Archive for the ‘Music & Film’ Category

Invite David Bazan.

This last Sunday I was fortunate enough to host Mr. Bazan (or Dave as he likes me to call him) at my house for one of his living room shows.  For those of you who don’t know – this very blog is named after one of his songs, so to have the man playing in my house was certainly a highlight.  For the past few years Bazan has been playing these intimate venues with about 40-50 people in attendance – alone or sometimes with a friend backing him.  At our show he played an electric into a tiny amp, no mic, and a simple floor lamp by his side.

Bazan played for a little over an hour, with quite a bit of dialogue in between songs where he would answer questions – a practice that he encouraged, rather than was forced upon him.  It was very refreshing to hear someone speak frankly about the struggles of being a musician – most especially in the financial sense.  Knowing my pride, I would have tried to play it up as if I was killing it, but Bazan admitted to performing these house shows because of the practicality of them being more profitable than traditional shows that require a lot more cost and effort – and that it is needed to be able to keep playing music for a living.

He played a selection of songs from Pedro, Headphones, and his solo albums.  His “$300 guitar” didn’t quite keep tune, and the playing wasn’t flawless by any means – but it was more than made up for with the power of his voice, and the overall coolness of such a rarefied show.

After the show, Bazan stuck around briefly and folks were able to grab pictures and buy some albums.  Though I hosted the event I didn’t really talk to him much, other than a couple phone calls leading up the the show – but he seemed like a very genuine and likable guy, and this night only served to enhance my love of his music.

God bless you, David Bazan – whether you want it or not.

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Sleeper Albums

Sometimes a record just fails to win you over on the first, or second or third listen.  How many listens do you give it before accepting that you just won’t like it?  And once you reach that conclusion, do you sell it back to the store or keep it, in hopes that, at some point in the future, you’re able to appreciate it?  Here, I offer a list of albums that took a long time to take.

The Kinks “Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1”

Why I bought it: I bought this album because I heard Yo La Tengo cover a song called “Top of the Pops” off this record.  I didn’t particularly care for the song, but I figured that if Yo La Tengo liked it, I probably could eventually too.  I only gave this album one or two cursory listens before putting it back on the shelf, where it sat for years before I came back around to truly discovering it.

Why it took so long:  I think that, when I bought this album, I was very infatuated with the Kinks as the “You really got me” mod, edgy 60’s pop band.  I had no room in my musical vocabulary for a folksy, ironic Kinks of the 70s.  Maybe I just had too big a gap in my Kinks discography.

Why I tried it again: I had a vague notion that I was missing out on vital music with my limited view of the Kinks as a mod band, and “Something Else by the Kinks” eventually became my bridge.  This album still echos of “You really got me” but gives glimpses of the Kinks to come.  It took a few more album purchases (“Face to Face”, “Village Green Preservation Society”, “Arthur”) for me to finally return to “Lola.”  Once I really began to love Lola I couldn’t understand how I missed it the first time.  Music is just like that sometimes I guess.

Superchunk “No Pocky for Kitty”

Why I bought it: One of my friends whom I worked with at Fingerprints told me it was one of his favorite albums.  He seemed to have really good taste in music, so when I saw this I bought it.  I was in college at the time and had a lot of expendable income.

Why it took so long: I listened to this album for about a week before deciding so decisively that I disliked it that I actually sold it back to the store I had bought it from.  I’m not sure what I disliked so much.  It was more noisy and aggressive than anything I had learned to like at that point (I was still just a couple years out of a heavy hip-hop phase, maybe that’s a factor) and Mac’s (the singer) voice seemed strange and out of place.  Maybe it was a little too close to pop-punk, a genre that I was firmly set against ever enjoying.

Why I tried again: For one, when I sold the album back, the clerk at the store (where I also worked- this was in Colorado) seemed really surprised, and told me this was one of the first punk albums that he really dug.  That planted the seed I guess.  Then some other friends told me how much they loved Superchunk and I told them about my experience.  They recommended “Foolish” and, though it took a while, that album got me over the hump.  When I finally got back around to buying “No Pocky” a second time (and feeling very lame doing so) I was a Superchunk fan, and I instantly loved this album on the second go-around.  As a side note, I almost never sell music back to the music store now, in part because of this experience.

George Harrison “All Things Must Pass”

Why I bought it: My brother Dan bought this album for me for Christmas one year.

Why it took so long: I don’t think I had much interest in it from the start.  George Harrison seemed like a relatively minor part of the Beatles to me, and I wasn’t terribly interested in any other Beatles solo material at the time anyway.  Beyond that, it was three records (six sides), and as such just seemed like way too much work to get into.  I think I listened to a couple of the sides once or twice before putting it on my shelf, figuring that it at least beefed up the appearance of my record collection.

Why I tried again: In a word, family.  No, not to appease my brother, who I’m sure is quite unconcerned about it, but my wife and kids, who keep me on a rather narrow range in terms of what will be tolerated in the house.  This limitation has caused me to reexamine most everything in my record collection that is relatively mellow (relegating all of my punk rock to my classroom where I foist it upon my students).  I pulled this out one day figuring it would be a safe bet for the family, and was really surprised to find that I love this record.  I still haven’t listened to the final two sides more than once or twice, but there are great songs littered all over the first four sides.

U2 “October”

Why I bought it: I think I’ve mentioned this elsewhere on this blog, but this is actually the first album I ever bought.  I was probably about 9 years old and Joshua Tree was huge, and I knew that U2 was somewhat of a Christian band.  So, I bought this on cassette at Wherehouse.  I chose this particular album because I didn’t know anything about music, and I was confused by the fact that I had more than one choice in buying a U2 tape.  I had no idea which album had all the songs on the radio.  So I chose this one because I thought the guys looked cool on the cover (can you blame me?).

Why it took so long: October is decidedly U2’s least accessible album (well, maybe second-most next to Zooropia).  Being 9 years old didn’t help in this regard.  I remember listening to it thinking ‘What’s the big deal with this band?’ and ‘This doesn’t sound very Christian’ (my nine-year-old mind was rather ill-suited for gleaning nuance).  I gave up on this tape pretty quickly and, as I recall, just went back to listening to the radio and/or my brother Dan’s new wave tapes.

Why I tried again:  In junior high I heard “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on KROQ and absolutely adored that song.  A friend of mine loaned me “Under a Blood Red Sky” on cassette and this started my U2 infatuation.  In high school I listened to Joshua Tree for the first time (of course, I knew some of the hits at that point, but had never really listened to the album all the way through) and before long I wanted to own every album in the U2 catalog. I bought “October” on vinyl, but it still didn’t take.  What finally did it was when my friend Matt Clatterbuck referred to it as a great album and specifically said that “Scarlet” was a particularly beautiful song, and that the drums sounded like nails going into Jesus’ hands.  I went home that night and listened to that song and finally understood the genius of “October.”

There are others, but I’m sure that most readers will only indulge so many of these personal tales before losing interest.  So I turn it over to you: which albums/bands/songs took a long time for you to appreciate?

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Ran across this post today about a boat made from 12,500 plastic bottles.  Very interesting to say the least.  Check out the post to read more, and view the video below for a trailer about the project.

Added bonus… the guy who made the trailer and is on the boat filming has a film company in my hometown of Long Beach, and it looks like he’s been filming some cool stuff.

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Last week I had written post about American Idol, and how I was finally coming around on it after years of hating the very idea of it, reluctantly watching it to appease my wife, and/or guiltily enjoying it with a large dose of self-loathing.  I wrote that this season was different and offered some of the most creative and talented women to ever grace the stage (the men are still pretty boring though).  The show seemed to be embracing a wider palette of expression than ever before.  Then Lilly got voted off and I scraped the whole thing.  Lilly was really incredible- sort of a female version of Devendra Banhart- a truly unique talent and something completely different from the American Idol mold.  Last week she played mandolin and had an ultra-creative (by A.I. standards at least) arrangement of some sweet old-timey song.  But she was voted off, and I’m back to my primary criticism of American Idol- that it sucks any and all creative life blood from the contestants and pushes them to appease the largest American Idol-watching demographic, which seems to be teenage girls and senior citizens.

My frustration with American Idol allows me to identify, on some level, with liberals who wish our policy makers were less beholden to Middle America.  ‘Who cares what 60% of the country thinks- they’re all knuckle draggers anyway!’  I’m reminded that democracy sucks, except that it’s better than every other form of government.  I hate that Lilly went home, but I’d rather it be because of a million teenage girls than because of the whim of a Simon Cowell or Ellen Degeneres.  The only thing worse than the “uneducated” opinion of the masses is the “special” opinion of the “experts.”

Speaking of which, another frustration I have with the show that has really emerged this season is just how arbitrary the judges are.  Randy will say, ‘that just wasn’t a good song for you.’  Then Simon says ‘that was the perfect song for you.’  So who’s right?  What exactly are the criteria of a “good song” for a particular contestant?  What does that even mean?  If the song is too “good”, then there’s a danger that the contestant might be “playing it safe.”  Rarely, if ever, do the judges make a single objective and/or verifiable statement other than the occasional “it was a bit pitchy.”  Here’s another one: “it felt like karaoke.”  Well how so?  Last week one of the judges criticized a 16-year-old contestant for singing a song about a father calling his wife and kids- something he couldn’t really identify with.  Well I’m pretty sure he’s never had a girlfriend, sex, or a political opinion, so what do we want him to sing about?   Studying for his A.P. exams?

And yet, I’m holding out hope that America will surprise me and anoint Crystal Bowersox the winner.  If you haven’t seen Crystal perform then you owe yourself a viewing.  She looks like a hippy, has bad teeth, and is all around unpolished by pop standards.  Yet she sings incredibly, plays guitar really well and has a bit of a punk edge to her- sort of a streak of cockiness that is strangely refreshing.  I have zero confidence that she will win because of this demographic problem discussed earlier, but I’m stoked she’s made it this far.  I actually kind of hope she doesn’t win, so that she wont be forced into the American Idol recording mold.  She needs to form a band and get signed to an indie rock label.  There’s another girl that I really like- Siobhan Magnus.  She may not be as roundly talented as Crystal, but she’s kind of bizarre and unpredictable, and, as demonstrated with her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Think,” has some serious pipes.  All in all, there’s a lot of interest with the women, so I plan to continue to watch with great disappointment until all the interesting ones have been weeded out and we’re left with that insipid 17-year old girl as the winner.  I really can’t complain- I don’t vote.

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Release the penguins!

Ironically, my brother Greg was writing a post on our Uncle John at the same time I was.  However, as he is an infinitely better writer than I am, I would suggest you check out his post over at Lost In the Cloud.

Our uncle was a reclusive, witty, and highly intelligent fellow who has become a bit famous posthumously because of his wit and absurd composition ability.

RIP uncle John.

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Have a great weekend everyone.  Enjoy “To Kingdom Come” by Passion Pit. Thanks again to Greg for the introduction.

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Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Thanks in part to lists from Elijah and Greg, I checked out Bon Iver.  I have been addicted to this song for a couple of weeks now.  Enjoy.

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