Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MIX - West is Wondrous, part one

So I just returned from a wonderful road trip west (Dallas > Midland > Phoenix > LA > Big Sur > SF > Flagstaff > Ruidoso), and this is a mix chronicling the journey, divided into three parts. The first part is music for driving from Texas to California. Should be finished with the other two tomorrow. Enjoy!

01) Silver Jews - Trains Across the Sea
02) The Handsome Family - Stalled
03) Calexico - Quattro (World Drifts In)
04) The Microphones - The Glow, Pt. 2
05) Blanche - Jack on Fire
06) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Albert Goes West
07) Neil Young - Rockin' in the Free World
08) Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve
09) Mirah - Cold Cold Water
10) The Breeders - Drivin' on 9
11) The Decemberists - The Engine Driver
12) Modest Mouse - Styrofoam Plates / It's all Nice on Ice
13) Smog - I Was a Stranger
14) Lee Hazlewood - Your Sweet Love
15) Magnolia Electric Co. - The Night Shift Lullaby
16) Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy


Note: track 4 and 5 should be switched after unzipping.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Music for cold weather, day seven

I should say in advance that this is going to be the most personal post I've ever done and probably that I'll ever do. Also this will be the last update for a week or so as I'm going out to Phoenix for a memorial and then onto LA and SF for a few days.

1. Red House Painters - s/t (Rollercoaster) (1993)

I have so much rushing through my head at the moment, I don't know where to start. I'm sitting in my car in front of my first home in Bedford, TX, writing this down on the back of an envelope with a Bic pen that doesn't want to cooperate with me. I came here today specifically for the purpose of writing about this album and now that I'm here I just want to enjoy the silence. So it goes....

It's been over ten years since I've been back to my old neighborhood. Driving into it a little earlier, I was greeted by vaguely familiar (albeit much smaller than I remember) street grids and very familiar locales (the empty supermarket parking lot where my mom taught me how to ride a bike is now a library, the jungle gym in the park where I broke my leg, the creek in that same park where I found a Swiss army knife one time and thought it was luckiest thing ever, and still have somewhere) and especially the street names: Harwood Rd, Forest Ridge Dr, Cummings Rd, and of course my old street, Wendover Ct. Chances are these names don't mean anything to you, but to me they are forever ingrained in the back of mind, and they evoke a million and one memories of my childhood. Turning onto the street where I grew up (an 'F' shaped cul de sac), I was hit with a tsunami of emotions I could never describe. Much of this place is embedded in my person, and even if I could accurately put it into words, no one will ever understand these things the way I do, the lingering familiarity that I feel, and that makes me a little sad.

When I first arrived I rang the door bell to my old house, somewhat nervous the present owner might mistake me for a thief or solicitor, and looked around as I waited. A lady answered the door and I explained to her that I used to live there and she kindly invited me in. She was a dietitian, and a very nice lady. Walking through my old house was, of course, a trip further down memory lane as I'd forgotten so many things that were just buried deep under all the newer memories I had accumulated. But as it always happens, despite that the house had been entirely re-decorated; everything came rushing back to me.

All those Christmases huddled around the fireplace with my mom and dad, the warmth of fire and my parents love, the impossibly tall ceiling of that living room, all the tiny design elements of the house that I'd become so acquainted with so long ago, were all just as I'd left them. She took me to the backyard and showed me the pool, which was almost exactly the same as it was in 1992, with those motley blue, black, and green tiles I could spend an entire summer day just staring at, getting lost in their swirling patterns. The neighborhood was like a huge playground to us. We knew every nook and cranny of it by heart, secret pathways to each others houses via jumping fences, the best trees to climb, the spots on the street which marked the goal lines for our football games we'd play with this neon orange ball that would illuminate with the push of a button (and when we were feeling strategic or just playfully devious, we would switch off the moment before a hand-off to confuse the opposing side). It was all mapped out back then, and it still is now.

I had some great friends. There was my first ‘girlfriend,’ Alex, who I remember as being blonde and gap-toothed, and who became a meth addict, and is now working for the government somewhere, maybe D.C. There was A.J., who lived on the corner, who I’d play video games with and jump on his trampoline and play wall ball like it was neatest thing ever, and was one of the best friends I ever had - no idea what became of him. Then there was David and Devon who lived next door. David was my age and Devon was the cool older kid we all looked up to and wanted to be like. We all had the same style of chili bowl haircuts, inspired by Devon Sawa and Jonathan Taylor Thomas and we spent every free moment we had playing sports in the street. I remember a sleep-over in David’s back cabin where we watched Alien 3 and played a boyishly homoerotic game of truth-or-dare with each other. But more than anything I remember being alone most vividly. I can almost recall the feeling I’d have, that naïve blissful feeling, of just sitting in my front yard in autumn playing with the exoskeleton of a cicada for hours and hours, completely unaware of time, completely appreciating every aspect of my little world.

The summers seemed like they would never end, yet always ended too soon. Everything then had a soul back then too. Every season, every month even, every tree or bush or flower bed, every insect and animal, and especially the houses themselves
I don't believe in ‘souls’ nowadays because I've come to learn that word is just a romantic signifier people of the past gave to the human experience, and understandably so, because it is a very mysterious and complicated thing. However, if I did have a soul, I would say that more than any other band, Red House Painters SOUNDS like my soul FEELS.

Mark Kozelek is 45 now, but he was around my age when he wrote these songs. He has since matured and no longer makes such dark, reminiscing music, but knowing he was 26 once and that someone else feels the same is very comforting to me. On the song, “Void” from Old Ramon, the last Red House Painters album, Kozelek sings, “Sometimes I pick it up and play / loosen and stretch it's ancient strings / until it sounds the way I feel.” This is how music should be made. You shouldn’t be concerned with subscribing to any musical trend or make music with any ulterior motive, it should be about expressing the inexpressible, and that is what Kozelek does so well.

I considered the Rollercoaster album to be my favorite and the very, very best record I knew of for several years. I considered it to be god-tier, and although I no longer regard it as the 'best' album there is, it is certainly still one of my favorites. There was a time, maybe around 18 or 19, when I had to skip the first track of this album. The song is called "Grace Cathedral Park," and just hearing its opening chords was too much to bear for me at the time. I can listen to it now, but it still moves me greatly, as does the entire record. I have put the piano version of "Mistress" on too many mix cds to even try and count.

I've spent many years trying to either embrace, or come to terms with, or rid myself of this nostalgia. I spent a few recent years under the idea that this sort of sentiment was detrimental to my progress as a person, and it was weighing me down. However, I've recently concluded that despite this time is probably nothing more than a sweet deception, a heavenly lie we are allowed to live for ten or twelve years, its good to keep a tiny piece of your past self intact, because I've seen what happens to people who don't and how dangerous such a separation can be, and I know now that's not how I want to be.

After I left my old house there was one other place I wanted to visit before leaving Bedford. By now I'd had enough silence, and I finally put in my cd of the Rollercoaster album, and drove to the park where I use to go often as a child. It was dusk, and everything was bi-tonal. The sky was completely clear, occupied only by the silhouettes of a flock of passing birds and the white trail of a single jet plane passing by. The sky was the color of orange sherbert near the horizon, and it blended into a gradient of periwinkle blue above it. Everything else was either that sherbert orange or periwinkle blue, or a black silhouette, the dim outlines of the leaf-less treetops, each with a million tiny crooked points, and below that the water, its ripples and reflections moving fluidly, so solemn and serene. It's the beauty of these simple and seemingly ordinary scenes such as a park at dusk that Kozelek knows and captures so well, with the keen eye of a child, and the poetic mastery of a grown adult.

As I sat there listening to "Things Mean a Lot," I reminisced on the halcyon days of youth that I yearned for and spent trying to recapture in my teenage years, and came to resent for their blissful taunting of my early twenties, and now at 26, the same age Kozelek was when he was writing these, I think I finally understand what he was trying to say. Even if his songs were about some park in San Fransisco that I've never been to, in a sense mine and his (and yours) are the same, and that essence of wistfulness or saudade or nostalgia or whatever you want to call it, is all so poetically (and philosophically) summarized in one single short line midway through the Rollercoaster album:

"Things mean a lot at the time, don't mean nothin' later"

Note: normally I assign scores to albums, but to try and give these ratings would be pointless as they transcend numerical values. Let this speak for itself.

DOWNLOAD : Red House Painters - s/t & Down Colorful Hill
DOWNLOAD : Red House Painters Retrospective (2 disc, FLAC, 700~MB)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Music for cold weather, day six point five

I'm waiting until tomorrow to post my very favorite album because it is very special to me and I have a lot to write about it. In the meantime, here are some other albums I like during the colder months of the year that didn't make the top seven. If you plan on drinking while listening to these, be sure to hide the kitchen knives beforehand.

Xiu Xiu - Knife Play (2002)

Bark Psychosis - Hex (1994)

Arab Strap - Philophobia (1997)

Knife Play. The album title says it all. Sounds like being stabbed feels to a masochist. Sounds like what I'd want to hear if I was freezing to death. Sounds like the kind of music someone would make with live jumper cables clipped to their scrotum. I knew a guy who took 5 hits of acid and listened to this album once; probably the craziest human being I've ever known, because that would be at the top of my 'things you should never ever do' list. Hex. Mostly instrumental post-rock. Light cymbals + emotive, studious piano melodies, snowed under several feet of orchestrated melancholy. Probably what inspired Explosions in the Sky and bands like that. Philophobia. The most self-loathing, desperate, and saddest of all sad bastard music. You just feel fat, drunk, and loveless listening to it, its like a contact high only not at all euphoric (contact Low?). Despite all that, this is a very sincere and well-written album. Like Low or Bedhead with a drum-machine turned up a notch on the tempo, and more direct lyrics about romance/relationship woes. I had a hard time choosing between this and Elephant Shoe, but this is probably my favorite.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Music for cold weather, day six

2. Montgolfier Brothers complete discography

A lot of people consider Radiohead to be depressing music, and it certainly is, however its depressiveness is the kind for people who end up on Prozac at 19 and stay on it for the rest of their lives. Thom Yorke's is a hollow sadness, and I can understand that, because I've experienced that before. However, it's a little too mopey for me nowadays and I fancy my depressing music to be more maudlin than mopey. I don't want to fill whatever gap or emptiness resides within to some emotional homeostasis, but rather to make that gap larger and more exposed for 45 or so minutes so afterwards, it kind of heals and shrinks a little, and I realize that my circumstance isn't as bad as it could be. I want it to be therapeutic, to achieve some end and help me - not numb me.

I get myself into trouble sometimes with my hyperbolic metaphors. My description of that LN album took superlatives to a new zenith, and now I’m faced with the task of describing an even MORE depressing album via some form of elative. With LN, there's a definite immaturity to his writing. That's probably not a good word because its connotations can be demeaning (youthfulness?), but what I mean to say is that if LN is music for heartbreak at 23, Montgolfier Brothers is heartbreak for 33 or 43. Not break-up heartbreak, but divorce heartbreak. I've had these albums for several years now, and every winter I bust them out when I'm in 'the mood' and they resonate more and more with me each year.

Mark Tranmer isn't the kind of guy who knows a couple chords and has enough of a poetic/tortured soul to still make compelling music; he is the rare breed who is also a born composer. The sounds shimmer with the beauty of a blanket of winter snow, cloaking and cleansing everything in the whitest of whites. I've talked many times about how beauty and sadness are often closely related, and this is a fantastic example of this. Tranmer's discography consists of 3 albums, and there isn't a single song below stellar on any of them. One of my favorite bands for this time of year. Take a listen below and you'll hear why.

Rating: 10/10


Rolf de Heer - Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

Note: Its 5am and I'm kind of writing this half asleep so bear with me...I'll probably come back and edit tomorrow. Pardon the ranty wall of text...

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, WHAT A BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT FILM. I don't even know where to begin. This is one of those movies whose title and trailer might make it out to be not as shocking or soul-destroying as parts of it actually are, and I know that somewhere someone rented this with their family and was in for a huge surprise. I guess I should talk about the "one scene" (although there were many). But one in particular, was executed in such a casual manner I couldn't have prepared myself for it. I knew it was coming, reluctant, yes, expecting, yes, just waiting for it because it was inevitable and only a matter of time before ***** **** ******** and gets ***** ** ****, and I grimaced like I knew I would. This is by far the most touching, wonderful and inspiring movie where a mentally handicapped man takes off on a desultory trip in the world for the first time and **** ***** ** ****, ***** *** ***, **** * *** that I have ever seen. But despite all those fucked up spoilers that I don't dare expose, holy shit, this was good. There are so many pitfalls for a movie like this and Rolf de Heer avoided all of them commendably. The depravity of the films' focus was made bearable by the many hilarious moments through out, some of them laugh-out-loud hilarious. Near the end there is one of most joyous + depressing + memorable scenes I've witnessed in some time. So whether or not you want to take it as one big dark, yet humorous metaphor on Oedipal complexes or even life itself, or just at face value as a bizarre character study, keep in mind that Bad Boy Bubby is not just one of the most fucked up films ever (which it rightfully gets credit for), but a damn fine one to boot. I smiled, laughed, cried, and by the end I was exhausted from expending so much emotion. Nicolas Hope should've won an Oscar. The ending....dear lord, the ending! Monumental. Superb. Phenomenal. Marvelous. The best Australian film ever made.

Be more like Bubby. Cling wrap ignorance and hatred.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Greg Dulli and the "rebirth of the cool"

For those unfamiliar, Greg Dulli was the front man of the 90s rock band, The Afghan Whigs, and has a current project, Twilight Singers. I'm sure you've heard of one or both of these bands, because they are fairly well-known and appeal to both indie and popular circles. However, despite that popularity, Dulli has been defecated on undeservedly more than any other indie musician, and many people who share similar tastes as mine tend to write him off as being 'lame' (just one of the many vague descriptors I've heard used to describe his music)

Here is a recent short exchange I had regarding Dulli with a newly made internet buddy of mine:

Friend: Matt. I never thought of it before, but Dulli really is one of those outliers that can both demand AND defy explanation.

"Outliers can occur by chance in any distribution, but they are often indicative either of measurement error or that the population has a heavy-tailed distribution. In the former case one wishes to discard them or use statistics that are robust to outliers, while in the latter case they indicate that the distribution has high kurtosis and that one should be very cautious in using tools or intuitions that assume a normal distribution."

I think Dulli is a sign of both a measurement error AND a heavy-tailed distribution.

But it would take a serious stamp of approval from some current rock divinity to introduce him as the anti-clsasic classic he is (Maus can't do it, yet, but maybe Chris Owens? or some pitchfork douche like twin shadow? anyway it's all too gross to think about but I would want it to bring Dulli some much deserved recognition. Wouldn't it be funny if Hedi Slimane did a "rock journal" photo session with an actually FAT guy for a change, instead of all those NAMBLA shots of precious brooders?

Me: I don’t get it why a band like, say, Sonic Youth, or any number of countless others who try to exemplify 'cool' ARE considered cool, while Dulli isn’t. I mean I get it from (sub)cultural standpoint, I just think its silly and it irks me.

Dulli’s sexuality (or sex appeal or whatever) is perhaps the best (or worst kind…I don’t know, it’s at least fun/interesting) . If I had to call it something I’d call it ego or hero sex – sex that’s far more human than animalistic. Anyways, yeah people call him cheesy and lame and shit (and fat, apparently, which I don’t think he is, and even so, this is kind of douchy/tasteless)…but a) I find his music to be fatally and drippingly sexy and b) isn’t everything fraudulent/acted to some degree? So fuck the haters.

I would definitely consider him to be an outlier. Interesting word, also because I tend to be drawn to those kind of artists (Lawrence of Felt is another, there are plenty). I’m also quick to dislike something based on associations…for example if a group of people I typically loathe enjoy something, I’m partial to dislike it for that reason alone. But, not always. So if Twin Shadow's fans suddenly started swooning over Dulli’s music because it became trendy to do so, I’d probably still like it, it'd just sour the whole affair a bit for me, if only a little. [I think it's this very mentality that cause people to overlook his music, because many of his fans are not cool, rather they are the type of people who think they know what 'cool' is, but in reality haven't a clue and these fans give Dulli himself a bad rep. Guilty by association. Also the fact that he is a cocky asshole, isn't that the archetypal rockstar personality? I will say that his latest T-shirt designs aren't helping the cause much, either]

Music for cold weather, day five

3. For Against - December (1988)

If someone asked me what being a depressed outcast teen in the late 80's sounded like (and I'm speculating here, because I was born in '85), I would recommend them one of three albums:

Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation
REM's Dead Letter Office
For Against's December

Remember the coolest kids at your school, who weren't quite lame enough to be in the goth crowd, but smoked pot before anyone else, and read Nietzsche and shit, and hated everything maintstream? You were either friends with them or they scared you or both, but they were there in almost every school. These are those kids, and this is their soundtrack resonating from a transient point in the past that seems so long-gone in modern times.

For whatever bizarre, obtuse reason, this band, along with some others such as Dif Juz, get described as being "dream pop." When I think of the term dream pop, I think of bands like Cocteau Twins or Lovespiralsdownwards, Cranes, or music you can get high and make love with your steady girlfriend to because its actually 'dreamy.' For Against is very un-dreamy, discontent and confused, lucid in the most depressing way.

To me For Against sounds like a more melodic early 80s emo group inculcated with The Cure's proto-coldwave sounding guitars. The album itself is named after the most barren month of the year; the last month, the dying month before rebirth, and that alone should tell you the mood of the album: it's a brooding, loveless, hopeless one, drenched in the emotional despair of youth. This is purely subjective of course, but with the exception of the album I'm going to post tomorrow, December is the most 'nostalgic' sounding music I've ever heard. I feel like I have some memory of having heard these melodies before, feeling a certain way: sleepy, naive, curious and taken back by it all, riding with my mom on the way to school at 5am, her in her flight attendant uniform, even though I know it was probably silent except for the familiar drone of the car engine and the road ambience sneaking through tiny crevices in the rolled up windows. Every song on this album is so overflowing with feeling and I can't stress enough how much it's like stepping into a time machine from an era of days past, a niche moment in a niche corner of America in the late 1980s. Even if you were not, like myself, actually there, this record will still make you feel nostalgic for that period, and its one of those bestirring, evocative ones which conveys the kind of rich, darkened sentiments that begin when childhood ends, are strongest during our teen years, and gradually evaporate as we get older. Imbibe and appreciate it while it lasts, because it won't last forever.

Rating: 10/10


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Music for cold weather, day four

Where lies sorrow lies holy ground there
but where lies heartbreak, neither god, nor Jesus, nor angels dare.

-Me, just now, playing on Oscar Wilde

LN - Novel (2003)

This band is called LN and this album is called Novel. Neither of these names divulge much information, and outside of the vague cover art which slightly resembles early Red House Painters or shoegaze, there is still a lot of ambiguity as to what lay inside if you were to come across it on a non-existent display shelf somewhere. So if I were to describe what it sounds like I'd say a mix of slowcore and shoegazy dream pop, however, the heart and soul of a work of art, are not so easy to describe in a few paragraphs or reduced to genres.

I should also mention that this is the most obscure record I've ever posted. There are no songs on youtube, no discographies anywhere, no other blogs writing about it, and naturally none of his music is available for purchase or download anywhere. If you don't believe me go ahead and look for yourself. Now, a big reason for this extreme level of obscurity for such a wonderful album is that LN doesn't really have an audience. Gary Murray is considered to be a Christian musician and his work as LN is under a Christian label. The Christian music community is more often than not a very insular and segregated one. I would also have to assume that his music has been ignored because the Christian community doesn't jive too well with themes of drug addiction and debauched fornication (“This motel room smells of sex and the angels/That danced on your tongue the minute you took the pills”) set to music that sounds like it was made on heroin, during the kind of depressive episode that stems, not because the person you've been dating for a month broke up with you, but when you've obsessively and secretly loved someone for years and years and you finally get the courage to tell them your feelings and you find out they're fucking some metal head, the kind that often ends with a neighbor finding your bloated body in a bloody bathtub.

Here is something Murray himself wrote about his music:

"Remember that house in the old neighborhood, the one that was slowly falling apart brick by brick? We swore the damn thing was breathing, that there was a face behind every window, torn nails and rust colored stains on every shutter, broken words and violent poetry etched into every burned-in shadow, that the walls were whispering to themselves. There was always a real stillness in the air, and we felt as if we were intruding on sacred ground; there were stories there, stories buried underneath the pale dirt in the backyard near the rusting swing set, stories burned into the wallpaper in sickly yellow stains, stories reflected in every single shard of glass left on the front porch. Of course, we never approached that house any closer than we had to, keeping our steps light and straying as far as the cracked sidewalk would allow. We never knew why; perhaps it was out of respect, or fear, or some vague, indefinable sense of something both quietly sad and unassumingly ominous.

We left the quiet streets and strangely discontented air of our childhood grounds, losing ourselves in the veins and arteries of this land’s secret anatomy. Some of us left for various cities, hiding amid the darkened archways and high-rise towers left rusting in the broken skyline with its buildings gone missing like teeth; some of us left for wide-open spaces, wandering alone on empty beaches and fallow fields. But the ghosts from that old house still came to visit us, instilling us with the same odd feelings of delicate unease as before, manifesting themselves as broken memories swooping down from every street light that went dark as we passed, or riding on the hoods of our cars as we careened wildly down interstate highways.

As we grew older, the ghosts began to fade away, until all that was left of their once ardent protestations (Against what? We never did suss that out) was a gentle, yet oddly discomfiting, sense of nostalgia. The once-constant feeling of fragile dread finally gave way to a small sense of loss, like we accidentally threw away something that was only really important in our youth. Some of us found loves, got married, settled into a life of quiet repetition and easy contentment; some of us found jobs in our own comfortable nooks, hidden away from the rest of the world behind glaring screens; some of us wandered ahead, looking for some vague framework that we could call home. And yet, every once in awhile, we would look outside office windows, peer through darkened doorways and into empty closets, looking for something that none of us could define, and we’d sigh when we realized that there was nothing there.

The nostalgia finally gave way to a hushed and inexpressible sadness, which could only be described as the feeling of someone tenderly but persistently pressing against your chest. We learned to live with that feeling, and soon we grew very fond of it, and none of us really knew what we’d do if it left us. It gave us strength; for some of us, it became a close and cherished companion.

No one really knew who heard the songs first; perhaps one of us heard the delicate guitar lingering in some smoke-filled club, perhaps another heard the warm and comforting baritone voice calling from across a busy street. I would like to believe that we all had a hand in crafting these songs, cobbling together our own memories of old homes sinking into disrepair, creeping into abandoned factories lying on the outskirts of once-bustling industrial cities, running freely through those golden fields that seemed to stretch on forever beyond the horizon, wetting our feet in still lakes on the ends of rotting docks; nevertheless, whether we heard the soft crackle of vinyl in the background, or the gentle wash of guitar, or those strangled notes that recalled an older rural America that we never knew, we recognized these songs as our own.

It was the soundtrack for that strange and beautiful childhood we tried to hard to forget, when every coincidence was fate and when our surroundings bordered on the magical. It was the music we heard whenever we passed that old vacant house, and we realized that the walls actually were singing to each other, repeating our stories before we ever really knew them to be ours. It was the sound of contradictions and paradoxes, of happiness and regret, of gain and loss. More importantly, we could finally define those strange feelings we felt, the ones that teetered between regret and sadness and inexplicable nostalgia. And at that moment, when we firsthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif heard these songs swirling through crackling speakers, when we heard them resonate against the walls of a room that was never really meant for music, we realized that we never really lost anything at all - we just weren’t looking in the right places.

Rating: 9.5/10

DOWNLOAD (file also features some very very hard to find bonus tracks from some of Murray's other albums)

Edit: there is one other review I've found for Novel and it can be found here. Far more in depth than my own, which relies largely on metaphor and imagery, so check it out if you're still not sold.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Music for cold weather, day three

David Thomas Broughton - The Complete Guide to Insufficiency (2005)

Folk is a very perennial genre, maybe the most perennial genre I can think of. Many people consider a good folk album to be one which sounds like it could have been written in the 60's because that decade was a very prominent era for the genre and there is a misconception for many that the style itself was birthed during those years. However, the 60's folk explosion was merely a revival, and this 'folk' was actually 'pop folk.' The term 'folk' has been around since the 19th century, and its styles have been around for much longer as well, well back into the 1600's. So in my opinion, a good folk album, is not one who is chameleonic of a half century ago, but precedes that, and sounds even more antiquated, which brings us to David Thomas Broughton....

If it weren't for various effects, and if recording technology had been invented a hundred years prior, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency sounds like it could have been written sometime in the 1850s. The civil war era mythos, the use of archaic language ("cacodaemonaical"), the deep, howling, haunting vocals, and the various structures of the songs themselves all create a very convincing sense of artifice, which brings to mind times of the distant past.

I know very little about musical composition, as my academic background was in visual art, however, I know enough to understand that the two ideologies occasionally overlap. Broughton puts to use various principles such as repetition, progression, and contrast to create a seamlessly fluid work. The songs begin with simple chords, sounding innocuous enough, and develop organically, with new layers introduced, clashing and making love with one another, sometimes chaotically into rich, thick harmonies. They begin to swell until each song feels so giant it just might POP, and then, by the time you're so drawn in and hypnotized, end abruptly and transition naturally into the next. These transitions are very central to the album as a whole, and it's perhaps one of the most continuous collection of songs you'll ever hear in a folk record, sounding more like one long track divided into five sections rather than five separate, individual pieces. By the end of the entire affair, you're in such a stupor, you really don't know time has passed (which, I might argue, is the very function of music itself), nor do you realize that you've just been listening to songs about death, self-loathing, and live sex shows because you were so mesmerized by the soulful dance of the chords and the entrancing beauty therein. Such are the soothing sounds of any good folk musician, and despite being lost amongst a sea of revivalists and band-wagoners, Broughton is unquestionably one of the best you will ever hear, old or new. Do listen for yourself.

Rating: 9.5/10


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Music for cold weather, day two

6. Smog - Wild Love (1995)

It's Christmas Eve, 1995, and you just had your heart really broken for the first time and you're snowed in with your entire family, all the lame cousins and insufferable second cousins you wouldn't talk to if it weren't for familial obligations and aunts and uncles who get obnoxiously jovial after having one too many cocktails, and you can't get that fucking night out of your head and you can't talk to any of them about it because they are so far fucking removed from reality that you want to puke, and talking to them would make you feel even more alone because they wouldn't understand, because they are the people you are supposed to feel closest to, but they feel like total strangers instead, ones you're forced to associate with every year around this time. You're drinking from a water bottle filled with siphoned Dewer's you stole from your grandparent's liquor closet when no one was looking (and maybe a couple muscle relaxers from the bathroom cabinet, if you're lucky), and now you're sitting outside listening to Smog on shitty headphones at 3AM on the back porch watching a cloudburst of snow trickle down in waves, reminding you of him/her because everything does, because that's how heartbreak is. You're wrapped in layers, coats, jackets, scarves, winter gloves, and chain-smoking, hoping no one comes out and discovers you. You're freezing your ass off, but it beats the alternative which is being warm and listening to that goddamn spinning carrousel on the mantle playing a MIDI loop of "Silent Night" because it would be too much to bear and you might just off yourself if you had to deal with that on top of everything else. Finally, the albums ends and you feel like you may have hypothermia, but you don't care because the numbness from the freezing air, the scotch, and the music makes you feel a strange sense of catharsis and you stumble inside into bed and as you drift off to sleep, you can't quite remember what his/her eyes look like, and you take comfort and solace in that, if only for those few minutes before you lose consciousness.

Rating: 9.5/10


Music for cold weather, day one

7. Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You (2001)

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the reformation of a couple of late 90s / early 2000s 'punk' bands that I don't feel the need to mention here. When asked to guess who it was who had reformed, I replied with a question of my own: is it Unwound? And really, as far as I'm concerned, given the parameters of the genre, it's really the only band I would care to see reunite. Sadly, however, it wasn't Unwound, and they don't seem like the bunch who would likely get back together anyways. Wishful thinkers will think wishfully, however.

Leaves Turn Inside You (the kind of conveying title well-suited for this type of music) is the final studio release by Unwound, an epic double album of sober, somber, Sonic Youth-y guitar rock. It just sounds like teenage 'misery' feels, the kind of romantic misery where you wallow in it, the kind that almost feels good because it isn't real misery, the kind often existing parallel to the fatalism of youth. This album is angry, but not the kind of vapid anger often seen in metal or grunge, rather the anger that stems from love or loss of the love, or on the contrary a general lethargy towards life, which can spark emotion in itself. This big bad mother is a post-rock masterpiece and one of my favorite albums to listen to when I'm feeling 'under the weather.'

Rating: 9/10


That soughing soughing sussurus of Stygian sentimentality:

Music for cold weather - a week-long feature of sorts

After the holidays, winter can be a pretty dismal time of the year (with the exception of Valentine's day, which for many is a more wretched day than any non-holiday). Outlooks on life can become bleaker than usual, routines blander, relationships more bitter, etc. Apparently January is the new October, however, and I did not get the memo, because I've been waiting patiently for the first cold front to hit north Texas for several months now and it has only finally arrived.

In those barren lifeless months of January through March, there is a certain intimacy between us and decay, decline, and death, the part of life's cycle we at once fear and are fascinated by. At the same time, maybe winter wasn't so magical as a child, maybe you were just transferring parental love into the environment around you so you reminisce accordingly. Or maybe all the flickering colored lights and huddling around hearths of fireplaces possibly, on some subconscious level, elicit memories of prenatal warmth of the womb, with the cold weather of nature representing the 'coldness' that exists outside the protection and comfort of your fleshy cave of nascence....which are also inextricably linked to sex and all forms of.....wait, what were we talking about again?

The point is that cold weather is evocative of many things and for whatever reason it has always reminded me of my 'jeunesse' and music that typically reminds me of cold weather also reminds me that time as well.

I'm going to post seven albums (one per day for the next week) that try and encapsulate this sensation. Melancholy will most likely be dealt in dense doses, because winter, more than any other season, is generally when most people feel down and out. Some of the stuff is raw and noisy, capturing the electricity in the air of the first cold days of fall, and teenage angst, while other albums will be sparse and solemn, more evocative of those later, barren months of winter when the numbing chill begins to affect our moods and the type of music that brings to mind earlier times of youth. There is also the whole sadness/beauty dichotomy but that's enough explaining for now. Onto the albums themselves, which hopefully will be explanation enough...

Vermin Supreme

Western world capitalism and American 'democracy' have been at a rubicon for some time now. In any situation which could be deemed absurd because of its inherent futility, the only logical response is to make humor of it. This man, aka Vermin Supreme, is doing just that: becoming an act in the travesty of American politics, and undermining it with an absurdist parody and various levels of irony/humor. Beyond that, his performance is nearly perfect. His outfit speaks for itself, and much like the politicians he is mocking, he is a good, relaxed speaker giving him the presence of an actual presidential candidate, which is the basis for any quality impersonation, exaggerated or otherwise. For all these reasons this video is an ore of comedy gold and the best youtube clip I've seen in some time. VOTE VERMIN SUPREME!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I finally gave in and made a FB page. 'Like' if you feel inclined:



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dominant Legs - Hoop of Love

Dominant Legs - Hoop of Love from Eugene Kotlyarenko on Vimeo.

and one more from director Eugene Kotlyarenko. Watch if you're feeling gloomy.

Glasser - Treasury of We (Delorean Remix) - UNOFFICIAL from Eugene Kotlyarenko on Vimeo.

Weird movies I've watched this week

Bad Biology was hysterical and absurd, 0's and 1's was an event to behold, and Maximum Shame was pretty dumb and reinforced my general dislike for drama majors.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A few little things

As far as music is concerned, BS is based around a fairly singular aesthetic (undiscovered quality music from years past, with the occasional exception). If you're ever in the market to discover some newer tunes, my good friend Ryan Ellis runs a gracefully written blog of his own centered around undiscovered quality music of the present, Weekly Tape Deck. His 2011 year end list had some amazing things I hadn't even heard of before, so give it a check.

Also, I've been meaning to post some cold weather albums I've had sitting around for a few months now, but considering it's still 60 degrees here in North Texas, I'm gonna hold off until we at least get some sleet. In the meantime I have some more mixes coming later this month. If anyone has any requests, feel free to email me and I'll happily oblige.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

MIX - From Auschwitz to the Ritz

Genre: Post-punk-meets-pop-punk

01) Erstaz - Smile in Shadow
02) Strutz - We are so Fine
03) I'm so Hollow - Distraction
04) The Mudhutters - Page 41
05) Shiny Two Shiny - Through the Glass
06) Mariah - Shinzo no Tobira
07) Silicon Teens - T.V. Playtime
08) Tone Set - Living in Another Land
09) Groovies - Boys Ride Bikes Girls Want to Dance
10) The Freshies - Fasten Your Seatbelts
11) Honey Bane - Baby Love
12) Mark Beer - Pretty
13) The Digital Dinosaurs - Amy Turtle
14) The Cubs - A Dance to Forget
15) The Scrotum Poles - Pick the Cat's Eyes Out
16) Cleaners From Venus - I Can't Stop (Holding On)
17) R. Stevie Moore - Too Old (To Fall in Love)
18) Television Personalities - The Crying Room
19) Greg Vandike - Final Scene
20) Rexy - Perfect Day
21) Max Splodge - Bicycle Seat


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

When we dead awaken

we find that we have never lived

YMO - Wild Ambitions

Pedro Almodóvar - The Skin I Live In (2011)

It's a shame I'm just now getting around to this, because it would have ended up in my top 5 of 2011 had I seen it sooner. By far, Almodovar's most bizarre and beautiful film yet. Whether or not he is a better writer or director remains unknown, the only thing certain is that he is excels at both. His latest features some of the finest cinematography I've seen all year alongside a wickedly genius plot that if I was feeling bold, would describe as 'Shakespearean' (maybe even more intricate and original than Talk to Her, which was previously my favorite story of his). Last but not least, 100% guaranteed to sexually confuse many straight men.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Tyde Discography

Once, Twice, and Three's Co. (appropriate, unassuming titles for such a trifecta), are three of the finest modern pop albums you will ever hear (and will never hear on the radio). I stumbled across these gems last summer and I knew from the moment I heard the opening chords to "All my Bastard Children" that these guys would be all I was listening to for months to come, and I was right. Shimmery production, catchy riffs with Felty-sounding guitars, and sun-and-marijuana baked rhythms, blend together to create some old-fashioned good vibrations. Unmistakably Californian, this is the kind of music you want blasting full volume in your beat up convertible when taking a trip up or down highway 1 to go surfing in Malibu or Orange County with some good friends and a big bag of pot. A modern soundtrack for tan-lines, bleached blonde hair, the smell of surf wax, sandy toes, and heavy eyes, but also the exhaustion and interpersonal disruptions that arise from this kind of bohemian lifestyle, as seen in some of their slower, more sincere songs such as "Best Intentions," "Separate Cars," and "Breaking Up the Band." It's what you'd get if Lawrence, Comet Gain, and Mojave 3 collaborated at the end of a blurred, sun-washed summer in Southern California. I'm totally posting this band at the wrong time of year, but as they say, summer's always just around the corner.

Apparently, Darren and co. are in the process of writing the fourth Tyde album, and there's no doubt that it will be one of my favorite albums of 2012. Be on the lookout for it later this year.


Jens Lekman at Skybar, Mondrian Sessions