Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't Try Too Hard Now

It's funny the things you notice whilst attending a show solo...It occurred to me, as I sat sipping my fucking oh-so-cool Jim Beam on the rocks, that it sure takes a lot of effort to look like you don't give a shit how you look. That is, unless you get a closer, more careful look. The devil's in the details after all, and these details, are not to be ignored.  For example, the pack of youngsters in front of me on Tuesday night assembled to see the Freelance Whales and Tokyo Police Club, some of which I think were members of either of those bands. I mean, it was The Black Cat, so this kind of crowd is generally expected, but still, sometimes it just makes me laugh. This blonde kid in front of me, had on what I like to call a "not outfit". The classics represented -  tight, dirty jeans, black ratty backpack, some kind of whatever white t-shirt, a green trucker hat and - wait for it- matching bright green top-siders (see previous post for how those have come into fashion in Hipster USA). Oh so perfect. That's the kind of detail I like to include in my outfit. By the way, I took the time to stop him and say, "You know, you're really cute," and, though I'm sure it made him smile inside that I said that to him, he sloshed by me, dropping a nonchalant, but ever confident, "thanks", that sounds more like, "well, duh".

There is no shortage of cute boys in this world, and in my experience, if someone wants to tell me they think I'm cute, stranger or not, I will take that compliment. For real.

The show was great. Local favs the Freelance Whales played a great opening set, showing off just how in the hell they pack in all that sound onto one little disk. They are, of course, appropriately adorned to cover all the Hipster basics... dude with the ridiculously large beard? Check. dude with the over-sized big rimmed glasses? Check. Solo chick in the band who is unbelievably pretty? Check. Guy in the Forest Gump running outfit? Umm, check? Yeah that was weird to me too, but what do I know, I planned my outfit too - my carefully determined  look  - appropriately fucking cute, but not too cute, these are Hipsters we're talking about, and nothing is sadder than a chick who tries too hard to not try hard at all.

It was a great kick off to the night, and though I knew I was going to spend a few awkward moments between seeing my ex, and my fuck buddy, (if nothing I am consistent in my taste!), I had a good time. The headliner, Tokyo Police Club, are a band I have seen before, actually many times, because they always have the best opening bands! Maybe it has to do with their own taste, or their record label or something, it doesn't really matter because they are a consistently good band, so that's always nice to see.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Love Language

It's like riding high through the Blue Ridge Mountains in the passenger seat with your window down - hand waving gently in the breeze, volume turned all the way up, stoned as a bat, in the passenger seat so you can close your eyes. Or maybe its like the first step onto the sand before you take off running into the ocean - can never tell if the sea will be warm or cold, welcoming or be damned, get out!

That may in fact be more accurate as The Love Language's latest album Libraries was written entirely in Wilmington, NC -  a beach town like no other. Though, in its defense, (I guess that's right?), mixed and recorded in Raleigh, NC during the great blizzard of 2010. Phew, what a conundrum!

Think back to 2009 when the romance of warm sunny days and long walks on the beach were both long gone and yet to be discovered by the time Stuart McLamb recorded the debut self-titled album The Love Language, an album based on heartbroken letters to his ex. Don't be fooled by this claim alone though, as what some would call the actual debut, or maybe just the intentional debut through Merge Records, Libraries doesn't stray from the same tender tenor. The Love Language manages to be one of the few bands to truly hold their name up to the fame of their sound. And I don't mean that as a sappy insult to the somehow both despairing and delectable anguish expressed in McLamb's lyrics. The band is fucking phenomenal. Between BJ's ability to rope it all in while managing to play second lead guitar, and Stuart's own brother Jordan providing drum sound and solidly on-time back-up vocals, the band can't go wrong. I think I originally called it "high drums, long guitar riffs, complex backing between brothers and best friends". Well, then you add Justin on bass and the one and only Missy Thangs on keys - shooo - color me lovestruck.

Sounds like a bunch of bitter, overrated nonsense, huh? Well, trust me, it's not. All that stuff I said about plunging head first into the ocean and driving around with the windows down... I meant it. The Love Language is all about wearing white instead of black, throwing sparks at night, paying for your mistakes and moving the fuck on. Not to mention, they are wholly attractive to watch perform. So much so that wishing for true love for someone other than yourself, but not necessarily with yourself, is a completely unselfish act, and one that most fans of love ballad bands cannot conceivably accomplish.  Who could ever break that heart, one would ask! But, even with my slight obsession with musicians, I could imagine the serial strumming and tattered van-touring might wear on any love interest... though, as long as there are Summer album releases and hopeful forlorn listeners abound, The Love Language will have no trouble finding an audience.

I, for one, am both hopeful and forlorn, so count me in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Skinny Jeans and Bear Hands

Ok, so I get it, Skinny Jeans are in. They are so in that it's hard not to see a pair a day somewhere. It's like a uniform. For instance, Wednesday night, the girls and I had a date night - beer, pizza and a movie - saw Eclipse. Oh the Twilight madness it did overcome... yeah... Even in that frakin' flick "Bella" wears Skinny Jeans. Of course, on her, she looks prepubescent, but whatever.

After the movie I went to see some local bands play, Vita Ruins (who I missed), True Womanhood (not bad, she dressed in SJs, though they were so tight I was pretty sure they were tights), and the Brooklyn-based headliner Bear Hands. Now, to be forewarned, I hadn't heard of the last two bands before, and according to the venue's (U Street Music Hall) website, this band is "a post-punk/experimental/indie rock act". One can only assume they will wear an assortment of clothing to fit that bill.

They did not disappoint - musically or costume-wise. Each boy (a few who could pass for cute) wore the aforementioned SJ Uniform, though apparently what is also "in" along with the tightness is a cropped style. No one told me that boat shoes are also big. I guess Vampire Weekend assured that trend, though my ex boyfriend wore them too, and he's from New Jersey, so maybe it's a Yankee thing? Well, I don't know, some North Carolina Coast folk wear them too... either way I think they're ugly, but that's just me.

Anyway, back to the band. The bass player was probably the best musician in the band, and maybe the cutest to boot - though I do have a thing for drummers, and he was dreamy. Tall dark and handsome (boat shoes be damned) and covered in tattoos. Makes me quiver just thinking about the ripples of ink climbing up his arms. I forgot how good a bass player can really be when it comes to making a solid band. He and the lead singer are clearly tight, because they were never off beat. He also played an extra set of standing drums - perhaps part of the "experimental" sound - a bit tribal in nature and alarmingly awakening. The lead guitar player was also very talented, though I'm pretty sure his long hair was just a mask for a thinning mop on top. The lead singer, skinny little thing!, had a great voice and a great guitar sound, and a nice stage presence - though he has quite possibly THE worst fashion sense I have ever seen. 

Picture this:

Skinny Jeans, light blue boat shoes, black T-shirt cut just so to look like a tank top you might see on a wrestler trying to show off his body, and a giant handkerchief around his neck. He apparently has recently lost some dreads by shaving his head, but it looks as if they might be violently trying to grow back. Despite that mad look in his eye, he's probably a really nice person. the drummer kept his head locked to the kit, and kept the beat right in time throughout the show. good for them, there were maybe 25 people there by the end of the night. It always breaks my heart a little to see bands come to town on a Wednesday night and not even make enough to cover the cost of the trip. I hope someone let them sleep on the floor at their place... I would have if I'd known they need a place to stay, I don't mind musicians around...

See, aren't they cute in that kind of grimy way?

Stands to reason that Hippies and Hipsters aren't all that different, man. Not to mention Punks. The only reason they're not Hippies is because they have too much rage. Hippies are supposed to be about peace and love, while  Punks are more into fucking shit up. That's sadly more my style. I won't deny that I do love. Deeply. Hmmm. What does that make me? Meh, screw the labels, let's just say I'm a fan of music, and I'm enjoying this new found band.

Monday, July 5, 2010

All Time Favorites

As an introduction to this new blog post, I have decided the best way to know what your getting into is to write out a list of my all times favorite albums. Just to forewarn, they are not at all alike. And before you ask, maybe some of these I don't listen to every day, maybe haven't even listened to this year, or since I left the state of North Carolina, but they still make the list because they shaped me and my taste in all things in a significant way. And by all things I mean anything, from dudes to other tunes, from snacks to heart attacks, from wine to John Prine. All of them. If you don't believe me, read the blurbs.

I won't to go in any particular order, necessarily, as that's not really fair or possible. My favorites vary by mood. If you like what you see, well maybe I'll make you a mix. It may or may not include any of these musicians. If you don't like it, well then good day.

Fleetwood Mac, Tusk
One of my all time favorite albums, and its completely underrated. Like most things both beautiful and heart-breaking, you can't hep but love it unconditionally. I admit, this affair began not long after a break up,  so in essence, I replaced being in love with him with being in love with a personification of deep sadness coupled with profound hope. Lindsey Buckingham writes with such hatred, expelling bitterness in harsh, hard chords that still somehow make you want to hang out with him. I never skip one of his songs. And Stevie... shit... she sounds as if she's been standing on a deck looking out at the ocean with a cup of coffee trying to remember any of the days before this one. How this band survived everything they went through and still managed to write this album is beyond me. "That's All For Everyone", "Save Me a Place", "Sara", "Walk A Thin Line", and "That's Enough For Me" are un.real. I promise not to cry.

Check this out: Not That Funny

Archers of Loaf, Vs. The Greatest of All Time
This Etty Bitty EP - just five songs! - is hands down one of the best examples of ebb and flow ever recorded. Eric Bachmann (who I have a tremendous life-long crush on) spits out piss and vinegar as if its peanut butter and honey on a rice cake. The sheer amount of catchy guitar riffs and attitude adjustments happening mid-song is ridiculous.  I once made a mix called Shelby Vs. The Greatest of All Time just to pay homage. It was pretty good, but no match for the Archers. This was a tough choice of favorite Archers albums. Vee Vee followed right in as a close second. I've never really played fake guitar along with music as I listen, but I often considered it when listening to these boys belt.

Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
I've dated some hippies in my day, and I wish I could blame my love of this album on them, but truly, you can't blame it on anyone but the band. Hipsters, hippies, douche bags, sweet hearts, it doesn't really matter, because something about "Over The Hills And Far Away" makes everyone wish they had a scream like that. I mean, really. "Oh darlin', darlin', darlin' walk a while with me..." I guess who I should really be blaming for my love of bands like Led Zeppelin is my Dad. He, like me, can't stand to have things too quiet - it kills the mood if you've got nothing to say and nothing to fill the silence. 

The Beatles, Abbey Road
There are almost too many words to describe the love I have for this album. It conjures so many good memories for me of the days of my youth. Nights spent with Jessica in the woods, weekends at Granddaddy Bill's pool (tasting my first margarita), dancing in the kitchen... learning why I loved The Beatles so much with every turn. Especially John, though Abbey Road has always felt like more of a Paul album to me. You know? Also, this album opened my eyes to George. He is such an amazing musician. "Something" has to be one the most beautiful songs ever written. My friend Neve sang it once for a high school talent show for her then boyfriend and now husband, Kevin, and I nearly fell over and died. Though I will always say that "Because" is my favorite song ever.

Beck, Guero
Breaks my heart. I have friends who can't do Sea Change because of the emotions tied to it, but for me, it's Guero. Maybe it's a form of masochism to listen to songs that manage to turn me on, make me bitter, and pull tears from my eyes in nothing shy of an hour. It's amazing that that's what you can do to someone you claim to love, but never really do. Or maybe he did, I don't care anymore because Guero's the one that found a more permanent place in my heart. "Earthquake Weather", " Missing", "Go It Alone" and "Farewell Ride" are my favs.

Pearl Jam, Ten
One of the first whole albums I ever loved. Not that I skipped around a lot back when I was that young, I usually listened to an album the whole way through while talking on the phone for an unbelievable amount of hours, but this album sold me from the beginning. Hold on to the thread/the currents will shift/guide me towards you/know some thing's left/and we're all allowed to dream of the next/time we touch... I know, it's just so intense... ha. For a really long time, I thought that intensity was ever so important... of course, I was a teenager. I even saw them in 1998, lord it was so fun. In retrospect, I should have gone to see The Beastie Boys the next night and the Archers a few months later on their farewell tour. What a jackass I was.

The Pixies, Surfer Rosa
Kim Deal is such a pistol on this record. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Doolitle too, but this album just makes me happy. It reminds me of riding around Asheville with the JoKeR back when it didn't matter so much if all you had was love. "River Euphrates" was the first Pixies song I ever heard. Dick Davis put it on a mix for me a million years ago and I was like, WHOA. What the hell is this!? I never looked back. "Bone Machine" and "Gigantic" were always favorites too, but then, then there's "Cactus"... oh, yes. My feelings about "Cactus" are a little personal and kinda dirty.

Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1
This album contained my first introduction to a cuss word. I would giggle while singing the lyrics aloud, making sure to sing just a louder when the time came - life sure is funny when your 8. "Hell" was the culprit. I think I officially retired to a love affair with a bad mouth not long after that. In Sixth Grade, while out on the playground, I taught a girl named Merri how to cuss by getting her to say "shit". She'd never heard that word before, so it was kind of thrilling for her, and I guess me too. When I think back on poor Merri, I'm not surprised. She used to come to school on "Out of Uniform Day" wearing one outfit, then change into a more late 80's, early 90's style get-up for the day. I guess her family was super Catholic and didn't approve of her wearing certain clothes. Weird. What's even weirder? I didn't realize for a long time what "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" were really up to... who gives a damn that the walls came down all the way to hell?

Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes
This album helped me through some really annoying times in high school, and later college. A mutual love of Tori Amos, smoking cigarettes and watching The Simpsons contributed to sealing a bond between myself and Metta, a girl I lived with for three years in college. She even had a cat name Pele. Still does, in fact, along with two kids. I bet she still loves Tori, though I haven't asked her about it in a really long time. 

David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Gives me goosebumps. What a brilliant piece of music. That's really all you need to know. The rest is pretty self explanatory, this is Bowie we're talking about. You should totally watch this video... it will give the jump from Ziggy to Jareth a lot more depth and hilarity. And just in case you didn't know, "It Ain't Easy".

The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street 
Drrrrrrrty. Though my favorite song the whole thing is "Sweet Black Angel" and its not all that dirty. It always reminds me of "Factory Girl" from Beggars. This band is another one that makes it really hard to pick a favorite album. Let It Bleed takes me back to high school when I first realized that I might be a little more than Boy Crazy. I was infected with that sound and how it made me feel, how they made me feel when we sat around and talked about it. Maybe all those Christians who were worried that Rock n' Roll would poison the mind were right... I ain't been the same since... Tumble this dice.

Liz Phair, Exile In Guyville
I think I've owned more than one copy of this album I love it so much. Liz came through DC two years ago on an Exile tour that consisted of performing the entire album from start to finish. I got so wasted that I fell into a bush and bled all over my friend Christina, but damn if that show wasn't worth it. Thanks Liz. We used to chuckle our way through "Flower" because I don't really think we knew exactly what she was talking about at the time. Once I got older and realized how damn sexual this album was, all I could do was love it some more, learn the lyrics and sing along. Liz paved the way for my future love affairs with Mates of State, She Keeps Bees, Sleater Kinney, The Kills and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sigh.

Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
Two words, Katie Smith. I used to stay at Katie's house all the time when I was 15. I remember one particular morning when we had all been getting into trouble and this dude she was dating at the time, (I think they were dating), woke us all up trying to learn the opening riff to "Today". He must have played that opening riff 100 times. Somehow, instead of forever turning me off Siamese Dream, I just couldn't help but love it anyway. It makes me smile and roll my eyes every time it comes on.

Soundtracks - Singles, The Royal Tenenbaums, Amelie
I love soundtracks. Maybe because I love mixes and I love themes. The three above are some of my favorites that I can always listen to. I've owned Singles on tape, on CD - twice, video and DVD. I fucking love that movie, and no one, and I mean no one can ever damper that opinion.

Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
This concept album is in my all time top five. It is so stunning, surreal, aching and beautiful. I wish I had been old enough - or cool enough - to really appreciate what the hell Jeff Magnum was up to back in those days. This album sincerely haunts me, though I imagine a lot of people just can't get past the sound of his voice coupled with the rough guitar ripping through the background. "Ghost" and "Holland, 1945" are among some of the more shattering. Horns in the back only add that extra feeling of complete musical defeat. There's no need to fight against a sound like that. "Two-Headed Boy" feels like a love song, but really it's just a stirring epitaph. This album is the reason bands like Arcade Fire exist. This record is also inextricably tied to my friend Tim.

Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
Another impossible-to-pick-a-favorite, but goddamnit, I can always listen to this one, so I guess it's the one. "Ballad of a Thin Man" helps. But fuck! Blood on the Tracks, A Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, Nashville Skyline... Phew.  What's your favorite?

Radiohead, In Rainbows
I love Radiohead, have loved most everything they have produced, but this album completely blew my mind. I think with this selection I have officially realized a pattern has formed. I love duality. As a Virgo, an only child, part-Cherokee-part-European mutt, my blood fights to decide how it feels about clashing. I want it all, I want nothing at all. I feel like In Rainbows is exactly that combination of bewildered openness and a pulled back sense of security. The sound is at once familiar and yet completely new to the ear. It's comforting, like sleeping with some one you've known forever, but it's also terribly exciting like you might never go to sleep afterward. If you haven't seen the USC Marching Band play "15 Steps" with Radiohead, you must.

Weezer, Weezer
It truly never gets old. And no matter when I hear a song from this album, I always smile and think of friends like Amanda and Carrie. Not to mention, I still get damn emails from the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach from going to see them in like 2005. Amazing. This album, though nothing completely earth shattering, certainly paved the way for bands like The Drums,  which will probably never make it to my top 20 favorites, are certainly worth a wink and a smile here.

Spoon, Kill The Moonlight
This album sold me on Spoon, and trust me, I love some Spoon. Hell, I love to be spooned. How can one not enjoy this simple, sweet loving gesture? Or this sweet and loving band? Don't be fooled, they have a dark side too that was well earned by years of mistreatment. It didn't make them bitter, and for that, I will always appreciate what they do. I get to see them play again in August with Arcade Fire, and I'm pretty sure it will be nothing shy of brilliant. Here's one of my favs from one of there other albums, just to shake things up.

Guns n' Roses, Appetite For Destruction
Yep, you read that right, even on the double take. I wrote a play in college because of this album. I fucking love it. In all its 53 minutes and 52 seconds glory. Appetite made it possible to take a closer look at everything damning we were taught to forget and embrace it instead. Who the hell knew such ugly, doped up ego-maniacal assholes could shake a culture to its core with one little album. "Rocket Queen", "My Michelle", "Mr. Brownstone" - god, what fucking hits! If you really consider yourself a true fan, you should read Slash: It Seems Excessive, That Doesn't Mean It Didn't Happen by Slash, it's amazing.

It feels funny to leave on that note, ignoring such other favorites as Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, U2, Bob fucking Dylan... arg! and a score of new favorites I've stumbled into over the years, but I don't want to get to greedy here. There will never be a shortage of talent that speaks to me, and I'm not shy, I'll always share a new title to the list.