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Thursday, December 30, 2004

When I'm in the crowd . . .

Song in my head:
"In the Crowd" by the Jam

Ever since I heard the Kinks' "Johnny Thunder," I've wondered if Paul Weller nicked the melody and lyrics of the pre-chorus for "In the Crowd." Listen to the part in both songs where it says "And everyone" and compare. I watched a little of "In the Crowd" last night on the live Paul Weller DVD I rented from Netflix. Really cool DVD.

I did watch a lot of the DVD disc on Nirvana's With the Lights Out last night. The footage of them playing "Big Cheese" at an instore is incredibly loud, thick and tight. The version of "Immigrant Song" from Krist's mom's house is a very tasty cover. Kurt's staring at a wall while Chad is at the other end of the room. Still hit all the changes.

The other night I picked up the Libertines' first record, Up the Bracket. Very cool record. It's sloppy and sleazy while it's also melodic and dynamic. I'm sure you've heard about all the press with them in the UK. MTV.com has a concise year in review of the band right here.

This is a few days old, but Jim DeRogatis posted his year in review here. The extended version of it can be found here. I like the fact that he put a Top 75 up.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I woke up and it's yesterday . . .

Song in my head:
"Guiding Light" by Television

Yesterday morning I dreamed we were having a Double Dare theme party at our place. There was an elaborate obstacle course with slides and slime. On a long table was a display of all sorts of prizes (including a blue bike). We had plenty of snacks on the table and I started to eat some. Then I woke up but I could have sworn that my pillow case was not the usual dark green. I saw a picture of Snoopy dancing with his head up and fast-moving feet. About five seconds passed before the image faded away and it went back to dark green. The housemate suggests that I was dreaming while I was awake. Strange.

Watched Napoleon Dynamite last night. I heard good things about it and thought it was very interesting. No, that's not code for "I hated it." I laughed hard at the opening shot's homage (don't know if it was deliberate or not) to Dawn of the Dead (as in, starting with a tight shot of red shag carpet). I liked the slower pace with the droning voices of Napoleon and Pedro. Their looks with glazed eyes and smile/frowns are pretty memorable. Great songs in it too: especially Jamiroquai's track along with 1980s Top 40 hits. The final scene's song reminded me of a certain band's version of it. Recommended. This reminds me: I still need to see Shaun of the Dead.

Want to hear the Flaming Lips' version of "Seven Nation Army?" NME has it here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Rat

Song in my head:
"The Rat" by the Walkmen

Hope everybody is having a good holiday (whether it's weeks, week, day or days). Christmas weekend was good: Friday, I went to a party down the street at a church-turned-into-hippie-living-community. Twas interesting and the cider really hit the spot. Saw The Life Aquatic Saturday night. Great movie, but it's a Wes Anderson movie, so it's a given. Spent some time with the family on Sunday. The weather has been cooperating, so I have no complaints.

If Christmas is not your fancy, there's always Festivus.

MTV.com has this article on the Walkmen. I received Bows + Arrows for Christmas and I thoroughly enjoy it. The second track, "The Rat," is really awesome. It reminds me of GvsB's "One Dose of Truth" from the Series 7 soundtrack.

When I saw this article's headline, I thought it was a reference to Arthur Lee's band, Love. Twas not after I read the subheadline.

Here's a small article on George Romero's next installment of his "Dead" series: Land of the Dead. I'm curious about this project, but I'm not sure if anything can top Dawn of the Dead.

I really like Panda Express. Their orange chicken, mongolian beef and kung-pow beef are pretty amazing. The black peas laced with spices feel like dynamite going off in your mouth though.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I always believed in futures . . .

Song in my head:
"Futures" by Jimmy Eat World

We had a mix of ice, sleet and snow last night and boy was it crazy. I didn't go home: I stayed at hotel down the street. Twas a good night of sleep but I'm ready to go home this morning. Bridges and overpasses are slow but that's about it. The sun's out but it's only 19 degrees outside with a wind chill bringing the temp down even further.

Before the craziness occurred yesterday, I finished watching the director and writers commentary track on the ROTK: EE DVD. Yes, the film's running time is four hours and ten mintes san credits. I still want to hear the cast commentary track. Hmmm. Don't have anything to do during the middle of today . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Harry Potter Book Due in July 2005

Forbes, along with a lot of others, report about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Set your sights for next July.

So what becomes of you my dear . . .

Song in my head:
"Night Drive" by Jimmy Eat World

Tomorrow's high will be the lower 40s. Today's high is supposed to be in the lower 60s. I guess the first day of winter will have to wait one day.

I accomplished my goal of Christmas shopping last night. No long lines or annoying shoppers to wade through. Still, I find irony with the pre-Christmas rush with the people that tell others all year long not to wait until the last minute are the ones that are guilty of waiting until the last minute.

I finished watching the Office Christmas special yesterday. Fantastic ending to such a great series. For so many people that complain about shows "jumping the shark," I don't think you could make an argument with this show.

Monday, December 20, 2004

All those people that you know . . .

Song in my head:
"Satin in a Coffin" by Modest Mouse

So the three and and a half days I had off for an early Christmas were very well spent. Friday night I hung out with Matt and other fellow friends from high school. Had Mexican food at (the now-franchized-in-Houston-at-least) Rico's and then proceeded to Matt and Kim's for a screening of Ryko's DVD of Bill Hicks' stand-up. Very hilarious stuff and in a lot of ways, timeless. Saturday night was spent with the family for an early Christmas exchange of presents. After eating Rico's (this time at a location close to my sister and brother-in-law), we gave and received. I made out with CDs, DVDs, books, a calendar, a tie and a new jacket. Very cool things and I think I'll have to spend the next few weeks going through everything (gotta love bonus footage and interviews on DVDs). Christmas spirit is alive and well in me.

I have a few more Christmas gifts to buy for various people. I think after my afternoon shift I will brave the crowds of impatient parents and whining children to get this done.

I still need to hear more songs from this album this Christmas season.

The trailer for the Amityville Horror remake is online. Don't confuse this movie about a haunted house with that other movie set in a haunted house: Darkness. Darkness opens the same day as the Life Aquatic. Guess which movie I'll be seeing on Christmas?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Motorcycle Emptiness

Song in my head:
"Motorcycle Emptiness" by Manic Street Preachers

Shall be out of town starting this afternoon and all through Sunday to be with family and friends. It will be a very cool Christmas, as usual, barring any road construction or car troubles. Those are not in the game plan.

Will be wrapping gifts later this morning. I plan on listening to Vandals' Oi to the World and the Electrical Ornaments compilation during the activities. I also need to hear the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)." While I've heard a lot of bad versions of Christmas songs this year, I truly cherish the ones I like (Darlene Love's and U2's version of "It's Christmas, Baby Please Come Home" comes to mind).

March 2005 will be a very good month for UK bands: Doves, Coldplay and Idlewild release new albums while Ash's Meltdown will get an American release on March 8th. I already have two copies of Meltdown (one in a jewel case and another one with a bonus live record). Pitchfork reports that the record may come with a bonus DVD, so I think I'll pick this up too.

I really like this band from what I've heard and what I've read about them. They recently signed with Fearless Records and they're currently working on a new record. I had heard of them for a few months but then I read this really cool blurb about them in the new Law of Inertia magazine and got really excited. They are actually wanting to do something more with punk, hardcore, emo and post-hardcore than just copy other bands.

Got my copy of the Big Takeover yesterday. Wilco is on the cover, so guess which article I'm reading first on my holidays. The Libertines/Hope of the States article of course!!! (that's the first one in the magazine)

Don't know how much blogging I'll be doing while I'm away, but just so I don't forget: Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Moaning like children . . .

Song in my head:
"Boy Destroyers" by Hey Mercedes

MTV reports of a couple in Maryland who are suing Wal-Mart for selling an Evanescence live record because there was no warning about the expletives contained in it. I guess now is the best time for me to file a lawsuit against the makers of Back to the Future and the anonymous person who wrote the "F" word on the tunnel I played on as a kid for teaching me curse words.

Rolling Stone reports on the most recent inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Congrats to U2, the Pretenders, the O'Jays, Percy Sledge and Seymour Stein, among others. Now I think it's a good time for Island to reissue U2's back catalog with digital remastering.

DVD File has an incredibly thorough review of the Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King: Extended Edition. My mouth is a river.

Pitchfork has a review of the recent reissue of the Cure's first album, Three Imaginary Boys. Reminds of somebody who just recently got it and he's quoted in the new Time magazine. Read below:

Dec. 20 issue, under the "Sleep is for Sissies" article, page 59.
"Jason Hensel, 32, a Dallas magazine editor and musician, admits to occasionally daydreaming at work but otherwise has few complaints about a routine that others would find grueling. After putting in nine hours at his day job, Hensel rehearses with his band until 10 p.m. or so and then either heads out for nightclubs or settles in for a late night of DVD viewing. For Hensel, four hours or less of sleep is not only adequate--it's optimal. "When most people say, 'I feel groggy because I didn't get enough sleep last night,'" says Hensel, ""I would say 'I feel groggy because I got too much sleep.'" Like many of those who choose to walk by night and to go on walking the following day, Hensel is dogged by the sense that life is short and that too much shut-eye just makes it shorter. ""During work," he says, "sometimes I feel that there's so much out there I could be doing.""

Monday, December 13, 2004

What a wonderful puddle

Song in my head:
"What a Wonderful Puddle" by Braid

NME reports that Queen is reforming with Paul Rodgers from Free and Bad Company on lead vocals. I don't know if the guys knew it or not, but April Fool's Day is not in December.

So I read the side-chapter in Everything about how the Manics never made it in America. There are great arguments as to why this is however I find Price's sentiments about the size of the American-based fans a little misleading. I know quite a few people that know who they are and all of their records have been released in the US (though some were belatedly released after the rest of the world got them). But Price's feelings that this band that wanted to look like Duran Duran but sound like the Sex Pistols could never hit the top of the charts in America is pretty right-on.

My Christmas shopping is done and I didn't have to endure any crises trying to find anything. I had to order a couple of things online but everyhing else was found around here. I'll be having an early Christmas again this year but the thing that counts (regardless of which day that it's celebrated) is that I get to spend time with my family and give/receive gifts.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Dance, dance, dance to the radio

Songs in my head:
"You've Got a Friend" by Carole King
"Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)" by the Arcade Fire
"She's Lost Control" by Joy Division

Watched A Charlie Brown Christmas last night and realized that I can relate to it more now than when I was younger. A timeless story along with a wonderfully loose and melodic score by Vince Guaraldi. Plus Snoopy is always a treat.

My goal of being done with my holiday shopping was not met. Still have a few things to get for a certain family member but I have some time tonight to take care of this. So far the shopping has been very easy to take care of, but I think it's easier to be a customer in a retail store than a retail employee.

NME has a lot of news: Ash is working on a new album while Meltdown is getting a US release sometime in 2005. Doves' new single, "Black and White Town," and record, Some Cities, will be released in the UK in February. No word on an American release date. Manic Street Preachers recently played their first gig with a second guitarist since Richey Edwards' departure.

Speaking of the Manics, us Americans will get the soon-to-be-released-in-the-UK reissue of the Holy Bible. Billboard has all the info here. I have yet to get to the Holy Bible-era of the band in Simon Price's Everything. Right now I'm on the Generation Terrorists-era and I am looking forward to the upcoming side chapter about why the Manics never made it in the USA.

Final word on the Manics today: still no word on an American release date for their newest record, Lifeblood.

Motley Crue is back together, again. Rolling Stone has all the info about their upcoming tour and Greatest Hits collections. For those counting, this is the third greatest hits collection for the Crue. First it was Decade of Decadence, Greatest Hits and now Red, White and Crue. I'm curious if this time in the band will be covered in a future edition of their tell-all bio, the Dirt.

The Internet Movie Database is reporting about Lindsay Lohan's recent performance on Good Morning America. I saw it and I thought she looked like she was lip-syncing. Guess I wasn't alone in this observation.

The Onion AV Club has their list of the best of 2004. I'm anxiously awaiting their list of "least essential" records of 2004 though. Their lists of "least essential" records from the 1990s, 2000, 2001,2002,2003 and Reality Off-shoots are hilarious.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Musical Favorites of 2004

Musical Favorites of 2004

Show that rocked my brains out even though I wasn’t too familiar with the band’s material:
The Cooper Temple Clause at the Gypsy Tea Room (tea room)
-Never have I seen a six-piece band fuse all sorts of styles into one cohesive style. It was heavy like a metal band but it wasn’t cheesy. It was melodic like mid-1990s Britpop, but it wasn’t filled with arrogance or self-consciousness. It was loose and chaotic like a punk show but it wasn’t sloppy. I must say thanks to Matt for suggesting we go to it.

Show that rocked my brains out and I was familiar with the band’s material:
. . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead at the Gypsy Tea Room (ballroom)
-I think this new five-piece line-up is what the band has wanted to do for some time. Two drummers may sound like overkill for most bands but this made it even more powerful. They played some new songs from their forthcoming Worlds Apart and it showed that the band is making substantial growth as songwriters. The ritual of trashing their instruments was an amusing site to see, but the band had already slayed me before such things occurred.

Reunion show that was worth it:
Braid at the Door (Dallas) and at Mary Jane’s Fat Cat (Houston)
-I got into Braid too late when they broke up in 1999. They just couldn’t do a final tour back then. Five years later, they were able to do it and it was worth it. A great sense of closure for such an inspiring band.

Local band keeps releasing good records and still inspires:
Red Animal War
-I’ve been following these guys since they blew me away in 1999. Since then, I’ve seen them play about twenty times in all sorts of bars, clubs and makeshift venues. It’s always an exciting show. They released their third album, Polizida, on local label Ice Planet, this year. While it’s a darker record than their earlier material, this shows that the band is still moving forward instead of backward.

Record that came out in 2003, heard bad reviews about it but then just went ahead and listened to it this year and really dug it:
De-loused in the Comatorium by The Mars Volta
-Since At the Drive-In split, I had favored Sparta’s material over the Mars Volta. Since this year wasn’t filled with “who’s the better post-At the Drive-In band” discussions in the things I read on a daily basis, I was able to just listen to this album. It’s so powerful and crazy, but it’s not a challenge to listen to. Hearing Omar and Cedric do what they’re doing would have had no place in At the Drive-In (and vice-versa for Jim, Paul and Tony in Sparta). I look forward to their next album, Frances the Mute (due out early 2005).

EP that is so good that it is more of a mini-album than a teaser for a full length:
Open by Channels
-J. Robbins is back with a new band that is similar to what he’s done before, but is really moving forward at the same time. The five originals and one cover flow so well together that they may as well be its own album. Robbins’ knack of writing angular melodic tunes is rounded out by his wife Janet on bass and wonderful backing vocals and powerhouse drummer Darren Zentek. The production is so top-notch that you wish more records sounded this powerful and well, open.

Album is good but there is this one song that is sublime:
“Peace Attack” from Sonic Nurse by Sonic Youth
“Light Up Ahead” from Hide Nothing by Further Seems Forever
“Wonderful People” from Power by Q and Not U
“Take Me Out” from Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand
“Let Them Eat War” from The Empire Strikes First by Bad Religion

Follow-up album to a platinum-selling record shows that the band is still good:
Futures by Jimmy Eat World
-Futures is not a return to the style of Static Prevails or Clarity. Nor is it a Xeroxed copy of the 1.3 million-selling album, Bleed American. It’s a whole other album. It’s heavier in spots than their earlier work (not that there’s anything wrong with it) but it shows the band still can rock your ass and have you singing along.

Follow-up album to a number of consistent albums proves this band is almost unstoppable:
A Ghost is Born by Wilco
-Wilco makes a Jim O’Rourke record and it’s incredible. O’Rourke helps the band travel into crazier terrains than before. From melodies and vocals that are just above a whisper to ones that are so raw, loud and jagged, Wilco has another stellar record in their canon.

Supposed “comeback” record proves that that this band never really went away:
Guilt Show by the Get Up Kids
-I’ll admit it: I didn’t care for the band’s previous effort, On a Wire. Not because it wasn’t filled with blast-it-through-your-speakers anthems, but it seemed so inaccessible and simple. When I heard Guilt Show, I was glad to hear some of the oomph back in the band, but I realized how far they had grown with melodies and songwriting. Knowing this, I was able to go back and see that the band was going this way with On a Wire. Now I think both records are some of my overall favorites of their’s.

Cover art that is so simple, but so memorable:
Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand
-Just the band’s name at an angle against a black background sounds like Graphic Design 101, but it works. No glamour. No bull. Just like the band is. Looking at it reminds me of late 1970s and early 1980s post-punk art-sleeves. Maybe that was the intention since the band is so rooted in that era.

Band that I’ve heard about for years but never really listened to until this year:
Steely Dan
-Until this year, I had heard “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years” on the radio, “Black Cow” be sampled in a popular rap song, and Ben Folds Five’s rendition of “Barrytown.” After getting Can’t Buy a Thrill and Pretzel Logic, I now “get” them.

Bands that keep getting better with each release without drastically changing styles:
Ted Leo/Pharmacists
Sparta
-Ted Leo’s Shake the Sheets is more of what he’s done in the past with a blasting-down-the-door kind of approach, but it’s still fresh. Sparta’s Porcelain got a lot of flak in the press for not being that far-removed from their first record or At the Drive-In. Well, that’s just the way they write, regardless if they’re in another band or not. Porcelain shows the band expanding with longer songs, trippy effects and atmospheres and sharper hooks.

I can’t believe I found this hard-to-find out-of-print release for so cheap:
Pentagram Ring EP by Chavez
-Mike put track three, “You Faded,” on a mix CD earlier this year and I had been searching for this EP ever since. Just my luck, going on a record store shopping search in Chicago, I found this at the front of a rack for $2.99.

Band that got so much better after two-thirds of the line-up left and were replaced:
Taking Back Sunday
-Yes, I like Taking Back Sunday. I think Where You Want to Be is miles away better (songwriting-wise and production-wise) from their first album, the so-called, “already-classic,” Tell All Your Friends. Judging by the reviews I saw, this album was a disappointment for long-time fans. Well, maybe the fact that I hadn’t been so emotionally-tied to Tell All Your Friends is how I could give this record a shot. Their style is not new to me, but the songs just have these great hooks and a warm overall sound.

Posthumous release that is a great album and not some patchwork of unfinished material:
From a Basement on the Hill by Elliott Smith
-After Elliott died by a supposed self-inflicted knife wound to the heart, I couldn’t listen to his music for the rest of last year. I felt so betrayed and couldn’t concentrate on the beauty of his songs. Sometime in the middle of this year, I was able to listen to his music on the notion that when he made these records (even the final one) that he was in better spirits than on the day he died. From a Basement on the Hill is some of his darkest material but it’s so well done and demands repeat listening. Even though there was enough material recorded for a double album, the fifteen tracks that make up the record leave little room for filler.

Math metal record that I can actually listen to over and over:
Miss Machine by the Dillinger Escape Plan
-From the start of the record with “Panasonic Youth,” you’re either going to love this band or absolutely hate them. When you think the blasts of schizoid metal/punk/hardcore are too much, the band gives the listener breaks with warm melodies, easy rhythms and simple breakdowns. On top of that, you don’t have to be in some pissed-off-with-the-world mindset to listen to it. As ugly and as unlistenable as it may seem to others, this is truly compelling stuff.

Album that Pitchfork Media raved about (and so did a lot of other people) that is actually up my alley:
Funeral by the Arcade Fire
-Those who write for Pitchfork are incredibly picky about every little nuance of every little band and record. It seems like they can never be satisfied. However, when they rave about a record, it’s worth at least checking out. Funeral delivers the goods. Somber and moving, this record is straightforward and doesn’t jerk you around.

Another album that Pitchfork raved about (and so did a lot of other people), but really moved me emotionally more than any other record released this year:
Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse
-For many people, this record will have the distinction of being Modest Mouse’s “breakthrough,” “blockbuster,” (or in some people’s minds) “sellout” record. For me, the whole package (the melodies, the lyrics and artwork) really moves me. When I heard the lead guitar riff for “Float On” for the first time (and every time since then), it reminded me of being a kid listening to the radio. The undistorted, high-end guitar tone reminded me of the 1980s new wave rock and Top 40. Using that with a Television-meets-Mission of Burma feel and a “no matter how bad things happen, it works out eventually”-attitude, this song has received a lot of play in my car and in my head. The album as a whole is a wild mix of songs with common lyrical themes: frustration (“Life handed us a paycheck and we said, ‘We worked harder than this!’”) gives way to understanding (“As life gets longer/awful feels softer” and “If it takes shit to make bliss/well I feel pretty blissfully”) in particular has been my anthem and chorus this year. It’s not been an easy year but it’s been a very good year. There have been times of restlessness and doubt that seemed to overpower my overall mood. I keep coming back to things I’ve been told for years, but didn’t fully understand until now. After a period of life getting really ugly, there is a time of true happiness and lessons are learned. I’ve been able to find comfort in seeing things in grander scale than just as a series of obstacles and victories. Good News echoes such sentiments.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We're Floating in Space

Song in my head:
"No Authority" by face to face

Brother Matt posted his Top 10 of 2004 on his blog. I think I'm inspired to write up my favorites of 2004 as soon as this morning. Watch this space.

More neighbors down our street are putting up Christmas lights. Very cool lighting schemes. They give me some good ideas for decorating our place, but putting lights outside may not happen for us: there are no outdoor electrical outlets. No worries. I shall make the most of what I can do inside and maybe put a wreath on the front door.

Just read this headline and laugh.

I remember seeing these guys when they were known as PVK play at a punk festival at the Ridglea Theater. There is a a really nice article about them in the Fort Worth Weekly this week.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Urbana's Too Dark

Song in my head:
"Urbana's Too Dark" by Braid

It froze overnight and I still can't believe it. I let all the faucets run and thankfully I remembered to turn them off this morning. I got the dog a pillow/mattress for her to lay on instead of the cold hardwood floor. I think she really took a liking to it: she stayed on it for the entire night.

Since I had some time to do it yesterday, I did my first round of Christmas shopping. It wasn't too crowded, so I was able to go in and out in about fifteen minutes.

Idlewild recently spoke to NME about their 2005 plans. March will see the release of their new album, Warnings/Promises. It looks like March is the month for bands across the pond: Coldplay and Doves are also releasing material that month.

NME also reports the name of Hot Hot Heat's new guitarist.

A certain magazine that I subscribe to sent me an e-mail about choosing 'Best Act', 'Best Single', et al, for an upcoming issue. Since I had an opinion on about half of the questions asked, I only answered half. Well, when I clicked the 'submit' button, it wouldn't let me do it. So, I had to fill in answers about artists that I didn't really know too much about. When the issue hits newsstands, now you can understand why somebody would say, "This act is 'Best Act?'"

Next Monday, I may be posting my list of 2004 favorites. However, it will be different from last year's list. I don't want to just list records in numerical way nor do I want to limit it to just music.

Today is Woody Allen's 69th birthday. Time for me to share some of my favorite Allen quotes (they're all from Annie Hall):

About LA being so clean: "That's because they don't throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows."

"Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat... college."