sand is overrated

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

Monday, October 30, 2006

a lack of updates

dear blog,
i am writing to apologize to you for the lack of attention i have given you in recent weeks. other obligatory commitments have conspired to draw my attention away from where i would most like to give it. it is not for lack of interest that i neglect you--it is simply the busy-ness of life. unfortunately it does not appear things will get any better in the next few weeks, so in the meantime i hope you will find a measure of comfort in these thoughts.

death cab for cutie : "a lack of color"
from the lp transatlanticism (barsuk records, 2003)
if you feel discouraged
when there's a lack of color here
please don't worry, lover
it's really bursting at the seams
absorbing everything
the spectrum's A to Z

my attention has been consumed recently by two aspects of my life that i find a bit tedious--school and work. they have turned my days into shades of grey, lacking in the color provided by the things i am most passionate about. but the feelings are still there, deep inside and waiting to be discovered anew. i know you will be there, waiting for me, when priorities are restored to their rightful order. because, well, you are a blog. but that makes me feel no better about not making the time for you now. you see, this is much more than something i want to do--it is something i need to do. i need to be able to find meaning where i didn't know meaning existed. i need to be able to understand the thoughts that run through my head at 3am on a tuesday morning. i need to be able to just bop my head and tap my foot when there is nothing left to consider. and i need to write it all down for you, because it helps me remember and, more importantly, understand. you help me to illuminate the colors of my life when the rest of the world seems to be shades of grey. and so for that, i shall return.

arcade fire : "neighborhood #1 (tunnels)"
from the lp funeral (merge records, 2004)
purify the colors
purify my mind
and spread the ashes of the colors
over this heart of mine!

p.s. with the mess that is ezarchive, i am at least temporarily (but probably permanently) switching over to fileden. i'm pretty sure i don't get the kind of traffic to necessitate more bandwidth than 5GB/month. one of the perks of being a small-time blogger, i guess. anyway, the rest of my links will be down for awhile until i have time to switch things over...or i may just cut everything else down and start from here. either way, i hope this works for now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

the last song you might ever hear

i'm playing intramural flag football with a bunch of my grad student friends this year, and during last night's game i caught a knee to my head. i didn't go to the doctor so i'm not sure if it technically qualifies as a concussion, but things certainly went black for a moment there. afterwards one of my teammates told my roommate not to let me go to sleep for a while, and i think my roommate was more freaked out than i was because when i was going to bed last night he asked me what time he should wake me up. i said..."what?" and he said, "yeah what--like 2am?" i just laughed and told him i was fine and not to worry about it (but thanks for looking out for me anyway, k-man!), but at the same time it got me "thinking" about what if i went to sleep and didn't wake up? i say that in quotes because i didn't seriously consider that i wouldn't wake up--i'm not a hypochondriac--but just to entertain my whims, as i picked my usual couple songs to fall asleep to, i made sure to pick something that i would feel comfortable with having as the last song i ever heard. i was so tired that i didn't spend much time thinking about it, but i still think i picked a good one. not my favorite song, not even my favorite sigur rós song, but just one to let me close my eyes in peace.

sigur rós : "heysátan" (mp3)
from the lp takk... (geffen records, 2005)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"sadie" or, the magic of music blogs

EDIT (11.05.06): links fixed, switched over to also, i finally got the milk-eyed mender in the mail and i just cannot stop listening to it. every time i listen, i find a new favorite song...currently it's a tie between "inflammatory writ" and "clam, crab, cockle, cowrie"

this is going to be a long one, but there are two highly worthwhile downloads contained herein. so relax, read, respond, and reproduce the path i've taken and you may find yourself with a new favorite song...

there's been an increasing amount of chatter lately in the music blog world about the legality of the whole enterprise. after all, many of us newer, less-connected bloggers are ignoring copyright laws by making songs available for download without permission. it's an issue that has been on my mind since i started this thing, as i do have a genuine respect for artistic license. but my intense desire to share the things that mean so much to me has caused me to brush aside the legal issues involved with doing this, armed only with a little disclaimer saying that all i'm doing is trying to promote the band. which is true. a few bloggers have taken the moral high road and decided to post only songs which are freely available or made available to them with permission from the appropriate sources (chad at ec,eu has an interesting post and discussion about it here). this is something that i would like to do too, and perhaps something that i may be forced to do in the near future. however, i just don't know how feasible it is for me now. i think the direction of my blog has tended towards the sharing of my own personal relationship with the music that i listen to, with my most favorite posts being the ones involving how particular songs or artists affected me in just the right way at just the right time at a particular moment of my life. that is something i cannot control, and i definitely can't control whether or not those songs happen to be legal to post here. but those are the experiences that mean the most to me, and mean the most to me to share. it's never been my desire to be the one of the cool kids, breaking unsigned bands or on the cutting edge of anything. i'm just a guy who loves music and sharing my own relationship with it.

jeff tweedy once said in an interview on the bob edwards show that it was difficut for him growing up, trying to navigate in a world that was so indifferent to his passion. that's often the way i feel, and when i stumbled across some of these blogs, i felt like i finally found some people who share this affliction with me. and being able to share these experiences with people who understand and know what it's like...that is what this is all about. so, for now i'm going to keep on the path that i've started on, with posts related to the ways in which music permeates my life and experiences. and i'll just keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't come down to me being forced to do this another way.

however, as an example of the way that these blogs and the current environment can work, i'd like to share the path that i recently took in getting to know joanna newsom.

  • over on the message boards i came across m. ward's cover of a song called "sadie", which i did not know at the time. as a huge m. ward fan, of course i downloaded that as quickly as i could.

  • i was immediately curious who the original was by, so i did a google search to find out that it was joanna newsom, and a quick search on the hype machine turned up a very nice post and the original song from awesome until proven guilty. now, i must say that the first time i heard joanna's voice, on the first few lines of "sadie", i was shocked at how unconventional, grating, childlike, etc it was. especially when compared to the silky smoothness of m. ward's version. but i'm glad that i kept listening the whole way through, because i couldn't help but develop a certain appreciation for how raw and honest her voice is. and the lyrics she writes are incredibly substantive, dense, and emotional--i was already amazed.
  • and all that i've got
    and all that i need
    i tie in a knot
    that i lay at your feet
    i have not forgot
    but a silence crept over me
    (so dig up your bone
    exhume your pinecone, my sadie)

  • i wanted to find out more about this song, so i found an interview she did with tiny mix tapes where she spoke about it in depth:

    TMT: One of my favorite and one of the most heart rending songs on your new record is "Sadie," is there a story behind it?
    JN: There are actually three stories; as with almost all of my songs, there's this recurring triumvirate structure that imposes itself without my even realizing it at first. The three subjects are always connected, but often in merely intuitive or symbolic ways. In this particular song, the most straightforward subject is my then-dog, Sadie, who passed on recently. She was a lovely white Labrador who liked nothing more in the whole world than to play fetch. And I've always been impatient about that; I'd look at the soggy pinecone dropped at my feet while I was trying to get into my car, and I'd say, "I'll play with you later."

    The second subject of the song is a friend, my age, who was diagnosed with cancer. I remember marveling at the reaction of people around me, the way they sprung to action, finally articulated to her their love and appreciation, finally made those lunch dates they'd always talked about...and I sheepishly include myself in this phenomenon. It wasn't disingenuous; it was just that our collective illusion, that we have forever to let someone know how loved she is, had been shattered.

    The third subject is one of my most beloved friends, whom I've grown apart from. We had this sort of running argument, or a running series of disagreements founded on the same fundamental points of divergence, and if we had been close at that point, talking every day or whatnot, then those disagreements would have seemed like nothing. But because our correspondence had fallen behind, and we'd developed insecurities and bitterness, these disagreements became all-consuming; we fixated on them, let resentments build around them, let a silence build between us. And I remember just having my breath taken from me in one sickening moment when I paused one day to imagine what I'd do if this friend fell ill with cancer, like my other friend. I knew that I would fly to be with her, stay by her side forever if I had to, and revel in her extraordinary rarity, intelligence, kindness, forget all the shitty stupid petty small points of contention between us, because they were so insignificant in light of our own inevitable mortality.

    So. Those are the basic subjects of the song. It's about all sorts of things, but I guess the main story is about death, love, putting things off...

  • this is exactly the thing that i love about music, when someone can write a song about such personal moments and experiences, and yet it still is relatable to everyone else. i was so struck by how articulate and intimate her response was, i had to find even more. so i looked up an in-studio set she did with chris douridas on kcrw's new ground last year, as well as an in-studio set she did with irwin chusid on wfmu. it was fascinating to hear her talk about how she became comfortable with her voice, the path of her musical journey, and the methods of her songwriting.

  • at this point i realized that joanna was playing a harp, so i searched youtube for videos of her and came across a live performance of "sadie". i cannot explain how amazing this video is, you just have to watch it for yourself. but the joy on her face--no, in her entire body--as she sings is beautiful.

  • after all that, i decided i had to buy joanna's most recent album, 2004's the milk-eyed mender, from drag city records. and i will surely be feverishly awaiting her next release, Ys, on november 14th.

so you see, that is how this is supposed to work. band fan sites --> the hype machine --> music blogs --> music websites --> public radio stations --> youtube --> buy the cd. see, it works. now i'm not so naive to think that everyone, or even a majority of people, do it this way. but i hope the record companies can realize that, for a lot of us, this blogging environment is a very good thing for record sales.

here are the songs:
m. ward : "sadie" (mp3)

joanna newsom : "sadie" (mp3)
from the lp the milk-eyed mender (drag city records, 2004)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

sufjan stevens : the wiltern, october 9, 2006

i just got home, it's 12:30am and i have to be up in five hours. but i know i won't be able to sleep until i get this out. so here goes.

the show, to put it simply, was amazing. sometimes the hype around a particular artist is so intense that it becomes impossible to not be let down upon finally hearing that song, buying that album, or seeing that concert. that's what i was honestly afraid of heading into tonight. i felt like my expectations were a little excessive heading into this show, so much so that i was worried that it couldn't possibly live up to what i dreamed it would be. but it was. it so was. and more. wow. pretty much everything about this show was perfect. from my brightest diamond playing an alternatingly beautiful and rocking set, capped off with a song by nina simone; to the atmosphere created by the 15-member band (my brightest diamond included) wearing an assortment of butterfly wings; to the myriad instrumental sections including strings and brass, guitar and banjo, piano and...what was that? a vibraphone?; to the acoustics and the lighting of the wiltern, which has never disappointed me; to the beautiful harmonizing provided by shara worden; to sufjan himself; this show was just perfect. he played a nice assortment of songs from 2003's greetings from michigan, 2004's seven swans, and 2005's illinois, including my favorite song of last year, "the predatory wasp of the palisades is out to get us!" and it is impossible not to like sufjan, for a more humble and gracious performer he could not seem to be. oh, and the other thing--LA fans tend to have a reputation for being disinterested, but this crowd tonight made me so proud. at the start of the performance, as sufjan prepared to play the piano, it was so unbelievably quiet you could hear a pin drop. that in itself speaks volumes about sufjan's importance and the attention that he commands (commands, but i get the feeling, does not crave). so, all in all.......WOW.

i wouldn't normally post this since it's still readily available elsewhere (i believe muzzle of bees was the first), but i need some traffic for a favor--to anyone who was there tonight: i was down in the pit but i forgot to retrieve my ticket stub after the show was over and, as someone who saves each one, i am absolutely heartbroken. i have the stub from nearly every show i've been to, and to think i wouldn't have this one is not sitting well with me. so, if anyone happens to have an extra stub or just does not care to keep theirs, i would be eternally grateful to you if you could send it my way. since i was down in the pit, i would prefer to get one of those, but any other location would also be okay. if you can help me i would be soooooooo grateful. i'll keep my fingers crossed......

what i wouldn't normally post is the new song he played tonight, "majesty snowbird". go to obscure sound for a nice read about the track. but since i really would like the traffic in my effort to get a ticket stub back, here it is:

sufjan stevens : "majesty snowbird (live)" (mp3)

thank you, sufjan, for what was far and away the best show i've seen all year



Sunday, October 08, 2006


tomorrow night is the last part of my singer-songwriter concert trifecta, with sufjan stevens performing at the wiltern. i've only been aware of sufjan since illinois came out last year, but in the time since i have bought everything i could from him. he is a remarkable artist, in terms of lyrics, his arrangements, and the sheer quantity of instruments that he plays. from the liner notes of illinois:

"sufjan stevens plays the following instruments: acoustic guitar, piano, wurlitzer, electric bass, drum kit, electric guitar, oboe, miriam's alto saxophone, sunmin's flute, daniel's banjo and/or matt's banjo, depending on which one was in tune), shara's glockenspiel, laura's rickety accordion, a rented vibraphone, various recorders (sufjan owns the tenor, soprano, and sopranino, but he borrowed monique's alto), a casiotone mt-70, sleigh bells, shakers, tambourine, triangle, and a baldwin electric church organ."

okay, so that might be a bit pretentious, as could be said of his supposed plan to record an album for all 50 states (he has completed two). and as could be said of his outrageous song titles ("the black hawk war, or, how to demolish an entire civilization and still feel good about yourself in the morning, or, we apologize for the inconvenience but you're going to have to leave now, or, 'i have fought the big knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!'", anyone?). but you have to give credit where credit is due, and this is one talented man. the other thing about sufjan that i find interesting is the religious overtone which sometimes marks his music. he has written many overtly christian songs with deeply religious lyrics, but he never comes across as preachy. i always feel that he is singing about what he believes in, and never what he thinks the listener should believe in. that kind of tolerance is what i think is missing from a lot of other christian music, making it unappealing to me. and i would also say that it's what i think is missing from a lot of believers, regardless of creed, and one doesn't have to look far to see the kind of effects that religious intolerance has on the world.

with that, here are some sufjan rarities:

sufjan stevens : "borderline" (mp3)
from the compilation comes with a smile, vol. 11 - hope isn't a word (comes with a smile, 2004)

sufjan stevens : "opie's funeral song" (mp3)
from the compilation mews too: an asthmatic kitty compilation (asthmatic kitty, 2006)

sufjan stevens : "the friendly beasts" (mp3)
from the compilation see you on the moon! songs for kids of all ages (universal music can, 2006)

sufjan stevens : "variation on 'commemorative transfiguration & communion at magruder park" (mp3)
from the compilation i am the resurrection: a tribute to john fahey (vanguard records, 2006)

EDIT 10.10.06 : what i thought of this show and a FAVOR -- to anyone who was there at the show: i was down in the pit but i forgot to retrieve my ticket stub after the show was over and, as someone who saves each one, i am absolutely heartbroken. i have the stub from nearly every show i've been to, and to think i wouldn't have this one is not sitting well with me. so, if anyone happens to have an extra stub or just does not care to keep theirs, i would be eternally grateful to you if you could send it my way. since i was down in the pit, i would prefer to get one of those, but any other location would also be okay. if you can help me i would be soooooooo grateful. i'll keep my fingers crossed......

Monday, October 02, 2006

swan lake, sunset rubdown, and the power of myth

really quickly about swan lake, since they've already been posted about so much on the internets--they are a bit of an indie "supergroup" comprised of dan bejar, spencer krug, and carey mercer; and their full-length debut, entitled beast moans, will be released by jagjaguwar records on november 21st.

i've taken a particular liking to the spencer krug-penned song "all fires" because of these verses:

there was a flood
a world of water
the mason's wife
swam for her daughter

one thousand people
did what they could
they found a steeple
and tore up the wood

five hundred pieces
means five hundred float
one thousand people
means five hundred don't

and i've said it before
and i'll say it again
all fires have to burn alive
all fires have to burn alive

i really like this last line and i'm guessing spencer krug does too, since, as he says, he has said it before: in the song "they took a vote and said no" from one of his other bands, sunset rubdown:

well there are things
that have to die
so other things
can stay alive
the fire burns
it burns to give
it has to burn, alive
to live

i find this idea of a fire burning alive to sustain itself particularly interesting because it is a concept that i have also found in the power of myth, by joseph campbell:

"now, one of the main problems of mythology is reconciling the mind to this brutal precondition of all life, which lives by the killing and eating of other lives. you don't kid yourself by eating only vegetables, either, for they, too, are alive. so the essence of life is this eating of itself!"

as with most anything, there a number of ways to interpret this concept. i think one of the most important distinctions between humans and all other animals is our ability to conceptualize our existence far beyond the immediate limits of sight. we are all capable of understanding the repercussions of our actions on the lives of others far away both in space and in time. the question then, is do we choose to consider, or do we choose to ignore, how what we do affects the world around us? i think the concept of this "all fires" precondition to life is helpful in remembering our place in the world. remembering that all living things must die in order for other living things to live makes me consider death as a sacrifice of the highest order, and makes me feel ever more grateful for my own continued life. everything we consume was once a natural resource, and so it makes me appreciate the value not just of my life, but also in the value of life in plants and animals, land and sea, space and time. (well, except that i still hate spiders. and bears. i mean, c'mon, bears are still the number one threat to america.) i think if we could all be more aware of these things, we all might be a little more conscious of how much we consume, how much we waste, and how our actions affect the world around us. i am not an extremist by any means--in fact today i just went out and bought some clothes that i probably don't need--but every little bit helps, so take a minute and think about your own life and the little things you can do to be a better steward of mother earth.

i hope that didn't sound too preachy, and thanks to anyone who actually read that whole paragraph. there are obviously a lot of other ways to interpret this, and i wish there was a way to find out what spencer krug had in mind when he wrote these songs. this is an idea that has stuck with me since i've come across it, so i'm sure i'll write about it again in the future. and if anyone else has their own reflections i would love to hear them.

swan lake : "all fires" (mp3)
from the lp beast moans (jagjaguwar, 2006)

sunset rubdown : "they took a vote and said no" (mp3)
from the lp shut up i am dreaming (absolutely kosher, 2006)

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

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