Friday, April 26, 2013

Playlist of the Week: A Dozen Songs For This Indecisive Spring

Indecisiveness can be entertaining, but it is ultimately problematic.

I've always enjoyed entertaining the "Phoenix-Seattle Hypothetical".  In short--would I rather live somewhere with perpetual sun and heat but less severe weather and cold or would I rather live in a perpetually rainy overcast place but be generally free from oppressive heat?  You may be asking why I excluded snowy destinations like Chicago or New York from the hypothetical and I can only tell you that my Puerto Rican half-bloodedness (unlike my brother's apparently) has grown too "soft" for true northern cold over the years.  The idea was to weigh the pros and cons while often coming to the conclusion that where I'm at currently is probably the best solution since I didn't like the extremes of either choice.

Yet lately, in this new age of climate change, I find that where I live now is one big, consistent gray area of maddening inconsistency.  70's and 80's in December?  Sure.  High 20's and overnight freezes in late April?  You betcha.  Sitting on the patio with a beer one day and searching frantically for my ice scraper the next?  In previous years, these little pockets of weather variance were somewhat endearing and we'd say stupid shit like "Well, that's Oklahoma.  If you're not happy with the weather, wait five minutes!" And we laughed and laughed...Yeah.

Well bits are only funny when they don't become the status quo.  Once they become every single damned day and there seem to be no true seasonal lines and the days on the calendar have been tossed in the air like a deck of cards only to fall at the feet of God who picks one up each day and says, "Welp, why not?"

Beyond the perpetual toggling back and forth of the heat and cool switch on my thermostat and beyond my inability to forecast my clothing situation on a daily basis, I am beginning to wonder if this is having a psychological effect on me.  Even the warm days in the 70's that used to seem so "perfect" bring me less joy because I think it's just another tease.  It's like winning free pizza for life from your favorite pizza place only for the pizza place to go out of business at the end of the first day.

But like many other seismic shifts in the paradigm of our existence we must adjust to (think technology, politics, etc), it is likely past time to admit that this is the new reality.  Maybe the age of "seasons" is past.  Maybe it's time to make good on my threat to move to a place known for its lack of seasons.  Like Puerto Rico.  So that in a few years I can complain about missing the snow and the storms and the meteorological grab bag that is Oklahoma. 

Anyway...LOTS of new/2013 music this week!  Highlights include:

  • New tuneage from Thee Oh Sees.  Yes, they put out a new album every other month it seems.  But this band's trademark wild inconsistency is a thing of the past.  This is adventurous rock music intended to hypnotize.
  • New music from Phoenix!  Their long-awaited follow-up to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has finally arrived and damn if they haven't lost a bit of their wizardry for "catchy".  You know how you were so excited to hear the new Justin Timberlake only to realize that it would have to probably grown on you over time?  Phoenix's new album Bankrupt! requires no such growing pains.
  • Though inevitably compared to The Strokes (as almost any retro rock band from New York seems legally required to be), I get a much more Matthew Sweet-lite vibe from The Postelles.  Their second full-length ...And It Shook Me has arrived and is a testament to the skilled, often complex art of making great pop rock music that doesn't sound complex at all.  There isn't a weak track on this album and I'm hoping the under the radar Postelles pop up on yours soon.
  • I get to cross another band off my live performance bucket list this weekend when the venerable The King Khan & BBQ Show perform at Norman Music Festival.  "I'll Be Loving You" is one of their absolute best and a testament to timeless rock songs about love and longing.
  • Temples.  The psychedelic 60's meets modern rock magic here is boss.  Thanks to my buddy Dan for unearthing this shiny little nugget.
  • If I didn't mention a particular track, it's only because I've run out of time to write for now.  This whole playlist may change your life this week. And if it doesn't, I'm certain next week's will.

Spotify version of the playlist is located below the track listing. Not a Spotify member?  No problem. An 8tracks playlist (requiring no membership) is also found below.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Playlist of the Week: Technical Rockout

That ringing noise in your head?  That's just the medicine working.

My life is lately quite "cluttered".  And while that sounds like an indictment of my current predicament, I can assure you that I'm (mostly) not a whiny bitch.  "Cluttered" for me is a concoction of happy "problems" requiring my attention, effort, and planning as my life is undergoing some imminent, significant, amazingly positive changes.  Combined with the usual challenges I'm quite accustomed to, (work, travel, money, figuring out the meaning of life or somesuch) I'm left feeling somewhat like a computer that needs to be defragged after a semester in a male college dormitory--all worked up and yet all stopped up.

As the great Damon Albarn once pontificated, "Music is my radar" and it often helps me to detect and translate the world around me--often quite unintentionally.  But the power of music is that is it both a lens as well as a catalyst.  While the former role is often unconsciously executed, I find the latter role to be something I generally initiate.  Simply stated, sometimes--when my head and my heart get cluttered with all that there is to do and will be done--a remedy/reset button in the form of a concentrated dose of heavy rock 'n' roll is quite potent.

Ever since I was a kid pondering the impact of my parents' divorce, my first crush on a girl, and the question of mousse versus styling gel, rock music has been a powerful companion through the wilderness.  This is not to say that "music is all we need" in some sort of hyperbolic, overwrought manner.  Instead, it simply means that when the noise in our heads and hearts gets too much to bear, there are times when we must admit that we can't turn the volume down no matter how hard we try.  Instead, the solution often lies in turning up the volume somewhere else.  Thus, it is impossible to convince me that electric guitars and pounding drums (even with the occasional double kick-stand in play) are anything but a gift from God.  Much like scotch, pizza, and HBO original television, it is a divine medium that is not always done well and should be consumed in reasonable moderation to avoid sickness.

This week's playlist is an example of me getting musically pharmaceutical on your lame ass (and on mine).  I love a wide variety of music genres and styles and can appreciate the lyrically and structurally nuanced examples that are out there to be discovered and consumed.  However, this week is about raw meat.  Loudness.  A little furor.  But don't mistake it for meaningless noise (though there's PLENTY out there right now spanning every genre--much of it ridiculously over-credited and overrated).  This baker's dozen of songs have their share of gut punching and head shots, but also have plenty of skill and organic brilliance.  Having said that, I know that some of you will politely bypass this particular playlist and that's just fine.  But Daddy needs his air drum/guitar time and if you're honest with yourself--you probably need it, too.  

The "clutter" of life is rarely eradicated.  But I'm a firm believer that clutter can be pushed out of the way for a few minutes to set up the mic stands, plug in the Fenders, assemble the drum kits, and stack the Marshall amps turned up to 11.  It's all a matter of saying "yes" to clanging the drum sticks together and counting down for ignition.  Take the opportunity to be the master of your noise environment every once in a while.

Spotify version of the playlist is located below the track listing. Not a Spotify member?  No problem. An 8tracks playlist (requiring no membership) is also found below.