Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bonus Post!

So I'm sitting here on the eve of my vacation, the eve of a national holiday, the eve of the 25th day of the 12th month of the 2008th year of our calendar, the eve of well... It's Christmas Eve, OK, and I'm sitting here at the office just watching the time tick by, wishing someone had some sort of catastrophe I could help them with. Good or bad, it seems nothing is going wrong on this fine Christmas Eve, so I'm left to wallow in the slow-movingness of time spent at work.

For this reason, I have decided to churn out another useless and random blog post that isn't likely to entertain anyone other than me, but should at least be good to kill a little time. As far as subject matter goes, I'm all Holiday'd out, and I'm feeling a little claustrophobed by the whole state deal (but I promise I'll finish them up in 2009). So I think I'll do a quick accounting of some of the albums I have been listening to whist out and about on holiday shopping excursions.

Keep in mind, aside from the destinations reached, nothing about these albums has nothing to do with the holidays, which is one of the reasons I chose to listen to them. The other reason is that they are good.

That's right, sometimes I chose to listen to GOOD music... It's not ALL El DeBarge, Phish, and Tone Loc all the time churning through the OCKerouac speakers...

Actually, it's rarely, if ever any of the above, and if it is, it's because I'm tuned to the wrong XM station... It is good to see however that Senor DeBarge did team up with Master Loc... Perhaps they were not able to answer the musical question "Who's Johnny", but were able to determine that whomever he may be, he's infected with the Funky Cold Medina...

I have nothing humorous to say about Phish. I just wish they would go away.

Anyhoo, on to the music I HAVE been listening to. Normally, I stick with the random shuffle on my iPod, and allow it to decide if it's time for Opera, Industrial, Southern Rock, Classical, Vocal Standards, New Wave, Indie Rock, etc. There's just something about coupling Night on Bald Mountain with Soft Cell that leaves my heart all warm and convulsing... The thing about shopping is you keep going to one place, and then stopping, and then going to another place, and stopping, and each time you may or may not want to put your iPod in your pocket or lock it in the glove box instead of leaving it out and yada, yada, yada, so instead I was just surfing the sounds of XM/Sirius satellite radio, but I hit three stations in a row playing Coldplay and instead of veering off the road and speeding into the nearest tree I decided I'd be less likely to ruin anyone else's holiday if I just popped in one of my 'emergency stash' CD's I had stowed in the center divider.

Viola, REM's newest, Accelerate

Now if you've read my Georgia post, you already know my opinion of REM, and their most recent release. What I didn't mention at the time of that writing, and honestly didn't think about until just the other day as I was giving the album what must have been the 12th or 13th listen since buying it, is that the reason this whole disc works as opposed to just a few tracks isn't because it's got that over-arching-story feel of a classic prog-rock album, it's because the boys decided why make a song four minutes long when two and a half will do the trick?

I have absolutely nothing against epically long songs. As a matter of fact, two tracks that would likely crack my top-100 songs of all time are Genesis' twenty-two minute tome Supper's Ready and Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick which in it's entirety took two sides of an LP to get through (about 47 minutes all-told). However, I also appreciate the beauty and grace that it takes to leave your audience wanting more. Admittedly, on REM's last few pre-Accelerate releases I recall thinking. 'OK, when is this thing finally going to END', never a good sign when listening to an album, but this one gets the 'Wow, it's over already?' seal of approval.

For fans of past REM masterworks Green and Automatic for the People, if you've been afraid to chance the new one after getting burned by New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Reveal, Up, and Around the Sun, I urge you to go against your better judgement and give the buys for Athens another shot. They've finally gotten it right again.

I offer as proof, the album's third single and IMO catchiest tune, Man Sized Wreath

As good as this one is, man does not live by REM alone. So after making my way through the disc two times I had to move on. I tried to kick it back to XM, but they gave me Evanescence, and despite being the best Arkansas has to offer, they're not good enough to actually LISTEN to... I could have tried a different station, but I felt punishment needed to be doled upon my satellite radio, and what better way to punish an inanimate object than by not using it? Again, I suppose I could have wrapped my SUV around a power pole... That TOTALLY would have given the finger to my radio dial, but at what cost? at WHAT COST??

Instead, I decided to enjoy the fruits of some Internet research labor, and popped in the pre-Crows Adam Duritz offering with The Himalayans, She Likes The Weather.

Now it's no secret here at The Dance that I, your humble blog host with the humble blog most feels that the decade of the nineties is the absolute coolest. I love the fact that people felt the city of Seattle was relevant for a small fraction of time, that the Internet made a funky squealing sound after you heard it dialing a phone, and lest we forget, the 90's is the decade that made it acceptable to drink HUGE cups of coffee at all hours of the day or night without looking like you were jonesing for an AA meeting.

Why do I mention this? Because from the opening garage-twang guitar of Jaded, there's nothing so comforting to a 90's music fan as reliving what it meant to be and indie rocker in the pre-dawn years before MySpace music profiles. This CD is the musical equivalent of slipping on a pair of jean-shorts and wrapping myself in a flannel. It's also nice to look back with the benefit of hindsight and deconstruct why this group of gentlemen were able to through slight personnel alteration, develop into a marginally-successful, highly entertaining rock outfit while so many of their contemporaries are now slinging oversized cups of joe at the Gloria Jean's Starbucks Bean in malls across the country.

Honestly, if you take these tracks and subtract the ready-to-crack fragility of Duritz's vocals you're left with every club band you sat through on open mic night at the indie coffee house that's since been transformed into the 10,000th Gloria Jean's Starbucks Bean... Hey, at least the dude playing the acoustic guitar at those sets will know how to get to his new job... He used to play guitar there on Wednesday nights right before the poetry reading...

I don't have a YouTube link for this one, but I have something even better. I've attached the link to purchase this time capsule for yourself straight from the indie record label that initially pressed and distributed it, Tyrannosaurus Records. What could make you feel better about filching music off the Internet than using the same tool to throw some much-appreciated green backs at REAL people trying to bring great music into the lives of the rest of us.

As an added bonus, the radio interview spots between tracks will make you long for the days of campus radio. So few things in our modern lives remind us about what we have lost in just the recent past, one of those things is the extended college radio in-studio interview. I'm sure they're still going on, but as I touched upon earlier, that's not just how the new bands are getting their names out there. Why bother busing your equipment from town to town to talk to a local DJ who reached a few hundred listeners when you can put your MySpace link on UBL and reach the vast online empire?

We're all friends here, and as such I don't mind revealing that all the 90's nostalgia this album dredged up had put me in a Cherry Coloured Funk not even the Cocteau Twins could pull me out of. Sure, the holidays are all about remembering days of yore and all that, but memories can lead to regrets, and regrets can lead the therapy, and therapy costs money, money I'd prefer to spend on gifts... Ultimately, that lead me to find another way to sooth my aching nostalgia-gland, so I decided to pine instead for something ELSE I miss that unlike the 90's will return to me with the spring thaw, baseball.

More specifically this new CD I purchased, The Baseball Project Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. tBP is a supergroup formed of REM'ers Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, former Dream Syndicate front man Steve Wynn, who has also released some above-average solo recordings, and a solid beat-keeper on drums by the name of Linda Pitmon. Unfortunately, I know very little about Linda, but the fact she's involved in this venture makes her aces in my book.

So the band's goal is to use music to express their love of our nation's fading past time. I appreciate their efforts and applaud those who admit to loving the sport even if they are not musically talented, and it's certainly worth mentioning that this group DOES harbor their fair share of talent when it comes to expressing themselves through song. After all, they've crated the masterpiece Ted Fucking Williams...

This album ranged from idiosyncratic, to historical, to rocking, to down-right fun in a recipe that calls for just the right amount of every ingredient. For baseball fans as well as former-fans who have maybe soured on the game in the wake of PED scandals there is catharsis here amongst the ball yard memories, and some great stories of days gone by. If you get an opportunity to pick up this disc, which you TOTALLY should do, pay close attention to track 12, The Yankee Flipper, a great autobiographical tale about boozing it up at a New York bar with former MLB pitcher Black Jack McDowell. Don't take it from me though, this one has also garnered a spot on Allmusic's top albums of 2008 list...Click here to see the list

Now I'd never steer you wrong in an effort to pimp my favorite sport by trying to get you to buy an album by Bernie Williams or Scott Spezio, but this one is totally worth the price of admission, and there's no way that when it's over you'll be pissed that your team lost... Pick up a copy, you'll feel better amount yourself, and better about the fact that spring training is still two long months away. Clicken zie herein to purchase...

Looking at the old clock it seems that I've managed to kill off a chunk of time sharing these musical gems with you all, and I hope you will further explore and enjoy them as much as I have. After all, if you're trapped in your car this holiday season forced to chose between Christmas Wrapping and (Simply Having) A Wonderful Christmas Time, owning copies of these CD's may just save your life...

Again, thanks for dropping by, and have an amazing holiday and New Year celebration... I'll be back in 2009.

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