Friday, July 31, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
release date: September 22nd, 2009
I feel obligated to talk about this "leak of the week." Last year, my favorite album of the year was Why?'s Alopecia. It was my favorite by far, and I began to think of Why? as one of my new favorite bands. I think they still are, but Eskimo Snow isn't helping.
Yoni Wolf was one of my all time favorite interviews as well. He's a very fascinating dude, mysterious and perverse and creative. So when I experienced such underwhelming feelings upon my first listen of Eskimo Snow, I frowned. All of the low points of Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash are stronger than the best parts of this new one.
I think I need to explain what I loved about Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash before I go on tearing into Eskimo Snow. Elephant Eyelash first. This album still doesn't really have a peer. The dark, poetic hip-hop rhymes amidst multi-instrumental surprises gripped me quick. The music is as startling as the lyrics, and you have no idea what sound you'll hear next. Nor do you have an inkling into what horrific image Yoni's lyrics will put into your mind. You feel bold just listening to the album.
And then Alopecia stepped up a notch higher. Any edgy, unsettling feeling that I had with Elephant Eyelash was now tripled. The album challenged me. Spiritually, artistically and intellectually, Alopecia was brutal. Eskimo Snow is anything but brutal. It's ten tracks, all devoid of hip hop, all lyrically tame. The album is monotone. Yoni has rhymed the monotone thing before to great success, because he always backed it up with intense lyrical imagery and brilliant orchestration. But Eskimo Snow doesn't leave this strange zone of unwavering monotony. Folks, you know how much it pains me to say these things, but the new Why? album is boring.
But I shouldn't be that surprised. It's basically a b-sides album for Alopecia. All of the songs were recorded at the same time, Anticon has just been trying to release them in their own context. It's kind of like when Sufjan released The Avalanche. And we all know how mixed those feelings were.
Folks, this is why editing is one of the greatest virtues creative people can have. There is a lot of art that must not ever see the light of day. That's not to say that its creation and existence is not important, the unseen art is absolutely essential. But some art merely exists to show its creator what is effective and what isn't, what is for the world and what is for the individual creator. The songs on Eskimo Snow should tell Yoni that he made the right decisions by cutting them out of Alopecia. They would have muddled the album. But now here they are, trying to stand on their own merit. Suddenly, Why?'s intrigue has diminished, and we have disappointment as a result of lacked artistic self-control.
The three tracks at the end are the album's best. Berkeley By Hearseback, This Blackest Purse, and Eskimo Snow. Those three should have been released by themselves, as an EP, maybe with a remix for a fourth track. Everything else sounds like They Might Be Giants without the fun. It's fine if Yoni wants to sing through an entire album and try different things. But if that means that his music becomes less dynamic as a result, then he shouldn't. Eskimo Snow is a huge sidestep for Why?. A misstep.
Now, the undeniable theme of the album is death. Irony, irony, irony. Ironic, dear readers, because this album kills the fantastic and mystical elements that used to be one of Why?'s strongest qualities. The discography is now forever tainted. Let's just hope that Yoni experiences a resurrection. That's why I'll attend the Chicago date of his upcoming tour. I think Yoni needs our support more than ever. Despite the sentiment of Eskimo Snow, this isn't the end of Why?. Not yet.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Originally published at: http://www.ehow.com/about_5209504_fanny-pack-rules.html
The fanny pack is sort of the human being's attempt at becoming a kangaroo. This saggy, funny pouch sits just below the belly. It's a vital accessory for tourists and irony-crazed hipsters. The fanny pack isn't taken very seriously in the fashion world, but that doesn't mean it can't (or shouldn't) be worn with dignity.
- Fanny packs become popular in the late 1980s. They were worn not only by bicyclists and tourists, but by any average young person in touch with the times. The "fanny" title came as a result of where the pack was first intended to sit. Originally, the pack was supposed to sit just above the buttocks, but eventually become more fashionable to rest on the side hip. Tourists usually wore the pack just over their crotches, and some continue to do so today.
- The fanny pack is worn like a belt around the waist. One area contains a pouch for storage. People store glasses, money, gum and various valuables that they wish to keep near when they are active. It's ideal for bicyclists and runners who do not have pockets.
- Most fanny packs are made out of relatively cheap, thin fabric and a zipper. This is the sort that athletic types and hipsters usually choose to wear.
Other fanny packs are surprisingly expensive. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs have all created lines of fanny packs recently. These newer, leather fanny packs usually sport a button or flap instead of a zipper. They are called Buffalo pouches in the fashion world, and are almost always worn on the side of the hip.
- Tourists are not the only people who wear fanny packs. Any stylish person can wear a fanny pack if he doesn't look lumpy while doing so. Finding a sleek fanny pack is very difficult, though.
- If you're a hipster, don't wear a neon retro fanny pack anymore. These are entirely associated with hipsters now, and should be retired from the ironic wardrobe. A more appropriate hipster fanny pack is associated with Native American Buffalo pouches. These are still relatively inexpensive and usually feature Native American designs on thin leather hides.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I think this is the 2nd sports post I've ever attempted, possibly the third. But 30 years from now when I look back at the things I cared enough to write about, I just know that I would be pissed at myself for not having made special mention of Mark Buehrle's perfect game. When it happened, I called my dad and texted my wife. It felt like a once in a lifetime event, not unlike the moon landing I would assume. I think it's safe to say that this was the south side's moon landing. Boy was it huge.
I didn't watch the actual game, I was following the play-by-play online. I wasn't listening to the radio or any commentators, but when I noticed that we were in the sixth inning without allowing any hits, I perked up. Bill Gallo and I started talking about it online. It was possible. He could get a no-hitter. Before we knew it, the 7th inning was over. I started getting butterflies in my stomach. By the time he finished off the 8th, my heart was beating like a double bass drum.
Watching the 9th inning online was very strange. It didn't show exactly what was going on, but it momentarily showed the Rays with a hit. A double. I groaned, shrugged my shoulders and got happy for our win. But in the matter of a minute, everything changed. Out of nowhere, it showed three outs, no men on base, and the hit was no longer on the board for the Rays. What just happened? Did he do it?
I could have turned the radio on at any point after the sixth inning, but I was being superstitious. I really didn't want to jinx anything. So I stayed in my seat all the way to the end. But once the score was final, I ran to the radio. "A PERFECT GAME! For Mark Buerhle!" He did it. I don't know how, but he did it.
I turned the TV on. The news was coming on in 5 minutes, and they would surely have the replays.
Holy Dewayne Wise Batman!
Now, I think that baseball is generally a very boring sport. Games like this are one in a million. But that catch in the 9th inning by Wise was unbelievable. It was like the climax of a baseball movie. You could hear everyone at the park gasp when they ball was hit, silent as it took its downward plunge, but the eruption when Wise came up with it was like a volcano. What a badass catch.
And then hearing Hawk's play by play at the last out. "AlexeeeiiiiIIII!!!"
"YEEEEESS! YEEEEEEESSSSS! YYYEEEEEEEEEEEESSSS!!!!!"
Oh my God. It sounded like he was about to cry. I've never heard more emotion in a sports announcer's voice. I loved it.
Boy did it feel good.
When you're raised a Sox fan, you're raised to assume that your team is going to suck. So when something like this happens, you're even more exuberant and joyful. It's not only surprising, it's unbelievable.
But this perfect game has jolted some energy into us Sox fans. We're fueled and ready to win this division now. We're ready for the playoffs. We have Obama behind us, and we don't want to let him down.
All I want to do now is go to a Sox game with my dad and brother. Because sometimes this silly old tradition is just the perfect way to spend our time together.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I have childhood memories of going to toy stores. The feeling I had when I was in these toy stores was pure and joyful, a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time. Today those stores are gone. Maybe it’s sad that I can’t physically go visit a memory and feel that old joy again, but it actually feels right that some of my past has ceased to exist. It’s almost as if my own physical growth is somehow connected to the external world, and vice versa. I mean, if everything that existed as it did when I was younger continued to do so today, then how could I have really changed? If I intend to grow and develop as a human being, don’t my surroundings need to change as well?
Blacks start moving in, whites fly away. Urban neighborhoods decay while suburbs sprawl into oblivion. The senior citizens remember the good old days when things were good. Because they’re not good now. They were good then.
Change is one of those things we love to hate, and hate to love. But in the end, we know we need it. We know it’s inevitable.
I’ve gone to the Pitchfork Music Festival every year since its inception. Every year, I see changes that I immediately want to condemn. The first year was perfect. And now… it’s just not.
The Flaming Lips were memorable for many reasons at this year’s Pitchfork Fest, but their front-man made one statement that jumped out at me louder than any of the songs or images that surrounded it. Wayne Coyne confidently declared, “Everybody knows that Pitchfork is the best music festival in America.” And a few of the thousands cheered. But I groaned.
Now that the secret is out, expect legions of marketers and corporations to force their way into Ryan Schreiber’s little indie block party. The pure fun has turned into obligation. Daily lineup schedules have become checklists. Once I’ve seen a band, I can now tell everyone that I have done so. Nothing happens for the moment anymore at Pitchfork Fest. The monster lives and breathes and grows, more monstrous every year.
I’m exaggerating, but there is a problem at Pitchfork Fest. The problem comes by its own self-awareness. Once anything realizes how it can be marketed, its artistic value declines. And yes, this is a problem. Like hipster backlash in Wicker Park, insincere “cool” is unforgivable.
On Friday night, Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, Tortoise and the Jesus Lizard played sets that were made up entirely of audience votes. It was called, “Write the Night,” in conjunction with ATP’s “Don’t Look Back.” How ironic, right? On Sunday, The Flaming Lips half-assedly took part in this activity too (they snuck in some of their new songs in half-assed defiance). The Flaming Lips hence revealed the great folly of this “pick the setlist” idea. When Wayne came on the mic between each song explaining why they were playing it, how many votes it got, or gave excuses for playing something else, it sounded like mumbling around censorship. Because, honestly, that’s what it was. Pitchfork fest and its audience censored some of these artists.
I skipped Friday night. Censorship in rock and roll is one of those sins I refuse to break bread over. If me, you, or anybody else is telling an artist how they must express their art in any setting, the artist is being degraded to the role of a performing monkey.
“A new one! Bahhhh! Play your old stuff!” The guy who says this is the worst fan. In essence, he’s not a fan at all. He should just listen to his ipod for his musical fulfillment.
For my first impression of Pitchfork this year, the entire festival seemed to say, “No to art. Yes to entertainment.” Give us what we want, artist. Or else we’ll just ignore you.
I have this pessimistic attitude about Pitchfork every year, but then I always stick around for the rest of the day in hopes of getting my money’s worth. And then I always get my money’s worth, and then some. I always have fun at Pitchfork. For all of my criticism and negativity, I can’t really deny it when I’m just wandering the premises and a band like Japandroids catches my ear.
I hadn’t heard the Japandroids album before this weekend. The duo became my surprise of the year at Pitchfork fest. These two men filled the stage with their energy. Both singing/shouting, one on electric guitar and the other drumming like he could’ve been a cousin of Brian Chippendale. These guys were entirely concerned with rocking. A more sincere rock band couldn’t have been found anywhere else in the weekend’s line-up. It wasn’t the lo-fi noise of No Age or the overindulgent smarminess of Death From Above. It was more like classic punk, or even a remnant of garage rock. Japandroids were a source of energy for me; a new band giving me an old feeling, a rock and roll feeling of guileless emotion.
What a weird event. I always hate it at first, declare its downfall upon viewing the added vendor booths and raised ticket prices, find a band like Japandroids that makes me feel like it doesn’t even matter, and then the ongoing paradox just levels me.
Andrew Bird once said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times: “self-awareness is the enemy of creativity.” And he’s right. The Flaming Lips played a strangely awkward set as a result. But if Pitchfork fest changes, then I have to be ready to take my own medicine. Pitchfork will continue to grow, and I’ll have problems with it just as the old man complains about the present while recalling the “good old days.”
I mustn’t forget to wander the premises. I have to look around and find what’s happening now, because whatever gives me that rock and roll feeling is the thing I can’t deny. That feeling is always there somewhere, it just moves around. It’s not concrete. It’s not in one Built to Spill song or any particular music festival. But it’s there. I felt it this weekend. It might not be there next year, but change is a wandering wind without worry of alliteration.
I’m glad those toy stores are gone. That old joy has moved elsewhere, and I’m still able to find it every now and then upon wandering.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Marx Brothers are good once or twice a year. Anything more would cause seizures. But I took my yearly dose tonight in Grant Park. Before the film started, everyone in the audience received a free pair of Groucho glasses. Apparently we set a world record for the most people wearing funny glasses in one place for ten minutes. I'm not sure what the record was before, but i think there were about 4000 people watching Duck Soup tonight. They were all wearing that funny nose and glasses piece. What a sight it was.
Oh, silliness. It is a part of life. But sometimes, we're too serious. Sometimes we don't know how to be silly. That's when we put these funny glasses on. These glasses are instant silly. Even if we're in the middle of presenting dissertations or raping animals, wearing these glasses makes everything silly. All seriousness is removed as silliness takes over.
But the source of the silliness is to blame for these immortal glasses. Groucho Marx is the awful hero of Duck Soup, the smart-alec of the century and unrivaled king of the bad pun. I groaned so many times tonight. But I couldn't stop smiling either. When Groucho asked Harpo what his name was and Harpo showed him a tattoo on his arm of his own face, I nearly lost it. Then after asking where he lives, Harpo opens his shirt to reveal a tattoo of a doghouse on his chest. Groucho leans in, meows, and a real dog pops out of Harpo's tattoo barking. I nearly died.
I mean, what the hell were these guys on?
If things were this silly in the 30s', we really haven't come very far in the comedy world. Family Guy seems outrageous to the teenager, but the mature comedy fan knows just how fluffy it really is. The Marx Brothers, now that's hardcore. That's timeless comedy.
"Ah, to be married... I can see you right now in the kitchen, bending over a hot stove. ...But I can't see the stove..."
I feel exhausted by the Marx Brothers now. It's too many jokes in a short period of time. It becomes an intellectual exercise after a while. I've heard that Groucho was a very intelligent person, I'll look into that and verify. But I wouldn't be surprised if he was a genius. Comedy is not mindless. Quite the opposite really, it's incredibly intense brain-work. The trick is making the jokes seem effortless and ridiculous. That's what's called "wit." And there may not have been anyone with more wit than those Marx fellas.
I forget who said it, but it usually doesn't matter who says things, once they're said the sayer gives up all of his saying rights. So I guess I'm saying it. Seriousness is weak, because it closes off the possibility for playfulness. Seriousness is single-minded and elitist. But playfulness is strong, because it includes the possibility for dealing with seriousness, and oftentimes makes light of it. Playfulness is open-minded and free.
The Marx Brothers help us towards playfulness, open-mindedness and freedom. Every time Harpo gives somebody his leg, it's like the political world falls to pieces. Religions forget that they're arguing over ultimate truth with each other when Chico says, "At's the mattah for you?!"
Comedy isn't a way to pacify the serious trouble that exists in the world, it's the way to laugh at it. Laugh or be laughed at, dear readers. Laugh with me. Otherwise I'll make fun of you.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I hallucinated this weekend. I was walking up stairs that were taking me downward. I saw a creature with the face of an owl, wings made of firewood and feet that were alarm clocks. If only I had known that I was hallucinating, I would have spent more time with this nonsense. But I was disturbed by these images and feelings. I wanted them to leave me. Why? I'm not sure. They did me no harm. But I did not want to interact with them.
And a few days after my hallucinations, I watched a movie that matched my feelings of the weekend. The Holy Mountain. This film challenged me unlike anything I've experienced in cinema. The images were so grotesque at times, they disturbed me. At times, it felt like everyone involved in the film was on LSD, and I still consider it a possibility. And yet, there was a clear message and direction. Alejandro Jodorowsky believed in something, and he was using cinema to express himself. He may have been disgusting, but some of the topics and themes being explored were surely disgusting as well.
A screaming naked man, covered in spiders while grasping his genitals. A transgendered old creature, naked with half a beard. Sagging breasts are softly sucked upon, until screaming again. The breasts turn into leopards and spray milk out of their mouths like fire hoses. Surrealism beyond Dali and Bunuel. John Lennon and George Harrison gave it two thumbs up.
I watched The Holy Mountain a second time, and the horror has diminished a little bit. Is this ongoing desensitization of my own mind? Or am I merely expanding my artistic horizons? Did Jodorowsky go too far? Or not far enough?
At least now I can be sure of where MGMT and Santogold got their ideas for their music videos.
Do not be afraid of art or spirituality. It is understandable to be afraid of these things, but don't do it. Spirituality is something that never leaves us. To you who do not believe in God, you may leave now. You have no place in humanity. But to be sure, I do not mean the Christian God. I do not mean any particular God. I mean God. If you do not believe in God, I am bored for you. And I do not envy you.
I used to be afraid of Buddhism. I had a dream a few years ago, when I was sleeping in a dorm room. This dream came before and after classes on theology. I only learned about Christian theology though, and knew nothing of other religions. So when this dream came upon me, I dreamed as an ignorant spirit dreams, fearful of what it does not understand. The dream begins on a front lawn, facing a one-floor house with a long porch. All over the porch, and even on some of the lawn, Buddhist statues are situated amidst plants. I think to myself, "A Buddhist must live here." But it is quiet. A thin statue of Buddha is there on the grass. And I walk away from it, towards the open garage door on the side of the house. I walk into the garage, and see the door into the house slightly open. I call out something. I don't remember what. But I begin to hear quick little footsteps from inside the house. I see nothing for a while, but the sound grows nearer. Quickly, around a corner comes a raggedy, old Asian woman. She is quickly waddling towards me, something is in her hand. I am scared right away, she comes at me directly. I see what she holds up at me, it is a small drinking glass, her eyeball is inside. "MY eye! MY eye!" she shrieks as she comes. I look at her face, only one eye in its socket. I am so scared, and I want to run, but I am frozen. She is coming at me faster than I can move, and she will be upon me in moments. "MY eye! MY eye!"
Of course I must wake up here. I was too terrified to deal with whatever gruesomeness was about to occur. I never want to face my fears, who does? But perhaps someday I will. Maybe I'm not desensitizing myself after all. Maybe I'm on a journey towards enlightenment. Who the hell knows.
Enlightenment, finding myself, becoming more and/or less aware, whatever. I can feel the darkness beginning to dissipate either way. The thing about darkness though, it only exists through contrast. Contrast is the entirety, and so never leaves. If light will shine on me, I only hope that it doesn't become blinding. That would be no better than total darkness. I'd like to be able to see.
What symbol or tarot card can comprehend? When Campbell and Jung speak to each other, do they laugh or cry at me?
With less frequency writing, and more radios to tie dials together.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Can you wear just any old shirt underneath a dress shirt? Is there undershirt etiquette? The following article will answer these questions and provide details on how to wear an undershirt.
Wear an undershirt to keep your dress shirt cleaner. Your skin sweats, and if an expensive dress shirt is against your oily body for hours, your shirt may become damp and uncomfortable. An undershirt is a comfortable alternative to the single-layer dress shirt.
Most undershirts are plain white t-shirts because they are the most difficult to see through a dress shirt. Some undershirts are black and gray, but these should only be worn with dark dress shirts. Some other undershirts are sleeveless.
Make a habit of tucking in your undershirt. Seeing an undershirt sticking out the bottom below your dress shirt looks tacky.
As a general rule, your undershirt should not be visible. If you're wearing a short-sleeve collared shirt, your undershirt should not stick out from the sleeve area.
Don't wear just any t-shirt, either. A graphic tee might be visible through a dress shirt, and that's anything but classy.
Stick to a tucked in, plain white t-shirt that fits, and you'll have the most successful undershirt experience possible.
Don't wear an undershirt that's wider than your dress shirt. This may cause bunching underneath your dress shirt. Bunching will make you look lumpy and generally unattractive.
The proper undershirt shouldn't fit too loose or too tight. Check for a few inches of space between the bottom of the shirt and your waist. You don't want the undershirt to hug your waist, nor do you want it to be a foot wider than your torso.
A v-neck undershirt is the preferred option of undershirt if you are trying to stay cooler. For example, if you are at an outdoor wedding where you aren't wearing a tie and you have a few of the top buttons of your shirt undone to keep cool, then don't wear a crew-neck undershirt; go with the v-neck. Remember the general rule, the undershirt should never be visible. Treat it like underwear.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Perhaps it’s a little early for this. There are a few months left in the year, after all. But 2009 has already proven itself. It made a number 3 spot on this list. Besides, I had a really hard time making my decisions for the remaining nine. I doubt something will come out in the next few months that will have a bigger impact on me than these ten albums. A lot of personal opinion went into this list, but I also took into consideration the overall influence that these albums had on the popular culture as well. That being said, a U2 or Coldplay album cannot be on this list due simply to their massive perpetuity. What I consider “the best,” are those artists who have not only broken new ground, but have planted strong roots as well. Who did something new? And who wasn’t forgotten afterwards? Those are artists on this list. We can come back to these albums anytime and still enjoy them. This is timeless music, released over the course of the past 10 years.
To kick the list off, I have the nerve to pick a Chicagoan. But I have a few good reasons for my bias. For one thing, this might be the most listenable album on the entire list. Every song is entirely enjoyable, and I feel like it’s stating a fact by saying that you’re missing out if you haven't heard The Mysterious Production of Eggs. This album deserves to be on this list mainly because of its uniqueness though. Andrew Bird is in a league of his own, and this was the album that knighted him a one-man orchestra. The looping, whistling violinist. There is none other like Andrew Bird, and for his breathtaking originality, he must be regarded as one of the seminal artists of the decade.
You might not remember, but when Franz Ferdinand stormed into our musical consciousness, they came with a goal: to get people dancing again. Up until this album, rock and roll and dancing were not bedfellows. So in this sense, their self-titled album is a no-brainer for one of the decade’s best. Franz Ferdinand accomplished their goal, and made those mopey Strokes fans remove their hands from their pockets and move around. They set a precedent for the rest of the decade thats band like The Killers and Black Kids are in debt to.
Not only did Franz Ferdinand pave the way for dancy rock and roll for the rest of the decade, they put out an album that plays well from beginning to end. It wasn’t just the alarm of “Take Me Out” that made this band great, it was all 11 tracks of disco-tinged garage pop.
The start of the decade heralded the resurrection of garage rock. There were a lot of bands to choose from, The Strokes, The Vines, The Hives (all of the “the” bands, remember?). But I don’t think any of them hold a candle to The White Stripes, especially after Elephant. This was the album that said, “Alright guys, we got this,” to the rest of the garage rock world. Jack White crowned himself king, and never thought twice.
This album is also a great homage to the best rock and roll of yesteryear. The White Stripes reminded us how good Led Zeppelin really was. We met our parents half-way and said, “okay, maybe you’re not entirely wrong when you say music has gotten worse.” Music was awful at the turn of the century! Limp Bizkit? Kid Rock? We were living with musical malnourishment. So The White Stripes’ virtue was two-fold, it made the younger generation come around to the greatness of past rock and roll, and awoke the old generation to the possibility of excellent new music. Rock and roll shouldn’t be generational, Elephant assured us that it wasn’t.
Is there any reason I shouldn’t put experimental music on this list? Well I don’t care, because The Books are absolutely one of my favorite bands and I can’t imagine leaving them off this list. The care for creation is so comforting on The Lemon of Pink. All of the found sounds and editing epiphanies are on display for all of us to share. “We went through hell, all’s well that ends well. Well, well.” Oh God, is there a more beautiful intro song?
I believe that the extent of The Books influence has only just begun to scratch the surface of the collective culture, but will slowly continue to shed its light on our creative sides. If I ever need to audibly hear creativity in action, I can always trust The Books.
I feel funny putting this on here, especially in front of so many incredible albums. It’s weird because In Rainbows is the “obvious” choice for one of the best albums of the decade. We’ve heard it a million times, the album broke new ground by letting consumers purchase it online for whatever price they wanted to pay. That’s the story of the decade right there. Online downloading changed the entire music industry, and Radiohead kept up with the times. For that reason alone, it’s unavoidable for a list like this. Its impact is profound.
But it’s not just the story behind the music that makes In Rainbows legendary; it’s the music too. I’m one of few, I know, but this is my favorite Radiohead album. Since the 90s’, I was never sold on Radiohead as one of the world’s greatest bands, but they convinced me with In Rainbows. This album proves, musically, that Radiohead isn’t an old dog. They’re still just as innovative as ever, an unmatched talent in the world of music, completely devoid of predictability. They put Coldplay and U2 to shame.
What kind of decade would it be without hip hop? A pretty boring decade, actually. Kanye West made damn sure that rap, the biggest selling genre of the past 20 years, remained on top. Late Registration was the album that kicked off Kanye’s famous ego too. Before anybody even heard it, he was heralding it as the best rap album of the year. He was entirely confident. And then, to the surprise of many, he was right. But he was coming off a surprise hit on College Dropout, and he had to prove himself. I guess if you snag Jon Brion for a rap album, your balls are already enormous. But Late Registration really did revolutionize the rap world. It hasn’t been the same ever since. And luckily, rap is now more adventurous and daring than we even could have hoped. Thanks be to Kanye, bringing weirdness back into the streets.
I still can’t wrap my brain around this one. How can a band completely come out of nowhere and define the sound of a decade? Funeral is one of those albums you just can’t argue with. The ambition, the multi-instrumental rock outs, the catchiest-of-catchy melodies. How can a debut album sound like this? I don’t understand how Arcade Fire did it, but they came out of the gate already in the lead.
Nothing sounded like Funeral at the time, and now a lot of things do. But it seems like Funeral may have set the stage for something that could never upstage it. It’s a one-take work of genius, and sounds like it knows it’s the best.
This album signals an exciting end to the decade. If Animal Collective’s massive popularity means anything as we move into the next 10 years, hopefully it’s that we’ll hear a lot more experimentation in our pop music. Kanye is partly to thank for this, but hearing Animal Collective on the radio is one of those things that just blows your mind. There was nothing weirder and more experimental than this band a few years ago, and actually, this is still true today. But something has changed amidst the collective consciousness of music lovers. We’re more open to new ideas today. We crave innovation now. Animal Collective doesn’t sound as weird and difficult to us anymore, but that’s not because they’re any less experimental. They’re just playing to the crowd. And they’re playing brilliantly. They’re at the top of their game right now, and it sounds phenomenal. If their sole virtue has been the expansion of musical tastes amidst the mass culture, they’re more than worthy of their spot at number 3.
Some albums sound like they were thrown together in a day or two. Illinois sounds like it took a decade. Sufjan is hilariously ambitious, dishonestly ambitious even. Yet, he manages to temper himself when it counts. He runs his own label, plays all of his own instruments, he works when he wants and how he wants and (unbeknownst to many) why he wants. He is the personification of the indie ideal. Not only does he create some of the most enjoyable music an ear can behold, he does so completely devoid of outside forces tampering with his art. In a sense, this music is pure. It also set the stage for In Rainbows by proving that signing to a big record label as the best means for support was a complete myth. Sufjan is a true existential hero, a champion for conceptualism and an unparalleled talent of writing and musicianship.
Start and end with Chicago, that’s what I always say. Wilco is the greatest band in the world, and the radio still doesn’t know what song they can play off their new album. In one way or another, every band on this list owes a thank you to Wilco. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot set a tone at the beginning of this decade. The album broke rules that caused record labels to worry. It ignored capitalism, and embraced art. It assured us that we are not lost. It proved that art would prevail in the face of controlling forces. It made us sing. It made us think. It moved us. It did everything that great art should do, and still does today, and will continue to do into the next decade. Dear readers, we can trust art. Wilco proves it.
The Top 10 Albums of the Decade. Listed.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Mixing with Effects
Monday, July 06, 2009
When head nasal congestion hits, it can feel disabling. But there are ways to overcome the discomfort of a stuffy head.
Also, you can buy bulk containers of medicine to save even more money on your head nasal congestion medicine. This is recommended for people with recurring allergy problems.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
If you’ve been in touch with me at all this year, you’ve realized that I am fully equipped with barrels of negativity. I am a dark cloud to be around. Not goth, but depressingly serious and saddening. This negative attitude has come as a result of a hard year, full of misfortune. But I refuse to feign good out of my circumstances, I swallow the bad as it comes and shit out pure, dark negativity.
But one virtue I’ve had a hard time sorting out in all of this has been my own personal vice. Mark Twain had his cigars, Hemingway had his whiskey, Hunter Thompson had his …everything. But what about Dylan Peterson? His tortured mind needs some sort of negativity outlet too. He can’t just harbor all of his hideous thoughts in his own conscious self. That would surely be psychological suicide!
So when the vile weight of the world has me pinned, what’s my anesthetic? Let’s go down the list…
Every so often, I turn to the Ibuprofen for one of my migraines. But other than that, I’m practically a Christian Scientist. I believe in free will, and along with that comes great will power. With great will power, comes less medicinal responsibility. If I feel a flu coming down, I just drink more water. Drugs are not my vice.
I drank a couple times before I turned 21, never to the extent of drunkenness. Once I moved into legality, I drank a little more. I worked as a server and bartender during college, and so had to taste all sorts of wines, champagnes, whiskies and mixed drinks for my job. But when my brain is telling me that life is worthless, I never get thirsty. If anything, I avoid alcohol even more when I’m swimming in darkness. I mean, come on, only idiots drink and drive. If I’m pondering one of the many disturbing aspects of human existence, the last thing I want to do is wreck my train of thought with alcohol. Alcohol isn’t my vice.
This is possible. Well, it would be possible, but again, I’d rather have sex when I’m feeling good. Depressing sex is bad sex. I try to avoid that at all costs. And I’m not so insanely self-deprecating that I go to strip clubs or hookers for a sex vice fix. I don’t think sex is my vice. But then again, I still don’t know how much sex is too much. I think I can really relate to Woody Allen in some ways. Sex is something that people get really hung up on, but I just don’t know about myself yet.
This is one of the stupidest vices. I can’t imagine how people can do this. Casinos are some of the most depressing places in the universe (probably because they’re full of depressed people in need of a vice outlet), and I don’t like my depressing thoughts. To be honest, I really don't want to have the thoughts that I have. Some of these blog posts pain me to write, but I don't believe that there's anything worst than dishonesty. So I endure. It’s like when Johnny Cash sings, “I’d love to wear a rainbow every day, and tell the world that everything’s okay.” I wish you could have too, Johnny, but I know all too well why you couldn’t. Oh I wish I could have hung out with Cash. We would have had so much to talk about. He’s one of the few persons in history that I feel like I could relate to. But like Cash, I cannot focus on good things when there is so much negativity, and I won’t. “But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back, till things are brighter, I’m the man in black.” I’m with you there Johnny. But you had your vices as well. Sure you had your June as I have my Jaclyn, but we are troubled men. We need to place our dread into something.
I asked my wife what my vice is. She gave a pretty good answer…
I wouldn’t necessarily put this on the list of typical vices for the ages, but I think this might be mine. When I lost my job earlier this year, I started watching movies like I was the reincarnated Gene Siskel. Godard, Fellini, Herzog, Kubrick and the Coens were suddenly sharing their stories with me for six to eight hours a day. Whether it was Netflix, hulu or borrowed movies from the public library, I couldn’t stop. In my darkest hour, I turned to film.
But still, I’m not sure if I can really call this a “vice.” A vice is something altogether unhealthy, like smoking, drinking or gambling. Movies can be wonderful. But I do tend to treat them as if they were my vice. This should stop though, because the manner in which I watch movies should be a psychologically healthy experience. I shouldn’t escape into them, I should engage with their artfulness.
So I think I need to find a vice. What do you say? How do I neutralize my natural urge towards negativity? What is my proper avenue for self-destruction? What flavor is my poison?
All vice suggestions are encouraged. Thank you for reading.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Everything in between is full of birth and death. The birth of galaxies, and the death of stars. For a long time there was death, long before there was a human being. Life and death make up the entirety of the universe. There isn't a center, nor are there edges. Only cycles. Life and death, over and over again.
The death of the first plant wasn't special, it was necessary. The first death of an animal wasn't anything remarkable either. Even the first human death was just part of the billions of years of a perpetual cycle: life and death. It wasn't tragic, sad or unjust. Death came after birth, and so all was natural.
Eventually, the birth of something strange came along, and is still with us today. The birth of awareness. Humans became aware of their death. They realized that they would eventually die. This is relatively new, only a few thousand years old. Before this, nothing realized that it would die. It simply lived until its completion. Whether it was an amoeba, a flower or a kangaroo, it just did it's thing until the end of its life.
The birth of human awareness has not yet died, but it will. Everything has its cycle, and so we will have ours. It's possible that other creatures possessed self-awareness before our time, but that is not for us to know. But while we have awareness, we must grapple with things like justice, religion, emotion, logic and freedom. We have created these rules for dealing with our awareness, this way in which we can cope with our "knowledge" of ourselves. We are blessed and cursed to be born with awareness. But also just in the midst of another cycle.
And so it is appropriate to ponder these things on Independence Day. We live in a country that admits us to think for ourselves. It is a great privilege to be free, but one that requires a mess of idiocy. We must live amidst Westboro Baptists, racists and fools. And we must give them just as much freedom as the meek, the poor and the mistreated. It is a terribly unfair country, but it must be in order to maintain our human rule of freedom. So in some paradoxical way, it is entirely fair.
It is fair, because it is a part of a present cycle. America will eventually see its death, and the birth of something else will emerge. Perhaps whatever is born will be without awareness, and the death of America will coincide with the death of human awareness. That is surely an absurd assumption, but only because I choose to follow the rules that coincide with my awareness. In the end, I don't know. My awareness is limited to birth and death. Whatever happened in the beginning is not for me to know, for it was not birth. And whatever happens in the end will not be for me to know either, for it will not be death. Birth and death are for us, and when we lose our awareness, they will cease to exist.
But there was a beginning, it came before birth. And the end will come, it will be long after our deaths.
Friday, July 03, 2009
The Millennial generation probably knows the name Grand Funk Railroad solely as a result of the Hullabalooza episode of The Simpsons (or Homerpalooza, for the Simpsons nerds). But most of us haven’t actually heard Grand Funk’s music. “Nobody knows the band Grand Funk? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher?? The competent drum work of Don Brewer??? … Oh mannn.” Homer moans the lack of rock and roll knowledge amidst the generation X-ers.
But since the depiction of Homer’s music taste was significantly less than hip in that particular episode, we didn’t rush out to the record store in search of Grand Funk after watching it. We rushed out for the cool bands like Nine Inch Nails and Sonic Youth. Like Bart and Lisa, we had no idea who that old, boring Grand Funk band was, and we didn’t care. We just figured that Homer had old-fashioned taste, so we never decided to give it a chance.
But that’s when we were kids. We liked Cypress Hill and Smashing Pumpkins back then. We didn’t even really know who Peter Frampton was. Once we grew a little older, we saw Frampton Comes Alive! on vinyl for 5 bucks, and in the stack beside it, Grand Funk… for three. Our curiosity got the better of us, and we shelled out 8 bucks in honor of Hullabalooza.
Ironically, so many of the “cool” bands in that episode have become laughable today (save Sonic Youth). Billy Corgan is pathetic now, nobody crowdsurfs anymore and Apple Computers is a pretty recognizable name nowadays. A decade and a half later, Homer was right about rock and roll. He may have seemed old fashioned in the mid 90s’, but he was right all along. Grand Funk does rock.
Upon first listen, the fuzzy bass and driving beats sound like a precursor to Rage Against the Machine. And sure enough, there are alarming similarities, even an alarm sound effect. The first two minutes of Paranoid almost sound exactly like a Rage song. It's the same formula of a slow, ominous opening for 30 seconds, cue a tornado alarm sound, and scratch the guitar strings like Tom Morello before dropping the beat with a bass line and an awesome riff. Homer wasn’t giving Don Brewer enough credit either, his drumming isn’t just competent, it’s great. There's intense energy in both Grand Funk and Rage, but Grand Funk did it first.
Unfortunately, the lyrics are ridiculous. Try your best to tune those out. It shouldn’t be too hard, because there are plenty of jam sessions to get caught up in. There are sounds on this record that don’t sound like 1968, and I can only imagine how people must have felt when they first heard this music. They’re definitely not virtuosos like Led Zeppelin, but Grand Funk set a lot of important stages in the progression of rock and roll. Said band included.
It’s a great time to revisit Grand Funk Railroad. Or if you’ve been avoiding them your entire life assuming they’re another Starland Vocal Band, check them out now. They can rock the blues, the prog and the funk. Don’t let what you’ve heard from The Simpsons keep you away from Grand Funk. They’re a solid rock-out band who should never be forgotten.
And you’ll never pay more than a few bucks for their record. Add it to your collection and get your needle grooving on the Grand Funk Railroad tracks. It’s a lot better than the new Smashing Pumpkins album.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
There was so much that led up to this moment. The prophecy was made over 25 years ago, and last night was the fulfillment. I saw Bob Dylan.
I had heard so many stories about how terrible his live show was. One friend who saw him a couple years ago told me that he sat at a piano, mumbling incomprehensible nonsense the whole time. My brother in law told me that he could only recognize one of the songs. And sure enough, before Dylan took the stage last night, I heard a conversation a couple seats in front of me:
"Alright, well we're gonna take off."
"You were only here for Willie Nelson?? Oh man, you've gotta stick around for Bob."
"Y'know, I've seen Bob before. I don't think I need to again."
"Oh, man, he's off and on. That's just how it is. You've gotta stick around."
With some apprehension, he stuck around. Along with thousands of other middle aged Wisconsinites, crusty old hippies, stoned college kids and die hard Dylan fans. There were all sorts at Summerfest last night, but I felt like this moment was handcrafted just for me.
When Dylan came out, he was standing there in all black, like a Mexican cowboy. He was as skinny as ever, with one knee jutting out, an electric guitar above it. I had no idea what the song was, but it was bluesy, and loud. And his mouth was full of gravel. There was so much attitude on stage. It was great.
The first song ended quickly and then it was on to another bluesy tune. After a minute or so, I recognized a couple lyrics. "It ain't me babe," he mumbled. I turned to my wife, and told her what it was. She squinted her eyes, and then smiled. "It is!" We love that song.
When it was over, another song that I couldn't recognize was played. But he went over to a keyboard and changed his stage presence up a bit. After this though, "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again." And it's never sounded bluesier. It took a while to figure that one out too, but my wife and I were enjoying the guessing game. The rearranged songs sounded livelier, and the band was tight.
It went on like this for the entire hour and a half concert. About half of the songs were recognizable, half of them were mysteries. Maybe I was familiar with all of the songs he was playing, but I'll never know now.
By the time he played the fifth or sixth song, I wondered if I would even hear him play his harmonica. Ever since hearing that blaring ending on "Desolation Row," I've decided that the sound of Bob Dylan playing a harmonica is my favorite sound in this world. How fitting that the first appearance of the harmonica last night was during an ominous retelling of "Desolation Row." The band was frontlit with yellow. Tension built. A long song, well beyond eight minutes. And all I could think was, "this is so cool, but I want to hear that harmonica." When it finally came at the end, it tore into my ear drum. It was so harsh. So loud. As it was over 40 years ago on Highway 61 Revisited, so the 2009 version of "Desolation Row's" harmonica solo was played with reckless abandon. This moment brought tears to my eyes. I heard the sound of independence in that harmonica. I heard freedom of speech and religion. I felt the rebellion of rock and roll screaming "fuck you" to all of those with fingers in their ears, unable to ignore the truth of authentic, unapologetic artistic integrity. Bob Dylan's harmonica blared, "I'm here. And you're welcome."
Some of his other great moments came in Highway 61, Like a Rolling Stone, Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and All Along the Watchtower. By the time he finished his encores, I felt really good. It thought he sounded like a seasoned headliner at the Chicago Blues Fest. When the lights came back on and he took a bow with his band, I felt privileged. I looked down at Bob Dylan. I couldn't believe it. I had just experienced an hour and a half of entertainment, rock and roll style. It was just a concert, a show. But in this last moment, the weight of his career struck me. This one man just entertained me for an hour and a half, but for 50 years, he has been a centerpiece of American popular culture. America would not exist as it does today without this man's art. This is absolutely true, and if you don't believe it, just take a quick look back at the 60s'. It's not just the history of rock and roll that Dylan impacted, it's world history in general.
This one man. Standing right up there. 68 years old, and still causing people to leave their seats grimacing while they plug their ears. A living legend, still misunderstood by millions, still too weird for the radio. He plays blues rock and makes college pseudo-hippies dance around stoned. What an honor it was to see him.
It was an important show for me, but just a day's work for Bob Dylan. He doesn't know me, he never will, and there's nothing I can say to him if we ever did meet. But I've never been more sincere with my applause than I was last night. I wasn't just clapping for the hour and a half of entertainment. I am so appreciative of the inspiration that he's brought to so many. Without Dylan, we wouldn't have Wilco or Tom Petty. I've even heard that the Beatles didn't get "experimental" until they met Dylan. After Chuck Berry and Elvis, there is no artist more vital in rock and roll. He is the very definition of artistic integrity. He assures all artists for all time that if they don't create exactly what they want to create, they will regret it. He has assured us that there is nothing to fear. There is no life change too difficult. No pain too brutal. A real artist will not lie. Bob Dylan stands today.
In my most hopeless moments, Bob Dylan, at 68 years old, makes my ears ring. My namesake gives me hope. Whether he's on or off, I'll take it either way. Hell, he might have been off last night, I don't even know. But it didn't matter.
Next time (and there will be a next time), I'll go with my dad. And we can compare past Dylan shows. We can get filled with the Spirit and fulfill more prophecy. We can be encouraged and applaud that which deserves the loudest applause.