This song makes me happy.
October 24, 2009
October 12, 2009
May 21, 2009
March 26, 2009
If ever there were a time for something a bit melancholy, it’s right now. This is when The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up can suit quite nicely. All three of the songs below are from their first album, It’s Winter Here, certainly their best album. If you are one of the handful of people who possess the three-disc mixtape I made for Christmas of 2007, the song “Breakdown Championship” is one of my personal favorites. The most haunting line from that song, when taken out of context sounds completely ridiculous, is, “you asked me what’s my greatest fear, well, honey, it’s living here earning $6.50 an hour.” The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up are a five-piece band from Oakland, California, have produced three albums, and have been on hiatus since 2006.
|The Jim Yoshi Pile-up
It’s Winter Here (2000):
November 29, 2006
These are the last three songs I’ve downloaded from Soulseek.
Nada Surf – I think about the song “Popular” occasionally but I could never remember who sang it until a few days ago when I heard an advertisement for them on the radio.
Stars- I heard this song one night last month while I was drinking heavily and listening to Indie Pop Rocks on SomaFM. It appealed to me in my drunken state.
Polyphonic Spree- Someone sent me this song on a mix tape (a CD actually, but “mix tape” is part of our lexicon and much more ironic/nostalgic/postmodern than “mix CD”) while I was in Iraq in 2004 and I love it. It is the music to the opening scene of one of my imaginary shorts I shot in Iraq, one of my many imaginary projects.
Nada Surf – Popular.mp3
Stars – Time Can Never Kill The True Heart.mp3
|The Polyphonic Spree
The Beginning Stages Of… (2000):
The Polyphonic Spree – La La.mp3
November 18, 2006
I’ve struggled to convince my friends of the greatness of the Deftones. It could be because context is everything with most art, or more simply put, what was going on in your life when you were first fully exposed to the art. Heavy bands like the Deftones are easy to understand when you are raised in a stimuli-deprived Christian suburbia. So I won’t try to explain them again here. However, I may not need to. Apparantly the highbrows at The New Yorker agree with me. This week’s music section (Feb 11, 2006) has a 1300 word write-up called “Heavy Weather” by Sasha Frere-Jones on the band and their new album, Saturday Night Wrist. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Listening to … any of Deftones’ best songs, is a bit like driving through a snowstorm: you lose your bearings, and it’s both scary and delightful.
I present to you, for your consideration, three great Deftones songs.
|From their new release and fifth album,
Saturday Night Wrist (2006):
Hole in the Earth.mp3
|From their second album,
Around the Fur (1997):
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).mp3
|And from their third album,
White Pony (2000):
May 16, 2006
What can I say. I’ve been in a funk. Existential despair. Not depression, just this sense of hopelessness and futility.
I read Paul Rieckhoff’s book, Chasing Ghosts. His memoir about Iraq reminded me much of my own experiences there and I’m disgusted by what a miscarriage of morality Iraq has become. My actual feelings on the subject are much too lachrymal for print, so I’ll leave it at this: I’m nostalgic for the days when we would impeach a president for something as trivial as getting a blowjob from a rubenesque intern.
There has been little that has brought me much inspiration as of late other than music. Perhaps this is ironic. Perhaps I should be finding inspiration in others’ writings, but it pleases me to hope that someone might listen to what I have listened to and feel as I did when I first discovered it.
All three of these songs are from The New Pornographers’ 2005 album, “Twin Cinema“.
May 4, 2006
Today’s mp3s– a short course in heavy:
I feel I need to balance all the recent feel-good music I’ve put up, hence today’s dose of darkness.
In 2004, Revolver magazine made a list of the top 100 heaviest bands of all time. Here were the top five:
1. Black Sabbath
3. Led Zepplin
I read about the list in the November 11, 2004 installment of E-Verse Radio, a daily emailing of poetry, art, and literature done by my friend Ernie Hilbert. I was impressed that the list got Neurosis right, but I was appalled at the top 3. This was my response to the list:
Sabbath and Zeppelin (#1 and #3) top this list, I’m sure, out of respect for the fact that they have both transcended bandhood and now exist on an exalted level of rock royalty and for this I have to summarily ignore both of them since you could replace the world “Heaviest” with any adjective you like and they’d both still be somewhere in the top five spots. Soundgarden (#2), imho, aren’t the least bit heavy and it’s completely random for them to be this far up the list. Maybe Revolver used an electoral college system to tally the votes. But let me get to my point.
Neurosis (#4) is the heaviest band of all time. I discovered them while listening to late night radio during a visit to Sacramento (home of The Deftones– a band conspicuously absent from this list– whose early work is so heavy you feel uncomfortable listening to it, like watching Deliverance or The Deer Hunter for the first time). In reference to a recent show in California, the DJ could not have expressed their heaviness more clearly: “You know when Neurosis has taken the stage.” Neurosis is a platoon-sized group replete with musicians and instruments– massive and redundant arrays of drum kits, bagpipes, an obscene number of guitars and bass guitars, and a singer without equal who barbarically yells/bellows/screams every word with an inhuman intensity that could raise the dead or at least summon a minor demon. They are a death metal orchestra, a Polyphonic Spree for Satan worshippers. Their sound is densely layered, breathtakingly complex, and completely engaging. To experience them properly, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is vitally important to play them LOUD LOUD LOUD. Anytime I have a party in my honor where I have autonomous rule over the stereo, i.e. birthday party, going away party, I make my guests endure the album, “Times of Grace”. (But I usually have the decency to wait until everyone is properly wrecked and anyone pregnant or with a heart condition has gone home for the night.) And it doesn’t end there, oh no, there’s more. As if being the heaviest band ever wasn’t enough, they continue to innovate by tunnelling to hell while the Tower of Babel is being built to heaven. They have an alter-ego called Tribes of Neurot. All the same members, but an entirely instrumental incarnation. Still heavy, but ethereal and creepy, like what elevator music in a nightmare would be. But here’s the absurdly cool part. Every Tribes of Neurot album is a sort of doppelganger to a similarly titled sister Neurosis album in that they are both perfectly musically synchronized and can be played simultaneously for an entirely new experience in heavy. I say again, Neurosis is the heaviest band of all time.
Also, the fact The Mars Volta is not on this list is just simply immoral, but I’ll save you that lecture. I submit to you an adjusted list:
Top Five Heaviest Bands of All Time
2. The Mars Volta
Maynard James Keenan of Tool was raised in Ohio (many angst-heavy bands grew from seeds in Ohio, including Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails), but later formed Tool in L.A. with Michigan-born Adam Jones. “Prison Sex” is from their second album, “Undertow”, and is probably one of their most well-known and difficult songs. Tool stands strong as one of the staples in the world of dark, heavy prog rock.
Deftones was formed in Sacramento in 1988. “7 Words” is from their first (and most compelling) album, “Andrenaline”. Lyrically and musically the songs are spartan then distorted, alternating between Chino Moreno’s sometimes whispered, sometimes unintelligibly screamed vocals. Like the Tool albums, a horror-movie type mystique was created by the bands, knowing how to present morbid or unsettling artwork in the albums, knowing when to not print the lyrics to the more controversial songs to intensify their impact, and generally having a keen sense of how to package the band’s presentation in a way that gave gravitas to the illusion of the heavy subject matter of their work. The essence of “heavy” bands requires a lot of suspension of disbelief to properly enjoy the ride, and both these bands have always done this expertly.
Neurosis is a different beast altogether. Formed in Oakland, their approach to heaviness is a spiritual one. Sonically they are without peer, but philosophically they fall somewhere between death metal and jam band. But I’ve said enough about Neurosis already. “Under the Surface” is from their sixth album, “Times of Grace.” Enjoy the music. Force yourself to listen to all three songs. Pretend you are a 14 year old boy living in suburban Ohio, escaping the strip malls and the McMansions by sinking into the underlying pathos paved over by Walmart.
April 27, 2006
I’ve really been on a boy-girl band thing lately. For most my life I liked either male vocalists or female vocalists, but not both at the same time. If it was a male, I tried to identify with what he sang. If it was a female, I tried to imagine how beautiful she must be. But to hear both types of vocals at the same time just seemed… confusing.
For some fucking reason, I love the male-female vocal thing now. I’m sure there some really interesting psychological explanation for this, but I’m at a loss to explain it. I’m sure it’s something sexual.
In my youth, the only time I liked the boy-girl thing was with the British one-hit wonder, The Dream Academy, and their solitary successful single, “Life in a Northern Town”, an apparent elegy to Nick Drake, released on their eponymous debut album in 1985. (Dontcha love the word, eponymous? Makes ya understand the cleverness of R.E.M. naming their singles album in 1988, “Eponymous”. Apparently there were others who also thought this was clever, because six more bands have named albums this since then.)
A current classic in the world of the boy-girl band is The Anniversary. The obvious choice is “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”, from their first album, “Designing a Nervous Breakdown”, released in 2000. This is a song that my buddy Mikey-O got me into. I’ve kept this song in pretty regular rotation with my mp3 list, but I only recently downloaded the entire album.
My newest find in this sub-genre is The New Pornographers. Made up of a bunch of indie super-stars from Vancouver, their third and most recent album released last year, “Twin Cinema”, some say is their weakest, but the song “The Bleeding Heart Show” is without a doubt one of the best from their catalog.
I have no idea why all the bands I like today have the article “The” at the beginner of their band name.
April 24, 2006
I have to admit something. I occasionally love the upbeat, the semi-saccharine, and other generally happy stuff I often pretend disgusts me. Like many things, I blame this on my parents. I think itâ€™s because I was raised watching 1950â€™s musicals. Itâ€™s the weirdest fucking thing, but synchronized singing and dancing gives me inexplicable joy. Anyway, my dirty secret is that I sometimes love art with a positive message. The irony is that I have the utter inability to create anything so positive, but thatâ€™s another story.
I know Iâ€™ve pretty much always been a closet part-time appreciator of happy things, but it wasnâ€™t until I returned from combat that I decided I would indulge in this feeling more often. Mostly, it comes in the form of music. I suspect that when you are a young, white suburban male, you cultivate your angst simply to have something to do. You listen to Nine Inch Nails religiously because itâ€™s like pretending you have a wound just so you can lick it. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Iâ€™ll probably never fully remove the smell of â€œstale incense and old sweatâ€ from my life or abandon my angst-ridden roots. I just sometimes remember that my real roots are with Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and Julie Andrews.
On this note I would like to share some of my recent musical discoveries. Since I spend an inordinate amount of time on my computer, I am constantly looking for new music. Music has played a huge part in my writing, mostly in the form of indirect inspiration. And also background noise to help my wandering mind concentrate. Most of the early writing I did for Just Another Soldier was done while I listened to â€œDe-Loused in the Comatoriumâ€ by The Mars Volta (the only CD I took with me), then later â€œGive Upâ€ by The Post Service, and â€œAbsolutionâ€ by Muse. When I returned and had a deadline to finish the manuscript, The Arcade Fire fueled my frantic days and helped keep at bay a lot of the sometimes- overwhelming anxiety I felt.
There are a lot of mp3s I plan on sharing with you, but for now I will start with something fairly appropriate. Cursive is a four-piece from Omaha, Nebraska and â€œThe Ugly Organâ€ is there fifth full-length album, released in 2003. Their earlier work is a little too screamo for my tastes, but Organ has a maturity and complexity that satisfies my need for angst, grown up. â€œArt Is Hardâ€ is lyrically a self-effacing take on the creative process through its absurdity and misery. Musically it feels to me like that last concerto played onboard a sinking ship you canâ€™t help but dance along to in ecstatic commiseration.
Omaha must have the most incredible music scene. Or maybe itâ€™s just Connor Oberstâ€™s inexhaustible optimism flooding over the young musicians in the area. Like Cursive, Tilly and the Wall is another band born from kids in Omaha with boundless energy and delightful talent. Often eschewing drums for tap dancing as percussion, the 2003 album “Wild Like Children” gives me that feeling I usually only get when I see unlikely groups of characters burst into song and dance in film. Young hipster girls I wish I knew singing in chorus with young hipster boys I wish I could be as creative asâ€”I swoon. Iâ€™ve always preferred rudimentary drumming over epic rock opera fifty-five piece ten-minute drums solos. The simplicity of the beats and sparse melodies put the focus where it should beâ€”on the vocals. I know I shouldnâ€™t have had to return from combat to know that itâ€™s okay that it feels good to feel good, but damn, Tilly and the Wall makes me feel good.
The stuff I’m talking about: