Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
10. Worker Bee Tangler I love a record that's moody, and this bay area quartet has released a moody masterpiece. At times confounding, the hooks peek out from behind reverb-ed, plucked guitars and barren soundscapes. All the while we are lead through a lyrical nightmare that's at once fucked-up fairy tale and inner examination by Evan's smooth baritone. I think ultimately Worker Bee has a better record in them, but Tangler is a fantastic debut.
9. Akron/Family Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free The way in which this record opens with the mesmerizing track "Everyone Is Guilty" to the short, sweet closer "Last Year," Akron/Family continually surprises in all the right ways. There may be a bit more freak folk, Animal Collective-ness than I usually prefer, but they tend to do it in a manner that combines those influences with old fashion rock and roll and sometimes a noisy freak out.
8. Richard Swift The Atlantic Ocean Grossly under-appreciated, Swift released a record every bit as good (if not better) than his previous two efforts. Sure, I have a soft spot for the guy, he sang at my wedding and played on my records, but hell, I've never liked 70s pop as much as when Swift does it. This album is packed from start to finish with tasteful, warm jams. And what Swift sometimes lacks in electricity he makes up for in swagger.
7. Black Mountain In The Future While it may be all the rage to sound like you are from another time, Black Mountain sound like they're from another rock dimension. The riffs sound as fresh and vital as they did when Led Zep was copping them off old Delta Blues artists, and the male female vocal delivery works especially well for them. The air-drums and air-guitar I am guilty of when I listen to this record should be enough to properly shame me, but I keep dropping the needle over and over. Let the judgers be damned!
6. Sunny Day Real Estate LP2 Reissue A record that was first released in 1995 is every bit as good today. This is my second favorite record of all time, hugely influential on my musical taste and playing. This remastered version includes some awesome bonus material that was previously somewhat difficult to find, plus very informative liner notes about the making of the record. The band was breaking up at the time of this recording and you can hear it in the way the songs disjointedly fall together before blowing apart. Jeremy Egnik's voice is a powerful instrument while the bass playing by Nate Mendel carries the melodies of the songs. A tour de force.
5. Brand New Daisy Brand New is certainly a guilty pleasure, but why should they be? Their newest record sounds ferocious, thanks to a searing mix by D Sardy. Sure, their lyrical content and delivery is soaked in sad sack emo self deprecation, but everyone needs to be reminded what it feels like to be 16 every now and again. Brand New just happen to do that better than anyone else out there.
4. Timber Timbre S/T Man, this guys has a strange and hypnotic way of putting together a folk song. His voice sounds like Randy Newman on cough syrup, his imagery recalls backwoods spirituals and his vibe is all muted organs, drums, and the occasional choir backing him up. This was the biggest surprise album of the year.
3. David Bazan Curse Your Branches Until this release, I was all but sure David Bazan's best records were behind him. An introspective turn in his lyrics and a mastery of melody has shown me I was absolutely wrong. Time will tell whether this album is his best ever, but for my money this year it didn't get much better. As a listener the album is at once painfully voyeuristic and heartbreakingly hopeful. It's a journey worth taking again and again.
2. Grizzly Bear Veckatimest The best parts of the Beach Boys and the best parts of symphonic bedroom pop, Grizzly Bear made a streamlined version of 2006's Yellow House. It's their first record written ad recorded like a band and the results are dazzling. Both singers brought intricate and addicting songs to the table, while producer Chris Bear gets all the right performances out of them. Grizzly Bear has the unique ability to travel in a variety of sonic trajectories simultaneously while remaining a cohesive unit. A triumphant statement from an important band.
1. Kissing Cousins Pillar of Salt Some may cry foul, but this is still my favorite record of 2009. POS sounds like a demon horde putting on choir robes and singing break up songs disguised as nursery rhymes accompanied by Black Sabbath. It sounds like cocaine without the price tag, like whiskey without the hangover, like pot without the munchies. POS is a desperate, haunting record, filled with yearning and invocation. If you don't own this on vinyl and you consider yourself a fan of music, shame on you. It's timeless; it sounds hyper modern and lo fi 60s without really sounding like either. The bass playing by Sean Stentz and the vocal performances by Heather and Kara stun me with their urgency. Produced by Richard Swift and recorded live directly to 8 track tape in two days this album is an instant classic.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
"Out On A Limb" -- Faunts from the album Feel. Love. Thinking. Of. This is a song that I wish I wrote, that I could write. The interlocking guitar interplay combined with the forward momentum of the rhythm section (even though I'm pretty sure it's a drum machine) make this song sound as if it is always rolling over on itself. The title track to this record is also insanely catchy.
"Future Primative" -- Papercuts from You Can Have What You Want. This song is all about the opening muted bass line and the musical chorus hook that stays in my head for weeks at a time.
"Blood Bank" -- Bon Iver from the Blood Bank EP. Bon Iver followed up my favorite album of 2008 with this single. It embodies everything I love about this band. Simple, haunting and beautifully melancholy.
"Die Slow" -- Health from Get Color. It was difficult for me to put this song on today's list because the album is one of my favorite albums of 2009. But this song was the reason I love the record. I am addicted to this jam. It's probably my favorite song of the year.
"Rolling Sea" -- Vetiver from Tight Knit. I bought this record on the strength of it's opening song. A gorgeous melody played on acoustic guitar with lyrics that make me instantly nostalgic for a past I never had.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Last night at the Origami release party for the Lilofee 7" I ran into an old acquaintance named Ronnie. Ronnie and I go way back; we worked together at a coffee shop in Orange County nine years ago. At the time he was in a band called The Pressure. I had another friend that worked at the coffee shop that I knew from playing in bands. His name was Allen. He was in a local band called Mayday when I was in a band called Remember August. We played a few shows together and always got along swimmingly. After Ronnie's and Allen's bands broke up they started a band called Your Enemies Friends. Your Enemies Friends went on to release a couple records and tour the world while the bands I was in at the time slowly dissolved. For years I desperately wanted to be the drummer for that band because I thought that was going to be my only shot at playing in a real band.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
When Loop left Summer Darling in the summer of 2008 I must admit to moments of panic. Irrational as it was, I began to think everything was unraveling, that we'd never play another show, that we'd have to start all over. If only I'd been able to learn a lesson from my friends in Future Ghost! When one of their members left this year, Brandon Tomas was duly disappointed, but when speaking to me about it in the aisles of Trader Joe's, he was resolute in his positivity. He seemed absolutely intent on making the best of a difficult situation.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
All this week I've unintentionally spotlighted some characteristics in myself and other people who play in bands and how those characteristics contribute to living an artistic lifestyle. Last night, Death House Chaplain played a show at a tiny little British pub in Redlands, CA with Map and Correatown and I relearned one of the most important attributes necessary for success in any field: dedication to one's craft. It's so simple, yet I rarely think about it.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Dan and I got together last night at his place and had some fun recording alternate versions of some of the songs on the new record. It especially makes us laugh that we are releasing alternate versions before the "real" versions! This jam is called "The One Who Loves You." and it's the first Summer Darling song in eight years to feature a banjo! S Foye is putting the finishing touches this week on the mixes and we expect to have it ready for mastering next week, which means our long wait is nearing an end! So many other exciting things happening in camp SD, but I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. For now enjoy this video.
I met Rufo, the drummer of the Terrapin, about two years ago, but I honestly can't remember the precise circumstances surrounding our meeting. I do remember hanging out with him at KXLU with Sean from the Voyeurs when Summer Darling played on air and I do remember playing with the Terrapin at Que Sera in Long Beach pretty early on in our relationship. On Friday night, Death House Chaplain had the pleasure of opening for them at Silver Factory Studios. I enjoy the laid back house party vibe of Silver Factory. Many thanks go out to Rocco and Danny for providing such a comfortable fun setting for rock and roll shows. The sound keeps getting better and better there as well. (Just as I was about to post I heard that Silver Factory was shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department Saturday night but hopefully they will be up and running again soon.)
While this post definitely recognizes the swift progression the Terrapin continue to make towards being a very exciting noise pop group, the focus is actually on their affable, kind spirited drummer. Anyone who's been in the east side scene the last two years probably has met Rufo knowingly or unknowingly. The guy oozes friendly positivity. At a show a few months back I was down in the dumps about something or other and over all just discouraged about music and bands in general. Rufo allowed me to pile my bull shit on him, and then gently reminded me why we do this in the first place: because we love it and nothing else means as much to us or the people around us. It wasn't that I forgot these things, but I needed someone outside of myself to confirm them.
Often I find that all we need when we're confused or depresesd is to know one other person who's struggling with the same issues that can reaffirm our convictions. Growing up in the Christian church there was much hoopla made of the importance of going every Sunday. I haven't been to church in many years, but now I recognize the importance of having a support group of like minded people to lean on when you're struggling. I'm proud to be a part of Rufo's church and I hope he's a proud member of the church of Summer Darling as well.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
What's Different Drinking definitely contributed to a low lying complacency I had towards my goals. This last month I've played more music, wrote more songs, and practiced my playing more than any other time in recent memory, all while Summer Darling has been on hiatus! Alcohol is not a bad thing for me intrinsically, but I discovered when I use alcohol as a replacement for what really gets me off I become listless and uncreative. I certainly believe there's room to enjoy alcohol while playing music, but my days of drinking all afternoon without picking up the guitar are over.
What's the Same I've enjoyed all the shows I've played and attended and the music I've made this past month sober as much as when I'm drinking. I wasn't what to expect from being a sober musician because I suspected that part of me played music as an excuse to be a mild drunk. There's a certain temptation to continue the "lifestyle" because it affords specific freedoms, one being drinking at all times without that much guilt. Had wanting to be a musician just been an excuse for me to live like I was 21 for the rest of my life? Happily the answer to that question is no. If I was given the choice to either be able to play music in some capacity for the rest of my life without alcohol or to have an infinite supply of free alcohol but no musical outlet I know now what choice I'd make--and it would be an easy one. I'd sure miss those brown Kentucky liquors, but I'd thrive no less. With or without booze, playing music is everything.
Next Time There are some side effects to ditching the brewskies cold turkey that I want to recall for the next time I afford myself a month long bout with clarity.
1. No sauce makes you testy and this can compromise your close relationships. Man, I snapped at my wife about everything that first week, but unintentionally so. I was under a constant cloud of annoyance, the feeling that something inside was off and had tainted the world around me. It's important to be aware that this feeling is natural and it does no good to express your frustration by being a shit head to those close to you.
2. There's a unique thirst that comes from drinking on a regular basis. The only non alcoholic beverage that works to semi-quench the thirst is sparkling water. I recommend Waiwera from New Zealand. Delicious! Contrary to what I suspected, non alcoholic beer is not all that good for this. While beer is tasty, most non alcoholic beers come across flat and lifeless to the pallet, plus you get all the calories and none of the get up and go.
3. Speaking of calories, this brings me to number three: I am hungry all the time. My normal routine has me eating only one real meal a day, usually in the afternoon or early evening. When you're off the sauce this ain't gonna cut it. My challenge was to not binge on Chubby Hubby Ice Cream or cookies from my work every night. Heather can attest to how often I failed this challenge.
4. Depression. I was surprised that I could feel every bit as hopeless and lost sober as when I was drinking. Those feelings, I've learned, are inherent to the human condition and a necessary by product of thinking critically about the world around you. As long as I chose not to let these feelings define my reality I am able to embrace them for their ability to inspire creativity and keep me humble.
I go back and forth on whether I am excited to start drinking again. I'm concerned I won't be able to keep it under control. I'm afraid I'll be re-enslaved. I'm nervous about feeling that first buzz. But then I remember the way beer tickles the nose after a long pull, the way Bourbon warms you from the inside, the smell of a luscious red wine as you breath in and sip simultaneously. I have my hunch; I'll let you know.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Heather and I got the opportunity Tuesday to drop in on Twilight Sleep as they record new material in an ultra plush, brand new studio in Silver Lake. I'd love to say more about the details of the studio but we were sworn to secrecy! Anyway, after a long hiatus spent writing and recording new material and assembling a new band, we were pleased to hear Tracy and Company are going to start playing shows again! Twilight Sleep's new line up features Davey Latter on drums, who also plays for Everest, Nicole Gehweiler on guitar, who also plays guitar for The Comas, and Nicole Fiorentino on bass, who also plays in Light FM, and of course our dear Tracy Marcellino heading things up with her spectacular other-worldly vocals and synth lines.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Is my friend right? Well, yes. His opinion is correct because as a member of a band my opinion makes up a portion of the opinion of the band as a whole. However, the things I say and do, especially things not advertised or presented as the official opinion or stance of the band (i.e. thoughts and feelings expressed on my personal blog), must at best be recognized and scrutinized as only part of a band's opinion but not the whole opinion. This of course would be a hard sell if I were the only member of the band, but luckily in all the bands I'm in I share the experience with other people, so to equate my opinion to the opinion of the band's as a whole disregards the opinions of the other band members.
Do my personal thoughts and feelings influence those of my bands? Absolutely. But let's allow room for opinions to be expressed that may not be in the best interest of the bands, because after all, that's what this blog is about. I want to share with you the good and bad that happens before and after a show or during the making of a record. It's dishonest and not in the spirit of this blog to follow the old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I find it fascinating and edifying when other people in bands share their discouraging moments and disparaging thoughts and what venues suck and what booker is an asshole and what band just plain ruins their day just as much as I savor and enjoy those same peoples' triumphs, positive tips on where to play, who to play with, and how in the hell we can possibly continue to do this without giving up. Let's make a commitment then to really examine and think critically about what happens around us, and let's realize that I'm not always going to say things that will make everybody happy. I do pledge to avoid intentional shit talking but because this is inherently subjective, I can't guarantee what I write won't sometimes be interpreted as such by others. If you have to stop listening to my band or stop booking my band because of something I write on Chain Letter, that is certainly your prerogative and I will respect that decision as much as I wish it to be recognized that some separation exists between my opinions and that of the bands I'm in. It may be wishful thinking, but I'd like to believe as it pertains to this discussion that we can both be right.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Earlier in the evening we pulled up to the venue at the same time as Telegraph Canyon. They travel in a giant Four Winds motor home, which is reason one why they are the most ingenious band in the world. They have no need to procure hotel rooms, driving around a foreign city drunk at 2 am searching for a place to stay. They are always at home. Genius.
They then proceeded to fit a full size Hammond B3 organ, a full cabinet sized Leslie speaker, a 6 piece drum set, two guitar amps, a bass amp, a separate kick drum, no less than 8 guitars plus a banjo and a mandolin, and six people including a violin player onto a stage that could not have been more than 15x15 feet! To top it off, they sounded incredible. To pull off this life size Rubik's Cube and make it sound good are reasons two and three why they are the most ingenious band in the world.
Lastly, they are nice. Oh god how many bands have we all come across over the years that may not necessarily be flat out assholes but are either pretentious or self deprecating, awkward socially or smelly, overly gracious or completely self serving? They were normal, they were nice, they were good but didn't stick it to you. They sold vinyl. All huge pluses. So next time they come through think about checking them out. Here's a sample of the music from their album The Tide and the Current out now on Velvet Blue Music. The song is called "Into the Woods" and is in parts beautiful, sorrowful, stirring and finally joyful.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Checking my electronic mail this morning I received correspondence from my friend Loop. He wrote a rather heartfelt and well worded soliloquy about drinking Tangueray at his office and how it reminded him of our tour of 2004. In 2004 Loop, Heather and I, along with playing in Summer Darling, also played with Josh Dooley in the band Map. The Tangueray tour was one we did in the midwest where we were forced out of broke-ness to steal Loop's roommate's bottle of Tangueray and drink that every night at the hotels, usually mixed with Sprite or Squirt.
The great thing about this tour and all the tours we went on with Map was my ability at the time to realize how special they were in the moment. Often times I am guilty of looking back on times of my life and saying "Boy I was sure happy then, but I am only realizing it now." The Map tours were different. I knew how happy I was as they were happening, even though at times they were immensely difficult and disheartening (i.e. burned down hotels, band members arrested, no people at the shows, a week in Peoria, IL wtf?).
There are many memories I'd love to share and perhaps more will come to light as the days of this blog continue to unfold like the endless Texas back roads we thought were shortcuts or the ubiquitous songs of Johnny Cash, which every bar across America played in tribute the summer of 2003. For now maybe we can share a story or two on Friday night when Kissing Cousins play with Map at the Royal Falconer in Riverside. You can have a beer and I'll have a Tangueray and soda minus the Tangueray and I'll tell you about the time Jason Martin from Starflyer 59 peed on a venue right next to the Green Room door.
Here's the single from Map's new instrumental album Speechless. It's called "Avalon."
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
My other band Death House Chaplain recently played a warehouse party hosted by Ambiguous Skate Clothing Company. If you were to check out their website and click on the concert series link you would happen upon an array of photos displaying this very idea that being in a band is cool, that there are young chicks everywhere at your shows, free beer, and other hip looking people crowding around you, partying it up and celebrating the sex drugs and rock and roll culture. (Ironically other members of Summer Darling can be found in the giant party scene photos looking hip and drunk.)
Then you get to the photo of Death House Chaplain:
Not too cool. The other couple in the picture owns Ambiguous and wanted us to pose with them. What I find amusing about this photo is that it's one of the few photos that accurately expresses what being in a band is really like most of the time. My face is goofy and I'm soaked in sweat, awkwardly hugging Paul because I didn't know what else to do. Paul's face holds in it all the embarrassment of a photo op post show with people you don't know. Matt somehow looks pregnant and I look like I am feeling the baby kick.
Furthermore, while accurately depict that there were a ton of people at the show, the reality of the show was this: we played to thirteen half interested people and three friends while everyone else migrated outside to drink free PBR. Our set time got changed on us last minute, there was no gas money, and for all intents and purposes nothing good came from the performance at all.
But to us in Death House Chaplain, it was a good show. We got to play music and we felt we played well. And in this simple statement lies the best reason why there are so many bands. Playing music in and of itself is worth while. It can make you feel wonderful or it can make you feel miserable, but it always makes you feel.
And who am I kidding, being a musician is cool as hell.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Downtown Poplar St appeared deceptively vacant at two in the afternoon. As he rode, Willy often imagined his town being struck by a rapture-like occurrence of biblical proportions. Cars lined up on each side of the road but not a one moving. Shop lights that read “Open” “Sale” or “TV Repair” burned neon peach but no front doors opening. The steady historical rhythm of the green yellow red of their only traffic signal beat on like the heart of a coma patient. Occasionally a woman carrying a bag of groceries or a man hauling garden tools from a flat bed truck would break the spell of Willy’s fictional solitude, but today there was nobody about. Willy felt as if he were riding through the thin atmosphere of some distant hot planet. The air was heat vapor that dried up his lungs and slapped him on both cheeks like two simultaneous handclaps.
Up ahead was Hal’s Drug Store that held inside it the Post Office and the Notary Public. Willy turned his bike towards the entrance ignoring the red light as he coasted through the middle of the empty intersection. George Jr. pulled up next to him and they both propped their bikes against the glass of the storefront that was decorated in advertisements for the weekly specials.
I’m thirsty, Willy said. I’m gonna go in get a pop.
Where’d you get money for that?
George just humphed in response. I’m gonna go around back and check something out.
George strolled to the narrow opening between the brick building of Hal’s and the adobe-like stucco of the video rental store. It was cooler by degrees in the shady alley slit and George made sure to walk deep into the indenture before he removed and examined the pistol. It was heavy and squat with nickel plating and a worn leather grip. There was a small insignia above the grip but it was smudged with grime; he couldn’t make it out. Perhaps it was a dragon or a motorcycle gang sign. George imagined for a moment that he’d stolen a weapon of Arthurian significance and he was now the leader of some secretive and dangerous commando force. He knew enough about guns from his father to make sure the safety was engaged before examining it further. He flipped the cylinder release latch and was impressed how easily the five bullet housing popped out. The thrill of holding a lit firecracker trilled up his stomach and into his throat as he discovered the gun was loaded with two bullets. He replaced the cylinder and held up the gun and aimed it at the back wall of the alley.
George! What are you doin back there?
Nothin. George put the gun back in pack and returned to Willy and the bikes. Let’s get the fuck outta here.