The Awful Sounds of Yesteryear

Let’s get real for a minute: teenagers are the worst. They’re loud. And not smart. But they think they are. And most worst of all, they have terrible taste in music.

Now, this isn’t one of those things where I complain about the teenagers of today because I myself am slowly circling the drain of death of aging—this is more like one of those things where I look back realize that I was just as much a turd back then!

For example: I unironically wore a pooka shell necklace for at least a year and half. I yelled stuff at people from moving cars (a classic teenager tactic!). I also had pretty lousy taste in music.

I was poking around in a closet at my parent’s house the other day when I unearthed a crate of CD’s that I hadn’t seen since high school. Here are a few of the gems I uncovered:

LOL. OK, so I liked skate-punk back then. Lots of kids did. The thing was, I THOUGHT I had AMAZING taste in music. I LOOKED DOWN on other kids for listening to Creed or whatever! To be fair I also listened to a fair amount of classic rock, but these are a pretty good representation of what I jammed out to in my formative years.

I listened to these CD’s recently because I have nothing better to do. (JUST KIDDING I’M SUPER BUSY DOING IMPORTANT THINGS WITH VARIOUS IMPORTANT BUSINESS ENTITIES.) Here are my modern impressions of these albums using my fully-formed adult-sized brain:

The Vandals – Hitler Bad, Vandals Good: Hmmm. Not as bad as I thought it was going to be. These guys are funny and don’t take themselves seriously and have some catchy tunez. B-

Replay Potential: Not great! I mean, listening to a funny song about mullets is pretty cool, but I’m not sure I’m going to ever want to hear it again. My time is just TOO VALUABLE NOW.

Lagwagon – Let’s Talk About Feelings: Uhhh, guys? Is this supposed to be so SERIOUS? Like, these lyrics are pretty HEAVY and DEEP for a trifling punk band right? Whatever. This would be good music to drink Mountain Dew to while you play Halo or something. C-

Replay Potential: Very bad. If the replay potential was an orange it would be old and rotten. Evocative imagery, I know.

The Ataris – End is Forever: WOW WOW WOW. The lyrics on these songs are so cringe-inducing I am physically getting tired of cringing! My cringe muscles are tightening up! I mean, these guys must have at least been in their twenties when they were writing this stuff, so it’s even weirder that this stuff is so BARF. Here is a sample lyric:

I play in my band
and write a lot of songs
about relationships
and how mine went wrong.
maybe I’ll meet that special
girl along the way
then she’ll break my heart
and leave me crying.

HAHAHAHAHA. F

Replay Potential: If the replay potential of this song was a grape—eh, you know the rest.

NOFX – The Decline: OK, so this one I still sort of like. Granted, the political ideology that the band expresses is more or less that of a college freshman who just read Howard Zinn for the first time, but I still kind of dig it. HOWEVER, I would take sophomoric, jokey, NOFX over angry Political NOFX every time. B+

Replay Potential: Umm, pretty good probably. But only when I’m in my car alone.

The Depths of Human Apathy

So I got laid off last week. WHOA LIFE DRAMA!

Anyway, I only bring that up to further explain the story I’m about to tell:

This morning, I got up at about 9 and went to the gym. I came at roughly 10. I then showered ate lunch and commenced working on a new resume design.

To even further explain this story: I live in a house with 4 bedrooms, 2 of which are in the basement. My desk is in main room downstairs because my actual bedroom is roughly the size of a queen size bed. There is another bedroom downstairs and another dude currently resides there.

Here is some further background information on this dude that will add even more insight to this story: This other dude is 22 or something. He is still in college. He lives his life much like a feral caveman would if he were transported through time to our day. His room is essentially a pile of clothes heaped on a mattress on the floor. He adds nothing to the household. He is a living virus.

Up until this week, I was largely unaware of the other dude’s daily schedule. I knew he was still asleep in his room, however until 3 o’clock this afternoon.

Now, sleeping basically ALL DAY is not the behavior of a productive person, but I can understand that sometimes it happens.

Prepare yourself for the key ingredient of this story: At 3 o’clock sharp I heard this dude’s alarm go off on his iphone. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A SECOND. He PLANNED on sleeping until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Bear in mind that this guy does not have a job. He does not work a night shift or have any other excuse that normal people would have to sleep ALL DAY.

For some reason, the idea of some having to set an alarm to wake themselves up at 3 in the afternoon is hilarious to me. Like, they thought, “If I don’t set my alarm, I’m going to blow right through it and sleep until 5!”

The moral of this story: If you decide to sleep all day, at least PRETEND that it was spontaneous or your roommates will think that you are even lazier than you appear to be. 

My Favorite Books of 2011

Sometimes I feel like other people read books only so that they can tell people about the books that they read so that they can appear to be one of “those people” who read books.  Maybe that’s exactly what I’m doing with this list! Or not. It’s impossible to tell, really.

5. Cultural Amnesia by Clive James

I didn’t “read” this book so much as “read through” it. It’s basically a collection of short essays on the merit of various artists and intellectuals of western humanism. Cultural Amnesia is the sort of book that makes you feel smart for doing nothing. You can flip through it and instantly get a snapshot of the relative cultural importance of Norman Mailer or Sartre or whatever and then you feel like you knew it all along, but really you are the same old dummy, just an ever-so-slightly better read dummy.

You should read this book if: You have lots of friends with advanced degrees and you want to appear smarter than you really are so you can just leave it on your bookshelf and maybe they’ll see it and be impressed.

4. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Theodore Roosevelt is one of my favorite presidents for many reasons. He was a towering  and multi-faceted figure who built himself up from a sickly child of privilege to a swashbuckling pugilist, cow-puncher, fearless infantryman, and frontier lawman. He also housed an intellect that often gets overlooked in the wake of his other achievements. He was a prolific author and once wrote a biography of Oliver Cromwell just to pass the time while on vacation. He made contributions to the fields of taxidermy and ornithology and was one of the first major conservationists. In short, he was fascinating and awesome.

You should read this book if: You have the slightest interest in U.S. history/You want to experience the crushing realization that no matter how much you accomplish in your life, it will pale in comparison to any one year period of the life of Theodore Roosevelt.

3. How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll by Elijah Wald

The title of this book is completely misleading, but that doesn’t make it any less provocative. In reality, this book is about the fundamental shift that popular music took in the mid 20th century once recorded music supplanted live performances as the dominant form of music consumption. In short, Wald focuses on music that was actually popular from the 20’s to the mid 70’s and upends some long-held beliefs about the evolution of pop music. It doesn’t have THAT much to do with the Beatles. Anyway, it was good.

You should read this book if: You want to impress people at parties with in-depth knowledge about little-known big band leaders from the 1930’s.

2. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Steve Martin is a lot of things nowadays. Banjo guy. Playwright. Mediocre family comedy film impresario. He started of course, as a stand-up comedian, THE stand-up comedian of the 70’s really, who could fill entire stadiums with his bizarre and dadaist comedy stylings. I didn’t know much about his act until I read this book, which primarily focuses on the early days of his stand-up career. While I read it, I compulsively youtube’d the various famous bits he created and realized how much of an innovator he was for stand-up comedy in general. I mean, his stuff was WEIRD. And it was impossibly popular too, which compared to the highest grossing comedy acts of today (ahem, DANE COOK) just makes me kind of sad.

You should read this book if: You like laughing and/or smiling and feeling good.

1. Live From New York: An Uncensored Histroy of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

This one might not count because I’m not quite finished with it, but this is my list so butt out haters. (Just an FYI before you decide to hate: I let my haters be my motivators.)

I’ve always been an SNL apologist and have found that people who invariably decry the current version of the show to be THE WORST CAST EVER are simply pining for the version of SNL they loved when they started watching it at age 13. (Seriously in ten years time, today’s 13-year-olds will pine for Kristen Wiig’s antics and deem the future hover-cast as “turbo-lame.”)

ANYWAY, this book is incredible if you are remotely a fan of the show. It is a loosely structured oral-history of the show that lets you get a peek into the sometimes insane workings of SNL. Also, it’s like a thousand pages long so I’m guessing only fans of the show would have the patience to wade through the whole thing. The book focuses quite a bit on the early days of the show, which is fine because of the talent of the original cast and because nearly everyone involved in those days were massive drug addicts which makes for more interesting anecdotes.

You should read this book if: You have an extra 30 or 40 hours and like stories about people taking drugs and making a late night sketch comedy show.

My Favorite Songs of 2011

Hey remember how I used to sometimes write about music on this blog? And make exhaustive year-end lists? And how in reality absolutely no one cares about what kind of music other people like no matter how much they may feign interest? And when you make list of the “best albums of the year” you are somehow implying that you actually LISTENED to every single album released and are therefore able to objectively judge them against each other, which of course is IMPOSSIBLE?

So in that spirit allow me to indulge in a list of my ten favorite songs of the year. Mind you that a few of these were not released this year, but whatever man it’s my list.

10. Whiskeytown: A Song For You

This song has been on heavy rotation for me for what seems like many years, and I just don’t ever seem to get sick of it. Maybe it’s the layered instrumentation, or the plaintive lyrics (originally a Gram Parsons song), but this song just does something to the pleasure center of my brain. It…tickles it maybe?

You should listen to this if: You enjoy mid-tempo ballads/crying in public/staring wistfully at things

9. Wilco: One Sunday Morning

The new Wilco album was very solid, and to me this song was the standout track. Basing a 10 minute song on two chords and a simple riff is a very Wilco thing to do, but it pays off in this case.

You should listen to this if: You would like to be lulled into a hazy sense of satisfaction like when you take a nap after eating a large portion of mashed potatoes.

8. M83: Midnight City

In a year when vaguely 80’s synth rock became de rigueur (otherwise described as “Drive soundtracky”) this song achieves the impressive feat of not only not being annoying, but featuring a non-awful extended sax solo. Well played.

You should listen to this if: You were born in the 90’s but want to pretend that you remember the 80’s/You un-ironically enjoy gated synth drums.

7. Frontier Ruckus: Mona and Emmy

I have a theory that the easier it is to describe a genre of music, the harder it is to write a good song in that style. For example, everyone knows exactly what bluegrass is and therefore it’s pretty tough to write a good bluegrass song since the genre’s hallmarks are so rigidly codified. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this is just a really good folk-rock song in a world choked with mediocre ones.

You should listen to this if: You bought a bolo tie but are too afraid to wear it/You think the Oakridge Boys are criminally underrated.

6. My Morning Jacket: Holding Onto Black Metal

I say this as a fan, but My Morning Jacket are a weird band. They randomly vacillate between jam band antics, haunting southern rock, and space rock weirdness. This song falls firmly in the weird spacey rock category, but it’s got a vintage edge to it that I find delightful.

You should listen to this if: You like to rock, but not necessarily roll.

5. Radical Face: Mountains

Radical Face’s new album was fairly incredible and this track is just an example of the overall strength of the whole thing. I’m continually surprised at Radical Face’s (nĂ©e Ben Cooper) ability to build spine tingling climaxes with relatively rinky-dink woodshed production values. Good job, man.

You should listen to this if: The idea of a concept album following several generations of a fictional family doesn’t sound totally insufferable to you.

4. Ryan Adams: Ashes and Fire

Every time Ryan Adams releases an album I try to contain my expectations because I’ve been burned so many times, and honestly, this year’s Ashes and Fire didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding it as his “comeback record.” BUT, the title track is lovely. STRAIGHT UP LOVELY.

You should listen to this if: Just listen to it, OK? I’m tired of arguing about every little thing. Are you even listening to me?? Don’t look at me like that. I’m going to bed.

3. Ween: Flutes of Chi

I know I said My Morning Jacket is a weird band, but Ween makes them look like the Osmonds. However, Ween has their moments of transcendent normalcy, and Flutes of Chi is one of those. I like this song for a lot of reasons: it seems to calm and excite in equal measures and the melody is earwormy without being cloying. Also, I have to note that it’s 11 years old.

You should listen to this if: You like the smell of incense.

2. Wye Oak: Civilian

Wye Oak is an extremely likable band (a male/female duo! A cute blond singer!) that makes melancholic rock music, and the title track from this year’s Civillian is just outstanding. I sometimes wonder if shrouding lead singer Jenn Wasner’s voice in reverb is a good idea, but for this particular track it just works. IN SPADES!

You should listen to this if: You aren’t afraid of happiness.

1. El May: Hero

So, my most favorite song of the year is some random piano dirge by a no-name band. What gives? Well, this song is featured in a movie called The Baxter (it’s sort of a Howard Hawks-ish romantic comedy that is half parody and half warm-hearted homage to classic rom-coms) that I saw  this year.

ANYWAY, in the movie Michelle Williams plays a bookish, aspiring singer (Roger Ebert called her “as cute as two buttons”) who sings this song and it SLAYED me when I saw it, and therefore I formed some sort of weird attachment to it, even though I will freely admit it’s not the most dynamic song. I mean, I’m just being HONEST here. I could have picked a more hip song but I’m just being totally REAL with you guys.

You should listen to this if: Ummm, maybe you shouldn’t unless you see the movie first. Or do. Whatever. I can’t make all of your decisions for you.

Royal Mounted Fashion Police

It’s no secret that I like clothes and shoes and men’s “fashion” (whatever that means), which is kind of funny because 90 percent of the time I dress pretty crappy. Like, moderately crappy at least.

Anyway, since I tend to look at men’s clothing and fashion retail sites I get custom-served ads with men’s clothing offers on them. (KOOL! The internet wants me to DRESS BETTER. Thanks internet.)

The other day I saw an ad for a site called Indochino that sells custom men’s suits. Now, I’ve been to their site before and been mildly intrigued, but not enough to really LOOK AROUND. The difference THIS TIME though, was that the star of the ads was Phoenix Suns point guard and Canadian Steve Nash.

This was funny to me for a few reasons, mainly that Steve Nash is a weird-looking dude and one of the last people I would expect to appear in an ad for men’s suits. If anything he would endorse some sort of hair-thickener or hemp extract or something. (I’m not sure if it’s his Candianess, but I always figured that Steve was sort of a hippie.)

He’s advertising his own line of suits, which to be fair look like very nice suits! But the photos of Steve modeling those suits!! Yiiikes. Can you feel embarrassed for someone so much that it gives a physiological response, like a sneeze or something? Because if so I would be embarrassment-sneezing all over the place for poor Steve.

Where to start? I’m guessing they had the photographer talk to Steve and say something like: “Hey man, just be loose out there, you know, have fun with it.” And in Steve’s mind it came across as, “Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dances all crazy? Just do a slightly restrained version of that.” So you’ve got Steve shuffle-dance-posing all over the place, but they also made sure to put the collar of his suit up in every picture (presumably because one of the unique “features” of the suit is a custom-colored under collar) which is not a good look for anyone at all let alone bovine-looking Canadian point guards.

I guess my point is, don’t feel too bad for Steve Nash because he’s rich and successful. Wait, that wasn’t really my point was it? Now I’m not sure what the point was other than “look at these embarrassing Steve Nash pictures.” That seems like a good enough point for me.