Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Problem(s) With Music Blogs: Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Gauntlet Hair at Bunk Bar

Problem 1:

Damn you music blogs for introducing me to a bunch of great music by bands still too small to consider touring anytime soon. I’ve been waiting for a Gauntlet Hair tour since their single “I’ve Been Thinking...” was run through the cogs of the internet hype machine about a year and a half ago.

That anticipation mixed with a headlining Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Bunk Bar two nights in a row seemed too good to not be a misprint.

Problem 2:

The main way discovering new music on blogs is different than, say, the radio, is the translation of the music into text. More and more, my first experience with a band or a song is through reading descriptions and opinions of it. This acts as a music filter not at all based on just listening and deciding if I, ya know, like it.

I have probably spent more time reading about Thursday’s headliners, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, than I have actually listening to them. I’ve never liked funk music, and couldn’t get over the numerous associations made between this band the genre. In this case (and many others I have yet to discover), I was wrong to take the word for it.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra kicked out some very danceable tunes just buried enough in that haze of bedroom pop to prevent them from falling into that rut, appropriately described as “groovy.”

Their self-titled album has since become one of my favorite examples of a band capable of giving a nostalgic nod to the music of the 70’s and 80’s without actually turning around and chillin’ in it.

Problem 3:

By introducing music to fans via text, new reasons for liking a band or a song are introduced. I find myself deciding to listen to a song based on things like what effects the song is drenched in, where the band is from, or what label released the album. In short, I give myself reasons to like or dislike music before I actually have the chance to hear it.

So, when someone noticed all of my anticipation to see Gauntlet Hair channeled into, what I call, my dance moves, and asked me what I thought of the band, I found myself answering with a number of reasons—none of which were simply “They were great”.

No, I launched into a rant about Colorado bands and the DIY venue the Rhinoceropolis, and how much I like it when bands coat their music in so many delay effects that you really can’t single out any one instrument. This is, of course, way too much information to yell into someone’s ear at an already loud show and mostly just causes confusion rather than answering the initial question.

That being said, Gauntlet Hair was great and every bit as fun as I hoped they would be, and every song just kind of blurred into this large, echoey mess of weirdo dance music, which was a solid live representation of their recently released self-titled album on Dead Oceans.

The last thing I learned from this show, which has nothing to do with music blogs or either of the bands: Don’t be the one holding the pipe made out of a pomegranate when the bartender is angrily pushing his way through the crowd to confiscate it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Never Knows Best Issue 4

Sixteen pages. All comics, including:

St. Arc
The Quarter Life Crisis
Portland, IA
Skinny Jeans
Mew and Mewtwo

And some random others.

Let me know if you want one, k?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Altered Zones John Maus Interview

Although, I haven't really grown to like his music quite yet (I'm sure I will), this John Maus guy is kind of becoming my hero. This interview, the way his gestures and manner of speaking is described is like the personification of that really famous Kerouac quote (ya know, the one written on all the On The Road posters). He is surely the least chill "chillwaver" in existence.

Friday, July 15, 2011

St. Arc #1

Here is a new comic I am working on that will mostly occur in order and tell some weird re-hashing of all of the myths surrounding Joan of Arc, as if she were somehow canonized while she were living and actually lived in some geographically blurry version of the Wild West and had something to do with the Ark of the Covenant.

I have a lot of ideas for this, so I will try to finish these somewhat regularly, although I am terrible at drawing horses and a bunch of other things, so it tends to take me a really long time to do something even as simple as this little 4-panel deal you see here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heaven and Hell and the Coast as the Line In Between

Multnomah Falls

Devil's Rest

The Pacific Ocean

Angel's Rest

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shabazz Palaces, Pet Sounds, and the Unfamiliarly Familiar

I, like many others, am currently floored by Shabazz Palace’s recently released album Black Up. Within the first minute or two of listening to it, I could already tell it was unlike anything I had ever heard before, that is, unlike any other hip-hop I have ever heard. I started to think about how strange it is that I can have that thought “This is totally unlike anything I have ever heard” in hearing a song, or a sound, or in this case, an album, yet still bring a specific genre to mind within which to establish the guidelines for what “anything” can mean in that statement. In this case, anything, only means every other hip-hop song and artist I have heard, rather than every song or album or artist or ambient sound I have ever heard anywhere in my entire life.

So, Shabazz Palace’s new album is like something I have heard before—hip-hop. The way Black Up plays out so uniquely using the same, familiar tools hip-hop has been developing since it began is, in many ways, more incredible than musicians using entirely new and unfamiliar techniques to make music actually completely unlike anything anyone has ever heard before, which is certainly something still worth admiring.

There are thousands and thousands of examples of this throughout the history of music, and we can thank these examples for progressing music to where it is now, and establishing new genres when some artist or movement managed to push things beyond those established lines we set up to define genres. The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds and subsequent Good Vibrations single, in lieu Smile, are classic examples of early game-changers.

I’ve read that “sonic” was the word primarily used to describe the new direction The Beach Boys’ sound was headed as of the release of Pet Sounds. The coining of this new term is proof enough that this album was anything else being made at the time, while still managing to be familiar enough to be called pop music (and, therefore, hold the attention of that delicate demographic of teenagers who practically determined the success or failure of albums released in the early to mid 60’s).

Pet Sounds is of course still mentioned frequently today, due to its own genre-pushing inventiveness and production techniques, often making top so-and-so lists, not to mention spawning its own “Bands Who Are Trying to Make Pet Sounds, Again” lists and claims. But the fact that this claim is often made of other bands then and still to this day, shows that it has become something that is like other things we have heard--all the music effected by it. In fact, it requires a bit of research and listening to understand how Pet Sounds, which has since become so clearly pop music, was new and bold and inventive at the time of its release.

J Dilla’s Donuts is another more recent (and probably more relevant) example of this within the same genre as Shabazz Palaces (and Bullion’s mixtape Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee is a wonderful combination of the marks left on music by The Beach Boys and J Dilla).

has been so influential that it spawned numerous Dilla-esque (a J Dilla-specific version of it “sonic”) claims in hip-hop to come, even spreading into other genres as well, including our modern day pop radio music and genres as small and specific as, say, chillwave.

Whether or not Shabazz Palace’s Black Up will have this effect on future music will be left to time to tell. I’m sure no one could justify their claims at the time of the release of Pet Sounds that it would change the way music would be made and heard afterward, although it isn’t a huge step to make when it follows the claim “this album is unlike anything I have ever heard before.”

The difference between the two claims is that one need not justify the latter with anything besides the wonder they experience upon hearing this new musical territory for the first time, and then second time… and third time… and fourth time…

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wise Blood, Holocene Birthday Party

Wise Blood and Friendly Fires at Doug Fir

I found out about this show because I was obsessively listening to the 5 or 6 Wise Blood songs I could find and download on repeat while I was working my 9-5 temp job I do from time to time, and I thought to myself, "I really like this! I wonder if this band is touring," and sure enough, he had a Portland date on his calendar.

It wasn't until later that I found out he was the opener for Friendly Fires who I hadn't really heard of and didn't like upon investigating them.

But I went anyway, and I was really hoping Wise Blood was still going to be playing solo (I think I kind of explained this obsession I have with solo, sample-based artists in my Dirty Beaches post), but he had a drummer and someone covering all his samples and keyboard playing, which gave the main dude behind the band, Chris, a chance to kind of dance and wander into the crowd and drink too much and smash bottles. He seemed very appreciative to just be playing because he said he usually just tries to get into fights, but instead was offering to sex the whole audience, which was, ya know, nice, I guess.

I ended up leaving early because I just really didn't want to see Friendly Fires.

Doug Fir shows are always really expensive.

Also, I hate paying headliner prices to see the opening bands, but it happens.

Holocene Birthday Party

The best part of this show was when the guy doing all of the DJing for Purple and Green kept pausing his songs to tell the audience to fuck off because he thought we weren't into it or dancing hard enough, and he kept telling us to go home. I kind of thought it was just something he says to get the crowd pumped up and dancing, but he kept doing it during each song, and at one point asked us to imagine that this was the last night of our lives. He slammed his laptop shut at the end and, I think, stormed off the stage without saying anything, although I could just be remembering it wrong. I did feel like the entire room was pretty into it though, so I didn't really see where he was coming from. I don't know anything about being a DJ, and I know very little about making dance music, but it does seem that it would be very hard to get a vibe going that people can dance to if you keep stopping the beat every 4 minutes.

The last band, Miracles Club, was great, and I'm glad I finally was able to see them after noticing their name around the city for so long. They played every song they knew (which was only 6-7, I think), and I don't know if it makes it seem more personal or less professional or if it is just endearing when that happens, but I love it.

I saw most of Blouse's set, and I liked them quite a bit, although they sound very of the time, and by that I mean they have that 80's throwback thing which a lot of bands (and people, too) seem to be doing a lot now, which I am mostly okay with because all of that music being made now sounds pretty good and I really don't like very much of the 80's music it is all stemming from. Kind of like how the remake of Last House on the Left was way better than the original.

The overall lineup for this show was full and good, and it reflected my entire attitude toward a lot of Portland music--there is an awful lot of electronic pop bands here, and I like seeing them all, but it is becoming a bit exhausting. Is this the Starfucker aftermath? I'm honestly asking. I'm still kind of new here and know that I couldn't back up a claim like that if I were to actually make it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Recent Shows

Witch Gardens, Aan at Bunk Bar

Bunk Bar has just begun booking shows recently (the past 6-8 months), and it has already become one of my favorite venues in Portland, although a big part of that might be due to how close it is to my house and how easy it is to bike to their shows.

I have seen a number of great local bands there already, and they have booked a number of touring bands as well, such as Mister Heavenly (you know, that band with Michael Cera in it), and Handsome Furs, although that show sold out and I ended up just watching through one of the windows, which was surprisingly close to the stage, and they opened up the doors to the venue, so the sound carried outside pretty well. I shared the window with some people from Nebraska who said they had heard of Ames, IA when I told them the story of seeing Handsome Furs at the M-Shop there and Dan Boeckner telling the audience the story of walking around campustown earlier that day and someone in a big truck driving by and calling him a fag, despite the fact that he was walking around with his wife, and I'm pretty sure the entire audience just kind of nodded and thought to themselves, "Yup, that's Ames." And then 3 minutes after telling this Nebraska couple that story, they just kind of started making out right in front of me, which felt kind of strange and mid-conversation to me, since it was one of those we don't know each other so we only say something every minute or 2 but I still consider us in conversation type of conversations.

This show wasn't anything like that, though, and it was part of Bunk Bar's Free Tuesday Shows thing they have been doing pretty consistently for a few months now. I had never listened to Aan, and all I knew was that my roommate told me she had listened to them on myspace earlier that day and that they weren't very good, which is sometimes a really good indicator that I will like it, although this time I thought she was kind of right.

They were pretty cool, and they spazzed out a lot after playing really quietly for a few minutes, which I liked. But what didn't help their case is that when we got there, a different band was playing, and since I had never heard Aan before, I just assumed that the band playing was them, but it turned out to be Witch Gardens from Seattle who were way good and had me thinking they would be a great opener for Times New Viking, who are one of a few incredible upcoming shows at the Bunk Bar, including White Denim on May 29th and Damon and Naomi (from Galaxie 500) on June 1st.

Prescription Pills, Ghost Animal at Holocene

There were additional openers for this show (Period Romance, and one other that I can't remember), but I missed them because... well, because I was baking a strawberry rubarb pie.

There was a very sparse crowd for this one, which must be kind of rare for Holocene shows, because the bands seemed to be kind of doing that tongue-in-cheek type of performing that I take as them just kind of pissed off and fucking around, because they were expecting more people to show up. I could be reading too much into it though.

I felt kind of bad for Ghost Animal in particular, because it was their 7" release show, and I think they are a well-known Portland band, so they were probably expecting more people to be there for it, and the guitarist seem kind of pissed off about something, and that could have been it.

They were great though. Just really simple fuzzed-out pop made with only a guitar, a floor tom and a snare drum. And they did a really great cover of, what I think was, Ceremony by Joy Division (or maybe its New Order), but I only know it because Galaxie 500 covered it as well on one of the bonus tracks for On Fire.

City Center, Swimsuit, Secret Twins at some house show

I saw an address for this show on the City Center blog about a month ago, and I was pretty excited about it, and then the night of the show I decided to see if I could find any more information about it online, and I saw a few websites that listed the same address I saw previously, except in Seattle, and I started to wonder if this show was actually happening in Portland or not. So, I drove to the address and stood around on the street in front of the house for about 20 seconds before I heard a guitar strum coming from the backyard, which seemed to be a pretty good indicator that I was in the right place and that the show was in Portland.

The whole show was bands from the Life Like label (not to be confused with Life Like Records), who primarily just release cassette tapes, which I and I just don't think I am that into the cassette tape thing, but every time they do release a record or a 7", it tends to be really great.

Unfortunately, I missed Swimsuit, and arrived in the middle of the Secret Twins set. The show was in a backyard, where a bunch of people were standing around trying to break this surprisingly resilient wooden chair apart so they could burn it. The bands played in a garage that was filled with bike parts and a bunch of creepy stuff that I'd expect to see as background props for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie or maybe that movie Wrong Turn--like axes and buckets filled with weird colored liquids and a mannequin head with a knife stabbed into its styrofoam skull.

City Center played last, but the guitarist, Fred, started the show by saying that the drummer had quit the band to attend medical school, so it was just him and he was going to play a really mellow set, which was still pretty cool although you could tell he hadn't really figured out how to play solo yet, so I don't think he played many songs from their new album Redeemer, which is pretty reliant on having a drummer, and he seemed really sad about the whole ordeal, which sucks.

City Center (along with bands like Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk) is a really weird band for me, because I just think they are so great. Like favorite band great. Or at least favorite album great (City Center by City Center and Eek Shriek Beak by Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk would probably both be in my top 10 if I ever wrote one out). But they don't seem to get that much attention, or at least not as much as say, Animal Collective for Feels or, like Neutral Milk Hotel for In the Aeroplane Over the Sea which would also be on my top albums list. So, after this show, when I met Fred from City Center and I was buying his new record, and I told him I had been looking for a download of it online, but couldn't find one, he said, "It hasn't leaked yet, because no one cares about it," I had this strange feeling because, to me, this is one of my favorite bands, and he probably doesn't have people reacting to his music that way very often (or at least not as often as say, Animal Collective), he probably has kind of this weird feeling toward it--of trying to be really proud of it, but receiving little recognition for how good it really is--and it kind of makes me wonder if they just think I'm full of it when I say, "Hey, such-and-such is one of my favorite albums ever."

I hope not.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Umm, Getting Lost OR I Remember Person Pitch... It Sounds Different Now OR Bands That Play On The Floor

I remember the first time I ever listened to Panda Bear's Person Pitch. Actually, I remember the first 15-20 times I listened to it. My brother brought it over to my parent's house and we were listening to it in the shop and my dad was smoking a cigar and I said, "Trent, what is this?" and he said "It's the new Panda Bear album. He's one of the dudes from Animal Collective" and then I went back to my apartment that night and found it on Amazon and I bought it, and it didn't leave my cd player in my car for 2 months.

The best thing about that 2 months is that I didn't quite have a grasp on that album the entire time. I remember hearing parts that I really liked and how they faded into other parts, and hearing noises I had never really heard before, and being confused about the process that went into making these songs, and I remember wanting to listen to certain songs, but I had no idea where in the album it was, and I remember the album ending, and my cd player automatically starting it over and me thinking, "What the hell? That was the end? I thought it started over 2 songs ago!"

This was my first good memory of getting completely lost in a piece of music. And I don't mean lost like closing your eyes and swaying lost. I actually mean feeling like "What the hell is going on??" lost.

I don't really have a point to make from all of this. When I wrote this down on the back of a scrap menu at work as I often do because all of my best thoughts come when I don't really have much time to think, I wrote something like "In defense of noise and drone music," which is kind of what I'm getting at, but in kind of a sideways manner, because I am specifically referring to seeing Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk in Portland with my roommates and one of them just did not understand why they played on the floor, and I even get kind of confused and lost when listening to them sometimes, which I sort of explain in this events listing I did for that show:

You could stare at all the instruments on stage for 3 hours before Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk start playing, and you would still have no idea how those musicians are making that music with these instruments. At their loudest, BBDDM are perched behind a layered waterfall of noise; at the softest, they are sitting cross-legged in a field plucking the only unbroken string on an acoustic guitar. It’s the space in between that leaves you thinking, “I’m going to have to remember this band’s name.”

So, in defense of noise and drone music, to those who don't have the ear for it, which is understandable, there is a certain degree of enjoyment that comes from watching something happen and still not understanding it. It is kind of like "I see it and I still don't believe it."

When you have the same 4/4 beat pop songs over and over again, and then a new one comes out and you can pretty much guess what comes next upon first listen, it is nice to know there is still some really interesting, unfamiliar things going on in music that you can't predict even on the one-hundredth listen.

Beach Fossils, Craft Spells, Soft Metals at Berbati's Pan

I don't know if this is really true or if it is just an opinion of mine, and actually, I don't really know how much I believe this, and I don't mean "I don't really know how much I believe this" like how most people use it to say that they simply don't believe something, I really just mean that this is something that seems to ring true when I say it, and I just haven't put enough thought into it to justify or refute it, so I'll just throw it out there and see where it takes me.

Actually, first, I want to note that I, when doing these show reports, which I've been trying to be better and more consistent about actually doing, I tend to have some sort of angle, or speaking point which I tie in with the show, so I guess this is my angle for this show. Here goes.

The best type of music is the kind that either makes you feel like your life is kind of put together or makes you feel like your life is kind of falling apart, or both.

This show was a perfect example of this.

I'll admit outright that I worked 8 hours before walking across downtown to go to this show, so I was kind of tired and in a weird mood because I (like everyone, I'm sure) tend to think a whole lot when I actually allow myself to take a walk for a long enough distance to actually justify calling it a "walk". And, on top of that, this whole show was kind of weird before I even walked in the doors, because as far as I knew, Berbati's has not been having shows for a while now due to some remodeling, which I had heard was not yet finished, and when I looked for information on this show on the Berbati's website, the calendar wouldn't load, and I couldn't find anything about it on my Portland show website, and I didn't see anything about it in the newspapers, which usually tend to be pretty good about these kinds of things. So, I didn't even really know if this show was going to happen, and if it was, how much it was going to cost and what time it started. Luckily, with shows, you can pretty much go with the standard "10 bucks at 9 PM" and it will get you pretty far. This was no exception.

Upon walking into the show, I immediately noticed a camera crew. I don't really have an explanation for this. No long paragraph or run-on sentences or anything. They were just filming and taking pictures of the audience. Kind of freaked me out the whole show.

Also, Berbati's is apparently one of those type of venues that takes putting on shows just a bit too seriously, so they have security guards walking around and the sound guy is really professional and proper, which is probably kind of nice, but I have always thought it seems a bit awkward, and most musicians are a bit awkward already, so it kind of just makes everyone uncomfortable.

All of these things contributed, but did not explain the overall eeriness of the whole show, so I'm just labeling this one as one of my weird-for-no-reason shows that happen... frequently.

I don't know why.

I don't really have much to say about Soft Metals, except that I think they are a Portland band, and they are kind of like what I imagine Crystal Castles would sound like if they weren't really pissed off and dramatic all the time.

Craft Spells were great, and apparently who the camera crew was there for. I will have to keep an eye out for what all of this camera-in-your-face-while-you-are-just-trying-to-play-songs-for-these-people footage will eventually be used for.

Beach Fossils was a lot like Craft Spells, and I want do describe them both as sounding a lot like that band Real Estate except with more adolescence. Which brings me back to my "angle". If you listen to Beach Fossils, it is really quite bright, and happy and sunny (or, more Beach Boys than Beach House). That brightness showed up a bit at this show just because, well, it is what their songs sound like. And they are upbeat and it kind of just made me feel like I was 16 and driving around listening to NOFX really loud in my Blazer, which always used to feel pretty good and make me feel like my life was... well, put together, or at least pretty awesome as far as being 16 goes.

The other half of my angle comes from some of the passing comments the singer let slip which kind of painted the picture of a younger band at the end of a long tour, experiencing some sort of hype/fame/popularity for the first time as a band, and being really pretty sick of it. In fact, incredibly sick of it. Touring, fame, everything. This became more and more apparent in the last half of their set when the singer mentioned that the guitarist and the bassist had gotten into "a really bloody fist fight" the night before in San Francisco, but had "made up and became friends again, I think," which they both kind of shrugged about and then they just started playing the next song, from this point, very much in "don't-give-a-fuck-I-just-want-this-to-be-over" mode, which tends to really piss off the audience members that paid to come see you play.

I have found that I really kind of like it, because it kind of takes the acting out of performing music live, and you can actually kind of see how people are or catch a small glimpse of where the music comes from. This happened another time recently at a house show when this band, An Amiable Medley were playing and the lead singer was either drunk, or really emotional, or, likely, both, and he yelled the lyrics "Because you are beautiful, and sensible, and you'll NEVER BELONG TO MEEEEEEE!!!" into the microphone and then threw himself to the floor and punched it, and then threw himself into a shelf and punched a whole in the wall, and then bled all over his guitar, and my jaw dropped and I am sure it was one of my favorite shows in recent memory, for this reason alone.

For some reason, when I see things I like this, it makes me start thinking about myself and... I don't know, maybe being young and angsty and dying my hair black and being really kind of dramatic and emotional, and it kind of makes me think twice about the soft, boring music that I make, and all of these thoughts kind of affect me and put this feeling that the world is kind of falling apart in me, and I love it, and I loved this Beach Fossils show for that reason as well as the opposite of that reason.

So, after they finished throwing themselves around and thrashing their instruments as they finished their last song, they threw their instruments down, the drummer kicked his drum set over, and they all (except for the bassist, who told the audience "thanks") kind of just stormed off stage, and somehow, from their whole set of "I hate this and I don't want to be here" type comments and performing, the crowd thought they were going to come out and do an encore, which was kind of funny.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Please, God, Let This New Dance Be The Next Huge Teen Sensation

In my recent spelunking through crappy 50's and 60's teen records, I keep stumbling upon this common theme of "Here's a new dance! Here's how to do the new dance! Let's all do this new dance!"

An incredible amount of songs were recorded based on this concept, and from these songs, dances like the Charleston, the Surfer's Stomp, the Mashed Potato, and an staggeringly high number of different variations of the Twist were created.

I hadn't really thought about it much until yesterday when I was listening to "Do The Slauson" by The Pyramids at work. The lady I work with and I kind of laughed about it, and then I started thinking about how hilarious it would be if this trend caught on in hardcore music.

A lot of hardcore music involves very specific dances to be done for specific parts of the song. By no means is this unique to hardcore music, though. Some people jump around and bang their heads and hurt people when they listen to metal. But there is a big difference between metal lyrics telling you to, "Bang your head! Hurt people!" and hardcore lyrics telling you to, "Cross one leg over the other while punching downward with the opposite arm! Do a scissor kick to roundhouse kick! Spin around in circles with your fist pointed outward!"

Kind of funny to think about.

But then, on what seemed, at first, to be a completely unrelated incident today while I was out eating lunch with my roommates, a bunch of people in bell-clad outfits entered the loft area of this restaurant and proceeded to start singing songs as a group celebrating Spring and May 1st and kind of just the goodness of life in general. This reminded me of singing in church or all those scenes in Stand By Me when they are walking along the railroad tracks singing songs together, and it all kind of made me think about uniformity in music for the purpose of sharing of it as a group.

It kind of takes the absurdity out of things like hardcore dancing and casts it in the light of a collective appreciation and our desire to feel like a part of the things that we love, the same way sports fans say "we" when referring to their favorite team.

Dirty Beaches

I'm getting around to posting this a bit late, but I kind of decided that I need to stay on top of writing down my thoughts and experiences with music and shows and things, because I have a decent amount of them and think about it more than anything else, which has to mean something.

Anyway, I saw Dirty Beaches at the Holocene last Sunday. I submitted a write-up for the show to the Willamette Week which is kind enough to provide us with a weekly print publication telling the people of Portland about most of the interesting things going on in their city this week. They didn't print my write-up, so I'm going to post it here so at least it gets some readership... sigh.

[RUST-COVERED ROCK N’ ROLL] Dirty Beaches is kind of like your dad’s (or grandpa’s) VHS copy of Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii—it’s old and the tracking has nearly destroyed what was left of the movie, leaving only pieces of the soundtrack between the crackling, distorted fuzz. Dirty Beaches builds each song from loops of the obliterated remainders of that golden age of rock n’ roll, including the 50 years of decay that rusted out all of the old cars and wiped out all of the hair grease, leaving just enough to remind us why our parents liked all of this crap in the first place.

This show was a perfect example of the shows I always seem to find myself at here in Portland, specifically Holocene shows. These shows consist of a headlining band that was very recently thrown into some sort of spotlight, and they don't appear to have fully adjusted quite yet.

The shows are always reasonably attended, but not crowded, and the bands always seem to play only 6-8 songs and then usually leave the stage without playing an encore because they probably just don't have enough songs prepared to do so.

Tennis was this way. Baths was this way. How to Dress Well was this way. And Dirty Beaches was this way.

By no means am I complaining. I actually really appreciate the simplicity and casualness of it. I'm not sure if it just feels appropriate for the type of music I'm seeing or maybe just for my normal energy and excitement level for shows nowadays, in comparison to being, say, 16 and being so pumped to see Slipknot that the concert is all you and your friends talk about the week before and after, and you even considered trying to collectively skip school that day so you could concentrate all day on "how fucking amped you are for the show tonight."

That being said, the show was what I expected. I was happy to see that he was still playing solo with his samples and guitar and hadn't upgraded to a full band like so many other one-person bands in the past 2-3 years. And he played "Lord Knows Best" which I really like, and at one point he got his greaser snarl on and even pulled out a pocket comb and slicked his hair back, which everyone applauded for and which got me thinking about self-made gimmicks vs. hype-made gimmicks and how everyone (including myself) talks about Dirty Beaches in the shadow of either Elvis Presley or David Lynch or both, which sounds absurd if you have never listened to him, and a near perfect description if you have (although since submitting that write-up, I have been thinking more and more that maybe it is something more along the lines of the Psycho half of The Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy.)

Additionally, I have been experiencing some sort of weird sense of Iowa pride every time I see a band in Portland that is in some way connected with Iowa, typically through the Night People Record Label as was the case with both Dirty Beaches and a band I saw at the Rotture a few weeks ago, Rene Hell. I don't know, maybe that isn't so weird.

Not As Good As That One Time OR On The Scent or Music Elitism OR It's Tough to Like Music and Not Get Tough About It

Thursday was an interesting day as far as shows and music making me stop and think about things. In a way, I may have finally picked up on the trail of the origins of music elitism, but I could be way off.

Why do I always feel the need to scoff when someone tells me their favorite Animal Collective album is Merriweather? Or why do I usually think it is necessary to let people know when I have opened for the band that they are talking about? And why can’t I let someone just get by with saying “Be My Baby” is a Shirlies song, without correcting them saying it was originally by The Ronettes and that the band they were thinking of is The Shirelles, and then launching into a bunch of history on Phil Spector and Brian Wilson and “Don’t Worry Baby”, which I find to be fascinating, but most people really could care less about?

Well, most of that I can’t answer, but I do have a few insights into certain parts of this overall whole that is my taste in music and eagerness to share it with other people, which we can properly call elitism.

These thoughts began piling up with an in-store performance by tUnE-yArDs at Everyday Music, which was incredible and a wonderful (and cheaper) alternative to seeing them at Doug Fir that night. And the show in the middle of that record store that afternoon would have been just as awesome if that was the first time I had ever seen tUnE-yArDs, but it wasn’t, and I will never be able to hear that band again without thinking about the time they played at my brother and my (mostly just my brother’s, I can’t take too much credit) venue, the Elephungeon, in tiny Boone, IA, and you could just tell then that this girl looping her voice and ukulele and drums by herself and playing keyboards with her toes deserved to be playing for nearly sold-out audiences at reasonably-sized venues that are not windowless basements in a small town in Iowa where no one really goes to shows because there aren’t any (I think there were only 10-12 people there). But she didn’t care, and she played just as hard then as she did on Thursday and she gave me a hug then and she still probably would have Thursday if I had said something about it.

So how are these two experiences different? Why is there some sense of pride over being at that Boone show that I feel like qualifies me as a real tUnE-yArDs fan over say, someone at Everyday Music yesterday afternoon seeing her for the first time, or all of the people at the Doug Fir show? Really there is no difference between the two. It’s music. You hear it, you like it, you listen to it. It doesn’t matter how or when you heard it, and it doesn’t matter how often or when you last listened to it. Why is that so hard for me to accept?

The Starfucker show that night at the Holocene was another example. Trent and I had the opportunity of opening for this band at a poorly attended Vaudeville Mews show in Des Moines. It was great. All of the 15-20 people who were there loved it and I kind of remember surrounding the band, who set up on the floor—people were dancing on the stage and on that ramp that leads up to behind the stage, and the sound was feeding back quite a bit but it kind of just added to this barrage of hazy dance pop music that was blaring outward from the band who were then 6 members deep, I think, and I had to politely ask my brother for all of the money we made for playing the show just so I could afford to buy their record. It’s the kind of show you remember regardless of what bands played and how big they eventually became.

Since then, Starfucker had a song featured on a Target commercial, and although they were selling out shows in Portland before that Des Moines show ever happened, it wasn’t until their next time through the Midwest that they received the kind of reception they normally do in Portland, and that was to a (sold out?) crowd at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Quite the step up.

So, when I found out that all three of the Starfucker shows this weekend sold out well in advance of the day they occurred, I wasn’t terribly surprised. I did, however, think to myself, “That would be way cool if I could see Starfucker the way I did at that Des Moines show every time that I saw them,” and that was what made me start thinking about how we define so much of the music we listen to with our experiences of it, and how we value those experiences and try and keep that band or that music within the bounds we shape for it based on those experiences, because it is nice to think it could always be or feel or sound as awesome “as it did when…”

The tUnE-yArDs show and the Starfucker show provide perfect examples of both ends of this sensation. The tUnE-yArDs show living up to the expectations I had created in my mind from the first time I saw her, and the Starfucker show selling out and making me wish it could still be as awesome as it was that first time. Therefore, when you are standing in the middle of a crowded room waiting to see a band you have seen before under, what you consider to be, better circumstances, how can you reasonably value this experience higher than the previous one? You probably can’t, and when making a judgment call about how everyone else is valuing the current experience based on their reactions as an audience, it would be hard not to cling to your previous memories and de-value this show as “not as good as that one time.”

It sucks, but that reminiscing that sounds a lot like elitist name-dropping is really just the desire to keep this music in that place we made for it where it can always mean as much to us as possible and fill us up our empty us out the same way it did when we first decided to build this place for it and call it our own.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Solanin is a manga by Inio Asano. In the afterword of the book, the author says of it:

There's nothing cool about these characters. They're just your average 20-somethings who blend into the backdrop of the city. But the most important messages in our lives don't come from the musicians on stage or stars on television. They come from the average people all around you, the ones who are just feet from where you stand.

This book is about those messages. No one really comes out on top, they all just kind of come out to the side, but it is the way they accept their question marks that separates this one from every other indie comic about people drinking coffee, playing guitar, and asking huge questions about life. It's an acceptance of question marks as part of your own "certainties," kind of like asking "Didn't [insert name] die?" even though you kind of already know the answer, and then finding out something completely new about that person's life.

Read it if you come across it. It is the best piece of quarter life crisis fiction I have seen yet.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tulips Cover

Bloc Party - Tulips (Skyscraper Cover)

Alternatively, I made a Bandcamp page where you can listen to/download all the songs I've recorded (and see all of the pretty album art):

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Postcard Exchange Leftovers

Here is the postcard I did for ISU Print Society's 2011 Postcard Exchange. The theme was apocalypse.

My favorite printing place came through for me again and printed an extra 2 pages worth of these things for me, so I have some left over. AND, we had agreed on the original 3 pages worth of them costing me $10, BUT since they typically only do huge printing orders for large corporations, they only do check transitions and cash, so they don't have a credit card machine, which means they charge me cash for these kind of things, HOWEVER, I only had a 20 dollar bill and 7 one-dollar bills in my wallet, and none of the employees had change for a 20, so I ended up getting FIVE pages for only SEVEN dollars. AHHH COOOOL!!!

Anyway, if you would like a postcard, I'd like to send you one. All you have to do is give me your address and check your mailbox!

Monday, March 7, 2011

I don't know, life, I guess?

I've been writing in this journal that my mother gave me for my birthday this year. Primarily (like most journals, I'm sure), it is stuff I don't care to share with anyone, because either it is too personal, too pathetic, or simply seems too mundane after it has been written down, which is probably the appeal of journals in the first place--their ability to make that thing that-seems-like-such-a-big-deal-that-you-have-to-sit-down-and-write-about-it-that-night seem a bit less dramatic and severe, although this could just be the difficulty of translating thoughts into words.

Anyway, this particular entry was kind of okay and insightful (I think) and mostly representative of my life and things in Portland, and I realized that I hadn't posted anything on here in quite some time, so here goes. I hope I don't get all self-conscious about this and decide later to take it down.

I have spent most of my life on some sort of Monday-Friday type schedule, and according to this kind of schedule, Sundays are typically sleepy and relaxed. I think that "nothing" quality Sundays seem to possess has always been a bit sad for me.

Since finishing school and moving to Portland, I have found myself with a far less set schedule--working randomly throughout the week and going out and doing things/staying home according to my mood rather than any sort of "what do I have to do tomorrow" thoughts. But, despite the change in schedule, Sundays still have that same nothingness for me.

Today, I watched movies pretty much all day, which I always feel guilty about doing. It doesn't help that all of my books and music equipment are directly to the left of me, staring at me all day, reminding me I should be doing anything else besides what I am doing at the moment.

I have heard people say that weekends are for relaxing and watching movies (honestly, those two specific things, and I've heard it from a number of people, too), but I don't want to fall into that mindset. I keep telling myself that I will work harder on my next day off, but that reassurance is a bit diluted by repetition and my awareness of how stereotypical that statement is for adults on the edge of leaving their creative years behind them. Eventually, it just becomes "Oh, I'll get that siding put up next weekend" instead of something like, say, "Damnit, I really need to just record this friggin' song, already" or "I really need to do that postcard design before it is to late" or "I really need to finish those comics before the end of the month".

I did go for a bike ride, though, to try and feel productive and escape all these thoughts. I took the same trail I normally do, which runs right along the river all the way down to Sellwood. I listened to Bjork's Vespertine which I had never heard before, and ended up being perfect music for the mood of the whole bike ride and probably just the day (or past month) in general.

When I got to Sellwood, I sat at the waterfront park for a half an hour or so. From where I was sitting, I could turn my head to my left and see a young kid picking up rocks and hurling them as far as he could into the river. He was probably only about 4 years old, so they only made it 2 or 3 feet, and it took, probably, a 240 degree rotation and nearly ever muscle in his body (kind of like a discus thrower) just to get it that far. And to my right, I could watch no less than 8 dogs wrestling in the mud and fighting to fetch the single tennis ball this one guy was throwing across the park for them. So, that was all wonderful.

Last night, I was talking to one of Josh's (new roommate) friends. He was drunk and telling me about giving up things when he was younger, and picking them up again later in life because "life is too short", which I kind of feel is just one of those things people tend to say when they feel a bit embarrassed or self-conscious about their own vices. And after he said all of that, I instantly had the thought, Life is not short enough.

Initially, this was a really sad thought to come by, and it was a bit tragic, I have to admit, that it came to me so quickly. But, I thought about it more today, and I am starting to surround it with some more words that kind of help to make a bit more sense out of it. I think about all of these dead artists and poets and philosophers and how they would only live to be 40 or 50 or so, and I am constantly annihilated at how much they were able to accomplish in their lives and how focused they must have been to do it. Seriously, a guy like Leonardo? It's ridiculous. I also finished my Introducing Sartre book today, and even he, as a more modern example, wrote so much and spoke so much and was constantly and passionately contributing to revolution and the restructuring of society his entire life.

I don't see an awful lot of examples of that kind of work ethic and will to create these days, although it could just be because I am alive and it is kind of hard to look outside of the modern times of which I am a part of, no matter how much I don't want to admit it. It all makes me wonder if people didn't know they had so much time ahead of them to get around to all those things they keep wanting to get around to, would they be more inclined to get up and do them (myself included)?

Would shorter life spans increase the will to live? Or are these modern trends of creative procrastination just the shape of things these days? These questions are nearly the entire premise of the manga Ikigami.

I do know there are exceptions. Orson Welles, for a somewhat modern example, was directing by his late teenage years, and continued directing films for his entire life. He lived to be 70 years old, which is a bit young, but falls in the same ballpark as the average lifespan for people now.

I suppose this barrage of canonical examples of authors and artists that trickle down through the centuries that I end up reading about; some of them were probably just exceptions, too, and in no way representative of the people of their respective time periods, but I think these exceptions are what really make me feel guilty about my own procrastination. I feel like I can handle the idea of a movement--a bunch of different artists from one location or time period or style pushing the state of things forward or outward, or, I guess, just pushing things one way or the other. It is when individuals are highlighted from those movements or concepts that it all starts to seem too overwhelming to me.

It's the individuals who rise up out of the same boredom and societal sickness that I experience and go on to produce an incredible amount of work that I can't handle. And a lot of them produced better work by the age of 19 than I have done yet.

I know it is insane to hold myself to any one of these standards set by any of these individuals who are still known and talked about historically world wide, but I think the only alternative is to accept mediocrity.

Hmm... fuck that.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Neat Zine Issue 3 (Finally)

Issue 4 won't take so long. Promise.