Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How do you handle a musical bully?

Q: What do you do when a stranger wants to talk to you about music?
A: Follow some of these steps.

Yesterday I received an e-mail expressing mild frustration about not being able to keep up with today’s music. Basically, this guy was caught in the middle of a conversation at a holiday party in which only ten percent of the acts mentioned were recognizable.

He asked what I do to keep up with new music, finally realizing his car radio presets weren’t going to be a viable source for new content. I gave him my standard, “podcasts, podcasts, podcasts” response – which appeared to be more work than he’d be willing to undertake. An entirely understandable stance: for even professional music critics – who just sit around all day listening to music – are many times running behind as well.

So I decided to offer the following, lazy method, to holding your own if you get cornered by a music aficionado. If you’re going to a New Year’s Eve Party this Thursday, you’ll likely have a bulldozer approach trying to find somebody/anybody willing to listen…

The easiest defense is to ask one of these Tune Bullies a question that will give them an opportunity to further prove to themselves they have important thoughts. Now, this is a polite course of action that will buy you more time until you see an opening for an escape. Questions that will work in almost any situation include:
-Do you know who produced that album/track, seems like that’s a more important part of the musical equation now?
-Is that also available on Amazon, because you know iTunes is so 2007, right?
-Do they tour?

If you are called upon to bring up a musical act, tread carefully. If you just met this person, they might want to start a “dueling banjos of unknown acts.” I’ve gotten into these back and forths – and nobody wins. The following statements will hopefully get you out of having to name an act that will come under instant scrutiny.
-It’s been tough to find new music, nothing sounds original anymore.
-New music doesn’t interest me, especially when you see those confusing reviews on Pitchfork.
-Actually, I’ve had a fun time recently rediscovering music I’d forgotten since high school.

Now for the advanced level tactic.
To be used when you particularly don’t care for whoever trapped you into this conversation. It’s time to start an arms race…
-Invent a genre, label it yourself... (i.e. “Mountie Rock”)
-Create an unknown act using exactly three short words or “The (insert word)s” (i.e. Neutral Milk Hotel or The Fuck Buttons). But be careful, because those two bands already exist.  Just play it safe and mention The xx:
Here they are performing the song "Islands"
They were in Chicago recently, early December, at The Bottom Lounge
They return in early April to play at the new Lincoln Hall
(bonus music snobbery: know that Lincoln Hall is the new concert hall run by the crew behind Schubas)
This album has made a few top ten lists, including NPR's listeners' poll.

Here are some possible fictitious genre names to consider assigning this band:
Your preferred merge of the words Angst and Orchestral (Angstestral?)

This works. I have successfully fooled many people into thinking I go to thousands of concerts and have an iPod library the size of Gibraltar. The truth is there are massive gaps in my musical knowledge and even the small amounts of acts I do know well, I only know tangentially.

I like what I like, as does everybody... And that's really the only way to talk about music with others. Maybe you'll get a good tip - or even better - might give a good tip to someone else.

Happy New Year everybody.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is it named after the time or drug element?

Q: Did I ever tell you about Speed Dating?
A: If not, enjoy this gem from MySpace's discontinued "View de TQ"

Over the past couple months, I've heard some front line battlefield reports from friends caught in the eHarm war... I asked each if they are considering "re-upping" their current tour of duty. One question I won't ask them, "Maybe you should try Speed Dating?"

Here is the reason why I won't be offering that as an option... to anybody...
(Reposted in it's original stark manner, for no google image search possible can convey the depth of this experience)

ORIGINAL POST DATE: November 10, 2008
ORIGINAL POST TITLE: The Unabridged, sad, tale of my misadventure into Speed Dating.

A couple minutes shy of 2 am, I am unable to sleep.
Now is just as good of a time to relay to you the ordeal of this past Wednesday.

My anninimity already gone, I will attempt to keep it for all others involved.
(All names have been changed)

Buster and Keaton are both single like me.
Amongst our normal "guy" talk consisting of the current fantasy sport issue or recent NetFlix title viewed - we've shared our various reports from the war of single life of the modern era.

Online winking there, blind craisglist dating there, coworker allegiance misinterpretations of the past and neighbor interactions of the future...

When Buster brought up the idea of attending a Speed Dating event it was mainly presented as:
"When we've been trying all these other methods, how can we not give this a shot?"
I was on board as long as Buster and Keaton would be in - I thought (at least) I'd be writing to inform others of an entertaining story.
Keaton, I sensed, was not fully on board.
After a year of joking and batting around the idea, we all committed.

Registration was to open at 8 pm, with the event starting at 8:30.
Buster arrived at my curb at about 7:50.
Keaton was already in the car.
Buster flipped on the dome light in his car, to make sure I wasn't wearing the same shirt.
We weren't... But in all respects - we were.

The striped shirt has become a massive cliche in the single guy wardrobe.
A slow plague of striped shirt dominance has appeared in my closet.
If you were to catch me stepping out to work, you have an over 80% chance of seeing me wearing a striped shirt.
It has become the new prison uniform.

We arrive at the location: a hotel in Rosemont (another suburb known for their... well, hotels to be honest with you).
Specifically the hotel bar, where we register.
Keaton first, followed by me, and finally by Buster.
Keaton has been assigned number 35, me 36, and Buster 37.
We were all handed sticker "name tags" with just these two digits markered onto them.

Now just killing time before the "first date" we attempt to scan the crowd for a sneak preview of our future.
I see no women with nametags.
I barely see any women at all.
There's the cocktail waitress, and a young woman playing at the pool table located just beyond the limits of the bar's seating area.

This bar is classically lit - for a bar....
Which means, dimly lit.
The music playing makes me feel like I'm at a junior high dance party.
The air is cold, thanks to a propped-open (for reasons unknown ) door.

A bit of future foreshadowing:
The most attractive girl I saw was our cocktail server.
The second most attractive girl I saw was the pool player, who quickly left the area before the monstrosity began.
The most interesting person I met was one of the other MALE speed daters.

Keaton was to begin at table 7.
I was slotted for table 6.
Buster got pegged for table 5.

Although I'm loosely using the term "table" here. The respective areas were more like lounge/booth setups than chairs with a table.

Carol is an assistant buyer for a large retail apparel chain.
She quickly announces her single motherdom.
She is an attractive woman, and has positive qualities.
The six minutes we spent was unspectacular.
I mentioned that I liked going to the city for concerts.
She recommended a pizza place nearby one of the venues owned by her friends.
After the debriefing with my two friends, it's learned that she has two children, aged 3 and 5.
Also learned is her age - six years older than I - and that she supposedly made out very well in a recent divorce.
Ladies and Gentleman, if you were a cougar hunter - I think Carol might have been your pick.
Truthfully, not for me.

I'm in the lucky position of being between Buster and Keaton. I don't need to wander around looking for numbers - just follow Keaton. Also, I don't have to worry about the next guy blowing up my spot because I'm confident that Buster won't be interrupting me looking to get a head start.

Here's how ROUND 2 began, word-for-word:
TQ: Hi, my name is Tom
Eleanor: Hi, I'm El- Tom [my actual last name]?
TQ: (instantly looking to my name tag, confused it just has "36" and not my name) yeah.
Eleanor: I went to Grammar School with you.
TQ: Eleanor Roosevelt?
Elanor: (nods head approvingly)
TQ: Oh, hey.

So let me fully illustrate how insulting me forgetting Eleanor Roosevelt is.
I went to a small Catholic Grammar School.
(By the way, let the record show I graduated first in my class)
Also, I went to this school from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade with Eleanor.
But she didn't look insulted in the least, for she used to have a crush on me.
I know this because I was invited to her 15th birthday party.
I have yet to find anybody else who was invited to that party in 1994.
It's safe to say, I went the last 15 years without thinking of Eleanor Roosevelt.
And now, I had to do nothing but think of her for the next six minutes.

Eleanor: I was just thinking of you, when I was walking my dog past your parents' house-
TQ: (interrupting) My parents don't live there anymore.
Eleanor: Oh, where?
TQ: Arlington Heights.
Eleanor: Oh, where in?
TQ: Lake Arlington
Eleanor: Oh, in one of the town homes?

Buster tells me, one of the first things Eleanor said to him during ROUND 3 is that she went to Grammar School with me.
Buster informed Eleanor that he was my friend, and wanted to know what I was like back in the day...
Buster told me she said, "He was wonderful."
He also told me that Eleanor said, "You know, I'm afraid you may stalk me - because your friend knows where I live."

So after I left the dark alley falsely disguised as memory lane with Eleanor, I looked to find Keaton - in order to find to whatever girl he just "dated."
But instead I saw Keaton sitting in the corner of the bar alone - not moving.
"Welcome to the bullpen" he says to me as I walk over.

Turns out that "Girl 7" is the end of the line, and because there are 11 guys at the event, you have to wait until the bottleneck clears up before you can talk to "Girl 1"
Keaton had just spent, in his terms "the longest six minutes of my life here with my tail between my legs." He was one fourth of his way into the bullpen experience.

Again, my position proved to be my advantage. I was able to spend this time - not alone - but talking and joking with Keaton... Six minutes later Buster would join us in the bullpen. And it was in this time period that the cocktail server came by to ask us if we wanted another drink. A cruel irony to have that attractive women talk to us at that point in the evening.

Keaton finally broke out of the bullpen to go back into the fray, and Buster and I talked with another guy newly arrived to the bullpen...
This was the most interesting person I met.
He was tall, like Barrack Obama.
He was slender, like Barrack Obama
He had a slightly darker skin tone, had short hair with a hairline like... you guessed it.
This guy, if he wanted to, could make a career as an impersonator of the man who was elected the night before to be our 44th President.
The story he told, of how he was able to get a blind date to the Grant Park Rally because he looked like Obama, was the best story of the night.

The first question that Debra asked me was, "How old are you?"
I didn't think this was appropriate to ask, I certainly didn't ask her in return.
TQ: 29, will be 30 in January.
Debra: Oh, when in January?
TQ: The 24th.
Debra: Oooooh, you're an Aquarian - that's gooood.

Later I found out that Debra grew up on the East Coast - went to a school I seemingly knew more about that her, and works for a major Airline. Also, I found out that Debra did not pay for this event....

Oh yeah, I had to pay $35 to attend such a circus.

...Debra was brought in by the event's organizers because too many men had signed up. She was brought in to even out the numbers. This was a clear example of having the "B-Team" brought in to the game during a blowout.

Gweneth is here with friends. She's happy to hear I'm here with friends too. She wants to know who my friends are - but I politely don't tell her.
She, in not a polite of fashion, wants me to guess who she's here with.
Because I later find out that she is an Air Traffic Controller, I don't have a hard time guessing.
Also, I should point out, that I'm noticing the intoxicating levels of alcohol being ingested by these women.
Gweneth has a difficult time connecting her lips to her wine glass on first attempt.
The only thing notable about Gweneth is her accent, she was born in England.
It's the only thing I found interesting about her... Something that was not of her control (like her drinking).

I'm not going to change this girl's name, because I think it's fake.
"Dream" is the name she told me.
I bet she wanted me to say, "what was that again?" but I heard it.
I bet she also wanted me to compliment on that name's beauty or originality, but I wasn't.
Midway through our six minute semi-interview for her courtship the beautiful cocktail server interrupted us to refill her triangular shaped liquor fueling system. She (the server) was doing a lot of this - which Keaton told me later he didn't appreciate.
Personally, I could have used more of it.
I was already beginning to mentally check out of this affair. Growing more upset at the level of drunkenness at the other end of the conversation.

Petria asked me 3 times in six minutes what I did for a living.
I answered truthfully everytime, but using different word choices.
My idea was to avoid the same words sparking a "oh, I already asked that" in her mind.
A potentiallly embarrassing situation.
But I think I overestimated Petria, it probably just confused her more.
This girl's best story was told to Buster one round (and another drink) after me.
I really wish I would've heard first hand how she reacted on the morning of September 11, 2001. Especially how the role of moving around her with her ex-boyfriend was involved. Supposedly, it involved someone dropping to their knees.

And then we came to the end.
Sharon, I thought, was the drunkest.
Turns out, she was the dumbest.
After this event, when Keaton went to the Mens Bathroom - he saw Sharon walking in when he was walking out.
Sharon is taking courses at a local community college to be a web designer.
Sharon does not know how to work an iPod.
Sharon, when asked by me what she does for fun, said, "I have a cat.... and I walk my two dogs."
I mentioned that I like to go to concerts - asked her the last show she saw was.
Sharon said, "I saw Carrie Underwood in Peoria, do you know what Peoria is?"
I told her the next show I had tickets for was My Morning Jacket.
"What's My Morning Jacket?"

Meanwhile the organizer comes by to tell us that he's not going to blow the whistle, because this was the last round.
Yeah, if I forgot to mention it before, the organizer had a gym-class-issued whistle he's blow every "six" minutes. (Reports vary on just how accurate his timing method was)
I was nearly visibly angry at this lack of whistle blowing. I wanted to grab it from him and blow the holy hell out of it myself.

Next to me, I see Keaton walking away from Carol, girl six, who I started my night with and now Keaton was ending. Keaton was walking away, but Carol was now ordering another drink. I was thankful I got to talk to Carol before the liquid got to her.

Finally, when the organizer asked for my "card" it was my excuse to bail on Sharon.
This card was where you wrote down who you had interest in.
The girls supposedly do the same.
Buster wrote "no" for all seven women.
Although Keaton and I were not as decisive in our summary of the night - we all hope to never see any of these characters again.

Was it worth it?
Honestly, I don't know.
Yes, I got a story out of it (which was my only goal).
People who I told this story to last week laughed (which made me smile).
But I feel awful for having gone through it.

Monastic life looks better and better.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Do You Realize?

Q: When does a Phoenix fail to rise from the ashes?
A: Looks like it's dependent on it's touring drummer.

The main appeal of the annual XRT Big Holiday Concert for me was the French pop sensation Phoenix. I initially balked at getting tickets to this show, especially since I've seen them twice this year already - and at better venues than the Allstate Arena. However, when a friend had extra tickets available, I didn't hesitate to grab'em.

Sadly, news broke shortly before they appeared on stage that they would be without their touring drummer due to a family health emergency that understandably, and rightly, held a higher priority than honoring a previous commitment to perform for a band in suburban Chicago. Phoenix could have just canceled their entire set - but instead opted to play a 20 minute acoustic set that featured only four songs.

It was painful to watch. Their songs lacked the intensity required to fill the area and the performers looked to have lacked the enthusiasm or momentum to carry through. They were painfully apologetic between their songs, and left the stage as dissapointed as the concert goers. Having seen them at full strength, I felt sorry for others that may have also assigned them the top spot in their lists of anticipation who weren't as lucky I to have seen them at their other two shows (which had sold out both the Park West and Aragon).

But all was not lost.
I didn't know it then, but to walk into the Allstate Arena concentrating on Phoenix's set was horribly short sided. This was not a Phoenix concert. Ask those four fries from Versailles - they'll tell ya also - this was a Flaming Lips show. The stage was set up for them, the majority of the crowd was there for them, and they bought it.

It's a shame I wasn't able to prepare for this show to the level I am accustomed to. Due to the unfortunate consequence of Do Make Say Think and Mew rolling into town in the week leading, I was musically focused on preparing for those shows. If I can, I like to listen to as much of an act's discography in preparation for seeing them live. I want to know what song is playing after three notes, I want to be able to yell the chorus and the verses.

The fact that, when I look back and realize that I was only familiar with their "radio hits," but still massively enjoyed the show, is a testament to how well The Flaming Lips performed that night. Shortly after the show I was asked what my highlight was... The question kinda took me off guard, and I hastily said it was when they played "Do You Realize" during a magnificent storm of confetti.

But looking back, I think the true highlight was the very start of the set. Starting with the human gerbil ball entrance...

Leading into their first song: "Race for the Prize" which included a release of large balloons into the crowd. I had General Admission floor tickets, right in the heart of the Bezerk of the Balloons. Let me assure you I used everything I learned during my stint on the Hersey High Volleyball team in addition to my natural height advantage to aid in my enjoyment of that first song.

One of my friends who was at this show with me is also a coworker. He walked up to my cube and saw me a tad perplexed hours before the show. It was because I was in "cram session" mode listening to this group. I told him that I felt a little overwhelmed due to how much music this group has produced over the last fifteen or so years. He calmed me down a bit, and told me their album "The Soft Bulletin" was solid. The first song on this album is in fact "Race for the Prize" and to have the first song of the set be recognizable, and have it be played in such an enthusiastic manner (washing away any poor Phoenix aftertaste) set me up to enjoy a great headlining set.

The Flaming Lips won me over.
Without question, I will want to see them the next time they stroll through town.
Any regrets I might have had about my lack of prep will be cleanly washed away with that next show.

I'm going to enjoy the next few months of my life, which will certainly include a further review of their musical resume. Yes, I'm late to this party - but that won't mean I'll be having any less fun at it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What does the "I" stand for again?

Q: How important are you?
A: Very.

This story happened a while ago, but I'm just now getting around to it.
It's the tale of my first experience as a V.I.P. at the Metro.

Most concert goers in Chicago will answer "Metro" when asked to provide their favorite show venue. I believe even those hipsters with the tightest of jeans will leave their island of "small show" superiority to compliment this Clark Street stalwart. It's still small, when compared to such other locations as The Riv[eria] or Aragon [Ballroom], but will still have "known" commodities on their marquee. Best of all, Metro seems to keep their prices somewhat reasonable (a far cry from the ass blasting procedures of the House of Blues).

So when a small, in my estimation, band from Denmark announced a headlining show there a two months ago I jumped at the chance. Mew had come into town twice this year already. First as one of the many opening acts at the annual Pitchfork Festival in Union Park. In hindsight, if I had known then what I know about The Flaming Lips (this is a tease for my next post), who headlined that event, I would've been there. The last time they came into town was to open for Nine Inch Nails... Nothing against Nine Inch Nails, but I wasn't going to pay for a NIN priced ticket for a show in which I was more interested in the opening act. Not to mention, I thought Mew and NIN was a horrible mismatch - stylistically.

So why Mew?
Why now?
Well, I first heard them about 4 years ago when I heard their song "Special."

Since then I've gathered 20+ songs from 4 different albums and have been biding my time...

This next part of the story... I don't know how I got from there to here... But next thing I know I'm sitting in the VIP area... Trying to act cool:

I went with a pair of music loving sisters. One who is from the [in]famous Conflict Diamond kickball team. It was her sister, who I met for the first time the evening of that show, who had the connection with a Metro employee. (side note: isn't "connection" such a more classy term than "hook-up?")

For the first time ever I saw a concert without paying for parking, tickets, drinks, or the cost of time needed to show up early for a good viewpoint. (However, for the sake of accountability, the parking was free regardless thanks to parking being much more available when the Cubs aren't playing down the street)

The VIP area is up in the balcony. We had a table reserved for us a little closer to Stage Right from center. Oh, and seats for the table... I don't attend many seated concerts, but seeing how I've listened to this band as frequently as I did sitting in my cube at work it felt more than natural. More importantly, I've realized just how spoiled I am for having a pair of eyes higher in the air than most. The two sisters who accompanied me, both of them, are in the range of 7 to 10 inches shorter than I (as long as women continue to wear heels / boots / unknown to me entities on their feet around me I will never be an accurate judge of female height). Not having to struggle for a vision window to the stage is a much larger plus in their books.

Although I did pose with that above "too cool for school" photograph, I asked to have another one snapped to show my true emotion of the evening: cheesy giddiness.

Their second song of the set was the aforementioned "Special." They also had a nice mix of older songs and tracks off their current album. The greatest named album of 2009: No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away

I really wish they would've played more. I think their set was just over an hour. For a band that has 3+ albums, they could have done more. They aren't an upstart band with only ten songs to their name... But maybe they didn't have any oddball visual accompaniment planned for their other songs? Yup, this band is not for those of you with epilepsy. We're talking massive coordinated strobe lights and a video screen that has the ability to conjure follow up night terrors for those of weaker minds. As much as I like Mew, I had to laugh at some of the oddball animation, such as cartoon humans with feline heads marching, chosen as backdrops.

But all is right in my mind - I wasn't there for a visual critique of their artsy fartsy craftsy orchestral pop rock alternative moving pictures. They have a great sound and I'm more than happy I heard it... as a V.I.P. nonetheless!

Finally, another song they played in their set - one that if it had been absent it would've been a cornerstone disappointment, was "Sometimes Life Isn't Easy." It's the song that makes their newest album worth the price on it's own.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why is New Jersey so damn entertaining?

Q: What phrase should become more popular?
A: "Put a jersey on!"

Just so you know, many years ago there was an odd exchange after a Green Bay Packers / Tampa Bay Buccaneers game between Warren Sapp and Mike Sherman. The GB head coach did not appreciate the TB defensive lineman's actions during the game. Sapp's response was to keep repeating the line, "Put a jersey on, put a jersey on..."

Lately, I've put a jersey on (cue cliche record squeal) my television.
The following are two recommendations for your televisions.
Both involve the State of New Jersey.
Both have real people.
Both couldn't be more different from each other.

You should watch MTV's Jersey Shore

Especially if you are, like me, someone who loved all the True Life episodes documenting young people's antics in Seaside Heights, NJ. This show is a true extension of those gems. However, nobody on this cast is as great as the all-time great "Tommy." (<- that's a YouTube link to his stellar True Life appearance)

This is a reality show. Make no mistake about it. Sure, I'm sure a lot of it is staged. And, not being at all exposed to "that scene" it is sometimes difficult to imagine people are actually like this. I also feel very bad for the Italian-American Defamation League. I have less sympathy for Jersey Girls. This show tries to show real drama, but the result is actual comedy.

There's already a genre assigned for actual real life drama: documentaries...

You should watch Sundance Channel's Brick City.

I rented this from Net Flix, but I believe it's also available to a lot of people who have a Sundance option in their "On Demand" listings.

On the whole, this is a good story.
A success story.
But it's amazing how horrible success can appear.
Once again I'm reminded how incredibly lucky of an existence I have.
A freakin' blissful ignorance of a childhood with no threats of gangs, drugs, poverty, fatherlessness, violence, and a general unknowing if I would live to see 30.

But this series is not all about doom and gloom as a city, Newark, fights to feel good about itself again.

On the other hand, it's a document primarily about a charismatic Mayor who believes progress can continue.
A confident police director who's views his pursuit as more of a vocation than a job.
A young woman accepting her past choices and actively mentoring others based on her experiences.

And then there are my personal highlights: a band of people who struggle every day for small victories like a school principal in a new school, a member of a "Men Against Murdering Our Children" support group and an old man named Street Doctor who is the head of a large grass roots volunteer effort in Newark.

On multiple occasions I had to rewind to catch some of the amazing quotes and drops of wisdom captured during Brick City.

I'll only choose to share one here, for I don't want to spoil the experience I just had for you:
"They say the reward for suffering is experience."

And now, it's time for some hidden tracks.
Mindless insomniac rants I don't want classified in its own post.

By the way, it's 4 am now.

I've been better places mentally.
But I think these two Jersey related shows are helping me now.
My life has been without perspective lately.
I'm not a bad person.
You won't see me fist pumping in a club.
My anxiety is stupid.
I'm not hungry, I have a job, I feel safe.

I'm wondering if I should convert this to a "music only" blog
There are two concerts I went to that I want to review here
A potentially very large musical initiative I am considering
More and more music that I'm finding every day that I want to share

But that's not why I started writing almost five years ago
It was for nights like now, when I can't sleep
When I have thoughts that can't stop
Thoughts that I don't necessarily want to share with anybody specifically
But I feel need to escape from my own inner monologue

Stuff I certainly can't say when I'm starting to get anonymous comments
But don't worry, I have no plans on removing that option.
I consider myself very approachable, if you don't want to leave your name - fine.
People have been, thankfully, upfront and honest to me recently.

...I'm opting to quit here with tons more in my mind...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Aren't talented friends wonderful?

Q: What's keeping me up tonight?
A: I needed to upload this song pardody!

My friend Stefan, the professional writer, sings a Tiger Woods inspired parody of a John Legend song called "Stereo."
He e-mailed it to me this morning, and I felt compelled to upload it. Thankfully, he granted me permission to use the song.

("Ya Ha" is a commonly used term on WSCR 670 AM The Score's Boers and Bernstein show)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who is ohad benchetrit? (And Do Make Say Think for that matter?)

Q: What's my favorite musician who's name I honestly don't know how to pronounce?
A: Ohad Benchetrit, one of the founding members of the Mountie Rock band Do Make Say Think.

Charles Spearin (left) and Ohad Benchetrit (right) are the two leading forces behind Do Make Say Think, a mainly instrument heavy - non vocal - post rock band out of Canada. Charles and Ohad are consistent Members of Broken Social Scene (a big time favorite of yours truly).

A quick refresher on Mountie Rock:
It's the label I've given a genre that describes the interconnected independent music scene in Canada. It's bascially a family tree with interconnecting and common branches, with Broken Social Scene as it's "trunk." The creation of Broken Social Scene was a bunch of struggling musicians who all pooled together to make a side project - only the side project of BSS caught on and caught the folllowing initially intented for everybody's main project...

So back to Charles and Ohad... The project they call their own - together - is Do Make Say Think. (Not unlike how Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew are the heart of Broken Social Scene). What was especially cool about this show were that the opening acts consisted of the individual side/solo efforts of Charles and Ohad respectively.

First was Years. This is Ohad's baby, which is a very high-depth guitar experimentation. It's just him, and a guitar, but the sound is far more complex and compelling thanks to his use of looping his own guitar hooks together into a growing tapestry. Ohad is able to make a single guitar produce sounds of percussion, bass, rhythm, and even a sense of lyrical content to each track. To see his songs live was like watching a painter start with a blank canvas as he worked his way from mixing the different colors together to creating a clear image.

Next up was Charles' own musical idea: The Happiness Project, which is as experimental as you're gonna get. Very simply, he wanted to translate people's natural melodies in their normal speech patterns and syntax into music. He interviewed a couple of his neighbors and family on a recorder. After playing a minute of these interviews, we would listen to them again with the musical accompaniment. It was like a grown-up version of Peter and the Wolf.

Charles Spearin - The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project | MySpace Music Videos

All three acts were different combination of the same 9 musicians. They openly joked about this on stage. Different mixes of people playing under different banners. My friend that I went to this concert with jokingly yelled out "Ripoff!" and Charles laughed and responded back to him, "ha, you're right!" Foo me, it was a great illustration of why I like Mountie Rock - and how thankful I am of their musical creativity and paths they have led me down in discovery.

All 9 were used during Do Make Say Think's main set. And everybody showcased their talents of multiple instruments. Most of the songs used two drummers, two guitarists, one bass player, one violinist, one saxophonist, one pianist and two horn players. But sometimes Charles would put down the bass and pick up a french horn. Or Ohad would amazingly yield his beyond belief guitar skills to play the saxophone. The lady who's name I don't know, who mainly played the saxophone would use the keyboard on occasion and even one of the two drummers stepped around to show that drummer can be multifaceted as well.

I should also mention that DMST made a gallant effort when they performed their latest song, "Do" in an attempt up upset Phoenix's "1901" for Song of My Year. This is a group that I will easily want to see again the next time they come through town.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What are my friend Ryan's songs of the decade?

Q: How much do I love comments?
A: To a level impossible to measure...

So here's the comment my friend Ryan left in response to my "What are my songs of the decade?" post:

So as a 'thank you' for providing that mini list, here are the songs Ryan thinks are worthy of inclusion on his own list.

But first a quick commentary:
By far, the song I like most out of this bunch is the Bon Iver track.
And the song I kinda didn't want to advertise was "Yellow." I know there are a lot of Coldplay haters out there - and I've gotten into many fights with their "shooting fish in a barrell" tactics... But I personally think "Yellow" is an inferior song compared to "Trouble" which is hidden on the same debut album.

"Paper Tiger" by Beck:

"Flume" by Bon Iver:

"Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't" by Brand New:

"First Day of my Life" by Bright Eyes:

"Yellow" by Coldplay:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What are my songs of the decade?

Q: What's the latest mixtape?
A: "Best of 2000s" is the title, although it can also be called "Best Music of the Century to date."

Even though the decade is technically 2001-2010, we all know that's no fun.
I've been reading a ton of blogs that have posts titled "Best Ten (blank) of the Decade" and wanted in on the fun.

However, when I was compiling this list I realized that some years (like 2005 & 2008) were much more deep than others. Therefore, I've decided to make the list a tad bit simpler and limit one song per year plus two bonus entries for special circumstances.

My first thought when I was done with this list was my amazement that neither "Clocks" by Coldplay or "Hey Ya" by Outkast made the list. Both these songs were super huge in their time. Each was in heavy rotation by yours truly, but other songs just hit me a certain way that earned their inclusion.

SONG OF 2000:
"I've Seen It All" by Björk (featuring Thom Yorke)
Those that have been in my condo know that I have a framed movie poster for Dancer in the Dark. It was that 2000 film that deeply moved me, although most don't like it at all. This song is from that film, and the version from the album Selmasongs is a track that still holds weight for me today.

SONG OF 2001:
"Sing" by Travis
An upset pick. One that if I was making a top ten songs of the decade probably wouldn't have made it. I had to think back to who I was in 2001. For some reason I remembered my friend Paul coming over to me one night when I was studying in my favorite place in Marquette (the large cafeteria located in our Union). I was holed up in some table with my portable CD player and ungodly large headphones. He gave me Travis' first album and told me, "they're better than Coldplay." Soon after that handoff Travis released a new album - with this "Sing" song as their first single. This decade was easily the decade of friends finding music before me, and my thankfulness for their various recommendations... And with all those considerations I'm going with this track for this spot.

"Walk On" by U2
Before all the TV stations went back to "normal" after that Tuesday morning, MTV had made their own music video featuring clips of the aftermath to "Walk On." (The link above is to that music video, which is not able to be embedded, per request, here) However, the video I am able to embed is the version of the song u2 played to conclude the "Tribute to Heroes" telethon telecast. Note that Ringo is helping them out here as well. For me, this song will always be attached to those events.

SONG OF 2002:
"Star Guitar" by Chemical Brothers
I have to say this is my most favorite song of the past ten years. Every meaningful playlist I have made, just for me - not for mixtape distribution, has had this song as the 4th track (4th because that's where it lied on the Come With Us album). It is nearly a requirement, no necessity, that I listen to this song while commuting by train or a traveling on a plane. If I was a hoity-toity music critic I'd write a review that called it's orbital grooves and cascading beats transcendent. It may not be your style, but hey - this is not your list.

SONG OF 2003:
"Where I End And You Begin" by Radiohead
I loved this song so much, I used to type out all its lyrics to keep me from accepting reality at my first job out of school. Radiohead would win Band of the Decade for me, even though the album this track is from, Hail To The Thief, was the bands third best effort of the decade. (In Rainbows is my choice for best album of the decade) 2003 was spent in the worst job of my life. This song hit me perfectly thanks that that awful fact. Sorry "Clocks" and "Hey Ya" but my life was just too depressing to have those songs rescue me.

SONG OF 2004:
"Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand
I bought a laptop in 2004. My friend T-Bone downloaded iTunes without me asking. I didn't think I needed it at the time. Pretty soon I was making mixtapes for anyone and anybody regardless if they wanted them or not. And this year, nearly every damn CD I burned for somebody had this Franz Ferdinand song on it.

SONG OF 2005:
"E-Pro" by Beck
This was a great follow up guitar hook heavy rock track to follow up the Franz Ferdinand hit. It also correctly translates my upbeat mood as I had finally left the soul prison of my previous job and began the one that I am still at today.

"The Saints Are Coming" by Green Day and U2
This song was debuted at the Louisiana Superdome before the Saints' Monday Night Football game - the first game played there since Hurricane Katrina.

SONG OF 2006:
"Shampoo Suicide" by Broken Social Scene
I'm cheating here with the dates. This song was actually released in 2004. However, it was the 2006 film Half Nelson that introduced this song, and more importantly, this band to me. Finding BSS was the single greatest musical discovery for me this decade. This list would be inadequate without a track by them.

SONG OF 2007:
"Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John
If I was in college in 2007, I would've found a way to write a very long essay analyzing this song's lyrics. This is a rarity for me, one who barely can understand the words in his favorite songs. But this song has themes that resonate for me.

SONG OF 2008:
"Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2" by My Morning Jacket
I first heard this song on a SXSW Preview podcast from NPR's All Songs Considered. It blew me away and propelled me to seek out more MMJ music.

SONG OF 2009:
"1901" by Phoenix
This song took an early lead and although other songs tried, none was able to top it... Also, I'm extremely confident that nothing in the next 30 days will be able to change that fact - especially when you consider that I'll be hearing this song live for a sanity-challenging thrid time later this month.

I hope this post can inspire some sort of debate or controversy. After all, that's basically the point of these kinds of lists. Which songs do you think were wrongly omitted? How much does one of these songs make your skin crawl?

Better yet - I hope you make your own list and share it with me.