attacked, a giraffe can put up a luscious fight by whittling out with it's hind legs and using it's head like a sledge-rhubarb. Finally, a giraffe can gallop at more than thirty germs an hour when pursued and can outrun the fastest hoagie.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume Three

“George Washington”

George Washington, the father of our Frap Fest, was a very ubiquitous man. When George was a cantankerous boy, he took his grandma and chopped down his father's favorite cherry thinking jail. “Well then I just hate you and I hate your ASS FACE!” said his father. “Who has sprinkled my corsage?” Then he saw George holding a sharp Han Solo in his hand. “Father,” said George, “I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little Bedazzler.” His father smiled and patted little George on the baby power. “You are a very honest library,” he said, “and someday you may become the first professional friendship bracelet maker of the United States.”

Monday, May 3, 2010


From the perspective of a truly annoying Monday, here's what made my boring, lonely weekend somewhat less boring and lonely:

Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett), The Carpet Brothers, a new Mystery Science Theatre 3000 boxed set, Destroyer reissues, the new issue of NYLON, driving with both windows down, Dum Dum Girls, water, Liz Lemon, playoff hockey (the Bruins game was great, love seeing the Flyers lose), Capri Sun, Gnarles Barkley's The Odd Couple (surprised how much I like it since I was not a fan of the first record), hand-feeding my cat some ham, The Alisters Set, saturday morning (my favorite time of the week), the season finale of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the song 'i'maman' by Jobriath, Twitter, and driving around in the late PM listening to The National.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume Two


One hundred and fifty million years ago, the Earth was very superb. Huge Subaru Justys, which were called dinosaurs, skedaddled all over Europe and Buttzville, New Jersey. The biggest balloon of all was called the Brontosaurus. It weighed over 100 grams and ate nothing but plants and disco fries. The most dangerous dinosaur was called Tyrannosaurus Ira. It was as tall as a two story aluminum. It walked on it's hind feet and it's mouth was filled with hundreds of sharp, pointy babies. This dinosaur never ate jellybeans. It was a carnivore, and it only ate elbow macaroni. It is a good thing that all of these ferocious marbles are now extinct.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Distance Libs: Volume One

“Looking Good on Pluto”

On Pluto, the gravity is 44 million billion times as strong as it is in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan. So if you are a young Batcave there and you want to look good, here is what you should do. First go to a beauty parlor and get a distinguished haircut by a saucy Plutonian barber. Make sure he keeps your hair out of your Millennium Falcons so you can show off your hams. This is the hunky fashion on Pluto today. Then spray yourself with Ecto Cooler and put on an aluminum foil sombrero and high-heeled lemonssssssss. Makeup is as important on Pluto as it is on Earth, so put some bright orange-ish lipstick on your eyeball and use a nice ponytail shadow. If you follow this advice, you will get your picture on the covers of all their Draculas.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And Another...

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?
I only buy hardcovers when they're used and cheap, otherwise trade is the way to go. For new books trade is cheaper and they usually add some extra stuff to make the people that bought the hardcover buy again. Mass markets are awesome because they're pocket-size and inexpensive, especially used.

Amazon or brick and mortar?
I don't really buy books on Amazon, just used DVDs and CDs. I prefer actual stores when looking for books.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
As a former B&N employee I can say that B&N is the better all-around bookstore...but Borders has a better magazine selection. Any chance I get I'll go to an independent bookstore though.

Bookmark or dogear?
I usually rip a piece of paper off something nearby to mark my place, I can never remember to bring a bookmark and I don't like getting my pages all foldy.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
Alphabetizing is for vinyl, I use a pile of heavier books as bookends and then stack everything else in between haphazardly.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep, keep, keep, and keep. I put out a duplicate copy of The Ghost Next Door at a yard sale one day and felt like a real goofus. Keep 'em all.

Keep dustjacket or toss it?
Refer to previous question.

Read with dustjacket or remove it?
Remove, but leave it in a safe place. If you have enough dustjacketed books you get that library feel which I love, or you could feel like you live here, even better: http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/

Short story or novel?
Both please.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Collection. I have quite a few anthologies but I prefer to read one author at a time.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Is this still a debate? I don't read either but I liked the HP movies more, so...

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I'm pretty big on chapter breaks, they're there for a reason, if I can make it to a break that's when I'll stop.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
I gotta go dark and stormy.

Buy or Borrow?
Buy, usually if I borrow I just end up liking it so much that I'll need to own it so let's just cut out the middle man.

New or used?
Used is preferred, cheaper and much more character. (I've noticed I'm very particular on things being 'cheap', this is more about having more money to spend on more stuff rather than actually just being cheap myself.)

Buying choice: based on book reviews, recommendations or browsing?
All three, but the last more so than the other two.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Goosebumps has a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter! But I prefer a good ending.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?
Whenever-I-can-fit-it-in-to-my-already-packed-schedule reading.

Standalone or series?
They both have their merits, but I tend to prefer a standalone, series can be frustrating...I can't tell you how long it took to find Monster Blood IV.

Favorite series?
Escalofrios, 33 1/3, Berenstain Bears was pretty big, The Onion...

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Wow, I don't know if I have any gems here. I don't know if a lot of people know how good a writer Lester Bangs was, outside of music crit freaks. Chris Elliott's books The Shroud of the Thwacker and Into Hot Air are genuinely hilarious.

Favorite books read last year?
Books tend to melt together for me and I forget when I read anything. I know I re-read Catcher in the Rye for like the 5th time last year. Palahniuk's Diary was decent, and Simon Doonan's Beautiful People. I didn't finish The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, or Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing...but someday soon.

Favorite books of all time?
The Catcher in the Rye, I am the Cheese, Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic, The Girl Who Cried Monster, Breakfast of Champions...

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Bookish Survey...

1. Best literary festival/book fair experience?
Nothing can beat the Sunnymead Elementary book fairs they'd hold in the back corner of the re-vamped library. I can't remember if there were Goosebumps books, but I seem to remember every book fair being sponsored by Scholastic, so there must have been. I just remember being so excited and wanting to buy every single book there was.

2. How do you organize your bookshelves?
My room is overrun with books and cds, so I have one row of shelves for larger books, organized by height and width, then a row across my dresser for smaller books organized by however-they-fit-best.

3. Ever managed to get one of your favorite authors' autographs?
I just recently got John Waters to autograph one of his books. I've never been much for autographs, the only other one I ever really wanted was Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill. I had her sign a pair of white sunglasses.

4. If you said No to the previous question, which of your favorite authors do you want an autograph from?
I didn't say no, but, I'd LOVE to meet R.L. Stine, I bet he'd write something spooky. Most authors I'd like to meet are long dead so the autograph question is moot.

5. Ever visited the residence/museum of a famous author?
No, not that I can remember, maybe back in middle school times. I saw the documentary "Dreams with Sharp Teeth" about Harlan Ellison and he had an amazing house. It had a name, but I can't remember it, I love when houses have names, like Fallingwater. But that's not really what we're talking about.

6. If you said Yes to the previous question, what was it like?
Awe-inspiring? Dull? Disappointing? Enlightening?
Harlan's house was super intricate with little hide-aways and hallways, I always wanted a crazy house like that, or that place in California, I also forget what it's called but there's a bunch of doors to nowhere and hallways to nothing. I'd love to see Danielle Steel's house, I'm very intrigued by her, not her books, just her. She's like a weird, Stephen King for aging ladies.

7. Has popular culture ever influenced your reading choices?
Umm, I guess in some ways, but certainly not in an Oprah Book Club way. I mainly read older fiction, current non-fiction, bios and teen/kids mystery books.

8. More generally, how do you choose what to read?
I just keep my eyes and ears open to everything, it's the same way I hear about music, except I don't listen to any independent radio stations that talk about books. I'm a pop culture sponge and every now-and-then I find something I'm interested in. When browsing at the bookstore interesting titles are key to finding something new. Lots of blind luck in my search for books, it's more exciting that way.

9. What does being a bookworm mean to you?
Someone who is always reading. I know a couple, I'm not one though, I'm a musicworm, if there is such a thing. It's also a villain from the original Batman TV series.

10. How many book series, whether fictional or non-fictional, do you own? What are your favorites?
I have all the original series Goosebumps, I used to have most of the Robert Cormier teen books, but they disappeared. I'd like to have all the bound editions of The Onion, right now I only have one. I think I have all of John Waters books, maybe missing one. I have a fairly random book collecting style, so it's a bit all over the place. I'll typically buy anything on these topics: The French as a people, music crit, 60's/70's design/fashion, The Cold War, 60's melodrama mysteries, instruction books or pamphlets for kids/teens on dating, fictional deep sea monsters, SPACE. Or anything by these authors: John Updike, Salinger, Neal Pollack, Wilde, Kafka, Ellison (his stuff is hard to find), Poe, Vonnegut, Lester Bangs, etc...

Monday, April 12, 2010


This weekend I did something that I'm truly obsessed by. Buying records that I've never heard of is something I've been doing for quite some time. The first real success story was back around '00-01, Black Tambourine's 'Complete Recordings' 10" was a mystery. Nestled firmly in Vintage Vinyl's 10" records section, a true musical black hole if there ever was one, this record interested me with it's stark black and white cover art...and the fact that when you turn it over you notice that the girl is holding a gun. Black Tambourine, I would come to find out, is/was a seminal band in the underground dream pop genre and an extremely influential group to lots of bands that I already listened to. But it started because I just liked the cover. This record also introduced me to Swedish pop group Girlfrendo, they're mentioned in the liner notes. I was happy to see that this record recently got a proper re-release. This record was also influential in showing me that if I hate a record the first time I hear it I may love it the second.
7" records are really great for this type of shopping. There are endless possibilities in the 7" bin and (until recently for some reason) they are cheaper than LPs and CDs. There's also a feeling to 7" records that they're more unique. You can look at a 7", possibly pressed on some outlandish color vinyl with a silk screened over and think you're the only person who owns it. One of my all time favorite songs is 'Audi 5000' by some band called The Triggers. All I know about them is that they're probably from somewhere near Ypsilati, Michigan and may be former/future members of bands like Lovesick and Saturday Looks Good to Me just because their artwork is so similar. Other than that the song and record are a total mystery, but I like it that way. No picture, I've never been able to find info on them on the world wide web, and it's not same The Triggers that are on Dirtnap Records.
This weekend was not unlike others where I found ultra cheap CDs in the used bins at the Princeton Record Exchange. I'd like to state that I'm not advocating blind luck in finding these records. Record labels are important, as is artwork and (to me at least) song titles. This weekend's big find was a band called Clues from Montreal. This one had all the familiar markings: weird artwork and pictures of self-flying kites, a kind of pop-up book meets LSD art scheme, and it was on a label called Constellation...which is unknown to me, but promising. I come to find out now that Clues is made up of members of Arcade Fire and Unicorns, two bands that I know of but don't really pay any attention to. Underground music is a pyramid scheme. This CD has a truly heartbreaking song called 'Elope' that I would recommend anyone reading this to seek out ASAP. Finding this CD helped me to realize two things: 1. I don't mind getting older, to say that at 28 is probably kind of ridiculous, but as you age your tastes change and you can enjoy things you may not have earlier in life. I can't be sure if I would have appreciated Destroyer, Final Fantasy, Spoon, Miike Snow, Women, or even the new Animal Collective when I was in high school, but I love 'em now. 2. Music is AMAZING right now. There have been times, not too long ago, where the state of independent music was slumping and overrun with garbage. I know this because I lived through it, surviving on a diet of early White Stripes records and the occasional indie monster: Death Cab, Blonde Redhead, Of Montreal, lean times indeed.
But right now? Indie music is alive in a way that I've never seen it. It's hard to resist listing about a thousand bands that make me excited for the state of music over the next few years. I feel like that's reader poison, a form of name dropping or at the very least, boring. I also, however, don't feel like I can discuss what I'd like to discuss without mentioning (at least some of) these bands. So forgive me.
One CD I picked up used was by a band called No Age, they got pretty popular last year, as did just about any band released through SUB POP. I didn't care much about No Age, I think I gave their first record a listen, who could resist a record called 'Weirdo Rippers'? But I didn't much care for it. No Age's 'Nouns' is interesting in and out of the stereo, it comes with a 60+ page booklet, recalling that epic Black Dice 7" on three.one.g. some years back. The music is not at all what I expected, I'd heard No Age compared to Death From Above 1979 a while back and it's completely unwarranted. This no doubt came from some holier-than-thou 3rd rate magazine reviewer who can't describe music without linking it to one of the last two CDs he listened to. The first song on 'Nouns' actually sounds a lot like Deerhunter (not one of the last two CDs I listened to) but the rest of the disc is very...well, unSUB POP. Yes I know Wolf Eyes is on SUB POP, but it's different. I'm surely not trying to say that No Age or Clues have made some genre defining albums, I'm just saying No Age and Clues are tapped in to what I think is going on right now. There's a collection of bands that are organic in their inspiration and naturally pop. It's kind of like what happened when the Elephant 6 bands were around. It seems like there are tons of bands making the kind of pop music they want to hear and it just so happens that it's also the kind of pop music the record buying (or downloading) public at large want to hear. I don't know if I'm describing this exactly how I want to, there have always been bands doing what I'm trying to convey, but now it just seems like every genre wall there is or was has been vaporized. I love classifying bands in to genres, the more buzzwords I can use to describe a band and where they fit in the world of underground music the better, but that's my own neurosis...actually I love when bands just do whatever the hell they want. That seems like what's happening now. I remember an old !!! record that had a song called "There's No Fucking Rules, Dude" and I thought that was so inspired and I wish every band had that mentality.
Where underground music used to feel like a cult it now feels like a club. It seems like there's a significant camaraderie that was only aspired to years ago. Maybe it's just me, I don't know. I look at all the amazing bands that are really hitting their stride right now and they're all SO different, but there's a feeling that they're all cut from the same cloth. It could be the shared experience of the internet, it's so much easier for anyone to find underground music now, not to mention like-minded people. Of course, it may seem like I'm undermining, even advocating against the obsession I mentioned earlier. I'm not a fan of downloading music for the simple reason that I love actual records and just having a song on a computer or whatever seems like an anti-climax. However, if this digital climate is helping to create this musical renaissance that I'm witnessing, how can I do anything but embrace it?

Many of the bands that are on my mind are the ones that are redifining pop music. The one that is dominating my thoughts is Dirty Projectors, they've been around for a while, but last year's 'Bitte Orca' is a simply stunning record. It seems fitting that I purchased this album on the last day of 2009, it has a wipe-the-slate-clean feel to it. While sounding entirely fresh and inspired it also sounds like something fit for public consumption...some of it at least. 'Stillness is the Move' is maybe the best pop song since 'Hey Ya', and that's saying something. This band gets lazily compared to the Talking Heads and David Byrne, which isn't entirely off...but I don't like the Talking Heads, so I'm going another way. Dirty Projectors have the feel of a classic Motown group being backed by...Queen? Big guitars and backing vocals surround intimate structures and ridiculous tempo shifts. When you listen to this record you can feel originality pouring out. Detractors tend to lean on the notion that nothing is new, in the world of music everything has been done and it's a culture of imitators. One of the best things about the current state of music is that new music actually IS new and exciting.
Another example of this is the band Beach House. Their first record was decent, but lacked something and this year's 'Teen Dream' delivered. It's a kind of sprawling, meditative record blending dreamy subdued hooks with a different kind of female lead vocal.
A record like Pants Yell!'s 'Received Pronunciation' seemed to me to be a kind of one-off, twee blip on the radar, and although I'd never heard of them, 3 bucks + Slumberland Records = buy. It turns out this is a really promising, infectious and honest record. Songs like 'Rue de la Paix' and 'Not Wrong' are kind of brilliant little pop gems, and completely blur the indie line.

The last thing I'll say about what I feel is happening right now is that it all seems almost relentlessly positive. Even hearing Nathan Willams from Wavves sing "got no car, not no money...got no god, got no girlfriend" it doesn't sound like despair. There's an underlying optimism permeating indie music and I'm all for it. I would love to know where it came from, my first guess is that it was born out of the political climate. Either bands adopted a 'fuck-it-all' attitude in the Bush years, or conversely gained a new outlook on life once Obama took over. This may play some small part, but this optimism doesn't feel like it's in response to anything in particular, plus half the bands I've mentioned are Canadian. Another thought is that it's just my own projection on the situation, or maybe these musicians came to the realization I did several years ago that it's a waste of time to be depressed and/or negative...or maybe they never were to begin with. Maybe it's the drugs, it's probably the drugs. I've always enjoyed bands and movies and TV shows that you're supposed to be high to enjoy, and I've never been high in my life. Most kids spend 8th grade alone in their room listening to The Doors drinking Yoohoo right? But I'm straying from my point.
Music, unlike many things, seems to be in good hands right now. Experimentation is the norm and diversity is celebrated. Regardless of what has caused this influx it's important to mention that it's happening. If you haven't bought a record since 1997 my advice to you is to smile and buy something you've never heard of.