Saturday, September 30, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
"But God I Like It"
There comes a point every other year or so, where I become convinced that I've pretty much heard all that I'm going to hear. Things begin to feel recycled or overplayed. It's at that point that I'll hear an album that reinvigorated my belief that music is boundless and that there's always new places to explore. It's kind of amazing when you think about it. As humans, we've been creating music for thousands of years and it's hard to believe that there's still anything to explore. But sure enough, bands are still finding new ground. A couple years ago, it was the Arcade Fire's Funeral. This year it's Return to Cookie Mountain from TV on the Radio, to whom I compared Arcade Fire in my recent ACL Fest writeup.
Stylistically, the two aren't that similar. TV on the Radio is much less straightforward and much more subtle. That said, both share that same combination of creativity, rhythm, and anger, captured nowhere better in Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"
and TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me".
It's rare to find bands that can convey this kind of emotion without simply devolving into a melodramatic caricature of anger-bands.
"Wolf" is probably the most immediately accessible track on TVOTR's recent Return to Cookie Mountain. The album begins with what sounds like a broken hip-hop track in "I Was a Lover" in the same way that Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" sounds like Rock and Roll falling apart. "I was a lover, before this war" is the first, and probably best line of the album. Followed by the ominous "Hours," the album is unpredictable even after listening to it multiple times.
Perhaps the highlight of the album creatively is "Dirtywheel," which AMG describes as a combination of "girls and hurricanes." The darkness and anger are most prevalent in "Blues From Down Here." The album concludes with an 8 minute barrage of noise in "Wash the Day," replete with anthemic lyrics and guttural shouts.
It's tough to imagine where TVOTR will go next, but it's just as well. Return to Cookie Mountain will take a while to fully digest. A
(p.s. If you haven't gotten enough "Wolf Like Me" here's an awesome live performance with decent sound and captures the energy this band puts out.
I have no idea who the girl is. Cat Power?
Anyway, I can't get enough of this song. Song of the year.)
Friday, September 22, 2006
I found the following test from Malcom Gladwell's Blink. It's a book about the unconsious, split second judgements that guide our descisions.
None of us think they are racist. And in truth, most of us aren't. But what about the unconsious prejudices? Take the following test. Go to www.implicit.harvard.edu, the demonstration, the "Race IAT" and let's be honest about our scores, shall we? Take it twice. I did. After a few of us have taken the test I'll share my results.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
I am wasted, but I'm ready
As promised, what follows is my second retroactive diary of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Perhaps “posthumous” is a better word.
(8:00 AM) At home. There’s nothing like skipping work. Am I right. It gets to be 9:05 and I note during an appropriate silence, “we’re not at work today.” ACL or not, it’s all about not working. John G is on his way down supposedly. I seem to remember him saying this a couple years ago and he made us dreadfully late. Ash is coming over at 11:00 and the three of us, plus Kelly – an ACL virgin – will be headed to Zilker Park via bus in order to get there in time to see the Benevento Russo Duo who go on at 11:30.
Man, we are such dorks.
(11:30) Benevento Russo Duo. Ash recommended this one. It’s nice to have a Rhapsody fanatic to scout out the bands ahead of time. We gave Ash much grief for the Dandy Warhols debacle a few years ago. He’s definitely in the hole from that one but he digs himself out a bit with this show. It’s an instrumental duo who are somehow able to get a huge sound out of just two guys. There’s a drummer and a keyboarder, but it truly sounds like a five-person band. It’s a good, low key way to start the festival. B.
(12:30) Paolo Nutini. He’s apparently the Scottish version of Ryan Cabrera. He alternates toe-tapping hooks and ultra-sap ballads. It’s fun to be here and not at work. The show is going along fine until he breaks out a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which breaks every rule in the cover book. A cover should
A) be at least 10 years old,
B) not have achieved full greatness by its originators,
C) not be played at the same festival as the originators, and
D) not be played on the same stage as the originators in a couple hours.
Nutini gets serious demerits for this atrocity. Ash thinks he sounds like Chris Martin. I think he sounds like Damien Marley. He’s got a Spanish name. He’s Scottish. We’re all very confused here. C-.
(1:30) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Ah, energy. Ted Leo offers his patented brand of power pop and excitement to the ACL early goers. “Me and Mia” is a song that was created to be played live. Even after that, “Biomusicology” and “Timorous Me” offer the highlights of the day. The last song is awkwardly unfulfilling though, as Ted Leo goes into a political rant, and then bashes himself in the head with the microphone until he bleeds. This will be a running theme throughout the festival. A-.
(2:30) Deadboy and the Elephantmen. John G is loathe to stay but he manages to stick around for a few songs. They have such chipper titles as “What the Stars Have Eaten” and “Stop, I’m Already Dead” and head bobbing lyrics such as, “I’ve got hell in my hand.” I can’t really say why I enjoy it. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m enjoying it or not. It’s dark, not very energetic, and after a couple songs, I’m by myself. I’ll see how John G’s doing at Guster. B-.
(3:00) Guster. The exact opposite of Deadboy offers bright and shiny hooks and lots of bare-tummied college girls. There’s not much to do with this music live though. C-.
(3:30) Wolf Parade. Interesting use of technology. Also interesting use of the mustache. C.
(4:00) Stars. We’re only there about two minutes before the lead singer goes into a rant about how we should all “smoke a spliff” the day George W. Bush is replaced. He then talks about how we should kill him by having sex with him or something like that. Then he messes up the beginning of the song. It’s pretty uncomfortable. Strong words coming from a Canadian. Stuff like that just sounds weak nowadays. We get out of there before it gets worse. D-.
(4:30) Gnarls Barkley. The great divide sends myself to Gnarls and the rest of my party to Nickel Creek. Gnarls and the band come out with lab coats and bow-ties and promptly informs us that Gnarls Barkley can’t be here but they’ll try to play a few of their songs. I must admit, they know their music. Not only do they cover “Gone Daddy Gone” on their album, they play a random Doors cover. There are so many people there it’s hard to move the first half of the concert but eventually I find room further forward. Once the infectious and Song-of-the-Year “Crazy” starts the whole place starts moving. And when it’s over the whole place starts clearing out. It’s a shame for them though, as the best song of the performance is probably the neo-soul “Smiley Faces.” This was the big act for me today at ACL and I walk away satisfied and wishing I could see them again at a smaller venue. B-.
(5:30) Gomez. One of the best shows of the weekend. Gomez delivers mega-energy considering it’s like 112 degrees and 160% humidity. The crowd is also very much into it. A.
(6:30) John G and I leave to catch a bus. We’re on our way to dinner and a Sufjan Stevens show at the Paramount. Dinner consists of a salad bar at Hickory Street Grill. I don’t tell him that it got a black mark from the health department a few years ago.
(9:00) My Brightest Diamond. OK, Jonathan and I are hot, dirty, and cranky, I realize. But this is just brutal. Opening acts should not play that many songs and we are both on the verge of falling asleep. The only thing that keeps us awake is this really awful song called “Freak Out” sung in the same way that a really loud rat would sound getting snapped in a rat trap. F.
(10:20) Sufjan Stevens. After what seems like an eternity, Sufjan comes on stage and it’s worth every minute, every dollar, every dreary song about sparrows from MBD. Sufjan and the band are wearing wings. His live performances echo his techniques from his album. Layer after layer of instrumentation until the song becomes a powerful wall of sound. Devotees will appreciate a “Dear Mr. Supercomputer” overture. It’s so good it hurts. It’s one of the only concerts where I felt like weeping because it’s so beautiful, like the crazy teen in American Beauty. He begins the set with the rousing, “Sister” and closes with the even more rousing “Chicago.” “Palisades” is my personal favorite thanks to the lush tapestry of the closing refrain. His encore performance consists of “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” and “That Dress Looks Nice.” It’s wonderful. A+.
(12:00 AM) John G and I are hoping and praying that the bus in fact comes this late. Thankfully it does. Later we find out that had we missed that bus, we would have been stranded downtown. That would not have been cool.
(12:30) Frederico Abuele. There’s nothing that I’m dying to see in the morning but Ash wants to see this Argentinian character. Again, it’s a nice way to start the morning, with some smooth South American rhythm. B-.
(1:50) I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. It’s always strange to see a local band you’re not too familiar with at a festival. ILYBICD play around town all the time and I’ve never heard them until now. They produce a nice sound and have a couple really excellent anthems in their bag of tricks. C+.
(2:30) Ben Kweller. OK, so Kweller is late getting on because he says he had a pretty vicious nosebleed right before going on stage. So he starts off with “Wasted and Ready” and everyone’s happy. Halfway through his third song the nosebleed reappears with a vengeance. He has to stop in the middle of it because his face and clothes are covered in blood and it’s not stopping any time soon. He asks the audience for a tampon. Sure enough, he gets one and shoves it up his nose. He proceeds to play through an entire song with a tampon up his nose. He wraps up his set, just four and a half songs in, with “Falling” due to the massive bleeding occurring before our very eyes. We are all in shock. B for playing through the bleeding.
(4:00) TV on the Radio. This is one of the best performances I’ve seen. If anyone was searching for “the next Arcade Fire,” this would be my candidate. The combination of anger, excitement and creativity make for an awesome show. The entire band is animated and their song “Wolf Like Me” provides the highlight of the festival thus far. Check it out at their myspace page. You won't be sorry. A+.
(5:00) The Shins. Me texting Ash: “Where r u?” Ash texting me: “the shins im bored.” Me: “me 2.” C-.
(5:30) Calexico. Never fail to impress. Calexico is a band I could see live every month. A.
(6:30) The Raconteurs. I get dragged away from What Made Milwaukee Famous for this. I heard from a couple difference sources that WMMF was one of the better performances of the festival, but everyone wants to see Jack White. So we do. For three whole songs. Once they play “Steady As She Goes” we vacate. INC.
(7:15) Brazillian Girls. This is our first inside-the-tent performance of the festival. It’s brutally humid and sweaty in there, which fits perfectly for what can only be described as rave music. Kids are sweating dancing and having a great time. There’s mega-energy in the place. It’s just hard for me to get into this without my wife or some ecstasy. I’m not much good without either of those things. Somehow I get John G to leave with me. It should be mentioned the lead singer is wearing a cloth facemask. A, based on Ash’s review.
(8:45) Explosions in the Sky. There’s nothing quite like some good instrumental crescendo rock, particularly if it’s a local band. They do a good job of selling the music too, flinging and stomping on their instruments. At the end the crowd is begging for an encore, but EITS refuses. Here’s the weird part, they come out to tell us that they won’t be doing an encore. You simply cannot cock-tease a crowd like that. C.
(9:00) Willie Nelson. This is a nice way to end an exhausting day. John G and I pull up a blanket and sit for a while, humming along with such favorites as “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and “On the Road Again.” New highlight of the festival:
Random Three-Fourths Nude Seventeen Year Old: Hey, are you 21?
Greer: Um. Yeah.
RTFNSYO: Will you buy me a beer?
G: I have to go.
If only. B+ for the RTFNSYO, C- for John G, and C+ for Willie.
And this is where it ends. For you see, Sunday it was time for me to stay home with Addy while Steph got to enjoy the festival. It’s a shame too, because all reports are that the Flaming Lips and Matisyahu were excellent. But it does allow me a day of rest. On Monday I’m not in too bad shape. I can make cohearent thoughts and noises. I’m not totally burned to a crisp or hung over. I had an awesome time Friday and Saturday listening to live music and got to spend Sunday watching football and Addy. It’s not a bad way to get by.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Does this make me crazy?
The eve of the ACL Fest is my modern day equivalent of the Night Before Christmas. But instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, it's What Made Milwalkee Famous. Few events are able to combine awesome music, skipping work, god-awful heat, hippie-stink, and sheer exhaustion so effectively as the Austin City Limits Music Fest.
Devotees will recall last time I went to ACL in 2004, I did everyone the immense favor of writting a retroactive web-log, or blog, if you will. This was back when Dear Mr. Supercomputer was just a gleam in this blogger's eyes. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the highlights, lowlights, and contact highs of that year.
"(1:00 PM) The Killers. I’m not sure who slotted The Killers at one in the afternoon. Still, The Killers make the most of it. They deliver a very energetic performance. They’re an interesting mix of modern rock with 80’s new wave. I bet Steph would love this. …B"
Wow. This should tell you how far the Killers have come since then in terms of popularity. No way do they play a 1:00 set on Friday. The crowd then was still rather sparse. If I had wanted to I could have walked up to the front of the stage. Try that now, and you'll get mauled by about 6000 emo kids. They have grabby hands.
"(8:00) Gomez. The first truly knockout show. While all the kiddies are over at Franz Ferdinand, there’s another modern rock band from Europe playing a kickass show. Starting the set with the ominous “Get Miles” leads beautifully into their more guitar-driven licks. “Silence” sounds great, but “Shot Shot” offers the best festival moments to date. Their energy is ferocious. To think these guys are playing again in a few hours for an ACL after-show is mind-boggling. …A+"
I'm seeing Gomez again this year, but I'm awfully trepedacious. An underwhelming album and a brutal web-cast performance from Bonaroo leave me wary. Maybe I should skip out and let the awesome 2004 show live on unblemished. I am sad I never got to see Franz Ferdinand before they made it prohibitively big.
"(7:00) Monte Montgomery. As Kai trots off to fight amongst middle school girls for a good spot at Dashboard Confessional, Greer and I head over to see Monte Montgomery. I’ve put off seeing him for too long now. This guy makes Eric Johnson look like the Kingston Trio. Monte produces a sound out of an acoustic guitar that still makes me scratch my head. It’s complex, creative, and flawless. …B+"
Really, I just thought it was funny to remember that Kai came down to see Dashboard Confessional (pictured here, apparently Living Life 100%).
"(2:30) The Roots. It’s always great to have that one Rap group at the ACL Festival. Last year it was Spearhead. The Roots offer a welcome change of pace to the onslaught of rock groups. These guys are both lyrically and musically very talented. This is probably the most white people The Roots have ever played for. …B"
This year, it's Gnarls Barkley. I wish I had kept a journal after that Spearhead show. It would have probably been something like this: "MAN! THAT WAS THE BEST SHOW EVER!!!! HOLY CRAP I WAS SO F---ING BLOWN AWAY!!! THAT SHOW WAS THE S---!!! MAN! MAN! MAN! I AM A GOLDEN GOD!!!" By the way, I'm about 80% sure I got a contact high during that set.
"(3:15) I have found the best-kept secret at the ACL Fest: Curra’s Veggie Tamales. Anyone who’s ever been to Curra’s Grill in Austin knows that it has the best tamales around. Well, at ACL they were three for $3! Nowhere else can you get a filling meal for just three bucks. Even the smoothies are $4!"
I just need to remind myself where the cheap food is.
"The Day After - (7:30 AM) That alarm sound is telling me that it’s time to get back to normal, everyday life. What a terrible sound. I wonder how conspicuous I’ll look with my face all beet red since I took Friday off. I don’t even bother grooming this morning. No shave. Untucked polo shirt. The comfortable khakis that I’ve had since High School. I know I’m in for what will seem like the longest week of my life, but it’s easily worth it. I was able to check out a lot of bands that I never would have otherwise. I was able to check out bands that I’ve always wanted to see. I drank a lot of overpriced beer that was well worth it in the heat of the day. I feel miserable. What a glorious miserable."
Yeah that just about sums up the ACL experience of the day after.
At $100 or so, I still feel that ACL Fest is one of the best deals around. Sure, it's more like $150 after all the extra stuff you have to pay for. But year in and year out, the ACL bookers have such a great mix of up-and-comers, mid-level acts, and surefire Hall of Famers. I mean, who the hell were the Killers just two years ago? Now they would charge $50 just to see them by their pretensious little selves.
It's almost like a little vacation from reality just as the school year is starting to get monotonous.
So in order to get excited, I have an inspiration pre-game speech from High School football coach Jim Cantifio who as Every Day Should be a Saturday puts it, is "displaying the signs of a man who has just slipped into tertiary syphilitic madness."
Let's get fired up! Do you have any pride?!!
Do you?! Danny!
Monday, September 11, 2006
It's kind of old news, but the visual monstrosity is new to me. A couple years ago, Tom Delay and the Texans for a Republican Majority created a new district map for Texas. Here it is.
Three words: "What. The. Fuck." How is it constitutional or even ethical to carve up a state like this? I know it's hard to see - get the big view here. My personal favorite is 10, which begins in North Central Austin and stretches all the way to the suburbs of Houston. Since they have so much in common. In fact, Austin is basically carved up like a Thanksgiving Turkey. District 25 includes South Austin and also borders the Rio Grande River. Naturally. The entire state is carefully cut in such a way that even though there are nothing but Republicans in office, it will probably stay that way forever.
I mean, could there be an example of disenfranchising voters be as blatant as this? OK, maybe this.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Tonight I'm continuing with the Wes Anderson motif, choosing The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. While not as brilliant and funny as The Royal Tenenbaums, as thought provoking as Rushmore, or as charming as Bottle Rocket, Zissou is terribly underrated as far as Wes Anderson films go. I think it's simply because it was his first independent film. Kind of like how some people were disappointed by Death Cab for Cutie's Plans, conveniently ignoring the fact that it's better than almost all of their independent albums.
I would maintain the scene with the Jaguar Shark is probably the finest one he's ever shot.
And in honor of Royal Tenenbaums, here's a sampling of my favorite Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum quotes:
Chaz: “What are you doing? You’re on my team?”
Royal: “There are no teams!” (*shoots son*)
“This is my adopted daughter, Margot Tenenbaum.”
Chaz: “Did you at least feel the characters were well developed?”
Royal: “What characters? It’s a bunch of little kids running around in an animal costume.”
“I’ve missed the hell out of you my darlings.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman.”
“Come on, let’s shag ass.”
“Oh that’s right, we’ve got another body buried here.”
“Hell of a damn grave. Wish it were mine.”
“I’m not talking about dance lessons. I’m talking about putting a brick through the other guy’s windshield. I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up.”
"Here are her credentials: She knows nothing about football. More importantly, she hates football. She's been counting down the weeks to the 2006 season the same way somebody looks forward to hernia surgery. It's not the sport as much as me. She knows I'm out of commission for the next 21 Sundays and 16 Monday nights. She also knows that my number of made/received phone calls quintuples during the season, which means she has to hear "the annoying voice," as she calls it.
(Note: Apparently my voice becomes 10 times more grating when I'm discussing football with my buddies on the phone. I'd like to think my voice is always grating, but she insists that it goes to another level during any NFL-related conversation. She describes it thusly: "It's like being trapped on an airplane next to someone who's screaming on a cell phone right before the plane's about to take off. Only it happens for three hours a week from September to January." I'm not saying this is true or untrue, but she believes it, and that's the important thing.)"
Steph understands Mrs. Simmons' pain.
Non-football related posts to come this weekend.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
- I personally was not "roused" by the introduction of Jerome Bettis.
- When they allow the players to introduce themselves at the beginning of games they all follow the format of "Name, Position, College." Like "Chris Chambers, Wide Reciever, Wisconsin Badgers." It's gotta be real embarassing when the player has to use his high school instead of his college.
- On that note, what would Maurice Clarett have said? "Maurice Clarett, Running Back, The Ohio State University that paid me, then stabbed me in the back, and then I went out in a bullet-proof vest to go hunting people with hatchets." I bet he wouldn't say that.
- Let's just remember this about Charlie Batch: he was supplanted by Joey Harrington. And now he's starting for the Super Bowl Champs.
- Something for the non-football fans out there: I've done a lot of thinking and at this point in the year, Gnarls Barkley is my favorite album thus far this year. Expect a full write up from yours truly. I know you're all a titter.
- Hmmm...let's see, what saddens my heart most? A) The Patriots winning several Super Bowls with the Browns' ex-coach, B) the Baltimore r*vens winning the Super Bowl with the Browns' ex-team, or C) the Pittsburgh Steelers winning the Super Bowl with the Browns ex-assistant coach?
- You know what this world needs? More inspirational football movies. Thank you, The Rock.
- Wait a sec, Peyton and Eli Manning have an older brother who’s not in the NFL? His father was an NFL Quarterback. Both of his brothers are NFL Quarterbacks. I don’t care who you are or who your family is, there is no one in more hell at Thanksgiving than the eldest of the three Manning boys.
- Well, it’s half time so here’s tonight’s bonus feature at Dear Mr. Supercomputer: What if....?
Steph and I were talking on the way to her work tonight about how right George W. Bush was when he said that Americans are “addicted to oil” and subsequently how Bush has done everything to “support the habit.” I posed one of those wonderful, unanswerable “What if…?” questions: What if Al Gore had been elected?
(Note: yes, I realize that according to many standards he was elected, but rather, what if he were the one in charge the past six years?)
I’d be willing to bet that we wouldn’t be at war right now, which is just a phenomenal mess of catastrophic proportions. I’d be willing to bet that Katrina would have been just as much of a debacle, maybe more so. The tech-bubble still would have burst and it’s possible that the economy wouldn’t be as strong as it is.
I do believe that we’d be way farther ahead of the game as far as renewable energy goes. We’re basically at the same point as far as our “addiction” goes that we were six years ago, maybe worse with the Rise of the Suburban Assault Vehicles. Because it appears that it’s the only thing that Al Gore cares about, it appears as if he’d get this one right. Whereas GWB still maintains that we need to “continue looking into global warming,” so as to determine what is man-made, it’s clear that Al Gore would have done something about it by now. I mean, he made a movie after all.
No, I’m not saying that Al Gore would have been a great president. But when it comes to the environment, which to me is the only issue that will have an impact 50 years from now, I think he’d have been much better.
My name is gk, and I approved this message.
- Aaaaand we’re back. Never let Peter King appear on TV again.
- I have been instructed to give a shout out to Anibal Sanchez. So here it is.
- Boy, we sure do take football seriously in this country. I can start to see why Steph hates it so much. Just for the record, I totally hate it too.
- Now, I remember the biggest problem I have with the NFL: start times. You start at 9 ET, you end well after gk’s bed time. Hope you all enjoyed.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
So why have I decided to hop on to the bandwagon three plus years into the phenomena?
I find myself thinking a lot. These are mostly random thoughts, often depending on what I’m doing/watching/being yelled at for. For instance, when I think on Sunday, it will probably be about politics because I watch This Week With George Stephanopolis followed by Meet the Press followed by my wife mocking me for watching said programs. When I think on Saturday it will probably be either about baseball and how sick to death I am about how Fox Saturday Baseball always and exclusively shows the Yankees.
Steph has recently begun working Weekend nights. This means a lot of Friday and Saturday nights at home keeping an ear out for Addy while re-watching movies and drinking alone (always a good combo, right?). Tonight I’m watching The Royal Tenenbaums and drinking Moosehead, which is probably my favorite movie ever and favorite beer ever. Kudos for me.
I certainly hope it’s not arrogance that is driving me to catalog my thoughts. I mean, heaven forbid any of my thoughts get lost to the ravages of time, dissipating off into outer space along with the 94.7 J.B. and Sandy Show. I would like to think that my thoughts have value in and of themselves. Even more so, I would like to think that any discussion that they prompt would have even more value. Still though, isn’t the purpose of every personal blog a little self serving and pretentious? We feel as if what we are doing and feeling is so important to put it on public display. We leave a comment section so as to receive affirmation that what we do, say, and think is important.
Here’s the thing though: the most successful blogs have a focus. Whether it’s about a struggle over cancer, politics, or a baseball blog, those are the ones that I continually go back to (note: deadspin.com is the greatest site the World Wide Web has ever seen).
Most blogs serve as simply a way to keep up with friends. And that’s an excellent thing. It’s just not me. This blog will not be about my life and the highs and lows and the minutiae of what it’s like to be me. I’m not often going to tell you what I did today, I’m going to tell you what I thought today. This is certainly not a diary. Diaries are to be naked, brutal, and private. Knowing that people will read your thoughts will invariably alter those thoughts. It’s like Schrödinger's Cat.
Maybe it is arrogance. Not only do I enjoy reading my old thoughts from years past, I’ve seen the jolt of excitement that runs through my wife when she gets a comment. Also, in order to comment on deadspin.com you either need to be invited or have a blog of your own, preferably with the occasional sports reference – more to come on that.
So what to expect? A quick but not an exhaustive list of things you’ll read about here at Dear Mr. Supercomputer: music, fatherhood, the state of Cleveland sports, my disdain for reality television, politics, education, priceless Scoop Jackson quotes, random links that I find funny and/or interesting, movie reviews, sleep deprivation, why flying is among the worst experience anyone can… well… experience, and a dash of spirituality.
I am not ashamed: I hope to be funny, thought provoking, and generally what you would hope for from a first date. I hope to receive comments. It will be moderately stream-of-consciousness, but it will be edited to achieve maximum impact.
I sure hope I can keep up with this blog. One of my characteristics that just makes me so awesome is that when I do something, I like to go all out. Whether it’s in my job, or my fantasy baseball team (which is abysmal at this writing), I like to throw myself into something. To be honest, I don’t do a whole lot, but what I do do, I want to do very well. And if it doesn’t stick, I don’t do it.
I hope this blog sticks.
And now, my first post.
I figured there would be no better place to start than with the reference of the name: "Dear Mr. Supercomputer. "
At the risk of overedatorialising, Sufjan Steven’s recent release, The Avalanche, is in itself a projection of what independent music is becoming.
In 2005 Stevens released Illinois, a sprawling, 20 plus track, 75 minute epic album with overlong song titles, all based in Illini history, culture, and folklore. You would think that 75 minutes would be enough. It turns out that Stevens had another 70 plus minutes in him and therefore released The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from Illinois.
Normally, albums such as this feel like a B-sides collection: the stuff that wasn’t quite good enough to be on the original album. Or when they try to disguise the fact that it was the throwaway material, such as Radiohead’s Amnesiac was to Kid A. On Avalanche, however, the tracks are just about as strong as the ones on Illinois. Granted, there isn’t the coheasiveness and overarching theme of redemption, but if you were to replace any of the Illinois tracks with one from Avalanche, you wouldn’t know the difference.
The album begins with the title track, which begins softly enough, but eventually becomes a wall of sound of halting strings and a rousing mantra. The following track, for which this blog was named, is as strong as any track on any Stevens album. In 7/8 time, Stevens asks questions of humanity over the rhythm of a computerized keyboard. From that point on, the tracks touch on everything from the historical influence of politician Adlai Stevenson, the insight of author Saul Bellow, and Stevens’ particular forte: random, folklorish events from rural and mid-level towns.
It is almost as if each track begins with a basic line or melody and Stevens continues to add layer after layer of instrumentation until it can barely hold the weight. And this is why the album is a microcosm of independent music.
Technology, particularly recording technology has gotten to the point where any schmuck with a computer can write a song and save it on the computer. When the right time comes, a layer of instrumentation can be recorded, generated, or hell, even emailed into the track. Lush production is no longer reserved for the major record labels. Rock is no longer solely for guys with braggadocios egos and overcompensated inferiority complexes. You can be an introspective literature major and wind up on top 10 lists across the country. All it takes is someone with Stevens’ knack for hearing multiple melodies from one basic chord progression. In “The Henry Buggy Band,” Stevens introduces the basic guitar riff and melody and by the time the refrain hits, there’s a resounding call by a supposed chorus.
Stevens was able to create a strong, lengthy album from what were basically his leftovers. He reworked the songs, added to them, changed them, and even offered three different takes on “Chicago.” While Stevens is clearly an acclaimed songwriter and a musical madman, The Avalanche shows us the incredible sound that can be produced, so long as you have the creativity. A-