Saturday, May 12, 2018

Discography Year Two - Week 36

It's very rare that we've ever, completely independently, had two noted musicologists pick the same artist in the same week.  This week, however, both MK and I chose Frightened Rabbit songs, which I guess is not surprising since we woke up hearing about the band's lead singer Scott Hutchison's suicide at age 36. Truthfully, I knew precious little about the band, but, as MK referenced, and said much more eloquently than I could have, I think I was taken by the juxtaposition of the event and the words of the artist.  It's been such a wretched long year with more death than any of us needed, and I think I've reached the point where I'm impacted by the deaths of people I don't even know.

On happier note, I love the songs this week.  The selection is typically eclectic, and there's a definite energy boost since the end of the semester.  I also love the symmetry of KA's selection, because I know that album was one of GB's favorites.

Dave Wallace

The Pretenders - The Wait

I recently finished Chrissie Hynde's autobiography, which has caused me to revisit much of the Pretenders' catalogue.  They made several fantastic albums, and their first album is one of the greatest debuts ever.  I remember listening to it when it first came out (yes, I'm old) and being blown away.  It's punk, but more melodic than usual, with attitude to spare.  Every song on the album is terrific, and The Wait may be the best, as well as most representative of their sound.  With Hynde spitting out the lyrics, James Honeyman-Scott providing brillant guitar work, and the rhythm section pushing it along, it's essential rock from the '80s.

Dave Mills

With grades submitted and the end-of-semester pile gradually dwindling (for now), I have a minute and a brain cell or two to spare for the beloved discography.

This track is one that's been an earworm for me since it came out in March. Called "Moped," it's by the Richard Koch Quartett. Yes, with two t's, cuz they're German. Koch himself is actually an Austrian trumpeter, but his jazz quartet is based in Berlin. Anyway, not only is this track just fun to listen to, I also think it's perfectly named. The music buzzes along on a wave of rickety kinetic energy akin to that of a moped weaving through traffic. We're not talking about smooth Italian "Vespa" sophistication here. We're talking 1978 Honda Hobbit. With that in mind, I wish they'd made this their album cover:

Mike Kelly

Frightened Rabbit -- Floating in the Forth 

Just this everyone.  

I'll steer myself
Through drunken waves
These manic gulls
Scream it's okay
Take your life
Give it a shake
Gather up
All your loose change
I think I'll save suicide for another year.

And this:  

"Be so good to everyone you love. It's not a given. I'm so annoyed that it’s not. I didn't live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones"

What's so simultaneously amazing and horrifying are the extremes that take it takes to understand what life is capable of making you feel.  It's a plus.  -- MK 

Kathy Seiler

It’s been 10 weeks since I posted and for that I am sorry, but the last couple of months have also been so overwhelming that I just couldn’t manage enough to post. The past 6 weeks or so have been particularly bad, with the death of two family members, selling our house and moving to an apartment, and the loss of our beloved greyhound Popy. Add drama at work, end of the semester, and everything else that might go wrong happening (the washer decided to leak the day before we moved out and the garage door broke the day before closing), and it felt like life was not only full of sorrow but literally kicking us hard in the ribs while we were down.

Today’s song is for all of my friends (many on this blog) who were there for me/us during all of this. The song Block of Wood is from Carbon Leaf’s album Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat. That’s about the best description of the past couple of months I’ve ever seen. The version I’ve included has expanded lyrics and is performed live outside, but below are the first few stanzas from the original that made me think of all of the wonderful people in my life who never tried to take my pain away but were there so I could cry. Thank you. You have LITERALLY made all the difference in my life these past couple of months. I have more love for you all than I will ever be able to express in words.

Grab your heart
We need to leave
There's no time to cry or grieve
For the fallen family tree

Rise above the flooding plain
Crouching low to dark the flame
Generations against the grain
Up in smoke, down the drain

If the fire, if the flood
Burns the tree and thins the blood
If your tears don't want to dry
I can help you cry

Through the night
Through the night and day
I can't take your pain away
But I can help you cry

Dave Kelley

To paraphrase the great philosopher Cartman, I am so fucking pissed off I can't stand it.  I just fucking despise our administration from top to bottom and most of the Republican leadership to boot.  Might as well throw in most of the folks who approve of this shit show.  I am sure by next week, I will be back to the slow simmering boil of the last two years.  Not this week though.
"I'm waiting for the last to be first and the first to be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass."
"The Ghost of Tom Joad"  Bruce Springsteen
Originally recorded acoustically, the live performances are loud and raucous.  Combining my favorite musician with arguably my favorite American novelist make me a sucker for this one.  Plus it is a really angry song which suits my current mood
This live version features the great Tom Morello joining E Street.  Playing some jaw dropping solos with his guitar with the words "Arm the homeless" written across it, Morello really puts this over the top.  Bruce contributes strong guitar work and an impassioned intro.  This one does a body good.  Take your Spinal Tap speakers up to 11 on this one.
P.S.  Fuck these fascist bastards into the ground and pour some concrete on top.

Kevin Andrews

In 1954 the long playing record, the LP, was still in its infancy. Artists were no longer restricted to a 3 ½ minute recording. The musical palate was now 22.5 minutes per side. Around this time Frank Sinatra was beginning to piece his career back together. His television show was cancelled and his record company dropped him. He was no longer the teen age heart throb. 

His wife Ava Gardner helped him land a role in in From Here to Eternity for which he won and Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. With a new contract from Capitol Records he was entering his most productive musical period. 

Unfortunately, his marriage to Ava was ending and he was heart broken. She was the love of his live and he of hers though their actions didn’t reflect this since they were both serial adulterers. Several times Lana expressed her anger that women were treated differently than men in this regard. Men could have as many women as they liked but she was labeled a home wrecker or worse. Their exploits were legendary.

From this grief Frank created waht would come to be known as the first concept album, In The Wee Small Hours. This is the entire album, pick any song that you’d like. It’s beautiful and haunting, it gets the message across, he’s totally bummed out.

In episode 8 of Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music there’s a great section on this I’d highly recommend.

Phillip Seiler

As Gary has alluded to, our family has experienced a string of losses the last few weeks: two expected but still painful and one extremely sudden, random, and tragic. It has left both of us very weary and having to neglect some things that bring us joy such as music and hosting gatherings for friends. However, the exceptional kindness of our friends has helped us navigate and emerge from the other side. Bruised but not beaten. And I will say that while the book of face is a garbage platform that would harvest your most secret dreams and hopes and sell them, for pennies, to some asshole who believes bitcoins are really the future, our lives are controlled by chemtrails, and that gamergate was really about ethics in game journalism, I took some joy in the condolences from across my life: from the girl I was in a high school musical with who introduced me to Bauhaus to new friends to people I have only ever met on various message boards discussing music.

And that oddly segues into my choice for this week. I have been part of a 20+ year conversation about the music of Todd Rundgren that started on an AOL message board. It has waxed and waned as new releases have come and gone but there was a community around him that was always happy to discuss and share music. Recently, we all got a major gift as Todd and the members of his band Utopia were offered a chance to re-form and tour, something they had not done since 1992. The tour would consist of Todd, Kasim Sulton, bassist, Willie Wilcox, drummer, and Ralph Shuckett on keyboards. Roger Powell, who is the most recognized keyboardist for the band can no longer tour for medical reasons. I believe I heard that it was joint and tendon issues in his hands. Ralph was a keyboardist for the earlier, prog-rock version of the band. Sadly, he too developed medical issues and had to pull out. So with only weeks to go before opening night, the band had no keyboardist. They actually put out a call on the fan boards for anyone who might know the bands' catalog. The tour was envisioned to cover the band's entire career from their prog rock anthems to their later power pop so this was ambitious. Thankfully, Todd's son alerted him to a Gil Assayas who joined and learned all his bits in just a few short weeks. He is insanely talented and fit right in, it seems. (He records as GLASYS and well, here is bonus song for this week:

So last Sunday, I left my family for the night and drove to Boston to see a show I never thought I would get a chance to. It was both glorious and terrible. Todd had a cold (write some songs that don't rely on your upper range, Todd!), Kasim seemed like he might be next, the theater's seats were literally worse than sitting on broken glass and everyone there was too old to stand for the whole show. But, oh, was the music and musicianship amazing. Willie was the highlight for me as he agreed to take a hiatus from his day job composing music for gaming machines in Vegas but you would never know as he was tight and drove the show all night. Thankfully, Utopia had a long career so they had a large catalog to choose from and for two one hour sets they featured great song after song and many I thought I would never see live. I was happy for a few hours and it was good. 
So for this week I give you two songs I needed through this time. First, the hit they never had, Utopia's Love is The Answer

And the band's closing anthem, Just One Victory

Some how, some way
We need just one victory

and we're on our way

Cyndi Brandenburg

As we celebrate the end of the semester and move into post-semester/pre-summer May mode, the storms of April work deadlines yield to the promise of sunshine and May flowers.  And of course, the time and space opens up for us to fully appreciate the magnitude of Gary Scudder's playful irreverence.  Welcome to American Horror Story: May Collaborative.  There is much in the way of spooky intensity and inexplicable phenomena lurking either just below the surface or beyond our peripheral vision in the halls of Aiken.  Lucky for us, we have the ability to appreciate the beauty of it all even as we battle persistent ghosts and demons and the occasional dead bat. This week, my selection is part tongue-in-cheek nod to the series that inspired this year's theme, and part recognition of the fact that some people have real staying power.  From Season 3, Coven, Stevie Nicks, Seven Wonders.  

Gary Scudder

Frightened Rabbit, Holy

As is all too often the case, this was not my first choice for the week.  Doubtless Hutchison's suicide inspired the post, but the song itself fits in brilliantly with the start of Ramadan in a few days.  I think we're all both too forgiving and too critical of our own faiths, even if the faith is atheism.  Certainly my own religion, as with all others, has more than it's fair share of self-righteous pricks. Beginning Wednesday morning I'll be fasting for a month straight from dawn to dusk (and, as last year's popular t-shirt reminds us, "No, not even water."). Technically, I should be fasting from fajr prayer, around 3:15 in the morning, but I don't start that early.  Instead, I'll set my alarm at 4:30, get up and drink four large glasses of water, two cups of coffee, and toss down enough eggs and toast and corned beef hash and bananas by 5:00 a.m. to, inshallah, last me until 8:30 p.m. This is a half-hour earlier than last year.  At one of the Iftar dinners last year one of the other guys at the mosque, in response to me admitting that I didn't start before fajr prayer, said, something akin to, "that's OK, brother, you tried," but not in the good way, but rather in the sanctimonious fashion.  My response was, "No, brother, that's enough, that's more than enough."  By that I didn't mean that he needed to shut up, but rather that fasting fifteen and a half hour a day for a month straight was actually more than enough.  If we were on a similar latitude in the southern hemisphere right now I'd be fasting about nine hours a day, and, if I live into my seventies, I guess I'll get to play that game because Ramadan moves about a week and a half earlier every year.  We fast during Ramadan to teach ourselves patience and self-control and to remind us of the people who in the world who are involuntarily not eating. Every religion has a contest between the greater internal truth and the external side of the faith, which all too often ends up being all people, both on the inside and the outside, see of the faith. Too many people turn the road signs that are supposed to help gently direct humans to the divine (even if it's inside them) into stop signs, and judge people harshly on their rolling stops. To be fair, I'm usually in a pretty dreadful mood leading up to Ramadan and during the first week.  A couple weeks ago during our monthly potluck our new Imam started an equally new tradition of having members introduce themselves and talk about their own personal journeys, and for some unfathomable reason he started with me (probably to set a very low bar so that others will feel better about themselves).  He mainly wanted me to talk about the challenges of being a convert, and I focused on Ramadan - which, for new converts, tends to be pretty lonely time of the year. I shared my memories of the first Friday prayer during my first Ramadan and how the previous Imam started waxing philosophically about how Ramadan was the most magical time of the year, and I wanted to jump up at the time and say, "Seriously?  Do you see anybody here having fun?"  Happily, everyone in the audience thought that was quite funny. So, check back in a couple weeks and I'll hopefully have more positive songs.  At this moment I'll stick with Frightened Rabbit's Holy, which is a pretty solid dig at those who are quite full of themselves and more than willing to tell you about it (I think it also goes further afield than that).

I really need a copy of this shirt for our Champlain recognition lunch for this coming Wednesday.  Our college went from a big blowout end of the year party with unlimited eats and drinks - to a party with two drink tickets - to a noonday lunch because of the demand for a midday event (no one can remember this demand, naturally) - and they then managed to witlessly schedule it for the first day of Ramadan so that the school's Muslim employees have to attend and watch all their colleagues have lunch (although, at least not drink the two drink tickets of distant memory).

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