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.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

one more goodbye

as 2006 winds down to a close, i'd just like to say that these first five months of sand is overrated have been personally very rewarding and a lot of fun as well. i've had the good fortune of a meeting a lot of really interesting people who have helped draw me ever closer to this world we are all so crazy about. as the site continues to evolve and take shape, i hope that i can provide to some other people just half of what i get out of writing my own blog and reading all the other terrific ones out there.

looking ahead to the new year, i can't help but feel like i've picked the perfect time to get started in all of this, because 2007 looks to be an amazing year. upcoming releases include confirmed dates from the likes of the shins (1/23), norah jones (1/30), clap your hands say yeah (1/30), air (3/6), lcd soundsystem (3/20), grant-lee phillips (3/27), and bright eyes (4/10), as well as expected releases from arcade fire, the go! team, wilco, spoon, rilo kiley, and...radiohead. hopefully the weight of expectations won't kill too many of these releases for me, but regardless that is shaping up as one incredible lineup.

given my predilection for posting about m. ward, it is only fitting that he would help me as i say goodbye to 2006. he can't do much wrong in my book, and this seems like the perfect song to go out on. see you next year!

m. ward : "one more goodbye" mp3
from the compilation old enough 2 know better - 15 years of merge records (merge records, 2004)
one more chance before the end of the year
one more time for me to make my letters clear
well i found a pen and wrote these words in your ear
"one more goodbye"

one more chance to terrorize my aching head
reconsider in your soul what you read
well i found a crayon and wrote these words on your leg
"one more goodbye"

one more chance to throw your party by the lake
reconsider in your soul your mistake
well i found a match and wrote these words on your cake
"one more goodbye"

well i slipped and fell between the rocks and i got stuck
but i found a vine and i climbed my way up
and then i found some soap and wrote these words on your truck
"one more goodbye"

so i dreamed a train and away did i ride
well i cleared a place on that wooden floor where i could lie
and then i found a plane and wrote these words in the sky
"one more goodbye"

my final vision as i rattle down the track
as far away from me across the leaves and grass
i caught my guardian angel haulin' ass
"one more goodbye"

one more goodbye
one more goodbye

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

polar bear may get federal protection

all i can say is, it's about time.

from the washington post:
the bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the endangered species act, putting the u.s. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world's most recognizable animals out of existence.
because scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide from power plant and auto emissions is helping drive climate change worldwide, putting polar bears on the endangered species list raises the legal question of whether the government would be required to compel u.s. industries to curb their carbon dioxide output. [more]
this would be the first time that the bush administration has acknowledged the adverse effects of climate change on other species, and hopefully signals a change in the administration's long-standing (and completely absurd) denial of man's contribution to global warming.

although the severity of the polar bear situation is still uncertain, there is little doubt that their livelihood has already been affected, with substantial 20% drops in some populations. in a worst-case scenario, the national center for atmospheric research predicted that the summer ice sheets which polar bears use as a platform to hunt for seals could completely disappear in as little as 35 years. with less time to build up the fat reserves that sustain them through the winter months, reproductive rates and cub survival rates decrease, putting the animal at peril.

it's a shame that it has taken this long and the potential demise of such a high profile animal to spur this administration to change, but global warming is an issue that anyone can do something about. take a quick look at a few of these sites to see what you can do:

union of concerned scientists
an inconvenient truth
the epa's page on climate change

the clock is ticking on this issue, and every little bit helps.

thom yorke : "the clock" mp3
from the lp the eraser (xl recordings, 2006)
time is running out for us
but you just move the hands upon the clock
you throw coins in the wishing well
for us
you just move your hands upon the wall

it comes to you begging you to stop
wake up
but you just move your hands upon the clock
throw coins in the wishing well
for us
you make believe that you are still in charge

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

stomach flu + december 25th = the worst christmas ever

seriously. worst christmas ever. it was bad enough that i just could not seem to get into the holiday spirits this year, but then to have to suffer through the worst stomach flu ever as well? that's just plain mean. but that's okay. i'm over it.

the good thing about not having the energy to do anything the past couple of days was that i had ample time for music browsing and blog reading. i read all sorts of eulogies and remembrances to the late great james brown. and rachel at untitled put up a veritable feast of tracks that we won't quite call "leftovers" and which you'd best not be puttin' in no microwave. but the most time i spent yesterday was by far on charles' heartache with hard work. i'm surprised that it's taken this long for me to come across hwhw, and it was only because he pointed me his direction in a comment left here. but i make no exaggerations when i say that heartache with hard work is exactly what i would like sand is overrated to become, but infinitely better than i could ever hope to make it. there are personal connections smothered all over everything he posts, with thoughtful, thought-provoking, extremely well-written insights connecting music to everything important to him--ranging from politics to spirituality to relationships to, well, pluto. as with the best songs, every note has a purpose and every angle has a direction; there is nothing extraneous included in his posts, and there is no hidden agenda. it is just clearly the work of one man who feels the music he loves. seriously, if you haven't had a read, do yourself a favor and check out heartache with hard work. and did i mention that the music is incredible as well (see his top 30 albums for 2006)?

okay, that's me gushing like a little school boy with an elementary blog-crush...

and i know--it's now the day after christmas and this has been all over the internets already, but how could i not have this song in my head after yesterday? and hey, it's a past-tense christmas song anyway, so i think i'm good.

sufjan stevens : "that was the worst christmas ever!" mp3
from the box set songs for christmas (asthmatic kitty, 2006)

happy festivus...for the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

it's just a number...right?

i have a birthday coming up. next tuesday. sort of a big one. i have been pondering whether if i refuse to acknowledge it, will it still occur? if i really have to acknowledge it, can i go back a year instead of forward a year? is it possible to legally change my age?

along with the genes in my blood comes the blessed curse of never looking my age--i probably haven't looked my age since i was eight. i know i'll be grateful when i'm 40, but for now it's just a bit of an annoyance for people to always be surprised when i tell them how old i am. if i don't look as old as i am, if i don't feel as old as i am, if my friends are all 4-5 years younger than i am, why do i have to be as old as i am? at this point you are wondering...well, how old is he? well, since nobody ever thinks i'm as old as i am, i figure that gives me carte blanche to be as young as i can get away with. so if you ask me how old i am, i will ask you, how old do you think i am? and that will be your answer. i am only as old as you think i am...well, as long as you think i'm at least 21. deal?

in all seriousness, there are other issues coming along with this birthday that have taken up residence within my brain. when it comes to work and school, i have yet to find that moment of pure clarity that illuminates the desired path for seemingly everyone else. i like this niche that i have carved out for myself, and feel lucky every day to have the positions i do. but somedays there is that wonder, that curiosity, that feeling, that maybe i'd be a little bit happier doing something else. it's a struggle sometimes and one that i am feeling the need to resolve before it becomes overwhelming and all-consuming. the new year is just around the corner and perhaps with it will come a stroke of luck or a divine intervention. or, maybe i'll find some initiative on my own and take care of this matter for myself. in the meantime, is it naïve to say, "who cares if you don't know what you want"?

matthew sweet : "get older" mp3
from the lp 100% fun (volcano records, 1995)
who cares if you don't know what you want
'cause they don't know what they've got
and you cannot resist

get older
your memories won't slip away
and you'll be glad
when you get older
that you were happy for today

Sunday, December 17, 2006

2006 is overrated, part 3: albums of the year

finally, the third and final part of 2006 is overrated, my end-of-the-year lists (part one, part two). in retrospect, 2006 was a very good year in music. although i think it lacked a truly life-changing album for me, there were a lot of very good albums encompassing every aspect of music that i love. before looking at the best of those albums, there were a few that i hated to leave off my list and a few that i think might in time be considered among my 10 favorites of 2006.

just missed:
bob dylan - modern times
i really listened to this for the first time only a few weeks ago and was stunned. the more i listen to it, the more i love it, but i only have room for 10. maybe i should have done top 11...
cat power - the greatest
i loved this record from start to finish, so it was extremely difficult to leave off. maybe a top 12?
jenny lewis with the watson twins - rabbit fur coat
i also loved this one from start to finish. okay, top 13.

not enough time to know:
swan lake - beast moans
tanya donelly - this hungry life
portastatic - be still please
sparklehorse - dreamt for years in the belly of a mountain

not yet released in the usa:
lily allen - alright, still
the pipettes - we are the pipettes
memphis - a little place in the wilderness

with that, here is my list:

top 10 albums of 2006

arctic monkeys
whatever people say i am that's what i'm not

february 21

"a certain kind of romance" (mp3)
"mardy bum" (mp3)

the initial buzz surrounding arctic monkeys was so intense that i wasn't even interested in checking this album out when it was released in february. it wasn't until september that a friend gave it to me to listen to, and i don't think i put it down for two months. it is easily the funnest record i heard all year, extremely consistent, and with hooks galore. albums like this on the ipod make gym workouts absolutely fly by.

joanna newsom

drag city
november 14

"emily" (mp3)

when i first started putting this list together, ys was in my "not enough time to know" bin. good thing that it's taken me a few weeks to finish it. ys is by no means an easy listen, and the album's density made it difficult at first to engross myself in (save for "emily", which floored me on first listen). but over the past few weeks i have really begun to "get it". you can find all the superlatives and hyperbole you could ask for in other reviews of this record, and i would not be the least surprised if it eventually ended up in my top three. it's not higher than 9 for me now because i'm still in the process of absorbing it, but the epic scale, the personal themes, and the music itself--the artistry of ys--has become apparent and undeniable.

beth orton
comfort of strangers

february 7

"heart of soul" (mp3)
"shopping trolley" (mp3)

beth's previous release, 2002's daybreaker, received a lot of criticism for sounding tired and emotionally detached. perhaps as an attempt to rekindle that flame, beth completely stripped down her style, made a significant departure away from the electronica movement she has been so closely associated with, and delivered the best album of her career. with production by jim o'rourke and m. ward, comfort of strangers focuses squarely on the strength of her song-crafting, usually accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and piano. she has always had an unusually expressive voice, but the change in style allows a warmth and intimacy to emerge that carries the emotion in her voice far beyond the limits of her previous work. a sublimely comforting listen.

the submarines
declare a new state!

nettwerk records
june 20

"peace and hate" (mp3)
"brighter discontent" (mp3)

the songs on declare a new state! were written both separately and together by blake hazard and john dragnetti during the course of a break-up and the subsequent reconciliation. the album's sequencing is reflective of that process, as early songs express the turmoil and upheaval in the wake of the break-up. in "brighter discontent", blake writes of her realization that a home consists of not what is there, but who is there. the album turns on "hope", with john's assertion that he's "not giving up", and the final words of the album, "we're coming home", bring hope for what we already know is the conclusion to this story. as a direct product of a love, lost and regained, declare a new state! is an unflinchingly honest, emotionally raw, and altogether personal take on relationships falling apart and then falling back together.

the lemonheads
the lemonheads

vagrant records
september 26

"become the enemy" (mp3)
"baby's home" (mp3)

this one came out of nowhere for me, having not heard anything from evan dando in at least 8 years. evan has the two- and three-minute pop song down to a science, and adding the drums and bass of ex-descendents bill stevenson and kyle alvarez results in 35 minutes of pure pop/punk bliss. every song on this album is great, with the only thing preventing it from being higher on my list being a sort of emotional disconnect that i perceive between his lyrics and my life. imagining cutting an unfaithful lover in two with a shotgun blast is just not something i take to heart, but it sure is a shitload of fun to sing about it.

the elected
sun, sun, sun

january 24

"did me good" (mp3)
"biggest star" (mp3)

sun, sun, sun was released on january 24th, the same day that blake sennet's more well-known (and much lovelier) rilo kiley bandmate, jenny lewis, released her solo debut, rabbit fur coat. as the more accessible of the two, rabbit fur coat was much more celebrated, bouyed by the strength of lewis' simply undeniable presence. i liked both of these records, and for most of the year my preference probably leaned towards rabbit fur coat. however, in may i found myself in some relationship issues that needed some reckoning, and in the lyrical themes of sun, sun, sun i found a collection of songs that seemed to mirror my own situation, emotions, and desires. the level of coincidence was almost frightening at times, but those are the moments that i treasure the most in music, making this album indispensable to my year.

sunset rubdown
shut up i am dreaming

absolutely kosher
may 2

"us ones in between" (mp3)
"shut up i am dreaming of places where lovers have wings" (mp3)

this one is tough for me to describe because i'm honestly not sure what it is about this record that i love so much. it certainly has a fair amount of peculiarities, from spencer krug's voice to the extremes in diversity of style from one song to the next. but i am certainly on the spencer krug-appreciation bus, with everything he touches seemingly turning to gold, and despite the peculiarities the album had a cohesiveness and likability that i could not stop listening to. krug has quickly become one of the most talented lyricists in music, with many songs bearing philosophical content that is endless fun to deconstruct. the last song of the album, "shut up i am dreaming of places where lovers have wings", provided me with a soundtrack to a drive through a tunnel in monterey, unearthing all sorts of buried instincts and suppressed fear that i wrote about in one of my earliest posts.

neko case
fox confessor brings the flood

march 7

"margaret vs. pauline" (mp3)
"star witness" (mp3)

i wasn't familiar with neko case until i heard "hold on, hold on" on kcrw in march. the buzz around this album was favorable and so i took a chance and bought it. nine seconds into "margaret vs. pauline" i understood what the fuss was about--that voice. oh, that voice. if there is a fuller, more beautiful, or more amazing voice in rock music i have yet to hear it. the album is thematically diverse, touching on everything from fate and faith to love and relationships, with complex, sometimes cryptic lyrics that effortlessly ripple off her lips:
ancient strings set feet a'light to speed to her such mild grace
no monument of tacky gold they smooth her hair with cinnamon waves
and they placed an ingot in her breast to burn, cool and collected

m. ward

merge records
august 22

"poison cup" (mp3)
"post-war" (mp3)

on first listen, the first six songs off post-war struck me as one the greatest first halves of a record that i had ever heard, this year or any year. so why is this number 2? my initial reaction to the last six songs was mostly indifference. despite jim james' presence, "magic trick" didn't catch my attention, "roller coaster" seemed kind of bland, and "afterword/rag" was just a little strange. having spent a lot more time with it, though, i developed an utmost appreciation for the album's second half--especially the quiet solemnity of "today's undertaking" and the m. ward-signature guitar style of "eyes on the prize", but also including the aforementioned three songs. the more i listened the more i thought it might be my favorite album of the year, and the number of m. ward-related posts on sand is overrated certainly would have suggested it, but in the end my initial feelings weighed heavily in marking its consistency, which ended up being the deciding factor.

camera obscura
let's get out of this country

merge records
june 6

"let's get out of this country" (mp3)
"the false contender" (mp3)

given how frequently i have featured mr. ward in this space since i began in august, it is probably a monumental surprise to anyone who is remotely familiar with sand is overrated that post-war was not my favorite album of the year. that it was not only speaks volumes about how much i loved let's get out of this country. from the opening organ of "lloyd, i'm ready to be heartbroken", to the closing trumpets of "razzle dazzle rose", to absolutely every second in between, this album was everything i love about music. producer jari haapalainen was enlisted to give the album more of a sheen and an edge than the band's previous two, but the infectious melodies and pristine vocals of tracyanne campbell betray the common lyrical themes centering on the various states of lost love. the depths of despair never sounded quite so heavenly.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

2006 is overrated, part 2: tracks of the year (1-12)

continuing on with 2006 is overrated, part two spotlights my twelve favorite tracks of the year (part one, with tracks 13-20 and my favorite concerts of the year, is here)

tracks of the year (1-12)

the elected : "did me good" mp3
from the lp sun, sun, sun (subpop)
on an album full of songs that i saw myself in, there was probably one or two others that i related to just a little more than "did me good". the reason i loved this song was the second verse, which features some gospel-like choral singing as blake sennett does his best revivalist impersonation:
and i know that you'll come back
'cause i have seen that other man
and baby--he ain't doin' you no good!
the submarines : "peace and hate" mp3
from the lp declare a new state! (nettwerk records)
i'm a sucker for songs about relationships, especially when they involve male/female vocal duets where the verses alternate as if it is perfectly normal to have a conversation in song. the fact that john dragnetti and blake hazard actually lived this tale makes it all the more compelling.

jenny lewis with the watson twins : "born secular" mp3
from the lp rabbit fur coat (team love)
i could listen to jenny's voice for eternity, especially with the voice of a watson twin perched on each shoulder, sounding as if they are descended from heaven. but i don't know how many times i listened to this song just to listen to the incredible drumming exhibition given by jason boesel to close the last two and a half minutes.

arctic monkeys : "a certain romance" mp3
from the lp whatever people say i am that's what i'm not (domino)
the whole chav culture thing is a bit of a mystery to me, but i love the way this song finishes off the most fun i had listening to an album all year. some splintering guitars, a bass line that sticks in your head for days, and lyrics about loving the music instead of the image.

tanya donelly : "world on fire" mp3
from the lp this hungry life (eleven thirty)
three things make this song for me: 1) the lines "the world is on fire / so how am i still in the dark / i see you there too / you're low in your shadow / but lit by the passing of sparks"; 2) the way the line "you know for now i'll just let that one slide" (0:52) rolls off tanya's tongue; and 3) the way that tanya, herself an artist, expresses the kind of love for another artist's song in much the same way as i would, through the personal connection she has created with it:
i want in on lucinda's "sweet old world" if it's there
i swear to god there are days that song is what gets me out of bed
joanna newsom : "emily" mp3
from the lp ys (drag city)
i haven't had enough time yet to really know how much ys means to me, but just a single listen of "emily" was enough to convince me how incredible this song is. at more than 12 minutes it is certainly ambitious and fraught with pretentiousness, but joanna ably carries the song from start to finish. i love these lines
that the meteorite is the source of the light,
and the meteor's just what we see;
and the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee,
and the meteorite's just what causes the light,
and the meteor's how it's perceived;
and the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void, that lies quiet in offering to thee.
neko case : "star witness" mp3
from the lp fox confessor brings the flood (anti)
the voice. that is all that needs to be said about this song, about a gang incident that occurred in front of her in chicago, and the indifference that is afforded to the event in the name of race. the voice carries the song and instills emotion in characters that she does not even know. listen for the words of the mother, "please don't let him die", at 3:42.

camera obscura : "let's get out of this country" mp3
from the lp let's get out of this country (merge records)
when tracyanne campbell "feels like getting confessional" about her unhappiness--with her current environment, her inability to see what everyone else sees (the bee's knees), and her nagging self-doubts--she does so in one of the more upbeat songs on the record and makes me think, "you too?"

sunset rubdown : "us ones in between" mp3
from the lp shut up i am dreaming (absolutely kosher)
as a whole, this is lyrically my favorite song of the year. but what truly made this song for me was the unofficial video produced by dan at said the gramophone, in which a brilliantly simple idea perfectly captures the essence of the song.

beth orton : "heart of soul" mp3
from the lp comfort of strangers (astralwerks)
on every one of her records there is at least one song where the emotional resonance in beth orton's voice runs white-hot, and this is that song from comfort of strangers. the references to neil young are nice, but her delivery of these lines at 2:28 was my favorite vocal moment of the year:
and you, you look at me in disbelief
like you could teach me god
when all of a sudden i'm consumed by love
and you, are all lighting up
with your heart of gold
and everything we touch just turns to soul
swan lake : "all fires" mp3
from the lp beast moans (jagjaguwar)
i didn't have enough time with beast moans to really consider it for my albums list, but luckily jagjaguwar released this track well beforehand. and with good reason. the imagery alone is worth the price of admission, but i latched on to spencer krug's recurring theme of the consumption of life to sustain itself. the philosophical ideas that this encompassed were fascinating to me and became material for one of my favorite posts.

m. ward : "poison cup" mp3
from the lp post-war (merge records)
this was a no-brainer for my favorite song of the year. everything about this song is perfect. ward's haunting voice kicks off the song as he counts off "one..."; some gentle strumming on the acoustic guitar is quickly joined by exquisite violin strings; and then exactly halfway through the drums kick in to switch the tone of the song from a plaintive longing to a confident rapture; all of this accompanied by the simplest expressions of love and desire. i could not ask for a more perfect song.

tune in tomorrow for my favorite albums of 2006!

Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 is overrated, part 1: tracks of the year (13-20) and concerts of the year

here is the first of three parts of my 2006 is overrated end-of-the-year-lists. part two, tracks of the year (1-12), comes tomorrow; and part three, albums of the year, will run on sunday. enjoy!

tracks of the year (13-20)
i had hoped to provide comments for each of these tracks but i've run out of steam under the sheer weight of this whole undertaking.

loose fur : "the ruling class" mp3
from the lp born again in the usa (drag city)

damien rice : "9 crimes" mp3
from the lp 9 (vector recordings)

frank black and the catholics : "take what you want" mp3
from the lp snake oil (itms exclusive)

belle & sebastian : "sukie in the graveyard" mp3
from the lp the life pursuit (matador records)

joseph arthur : "black lexus" mp3
from the lp nuclear daydream (lonely astronaut records)

the lemonheads : "become the enemy" mp3
from the lp the lemonheads (vagrant records)

cat power : "the greatest" mp3
from the lp the greatest (matador records)

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

tracks 12-1, with meaningless comments, coming tomorrow in part two

concerts of the year

sufjan stevens : the wiltern theatre (october 9, 2006)

this was easily the best show i saw all year. from my post that night: 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.

beth orton : the avalon (july 31, 2006)

from my august 16th post: this was the third time i'd seen beth live and the second time this year. she played a show in march, also at the avalon, during which she struggled a bit with her voice on account of a chest cold. this time she was healthy, in great spirits, and her voice was flat-out amazing. she played mostly songs off her most recent album, comfort of strangers, with her band for about an hour, came back with them for one encore, and then came back out by herself with her acoustic guitar for a second encore. she asked for requests from the audience and played songs from all of her albums, including crowd favorites "sugar boy", "someone's daughter", and "stolen car". her personality is a joy, both silly and engaging with a hint of over-gracious shyness. all in all, it was a great show and probably my favorite one so far this year.

foo fighters : pantages theatre (august 29, 2006)

from my august 30th post: "are you guys ready? i am." was the way dave grohl prefaced the evening, solo in the spotlight, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. the crowd hushed as he quietly played in your honor album closer "razor", towards the end of which the full band joined him on stage and promptly kicked the song into high gear. the music was perfect, the lights were perfect, the crowd was perfect. this was going to be goooooood. it's difficult to think sometimes that, at one point, dave grohl was known only as "the drummer for nirvana". he has so successfully reinvented and, purposefully or not, distanced himself from those years, beginning of course with the switch from drums to guitar, that you can't help but be amazed by how much talent this guy has. he is one of the most complete performers i think i have ever seen--he plays drums, he plays guitar, he writes good music, he writes good lyrics, he can sing the ballads, he can scream the rockers, he's engaging, funny, and witty, and, through all of that, still comes across as completely genuine and down to earth. he just loves what he does. and it was all on full display last night. i have to admit--i'm not a huge foo fighters fan and thus i was not overly excited to go to this show. but wow. i'm pretty sure it goes beyond the relative ease of surpassing low expectations, because these guys just sounded great. they were incredibly tight, every instrument seemed to be leveled perfectly, and they played a good mix of new songs and old classics. perhaps the only misstep of the night was when petra haden took the lead vocals of floaty, off the foo's self-titled debut. maybe it was just her microphone level was too low, but she just did not sound very good. add to that the striking difference in stage presence between her and dave grohl (although, to be fair, not too many people can match his stage presence), and it just seemed like a hiccup in an otherwise fabulous performance. i really hate to say that, because i was actually very excited to see petra perform. i was delighted when dave grohl introduced her and made note of her time playing with that dog, even though i think i may have been the only one in the audience who had any clue what he was talking about. but the song, with her vocals, just sounded, well, amateurish. ouch.

the absolute highlight of the evening though was the beginning of the encore, when dave came back out solo and told the audience that the great thing about these acoustic performances was that it gave him a chance to talk to the audience and tell some of the stories behind some of the songs. to my complete surprise, he then went into how he and his band were stranded in LA so many years ago and eventually got hooked up with kurt cobain and krist novoselic. it was fascinating to hear him tell about his initial reaction upon first meeting the two: "oh no....these guys are weird". it never really occurred to me until as he was telling the story, but dave grohl really only knew his two new bandmates for four years and, considering how vastly different the personalities seemed to be, it doesn't seem to have been as close of a friendship as i always seemed to imagine it. eventually, dave and kurt shared a one-bedroom apartment and when they weren't practicing it was, according to dave, hell. he took to writing songs on an acoustic guitar during those times and wrote a song about his two new friends, called "friend of a friend", that he put on the new foo fighters album. the best part about this whole sequence was that, after he had introduced the song and said "it sounds like this", the plug for his guitar malfunctioned. he tried it a few times ("it sounds like this...") and then finally a guitar tech came out to bring him another guitar, to which dave said "this tension right here is not unlike the tension i felt in that house". pure, spot-on brilliance...

and just in case you're wondering, these are the concerts i had to choose from:

death cab for cutie : uci bren events center (december 5, 2006)
jenny lewis with the watson twins

sufjan stevens : the wiltern theatre (october 9, 2006)
my brightest diamond

m. ward : the music box at henry fonda (september 28, 2006)

andrew bird : the music box at henry fonda (september 21, 2006)

foo fighters : pantages theatre (august 29, 2006)
frank black

beth orton : the avalon (july 31, 2006)

the flaming lips : hollywood bowl (july 23, 2006)
thievery corporation
os mutantes

camera obscura : the troubadour (july 19, 2006)

belle & sebastian with l.a. philharmonic : hollywood bowl (july 6, 2006)
the shins

pearl jam : great western forum (july 9, 2006)
sonic youth

neko case : the music box at henry fonda (june 23, 2006)
sonny smith

eels : the galaxy theatre (may 28, 2006)

kcrw presents a sounds eclectic evening : gibson amphitheatre (march 25, 2006)
death cab for cutie
franz ferdinand
ben harper
britt daniel

beth orton : the avalon (march 24, 2006)
willie mason

belle & sebastian : the wiltern theatre (march 19, 2006)
the new pornagraphers

stars : the avalon (february 11, 2006)
the elected

jenny lewis with the watson twins : vista theatre (february 2, 2006)
jonathan rice

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

kicking the bah humbuggery blues

given that the commercialization of christmas seemingly starts just after labor day these days, there is just too much time for the idea of a christmas mix to not become a tired, worn-out cliche. as such, i swore i would not partake in the festivities this year. bah. humbug.

however, given that this is my first holiday season with sand is overrated, i felt i would be remiss if i failed to post my one (one song doesn't make a mix...does it?) favorite christmas song, "winter wonderland." as best i can recall, the first album that i ever bought* was the first volume of a very special christmas. it was on cassette tape, and i must have been 10. when i was in second grade, i sang (quietly, so as not to actually be heard) in what i guess was the choir of my grade's holiday production. of some play. or something. (it was a long time ago!) but anyway, one of the songs that i had to memorize and sing (okay--mouth the words to) was "winter wonderland". so when i bought a very special christmas a couple years later, naturally this was one of the songs that i loved the most. (along with run-dmc's "christmas in hollis"--booya!...i don't think i can get away with that, can i)

anyway, "winter wonderland" has always been my favorite christmas song, and this version by eurythmics has always been my favorite version of it. i just the love the snaps and crackles, the synth-y 80's beats, and the purity of annie lennox's voice. it never fails to get me into the christmas spirit, something i sorely needed seeing as how christmas is less than two weeks away now.

eurythmics : "winter wonderland" mp3
from the compilation a very special christmas (a&m, 1987)

*with that asterisk, did you think i stole it? no, i didn't steal it, but technically, kick by inxs was the first cassette i ever bought. however, my brother and i bought that together and i happened to have the money at the store. he later assumed the tape for himself and forced me to take the money for it...bastard. ;-)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

memphis - a little place in the wilderness

a few notes:
first, in the interest of full-disclosure, let me acknowledge that i received this cd from memphis' record label, good fences, as part of a really nice package that included the sealed cd, a memphis scratchpad, and two pins. that said, i feel good about saying that my feelings about this album are unbiased and not influenced by how well the label treated me.

second, on that same note, it seems to me that this is really how record labels should work with the blogging community. in addition to how nice the package was, i was told by amelie at good fences that any tracks i wanted to post would be fine. sure it's true that positive treatment is more likely to result in a favorable review, but this kind of user-friendly attention can only help with the perception that we as consumers have of the labels we give our money to.

lastly, with the increased focus on my personal connections with music, which i wrote about yesterday, it might seem out of place for me to be reviewing a promotional cd like this. all i can say is that is just how much i am enjoying this album.

on to business

side projects can be an interesting phenomenon. when i first started listening to rilo kiley several years ago, i had very little appreciation for the songs on which blake sennett sang vocals. i saw them instead as simply obstacles in between the songs featuring jenny lewis, whose voice i found infinitely more appealing. but a strange thing happened this year upon listening to the releases put out by their respective side projects--i actually preferred the elected's sun, sun, sun to jenny lewis' rabbit fur coat, and it was not even close. it wasn't until i found him removed from the rilo kiley environment that i really was able to appreciate blake sennett.

memphis is the side project of torquil campbell, who along with amy millan is one of the voices of the canadian band stars. on stars records, the vocal duties are usually split between campbell and millan, with perhaps the best songs featuring both of them together in a vocal duet ("your ex-lover is dead"). but, much like with blake sennett in rilo kiley, i lacked a certain appreciation for the campbell-led stars songs. so i was naturally a little unsure of what to expect from a whole album of campbell tunes. sometimes i guess it just takes a change of scenery to give an appreciation of the individual parts of a whole...

the package i received from good fences was nice, but what really struck me was the artistry of the cd packaging itself. from the cover art to the liner notes, it is marked by minute details that provide the album with a contextual theme. i immediately popped the cd into my computer and sat down with the lyrics in hand. apparently i had never really paid attention to the lyrics in stars songs, because i was absolutely astonished at the quality of the words i read, each written by torq. the theme of the album centers around the processes of self-discovery within the framework of family, friendships, relationships, love, loss, death, sacrifice--of life, basically. the arrangements of strings and horns throughout the album provide beautiful backdrops to the stories that are told in each song, and chris dumont's guitar and james shaw's bass infuse songs like "in the cinema alone" and "i'll do whatever you want" with pure pop sensibilities.

for me the album highlight is track 4, "time away", a brooding tale of misadventure and misfortune as a dreamchaser is led astray, and the second chance that is afforded when he realizes that the home he has left is still...home. the instrumentation matches the weariness of the lyrics with a gentle bass, weeping violin, and a pedal steel offering an alt-country sorrow.

if there is one mis-step along the way, it is "a ghost story", in which torq's near spoken-word delivery of the vocals tries a little too hard to create a sense of haunting and foreboding. this is in stark contrast to the spoken-word delivery of torq's wife, moya, on "in the highest room", where a tale of self-sacrifice is told so matter-of-factly that there could obviously have been no other choice than to do everything for the one she loved.

a little place in the wilderness would definitely be considered among my top 10 of 2006 except for the fact that it has not yet been released in the u.s. but its strength and consistency will surely keep it playing for me well throughout 2007, so it definitely stands a chance of being among my favorites for next year. a quite welcome surprise for me, given my relative indifference to torquil campbell's work going in.

memphis is:
chris dumont and torquil campbell
official site

memphis : "in the cinema alone" (mp3)
from the lp a little place in the wilderness (good fences, 2007)
do you keep in touch with the one who killed you?
the one that made you start to dream your life away?
get on the telephone and tell her you're alone
and if she doesn't take you back
it's gonna stay that way

memphis : "time away" (mp3)
from the lp a little place in the wilderness (good fences, 2007)
the dreams that you had are forgotten
a diary left under a bed
and the light slanted in from the curtain
all the things written in there are dead...

memphis : "in the highest room" (mp3)
from the lp a little place in the wilderness (good fences, 2007)
and so like the pitiable heroes we always dreamed to be
i set a flame to your blue dress and you set fire to me
and in that golden instant you and i were both divine
i was saving your life and you were saving mine

Saturday, December 09, 2006

reflections, comments, and directions

the past three days have been an extremely introspective time for me and sand is overrated. i've been considering a lot of issues which i hope will help me to shape and transform this site into exactly what i wish it to be. what i've been thinking about can basically be broken down into what sand is overrated was becoming, what i wanted it to be, and how to make that happen. if i may, let me briefly explain what i've been contemplating.

in the four months since sand is overrated went live, my traffic has increased from about 150 hits in august to what would be a projected 10,000 in december. i say "what would be" because i have found that the statistics vary wildly from day to day, and i doubt that i will sustain the pace i have set during the first week of this month. i have found that traffic is almost solely dependent on two things--the frequency and the trendiness of the artists that i post. the quality of my posts and the time spent on writing them did not seem to correlate with traffic in the slightest way. noticing these effects, i realized i was almost forcing myself this past week to write something every day, and i was becoming fixated on choosing artists that i knew would be "hot" and generate a relatively large amount of traffic. this realization left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, for this was entirely untrue to my intentions and desires upon starting this place. so, i stepped back and tried to remember what it was that i wanted to create.

commercial radio and mainstream media have so far minimized the importance of artistic creativity and expressions of substance in music, instead embracing the high style and shiny appearances that are apparently embraced by the general public. my relationship with music runs infinitely deeper than that, and from the beginning, my intentions have always been defined by an underlying desire to express the relationships that i forge with it. it is an affliction of sorts, and one that most people are completely indifferent to. but those are not the people that i wish to read sand is overrated. nor am i seeking to draw the crowd that comes by only to freely download anything they can find, without pausing to read or consider what has gone into one of these posts. so this is an opportunity for me to reestablish my intentions, to share with you my own personal connections with music, drawing from my own experiences, and stimulate you to share your connections with me.

so what will change? well, probably not very much. to be honest, despite the tribulations of last week, i think i have done a very good job so far of resisting the temptation to post just for the sake of posting or for the sake of increasing traffic. but, i would like to make a more concerted effort to provide more of myself in what i'm doing here. ideally, every song would be accompanied by a personal story or experience that hopefully at least one other person will be able to appreciate or relate to. it may be that my posting frequency (and thus, my traffic) decreases--although i have a lot of ideas in the pipes that should keep me busy in the near future. but trying to hold myself to a higher standard, idealistic as it may be, is the only way that i am going to continue to get anything out of this besides the cosmetic satisfaction that comes along with exceeding 500 or 1000 hits in a day. if i can succeed in drawing a lot of traffic while still doing this the way that i want to do it, then great. if not, i will be satisfied as long as i remember my two rules for music blogging:
1) write about what you love
2) remember who you are doing this for
as a start, i'm finding a lot of these feelings i've had--veering off a chosen course, waking up in a strange place, and remembering where home is--reflected in radiohead's "lift". this would be an example of satisfying both my personal reasons for doing this and posting an artist and song that will, well, generate a lot of traffic.

radiohead : "lift (live)" (mp3)
this is the place
sit down, you're safe now
you've been stuck in a lift
we've been trying to reach you, thom

this is the place
it won't hurt, it will not hurt

a smell of recognition
a face you barely loved
empty all your pockets
'cause it's time to go home

this is the place
remembering all the things you always see

you've been stuck in a lift
in the belly of a whale
at the bottom of the ocean

a smell of recognition
a face you barely loved
empty all your pockets
'cause it's time to go home

today is the first day of the rest of your days
so lighten up, squirt

***** thanks to rachel for her advice and insight *****

sweet redemption

so, perhaps in response to my disappointment in seeing him with a full band in september (yeah...right), m. ward has announced a short burst of shows, solo and unfettered. and wouldn't you know it, he'll be playing february 2nd at the el rey theatre. sweet mother of juan carlos! presale tickets went on sale this morning through the very excellent ducatking ticketing distribution, so get them while they're hot!

tour dates:
jan 26 – new york, ny @ town hall theatre
jan 27 – toronto, on @ mod club theatre (19+)
jan 29 – chicago, il @ park west
feb 2 – los angeles, ca @ el rey theatre
feb 4 – san francisco, ca @ bimbo’s 365 club (18+) – no presale for this show

to buy tickets, go to:

i know, i know--m. ward again? i swear i can't help it if the guy is always making news to me.

m. ward : "post-war" (mp3)
from the lp post-war (merge records, 2006)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

blah... the feeling of the day. i've been contemplating a lot of blog-related issues today. a lot of the thoughts i'm having are going to lead to changes. but they still need time to percolate. before i can put them down to keyboard. in the meantime. this fits.

wilco : "woodgrain"
from the ep more like the moon (nonesuch, 2003)

i’m not a poet
and i know it
there is no deep secret
tossing inside me

i have no timing
i can’t form my feelings
sometimes i rhyme
sometimes i don’t

so go ahead, take a look at my kitchen
take a look at the woodgrain there
what’s it for? that hardwood floor
is where i’m walkin’ and thinkin’

walkin’ and thinkin’

about you

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

favorite song -- grant-lee phillips : "susanna little"

still on a bit of a grant lee phillips/buffalo kick lately, and the one song that i can never get past is "susanna little", off grant's 2004 solo effort, virginia creeper. he's always had a knack for sprawling, cinematic, song-based storytelling, but in my mind it doesn't get any better than this. grant is about half american indian and this is essentially the story of his great-grandmother, who he never knew, as passed on to him through his mother. musically simple, with a lone piano, hushed fiddle, and the harmonizing vocals of cindy wasserman, the story very much occupies the spotlight. grant's voice is also in top form, with a tremble and quiver laying bare the emotion and honesty of this intensely personal narrative.

grant lee phillips : "susanna little"
from the lp virginia creeper (zoe records, 2004)

susanna little
susanna little
gone 'fore i ever arrived
questions that stream through my own creek blood
the odyssey of your life

a motherless child, you were torn from your home
by decree of the county affairs
good christians, they gave you a lily-white dress
and shorn back that indian hair

told you study your bible, be silent and still
and take to the ways of the whites
but nothin' they offered could break down your will
for you ran for the gates one night

susanna little
susanna little
gone 'fore i ever arrived
questions that stream through my own creek blood
stories that keep you alive

your daddy, joe little, had woes of his own
drink was much stronger than greed
but some in the city felt native red hands
were no place to let rest a deed

oklahoma was rich with the stench of black oil
and the men who came there to drill
in the sun baked clay of indian lands
there in the desolate fields

susanna little
susanna little
gone 'fore i ever arrived
questions that stream through my own creek blood
songs that'a keep you alive

mysterious crimes, oh they swept through the county
waving the finger of blame
eyes turned to joe little
a couple too many acres of land to his name

no one would have heard the lone shot in the night
they never posted his bail
big joey little, he never walked out
of sheriff stanton's jail

susanna little
susanna little
gone 'fore i ever arrived
questions that stream through my own creek blood
the odyssey of your life

for all of the lives you had lived this far
no part of you could have known
the evil hearts of the men who would fetch ya
one night by the side of the road

the moon, it grew dark and the frost would form
before you finally were found
chained to a log in a torn white dress
shakin' wild eyed on the ground

susanna little
susanna little
gone 'fore i ever arrived
questions that stream through my own creek blood
such were the trials of your life...

yet in the years to come, you took a man
raised five of your own
and for a spell it was as almost as though
the light of justice had shown

the hand that had written this part but for you
and made it all plenty hard
gave you a gusher, a well spring of oil
there in your own back yard

so pile them kids in the plush back seat
ridin' shotgun in the packard to town
with your man, tom fisher, one hand on the wheel
the other on your knee now

susanna little
susanna little
gone 'fore i ever arrived
questions that stream through my own creek blood
the odyssey of your life

susanna little
susanna little
susanna little
susanna little


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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