Tuesday, May 12, 2009

things things things

i'm tired. pretty much all the time, now. i'm constantly torn between all the things i need to do and the things i want to do.

i need to
really start looking for a job in chicago
keep up with my schoolwork
stay motivated with the punkbands.com redesign
edit the video interviews i have
move out of my apartment
take care of my fucking taxes

i want to
get back to writing and my music
record the split 7" with Christian i've been talking about forever
go to philly more often for shows
curl up and sleep for a week
update this blog more often
not always worry
spend time with barb

i wonder if it'll all be a wash or if i am working in the right direction...and to think i won't really know for two years. i've hit a ceiling at the library; the demographic just isn't what i want. the midwest needs me back and then i can pick up on faint whispers from the west coast. i'll get there...like i said, within two years.

so yeah, we're completely redesigning http://www.punkbands.com/. Paul is helping me and he's doing a stellar job, but there's so much to do and most of my contributions involve slogging through the archives and cleaning shit up. this is literally the most mind-numbing thing i have ever done. i have written a few reviews though! here's one:

It took a while, but I finally heard Drag the River...and I like it. Bad at Breaking Up gathers together all the various tracks the band contributed to 7"s, splits and comps as well as some b-sides. From the sound of it (and having since heard some other stuff by them) I would say this is an excellent introduction to the band and, considering the fantastic packaging that accompanies the album, well worth the investment.

There are a few major selling points here; the acoustic and clean electric guitars are fantastic complements, the duel vocal approach courtesy of Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price, and all the references to drinking. These guys keep the instrumentation sparse and let their clean, deeply twanged (is that a word?) voices do all the talking. Some of the tunes remind me of Mike Cooley's acoustic songs for Drive-By Truckers, just a bit higher pitched. Some remind me of Limbeck's older records, where the emphasis was less on arrangement and more on immediacy. And there is definitely a large dose of The Replacements here, and maybe even a bit more of Paul Westerberg's solo output; I can definitely hear the Stereo influence. Regardless, it's a great mix of sounds spread out across a great collection.

If I had to pick some favorites, opener "Having a Party" would definitely be one of them. I always loved the swaying r&b sound of the original, but this version, sung by both guys, gives the song a whole new feel; the DIY nature of Drag the River makes the song sound almost like a plea for the DJ not to just keep playing music, but to play some quality music...any kind of quality music. With the awful state of radio in this country, I couldn't agree more. Another gem would have to be "Beautiful & Damned," which is certainly a bit of a risk. Featuring solo vocals accompanied by only a swirling, distorted pedal steel guitar, it's a beautiful side-step to the rest of the album and I have a hard time not jumping right to it when I put Bad at Breaking Up on.

I don't feel like it's fair to judge collections by normal, album standards. Instead, I'm interested in how well the release flows and if it accomplishes the idea of introducing someone to a new artist. Bad at Breaking Up does both of these things well and though it may start to sound a bit alike towards the end, there is no denying the excellent songwriting and delivery by these alt-country troubadours.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Austin Lucas Review...

Wow, it’s been a long time since an album grew on my like Austin Lucas’ Somebody Loves You…and I think I know why. See, I’m usually a southern drawl/scruffy voice folk guy; I like Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, Sundowner, etc. Lucas’ approach is so traditional that it’s off-putting at first. But then something struck me as I made my way through the record for the third or fourth time; Lucas represents the first artist that I would have loved to let my Grandfather hear. It was a bit of a downer to realize this because he passed away this past autumn, but I am certain that he would have loved this record. He liked old country music, but he also loved Appalachian style folk music with clear, powerful vocals and minimal accompaniment beyond an acoustic guitar. Lucas fits this description perfectly.

The talent that Lucas displays here is electric. While the songwriting and arrangements are dead on, the vocals and lyrics are what seal the deal for me. Lucas’ voice is so delicate and powerful at the same time; I just don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like it. His storytelling skills are employed perfectly on the track “Singing Man,” which tells of a lowly musician attempting to court someone much higher up on the social ladder. And then there are all the sings about heartbreak, but with an ear towards moving forward, not wallowing. “Go West” puts the idea of parting ways with someone in such an understanding and romantic light while still portraying the pain that accompanies any type of meaningful goodbye.

This record, which was recorded by Lucas’ father at the family home in Indiana, rings of truth and a personal touch that works its way right into the center of your heart. Whether he’s pickin’ and yelpin’ through the hurried pace of album closer “Farewell,” or crafting a beautiful atmosphere like the one found in “She Said,” Lucas seems to be able to do no wrong. I don’t give out a five star rating without some serious consideration, but this record has shaken me. I didn’t react to it immediately; it took time and some of my own personal feelings for my true impression to surface. The only thing I wish is that I could have put this on while Gramp and I cracked a few beers.


the Chicago trip was pretty great. a lot of time to just unwind, visit friends, drink and introduce everyone to heather. i'll post some pictures we took when i have the time. being back, on the other hand, sucks. grad school started last week and it's insane. so much reading and then little projects that remind me of the busy work your teaching aides would give you in undergrad when they were hungover...ugh. ohh! and i got my mac, who has affectionately been dubbed "macattack" by someone with much more creativity then myself. so far, it's friggin' crazy cool, but i gotta get used to it.

i'm applying for a few library positions in Chicago that an old friend pointed out and one of them is at the DePaul University Rinn Law Library, where i used to work! seriously thinking about moving back there now that school has started and it's a distance learning thing that i don't need to be at campus for. if i could get a job out there in my field (like i have here) and go to school and work on the website...i think that would be awesome. and heather's gonna come...friggin' sweet!

alright, back to work...in every sense of the word.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

in anticipation of chicago!

Heather and i depart in...hmm...three-and-a-half days! i can't contain my jubilation at the idea of sharing my beloved city and friends with someone. of course we're gonna hit the big things, like the aquarium and the planetarium, but we're also gonna traipse all over and hit some of Chicago's lesser known spots. in anticipation of this, i decided to post a short photo montage depicting the places i hope to take her.

1. The Art Institute of Chicago - this is by far and away my favorite place in Chicago. i think this has a lot to do with the trip i once took with Richard Jones and my advanced poetry workshop; one of the most educational and revelatory experiences i have ever had and definitely the most important in regards to my education. i also took my mother there on my birthday in 2007 as part of the "Ian & Mom B-day/Mother's Day extravaganza!" we started at Glenn's (to be covered later), moved on to the Art Institute, then to dinner with some co-workers and finally ended up downtown the see Wicked...all-in-all, a wonderful day.

2. The Heuttenbar - i made my Chicago name here. i also made just about all of my friends here. the HB was the HQ for Gyre and the gathering spot for any group activity. i was lucky to discover this place, it's amazing staff, and the dear patrons that would become my best friends.

3. Earwax - Heather is vegetarian, so why would i take her anywhere else? Wicker Park may be one of the more annoying areas of the city, what with all the damn hipsters, but you just can't beat the gigantic bowls of vegan chili. we are gonna fast all day before we arrive here. once sufficiently stuffed, we'll buy some records at...

4. Reckless Records - also suffocatingly hipster-ish, but holy shit do they have an amazing vinyl, DVD, and CD collection...new and used!! Reckless kept me financially afloat when i first arrived in Chi-town, so it will always be one of my more cherished locales. we're gonna have to hit this place early in the trip, while we still have money.

5. Glenn's - best breakfast in town...seriously awesome and they were featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives! Nadjya and i hung out here often and the place reminds me of her...which is great cause she's right around the corner from it!

6. Ronny's - i saw smoke or fire here with...hrm...can't recall...but that might have to do with the fact that this was one of the few shows that saw Craig, Spider, Nate, Brent and myself all hitting the PBRs together - awesome. gonna see Rob's new band, Blueberry Fist, here while we're in town; if they're anything like his old band, we'll be in for a treat.

7. The L&L Tavern - mostly just to see Toby, the owner of Red Scare Records. i owe that guy a shot, a beer, and a smack in the face, and not necessarily in that order. spent a lot of nights kickin' it here after sweatin' my ass off at the Metro; best jukebox in town that's not digital...and they always have a "whiskey of the month!"

8. The Beat Kitchen - i can't even count how many shows i've seen here. gonna have to take heather...maybe to the Workers show; they used to be called Your Black Star and they're purdy good. great venue with a great atmosphere and scrumptious food.

9. The Grind - my old roommates used to work here and it's a pretty cool place. kind of an odd spot for it, given the hipster nature and location, but they serve great coffee and tasty treats. maybe i'll run into some of the old 4335 claremont crew...

10. The Hopleaf - my favorite bar in all the world! over 300 beers - 50 on tap - and the glassware to go with everything. add to that the fact that i know the Chef and he takes care of me...well, simply put, heather and i will have a grand time at this amazing little place.

11. Bin 36 - this will probably be one of the classier stops. i love that heather and i can do the dive bar/venue places and then soup it up for a joint like this, which features an amazing wine selection as well as a cool cheese bar. haven't been in so long, so i'm stoked to head back and see what's new!

and that's a quick run down of some Chicago spots that simply must be seen...maybe we'll update together while on the trip...ahhhhhhhh!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

some free music...

one of the most interesting labels in America, Deathwish Inc., has just released a compilation of a lot of unreleased songs from their back catalogue. the Boston-based label is the brainchild of Converge frontman Jacob Bannon and they have been putting out challanging, if not always entirely listenable, "extreme" music for quite some time now. Bannon does most of the artwork for the releases and also has an eagerly anticipated solo album arriving via Deathwish later this year (we hope; it keeps getting pushed back!).

so, the label not only supports its own diverse roster of hardcore, crust-metal, grind and experimental music, but it also has an offshoot called Malfunction Records and handles the vinyl releases for a lot of the underground hardcore/punk/metal scene. Anyway, this is a great label that loves to give stuff away. check out the compilation right here.

my chicago trip with Barb is less than two weeks away! can not wait to show her around and get some much needed time away from the tri-state area. while we count down the days, here is a new poem that is in a very early stage of developement. it's about my grandfather...i think:

He will be tough enough

He will be tough enough
for the dirt.
And withstand
sediment for years.
(to those still interested),
with strong bones,
the strength he carried beneath
pearl buttons and white

Breath will
never rattle through velvet
linings and packed
terraform, though his voice
will manage to speak,
words chosen,
a revelation
and a memory;
something new, begging
to be relived.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

moving and such

so, the move is basically complete! my brother and i are now the proud owners of a two floor, three bedroom apartment in Wilmington, DE, right around 7th and Bancroft. he wets the bed and tends to run around naked, but we'll take care of all of that with sound parenting and an eye for detail. the good part is that we are mere blocks from the Blue Parrot and Dead Presidents, two of the least pretentious bars in all of Wilmington. the bad part is, well...moving fucking sucks. we sat outside for thirty minutes today trying to figure out how to fit our reclining couch through the obviously too small doorway. we eventually discovered that if you unscrew two very specific (and totally unassuming) plastic parts buried amongst all of the normal looking hardware, the backs came off...hurray for couch engineering and our ability to decipher it.

i made a partially disastrous dinner for Heather last night...did anyone else know that Morning Star meat crumbles burned if you grilled them?!?! cause i didn't :o( times like last night make me miss my digital camera because i would have loved to have captured a portrait of my poor, charred veggie patties in all of their abysmal glory. at least the spicy potatoes and the spaghetti squash were good. ohh!! i almost forgot!! Mom met Heather, and she was downright delightful and adorable. we had a delicious dinner at Dome in Hockessin, DE where we ordered a bottle of the Chehalem i mentioned in one of my previous posts. it was a wonderful evening that finally united two of the more important women in my life (one has been around for a pretty long time and the other is still fairly new). all in all, i just can't imagine a scenario in which the fooding session could have gone any better, given the excellent quality of the company, the food, and the wine (and the dark and stormy i had when we first got there; god i miss that drink, it reminds me of Brent).

i'm at work and almost completely unmotivated...this is due to the stress of moving, not work; i actually look forward to coming into the wine store each and every time i am here, but tonight i'm just not in it. i need some drinks and some time to relax. ahh, i need to get back to work...i get my Blackberry Storm tomorrow!! i'll leave you with a poem, one which is actually new...well, written within the last few months. there is definitely a Naruda-esque nature to it, especially his Book of Questions. Enjoy!

Measure Me

Forensics and numbers offer nothing but the awkward realization that there are things we will never be able to measure: the air behind eyelids, the surface area of a cloud, the height of an imaginary friend.

I dream in short bursts, legs kicking and tongue wagging at the thoughts that bounce through the deepest parts of my evening – simply put, it’s violent, and equations and microscopes are poor tools.

How do you measure the surprise of a tourist; the hospitality of a southerner; the life of a candle?

In the angle of photographs?
In whispered thank yous?
In heartbeats?

I wish we knew how to measure the pause of a comma, cause I hate getting it wrong.
I wish we knew how to measure importance, cause we’d get more done.
Even words are often too thin for the feel of blood, electricity, and bone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

i really should have...

...thought about this whole apartment thing a bit more; all these utilities are gonna be expensive and why the hell do i HAVE to get internet, cable, and phone services in order to receive a price break...goddamn comcast! but hey, at least i'm finally getting out of my mom's house.

...gotten into The Ergs! sooner; what a blast their new compilation is! it's a shame that they are leaving us now, just as i begin to understand what all the fuss is about. look for a review of this record very soon.

...called nadjya in the past week; we're gonna have quite a bit to talk about.

...started playing guitar again; it kills me that my calluses are basically gone. it's definately time to pick the old axe back up.

i'm trying to plan this trip to chicago on sunday...and by plan i mean decide which days we are going because i definately have to do this before school starts back up. i'm becoming more and more nervous about my workload and how i'll handle it. my music program for the library was fun, even if only four people showed up. two local newspapers ran stories on it and i'll try and get them scanned in and posted. if nothing else, they'll probably let me do it again.

the show went really well the other night. we took a lot of good footage (most of it making fun of A Modern Love Story) and we're going to try and compile a short video to post. once it goes up, i'll let you know. until then, here are some photos my buddy Max took. you should check out his photo blog right here.

i really love that last photo. Max informed me that there are more shots he did with film forthcoming, so i'm stoked on those as well...we really should hire him to do a photoshoot.

to keep with the pictures theme, here are two short poems. the first is inspired by a William Carlos Williams poem and then a painting by cubist Fernand Leger, the second was inspired by Man Ray.
The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

and then the painting...

and finally, my poem:

Even Williams
(on Fernand Leger’s The Red Table)

I believe even Williams,
who wrote upon which
so much depends,
would have agreed with
what was truly red –
the table –
white –
the mortar and pestle.

and here is the second painting and corresponding poem...

The Moment Immediately Following the Immaculate Conception

(on Man Ray’s Portrait or Invention)

Holy glow of acceptance surrounds her.
The severed tip of temptation;
a hint of wings,
of angels set in

The swell of stomach
now holds the imprint
of salvation.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

listening extensively to...

both the new Thursday record and that friggin' Kings of Leon record...the one everyone has been cramming down my throat when i am incapable of fighting back (read: drunk...i'm looking at you A-Bear). the Thursday record should come as no surprise; i've been a fan for years and Full Collapse was the first independently released album i ever owned (and i still have my original copy, though it skips now because my brother spins it while he takes showers). so yeah, Common Existence is a phenomenal return to form. now, if i could just get my shit together and write the damned review.

the Kings of Leon record is something i've fought from day one. i feel like they emerged around the same time My Morning Jacket did and i definitely fell in the MMJ camp. over the years, though, as i've seen MMJ stray from their southern roots and go for a more atmospheric R&B sound, i find myself really only heading back to It Still Moves for repeated listens. the Kings of Leon record, on the other hand, sounds like old MMJ mixed with the best Coldplay songs. essentially; spacey, catchy, and encompassing some of that southern twang that i fall for every time.

some recent notes (though not 25 random things about me):

*i've got a show tonight and i'm popping cough drops and drinking water in an attempt to soften my gravelled throat. it might be time to switch from screamo to punk rock...i've been listening to the latter quite a bit lately.

*i've been finding myself more and more in the company of coffee...and not just any coffee, but some of the best coffee...coffee for two.

*i registered for my first masters classes earlier this week...what a rush. i'm hoping to make it out to chicago as a last hurrah before school starts at the end of march; i hope i get to bring someone along.

*i taught my first computer class at the library. my students gave me perfect marks on my evaluation forms; they are far too nice. all of them signed up for my next session, which has reached it's maximum limit already.

*i'm rediscovering my love for vegetarian cuisine.

*my general dislike for children has slowly been fading. you'll certainly hear me spout horrible things on occasion, but they're often aimed at the poor parenting i encounter at both the wine store and the library. that being said, i think it's the beard; children have always responded better to me when i look like grizzly adams. and on that note, a poem from a short series i did about children:

America’s Pastime

He shuffles softly down the hallway
leading to and from his room,
across the rasping hardwood, and
gently passes down the stairs,
at a

Well past the eight ‘o clock ritual
of stories and sleeping, dressed in
patterns of celebrated superheroes,
his arms wrapped tightly about his
chest, clutching the teddy with the
weathered baseball jersey,
he continues his quest
shick shick shick
another half-awake angel
searching out arms
and a fresh tuck-me-in.

His father, moments ago, heard
the footfalls and has been waiting.
Creasing warm cotton, he sits
settled in the den, a muted TV
illuminating a simple room.
The shuffling stops in the doorway
with a final slide and creak. Turning
to greet his son, the father meets a
set of six year old eyes filled with
sleep and tiny, rubbing fists.
“Daddy, is it time for the game?”
“Not yet, soon.”

Carrying his son back to bed, he prays for
blue skies, home runs, and foul balls,
the kind that land in the outstretched
gloves of fathers as the angels sitting
next to them stare in awe.