Monday, June 20, 2011

Playlist of the Week: 12NU432

A man should always be ready for a fight.  Or to bake a cake when needed.  Or maybe even some light vandalism.

I turned 32 this past Sunday.  It was excellent.  And while I typically don't feel different right after a birthday--like in that manner people refer to when asking if you "feel" older--this time is different.  Thirty-two should be just another fair-to-spare birthday along the road between thirty and forty.  But I feel different.  I feel better.  I feel--in some ways--like I've been rebooted.  Or at least thoroughly defragmented.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, family.  Thank you, friends.

That's all for this week.  My gift to you is a playlist of all new music (at least to me) that I'm pretty excited about.  Prepare to have your music pants blown up.  And a fair warning, there's a decent amount of electronic music this week.  I can only assure you that it's really, really good.  But don't worry, there ought to be just enough rock and pop (Walk the Moon, Sondre Lerche, The Midwest Beat, Black Lips, etc.) to tide you over.  Traveling to the beautiful cities of Austin and Memphis at the end of the week, so I thought I'd go ahead and deliver your audio candy a bit early before I fall in to a Tex-Mex/BBQ coma of some sort.  Seriously, listen to this playlist in the car if you can.  Take a drive or a take a run or get on the treadmill with it.  Most importantly, take a chance this week.  Oh, and take a chance on the music, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Playlist of the Week: My Mental Trans-Am

Sometimes the journey from Point A to Point B simply requires something more.

So let's start on a high.

I had dinner with a gorgeous woman last Saturday.  I won't qualify that statement any more than that.  But to answer your question--yes, this happens occasionally.

Suffice it to say, it was one of those dinner conversations that went in a dozen conventional and unconventional directions. On the unconventional end of the spectrum, she brought up my music blog.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to hear she'd checked it out (as surely as she'll read this), though in my head I could hear David Cross' Arrested Development character, Tobias F√ľnke, yelling "There are dozens of us!  Dozens!".  She then proceeded to suggest that I create a playlist of the music I'd listen to in my "mental Trans-Am".  At this point, I'm as confused as you are right now.

So I proceeded to ask what a "mental Trans-Am" was and we went back and forth trying to define it.  It's some combination of comfort music and the spirit of Will Ferrell's character Frank "The Tank" in Old School whose first major post-wedding activity was to remove the restrictor plate off his old Trans-Am in his driveway while blaring Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again On My Own" and seemingly confronting the constrictive nature of his new legal and marital reality (deep breath).  But I digress.

Anyway, I asked this lovely woman if she'd ever used the term "mental Trans-Am" before and she said she hadn't.  Which made me happy.  Because I felt like this was some oddball/brilliant idea/moment that would always be ours whether we see each other again or not.  I mean, there are so few truly unique moments like that in the world these days.  So I said I'd work on it and here's what I came up with.

For me, my "mental Trans-Am" is the idea of those key moments of inner conflict and turmoil (big life issues, stress, heartbreak, etc.) that threaten to pound my little Puerto Rican heart in to the pavement and the method with which I'd thus go about addressing them--through the simple act of walking out my front door (either physically or mentally) getting in my Trans-Am (even though it's really a Saturn) and just driving round and round.  Like Frank the Tank, I'm often confronted with the cruel taunts of reality from time to time and I can either go full throttle off the deep end streaking through the muck and the mire, or I can choose to deal.

And as you'd probably guess, music is in my arsenal.  So I workshopped (yeah, I said it) and road-tested my musically systemic approach to combat what can aptly be referred to as "those moments" and created the following playlist in four movements:

1.  Contemplative: Ease my way in to my head and prepare to confront what must be confronted through careful consideration of life as it stands.  The lyrics mean something here to be sure. (Tracks 1-3)

2.  Cathartic: Loud, hard-driving punk rock designed for the necessary release of the soul's vitriol.  "Depth" can go sit in the corner.  Mom, you won't like these songs, but it's all part of the process. (Tracks 4-6)

3.  Indulgent: Early 90's alt-rock that reminds me of my youth and allows me to remember what needs remembering--that it's okay to grab that warm blanket of nostalgia every once in a while.  Familiarity often equals comfort.  (Tracks 7-9)

4.  Rectification: Songs that bring me back to the place I need to be--reminding me that certain realities are truly for the best, that God has His hand on me, and that the world is big and small all at once and it passes as it always does.  (Tracks 10-12)

Thus, my mental Trans-Am playlist--or one of them anyway.  I suppose it's almost more of a formula than anything else.  Chemistry's a tough task.  Almost as tough as self-treatment.  But ultimately, certain drives are just plain worth it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick Music Jerk 3: Dirk, Responding to Feedback So Hard and Your Weekly Album Mandates


2.  I'd like to deliver a thanks to all of you who provided feedback, opinions, and even some general bitching about last week's playlist of songs I love by bands I hate.  A few notes on that:

  • Those of you upset by my inclusion of U2--I understand.  If my favorite band had peaked when I was eight years old, I'd be frustrated, too.
  • As I told a friend last week, I probably don't "hate" The Shins.  I think I'm just frustrated by how bored and indifferent I am to them these days.  Or maybe that I ever thought they were worth getting excited about. In life, someone has to pay for our unmet expectations.
  • Arcade Fire in some ways is my kryptonite--but I find that criticism of Arcade Fire is the kryptonite for many of you.  I've got a hairline like Lex Luthor, so I might as well embrace it.
  • The Weezer point, on the other hand, seemed to resonate with many of you.  Though I must lend some credence to the theory my best friend Clint has on this matter: Maybe it isn't Weezer that has changed.  Maybe WE'VE outgrown them and we either can't admit it or forgive them for THAT fact.
3.  Three albums I'm listening to this week for a variety of reasons and, therefore, you should be listening to:

Adorn EP by Mint Julep: Every now and then a random band or artist will stumble upon my blog and request to follow me on Twitter.  Well, something truly special has landed in my lap in the form of this husband/wife shoegaze/electronic project from Portland, Oregeon.  This 3-song EP is a mere teaser for their upcoming LP and it packs a wallop.  Gorgeous, layered sheets of sound and beats create a complex yet completely accessible and addictive sound.  A tiny little epic beauty.

i Want!  i Want! by Walk the Moon: Another somewhat random discovery (though I work hard at that sometimes) who has become a mainstay of my iPod and my brain the last week or so.  It's well-crafted indie guitar pop that retains a fine balance between weird and direct, serious and silly (the album includes a "chipmunk" version of one of the songs--and it actually doesn't sound half bad).  They're not forging bold new ground, but they sure seem to have taken the elements you like--even the seemingly ill-fitting ones--and found a way to mold it in to something so damned catchy and fun.  A great, great summer record.

Teenage Hate by The Reatards: If you don't or can't love punk rock, this album isn't for you.  Plain and simple.  This complete (I believe) collection of tracks from the late, great Jay Reatard and his teenage 3-piece punk rock band is angry, funny, catchy, and rough around all edges.  But there is no denying the brilliant undercurrent present at nearly all times which hints at the solo brilliance to come and vanish all too quickly.  Some of us (including myself) just need this kind of music sometimes to remember what it was like and what it still sometimes feels like to boil with raw emotion.

For fans of: Jay Reatard, The Oblivians, other quality noise punk

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Playlist of the Week: A Dozen Songs I Love By A Dozen Artists I Hate*

    *"Hate" is a strong word according to my mother.  We don't "hate" anything in this family.  We strongly dislike.

    Taste is not an absolute science.  Take me for instance.  No one has better taste in music than me.  That part IS science.  But part of maintaining a high degree of "music taste" inevitably involves having some "music principles".  I reject those whose answer to the question "What kind of music do you like?" is "Well, I really do like everything."  That's like saying you "believe everything".  What that ultimately means is that you really believe nothing because everything then is true and nothing is false.  It just doesn't work that way.  Have some balls.  Be okay with saying something sucks--a truly guiding principle of this here blog.

    But as I stated from the outset, taste is not an absolute science.  While I principally hate* certain artists/bands, it doesn't mean that I am immune from being seduced by them on occasion.  For me (and I suspect for many of you), there are probably about four hate* categories when it comes to music.

    Category 1: Artists/bands who you and most others truly believe have a big bag of nothing in terms of talent, depth, execution, etc.  Though this does not necessarily preclude them from finding a bone once or every so often (as this playlist will attest)

    Category 2: Artists/bands who you freely acknowledge have talent, but you just can't stand them personally whether it be for their smug sense of self-importance or their dickish personas.  I sometimes refer to this as the "Tom Cruise Principle".  There's no denying the guy has been great in some great movies, but I just can't separate my disdain for who he appears to be in real life (i.e. Scientology, weird rants about anti-depressants, public kidnapping of Katie Holmes, etc.) from his work any longer.  Many of the artists/bands in this playlist fall in to this category.

    Category 3: Artists/bands who have succeeded in convincing people they're great, but for some reason you just can't see it and it makes you crazy.  This is my aforementioned "ENC" or "Emperor's New Clothes" principle (courtesy of Mr. Chris White). Like Category 1, this doesn't preclude them from occasionally stumbling upon gold accidentally.

    Category 4: Weezer.  Or the band you once loved but who you feel at some point betrayed all of their principles and practices musically and now just suck.  And you can never forgive them for it.

    So it goes without saying (since I said it in the title of the playlist), that I truly do love these songs.  And I can admit that despite my hatred of these bands for the aforementioned reason because I know that to try and maintain a purity of principle regarding music hatred would keep you from enjoying some songs that just plain do it for you--even if those reasons aren't always clear.  Look, I believe wholeheartedly that Jersey Shore represents everything that the world and people with intelligence ought to condemn about America.  But damn, if it's not a cornerstone of my DVR schedule.  So while I'm happy to distribute the Haterade regarding these bands ad nauseum (it's almost a sport for me), I'll gladly make an exception every once in a while to drink their Kool-Aid when it's merited.  I'll let you guys decide for yourselves which categories each of these bands fits in to.  It's a fun, fun game.