Sunday, March 2, 2008


The Runner's Four By Deerhoof (2005)

Look at the cover of this album....... "Cactus." "Pigeon." "Cat Tent." What do these random items have to do with anything? How does the title tie into the album? These questions really aren't answered and they don't need to be. Part of the Deerhoof logic is possessing no logic. The Japanese/American band is known for their chaotic rushes of noise juxtaposed with singer Matsuzaki's screeching yet cute j-pop voice. Here they tone things down a bit and and inject a few ccs more melody. The Runner's Four is a collage of twenty tracks seemingly pulled at random from the band's constantly whirring brain. Maybe the items on the cover are meant to symbolize the uniqueness of each song on the album... The tracks progress through upbeat pop tunes ("O-Malley, Former Underdog") to surprisingly pretty ballads ("Odyssey") to noise rock ("rrrrrright"). You never really know what you're gonna get with these songs and this is definitely part of the appeal. There is great guitar work contained within this album. "Twin Killers" and "Spirit Ditties of No Tone" highlight the band's bright, angular guitar style. It conjures images of multicolored samurai swords slashing through the darkness while Matsuzuki's pink voice floats cute and happy over the cartoonish carnage. And Greg Saunier's percussion must be mentioned: he establishes the backbone of many of the tracks while mixing things up with complex and shifting beats. During the second half, the album suffers from maybe a little too much silliness, but damn.....with this record they threw all the wet pasta at the wall and kept every bit of it, even if it didn't stick, and I fucking love 'em for it!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Z by My Morning Jacket (2005)

It was hard for me to decide which MMJ album to put on this list. I own two of their other albums, At Dawn and It Still Moves. Both of these are epic, American rock masterpieces. They ramble through the sunny brightness and gothic darkness of Southern-tinged music. And both albums are probably more representative of the Kentucky-based band than the lighter Z. However, Z is the most enjoyable MMJ record. With this album, the band cut down on album length and injected variation into their sound. There's a bit of the ethereal here, some soul there, a little jam band over there, some Beach Boys sounds here, and (of course) a hefty serving of Southern fried rock. In fact, My Morning Jacket's real draw might be their unique blend of straight up reverb drenched rock with a bright 60's style pop sensibility. This album is perfect for road trips on partly cloudy days. It conjures images of washing cars in July....getting soaked with the sudsy water in the oppressive heat. It's like going boating on the lake or vacationing at a nice beach. It's also great barbecuing music. This is a summer album if there ever was one. You can almost see the heat shimmering above the pavement. The standout moment for me is track 8, "Lay Low." This is a driving rock song. It begins with an interesting percussion beat with a simple but effective electric guitar riff. Jim James amazing voice enters from whichever dimension it echos from and the song gradually builds momentum. This breaks with the energizing second half in a flurry of guitar soloing. Two guitars get their chance to shine here, inter playing with each other over a plinking piano and driving percussion. I'm always so energized and just plain happy every time I hear this track. The atmosphere chills out a bit with the next song, then the sun finally sets with the moody last track. A great album by one of the best bands around these days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

# 20

I've decided to fashion a return to the blogosphere. The "indie" music nerd that lives so vividly inside me couldn't resist the creation of an essential album list. However pointless these "best of" lists are, I must take a stab at making one for my own inner peace. Album analysis is actually an extremely fun activity. Sitting down with (or hilariously dancing to) the exciting range of musical styles provides endless joy. Music can enhance the sensations and perception of your own world or they can vividly create their own. And joy can be found in the process of quantifying the very diverse music. So here I am, quantifying what I consider to be the best albums of this decade, the 00's, the Naughties, the Aughts, the whatevers. Keep in mind the strong subjectivity of this list. I am in no way trying to remove my personal feelings and associations with these albums from this list. Art mingles very strongly with the observer (listener), so I feel I should not try to disassociate my personal attachments to these works of art. These are very much my favorite albums of the 00's...

20. The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian (2006)

Belle & Sebastian have been a staple of the indie scene since their breakthrough album If You're Feeling Sinister in 1996. They basically perfected low key soft pop enhanced by witty storytelling lyrics. Ten years later they shifted their sound towards the rock end of the spectrum. With this album, they released an energetic soft rock collection of mini pop masterpieces. The tone is still very much light and fluffy, but the atmosphere contains an extra charge. The songs here are pretty much all major key and upbeat. The great thing about this album is the beautiful simplicity of the songwriting. We have all heard songs like this throughout our lives and the listener instinctively "knows" each song. While this doesn't provide much excitement from the exploration in new sound, it evokes a sense of comfort. The listener feels like they have always experienced good memories with this album. The familiar chord changes and sparkling melodies conjure a joyous sense of fun and happy nostalgia. Another great aspect of the album is the expansive production. All the songs sound vast and thick. Each instrument sounds heavy and syrupy. This adds a colorful dimension to the potentially boring songwriting. This is an album to dance to at parties (or on your own), it's for Sunday afternoon drives, it's an album to create bright, joyous memories to. One of the essential pure pop releases of the decade.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

"....In this place circling all round the sun."

"In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" is an album cherished by many, many people. It's creator emerged from the depths of friends' closets, intense dreams, and ashy nightmares to channel the higher power of the universe, thus forging a tragic, but empowering fanfare of lost spirits, wondering souls and beautifully wretched creatures. Afterwards, the creator dissappeared again, folding into a world that has no love for starry-eyed poets and mystical prophets.

However, the world will always have that brief, transcendent slice of one man's dreams and nightmares to treasure and love and hold onto.

Here's the lyrics to the last phrase of the title track:

"what a beautiful face
I have found in this place
that is circling all round the sun
and when we meet on a cloud
I'll be laughing out loud
I'll be laughing with everyone I see
Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all" -Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel)

Just contemplate on that very last line...

I'll be leaving for Africa in almost 24 hours. While I'm there, having my mind blown, I'll be thinking how very strange it is, indeed, to be anything at all. I'll feel more connected to and more in awe of simply being a conscious entity living, loving and dying on this place that is circling all round the sun.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I actually don't cry very often. Most of the time when my emotions are being tugged, I'll just get a little teary eyed, but it hardly ever develops into full blown crying. Maybe I like to think of myself as a rugged stoic who can handle anything. Besides that being a delusion, resistance to crying is unhealthy. Having a good cry now and then releases stress and gives your body and mind a good cleansing. So I'm glad that I had a good cry last night. It felt sort of liberating.

I'm not exactly sure why I cried for so long and so hard last night, but I do know what triggered it: Tom Waits. Yes, crazy old Tom Waits. I have recently been obsessing over this man who's entire aura has completely captivated me to the point where I can't believe that he is just a mere human. So I was scrounging around the internet yesterday trying to find some more songs to hear by him (I had just bought my first Waits album) and I came across a blog entry where some art student had uploaded some Waits ballads. I downloaded them all, and I put them on my iPod. Then I started listening to them to try and lull myself to sleep.

It was working very well. I was feeling comforted by the lilting strings, the warm piano, and that unmistakable rumbly voice. And I thought, I'll listen to "I'm Still Here" one last time before I fall asleep. So I went back and started that song again. The simple but achingly beautiful piano line began and I knew something was different......I was feeling very emotional all of a sudden. A few moments went by, then Tom's voice entered. All it took was that gruff, sincere growl to say "You haven't looked that way at me in years" across the piano melody and I completely lost it. The tears shot out with no warning and I was hit by an atomic bomb made of pure emotion.

I pictured all the sad things in my life, all the beautiful memories that I carry with me, all the experiences that I've had just being alive. Everything was flashing in a green and gold haze and I just cried and cried and cried. I saw all the homeless people in Memphis. I saw all my best friends and the great times we've had. I felt the beauty of just staring up through the trees. I relived all the deaths of my pets. I remembered the thrill of change. I recalled the exhilaration of love and belonging and the crushing sadness of rejection and loss. I experienced the confusion and joy of simply existing.

After twenty minutes, I calmed down. I was done. This unexptected burst of internal passion died away, and with the settling of the dust I felt light and relieved. I was content and calm. So I stretched out in bed and imagined a glittering staircase wandering away from my window, gliding down to the lake outside. I pictured myself walking down there in the moonlight and then floating up into the stars. Up, up, up I went, until there was nothing.......only dark.

I fell asleep.