Sunday, December 30, 2012

Falling Into Place

Often I find that nearing the end of a manuscript can be the hardest. I have no problem beginning a novel. If all I ever had to do was to write the first fifty pages of a story, I'd excel at it. I love the sense of mystery the comes with leaping into the middle of a story and slowly unraveling what exactly is going on. But the end...that is a place where great care is needed, unlike the reckless fury of beginnings. 

It's not that I don't know how a story is supposed to end. Okay, sometimes I don't know how it's supposed to end, but usually I know generally where the manuscript is supposed to go for its big finale, even if I don't know what happens once I arrive. But the real challenge is constructing the elements that get you to that big finale. 

As I approach this critical point in the manuscript I'm working on, there have been several critical pieces of puzzle that I'd been trying to figure out how to fit together. During my brief holiday vacation, I kept running different scenarios, playing the old what if this happens, and this happens, and then this happens game. That game never quite gives me a solution, but it does provide me something to work with. I was able to solve one important piece of the puzzle and once I had that, the others began to fall into place over the next few days. Now, after what feels like months of confusion, a clear path to the conclusion seems in sight. 

A steady hand on the wheel should guide me home....but of course, shipwreck lurks around every corner when navigating the waters of novel writing. We shall see.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas...

Happy Holidays...
May You Dream of Great Things!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup (Songs of the Year)

Though the end of the year is still over a week away, it's time to collect and gather the individual songs that I couldn't get out of my head this year. And even though I have a slew of albums to listen to before I can make my final Best of the Year list, the songs are not going to change, as one week is hardly enough time for a song to become infectious. Well, that's not completely true I suppose, but it certainly isn't enough time to knock any of these others off. Please enjoy, but be warned, you may get hooked on the sheer awesomeness of these tracks.

Guided by Voices - "Blue Babbleships Bay" from the album Class Clown Spots a UFO.

The Hives - "Come On" from the album Lex Hives.

Sivert Hoyem - "Where is My Moon?" from the EP Where is My Moon?

Jason Molina - "First Footing" from the album Autumn Bird Songs.

Andrew Bird - "Give It Away" from the album Break It Yourself

Andrew Bird - "When That Helicopter Comes" from the album Hands of Glory.

Nacho Picasso - "Naked Lunch" from the album Lord of the Fly.

Blur - "Under the Westway" from the single Under the Westway.

John Frusciante - "Ratiug" from the album PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone

The View - "Tacky Tattoo" from the album Cheeky for a Reason.

Jack White - "Sixteen Saltines" from the album Blunderbuss.

The Wooden Sky - "Angelina" from the album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "Driftin' Back" from the album Psychedelic Pill.

Yeasayer - "Reagan's Skeleton" from the album Fragrant World.

Langhorne Slim - "Coffee Cups" from the album The Way We Move.

Langhorne Slim - "Song for Sid" from the album The Way We Move.

Fiona Apple - "Every Single Night" from the album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser...

Silversun Pickups - "Make Believe" from the album Neck of the Woods.

Ruby Throat - "Shoe" from the album O' Doubt O' Stars.

Alexander Ebert - "Truth" from the 2011 album Alexander.

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Tis the Season for Strange Movies

Like gifts and ornaments, food and decorated trees, the holiday movie has always been part of the Christmas tradition for me. This year, I've steered clear of my usual suspects and decided to watch some of the lesser standards that I'm not as familiar with. By "lesser standards" you can read "completely strange and bizarre movies." With exception of Micky Mouse's Christmas Carol, I've watched two really odd movies, ones that prove studios will make script if they think they can tie it into that Christmas cash that flows freely this time of year.

First up on the list is The Nutcracker, a rarely seen 2009 piece of surrealist cinema. I remember reading about this in Entertainment Weekly's Holiday Movie Guide a few years ago and thought it sounded great. The look of it reminded me of the Narnia movies and the idea of bringing this fairy tale ballet to the screen seemed really promising. So when I got a few free months of Showtime recently, I saw this on the schedule and recorded it. 

Words can't really describe this film. It was part family entertainment, part CGI mess, and a good dose of Terry Gilliam-esque weirdness. There were so many strange choices made in the editing room on this one that I found myself wondering what it was I was watching. It couldn't decide if it wanted to be a fairy tale or some twisted version of Pink Floyd's The Wall

Some highlights of strangeness include John Turturro's amazingly odd Rat King, Elle Fanning interacting almost entirely with computer generated characters, and Nathan Lane as Albert Einstein (yes, you read that right). There are two moments in the movie where his character address the audience for no apparent reason, and then it never happens again. Rat soldiers riding on motorcycles and talking in thick Brooklyn accents, even though the movie is set in Vienna. Alice in Wonderland-like size shifting, which loses all of its logic about half-way through the movie. And two out-of-context allusions to Freud being somewhere off screen, though given the Snow Fairy's scene with Elle Fanning, perhaps not so out-of-context after all.

This definitely isn't a good movie, but that said, I was thoroughly entertained. I can only imagine the confused joy that would have greeted me had I seen this in the theater, in glorious 3D.

The other movie I watched recently was the 1979 animated Jack Frost, done by the same makers the beloved Rudolph movies. I'd seen this as a kid and remembered it being one of the stranger ones. So naturally, I also recorded this off the TV.

The oddness hits right at the beginning. That's because the first several minutes make one believe they recorded the wrong movie because it's all about Groundhog's Day. But by a convoluted twist, we go back in time to a Christmas past when Jack Frost fell in love and wanted to be a real human. 

The most amazing sequence in this movie is the visit to Father Winter's kingdom in the clouds. It's modeled off of what I believe is every child's imagining of Heaven. There is an army of snow sprites and one old sprite named Snip who cuts all the snowflakes. Then there's Holly, who is a child for some reason, and the only female. 

From there on, it morphs into a more traditional holiday tale of overthrowing some evil Slavic king and the return of a crusading knight. There is also a bit about ice money and imaginary presents. Mechanical horses and soldiers round out the cast of crazy. Then at the end, we return to complete the Groundhog's Day connection with a conclusion that doesn't seem to take into account that our narrating groundhog must be hundreds of years old. Needless to say, I loved it.

Though both of these movies were strange, neither of them compare to the classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Sadly this wasn't on TV, and probably hasn't been in decades. But growing up, we had this on VHS and it's amazing.

The basic story is that Santa is kidnapped from the North Pole by Martians and ends up bringing Christmas to the red planet. I do believe nothing more needs said.

Though I've enjoyed my trip to surrealist Christmas, I think from here on in I'm going to stick with my favorites. Lots of hi-jinx, lots of laughs, and whole lot of holiday cheer.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where Do We Go Now?

Like most everyone else, I've spent much of this week thinking about the tragedy that occurred last Friday. In that time, we've heard so many opinions on what needs to be done, what should be done, and what shouldn't be done. Some ideas have made a lot of sense to me. Others have made none. 

The obvious suggestion has been reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. I couldn't agree more with this and was shocked several years ago when the right wing Congress decided to let it lapse. When you look at these mass murders, nearly all of them are committed with these weapons. There is no practical purpose for a gun that fire almost 50 rounds in one minute except to kill people. 

I've also heard people who don't understand the need for guns at all, pointing to other countries as examples. This gets a little tricky. The gun culture in this country has deep roots dating back to the Revolution and the days as a frontier nation. Americans have a intrinsic distrust of government, which fuels this notion that the people need to be armed in order to defend themselves against tyranny. That was the real intent of the 2nd amendment, not for hunting, as many argue. Given my own distrust of authority and it's proven tendency to abuse power, I do strongly believe in the right to own guns. Though I'm a huge supporter of stricter gun control, stricter licenses, background checks, and mandatory instruction, on some level, I feel safer living in the country where the police and military aren't the only ones allowed to have guns. But that doesn't mean there can't be regulation. We regulate every other amendment, why should this one be any different?

Perhaps the most absurd solution I keep hearing is this idea of arming teachers, or creating secure rooms within classrooms. First off, the idea that more guns will solve anything is absurd. We heard the same thing a few weeks ago after the NFL player murdered his girlfriend. There were people saying that if she had a gun, she could have protected herself. Well, the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter did have guns. They didn't help her and they enabled her son to murder 26 other people. And honestly, think about it for one moment, putting guns in schools and around children...the chances of an accident increase exponentially. And besides that, transforming the school atmosphere into a prison atmosphere has NO part in the solution. 

Another idea that, as I expected, the right has put forth is the idea that prayer in school would somehow lessen the risk of these incidents. As far as I'm concerned, that is a ploy to use this event as a way to push an agenda that has no part in the conversation. 

The way I see it, though guns certainly play a huge role in this discussion, the core problem is the overwhelming number of children who are not getting the help they need at an early age. When you look at all of these crimes, so many of the perpetrators share a common profile. They are kids who feel ignored, misunderstood. They are outcasts. They are bullied. They are people who never got the help they needed. If you want to prevent mass murder, you need to deal with those who will potentially become mass murderers. In most of these cases, these people can be identified at an early age. We know the signs, we know what to look for, and yet, too often they are ignored. 

What we need in schools are smaller classes where teachers can spend more individual time with students. We need mental health professionals who can work with these children in a way that doesn't feel like they are being punished. We need parents who are more involved with raising their kids. We need people in the community volunteering to give children at risk more positive role models, especially if they aren't getting them at home. And yes, we need gun control to keep weapons out of the hands of those who aren't helped, or can't be helped.

But perhaps the most important step has already been taken, because as a society we are seriously talking about these issues for the the first time.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup (Child Artist Edition)

The horrible events of Friday really shook me as I wondered how anyone could take the lives of so many children. As someone who has devoted their entire professional career to bringing joy to children, it is inconceivable to me that someone could commit such a unthinkable crime. For the roundup this week, I decided to share some of my favorite albums sung by children. One of the things that is so inspiring about children is the enthusiasm and joy they bring to most everything they do. With every child we lose, the world loses a little bit of hope and happiness. I think all of our hearts go out to everyone who will miss those who were taken long before their time.

The Collins Kids - The Rockin'est: In the '50s, this brother and sister team appeared regularly on TV and played fantastic rockabilly. This compilation includes 22 of their best toe-tapping songs.

Maya Bond - Pink Drums, Purple Lights: This is a four year old singing & talking over music. The music is pretty interesting and the stories are pretty fun. The album is like having a four year old tell you a story that makes no sense...if you enjoy that, you'll enjoy this. Sample lyric:"There was a castle and it was very dark, And there was a beast live inside the castle. There was 125 + 3 wolves that been there."

The Langley Schools Music Project: Innocence & Despair: A collection of pop/rock covers done by school children, this was the first album I ever bought sung by children and it opened my eyes to how amazing it could sound. You haven't heard "Desperato" until you've heard it sung by a gradeschooler.

The Children of Sunshine - Dandelions: Two 8 year old girls who wrote their own songs and recorded them back in 1971. This is a playful record of beautiful hippy folky stuff. It's also one of a handful of "Holy Grail" records that I constantly search for. I recently communicated with one of the girls, now in her fifties, who is still overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for this album. "It's a long way to heaven, but I know we're gonna make it." 

Shisho - Shisho Will Punch You: In 2008, these two sisters put out this hilarious EP. "America Will Punch You" is brilliant, and their cover of "True Faith" is great. Silliness is something kids do best.

Shirley Temple - Oh My Goodness: The charm of Shirley's songs is that she sings like every child. She doesn't have a grown up voice...that's what makes the songs endearing. 

Smoosh - Free to Stay: These Seattle sisters have made three wonderful albums, this 2006 sophomore effort being my favorite. Beautifully sad music from the mind of middle schoolers.

Karine et Rebecca - Moi je dors avec Nounours: A blend of old world organ music and a voices that sound like the little white mouse on Tom & Jerry combine to make these very intriguing and entertaining 45s from the '60s. Perhaps the fact the girls sing in French adds to the appeal because I can't understand the more than likely silly lyrics. Delightful stuff.

Tiny Masters of Today - Bang Bang Boom Cake:  The 2007 debut from Ivan and Ada, two Brooklyn siblings, is one of the shining records of the mid 2000's Kidcore scene (kids making rock music). The music is heavy garage rock, though with some interesting turntable action here and there. The brother and sister take turns singing songs, which are surprisingly political and not-surprisingly insightful. This an album of kids rebelling against the materialism and imperialism of the Bush years. "K.I.D.S." and "Hey Mr. DJ" are great. A solid rock record no matter what age the performers. 

Care Bears on Fire - I Stole Your Animal: In 2007, these middle school girls released this debut album of garage rock derived rock. Though simple, it really rocks.

For more great Kidcore albums, see my list here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Travels Through Interzone

The moon was full this past week, lending a strange quality to my dreams as always. On more than one occasion, I found myself encountering places that I'd been to before in other dreams. While looking at a subway map, trying to give directions, I remembered to tell my friend to avoid that intricate maze of a station she would encounter at 42nd Street. After all, I'd spent an entire dream trapped in that fictional station earlier this year.

In another dream, I was driving with a friend en route to a record store that I'd been to before, though couldn't remember where it was. I ran through a list of nearby towns, knowing it wasn't in any of them. In the dream, I even called the Missus at her work to ask her if she remembered where the record store was, the one located in the brick fronted shopping center with a canopy walkway, the one with two floors, with "St-Z" being in that weird corner and the vinyl kept upstairs. There was a moment in the dream when I felt maybe I'd only dreamed the store before, but quickly shook that away and proceeded to a town doesn't really exist, only to wake up before ever finding the store.

Why bring this up? Simply because I feel there is an order to the randomness of the world within our dreams. We each have our own personal Interzone that can be mapped and navigated, however unwieldy the logic may seem. In some ways, writing novels is a similar type of chaos. A collection of images, impressions, and fragments of conversation that need pieced together in some semblance of sense. In that way, dreams not only lend inspiration to story, they also serve as an implementation to the process. So for that, I say to you...dream on.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm finally catching up a bit this week on a bunch of albums that I've been listening to over the past month or so. There really isn't a theme to this week. They are not even typical winter albums, even though this week saw the first two snowfalls of the season. It's mostly a list of things I'd been meaning to check out for a long time. Oddly, it's also a collection of many things I probably would have loved in High School. There is only one new release on here, but it's amazing. Hopefully there something here to strike your interest. Enjoy.

Fang - Landshark!: This is the 1983 debut EP from the Berkley hardcore band that would later inspire the heavy punk sound to come out of the great northwest in the years to come. This album made it onto Kurt Cobain's 50 Greatest Albums list that was published in his journals and I'd always meant to check it out, especially considering my love for Nirvana's cover of the opening track "Money Will Roll." When I came across the list again a few weeks ago, I was reminded of it and sought it out. At just over sixteen minutes long, it's a perfect piece of proto-grunge. I've been loving this record. You can certainly hear the record's influence on Nirvana's earliest work.

M.D.C. - Millions of Dead Cops: Another album off of Kurt Cobain's fifty favorites is this 1982 debut from the Texas punk band. Typical of hardcore punk, the songs are short and aggressive, spat out in a violent fury. The rage behind the genre has always appealed to youth anger and is exactly what made me a fan of it in my teen years. But those are also the very elements that make it hard for me to truly love it today. While I can certainly dig this album in small doses, it is done very well after all, I have a hard time not growing bored with it during the course of the 27 songs on the reissue. Perhaps the original release with only 14 songs would be more digestible. I can still support the politics of it though, it's just not as musically compelling as say Minor Threat

Sivert Hoyem - Where is My Moon?: Any followers of the Roundup would be able to vouch for my love of this Norwegian singer songwriter and his former band Madrugada. His fourth solo album, Long Slow Distance was on my best of the year list last year. He has deep haunting voice that pulls me into his songs of sorrow and longing. These four songs are no different, and the title track may be one of his best. The Missus picked this up on vinyl at his show in Switzerland last month. I was unable to go, but she was able to get it signed to us and got to talk to him briefly. Needless to say, it is now a prized possession.

Red Sparowes - Oh Lord, God of Vengeance, Show Yourself!: Despite hailing from the sunny shores of L.A., Red Sparowes is anything but light and breezy, or even glitzy and sleazy, as is typical for L.A. bands. Instead, they create seven to ten minute soundscapes filled with a hint of doom and despair that would seem born from northern dreariness. On this, their second album dating back to 2005, they remind me of a cross between Earth and Godspeed You Black Emperor. They really fall somewhere in the middle of those two, without the pretentiousness of Godspeed, though they do have paragraph long song titles which tell a story when read in order. And they aren't quite as sludgy as Earth. They've been able to strike the right balance and create a wonderfully listenable post-rock instrumental record that never grows boring. They have two newer albums that I look forward to finding.

GWAR - Scumdogs of the Universe: The demons of metal's second album, released in 1990, is their transition into thrash metal, moving away from their punk roots. The thing that makes GWAR relevant when it might be so easy to dismiss them as a novelty act, is that they can really play. These demons know how to play metal and this album is some of the best thrash metal out there. "Sick of You," and "Vlad the Impaler" are real stand out tracks for me. They may be gimmicky, but they back it up with songs that are HEAVY.

The Beatles - Artifacts II: Alone Together: With material dating mostly from White Album era of 1968-69, this bootleg chronicles a strange period in the Fab Four's history, and one of my favorites. The title stems from the already fracturing relationships forming within the band, and also colors some of the material, suggesting that though they were a group, they were four individual artists who were "alone together." There are amazing acoustic, scaled down versions of White Album songs as well as strange little pieces that always seem to find their way onto Beatles bootlegs. I really love hearing them in this loose and creative way. This album is probably better than the sessions released on the Anthology album from the period, more raw and slightly more powerful. Definitely a must for fans. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

While You Were Dreaming

The other night, I woke up in the dark and discovered the power was out. The near full moon had already set, leaving everything in pitch blackness. As I stumbled down the stairs, reaching for the railing and trying not to miss a step, I started to think. Thinking is always a dangerous thing at 4am.

There's was no obvious reason for the power loss. No wind, no snow, no lightning. And perhaps I've been watching too much apocalyptic television of late, but I started to wonder, Is this it? Is the power out all over the world? Is tonight the night when electricity ceases to exist? 

I sat in bed for about ten minutes considering the possibility and planning what I would do. What fascinated me was the actuality that it might be true, not that I believed it to be, but given the situation, it was a possibility. This relates back to a post I wrote last week and this idea that we wait for the big things to happen. We know history has no shortage of curve balls to throw our way. At certain points, every lifetime is marked by something big. It was interesting to consider being in the midst of such an event.

The power came back on at 7am. Nothing shattering on this night, but you never know what is around the corner.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup

As the holiday weekend comes to a close, it's time to be thankful for some good music. In the spirit of that, this list represents a wide range of interests, from prog to freak folk to hip-hop. These are mostly albums that were culled from my raid of my own wishlist a few weeks back. Most are older, yet there are a few new releases mixed in for those who only care about music made in the present. Either way, there should be something for everyone. Enjoy.

Matching Mole - Little Red Record: After leaving Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt founded Matching Mole in 1971. The next year, they released two records. The first was the self-titled album that I reviewed earlier this year. Little Red Record was the second. Both albums are heavy on prog experimentalism, though the first feels slightly more cohesive than this one. There are moments of brilliance scattered throughout this ambling record, but sadly there are moments where it can grow a bit tiring. The radicalism of its politics makes it unique and definitely worthy of a listen or two. "Righteous Rhumba" is a stand out track here.

The Rain Parade - Emergency Third Rail Power Trip: Released in 1983, this is the LA band's celebrated debut. It's almost impossible to imagine, at least for me, that this album isn't British. It has all the hallmarks of a sound that would go on to be defined by The Smiths and later The Stone Roses and Ride, the jangle guitar, the ethereal voices, and intelligent craftsmanship. This is a fantastic record, one that should probably get more attention than it does. They went on to record two more albums in the 80's, and David Roback went on to form Mazzy Star.

Brunning Hall Sunflower Blues Band  - I Wish You Would: Formed after Peter Green left the original Fleetwood Mac lineup, this British blues band recorded four albums from 1968-1970. This is a compilation of two of them. Like all of Peter Green's work, this follows the standard British blues formula, but as with any blues, it's the emotion the players put into it that really makes or breaks the record. This is all very solid stuff, with a few gems that stand out, such as "Bad Luck." Not essential, but definitely worth checking out for fans of the genre. 

Jordaan Mason - One Day The Horses Will Have Their Revenge: This the 2005 debut from the singer songwriter who I first discovered on Fanfare for Neutral Milk Hotel series. It's no surprise that he'd be on there as his work derives directly from the experimental lo-fi folk rock of Jeff Mangum. He sings in a similar swirling style accompanied by bare acoustic guitar. However, he doesn't ever sound like an imitator. His writing is poetic and voice is full of expression. This album is a borderline masterpiece of the genre, along with his 2009 album Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head, that one with backing band The Horse Museum. If you're a fan of lo-fi singer songwriters, Jordaan Mason is a must.

Tame Impala - Lonerism: It's been two years since this Australian band burst onto the indie psychedelic scene with 2010's Innerspeaker, but if this follow-up, released last month, is any indication, the time off was well spent. This album is much more polished than the last. Musically, it soars with layers of sounds that are pulled together by melody of the singer's voice. There is something in their songs that reminds me of The Flaming Lips or Stardeath and White Dwarfs. A very solid rock record.

Buffalo Killers - Dig. Sow. Love. Grow: On their fourth album, this Cincinnati revival band continues their quest to bring back the vibe of 70's classic rock. They succeed amazingly well. Any listener unaware that this was an album released in 2012 would assume it was some country rock gem from 1974 that they just couldn't place. Their authenticity has always been the thing that attracted me to this band back in 2006 when their debut was released. This album is very strong, though by its nature, it's not very original. Perfect for fans of classic rock who feel nothing good has been recorded since.

Chadd Downing - PMFL:  These two releases are interesting to compare. The first is a mix tape released by the Trenton rapper and the second is the same album mixed by Slim K. It's not really a mix, but rather a "slowdown" of the album, meaning it's the same exact material in a slower speed. The original album is straight hip-hop with decent beats on most tracks. Chadd Downing has a nice flow and definite skills. On the second, it sounds meaner. Some of the songs work much better in the slow versions, and when it works, the beats really kick. Other tracks, it just sounds like a song being played at the wrong speed. I recommend both, just pick and choose tracks from each. Both are available for free download at

Friday, November 23, 2012


Lately I find that I'm more thankful for the little things. We spend so much time anticipating the big moments that we let the small ones pass us by. We take for granted the comforts that truly make up our lives and are often responsible for creating joy when it happens. I've been trying to appreciate those elements a little more these days. In the process, I've found that I am thankful for more than I ever realized.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Manifest Destiny

At the start of writing every novel, or at least, near the start, once the characters take shape and begin to walk and talk on their own, there are certain scenes that play out inside the imagination. Some of these scenes are not to happen for a hundred or a hundred and fifty pages, yet they continue to haunt the process. 

I think one of the hardest aspects about writing a novel is managing these scenes. Rushing to get to them is so tempting and if one gives in to the temptation, the pace and development of the story suffer. Having finally reached one of these scenes in the manuscript I'm working on, I can tell you that waiting is worth it. The sense of achievement that comes with getting there at the right time can make the entire process successful. Stories need to be natural, never forced.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekend Music Roundup

Due to traveling and time constrictions, the Roundup took a short hiatus last weekend. I apologize for those of you who actually care, but not to fear, because it's back in full force this weekend. During the past few days, I've been searching out random albums on my never ending wishlist and was able to check off nearly thirty of them. A couple of them are here on this list, with many more to come on future lists. To finish off the list, there are a couple of recent releases that I'd been looking forward to for some time. Hope you enjoy.

Maple Bee - Home: Also known as Melanie Garside, Maple Bee is the sister of one of my artistic heroes, Katie Jane Garside (of Daisy Chainsaw, Ruby Throat, and Queenadreena). This is the Queenadreena bassist's third solo album, the second under the Maple Bee name. Released in 2008, this remarkable ablum is a blend of dream folk, rock and trip-hop...much like Queenadreena's albums. Her voice is amazing, and similarly childlike like her sister's, if not quite as unique. There's a spooky beauty that invades this album and makes it stand out. "Mirrior," "No Place," "Sweetness in Your Light," and "So Far from Lost" are all standout tracks. 

Cocoon - Where the Oceans End: Released in 2010, this is the second album by the French indie folk duo, following 2007's amazing My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash. This is an album I'd been searching out for quite some time and finally got my hands on it this week. Just like their first album, this is a collection of outstandingly beautiful songs. The power of their music is the upbeat jangle of the music contrasted with the despair found in the lyrics. I just hope a new album is on the horizon sometime.

Chet Baker & Art Pepper - Playboys: This album matches two iconic figures of the cool jazz genre, meeting in their early primes to record this amazing album. Released in 1957, this is third collaboration between the trumpet and saxophone players. From the opening notes of "For Minors Only," I found myself completely engrossed in this album. It swings with such amazing ease and Chet Baker blows a fantastic sound on his trumpet that just pulls you into the world of the music. This has been my morning album for days now and never fails to get me moving in the right direction.

Efterklang - Piramida: With their fifth album, the Berlin band delivers another fine piece of mood music. Like a lot of other bands coming out of Germany these days, Efterklang experiment with space rock effects, transforming their otherwise straightforward indie folk-pop into something that expands into swirling atmospheres. At moments they can be as catchy as The Shins or as opaque as early Pink Floyd. Either way, they are always very listenable and enjoyable.

John Frusciante - PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone: This was perhaps the most eagerly awaited release of the year for me. I've been a huge fan of John Frusciante's work since I purchased his debut way back in 1994. This is his 12th solo album, and among the previous eleven, at least three of them hold places on my Top 100 of all time. This is his first solo effort since 2009, and the first to show the influence of having worked with The Mars Volta. This really is an album that exists on two levels. Each song feels like it has two parts. There's the underlying current which has trademark Frusciante elements and lyrical beauty. Then there's the surface level of each song which is a lot of experimental noise and electronic elements. The two are not very cohesive and are not mixed in a way to seem as if they were meant to be. It's almost as if the electronic music is infiltrating the tracks, disrupting them and taking over. It's jarring on first listen, but quickly grows on me as I see a theme at work within the context of the dueling parts. Would I enjoy it better if the electronic parts were stripped away? Certainly. But I respect the attempt at trying to create something different and in the end, this stands as a unique album, much like many of his other releases.

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Cobra Juicy: For the past decade, this Pittsburgh band has been recording mind-expanding neo psychedelic albums. Released last month, this is their fifth full length album, though many EPs have also emerged since they began. There is a definite California sunshine feel to this record that flows through the craziness. Swirling harmonies march alongside harsh electronic effects, but the two work together rather than against each other. The chaos of their music reminds me of Sic Alps, though set to a much faster pace. Probably not for everyone, but if you're into something a little more 'out there' then definitely worth checking out. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Out of the Blue, Into the Black

All my stories seem to enter the woods at some point, attracted there by their own force of will. The woods are a place to be lost. A place where past and present mean less than they do on a crowded street and where the future seems to come at a slower pace. Time moves differently among the trees, just like it does between the pages. Perhaps there is a connection between the paper and the branches it used to be.

I've currently written my characters into the woods where fate awaits them with a cruel twist. Part of me feels guilty that I know what is about to befall them and not only do I not warn them, I am leading them straight to into the danger and rubbing my hands greedily together in anticipation. Because that's the thing about the woods...good and evil lurk in equal parts among the trees.