Monday, December 28, 2009

favorite albums, 2009 version

10 - Grizzly Bear "Veckatimest"

Aside from the disappointment of hearing the best two tracks from this album months before its release (“Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others”), this album was highly anticipated in light of my number one album of last year (Grizzly Bear side project Department of Eagles). Too much anticipation can do as much harm to my reception of an album as four year-old iBook G4 speakers (they sound terrible). This album didn’t seem to capture the moody range of “Yellow House” or “In Ear Park”, but its baroque pop songs did contain enough goodness for me to include it on this list. I won’t listen to any advance singles from the next album, I promise.

(listen here)

9 - Cass McCombs "Catacombs"

Having recently developed an appreciation for 2007’s “Dropping the Writ”, I was excited for this stripped-down version of McCombs’s songwriting. He’s got a great ear for melody, and I was particularly happy with the evolution of his lyrics into clever, memorable capsules such as: “You’re not my dream girl, you’re not my reality girl, you’re my dreams come true girl” on the opener “Dream Come True Girl." There's much more clever musicianship and word-working to be had here on "The Executioner's Song" and "My Sister, My Spouse" among others.

(listen here)

8 - Califone "All my friends are funeral singers"

(See earlier post on this blog)

(listen here)

7 - Cymbals Eat Guitars "Why there are mountains"

As my friend Jeremy said: “I like any album that goes for epic in the first 15 seconds.” It was easy to just listen to “And the Hazy Sea” over and over as if that were the only track, but this band’s not-so-subtle mixture of Modest Mouse, Built to Spill and Pavement pays dividends throughout these nine tracks. This was one album that I knew instantly would make this list for the sheer go-for-broke nature of the opening track, but I found much more to like in the familiarity of the music heard through its influences. Sometimes "derivative" doesn’t mean reductive.

(listen here)

6 - Atlas Sound "Logos"

Last year’s Deerhunter album really stuck with me, so it’s not too surprising that I have found this album (from their side project) so enjoyable. Bradford Cox seems to be more interested in the ethereal tendencies of Deerhunter, and here he exploits them as the album drifts between proper songs and more airy, un-tethered pieces: “The Light That Failed”, “An Orchid”, “Kid Klimax”, and “Washington School” could be loosely classified as the latter. The central six or seven songs of this album help to anchor its more ambient pieces in the solid earth of songwriting. Unsurprisingly, Noah Lennox’s (of Animal Collective) collaboration on “Walkabout” make it a standout, along with “Attic Lights,” “Shelia” and “My Halo”. As on last year’s “Microcastle,” “Logos” is another hazy Bradford Cox-related release through which the more structured songs shine through brightest.

(listen here)

5 - Phoenix "Wolfgang amadeus phoenix"

These songs are nearly too polished, almost too robotic, but it’s this seemingly unfeeling pop precision that makes every melodic twist cover a remarkable emotive range. Phoenix gave me an album of shrink-wrapped pop that I will return to often. The one-two punch of “Listomania” and “1901” could be the best openers of the year, and the wave of hooks keeps rolling through all nine tracks. It’s nice to have an album like this once a year: tight, melodic pop-rock.

(listen here)

4 - St. Vincent "Actor"

There is a wonderland of sounds and songs to behold here. With Annie Clark functioning much like Lewis Carroll’s Alice as both protagonist and wide-eyed wonderer, the listener is welcomed into this world and cautioned that his/her surroundings may be unsettling. The monster that reveals itself to be lurking beneath the niceness of “The Strangers” emerges in the darker second track, “Save Me From What I Want”, and finally pushes through in the third, “The Neighbors”. Clark has said that she wanted the guitar to act as a dark monster that arose from beneath the songs to overtake them. It works quite nicely to this effect, threatening to destroy the carefully constructed pop song when it enters in “The Neighbors”. It soon takes over in “Actor Out of Work”. The titles of the tracks also point to this darkness and paranoia that consistently overcome Clark’s more poppy tendencies: “Black Rainbow”, “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood”. I’m happy to have heard this album. It contributed some dark wonder to the year: pop music is to be feared.

(listen here)

3 - The Antlers "Hospice"

One Saturday morning in the fall, on the whim of a good review, I downloaded this album expecting to be overwhelmed by tragedy. I was, and I continued to be. Loosely inspired by the singer’s personal experience, the music of this album is well suited for its storyteller aim – especially for the weight of the tale. It remains unclear exactly what relationship the characters have, but through each somber melody and slow-building climax, cancer, death, pregnancy and dread are each given their voice in the narrative. The highs and lows of human tragedy are what make this one of the most openly autobiographical albums I’ve ever heard. For that, and for its restrained, meek lows and emotive, explosive highs, “Hospice” will be an album marked in my mind for the singular impression it left on me.

(listen here)

2 - Dirty Projectors "Bitte orca"

1 - Animal Collective "Merriweather post pavilion"

I have tried to discuss how the special qualities of these albums are related in an attempt to understand how they produce such similar reactions with such contrasting musical landscapes. Both albums are fairly avant-garde and do not shy away from their intentions to shock-and-awe the listener. “Bitte Orca” erupts with “Cannibal Resource”, an anthem that does well to announce the kind of labyrinthine pop suites to follow. The harmonies fly in from left field, the disjointed guitar riffs shift between “rawk” and artful noodling, and the warbling vocals do little to calm the album’s barrage of aural vertigo. Not unlike “Bitte Orca”, “Merriweather Post Pavilion” also wants to transport the listener to another world via its sound-scape. When I listen to the pulsating sense of life that this album gives off, I hear trees; I hear wind, rain and the entire range of the primitive, organic and vibrant world in which I live. The same basic musical palette that Animal Collective has employed for a few albums is made new to me with lyrics that reach much deeper into the human experience (see: “Also frightened” and “Bluish”, especially). This album is a complete body of work in much the same way that “Bitte Orca” is, but whereas BO is a disjointed rollercoaster ride of hooky and harmonic amusement, MPP is more coherent, more cohesive, and because of that, more complete in my mind. My bottom line is: “Bitte Orca” sounds like it belongs in a museum with other pieces of fine art. It deserves to be appreciated and gawked at by the masses for its outlandish pop constructs. “Merriweather Post Pavilion” never lets that visceral, soul-seeking part of me into the museum: as much as I try, I always end up running outside to experience the instinctive allure of the world.

(listen here to BO) (listen here to MPP)

Well, that's all for this year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

El ingenioso hidalgo don quijote de la mancha

well i'm almost done reading El Quijote for the second time this year and i think it is a super duper book. the fact that its two parts were written in 1605/1615 respectively was never the most exciting aspect of the book when i approached it years ago for my first attempt at reading it. this time around i've had much more fun, many more laughs and have seen much deeper into what don Quijote represents as a literary figure for me.

just to set the stage a little: don Quijote sets out at the age of 50ish to change the world by restoring the lost practice of chivalric knighthood, along with his reluctant squire Sancho Panza: (rough translations will follow) "to go throughout the world with his arms and horse to find adventures y to behave in such a way as to imitate all that he had read that the former errant knights did, righting every class of injustice, and putting himself in occasions of danger so that he would earn eternal fame." whoa, DQ, take it easy!

so for most of the book he's a comedic character. he thinks windmills are giants and so he attacks them, unsuccessfully. he thinks an innkeeper is the lord of a castle and thus he has found a worthy man to bestow him with the office of knighthood, which the innkeeper happily and laughingly does. he challenges a charging herd of sheep to a duel only to find that they were not the great army that he had seen approaching. as he lay trampled and toothless, he reminds his squire: "you must know, dear sancho, that it is a very easy thing for these enchanters that pursue me to make anything appear to be anything else. this evil enchanter who pursues me, envious of the glory that he saw to be within my grasp in this battle, has turned the enemy legions into flocks of sheep!" lol, DQ!

the thing that really gets me about DQ is not his comedy of errors, although there is constant fodder for laughter here -- just after the herd tramples him, sancho asks, unsure:
"how many molars do you normally have in this part of your mouth?"
"four!," responded don Quijote, "except the wisdom tooth, all are whole and healthy."
"look carefully what you say, my lord," responded sancho.
"i say four, if not then five," responded don Quijote, "because not in my whole life have they taken a tooth or molar out of my mouth, nor have any fallen out from infection or lack of care."
"but in this part below," sancho said, "your mercy has not more than two molars and a half; and in the part above, not even a half, not even one, it is all as flat as the palm of my hand."
"what awful luck!" cried don Quijote, hearing the sad news that his squire gave him, "i would have rather they tear off my arm, as long as it would not be my sword-weilding arm."

lol, Qui-hotes!

anyway, the thing that really gets me is not DQ's comedy of errors, it's who he represents. and who he represents for me is a man with ideals, beliefs and hope who ultimately fails to see any of them realized. don Quijote is a tragic figure who embodies the tragic figure in all of us who, though we cling as tightly as we must to our personal idealism and the things we believe to be true/just/right/holy, may find that those things are ultimately never realized completely. he is a personification of the tragic human condition of limited vision. yet, beyond that tragedy, there may be a rejoicing in our ability to believe passionately and with assurance something that we are as yet unassured of. through the character of don Quijote, i see that faith is at once one among the strongest and weakest of man's instruments to relate to the world around him. with it we may gird up our convictions and motivation for living (as el hidalgo DQ does), but by it we are ultimately left flailing our sword against a deep, dark madness.

its a tragic, beautiful madness, though, if you ask me.

Monday, October 19, 2009


i like a lot of bands, it's true. there aren't a lot of constants over the years in my 10 favorite albums lists. i guess that's because a lot of bands come and go. many make a great album and then fall off of my radar (see ...Trail of Dead, Clap Your Hands..., and others). but there are bands that transcend their musical production and actually manage to influence my life in some way. among these bands i can only count The Flaming Lips and their world-embracing appeal. that's pretty much the only one that really moves me beyond the music and words. Wayne Coyne is the perfect weirdo whose genuine humanity is so apparent (and who seems most transparent) that it becomes difficult if not impossible to fall in love with the guy and his band.

but i'll add Califone to that list now. since 2004's Heron King Blues, i was pretty attracted to Califone's kitchen-sink brand of folk rock. so dusty, so dirty, so mangled and yet, when the heavy fog of noises dissipated, there were moments of music so affecting in their mood and sound alone, that i didn't mind the 15 minute jams of garbage can percussion and reserved noodling on any number of what seem to be rusty string-ed guitars.

nothing could have prepared me for 2006's Roots and Crowns, though, which placed number 7 in my 2006 year-end list (which, in hindsight, is way way too low). since then, the album has become a staple in my rotation, and i am certain it will land on my decade's favorites list coming at the end of this year. there's something that draws me into their world of imperfectly-tuned instruments, matched with varied and always erratic percussion, all united under tim rutili's rusty, world-worn crooning that keeps me listening. i have a hard time not listening actively to Califone anytime i play them.

if i were to put my finger on it, i would say that when i listen to Califone i feel like i'm hearing a band that expresses what for me is "soul music". i don't mean that in the sense of the genre "soul", rather in that i sense that a lot of soul has gone into the music - and that this music connects with my soul as a consequence. lyrics like "in the morning after the night i fall in love with the light" from "The Orchids" (even though it was not written by Califone) contrast with the a-typically more cryptic "the carnival fighters are sharing a bed tonight bruised in the hay" on "Spider's House". but both of these lyrics are sung with Rutili's downcast sincerity and both acquire the same amount of significance.

now, with 2009's "All My Friends Are Funeral Singers", Califone have added another very strong album to their catalogue. they don't sound different and that's just fine with me. they practice the same restraint as always, tucking away some of their more precious melodic gems into 20 or 30 seconds of 5-minute songs (see the piano's entrance toward the later half of "Giving Away the Bride"). it's this restraint that i think keeps me most interested as a listener, as i am regularly bowled over by melodic passages that creep into songs in ways that are totally unforeseeable. to use a completely random but applicable analogy, Califone makes order (melody) out of chaos (their own chaotic musical structures) in the same way that Brian Phillips (of talked about Barcelona making order (beautiful fúbol) out of chaos (22 men running around a field chasing a ball). Califone's disruptive and often odd musical styles make their moments of clarity, melody and beauty that much more clear, melodic and beautiful.

it's good to know that some music isn't just music that sounds good to me: some of it reaches deeper.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

summah tahm!

list of action words whose meanings i have fulfilled this summer:

rock (out).
miss (dearly).
bump (set, spike).
cheer (on).
notblog (sorry).

it's been the best ever, as you can see.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I was just reading this book by Elaine Scarry, called "Dreaming by the Book," and this particular quote stood out to me:

Aristotle said that what distinguishes human beings from other creatures is our capacity to love something without wanting to ingest it [LOL].  All animals, including human beings, he writes, have the power to smell in order to eat; humans alone have a second reason to smell; namely, to smell flowers, with no interest at all in eating them.  Our smelling of food, says Aristotle, is discontinuous and contingent -- whether something smells good depends on whether we are hungry -- whereas our smelling of flowers is noncontingent and ongoing.  Of course, smelling the flowers, seeing the flowers, touching the flowers, imagining the flowers is also a way of ingesting or at least interiorizing them, since we carry them in as objects of perception and imagining.  Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests that when one sees something beautiful -- an eyelid, a cathedral -- the hand wants to draw it.  Like smelling, like imagining, this too is an act of interiorization, the yearning to incorporate, to make a residual image.

what I like most about this book -- and, in general, about most books dealing with literary theory -- is its ability to perfectly describe certain automatic processes that I do every day.  this is also true of other books in their own ways, but Elaine Scarry's book has specifically been a joy to read for me because of it.  this chapter on imagining flowers has been extremely interesting, in the sense that, as she says, flowers are just about the most prominent objects used in poetry and other ultra-descriptive prose.  for whatever reason it is much easier to perform "perceptual mimesis" (fancy words for imagining) with flowers than with many other objects.  this is due, in part, to the fact that flowers are smaller, more colorful and thinner than many other objects.  mostly what I get out of this is that our brains are pretty sweet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

thought this was funny

Hi. Hi there. Can I have some?

Is that OK if I just have some? Just a sip. I’m just a little thirsty. I know I just had some water, but all I want is one sip. Can I? OK?

Thanks. That’s all I wanted. Just a little sip like that one. I saw it sitting there and I thought maybe you would be nice. You let me have a sip. You are nice. I thought so. It’s nice to be with you. You are real nice for that. I like you.

Hey. So, let me ask…can I have another sip? Please? I mean, you’re not drinking it right now. Maybe I could just sip it for you. You don’t have to pick it up. I can reach it just fine. Yeah, I can just sip it while you aren’t. OK? What do you think? The first sip kinda made me thirsty. Funny how that works. Funny, huh? How it works like that. Did you think about it? Hm? Just a sip while you are busy. You are so nice.

Oh, thank you. Thanks a lot. It tasted good. Yeah, I liked it. That’s a real good drink you got there. A good drink for a nice person like you. I’m so glad.

You know, I think I might take another sip. Just a little one this time. Yeah? I can’t help it. I’m sorry. Sorry. Ok, I’m sorry. Too far. I just wanted another sip, but I’m sorry. Sorry.

Are you still mad?

I hope you aren’t mad. I like you. Hey, that’s your drink, huh? It’s big. Big drink you got there. Yep, it’s a big one. Big.

So can I have some? Some of your drink? Yeah, that’s right. Just a little. You seem to not be drinking it, and I just thought I could maybe help you. You know, help you out. It looks like you could use some help. Just trying to be helpful. OK. That’s all right. Maybe later you will let me help you.

So, hey. You gonna drink it all? I could help maybe. I’m good at helping. Yeah, sure am.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

the problem with "brothers"

let's be honest, not very many people like this bar.  while i've never graced its interior, i can say with confidence that hardly anyone i know has any part of them that enjoys this place.  its name says it all: "brothers."  "hey brah!  what FRAT ARE YOU IN!?"  "TIGHT DAWG.  let's see if we can get that chick to do some BAHDEE SHOTZ with us!," they seem to be saying to each other when i walk by.  with popped collars, designer jeans and fake (or real) gold watches, these ex-high school super-stars keep on living it up at brothers.  that's the reputation it has, anyway.  i never really had any problem with this bar other than the fact that it's a the only chain bar in the 14th and O area that i know of - and that it's geared toward frat dudes.  (RAWK!)  that doesn't seem like a really great foundation for truly loathing an establishment like many people i know do, but then something happened to me that changed my vague dislike into full-scale contempt...

it was only last spring sometime when i was denied entrance to this bar just because i had on a white t-shirt.  that's their dress code policy: "no white t-shirts".  "seriously, read it on the window.  brah," the man said to me as i proceeded to walk through his arm thinking he was joking.  and so i waited outside on a bench for my friend who went in to look for someone.  "that's kind of a weird policy," i thought (and continued), "i wonder why they think they are above people that wear white t-shirts."  this thought seemed to resurface in my (sub)conscious over the next few weeks as i pondered what their problem with us white t-shirt wearers could be.  then it hit me: actually nothing hit me.  i couldn't understand it for the life of me except that it was an attempt to keep up the "stature" of the bar.  yep, gotta have that collar, gotta have that non-white t-shirt.  gotta keep up the image of our clientele.

be that as it may, and there may be a legitimate reason for this dress code rule, i found myself strolling in front of brothers a couple months later with a couple of my "bros," when the doorman thought we should be informed about their wing special for the evening.  "wha'sup BRAH!" he said strolling up to us, " hey you dudes know we got a wing special tonight?  ten cent wings, dawgs.  that's ten wings for a buck, man!"  little did the two doormen know that i had on a white t-shirt under my jacket.  so naturally (and sarcastically), i turned and said, "oh geez, brah!  i'd LOVE to eat some of your wings but i have a white t-shirt on.  what an obstacle between me and your sweet wing special!"  he challenged me to display said t-shirt.  i did so while saying, "yeah you won't let me in will you.  nice dress code policy!"

now, at this point i am not trying to hide my disdain for his establishment, so it's pretty clear that i'm being a snide jerk about it.  but then... before he returns to his doorman stool he whips out a classic: "well... then stop dressing like a DOUCHE!"  yes he did.  sooooo did.  to which i obviously replied, "oh yeah....ooooooh, look how douche-y i am in my white shirt!  ugggghhh so douche-y!  can't even go inside brothers..."

it wasn't until i got home that i realized:  "i just got CALLED A NAME by someone.  how ridiculous!  he called me a 'douche' just for wearing a white t-shirt.  that's so outrageous!"  the idea was spawned shortly after this night to one-up their ridiculousness with some of our own.  as it was nearing the colder months, we only had two opportunities to do so, but we have begun "white t-shirt protest night."  as many as are able meet downtown and walk up to brothers' enormous glass windows in white t-shirts, staring ever so zombie-like at those inside to stand in protest.  we stand in solidarity for the voiceless white t-shirt wearers of lincoln and the world against childish name-calling and questionable dress codes (mostly the name-calling).  we will likely resume protesting in may on fridays (or whenever).  there is a facebook group if anyone feels compelled to join.  that is all.  unite!

Friday, January 30, 2009

"which is the real one?"

i read this...thing a couple years ago and it still sticks with me as one of the most affecting little pieces of literature i've ever read. this is a translation from french.

"Which is the real one?" Charles Baudelaire

I once knew a certain Bénédicta who filled earth and air with the ideal, and whose eyes scattered the seeds of longing for greatness, beauty and glory, for everything that makes a man believe in immortality.

But this miraculous girl was too beautiful to live long; and so it was that, only a few days after I had come to know her, she died, and I buried her with my own hands one day when Spring was swaying its censer over the graveyards. I buried her with my own hands and shut her into a coffin of scented and incorruptible wood like the coffers of India.

And while my eyes still gazes on the spot where my treasure lay buried, all at once I saw a little creature who looked singularly like the deceased, stamping up and down on the fresh earth in a strange hysterical frenzy, and who said as she shrieked with laughter: "Look at me! I am the real Bénédicta! A perfect hussy! And to punish you for your blindness and your folly, you shall love me as I am."

But I was furious and cried: "No! no! no!" And to emphasize my refusal I stamped so violently on the earth that my leg sank into the new dug grave up to my knee; and now, like a wolf caught in a trap, I am held fast, perhaps forever, to the grave of the ideal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

three years back

you'll notice the blog archives here are mostly filled with blogging that was meant to keep my friends in the loop as to my adventures in europe. it's been three years since the beginning of my most recent trip across the pond so i thought i'd recall and rehash a few things that happened on my two trips to spain (july-august 2004 and january-july 2006).

the most enduring things from spain and europe that i continually think about if not daily, then at least weekly:
people i knew there (and still keep in contact with)
places i went (specifically bigger cities that are in the news)
spanish fútbol (most notably my team sevilla)

that's it, i guess. and hmm...that's not such a novel thing, either: to have "people" and "places" as two of my most-often evoked items. that seems pretty consistent with what traveling and living abroad is. so i guess the novelty i was aiming for has not been met; yet i am not discouraged in my blogging objective.

"people" comes up this week in particular because i talked on the phone to some of the people who were cornerstones of my two experiences. paco and pilar gómez were my host family (read: grandparents) during my summer in toledo. they were wonderful hosts and very kind. they genuinely care about the progress of the students that stay with them, and thus are very warm and encouraging for rough spanish speakers. this is also evidenced by paco's righteous anger and refusal to give students the password for his then newly-acquired (in 2006 when i returned for a visit) wireless internet. the unfortunate girl who stayed with them that spring received all of paco's ire when she would talk to her boyfriend back home on video chat programs until 3 am. you should have seen the bags under his eyes as he explained with open exasperation (as the spanish are known for) how little sleep he had been getting with all her chattering down the hall. he just wanted her to speak spanish! "es que estos americanos creen que están de vacaciones cuando aquí. ¡y no es así, aarón!" [these americans think they are on vacation when they come here, and that's not true!] he told me yesterday. paco's grandpa tendencies only make him more adorable though, as i could go on for hours.

the second "people" that i talked to this week was bahiya, my friend from sevilla. we arrived in sevilla from different parts of the world: she being born in morocco and having studied in pennsylvania, was preparing to enter a masters program at georgetown. and i, of course, from the midwest with no real aspirations for anything post-college. there are a few people in life that i have found that i can be friends with without the slightest effort or intention. that was a special connection that i shared with bahiya. i guess i don't know about her end of that, but my view of our friendship was (is) one of effortlessness. i think we just understood each other very well. both our senses of humor and our more serious moments of conversation meshed with ease. so we caught up with each other last night. it had been a year or so since we last spoke on the phone. it's just a genuine pleasure to know her as a friend. we have lots of good memories, to be sure, but more than that we found a lot to enjoy in our friendship. the picture below shows how much fun we were always having together with our other friends.

i think that's enough for this one. i'll probably continue this series of memories on occasion as i also read through my journal from the sevilla trip over the next 6 months. below are photos of paco (and pilar) and bahiya. ¡hasta luego!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

fray luis de león

this blog (from myspace) is from last fall in my first semester of grad school. i still occasionally read some fray luis. he was a poet in Spain's renaissance in the 15th century. in this photo, you see a picture of me under a statue of him in Salamanca where he studied. well, i'm studying too. for a golden age poetry exam this afternoon and i happened to be focusing on one of his poems, "En La Ascención" about the ascention of christ. it's pretty awesome, so i thought i'd put it on here:

¿Y dejas, Pastor santo, And you leave, holy Shepherd,
tu grey en este valle hondo, escuro, your flock in this deep, dark valley,
con soledad y llanto; with solitude and crying;
y tú, rompiendo el puro and you, breaking the pure
aire, te vas al inmortal seguro? air, leave to the secure immortal?

Los antes bienhadados The previously well found
y los agora tristes y afligidos, and now sorrowful and afflicted,
a tus pechos criados, at your breasts brought up,
de ti desposeídos, of you dispossessed,
¿a dó convertirán ya sus sentidos? to where will they turn their senses?

¿Qué mirarán los ojos, What will their eyes look to,
que vieron de tu rostro la hermosura, those that saw the beauty of your face,
que no les sea enojos? that will not be but troublesome to them?
Quien oyó tu dulzura To he who heard your sweetness
¿qué no tendrá por sordo y desventura? What will not be deafness, misfortune?

Aqueste mar turbado This turbulent sea
¿quién le pondrá ya freno?, ¿quién concierto of whom will it be calmed? Who to arrange
al viento fiero, airado? the fierce and angry wind?
Estando tú encubierto, Being you concealed,
¿qué Norte guiará la nave al puerto? What North will guide the ship to port?

¡Ay!, nube envidiosa Ay!, envious cloud
aun deste breve gozo, ¿qué te aquejas? even of brief delight, What to grieve?
¿dó vuelas presurosa? Where do you fly with such haste?
¡cuán rica tú te alejas! How rich as you move away!
¡cuán pobres y cuán ciegos, ¡ay!, nos dejas! How poor and blind, ay!, you leave us!

i guess it's never occured to me the kind of emotions that must have been going on in that moment. the people that spent their lives with him and lived for only a few days outside of his light. to have to realize that they were about to return to that darkness (although this time with new-found light and hope). it must have been quite a painful moment. anyone (jeremy) that has thoughts on the translation can help me out.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

the list 2008

i've decided to jump back into the blogging universe.  once again, a year-end list is the topic, but i promise this is not the extent of my blogging interests (evidence aside). besides travelling and music lists, there's not much to speak of.  i haven't used this space for much "real" blogging, but have instead used myspace, which i don't like anyway.  so, i plan to copy/paste a few posts from that blog here and maybe elaborate with some more current thoughts regarding whatever i had to say at the time.   sounds fun to me!

so...onto the list. people have said that 2008 was a rough year for music.   i don't know what that means, but i will say that this year has found me listening to more albums that i wasn't super in love with.  and so, when it comes to plugging these albums into an at times rigorous top 10 list, we see some difficulties emerge, specifically when 10 worthy albums cannot be found.  at the risk of not conforming, though, i have relented and picked the 10 best albums i heard - in particular order.

10. M83 - Saturday = Youth


this one just baaaarely sneaks on the list because it truly does have some great moments.  most notable are: Kim & Jessie, Graveyard Girl and Too Late.  unfortunately, all the good times i had while listening to this one were almost destroyed in one fell bad-concert-experience swoop.  "don't go see m83 with high expectations" would be my advice to any and all fans of their music.   this was one of my favorite albums of the year at one point.  it's sad that the show could bring it down that much, but my fellow show attenders (jeremy and kim) agree: too much pre-programed music and not enough of the great guitar tones found all over the album.  good album, m83.  i wish i hadn't seen you try to play it.  oh, and "up!" is the year.   i'm still not sure i want it on this list.

listen here

9. TV on the Radio - Dear Science

this is a good album by a better band.  there, i am now a music writer.  it's not as awe-full as their previous album, which blew me away.  so, i guess they get to be on this list because i think they have a pretty good collection of songs here that i mostly enjoy.   there's no standout like "wolf like me" or "i was a lover", but these guys certainly caught my attention with the furious "dancing choose" among others.   their 2006 disc "return to cookie mountain" (ugh, that stupid title) is still their peak so far in my opinion.   we'll see where they go from here.  there's still lots to love.

listen here

8. Azeda Booth - In Flesh Tones

i just heard this album for the first time four or five days before this posting.  i think the cover is fairly indicative of the warm pop movements that are found here.  this is the kind of album that i can only get in to when i am actively listening, otherwise it tends to blend into the background of whatever else i happen to be doing (driving, list-writing, etc).  but when i have taken the time to sit down and hear it, and even though that time has been very little, i have found a gentle familiarity on standout tracks like "i ran", "big fists", and "well" that reminds me of all the reasons i invest time in music.  it's the subtle hooks, the changes of pace, the highs and the lows that really pull this album together.  they couldn't produce the same effect on their own that they do collectively here, and, to me, that is the art of album-craft.

listen here

7. Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

so this is what sigur rós has come to: butts.  first (well, second) it was an alien fetus.   SHOCKING!! then it was the "two sausages kissing" cover.   THEY ARE WEIRD!  then it was a nicer little boy stencil.  OH THAT'S PRETTY.   and now we get butts.  well, let's all be grateful that the album cover doesn't have much to do with the sound.   no farting here.  there is, however, a nice reinvention of the classic sigur rós formula that often included: slow build, high peak, long fall into nothingness, slow build, peak, end of song.  instead of 9-minute rises and falls, we get our sigur in bite-size form.   and they taste good that way.  you'll just have to hear it if you haven't.  i'd recommend "gobbledigook" and others.

6. Beck - Modern Guilt

thank god that beck hasn't given up on us yet.  if i were him, i would be so sick of people telling me how past my prime i was, that i'm not creative anymore, etc etc etc.  this album should shame them a little bit.  it feels like beck is finally comfortable with himself.  tracks like "modern guilt," "profanity prayers," "gamma ray," and others showcase beck's unflinching song-craft skillz.  i'm pretty content with this album.  maybe six is a bit too high, but i'll give him this vote on track record alone.

5-1 to come sometime soon...

top 5 of 2008

i actually posted this one after the previous one, but for the sake of going in reverse numerical order this post is now second.

5. Deerhunter - Microcastle

i like liking music. i say that to be kind of contrary to the kind of hipster idea that it's cool to not like certain music just because. it keeps up the image of a discriminatory listener. but really, liking music you hear is so much more satisfying. that brings me to deerhunter and all of last year's megahype that i really didn't get in to.  i decided to give this one a go and have been very pleased. this is what i think of when i hear the words "indie rock". it's pop music but with a hitch in its step. whether that hitch is production quality, off-kilter vocals, angularity or ambience, there's always some kind of quirk that either draws you in or alienates you. in deerhunter's case, that hitch is one of a couple things: bradford cox. wait, that's only one. either way, this music is my little shiny pearl in an otherwise underwhelming year for indie rock.

4. Cut/Copy - In Ghost Colors

i've never been to a rave. wait, yes i have: when i listen to this album! hooo! never ever has my love for the 80s been much more than some kind of nostalgic irony. cut/copy made my butt shake in a way that all the 80s songs i "love" only made my head bob.  i could seriously see myself almost wanting to take ecstacy if i were at their show.  well, kind of.  let's just say that this album makes me *that* out of control and high on life.  the best ones: "out there on the ice," "lights and music," "heart on fire" and several others i can't remember now.  every once in a while, it's really nice to hear such an immediately pleasing album.  i can't say that i loved every album on this list the first time through, but this one will definitely be on heavy rotation into 2009.

3. The Dodos - Visiter

i already wrote a review of this album for the Forge journal, so i'll (cut)/copy/paste some parts of it here:  "I have thought the dynamics of the relationship between melodic and percussive elements to be the opposite of what I hear in the Dodos.  Whereas I would normally assume the melodic element to be the dominant, attractive force of the music, I have come to recognize the irresistible rhythmic pull that this album has over me.  Besides the guitar and percussion, almost all of the additional instruments (of which there are very few) seem to have less melodic impact than rhythmic.  This is the kind of album that opens its listener up to new musical possibilities, and just like all great albums, it clothes its unique pop in a recognizable form."  Standout songs are: "Fools," "Jodi," "Ashley" and many others.

2. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

deerhoof have the unique position of being the only band that always surprises me.  their music is such an odd rock 'n' roll circus that purchasing every new album feels like a crazy adventure at the check-out counter.  this album, however, is filled with as much instantly gratifying, chair-kicking rock satisfaction as it is with subtle ear worms.  "my purple past" has the best rock hook i heard all year.  second and third place are also on this album: "the tears and music of love" and the bombs away coda of "numina o".  it's no wonder if i ever felt the primitive need to ...just...rock...out, this was the album i turned to.  i gave myself plenty of neck aches from these tracks and probably nearly caused several car accidents all with sincere intentions of keeping up with all the RAWKING OUT deerhoof are doing here.   that's not to say that "family of others" isn't the most sublime harmonic soundscape of the year, because it is.  deerhoof has always been a rather diverse-sounding band, and i think those endless possibilities are what keep me coming back.  i never know what i'm going to hear, but i always know their deviant song-writing and allegiance to RAWKING OUT will rattle my cage and make me wish more bands could make music this free and creative.

1. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

this album did not come out of nowhere.  i've been building a steady admiration over the last couple years for DoE's main band Grizzly Bear.  one of the main songwriters for that band is Daniel Rossen, who has written the majority of the music for this album with some help from fellow Grizzly Bear members.  i have a hard time saying exactly what it is that makes this album so stunning.  Daniel's vocals are haunting and float effortlessly over the phenomenal song writing.  this album feels like a walk through an abandoned house: the piano is dusty, the guitar strings are rusted, the harmonies are ghostly, the percussion deepens the echo, the wind chime clangs out a lonely welcome, and yet there is such warmth in that darkness - a measured, slow-plodding elegance.  when i found out that the album is dedicated to the recently deceased father of Rossen, everything i had been sensing about the album's tone made sense.  the memories are audible and otherworldly present.  i have carried the weight of these songs with me more often than any others this year.  Rossen's song-craft is the shining centerpiece on songs like "waves of rye," "no one does it like you," and "floating on the lehigh."  the tracks here are the most moving i heard all year, powerful in their subtlety and eerie familiarity.  needless to say, i can't wait for the new Grizzly Bear later this year.  : )

that's the list.  i'll begin normal blogging later this week or next.