Category: Music

August 10th, 2016

It has been roughly eighteen months since I wrote something more original than an anniversary post, specifically for Black Marks on Wood Pulp.

I have a hard time letting go. This blog gave me my first break as a writer, and I hold it dear to my heart. I always mean to write for it, and for that reason I will never abandon it for something less than my own – something like a generic Medium account, you know.

Oh, except, yeah.

Writing is a hard thing to do, and I will end that there because anyone who writes knows that and anyone who doesn’t write probably grasps that because, as writers, we always make sure everyone knows that, yes, writing is a hard thing to do. For that reason, I took on a project.

It’s called Kallax 365. 365 as in every day in a year. Kallax as in the shelf you buy at IKEA because you want to store records.

It’s self-indulgent. Here’s the introduction post, where I say “this is self-indulgent.”

It’s about records, in that I take one record a day, alphabetically from my Discogs collection, and write something that’s inspired by that record. But it’s also not about records, because writing about records is boring.

This is where I’ll be for the most part for the next year. This blog will not go away. In fact, I will likely take the best posts and save them over here, because like the good tinfoil blogger I am I assume my posts won’t live long at Medium, because Medium is at the whims of its owners and they could disappear in a second.

Go read about records. I promise I won’t be a stranger. I’m sorry if your RSS reader deleted me.

lol right whats an rss reader amirite

Thanks for checking in. See you elsewhere. See you soon.

Category: Meta, Music, Writing

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December 16th, 2014

I am not a collector in the most common sense of the word. I rarely care about free market value. I only care about personal completeness.

An example: I do not buy expensive records. I guess I collect vinyl by the strict definition of the word, but I do so for a specific reason: I like it, and I like music, and I like the bands I like.

My rarest record might be worth nearly $40. I suck at collecting.

It’s cool. My dedication comes from a different point: I’m in this to pay my respects. I’m repurchasing my favorite albums on record because I feel affinity toward them. These are physical manifestations of my life in music. I collect not to invest, but to celebrate.

For a while there, though, that was harder than it sounds. Several of my all-time favorite records had not been released on vinyl in decades, meaning their cult-status had driven prices up to $150 or more. The market dictated that Modest Mouse’s first two full length albums were worth somewhere around $300. And good luck finding those They Might Be Giants records.

But, as with all good things, patience paid off. Let’s all thank the concept of Record Store Day (and the upcoming 20th anniversary of most of the records you might have liked in high school or college) for a bevy of re-releases and new deluxe versions of great records. That $300+ market for those Modest Mouse records died when both were re-released. And this past Black Friday Record Store Day saw the re-release of one of TMBG’s most beloved full lengths, Flood, paired with an earlier re-release of Apollo 18.

What’s old (and expensive on eBay) is new again. But we’re not all the way there, yet, and there are records I still wish I could find at reasonable prices.

Indulge me for a moment: I’m list-making.

  • Mike Watt, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?
  • LAST PRESSING: 1995
    HIGHEST PRICE: $50.09

    Watt’s first solo album was more of a who’s who of late grunge, featuring Watt on various instruments backed (and fronted) by everyone from J Mascis to Thurston Moore to Eddie Vedder. It’s an eclectic slab of music, highlighted by former 120 Minutes standby “Big Train,” which has also become one of the most requested songs on my kids’ Rdio playlist.

  • R.E.M., Automatic for the People/Monster/New Adventures in Hi-Fi
  • LAST PRESSING: 1992/1994/1996
    HIGHEST PRICE: $62.29/$82.72/$350.00

    The mid-to-late 90s brought R.E.M.’s biggest hit, biggest disappointment, and last great album – all in order. Yet, finding these records is difficult, if only because they came at vinyl’s lowest point, when CDs were king. (I also really like Monster, so there’s my dirty secret.) The current cycle R.E.M. is on focuses on re-releasing vinyl on the 25th anniversary. We’re just three years from that Automatic re-release… and still seven away from seeing New Adventures.

  • Promise Ring, 30° Everywhere
  • LAST PRESSING: 1996
    HIGHEST PRICE: $125.00

    Emo as hell, yet underproduced. This isn’t the Promise Ring album you’ve heard of, but it’s their debut, and it’s still my favorite. Good luck finding any of those old mid-to-late 90s emo records, most often sold to young punks at 50-person shows.

  • Ugly Casanova, Sharpen Your Teeth
  • LAST PRESSING: 2002
    HIGHEST PRICE: $180.00

    We got the major Modest Mouse albums re-issued, how about the only official album from Isaac Brock’s side project, Ugly Casanova. Just as sought after as the previously unfindable Modest Mouse records, Sharpen Your Teeth still nearly get into that $200 range.

  • Frank Black, Frank Black/Teenager of the Year
  • LAST PRESSING: 1993/1994
    HIGHEST PRICE: $122.56/$246.66

    After The Pixies and before The Catholics was Frank Black’s most visible solo records – I’m a gigantic fan of Teenager of the Year, but most people go for the first, self-titled record. For an artist that waxed poetic about Pong and UFOs and spies, it can’t be long before his early solo work shows back up on the scene.

  • Jets To Brazil, Orange Rhyming Dictionary/Four Cornered Night/Perfecting Loneliness
  • LAST PRESSING: 1998/2000/2002
    HIGHEST PRICE: Unknown/$49.99/$99.99

    I dunno. I like Blake Schwarzenbach. But unlike Jawbreaker, there are no former band members actively promoting and spearheading the cause for the Jets to Brazil discography.

Everything old is new again, and that’s exactly how the record industry works. You give a band a reason to re-press some vinyl, these days that’s as good as a bundle of cash. The only people who miss out are those who are too slow to snatch up some classics.

And those poor souls with $300 records on eBay. Sorry, dudes.

Category: Music

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January 10th, 2014

Sometimes I make lists of lists. I did one in 2011. I did one in 2012. So, hey. “Tradition.”

As always, these lists are not in order.

The Unofficial Album of the Year

  • Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Favorite Albums From 2013

  • Soulcrate Music – “Welcome Back From Wherever You’ve Been
  • Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  • Russian Circles – Memorial
  • Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork
  • Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
  • XXX – XXX

Favorite Albums From Before 2013 That I Didn’t Pay Attention To Until 2013

  • Morphine – Cure For Pain
  • Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
  • Mogwai – Young Team
  • Big Star – #1 Record
  • Daft Punk – Alive 2007

Albums From My “Favorite Albums From 2012″ List That I Haven’t Listened To Since 2012

  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
  • Heartless Bastards – Arrow

Albums From My “Favorite Albums From 2011″ List That I STILL Haven’t Listened To Since 2011

  • tUnE-YarDs – whokill
  • Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Genres I Didn’t Fully Understand Because I Didn’t Pay Attention To Genres, Apparently (In Order of How Much I’ve Listened To Them)

  • Post-Metal
  • Post-Rock
  • Alt-Country
  • Shoegaze

Bruce Springsteen Records I Ended Up With This Year

  • The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
  • Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
  • Nebraska
  • Live / 1975-85

Best Vinyl Acquisitions (Non-Springsteen Edition)

  • Threadbare – Feeling Older Faster
  • Whirlpool – Liquid Glass
  • Hot Water Music – Live in Chicago
  • Built to Spill – Live
  • They Might Be Giants – Apollo 18

Album I’m Embarrassed I Purchased But Haven’t Yet Listened To

  • Kanye West – Yeezus

Category: Music, The Top...

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October 9th, 2013

I don’t have a lot of flying traditions. I ask for a Diet Coke. I play one game of Plants vs. Zombies. I look at the in-flight magazine long enough to realize that I already read it on my last flight, which coincidentally was the last time I felt the weight of being away from home, of being vulnerable, of suffering from the muddled emotions that come when pressurized at 10,000 feet over some midwest state.

BMOWP Classic Album

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

At this height, the emotion of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea becomes the equivalent of a hotel lobby bar, dark and distant and lonely. Aeroplane is my newest tradition, to the point that I no longer hear the story of Anne Frank; instead, I hear whatever emotion’s trapped in the airplane cabin. I hear a concept album roughly taped together like an ill-fitting puzzle. Songs that barely fit together meet in the middle as if participating in awkward diplomacy, every word telling a sad story that could be anyone’s sad story – mine, the guy in front of me, the flight attendant racing up the aisles.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the best 90s album I never heard until 2012, and I’m embarrassed to confide it took me so long.

No guitar should bring as much comfort as this guitar does; no lo-fi mic should add as much pain as this lo-fi mic does. No dream has pictured the weird normalcy the way this dream has played out, with pulleys and weights and ill-fated romance, somehow both poetic and stilted, insightful and weird.

Yeah, it’s a tired tradition to shine our sad times onto some tortured record. Of course it is. But listening to Aeroplane, we just can’t help ourselves.

And still, beneath all of that wrenched emotion and torture is a simple and beautiful record. Beneath the gritty acoustic guitar and messy rhythm section and that horn – every time, that fucking horn – lies simplicity at an Elliot Smith level.

(And that’s without bringing in the story we all identify as One Of The Saddest, a World War II angle that provides a story arc as tragic as The Antlers’ Hospice, trading howls and cancer for The Holocaust.)

For the past three weeks I’ve had a combination of hooks from each song stuck in my head. Think about that. An art album with hooks. An art album that gets stuck in your head. An art album about the Holocaust – THE HOLOCAUST! – that toes the balance between must-listen and emotional exhaustion, as if the only thing that can make us happier is remembering how hard everyone else has had it at one point in their lives.

There’s brilliance in creating an album that somehow walks the line between normal and slightly off-kilter. Because it’s not really normal. At times, the lyrics verge into @horse_ebooks territory (Ed: rest in peace, young horse), piecing together random metaphors that, through time, reveal themselves as not random at all. With the warbling inconfidence in Jeff Magnum’s voice and the vaugely Hawaiian guitars and the tortured sadness of the lyrics, Neutral Milk Hotel created something back in 1998 that they must have known they’d never do again. The characters. The endorsement of April Ludgate. THE HORNS. It’s a perfect storm of poetic awkwardness and earworm-ability that must make John Darnielle jealous.

In “Oh Comely,” Magnum writes, “Know all your enemies. We know who our enemies are.” Meanwhile, I write this post sitting miles above the ground, in an airplane over the Midwest. I miss my kids, and I’m in need of some sadness to crush my own. My enemies are exhaustion and insecurity, even among friends, and I accept Magnum’s story as comfort, knowing that everything in life is as awkward and tragic as the history we’ve made, and that by acknowledging that we can keep moving toward home safe knowing there’s no reason to grieve.

I don’t know who the King of Carrot Flowers is, but I know he pulls some of my strings.

Category: Music, Travel

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December 22nd, 2012

Sure. I guess I should do some music lists.

Favorite Albums From 2012

  • Forgetters – Forgetters
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
  • Heartless Bastards – Arrow
  • The Antlers – Undersea (EP)
  • Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

Favorite Albums From Before 2012 That I Didn’t Pay Attention To Until 2012

  • Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle
  • Daft Punk – Discovery
  • Aphex Twin – Come to Daddy
  • LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
  • Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising

Albums From My “Favorite Albums From 2011” List That I Haven’t Listened To Since 2011.

  • tUnE-YarDs – whokill
  • Bon Iver – Bon Iver
  • The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

Lowest Vinyl Prices For The Three Albums I Want More Than Any Other, According To Discogs

Artists I Should Have Loved 25 Years Ago, Except I Was Only Eight-Years-Old

  • Hüsker Dü
  • Dinosaur Jr.
  • Minutemen
  • Archers of Loaf
  • Mission to Burma
  • fIREHOSE
  • Replacements

Songs I Keep Trying To Get My Kids To Love, But They Won’t Have It

  • “Intergalactic” – Beastie Boys
  • “The Vanishing Spies” – Frank Black
  • “(It’s A) Departure” – The Long Winters
  • “Swan Swan H” – R.E.M.
  • “Red Letter Day” – The Get Up Kids

Favorite Music Habits

  • Putting on my headphones and forgetting to turn on iTunes.
  • Sticking with the same album over and over again because my iTunes library is too large and I fear choosing a different artist.
  • Playing one song from an artist, then pausing it to do something and forgetting to press play.
  • Buying an album and forgetting to ever listen to it.
  • Listening to actual music.

Category: Music, The Top...

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August 14th, 2012

A random list of 50 albums that I don’t currently own that I think would sound perfect on my brand new turntable, some of which are my favorite albums, some of which are deeply rooted in late 90s nostalgia, some of which I just think would be great turntable fodder, and I hope someone will purchase for me because my birthday is coming up in two and a half months, hint hint, oh NO NO NO you SHOULDN’T have!:

  • Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle
  • Bad Religion – Generator
  • The Beatles – Abbey Road
  • Billy Bragg – Back to Basics
  • Billy Bragg/Wilco – Mermaid Avenue
  • Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
  • Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
  • Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On
  • Chuck Ragan – Feast or Famine
  • Daft Punk – Discover
  • The Decemberists – The King is Dead
  • Ani Difranco – Little Plastic Castle
  • Elliott Smith – Either/Or
  • Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
  • Frank Black – Teenager of the Year
  • Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
  • Greg Brown – The Poet Game
  • The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
  • Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
  • Jawbreaker – 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
  • Jets to Brazil – Orange Rhyming Dictionary
  • LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
  • The Long Winters – Putting the Days to Bed
  • Mike Watt – Ball-Hog or Tugboat?
  • Mason Jennings – Birds Flying Away
  • Modest Mouse – Lonesome Crowded West
  • Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
  • The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee
  • Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
  • Pixies – Bossanova
  • The Promise Ring – Nothing Feels Good
  • R.E.M. – Automatic for the People
  • R.E.M. – New Adventures in Hi-Fi
  • Radiohead – The Bends
  • Radiohead – OK Computer
  • The Replacements – Tim
  • Rumbleseat – …Is Dead
  • Rush – 2112
  • Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Spoon – Transference
  • Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary
  • Texas is the Reason – Texas is the Reason
  • They Might Be Giants – Flood
  • Tom Waits – Mule Variations
  • Ugly Casanova – Sharpen Your Teeth
  • Ween – Chocolate and Cheese
  • Wilco – Summerteeth
  • Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  • Various – High Fidelity Soundtrack
  • Various – O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack

And while I’m at it, I’d love to get back the following albums that I used to own and lent to someone who I don’t remember:

  • Avail – Satiate
  • Avail – Dixie
  • Avail – Live at Kings Head Inn

Category: Music

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July 17th, 2012

I think iTunes’ Genius playlists are inherently flawed. They’re not updated enough, and they seem to have a hard time with artists or albums or tracks that are anything less than five years old and 1,000,000 listens.

But, I have to say. Tonight’s playlist gives me hope.

Category: Music

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