Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A tiny little update

Due to being separated from most of my music collection and the holidays, I'm behind. I'll work on getting caught up today and tomorrow. Superpromise.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Album Covers as Art: "Rook" by Shearwater

"The Birds" is a scary, scary movie.  The expression suggesting something is "for the birds" always carries a negative connotation.  Giving someone "the bird"?  While it's one of my favorite activities, I find that the police don't really have a sense of humor about it.  So when you're a passionate ornithologist, you probably feel like birds get a bad name for no good reason in the same way that the great Terence Trent D'Arby does.  Yeah, I said it.  So it came as no surprise that when ornithologist Jonathan Meiburg started a band, he named it after a bird--"Shearwater".  And it didn't stop there.  The former Okkervil River multi-instrumentalist has incorporated bird-related themes into several of his band's albums and their associated cover art.  Take some time to check out Shearwater's albums and art here, if you'd like.

My favorite of these is this week's featured cover, Rook.  The cover art is actually a piece called "King of Birds" by two artists simply known as Kahn + Selesnick.  The piece is part of an exhibit series known as Eisbergfreistadt (and no, I have no idea what it means). I first bought the album due to my love for Meiburg's role in Okkervil River and also based on a recommendation from my friend Ryin.  The album contains beautiful, layered, powerful music and it lives up to the art found on the cover.  In February of this year, Kahn + Selesnick brought this exhibit to Oklahoma City's Untitled (Artspace) along with a small, intimate benefit performance by Shearwater.  Shearwater put on a great show and seemed pleasantly surprised and slightly impressed by the turnout and promised to return to Oklahoma City on their next tour (fingers crossed).  After the show, I had a chance to look at the entire exhibit which was made up of drawings, photographs, physical pieces--it was honestly something that had to be seen to be fully appreciated.  The link above will give you a glimpse, but the experience made a fan out of me and helped me to understand why Shearwater chose "King of Birds".  The figure featured in the piece appears both powerful and haunting, human and non-human.  I honestly don't know much about art, but I know that the image stays with you--something I'm sure was the intention of Shearwater for Rook.

Visual art and music are separately powerful mediums--yet when coupled in a way such as is the case with Rook, it becomes greater than the sum of its parts in some way.  Or, um...It's really wicked cool to hear and see.

More info:

Rook by Shearwater: The All Music Guide Review
Kahn + Selesnick: Official Website

Monday, December 21, 2009

Workout Playlist of the Week (Christmas Week 2009 Edition)

Nothing embodies the greatness of the holidays more than peer pressure.

So I had dinner with the previously referenced Angiepants last night and she offered some pretty valuable feedback on my blog.  Who knew women enjoyed offering their opinion on a wide variety of things, eh?  Anyway, she's been a great supporter of this little project from the beginning and I feel like her insight, taste, and judgment make her someone worth listening to when it comes to my ideas, writing, etc.  She rather enjoys the concept of the "Workout Playlist of the Week", but she offered the idea that I might be better served to mix up the theme a bit moving forward--the idea being that I shouldn't always feel like I have to come up with "upbeat" or workout friendly songs each week.  Maybe there could be a "Make-out Playlist" or a "Winter Weather Playlist" or a "Sex We're Both Going to Regret Tomorrow Playlist".  You get the idea.  More themes = more diversity of music = Awesometown.  I mean, that is just math.  So I'm thinking of changing the weekly posting to "Playlist of the Week" while including a "Workout Playlist" once a month (starting after this week, of course)?  Sound good?  Good.  Again, thank you to both of my readers.  And get that exercise in this week before your entire diet becomes an odd combination of ham, turkey, candy, and nog.  Hehehe.  Nog.

Oh, and here's your playlist.  I personally think it's a step up from last week.  Now get that fine ass moving!  Safe travels and I hope you get the Imperial Walker I wanted but never got.  Thanks a lot, Bin Laden (Mom).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sunday Record

The resemblance blew my mind a whole lot, too.

Album: "Underachievers Please Try Harder"
Artist: Camera Obscura

Song Playing at the Beginning of Entry: "Teenager" by Camera Obscura

In my defense, I had heard of them and heard them before I saw it.

Today's "Sunday Record" is by Camera Obscura.  "Underachievers" is an album that came out six years ago, but one I didn't discover until last year.  The album is full of beautiful, melodic, tiny little pop songs.  Camera Obscura has been and will be endlessly compared to their Scottish counterparts, Belle & Sebastian.  And I will say that if you've ever enjoyed B&S, you'll probably enjoy Camera Obscura.  But the reason the edge goes to Camera Obscura for me is lead singer Tracyanne Campbell.  Her voice is soft and inviting while never seeming weak.  She's sarcastic and sharp while never making you think she's a bitch.  Ok, maybe a little.  But I've always been a sucker for that kind of girl, eh? 

Which brings me to the odd, mindfuck way that this album came to my attention.  Again, I'd heard of Camera Obscura before I got this record.  I heard it in passing on Pandora or some other internet radio source the way that any of us do.  We hear a song or a band and we casually think, "That's pretty cool, I'll check it out."  And sometimes we do and sometimes we don't.  Bottom line, I wasn't "dying" to get a Camera Obscura record.  But one day while shuffling through records at Guestroom I came across this album.  And that album cover.  For those of you who have known me for a long time--say prior to 2005--you'll recognize my ex-fiancee's doppelganger on the left side of that picture.  The aforementioned Tracyanne Campbell.  Fuck, the resemblance is creepy.  Those of you who know, know.  Those of you who don't, trust me.  Anyway, I couldn't help it.  I bought the album.  The same part of us that rubbernecks at a traffic accident or can't help but press the red button or knows they should change the channel when "Jersey Shore" is on but doesn't took me over at that moment.  I wasn't sure I'd even like the album, even if I had a vague recollection of who Camera Obscura was.  I only knew that I didn't want that album cover staring at me every time I came into the record store, imploring me to take it home or else continue to be haunted by the ghost of my ex (who is alive, just so you know).  It's almost like I felt by buying the damn record, I was taking control of the situation.  So I did it.  And it was done.

Good news?  The record turned out to be amazing and an absolute comfort I never could have anticipated.  It's funny how we stumble upon gems sometime.  Especially gems covered in evil disguises.

3 Best Tracks: "Suspended From Class", "Number One Son", "Books Written for Girls"
Non-Rob Review: All Music Guide

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Music Blog + Routine = Betterpants!

Modern life is repetition.  Modern life is repetition.

Song randomly playing at the beginning of this post: "I Wanna Be Adored" by The Stone Roses

I know this girl named Angela who has the nickname of "Angiepants".  I wake up in the middle of the night often thinking both about how awesome that nickname is and lamenting the fact that I didn't come up with it first.  Anyway, the addition of "pants" to pretty much any name or adjective simply makes it better.  This is science.  And so as a man in constant pursuit of self-actualization, I am looking for ways to be "betterpants".  One way I can accomplish this is by making a plan--a routine if you will--for this blog.  It'll keep me writing, keep me thinking, and keep me betterpantsing all up in this place. 

There will be four "staple posts" per week:

     A.  The Sunday Record--Every Sunday I get up out of bed whenever and before I do almost anything
           else, I put on an album to listen to.  It sets the tone, it makes me think of my life, my week, my regrets,
           my hopes, my breakfast, etc.  Anyway, this is a treasured part of my week and one of the few things
           I get right about my life.  So now, I'll do the same thing, except I'll let you know what it is and write
           about the album and blah, blah.  Just like the "Workout Playlist of the Week", maybe you'll discover
           something new, re-discover something or whatever.
     B.  Workout Playlist of the Week (Monday)--Scroll down or see here for an explanation.
     C.  Music Humane Society Thursdays--Highlighting a great album you should go get before it gets put
           to death and we have to make a huge billboard with a sad animal face and you feel really, really guilty.
           Yeah, still figuring it out but the point is that there are albums old and new, classic and unknown, that
           you should just get because I said so and I don't ask you for much.
     D.  Album Covers as Art (Wednesday)--This is an easy one.  There are an endless supply of amazing,
           disturbing, thoughtful, sexual, completely unique album covers out there.  At the very least, I might
           give you an idea for some new iPhone wallpaper each week.

Anyway, there will be plenty of random thrown in as well, I'm sure.  And of course, this schedule is subject to change due to work, the opportunity to successfully or unsuccessfully pursue sex, or my untimely death or incapacitation.  That is all.  Enjoy your Saturday.  See you bright and early tomorrow.  Or sometime tomorrow.  The schedule is set.  Now that I've put it out there like this, I'm less likely to stray from posting.  I wouldn't want to disappoint both of you reading this.  Even though I probably will.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Workout Playlist of the Week (For the Week of Dec. 14, 2009)

If Spider-Man can make your workout better, so can I.

There are way too many people I know who sacrifice all music taste at the altar of dignity (Blythe) just so they can have a good workout playlist.  But kids, I PROMISE that you don't have to listen to Fergie just to get that sweet ass of yours in shape on the treadmill.  So each week, I'll offer a cool dozen songs that have a good workout pace and won't make you incrementally dumber each time you listen.  Because you shouldn't have to get dumber and lower your standards just so you can chase that six-pack ab unicorn fantasy.

In addition to providing some impetus for that dream workout, this may be a way to discover some new music or re-discover some old classics that you might never have considered "workout music".  Or maybe it'll be music you already have and my inclusion of it on this weekly blog post will further validate your taste and you'll feel better about yourself, life, America, etc.  So enjoy real hard and remember to stretch.