Monday, December 19, 2011

For Rob So Loved the World: Music Jerk Rob's Favorite Albums of 2011

A beautiful, elegant machine for making end-of-year best-of lists.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms what my mother has been telling anyone who will listen--I, Rob Vera, am an excellent writer.  Gifted, talented, and strikingly handsome when it comes to writing, what I'm about to say will likely shock and possibly even sadden you: This year's 2011 favorite album list blog entry will be both economical and downright thin on the verbiage compared to last year.

Let's be honest.  You people don't read anymore.  I'd be shocked if you even made it as far as that last sentence.  And if you do read, it's Twilight or The Help or US Weekly or your Twitter feed.  You've barely got any "smart" headspace left and what you do have left, I'd rather make good use of while ensuring there's room for some essential music to feed your heart, your soul, and that big vacant space in your work day where "work" is supposed to be but where something called "Facebook" actually resides.  Also--thanks to Apple products--I'm nearly incapable of typing anything anymore without expecting my misspelled words to just "figure out" a way to correct themselves.  I mean, who has the time to type words into sentences and paragraphs correctly or is willing to go back and make edits?  "Correct spelling" and "editing" all sound like part of some high-minded liberal agenda that I frankly want no part of.

So let's do this.  A few changes from last year:

1.  Due to a music year far deeper in terms of quality albums than any in recent memory, I'm going with a nice round number of twenty-one selections.  Twenty-one isn't a round number?  Well, excuse me for living. 

2.  After a couple years of picking my favorite albums without ranking any of them (with the notable exception of naming a favorite), I've decided to bring back rankings.  I've done this in order to ensure the highest possible likelihood of pissing off my good friend and fellow music blogger Jake.  I mean, can our relationship survive Bon Iver not making this list???  Guess we're just gonna have to find out.

3.  In lieu of reviews I've included my favorite lyrical reference from each album which I will provide no context for.  What a fun bit, eh?

4.  One holdover from last year--I've included a Music Jerk Rob's Favorite Albums of 2011 Sampler playlist that includes one selection from each album that I haven't previously included on any previous blog playlist.  Merry Christmas.  And you're welcome.

In closing, all these albums are excellent and there are so many more I could include if I wanted this list to be ridiculously long.  But I don't have the time or brainpower or marginal work ethic for all that. However, I do look forward to discussing/fighting about this list and music, in general, for the foreseeable future with you.  That's how much I love you.

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Life Is Simple in the Moonlight":

"It's addiction of routine as well
Making fools out of the best of us
Making robots of the rest of us
Innocence itself in America today
Is a crime just like Cornel West might say."

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Please Ask for Help"

"You're like a puzzle that can't be solved,
Missing pieces never fill the gaps
You got the salt and I got the wound,
But, all you gotta do is ask."

19.  Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls (True Panther Sounds)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Honey Bunny"

"I know you're somewhere
And nothing's ever gonna phase me
You'll look at me and know I'm the one
And you will love me
For all the reasons everyone hates me."

18.  The King of Limbs by Radiohead (Ticker Tape Ltd.)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Separator"

"Just exactly as I remember
Every word
Every gesture
I've my heart in my mouth
Like I'm falling out of bed
From a long and vivid dream
Finally I'm free of all the weight I've been carrying."

17.  Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams (Capitol)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Lucky Now"

"And the lights will draw you in
And the dark will take you down
And the night will break your heart
But only if you’re lucky now."

16.  Save Your Season by Mint Julep (Village Green)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "No Letting Go"

"Please take me away from here
Barricaded in our bedroom
Put your hand in mine, my dear
As we watch the world disappear."

15.  Within and Without by Washed Out (Sub Pop)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Eyes Be Closed"

"Rising up you float outside yourself
Find the source of light
You fly home, you go closer now
Rising towards the light..."

14.  Underneath the Pine by Toro Y Moi (Carpark)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "New Beat"

"Got left surrounded
By my old things
Thought I had moved on.
Tried to make ends meet
But picked up a new beat
And so I laid out
But even now when they fall into place
I think about 'em then."

13.  One Thousand Pictures by Pete and The Pirates (Stolen Recordings)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Half Moon Street"

"My thoughts are tearing each other apart
In the back of the car
Conversations probably gone too far
You keep me guessing
Tongue tied and messy
Don't make me feel stupid
I'll do that on my own
Put the key in and just start believing
That you're going to hell if you have fun this evening
Come to me telling me all kinds of secrets
Promises promised I think I can keep it."

12.  Tamer Animals by Other Lives (TBD Records)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Tamer Animals"

"Oh, living for the city and it's always troubling
To keep it in the hot lane, I don't care about no scenery
And you run from it then, now you can't escape, cause it's all you see
But we're all just an end to a simple thing, and it's all you see, and it's all you see."

11.  Nine Types of Light by TV On the Radio (DGC/Interscope)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Will Do"

"Your love makes a fool of you, you can't seem to understand
Our heart doesn't play by rules and love has it's own demands
But I'll be there to take care of you if ever you should decide
But you don't want to waste your life in the middle of a lovesick lullaby."

10.  Departing by The Rural Alberta Advantage (Saddle Creek)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Good Night"

"Plug the radiator in the car,
I can see the words you're screaming in the frost.
Rush into the woods where we first felt God,
It rippled through our veins from the moment when we touched
The city's love is cold and the city's love is hard,
It locks into our veins from the first September's frost,
And someday if you get it together in your heart,
Maybe we might get back together, but goodnight."

9.  Sound Kapital by Handsome Furs (Sub Pop)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Memories of the Future"

"I threw my hands to the sky, I let my memories go
I threw my hands to the sky, I let my memories go
And I feel alone, I feel alone
I feel alone, I feel alone
I feel alone but it feels alright."

8.  Actor-Caster by Generationals (Park the Van)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Dirty Mister Dirty"

"The rest won't take this riot lying down
How they do make that sound
You always said your friends can teach us how
Oh can they now?
Maybe then I'll fall in love with you."

7.  Dye It Blonde by Smith Westerns (Fat Possum)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Imagine Pt. 3"

"In corners of your heart I tried to make love grow
Imagine all the windows if the walls are out of stone
Oh can't you see, what you're doing to me?
But you've always got me coming back for more."

6.  Kaputt by Destroyer (Merge)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Chinatown"

"You can't believe,
Though I'm sure somebody's said it before:
I know you and I know the score...
I can't walk away, you can't walk away..."

5.  The English Riviera by Metronomy (Because Music)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "She Wants"

"Then twitching lips
And twitching arms
And there you're lying
Your make up on them
Oh, Girl if you're dreaming deep tonight
I'll lie with you by reading light
A glass of water by your side
I'm gone in hopes of getting tired."

4.  Megafaun by Megafaun (Hometapes)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "You Are the Light"

"Sin is insignificant
It anchors your fear
Pain is just a window
Through which you'll see clear
Hear my affirmation
I am the light
The light of the Lord
Join in our elation for we are the light
The same light inside
Inside of the Lord."

3.  In the Grace of Your Love by The Rapture (DFA)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "How Deep Is Your Love?"

"When it's dark choices are few
It's just me and you
Give me what I need to live
Help me come to you
Let me hear that song
On this journey you've given me
I'm walking off the time
Now you're walking right next to me
The mountains we will climb."

2.  Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83 (MUTE)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Wait"

"Send your dreams
Where nobody hides
Give your tears
To the tide
No time
No time."

1.  Days by Real Estate (Domino)

Magical Lyrical Moment Comes From: "Younger Than Yesterday"

"If it takes all summer long
Just to write one simple song
There's too much to focus on
Clearly that is something wrong."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Music Jerk Rob's Favorite Songs of 2011

We all have our favorites.  And we all have our reasons.

One of the great music influences of my life was my ex-best friend/fiancee, Leslie (And just to clarify, that is NOT a photo of her above.  That's a famous actress in a famous role.) 

Even though we haven't seen or spoken to one another in six years, her presence looms large in my record collection and in my musical heart.  She introduced me to Morrissey, The Smiths, Juliana Hatfield, Evan Dando, Matthew Sweet and so much more.  Music meant something to us.  We prided ourselves on that fact.  And we bragged to one another about how much better our collective taste was than others in an arrogant but truly awesome manner.  And I loved this about us and I know she did, too.  After a rough period in our lives where we didn't speak for several months, it was her listening to Ryan Adams's Gold and breaking down in tears due to how much it reminded her of me, that ultimately prompted her to seek me out again (I'm sure there were other reasons, but this one is my favorite).  My first ever Wilco concert was with her.  One of our most legendary fights (of which there were many) took place right before seeing Old 97's perform at The Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas.  We saw Phantom Planet, Juliana Hatfield, The Decemberists, Okkervil River, Ben Kweller (and more that I'm sure I'm forgetting) in concert together.

No matter what difficulties we ultimately had (and there were many), I've always felt that she was my musical soul mate and I've often wondered if that was one of the reasons it was so hard to leave her behind after our break-up.  I mean, as I've detailed extensively before, music is one of the primary tools we use to "get over" the last person we're with.  And I'll be honest--like many men my age, Ryan Adams is a central component to any break-up therapy playlist and I must have listened to Heartbreaker about ten thousand times after we were finished.  Around 2005 when the relationship ended, I'd say that at least a quarter (if not more) of my music collection was connected to Leslie in some way in my mind.  Finding solace or an escape from the memory of Leslie in the form of music was a nearly impossible task.  The moral of the story?  Don't fall in love with women who have great taste in music.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

So why the sudden trip down bad memory lane?  Because Leslie taught me something about experiencing music that I'm sure she's probably forgotten by now but that really stuck with me.  Once, when presenting me with a gift of several Juliana Hatfield CDs, I asked her which one was the best.  She pointed to one and said that it was probably the best, but then pointed to another and said that it was her favorite.

My brain started to power down at that moment in utter confusion.  "What's the difference between the 'best' and your 'favorite'?", I protested.  And I'll never forget this part.  She looked me in that "this is so obvious and I don't get how YOU don't get this" way that only Leslie could and said (and I'm doing my best to get this right), "Well, this one is her best album, but this is the one I like the most.  It's my favorite."

After several more minutes of discussion on the subject, I left the booth at IHOP that evening no closer to comprehending what she truly meant and I'm quite sure she thought I was completely dense (though I suspect she thought that long before that moment).  Years later, however, I've started to understand.  In 2011, we live in a significantly more "connected" and opinion producing at the speed of light culture and list-making/ranking has become a sport.  You undoubtedly have seen a plethora of year-end best of lists that rank albums, songs, videos, books, movies, TV shows, etc.  Rarely, if ever anymore, do we consider how ludicrous it is to attempt to objectively quantify art in such a way.  I think Leslie always got this.  This album is probably the best in terms of technical proficiency or critical acclaim, but that album is my favorite for my own damn reasons that are mine.  In this way, Leslie was a rad chick and ahead of her time as far as I'm concerned.  At least she was way ahead of me and my overly cerebral approach to music evaluation.  Because ultimately, art, in general, and music, in particular, is all about what it does to your guts and your heart.  We can make it in to more, but we do so at the peril of its fundamental magic.

Picking my favorite songs in a given year is now all about favorite and nothing else.  Every one of these songs made me feel something that I could tell you about but won't.  Some reminded me of people I know, have known but don't anymore, or anticipation of situations and personalities I have yet to encounter.  And some make me just want to move, groove, bang my head, or air drum myself into oblivion.  This isn't to say that some of these songs aren't on some other person's ranked list who is attempting to assign a place for a given track in the schema of our pop culture age that they're trying to cleverly name and inform all of us lesser beings of.  I just don't have the stomach for over-thinking and analyzing each note and lyric anymore.  I just love these songs for my own damn reasons that are mine.  Enjoy.  Or don't.  It's really alright either way.


*Track 3, "I Knew It Was Over (Live at the Vatican)" is not available on Spotify but is heartbreakingly beautiful and you must hear it.  Use either of the other two playlist options including the embedded player to hear it.  You'll thank me later, I swear.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Rawkhawker

The only method of getting music out in to the world more awesome than owning a record label? If I could shoot it through my super-powered talons.

Most of you reading this have been Facebook/Twitter-whipped with all the details by now, but here are the basics, just in case:

1.  I co-founded a record label called Okie Dope Records with my hetero-soul mate, Clint McEwen.

2.  A couple awesome Oklahoma City bands--The Boom Bang and Copperheads--recorded some new tunes and wanted to release them on vinyl.  With two songs each, they opted to split a 7"--which sounds like sharing a sandwich but really just means each band gets one side of the record.  Due to some good fortune and previous connections through a concert Clint and I had been a part of promoting, the parties came together.  The best part?  The talent of these guys is matched only by their enthusiasm for this project and how genuinely easy they are to work with.  Clint and I both feel incredibly fortunate in this regard.

3.  After a lot of hard work, the record is finally being released this Friday at a record release party/show at VZD's in Oklahoma City!  Even if you aren't interested in the show for some ridiculous, un-American reason, I can assure you that the onion rings are the best in the city and reason enough to come out.  And if you don't like onion rings, there's always the pure pleasure of my company which I'm sure you'd enjoy.  And booze, too.  Let's not forget about that.

So no time to go on and on right now because the business of rock 'n' roll is surprisingly time consuming--especially when you have an actual full-time job on top of it!  But my playlists wait for no man--except me.  And I have one for you!  In the spirit of a week devoted to my nasty habit called rock 'n' roll, I present twelve songs in just a shade under 31 minutes--a dozen raw and strong rockers. Included at the top of the playlist are my favorite two songs (it's like a parent picking a favorite child) from my label's (it never gets old calling it that) inaugural release--one each from The Boom Bang and Copperheads.

Now sit back, relax, and give in to the power of rock.  It'll be gentle.  Unless it's not.  And even then, it'll still be great.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Due Northerner

Canada.  It's like a whole other country.

Press play below and begin reading...

As I've always maintained, this blog is full of truths, half-truths, and downright fictionalizations of actual events.  There's so much I want to tell you about Canada and my journey there, but never will.  Partly because of certain implications.  Partly because half of what I'd love to tell you is completely untrue.  And partly because there are so few things that belong to ourselves anymore and therefore, I've decided to keep it locked up in a very Don Draper-esque manner.

What I can tell you is that my approach to story-telling and what you expect of it regarding Canada is much like the country itself.  It's everything you think it'll be, but deep down it's actually quite different.

I can tell you that the beer is overrated.  The food is underrated.  The women are lovelier than I imagined they'd be.  It's cold in November, but I've been colder in Oklahoma.  Canadians are much more patriotic, bordering on nationalistic than you'd imagine.  Tim Horton's is a Canadian institution that I managed to avoid, but now regret avoiding it.  Yoga is really hard, but I was better at it than the teacher thought I'd be.  Namaste THAT, guru!  My friend's kids are both under the age of five and reminded me once again that boys at that age are hilarious messes and it's awesome.  The five year old is already learning French and I felt stupid and unambitious as a result.  To add insult, I need to work on my Crayola skills.  Toronto is more like Chicago than New York, no matter what Canadians think.  And I think that that's a compliment.  I ate a Buffalo chicken sandwich with waffles as the bread on Saturday with a beer and you didn't.  The CN Tower is taller than your brain can really wrap itself around unless you go up in it.  Giggle.  I couldn't get the Kids in the Hall theme music out of my head the entire time I was in Toronto and now if any of you go, you won't be able to either.  Canadians are legally bound to hear at least 25% Canadian music and that's almost completely true.  The people were warm, conversational, and distant all at once.  Oddly, I honestly can't remember one person I met ending a sentence with "eh?".  Canadian money is hilarious to me, but not nearly as hilarious as American money is to them.  That's enough, metric system.  Same goes for you, Celsius.  My friend there who I hadn't seen in six years was completely different and completely the same all at once and I love her even more because of it.

My expectations were somehow unmet and completely exceeded all at once.  And somehow I was a thousand or so miles from home and exactly where I needed to be.  Thank you God, for your curious and perfect combination of both answered and unanswered prayers.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Friday Video Reward: "Roads (Live)" by Portishead

 I read a comment from someone once that said that this song would be on God's mp3 player.  I have no doubt.

My sincerely promised and yet undelivered inaugural "Your Weekly Top 5 List" is coming.  But as many of you may be aware, I'm involved with this tonight.  And if this interests you and you're around Oklahoma City tonight, please come.  Needless to say, super music brain just doesn't quite have the bandwith to focus on much else in depth today.

But I felt the need for reasons I can't quite describe--maybe it's the change in weather or my desire to highlight something completely opposite of what my music world has been revolving around lately--to post this video from the greatness of Portishead.  While at the age of 32 I'm clearly getting handsomer and awesomer by the day, there is an affection I carry--like many others I imagine--for the times, places, and music of my teenage years.  In the way that I felt most adults at that time completely overrated the 70's musically (how silly I was in those days), I'm now certainly a happily functioning hypocrite who feels the same instinctual devotion to the music of the 90's.  There's just a "feeling" I associate with memories from that time--in the same way that certain smells remind you of a long since left place or relative or ex.  And I simply cannot separate those memories from their soundtrack.

Few bands or songs evoke such a "feeling" more than Portishead and their classic song "Roads"--specifically this particular live version.  Seeing this performed live, the combination of lead singer Beth Gibbons' pained and tragically beautiful vocals combined with a lush string section is nothing short of goose bump-inducing.  If you've never really listened to Portishead, I'd actually encourage you to START with the album that this version comes from--1998's Roseland NYC Live or as it is often referred to, PYNC.  It's a strong sampling of the best work from the only two albums they'd released at that time (they've only released one additional album of new material since, aptly titled Third.)

Please, do enjoy.  And of course, no need to thank me.  Even though you probably should.  My concern for your music well-being knows no bounds.  It's really both awesome and difficult being this selfless.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Pivotalization

One of the lessons that stuck with me from learning to drive was that you always, always turn in to the skid--even though all your instincts tell you to turn away from it.  There's a reason the car is skidding and its only such an acknowledgement and acceptance of the force of your movement that will allow you to regain control.

My life is certainly not skidding out of control.  I hope not.  I still have so much on my DVR to catch up on.  But there's clearly a slight force of movement happening.  And its pushing me to embark on some risk and some discomfort, but that's alright.  Things are moving me in a slightly different direction.  But even a slight change in direction can create an entirely new trajectory.  Time to acknowledge and turn in to it.  Scary.  Good.  Hopefully, scary good.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quick Music Jerk: Your Weekly Album Mandates

Megafaun: Until a couple weeks ago, I was unaware of these guys, their powerful music, and their equally powerful beards.
The contenders for album of the year are beginning to make themselves known.  On a possibly related note, this is the strongest week of the year.
Three albums I'm listening to this week for a variety of reasons and, therefore, you should be listening to:

Megafaun by Megafaun: In a year of musical anticipation and expectation surrounding bands I'm familiar with and fond of, Megafaun qualifies as the most unexpected of my discoveries. Hard to pin down genre-wise, the former bandmates of Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon alternately remind you of The Grateful Dead, Spiritualized, or Eels with soundscapes that are at times Odelay-era Beck/Kid A Radiohead before shifting to the chamber power of Fleet Foxes or the horn-centric beauty of Beirut or The Walkmen. It's such an insane concoction of genre influences that it has no business working--but it does. Highly spiritual lyrics combined with an adventurous spirit, Megafaun is a true one of a kind.

Days by Real Estate:  There's nothing worse than the disappointment of unvalidated anticipation--and nothing quite as reassuring in that "sometimes things CAN go right in this world" sorta way as when your passionately childish hope is fulfilled after a long wait.  There was no middle ground for me with the new Real Estate album.  I had loved their debut and their follow-up EP so much--I was and am incapable of possessing middle ground feelings about this band.  Luckily, the band's sophomore release, Days, is a tremendous success on every level.  Its beauty is in its ability to be both simple and skillfully crafted.  They return with just enough new wrinkles to show the path they're charting forward while still retaining that lush beach-guitar trademark touch and create a gem of an album--one of 2011's best.  Sure, I'm probably biased towards this band.  But it doesn't make it any less true.  It's out.  TODAY.  Get it.  You're welcome.

Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams: People need to get over Ryan Adams' debut album Heartbreaker much in the same way that many bitter former Radiohead fans need to get over OK Computer.  Adams is not (just as Radiohead is certainly not) going to make that album ever, ever, ever again.  While no one doubts that album's greatness, it has all too often served as an albatross hanging around Adams' neck in the form of the critical evaluation of his subsequent works.  There are far too many lazy, petulant music critics (Pitchfork) who spend more of their reviews referencing how the new work compares to Heartbreaker (as well as petty commentary on the nature of Adams' formerly turbulent off-stage life) without ever fairly evaluating the work right in front of them.  Largely due to this phenomenon, appropriate praise has eluded some tremendously strong (and largely overlooked) albums such as the epic Cold Roses and the pitch-perfect country throwback Jacksonville City Nights.  And while I note the irony that I have yet to say a word about Adams' new album, let me remedy that by saying that Ashes & Fire is his most consistent, top-to-bottom work in years.  Ryan Adams always had the gift of espousing the most universally understood sentiments in the most brilliant, clever ways that you could never think of and that doesn't stop here.  Quieter, but certainly assured, Ashes finds Ryan Adams in a good, strong place with a set of hooks that's been less noticeable on his last couple of albums.  He's in love, but even if you're not, you get the sense listening to this album that he knows how easily even beautifully-joined things can fall apart for a guy like him.  And somehow, that's reassuring to a guy like me.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Gold Medallion Blues

Does Clooney have his image minted on a super-sweet medallion?  Well neither do I, but I really do have a lot of frequent flyer miles so it's just a matter of time.

I've got approximately 55 hours here at home before I'm back on a plane and headed out of town again.  At present, my life is a non-stop up in the air chase for a better seat, more free booze, and something called "status" that only a major air carrier can bestow.  I'm not complaining.  I'm just an object never at rest and it's hard to focus on that sweet, cool nuget-filled center of reality we call "being deep" right now.  The operative word right now is "go".  So I focus on the important issues right in front of me.  Like how I had to drink Woodford Reserve since they were out of Glenlivet on my flight yesterday.  What am I, Delta?  A hobo?  Come on!

So forgive me--your most revered spiritual maharishi--for not having some life-altering TNT to detonate on your lame ass today.  However, I apologize as always for the stupid gap between posts.  Real life sure does find a way to keep me from investing the time and dedication I ordinarily would in my fake online life.

Enjoy the music.  Enjoy the weekend.  Oh yeah--Boomer.  Sooner.  And I'm legally required to mention something about Steve Jobs.  So there you go.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Archery

Sometimes, it seems alien to you--even when you know it isn't.

A dozen songs for your Friday, your weekend, your heart, your brain, your distraction, your pain, your joy, your travel.  I'm done traveling for a few days.  You'll never guess where I've been.

A dozen sentences on the playlist you're about to indulge in for the dozen or so of you who may read this.  Track by track.  Oh yeah, go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of the post and press the play button to maximize your enjoyment quotient:

1.  Every time I hear this song, I think of this scene from Superbad that never fails to put a big, dumb smile on my big, dumb face.

2.  I may or may not be practicing my super sweet dance moves to this song.

3.  I may have said this before, but I think Blind Pilot sounds like what people wish Death Cab for Cutie actually sounded like.

4.  Based on a conversation I had earlier this week, I do indeed think that it's great when English bands actually sound English.

5.  I'm late to the party, but there still appears to be plenty left for me to drink.

6.  As a man of faith, I'm naturally inclined to enjoy examples of resurrection (and may oddly explain why I love zombie movies so much)--which in music may just be a glorious return from mediocrity.

7.  Jake, there's nothing wrong with enjoying some occasional strong chick-folk and recommending it to your friends--no matter what they say.

8.  Her real name is Annie Clark and she's far too hot to have such a confusing stage name.

9.  This song comes from an album called Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By and so this song must be actually promoting healthy, marital love, right?

10.  The title of this song prompted a Wikipedia search and now I've got one more weapon in my future Jeopardy! arsenal.

11.  Fifty-five seconds in is for my girl.

12.  Amen and amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wednesday Video Reward: "Honey Bunny" by Girls

Live on Jimmy Fallon last night. Infectious, fun, tap-your-feet pop the way it was meant to be made. Loved this the first time I heard it. Side note: How much does Girls' front man Christopher Owens look like Kurt Cobain with that sweater/hair combination?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quick Music Jerk 3: Okie Dope, Manufactured Popularity, and Your Weekly Album Mandates

Not just a figment of our wild imagination anymore?

1.  Okie Dope Records has existed in the heads of myself and my label partner and friend Clint for two years as nothing more than a single t-shirt, a few cool JPEGs, and a Facebook page.  What better way to celebrate the two year anniversary of our hypothetical venture than by actually making into something....thetical? Or real or non-fictional or actual record label that makes an actual record!  Well the wheels of progress and the gears of justice seem to finally be moving in the right direction.  More details will follow, but we've found two great Oklahoma City bands who will each share a side of a 7" release (a 45 RPM record like the one pictured above).  As of today, we're projecting a late November/early December release of the Okie Dope label's first record!  Things should become official in the coming weeks, but until then, let's all celebrate the fact that your beloved music blogger is taking his first steps toward realizing that sweet clean Jay-Z music mogul dream...

2.  According to Blogger Stats, the most popular post in the history of this blog BY FAR is one of my playlist of the week posts--"My Mental Trans-Am".  And while I'd love to believe that this is due to the exceptional writing and fine, hand-crafted playlist authoring that I did on this occasion, I'm thinking it has to do with the words "Trans-Am" and people who are inadvertently stumbling on to my blog while cruising for muscle cars online.  On an unrelated note, future music playlist titles will incorporate "American Idol", "Kate Middleton", and "Arrested Development Movie Release Date".

3.  Three albums I'm listening to this week for a variety of reasons and, therefore, you should be listening to:

Yes, I have a ton of catching up to do on this front and a couple of these are from previous weeks, but I don't want you to miss out on them just because I'm a bad blog parent...

Skying by The Horrors: A somewhat sunnier and slightly more 80's New Wave-esque pop-friendly turn from 2009's dark masterwork, Primary Colours, The Horrors return on this album with no less stomach for the fight.  Don't let the name of the band scare you off--this is synth-drenched music with rock 'n' roll power, principles, and guitars done right.  Download my favorite track on the album, "Still Life", for free here.  You'll dig.

For fans of: Echo & The Bunnymen, The Big Pink, Simple Minds

In the Grace Of Your Love by The Rapture: Triumphant, highly-contagious dance-punk from the painfully un-prolific (this is only third third album since 2003) NYC pioneers of the craft returns in full force.  Less "punk/tribal" than 2003's essential Echoes and less "shiny/produced" than 2006's often overlooked Pieces of the People We Love, this album finds a happy medium between the two without feeling compromised.  The beats and the melodies are infectious and the lyrics are bravely sincere (and apparently un-ironic by all accounts) and fit with the tone of the record.  I cannot stop listening to this album and I suspect it will find its way on to many year end best of lists--namely mine.

For fans of: LCD Soundsystem, !!!, Hot Chip

The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 by Old 97's: The most surprising album of 2011 so far from the standpoint that this is easily the best album this Dallas alt-country/country rock institution has released in a decade.  I've loved this band since my college years and I'll have to admit that I'd given up on the idea that they could once again make music that lived up to their early classics.  Some bands just keep going well past their relevance and I feared that Old 97's had been relegated to some adolescent-tinged nostalgic place alongside bands like Weezer.  But this album is a true return to form and its mood and feel is reminiscent of their work on 1999's excellent Fight Songs.  At their best, Old 97's combine the best elements of rock and country with an effortless artistry that has rarely been matched and it is great to see that they've got some magic left.

For fans of: Drive-By Truckers, Bobby Bare, Jr., early Wilco

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Audio Caffeination

It's molecular.  And calling your name.

This morning's message is simple: Wake.  Up.  WAKE.  UP.  Everyone's tired of your tired.  And the stressful whiny bitchiness that accompanies it.  Or so a trusted friend told me recently about someone who may or may not be me.  If you're averse to chemical solutions, how about freeing yourself from the shackles of your moribund indie music drudgery and inject some frenetic pace and guts and balls and catharsis in to your audio consumption.  Here's my never fail, all killer-no filler bolt of lightning.  Enjoy your day.  I'm off to get coffee.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Scalabitual

Music first.  The conquering of the world will follow soon after.


the ability of something, esp a computer system, to adapt to increased demands

I think it's called jargon.  Some kind of industry or trade specific language.  Yeah, that's what you call these kind of words.  I had never heard this particular word until I got this job.  And now I use it all the time in presentations (like big shots do) as both an adjective of praise for my solution or as a weapon against a competitor.  In my little professional world, the ability to handle an increasing amount of demand is the skeleton key more often than not.  Which I suppose is true in the rest of my life as well.

I don't talk about work to my friends and family much--other than to let them know I'm traveling or if I've had some sort of success I'm proud of (99% of my friends and family could not tell me what I actually do for a living, which is fine).  And I likely do the latter just to remind them that, in fact, I am not sitting at home with no pants on working the margarita machine.  That often.  No, no, I am a hard worker.  I am highly scalable.  I work, I travel, I write, I socialize, I attend church, I remember birthdays, I eat local, I sometimes cook, I evaluate music so you don't have to--I mean, there's a workload called life to be conquered and I generally rock it.

But lately, some other factors have been added to the mix.  Ones with tremendous growth potential (excuse how corporate douche that sounded), but ones that will potentially stretch my scalability.  With software systems, there's a point at which a given solution reaches its workload limit.  You can add more tasks, but all the other ones will either suffer in terms of performance or will need to be shed or modified to fulfill the new demands properly.  Technology is amazing, but I find that at its core it is bound by the same principles as the rest of humanity in most ways.  At some point, we realize that there's only 100% to give and it all comes down to choices.

But this is a good thing.  The forced application of prioritization in ones life is the ultimate litmus test for your values.  And not mentioned in my previous list is how much of my life's pie chart is probably filled with a significant amount of wasted time.  The idea of replacing that wasted time with--in the simplest terms--the "important stuff" is exciting beyond words.  As age moves us to the summit of activity, the mandate to take it all on never becomes less demanding.  And it would be easy and idealistic for me to say that I'd rather be great at a few things than mediocre at many things--as if life gives us such a choice all that often....I had another good thought but then Terence Trent D'arby just came on.  Hell yes!  Make fun all you want, but you cannot listen to this song and not nod your head.  That's science.  Me?  I'm about to dance.  Do I have pants on right now?  Don't worry about that.  Be right back.

Man, I feel good!  This is why it's a good idea to play the playlist while I write/while you read.  So anyway, we don't usually get the luxury of getting to focus on just a few things.  I'm going to eventually be a husband and a father but I'll still have a job and interests and others to engage with and I really, really do want to try and still eat local.  The key to scalability being an actual advantage is knowing how to balance and prioritize.  And since we rarely get practice runs at this, we have to just take what we've learned, close our eyes, and hope we can do it.  The time isn't here yet for the big stuff.  But it'll be here soon enough.  I have faith that I can handle it.  And even more faith that even with all the change and adjustments, that I'll love it.  It's just how I was designed.  That's not just the Terence Trent D'arby dance high talking.  I think I really mean it.

This week's playlist is one of the best of the year--if I do say so myself and I do since this is my blog and my taste is excellent.  But seriously, unlike recent years, 2011 seems to be strengthening down the stretch in terms of quality.  So there's plenty of new included in all this goody goodness.

Quick Playlist Highlights:

1.  Track 1: Yes, Beirut was recently on this playlist, I know.  But their new album, The Rip Tide, was just released and has quickly become a contender for me.  The usual layers of horns and eastern European tone are complimented with a more pop-friendly and gentle feel.  God, that sounded hipster.  But trust me, it's a really good album.

2.  Track 5: Don't let the title fool you--and I suspect that in some ways it IS meant to throw you off--this is the most sweeping, affecting pure rock song I've heard in years.  Power.  Just power.  Just trust me.

3.  Track 7: The Horrors are awesome.  And they just keep getting awesomer.  The new album, Skying, is a more pop-friendly continuation of 2009's darker, post-punk epic, Primary Colours.  Both albums are great, but I think first-timers to this band will enjoy Skying the most.

4.  Track 12: A folky, somewhat bluegrassy cover of one of my favorite Radiohead songs of all time.  A tall order--but maybe the best Radiohead cover I've ever heard.  It takes balls to try to cover Radiohead--and apparently Sarah Jarosz has them.  But I'm sure she's still a lovely lady.