Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You can hit the road, or stay in bed, you can sink or swim or fight, but when all of this is said and done you're gonna walk so gently still into that night

Well, would you look at that, I totally forgot to post my top albums of 2015 before the New Year. Better late than never, right? That's what they say. I'm not sure everyone agrees, but I digress. However, since this is the one feature I've kept going the entire time I've had this blog, I'll post a late list.

A few things you should know: I spent a couple of months in between jobs this year, and while I had plenty of time on my hands, I had literally no money, so I didn't explore as much music as I have in the past. I bring this up because that means instead of ten albums with several runners up, I can't even think of ten albums that I got and listened to regularly this year. Instead, you get eight, and I'm not even sure I liked the eighth one all that much. Oh well. Here goes:

8. Muse - Drones

As I mentioned above, I'm not sure how much I truly liked this album. I was excited when it released because I've been a fan of the band for a long, long time. This album seemed more heavy handed and political than their others (although those definitely have those same themes). The memory that stands out is when I had my car at the shop and I had to walk to pick it up (I sped through a mud puddle and knocked the exhaust loose, like a cool teen), listening to this album the whole walk. It was hot and humid. The end.

7. Built To Spill - Untethered Moon

I accidentally happened across this album when I was trying to "educate" my girlfriend on all the cool bands she missed out on while she was on her kick of "there's been no good music since the '90s." She was on it when she first met me. I bring it up that from time to time. Ok, I do that pretty much whenever I have free time. I'm sure she never gets sick of it. Ever. (She thinks these guys are whiny, by the way.) Anyway, I didn't even realize Built To Spill had a new release, so I got really happy for about ten minutes.

6. Eagles of Death Metal - Zipper Down

This was another album that I was completely unaware existed until after I read about the terrorist attacks in Paris. This was the band that was playing when they stormed in and shot up the place. Absolutely heartbreaking. In a weird way, I felt as though purchasing this album was an act of standing in solidarity with the citizens of Paris over the next few days. Seriously, fuck anyone who thinks they have the right to take another person's life just because that person happens to have different set of values.

5. Wilco - Star Wars

I've made it very clear over the years that Wilco is probably my favorite band. I feel weird putting this album so low on the list, but I honestly haven't listened to it as much as the others. Still, these guys are awesome. My girlfriend surprised me with tickets to a local music festival where they were headlining. I had to wait a couple months after my birthday to cash in, but it was well worth the wait. I've seen Wilco four times now, and this time I was front row, center stage. Amazing experience. The next day they released this album for free because, according to Jeff Tweedy, "What's more fun than a surprise?" Thank you, Mr. Tweedy!

4. Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind

A recurring theme this year: I didn't know about this album until I was talking with my friend on the phone and he told me how much his mom loved it. (His mom is super cool, and I may or may not have gotten caught staring at her tits once.) He sent me a copy, and I ended up liking it better than any of their other albums. So, if you've always thought these guys were "just ok" you should give this one a listen. It's really good.

3. Lord Huron - Strange Trails

Lord Huron is probably my girlfriend's favorite out of all the bands I've introduced her to (which is a lot, considering she pretty much only listened to Led Zeppelin up until then [kinda kidding, but just kinda]). Their last album was fantastic, and made many people's "best of" lists in 2012 (I was late to the game or it would've made mine as well). I think this album is even better. I like every song. That's so incredibly rare, but I do. Give it a listen, and while you're at it, listen to their first album. You won't regret it. Promise.

2. Modest Mouse - Strangers To Ourselves

Ok, so THIS album I knew about and anticipated long before its release. I pre-ordered it on iTunes, and got three songs in advance of the official release date. I listened to those three songs on repeat for about an hour and a half on a six hour road trip to Missouri to attend my girlfriend's brother's wedding. She was probably sick of it after the first three listens, but she's a good sport. Don't worry, I only made her listen to the same three songs on repeat for about a half hour on the drive home.

1. Blitzen Trapper - All Across This Land

I first tried to see these guys live in 2012, but didn't pay close attention to the concert date, double booked, and had to give my tickets away. Big mistake. My friend told me it was a top five concert experience for him (despite my insistence that he take the tickets on one condition: I didn't want to see any pictures or hear anything about the show). I saw them open for Wilco, and bought a bright yellow shirt, and saw them again this year in Minneapolis. So. Worth. It. This was another show where we were front and center, and I think I fell in love with Eric Earley when he sang 'Across the River' and I saw his eyes well up with tears. What a beautiful song. It was a terrific show, and they're an all around amazing band. Coincidentally, I'm wearing this concert shirt and listening to that song as I type this.

So there you have it. Until next time. Maybe I'll post more than twice this year. (Or maybe not. Stay tuned to find out.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

She's got no flag to fly, but she don't seem that much to mind, no she don't seem to mind

Me: I need to drop, like, 30 lbs. 

Girlfriend: You were too skinny when I met you.

Me: Then I still needed to drop 20 lbs.

GF: I think you look great. Just do what you want.

Me: That's the problem! What I want is to eat cookies, and ice cream, and everything else. Then I gain weight, and I want to go on a diet. But then I want cookies, and ice cream, and everything else. I CAN'T BREAK THE CYCLE!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

You tiptoe for ages and lose yourself

I know nobody reads blogs anymore. I don't either. But, I still want to post my list of favorite albums of the year. I didn't listen to as much music as I usually would. Being out of the country for two months kind of takes you out of things, and you miss a lot. I wouldn't trade it for anything though. I loved spending that much time in Baja. I'm a little sad I'm not there right now. I've still got a list though. Here it is. Go listen. Go love.

Honorable mentions category (and let's face it, my number 10 should probably be here too, but nothing else really jumped ahead of him): Tweedy - Sukierae (too many mediocre songs, shouldn't have been released as a double disc), Vance Joy - Riptide (I wanted to like it more than I did, but that single is pretty good), The Dodos - Beware of the Maniacs (good, but I didn't listen to it enough), Lana Del Ray - Ultraviolence (same), and The War On Drugs - Lost in the Dream (this should probably be my #10, but whatever, I'm sure they're not all that disappointed in my rankings).

10. Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams

I met Ryan Adams this year. My girlfriend and I were driving down the street and I saw this guy with crazy hair and a jean jacket and I said, "That's Ryan Adams" so we pulled over and followed him into a store on Main Street and introduced ourselves. Can you say stalker? As you might imagine, it was super awkward and weird. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford tickets to his show that night, so that was the end of it. Cool story, bro.

9. Phantogram - Voices

I like Phantogram a lot, but unfortunately, they will forever be linked to an ex-girlfriend of mine in my mind. Typically that kind of thing doesn't bother me (I'm not the type of person to throw away photos, stop listening to favorite songs, key things into ex's cars, etc. when going through a break-up, more of a just sit in the shower and cry kind of guy - LOL). Still, for whatever reason, listening to this album reminded me of her, so I didn't play it as often as it probably deserved.

8. Sea Wolf - Song Spells No. 1 Cedarsmoke

I doubt these guys will ever top their debut album in my mind, but everything they've put out has been solid. I convinced a few friends to go with me to see them on their last tour. None of them had heard of the band, but trusted my taste. We stood out in 12 degree weather for over an hour (some stupid thing with the venue), but they killed it, and gained five new fans in the people who went with me. I wish I lived somewhere that got shows like that now. Instead I have to drive to Minneapolis or Chicago. The local Ryan Adams show was an anomaly.

7. TV On The Radio - Seeds

I didn't realize these guys had a new album out until I saw 'Happy Idiot' on Spotify's list of top 100 indie tracks. It's a catchy tune. Give it a shot. I think I was more into this album the first few times I listened than I am now, so it may not stand the test of time, but it's pretty good for now. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'll still like it in five years. I hope so. I'll at least like the single, so I suppose it's worth it.

6. Kishi Bashi - Lighght

This album released on the day I crossed the border to go do field work in Mexico for two months. It was touch and go as to whether my download would finish before we got to the border gate, after which my data plan would stop working, but it finished. Thankfully. As much as I love Baja, it's a little weird to just be pulled out of your life for two months. There's not enough time to stay on top of music and movies and such. I can't complain. Beaches. Fish tacos. Gorgeous scenery. If you don't follow my instagram account, go take a look: instagram.com/nativeminnow

5. Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

The band's first album since they broke up back in the late 2000s. I was so excited to hear they'd gotten back together. Even more excited when I heard the song 'Trainwreck 1979.' It's basically my life story. "I was born, on a highway, in a train wreck" and later "there's nobody I can blame, the story's still the same. I'm never satisfied, it's a problem with my brain." I really do want it all. Too bad money and time always seem to get in the way with that. I can't complain. I've had thousands of miles of road trips this year. Literally.

4. The Black Keys - Turn Blue

For some reason, my girlfriend wasn't as thrilled as I was when I called her in and said, "You've got to listen to this song, it's so good!" then played 'Gotta Get Away.' Weird. I kept waiting for the band to release this whole album on Spotify, but they only released two songs, so eventually I just bought it. Their strategy payed off and they're like $10.99 richer (minus their cut to iTunes). Savvy business move The Black Keys.

3. Delta Spirit - Into the Wide

To be honest, I'm not sure if this ranking will stand. I knew about this album early in the year, but somehow forgot to pick it up when it released. I think I was in Baja. Tough life, I know. I've had it on repeat for the past two days though, and I love it. It could probably switch places with The Black Keys and the world will still keep spinning. That's not a risk I'm willing to take just yet though. Humanity can thank be by sending $100 bills.

2. Spoon - They Want My Soul

This was my favorite album cover of the year, and this is their best album in several years. I have some friends who just moved to Albuquerque who invited me to come out and go to a show with them, but again, that stupid time and money thing. It's a long way to go for a show, but I did once go from SLC to Long Beach to see Great Big Sea, so it's not unprecedented. There's that time and money thing. My girlfriend and I keep buying lottery tickets, but never winning. One night I stood in the front door looking at a lightning storm and she yelled at me saying I'd get struck if I didn't come in. I told her if I did to run out and buy more lottery tickets, then come back and tend to my charred corpse.

1. Kasabian - 48:13

Kasabian is one of my favorite bands of recent years. Every album is amazing. So when I saw that this one was coming out I got super excited, only to be disappointed as they kept pushing the U.S. release date back. Still, I saw they were playing a show in Chicago in October and bought tickets before I even talked to my girlfriend about whether she'd want to go. (I knew I could find someone else if she didn't.) We went. Midweek. Even though both of us missed classes we were supposed to attend. Worth it. They started the show off kind of off, probably because the lead singer was high as hell, but they finished strong (after he walked off stage, presumably for another bump of coke or something). Best show I saw since Empire of the Sun in 2013. My girlfriend and I both danced until we were sore, then remembered that we're old and probably shouldn't get that carried away. Whatever. I'm gonna be the old guy with a walker and an oxygen tank at concerts. 

So there you go, if you happen to have someone you still need to buy Christmas presents for this year. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and that 2015 treats you well. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

We are the people that rule the world

Me:  Alright, Kiddo, we have an early day tomorrow so you need to go get ready for bed.

Mr M:  **Goes and puts on basketball shorts over his jeans**

Me:  Uh, dude, what are you doing?  Go take your pants off first.

Mr M:  Whoa, whoa, Dad, at least take me out on a date first.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lovin' every minute 'cause you make me feel so alive

I know I've done a lousy job of posting on here over the course of the past year, but it seems like I'd really have given up and left this blog to the dogs if I didn't post my annual list of my favorite albums of the year.  So, without further adieu, here they are:

There were a lot of albums by old favorites that I wanted to like a lot better than I did (I'm looking at you Franz Ferdinand, Nine Inch Nails and Pearl Jam).

Honorable Mentions:  Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Specter at the Feast; Josh Ritter - The Beast in its Tracks; The Lone Bellow; Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors; Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City.

10: Phoenix - Bankrupt!

I don't really have much to say about this album other than that the band has maintained its ability to entertain with catchy tunes.  A pretty good album to listen to while running.  Which reminds me, I ran a half marathon and completed a triathlon this year.  I need to figure out another race to sign up for so that I'll start exercising again instead of becoming a fat slob again.

9: Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

I don't think I could ever get tired of the song lyrics these guys come up with.  Brutally honest.  "Let's tell every girl we marry that we'll always love them when we probably won't."  Maybe I'm jaded, but I prefer this kind of realistic attitude to the sappy love songs that clog the airwaves.

8. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Sometimes life isn't fair.  Like this summer when I had to choose between seeing these guys for $5, or seeing My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Bob Dylan perform.  Of course I chose the latter concert, and I don't regret it, but I heard that The National killed it.  I suppose there are worse problems to have in life.  Still, it would've been nice to make it to both shows.

7. Eels - Wonderful, Glorious

This year I read E's autobiography 'Things the Grandchildren Should Know.'  I read it right after a break-up, which probably wasn't the best move since it's quite depressing.  (I was warned: Do not read this when you're depressed!)  Not sure how that he hasn't killed himself with the life he's had.  Take home message:  Life sucks, but the good can outweigh the bad, and when it does, it's beautiful.  Truth.

6. Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile is awesome.  That is all.  Not many people can pull off nine minute songs that I never get sick of hearing, but he's done it here.  Perfect music for winding down at the end of a long busy day.  For reals.

5. Dawes - Stories Don't End

I was working in the lab one day when I got a text from a master's student I'd trained who had graduated and started a PhD program in Oregon:  "Have you heard the new Dawes?  Just My Luck seems like it was written specifically for you."  I downloaded it.  He was right.  "Just my luck, I never said I loved you.  Just my luck, it completely slipped my mind."

4. Blitzen Trapper - VII

I've only seen these guys perform once, when they opened for Wilco a couple of summers ago.  I had tickets to another show, but had a conflict and gave them to my friend.  He later told me it was a top five concert experience for him.  Of course it was.  They came again this Fall, but as luck would have it, it was a couple weeks after I moved to the mid-west.  Oh yeah, I moved to the mid-west this year.  Kill me.
3. Phosphorescent - Muchacho

This album has my favorite song of the year: Song For Zula.  It's beautiful.  One morning, I listened to it on repeat while watching the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez.  You can't beat that type of experience (when the beauty of the world syncs up with art).  You just can't.  I'll go back to that beach sometime this summer, but won't be able to capture that moment again.  Hopefully there will be a new, similar moment.
2. The Strokes - Comedown Machine

If it's not obvious from my last blurb, I spent some time in Mexico this year.  5 1/2 weeks to be exact.  One night, after we'd finished processing samples from a field site, we went to a bar next to our hotel. The bar owner played this entire album while we played pool.  I suck at pool, btw.  I don't suck at making requests though.  Even if I don't speak the language.   

1. Empire of the Sun - Ice on the Dune

Before this summer, I'd only heard one song by this band.  I went to their concert anyway.  It was only $5, and a group of friends were excited about it.  It was the best show I saw this year, and that's saying a lot considering it topped The Flaming Lips, and the My Morning Jacket/Wilco/Bob Dylan show.  I couldn't stop listening to this album for like six weeks.  The only bad thing is that it's now permanently associated with my move to Iowa.  Probably not the best association to have.  (Although I will say that the people there are great, my new boss is totally awesome, and I get to spend a few months a year in Mexico, so life is pretty good right now.  That's all.)

I hope that 2014 treats you all well.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gonna take a trip to Laredo, gonna take a dip in the lake, oh I'm at a crossroads with myself, I don't got no one else

Oh, HI THERE.  You thought I'd died, didn't you?  I didn't die, I just moved to Iowa, so I only WANT to die (because it's so flat here and there's never anything to look at on the horizon).  Don't feel too bad for me though, I'm running away to Mexico for half the winter.  Leaving on Friday.  Already have my envelope of pesos filled up and ready to go.  I can't wait.

That's all.  I'm sure there are other things you'd like to know, but it'll have to wait.  Adios, Bitchachos!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The fat cats have a heart attack

Me: Would you stop doing that? You are ridiculous.

Niece: So are you!

Me: I know.

Niece: And you're single.

Me: I know.

Son: And you're fat.

Me: I know.