06 July 2008

The 100th and final(?) post

The infamouse PL packed up her blogspot bags and switched over to a wordpress blog. She was drawn in by the plethora of themes and... stuff. Am I following suit? Yes. The pressure of my one peer who consistently reads this blog has turned me. In fact, I already did turn. Am I easily swayed? Yes. But she's a good influence - I swear.

I'll miss this blog. And while it's treated me well, it has never felt exactly true to fit. I have to say, the wordpress themes are a compelling reason, but the final straw is that I have finally come up with a new name for a blog - so it seemed as good a time as any to make the switch.

Head on over to thoughts are made of water.

Peace out, cub scouts.

02 July 2008


I was standing on the platform, waiting for my train to be announced yesterday, when I heard people - young backpackers, for lack of a better term - talking behind me in an undeterminable language. We made eye contact, I smiled meekly, and went back to gazing at the screen.

The guy approached me to ask a question. I was secretly thrilled. These people! People of my stripe! They know I that I have traveled, but they know that I am native. That I am a wealth of information. That I am young and capable and flexible like them. They know I have stood in train stations gazing at boards with distant, unknown locations in countries unseen, all while locals are going about their lives, not knowing what they were missing. I had been to the other side and yearn for it always. I will not fail them.

While his accent said Eastern European, his appearance said Spain. "Excuse me," he said in heavily accented, but perfectly comprehendible English, "can I ask you a question?" I already had my earbuds out, iPod paused, attention rapt. Where were these two beautiful and anonymous people going? They needed my help! They asked me because I knew! I wondered if they needed a guide. "Which of these," he continued, gesturing at the board, "can take us to Niagara Falls?"

This, unknown to them, was sort of a stupid question. For several reasons.

"You want to go to Niagara Falls?" I said as seriously and kindly as I could, making sure that I got this right, not wanting to send them to upstate New York for a very specific and somewhat outdated tourist spot. "Yes, the Niagara Falls."

"Oh, honey," I wanted to say. It was the cutest thing I'd ever heard.

I wanted to tell them where to go - someplace more fun - have you ever been to the Southwest? You've never seen anything like it! Go to the Grand Canyon before it crumbles under the crushing fist of pollution. Go to a nature reserve in Idaho - near the Snake River - where I was born! Well, not in the river, but close bye... Maybe we'll see wolves! There's Red Rocks in Colorado - always wanted to see that. Maybe you want something more urban. I hear Chicago is incredible - cheaper than New York and beautiful at this time of year. I have a friend there... You like barbecue? We'll go to Memphis. I've always wanted to go to Memphis. We'll laugh at their hats, but secretly want to buy one, because we know that on us, they would look awesome...

Instead, I directed them inside to the Amtrak information center. There was no direct way to upstate NY, that's for sure, but a change-over in NYC... or maybe the Amtrak people would tell them to go by bus... either way, they probably made it to Niagara Falls by 4 AM or decide that it was too much of a hassle and changed their plans.

I'm on that platform everyday if they change their minds.

01 July 2008

Anatomy of a Mix: Josh Ritter for Beginners

In honor of the Josh Ritter and Co. concert I attended Friday, I decided to do a (semi)formal introduction of eight tunes to JR - some of his more popular songs that give a glimpse into his musical catalog.

He's been compared to Leonard Cohen, Dylan, and Springsteen, and draws inspiration from Mark Twain - but JR is very much his own man/musician/manician? I can't wrap my head around why he's not more popular, but what can one do beside spread the good word? If you dig what you hear, snag a CD or three, hit up iTunes, or grab passes to a live show. You won't regret it.

And now, on to the mix!

From Josh Ritter (1999)

Stuck to You (The Science Song)
Well there's one more thing, I'll tell you if I can / It is not love that makes a non-stick frying pan...

Story goes that JR was to become a neuroscientist just like his parents. Upon reaching college, he switched majors to "American History through Narrative Folk Music." He combined his former pursuit and his new love in a little song called "Stuck to You," a hidden track on his self-titled debut LP. Twangy and cheeky, this is the first JR song I remember ever hearing, some point sophomore year in college... I wonder if he ever played the Wheaton coffee house...

From Golden Age of Radio (2002)

Come and Find Me
If I could trace the lines that ran / Between your smile and your sleight of hand / I would guess that you put something up my sleeve

Before I'd known that JR lived in Providence for a spell, I long had associated this song with the quiet, empty streets of East Side in August... In any case, this pensive and intimate song floats perfectly into the warm air of anyone's summer evening.

From Hello Starling (2003)

I won't be your last dance, just your last good night / Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied / I'll be the one to drive you back home, Kathleen

While this song may bring specific joy to the heart of every girl named "Kathleen," it tugs on the heartstrings of every girl with ears thanks to the opening line all the other girls here are stars - you are the Northern Lights. This one is always greeted with deafening cheers in concert, and my favorite lines of the song (the ones above), reach their maximum potential when performed live.

Snow Is Gone
I’m not sure if I’m singing for the love of it or for the love of you

When the weather in New England, or wherever you find yourself, warms up after a dreary winter, it's hard not to be joyous. And to find and declare love on top of it? How is that not worthy of a song? I, myself, find it impossible to (1) not sing along with this song and (2) not smile while doing so. Watch the live version and you'll see I'm not alone in that sentiment.

From The Animal Years (2006)

But I still remember that time when we were dancing / We were dancing to a song that I'd heard / Your face was simple and your hands were naked / I was singing without knowing the words

A sad song in a major key. Some of JR's best work lingers in this seemingly contradictory landscape of tragedy and jubilation - a kind of joyful heartbreak. It blends regret and retrospect with the sentimentality of beautiful days-gone-by... this may be - and I don't say this lightly - a perfectly written song.

Girl In The War
But I gotta girl in the war, Paul, her eyes are like champagne / They sparkle, bubble over, in the morning all you've got is rain

One of two more overtly political songs from The Animal Years, this presents a hypothetical conversation between Peter and Paul (guess which ones), concerning the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness when everything that matters is on the line. This one is sure to give you goose-bumps.

From The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)

The Temptation of Adam
We passed the time with crosswords that she thought to bring inside / "What five letters spell apocalypse?" she asked me / I won her over singing, "W-W-I-I-I" / She smiled and we both knew that she'd misjudged me

Combining an apocalyptic love story with a sense of humor, this song is one of the more popular among the NPR crowd. Taking place in a missile silo while the subjects guard the "big red button," it's (generally) about knowing that even glorious perfection must come to an end.

Check out a solo live acoustic performance here.

Right Moves
I said, what if we are like the Northern Sky? / What if there are things that come between us that we can't take back and we can't make right? / And you said, I don't know darlin, but I'm here with you / And we're coming to the chorus now!'

A few Fridays ago, I was walking from work to downtown Boston - a hearty but pleasant trip. The sun was shining, it was a warm and breezy day... "Could this get any better?" I asked myself.

This song popped up on my iPod and I instantly broke out into a smile as I strolled down Commonwealth, trying not to dance at the crosswalks. This song is nothing but pure, unadulterated feel-good.

30 June 2008

Je tombe du ciel.

This weekend, through the power of Netflix, I was able to finally see Angel-A, a film by Luc Besson, director of Leon: The Professional (my favorite Gary Oldman movie) and The Fifth Element. It came out last year, but sort of slipped below the surface, as most foreign films are wont to do in the US market.

Shot entirely in black and white, on location in Paris, the movie is about André (played capably by Jamel Debouze, who you may remember as Lucien in Amélie), a down-on-his-luck (almost) good-for-nothing. After facing the fact that he owes immense sums of money to gansters and lowlifes all around Paris, he decides to kill himself by jumping off a bridge into the Seine. While standing on the edge, he looks over to see a beautiful, statuesque woman (Rie Rasmussen as Angela), about to end it all on the same bridge. He saves her, and in return, she follows him around Paris, helping him pay back his debts and right his wrongs through more bizarre and surreal methods.

The film is almost thematically divided in two lopsided parts - the former is relatively funny and almost light-hearted considering the circumstances; the latter - more dark and dramatic (revelations abound!) The whole film is beautiful - deep, inky blacks and luminous pearl whites in the city for which black and white photography was practically invented. From a photographic stand-point, it's downright sexy.

While "classically" shot and lacking in hand-to-hand combat, this is unmistakably a Luc Besson film; there are surreal (some would say sci-fi) themes, some obvious one-liners and a beautiful but lethal and scantily clad female lead. Besson's films have a tendency to follow a smart, strong woman who acts as the pillar of a male/female dichotomy, until she ultimately needs the support of the man... while better than 99% of the portrayals of women on film, some may argue he's falling into a thematic rut.

While Angel-A isn't perfect, it's engaging and bold, and who doesn't like a little dose of simultaneously languid and rapid Parisian French every now and then? Check out the trailer for yourself.

28 June 2008

I don't know darlin', but I'm here with you - and we're coming to the chorus now!

Last night was a night I've been looking forward to ever since I was at a laundromat/web café in Valencia, buying my tickets under the impatient gaze of blinking ticker noting my rapidly decreasing surfing time. Yes - last night was the Josh Ritter/Boston Pops show.

I wasn't able to find a home for the second ticket I had, but saw some Wheaties I knew at the show and chatted with them before and after. And seeing as how I would have dropped twice as much for the seat I had, I'm trying not to look at it as a waste. My seat was fantastic - on the floor, only two rows behind the big dogs who dropped $80 on their seats. And the concert was phenomenal. This is the third time I've seen Josh and the guys perform since last October (what can I say - they keep playing shows here and I keep showing up), and this was definitely the grandest performance.

He opened with a haunting and intimate version of "Idaho" (appropriate for a haunting and intimate song), followed by what might be my favorite, "Best for the Best." Upon hearing the first opening chords, my eyes welled up with tears and I cursed myself for wearing mascara. Beautiful renditions of already near-perfect songs. The rest was a bit of a fantastic blur, but they played (among other songs) "Temptation of Adam," "Girl in the War," "Thin Blue Flame," Right Moves," and "Rumors" - where everyone promptly (and appropriately) exploded at the line my orchestra is gigantic - this thing could sink the Titanic. They also performed "Wildfires," one of the most simple and powerful songs off of The Historical Conquests, and one of my favorite JR songs to date. Such a thrill to see that done live.

Late in the show, Robert Pinsky did a reading, and even though I work in the same building as the man, it was the first time I'd ever seen him. He certainly added his own enjoyable dramatic flair to the show.

And while the Pops looked like they had a little too much starch in their shirts, it was obvious the guys were having a blast, and nothing's better than a bunch of joyful and skilled performers. While closing with "Empty Hearts," a song with a very singable chorus, Josh said, "if you ever wanted to sing at Symphony Hall, now's your chance." And yeah - I sang along - that is to say, I threw my hair back and I sang along (name that song!) You could tell the audience was comprised almost entirely of people who were familiar with the music, and the enthusiasm was palpable. It was an amazing monster of a show and I spent the train ride home with a smile on my face. Always a joy, that Josh Ritter. Always a joy.

25 June 2008

Oh, oh my God... whatever... etcetera...

This song kept me from completely writing off Easy Tiger, Ryan Adams' second least amazing album. (The first least-amazing being the "snap out of it!" worthy-of-a-slap Follow The Lights EP.) And this particular live and electric version of this song makes me love it even more... especially when he screws up and yells, "stab me in the eye with the Empire State Building!" For that moment, he is the Ryan we know and love... in a highly dysfunctional sort of way.

For no other reason than music for music's sake, here's Mr. David Ryan Adams...

19 June 2008

Anatomy of a Mix: Amplify!

A little bit of techno, a smidgen of hip-hop and lots and lots of guitars. Here are some tracks that ask - simply by being - to be turned up.

Wolf Parade - Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts | Now we'll say it's in God's hands / But God doesn't always have the best goddamn plans, does he?

This song was selected by Josh Radnor (who plays Ted on "How I Met Your Mother") for his "iTunes Celebrity Playlist," with the following description: "This song makes me want to drink eight pints of beer and punch someone in the face. In a good way." I could be down for that - though not on the receiving end of the punch, thanks.

Then I'd give this particular Josh R. a high five cause he's got pretty rockin' musical taste. We'd then pass out (well, I know I would after eight pints), slumped in adjacent corners while Spencer Krug howled and "la la la la la la'd" his way through this sloppy, loud, and amazing song from Apologies to Queen Mary. Upon gaining consciousness, I'd then ask him about the status of the Ninja Report.

The National - Mistaken For Strangers | Make up something to believe in your heart of hearts / So you have something to wear on your sleeve of sleeves

This song, from The National's latest release while not especially loud, grumpy, or overtly "angsty," deserves to be played loud... in the headphones of your soul. The lead singer's voice is something to write home about - cool, clear, and controlled without being contrived - it feels like it would echo perfectly out over the streets of New York City at 2am. The rapid guitar and immaculate drums just give this song more to love.

Beck - E-Pro | See me comin' to town with my soul / Straight down out of the world with my fingers / Holding onto the devil I know / All my troubles'll hang on your trigger

My version of this is not DRM free, so you'll just have to be satisfied with the youtube video (which is a total trip, by the way), and then hopefully pick up this amazingly funky and loud track for yourself. This song vaguely reminds me of "Minus" from Odelay.

To sum up my feelings about this track, if there was an army of zombie ninjas to fight Shaun of the Dead-style, I think I'd choose this song for my heroic, irreverent anthem.

Danger Mouse - Encore | Who you goin' find doper than him with no pen / Just draw off inspiration / Soon you goin' see you can't replace him / With cheap imitations for these generations

Take the best band of all time and (arguably), the best rapper alive (according to Ryan Adams, Jay-Z should be the first artist to play on the moon), put them in the hands of a DJ genius, and this is what you've got.

Danger Mouse (one half of Gnarls Barkley) took Jay-Z's a capella Black Album, magically mashed it with the Beatles' White Album. This particular track takes Jay-Z's "Encore" (obviously) and pairs it with "Glass Onion" and "Savoy Truffle." The raw, looped guitar placed alongside Jay-Z's über-masculine vocals and lyrics makes for a track that deserves going up to eleven.

The Pixies - Where Is My Mind | With your feet in the air / And your head on the ground / Try this trick and spin it

This track from Boston-based band, The Pixies, was done way back in 1988 - but it's held up remarkably well over time. The general renewed interest in it undoubtedly has to do with its use at the end of the deranged, all-too-often misunderstood, and entirely awesome movie, Fight Club. In terms of titles, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better song to fit the theme of the movie.

The nearly-dissonant guitar and vocals of this song have a tendency to enter your ears and clang around inside for a while, so don't be surprised if you happen to find yourself echoing the ending "ooooooh ooooo"s to yourself while washing dishes.

Deep Dish - Flashdance [Radio Mix] | He didn't mean to catch my eye / Well he's lucky he just walked on by / If he ever met a girl like me / Are you kidding? / Well I'd tell him that I'd rather die

Deep Dish, the Iranian-American DJ duo, came to the US way back when and started making music - and what music they make! Songs by these guys have a tendency to slip themselves onto multiple playlists during my summers with their good vibes and sweet sound.

But this guitar-driven house track (is it house? I get all the electronic sub-genres confused), is motivational for those of us with two X chromosomes. With firm but super-feminine vocals from fellow-Iranian Anousheh Khalili, both the song and video are something of a metaphorical kick to the groin...

That is to say, this one is for the laaaadies...

16 June 2008

Monstrous Media Mosaic

Eryn: i want you to make one of these
Eryn: even though they're kind of cheesy

What can I say? I'm a sucker for my twin and collages - that's two for two, my friend. Below are the formal directions... Va bene?

- Type your answer to the following questions into Flickr Search
- Choose an image you like best from the first page of options
- Copy and paste the URL for each into the Mosaic Maker


1. What is your first name?
Alec. The story behind that varies with each telling from my parents, so... yeah.
2. What is your favorite food?
Authentic Italian (twin!)
3. What high school did you go to?
East Providence High School (Go Townies... oy.)
4. What is your favorite color?
It varies, but blue is a safe bet.
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
Let's just say if Jake Gyllenhaal ever wants my number, all he's got to do is ask...
6. Favorite drink?
Anything with whiskey...?
7. Dream vacation?
New Zealand, though from what I hear, I may never want to leave.
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
A writer. Who gets paid.
10. What do you love most in life?
Family and friends are the obvious choice (because it's true.) But I'll say Music.
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.
Little Hooligan

1. Alec Soth notes, iii, 2. ✿✿✿✿✿✿ OLD italian COINS ✿✿✿✿✿✿✿✿✿✿, 3. Weaver Library East Providence, Rhode Island, 4. Sun and Signs, 5. jake-gyllenhaal-premiere-magazine08.jpg, 6. Whiskey, 7. The Remains Of A Giant Under A Hawkes Bay Sky, New Zealand, 8. Untitled, 9. one would., 10. Bokeh Melody, 11. Pull, pull, push, push: who to believe?, 12. Little Hooligan 2

"I thought there was too much cymbal... but I always think there's too much cymbal."

I texted my friend Emily on Sunday morning and she replied "it sounds like you spent the weekend like a 20-something should." That sounds about right.

Saturday, I met up with One Eye, Erin, and Erich with the specific goal of seeing The Fall, the beautiful epic film that was years in the making and took even longer to get distribution. It's only playing in two theaters in Boston, but I've been dying to see it since catching the trailer a couple of months back.

The movie is about a little girl in a 1920's era Los Angeles hospital who becomes friends with an injured (and suicidal) stunt man. He tells her a story that eventually blurs the line between reality and fantasy as the film progresses. Lee Pace does a great job as Roy, the stunt man, and Catinca Untaru is bizarrely good as the little girl, Alexandria. There are a surprising number of laughs and a heart-wrenching scene (I cried whenever Lee Pace cried.) At times, the film reaches too far and becomes disjointed, but it never falls completely apart and remains completely entrancing. The director, Tarsem Singh, was the man behind the video for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" (arguably one of the best songs and videos of the 90's), and I would say that his skill set has sharpened over the years.

In short, if you're into aesthetics and it's playing at a theater near you (or even not-so-near), I heartily recommend The Fall.

After the movie, we went back to Erin and Erich's, and hung out with their friend John. After One Eye took off, we had a mini cook-out, some beer, some mojitos, and eventually ended up at a nearby bar. The house band was - kid you not - a group of 12-year-olds with a 20-something on drums. They looked like brothers and I've got to say, they weren't awful. We went back to the apartment, had some smores and I went to bed. After an evening of imbibing, gravity takes a hardy toll.

In the morning, we hit up brunch (of course) and I tucked and rolled out of Erin's car at a nearby red line stop. I had time to kill before my train, so I zipped over to Diesel cafe for an Accelerator to-go (luckily the weather was cool enough for a hot latte), and then headed home. My plan for Father's Day was going to be a homemade meal of his choice from a menu of my creation, but because of my longer-than-anticipated weekend in Boston, I didn't have the chance to actually make said meal. We went out to dinner, instead, which simply means that next week I shall unleash culinary magic... or mediocrity.

I do, however, have quite the bone to pick with the MBTA (the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.) Boston has the oldest subway in the country, so obviously, there's maintenance to be done... but everywhere I need to go, construction abounds. And not just any construction, but massive re-haul construction - on the commuter, red and green lines (i.e. every line I happen to use.) NO BUENO. It's like The Big Dig: Part Deux. Maybe if they didn't spread out their resources quite so much they could manage to actually complete something in less than ten years.

But I am young. I shall persevere among the jackhammers and orange cones and shake my fist at any overly-sassy teamsters... though not too much, or I'll end up in a bag at the bottom of the Charles.

05 June 2008

Hobo stew... a little of this, a little of that, and a shoe.

There are a few things I want to blather about, and I love lists... ergo, I give you a list of random stuff that I find interesting.

To be forehead-slappingly obvious, Obama got the Democratic nomination, and Clinton has (gracefully/finally) stepped aside. Things are starting to come together, people... as long as the more extremely bitter of Hillary's supporters don't go to the dark side. I don't care who you are - four more years of similar ideology is not what this country needs. I overheard more than my fair share of anti-American sentiment abroad, and it's going to take a long time to undo that damage. Let's start now, shall we? Not to beat the old drum of "CHANGE," but I'm thinking this Obama fella might be able to get us back on track.

Art & Literature
After two solid years of sitting on my bookshelf, I've finally started de Kooning: An American Master. So far, it's fantastic. De Kooning has always been one of my favorite artists and he was really one of the last romantic, striking, artistic figures in American art. He was flawed and complex; he's compared to (and sometimes is in the shadow of) Pollock, as they were both Abstract Expressionists, but de Kooning had less bravado and was less brash than Pollock. Pollock ran the risk of drowning in his own machismo, but de Kooning was always in flux and found any sort of "definite" to be incredibly claustrophobic. He was a man of contradictions - both in his art and his life, making him a pretty awful boyfriend and husband, but a phenomenal artist.

The book also touches on influences of other artists in de Kooning's life, including the tremendously tragic artist, Arshile Gorky. The picture of life during de Kooning's time is so exciting. Poor artists running around New York City, doing things you'd think poor artists would be doing... and more. The book covers a good range of material, but manages to stay focused on de Kooning and the big picture at the same time.

Chuck Palahniuk's 2001 novel Choke, about a sex addict and con artist who works at a colonial-era theme park to support his dementia-afflicted mother, has been made into a film. It features Anjelica Huston and Sam Rockwell in the leads - both very appropriate choices. I hope this isn't like most other Sam Rockwell movies, where he does a great job... but is stuck in a lame, horrible, very bad movie. The trailer for Choke is here. Judging from that alone, it seems to stick very closely to the book - the stripper scene included. Palahniuk translates well to film - it's a shame they refused to make Survivor, my favorite of his books into a film. That had real potential.

I don't really have much music news, except that Calexico has announced they're releasing a new album, Carried To Dust, on September 9th. Apparently, the band's been whittled down to just Joey Burns and John Convertino for this record... whether that's a permanent change, I'm not sure. I wonder if they'll tour as a whole...

Moving on, Jack Drag, the husband of the husband/wife duo, The Submarines, has done a remix of Josh Ritter's "Rumors." You can catch it at My Old Kentucky Blog. It's pretty good - very different from the original, but still sort of stays within that sort of whacked out Historical Conquests vibe. Peaks my interest in those crazy Submarine kids.

04 June 2008

Barcelona: I fell in like with you.

I just realized that I hadn't yet posted about the Barcelona leg of the Eurotrip with Rach. Whoops. Alright, let's brush off the cobwebs.

What I remember most distinctly about Barcelona was that it was completely overwhelming - in size, culture, noise, population - they simply have MORE of everything (including an insane amount of French.) Valencia, though the third largest city in Spain, was considerably less... jarring. While only a four hour train ride away, the provincial dialect was completely different, thus throwing another wrench in the already-shaky works of my Spanish. I missed the Valencian lisp... dearly. Where's Joaquin?

But we were there to learn... nay - to live! Our hostel was a super scene little place, two blocks back from Las Ramblas, one of the main drags of Barcelona. The staff was friendly and the place was clean. The downsides? Really noisy and in need of at least one more shower. More than once I was in line in the hallway with bed-head and a pre-caffe con leche frown.

We went generally exploring the first and second day we were there. We took in the Gothic church and the district of the same name. One of the highlights of the entire trip was seeing the man, pictured above, playing panpipes outside of the church. What he playing you ask? How about Frank Sinatra's "My Way," backed up by a stereo playing the little midi version of the same song. When Rachel and I took the elevator up to the roof, we could hear those pipes of Pan as we ascended. Glorious!

We made the pilgrimage to the Picasso Museum. It was interesting in terms of scope - most of what they had was not the "best known" Picasso, but rather, a lot of his early work and a considerable number of prints and drawings. His early drawings were... phenomenal. When you find yourself saying "wooow!" at the scribbled study of a goat, you know the man was good - not to say that everything he touched turned to gold - but you have to admit, he was arguably the best artist of the 20th century.


We also took in all the Gaudi we could handle. We spent a full day and a half with him, actually - bouncing from site to site. We first hit Sagrada Família, which was nothing short of mind-numbingly awesome. As Kenny Rogers once said, "I saw so much, I broke my mind." It's not even complete and it's one of the most beautiful man made structures I've ever seen. I must go back to see it completed... sometime after 2026.

Next, we swung by Casa Batlló, a private home in the theme of a man-eating dragon. It was, devastatingly, closed for no apparent reason. Luckily for us, Gaudi is everywhere and we walked a mere two blocks up and found another private residence-turned-museum in Casa Milà. The most interesting places were the attic - a winding series of brick archways - and the roof - a series of stairways, towers, and arches... tremendous. The interior was gorgeous as well. Gaudi took a Frank Lloyd Wright approach to most of his projects, in that he designed everything, down to the chairs and door knockers. Fantastico.

The next day, we hoofed it out to Park Güell, and I think of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You...
Chastity: I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed... but can you ever just be whelmed?
Bianca: I think you can in Europe.

I was whelmed. Rachel was whelmed. The park is pretty amazing. It's gigantic, with multiple sections with different visual themes... but it was so incredibly overrun with people that I wanted to scream. The last part we visited was the long mosaic tile bench, which winds around the terrace above the main gate... we couldn't see any of it because it was covered by the asses of a thousand fatties. I expected people, but not what seemed like an organized mob sent to piss us off. Rachel and I both left feeling rather letdown, and sought comfort in our cervezas. Perhaps we should have been less naive, but it was, to put it gently, anti-climactic.

The last full day was spent mostly at a beach in Sitges, a tourist town about an hour south of Barcelona. When the water touched our feet, Rachel screamed. It was cold. Cold even for this jaded New Englander. The temperature of the Atlantic off the coast of Maine in early June. COLD! We took a picnic lunch of bread and fruit, which we ate almost immediately. Rachel said, "oh man, I'm not going in." I cocked my head and looked at her because she already knew the answer. We, of course, went in. How do you not swim in the Mediterranean? Sure, our lips literally turned blue (well, violet), but damn it - we went in. And it was good.

One of the scariest/"we can laugh about it now!" moments took place on the last night. Rachel and I decided to take a different route back to our hostel, which was between a Russian a Middle Eastern neighborhood. We head down this street, somewhat populated with people... we soon realize, however, that they're all men. We start getting that fight-or-flight feeling... but then we see a woman hanging out and think "phew!" Turns out that it's a hooker... of course. Meanwhile, the guys are watching, sort of following Rach and I in small clumps. I think to myself, "if street-smart Rach gets freaked out, then I'll freak out, but until then..." As if on cue, Rachel grabs my arm - HARD. Crimeny. We dive off that street to a slightly less freaky street with some drunk clubbers, and start talking...
Rachel: Did you see that?
Alec: You mean the freaking "Thriller" video that was following us?
Rachel: No - the street filled with hookers!
Alec: I saw the one hooker...
Rachel: No - there were more! I looked down one of the alleys and it was FILLED with hookers! AHHH! We're gonna DIE!

As we were walking back towards Las Ramblas to get back to our hostel the non-hooker filled way, we saw a couple of cop cars filled with attractive and extremely bored policemen going to scatter the wolves of Barcelona and the hookers paid to love them. We needed to shower and go to bed. ASAP.

To end on a positive note, earlier that night, Rachel and I went out for dinner and a cute little French family sat next to us. It was a youngish couple with two little boys - a redhead around five or so, and a little blond cherub around two. The two-year-old takes one look at me and was, apparently, smitten. He spent the whole evening smiling at me, hiding his face, then smiling again and trying to edge closer to me on the bench, getting upset only when his mom pulled him back. The mom was thoroughly embarrassed and frustrated, the younger brother thought it was hilarious, and the dad was trying not to smile. When the little one tried to sneak over to our table, I told the mom something in French along the lines of "no worries." She gave me a meek grin and they left shortly thereafter. I would have nabbed him if I thought I could make it through customs with one extra towheaded French toddler than I'd left the country with. He was too cute. I don't know why two-year-olds think I'm awesome, but they do.

Anyway, to sum up this series of random events, I enjoyed Barcelona, but not as much as I thought I would. I didn't fall in love with it - as I had expected. If I had the chance to go back, I guess I would, but not without some reservation (as in "couldn't I go to Seville, instead?") But I'd be willing to see what else it had to offer. And catch up with Gaudi.

The trip home started off frantically, and ended quite easily. Rach and I got to the Barcelona airport in plenty of time, but were told that we had to check our bags - something we'd manage to avoid. No bueno. The flight from Barcelona to Dublin was running late and, on top of that, took longer than expected. We knew we were going to miss the connecting flight and our bags. We touch down in Dublin and us and two guys going to Boston were ushered upstairs, thrown into a van, zoomed through customs, and dropped off at the gate. We ran onto the plane and were greeted by, what else but a pleasant Irish woman who said, "oh, no needtah run garls! The plane inn't going tah leave withoutchu!" I wanted to hug her and stay in that glorious country until they found me and gave me the boot back to its little snot-nosed brother of Boston. We were the last people on the plane and plopped into our seats - which had individual screens and a list of shows and movies to choose from... even an episode of "Father Ted." I was overjoyed. The flight was without incident and when we arrived, we were unnecessarily sassed by a fake-cranky Boston cop (home!)... and both our bags were there! Rachel declared it a St. Patrick's day miracle, in spite of it being about two months late. My parents were only ten minutes late picking us up. It is a miracle!

Back home, Rach and I ate our weight in chips and fruit, crashed and had brunch with my fam the next day at Julian's. At the Providence airport, we parted ways as we always do - without much pomp and circumstance - because we know we'll see each other again.

The end.

29 May 2008

Anatomy of a Mix: Bring it down to a simmer

I was going to do just a random assemblage of music, but seeing as how I just had to deal with some intense bureaucratic crap over the phone, I think I'll dedicate this post to chilling out.

Jamie Lidell - Multiply
I'm so tired of repeating myself / Beating myself up / Wanna take a trip and multiply / Least go under with a smile

This came up on my iTunes at just the right time. It's a low-key track, but has enough kick and funk to bring you up. Sing it, you beautifully gawky Englishman.

I would love to see Jamie Lidell in concert next week (I picture him belting out a song while standing on a piano... that's on fire), but I guess none of my Wheaties have sooooooooooooooul, unlike some people and those people's husbands who tell me things like "Jamie Lidell? I'd be there in a hot second." Damn it, Wheaties.

For now, I'll just nod my head along with JL's vocal stylings and toy with/tease myself with thoughts of going to ACL this year.

Josh Rouse - Come Back (Light Therapy)
I miss my serotonin / And my days are goin' nowhere fast

Josh Rouse (my other favorite Josh R), writes lovely and (for the most part), mellow songs... so it was just a matter of sticking my hand into a hat and grabbing one. This track is a little more upbeat and funky (yeah, bass line!) than most other Josh Rouse other songs, but it's still sunny, sweet, and a bit more clever than the average "I miss you" song.

I heard he's off being cool and mellow and mumbly somewhere in Valencia... that lucky so-and-so... Buenath diath, Thignor Routh.

Josh Ritter - Good Man
My hands held on, my mind let go / And back to you my heart went skipping

"Best for the Best" is like laying your head down on the world's softest pillow that smells of beach roses and lets you dream of a field of wriggly puppies. But I've already blogged about that song... and there are other amazing Josh Ritter songs that make me stop and smile, so I'm posting one of those numerous others.

"Good Man" was featured on "House," so it's become something of a hit for JR (relatively speaking.) As far as I'm concerned, he's too amazing for the popular palette. He's the amarena gelato in world of sugar-water ice cubes...

Ok. Getting back to my point... whatever that was... this song - the live version in particular - makes me smile. This past sunny Friday afternoon, strolling solo through downtown Boston, it came up on my iPod, and I found myself smiling out of sheer content... even via recording, that Ritter grin is damn contagious.

25 May 2008

A little bit of feel good DOES go a long way!

Jamie Lidell's been "under the radar" lately... that is to say, he's been ALL over the place lately... relatively speaking. I was skeptical, because in most cases, the artists who pop up like inflatible pool toys due to one song usually spring a leak shortly afterwards and slip back below the surface where they usually belong. So I bought - not without some cynicism - a few tracks off of Jim and Multiply on iTunes. Fastforward a few days later and I've treated myself to the whole Jim album.

So far, so good... and by "good," I mean "really freakin' awesome." I'm smiling just listening to "Green Light" right now. What a way to start the summer. Below is his video for "Another Day" - very Stevie Wonder-esque - but with considerably bizarre visual accompaniment. I partially blame his Britishness. Enjoy.

23 May 2008

Give me a scotch - I'm starving.

I don't care what you think - Iron Man is awesome.

I'd been dying to see it since I caught a glimpse of the trailer several months back and I finally got around to it this past weekend. While my DVD collection is filled with foreign, sincerely serious, and artsy indie flicks to beat the band, I do enjoy a good action flick... especially when it features a jacked man with facial hair... and surprisingly enough, Robert Downey Jr. fits the bill.

In real life, RDJ comes across as something of a gifted and charming shithead (which can tragically be attractive), so it's no surprise that he flips between sarcastic and sincere, spoiled and sympathetic with ease as Tony Stark, the not-so mild mannered alter ego of Iron Man. And I want more - a wish that will apparently be granted in 2010. This is good, because I want to know what happens (P.S. if you see it, stay through the credits.)

RDJ's obviously done some good work in the past - most recently rocking the cravat* in Zodiac, a great suspense flick with a trifecta of awesome male leads (the others being Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo). There are also a few other movies of his that I need to catch up on... A Scanner Darkly, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and Charlie Bartlett (well, he's been busy...) There's also the upcoming Tropic Thunder, which looks pretty hilarious.

So it seems like things are looking up for RDJ. Sobriety has obviously done him a lot of good... unlike someone else I can think of...

* It should be noted that my brother believes that no one can "rock the cravat." I believe he is in the minority.

22 May 2008

Round two: FIGHT!

Oh Valencia... where to begin? Rachel and I left Florence with a heave and a sigh (the heave from our hauling our heavy bags and the sigh out of sentimentality.) The Pisa airport was relatively small, but rather sleek - and much more efficient than Florence or Bologna (P.S. NEVER fly into Bologna.) We got to Valencia sans hitch - it was perfect. The Valencia airport is connected directly (like walk-down-one-flight-of-stairs directly) to the clean and efficient Metro system. Five or six stops later, we were wandering around a glorious plaza made of marble, surrounded by bright Baroque buildings, looking for our hostel. The hostel was nice - very simple, but bright and clean. A shower and sink in the room, along with our own balcony - not bad, eh?

One of my favorite moments from the whole trip actually was rather trying at first. The first evening in Valencia, we went exploring the evening and got lost in the Valencian suburbs. We were both hungry and tired and had low blood sugar (the one common thing that can make us both less than pleasant to be around.) At one point, I notice that Rachel is no longer walking beside me. I turn around to see her asking a handsome, middle-aged man tethered to a wire-haired fox terrier, in broken Spanish, where's a good place for tapas? He was awkwardly charming (he had "professor" written all over him), and his English was a bit better than our Spanish, so we continued our conversation in steady and purposeful Spanglish. His wife came out of the store we were standing in front of, and he explained our situation. They had a good-natured argument about directions and restaurants until the wife motioned for us to go with them. So we followed this adorable couple through the surprisingly busy streets. The missus left on her own errand, so we continued on with the man - pausing while he returned a DVD at a Blockbuster.

We found out that his name was Joaquin and his dog was Terry. And we love him.

After about ten minutes of walking, with a great big smile and a wave, he left us in front of a nice tapas place with great shrimp and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this wonderful place - this beautiful Valencia - which, only an hour before, made me nauseous after I realized I couldn't understand anything anyone said. We also had our first taste of the Bud Light of Spain: Estrella Damm. Well, maybe it's more like the Spanish Sam Adams, since it's actually potable and rather nice. The food is great - lots of seafood, lots of fried, and yet, somehow, I still lost weight... I love the Spanish.

We did the adventure to the City of the Arts and Sciences. This involved a metro stop and about 48 miles of walking in sunshine, which is nice, unless you're of a certain P&C complexion (peaches and cream, yo). We trekked to the largest aquarium in all of Europe and spent most of the day mooning over over Beluga whales and sea lions. On the way back, the heat and sun caught up with my pale Northerness and I was slapped in the face with a bout of heat stroke and a rather nasty sunburn. While I slept off my nausea, Rach adventured out and found the super scene area of Valencia that was strewn with tapas places, shops and churches (of course.) We spent the next couple of days primarily in that neighborhood, exploring churches, drinking caffe con leche, and eating... there was much eating.

The thing I may love most about daily European life is the market/mercado. Quality fresh food, good prices, and good variety. You're bound to be more adventurous in your cooking and eating if you know where your food came from. There's the occasional farmer's market around here, but if there could be something large-scale and more consistent, my life would be... wondrous.

Strange Things About Valencia

• Wedding shops. EVERYWHERE. We also witnessed evidence of four weddings on one day. Apparently, getting hitched is quite en vogue in V-Town.

• Bull fights. Still big. Like, NASCAR big.

• I saw something with Dr. Phil on it. I don't remember what, because I forced it out as soon as I saw it, but I thought I had escaped his grasp.

• More "Strange Things About Valencia" under "Reasons Why Rachel and I Liked Spain (Valencia in Particular)"

Reasons Why Rachel and I Liked Spain (Valencia in Particular):

• Fatties! Yes - fat people! After Florence - a city of slender Italians in four-inch heels - we found ourselves surrounded by an equal number of beautiful, youthful Spaniards and Spaniards with yoga pants and beer bellies. Human after all!

• Spanish people do it. All the time. How do we know this? Babies. BABIES EVERYWHERE. Baby here, baby there... babies every-fraking-where. Like pietas in Italia, you're bound to see more than your fair share of babies in Espagna. Also, their version of a TV drama involves a comical amount of sex scenes. Hilarious bordering on just plain weird.

• They fucking LOVE chocolate. Not only are there chocolate shops everywhere, but also, after watching a couple of hours of Spanish TV, Rachel and I noticed that out of, say, seven commercials, five of them were for some sort of chocolate-based product; the other two commercials were for weight loss and feminine hygiene products. Take from that what you will.

• Dos cervezas = doth thervethaths. I adore the Valencian lisp - Rachel on the other hand, was not a fan.

• Caffe con leche. Unlike Italians who sneer at you for ordering a cappuccino after noon, the Spanish will whip up a less frothy version for you at any time. Though I missed the pomp and circumstance of a cappuccino, there was something to be said about getting what you wanted exactly when you wanted it. There are shops everywhere. I became very dependent on caffeine during the trip - I'm still trying to wean myself off 3-5 shots of espresso a day.

Anyway, both Rachel and I enjoyed Valencia a lot. While we expected it to be nice, I think we were both still pleasantly surprised. We came to the conclusion that it's a very livable city - there's open space and well-kept parks, nice public transit, and what seemed like stable, relatively diverse economy. It was tourist-friendly, but not "touristy" - an unfortunate bog that Florence has become thoroughly lodged in. The weather was perfect and the city was very clean. Anytime we asked for directions, someone was more than happy to help.

Oh Valencia, if I spoke Spanish, I'd be back to you in a heartbeat with a working visa.

20 May 2008

Anatomy of a Mix, Part Four: Earn Your Sassy Indie Stripes

I had an incredibly brief reunion with the Reginator Thursday that consisted of a T ride and a latte - way too little. That was followed by exact the same thing with Rob on Friday evening, but in reverse order. Now I'm just spinning my wheels with too little to do, occupied only by mild caffeine shakes and Pandora. So I'll throw together a music post. That seems less financially frivolous than ordering accessories for my new espresso maker and a bit more constructive than creating a chain of paper clips or fervently checking icanhascheezburger.com.

Dr. Dog - Heart It Races (Architecture In Helsinki cover)
And we slow to acknowledge the knots in the laces / Heart it races!

I like this song. A lot. (Well, this version of this song.) My time in Europe was one of the longest stints in years that I've gone without being constantly tied to my iPod - I only used it on flights... I usually log four hours every weekday, not counting music constantly playing on my laptop at home or blasting my iBoom on weekends. (P.S. never get one - the sound is crap.)

But the whole time I was in Europe, this song was solidly lodged in the space between my ears. I would absentmindedly start singing one of the verses and the "bod-a-ba-bop!" accompaniment, and apologize to Rachel for subjecting her to that. Her response? "Actually, that was pretty nice." Even sent through the filter of my (extremely limited) singing ability, it was "pretty nice." Go figure.

The song doesn't make much sense, if any. But if this is nonsense, so be it. Dr. Dog's casual and mellow take on this chatty track is well worth a listen under a shady tree with an iced tea or strolling (strutting?) down a sun-speckled street.

Wolf Parade - Call It A Ritual
'Cause you know / They will swing swing their swords for show / While you turn your flower petals so slow

A bit ominous and a little heavy, this song sounds like something primitive and primal - something cult-related - is about to occur. The song picks up and drops off with a certain amount of tumbling and bravado, but lacks the normal wailing dissonance present with most songs fronted by Spencer Krug. He keeps his voice down for most of the song, choosing less over more... and in this case, less is definitely more.

The National - Apartment Song
Be still for a second while I try and try to pin your flowers on / Can you carry my drink I have everything else / I can tie my tie all by myself...

The National sort of wear their hearts on their sleeves - in a very manly way, of course. This song feels so familiar and casual - the first lines alone (quoted above), bring about distinct imagery of a couple who have been together for a long time. Much of The Boxer reflects on "lost youth," or growing up and moving on, and this song is no different. But it's a little more realistic, perhaps, than their other songs concerning the whittling away of time. It's self-reflective and more personal, than say "Mistaken For Strangers," a song concerning similar subject matter, but with a very different (read: sentimental) approach.

The Kills - What New York Used To Be
What music used to be / What luck used to be / What art used to be / What you used to be

When the song kicks off with thumping beats and impatient guitars, starting and restarting like engines, only to morph into a pulsing techno-infused rock song with the tongue-twisting, rapid fire, sexily whispered Coma comma drama come on / Draw it, scratch it, say it, say it... you know it's going to be intense... and good. But what do you expect from a band that makes a music video (for "Last Day of Magic") out of beating the bejesus out of each other (in Barcelona!)?

The Kills reflect a bit of Velvet Underground in what they do and how they do it, so it makes sense that they yearn for a NYC of yesteryear, Warhol et all. Whether or not the song should be taken literally is up to the listener, but surely, the band must feel a little sentimentality for the New York that was a prime influence for them - not just the place, but a specific time. Maybe this time without the massive amounts of heroin, huh?

11 May 2008

Concertapalooza 2008

It's nearly summer, which means concert and festival season is upon us. An embarrassment of riches abounds on the horizon for those with kickin' musical taste. Grab your sunscreen and a $4 bottle of water - here's the run-down of Southern New England shows that I find completely relevant.

Apparently, my cries were heard. While in Valencia, doing a much-needed wash (crispy jeans = overdue laundry), I checked my e-mail and read that Josh Ritter is playing with the Boston Pops. I think I may have made a gleeful noise drowned out only by the noise of a thumping drier. In fact, I can almost guarantee that I did. I jammed a few more coins into the internet-controlling box (yeah, you come up with a name for it) and snagged myself a couple of orchestra seats. June 27th: it's going to be, in the words of Roberto, EPIC.

Devotchka is playing the Paradise on the 18th, but that being a Sunday, I find it hard to drag my ass up to Boston Sunday evening, only to drag it back even later that night, so I can drag it back at ass o'clock the next morning to go to work. Tough call...

The Fratellis are playing the Paradise later - on June 11th, followed by Wolf Parade on August 2nd. The Fratellis would no doubt be a fun time, and a little rockin' dissonance with WP is sure to be memorable... for someone else... because it's already sold out. Boo.

The Newport Folk Festival has a generous handful noteworthy names (Calexico, She & Him [aka Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward], Jim James, Jakob Dylan, etc.) - unfortunately, the two I'm dying to see (Calexico and She & Him) are playing on different days and tickets are $70 per day... yowsers. And it is the Newport Folk Festival... which translates to a whooole lot of hippies and yuppies... hippies and yuppies with money. I'm not sure I can handle that.

The National is playing June 13th with R.E.M. (aka mad money for tickets). While I'm sure it's a show that's worthy the money, it doesn't necessarily translate to my money. I'm sure they'll swing around again for a club show come fall/winter.

My Morning Jacket and Ryan Adams are playing the Bank o' America Pavilion back to back - September 6th and 7th, respectively. While Ryan puts on a good (and surreal and balls-out insane) show, my faith is a little shaken considering his latest contributions to the musical world. He's on musical probation.

If you're wondering who's playing in your neck of the woods, but don't feel like hitting up different venue websites or ticketmaster (ew), then check out JamBase. Create a basic profile, add your favorite artists and bam - you're done. E-mails are sent within a day or less after shows are announced.

For no other reason than self-indulgence, here's Calexico, doing what they do best.

In other news, Scarlett Johansson released her first single, "Falling Down," from her upcoming album Anywhere I Lay My Head, a collection of Tom Waits covers. I'm not sure whether I wanted to love or hate this, but I'm not a big Waits fan, so it removes "purism" from the issue. She does a decent job with this - the production is rather intrusive, but I think ScarJo's voice is suited for rock - she doesn't have perfect pitch or slick/smooth vocal styling, but her voice does have a smoky brashness that fits the music pretty well. It's growing on me. The video is nothing spectacular (I'm not even sure if it's the official one or not), but... yeah. (Please note the "Whacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man" for no apparent reason.) Enjoy...?

08 May 2008

"I'm going to a town that has already been burned down..."

Back from Europe and no worse for wear. Better for it, actually. And rather than cram a two week stint into one blog post, I'll divvy it up into city-sized chunks to be digested over a number of days.

Florence: the first - and best - stop. It felt like home. So yes - it was good to be back - but it was even better to see Eryn and Alex after a drought of nearly three years - THREE! That's not to say it wasn't good to see Rachel, but we knew we'd have over two weeks to rekindle our bond... and we sure did.

I think I was able to do everything I'd really wanted to do... I didn't go to a lot of new places (other than restaurants), but I was able to revisit the Florence I knew, which is what I needed. Fiddler's Elbow, Art Bar, the Mercato, SACI, and of course, Sad Gelato Man (best and most-anticipated reunion/picture ever!) Just the first lunch date with Eryn and A-Town would have made that trip worth it. "You're a gum-splitter, too??" It felt so right, so natural... can we have lunches like that once a week, please?


There was a grand dinner at il Latini, where we met all the parental units and plowed our way through probably six or seven glorious courses. It consisted of a nearly-pornographic amount of prosciutto, as well as amazing pasta and meat dishes, and wine for the sipping (swilling?) I don't think I've ever indulged (read: gorged) myself on so much food in my life. The delightful pain of it all, rolling Rachel and myself back to the doors of Hotel Tina!

The wedding - the Big A, as it were - was lovely. The couple looked so beautiful/handsome - so fresh and young... dare I say... "glowing?" Siiigh. The marriage ceremony was short, simple and civil - my type of ceremony. Still, tears flowed like a river of doves from the beard of Zeus. The two of them were so delightfully themselves. Eryn was not a "Bridezilla," in spite of her painful heels, which she wore like a champ, and A-Town cracked jokes and was as much himself as at any other time. Two people who belong together, just getting married alongside friends and family and enjoying the day... joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords... name that movie! I wanted to quote it the entire day, but I refrained.

The post-wedding dinner - oh the dinner! Served at La Terrazza del Principe on the other side of the Arno, up in the Tuscan hills past Boboli Garden, I had, what was probably the best meal of my life. A-Town and I couldn't get over the eggplant rigatoni... The dish could have been crafted by Michelangelo himself, it was so magnificent. Eryn, you get an extra bazillion awesome points for tracking down that place. Rachel and I parted with our beloved fellow-Bufas on hilltop, rather unceremoniously, but in the words of Helen, "whatever"... I shall see them again. Hopefully, relatively soon. None of this three years crap...

I'll eventually attach more pictures to this post - specifically some from the day of the Big A, when I get my act together.

18 April 2008

Oh. Man.

Ok, so one more post before I go because I just found this out via Andrew Bird's e-mail info list thingamajig.

The Mile High Music Fesitival.

It pretty much sounds like a bunch of my favorite musicians just said, "hey - let's play this festival on Alec's b-day... ya know... cause we rock." Unfortunately, it looks like they forgot where I live because it's inconveniently two time zones and a couple thousand miles away in Denver. Blargh.

It has Josh Ritter and Andrew Bird (who are also doing some West Coast shows together - um, again - wrong locale, guys), as well as Spoon, Jason Mraz (who is freaking AMAZING live in spite of his really awful last album), Citizen Cope, Lupe Fiasco, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers... I mean com'on!! What does Denver have that the Southern New England area doesn't? Apart from mountains and fresh air? We have fewer hippies! I think most would say that's a perk! So how about we just move that puppy up to the Northeast, huh? Nudge it... a little nudgie nudge... nudge.

Sigh. To pacify my sullen disbelief that such a fest could be thrown so far out of reach (what's up with the lack of New England festivals, man?), here's an amazing and heart-breaking cover of Tom Petty's "Walls" by JR and his band.

17 April 2008

One for the road.

Very soon - a mere three days, in fact - I'm off for Italia for the event of the millennium. To the land of gelato and the sad man that serves it. The land of Bufa Five, the Schlomo, pozzi motorini, and victorious over-priced sodas at the top of Piazzale (maybe this time we'll go with some vino rosso and stories about Cha Cha, instead.)

Italy just had their elections, and reelected, with shoulders shrugged indifferently, the same man who was in charge when we were there in 2004... It'll be like nothing ever changed! Except now Italians are even more downtrodden. But then we're off to Spain - the unknown... in many respects, seeing as how my Spanish is limited to "olà!" and "olé!"

But because Rachel arrives in just a few hours and I've got work tomorrow and laundry and packing and grabbing a new closure for my earring (dang!) and about 408 other things before I go, I decided to do one last post now - and guess what it's about? Music! Big surprise, but this time, there's a slightly cohesive theme: they're songs that I associate with travel, moving, motion or "picking up the pieces," per se.

Pete Yorn - Crystal Village
Take my hand, come with me / Into this crystal scenery

Pete Yorn singin' about life and love and all that junk in the context of what is, simply put, a very pretty song.

Ryan Adams - To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
Oh, one day when you’re looking back / You were young and, man, you were sad / When you’re young, you get sad / When you're young you get sad, then you get high

Rockin' and yet unmistakably country (the real kind, not the Toby Keith kind). This song just speaks to being young and stupid and all over the map, but most importantly, being young and alive. This is the song I hope Rachel and I will be singing after a trip to the Fiddler's Elbow. I'm sure that our version would merely stand in the shadow of this one by Ryan.

LEGEN - wait for it! - DARY!

To get technical, though, the perfect Ryan Adams song for brawlin' would be "Shakedown on 9th Street" - definitely fit for Guinness and fights!

Wolf Parade - I'll Believe In Anything
And I could give you my apologies / By handing over my neologies / And I could take away the shaking knees / And I could give you all the olive trees / Oh look at the trees and look at my face / And look at a place far away from here

If you can make it through the slight bit of dissonance and thumping in the beginning of the song (I'm a fan of well-placed dissonance - Damien Rice does it well), it's a very exciting and emotional song - it sort of sweeps you away without you even realizing it. I know that Wolf Parade is not for everyone, and the Spencer Krug-fronted WP tracks are for even fewer... but apparently, this song is for me, as it's the most played song on my iTunes. I love the complex feelings the song presents - a sort of passionate nihilism... if there is such a thing.

(If you're further interested in Wolf Parade, check out their new song, "Call It A Ritual" on Stereogum. It's so tight - which is strange considering WP's style - but it's still very Wolf Parade. Mi piace.)

Doves - Pounding
Let's leave at sunrise / Let's live by the ocean / I don't mind / If we never come home at all

What a song. My second most played track on iTunes and the first song I ever bought from the iTunes music store... because it's amazing. Seriously romantic. But with both an upper-case and a lower-case "R." The Doves aren't exactly known for their amazing lyrics - they're just sort of a few brash boys from Manchester, but when the lead singer says Seize the time / Cause it's now or never baby, you're right there with him.

Beirut - Postcards From Italy
The times we had / Oh, when the wind would blow with rain and snow / Were not all bad / We put our feet just where they had, had to go

The title alone makes this song an obvious choice, but I also love it because it's very classic and sentimental (but a good sentimental!), very European, and very well-produced. Who ever would have guessed the guy who wrote and sang the whole shebang was just 19 at the time? Even though the song contains no lyrics really resembling my time in Italy, I still associate the two - that rusty, sepia-toned vision.

Yann Tiersen - J'y Suis Jamais Allé

Literally translated as "I Never Went There," this piece from the Amélie soundtrack (along with several others), never fails to let my mind drift... drift off somewhere nice... somewhere where they drink wine with every meal and don't pasteurize the cheese, cause damn it - sometimes you just don't need to.

To the land of unpasteurized cheeses!!

13 April 2008

Motion + Picture

I was about to bust out some scones to nibble on for the rest of the week (or next 2 hours), but before I do, I had to post this - yes! I was compelled... by the power of aesthetics!

It's a movie trailer for a film called The Fall. And will probably be in tiny indie theaters for 2 weeks before disappearing, so keep your eyes peeled. It's one of those movies where the director has such an amazing and articulate vision, it would seem impossible to create a film like it... but it looks like they actually pulled it off. It looks absolutely stunning.

11 April 2008

Anatomy of a Mix, Part Trois: Like a "Ménage," But Less Scandalous

Topics for this week's selections include: apocalypse, resignation from the banal to the extraordinary unknown, and long lost love found and kept.

Andrew Bird - Tables and Chairs
And did you, did you see how all our friends were there / And they're drinking roses from the can?

If you're going to write a song about friendship and a manmade apocalypse, you might as well write a song like this one. This is a favorite of mine from Andrew Bird's amazing, complex, and all-around pretty freaking awesome album, Andrew Bird and The Mysterious Production of Eggs. "Tables and Chairs" starts of slowly, rather inconspicuously, and then picks up quickly, plucking along and creating a little beautiful anarchy as it goes. Classic Birdman.

Calexico - Sunken Waltz
Take the story of carpenter Mike / Dropped his tools and his keys and left/ And headed out as far as he could / Through the cities and gated neighborhoods

While it may be naive, I have a strong sentimental feelings for the West. Even though it's been a long time since I've visited there, I remember the colors and the air. I think I'm enamored with Georgia O'Keefe's West... but, it seems, Calexico is as well. It's an anthem against (sub)urban sprawl in America's last bastion of clear night skies and open space. The last verse really clinches it for me - Thoreau meets the West with a bit of surreality.

Nina Simone - Just in Time
Now I know just where I'm going / No more doubt of fear / I've found my way click click click click heels!

There are probably better or more exciting Nina Simone songs, but this live recording from 1968 shows off some of her playful but precise piano skills and casual but emotional vocal stylings... it's a really great recording all around. Nina Simone freaking rocked.

The song and the topic of Nina Simone were featured heavily in the final scene of Before Sunset (spoiler alert for the clip), and helped propel the film into the realm of something really memorable - such a good ending! And it totally solidified my girl crush on Julie Delpy - she's just so frickin' cute!

Anyway, as for Ms. Simon, there was always a little joy in her sorrow, a little sorrow in her joy, and always a reason to sing.

Good night.