Pages

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Something/Anything

Here's the reality of being a lifelong music fan/audiophile: I now accept the fact that my entire library cannot be consolidated to digital.

It's not like I'm against having everything in one place. It's more the nature of the beast that comes with collecting vinyl and bargain bin CDs in addition to everything else. As much as I had apprehension towards vinyl before, the source of changing the opinion around comes from the quality of the needle, turntable, and the actual vinyl.

With less of a demand for CDs year after year, deluxe remasters could be a thing of the past. (And I'm not hot on the idea of shelling out $200 for a set including a remastered CD, 180-vinyl, DVD, and book.) For example, I don't think Columbia Records will not get around to producing massive reissues/box sets for the rest of Bruce Springsteen's catalog. Instead of buying a thin-sounding version on CD, I gladly will add The River and Nebraska to my vinyl collection. The same goes for Todd Rundgren's massive back catalog.

Something else I've realized: there's music that is great to listen to at home and then there is music that is great to listen in the car. Think about it: if you're going to spend hours on end at home, wouldn't it be nice to have as much at your disposal as possible? Especially since this amount of time probably greatly trumps the amount of time in a car?

Since not every vinyl record known to man was repressed on CD, there are plenty of lost tracks waiting to be found on the grooves. And I find immense joy in hearing something I've never heard before (and probably wouldn't have had the patience for) while driving.

At this point, I can't imaging packing things up and finding a good cellar. Part of being a music fanatic often means being a librarian/archivist, so I feel confident in accepting this title.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My first show

For this week's edition, I had the pleasure to interview Mark Pirro from the Polyphonic Spree and Tripping Daisy. Lots of great stuff to share, including the first time he played with Tripping Daisy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seven Year War

Probably one of the best Christmas gifts is seeing Red Animal War live. They don't play live very often and I interviewed Matt and Justin on this and other topics.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WWWTK Tumblr

To help promote When We Were the Kids, I decided to create a Tumblr page for it. For sanity's sake, the information on that page will be general in nature, featuring mainly links, photos, and clips. Theme Park Experience will continue to be the hub for all my online adventures.

How to be a professional

In the spirit of this excellent site, I offer a few things about how to be a professional in the workplace.

Don't talk to your co-workers like they're your childhood friends. Also, don't talk to them like they're five years old and have learning deficiencies.
There are many different ways to communicate with adults. These extremes are not the only ways.

Know the difference between a "crisis" and a crisis.
A true crisis can involve a loved one in a serious accident and needs to be attended to right away. A "crisis" is when you can't find your favorite kind of socks.

You do less with less.
Still waiting to hear about how a workplace benefits from doing more workload with less people? You're not alone.

Don't say, "You're only human," and then berate someone for being human.
Humans make mistakes. Remember this and say this to yourself.

If you say you're coming in early tomorrow to help out, that means you're coming in early to help out.
That doesn't mean you take most of the morning off and act like nothing of great significance was said yesterday.

If you act like a brat, don't expect to be treated like an adult.
And if you continue to act like a brat, expect to be left out of the loop on most things.

Don't spend ten minutes telling someone one request over and over again.
The average adult hears you the first time and the 111th time.

The Serenity Prayer doesn't just help recovering addicts.
Knowing the difference between what you can and cannot change is vital, even in the workplace.

My first show

My First Show is extra special this week. Instead of interviewing one person or a band, I interviewed a bunch of local artists I interviewed this year and got their take on their favorite shows. And I got them to preview what's coming up for them in 2012. You can read the whole meatball 12-inch here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Have You Forgotten?

I graduated college ten years ago this month. It was also ten years ago when I saw a movie by Cameron Crowe in a theater.

Coming out of Vanilla Sky with my brother-in-law, I felt like the world was much bigger and vaster. A few weeks later, I saw the movie again and still loved it.

Since Crowe released only one more film in the ensuing years prior to this year, it's not like I had an embargo with his work. Elizabethtown interested me, but I never got around to seeing it. When the basic idea was announced, not surprisingly, online movie writers got excited about the prospect of something on par with Say Anything. Based on the response when the movie actually came out, there was a large degree of disappointment. (Seems like Nathan Rabin remains the most vocal about the film, especially with his bookend reviews of the film in My Year of Flops.)

This year, Crowe released Pearl Jam 20, a decent look at the band that suffers from a common dilemma with band documentaries: there was so much good stuff it became hard to whittle everything down to a manageable running time. I'm happy the doc exists and glad Crowe is back behind the lens.

But with We Bought a Zoo? That's where I apply the brakes.

Sam Adams wrote an extensive piece for Slate that breaks down Crowe's flaws. I will simply say this: the kind of earnestness that I loved with Almost Famous/Untitled and Vanilla Sky is not something I repeatedly yearn for. While I believe in asking "What do you love about music?" with a straight face and saying "Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around" to conquer internal struggles, I understand that kind of earnestness is silly for a lot of people. They're phrases that could easily come from a non-jaded person, but non-jaded adults don't exist in the minds of those consumed by absolute pessimism.

My reaction to We Bought a Zoo's trailer is that it's a heartwarming family film. I have no problem with those kinds of films, but David Fincher's take on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is tempting me more this holiday season. I'm not against seeing We Bought a Zoo, but it's not a must-see priority.

When faced with the question of who has changed more, the director or the audience, I'd have to say it's the audience by a mile. I applaud Crowe for sticking to his heart, but what grabbed a mainstream audience with Jerry Maguire and Say Anything might simply not fit for what people want these days.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"I miss the dog more than her"

I know a guy who likes to tweet a lot about his personal life on Twitter. A little too much, if you ask me. Usually the tweets are about missing his home state, trying to pick up girls, and thinking about girls he used to date. There are many reasons why I don't write that kind of stuff on Twitter, and his feed is ample proof of what I don't want to explicitly put out there.

But, as much as I don't really see eye-to-eye with this guy on how to represent yourself online, I've found myself slightly seeing eye-to-eye with a tweet he wrote earlier this year. Very slightly. Missing his ex-girlfriend's pet more than his ex seemed incredibly harsh when I originally read it, but I thought about the general innocence that comes with a pet.

Be it a cat or a dog, the pet doesn't really grow much after the kitten/puppy stage. Since the most they do is meow or bark, you don't get asked why the sky is blue or when's supper. The perpetual state of cuteness can easily find its way into the rose-colored glasses of looking back.

With the pet, there are no arguments or strained feelings about topics that can't seem to resolve. The pet is a part of the couple's life, but usually as a bystander or a distraction. If the relations were good between the pet and the significant other, it can be understandable to value that benefit of the relationship.

Reflecting on my experience, I truly value the good memories, but I haven't erased the reasons why we aren't together anymore. There were many great times shared between us, and sometimes there was a pet around. I never had arguments with her cat and she didn't have arguments with my dog. Matter of fact, we loved each other's pet -- her cat and my dog were like an extension of our personalities.

I never imagined a pet to be a part of the grieving process, but then again, I was never very close to pets growing up. That feeling changed when Juliet came into my life and later, Victory. Exploring more about how to love and be loved, you can find yourself grieving over a lot of things if you break up. But this ties in well with the saying about loving and losing than never loving at all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WWWTK 12.15.11



Another update on When We Were the Kids.

Given my state of being between full-time jobs, I have a lot of free time, but I haven't spent hours a day working on another draft. Am I wasting away by not taking advantage of this? I don't think so. I've lived with this book for almost five years and I want to take a little time away from it before I release it.

I'm awaiting some feedback from a friend on his take with the book. I'm hoping his take will help me shape the final draft. Then it will go to my editor and the publishing train will start rolling soon after. Unlike what they say about one's second book ("You have all the time in the world to do your first, but you have very limited time to do your second"), I've had all the time I've wanted with working on this. And I'm grateful.

Once again, that William Goldsmith line came into my head: "The truth takes time to tell."

Of course, this is a fictional book, but I don't want it to read like it's fictional. A nice comment I received last year from an early draft was that it was like a documentary. Seeing as how rock band documentaries played a major role in the writing, I think this is fitting comparison.

I'm happy to report the cover photo has been taken. I took the photo myself using a Nikon 3000 camera, in a spot less than five feet away from where I wrote the book. Since I have all the instruments to play in a rock band in my room, it was a no-brainer. I hope it captures what it's like to play music in a bedroom or a basement, away from a fancy recording studio.

I'm penciling in a spring release timeframe for the book. You'll hear much more about it when it's finally ready.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My first show

This week's edition was a true treat: I interviewed all three members of Here Holy Spain at once. Drummer Scott Brayfield was part of the first interview I ever did with a band, back when he was in Slowride. Was a really good catch-up with him and meeting his bandmates. They're good people who make good music.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Outta My System

Wrapping up the week, I did a few more DC9 items. Saw My Morning Jacket pulverize the Verizon Theatre, saw Scratch Acid rip Trees apart, and I talked with Travis Hopper about his band Elkhart and playing music for his daughter.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Graham Jones from Yukon Blonde. He mentions seeing Moneen, a band I saw back at the old Door a few years ago. Pretty incredible live band, flying dreadlocks and all. He also mentions seeing Bob Dylan, someone I tend to only hear horror stories about.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Conditions of my parole

I covered Puscifer's show on Saturday night at the Majestic. Quite a different kind of show than anything I've seen before, but it was quite enjoyable.

Interesting side note: Sitting next to me was someone I've read a lot of ire about from Zac Crain: the Dallas Morning News' music critic Mario Tarradell. Tarradell was very friendly and engaged in the show (just read the guy's live Twitter feed), and I didn't ask what he thought of Zac. Remember, there's what you say in person and then there's what you say online for everyone to see. Pretty different worlds.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A year in music

In hopes of not sounding like a total whiner, 2011 turned out to be one of the hardest years of my adult life. My girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer and she decided later in the year she didn't want to be in a relationship anymore. The guy who taught me how to be a traffic reporter died after a lengthy battle with emphysema. My band broke up. And I got laid off.

Some year where I was looking forward to January 1st to start anew, eh? You bet.

That said, I enjoyed a lot of music, among everything else I'm into (which, more or less, consists of reading books, watching movies, golfing, and reading about MMA fights).

So without further ado, here's this year in review:

------

Albums Released This Year That I Really Liked (And Not Really In A Particular Order)

Rival Schools, Pedals
You know when a band spends way too much time (as in, more than two years) to release a new album and the album sounds like warmed-over mush? Well, Rival Schools didn't do that with Pedals. They had a decent excuse why it took them ten years to release a second record: They had broken up a few years after they released their stellar debut, United By Fate. Reuniting a couple of years ago, the follow-up finally arrived this year. While not as diverse as their debut, Walter Schreifels still sounds at his best with this band. And I can't deny the tuneful gut power found on songs like "Big Waves" and "69 Guns."

Explosions in the Sky, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Not to sound like I was "over" this Austin quartet, but I wasn't so sure Explosions in the Sky could blow my mind again. They had already done that with The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place and All of Sudden, I Miss Everyone. Besides, at this point, the band has their sound and you're not going to hear anything different from here on out. Well, when I heard songs like "Human Qualities" and "Postcard from 1952" in my car at a loud volume, I kept listening to Take Care, Take Care, Take Care again and again.

Wilco, The Whole Love
As much as I have loved Wilco since Being There, I wondered when the band was going to release a record I didn't love so much. The Whole Love didn't grab my attention right away like their previous two records, but I knew I had to give this record a decent chance. I'm glad I did, because a song like "Born Alone" is one I hope they play live for many years to come.

We Were Promised Jetpacks, In the Pit of the Stomach
I won't lie: In the Pit of the Stomach is not as captivating as their debut, These Four Walls. But when you have a song like "Act on Impulse" on it, it is worth hearing.

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
I grew tired of Foo Fighters albums starting with One By One, but I still loved their singles. Credit producer Butch Vig for why a song like "These Days" is one of the band's best. Credit the decision to record this on tape in Dave Grohl's garage. However the math works, the end result is far and away one of the best Foos albums.

Office of Future Plans, self-titled
I didn't even know this record existed until I read a review with "Salamander" a few weeks ago. Earlier in the year, I had heard some rumblings that J. Robbins had a new band yet I didn't know it was with Kerosene 454/Channels' Darren Zentek and cellist Gordon Withers (who had recorded an album entirely of Jawbox covers on cello). Robbins brings the good stuff again, making difficult music poppy.

The Get Up Kids, There Are Rules
Back in '99, when I was listening to Something to Write Home About in my college dorm, I never imagined the Get Up Kids would make a record like this. I like to think of this as sci-fi power pop. A song like "Automatic" is a good introduction.

Mastodon, The Hunter
There was some talk about this record as Mastodon's version of The Black Album. Stuff like "Curl of the Burl" grooves and punches a bit more than what was found on their previous album, Crack the Skye (an album I still love the most out of all their material). Since the band approaches every album differently (while retaining its core of being Gabriel-era Genesis meets metal), it's probably why I keep up with them.

Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes
Yes, the band remains a quirky power pop band. ("Road Song" and "Action Hero" are some of the best moments.) But can you name another quirky power pop band that passes the five albums test? I can't.

--------

Songs Released This Year That I Repeatedly Played (While Not Listening to Josh Rouse or Rush)

Carter Tanton, "Murderous Joy"
I receive at least a handful of e-mails a day from publicists wanting me to know about their artists and/or wanting me to cover their artists when they come to town. Carter came my way through a pretty reliable publicity agency and I hoped to feature him in a My First Show. The interview was conducted, but due to some miscommunication, the thing didn't run. I'm not posting this song as a consolation prize; I'm posting it because I think this song is fantastic. Poppy and folky I like, especially when it doesn't sound twee-like or sleep-inducing.

Braid, "The Right Time"
This is a horrible reason to pass up on digging into an EP, but since I really like to judge music when I'm driving in my car, Braid's comeback EP, Closer to Closed, didn't make regular rotation mainly because of its length. Its opening track, though, became impossible to get out of my head after a couple of spins.

Low, "You See Everything"
I can't say Low is a band I really seek out. Dirge-y stuff isn't really my thing, even though I enjoy True Widow. But when the members of Low were on Sound Opinions this year, I gravitated towards "You See Everything." Sounds a lot like what Carly Simon should be putting out these days.


---------

Album Not Released This Year Yet Had a Big Impact On Me

Editors, An End Has a Start
I know the band has another album that came after this, their second record, but I still haven't checked that one out. With this record, especially with a song like "Bones" on it, this band matched the gloomy spunk found on their debut, The Back Room. Plus, I love how the lyrics tend to walk a line between positivity and negativity. I still can't tell if frontman Tom Smith is a hopeful guy or not. Whatever mood you're in, he's singing to your heart.

----------

Bands That I've Liked Since Middle School Yet Had Neglected Since High School Until This Year

Dream Theater and Pearl Jam were some of the bands I really dug in my seventh and eighth grade years, even though they are drastically different in approach and aesthetic. For various reasons, both bands dropped off my radars. (I thought Dream Theater kept writing longer, indulgent songs for prog heads and Pearl Jam kept following Eddie Vedder's disjointed muse.) Turns out, documentaries on the bands inspired me to circle the wagons. The web series, "The Spirit Carries On," helped me understand why auditioning a replacement for Mike Portnoy was more than finding a guy who could play in time. And Pearl Jam Twenty is a love letter to how a band can survive skyrocketing success and still be an incredible band 18 years after that success.

-----------

Favorite Interviews I Did This Year

Roger Miller of Mission of Burma
(A My First Show and a lot more, all here)
I interviewed Roger in hopes I could get some good memories about Mission's early days. I got that and so much more. I especially enjoyed the parts where we discussed seeing the MC5 when they were more of a Jimi Hendrix cover band, how terrible Rush was live in the early 70s, and the good that came out of Moby covering "That's When I Reach For My Revolver."

Munaf Rayani of Explosions in the Sky
(Part 1 found in my story, Part 2 found in a My First Show article)
Munaf had a gentle way of speaking that was neither fake or condescending. An incredibly friendly, generous guy with explaining the band's story as well as the first time he went to Austin to see a show.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde
(Part 1 found in here, Part 2 in a My First Show here.)
The day before I interviewed Johnette, a co-worker (who's a longtime fan) advised me to have my proverbial shit together when talking with her. Claiming she'd go to town on me if I didn't know-all and be-all, I started to get nervous. Luckily, Johnette would go on and on answering a single question. She made me feel easy to ask any question.

Mike Martin of All That Remains
(A My First Show found here)
I like talking metal with metal bands, but the last thing I want to hear about is how "This new record is more mature and more melodic than our last one." To avoid that with Mike, I asked the question about seeing non-metal acts. Mike chuckled, "How much time ya got?" At no point did I feel like I was talking to a "metal-up-ya-ass!" kind of guy.

----------

Best Shows I Saw This Year

Trashcan Sinatras at the Loft
(Original review)
The show was one of the most blissful times of the year for me. Things got really rocky only a few weeks later, so I'm glad I had this experience to remember.

Against Me! at the Double Wide
(Original review)
Originally, this was going to be an acoustic set by Tom Gabel. It turned into a full AM! show with acoustic guitars and lots of pushing around. One of the best shows I've ever seen at the Double Wide.

Taking Back Sunday at House of Blues
(Original review)
I was asked to cover this show about three hours before the doors opened. Since the show started early and I enjoy TBS, I said sure. I didn't expect this to be probably the best show I saw all year.

We Were Promised Jetpacks at Trees
(Original review)
Coming off the heels of writing a story that was cathartic to do, I was pumped for this show. I had a great time, but I didn't understand why half of the audience stood like statues.

The Jayhawks at the Granada Theater
(Original review)
The band played a lot of stuff people wanted to hear, but they pulled out a ton of stuff more up the alley of the hardcore fan. Still, the night's vibe was wonderful. Those 90 minutes felt heavenly.

Wilco at the Music Hall at Fair Park
(Original review)
First time to finally see Wilco -- and it's safe to say it won't be my last.

--------

Biggest Show Disappointment

A Perfect Circle at Verizon Theater
(Original review)
The band played great, but a show devoted mostly to lukewarm covers? Really? Add in shitty post-show traffic. Yeah, not my idea of fun.


--------

Albums That Disappointed But Are Not Terrible


face to face, Laugh Now, Laugh Later
My Morning Jacket, Circuital
Cut Off Your Hands, Hollow
Journey, Eclipse
OFF!, The First Four EPs

To be brief because I don't love to dance in this garden for very long: face to face remains one of my all-time favorite bands. Laugh Now, Laugh Later is not essential for newcomers. My Morning Jacket is still one of the great live bands around, but I wish they (or maybe it's just Jim James) would stop trying too hard to be different from the band's earlier material. Cut Off Your Hands sounded like they cut their second record hungover and with early Echo and the Bunnymen records spinning on their turntables. Journey put out a rock record that didn't rock me hard enough. And OFF! might have been awesome if I was in high school and never heard early Black Flag. Alas, bursts don't necessarily equate to longevity.

---------

Best Rock Music Books I Read

Bob Mould, See a Little Light
One of the most open-door, honest memoirs I've read. Think you already know Mould's story by reading magazine interviews over the years and Our Band Could Be Your Life? You know some of the story. Mould goes much deeper.

Mark Yarm, Everybody Loves Our Town
The League of Meh (as in, people my age who are rarely thrilled by something and find most of life to be a series of meh's) might scoff at another book on grunge. But I couldn't resist reading and I'm glad I read it. Yarm's oral history uncovers a lot that had never been in print before and doesn't glorify or nullify the genre/major label turning of rebellion into money.