Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks is Not Enough

To say there's a lot to be thankful for this year would be an incredible understatement. In addition to all things I've always tried to remain thankful for; health, family, love, and friendship, I have the most wonderful baby daughter to be thankful for. But thankful is not really a strong enough word to express how lucky I feel. They always say that you can't know the joy of having a child until you have one, and I suppose that's right. You can also never understand the responsibility that comes with it until you have one. It changes your life to be sure, but changes it for the better, and for that, I'm thankful.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

It's the weekend once again and to nobody's surprise, I've been listening to music this past week. It was another exciting week of new discoveries thanks to Bandcamp, as well a few much anticipated releases finally making their way through my speakers. As I continue to push through the final days of my rewrites, this list is clouded with many mood pieces used to help me remain focused. Given the dark nature of my work, this tends to be a gloomy collection, but sometimes gloom is good. I know that I always find a good piece of gloom to be relaxing. Enjoy.  

Kurt Cobain - Montage of Heck: To say that I've been anticipating this album would be a drastic understatement. This deluxe package of recently found Kurt home recordings is a bit of a Holy Grail, or rather, the bottom of the barrel of the Holy Grail. I've read a lot about how this is awful, how Kurt would never want this stuff released...and perhaps that's true, but it doesn't make it awful. Anyone expecting a fully formed Nirvana album would be foolish to pick this up. But for anyone, like me, who has an entire shelf of Nirvana bootlegs, this is a completion of all the bits and pieces that you never knew were floating out there. These are rough demos, but  I've always enjoyed Kurt's rough demos. His creativity shows through even in the rawest form. I love the sound of his acoustic guitar rambling on these tracks. The cover of "And I Love Her" is worth the price of admission alone, not to mention a wealth of other tracks. A true must have.

The Legendary Pink Dots - Come Out From the Shadows V: Yet another archival release from the experimental psychedelic UK band, this time a live performance from 1993. This is perhaps the most striking one of the lot that I've heard so far. This is Pink Floyd's "The Man & The Journey" filtered through a William Burroughs crafted lens, creating the eeriest of stories. Brilliant guitar work on this one, especially on "Golden Dawn." An absolute must for fans, or anyone into intense neo-psych. 

K Mason - K Mason 3: Instrumental experimental music from Australia. As the title suggests, this the third release from the duo. This is expansive guitar with metered electronic that keeps everything contained into very organized and intriguing soundscapes. The guitar work reminds me a bit of Neil Young's drawn out bits on songs like "Down by the River" only with more freedom in the way it wanders. This is another Bandcamp find, and another great mood record to listen to while I write. Certainly worth checking out if you're into this kind of music.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Pish: The San Fran psych band's resurgence continues with the release of newest album last week. Incorporating a Ride style of shoegaze, they expand the moodiness of their music, creating yet another near masterpiece of catchy weirdness. An amazing cover of The 13th Floor Elevators "Dust" shows their unique ability to own every sound they make. Possibly their best album, and certainly their best since their heyday. It's just a marvelous short record that never hits a down note. Truly a must have for fans.

Jordaan Mason - Homespun: The second album this year from the Canadian singer songwriter follows the phenomenal Decline of Stupid Fucking Western Civilization that was released last winter. Unlike his previous albums, this one is all instrumentals. Each track showcase his talent for creating peaceful meditative spaces for the listener, and this is among his most complex work yet. His songs often say a lot, he's a powerful lyricist, and while I miss that aspect of his songwriting on here, these songs certainly manage to say a lot. Certainly worth a listen for fans, or for anyone that's into ambient folk.

Abakus & Aokid - Deep Street Sounds: This British hip-hop duo released this blazing short album a few months back. Blending jazz with deep trip-hop beats, this is one of the most original hip-hop albums I've heard in a long time. Mellow beats with a hard-hitting flow make a perfect combination for this conscious hip-hop that is part throwback, part futuristic. Pure art of easing stuff this is. Respect.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thinking in Scenes

It's been a productive series of several good writing days as I near the completion of the latest draft of my new novel. I've been rewriting the climatic last third of the story, delving in some nightmarish depths of the imagination to harvest the kind of creepiness required to bring it all home. As I've been chugging along, I've once again been reminded of the importance of thinking of a story in scenes. When it comes down to it, storytelling is a series of scenes. One needs to flow into the next, while each must serve its own purpose. The scenes stack up like a block tower, supporting and building on each other. Envisioning it that way has really helped me construct something that I'm proud of. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

This was one of those weeks where I found an album that I didn't know existed and it totally blew me away. I love those weeks. Of course, it's an album I probably should've known about, so I'm not sure it truly counts as one of the epiphany discovers of my lifetime, but I'll still rave about it anyway. Other than that, it was another week of trolling through Bandcamp to find new and interesting things to listen to while writing. In that regards, it was a smashing success. Definitely a week of gloomy albums, which matches the mood of my story, and the weather. Music should always match the weather. Hopefully you've been looking for a downer. Enjoy.

Blood Warrior - Letter Ghost: The Portland based dark folk band's haunting second album was released last spring and I can't believe I've waited so long to get my hands on it. It's a side project from O'Death singer Greg Jamie, and pick up where that band's last two wonderful albums have left off. One of my favorites of the year without a doubt. You can listen to it, and buy it, on their Bandcamp site.  "All Your Thoughts," "You Were," and "Untitled" are standouts on a pretty much flawless album.

Blank Realm - Illeagals in Heaven: The newest album from the prolific psych band from Down Under has a throwback feel, but not a clearly defined one. Borrowing from '60s Velvet Underground and '70s Television, along with late '80s and early '90's indie, they create a familiar sound that still manages to feel new in a way that MGMT felt to me once. "Gold," "Dream Date," and "Flowers in Mind" are my personal favorites.

Mad Masks - Mad Masks: The debut album from the French darkwave duo is a wonderful gothic ambient soundscape. Like the soundtrack to a pleasantly bad dream, it is eerie and disturbing, but subtly so. This is the kind of album that I find so conducive to writing because it creates a mood without interfering with my concentration. It certainly fit the scene I was working on when I listened to it the first time, and I will return to it again when I need the sort of edge that exists within it's notes. Check them out on their Bandcamp site and give it a listen, it's interesting stuff.

Goblin Hovel - Loveless, Loreless, Lost: The newest release from my favorite band discovery of last year is their longest album to date, and also includes a few bonus versions of select songs that were actually recorded three years ago. Their dark folk sound has been instrumental in the rewrites of my new goblin novel, creating the kind of eerie sound that I'm trying to capture in my writing. Blending Celtic folk with folk metal, they create a dark atmosphere that is at once pleasant and spooky. "Straw Bones," "With Your Shield (Or On It)," and "Garden Haunt" are my personal favorites. 

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy Early Drafts: An archival live collection of early drafts of songs from the indie folk band's landmark 2005 album was a welcome treat this week. For over a decade the Austin band has been one of my favorites, and this is one their best albums. These intimate recordings, which include intermittent private self-recording ramblings that capture moments on the road give incredible insight to the inner workings of a young band trying to find their place in the world. The beautiful acoustic versions of the songs serve as a soundtrack of artists pursuing the truth that is in their hearts. A must have for fans of the band.

Linosphere - Digit Illusion: Another Bandcamp find, this experimental album of improvised jazz that feels like electronic ambient. Though they are from L.A. this has a decidedly European feel, at least it gives me the impression of late night drives through foreign cities in the back of reckless taxi without any idea where it is taking you. There's an old school feel to the horns, a kind of classic jazz sound that blends great with the modern percussion. One of the more interesting jazz albums I've heard in a long time. Check out "Only" and the dynamic "He Blew a Fuse."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

President Al Gore (and Other Things We Forget)

This past week marks the 15th Anniversary of the most controversial election in United States history. It took weeks before the next president of the United States was determined, and even then, that only happened because Al Gore decided not to continue challenging the results despite obvious fraud and institutional tampering. And while I've heard people lamenting, not only this week but for years afterward, about what could've been, what upsets me is not so much how the course of history could have been better, because honestly we don't know that for sure...sure, Iraq might not have happened, but who knows what would've taken its place.

The part the truly bothers me is that NOTHING has changed in the system since this happened. Gore won the popular vote nationwide. That was a big part of the outrage that followed. There was all kinds of talk about ending the electoral college that puts far too much power into the hands of a few states, which also lends these states to corruption, like the questions that surround Ohio in 2004. This was all going to change. There were pledges to do so, there was momentum to get it done, and then...well, we just sort of forgot about it and once again the status quo holds.

There are numerous examples of this kind of thing happening in this country. The public gets all fired up about something, the issue gains traction, then the establishment politicians get a hold of it and do little or nothing, because often these issues threaten their stranglehold on the engine that steers the nation in whatever direction benefits the ruling classes. 

At some point, we must stand up to this sham. We must demand an end to Citizens United. We must demand an end to policies that make the extremely wealthy even more obscenely wealthy. We must demand the end to gerrymandering practices such as the ones that have the very liberal city of Austin, Texas represented by several conservatives. We must demand an end to restrictive voter policies that keep the poor from voting, and make it harder and harder for working people to get to the polls. 

These are the things this election season should be about. This should be the outrage the public feels. But once again, the powers that be use things to distract us, and instead of the real issues, the outrage in this country right now is directed at a disposable coffee cup that lacks snowflakes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the end of the working week, a time when we traditionally reflect on music here at Saving the World One Story at a Time. As I mentioned last weekend, this is that time of year when some big albums are released, and while there is one of those on here, most of the list consists of new discoveries and a couple of recent vinyl pick-ups. A lot of low key stuff on here, low key but quality stuff. Definitely some things worth checking out if you're looking for something new. I don't know what it is, but I just love music in the Fall. Hopefully you do too. Enjoy.

Joanna Newsom - Divers: It's been five years since Joanna's landmark triple album masterpiece, "Have One on Me." It's not so surprising, actually it's probably quite wise to put distance between such an incredible work to build anticipation and avoid immediate comparisons. That said, this album picks up right where that left off. This is classic Joanna Newsom chamber folk which continues to push the genre in more progressive ways that haven't been attempted since The Incredible String Band. This easily one of the best records of the year, with "Sapokanikan," "Goose Eggs," and "Time, As a Symptom" being standouts among an album of exception songwriting. 

Language of Shapes - ThunderKryst EP: Another Bandcamp discovery, this South Korean psych folk band has released a phenomenal EP that reminds me of Ghost and early O'Death. There is a darkness to the mood, but it's not overbearing. It seeps into the songs like a secret woven into the notes. "Jaws of a Friend" and "Push Hard and Swallow" are excellent songs. Worth checking out on their site which is linked to their name here.

The Besnard Lakes - The Golden Lion: This is the newest EP from the Montreal neo-psychedelic outfit, released in anticipation of their next full length due out in 2016. This is a band that dabbles in shoegaze, dream pop, and indie rock, mixing those elements altogether to create a really interesting sound. These three songs are a folk infused indie pop, which thankfully avoid all of the current '80s synth elements that seem to infected the genre. 

The Legendary Pink Dots - Hallowe'en Special 2015: Two dark ambient tracks put out by the UK experimental psych pioneers to celebrate the recent holiday. The instrumental "Chaos Hum" feels like bits that could be extracted from Pink Floyd's "Echoes" if it had been continually playing somewhere in space for the past thirty years. "The Wall Street Spectre" is a 15 minute song, that has all the classic elements of a Legendary Pink Dots epic. There are quiet moments, chaotic moments, moments of beauty and moments of confusion. All in all, not essential to their catalog, but a worthwhile listen. 

Horisont - Odyssey: It's been two years since the last album from this Sweedish heavy psych band, and this time they are grooving to more a of a power metal kick. They feed off a late '70s - early 80's heavy metal vibe, something akin to NWOBHM and Scorpions. Musically everything clicks with the falsetto vocals to deliver a quality album. The moments where they try to be a little more prog sort of fall flat, and at there are moments when the vocals can feel a little too "Iron Eagle", but overall another solid release. "Flying," "Light My Way" and the epic title track are standouts. 

Black Spirit - Black Spirit: Released in 1978, this is the only album from this German hard rock band. The influences of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and all the other hard rock bands to come before are clearly heard in the extensive jamming on here. For a debut, the band is incredibly tight. Vocally it's a little weak, but that's obviously not the intent. The guitar and drums straight up rock, making this a worthwhile album to check out if you're looking for some classic heavy '70s.

The Balaclava - Faceless the Crustacean: Despite having on of the worst band names and album covers, this is an exceptional piece of lo-fi bliss. I listened to this recently on their Bandcamp site and was thoroughly impressed. They reminded me a lot of Dinosaur Jr. the way they blended fuzz and melody. There are also moments that resemble Kurt Vile, like on the great "Fell For It." There's definitely a lot to build on here, and certainly an album worth checking out. 

Jerry Lee Lewis - Another Place Another Time: By 1968, Jerry Lee had moved past his trailblazing days as one of the original rock n roll pioneers and had taken to playing good old honky tonk country music. His piano becomes less fiery at this stage, but no less infectious on these sad, sad songs. Considered one of his finest country albums, this is a must have for anyone who likes that old time sound. The title track and "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" are perfect examples. Certainly worth picking up if you come across a copy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


artwork (c) James Jean

So, many of you probably fall in to one of two camps. You either feel that since there isn't a presidential election, there's little reason to vote. Or you never vote anyway because you see the process as rigged and that your vote doesn't matter. I'm here to tell you that you're least partially. 

Your local elections are extremely important. Besides the fact that local officials have the most impact on your day-to-day lives, they also serve to set the table for agendas on a state and national level. Local government, the choices they make or don't make, gives you an insight as to how the parties think. Make yourself heard. Cast your vote.

What I won't argue with is that there currently seems to be little difference between the only two parties we really have to choose from. But this is more true on the national stage where the only real interest is in protecting the ruling class and the corporations they own. Which is why we need to start voting our conscious. We have to stop choosing between the lesser of two evils and start picking a third option, one that represents what we represent. But this only happens if you actually go and vote. 

Remember, the powers that be are counting on your silence.