Monday, December 29, 2014

Memories #15

FKA Twigs - LP1

When I first lived with my wife, in a small one bedroom apartment that was about 420 square feet, which was perfect for us because we loved to smoke out all the time, I loved to listen to airy voiced musicians riding the waves of deep beats. My mind would float up into the clouds with their beautiful voices, harnessed by remixed electronic goodness. It was almost like every nuanced moment was important, every sound that entered my heart was meaningful and every afternoon I walked along with these green hued goddesses. As soon as I heard FKA Twiggs, I was transported back to those days, over ten years ago now, and it was so easy for me to fall into the hazy expectation of a dream. I don't have to worry when I have music that brings such bliss. It's simply a blessing that we are given for this one moment in time, to listen and appreciate.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Memories #16

Dum Dum Girls - Too True

Oh man, for the longest time I reveled in finding sweet ass grinding grunge music that swooned with rhythm. So much of the nineties alternative scene was about turning up the reverb and sending your mind into the stratosphere. While that could be fun for awhile and there were definitely moments when a early twenty-something needed to have his mind blown, it wasn't enough for me to simply feel those guitars. I need the love of a melody that makes me move, that gives me a sense of synchronicity with an expanded verse that is inherent in all great rock bands. The Dum Dum Girls have the heart of a poet and for most of the year, I was belting out along with them, singing these lyrics with the utmost acclaim, mostly from behind the steering wheel with the volume turned up loud. The true sense of rock is meant to be heard with such undaunted ferocity and the Dum Dum Girls get it right.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Memories #17

Valerie June - Pushing Against a Stone

I don't really understand why I am attracted to country music. So much of it is absolutely ridiculous - the fashion, the hats, the lyrics, the twang - but when I hear it played just right, it's almost like I am listening from the center of my heart. I wasn't raised with the sound of a slide guitar in the background. I didn't listen to country ballads nor was I even aware of the great musicians who came from the heartland of America. I simply became more aware of it when I began to expand on my musical tastes and started to crave it. Now, I'm not one to gravitate toward the bland flavor of conservative mainstream culture but I'm also not one to go off the deep end of the extreme cyanide dreams of total revolution. I like the type of cultural experience that is just a bit off-kilter. I like it new and strange and hopefully surprising. Valerie June's album Pushing Against a Stone hit all of those aspects of music for me. It has a country sound but it also is so much more than that. There are times when I'm grooving with a smooth swing or crunching with a thriving hammering guitar or twisting with a pop sensibility. Now, I'm not talking about country-pop (God forbid!) but more of that sixties pop sound. For some reason I could picture June in a sixties girl pop group wearing matching tacky outfits with knee-high boots, swinging her hips while she and her bandmates belt out top forty hits to screaming teenagers. Another life, I guess. For now, we get a surprising new voice that does so many things right.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Memories #18

Pixies - Indie Cindy

Back in the summer of '89 I suddenly felt so grown up. That June I had graduated high school and was preparing to start college in September. Over the previous year, I had experienced many firsts, among them my first real girlfriend and first concert. That summer I was obsessed with music. I felt like I knew all the cool bands and was seeking out whatever could be cooler. I discovered Melody Maker, which was such a profound source for what was the next big thing, but I found the greatest band of that era in the strangest of places. In the back of People magazine (my mom's favorite) there was a little blurb about an album being released by this amazing band called Pixies. Not the Pixies but just Pixies. It sounded cool so I went down to Off The Record and bought the album, Doolittle, the next day. I don't know how to describe it but sometimes you hear something and you simply know that it is special. It's not because it's catchy or obvious but it's something that causes your soul to perk up, that gives you notice. When I pressed play on that cassette tape (yes, cassettes were still around back then) and the song "Debaser" began to assault my ears, all I could think was, 'What the fuck is this?', and I mean that in only the best of possible ways. I didn't understand why I liked it but I knew that I was supposed to like it. Well, before long that album became an anthem for my first jaunt out into the world as an adult and to this day, it is one of the few records that I can turn on, play loud and fucking still appreciate, just like I did that summer. Not long after, Pixies began to fall apart and eventually would break up in the early nineties, right when a bunch of other bands would capitalize on their groundbreaking sound. A decade later they would reform and play packed houses to adoring thirty-something fans (yes, I was one of them) that couldn't get enough of the idea that they were actually going to get to see the band that faded away before their time. Of course, I never imagined that they would ever release another album, beyond retrospectives or greatest hits, but this year we were graced with "Indie Cindy", a collection of new songs. Now, I'm not one to promote an old band that was popular in my youth, simply because they're trying to capitalize on the success they had ages ago. I'm usually completely bored by that sort of thing. I'm looking for a new fresh sound, which usually comes from someone with new fresh energy, not from some regurgitated has been. I admit it! I was skeptical when I heard that this album was being released but I knew that I just had to listen. These musicians were so instrumental in my development as a human being, after all. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by what came of it

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Memories #19

Tord Gustavsen Quartet - Extended Circle

For the longest time, I didn't listen to jazz. My dad played it around the house when I was young but that was like, cheesy eighties jazz, Kenny G style. But, of course, if you are willingly searching for beauty in music, then there will be a moment when jazz enters your life. I discovered it in my late twenties, mid-day, lying on the sofa, under the flavor of marijuana, with John Coltrane's Love Supreme on the stereo. Listening to the softest drum solo that you will ever hear in your life, I fell into a half-dream state and discovered the heart of the universe. It was a magical moment that revealed to me how valuable my life could be and all I wanted to do was tap into the creative part of my soul that was the embodiment of that sound. Coltrane was a message riding on the wings of immortality and if you are ready to hear it, your life will change forever. Well, that was many years ago and now I actively seek out the type of jazz music that I can connect with in a similar fashion. Sometimes it's of the moment and sometimes it's eternal. I have a feeling that this album, Extended Circle by the Tord Gustavsen Quartet will be one of the latter. It is a gentle reminder that we need time to rest, hopefully on the couch in a state of life where our entire beings are open to the universe.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Memories #20

Samantha Crain - Kid Face

When I was a kid, my life revolved around baseball, BMX and wandering through the canyons near my home. One of the great things about the San Diego landscape is that the entire region is basically a bunch of hills and canyons. From the cliffs of Torrey Pines to the scrub brush of east county, you can't go anywhere without driving around, hiking through or climbing up to get a view from the top of a summit, the canyons splayed out below like veins rushing to so some primordial heart that most likely can be found beating somewhere near Mission Valley. When I spent my days exploring the canyons near my home, it often felt like I was in another world that was so far from our modern structures, even though the sound of the freeway jut over the ridge could be heard in the background. I would see a hawk floating overhead and instantly be transported to the wild terrain of the west during the 19th century, the struggles to survive playing in our minds, though a warm meal and a soft bed were just around the bend. It was a delight to travel so deep into my imagination whenever I wanted by simply stepping outside my door and wandering just a few yards away. When I listen to Samantha Crain, my mind immediately goes into deep canyons and begins wandering amongst ancient tales that take my breath away. She has the voice of a storyteller and the incredible yearning to express it. It's so pleasant to listen to these songs because my youth climbs into my heart, the abundant searching aspect of those days when I went searching for adventure and was able to find it.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Memories #21

Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband

Back when I was in my early twenties, back when I knew everything about everything and if anyone tried to tell me otherwise, well, they didn't know anything about anything. back then I was extremely satisfied with myself, with my indie rock version of the world and I imagined that I was at the leading edge of the cultural expanse of my generation. Well, back then, I met a girl whose perspective on life, so many aspects of life, well, she helped me to open my eyes and see the sun that was out beyond the umbrella I held over my head. This girl, who would later become my wife, would tell me, Oh, mi amor, I do so love your quirky music that is so wild and different but what about other types of music? What about world music? And jazz? And reggae? What about classical music? All of these musical voices have value to give. So I listened and my heart began to expand. But the one type of music that she loved the most was the sound that held a groove, a soulful thump that you felt deep inside, that made you sway. She loved the music that came with a smokey voice that was an element unknown to the periodical chart. It soon became an essential part of our collection and now, to this day, I love it just as much as she does. Little Dragon embodies so much of that style.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Memories #22

Jolie Holland - Wine Dark Sea

There comes a time in every person's life when we must discover our own voice. It's a rite of passage that all of us must experience in order to have a fulfilling existence. For me, I never knew where to go inside to find that honest expression until I started chanting Nam-Moyoho-Renge-Kyo. I was lost at sea but then I found a Buddhist philosophy that suddenly connected with the fundamental story that was my own. I began to believe in my vision and started channeling my energy into creating value with my life. What a wonderful feeling to discover who you are meant to be! When I listen to Jolie Holland sing, I immediately understand that she is someone who carries the same fundamental philosophy. She may not be Buddhist but she is a powerful unique voice in this universe. I marvel at the tone and honesty that comes from these songs and I can imagine a place where people respect one another and strive to build something of value. What a world this would be if we were all just as creative! It must look something like Holland's wine dark sea, a swirling beauty that lies beyond the mystique of the heavens.

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Memories #23

Milk Carton Kids - The Ash and the Clay

There was a time, a soft spot in the morning when the light leaked through the window, casting dust motes across the space of the room. Tiny starships floating through the air, hoping to find a habitable planet, away from the pain they left behind. Perhaps a place next to the sweet smell of the river, green plants swirling under the surface of the water, the rise of white sandy islands catching the propeller. We get out and lie on the particles, scratchy on my back, as the sun scorches our bodies. When it gets too hot, we run and jump in the water, cool against the red of our skin, then warm because the rays stir in the shallows all day long. Camp fires, crispy food, cold drinks and the lazy haze of the day drifting through our brains, causing our eyes to droop low against the coming night, the light drifting away, as if they were chasing the shadows or the shadows were chasing them. The soft warm of a comforter takes me away from all that came with the day, a smile on my face because the hoppy days of summer have infiltrated every part of me.

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Memories #24

Dean Wareham - Dean Wareham

There was a time when I was like, yeah, I know who Galaxie 500 is but have I ever listened to one of their songs? Obviously not, because that's like deep college radio stuff, deeper than anything I was listening to on 91X. But then I was like, in my mid twenties where I'm digging through crates of used music, hoping to find something for nothing and I run across one of Luna's albums. I somehow knew that Luna was the band that came out of Galaxie 500's break up but I didn't really know the exact players in the game or anything like that. But since it was used, I was definitely up for a listen. Mind you, this was back in the mid-nineties, long before we had the type of access to music that we have now. I couldn't just go listen to them on soundcloud or watch one of their videos on youtube in order to find out if I really was into them. This was back when you had to guess half the time and hoped that you didn't get some album with only one decent song on it. Well, all I have to say is that Luna album (Pup Tent) was pretty damn awesome and, of course I had to find out more about Galaxie 500 at that point, couldn't put it off any longer, you know, and they were pretty damn awesome, as we all know now. It didn't take long for Luna to become one of my favorite bands and, to this day, I still think that they wrote the greatest pop-rock song ever. Of course, eventually Luna broke up, as well, but that didn't stop the guy who made both of those bands great from making music. Dean Wareham, everybody, and this is his latest offering.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Memories #25

Lee Fields and the Expressions - Emma Jean

Back when I was just a wee lad, I was raised in a household with very little music. I wasn't required to understand or learn about music or how to play it. I was given a minimal introduction into the world of sound and harmonies. My mother didn't bring much of her tastes into our environment, aside for the occasional Christian pop album or mainstream easy listening. My father on the other hand, had a love for rootsy, bluesy style rock and folk music, which was quite popular during the seventies. Eventually he discovered jazz, as all of those who start out listening to rock learn to realize is connected to the roots of the music they love. I hated most of it, beyond appreciating a nice tune from Fleetwood Mac or Lynard Skynard but I did come to admire one of his favorites. J.J. Cale was one of the great guitarists and song writers of the 20th century. He took blues and softened it just right but didn't fall all the way into the sentimental type of folk music that drives some of us crazy. Cale was a master and so many great guitarists of the seventies and eighties emulated him or covered his music. Now we come to Lee Fields, who does a beautiful cover of Cale's song, Magnolia, on this album and captures it in a unique way that pulls every ounce of emotion from the tale. I've mentioned Fields before and, much like Cale, he presents a sound that takes so many elements of the past that we know, then gives us his magical blend that can't be found anywhere else. This is music that is easy to love because it is expressed with so much love. It also takes me back and reminds me of a time when I first began to love music on a visceral level, a time when I didn't know the real power of it, except when the twist of a melody skipped a beat in my heart making me perceive it all with such difference.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Memories #26

Porter Robinson - Worlds 

This Thanksgiving break, as we gathered with family and friends, my brother-in-law regaled us with a tale about a rave that one of the cousins threw back in the day. It was in a warehouse that they were renting and the lease was up, so they decided to throw a big bash before this prime spot was gone. Mind you, this was long before all the revitalization efforts that went under way here in San Diego back in the aughts, so it was quite an underground event. Well, apparently this was one epic rave and I'm sure there was plenty of music that pounded down on the all the sweaty bodies harbored under that roof. At the time of this occurrence, I wasn't really into dance music and never attended these types of parties that were becoming such an important part of our culture. Of course, by now music that thumps our hearts and bones in such a way is common and I have come to love it in my own way. Porter Robinson's Worlds is my favorite dance album from the past year, mostly because, even though the beat will drive through you in a way that is primal, Robinson also blends in the type of soaring beauty that lifts us over the crowd and into the heavens. Now, I mentioned that I never went to a proper rave of the kind mentioned this past weekend but the most impromptu party that I ever was involved with happened in my early twenties when I still lived out in Jamul. Some friends of mine had gathered at my place to appreciate the beauty of a weekend out in the countryside when my sister came to tell us about a band, going by the name Green Box, that couldn't find their party out there in the boondocks. We welcomed them with open arms and set them up next to the pool. Green Box spent the evening blasting us with nineties punk rock, while we all got properly wasted. It was such a spontaneous and intimate experience that I know I'll remember it forever.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Memories #27

Jenny Lewis - The Voyager

Did you know that Jenny Lewis was a child actor during the eighties and nineties in a bunch of lousy family films and a few interesting indie flicks. Most notable of all these films was the movie, Foxfire, which is notable because it was one of the early films in Angelina Jolie's career, when she was starting to get recognition as a presence. In the movie, Lewis plays a high school girl who is being sexually harassed (assaulted?) by a creepy teacher and even though she seems to be this quiet, meek type, Jolie's rebel character helps her stand up to the guy. The movie is pretty decent but I totally remember her in the film, especially because she was the cutest of the bunch. I had no idea that she would soon form a band that would become one of my favorite artists for much of the aughts. Rilo Kiley blew me away in 2004 with their album, More Adventurous, especially the song, It's A Hit. I became one of those rabid fans for a couple of years and enjoyed all of her side projects, even seeing the very first Postal Service show ever, here at the Casbah in San Diego. It's been an interesting ride with many ups and downs; her collaboration with the Watson Twins got me hooked on them, while her collaboration with Johnathan Rice made me lose all hope in her future endeavors. Well, here we are in 2014 with her second solo effort, The Voyager, and it reminds me a lot of the old Rilo Kiley stuff that I always loved. Songs that evoke a story or a place that doesn't quite touch the earth. It's wonderful to journey on with an artist that captured my youthful heart so long ago.

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