Friday, March 22, 2019

Princess World

My soon to be four year old daughter is obsessed with Disney Princesses. Despite our best efforts to shield her from the world of princesses, the Disney marketing machine found it's way in via other children and she fell under the spell of pretty dresses...but as this obsession moves into it's ninth month (or thereabouts), I realize the true pull for her is the concept of magic, and that's something I can respect.

Her first trio of princess movies was Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Best. The first two are disappointingly old fashioned as it pertains to gender stereotypes, featuring very passive female characters. Thankfully Disney has acknowledged this issue to some extent, and Belle is more suitable role model. My daughter's new obsessions are Frozen and Tangled, both are movies that came out after my childhood and were films I had not seen. That, in itself, was a bonus for me, but beyond that, they are both very enjoyable films, and both films that feature strong female characters. 

Both Anna and Rapunzel are characters of action and determination. Yes, they have male companions who help them, but the male characters don't act as saviors, but rather partners aiding the female characters in their journey. I really enchanted by Tangled and think it may be the best of all the Princess movies I've seen (which is now most). Perhaps this obsession doesn't have to be the negative influence we always feared.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Weekend Music Roundup!

It's the weekend, and this is a special weekend because it's my Anniversary weekend (I Love you, Missus)! But enough of the mushy stuff, we're here to talk music. Or rather, I'm here to talk music and share my thoughts on some albums I've been grooving to of late. This is a random mix that includes three new releases, some recent discoveries, and one that had sat in my "To Listen To" folder for years. Hopefully there's something on here that you will want to check out. Enjoy.

Strand of Oaks - Eraserland: The sixth album from the Philly based singer songwriter is his follow up to 2017's wonderful Hard Love record. As with his previous efforts, he channels the spirit of working class rock and roll with the groove of bands like My Morning Jacket. This is the perfect follow-up record in that it doesn't stray far from the winning formula of the last album, but also shows growth. Some of my favorite songs on here include "Keys," "Weird Ways," and "Moon Landing." 

Roberta Flack - Quiet Fire: The soul singer's third record was released in 1971 and I recently found a beautiful copy in excellent condition for $3 and had to give this one a chance. I knew she had a great voice from her hits that came later, but had no idea just how amazingly beautiful her voice truly is. This is wonderful soul pop record. No real "hits" but some great tracks, like "Sunday and Sister Jones," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," and "To Love Somebody." 

Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want to Die in New Orleans: The latest album from Mark Kozelek's band continues with the evolving sound they first introduced in the beginning of this decade. The band's sound blends their old indie americana folk sound with more spoken word segments with Mark reflecting on real life in ways that feel almost Ginsburg-esque in that it seems mundane, but holds something profound in his observations. There's some brilliant moments on this record, especially "I'm Not Laughing at You," and "Cows." Probably not an album you'll want to listen to all the time, it's more like a novel, one that should be listened to and thought about.

JPEGMAFIA - Veteran: The second album from the L.A. based NYC hip group explores the experimental aspects of current hip-hop. The lyrics are strictly hardcore, clearly inspired by Ol' Dirty (as is one of the various cassette album covers, two of which are pictured above), but the beats range from glitch hop to nearly industrial at times. These guys ain't playing around and hit hard and angry at anything and everything. "Thug Tears," "Baby I'm Bleeding," "DD Form 214," "Williamsburg," and "Curb Stomp" are my personal favorites.

Oasis - Be Here Now (Demos & B-Sides): When I recently purchased the vinyl re-issue of this album, I downloaded the bonus tracks that came with, well only one of the three discs as I had the others already. The demos and B-Sides actually features a few Oasis songs that were unfamiliar to me, which I didn't think was possible (long time followers of the Roundup will remember my year of Oasis bootleg Tuesdays). The scaled back demos are probably what Noel now wishes were released, due to his constant hate for this record. I love the acoustic versions (though I do love the official album too). "If We Shadows" was a song I don't recall ever hearing before and it's beautiful. Definitely worth the download. 

Go Ogres - 23 Earths: Released in 2012, this EP is the only release from the all female trio out of New Paltz, NY (a neighboring town from me). It features Kate Larson on guitar and vocals. She has been involved in a number of projects, including Jordaan Mason and The Horse Museum project from a several years ago, a favorite of mine. This is a solid indie pop record with 90's indie rock influences. You can listen to it on the Bandcamp page.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Going Somewhere...Maybe

A few weeks ago, I posted about a project I'd begun and my decision to change the perspective from first person to third and how refreshing that felt. Two weeks later, I'm still loving that choice and have continued to progress on the story in a way that I haven't in quite some time. 

In the past, I always put pressure on myself to write a certain amount either per day, or per sit down. As I try to break back into this world of story creation in a legitimate way, I've abandoned that approach. I don't want to set artificial goals that honestly are not important or really motivating. And though I've been keeping notes, I have not attempted to outline the story yet because I want to let it evolve more organically, as I used to do back in my early days. 

I feel good about this one...I feel like I'm enjoying the process for the first time in a long time.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Weekend Music Roundup!

The weekend has arrived and like clockwork, here are some more of my ramblings on recent albums that I've listened to. There is a new releases on here that I was very eager to hear, as well as some older albums that I just discovered. There's also an album that I've owned for over 20 years without even really knowing I owned it or that it existed. Hopefully there's something for you to discover. Enjoy.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium - South of Reality: The second album from the pairing of Les Claypool and Sean Lennon was released last month, three years after their first effort. I was really looking forward to this album. I absolutely love the first single, "Blood and Rockets." That song is a masterpiece of psychedelic art/prog rock. But as with the first album, I found that I loved all the songs Sean provides vocals, and was less attracted to the Les tunes. All in all, this is a really decent record that I can see why others will absolutely love. 

White Light - White Light: The one and only record from the psychedelic blues rock band was released in 1969. Heavily influenced by other bands of the time, including Velvet Underground, this reminds me of other obscure albums in the genre, such as The Deviants. This is guitar heavy psych rock that is mostly quite good. There are some weaker moments on the record, but they are few and far between. Some standouts for me are "Baby What You Want Me to Do," "Cold Shot," "I Couldn't Get High," "Always, Always," and their cover of "I'm Waiting for the Man."

Wes Montgomery - A Day in the Life: Released in '67, one year before he died, this is the jazz guitarist's interpretation of some popular tracks of the time, as well as some original compositions. Traditionally a Hard Bop artist, this is more of a smooth jazz record, and it's pretty much perfect smooth jazz. This has become on of my favorite Sunday morning albums. As I mentioned in a review a few weeks back, anything can be jazz and Wes, along with his talented band which included Herbie Hancock on piano, do a great job reinventing tracks like "Elanor Rigby" and the title track. Worth a listen, especially for people who think they don't like jazz. 

A Flock of Seagulls - A Flock of Seagulls: The 1982 debut from the Liverpool band is best known for the classic New Wave hit "I Ran" and Mike Score's legendary hair. I picked this up in the cheap bin because I read someone discussing how well it held up and because I love "I Ran". This is a quality New Wave record with lots of good songs, like "Messages" and "Modern Love is Automatic." It has an early Cure feel, but also feels like a precursor to the jangle pop that would dominate that area of the UK in the coming years.  

Elliot Maginot - Comrades: The second album from the Montreal singer songwriter is on the folky side of dream pop. There's an element in his work that reminds me of what I enjoyed about James Blunt's first album. I enjoyed this record as well, but as readers of the Roundup probably know by now, too many pop elements are not really my thing. All in all, a decent album and one that others will certainly enjoy more than me, simply do to taste. 

Pearl Jam - Merkinball: Released in '95 as a companion piece to the Mirrorball album they did with Neil Young, this is only two songs, yet categorized as an EP. It's also a CD that I've owned for nearly 25 years and was completely unaware that I owned it. I took this off the shelf, thinking it was Mirrorball and when I put it on, I was like "What is this?" The amazing thing is that these are two of the best songs I've ever heard from Pearl Jam. "I Got Id" may be their best song in my opinion. Now I'm more excited to listen to Mirrorball, which I also have owned for 25 years and probably have not listened to in 20.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Start of Something....

As frequent readers of this blog know, I'd been in grad school for the past three years and recently graduated in the Fall with a Masters degree in Library Science. Since then, I'd been searching for a job in the field, but was having some difficulty landing one was that nearby, and desirable. Part of the problem was my lack of experience in the field, though I have a lot of translatable experience.

This week, I'm happy to share with you all that I've accepted a position at the library in the town neighboring mine. It's a part time job, and not specifically in the children's field, but it does include many aspects of working with teens. It's a wonderful introductory position and I can't wait to share all that I've learned with the people of that community. It will also give a lot more time to fully invest in my writing career once again. 

Here's to the start of a new journey on the road of life...

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Weekend Music Roundup!

The first weekend of March has arrived, and brings with it the threat of the biggest snow event of the year. Yay! As is usual, this week I'm talking about a mixture of new releases and some recent discoveries. The new releases were mostly unexpected and came to me without any foreknowledge. They were bonuses and very nice surprises. The older albums are ones that I picked up over the past few months. There's a mix of blues, rock, hip hop and folk. As always, enjoy!

Robert Ellis - Texas Piano Man: In 2014, Robert Ellis released his second album (The Lights From the Chemical Plant) and I've been following his career ever since. This is his fourth solo record and it's the gem that I've been waiting for. He has a 70's singer songwriter vibe that reminds me of early Cat Stevens and even some more bluesy numbers by Elton John. This album is fantastic, with tons of great tracks including "When You're Away," "Nobody Smokes Anymore," and "Fucking Crazy." 

Fleetwood Mac - English Rose: The third album from the iconic band, released in 1969, is a British Blues masterpiece. Peter Green is in great form as he helps to define the genre with this album. I'm not sure why I bypassed this one several years ago when I first got into Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac because this is probably the best of the albums he made with the band. This is British Blues at it's absolute best. 

Kyle Falconer - Almost Pleasant: The covers EP follows The View frontman's debut solo album released last year and shows him in nearly perfect form. I've been a huge fan of his work since the debut album came out 12 years ago. He picks great songs that showcase his talents, and manages to reinvent well known pop songs like "What's Love Got To Do With It," and "Go Your Own Way" into touching indie love songs.

Mad Season - Above: This supergroup recorded only one album in 1995 and it's definitely Layne Staley's masterpiece. I think he felt a little boxed in with Alice in Chains at the time, as Jerry Cantrell started to dominate the band, so he formed this side-project with members of Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees. The result is a stunning album that is the peak of grunge rock. I recently found a reasonably priced copy of the vinyl re-issue with bonus tracks and couldn't turn it down. Every song on here is a gem. 

DJ Krush - Hip Hop Generation: For more than 25 years, the Japanese artist has been creating some of the best instrumental hip-hop around. The fact that he's Japanese has been able to distinguish his sound from the hip-hop flavors of the two coasts here in the states. His work has a darkness to it, but a kind of anime darkness that always intriguing to me. This is a great moody record that is perfect for night drives. 

The Mammals - Sunshiner: This is a local folk band that throws a great festival every year, which we have attended the past two years. It features the married couple of Ruth Unger and Mike Merenda and their brand of roots folk, with hints of bluegrass. Released this year, this is their sixth album of songs that carry an obvious social agenda, which is what folk music used to be all about. Everyone who plays on here is extremely talented and there are some dynamite tracks. Like all socially conscious folk, there are moments that are a touch corny, but that's probably just my own artistic snobnishness.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Saying Goodbye....

One week ago, my grandfather passed away at the age of 92. He was the last of my grandparents, and the last of my daughter's great grandparents. It was the loss of a great man, and the loss of a generation that influenced our lives. 

My grandfather was the kind of person that taught by example. He was the type of person that I strive to emulate. He was a man who showed how a man was supposed to be by living his life the right way. His family was everything to him (as it was to my grandmother who passed away nearly 27 years ago). They instilled that spirit in my father (who passed away nearly 7 years ago), and he passed that on to me. 

Saying goodbye is always difficult, but the ceremonies were as he would have wanted. The past few days felt more like a celebration of a good life lived well. There was sadness, but there was just as much laughter as tears as the entire family (and it is a HUGE family) came together, something that becomes harder and harder as time and distance continue to get in the way. Together we said goodbye the way he would have wanted...with a party and lots of great food.

We miss you, Pop Pop!