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Friday, June 24, 2005

Fun with New Music

Thanks to my launch radio subscription, I've lately been hearing a lot of music that I'd never been exposed to before. A lot of it, IMHO, is crap and I'm very thankful for that skip button. But then there have been those gems of discovery where I have to sit back for a second in my little cubicle and go "WOW, why have I never heard this before?"

It get's even more frustrating when I find out that some of this great music has been around for ten years or more. But then I guess no matter how many CDs you have or how "in the know" you are, there's always going to be something that seemed to miss you the first time through. Tangentially, Aaron and I were just last night discussing how great it is when you discover the greatness of an album you own that you disliked the first time through and then put away for two years. That feeling you get when you pull it out again, thinking to yourself "Let's give this another go", and then you love it... it's priceless; Falling in love always is.

So with that, here is a partial list of my recent discoveries:

Uncle Tupelo/ Sun Volt/ Wilco: As a genre (Neo-country, Alt Country, Americana), I've always really wanted for there to be something out there like this. I'd heard of Wilco, even bought one of their albums a while back, but it wasn't quite the brand of country I was looking for. I like the album a lot actually, just not what I expected. But then I heard me some Uncle Tupelo, and I said "Yes!!!! THIS is what I wanted!" and the world was good. Withe the demise of Uncle Tupelo, for those of you who don't know, came Jay Farrar's Sun Volt, and Jeff Tweedy's Wilco. All are worth exploring.

Mogwai: I used to hear about these guys from time to time at a coffee shop i used to frequent. I would keep hearing people talk about how great they were, but no one ever seemed to be listening to them at the time, so I never heard them. Very few lyrics, and LOTS of guitar. Mood music. Don't know what else to say, 'cept they rock my sock off in a beautiful and melodic kind of way.

Kyuss: Holy Moly...This is a band from the early to mid-late nineties, hailing from the Palm Springs area. But don't let Palm Springs fool you... it's still the Inland Empire, and deep IE at that. But musically, I don't even know how to describe these guys. The only label that keeps coming to mind is heavy dirt rock. Yeah, I know some of them later became Queens of the Stone Age, and you could try to draw that comparison, but they really are two different bands IMO (I don't actually care much for QOTSA). But my friend Kevan and I always used to say "We should check them out sometime, they could be interesting." Now I'm sorry I never did...cuz these guys bring the rock in a serious way.

Grant Lee Buffalo/Phillips: Ok, what duffel bag was I raised in that I missed this? Good honest songwriting, honest lyrics, without all the pretense, and without much of the sonic noise that obscures many honest artists. Aaron loaned me Copperopolis a few months ago, and i've been lovin everything I've heard since. Good stripped down music.

Godspeed You Black Emporer: Their name owes to a motorcycle gang from a japanese anime movie. Stylistically, somewhat similar in genre to Mogwai, though here you have NO lyrics, but rather opting to let others do the speaking for them, relying heavily on sampled material from various sources. Lot's of good guitar, with incredible dynamics that range from the barely audible to the gorgeously loud, harkening back to the days when record labels would let music tell an audible story, rather than force every last note to be blisteringly loud so it'll stand out on radio (a pet peeve of mine regarding modern music).

Red House Painters: I've only heard a limited amount of these guys so far, mostly from their Songs for a Blue Guitar album. I would say many of the same things for RHP that I did of Grant Lee Phillips. Just good, solid songwriting wizardry.

Loretta Lynn (yes, the Coal Miner's Daughter): Ok, this one I've known about for a long time, having grown up with her, but I just can't say enough about her album Van Lear Rose. Forget everything you think you may know about Loretta Lynn, everything you think you know about country music, (if you know me at all, you know how much I deplore modern pop-country music, nothing good has come out of Nashville since...well since I was a kid). This album...well I don't even know how to say how true to life it is. You feel like she's sitting down and playing to you, and the only reason she has a guitar while she tells you about her life, is 'cuz it makes the story more believable. There is so much truth and beauty in this album, it really is a shame if you let it pass you by, like the country music industry did. It won a grammy, in spite of the fact that Nashville wouldn't touch it, and it got no radio play on country stations. And yes, there is a reason she got the longer write up here.

Ok... so if my tastes and descriptions mean anything to you... go hear some new music.

Friday, June 10, 2005

MY ARM WAS TWISTED INTO IT!

Blah Blah BLah...Yeah I know it's been a year since my last post. It might be a year before my next. Since then my wife got pregnant, we had a baby girl, we moved next door, we vacationed in Oregon, I got a new job, and life has generally been very good. Don't really know what else to say without writing twenty pages on the significance of these events. If you read this, you must be a glutton for disappointment, and so consider this post the reward for your tenacity.

Aaron made me fill out this piece of crap survey thing. But I gave it an honest effort anyway. Enjoy!

[edit] Ok, this survey is not a piece of crap. I just don't usually like doing them, especially in the internet age where everyone passes everything on, and you get inundated with things, and sometimes feel compelled to do things you really don't want to do. This survey was an OK one, sent to me by my good friend Aaron, who I knew would really enjoy and appreciate my answers, so I did it anyway for him.

1. Total number of books I’ve owned: I honestly have no idea. I do have most of the books I’ve owned, and they fill up about 15 large sized boxes. Not sure how many each box holds, but I know they could fill up approximately 5-6 large sized book shelves.

2. Last book I bought: If you know me, you know I get a little fuzzy with timelines. By the time I’m 80, me entire life will have happened the same week. So it was either John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy (which now has a fourth prequel book in a nice boxed set), or it was the books I purchased with my wife at a used book store in Cambria while taking a trip to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. There I bought Peace Breaks Out, a follow up to John Knowles’ classic A Separate Peace. I also picked up a first edition of Orson Scott Card’s and Katherine Kidd’s (they co-wrote the book together) Lovelock, and last I bought a beautiful old (1940s I believe) hardcover edition of The Way of a Pilgrim, complete with dustcover, with a different translator than the paperback version I already had.

3. Last book I read: The last book I finished was Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale of betrayal, revenge, a proud fall and redemption, The Count of Monte Cristo, which is my all time favorite work of fiction. I read a translation I hadn’t read before, which I liked very much. It was a bit more readable than the previous one I’d read. Please note that there are many editions of this book out, but that the many abridged versions available do not do this book justice. Get one of the unabridged versions, which weigh in at over a 1000 pages.

4. Five books that mean a lot me: I will self-qualify this question this way. I have a hard time defining a book as “means a lot to me” if I haven’t read it more than once. A book that means a lot to me will have transcended different periods of my life and still have meaning and value. That being said, here they are in no particular order:

1) The afore-mentioned The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas. A masterfully crafted tale that hits on so many levels that one cannot walk away unchanged. The recent movie, while fun, and even good, does the book a discredit. They are not the same.

2)The Worthing Saga, Orson Scott Card. A tale within a tale within a tale that spans a period of many thousands of years. A very human story, which is Card’s strength. It deals with mankind’s strengths, as well as our sicknesses, while, via analogy, dealing with the question of pain (quite masterfully I think).

3) Ender’s Game, Orsom Scott Card. Yeah, I know I run the risk of not looking diverse by including two books by the same author, but his tales are really that good (generally) because they really are that human. This is the first book of two different series of books, and it is so full of moral questions and implications, all thrown upon a child. This book literally made me weep, and I’m not a weepy kinda guy. Whatever though…it’s that good.

4) Man’s Search For Meaning, Victory Frankl. I read this book as part of my coursework while working on my bachelor’s. It changed my entire perspective on modern psychology, it’s approach and purpose. While written by a Jewish man, I believe it sits quite well within an Orthodox Christian paradigm. It is the fleshing out of his theories as a burgeoning theoretical phychologist, filtered through his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. This book could change the world (in many ways it already has).

5) Father Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father, Vera Bouteneff (editor). Some stories are so good, so powerful, so moving at the core of your being, that you (almost) don’t notice a poor translation. This is one of them. A must read for anyone desiring to see the life of a modern saint, anyone desiring to witness the heights of humanity, while living in it’s depths. This book may not change the world, but it will change your life.

5: People I will infect w/ this meme: Because I resent being infected myself by Aaron, I will not infect anyone. If you read this and WANT to do it, copy and paste the questions, and put a note in the comments letting me know you did.

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