Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lord give me Grace, and dancing feet

"Music is an invasion of the ear and mind that brings a conscious awareness of emotion." -Mookie
Saint Kele
Good afternoon men and women of the Church of MUSIC, In All Capital Letters. We congregate today to reflect on the end of a year and with hope for the next.

As the world of nations is to be pervaded by musical influence in this new year, so the world of Record Labels shall be, not annihilated, but transfigured in the understanding of how to best serve us. The Music Industry was cursed for the sake of the MP3 to thrive and grow, redeemed by the iTunes store and $0.99 song downloads. Now is time to open your virtual wallets; in this new year the Promised Land; and after that shall be the new world wherein the Record Labels and our Lord and Savior the Artist shall be all in all.

Soon we will all be counting down the last few seconds of this year with parties and laughter. I know that most of you view these parties with anxiousness and fear. Worried you may be tempted by the darkness of the calming shadow of the Lamp Shade, speaking in tongues basted in liquor. Fear not flock, for I will share with you the words of our great savior and shepard Kele Okereke. Please open your song books and MP3 players as I take this next passage from "The Prayer" Book of Bloc: Weekend In The City Track 4:1.

Click to hear the Sermon of Bloc Party - The Prayer

Lord give me grace and dancing feet
And the power to impress
Lord give me grace and dancing feet
Let me outshine the moon

Is it so wrong to crave recognition?
Second best, runner-up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding?
To want more than is given to you?
Than is given to you

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

Standing on the packed dance floor
Our bodies thrown in time
Silent on the weekdays
Tonight I claim what's mine

Is it so wrong to crave recognition?
Second best, runner-up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding?
To want more than is given to you?
Than is given to you

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

May the power of music give you all you need to party and amaze. May the music ring on throughout your next year. Whatever your year has been like, whatever sorrows or joys it has seen, however you will remember 2011 (or maybe you'd like to just forget it). As we look forward to 2012 and beyond, we rejoice in the good news of Kele, who brings meaning and hope and promises untold to the vanity of this life. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and keep your faith and trust in him. Amen and Rock into 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

brother vs. brother, brother

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a bit of a slacker to say the least. Between posting here far too infrequently and so many other ways I procrastinate my way through life, I'm not sure how I get anything done. Here's an example that will be worth your time in the end.

I heard The Civil Wars on NPR (A Prairie Home Companion, if you must know) earlier in the year and was very impressed. I made a note to pick up their album Barton Hollow, which was released in February, and promptly did nothing more about it. This week as I was going back through the albums I loved this year I realized I needed to finally grab a copy and see if their studio work held up. Damn, it certainly does.

The Civil Wars is a duet comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White. They make something like dark folk music with incredibly woven harmonies, but there's a distinctly Southern feel mixed in. At times it reminds me a lot of Damien Rice's duets or something from the soundtrack of the movie "Once." That's a glowing review.

Click to play The Civil Wars - Falling

There's actually been a lot of hype about The Civil Wars, from their first big exposure as a featured song on "Gray's Anatomy" to touring with Adele to being hailed as the future of music. I usually don't get behind the hype machine but I think these guys do deserve it if anyone does. Here's "Poison & Wine," the song that more or less gave them their big break.

Click to play The Civil Wars - Poison & Wine

So I'll admit it's long overdue, but at least I'm finally getting more word out about this group. Pick up a copy of Barton Hollow and see what they're about if you haven't already.

And while I'm playing a bit of catch-up, let me throw a couple other recent albums that are worth the listen: Undun by The Roots is touted as a concept album but it's just a good album overall, regardless of whether you pay attention to the themes or not. El Camino by The Black Keys is not as strong as last year's amazing release, Brothers, but it's still a great blues-rock record. The Dreamer, The Believer by Common is making a lot of folks throw that "album of the year" phrase around. I can never fault someone who lovingly samples ELO, but take a listen and decide for yourself. And have a merry Christmas or whatever you may celebrate.

Click to play The Roots - I Remember

Click to play The Black Keys - Run Right Back

Click to play Common - Blue Sky

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Hearts On Fire Will Light The Way

Do you know what Mookie and I used to do?

We had record store dates. For a week or two, we would collect the names of artists we'd like to check out, and then we would go to Zia. We might try them out at listening stations, we might make tough decisions on which CD to discard, or we might buy them just because of something we heard or because of the album art.

Then we might drive around town listening to our new CDs, or in some way, shape or form, we would listen to our new CDs within a few days of getting them.

I'm listening to JJ Abrams on the Nerdist podcast. And he says, "...As things become more accessible, and more effortless; in terms of... You want that album, you can click that button, that's not even a real button, and you have it. Even though you can't see it or feel it. We're living in a time of virtual existence, you know, paying for things with money you don't see to get something that you can't actually hold. That feeling of having a record that you might not actually listen to, because it was such a breeze to get a hold of it. And then you don't even take the time to listen to it."

I'm not sure of the exact count, but I believe there are about 14 albums I have received in the last week that I have not yet listened to. Something is wrong. Do you know what else is wrong?

Abrams goes on to say, "It is a kind of curse that we are not appreciating the stuff that used to take some effort... The thing that's so crazy is, the idea that you're with someone, talking to someone, and your phone makes a little vibrating sound, and you just look away. There's so little respect left for being in the moment... The rule has become that elsewhere and other takes precedent over here and now... Because, 'Oh, well, what else is there?'"

So OK. Let me go into my recently-received albums, which were acquired by pushing not-really-a-button, and see if I can find any gems.


Speaking of getting music easily. We're sitting around spinning records... Wait. No, we are virtually in a room together, clicking buttons to play music across the interwebs for each other, and an old friend is losing his mind trying to figure out how to get IAMDYNAMITE prior to its release on the net. Oh sure, google it now and you will find all kinds of hits. But before the first single dropped this week, all you could get was maybe some Black Eyed Peas hits. Anyway, he loses his mind when he finally acquires it and within a week he is seeing them live. Now that's love.

But IAMDYNAMITE has been sitting in my virtual music vault since Monday. I might not have even realized I had it. No appreciation. But I was missing out, Oh My God.

Click to play IAMDYNAMITE - Riot in the Neon Light

The album is mostly a repetitive collection of high-energy songs, but the energy is such a fun one that you mostly don't mind. Why should you? You need something like this. Let this be what you're listening to so that you can be distracted from the "here and now"... Because otherwise you're just standing in like with a Keurig machine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond smelling the farts from the asshole in front of you.

When you're done for the day, just repeat the following mantra...

Click to play IAMDYNAMITE - Take Me Home

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Or Are You Gonna Be Free

AISHA TYLER ASKS: "Are you, at this point in your life, with everything you've done, and the amount of political work you've put your passion and your energy into, do you feel more or less optimistic than you did, say, when you were first in Rage?"

TOM MORELLO REPLIES: "I feel much more optimistic, and that has to do, principally, with fatherhood... The purity, and the innocence that I see in my kids makes me...wanna fight for their world...
When I see it reflected in other things, for example...
The first song I wrote for the latest Nightwatchman record... There was a factory in Korea where they make [the low-end Gibson guitars]... The workers in that factory formed a union, and because they formed a union, they were all fired. The factory was moved to China... So these Korean workers were out of work, came to the United States looking for help.

"They of course found The Nightwatchman.

"I was happy to do a benefit show for them, but the day before the benefit show, the earthquake in Haiti happened. So these Korean workers had traveled six thousand miles, and were in desperate financial need for their wives, their children, their strike fund; voted to donate 100% of the proceeds from THEIR benefit show to the Haiti Relief Effort.
And it was a very moving gesture of international solidarity.
They went home penniless.
...That day, when they did that, I wrote the song "Worldwide Rebel Songs", sung it the night of that show, and it became the cornerstone for this new record.
Because it's a reflection of, and a window into, the kind of world that I'd like to live in. The kind of world that I fight for in my music.
The kind of world that I want my children to be able to enjoy, you know, free of the fear and the pain and the sorrow that afflicts much of the planet due to crushing poverty and awfulness. You know, and environmental terror.
There are moments like that when you really see how good humanity can be, and I see that in my kids... A purity and a goodness that gets spoiled by... You know...
The world can be the world we make it. There is no ceiling to it.
So let's make one that's good for little kids like mine."

Click to play The Nightwatchman - World Wide Rebel Songs

Fortunately The Nightwatchman does more good than just write flaccid songs. Don't hold that against the talented guitarist.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Paying my dues

My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke. The man is chosen based on some kind of IQ test, and maybe also a physical tournament, like a decathlon. And women are brought to him, maybe ... when he desires them.
 --Ron Swanson

How does Mookie turn a bad day into....well something better? He folds cards for four hours and then someone gives him $400. Boom.

I haven't played cards in awhile. Poker. No Limit Hold 'Em, in a tournament format, is my game of choice. The last game before my hiatus I beat a nice sized field for a nice sum of money. The opportunity to play after that just never came. Got busy...side work, got married, just didn't want to go grind my teeth for 4-6 hours.

A friend of mine, who still plays regularly, had kept on me to come play a tourney. After a rather shitty dinner with a family member, I decided to take him up on his offer to play the 10PM tournament at Treasure Island. I finish deep, but just outside the money. It was a horrible beat in my first hand after the break. I look down to see pocket aces with the short stack on my right moving all-in. I also push with the player on my left also pushing in. No other callers, we flip over our cards and I see some bad news. the other two players both have AQ off-suit. You might think this is good, but you would be wrong. I have only a small chance to improve in this hand. With no more Aces in the deck, I need the board to blank out. Dealer burns a card and we see the flop.

J - 9 - 7

Fuck. Bad texture...

Turn: 10

River: 8


The next day, was not a great day. Disappointment and dissent. I'm not gong to get into it, but it ends with my kicking and punching a wall and screaming in my garage. I decide to leave before  my neighbors call this disturbance in. I need to get my mind off things for a bit, and I'd like some redemption from the night before. MORE POKER IT IS!

I'm off to the South Point to play in the 7PM tourney. I have a pretty good start, but the cards turn cold...and I fold cards and steal the occasional pot with my tight image and smart betting. I had mostly been listening to the podcasts of Marc Maron on the iPhone, but decide to switch to some music. Music has always been a tradition for me in the late stages of a tournament. The albums that lead me to victory tend to become favorites of mine (this is what they call foreshadowing, kids). I look through the music I have loaded on my device and see that I have Prof's latest album King Gampo.

I learned of Prof months back from one of our regulars, known as the "Doctor", in our room on The song "Gampo" was one of the Doc's party starters, and it's always been a hit in our room, so I went ahead and downloaded the free album from Prof's bandcamp page. Having never listened to the entire album, I decided Prof would be my soundtrack to victory. The road was longer than expected, so the album got two full spins before victory was mine.

Prof calls the Twin Cities home and recently went on tour with blog favorite Atmosphere. There is a silly party mentality in the lyrics of Prof, much which revolves around girls and drinking. I mostly  pick up on the seriousness of some of the heavy mental pictures that Prof paints in his rhymes. Even if the message doesn't interest you, or escapes you entirely, you can't help but appreciate the wide range of Prof's ability in the delivery, or the big party-inducing beats he uses as his vehicle.

"Gampo" happens to be the first track off the album, and still remains as my favorite.

Click to play Prof - Gampo

You can find me stiff, like a samurai, on a llama ride, down a waterslide, getting sodomized / I’m a wallaby, I’m a king of a colony / By the way I’m Wil’n’out you would think I just won the lottery
The lyrics are silly, but how can you not love that song?

How did the night end up? Four players left and I had just folded an 8 and 3 off-suit hoping to get one final hand to play before I went broke in the big blind, only to get another 83 off-suit with all my money in the pot. Two players call my all-in bet and when the players cards are all face up, I see some bad news. I see that my 3's are dead since one player has what I call "shrubs" (pair of threes) and another player has AQ off-suit. I need an 8 to win, and also dodge an Ace and a Queen. Which is what happens! I win the main pot, and the player with pocket threes knocks out the player with AQ from the game! Down to three players and I'm still in the game! We decide to split up the prize pool and I take my cut and I leave the poker room listening to "On My Way"! Now I'm only  punching the air... in victory!

Click to play Prof - On My Way

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Now life is carefree and equally as boring

in medias res Because if you were here, the two of us would be a venerable force. You and me? Together? We would always make sure they were taken care of. We would make sure we were taken care of too. I know you would make sure of it for me. I absolutely know I would make sure of it for you.

I can't do it alone. It's not fair to expect it of me. I don't get credit for what I achieved. It's fine. They probably never gave you your due either. Today I yearn for you to be here more than I ever thought I could. Please send help? I need it. I'm broken and weeping and I need you. I'm not both of us. They need both of us. I can't provide it.

And flowers might wilt when we walk past
And self-help might help when it makes us laugh
Only finding questions in answers
You and I are just walking disasters

Click to The Wombats - Walking Disasters

I picked up on The Wombats by hanging out on I played the song "IOUs" based on a turntable suggestion, and was totally struck by the line Just cause she came here alone/ Doesn't mean she's not got the baggage of a long haul flight for a multitude of reasons. The Liverpool dialect for starters. But the beautiful imagery weaved into such a dreadful tale that surely has no fairytale ending...

This Modern Glitch was released in April 2011, and "IOUs" is a track off an EP that seems to have been released more recently this year, curiously carrying the same title as the first track off the album. I apologize I don't have further research or accurate info for you. You should check out everything you can find. 2007's A Guide To Love, Loss, and Desperation is just as enjoyable, if for no other reason than just for the opportunity to chant the chorus here's another song about a gender I'll never understand. If this is a rom-com, kill the director.