Friday, May 27, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Weekender

There's no better way to capture the spirit of a long Memorial Day Weekend than by making plans.

No real entry today other than to say a few quick things:

1.  These playlists are even better to listen to on the go in your car or while working out.  I remind you once again as a service to you.  Learn how to do this and thus, completely turn your life around here.

2.  I dare you to find another playlist with both The Monkees and Arctic Monkeys on it.

3.  Despite the general dismissal of Angles by both the hipster media complex and even seemingly by some members of the band itself, this Strokes album grows on me with each listen--and "Life Is Simple In The Moonlight" is one of their best ever tracks.  Eva.

4.  Be safe.  Enjoy the playlist.  Love you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Your Weekly Album Mandates

I have a brother named John who is an orchestral musician.  I like this new avant-pop/folk orchestral group called Brother John.  But my brother John is not in Brother John.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sometimes you just don't have enough to say--or you just don't have time to say it.  All I know is that all I have and have time for this week is music you don't likely have but definitely should have if you probably want to stay friends with me.  In all likelihood.  Enjoy yoselves, fools.

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

the tiniest bones, the infinite everything EP by Brother John:  Odd.  Beautiful.  Oddly beautiful.  In a growing trend of orchestral-infused folk and pop, Bloomington, Indiana’s Brother John somehow seems different to me.  Lush instrumentation here (which you expect) is combined with vocals whose intent is less to convey a message and more to create a mood.  Soundscapes (you’ll notice the crickets) layered with sometimes creepy, sometimes beautiful harmonies create something truly distinctive.  This EP seems to just be scratching the surface of something utterly captivating and unquestionably distinctive.  (Stream the entire album here.)

For fans of: Department of Eagles, Seryn, These New Puritans

WWII by The White Wires: Other than the occasional flurry of apocalyptic tornadoes, the weather in this part of the world is getting downright gorgeous and the time is right for fun, sunshine-laden rock music.  Enter The White Wires--a Canadian band who has no business being this good at joyous surfer rock (I mean, it's Canada up there!).  Song titles like "Let's Go to the Beach", "Summer Girl" and "Be True to Your School ('Til You Get Kicked Out) tell you almost all you need to know.  Just take my word for it--it's nearly impossible to listen to this album without smiling, bobbing your head, singing along or a combination of the three.  Get this.  Have fun.

For fans of: early Beach Boys, Gentleman Jesse, The Exploding Hearts

Cat's Eyes by Cat's Eyes:  Moody and atmospheric but nonetheless an endlessly romantic album.  The "band" is really just two people--Horrors frontman Faris Badwan (sounds like a Jedi) and classically-trained vocalist/organist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira.  His dark bass combined with her haunting soprano and composition create an album that in some ways is all over the place--but in other ways strikes all the right chords and leaves you genuinely affected.

For fans of: Mazzy Star, Fever Ray

For those who may have missed my previous references to them, watch this achingly beautiful video of their "impromptu" performance of "I Knew It Was Over" at The Vatican:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Quest Practice

If you're prepared to hunt it, you've got to be prepared for what happens when you catch it.

According to my new Kindle which replaced my old Kindle that I recently left on a plane to New York to see my brother who reads much more than I do these days, I'm 19% of the way through Moby-Dick.  I've always wanted to read this book and never have but am determined to do so.  There is something mentally 4-D about being determined to accomplish a long unaccomplished goal which centers around a book about the same concept.

Not that reading Moby-Dick is THE "white whale" in my life.  If I'm honest, I suffer from the same generational inability to keep that exact thing from being anything other than a moving target.  In the past, its been "that job" or "that girl" or "some girl" or "this house" or "that family" or "that weight" or whatever--at any given time I would have felt in the most hidden parts of my little engine-that-could heart that all of these things were JUST the thing I needed.  You know.  To be happy.  Every now and then though, you stumble upon catching one of these "white whales" and then...well there's something else.

For others, it's less a single particular objective and more of what Cuba Gooding, Jr. referred to in Jerry Maguire as "the Quan"--you know, love, respect, community, money...all of it.  And while I'm not remotely close to this all-encompassing state of self-actualization, I find myself turning a particular corner related to my lifelong whale-hunting passion. 

I'll get to the super sharp point of my harpoon quickly: All I've ever wanted are things, concepts, commitments and people--some more important than others.  And if I miraculously got all of them at any point, I'd be happy for....well, probably a few minutes or maybe even days.  And then?  So is there anything good on TV?  Anyone going to the bar?  When is this team gonna finally win a title?  Why can't my wife wear good underwear anymore?  Why aren't my kids smarter?  When will I have enough money to retire?  I'm retired, but what is there to do?  I'm retired, I don't want to DO stuff all of the time!

My curse is that I know ME way too well.  If I invest all of my emotional capital in the dogged pursuit of what essentially boils down to "stuff", what will I have left over to give to any of it if I actually get it?  You all know that person who says, "If I just moved to this city" or "If I just could find someone" or  "If I just made this much money" or "If I just got this job".  All of these people--at least the odds say--have a decent chance of actually capturing their white whale.  But what then?  What happens when we capture the damned whale and we realize we've got to do something with it or that there's a bigger whale out there?

So as time goes by, my thirst for the "hunt" is waning.  This doesn't mean I have no goals or "want".  I'd just prefer to enjoy today and think about happy hour.  I mean, there are so many types of scotch I haven't even tried yet!  Tomorrow, there's a good movie to take my mom to for her birthday.  Sunday, I get to share dinner with my entire church family.  Monday, maybe I'll go see the Thunder game.  Each day has something cool to offer and lately, I've just plain forgotten about my "life checklist".  I'm 31, unmarried, and don't own a house.  By many conventional standards, I'm a complete failure.  And yet lately, I haven't really thought about it too much except for a few fleeting moments.  I promise you, my friends, that I'll work harder on feeling more ashamed.  It's just that lately  I've been too busy allowing life to somehow go on.  I guess this makes me unambitious or something.  But honestly, I think I'm just tired of being seasick.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Quick Music Jerk 3: Concert Overload, ENC's, and Your Weekly Album Mandates

Here, Interpol remind us that dressing well and the rocking hard are not mutually exclusive skills.

1.  I could devote a year's worth of blog posts to chronicling my concert-going April.  But if a picture's worth a thousand words, then...ummm...I could you know, make it short or to the point or somesuch?  Or something like that.  There's a brilliant analogy somewhere in the dark recesses of my skilled brain and that's a guarantee.  So here goes:

April 8--Real Estate (Club Dada, Dallas): Annoyingly young (Makes me feel like I've done nothing). Beach-drenched guitars hum just as sweetly live.

April 19--The National (Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa): Great.  Just not quite as great as Dallas. Still great.

April 20--Interpol (Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa): Raw.  Clinical.  Dark.  Power.  Exceeded all expectations.  Best show of 2011 thus far.

April 30--Ty Segall (Norman Music Festival): Rock noise with skill and hooks.  Fun as hell.

April 30--Peelander-Z (Norman Music Festival): I am insane now.

April 30--Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears (Norman Music Festival): Rock.  Soul.  Belly dancers.

April 30--The Walkmen (Norman Music Festival): Proof that even the best of shows can be almost ruined by teenage hipster douchery.  Free festivals may just not work.

2.  I have a new term I'd like to unveil for certain bands/artists that succinctly makes an otherwise layered argument--"E.N.C."

E.N.C.: Label attached to a band/artist with an artificially-inflated reputation fueled by trendy, hipster-hyped groupthink, a la the moral of The Emperor's New Clothes.

Here, I'll use it in a sentence: "Sorry Jake, but no one actually thinks Panda Bear makes good music--he's just a complete and utter E.N.C.".

Recent examples of this include, but are not limited to:  Tyler the CreatorJames Blake.  Discuss.  I anxiously await your outrage.

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

Kaputt by Destroyer:  Lyrics of abstraction combined with beats of attraction.  This is about the smoothest album you'll hear in these current times.  As in silky smooth vocals and heavenly smooth harmonies--and did someone steal Sade's sax player for this album??  Did I mention smooth?

Actor-Caster by Generationals: Less "dance-y" but no less catchy derivative of MGMT in many ways.  One of the surprise treats of 2011 so far and a real contender for album of the year-type honors from your favorite music blogger.  Or maybe even me.

Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes: I was ready to be disappointed with this sophomore effort, but this band just makes beautiful, choral-centric music that satisfies and pleases.  It's obvious that a lot of work and skill goes in to making this music, but the execution of it sounds anything but complex.  Liking this album is an effortless venture.

Later.  Gators.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Alternateenage Dream

You either know who this young, romantic idealist is or you don't.  I used to be like him.  Maybe you did, too?

It's been an inexcusably long time, I know.  For every "go", there must eventually be a "stop".  And if you gogogogogogogogogogogogogogo, you can imagine what kind of stopstopstopstopstopstopstopstop lies ahead.  Well, I've hit mine of late, but I don't want you to think I've forgotten you.  Or music.  Or hope or any of that fun stuff.

I just miss youthful energy.  Don't get me wrong, I'm only 31 and not exactly dead yet.  But I'm talking about that youthful exuberance that fueled that heart and that engine because I was going to do great things, see great places, meet great people as soon as I "get out of this town!"  Back in those days, music wasn't just another trade-able commodity in the attention-span challenged universe of social networking and on-demand downloading.  It was something more--even if I don't know exactly what that is, don't worry about that right now.  Just know that I felt the tone being set for how I looked at the world being largely molded by what I listened to and that massive stack of CDs I had no room for.  I feel about the era of music from 1991-1998 the same way many of your parents do about the 1960's.  I typically roll my eyes at such overly romanticized Baby-Boom proclamations because we know that they're just being silly and that the music from the 60's wasn't THAT great.  But me?  There's NO WAY I'm overly romanticizing the musical era of my youth!  As if!

So what got me thinking about all this lately?  This hilarious video clip from the IFC series Portlandia that my friend Don recently introduced me to.  As much as this is a parody, there's a definite, slightly uncomfortably accurate undercurrent of truthiness to "it"--the "dream of the 90's":

So why the sudden bout of good ol' days syndrome?  I suppose I've just been confronted lately with the whole "youth is wasted on the young" reality of life lately.  There's no question that on most levels (other than my whole hair situation, for sure), "life" is much better for me.  I have a great job, more money in my pocket, great friends and family and a solid set of Guatemalan restaurant options in my current city that may be unmatchable anywhere outside of Guatemala.  I just wish I wasn't so distracted by how much "everything" there seems to be.  How can one focus in a world like this with so much stimuli and technological drone?  It's exhausting and I want my "angst" back.  Not the douchey "I'm gonna write a notebook of bad poetry while lounging at a coffee shop with my friends while trying to sneak cigarettes whenever I can and proclaiming that 'the world is a vampire' sorta angst.  I mean the angst that got me to really strive for something more and invest in the pursuit.  Life is pretty good, but I just need more of an edge.  Sure, there are trade-offs regarding responsibility, compensation, time, etc.  But I want that revolutionary teenage feeling back again.

And I want my music and the pursuit of it to feel that way again.  Music is either good or moving or powerful or it's not.  It should not be a numerical score and feeble currency in a hipster economy.  So here's a shot of "alternative" from my musical nostalgia time machine.  I'm not claiming it to be any sort of critical, meaning-filled collection (some of these are downright guilty pleasures)--just an honest, accurate mini-sample of the hope and despair, the devotion and the doubt of a teenage kid with big dreams of love and success who once sported a gorgeous mane of black hair.  Enjoy.  And get moving.