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.

08 April 2008

Potpourri without the pesky perfume.

Some time ago I said that I was going to try to be more more email-esque in my postings. But it's hard. My life is generally pretty dull and that makes spicing things up more difficult than it should be. But, like Amélie, I'll try to jazz up the banal, but without an adorable bob.

Essentially, at this point, all I am thinking about is Europe. The days are dwindling down and there is still a good amount to do. It's been a while since I've been so goal-oriented: thinking of things to do before I go, what to bring, what I'm going to see, what I should see, how insanely broke I'll be at the end of it, et cetera, et cetera... I imagine this is what a pregnant woman feels like, except instead of changing diapers, you're cheesing in front of national monuments and eating your weight in gelato. Also, there are no stretch marks where I am going... except for gelato-related stretch marks.

Today is opening day at Fenway Park and I'm 4 blocks from the Stadium. The game starts at 2:15, which means I'm probably going to be heading home the same time as thousands of insane Bostonians with Sox hats yelling something about "Manny being Manny."

Thus begins the never-ending baseball season.

As for other things, I cooked some more this weekend. Parmesan mashed potatoes and chicken baked with white wine, leeks and pancetta... at least pancetta was the plan. I had to substitute smoked bacon in its place, which would have been ok, had I expected the major change in cooking time. Another lesson learned: a little fresh rosemary goes a LONG way. The chicken was alright, but the leeks were goners. On the plus side, the potatoes came out really well and the brownies I threw together with the help of Mr. Jamie Oliver were frickin' awesome. Here's the recipe (I did without the dried cherries and walnuts, but it's extra fantastic with a little whipped cream.)

Fifteen Chocolate Brownies


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 oz dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken up
Optional: 2 1/2 oz dried sour cherries
Optional: 1 1/3 oz chopped nuts
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cup superfine sugar
4 large free-range eggs

Optional: zest of 1 orange
Optional: 9fl oz crème fraiche


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12 inch rectangular baking tin with parchment paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter & chocolate & mix until smooth. Add the cherries & nuts (if using) & stir together. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, flour, baking powder & sugar, then add this to the chocolate & stir well together. Beat the eggs & mix in until you have a silky consistency.

Pour your mixture into the tray & place in the oven for around 25 minutes. Don’t overcook them, the skewer should not come out clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle. Allow to cool in the tray then transfer to a large chopping board & cut into chunky squares. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche mixed with orange zest or eat them as they are.

Sound awesome? It is. I was tempted to just eat the batter, but chose the conventional slightly more cooked version over the version requiring a spoon and complete lack of shame.

A bit of infrastructure business: I'm thinking of changing the blog name. It seems like a bit of a misnomer, seeing as how it's been some time since I've really done any art... and also, this blog doesn't really paint much of a portrait, either. I'm hoping that I'll be struck with inspiration for more art, a new blog name, or a more vivid autobiographical approach when I head abroad in twelve days. Holy crap.

Twelve days.

07 April 2008

These ain't no Sunday funnies.

Today has not been an amazing day. But rather than yadda yadda yadda about the bad and the drab and the... whatever... I figured I'd share my favorite webcomics, instead. I'm definitely not a webcomic nerd, but I just have a few favorites that were recommended to me by the bro, or stumbled upon in a fit of internet nomadism.

A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible

This is a great comic that went "on hiatus" quite some time ago (and I doubt will ever return), but like a desert jackrabbit, it had a strong and lean run while it lasted. The creators of the comic were Dale Beran, a philosophy major and David Hellman, an art major. The comic pushes boundaries in terms of content, style, and (literally) in terms of layout. The content and story themes are surreal and don't always (and aren't always supposed to), make sense. The artistic style is generally reminiscent of a relief or block print - chunky and bold; I love it and it acted as something of an inspirational source when I took relief printing in college. Yay art!

David Hellman's been working on a video game and you can check the progress of it via his blog.

Some of my favorites: "Now We Are Poor Again," "The Giants Stole My Rhythm," Can You Come and Dig Me Up?," "Christmas Disaster Special" and "Morning, Sleepy Head!"

Perfect Stars

This comic approaches sex, drugs, and 19th century literature with bold colors, curly queues and apathy... oh, to be young! It's not for everyone (it helps to like Oscar Wilde... a lot), but damn, is it ever pretty.

Favorites: "Oh Henry That Sounds So Boring" (I love the "laaaame!"), "Check You Out," and "Guess What's Boring."

The Secret Crocodile Adventure Club

A surreal comic involving various characters - 99% of which are crocodiles. It's a weird one... and I mean really weird... But sometimes really awesome... even if the jerk didn't take my sweetass guest comic.

Faves: "Erotic Bakery Etiquette," "Mohammed and Jesus," and "Cloud Wizard" (because I think that "hatitude" should enter the English vernacular.)

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Other than ALILBTDII, this is the comic that I've been following the longest. It's also the most consistent in style, content and level of amusement. The comic usual involves a misleading picture/caption combination that's usually absurd and inappropriate. What can I say? It gets me to laugh...

There have been so many posts from this guy, it's hard to say which are my favorites... here are some random highlights: Abraham vs AbrahaN, "Vatican's Income," "Women for Peace," and "'You'll Never See These Again.'"

A Simple Apology

A pretty new comic that I stumbled upon via SCAC, I believe. It's simple and goofy - I like it.

Favorites: Poor Fish and "Sleeping Rules."

Dinosaur Comics

I'm not super crazy about this one - though I haven't followed it for very long. I will say this, however, it's kind of ground-breaking. The guy has used the exact same panels for over 1100 cartoons - he changes only the dialog. Weird, huh? And kind of awesome... in a visually boring kind of way.

03 April 2008

Finalemente or: Worth The Wait.

Blondfire (FKA Astaire), my favorite Brazilian/ German/ America brother/sister musical duo, has finally released their first LP My Someday. I first heard their intoxicating sound four years ago, when "L-L-Love" was the free song of the week on iTunes. It was a beautifully sexy pop slap in the face! Following that, I got the Don't Whisper Lies EP and their Live acoustic EP.

Stylistically, My Someday is along the lines of the Don't Whisper Lies EP - slick and sweet - but not too slick and sweet. There's a good balance of pop and rock, pep and sadness. It's music by the young and for the young, but it feels like the Driscolls are old hands at the game. There is a hefty 80's influence throughout, but don't be scared - the synth won't hurt you. The lyrics are relatively simple and, at times, quite fun, but when translated into Erica's sweet falsetto (we're totally on a first name basis - for real), they take on more poetic weight and a sort of dream-like quality.

Some highlights from album are "Always the Last To Know" (so smooth!), "Into the Sea" (so fun!), "Lovesick" (so sassy!), and "All In My Mind" (so... sad?) And just so you know, the Mary Poppins song (as in "practically perfect in every way"), "L-L-Love" is also on the album.

If you're a fan of the Cardigans or Feist, you should definitely give Blondfire a listen. These crazy kids created the whole album almost entirely on their own (self-produced and whatnot), so... good on 'em! I think they're headed off to big things.

Rock on, young Driscolls. Rock on.

Blondfire - Into the Sea

02 April 2008

"That's all gab disemboweling."

Up until Friday evening, my kitchen had been disemboweled... for three weeks. It was in various stages of undress/uselessness (no oven for three weeks, no sink and dishwasher for much of it.) It was annoying and borderline stressful (I like cooking... and not having to rinse my cup out in the bathroom sink.) It began with replacing a dishwasher which didn't need replacing and elevated (spiraled?) into a full-on remodeling project.

My dad was replacing the built-in dishwasher and found a flaw in the shelf. While trying to peel up the corner of Formica counter, a jagged piece of vivid orange history came off.

Thus began the Epic Re-tiling of 2008 (aka ERT 08).

It was a long and arduous process (in which I was only fleetingly involved), and the kitchen is much brighter now. And the oven is back in place! To celebrate, I went a bit nuts with cooking and baking on Sunday. I wanted to try out some recipes from the new Jamie Oliver cookbook I got a few weeks ago, so I cooked up a storm. I started off by making some banana bread, then angel food cake and strawberry sauce. For dinner, I made baked panco-encrusted rainbow trout, beet root salad, and rice. I really love to cook, but can get stressed out when I do... though I can bake for hours without any real stress... how very odd. Anyway, it got a little worse when my parents called to say they were going to be 15 minutes later than they thought, as with fish, 15 minutes is sort of a big deal.

But, there wasn't much need to worry, as it came out really well if I do say so myself. My mom was the only one who really liked the beet root salad, but I'm glad I tried it - definitely satisfied my curiosity. In any case, it was quite pretty. Yay aesthetics.

Next I want to try something with leeks. And pancetta. Bring on the delicious challenge!