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.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Friday Video Reward: "Half Moon Street"

For some, happiness is a pitch-perfect rock song and a date with a beautiful English girl.  Or 7.

Artist: Pete and the Pirates

Song: "Half Moon Street"

The Non-MJR Review

Year of Release: 2011

Random Thoughts: In the grand English tradition of emotional juxtaposition, this is a song with some relatively tortured and brooding sentiments set against the backdrop of an unquestionably light and humorous music video (my favorite moment is when he looks at the bill for dinner).  I included this song on the "Heatwaver" playlist a few weeks back, and I can't help but feel that this band is one of my favorite "public secrets".  They're English and appear to have little--if any--exposure outside of their home country.  But I stand by my contention that they're the most underrated/underexposed English rock band going right now--a band whose sound harkens back to the better days of Britpop groups like Supergrass and Pulp quite effortlessly--all while establishing a delivery that is uniquely their own.

Enjoy your Friday and enjoy your weekend and enjoy the fact that you have this blog in your life.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Airport Commuter 4

Do it enough, and you'll either know them by heart or they'll all seem the same after a while.

The tools of my travel are beginning to make themselves heard more these days.  That's not some lame attempt at metaphor.  The stupid wheel on my roller-board suitcase rattles loudly enough that even rolling through the frenzied cacophony of ATL or DFW, it makes its presence known.  My car currently makes a strange buzzing sound anytime that I accelerate.  Neither of these little ailments appears to be affecting the actual performance of their respective tools, but the noise bothers me.  Not enough yet to do anything about the problem, mind you.  But enough to quietly lament that in an imperfect world, my previously perfectly-operating solutions sometimes give me shit, too.

Of course what both of these little imperfections have in common are two-fold: 

1.  If I ignore the noises long enough, they'll eventually just be something I get used to--sort of in the same way (and many of you will recall this) I got used to the huge crack in my windshield that I left there for two years.  Once I got my new windshield, the LACK of the crack seemed more odd to me for a while thereafter.

2.  If I put my headphones on or turn up the volume in the car, the noise ceases to be heard or is at least overshadowed.

It's point #2 that got me to thinking so hard (like ya do).  Music is just well-organized (usually) and finely-crafted (sometimes) noise.  Which means that it can be an integral piece of your day-to-day life, a warm blanket of comfort, a vessel of catharsis, etc.  Or after a while it can just be noise as meaningless as that stupid roller-board or my ironically just paid-off car.

How does one avoid this? It's not easy.  On the one hand, if I listen to the same music too often, my brain will turn it in to "noise" because I'm just accustomed to it at a certain point.  There's a fine line between a "favorite" and an increasingly meaningless listening "habit".  Of course if all you do is acquire new music constantly, you might listen to it long enough to write a not-so-clever blog/review/smarmy tweet and then it gets thrown in the digital pile.  What am I to do?  I mean, I'm really good at being a dick about music.  It's a gift.  How do I find the balance between these two pitfalls?

I suppose there's no perfect solution.  I mean, some of my music has and will inevitably become noise.  In the age of 11,000 songs and counting on my iPod and a "shuffle" button, the tools to fuel our increasingly unconscious musical indifference are all there.  So to answer my sister's recent question about "why I buy records when they don't sound as good as CDs or MP3s (sigh)", I would argue that in addition to their unique sound, they somewhat force the listener to consume an entire album or half an album at a time.  Then the music pendulum has a chance to swing away from "noise" and a bit closer to "art" or somesuch.  Of course records aren't for everyone--if they were, I'd find some other way to listen to music to make me feel superior  to you.  Maybe cassette tapes could make a comeback?  But, I digress.

Here's a challenge: Suspend your shuffle button for an entire week.  Force yourself to listen to an entire album or discography of a band at a time.  Just the tip?  Just to see how it feels?  Seriously, what happens to your music experience when you consume it in this way?  I don't know the answer for everyone, but I'll bet it's a little different than what you're used to.  And I don't know if different equals better but isn't different better?  Yeah, I wrote that.  Think about it.

Of course for now, ignore everything I just said and listen to my playlist--another example of the art of my engaged music consumption that results in a sweet concoction of audio bliss and a constant source of strong good music direction for all of us.  I mean hell, Hall & Oates are on this week's playlist.  Hall.  And Oates.  Thanks, Lucas.

Quick playlist highlights:

1.  Track 2: Not only is this a new Morning Benders track (about time for a new album, guys), but it's an excellent cover of The Strokes' classic.  

2.  Tracks 5, 10, and 12: If you're in need (and we all are at times) of some beautiful heartbreak music, you can't go wrong with these songs.  Trust me.  I know good heartbreak music.

3.  Track 8: New Wilco!  New Wilco!  From their forthcoming album (September), The Whole Love.

4.  Track 3: Pump Up the Volume.  You either get it or you don't.