Category: Music

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...

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

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...

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

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

May 26th, 2012

To be honest, I was seven years old when Hüsker Dü’s New Day Rising came out. I was six when Let it Be from The Replacements was released. Mike Watt is better known to me for his solo albums, and the first time I ever heard Black Francis was as his alter-ego Frank Black.

I missed an entire generation of rock music, and I’m slowly trying to catch up.

I was a child of mid 90s alternative, breeching the genre with a mind toward more commercially-successful metal. In junior high, I listened to Metallica and Anthrax and Megadeth, but not Slayer or Cannibal Corpse or Iron Maiden. I hadn’t devolved into the completist I am now, which means I was okay with skipping entire swaths of the genre, and this mindset went unchanged as I moved toward Pearl Jam and Nirvana and Alice in Chains.

Then, there was punk. The new wave of punk. The EpiFat genre – Bad Religion, NOFX, etc. – that led me to my eventual niche: uber-indie movements like post-punk hardcore – think Snapcase and Endpoint – and post-hardcore emo – Texas is the Reason, Sensefield, Promise Ring. I wanted it all. I spackled the cracks. I became a completist.

There are major jumps in that timeline. Decades later, I’m still trying to fill the cracks, and the most recent obsession is with the mid-80s to mid-90s punk and underground scenes. My goal is to find the history of the bands I used to love, oftentimes 20-years after the fact. It is almost necessary to appreciate the music’s nuance.

I asked Genius to make me a list based on Husker Du’s “New Day Rising.” What I found is that, piece by piece, I’ve begun filling in the gaps that formed between my jump from MTV Alternative to the uber-indie Revelation Records scene.

  • “New Day Rising” – Hüsker Dü
  • “Bastards of Young” – The Replacements
  • “Total Trash” – Sonic Youth
  • “Dig Me Out” – Sleater-Kinney
  • “In the Mouth a Desert” – Pavement
  • “Hornets! Hornets!” – The Hold Steady
  • “Titus Andronicus Forever” – Titus Andronicus
  • “Bad Light” – Built to Spill
  • “Building Skyscrapers in the Basement” – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • “Divide and Conquer” – Hüsker Dü
  • “Wish Fulfillment” – Sonic Youth
  • “Fox” – Sleater-Kinney
  • “Little America” – R.E.M.
  • “It Was There That I Saw You” – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead
  • “Kiss Me on the Bus” – The Replacements
  • “Soft in the Center” – The Hold Steady
  • “Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” – Hüsker Dü
  • “Candle” – Sonic Youth
  • “Rock Music (live)” – Pixies
  • “This Guitar Says Sorry” – Billy Bragg

It’s clear that my collection has major holes – I only have the greatest hits from Pavement and The Replacements, and I only own Hüsker Dü’s New Day Rising – which probably explains the odd (yet fitting) inclusion of recent albums by Titus Andronicus and The Hold Steady.

Category: Music, Music Video

December 16th, 2011

More lists, just like last year’s lists.  Again: these are not in order, just in the order I typed them.

Favorite Albums from 2011

  • The Decemberists – The King is Dead
  • Doomtree – No Kings
  • The Antlers – Burst Apart
  • Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
  • R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
  • tUnE-YarDs – w h o k i l l
  • Bon Iver – Bon Iver
  • The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
  • Damn Your Eyes – Damn Your Eyes
  • Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

Favorite Album from 2010 that would have topped my list if it had come out in 2011 and not December 2010

  • Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Favorite Albums from before 2011 that I didn’t pay attention to until 2011 (Non-Kanye Edition)

  • Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller
  • The Long Winters – Putting the Days to Bed
  • Ween – Live at Somerville Theater 1997 bootleg
  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – The Social Network Soundtrack

Favorite Vinyl Purchased in 2011

  • Braid – Frame and Canvas
  • Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
  • R.E.M. – Life’s Rich Pageant
  • Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come
  • Split Lip – Fate’s Got a Driver
  • Pixies – Doolittle
  • Texas is the Reason/Promise Ring – split 7″
  • Jim Croce – Greatest Hits

Favorite Albums from 1997

(As listed in my remembrance of the year in music, 1997)

  • Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
  • Promise Ring – Nothing Feels Good
  • Built to Spill – Perfect From Now On
  • Get Up Kids – Four Minute Mile
  • Guilt – Further
  • Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen
  • Ween – The Mollusk
  • Snapcase – Progression Through Unlearning
  • Floodplain – Eightpennygalvinized
  • Radiohead – OK Computer

Favorite Hardcore Punk Albums

(As listened to during my hardcore punk renaissance this past summer)

  • By the Grace of God – For the Love of Indie Rock
  • Snapcase – Progression Through Unlearning
  • Quicksand – Manic Compression
  • 108 – Songs of Separation
  • Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come

Most Disappointing Album of 2011

  • Braid – Closer to Closed EP

Category: Music, The Top...