Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

This week was a strange week in my musical habits. I did very little writing this week. My tasks were the thinking out of two completely different books for the purpose of writing summaries and proposals. What often happens when I'm in one of these deep think periods is that an album will play, end, and I won't notice that the music has been off for over an hour at a time. However, when I wasn't working, I was either resting by the fire place with the vinyl spinning or trying to reorganize some of the chaos in my office. This week's list is partially brought to you by both of those events. Enjoy.

The Decemberists - The King is Dead: The new album by one of my favorite bands of the last decade is one I've been holding off on reviewing for a few weeks. Each of their albums have been somewhat important releases for me and I wanted to fully absorb this one before I wrote about it. I'm glad I did, too. On the first listen, I couldn't tell if this was simply a good album or a great one. Many listens in, I'm convinced it's a great one. Unlike last year's The Hazards of Love (which unlike most, I thought was quite brilliant), this album is more a collection of songs. In my opinion, it actually echoes the band's earliest works, most notably the fantastic 5 Songs EP. These are scaled down folk rock songs imbued with emotion and meaning. Another quality release worth getting.

Esben and The Witch - Violet Cries: This is the debut album from a Brighton trio and something I listened to on a whim. This is a dense album of British goth atmospheres but with a strong modern indie sound. A swirling sort of sound with dreamlike vocals, but never boring. Reminds me a bit of a tamer The Horrors or Klaxons. It doesn't hurt that the singer sounds like Holly Miranda either. I've been enjoying this album during the dark snowy days.

The Notorious B.I.G. - Blue Eyes Meets Bed Stuy: I'm a little late to the game with this fantastic mash-up of Biggie and Frank Sinatra released in 2005, but better late than never. Ever since hearing the Wu Tang vs. The Beatles mash-up around this time last year, I've certainly listened to my share of inferior meetings of hip-hop and other genres that just didn't mix. Oddly, this one may seem like the most mismatched, yet the two sounds work together perfectly. The key for a mash-up album to work is that it must make both artists sound new. This does that. Somehow the mix creates an eerie album. Great stuff.

medal - stuntman: This is the second album by the little heard UK band medal. I'd been looking for this 2002 album for many years with little luck and finally it came up used and I was able to snag it for cheap. The band's 2000 debut Drop Your Weapon is one my top 100 hundred favorite albums of all time. It's a great example of what British indie music was sounding like post-Britpop and electronica heyday of the late '90s, perhaps best represented by Radiohead's Kid A album. Medal was never as abstract as Radiohead but created soundscapes that were just as rich. Unfortunately the album was a commercial failure and stuntman was essentially self-released to no attention whatsoever. Though certainly this album lacks that special magic of their first album, this one isn't bad. I'm glad I got it to complete the collection (along with the bands two 1999 EPs). IF you ever come across the band's work, I suggest giving it a listen.

Savoy Brown - Looking In: I bought this on vinyl shortly before Christmas based solely on the cover and not knowing anything about the band. It turns out this is the London band's seventh album, released in 1970, only 3 years after their debut. It's a heavy British Blues album that sounds like John Mayall gone psychedelic. There's an excellent heavy bass on it and "Poor Girl" is pretty awesome. A very solid offering in the transition of British Blues into heavy metal.

Al Stewart - Year of the Cat: This is Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart's seventh album, released in 1976 and probably his best known. I found this album sort of uneven. At it's best moments it sounds like Ziggy Stardust lite. Unfortunately there are a good number of sanitized soft rock tracks too. But the good tracks are real good. Definitely worth a listen.

Fleetwood Mac - Bare Trees: This 1972 album is one of the band's two transition albums (along with Future Games) after the departure of Peter Green and before crapping it up with the line-up that produced hit after hit. Both of these albums move away from the blues sound of the Peter Green days and have a California country folk feel. I enjoy both of these under appreciated albums. "Homeward Bound" is a fantastic song.

Guided By Voices - Crying Your Knife Away: This double-album bootleg concert was released in 1994, right in the middle of the band's most creative period. Bob Pollard is obviously smashed as soon as they take the stage and there's a charged atmosphere throughout that suits the band well. After "Gold Star for Robot Boy" kicks in, the album blazes. There's the Joy Division sounding "Lethargy" followed by a blistering "Striped White Jets". Then there's a beautiful drunken stumble of "Non-Absorbing". A soaring "Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory" and the Stooges kick of "Shocker in Gloomtown" with it's British punk guitar work. Then comes the brilliant "Tractor Rape Chain" and that's when you know you're listening to a masterpiece.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Picture That! Picture Book of the Week!

This week I was once again reminded of how diverse and interesting the world of picture books can be. Not that I ever really forgot, after all I wouldn't bother to do this post each week if I didn't love picture books. But this week I spent several quality hours with non-traditional picture books, that is to say, they were not storybooks, and was once again struck by the fact that there is often as much to learn in a picture book as a novel. This week's pick is a slice of life cartoon book that is furry bundle of funny. Enjoy.

Cats Are Weird by Jeffrey Brown
(Chronicle, 2010)

This comical study of cat behavior looks at the many remarkable qualities of feline nature. Staples of the animal's evolutionary oddities such as the inexplicable fear of the vacuum, the inability to sit without wandering in circles first, the impromptu sneak attack, and a cat's instinctive desire to prevent humans from accomplishing work at a desk are all covered here in hilarious detail.

Any cat owner will recognize the many instances that Jeffery Brown chooses to illustrate. The take on peculiar cat behavior is spot-on and the simple, expressive drawings capture the joy we find in observing such peculiarities. Told in one page cartoons, or two-page spreads, the panels tell a slice of life story in comic strip fashion. Readers of all ages will find some moment in these pages to laugh out loud.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Day for Hares and Hatters

Poor Lewis Carroll, today is the day all of his un-birthdays have run out. All 364 used up and nothing left to celebrate except an actual birthday for one of the most important authors in my own path to authoring nonsense for the enjoyment of children. Happy Birthday old friend.

Little Birds are writing
Interesting books,
To be read by cooks:
Read, I say, not roasted--
Letterpress, when toasted,
Loses its good looks.
(from Sylvie and Bruno Concluded)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gold Star for Robot Boy

At some point, I think most writers believe they don't get the recognition they deserve. Perhaps this is an ego thing, or perhaps it's simply the savage truth.

Sadly, almost no writer actually receives the recognition he or she deserves. The same is true for most musicians today. Many of the great songwriters of our generation continue to go unheard. Too many great books are going unread, too.

As a society, we need to start reading better literature. I can only imagine how much more interesting the world would be if people starting paying as much attention to art as they pay to technology and useless distractions.

A gold star for all of you who already are...keep the good fight going.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Broadcasting My Sympathies

There are certain phrases, when presented in certain contexts, and especially on certain days when things are generally running afoul, that really bother me. One such bit of offensive language is when someone makes the claim Oh, you could never imagine how it feels. After all, my job is just that, to imagine how it feels.

Last week I wrote about an undercurrent of opposition I've encountered when it comes to writers voicing themselves through a character of a different gender. Similarly, I often see authors attacked for stretching to write about a situation he or she may never have actually gone through. I can't help but think these critical readers confuse truth with authenticity.

Now, I'm not justifying someone who does a hack job on a potentially rich topic. If it sounds phony, the writer failed. But to say one can never fully imagine the thoughts and feelings an individual may go through in a given situation is not only insane, but also disturbing to me. What a horrible world it suggests, one where no one has any sense of genuine empathy.

Limiting authors to telling stories that only relate to their own lives is basically a call to the end of fictional writing. It's a plea for memoirs, which frankly, I can't abide. Memoirs are a place for people to talk about themselves and get the reader to feel for the individual. Novels are supposed to be a place where readers can share experiences with characters in order to gain a deeper understanding of others and the workings of the world.

A good author can very well imagine how it feels. You may not like what we imagine, but please never say we can't do it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

This week was spent mostly listening to things that I acquired near the end of last year as I try to absorb the many wonderful albums that were added to my collection. I was also working on the finishing touches of a story that I had worked on diligently from Thanksgiving to New Year's and I find it always helps to go back and listen to what I was listening to then. Music has such a way of putting me in a creative mood, and different music creates different types of creativity. The eight albums on this week's list kept me pretty solidly in the dystopic fairytale world I needed to inhabit. For that, I owe them a great debt. Enjoy.

The Wooden Sky - When Lost at Sea: This is the 2007 debut album from the Toronto indie folk outfit whose second album was on my list of best discoveries from previous years a few weeks ago. Of course, after playing their second album, If I Don't Come Home..., I had to go back and get this one. I wasn't disappointed either. A collection of nearly perfect songs in the style of a lower key Magnolia Electric Co. Easily one of my favorite bands that I've found in the last year.

Klaxons - Landmarks of Lunacy: This EP came late in 2010 (Christmas Day release), several months after the London band's much awaited second LP Surfing the Void. These five tracks are less chaotic than the album. They are almost pretty songs, which is quite a turn for the band that specializes in manic electro psychedelia. I actually prefer this sound for them, it seems more distinct. There is a rumor that Surfing the Void was their second effort at a second album and there was a scrapped album recorded before. I can't help but wonder if these songs come from there and if so, I hope some day the entire album surfaces.

Coma Cinema - Stoned Alone: This is a debut album that I discovered thanks to my friend dANIMAL's best of 2010 list. It's a short album of lo-fi honesty that is served well listening to it as the title suggests. It's the sound of longing told in a bare Beatlesque style. Over several listens, I've found it quite enjoyable and one of those albums that gets better every time.

The Dutchess and the Duke - She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke: This is an album I'd been chasing down since 2008 after falling in love with the first single and their Daytrotter Sessions. Finally got it for Christmas and have been loving it. The Seattle duo remind me of the Rolling Stones' more acoustic country rock sound on albums like Exile on Main Street, or like Brian Jonestown Massacre doing the Rolling Stones. However, The Duke and the Dutchess stay a little closer to their folk roots with their garage sound. Just a really good record.

Captain Beefheart - Lick My Decals Off, Baby: This is an album that has been on my wishlist for over a decade, but for whatever reason, I never bought. After I began my vinyl collection in earnest last year, this album quickly made the jump onto that list. For Christmas, I finally got a beautiful colored vinyl edition of the album and it totally blew me away. This 1970 album came a year after Trout Mask Replica (one of 10 most favorite albums) and it's a natural companion to that album. I got Trout Mask Replica for Christmas when I was 15 years old and I can still clearly remember listening to it for the first time, it had that kind of impact on me. What's truly amazing is that this album, nearly 20 years later, had the same kind of impact on me. A masterpiece of experimental blues. 'She stuck out her tongue and the fun begun,' one of the best lines ever.

Cat Power - Joan of Arc: This is a live bootleg from 1999 that is simply perfect. Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) is well known for being incredibly difficult and painfully shy live, but it many ways that may add to the power of this record. Her voice is naturally fragile, giving every song that feeling of potentially breaking apart at any note. This album is definitely a necessary addition to the Cat Power catalog.

The Bevis Frond - Bevis Through the Looking Glass: After the underground success of his first album in 1986, Nick Saloman (aka Bevis) released this double album of outtakes with a limited release of 500 copies that he gave to friends. He was accused of purposely trying to create a instant rarity and later the album was re-released. Obviously the album resembles the fuzz-rock psychedelia of other early Bevis Frond albums, but there are a few truly amazing tracks on here. "The Shrine" is a 20 minute bit of crazy fuzzed out bliss. "Die is Cast" is garage rock perfection. And the last song on the album is a recording from when he was 14 years old, playing a song called "Alistair Jones" which a great Syd Barrett type song. This album is also worth buying for the fake mail-order record catalog he wrote up for it, it's truly hilarious. SIDE NOTE: This was my go-to album for two difficult scenes that I had to write this week and it got me through both.

Donovan - Open Road: By 1970, Donovan was folk pop star so this album feels a little like a departure. More of a gypsy folk album in the spirit of The Incredible String Band, this record is more melancholic and less goofy than most of Donovan's work up to this point. Ironically, I think I like this album better for its lack of Donvonvanism. I would say this album, along with A Gift from a Flower to a Garden, Fairytale and Sunshine Superman are essential Donovan.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Toy Art

Today I photographed some toys in the snow.

This is something I've been wanting to do for ages but never seem to get around to actually doing it. Having finished a what I believe to be a rather exceptional manuscript last night, I was feeling inspired. I gathered some favorite pieces of my collection scattered throughout the house and braved the frost bite and tundra. With frozen fingers, I arranged a few setups and snapped a ton of images.

My idea is to mix them with drawings and photos I've taken to create fairy tale worlds. Look forward to a lot of these in the coming months. I'm sure to discover lots of interesting characters and stories hiding in the pictures. Playing with toys is just part of the job.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hiding in the Back of My Head

Changelings pushing their bones in, molding their faces into nightmares.

Fairies chewing on teeth, crunching them into a fine powder.

A shocker in Gloomtown. More senseless acts of violence to follow.

Come and buy. Come and buy.

It's been a strange writing week the past few days.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Gender Switch

As one who often writes books from the point of view of the opposite gender, I'm particularly observant of criticism leveled at authors for using this device. Now in some cases, it's justified. If the story is attempting to tell a tale unique to a specific gender-related experience, then you're kind of setting yourself up for a gut punch. If not though, I believe the character should be based on the believability of their actions and voice regardless of the author's sex.

Often, I see reviews online that say such unintelligent things as obviously, the author has never been a 13 year old girl, because she would never do such and such a thing. Or even better, no teenage girl thinks like that. Really? None? Does being a member of a gender clue you in on what every other member of your tribe thinks? I know I certainly wouldn't presume to know what all boys think about. So let's refrain from such statements, please.

Just because a character's experience doesn't match your experience, doesn't make it invalid. If the character's motivations are flawed that's one thing. If their actions aren't justified or properly presented, that's something too. But if they are, then I don't see gender coming into play. There is no reason one can or cannot act a certain way simply because of their gender. Naturally some behavior is more likely, but unlikely behavior that is set up in the right manner is just as believable.

I have a suspicion that a lot of reviewers who write negatively about an author writing under a different gender are simply reacting to the seeing the author's name. Had the author's name not appeared, I surely doubt they would recognize the author as being other than the same gender of the main character. I don't think I'd see reviews online that read obviously this was written by a man.

I wonder why that is? I can only assume it comes from the perception of being threatened, that somehow your story is being corrupted. Whatever reason, it seems quite silly to me and not very enlightened.

Personally, I like to write from the point of view of opposite gender mostly because it forces me to find a unique voice for a character. My teenage boy characters tend to sound like me and think like me more often than not and writing in my own voice isn't nearly as interesting as writing in a voice that doesn't belong to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Encounters with Brilliance

Every artist, at some point or other, encounters a work that has such a profound impact on them creatively that they wish they had made it themselves. As a writer, such books are typically my favorite.

I think when I was younger, coming across a book that seemed so impossibly good was inspiring, yet at the same time it was artistically draining. I often hear the same thing from young writers, how they feel frustrated when they can't write something as good as what they love to read. Older and wiser, I don't feel that way anymore...with the possible exception of Spirited Away...God! I wish I had written that.

In recent years, I've learned to recognize which aspects of the story that I love and then about them within the framework of whatever project I'm working at the time. Because it's not that I want to write the story I encountered. I want to write my story. I just want it to be as good.

I came across such a story this weekend in the book Broken by Daniel Clay and it's caused me to rethink the direction of the novel I just recently started. I don't know if I should grateful or resentful.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the first of what will most likely be many random lists of albums that I'll be listening to in the new year. In that spirit, I've made sure at least the first album on here is an actual 2011 release. However, most of the albums on here are older as I'm still awash in a mass of records that I was generously given for the holidays, many of which I want to share my enthusiasm for. A few quick notes on the Weekend Roundup before I dive in, though. First, I think I'm going to drop down to reviewing eight albums a week rather than ten, unless a week calls for it. That's because I no longer plan on reviewing albums that I seriously didn't like except in rare cases where it was album I'd been anticipating. I just feel the world is too full of people putting down other people's creative efforts, that I don't need to add to it. I'd rather share with you music that I truly enjoy.

earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1: This is the new album from the long time Seattle stoner drone band. I've been a fan of earth for over a decade and half, back in the days when they were palling around with Kurt Cobain and introducing me to the whole concept of drone rock. Earth III was one of those eye-opening albums in my early years. In the last few years, this band has released some of it's most brilliant work and this album is among them. The album is such a mood piece, full of dark soundscapes but with a keen ear for melody as well that keeps it from ever getting boring. Somewhat along the lines of the soundtrack work Nick Cave has been doing of late. Truly, a really great album.

The Duckworth Lewis Method: This 2009 album is a side project offering from The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, a concept album which uses cricket stories as a metaphor for life. Anyone familiar with the eccentricities of The Divine Comedy won't think that sounds surprising at all. What is really surprising however is how unbelievably catchy this album is. Simply a fantastic piece of Baroque pop.

Admiral James T. - I see the pirates yellin' at their foes: A Zurich based artist, the Admiral's sound is a hard one to pin down. It ranges from garage rock to a much bigger pop rock spectrum, but never really fails to deliver. This is the second album, released in 2008, and it expands on the Kinks-y sound of the fist. In some ways it reminds me of Harry Nilsson's Pandemonium Shadow Show, drawing openly on many influences and rearranging them into something unique. It sounds something like Bowie meeting the Beatles.

Big Blood - Sew Your Wild Days Tour Vol. I and Vol. II: This has been the band that's really been blowing my mind this past week. A Portland, Maine based freak folk collective that's been battering around for the past five years, I finally crossed passed with their music this week and was instantly pulled in by it. An old-timey feel, in the same sense that Tom Waits is sometimes old-timey, but with an Elephant 6 jumble of sound to go along with it with a dash of O'Death style death folk tossed in. I've listened to both of these albums every day this week and continue to hear something new in them every time. This is kind of what I always wanted Animal Collective to sound like, but they never did.

Atomic Rooster - In Hearing Atomic Rooster: Born from the ashes of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster is one of the pioneers of the '70s hard rock sound. This, their third album, was released in 1971 and is pretty decent heavy blues album. This is the kind of album that if it came on in a bar, people would be rockin' to it for sure. "Head in the Sky" is the best track on here in my opinion.

Bronco - Country Home: The 1970 debut album from UK stoner folk rock outfit Bronco is a solid example of the genre. This is a band that was definitely inspired by American rock bands and it would honestly be hard to place them as British by listening to them. They sort of fall into the early '70s California folk rock sound but truly stand out with the track "Well Anyhow", an epic on par with other great epics such as 'Freebird'.

Elvis Presley - Elvis Country: This 1971 album is often considered the King's last great LP. The title is misleading though, as there is nothing 'country' sounding about this album for the most part. It's really an example of Elvis's comeback years where he was just cranking out fiery rock and roll. The version of 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' flat out wails and sounds contemporary. Perhaps the oddest thing about this album is the inclusion of the song "I'm 10,000 Years Old" which appears on my vinyl as a broken track, meaning a snippet of it is played at the conclusion of each track, but never as whole. I dug around and found out this was a short-lived trend in record releases around that time. Honestly, it's most puzzling concept I've ever heard. It really comes off sounding kind of insane, but certainly adds to my enjoyment of adding this to my collection.

Babe Ruth - Babe Ruth: This UK hard rock band's first album, First Base, is one of my favorites of the period. It's a ferocious Jefferson Airplane meets Zeppelin classic from 1972. This album, the band's third, came out three years later and is the sound of a band in turmoil. There's some decent tracks on here, but as a whole, it's an inconsistent album. The dangerous edge from that first album has dulled and you can almost hear the band not getting along in the sound of the songs. But sometimes imperfect albums make for good listens and this is one of those instances. For fans only, but I certainly recommend First Base to any fan of '70s rock.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Picture That! Picture Book of the Week!

For the first Picture Book pick of the new year, I've chosen an old favorite of mine. I used to live right up the hill from this lighthouse, and in the winter, if the trees were blowing just the right way, I could catch a glimpse of it under the George Washington Bridge from my balcony. I used to love to stroll down the path to hang out by the water and think about how this week's book helped save it and make it, along with the Alice statue in Central Park and Eloise's Plaza, one of the great Children's Book landmarks of New York City. Enjoy.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward
(Harcourt 2002 first published 1942)

'Once upon a time a little lighthouse was built on a sharp point of the shore by the Hudson River.

It was round and fat and red.

It was fat and red and jolly.

And it was VERY, VERY PROUD.'

This is the story of the last remaining lighthouse on Manhattan Island in New York City, a place once home to many such lighthouses. In the classic picture book tradition, this functional object is imbued with the friendly qualities equal to its usefulness. The reader cheers for the heroic lighthouse and fears for it when the men come to build the Great Gray Bridge right over it's head. Just when it seems the lighthouse will become obsolete, it once again saves the day.

The language is fun and the illustrations are quite brilliant. There's a William Blake quality to the lighting that is quite striking. Our friend the lighthouse beams on the page.

This is not only a delightful story, but it's also a very important book that illustrates the power of children's books. After it's publication, so many children wrote letters wanting to save the little red lighthouse, that eventually it was spared. Now, once a year, the city holds a Little Red Lighthouse Day where it's open to the public and to this day, children still flock to it. To the authors and the children who were moved by this book, we all owe our gratitude.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When This World Will End

Disaster! that was what Lee continually yearned for. Or, to come limping in to the next station to find it abandoned by everyone save only a single old man, the sort who would enjoy telling of the catastrophe that had overtaken the earth. --from The Sweet-Scented Manuscript by Tito Perdue

I've been thinking a lot about the end of the world lately. Not in a morbid way, but as part of my creative process. I started a new manuscript this week where the end of the world is the central theme.

It doesn't take place there.
It's not a doomsday story or a post-apocalypse fantasy.

My exploration is more about how we relate to something that most of us feel is an inevitable fate. It's a theme that has been around since the beginning of man. Lately, it's been gaining traction in our collective imagination throughout the last century and into this one. Recently, it's consumed a large portion of literature written for teenagers and children.

Recently I started to wonder what the affect all of that thinking would be on a character today. As a child, I often thought about the end of the world and knew I was doomed to survive it. The event itself isn't interesting or important, except in the sense of ways to prevent it. But what's really intriguing is how we relate to it. If one thinks he or she will survive or not?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Year of the Goat

This Is Albie and He Is Awesome.

As I mentioned the other day, I had a birthday last week. That of course makes me a Capricorn, as if it weren't already obvious. Though there's some funny things going on in the astrology of my birth date, I'm a goat at the core.

Signs have always played a part in my books. Catherine in The Heights was into astrology. Anytime I mention when a certain character's birthday, it's because I want the reader to connect them to their sign. It's something I often think through with characters. Partially because it was always an important signifier to me as a child. I didn't have religion, so these kind of things, along with making wishes, seemed meaningful. It's also been my experience that the majority of people behave according to their zodiac.

Naturally, I've always felt an affinity with goats. They seem to sense it to. I've never encountered a goat that didn't come right up to me and want me to pet it between the horns. So when I opened my birthday present last week, I was thrilled. The Missus had sponsored me a goat at the wonderful Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.

Above is the goat I now sponsor. His name is Albie. Albie is a sweet and remarkable goat according to the card. He was found in Prospect Park after he escaped an animal market. He lost a leg, but he's getting fitted for a fake one.

"This year-long sponsorship goes toward feeding dear Albie and keeping him safe, well cared for and loved. It also allows him to be an ambassador for other goats who need help in the world."

Capricorns...we stick together. I can't wait to see him in the spring and spoil him with treats.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Marsupial Strut

Sprinkle it on.
Sprinkle it on.

Alligator...was a quater.

My marsupial strut.
(c) ben burdick 1994

This Story Time Tuesday memory is brought to you by the insanity of the south tower resting on the corner of 11th Street and Third Avenue. A piece of paranoia folklore kept alive with retellings over time. One perfect stanza and then no more, but one I will always enjoy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Restarting the Mind

Hurry up, please. It's time.

Every so often it's important to change your mindset. Attempt to see things in a different light. Reevaluate and restructure. I'd say three years is a good estimate.

Of course, you can always renew your old one if you come to the same conclusions you've come to previously. But I find it usually doesn't work out so well. That old mindset being more than a little spent. It's like a leased car, you never hang onto it after the expiration date.

As I've just had a birthday pass, these are the thoughts that weigh on me this day. It will take a bit of time to reboot the mind thoroughly. The process is just beginning to update itself. But the early install has completed and I think I will be a bit more spontaneous this cycle. I'm starting a novel today that I only just thought of three days ago. Working in an old style of seeing where it takes me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup...Rest of the Best

I swear to you all that this is the last list before I begin new reviews. I have some extremely good choices for you in the upcoming weeks, but I would feel incomplete without first sharing with you my favorite albums from the past that I first heard in 2010. Listening to music from the past is a huge part of my musical life. I love to dig into the roots of what inspired something current or sounds that have long been fogotten. I do the same with books. I don't understand people who only read contemporary fiction. You need a frame of reference in order to evaluate. Here's the nine best discoveries from the past that I found this year. Enjoy.

The Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home, You'll Know I'm Gone: (indie folk) This first one comes from way back in 2009. When I first reviewed this on here, it didn't quite stand out. It was simply one of many folk rock records. But over the course of last year, I kept returning to this album. During car rides with the iPod on shuffle, almost always when an amazing song came on and I checked to see who it was, it was The Wooden Sky. Fantastic album.

Bonnie Prince Billy - As Forgiveness: (singer songwriter) I'm a big fan of Will Oldham and his many musical incarnations. 'I See A Darkness' is one of my 25 most favorite albums of all time. But with so many releases, I missed this 2007 gem. An incredible collection of sad Midwestern folk.

Pink Floyd - The Man & The Journey: (space rock) In 1969, Pink Floyd was a band trying to find their identity after the departure of Syd Barrett. They played a series of concerts called The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes, which was divided into two parts, The Man and The Journey. These mostly instrumental tracks would later become parts of other songs while others faded away. Available only in bootleg form, this is one for every fan.

Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band - Jug Band Music: (jug band folk) This 1965 album is a prologue to the San Francisco sound of the years to come, developed in Boston and Greenwich Village. An amazing psych-folk record.

Brenda Lee - All Alone Am I: (pop) This 1963 album sees 19 year old Brenda Lee moving away from the rock-a-billy roots of her previous 7 albums and into a more traditional pop sound. Her vocals, as always, are beautiful and the songs are laced with a delightful sadness that keeps me coming back for more.

Spirogyra - St. Radigunds: (Canterbury folk) This 1971 freak folk album is a lost masterpiece. In the spirit of The Incredible String Band, the quartet's debut album is one of the landmarks in the progressive folk movement that has recently been revived. This is one for anyone digging the new sound of folk of recent years. NOTE: This band is not be confused with the craptastic jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra from Buffalo.

Grateful Dead - Wake of the Flood: (psych folk rock) I was never a fan of this band. I wrote them off mainly because of the joke they had become during my youth. But recently, I've been rediscovering some of the early work, this 1973 album being among the best I've heard so far. It's just an epic album that I've been listening to way too much. Look for more to be on this same list next year.

Fleetwood Mac - The Original Fleetwood Mac: (British Blues) Another band that I've rediscovered, having never realized that their pre-horrible stage was as a blues band lead by Peter Green. This collection of outtakes from that era (1969-1971) is one of the finest examples of the British blues hey-day. Amazing riffs, perfect vocals; it's a shame Peter Green self-destructed. Even greater shame is the what this band became in the '70s.

David Bowie - Hunky Dory: (rock) Part of Bowie's best period, this 1971 album was a glaring omission from my collection. I knew most of the songs from other Bowie releases, but never heard this album in it's entirety. From start to finish, easily one of the best Bowie albums.

BONUS: My favorite Songs of 2010

1.Yeasayer - O.N.E.: Modern nu-wave infectious sound. Love it.

2.Quadron - Slippin': Somewhat late '80s radio revival, but done perfect.

3.Lifeseeker - Sammy Hagar Rules: Hip-hop masterpiece. Every time this song comes on, I'm feeling it.

4.Kanye West - Power: One of the best hip-hop tracks in yonks.

5.Holly Miranda - Ex-Factor: I listen to this Lauren Hill cover constantly.