record stores, dogs, mangos, the breeze, minneapolis, bruce springsteen, russ feingold, martin luther king jr., books, you can count on me, peter sellers, tim russert, centro-matic, sam cooke, the yankees, parks, animals, cincinnati, postcard, postcards, barack obama, band t-shirts, nick drake, the ocean, n, lindz, mom, pals, the gourds, my ipod, the wire, vw, plants, austin, the sky, pictures, brooklyn, mike's, independence, amsterdam, bob dylan, baseball, murakami, nickel and dimed, baltimore, mercury lounge, texts, wilco, sushi, headphones, hbo, grass, edson, floors, netflix, cereal, coffee, quiet, barns
It's been five years since New Jersey's The Wrens released, yes I'm serious, one of the best records of all-time. Since the release of The Meadowlands, we've only heard snippets of what might be on the way. We've heard about a new record for about three years, yet nothing's surfaced. Charles Bissell has played a few solo gigs and most recently, has joined Okkervil River on tour. But still nothing from the beloved Wrens.
Until today. With no advance warning, up shows a new track. The first new song in about half a decade. And good lord is it a beauty. I will say no more: The Wrens "Sleep" (song four in the player).
Since the advent of Napster in the late 90s, fans, musicians, industry-insiders and even the public at large have experienced an endless barrage of news about the impending collapse of the music industry. The RIAA launched suit-after-suit targeting their customers. Some labels inserted damaging rootkits into CDs. And some of the more paranoid artists went after their fans, tech folks and anyone and everyone who "stole" their music.
What's been lost in this has been the music itself. I can't think of one article in the last decade that focused on the possible harm, if any, that these changes will have on those creating the music that we all live to hear. In other words, how will downsizing at the majors impact artist budgets and ultimately the ability of the great acts to continue recording great records? If there's a young Nirvana out there just getting started, will they have the opportunity to reach anyone outside of their hometown? Are there A&R reps. still hungering to find these acts? And if not, do services like MySpace, IODA, imeem, iTunes and CD Baby offer enough tools to help these artists reach the fans who would adore their sound? And if so, what else do they need? An agent? An attorney?
If music enthusiasts want to continue to have access to the music that helps us absorb all that music has to offer, these are the questions that need to be addressed. And they need to be addressed now. If not, those teenagers in Santa Fe or St. Paul will be lost in confusion and likely abandon what they long to deliver and we need to hear.
* Amoeba Records, Los Angeles, CA * Criminal Records, Atlanta, GA * Other Music, New York City * Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, Clarksdale, MS * Waterloo Records, Austin, TX * Aquarius Records, San Francisco, CA * Dusty Groove America, Chicago, IL * Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Nashville, TN * Shangri-La Records, Memphis, TN * Music Millennium, Portland, OR * Ear X-Tacy, Louisville, KY * Louisiana Music Factory, New Orleans, LA * Newbury Comics, Boston, MA * Grimey's New + Pre-Loved Music, Nashville, TN * Turntable Lab, New York City * The Electric Fetus, Minneapolis, MN * Jerry's Records, Pittsburgh, PA
I've never fully "gotten" My Morning Jacket. Sure, I hear the resemblance to Neil Young (who's one of my favorite artists of all-time), but I've always found Jim James' overreaching vocal delivery to be too extreme and too narrow. I remember buying At Dawn and not understanding the almost universal praise being spouted by nearly every music fan I knew. I subsequently passed on It Still Moves, but returned for Z, which had more staying power than any MMJ record I'd heard prior. But still, there just wasn't enough. I even coaxed myself into seeing them on New Years Eve at The Fillmore a few years back. I left the show early.
And then came the June 10 release of Evil Urges. The reviews have been extremely mixed, but a few trusted friends were adamant that I spend some time with this record. Reluctantly, last week I spent one afternoon listening front-to-back. About thirty minutes later, I found myself returning. And a number of times over the weekend. As I stepped onto the bus this morning, I absolutely had to hear "Highly Suspicious" and "I'm Amazed". They were the perfect openers to a Monday morning. I was literally dancing on the 21.
This afternoon I actually took it a step further and picked up a ticket to their mid-September show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Based on what I'm hearing on this new record, there's little chance that I'll be departing early.
6/26 Apollo Sunshine & Big Light @ 12 Galaxies 7/12 Surprise Me Mr. Davis @ Cafe du Nord 7/26 Lucero & Glossary @ Bottom of the Hill 7/31 Thao @ The Independent 9/10 Robert Forster @ Great American Music Hall 9/19 My Morning Jacket @ The Greek Theatre 9/27 Silver Jews @ Fernwood Resort
Aside from The Office, baseball and news, my days of watching television are basically over. Okay, so those three (especially given that an election's before us), still take up a pretty good deal of time. Nevertheless, in years past, I would watch entire seasons, and sometimes series, of a particular show. I'm sure HBO will churn out a new slew of thought-provoking and gripping shows in time. But as I reflect on the endless hours that I've spent before a television, I've compiled my favorite television series' of all-time.
And here they are:
#1 The Sopranos
#2 Six Feet Under
#3 The Wire
#4 Party of Five
#5 Curb Your Enthusiasm
#6 The Office
#8 The Honeymooners
#9 The Wonder Years
#10 Three's Company
Others Worth Noting: Seinfeld, Sports Night, The White Shadow, High Feather, The Real World, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Charlie Rose Show, Frontline, ER, Diff'rent Storkes, Knots Landing, Flight of the Conchords, The Simpsons, MASH
At some point in the last day or so, my last.fm song-counter surpassed 50,000.
I signed up for last.fm on June 23, 2005 and almost exactly three years later, I have listened to 50,049 tracks. Now remember, last.fm only tracks songs listened to via my computer and ipod. Like many last.fm enthusiasts, whenever I'm listening to a cd or a record, I feel cheated since it's not being tracked by the scrob. Nevertheless, after 50k, here are my top ten artists:
1 Josh Ritter 2,002 2 Wilco 1,711 3 Bruce Springsteen 1,560 4 Bob Dylan 1,444 5 Josh Rouse 1,141 6 Richard Buckner 988 7 Bonnie "Prince" Billy 904 8 M. Ward 808 9 Okkervil River 756 10 Eels 661
And scrobbin' right now: Peter Walker's "Young Gravity"
His legacy should combine everything that he eloquently stood for: honesty, humility, family, passion, understanding, justice and integrity.
If there's ever a political/journalistic figure who deserves the accolades that we're hearing from all angles, it's Tim Russert. He was a man of immaculate integrity and warmth. Every single morning for the past two-plus years, I jettisoned out of bed, grabbed a cup of coffee, and sat down for an hour of Meet The Press. Tim Russert sat with and interviewed the most important individuals to traverse this planet, and he delivered his inquisitions with the utmost responsibility and insight.
In addition to his work at NBC, Tim Russert was a devout catholic. No, not in the sense of George Bush and Jerry Falwell, but rather as a true believer who held onto something higher. And then there was his family, most notably his father and his son, who clearly meant the world to him. Whether it was his son's accomplishments at Boston College or his father's influence, Tim Russert appreciated and recognized all those around him.
We can all point to his work as a journalist as his most profound influence on us. But it was his ability to use his platform to pull us back down to Earth that should truly be remembered. He not only informed us, but in the most subtle of ways, Tim Russert reminded us of what truly mattered.
I've had a love/hate relationship with eMusic since signing up in December of 05. For the most part, eMusic is an amazing outlet for those with an endless need for music. The positives of this service are as follows: 1) deep catalog of independent music 2) $20/month for 90 downloads (less than $3/album) and 3) all content is MP3. On the flipside: 1) the search engine is atrocious, and this is done on purpose, in hopes that consumers won't exhaust their downloads each month 2) the labels that I love get screwed (given the "sharing" model, labels only make about $.22/download, whereas they make about $.65-$.70 via iTunes) and 3) few new releases (I mean, how long has CCR's Greatest been in the top 20?).
If you're even somewhat new to eMusic, it's a treasure trove. If you've spent many-a-month as a subscriber, you'll come to realize that eMusic is akin to the hours you'll spend perusing the vinyl bins at your local record store. In other words, if you take the time, there is a nearly bottomless supply of great music. As I said, I have been on eMusic almost three years, and lately I've found it difficult to unearth the gems. However, tonight I decided to begin my search around page 170. And about ten minutes later, I'm in possession of the following gems:
Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham L'Aventura The Wedding Present John Peel Sessions 1992-1995 Dirty Three Horse Stories
I now have 26 downloads left until June 16. Tomorrow I'll start on another random page. Just like your record store, sometimes the true prizes are found beneath the piles below.
Barack Obama is the first politician in my lifetime whose every word seems genuine. Whether he's speaking before 75,000 in Oregon or to his campaign staffers in Chicago, there's very little that Obama says that seems forced, contrived or lacking purpose.
The below video was shot in his campaign office on the day that he wrapped up the nomination. The last three minutes sums up why this man must be our next president.
Today is most likely my proudest day as an American citizen. I can't recall a time when a large part of our citizenship stood behind a cause that I felt so passionate about. And I can't recall a time when tha American public so broadly and so vocally embraced progress. For hundreds of years, millions of men and women fought and died to establish equality among the races. The abhorrence that was slavery existed in this country a mere 150 years ago. The historic events in Selma, Montgomery and throughout the South, were only 40 or so years ago. Yet on this day, June 4th of 2008, one of two major political parties in this country has nominated an African-American man as its party's candidate for the highest office in perhaps the World.
As I stepped onto the bus this morning, I looked around and noticed the diversity among the fifty or so passengers. I then peered down to the front page of my newspaper and saw folks of all different races glowing as they reached to shake Senator Obama's hand. I felt overwhelmed with pride, hope, humility and harmony. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I belonged to something larger than anything I've ever known. I felt part of a cause. I felt as though things could get better. I felt as though we're all in this together. I thought of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Stokely Carmichael, Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Charles Johnson, Ralph Ellison and Rosa Parks. And I thought of Barack Obama. And I thought of the nearly 20 million Americans who've exiting a polling place after casting their vote for him.
I felt it all. And midway through the day, I can't shake that feeling. Today I am proud of my country and the citizens who call it home. This is progress.
Essential Bob Dylan Visions of Johanna All I Really Want To Do She Belongs To Me Song To Woody It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry It's All Over Now, Baby Blue Mississippi Girl From the North Country Just Like a Woman A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall Tangled Up in Blue The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again Don't Think Twice, It's Alright Not Dark Yet Shelter From the Storm