104 temps and near incapacitation. Unending chills and sweats. Infinite, unsatisfying thirst, unquenched by fluids that all taste like puke. Zero appetite, but the results of not eating. Endless headache and fever. The flu sucks. I don't usually just post personal crap just to post personal crap, but I have a high fever, and I'm dehydrated, so I don't really have a great idea of what I'm doing right now. The spell checker keeps going off, though. Whatever. Spelling is subjective to the sick. Or something. I have a calc quiz Friday at 7:30 am and must somehow not miss it. Pray for me, friends and strangers.
Right now, I'm holed up in quarantine, studying, and listening to Katatonia. Pretty much all I've been listening to for the last couple of months is Katatonia. I guess because they feed my darker impulses in a healthy way.
I need the sound of rain, wearing dependence down, the line must be kept so thin, to live near life, not within. That's about as personal as I'm going to get on this blog.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
I've gone on at length about my dreams of someone one day filling the considerable Björk-sized hole in my heart. From the first moment I heard that weirdo sing, I knew I was in love, and now that she has been running on artistic fumes for close to a decade, I need someone to step-up and be a successor. There have been numerous candidates who have only turned out to be little fireflies in the glow of Ms. Guðmundsdóttir's sun.
Alas, when I saw this video in late 2010, I thought I had found her.
Huge, powerful, unusual voice, singing overdramatically and at the peak of its range? Check. Weird, ethereal arrangement? Check. Video that matched those things? Check. New Björk is that you?
No. Florence does not fill the hole. While Lungs, her debut album, is quite enjoyable, it simply sounds like the work of an array of producers, not the unified vision of a mad, fairy genius.
Lungs does hold together decently, though. Florence"s voice is pretty singular, and a palatial vein running through most of Lungs lends it a pretty nice flow (Florence also has some weird, neo-flapper thing going on, too). But at the end of the day, Lungs is just a pop-record pieced together by half a dozen songwriters, albeit some pretty good ones. The Icelandic monolith stands alone. Of course, even Björk's debut album isn't the greatest thing ever...
1. Dog Days Are Over 4:13
2. Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) 3:52
3. I'm Not Calling You a Liar 3:05
4. Howl 3:34
5. Kiss with a Fist 2:04
6. Girl with One Eye 3:39
7. Drumming Song 3:44
8. Between Two Lungs 4:09
9. Cosmic Love 4:16
10. My Boy Builds Coffins 2:57
11. Hurricane Drunk 3:13
12. Blinding 4:40
13. You've Got the Love 2:49
Monday, February 25, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
The spark that lit Flogging Molly's debut album is a little dimmer on their second. Maybe it's the law of diminishing returns, or maybe its just the more workmanlike nature of the album. The band seem to blow through most of Drunken Lullabies' twelve tracks without taking a breath, as if the devil is at their heels. Following Swagger, an album full of fun songs about sailing the seven seas, this sophmore LP's best song calls the ocean a "Cruel Mistress."
Indeed, Drunken Lullabies has a darker edge than its older brother, taking a more bitter, cynical look at life and seldom slowing down. That's not to say Drunken Lullabies isn't a blast in places, but the fun-factor is admittedly less. It's still a solid album, though--the second half, particularly, introduces more variety and deeper emotions. The lilting finale, "The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)," leaves the listener hungry for more music, as vocalist, Dave King, gently repeats the line "We all go the same way home." Indeed.
Sorry, I got caught in a loop there for a second.
1. Drunken Lullabies 3:50
2. What's Left of the Flag 3:39
3. May the Living Be Dead (In Our Wake) 3:50
4. If I Ever Leave This World Alive 3:21
5. The Kilburn High Road 3:43
6. Rebels of the Sacred Heart 5:11
7. Swagger 2:05
8. Cruel Mistress 2:57
9. Death Valley Queen 4:18
10. Another Bag of Bricks 3:45
11. The Rare Ould Times 4:06
12. The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors) 4:24
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Sometimes you think you're over a particular artist because they've traveled too far from why you originally became invested in them in the first place. Driving through the West Baton Rouge night, petrochemical plants so bright they cast shadows in front of me, I realized I'm not even close to over Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Also, I think my steering wheel is pregnant.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Flogging Molly's Swagger has accompanied so many good times in my life, it's hard not to think of the album as an old friend. I remember blasting it in my car as I'd make my early afternoon, last crawfish delivery of the day, pausing it to call my wife to figure out what awesome thing we were going to do that afternoon from the home base of our 600 sq ft apartment (just reverse that floor plan), be it getting new tattoos at the now defunct Acme Tattoo, digging around for new music (found this album on vinyl) at the now-defunct Compact Disc Store, grabbing some incredible pizza at the thankfully not-defunct Fleur de Lis, the classic but ended-with-parenthood mall and a movie combo, or the absolute greatest option, hitting China One and throwing down a Hamilton to get about ten pounds of delicious food, renting a movie from the now defunct Blockbuster, and passing out on the couch with giant smiles from a sodium-inspired coma. Man, 2008 was great. It's crazy how much the world has changed in half a decade.
Wait a minute. This isn't what Flogging Molly's Swagger reminds you of? Then music is subjective? Holy Crap!
Swagger's energetic, Celtic-punk infused sea shanties, slum tales, and life musings are about as feel-good as music gets, and if it doesn't put just a little spring in your step, you like different kinds of music than I do.
What really makes this album for me is the wide variation in tempos from song to song. Swagger features a decent amount of more slowed down tracks alongside its more blazing ones, but that energetic spark, like a twinkle in frontman, Irishman Dave King's eye, exists in every song. Dave King is from Ireland. His name is not Irishman Dave King. Sorry for the confusion.
Anyway, even in the stark, vocal only "Grace Of God Go I," Swagger never loses its way. It's tough to carry this type of energy over 54 minutes, and this near hour run-time might be Swagger's only flaw, but it's only just barely overstuffed. Just like with China One, two pounds of fried rice might have been a little much to go along with my three pounds of barbecued spare-ribs, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every second of eating them, and stealing a few pieces of my wife's sweet and sour chicken as well.
The awesome thing is, my kid loves this album. In all the good spirited fun, it's usually hard to remember there are a few choice words in Swagger I'd rather he not hear just yet. Here's his favorite track, and one I can often relate to in a pessimistically jovial sort of way.
1. Salty Dog 2:21
2. Selfish Man 2:54
3. The Worst Day Since Yesterday 3:38
4. Every Dog Has Its Day 4:24
5. Life in a Tenement Square 3:11
6. The Ol' Beggars Bush 4:34
7. The Likes of You Again 4:33
8. Black Friday Rule 6:57
9. Grace of God Go I 1:55
10. Devil's Dance Floor 3:59
11. These Exiled Years 5:15
12. Sentimental Johnny 4:47
13. Far Away Boys 5:06
Monday, February 18, 2013
So, I have the majority of Fleetwood Mac's albums, and only on vinyl...which is too bad, because at this point in life, I can't just sit in my living room and studiously listen to and review their entire catalogue. Instead, I'll just mention this: A lot of couples have "songs." You know, some cheesy, sappy anthem of love the girl probably likes way more than the guy does. My wife and I do not have a song like that. Instead we have this.
Six years and counting. Go big or go home.
Six years and counting. Go big or go home.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Helplessness Blues is far more dynamic than Fleet Foxes' previous music. Unfortunately, it's also very indistinct. While there are a few surprising twists and turns from their signature, limited, acoustic sound, the songwriting just isn't strong enough to make those moments special. With this weak songwriting, few moments stand out in memory. It's just singing and playing. The end result sounds just like the album cover looks. Stare at it for twenty seconds, and ten minutes later, it's just some eyeballs and a blurry mess in your head. Just trade out eyeballs for harmonies.
Here is one of Helplessness Blues' few standouts.
2011 Sub Pop/Bella Union
1. Montezuma 3:37
2. Bedouin Dress 4:30
3. Sim Sala Bim 3:14
4. Battery Kinzie 2:49
5. The Plains / Bitter Dancer 5:54
6. Helplessness Blues 5:03
7. The Cascades 2:08
8. Lorelai 4:25
9. Someone You'd Admire 2:29
10. The Shrine / An Argument 8:07
11. Blue Spotted Tail 3:05
12. Grown Ocean 4:36
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I mentioned how much nostalgia of an incredibly happy life period colored my opinion of Fleet Foxes debut EP, Sun Giant. But something else warms my opinion of that EP even more: brevity. Like pretty much every acoustic throwback band, Fleet Foxes has a thing, a shtick if you will, and all that they can do is that shtick. While they do their thing well, and create lovely harmonies together, it is really just one thing. It's tough to ride that thing for eleven tracks.
There are some really good ones on Fleet Foxes' self-titled album, but as a whole, I can't listen to this without getting a little antsy. After getting acquainted to the band's sound over the first few tracks, I want something else to happen. Spoiler alert: nothing else ever happens. There's little urgency throughout Fleet Foxes, which might be fine for some people. If you enjoy the sound of a burbling brook for forty minutes, this is most definitely your album. As someone who needs a little more excitement, or at least some rapids in my music, there is still something to like here. A culling together of "Sun It Rises," "White Winter Hymnal," "Ragged Wood," "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song," "Your Protector," and "Blue Ridge Mountains" would make for a very evocative, transportive EP. I'd enjoy that EP as much as I do Sun Giant. As it stands, those songs are only half of a full length that puts me to sleep.
2008 Bella Union/Sub Pop
1. Sun It Rises 3:14
2. White Winter Hymnal 2:27
3. Ragged Wood 5:07
4. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song 3:28
5. Quiet Houses 3:32
6. He Doesn't Know Why 3:20
7. Heard Them Stirring 3:02
8. Your Protector 4:09
9. Meadowlarks 3:11
10. Blue Ridge Mountains 4:25
11. Oliver James 3:23
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I always joke with my wife that 2008 was the year we truly fell in love. This is a joke because we married at the end of 2006, but like most good jokes, it isn't too far from the truth. After more than a full year of getting used to living with each other as spouses and getting rid of a ton of baggage we were both carrying, the two of us finally got to enjoy the simple pleasures of spending time with one another. 2008 also happened to be one of those years where the stage felt huge. I picked up this epic feeling somewhere along the way, and it built and built in me until, early into the following year, we found out we were expecting a child. Then we got to go over the whole, "Oh, crap, everything in life is different!" thing all over again. Hooray! Then 2011 saw us falling in love all over again, or something. I don't know. There aren't that many straight lines in life.
All that said, I discovered Fleet Foxes near the end of 2008, and introduced them to my wife shortly thereafter. Fleet Foxes were a much better fit for her musical tastes, but I was feeling so high by the end of that year, those good feelings might taint my opinion of the music on this EP. ;Sun Giant reminds me of driving through the Tennessee mountains with my wife, though this came out far after we did that. It also reminds me of driving alone over the hills around Natchez at the end of 2008, after I had actually listened to Sun Giant, wandering and reflecting on the year, wondering what would come next.
I mentioned above that this was a better fit for my wife's musical tastes. I generally don't like acoustic music, but in small, well-executed doses like Fleet Foxes' Sun Giant EP, I can certainly enjoy it.
Sun Giant certainly sounds like a throwback to 70's folk music, but more than anything, it is evocative of the anticipation and electricity in an autumn or early winter night. Fleet Foxes harmonies are beautiful, and they do a great job of building from just voices in the opening title-track, to full band in the middle three songs. "English House," particularly, makes me feel like I am being whisked away on some holiday night hayride to a beautiful, mysterious plain of existence I can't quite imagine. Considering my wife and I did go on a surprisingly fun, late-night hayride with a bunch of strangers that Christmas, my opinions are once again colored. I just know that the two of us had a lot of fun adventures in 2008 for which I am very thankful for, and the end of that year felt like a great capper to that. This music helped.
At the start of the next year, Fleet Foxes played Sun Giant standout, "Mykonos" on SNL to showcase their mystical powers. We watched it together, enraptured. Magic.
Fleet Foxes - Mykonos (live) from Lordlicorice on Vimeo.
Sorry for all the sentimentality and nostalgia. This wasn't much of a review. I don't even like this kind of music...as you will see when I hit this band's two full-lengths.
2008 Bella Union/Sub Pop
1. Sun Giant 2:14
2. Drops in the River 4:13
3. English House 4:41
4. Mykonos 4:35
5. Innocent Son 3:07
Friday, February 08, 2013
After checking out At War With the Mystics, The Flaming Lips' followup to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, twice from the library, I firmly decided that I didn't like it at all. Mystics took anything I didn't like about the band, especially Wayne Coyne's more annoying characteristics (whiny, affected vocals and pretentiously ponderous lyrics) and amped it up to eleven. I only found one song I enjoyed on the whole album, which is a shame because the artwork is incredible. What a waste. Because of this, I don't own At War With the Mystics, so I won't review it here, even though I just sort of did.
I have a sneaking suspicion the band itself was let down by Mystics, because its followup, Embryonic, is something completely different. The Flaming Lips ditch the components of their last three albums for a primitive, dirty, blurry, stomp of an album. Embryonic veers between primal bass groves and drumwork and quiet, disquieting, moody pieces. 70's-esque keyboards and sounds are given special prominence over the guitar, which is treated as an alien artifact in Embryonic's sprawling, futuristic landscape. The Flaming Lips' last twenty years of music has had a Science Fiction subtext, but it's at the surface of Embryonic's sound. With the album being movie-length, it could easily soundtrack a gritty sci-fi film from cinema's greatest decade.
Coyne wisely lets the music occupy the forefront of Embryonic's technicolor palette, using vocals sparingly, but to great effect. His lyrics, however, can sometimes function as Embryonic's greatest detriment--they are as ponderous as ever. Coyne furthers his pagan ideals to the limit on Embryonic, even bragging on album closer, "Watching the Planets" that he's "burning the Bible tonight." For a guy who supposedly doesn't believe in God, Coyne sure sings about Him a lot. Reviews are supposed to be objective, though, so while I may not agree with Coyne's lyrical sentiments, Embryonic's music hits plenty of sweet spots, and while it have could used a bit more focus, it's an excellent piece of work.
2009 Warner Bros.
1. Convinced of the Hex 3:56
2. The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine 4:14
3. Evil 5:38
4. Aquarius Sabotage 2:11
5. See the Leaves 4:24
6. If 2:05
7. Gemini Syringes (featuring Thorsten Wörmann and Karen O) 3:41
8. Your Bats 2:35
9. Powerless 6:57
10. The Ego's Last Stand 5:41
11. I Can Be a Frog (featuring Karen O) 2:14
12. Sagittarius Silver Announcement 2:59
13. Worm Mountain (featuring MGMT) 5:21
14. Scorpio Sword 2:02
15. The Impulse 4:06
16. Silver Trembling Hands 3:59
17. Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast (featuring Thorsten Wörmann) 3:44
18. Watching the Planets (featuring Karen O) 5:17
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
I think Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is altogether a better album than The Soft Bulletin. I think it suffered critically, though not very much, by comparison because it came second. In truth, it repairs most of The Soft Bulletin's flaws. Wayne Coyne dials back his vocals, singing far better, and using far less affectations. His lyrics aren't so cloying this time, either. He's still obsessed with the most basic big question/answer combos in the universe, though. He sings the line, "Do you realize that everyone you know some day will die?" as if he is the first person to ever realize it. He named the song, "Do You Realize?" for a reason.
The arrangements here are far more distinct and less sticky than the The Soft Bulletin's, and the band sound more like they are attempting to craft a great album rather than just tinkering around with new toys.
I somehow picked Yoshimi up used from a Warehouse Music (which was once a Blockbuster Music and now is an FYE) mere months after it was released, and for only $3.99. For that price, it was a steal, and on the first listens, I was convinced that Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was perfect.
The album's sound perfectly matches that of a child's fantasy novel mixed with a throwback science fiction film. The opening four tracks are about as good a start as an album can get. The slower, dreamier middle section seems too good to be true. It took me a few weeks to realize that I had been ejecting the CD out of my car player after track seven on every listen. Track eight always booted up at the end of my commute, just as I was pulling up into the LSU parking lot to go to class and turning off my car. Every time I'd get back in to leave at the end of the day, I would subconsciously eject Yoshimi and put in something else. I finally caught myself doing this one day, and realized the reaction I was having, which can best be summed up by just-reviewed band Five Iron Frenzy's lyricist, Reese Roper, on their song "Ugly Day." "All the flowers and the birds make me feel smothered."
Even though I really love the start of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, it eventually just wears me out with its own good-naturedness, kind of like a dog that keeps jumping in your lap no matter where you sit. The last four songs are okay, especially the instrumental closer, "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon." Good thing it's instrumental, though, because by that point, I'm ready to sock Wayne Coyne in the face just so I can go back to bed.
2002 Warner Bros.
1. Fight Test 4:14
2. One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21 4:59
3. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 4:45
4. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2 2:57
5. In the Morning of the Magicians 6:18
6. Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell 4:34
7. Are You a Hypnotist?? 4:44
8. It's Summertime 4:20
9. Do You Realize?? 3:33
10. All We Have Is Now 3:53
11. Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon 3:09
Monday, February 04, 2013
Ah, back to the summer of 1999. Sitting in my car on my Win-Dixie lunch break, eating a sandwich, drinking a hot coke. Feeling fearless and carefree while paradoxically feeling the entire weight of the world on my shoulders, as only a seventeen year-old can. The radio, as always, tuned to your original alternative, when this song came through my Thunderbird's speakers.
And for about the dozenth time that summer, a band had perfectly captured my immediate feelings.
This being the age of dial-up, my best bet for music research was the 30-second clips posted on Amazon.com. If I really, really liked a song, I could download it through the night from mp3.com or audiogalaxy. Pitchfork and all those other taste-making websites weren't nearly the forces they would one day become, so the only opinions on the music I was interested in that I had to deal with were the listener reviews on Amazon. I never bought anything from Amazon back then because I didn't have a credit card OR a bank account. I only had cash, and rarely, as car insurance and helping out the family took up the majority of my fund allocation. With all that said, I had really no reason to know that the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin was that big of a deal. So when I eventually dropped hard-earned cash on it because of my love for "Waitin' for a Superman," I had only had my own opinion to go on. Despite the fact that I am trying to influence your opinion with this review, your own opinion is really the only thing you need (not mine or anyone else's). My opinion was, while "Waitin' for a Superman" was a great song, the Soft Bulletin's use of Wayne Coyne's voice over the course of 58 minutes was too much for me to take. His whiney, Midwestern drawl was great in doses, but throughout the melodies of The Soft Bulletin, it slowly went from endearing to blackboard-scratching. Little did I know, I had only a slightly-above average opinion of an album many publications were mantling as a masterpiece.
As I look back at The Soft Bulletin now...I still hold court with my younger self. That guy was smart (He was also of a strong opinion that I needed to take a break before college, so that I could further ruminate on my academic direction...he was overruled by circumstance). As I listen to The Soft Bulletin now, I merely hear a decent album, with "Waitin' for a Superman" as the clear standout. Anytime a band smoothly goes from rawer, less-palatable racket to a more classic-pop indebted sound, they are going to receive a large mass of accolades. In truth, The Soft Bulletin just shows The Flaming Lips relying on more keyboard and utilizing more vocal harmonies than before. It's pretty good stuff, but over the full course of its nearly hour-long air length, it becomes cloying and abrasive. The spectrum of sounds explored here actually isn't that wide. On top of that, Coyne's delivery can get downright obnoxious and sticky. Checkout "Buggin'"
I don't do drugs, so maybe they make the song better? After a while, all I can hear is "Bugs, buzz, buzz..." Or maybe it's just not my thing. Whatever the case, there are some really good songs here, particularly "Race for the Prize," "The Observer," "Waitin' for a Superman," "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," and "Sleeping on the Roof." I could take or leave the rest then and now. You might love it, though. Hooray for individuality.
1999 Warner Bros.
1. Race for the Prize (Mokran Remix) 4:09
2. A Spoonful Weighs a Ton 3:32
3. The Spark That Bled ("The Softest Bullet Ever Shot") 5:55
4. The Spiderbite Song 4:02
5. Buggin' (Mokran Remix) 3:16
6. What Is the Light? ("An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] by Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the "Big Bang" That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe") 4:05
7. The Observer 4:11
8. Waitin' for a Superman ("Is It Gettin' Heavy?") 4:17
9. Suddenly Everything Has Changed ("Death Anxiety Caused by Moments of Boredom") 3:54
10. The Gash ("Battle Hymn for the Wounded Mathematician") 4:02
11. Feeling Yourself Disintegrate 5:17
12. Sleeping on the Roof (excerpt from "Should We Keep the Severed Head Awake??") 3:09
13. Race for the Prize ("Sacrifice of the New Scientists") 4:18
14. Waitin' for a Superman (Mokran Remix) 4:19
Friday, February 01, 2013
If you aren't allergic to laughter, you should watch The New Girl on Fox's Tuesday night comedy block. The New Girl is one of the funniest shows on television. It has an excellent ensemble, and all the actors have great chemistry with one another. However, if I could recommend the show for only one reason, it would be for the character of Nick Miller. I'm not sure why I would ever be in the position to have to recommend anything for only one reason. What kind of universe do we live in? Why can't you always just give as many reasons as you want? Anyway, sorry for the digression.
Nick Miller is, by the world's standards, a huge loser. He is poor, drives a piece of crap car, is unlucky in love, rarely shaves or showers. Deep down, he can't really stand most people, but more than anyone, he can't stand himself. He frequently finds himself mentally isolated, and frequently goes loony from the isolation.
Like plenty of schlubs from my generation, I lived a life basically identical to Miller's from the age of 17-25, even had the same first name, even had the same aspirations to be a writer. Somewhere around the age of 22, I was confronted with a scenario common to probably a million sitcoms. I loved a girl who was dating someone else. Also, just like a sitcom, I knew this girl might also be interested in me, had several chances to steal her away, and didn't take them. So, much like Nick Miller, I lived in loserdom, wandering aimlessly, tagging along with all my coupled friends, slowly going loony. Don't get me wrong, being single is awesome, but not when you know you are missing out on the relationship you should be in. Anyway, a couple years later, the girl I loved met with me to tell me she had broken up with her boyfriend. She was obviously vulnerable. I decided to take it slow. A couple days later, she already had another boyfriend. She was acting like a stupid sitcom person, and if I'd just sat there and let her do it, I would have kept acting like a stupid sitcom person, too. Just like Nick Miller. But something inside of me snapped. My Nick Miller romantic nature cracked down the middle, and essentially, I did something like this.
This scene comes from, "Cooler, the most recent episode of The New Girl. I've always identified with the Miller character, but never more so than in "Cooler." Nick faces, if possible, more romantic humiliation in this episode than any other. Even the girl he should be with's boyfriend finds him a non-threatening joke. The episode has so many great metaphorical layers, including Miller taking off a coat, literally, a woman's coat, he has worn all episode, immediately before the above scene happens.
I don't really care how The New Girl handle's what happens next. I know that, despite the awesomely realistic, non-sitcom nature this episode took in its ending, the show is bound to rules, and will have to put numerous, screenwriter-created obstacles in the couple's way. Despite this, Nick and the titular new girl will most likely end up together, just like my girl and I, married for almost seven years now, and with a three year old, ended up together, and as a direct result of me finally taking action. Killing the inner Miller. It felt good.
Unfortunately, in my situation, romantic peace doesn't pay the bills.
I'm still broke--being a writer didn't pan out for me, either. So I'm back at school in my 30's, trying to learn a new trade. But school is ridiculously hard, and it's probably going to take me forever. I refuse to give up, which paid off in eliminating my inner Nick Miller romantic side. But will I ever be able to eliminate my Nick Miller professional side?
Here's to hoping.