Wednesday, January 31, 2007

28 Months

At this point of our lives Lucas has now become an important part of the decision making process. No longer does he wait for Mommy or Daddy to decided what is right for him. And if mommy or daddy simply don't want to hear the importance of what he has to say, well he can simply take matters into his own hand if necessary. It adds a new dimension to our parenting that, though we've always known this day would be upon us, weren't really expecting it already. The two-year-old suddenly has a mind of his own, which is probably why some parents tend to call this time of development the terrible twos. We're not ready to submit to defeat and admit that our precious child causes us serious psychological distress to the point that the word terrible enters our vocabulary when describing him. He definitely makes us aware that we are cruising through hyper-baby-space no longer, but with each challenge comes great new rewards, right?. That's the best way to approach obstacles I believe so we've opened our hearts and minds and arms to new possibilities, which hopefully shall include new grandparenting possibilities as well.

The grandparents spend plenty of time with the little guy and that has been a grateful pleasure over the past two years. Hardly ever do we hear a negative response with regard toward them spending more time with him and fortunately they live close enough to give us an immediate reprieve if necessary. Many times we're allowed a sigh of relief when we've come to our wits end and thoughts of terrible descriptions regarding our predicament begin to enter our minds. The day opens up before us childless and we're able to wallow in our intimate existence that, though it's changed dramatically, we still cherish deliciously. But with this little delight comes alternating challenges as well, like weeds sprouting up beside our wonderful flowers.

Our parents (the grandparents) seem to have forgotten the difficulty of trying to maintain a certain authority with a child of your own. There is a fine line between moments of serene camaraderie and complete disobedience. Trying to explain the importance of listening and respect to a two-year-old can be very difficult, especially if he has already decided how he feels about the subject. Well, this often becomes a glaring problem in the company of the grandparents. They don't hesitate to undermine any disciplining efforts and it almost always comes across as good natured. It's easy to understand because to them Lucas is a sweet little ball of wonder and they hate seeing him upset, but we're the ones who have to deal with the outcome of them giving into his every whim. They don't understand that he can't have everything that he wants all the time, that we are trying to set some limitations on him so that he won't grow up to be a complete asshole. I always hated those guys who seemed to have everything and especially that one thing that seemed to come right out of their forehead like a toad, their massive ego. We don't want Lucas to be one of those pricks. We want him to care and respect other human beings and it would be nice if our parents could understand that we are trying to begin some of that development now, which means that we don't acquiesce to whatever the hell he wants.

But, sometimes even that doesn't stop him. I've never been a big proponent of time-out. I remember the daunting parenting tool when it was thrust upon me and my bad behavior. When we started to learn a little bit about parenting it seemed like such a natural and normal behavioral technique that was accepted by everyone, but we never committed to it as a parenting tool. Besides we didn't want him to have to go to his room when he did something wrong. We didn't want it to be his bad place. His room is a special warm place where he sets up his train and plays and draws and reads. Well, recently Lucas has become a climber. We have chairs and little ladders and stools and many, many objects that can be used as a stool. Lucas has recognized the benefit of all of them. Now, it hardly matters that most of the objects above his normal height aren't for him, he's determined to investigate every corner of our small home. So, the time-out has gone into effect in our home. Every time Lucas uses the furniture to scramble beyond his means then he ends up in the back hallway right in the corner. We don't quite call it time-out but we all know what it means.

"It's time for you to think about what you are doing?"

The funny thing is that the more he goes in the corner, the less it seems to bother him. He's already becoming comfortable with his little space of punishment and we've only been trying it out for a couple of months now. Well, I guess we'll have to figure something else out soon enough as the evolution of parenting continues. You just keep growing Lucas and your mommy and I will do our best to guide you into the future...and please don't become one of those guys.

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10: Mono - You Are There

Mono creates music of the earth, of nature, of our world and all its aspects. With slow melody it hums and vibrates up through the ground. The distance is inconceivable but like a tsunami you sense its destructive nature coming for you. That hum will soon grow into a rumble and it unsettles something deep inside you. There's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from its hideous wrath. The rumble evolves into a tremor shaking the dust from inside your ears. Then the tremor becomes an earthquake shattering your foundation, bucking and rocking like an enraged bronco beast. The clouds form overhead and the heavens open up and shout down at you. Chaos forms with the almighty universe and upends the fabric of nature until she shrieks indelibly in your ear until you feel that you'll either fall away into madness or open your heart to love. Her weapon becomes a caress even faster than the destruction before it and she reminds you of the beauty there is to offer. You settle down into a new existence while your body echoes and regurgitates ecstatic reprieve. Every pore tingles and releases its special gas. Your head falls on the pillow offered for it and have become an integral part of nature, leaving all thoughts of human needs behind. You have reached precious enlightenment.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

11: Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter - Oh, My Girl

People who like this band, also listen to this band...and if you like that band, then you'll really like this band...and if you really like that band, then you'll love this band...and if you love that band, then you'll totally dig this band...and if you totally dig that band, then you absolutely must listen to this band...

...and that's how I found Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter. It's really not coincidence because as my list has shown I really dig mellow music of all kind...but I definitely dig mellow music by women with great voices, and Jesse Sykes fits that description perfectly. Her voice is husky melodic and I really like how her songs are guitar driven yet have a slow dreamy quality to them at the same time.

I'm eagerly anticipating her new album, which comes out in a week.


12: Ratatat - Classics

Thump music, riding in your car, motion full-body-electro-rock-dance music shaking at your bones. Blink Music with power exhaust chords and noise that echoes above the mountaintops. Lightning music that never waits for thunder slashing over the horizon like a computer generated graphic holy relief more realistic than real. Crush music that reverberates through the landscape of the distant past, the one your mother and father never knew. Ice cold music that melts heat waves from your brain like an earth-shattering mindquake. Hunger music that moves your feet, shakes your rumpus and giggles at your knees. Hmmm music, what the hell am I listening too? Damnatic music right down inside you. Ratatat music.


Monday, January 29, 2007

13: Pepe Deluxe - Beatitude

This was the surprise find of the year. Wandering grungy Newport Avenue of Ocean Beach, I happened upon a small music shop (which I can not recall the name of right now, sorry). When there is used music nearby the temptation grips me and I have to wander the aisles and peruse. OB is this fabulous city in San Diego that still seems to have an individualistic flair about it, non-corporate attitude abounds, so it is extremely amusing to simply wander and look at all the shops. Yet, out of all the times we've made our way westward, I had never visited this music shop before (crazy!). I did a quick scan of the bins because I felt a little rushed since my family continued to wander up the road. To my surprise I saw this Pepe Deluxe album from a couple of years back. I have an even older album of theirs and even though I thought it was pretty good, I never imagined that I'd get something else by them. Anyway, I saw this album and I initially decided that I wasn't going to buy it for that very reason. I left the store and quickly caught up with Xtina in The Black and she enthusiastically asked me if I found any good music. Her euphoric nature and beauty swept me away and I thought to myself, "maybe I should buy that Pepe Deluxe disc." So I told her all about the album and she told me to go back over there and buy it right then and there.

Well that's exactly what I did and I'm dern glad about it now because this album is fucking good.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

14: Cat Power - The Greatest

I was surprised to discover once I initially listened to this album that it was not the greatest. There was so much anticipation and desire to hear it that I felt let down a bit. Perhaps I've come to expect so much greatness from this chanteuse that she's almost evolved into mythical status among fans, especially after her last record, which is definitely one of the top ten albums for this decade. But it's easy not be discouraged for very long when it comes to Chan Marshall. Her voice is such silky perfection that you discover there will always be a moment when you want her songs to fill the air around you. I am consummate fan of this artist who seems to have her head in the clouds, but never dumbs it down, and I have this feeling that she will forever weave her way into our soul.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

15: Jel - Soft Money

"Don't buy this product. You don't need it. If this picture wasn't pretty then you wouldn't see it."

Ah, yes, such words of wisdom. With these words we delve right into the masterful music of Jel. A random purchase at the local music store listening station has turned out to be one of the best albums of the past year. Not too long ago, when I met my lovely wife she introduced me to the wonders of phat beats. Growing up in my over privileged life I failed to venture into the world of grooviliciousness, forever stuck in my isolated honkeyness. But here was this fabulous woman helping me see the wonder in all the world's music and my eyes and ears began to overcome my borders. So, now, when I hear the groove rise through headphones I recognize the inherent genius behind a master at work.

Fortunately for us Jel also has a knack for connecting with us in many ways. Poilitically, culturally, humorously, and ironically. He paints a picture about our capitalistic and fatal culture that really isn't that pretty, but when the voice makes its way into our ears we definitely need to see the message trying to reach our hearts. We need to buy it. We need to invest in it. Our souls are depending on it.


Here's the selection of short films at this year's Sundance for viewing. Enjoy.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

16: Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther

So we descend into the strange world of Midlake and the trials of Van Occupanther. We begin to drift back from the year 2007, a century and beyond, until we find ourselves wandering the turn of the 20th century. Traveling through lush forests and over broad majestic mountainscapes. We live with people who work heavy with earth and stone. We experience the world as it once was, wild and free from the devil called civilization. We meet friends like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Van Occupanther, a time when a cultural renaissance spread like wildfire. We shake ourselves of the lingering nightmare of the middle ages and view the world with a different shade, open new eyes. It's quite comfortable here by the fire swaying with the harmony. The future seems wide open and beautiful.

But then as we listen more closely we realize that we really haven't traveled such a long way. It's only a couple of decades from here to there. Instead of the early nineteen hundreds we find ourselves in early 1980. The music has locked us here, trapped us with its slight of ear. Oh well...the night sky will always provide wild beauty no matter how and when you look at it.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Part One:

She sat next to him, her hand upon his thigh. He felt good. He felt real good. His juiced up heart beat within the rhythm of nature. The swirl of wild landscape that cascaded past them was more alive with vibrant yearning than he ever thought possible. He knew that it wouldn't take long for them to reach the city and that when they returned to that land of pavement the feeling that he was currently feeling; the one that coursed through him like hysteria, the one yet to be named; that feeling would shrink back down into its shadow. It would lose the light that it was so eagerly seeking at the moment. They would be okay, the two of them. They would go back to their natural comfortable existence that they always knew, but perhaps that what was truly sad about the entire affair.

Out here, amongst the trees, free from power lines and subway lines and shopping lines, they found a freedom that spoke to each other's hunger in a new way. They reached deep for once and, quite frankly, it was exhilarating. There was a big part of him that didn't want to go back but what else could they do? They had lives that they wouldn't throw away. They had jobs, family and friends. They had obligations, responsibilities that went beyond that secluded clearing. After all, it was impossible to remain in heaven forever. They always ended up coming down somewhere, sometime. It seemed such a fantasy to assume it would be any different this time.

They looked at each other for an instant and everything vanished. Their hearts understood the clarity of the situation. It was possible to hold onto what was guiding them in this precious moment. They could ride it out, drift past the mundane monster and find a warm room where their hearts would continue to beat for each other. The had found it out here amongst the clean air and heather and dandelion after all. It did exist. They had felt its touch.

Her eyes echoed his exuberant thoughts and he knew that anything was possible. But, then he saw the shiver in her, a brief hesitation and he mistook it for what it wasn't. He would regret it for the rest of his life.

(go to Part Two)

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17: Juana Molina - Son

Juana Molina has one of those soft lilting voices that weaves its way around the music. It climbs down in through your aural canal and tickles the back of your throat before descending deep into your belly settling down gently, almost silently, until a warmth begins to flow out to your extremities. She's beautiful through the heart and embodies the soul of jazz and folk. With a pleasant smile you find your eyes closing down into dreams that are full of magic.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

18: Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That

I really dig Phoenix's funk-rock sound. When we first heard them a couple of years back Xtina made the claim that they sounded like a bad Jamiroquai. As it turned out, after listening awhile, they are much better than the man made famous because of a hat. The funkadelic groove is the very thing that seperates them from all the other boring garage-pop-rock quartets inundating the airwaves across college radio land these days. Without it they very easily may have been glossed over with barely a nod in their direction. Then as the melodies descend into our ears we are greeted by Thomas Mars' gentle voice. He doesn't shout or demand our attention but simply goes about his business flowing with the general artistry of their music. This band has gradually become a staple in our humble abode and I never hesitate to proclaim my allegiance toward them.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

19: Tapes N Tapes - The Loon

These guys are one of those bands that are constantly being compared to all the great rock bands from the past. They're a newer version of Pavement or Modest Mouse or The Pixies or whatever. All bands that delve into the music that evolved up from the earth are trying to create art that reflects who they are. Sometimes they fail miserably most likely because they don't remain true to their core being, but every so often we hear a band whose music simply feels genuine. Sure it may have elements that we recall from the past but that has always been a reality with rock music tracing back to the black heart of the nation. But the true artists somehow tap into the special demons of rock that tug deep at our loins and make us want to howl, while also climbing up above the reverie to create music that is unique and authentic. Perhaps that is why Tapes N Tapes is an extraordinary band.


Friday, January 19, 2007

20: Man Man - Six Demon Bag

These guys are crazy fun! Especially if you're into that rompararlian crumbunctious circusy groove. The song Black Mission Goggles comes forth out of the speakers and into your ears and you can't help but get up and shake it (even if it's a mad romp filled with mockery), bounce your head and clap your hands. They are the aspiring mad scientist who never grew up but decided to discover the wonders of the universe through music instead. They are outrageous and you are too if you listen to this record...but I have to admit that sometimes it's fun to cast off all the rules and regulations that prescribe our limitations and freely dance in the clouds.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

21: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat

Jenny Lewis simply has that voice. The one that I gravitate toward. I knew about her before I even knew about her band Rilo Kiley, before I realized that she was in The Postal Service. When I heard her voice on those occasions I immediately could tell that I already heard her before. And it turned out to be true. For a long time we had a song that Xtina downloaded called Science v.s. Romance and that's all that we knew about it. We both listened with interest because it was such a cool song. Then we fast forward a couple of years and happen to see The Postal Service live at the Casbah and Jenny Lewis was playing bass and singing. Then another year goes by and I hear this sweet song on KCRW called It's A Hit by a band called Rilo Kiley and bought the album and became big fans. The entire time totally enamored by these three women who have such a distinct voice. The kind of voice you gravitate toward.

Then one day it all clicks and I realize that this happens to be the same woman. Rilo Kiley, The Postal Service, even that old song from the internet without a band. Well we now know the band and we know the woman.

The funny thing was that when I first listened to this album I wasn't that enamored with it. Yeah, she still has the voice but it all seemed a bit dull. Well, after ten months of listening and listening I can now hear why I need to put this album on my list for this past year. She still has that magic.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

22: The Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics

The Flaming Lips are aging really well. I never imagined that those crazy wackos that wrote Jesus Shootin' Heroin would still be writing music that feels intelligent and imaginative while continuing to keep their finger pushing down on that pulse. How do they manage to keep doing it time and time again?

These guys are like that cool uncle who you never really understood when you were little but he always seemed to be really interesting and fun. Then as you get older you realize that he's actually an artist and that he's grown into this really mature thoughtful person and that his sense of humor is totally amazing. You'd like to sit down for a few hours and talk about life and art and culture and politics and aliens and crap like that. His insight won't necessarily make you smarter or anything but when you think back on the time you spent with him a smile always seems to rise up on your face.


Monday, January 15, 2007

23: Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You

1. Roll a big fat blunt.
2. Put this Jolie Holland album on your playlist or mix with five or six other albums like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue or something by John Coltrane maybe that Coco Rosie record and something smooth and groovy like Mouse on Mars' Iaora Tahiti then something so far out there trippy ambient and finally top it off with Wilco's Ghost is Born.
3. Press random play.
4. Light the blunt and smoke it all the way down.
5. Sit back in the slumber of the evening and let the music find you deep down under your heavy lidded brain and pull you into eternity.
6. Realize how much you fucking like this Jolie Holland album.


24: Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country

When I listen to Camera Obscura I find myself underneath a big blue sky somewhere in the countryside cavorting with young friends who always seem to have a smile on their faces. They write warm fuzzy memories that take you back into that part of your life where you never want to grow up, always wistfully dreaming the day away. The music itself isn't locked down into one specific genre or era. It could easily be played on classic radio of yesteryear or the modern rock stations of today. It's gentle and easy on the ear and you find yourself free and singing as the world surrounds you with wonder.

I remember warm nights underneath the streetlamp at the end of the cul-de-sac. A dozen kids congregate in the darkness of a recent sunset. One unlucky soul places his head against the pole and begins to count. The rest of us scatter and hide in the shadows where only the sounds and smells of summer can find us.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

25: Mugison - Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music?

Is this monkey music?


This album is about the strangest collection of music that I heard this past year. I immediately gravitated toward the sound when I heard the song "What I Would Say at Your Funeral", which has the most amusing lyrics of any song that came out last year. This band obviously wants to do things differently and the longer I listened to it the more its gentle punk nature wiggled its way into my heart. There are a couple of songs that I can't seem to stomach, whenever I hear them I find myself saying "What the fuck is this?" and can't seem to find the delete button fast enough. But most of the album is soft and serene in its disconcerted way. It's strange monkey music that has a voice of its own and that's a rare accomplishment in today's media saturated climate.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Preview of Music Round-up

As I prepare to announce the best albums I heard this past year I began to think about what value my list might have in the broad continuum. Throughout the past few weeks I have seen a multitude of best-of lists to the point that it's kind of hard to understand if they really mean anything. They are all simply based on our own personal tastes and opinions and they are all continually changing, of course. There's no way that the list of albums that I give today will stay in that specific order.

Take last year's list for example. I've discovered that the Sufjan Stevens album is far from perfect and I hardly listen to it anymore. The Fiery Furnaces album is pretty much impossible to listen to without completely wanting to smash your stereo (although I do like the album that came out this year, though it won't be on the final list for 2006). I must've gotten caught up in all the hype when I put that Spoon record on the list whilst leaving Emiliana Torrini's wonderful offering on the sidelines. And Josh Rouse's Nashville turned out to be the real best number one record of 2005, although I'm sure if I look back and contemplate all of this some day in the near future that opinion will most likely change again.

Anyway, the whole point to all of this is that take each best-of-end-of-the-year-lists as a temporary fancy of those who wish to impart their love of music onto the world.

Just a few things to consider before we start. I try to keep my list somewhat limited to albums that came out in 2006, but it's practically impossible to listen to every album that came out in any year and it's definitely impossible to get a real feel for the record without spending some quality time with it. So if I happen to pick up an album from the last couple of years that is absolutely better than anything that I've listened to this year then I have to put it on the list. Also, if I discover an artist for the first time and I simply love them to death then that record will end up on the list as well.

So that's the criteria. That's where I'm coming from and I love music so...enjoy.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

27 Months

“Now is a good time to explore.”

That is the fortune Lucas received when he opened his very first fortune cookie over the holidays. That about sums it up for this stage of his life. He is the most eager, inquisitive and thoughtful little guy I ever knew. At a little over two months he already has amazed me with his seeking spirit. Many times Xtina and I will find him alone in his room creating play or simply reading a book to himself. While other times he runs around boisterously exclaiming his need for us to get up off the couch and play with him. He's so confident and likable I know that whatever avenues in life he chooses to explore they will open up with wonder before his eyes, a shimmer will form in those very eyes and the possibilities will be endless.

Quite often, due to pressure from certain family members, or just from the heavy hand of society we wonder if having only one child is acceptable (maybe he needs a friend?). Sometimes our hearts fill up when we see how wonderful he is and want to continue producing more magic for the future. But then at other times we want to always have the time for Lucas so that he will know our hearts completely. It's a big quandary and one that doesn't come until you have kids of your own. I remember when I was an only child for the first decade of my life and though I constantly pined for a companion, I also cherished the time I had alone with my imagination. I lived a great deal within myself and create worlds that fascinated me beyond what this world has to offer. I believe that because I was able to foster my inner creative spirit that I learned to live with hope and passion. I found that my dreams meant far more than what others could provide it. I held a special blossom within me that society couldn't touch. Now, when I see Lucas delving into a book or playing with his train track oblivious to his amused parents, I feel such joy rise within me. Though it can be a struggle at times he has his life before him waiting to be explored. I want to see through his eyes and find that enthusiasm as I make my way through my fourth decade. There's always so much more to learn and become. I thank Lucas every day for helping me see that once again.

As he becomes more independent (even at two he is learning the power of that word) I sometimes marvel at his self-assurance. We were playing at the park one fine day when Lucas learned (with the help of a fellow dad) that he could throw his ball up above the slide and it would come rolling down. As I watched this I wanted to get involved and help him learn this neat trick. So after the other dad finished playing with him I went over to show him how he could do it all by himself. But he kept trying to throw it up where the other dad had been, which wouldn't work (it was too high and wouldn't come down by itself anyway). After about five minutes of struggling to show him the proper slope of the slide and best angle to throw at, Lucas suddenly grabbed the ball in one hand and proceeded to push me away with the other hand.

“Go sit over there.”

He says to me pointing toward a bench where Xtina was lounging in the shade. For a second I didn't know what he meant, then I realized that he was tired of my lesson. He wanted me to leave.

“You want me to sit with mommy?”

I asked him, a little stunned.

“Yes, go sit with mommy.”

I left him to his game and walked dejectedly over to my beautiful wife. I told her the whole story and we watched our little wonder with mirth on our lips. Even though I was slightly perturbed by Lucas' snub, I was also happy that he felt comfortable enough to tell me exactly what he was feeling.

But then, quite often, we also find out how much a two-year-old still clings to us. Most often when we read to Lucas we let him pick the books, but sometimes he just wants to listen to us read (it doesn't matter what it is). The other day I was sitting on the couch reading the pulitzer prize winning novel “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. Lucas crawled on the couch and climbed right into my lap.

“Read to you.”

He tells me. Of course that obviously means that he wanted me to read to him (we're still working on those pronouns). I began to read to him from the book and he promptly laid his head down upon my chest. For twenty minutes I read to him about horses, the plains, cattle, whores, beauty, courage, outlaws and whiskey. He never moved his head once totally content to hear the sound of my voice pulse through my ribcage. After awhile I thought that maybe he was asleep so I asked him. He lifted his head for a moment and said,

“No, daddy read to you.”

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