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could, making sure that I got this right, not wanting to send them to upstate New York for a very specific and somewhat outdated tourist spot.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.