"Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait" -Longfellow

Friday, September 13, 2013

After All This

image by John Carling

it's just a sleeve tug, just a rumor of shocking purple spirits up in the cobwebs
to intrude on your dreams of ordered sterility.
and those dancing projections came from her eyes, not from the moon
or the moon's sisters weeping for the barren fields.

torpid and tattered, the flag of dispositions past
can't re-position this fast as we outlast our bravest
and divest skin from skin, scents of banana trees from the mild throat
of morning with her gumption.

from the mouths of real fucking wolves 
we dangle over the fires
of the great cities grown tired. you can only, lonely,
cultivate your garden
and massage your fondness for the accepting of Uruk
teeming with the speed of noise
hollow in the paper light,
a city of blind unbound love and wise naivete.

the symbolic mirror is a mirror of imitations,
self of self,
other of other,
this of this is this as this,
that masquerading as that.
nothing grows in the forlorn darkness between darkness. 
even the roses in the closet you've imagined
are far from far from far:
removed in form and smudged against the actual substitute
for the actual.

who is that sitting at your feet?

vomit pretending vomit in molecule and meaning.
a song of mantles and dismantling,
of fences sad as portraits and ghosts twice dead.
the you from forever, here,
to sit in protest of a drowning.

Monday, August 19, 2013


how far orange is the walk to a flower's operatic heart?
how many purple Nerudas defend the philosopher's pomp of question?
how does the vamp follow the vamp's ascent, tail to tail?

aren't we all waking up to the springtime of our lives in eyes unknowing?
what magnitudes for prayer and peace-making?
is the mote of dust a crystal pattern of the epic return of famous boots?

if birth is a beginning, then how come it lasts forever?
where are the darkmatter hands that will remake this flesh from the compassionate ether?
how many warm faces must a father have to save his daughter from the one coldest visage?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sky Blue

Dive bars for churches.
Inseparability, entanglement,
theories of cowabunga and conjectures of gonzo.

Bottle caps and musks of old wood
and old man wood too.
Loneliness as triumph, smoke as possession,
as the thin touch of connection to now, as a damn good Bloody Mary recipe, 
as morning confusing night for brother,
As peaceful turmoil on the rocks
because: easy come, easy go.
I think of Jerry Jeff and Dad.
I think of addictions conquered and torture borrowed,
liquor bravado become meek smiles — drooping like the reddest roses burned by the Texas sun.

There aren't blue jeans big enough for this package, this existential ass
Smoothed by hill country dirt and made shiny by imagination's tendency 
to flirt with truth and loosen her...
Oh what we owe the beery humidity trapped in the distance between ears!
Here's not dysfunction, because there's no such thing. 
Here's not a breaking heart, because our hearts are already broken:

sky blue. run through.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ourselves and Each Other / The Art of Science

Ourselves and Each Other
Riding the fog through a waking city, I endure the clammy clench and release of returning to that which truly matters, rudely courteous to the feigned reign of machine and warty madness. Maybe this means I'm finished paying respects to dead gods and washing my mystical hand in the spittle of paid dues, at the point of refusing to carve my heart out for the implacable behemoth of pragmatism. I won't continue erecting this defense against boyhood and blind joy, when all that's offered is mired expiring manhood and blind faith in safety in numbers. I'm exhausted and I haven't even begun to live, I've only carried a sad flag in a pointless and never-ending parade which must be the nightmare's way of proudly observing its own power through merciless intimations of unmastered malady. It's ok family. It's ok to sit close to me on this bus, to save up for a life you never get to live and plan a lasting love to begin after eternity. It's ok to be afraid with blood on your mouth and tears calming the ulcers in your stomach. It's ok too, to rage and consume, to work and sleep and dream of something more gigantic than work and sleep. It's ok if you forgot your favorite song, lost it in the hum of fluorescents or the din of need. It's ok because the utterances of desire checked at the imaginary gate of your misfortune are fresh and possessed of the glory of your pleasant wholeness. Watching you - my brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers - bent with a shallow purpose, I feel like screaming songs I knew before computer and waving a body I had before kingdoms and super sales, like standing on platforms crying and begging hugs, like going home to her clothed in a further nudity than nakedness and remembering how perfect everything already was before we got it in our restless heads to codify the tiny ecstatic logic of our love for ourselves and each other.

The Art of Science
The art of science is crush and pull. The art of science is distill and break down and purify into pragmatic nuggets. The art of science is not soul or glow but body and the hollow luminescence of a studied sun, figured to pointless supernova. The art of science is a pipette dream of a single perspective and a measured guard against the delight of significance. It's the myth of control and the pathetic arrogance of domination, the tired apparatus of progress slamming keyboards – examining probability in a beaker while life goes unchanced.

It's a never-ending argument for the excruciating necessity of war. It's a microscope when you wanted a moist eyeball. It's a cold vice grip while you're longing for the touch of warm hands. It's forward always, even when right here feels so right. It’s philosophy’s bastard child, come to take revenge against infinity’s elegant dance of endless possibility. It’s a master’s degree in place of self-mastery. It’s the pompous irrationality of rationality for your humble imagination and a blockade of prescriptions when you’re struggling for genuine wellness. It's a line for your squiggly visions and a defined spectrum for your wonder. It's the dry taste of "exactly" when you’re not permitted to feel "close enough."

The art of science is desolation named diversity and silence called the many voices. The art of science is the pressure of self-denial and the pleasure of disrobing Aphrodite to revel her plainness. The art of science is retreating into machines because being a human being just costs too damn much. It's refusal and a neutered song of intention, chasing chaos through the heavens, smoothing the perfectly imperfect eternal surface.

Images by Sara K. Byrne. Found at Escape Into Life.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fiesta Forever

Big barrel bright bird broke in the black bleak blear of a beery evening spent moving. Small capacities, large capacities - room for everyone in the center of the mind. Alma y Cuerpo, truth and circus in the cussing tread of now. A black hole? So much color. A name for the future? Too many nights for noticing and forgetting. In fog, falling for fake fighting faithless fate in fugitive hours and towers like penises here to launch and posture-pose. I exhaust the softer roads, to go hard and wake up and explode.

To dance is to be wise. And to chance is to have further eyes, sometimes, than today. Are you content watching the ascending bird decay? There's mostly erupting, interrupting, and friendly corrupting left to welcome. But you can still choose to open elegant forevers and shake certainty like a stray blade of grass from your skirt.

If you can't start a battle of flowers, start a revolution of showers of love. There's no fiesta like your loud and confetti-frosted self-talks. No parades like the ones you dream, full of brights and blanknesses.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Show Tease: Bomba Estéreo, Échale! (4.5)

Bomba Estéreo: Julian Salazar, Liliana Saumet, Simón Mejía, Kike Egurrola. Photo by Rafael Piñeros - Mulato Films

SHOW: Échale! - Bomba Estéreo w/ M.A.K.U. Sound System @ Pearl Brewery, FRI 4.5.13, 7 PM
In the music of Bomba Estéreo the sounds of the Amazon blend with the din of the sometimes happy human apocalypse, the hope of the futuristic meets the yellow softness of the Earth's aboriginal delight. These elements are embodied in the sonic flourish of the music as well as in the singular voice of singer Liliana Saumet — now gently searching like a stretch just reaching the sweet spot, now rapid and coy like the enraged spirit of a flower caught between the fright of consciousness and beautiful numb bliss. This is cumbia, this is dance, this is tropical, this is city, this is heart, this is sky... This is one if the best bands in the world right now, playing their wonderful new album Elegancia Tropical, and you can catch them for free right on the banks of the Riverwalk, among the flowers in the shadow of a dead brewery.

I asked Bomba Estéreo founder, producer and bassist Simon Mejia a few questions in anticipation of the upcoming Échale! performance. Here are those questions and Simon's thoughtful responses.

1. The music of Bomba Estéreo has been subtly expanding and morphing over the years. As a band, where do you all look for inspiration? How organic and how conscious are the changes and to what extent does your ever-growing audience play a part?
In my personal case the inspiration comes from different places, can be music I hear, a live performance I see, a movie, an old record, even a place...but usually it comes when I'm working some sound or some beat inspires me for the next one and then I develop the whole track. It's the very best moment of creation I think when the music just rides for itself and you are just there putting the color to it. Playing live and having the great opportunity to meet different places and people also gives you a perspective, in our case, of looking at the traditional Colombian music from a different angle. This is what basically happened with Elegancia.

2. How are the songwriting duties divided in Bomba Estéreo? Are both music and lyrics collaborative
processes or do each of the band members tend to have set roles?
It always starts with the music. A beat, a synth or guitar line, a bass line...then we develop it into a track, then the vocals make it a song finally. Usually I start the process, but in some other cases Julian [Salazar] comes in with a synth line or a guitar line also.

3. What is the significance of the title Elegancia Tropical? And to what extent do you consider decisions like titles important?
It's our new way of looking at the Caribbean! A different perspective, a new stage in our music and our life. In Colombia the term elegancia is used also to mention when something is "cool," so it's like the cool tropic. We like to use popular and kitsch aesthetics in our music and language.

4. As a band with growing worldwide influence, what message would you send to the aspiring music maker in a corner of the globe that maybe doesn't get the attention it deserves?
I think the most important thing is to be honest with the music you're making. Make the music you want to make, not what the market wants. And also work as twice as hard, art is a difficult one, maybe more difficult than any other.

5. What are your impressions of the San Antonio? Any favorite and/or least favorite aspects or places?
Sure we think San Antonio is a great city! We've had great shows over there and this one we hope is the best. Our favorite hotel in the world is in San Antonio, it's called Hotel Havana, if I'm not wrong.

6. Lastly, what can we expect from your upcoming performance? Any new live configurations or significant developments since you were last here?
Yes, sure, we're making the show just for Elegancia. It's a new set of songs, a new set of videos and new set of sounds! Hope people enjoy it! We're giving away all [our] energy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Surreal Conjectures, Seed Creatures

way too long awakened in traps of light — too far open in the massive mass of night — too too deep in the shallow fallow womb of language, broke minded, counted down to absolute zero, ticking off in the trees of summer bleeding sappy into a night hairy with suspicion, emptiness is somthingess and somthingness is emptiness — void wasn't universe because something meant to change its ways — a reading of coward on godface, seven digits to infinity and the devil never got a word in edgewise. . . so the moments of divinity are measured in christbreaths and fishsighs alike, cradles are really graves to begin with in the tearful heaven where everything must occur — no matter.

the size of things makes the magnitude considerably less — more fabricated in the zone of moment and position, fragility surprised in the slippery shower of realization, which never resembles awakedness — the Buddha never existed luckily, because he needn't have.

the incident with the human soul at the crossroads of self and not was a manufactured death imposed by the willing witnesses of ego that consumes ego that does not — some symphony this is, eating and being the seeds of god becoming ideal, not-god.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Light in the Paw: 10 Questions with Cave Singers

Tapestries from the cave: Cave Singers release Naomi
Seattle foursome Cave Singers (Pete Quirk, Derek Fudesco, Marty Lund, and Morgan Henderson) may have flown under far too many radars, but they've been prolifically busy since their debut in 2007. Released today, Naomi is the indie folk-rock group's fourth LP. Like Invitation Songs, Welcome Joy, and No Witch before it, this record invokes the muddy blues-rock of CCR every bit as much as is does some nostalgic campfire folk reverie in yellows and blacks. Naomi finds Cave Singers sounding more sophisticated (read: more polish and less non-specific grit) and catchy (read: they're writing damn infectious songs) in their blending of heartland honey and hollering. Harmonica, melodica, bronzen crisp electric guitar, occasional coos, and comparatively reserved percussion surround the comfortingly sweet and nasal rasp of lead-singer Pete Quirk as he carries on about fading strands of maybe history, love, nature, and our vanishing natures for love. There are no hammer heavy songs on this record — like "Dancing on Our Graves" from Invitation Songs — but over the past few albums the band has moved to a brighter and fuller palette and doesn't have to rely on that kind of saturation to grab us. Particular album gems include "Have to Pretend" which slinks along dressed in a calm coo and a forceful lead vocal, "It's a Crime" which is a groovy steamroller of a track with a jagged 60's garage vibe, "Evergreens" which is Naomi's soul swaying in the moonlight candle of her restless eyes, and "Northern Lights" which is a gorgeously ornate song with soulful breakdowns and lyrics musing on isolation and triumph and love. Naomi is a statement in restraint, creative progress, and groundedness by a band that's doing what it does better than almost anyone else and that deservedly carries the freshwater purity of American folk-rock into a future full of electro-murk. 
Go get Naomi... And the Cave Singers other three albums if you don't have them already. Below read my 10 Questions with singer Pete Quirk and listen to "It's a Crime."
You can stream the album HERE.

1. With bands, as with all things, history is an important dimension to consider. Please tell me a bit about the Cave Singers' collective and individual histories.
As we are a collective of individuals, we are conjoined in the pupil of a metaphoric eye, that gazes upon life inquisitively. We are located under the gray blouse of the pacific Northwest, but a little history... Derek and myself originally hail from the East Coast, whereas Marty and Morgan are Washingtonian natives. In our previous lives we are convinced that as specks of light we shared the same leaf for an afternoon, but spoke none and went about our day.

2. As a follow up on the previous question, and by way of leading into the following one, what do you see as the tie between personal/cultural experience and creativity? In what ways do you see this element as a strength in a collective? To what extent is the band's sound collectively conceived?
As a plant needs water, creativity/art needs experience.
But I guess it is what we do with experience, do we learn from it? Or do we pile it up in the backyard never considering what lessons it may contain?

Friendship is at the core of our beliefs as a collective/band of mortals. Underneath the storm swells of the music, we are indebted to a peace we find in one another, that usually results in laughter and mockery. But do not fret, we have a safety word if things get too hot in the kitchen/van.

We experience as individuals; and process our days in different ways. As a band, we have found and continue to find a unified consciousness, that is a dimension we would not have access to on our own.

3. As the group's sound has gently grown and matured, from Invitation Songs to No Witch and now with Naomi, how has the process of creation changed and been refined? Musically? Lyrically? Has the gradual smoothing of the literal and figurative jagged edges been the result of a growing tranquility or a cleaner studio approach, or both?
A constant state of change is upon us whether we like it or not, as far as refined? I’m not sure about that one. We seem to dress better.
Tranquility, possibly from time to time. Also uncomfortability, heartsick, joy, wonder, agitation, lostness, redemption - happy to be there to endure, watching the sea chew on the shore.

4. What was the making of Naomi like? What interesting new challenges arose? What is the significance of the title? Also, will you address, from an aesthetic standpoint, the evolution in sound that this album represents.
Sort of like setting up camp. I guess the whole deal was one big challenge, but we were dedicated to the idea that we were going to work as diligently as possible, without much reservation. Less weed butter and arguments over appetizers? No basketball or soccer, but fondly remembering as the sun went down. An incredible amount of gyro boy. Espresso machine!

Essentially a disconnect from the world at large, to focus on the stage where our collective stories take place. Naomi laid on the tops of the trees at night burping out stars for us.

5. How would you describe this record, your previous records, and your music in general in terms of weather?
Cloudy with a chance...

6. There are certain unique lyrical opportunities with music like yours, that tends toward a folky heart. Cave Singers lyrics have contained a lot of material about home, love and death. Please explain your lyric writing process. What level of importance is placed on lyrics? What themes do you feel most compelled to address and why?
Overall, lyrics are very important to me. I find spoken language's relationship with music puzzling and ultimately fascinating. And I work at lyrics rather obsessively, with hopefully some economy and love. I gather they float somewhere between meaning and being and serve as human notes with some narrative purpose.

The music and its demeanor steers what words/phrases and images seem to materialize while we’re jamming/writing, there’s something mysterious in their arrival that I don’t tend to question.

If lyrics have a good sense of humor about themselves, they seem to be more likable.

7. I'm interested in musical influences, as well as other types of general influences. For this question  who are the strongest specifically musical influences on your work?
For me it’s a mixed bag of musicians and writers. And also friends and families are influences, everyone out in the world is pitching in, and I try to do my part to pour some color into the stream. But today, I was listening to Neutral Milk Hotel, Kurt Vile, Paul Simon and Jana Hunter. Talk radio about snow tires. The wrapping up of a basketball game and few seconds of static.  And I was reading some James Tate poems, the I Saw U’s in the weekly, some Pema Chodron and my electrical bill. What a day! Oh and I had a good to great Cobb Salad too! And I’m totally going bowling later...

8. Speaking more generally about influences, what other things influence how/what Cave Singers create? How have experiences with literature, philosophy, and the other arts shaped the music and the approach?
Everything’s an influence in one way or another. I have been to a few dance/art performances lately, very inspiring. Zoe/Juniper a particular favorite. Exceptional in the friend department too.

9. A topic I have resolved to start bringing up with all the folks I talk to  I wonder what y'all's thoughts are about music downloading and the changing face of the music biz, philosophically and practically...?
I don’t think about it much, to be honest.

10. I've always thought Cave Singers was a sweet band name. Will you talk about the meaning of that name.
It’s a little bit of light, that hides in the monkey’s paw.

CAVE SINGERS: facebook, amazon, twitter, Jagjaguar site, ALBUM STREAM

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Atoms for Peace "AMOK"

Released February 26, 2013 on XL Recordings

When I heard that Thom Yorke had recruited Flea (along with Nigel Godrich, Joey WaronkerMauro Refosco) to be a part of the live Eraser band and that new songs were in the works under the name Atoms for Peace, I was curious but skeptical — is this Thom's moment of irrelevancy? Then I heard those Echoplex recordings of the songs that had comprised one of my favorite albums of 2006... And I realized that, far from being a blunder into the realm of cliche, this was a way for Yorke to create in the vein of The Eraser — while building in some rhythmic dynamics and fullness of execution, the lack of which made The Eraser feel a little thin to some. These years later, we have Amok to consider.

Glitchy, dancey, and atmospherically dark 'meaning'-pop — just like it's younger sibling The EraserAmok feels like we've moved from hunting ghosts in an end of the world hotel room to hunting ghosts in a bombed out mansion under a strobing moon. With six songs of five minutes or more, in a nine track album, this album is both more spacious and more populous than Yorke's first non-Radiohead work. Lyrically, we get what we might expect here: nebulous meditations on loss and alienation, cryptic musings on life as a dying machine in a contentedly doomed world. Yorke is preternaturally obsessed with decrepitude, waste, paranoia, conspiracy, disillusionment, war, futurism, human feeling in a cold environment, and loss of identity... In fact, I can't think of a single piece of music that he has created or contributed to which lacks his default awed (and odd) moroseness, whether in musical or literary tone (or both). 

Amok starts at a rainy run with "Before Your Very Eyes," which buries us in falling treble and heartbeat bass while Yorke's naked and wiry voice keeps hauntingly insisting on the refrain "Sooner or later, before your very eyes." The album's lead single "Default" is a lurching and syncopated affair that, as seems to be a theme with Atoms for Peace, sweats and laments and pokes fun at itself all at once. "Ingenue" delivers chills via a creaking alarm of a lead melodic phrase that drifts in and out like a memory of some tragedy still smoldering. Inaudibly moaning vocals, thick but fairly staid bass passages, and  — as on the rest of the album — skittish percussion complete "Ingenue," which is my favorite track on Amok. The album's back end is more sultry and more ethereal in tone and movement, with the high point being the dilapidated and disillusioned "Judge, Jury, and Executioner." From the initial deep breath that momentarily precedes the first track to the nostalgically innocent and unsure piano notes that end the final track, Amok is about as searchingly playful a look at general demise as one could ever hope to glean. Yorke seems to become younger as he deals more directly with his own vulnerability and the strange ways in which his own myth can undercut even his most serious proclamations, warnings, and complaints. 

The collaborative element that separates this record from The Eraser has served to release Yorke from the burden of the idea of 'the solo project' and given him the freedom to, paradoxically, be far more himself. If you think that these tracks could fit just fine within the scope of the Radiohead catalogue you are probably right... But that just goes to show to what great extent that is his (and perhaps also Godrich's) band. So basically... let's let him do whatever he wants and just hope he keeps moving fast enough to outrun his own time and the demons he seems to see everywhere.

Check out THESE awesome videos of the group live back in 2010 at Fuji Fest. I feel like they really exemplify what Yorke wants this project to be for him and for us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's Not Dark Yet: Favorite Songs of 2012

Here are my forty favorite songs of 2012, organized in such a way that I think flows best sonically and thematically, and mixed by the mad talented kaziali. The far out art was created by Carlos Castro, who also created the 'branding' (fuck that word) for this site, and was made to fit both the mix title and the overall impact of the song set. Taken as a whole, this is what 2012 felt like to me. Better late than never. Track listing in the comments. Cheers.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Favorite Music of 2012: Albums

I. Grizzly Bear Shields - BUY IT.
Disclaimer: Grizzly Bear has my undying loyalty and love. Mitigating facts: they have said loyalty and love because their sound leaves nothing in my musical appetite unsatisfied, because they know when to push and when to float, because they do not make aesthetic blunders, because their sound is defined by careful attention to detail without the baggage of needing to be innovative simply for the sake of innovation... Because they are loyal to their unique and subtly morphing vision, no matter what... And because that vision rests preposterously between limitless emotion and musical precision. Shields, Grizzly Bear's fourth album, encapsulates all of these elements and builds upon them with a disarming vocal directness and a new simplicity that shows the band realizes the beauty and penetrating quality of complexity decoded in clarity. Album closer “Sun in Your Eyes” is perhaps my favorite song from my favorite band. 
II. Woods Bend Beyond - BUY IT.
Exuberant, sweet, and bonier than you'd have ever have expected; Woods' seventh record is their most fully realized work to date. As such, Bend Beyond seems an extremely apt title for this release. Mesmerized from the very beginning by the crests and falls and washed out suns and freshwater moons of Bend Beyond's twelve tracks, I (and this is not meant to be any kind of a dig on the group's past efforts) found myself caught off guard by how perfect every note, every drum flurry, and every uncharacteristic psychedelic guitar breakdown rang in my ears starved for a taste of the great mystical summer while trapped in the frozen annals of work-a-day proceedings. Something about this album exemplifies a kind of willful vulnerability and forceful gentleness that is so important to me in my thought and endeavors. I may not have listened to Bend Beyond more than some of the eight albums below, but I was touched and inspired by it perhaps more than any other on this list. Dig the soft yellow of the title track, the smoky nervousness of “Find Them Empty”, and the smoothly jangling angles of “Size Meets the Sound”… You’ll understand.
III. Frank Ocean channel ORANGE - BUY IT.
Channel ORANGE is a huge record. This is important shit... This PoMo soul, this bright dark cityscape pastiche, this emotionally charged music for teaching our babies well. All obvious implications and think piece ruminations aside — Frank Ocean's second album (first proper), set into hot orange with the flames of an unprecedentedly candid and powerful confession, works as an album better than any offering on this list. Beginning in nostalgic noise, rising to the heights of romantic and brotherly love, and throbbing with spirit-pain and self-wisdom throughout; Channel ORANGE has something for every music lover, for everyone — in fact — who loves anything or anyone. "Thinkin Bout You", "Super Rich Kids", "Sierra Leone", "Bad Religion", and "Pink Matter" are personal favorites — but I reckon I'd be happy stranded within almost any of this album’s blood-thick and exquisitely-lit tracks. For more, peep THIS longer review I did for KINDFORM when the album came out.
IV. Grimes Visions - BUY IT.
Claire Boucher is a badass of steadily burgeoning proportions. Hers is a fairy tale that begins with bedroom dance/electro, continues with festival-sized rave-bangers clothed in the magnetic spirit of r&b, and has no end in sight. My favorite album tracks "Genesis", "Oblivion", "Eight", "Be a Body", and "Symphonia IX" sparkle with a fever-sheen... A radiant heart of pure leaping neon darkness, weird enough for the bored adventurer and bootylicious enough for pretty much everyone else. Visions is a postmodern masterpiece from a futuristic sonic sorceress. I assured myself back in January 2012: "this is rad — but I'll be tired of it soon." 
I'm still waiting for that to happen. 
V. Captain Murphy Duality - GRAB IT.
Oh hiphop... Just when I'm ready to give up on you for the hundredth time, something like this happens. Actually, to be fair, nothing like THIS exactly has ever happened... But you always find a new way to access my inner fed-up-ness and buried desires toward that which would see our society burn. From one of Duality's instant classics "The Ritual"... "Livin in the city made my own mind my nemesis" is, for me, the mantra of Flying Lotus' masked alter-ego Captain Murphy. A hiphop fan since I held that first LL Cool J cassette tape back in '88, I kinda imagine that we all have a rapping super hero (or anti-hero) inside of us somewhere and that this particular self is at odds with the world and its meek practical concerns. Basically, I haven't been able to put these songs away since the first perfect one arrived in the form of Adult Swim single "Between Friends" featuring Earl Sweatshirt. While the album's visual companion may be a bit tough to get through, it is interesting as a piece of art and... Bottom line... there's not a weak track on Duality. Be careful though — "Shake Weight", "Between Friends", and "The Ritual" (in particular) will haunt you. And so will those snippets of ACTUAL cult leader bros.
VI. Dent May Do Things - BUY IT.
As much as I love ukulele and hammy folk tracks about Michael Chang and cougar lovin... I'm glad Dent May took a total left turn with his second album Do Things. While admittedly singularly befitted to bumping and lazing summertime escapades, this album carries a timeless message of freedom from 'the expected life' and features some gorgeously deadpan emotive pop stylings sure to brighten any season. "Rent Money" is, in all its despondent-meets-groovy glory, one of my absolute favorite songs of the year. Other specific reasons this album is wonderful include Dent’s honey-coated croon (part country and part Brian Wilson), the playful way in which the lyrics toy with very serious coming-of-age issues, and the manifesto of a generation song “Parents”. For more of my thoughts on this record check out some stuff I did for the SA Current HERE and HERE.
VII. Clams Casino Instrumentals 2 - GRAB IT.
You can call these hip-hop instrumentals if you must, but for my money these nuggets of glazed bass and poignant murk are — like Michael Volpe’s first such collection as Clams Casino — complete songs, complete crawling and swirling worlds unto themselves. If providing these 'beats' for rappers like Lil B and A$AP Rocky first is the best way the Clammy One has found to release these pristine grooves to the world for free, then I'm all for it... But let's be honest: it's a tall task to do these thumping and swooningly ruminant tracks service with braggadocious rhymes or weed flows. When in doubt in 2012, this album was quite the juicy default. Whether summer lovin, back to work bus contemplating, Friday night celebrating — even while my High School students were composing essays... This album was ubiquitous in my life this year. 
VIII. Dirty Projectors Swing Lo Magellan - BUY IT.
Well shit. It has long been hard for me to imagine a Dirty Projectors release that didn't take my breath away and captivate my thirst for alien experience. And that streak continued this year. Some of Dave Longstreth and Co's work has been more experimental than other, but they always bring a fresh perspective on songwriting, vocal delivery, harmony, and spatial arrangement. Swing Lo Magellan is an album of grooves, soaring and serious contemplation, and harmonic fury... But that's all par for the course. What makes this album truly great is that it is, unlike any of the group's other work, a perfectly balanced cycle of songs. There's nothing here to stifle the joy of a casual encounter, yet the DPs seem to have given up very little of their signature musical vision. Standouts include "Gun Has No Trigger", "About to Die", "Just from Chevron" and the delightfully late-60s-Dylanesque title track and "Impregnable Question". See also: my review of Swing Lo Magellan for the SA Current.
IX. Tame Impala Lonerism - BUY IT.
When sectors of the hype-o-sphere lauded Tame Impala's first record Innerspeaker a few years back, I couldn't hear why. It turns out that, among other possibly more bullshitty reasons for this, they were hearing the band's promise — evaluating their potential energy rather than their kinetic. Lonerism certainly realizes, and goes well beyond, any potential that could have been gleaned from that initial release. Sounding occasionally as if recorded inside of an aluminum can, the guys could have used a touch more production realism and less magic... But that doesn't stop Lonerism's sturdy yet dreamy gait from getting the band exactly where they need to be. "Mind Mischief", "Feels like we Only Go Backwards", and "Elephant" are divergent examples of the craft and inspiration that was poured into this record. Can they make another album this innocently nostalgic and simultaneously current? Can they create this tension between edge and softness again? Let's just enjoy the moment for now.
X. iamamiwhoami Kin - BUY IT.
Listening to iamamiwhoami's debut gives me the sensation of hearing the ghosts of solo songstresses past confess dead loves and lost promise over the simmering murk and glitch of a supercomputer's death throes. I'm drawn to mystery more than perhaps anything else in life, so it's natural that I was intrigued by Swedish artist Jonna Lee's alter-ego from the beginning, before we knew who had made this peaceful apocalypse in strobe. But gradually, the clarity and warmth leaking out between the machinery of these electronic songs proved to be the true reward. Like any good characters in any given post-apocalyptic nightmare, it is fitting that we should cry along with cyborgs like iamamiwhoami, who represent the fusion of our fears and hopes with the technology we now trust with everything we are. Kin is beautiful and unsettling from start to finish, but for quick listening I recommend "Sever", "Play", and "In Due Order". Also, don't forget to spend some time immersed in the almost Lynchian world of the videos. See an extended review I did of Kin HERE.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blooming: Saint Julien


Heartland heavy mystic sing-alongs of ray gun folk, space-faced neighbor music, blues from other moons...

Stories about our dads from the radioactive future, remembering journey from journey, pouring out water and black hole reverb over the actual electronics of going home.

Country for the barely there, folk for the bedroom age; waking in the communal living room mess of our internet. Pain and the musings of those who feel the best of human pain: unphysical, omnipresent, and truly sublime. All the old voices you wore, and callously tore, are the voices behind your voice when you tremble at the gates of really seeing. Oh Nashville of my dead livers and Nashville of the bored moon in my eyes. Oh telepathy, fill me with the nourishing voices of the billions carving canyons like water in the rock I won't be forever.
Thanks to Saint Julien for humoring my curiosities about his curiously arresting music. Get it for that next lonely night or long ride through the myriad highway tunnels leading inside to always.
If you like it... let him know: fieldmusiccollective@gmail.com

Monday, January 7, 2013

Life is Awkward: 10 Questions with Blake Cormier

There's something stuck in my "I". Blake Cormier.

To implicate someone as making 'outsider' music is to create a set of expectations for them... some fair and some rather rude. When I say that Blake Cormier, the San Francisco via San Antonio singer-songwriter (of pretty fuckin' badass Druggist fame), makes 'outsider' alt-rock songs with intelligent lyrics and a heartfelt pop wink... I'm trying to pay him a compliment. Perhaps Cormier's music feels like it's from the 'outside' paradoxically due to an insular and inward shine that even his most universal statements and musical choices seem to glow with- he's not one to chase fads or bullshit you, even when he's laughing at himself. Recording all his life; creating, in particular three excellent albums with Druggist, and moving out west to San Francisco a few years ago, has led Cormier to the release of his first solo album Blake Cormier and the Awkward Situation (released December 25, 2013). He'll be touring around Cali soon with a band under that same name and his material is tighter, wiser, more raw and loud of spirit than ever. Fans of his last album with Druggist, The Pile On, might miss some of the extra musical adornment and experimentation... but all you loose in artifice you gain in sincerity and a newly clear sense of musical and lyrical purpose. Blake Cormier and the Awkward Situation is an album of painful and awkward meditations, delivered with the type of precision that comes with knowing exactly what you want to say and how you want to sound. Cormier sounds truly at home on these songs - making music at his own pace and chasing the sound in his own head alone - and the listening experience is vastly enriched by this sense of self-reliance and focus. Blake was recently was kind enough to oblige the 10 Questions dance with me and his responses are as clear and refreshing as his songs on this new album. Dig that interview, stream/download the album and look for his coordinates on the internets below.

1. I know you are a diehard Spurs fan and that your band Druggist had gained quite a following here... So what were, if you don’t mind, your motivations for packing up and heading west these several years ago? In your response, please give some background on your work for readers who may be new to you.
Yeah, here’s the annoyingly long answer: we (Druggist) were doing our best to keep creating new music and make every show we did something worth seeing.We got together in 2005 and did three albums from 2006-2009. We started touring and just going wherever we could get shows and ended up travelling the Midwest a few times, the east coast a little, the south and Southwest and eventually the west coast. By the time we went out west we were pretty deep into writing The Pile On and came back and decided to just work our asses off in the studio for a couple months. We eventually built up a band of five to seven dudes to flesh out some of the songs and once the recordings were finished and we got the discs back it just felt like it was time to move on. We’d been all over and had particularly gone to San Francisco and watched a bunch of people who had never heard of us pay ten bucks and climb two flights of stairs to cram into a tiny room and rock out to our songs and since that felt pretty awesomely foreign to us we decided to relocate to SF. There were obviously lots of other reasons, but the bottom line was we felt like we had to leave and find new challenges and stop trying so hard to not play the same shows over and over in the same places.

Go Spurs.

2. Your new album, and first solo jaunt, is (from what I can tell) about a complicated break-up (or break ups). Can we assume this is autobiographical? What do you see as the importance (from a standpoint of audience) of creating and performing music so drenched in emotion/conflict?
I haven’t ever written any serious music that isn't autobiographical. That being said, one would be hard-pressed to pick out a song of mine that is blatantly about one single thing or person or moment or situation. I go a lot of places in one song, pretty much wherever the melody or words I've already sung take me. I wouldn't say this is a breakup album, but rather more of an album about how someone reacts to having a steady stream of awkwardness confront them on a daily basis. Being a human can be really weird, especially when you have to interact with all these other humans. Not just “relationship” awkwardness, but even the awkwardness of just being alive and aware and attempting to soak-up just how insignificant everything can be in the light of getting older and stuff. I don’t connect with bands that just rely on energy or technical skill alone. It can’t all be sweat and jumping around screaming and finger tapping if you want me to give a fuck about what you’re doing. I realize that isn't the same for everyone, but if I am gonna go watch someone play or listen to their record it has to resonate deeper than that with me. I think that probably leads to me being that type of songwriter.

3. As a follow up to the previous question, what role does music play in your psychological well-being? Discuss the concept of art as therapy as it relates to your work.
I honestly don’t function well when music isn't a large part of my life. Right now, and since I moved to San Francisco almost three and a half years ago, I work professionally as a line cook and that sort of helps.  Being a line cook can, for some people, be a similar form of marrying creativity and structure, process, linear thinking, etc. I can put similar energies into it and get back awesome, smile-inducing rewards, but at the end of the day it still doesn't do what music does for me. There isn't any person or thing that can give me the same feeling I get when I play music and to speak specifically to my songs from Druggist onward I have made special efforts to never limit what I’m open to talk about or how I talk about it, which gives me a way of processing things and airing them out that some other people I know don’t have in their life.

4. "And now I'm sick of looking inside myself just to find that kid I don't wanna kill." This line from "That Kid" blew me away and expresses, to my mind, both a relationship struggle and a struggle with coming to terms with society's demands. Through that latter lens, and in the interest of discussing something I see as a bit of an epidemic among our generation, how does that struggle look to you? How's that kid ever gonna make it?
I really like that line and I’m proud of it in particular because it expresses a really potent feeling in what could be a sort of super impactful but simultaneously confusing way.  It has some imagery that might sound angry, I mean.  When it came out of my mouth when I was writing that last verse I was just talking about being the person in the situation who is actually trying to look inward and figure out what their side of the problem is.  When you keep looking at yourself over and over and you look at what is driving you and whether you’re being responsible and forthcoming and stuff, you have to stop and realize that sometimes someone just has a problem with you because of their shit and it has nothing to do with you.  At that point, what more can you do? When I look at myself in particular I see that I have a very serious side and a very silly side. I think getting rid of that silly, care-free side of me just to placate someone would be a bullshit move on my part and wouldn't do anything to fix a situation anyhow.  I didn't read all those books and listen to guys like George Carlin and Bill Hicks and all those musicians who made up their own rules just to turn around and let somebody tell me who to be. We’re adults. We get to do what we want.

I mean, you might be talking more about the idea of this being a generation of child-men, and I could clearly ramble about that for a good while, but in that song I was sort of just saying “I’m not at fault and I don’t want to get rid of this part of me and if you can’t let it go I will just walk away.”

5. One more question in regards to lyrical content. What is your lyric writing process like? Do lyrics come before or after music, generally speaking? Do you labor after the disarming deep simplicity that your lyrics often achieve or is it a fairly effortless thing for you to express these giant thematic concerns with in the pop idiom?
I really appreciate your assessment of my lyrics, that’s very nice of you. I definitely don’t labor, mainly for lack of patience. There will be other songs, I’ll write something again soon enough.  I just wanna get it out and move along. The closing song on this album took me the longest to finish lyrically and that was only like a day and a half. I am mainly just concerned with being honest and not sounding like an idiot while I’m singing.
Probably four of these songs were written solely because I cut my left middle finger very badly in a kitchen accident, which left me unable to play certain chords and stuff. I would pick up the guitar and make whatever shape my finger could handle and then a melody would come and then lyrics. This all usually happens in the course of an hour or so.  The finger injury is why a few of the songs have weird ass open chords.
Throughout the day when ideas pop up I write them down… a thought, a word, a phrase, a whole song idea. Some of the lyrics and ideas for these songs popped back up after having been written down for a year and suddenly a song happened.

6. Tell us about the album Blake Cormier and the Awkward Situation. How did the recording process go from fertilization to birth? I know that you worked largely on your own on this one, but tell us about the assistance you did enlist (Carly Garza, Mason Macias, etc). In your mind, what are the key distinguishing characteristics between this record and the last Druggist record The Pile On?
I started going to this studio in Polk Gulch in August to track drums by myself and eventually came to think it would be cool to do a record that was only me.  I've done a lot of stuff that was only me before but never an entire album, so I was sort of feeling like it would be awesome to be able to step back and look at it and see what that feels like.  I was trying to force myself to move on from the band I’d been in and trying to press forward and I feel like a lot of the lyrics reflect that.  The songs are pretty straight forward pop tunes.  There were a couple that felt like they needed female backing vocals and one called “Getting Weird” that I had written specifically to be sung in a sort of call-and-response between a man and a woman.  I guess Carly just came to mind off the bat.  We’d hung out the last time I was in Texas and I remembered her having a pretty cool sound to her voice.  She can have a really classic sound at times and her voice is really beautiful so I felt like we’d sound good together.  She didn't end up getting to do the show with us in San Antonio, but a girl named Libby Mattingsley joined us and it was a great time.  I would have loved to hear Carly sing these songs live with us, maybe it’ll happen someday.

My singing in these songs is way less dramatic than the stuff Druggist was doing. I’m not really pouring out every ounce of emotion into giant, dramatic vocals on these songs but that’s just because they don’t call for it.  They’re just pop tunes.  The songs on The Pile On were all sorts of different ventures. We spent a year and a half touring and writing and stuff and by the time the album was done it was a nineteen song diary of what had been happening with us I guess.  In that sense it is the same, though that’s possibly where the similarities end.  We had Mason Macias play drums on five songs on that album and Marcus Rubio did a bunch of stuff on five or six songs and Stephen Oakes played bass on four or five.  The whole idea was to pile on as many layers as possible in writing, recording, performing, etc. We were doing huge six person performances with fat beam lasers and strobe lights and projection screen and bubble machines and stuff, but we were also doing house shows as a three piece that made people ears bleed.  The Awkward Situation shows will be more of the latter category. I just want this to be where I take my pop tunes and rock them super hard. I am working with some dudes in San Francisco who have done as much, actually much more, touring as me and have been in dozens of bands and are way stoked on my songs and I think those shows are going to kick major ass.

7. What are your plans around this album? Any tours or other excitement we should be aware of? Are you gigging out in the golden state? Plans to come back to SA, or is that just a holiday thing?
As soon as I get back to SF we’re rehearsing two days in a row. My old band did a few shows in the city and a little trip up to Washington and Oregon where we played some awesome sets. We’ll probably be doing that. The guys are all stoked to get out and rock the songs pretty much anywhere. 

The only thing I dislike about where I live now is that I can’t see my family or Stephen and a couple other friends whenever I feel like it. It’s hard to be away from those people all the time and I feel it often. I just enjoy the lifestyle and the work I’m doing and the weather too much to leave any time soon. 

8. In terms of music, art, literature, philosophy etcetera- who influences you? What ideas most drive your tireless creation? What are your favorite albums of the past year (or past few)?
I fucking love what Dave Longstreth has been doing for the past few years. Watching the Dirty Projectors live is the closest I've ever gotten to wanting to be like those creepy assholes who used to follow the Grateful Dead around from town to town. In terms of music I listen to all kinds of stuff from classical to metal but some constants are stuff like the Breeders and the Ramones and Morrissey and the Smiths and stuff. I was really looking forward to that new Beach House album and I like maybe two or three of the songs on it a lot but that’s about it. After the Ween breakup I didn't even listen to the Aaron Freeman album, who knows if that’s any good. I like stuff with big dance beats like mid-era New Order and I like quiet folksy stuff like the Innocence Mission. Most of the stuff I listen to comes back to hearing someone sing about something they love or hate or are passionate about for whatever reason. Although, admittedly, I will shake my ass to Katy Perry and Ga Ga and shit like that. 

Passion attracts me. I totally adore Christopher Hitchens and felt a big loss when he died recently.  It was akin to when Hunter Thompson and George Carlin died. Thankfully I had parents who turned me onto people like that who thought for themselves and never tied themselves to one political or philosophical school of thought. In terms of “influences” I think these people influence my songwriting more than any music I listen to because without those ideas and concepts I wouldn't have the guts to talk about my life honestly. Since songwriting does help me process ideas and function more comfortably in the world, it has become something I don’t even think about. I just write songs and I don’t even think about it being super personal anymore. I only think about it when someone brings it up. To me there is no choice. At this point it’s like asking me why I have Type A blood. It isn't anything I’m trying at or anything I’m manufacturing. I've just been influenced by open minded free thinkers to believe I can freely express myself whenever I feel like it I guess.

9. Do you have any collaborative efforts in your immediate musical future or do you find it better to go at it alone at this point? Any more work with longtime Druggist partner Zach Dunlap?
I’m looking forward to having the last word in what I’m doing musically. I haven’t ever been in a band where it was all filtered through solely myself and I think that’s gonna be key in keeping the shows as focused as the album came out sounding. I like that the songs have their own feel but the record as a whole has a sound that comes together nicely as well.

Zach and I have recorded some drums and stuff for what will be the next Druggist album. I have no way of knowing when the album will be done as I am really busy doing this group now and Zach is up in Portland rocking with his band Butt 2 Butt. They came down to SF a couple months back and I tracked like sixteen songs for them, which I have been very, very slowly mixing one or two at a time when I can fit it in. I really like their songs and I am stoked to be working with Zach again in any capacity. It will be really awesome when we can give people a new Druggist album.

10. **Create your own question and answer it... How's that for awkward.**

Q:How do you think you will come across in this interview?
A: Long-winded and depressed. Despite only being one of those things.

BLAKE CORMIER: website, twitter, facebook, Druggist (info), Druggist (free music)