Saturday, November 8, 2008

Moving to the New Blog!

Just because I want to be like Madara, I too am changing blog addresses...

I'm not sure the site is completely ready, but that's only because I'm being very perfectionistic about site design, which is actually quite silly since I know hardly anything about site designing. But it's fun. Come check me out! Mixes, mixes, just like always.

Webmasters, blog-writers, talented monkeys, please update your links! See you there!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Stretch Run

(Photo: For no reason whatsoever, a young Albert Einstein, when he worked at the Patent Office.)

I'm sure everybody has put all of two and two together by now, but I guess it could be a bit harder for those without facebook or myspace accounts. So, let me say it: I'm moving to Oregon, to live with Alex, to date Amy, to hopefully not work very hard in real life and therefore to *succeed* in various writing and self-employment ventures. (Ah, la esperanza...!) I'm moving in about 5 weeks. It's all very exciting, and 90% of what I think of these days.

And with me here writing about music, telling you all that is me telling you about the mix, I s'pose--since there's no way my music listening and the rest of my life aren't completely intertwined, as they usually are.

So what analysis is hidden here; what prism to view the rest of my life can we draw from this mix? Well, the songs are a little more energetic than usual, so I suppose these changes have given me energy. (Or wait: perhaps I'm tired and looking for a pick-up.) Dee-lite starts the whole thing off with all-time dance party favorite "Groove Is in the Heart," which must mean I feel like dancing my life away (wait, crap--I'm probably being ironic, aren't I). Well at least the title, The Stretch Run--surely this signifies I'm at the end of a long race, ready to take a rest, begin a new day.

Then again, I named the last mix "Miles to Go," so it's clear I don't know what is up and what is down. :-P

I kid. Things are looking good for the future. I am excited, and I think this mix reflects that. I've got a lot to do between now and Dec. 5, but by and large it all seems doable, fun, knee-slap happy.

The Stretch Run
1. Groove Is in the Heart, Deee-Lite
2. I Want To Be The Boy, The White Stripes
3. Mardy Bum, Arctic Monkeys
4. Ragged Wood, Fleet Foxes
5. Under Control, The Strokes
6. That Teenage Feeling, Neko Case
7. Re: Stacks, Bon Iver
8. Gypsy, Fleetwood Mac
9. It Beats 4U, My Morning Jacket
10. Effect & Cause, The White Stripes
11. Waltz, No. 2 (XO), Elliott Smith
12. Killing Lies, The Strokes
13. I Am a Child, Neil Young
14. Holiday Road, Lindsey Buckingham

I think "Groove" is one of those songs no one could ever truly get sick of. I mean, you're kind of always sick of it, but it is incredibly infectious. Am I right?...Been listening to a lot of White Strips AND Raconteurs lately. Jack White is a genius, and I don't give him near enough credit..."Mardy Bum" was also on the mix I made for myself when I left Alaska the first time...honestly, Fleet Foxes can do no wrong at this point...double-dip of Strokes on this one; I'm seriously dying for a new album from them. Please Julian et al., please!...the perfect love song, from Neko Case?...I need to digest more of this Bon Iver album to give him a fair shot at the 2008 "Best Of" list. Any other Best Of recommendations out there, dear readers?..."Gypsy" by Fleetwood Mac is such a perfect song. I like gypsies...I really wish I had the newest My Morning Jacket CD, but I don't (yet) "Effect & Cause," when Jack White spits the smack "But if you're headed to the grave you don't blame the hearse," I call back "DAMN!!!" every time...had a talk with my new friend Javier about Elliott Smith a few days back. He is punk-folk, I believe we decided...I like how this album ends up, with some quick childish Neil Young and "Holiday Road" by Fleetwood frontman Lindsey Buckingham. Do you know what movie that song is from? Here's your hint.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Let's Visit the 90s (Briefly)

I'm headed to the fair environs of Portland/Salem tomorrow (where stuff like this happens), but this post has nothing to do with that.

Why the 1990s, you ask? I have no idea; most of this music isn't even from the 1990s; I swear, the only 1990s thing that has happened to me lately is a certain presidential election and the growing probability that a certain party's presidential candidate (Barack the Vote!) will be taking office, with a mandate even. Other than that, I got nothin'.

Still, there is something grunge and/or Jtown and/or West Hall about this playlist. Firstly, the Foo Fighters' The Colour and the Shape album pretty much defined my freshman year of college (sexual frustration and existential angst I think would be apt descriptors for both); secondly, the backward-glancing lyrics, hooks, song titles, and even cover song choices of Dr. Dog(the most excellent band you've never yet heard of, in which case you have, in which case I apologize). Thirdly, the Beatles rock reminds me of dorm days with Cebs, circa, to keep harping on the Dr. Dog excellence, this is the stuff that Dr. Dog is most compared to, George Harrison/John Lennon Beatles' riffology.

Anyways, perhaps the 1990s are calling us, folks. Do you remember those days, of fiscal pragmatism at home and abroad? I mean, you were only 18. The best you were doing for eating out was comedy night at the campus dining center; if Jeff Buckley told you to drink "Lilac Wine" afterwards, you would do it. You were head over heals for one certain girl/boy who lived just one dorm over, and you made out with one certain girl at a one certain party, when you were both drunk, but they were never quite the same girl. There was the puke post.

Even if it is only in listening to The Raconteurs' and The Raveonettes' punky teenage play that you can remember it, even if it is only left to us by Loudon Wainwright's childlike glee, the 1990s are there for us. A Democrat in the White House. Apple pie, baseball, the poetry of Jill Osier. What more can we ask for?

So, again, Barack the Vote! Listen to this music while you do so! Go Rays!

Man, I way too drunk right now...damn dorm room bourbon nights...

Let's Visit the 1990s (Briefly)
1. Sleep Walk, Santo & Johnny
2. My Doorbell, The White Stripes
3. Everlong, Foo Fighters
4. A Long Time Ago, Dr. Dog
5. Don't Let Me Down, The Beatles
6. Find the River, Dr. Dog
7. Monty Got a Raw Deal, R.E.M.
8. The Swimming Song, Loudon Wainwright
9. Coconut Skins, Damien Rice
10. When Your Mind's Made Up, Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
11. The Hill, Marketa Irglova
12. Lilac Wine, Jeff Buckley
13. Paranoia in B-flat Major, The Avett Brothers
14. If I Was Young, The Raveonettes
15. The Old Days, Dr. Dog
16. Old Enough, The Raconteurs
17. From a Motel 6, Yo La Tengo
18. On the Radio, Regina Spector

A note on that top photo: it's from prom, I can't remember which one, and was damaged in a dorm room bourbon accident, I believe...also, Shouts to Noel Wien Library, Suzanne, Alisha, and Amy for pretty much everything that is on this mix. I thank you all...Santo & Johnny: a 50s beginning to a 90s mix...Jack White has a strange knack for catchy and upbeat songwriting when he wants to pop it up a little...seriously, check out Dr. Dog, every track you can get your hands on. I haven't heard a bad one yet, and "A Long Time Ago" is the catchiest rock song I've heard since perhaps Weezer's Blue Album...Quick story about this Beatles track: I got it off the Beatles 1967-1970 (Disc 2), which is one of the blue discs of the blue/red double-cd greatest hits package of theirs that is quite widespread. Anyways, I had been missing that that disc (having 3 of the 4) until last night, when Alisha gave it to me. It was the only disc of the four that she had!...excellent (certainly better than me) music blog/emporium Stereogum put together a "tribute" album to R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People. You can download the whole thing at their site, and I put the Dr. Dog version of "Find the River" here. It also made me revisit the original album...loving all of these songs a lot: Louden sounds like Townes Van Zandt to me here, I'm slightly in love with Marketa Irglova now (but not enough to get the little marks over the vowels, apparently)...some classic Buckley, and The Avett Brothers, who are at the heart of one of this librarian's favorite genres, Alt-Country...I kind of hate the Raveonettes, yet I have two full albums of their stuff. On each album there is exactly *one* song that I like...this Yo La Tengo sounds to me like the single point where there sound overlaps exactly with The Pixies...Regina Spector, because I really like Russian chicks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mea Culpa, Glen Hansard

So, remember that film Once, that everybody loved, that came out like a year ago? Yeah, sure you do; you loved it! After all, it was a good movie, with a lot of good things going on for it: good music, compelling love story, underdog vibe, Irish accents...hard not to like all of those things.

Unless you're me, that is. Being a self-avowed contrarian (purely for contrary's sake), I refused to see the film for about a year, despite Katy constantly repeating how good it was, despite her listening to the soundtrack in the shower every day for about 4 months, despite every single person I've ever met ooohing and aahing when I said I hadn't seen it yet. I don't like musicals, I said. I don't like romantic comedy.

Funny, though, that during my visit to Oregon, I finally did see the film with Amy, and fell in love with it, too. The music is good, not musical-like at all, really; the story is earnest and true, the love story not following the typical romantic narrative; and, let's be honest, Markéta Irglová is about the cutest thing in the world and made the film. (Does it freak anyone else out that she was born in 1988?)

Not only that, but Glen Hansard's work with The Frames is pretty good, too!

So, this is my apology to Glen, Markéta, and their cohorts. Everyone see Once, if you haven't already, and buy the soundtrack, if you haven't done that either.

Glen, Markéta, my bad.

"When Your Mind's Made Up," Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

Saturday, October 4, 2008

These Are My Keywords: Vampire Weekend, Cat Power, Jenny Lewis, New, mp3

Another week come and gone...I don't have too much to say more than that. I didn't even have it in mind to post a mix when I woke this morning, but I decided I wanted to put up something, so here are some good tunes I've added to my collection lately. If you're keeping tally at home, my collection is up to 7140 songs, which is 19.6 days of music, which is stored in 26.08 GB. Not really that much, compared to many people I know, actually. But that's from 1021 artists, or 1098 albums, which are much more interesting statistics to me. Wait...why am I telling you about statistics???

Truth told, I have been working on a new blog. It is in terribly rough condition right now, but that is because I cobbled it together from my small, but expanding, knowledge of CSS/PHP markup languages. I used the excellent and fun layout editor by Artisteer, too. Yes, I still have delusions of making money off my love of music. Insane? Probably. But worth a shot.

So, do you want to check out the *very rough* work thus far? Hmm, okay...check it out at:

Anyways, all I've been thinking about this week is blogging, XHTML, keywords, traffic...and, oh yeah, music. So it seemed like I should share some of it with you all. Here we go:

These Are My Keywords
1. Legendary Anchor Ron Burgundy Welcomes You to His Album: Will Ferrell
2. Ottoman, Vampire Weekend
3. Beat (Health, Life, and Fire), Thao
4. The Next Messiah, Jenny Lewis
5. At Least That's What You Said, Wilco
6. Dark End of the Street (Live), Cat Power
7. Shelter, Ray LaMontagne
8. Fighter Girl, Mason Jennings
9. Soldier Boy, Mason Jennings
10. How Lucky We Are, Meiko
11. Heads Roll Off, Frightened Rabbit
12. Home, Great Northern
13. Bowie, Flight of the Conchords
14. Black Sand, Jenny Lewis
15. Everywhere, Vampire Weekend
16. Ron Burgundy's Sign-Off, Will Ferrell

Thanks to Amanda&Jon for the hilarious soundtrack to Anchorman...speaking of soundtracks, "Ottoman" is a new song from VW on the one for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist...this may turn out to be my favorite song off Thao's great We Brave Bee Stings And All album...Jenny Lewis is amazing. Seriously, who were the last artists to pull of the epic song so well: Guns'n'Roses? Queen?...Jenny gets a little rock lineup protection from Wilco, in the same way Manny used to protect David Ortiz (for the baseball fans out there)...OKAY, STOP and LISTEN to this Cat Power live cover of Aretha Franklin's "Dark End of the Street." Now, if that didn't stop you cold in your tracks, 1) watch this video (it's the first one) of that song being officially recorded in the studio, and 2)realize that darling Chan will be releasing an EP with the track December 9th. Wow, it will be so exciting to listen to a nice, cleanly produced version of this song..."Shelter" by Ray L. is one of darling Amy's favorites...this duo of Mason Jennings songs remind me of my friend Alisha and her husband David, who is serving overseas in Iraq. Both of them kick the adorability (is that a word?) of this Meiko song..."Heads Roll Off" from Frightened Rabbit has great lyrics and a better video...honestly, I'm not totally sold on this Great Northern song. What do you guys think?...ah, Flight of the Conchords and Will Ferrell, what a combo for one mix!...pretty sure I'll have given away this entire Jenny Lewis album by Christmas...I'm not crazy about this cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere" from VW, but you should probably have it...oh poor, poor, Ron Burgundy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

See, I Told You

Winter begins in Fairbanks, Alaska, with a couple inches of September snow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Miles to Go

I don't know about where you are, but here in Fairbanks, the change of season is in full swing...from summer directly into winter, it would seem, as our autumn here lasts only about a month. We had our first hard frost this week, and all the birch trees are now swept clean of their leaves; outside everything is golden, and ripe-seeming; a blanket of white will soon put all of that ripeness to rest, like plums stored in an ice box (W.C. Williams, anyone?). Change comes to us again...

It is amazing, to me, how often the subject of change comes up on this blog, in these mixes. I guess it truly is the one constant in our lives, but there's also no doubt that 2008 has been a crazy, topsy-turvy year. Kevin & Rowan are in Italy, Amanda is in Utah, Beechcraft is for sale, and--TMI alert--I'm about 6 true loves away from where I started the year. (If anything convinces me of the constancy of change, it is the changeability of my own stupid heart.) And now winter is coming at us. And then it'll be spring again. Round and round we go on wacky Planet Earth.

And all I really know about Merry-Go-Rounds is they usually have music, so here we are. The title of this one comes from Robert Frost, who knew more about winter than I ever will:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it's queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Miles to Go
1. Part One, Band of Horses
2. Too Much Space, Lisa Germano
3. White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes
4. Mykonos, Fleet Foxes
5. Godspeed, Jenny Lewis
6. Black Cab, Jens Lekman
7. Lights Out, Santogold
8. Father to a Sister of Thought, Pavement
9. I Hate It When That Happens to Me, John Prine
10. I'm Your Man, Leonard Cohen
11. Acid Tongue, Jenny Lewis
12. Don't Think About Me, Earlimart
13. The Ice Is Getting Thinner, Death Cab for Cutie
14. The Lake, Antony
15. Endless Song of Happiness, Yael Naim
16. Nothing Is True, Earlimart
17. Sing It Again, Beck

Band of Horses is a band of winter, if ever there was one...ditto for Lisa Germano. Check the beautiful album cover...Fleet Foxes are a band to watch, if you haven't picked up on them already. Alex saw them live, opening for Wilco, and he was impressed. They remind me of My Morning Jacket a lot...the new Jenny Lewis is the bomb! See my post about it...Jens Lekman is so good, such a unique and earnest artist. I love him and you should too, if you don't already...Thanks to Suzanne for the rest of the sweet Santogold album!...this Pavement song puts me in a reflective mood, perfect for winter...this is from Prine's newest album, Fair & Square. He put it out after battling cancer, and you can sense the weariness in his fighter's's L. Cohen to lighten our introspection...I went with two of the slower songs from Acid Tongue, but there are some great straight-ahead rockers on the album, too...I'll never get over Earlimart's Mentor Tormentor, one of my absolute all-time favorite albums...I just finally got hold of Death Cab's Narrow Stairs. Another solid album...thanks to Sarah for both this Antony & Yael Naim. Beauty from Antony, per usual, and doesn't this Yael Naim sound a bit like "Gloria in Excelsis Deo"/"Angels We Have Heard on High"?...some more Earlimart and then some classic Beck to bring it home.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Financial Meltdown, Pt. II

Only one thing left to do...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas

Here, the first ever Mixed Cookies book recommendation. I feel a bit like Oprah...

This short novel, Norwegian Tarjei Vesaas' The Ice Palace, comes in at just over 180 pages, but packs an emotional punch equal to anything I have ever read. Written in 1963, The Ice Palace tells the story of two young girls, Sis and Unn, girls who build a powerful, magical friendship between themselves, only to see it taken away from them quickly and tragically. In the aftermath of this tragedy, one of the girls must confront adulthood and loss at a much-too-young age. In a very obvious way this is a traditional "coming of age" story, but it is one of the very best I have ever read. To me it is even superior to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

What makes the book so moving and so profund is Tarjei Vesaas' spare style, which allows the turbulent emotion of the novel to be clearly seen and understood. The style feels like magical realism, actually, probably because Vesaas so perfectly renders the magic of youth itself. The author seems to have an amazing grasp of child psychology, and he transfers it to the page beautifully. The entire experience is exhilarating, sad, wistful, ominous, and joyful all at once...just as muddled as those years were for most of us, I suppose.

I do not feel I can do this work enough justice here. Let me say this for the book: I cried hard through the last 20 pages or so, at each and every revelation of the ambiguous truth of human experience that Vesaas has masterfully packed in. It is wonderful. If you were ever a child, or if you have ever been heartbroken, this book is for you. So go buy it at Amazon.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mad Scientists--or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Worldwide Financial Meltdown

There is no doubt that our current financial downturn is worrisome, given the unprecedented and unexpected Perfect Storm of events that have occurred recently. Fractures have appeared in many vast and important segments of the economy, beginning with the subprime mortgage default crisis of 2007. Now it seems that the entire lending sector is in serious trouble, with many companies teetering on bankruptcy (these are the AIGs and Merrill Lynches we are hearing about right now), and the rest of the entire sector scared and definitely eager to hold on to their capital, therefore reducing lending (which puts pressure on interest rates to go up, which further exacerbates all of the problems in a marketplace sector that is wholy dedicated to lending money). Add to all of this the larger concerns we have had for our economy in the last 5 years--the price of fuel, the state of our airlines, the extremely wasteful spending by the government (which is now deeply, deeply in debt and in a poor position to help boost the economy)--and it is clearly a grave situation out there, especially for the little guy. This is as bad a financial crisis as our nation has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, which makes this definite gut-check time.

All of that said, however, we must be careful to not panic--and there are many reasons not to. For one, we must distinguish between finance and economics. Finance refers to money itself: distribution, investement and lending; economics refers to the study of choices made by people when faced with scarcity (scarcity is a universal principle appliable to any commodity...what resource isn't scarce when you come down to it)? The two overlap when we discuss macroeconomics, where money can be understood as liquid capital, but remain distinct at other levels.

One important distinction is the level of regulation employed by overseers (aka government) of the financial and economic markets. Economic markets are very much still free markets, free of regulation and red-tape (except in certain few sectors where it has been determined regulation is beneficial)--at a microeconomic level, it is still very easy, especially in America, for a single person to begin their business or develop their idea.

Financial markets, however, are very regulated. The Federal Reserve has a great variety of instruments at its disposal to regulate lending--exactly because the Fed itself is the largest lender in the nation, and sets important interest rates to the largest borrowers in the world. In other words, the financial markets have very active babysitters--and we all know this to be true, since in the last decade Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, somehow became a celebrity, and also because every 3 months for the last 10 years we have heard on the news the most minute shift in interest rates as set by the Fed.

In 1929, when the stock market crashed, these tools were not developed at all, not even close--understanding of all of finance and economics at that time was still in the dark ages, compared to what we know today. Information technology also helps the Fed react amazingly quick today. With the tools and the ability to quickly manipulate them, our nation is truly in an unprecedented position to help stabilize the lending sector.

Underscoring this strength is that governments and banks around the world have reacted to this crisis already, today sending a great influx of cash into strapped markets, thereby lowering interest rates and encouraging relaxed borrowing and lending. This may seem like a counter-intuitive thing to do, perhaps leading to inflation, but the truth of the matter is that in 1930 our government tightened lending policies--exactly when they should have relaxed them, encouraging the economy--and this is exactly what made the Depression so "Great." The fact that Federal Reserves the world over understand that this is a world crisis, and are acting in lockstep to react, shows how much strength we have, and how far we have come.

In the meantime, the overall economy shows mixed signals, as it largely has for the last 7 years. Greening the economy, finding renewable energy sources, and war-spending are still much greater long-term concerns. What we face now is a credit crunch--a HUGE one, but a credit crunch nonetheless. It will require some buckling down in borrowing, as lending giants and the government itself will need to rebuild capital before borrowing can be executed as swiftly as it was in the mid-to-late 1990s, but a careful and concerted effort by all Americans and by our next president will undoubtedly be able to keep our economy growing--if ever so slowly--over the next few years.

Mad Scientists, like that guy above, taking care of us one dollar at a time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ray LaMontagne...Perfect for Sunday Morning

Sunday morning, nothing much to do but wait for football to start (let's go fantasy team!)...otherwise I'm just up early to sit at my desk, balance the ol' checkbook, and stare dreamily out the window at the beautiful greens and golds of our Alaskan autumn. So beautiful, so perfect...and then Ray LaMontagne came on my iTunes, and suddenly the morning got even better!

I'm a fairly recent convert to the Church of Ray, but I am happy to be here now. Ray is amazing: his voice often draws comparisons to Van Morrison, but to me it is a little more lush (if a little less powerful); I think of him more of a musical descendant of Nick Drake or a contemporary of Iron & Wine than anything else. But those comparisons come up short, I think, because while Mr. LaMontagne does do the folk/soul fusion, it is the intensity of his perception, the accuracy of his lyrics, which set him apart. I was lucky enough to get a copy of his 2006 Till the Sun Turns Black, and I was quickly amazed by how many of the songs seemed to speak straight to my soul, like great poetry on the page: "Gone Away from Me," "Empty," "Lesson Learned," "Within You," and "Three More Days" among them (and all on that one album!).

So here are some Ray LaMontagne videos, perfect for Sunday Morning. These are outtakes from a BBC Four special Ray put on in 2007. Awesome stuff (with decent sound quality)! Enjoy!

"Three More Days"


"Be Here Now"


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jenny Lewis' New Album, Acid Tongue, out 9/23/08

Sometimes I like to think I'm pretty ahead of the curve on knowing what is out there as far as music goes. And then I find out one of everyone's favorite artists, Jenny Lewis, has a new album coming out in just two weeks, and I wonder: how ahead of the curve could I really be? Two weeks? What a poseur...

No matter, though, because the main point is we should all rejoice in this new hearlding of Jenny Lewis material! Excuse the Biblical connotations there, but that is the level of my excitement for this news. After all, Lewis does have the voice of an angel, doesn't she?

She does...but Acid Tongue is an apt title for this album, which sees Lewis exploring a grity, blue-collar rock'n'roll sound, something more akin to the gospel-fired blues of the Rolling Stones or Emmylou Harris than anything Rilo Kiley has done (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and White Stripes seem more modern touchstones.) It's a dark angel kind of thing. Also haunting this album are the spirits of Carole King, Carly Simon, Chrissie Hynde and, seriously, Diane Keaton (check Lewis' hat above and compare to the singing Annie Hall).

And check out the amazing list of guest stars on this album! I about died when I realized Elvis Costello had started singing...

The gospel is clearly carried forward from Lewis' work with the Watson Twins on 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat, but the heavy guitar blues fog that cloaks her in this album feels brand new, suitable to Lewis' voice and aesthetics. She seems slightly mysterious and aloof on a lot of this album, which I don't think I'd normally accuse her recordings of, but I like it here. Key tracks for me (on first listen) are: "Pretty Bird," "The Next Messiah," "Acid Tongue" (4.5 stars there), "Godspeed" (5+++), and "Carpetbaggers." And everything else, too.

But, friends, do not take my word for it!!! You can listen to all of the album at:

Jenny Lewis' Myspace.

And then on 9/23/08 we'll have another entrant for album of the year!!!

UPDATE: Today, Sept. 16, I doubled-back to the MySpace to listen to the new album again...and sadly found that they've taken most of the new album down. It was apparently a limited-time thing only. Still, you can check out a couple new tracks, at least!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Here & Now

Unable to sleep overnight, restless in my mind over many questions, eventually a musical one occurred to me: "Steve, what is the best music of 2008 so far?" Looking over my collection, I noted several artists that will likely make my year-end best-of list--Vampire Weekend, Basia Bulat, Ra Ra Riot, and Mason Jennings among them--but I also realized that there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of what has come out in 2008. It seems that for a long while now, most of my mixes have spanned many decades...which is great in a lot of respects, but at the same time, I have always enjoyed making mixes of brand new music that I just discovered that very same day. And so, thinking these thoughts, I set out to make another mix that had "Here & Now" written all over it.

Now not all of this music is from 2008: the Alton Ellis is from the 60s, Moxy Fruvous came from the early 90s, and a few other tracks are from 2003-2007. But 11 of 18 songs here were released this year, so that's not so bad. And from those, two artists especially stand out here: Thao and Santogold. Thao is Thao Nguyen, a female singer-songwriter whose songs are beautiful, quirky, and effervescent. Itunes compares her to Cat Power, which I might buy if Cat Power were on some really really good anti-depressants! Santogold is composed of various musicians but always fronted by Sandi White...and I'm not sure what I think of the band's complete body of work yet, but I will tell you I love her voice and I freaking love the song on this mix, "L.E.S. Artistes," like a fat kid loves cake. Oh man, that song's so awesome(!)...the Santogold, not the 50 Cent I referenced there, that is.

As is most everything here! Let me not mince words: If you're going to perhaps download only one mix this month, it should maybe be this one.

Here & Now
1. M79, Vampire Weekend
2. Bag of Hammers, Thao
3. Your Heart, Donovon Frankenreiter
4. L.E.S. Artistes, Santogold
5. Ghetto Pop Life, Danger Mouse & Jemini
6. Blue and Gold Print, Mates of State
7. Never Knew Your Name, Mason Jennings
8. Each Year, Ra Ra Riot
9. Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms, Frightened Rabbit
10. Whiter Shade of Pale, Alton Ellis
11. Run Off, Breathe Owl Breathe
12. Memphis, Tennessee, Mason Jennings
13. You've Really Got a Hold On Me, Thao
14. Stephen, Voxtrot
15. My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors, Moxy Fruvous
16. How Deep Is That River, Mason Jennings
17. Touch the Hem of His Garment, Basia Bulat
18. I Wish I Was the Moon, Neko Case

Vampire Weekend is probably going to be the band that gets my blog shut down, seeing as how I have given away virtually their entire album here...I had to buy the entire Thao album, it is so impressive!...this Frankenreiter song made the original mix of Vacation Song, then I cut it, so had to add it here...OMG I LUV "L.E.S. Artistes." Maybe the single of the year thus far? Or am I just infatuated?...I also love anything produced by Danger Mouse...still having trouble getting all the way in to this Mates of State album, but I dig this track...Mason Jennings should get lots of props here, too, as this mix features 3 beautiful songs from his newest album, In the Ever. I've purchased the whole thing now and it's really substantial work. Mason Jennings is seriously going to end up with a lifetime's body of work that will rival anybody's...Ra Ra Riot ra ra rules!...Frightened Rabbit seems like a band to keep your eyes on; love the guy's voice...I really love old reggae covers of old American pop songs, and this cover of "Whiter Shade of Pale" may be my favorite...I like how this "Run Off" song picks up steam, esp. with the "roo-hoo-hoo-hoo!" chorus...big shouts to Memphis, TN!...okay, you can hear the Cat Power in this Thao version of the old standard, "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"...Katy gave me this "Stephen" song by ultra-cool Voxtrot a while back. Is it self-absorbed to put it here?...Vanessa gave me this Moxy Fruvous song. So funny...a nice gospel-ish duet here with Mason Jennings and Basia Bulat..."I Wish I Was the Moon." Neko Case, how I want a new album from you!!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Two Sides to Every Story

So, here's a mix I made this morning, when I should have been writing. Somehow it came to me that I needed to rock a bit harder than seems twice or thrice a year the need to listen to loud guitars overtakes my usual urge for well-crafted pop melody. Not that these songs aren't all well-crafted...and not that there isn't plenty of pop to be found on this mix. Just that there's a certain rock swagger that cuts through the whole mix, I think.

Man do I love that word: "Swagger."

Two Sides to Every Story

1. Beyond Belief, Elvis Costello
2. Stadiums and Shrines II, Sunset Rubdown
3. When the Levee Breaks, Led Zepplin
4. Nature of the Experiment, Tokyo Police Club
5. Mockingbirds, Grant Lee Buffalo
6. I Think I'm Going to Hell, My Morning Jacket
7. The Future, Leonard Cohen
8. Walcott, Vampire Weekend
9. Consequence, Incubus
10. Shady Lane, Pavement
11. Changes, David Bowie
12. Killing Lies, The Strokes
13. The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine, Spoon
14. Waitin' On A Friend, The Rolling Stones
15. You Don't Know How It Feels, Tom Petty
16. Turn My Head, Live
17. Life In A Glass House, Radiohead
18. Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine (Live), Bob Dylan

"Beyond Belief" is one of my favorite Elvis Costello joints...and speaking of guitars, this Sunset Rubdown track features some weidly excellent axe "When the Levee Breaks" Led Zep's best work? It's up there...Tokyo Police Club is a very interesting group, check out their body of work..."Mockingbirds" by GLB. This song got me through Fall 05 all by does MMJ rock!--and in a variety of styles...Leonard Cohen still equals God...Vampire Weekend is surely positioning themselves to take home Steve's Album of 2008 Award...this morning I realized how much I miss listening to Incubus..."A shady lane / everybody wants one / a shady lane / everbody needs one." So true Mr. Malkmus...I tend not to give Bowie enough credit, but that guy is as seminal as anybody to me...I can't wait for a new Strokes album, whenever that will be..."He makes love to the duke, he swordfights the queen / he steals the whole show in his last dying scene / no one sees the two sides of Monsieur Valentine"...speaking of swagger, ladies and gentlemen, Mick Jagger!...remember the video to this Tom Petty song? Awesome...I don't think people think of the album Secret Samadhi when they think of Live, but that's my favorite from them...still groovin' on Radiohead after the concert...Bob Dylan swaggered sometimes, too. When he felt the need.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

TuneUp: An Essential iTunes Utility

So, I've posted two blogs related to my trip thus far...and here's one more. While I was in Salem, Amy introduced me to TuneUp, which is, essentially, a companion program for iTunes, one that searches your music and matches your improperly labeled song files with the correct labels. In the creators' own words: "Your music is dirty, clean it up!" So if you've got a mix cd someone gave you (someone like me, say), and you want to know all the song titles and band names, TuneUp will do that for you. It's pretty incredible! Yesterday I cleaned up about 400 messed-up tracks in my computer, and I feel like I just got 40 new albums now. Happy happy happy...

There are a lot of other good things about TuneUp: one is that it also downloads album cover art to your computer. Another is the pricing: as of now, you can get 500 song file "TuneUp"s FREE...and beyond that one year is 11.95 and, for a limited time, a lifetime subscription is only $19.95. (I expect that truly will be a limited offer...I plan on buying in soon, as soon as I use up the rest of my free ones.) TuneUp also doesn't appear to be particularly invasive (everything is drag & drop by you, the user, so it's not like it just worms its way into your files...only the files you choose), which is very nice. Finally, TuneUp has only been public for about a month, so it's just kind of nice to get on the ground floor of something...right??? It's so new I can't even find a downloadable graphic for them. If these guys start trading publically, I am buying that stuff right up (just like Alex bought those Iraqi Dinars over the phone...but I digress...)

I have, on the other hand, found two negatives thus far: one, TuneUp does seem to get a fair percentage of stuff wrong (I'm gonna guess it's about 10-15% at this early stage?); and two, it's only available for Windows users right now (hey, didn't the Mac folks invent all this iStuff???). To both concerns, however, it seems fairly likely TuneUp is going to make these guys a lot of money, so they seem rightly ambitious and dedicated to getting all their bugs worked out. Hey, they made a pretty great product...good for them, good for us!

As I said, yesterday I cleaned up 400 songs, and this morning I am enjoying them all. I have to say, however, my absolute favorite song I've listened to this morning is "Then the Morning Comes," by--of all the freaking bands I thought I'd plug on here--Smashmouth!!! You remember this song, if you pay attention to pop music: the one that goes "It's just the way that you are / It's just the way that you talk, like it ain't no thaaang..." Yeah, I can't believe I'm saying this either, but it's true. So...if you dare, here's the song file. Enjoy...and go download that TuneUp so you don't have to type that terrible word (Smashm**th) yourself!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Radiohead! In Auburn! With Bootleg!

[Ed: So, as I've mentioned below, while on vacation Alex & I saw Radiohead play a show in Auburn, WA. Below is a zip/.mp3 bootleg of the concert, graciously taken from, a Radiohead gigography site. Also below is my quickie review of the show, which I originally posted here, at Green Plastic Radiohead. Oh, and the above photo--which shows the awesome light display the band played under, although this actual photo comes from the Boston show--comes courtesy of Ryan's Smashing Life. God the Internet kicks ass sometimes, doesn't it?]

I loved this show, it was fantastic. I was on vacation to see a buddy in Salem, OR, and we cruised around the West Coast for two weeks, with this concert being the crowning achievement. It was great!!! Second time both of us have seen them, having seen them in Red Rocks just after Amnesiac. I have to admit I was a bit of a bad fan recently and wasn't as knowledgeable of In Rainbows as I should have been ahead of time, but this concert gave me the song "All I Need," which, as other reviewers have said, was the one of the big turning points of the show and AMAZING. Their renditions of "Optimistic," and "Pyramid Song," "Talk Show Host," and "The National Anthem" (back-to-back-to-back!) were sooo good, their extreme fuck-ups during "Faust Arp" were hilarious and good-natured (come on, we all knew Thom was human...painfully human!!!). Both encores were awesome, with a jaw-dropping "You and Whose Army" dedicated to the WTO protests in Seattle from 1999 (as everyone has already said...but this has to go on my blog too :-), with a heart-rending "No Surprises" following. At that point I thought things were done, and pulled my buddy out of the crowd, only to be turned around for "Everything in It's Right Place," which everyone must agree is a seminal Radiohead tune. They blew me away; they are two-for-two. For whatever reason, it rains everytime I see Radiohead and I love that.

The parking and getting-out situation sucked (hours in the parking lot!!!), but the venue itself was cool. Like I said I was visiting from Alaska, and it was awesome how great everyone there was to us, especially the cool hippie guys in front of us that "hooked us up" :-). My friend got really messed up and danced his ass off, in a fashion hilarious to all around us but endearing to me (okay, also hilarious to me), and the girls were adorable all-about us. Thanks Seattle! Thanks Radiohead! You all rocked!!!

P.S. Thom and Johnny were amazing. Those guys are incredible.
P.P.S. I am always, always impressed by Phil Selway's drumming. That guy is awesome.

Radiohead, Auburn, WA, 8/20/08
1. 15 Step
2. Reckoner
3. Optimistic
4. There There
5. All I Need
6. Pyramid Song
7. Talk Show Host
8. The National Anthem
9. The Gloaming
10. Videotape
11. Lucky
12. Faust Arp
13. Jigsaw Falling into Place
14. Climbing Up the Walls
15. Dollars and Cents
16. Nude
17. Bodysnatchers

Encore one:
1. How to Disappear Completely
2. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
3. Idioteque
4. In Limbo
5. Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Encore two:
1. You and Whose Army (dedicated to Seattle WTO protests)
2. No Surprises
3. Everything in Its Right Place

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So, I Went on Vacation...

...and that's my excuse for not blogging at all recently. I flew from Fairbanks to Portland, and then took a bus to Salem, OR, to hang out with good old pal Alex Pieske for a couple weeks. And great fun we had!--we rented a car (sweet cornflower blue Ford Focus) and road-tripped the West Coast. First we drove up to Portland for two nights, then we went down to San Francisco for three nights, and later we made it up around Seattle for a bit, with plenty of beautiful Salem thrown in the middle. Highlights included, chronologically: Alex getting super-messed up and crazy on my second night there (so much so that he tackled me to the floor, hard, in a grocery store); an Oakland A's vs. Tampa Bay Rays game; a sweet, sweet time at the San Fran Museum of Modern Art (Frida Kahlo exhibit!); a fun time at a birthday party of a new Salem friend (thanks be to Bree); and, the crowning jewel, an AWESOME, AWESOME Radiohead concert in Auburn, WA--my second time seeing Radiohead and simply breathtaking. I saw a lot of cool stuff; I met a lot of cool people. I met a really cool person. You can check out a bunch of photos from my trip here and here.

That's a very cursory review of my two weeks down south, which really felt like a month or so. But as Suzanne's experience with blogging her trip to Alaska shows, trying to fit everything into your writing can be an overwhelming experience...and ANYWAYS, this is a music blog, isn't it??? So I wanted to post here a mix I made just two days ago, after having arrived back from my trip. Basically everything on here is stuff I listened to, or was informed of, or heard on the radio (our car had some sweet SIRIUS going on), during our trip. I plan on blogging the Radiohead show, too, but for now here's a little something I call "Vacation Song". Click on the title to download the entire zip file:

Vacation Song

1. Baby, Now That I've Found You, The Foundations
2. Funny Little Frog, Belle & Sebastian
3. Can You Tell, Ra Ra Riot
4. Swept Away, The Avett Brothers
5. All I Need, Radiohead
6. Into My Arms, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
7. The Kids Don't Stand a Chance, Vampire Weekend
8. Badge, Cream
9. Long Distance Runaround, Yes
10. The Passenger, Iggy Pop
11. I Was in the House When the House Burned Down, Warren Zevon
12. When It Don't Come Easy, Patty Griffin
13. Heavenly Day, Patty Griffin
14. I Want You to Be My Love, Over the Rhine
15. Sleepin' Is All I Wanna Do (Stars on a Sunny Day), The Duhks
16. Bron-Yr-Aur, Led Zeppelin

"Baby Now That I've Found You" is such a classic tune; the original is WAAY better than the Alison Kraus version...Belle & Sebastian keep on keepin' on, don't they? "Funny Little Frog" is great and beautiful...Ra Ra Riot is a band I picked up on right when I got back to FAI. This whole album sounds good and I'll blog it soon...this Avett Brothers song may well be the death of me, I fear; it's too good..."All I Need" by Radiohead is a track I didn't pick up on until the concert itself. What a gift from Thom & the guys!!!...lots of Nick Cave listening on the trip...I blogged a bit about this Vampire Weekend song over on myspace..."Badge" by Cream. I heard this on SIRIUS twice I think, and I had to remember how awesome it is. The radio DJ said that the lyrics to this song come mostly from conversations between Clapton and Ringo Starr...when this Yes song came on SIRIUS I loved it instantly and said to Alex in surprise, "Holy crap, I can't believe this, but I'm becoming a Yes fan right now. Never thought that would happen!"..."The Passenger" is, I believe, the first song to make two mixes that were posted here on Mixed Cookies. Congratulations, Iggy!...God this Warren Zevon song kicks ass, and thank god to Alex for making me remember it...Amy told me I should listen to Patty Griffin. I'm semi-surprised that she was right, ha...this Over the Rhine song kills me,and their other stuff is good too...The Duhks are a pretty interesting blend of influences and styles: country, gospel, jazz, & bluegrass...Bron-Yr-Aur by Zeppelin. So apt that there are no words here...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wilco!!! In Fairbanks???

That's right. Friday night, alt-awesome banditos Wilco played a kick-ass show, at the Blue Loon in Fairbanks. For those of you unfamiliar with Wilco...get familiar! These guys know how to make a joyful noise, that's for sure, with Nels Cline and his AMAZING guitar work powering the engine, lead man Jeff Tweedy providing the lyrical sturm und drang, and the rest of the boys just playing their asses off, keeping funky and cool all the while. It was a great show, and the crowd was small enough such that it was pretty stinking easy for me to be about 20 feel away from the stage without even really trying. They rocked. I don't want to get in the way by saying much more than that.

I'm not quite technologically inclined to have taped the fact I didn't even copy down the setlist. I DID, however, find the setlist online (thanks to jmacomber16 @ WilcoBase), and I've posted a zip file at the bottom with all the songs in it, sorta. (To learn about zip files, go here. The file will take around an hour to download, so set some time aside for it. Also, you probably already have an unzipper on your computer.) The song files are the studio versions of the songs they played.

P.S. There were two new songs that I don't have files for, but I've listed their presence below anyways, as it was at the concert.

P.P.S. Read this interview with Nels Cline. Is this man actually God?

Wilco @ the Blue Loon, Fairbanks, AK, 7-25-08 (Sorta)

Either Way
Company In My Back
You Are My Face
Side With The Seeds
War on War
A Shot in the Arm
One Wing (New Song)
Jesus, etc.
Impossible Germany
Sunny Feeling (New Song)
Summer Teeth
Handshake Drugs
Pot Kettle Black
Poor Places
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Encore 1:

California Stars
Hate It Here
Can't Stand It
I'm The Man Who Loves You

Encore 2:

Heavy Metal Drummer
Red Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
Outta Site (Outta Mind)
Hoodoo Voodoo

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's a Prince Morning

Do we all think Prince is crazy now? I think we do. But in the 1980s he was probably the main recipient of that too often used-designation: "Musical Genius." (Sidebar: Once I wrote of one of my characters, who had the ability to time-travel, sorta, this: "Despite popular opinion, Adverbio found much good in American music of the 1980s." I tend to agree with Adverbio, my ancient Eskimo friend/creation.) Of course, now when we think of the music from the 80s, most of us think of "hair metal." But there was so much more: great pop, and the new wave scene; the continuing legacies of men like Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen; super-creative rock'n'roll from U2, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, etc. And in the middle of it was Prince. The guy was an icon in so many ways: star of movies, radios, and porn mags (one of my first sexual memories was from the age of about 7, when my next-door neighbor showed me a dirty magazine with a spread of Prince and Wendy & Lisa lookalikes getting it on...Wendy & Lisa were in Prince's band, The Revolution). He put the Minneapolis music scene on the map, and continues to be it's best product (though we should probably give Mason Jennings a shot at that least I would be so inclined.)

I love listening to Prince these days, too. He always gives me energy, a lift when my morning, day, or night is dragging, but his rock stylings never really get too manic, which I enjoy. He is both cerebral and energized, which I'd like to think is often my story, too. And he really is undervalued for the amazingly socially relevant lyrics he has always brought to the table--Prince is a teacher of several subjects, not just sex. There's nothing to dislike about Prince.

So in honor, here are my top ten Prince tracks, along with my favorite lyrics from each, for fun. Any dissent, or opinions out there?

1. When Doves Cry, Purple Rain
"Dream if you can, a courtyard / an ocean of violets in bloom / animals strike curious poses / they feel the heat / the heat between me and you."

2. Sign 'o the Times, Sign 'O' the Times
"Is it silly no / when a rocket ship explodes / and everybody still wants to fly? / Some say a man ain't happy unless a man / Truly dies /Oh why?"

3. Kiss, Parade - Under the Cherry Moon
"You don't have to watch Dynasty / to have an attitude!"

4. Raspberry Beret, Around the World in a Day
"I said now...overcast days never turned me on / but somethin bout the clouds and her mixed / she wasn't too bright / but I could tell by the way she kissed me / she knew how to give a kiss."

5. Pop Life, Around the World in a Day
"What you puttin' in your nose / Is that where all your money goes? / The river of addiction flows (You think it's hot) / But there won't be no water / When the fire blows."

6. Starfish and Coffee, Sign 'O' the Times
"Starfish and coffee / maple syrup and jam / butterscotch clouds, a tangerine / and a side order of ham / if you'd set your mind free baby / maybe you'd understand / Starfish and coffee / maple syrup and jam."

7. If I Was Your Girlfriend, Sign 'O' the Times
"If I was your girlfriend / would you remember to tell me all the things / you forgot when I was your man?"

8. Purple Rain, Purple Rain
"I never wanted to be your weekend lover / I only wanted to be some kind of friend / Baby I could never steal you from another / It's such a shame our friendship had to end."

9. Little Red Corvette, 1999
"Guess I should have closed my eyes / When you drove me to the place where your horses run free / Cause I felt a little ill, when I saw all the pictures / of the jockeys that were there before me."

10. Let's Go Crazy, Purple Rain
(Spoken intro): "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life...electric word, life, it means forever and that's a mightly long time, but I'm here to tell you there's something else: The Afterworld. A world of never-ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night. So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, you know the one, Dr. Everything'll Be Alright.... Instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby...cause in this life things are much harder than in the Afteworld. In this world you're on your own, baby....And if the elevator tries to bring you down. Go crazy punch a higher floor..."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For the Breakers

For the Breakers
1. So Sorry, Feist
2. Cry Me a River, Justin Timberlake
3. Goodbye Honey, Ryan Adams
4. Think Long, Mates of State
5. Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen
6. Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead
7. Ain't That Lonely Yet, Dwight Yoakam
8. Just the Way It Is, Baby, The Rembrandts
9. If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free, Sting
10. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, U2
11. Seeing Things, The Black Crowes
12. Perfect, Smashing Pumpkins
13. Serious, Richard Hawley
14. Dolphins, Beth Orton and Terry Callier
15. Dear Chicago, Ryan Adams
16. Here's Where the Story Ends, The Sundays

I put together a mix this morning, in the context of some other work I'm doing...but I found this mix so interesting that I wanted to post it here. This one is called For the Breakers, and I call it that because it is half of a two-part set about breaking up. If you're keeping up, then, this mix is for the Breaker, that (sonuva)bitch who rips your heart out of your chest, stomps it, and throws it in the trash compactor. Yeah, here's to that guy.

Why, you ask? Well, I suppose just because being a heartbreaker, when you think about it, is one of the more complex activities human beings partake in. At it's basest level, breaking up with someone is the act of hurting someone you care a great deal for, and, hey, that's complex. You're sorry, but also relieved (to be moving forward); you're a slight bit upset with yourself for having to hurt someone (and probably for having made a bad decision in the first place) but also feel a need to console and be gentle with yourself, because it's hard on everyone. It's happy and sad and easy and hard and it's something they should have robots do for us (like how they take care of nuclear waste and our other messes.)

Consequently, the music on a mix for these daring heartbreakers has to be equally confused and conflicted. On "So Sorry" Feist sings that she is sorry, but never thinks to say it until after her Other has departed; Justin Timberlake is actually the one who has been dumped, but he has turned his own heartbreak into completely danceable rage. On "Goodbye Honey" Ryan Adams moves effortlessly betwixt feelings: "It's been a long time coming / And I won't miss you / It's been a long time comin' / And I ain't I blue?" "Think Long" by Mates of State has always sounded, to me, like my ex-girlfriend yelling at me, and Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" lays these contradictions bare, carving from the desperate abstractions we usually use to cloak such hard emotion a more concrete and devastating narrative form. Dwight Yoakam, U2, the Crowes and the Pumpkins weigh in on the situation, and then Ryan Adams shows up to show us that, ultimately, the Breaker never really escapes unscathed:

The wind's feelin' real these days
Yeah and baby it hurts me some
Never thought I'd feel so blue
New York City you're almost gone

I think that I've fallen out of love
I think, I've fallen out of love
I think, I've fallen out of love
With you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Bought Two Great New Albums Today

Sunday morning, and here we are, Kevin, Brian and myself, sitting outside in Fairbanks at our rummage sale, waiting either for people to show up or the rain to fall. An excellent time, I thought, for some music shopping. (Thank you wireless technology, where I can sit in my garage drinking beer and purchase music simultaneously.)

Anyways, my shopping led me to two full-album purchases--pretty rare for me, who usually buys everything by the song and spins them into mixes. But these were two artists I couldn't deny.

Beck's new album, Modern Guilt, came out last Tuesday. Right away I bought the title-track, and I love it a lot, so today I had to finish purchasing the rest of the album. There is a lot to like here: Danger Mouse (pretty much of Gnarls Barkley fame) produces, my love Chan Marshall sings backup on some tracks, and more than any of that, IT'S BECK! Beck has made so many amazing songs and albums over the years, there is bound to be a few tracks that blow your mind here. "Modern Guilt" is certainly one, as is the straight-ahead bossa nova/rock (maybe?) of "Gamma Ray," and the Beach Boy-inflected "Chemtrails." It's good times.

This other album, entitled The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties, is by Emily Wells. Now, honestly, I'm not sure how crazy I am about this album at this point; I like the first song "Symphony 1 In the Barrel of a Gun" (all the titles are like that), but overall I'm not sure I'm crazy about what she's up to here (oh, and she's up to something very thoughtout and earnest here, if perhaps a bit too high-minded for me from time to time). But when Emily starts laying it down there is nobody better; honestly, this girl covers a huge range between from Tori Amos to M.I.A., all the while doing her own wonderfully creative, electronic/funk/classical-tinged thing. Her last album, Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks stopped me dead in my tracks in Summer 2007, and I'm sure she's going to do it again this summer, as well as many summers to come. And her voice is unique; it has "personality," one might say, but only in the same good ways as singers like Amos, Ani, Cohen, Dylan, and Waits. And, quite honestly, this new album is growing on leaps and bounds as I write this. I'm sure my official review on iTunes (well, I don't know which is official for sure) will rate the album much higher. I'm realizing I need to add "hip-hop" to the above "tinged" list, and wow, that's an amazing statement about an amazing artist.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hypermiling: Like a Prius in Every Pot

By Steve Goerger

[Ed here: In his ever-increasing concern for the state of our crumbling world, Kevin "Kurd" Peters decided a few weeks ago that it would be a good idea for all of us bloggers to each contribute our ideas on a singular topic: Gas. Kurd said we could do with that one word whatever we liked, as long as we addressed it somehow; below is my contribution to this roundtable of sorts. You can read Kurd's offering here, and I'll try to link others as they appear.]

By nature, I have always been a Do-It-Yourself kind of guy. When something around the house needs doing, I actually get quite happy—it’s a chance to wield my tools, use my muscles, and flex my mind. When a door needs to be hung, I break out the screwdriver and butter knife (that’s right) and get to work. If a furnace blows up, I put it back together at thirty below. If an old truck needs to pass an IM Test, I break out the ratchet set and…fail miserably at fixing the thing. But the point remains: Steve Likes to Try.

Being the DIYer and problem-solver that I am, then, I was quite happy when my boss introduced me to the idea I want to introduce in this blog: Hypermiling. “Hypermiling” is, essentially, any and all behaviors that help drivers save fuel and increase their fuel economy when driving. It’s kind of a do-it-yourself approach to the one of the biggest problems around: our addiction to that very limited resource known as petrol.

Why wait for Toyota or the Government or somebody to make more fuel-efficient cars when you can just modify your own behaviors and increase (even double or triple, in some outlandish cases) your MPGs yourself? Hypermiling is the solution to all your problems! (It’s so good you’d swear Ron Popeil had invented it.)

I myself have been hypermiling in my 1992 Subaru Legacy lately, and I’ve definitely seen my mileage increase, from perhaps 20mpgs to about 27mpg the last two tanks. That may not sound like much…until you realize that works out to a free tank of gas every fourth trip to the pump! And my car’s not even optimal for such things. Some of the more disciplined and, um, invested hypermilers on the Internet have taken their hybrid vehicles up around the 150 mpg mark during extended trips. Hypermiling may sound like a crazy idea, but it is a crazy idea we should all embrace. It’s something that needs to happen, for both Earth and our wallets.

I’ve read up on hypermiling and its behaviors a bit, and I wanted to share some of the easier things you can do to ease your own burden at the gas pump. Now understand that some of these behaviors can get a bit crazy—for example, those invested hypermilers I spoke about earlier achieve their top efficiencies by drafting very close behind tractor trailers on the highway, something I would never recommend. But then again, there are some very easy things you can do that will go a long way. So here are some ideas, ranked from “easiest to implement” to “slightly scaring your passengers.”

1. Try to brake as little as possible. Put another way: since braking is the loss of acceleration, and acceleration is a loss of gas (gas is burned to create acceleration), braking is the loss of gas. Try to “time” lights so you aren’t flying up to them and then screeching to a halt; play the space between your car and the car in front of you in an accordion-like fashion, so that you always have room to coast, rather than come to a complete stop.

2. Accelerate slowly. In fact, there’s even a magic number for this one: 2000, as in RPMs, as in keep your car under 2000 RPMs as much as possible. When you rev your engine, when you accelerate very fast, obviously your engine is working a little harder. Keeping yourself under 2000 RPMs keeps your engine working at a nice, easy level. As with a bike, your car will do its best work when it’s in a high gear, gently chugging along. This is why 55 mph is so nice: Your car is in a high gear, but not doing too-too many RPMs. If you can accelerate slowly toward 55 all the time, you will be doing your car, your pocketbook, and the air a great good. Now and again you'll get a strange look from another driver, but so what? You've got the moral highground on this one, friend.

3. Put the car in neutral at stoplights. It kind of follows from #1: braking wastes gas. And what do you do at a stoplight?—you brake, because otherwise the car would start creeping forward. Putting the car in neutral disengages the engine from working against those brakes. Sure, your friend stares at you a bit here, as if you’ve just blasted off toward outer space. But truly, this is one of the more common—and effective—hypermiling tips out there.

4. Shut the car off at stoplights. If you’re going to be sitting at a light for any more than 30 seconds, it makes sense to shut the car off. With fuel injection in every car today, it is a complete myth that starting up the engine is the big waster of gas. And there are plenty of lights out there that last more than 30 seconds.

5. Coast in neutral. Now, this is recommended mostly for manual transmissions—honestly, I don’t know enough about transmissions to comment, but I have read that this is just fine for manuals, but can be damaging for automatic transmissions. Personally, I still do it now and again, even though my Suburu is an automatic. If I’m coming up to a stoplight, sometimes I will throw it into neutral as I coast up. My feeling is that at low speeds it couldn’t be that bad for an automatic. And besides, if I’m traveling at higher speeds and wanting to coast, what I usually do is…

6. Coast with the car turned completely off. That’s right, I do this, all the time now. I get up to a sufficient speed (say, 50 mph), put it in neutral, and turn the key, shutting the engine off completely! And then, importantly, I turn the key all the way back over into the “on” position so that the steering wheel won’t lock up. If I need to turn the car back on…I just do it, from neutral obviously. You would be surprised how far you can coast like this. Just the other night I used this “pulse and glide” maneuver to go at least half a mile, coasting into my parking spot at Freddie’s at the end. It was sweet. I told everyone I did this, and everyone thought I was nuts.

And maybe I am nuts—I guess that is for you to decide. Maybe I should just bike to work. Maybe I should pressure my government to get electric cars back on the market. Maybe I should do a lot of things, but you know what?—I’m just too lazy. I’m a stinking lazy American, and like so many Americans, I just don’t have the time. So I’m going to do what I can to reduce my dependence on oil, at home, as the stupid American that I am with the crappy tools I have. My Subaru may not be a Prius, but it’s sure trying.

If every Subaru/Ford/Chevy/Pontiac/Hummer on the road were trying, too, we might just be able to get somewhere.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sexy Time

Certainly it has been a while since I have posted a blog and/or mix sincerest apologies. BUT: I have been writing, I have been writing blogs, and I've even been writing about music! I just haven't posted any of it here lately. Today, however, I came up with a new mix, and one with a subject matter so interesting, so delicious, that I had to come post it.

The subject: Sex. A subject oft-broached, perhaps (so frequently discussed and disected that Rivers Cuomo & Weezer felt compelled to give us the classic irony-anthem "Tired of Sex" on Pinkerton), but one definately worthy of any and all focus one likes to give it. After all, what is better than the pure and physical embodiment of the singular, holy idea, best spoken in French: L'amor? And I'd never put together a mix that is completely focused on sex...which is preposterous, when you consider very often I find myself distracted by thoughts of the sensual arts (to put it delicately...)

It was a fun mix to make--it came together very easily, very honestly, and, I believe, very successfully. I would dare anyone to put this on the next time...well, you know...and test the validity of my claims. It is not the collection of dance floor tunes that most people think of as sexy (because, if you took those songs into the bedroom, you'd be ragged and breathless after 10 minutes--how much Britney or Kylie could you really handle?), but rather a mix of the sensual energy, erotic daring, emotional boldness, and, hell, even love, that marks the best love-making. In ordering the songs I even attempted to programme the playlist as I believe I'd want them for such an endeavour (oh, I know, salacious!). "Let's Get It On," for instance, seems the perfect opener for its being so well-known, direct, and inviting; "Doin' It" by LL Cool J through "Say It Right," by Nelly Furtado take the next twenty minutes to sensual and purely erotic plateaus; and Janet Jackson (from the peak of her mid-90s sexiness) leads us into the vigorous, lush tropicalia of triphop seduction, featuring Massive Attack, Zero 7, and Portishead. The sexiest song of all-time also factors in toward the middle-end, "Untitled" by soul voodoo master D'Angelo--and if you've made it that far, congratulations. Yo La Tengo, Mazzy Star, and Sarah McLachlan are here to lull you off to dreamland at album's end. Or, they'll ready you to lean over, hit repeat, and begin again.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need a cigarette...

Sexy Time

1. “Let’s Get It On,” Marvin Gaye, The Very Best of Marvin Gaye (2001)
2. “Doin’ It,” LL Cool J, Mr. Smith (1995)
3. “My Love,” Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)
4. “Pony,” Ginuwine, Ginuwine…The Bachelor (1996)
5. “Say It Right,” Nelly Furtado, Loose (2006)
6. “That’s the Way Love Goes,” Janet Jackson, Janet. (2000)
7. “Teardrop,” Massive Attack, Mezzanine (1998)
8. “Somersault,” Zero 7, When It Falls (2004)
9. “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” D’Angelo, Voodoo (2000)
10. “Glory Box,” Portishead, Dummy (1994)
11. “Our Way to Fall,” Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself... (2000)
12. “Fade Into You,” Mazzy Star, So Tonight That I Might See (1993)
13. “Sweet Surrender,” Sarah McLachlan, Surfacing (1997)

Obviously I haven't posted the associated .mp3 links yet. Hmm...some comments requesting them might help!!! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Some Bob Dylan for My Brother-in-Law Adam

A long, long time ago, I was supposed to make some Bob Dylan mixes for my brother-in-law Adam (my sister Becky's husband, father to nieces Katie and Nola--shoutouts for the whole family!!!), for his birthday. I am just now finally getting to it...but I defend myself by saying I've been thinking of it constantly!

What I've done is make two mixes, entitled Biograph 4: Addendum and Biograph 5: Modern Times. Biograph is itself a 3-disc compilation of Bob Dylan material that came out in 1985. It is a retrospective, but not your typical Greatest Hits package (although Dylan already had 3 volumes of Greatest Hits by 1985)--it has many, many of the essential tracks, but Biograph also includes many, many live, rare, and unreleased recordings, such as a beautiful demo of the song "I'll Keep It With Mine," which Dylan wrote but never recorded, instead passing it along to Nico (of Velvet Underground collaboration). It was what got me started on Dylan in the first place.

With Biograph's greatness in mind then, I humbly submit these two additional discs. Biograph 5: Modern Times is pretty self-explanatory; I've defined modern times here as 1978 and after (conveniently also known as Steve Goerger's lifetime). Biograph 4: Addendum, is older stuff that I feel is just as essential as the tracks on the first three discs. With Bob Dylan's illustrious recording career starting so early, lasting so long, and being just so damned prolific, there's a lot to go through.

The album each song originally comes from is given parenthetically. I've also decided, for these two discs, not to post the song files to the net. So you can't download these...but if you'd like to you can request a copy in the comments :)

Biograph 4: Addendum
1. Country Pie (Nashville Skyline)
2. Went to See the Gypsy (New Morning)
3. The Man in Me (NM)
4. Corrina, Corrina (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
5. One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) (Blonde on Blonde)
6. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (Highway 61 Revisited)
7. Love Minus Zero / No Limit (Bringing It All Back Home)
8. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright (TFBD)
9. Simple Twist of Fate (Blood On The Tracks)
10. Shelter from the Storm (BOTT)
11. Girl from the North Country (TFBD)
12. Tomorrow Is a Long Time (Greatest Hits Vol. II)
13. Bob Dylan's Dream (TFBD)
14. Maggie's Farm (BIABH)
15. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (H61R)
16. Idiot WInd (BOOT)
17. Oh Sister (Desire)
18. I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know (Self Portrait)
19. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We've Never Met) (Another Side of Bob Dylan)

Biograph 5: Modern Times
1. Summer Days (Love & Theft)
2. Political World (Oh, Mercy!)
3. Everything Is Broke (OM!)
4. Most of the Time (Time Out Of Mind)
5. Po' Boy (L&T)
6. Jokerman (Infidels)
7. Someday Baby (Modern Times)
8. Things Have Changed (Wonderboys Soundtrack)
9. Trying To Get To Heaven (TOOM)
10. Man In the Long Black Coat (OM!)
11. Changing of the Guards (Street Legal)
12. New Pony (SL)
13. Spirit On The Water (MT)
14. Make You Feel My Love (TOOM)
15. Not Dark Yet (TOOM)


Biograph 4: Addendum
"Country Pie" is typical of the seemingly excellent, fun time Dylan had making Nashville Skyline with, among others, Johnny Cash..."Went to See the Gypsy" makes me wistful for my midwestern homeland, as does "Girl from the North Country"..."The Man in Me" is featured, perfectly, in The Big Lebowski..."One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)" is my favorite off Blonde on Blonde...I think you'd have to rate Blood on the Tracks as one of Dylan's best albums..."Tomorrow Is a Long Time" is a perfect love song..."Bob Dylan's Dream" is a great song of brotherhood and always makes me wistful for guys like Josh, Tom, Cebs, Grant & Pieske..."Idiot Wind," off Blood on the Tracks, is so fantastically angry..."Oh, Sister" was on my original "I'm Moving to Alaska!!!" mix, which was titled "A to tha K!...Self Portrait is a very interesting album, gifted me by fellow Dylan junkie Kyle "Kylor" Mellon..."I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Met" is here for comparison purposes, since a totally electrified and excellent version of the song appears on Biograph Disc 1.

Biograph 5: Modern Times
"Summer Days" is such a rollicking piece of 50s rock, it's unbelievable we didn't get it until the 2000s..."Political World" is great, scary, and is featured in opening credits of Pedro Almodovar's Carne Tremula (God, I hate to admit it, but I'm unsure if that fact is right. I know it was at the beginning of some Spanish film I saw last year, but I can't find the fact on the internet anywhere)...overall, I just have to say that 1989's Oh, Mercy! is one of Dylan's absolute best albums ever. And we all thought he was dead in 1989..."Po' Boy" is a fun tune. Ian Dickson introduced it to me long ago..."Someday Baby," you may recognize from Victoria's Secret commercials..."Things Have Changed" is my mom's favorite Dylan song...Time Out of Mind deserved that Best Album Grammy in 1997, that wasn't any lifetime achievement/gimme crap...on the other hand, Street Legal is an album that I have to call just "interesting." But you've got to like the use of the backup singers..."Make You Feel My Love" was a big hit for Garth Brooks...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guest Mix: Kurd's "The Last South, Vol. 1"

[Ed: Kurd and I took a road trip to Anchorage last weekend--to just get the hell out of Fairbanks, basically--and we both made mixes for the trip. Somewhere along the way we decided it would be cool if Kurd blogged one of his mixes here, rather than me giving you the same old crap. You can read more of Kurd's award-winning writing here and here. Without further ado, then, heeeere's...Kurd!]

For the drive south to Anchorage, I felt it would be good to crank out a new mix. I have notoriously poor taste in music and thought I would torture Steve’s ears for several hours. To be nice, though, I kept the mix Nickelback free. I didn’t really have a theory for the compilation. I kept the road themes minimal (“Let It Ride”), and also kept very few songs referencing my impending departure from the AK (“Where You Goin’ Now”). I included some songs that have been popping into conversations between Steve and me weirdly often (“Show Me the Way”) and some songs I haven’t thought about in a long time. I tried to keep a nice mix of old and not-quite-as-old. I get most of my new music from Steve, so it seemed counter-productive to use any of that. I made two mixes, Volumes 1 and 2 (the list here is Volume 1), and Steve pumped out a volume 1.5. We hit some overlap with “Burden in My Hand” and “Hunger Strike,” which seemed weird, or perhaps oddly meaningful, though I have no idea what that meaning might be. I think my genius in creating the mix (if there was any) was not going with the song by an artist that the listener would expect, but instead choosing a secondary option; for example, “The Drugs Don’t Work” instead of “Bittersweet Symphony,” “Where You Goin’ Now” instead of “High Enough,” “Sacrifice” instead of “The Seed 2.0,” and “My Sweet Lord (2000 Version)” instead of “My Sweet Lord.” In retrospect, I don’t think anything here has taken on deeper meaning post-trip. The road still led where it went, we didn’t go hungry, and the drugs kept on working, praise the lord.

1. Estranged, Guns ‘n Roses
2. He’s a Mighty Good Leader, Beck
3. Where You Goin’ Now, Damn Yankees
4. Unwell, Matchbox 20
5. My Sweet Lord (2000 Version), George Harrison
6. Sacrifice, The Roots
7. Burden in My Hand, Soundgarden
8. Mary, Scissor Sisters
9. The Ghost of Tom Joad, Rage Against the Machine
10. The Drugs Don’t Work, The Verve
11. Let It Ride, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
12. Sour Girl, Stone Temple Pilots
13. The Road Leads Where It’s Led, Secret Machines
14. Show Me the Way, Styx
15. Hunger Strike, Temple of the Dog
16. Free, Vast

Somehow, I stumped Steve with four songs he didn’t know: “He’s a Mighty Good Leader,” “Where You Goin’ Now,” “Mary,” and “Free.” I did not foresee this happening...I picked the songs on the fly, and chose “Unwell” for my Matchbox 20 pick (I don’t know why I felt I needed Matchbox 20 on there)...It wasn’t as good as I remembered; I should have went with “Bright Lights,” which is better and more thematically relevant: “But if the bright lights don't receive you, you should turn yourself around and come on home”...The tune by the Roots has very subtle backing vocals by Nelly Furtado, and rocks much harder in a car with a subwoofer. Yes, I used to be that guy...You may not believe this, but I love the Scissor Sisters, especially when they run their tunes through the Elton John transmogrifier ...Holy fuck, that Verve song is good...For a stretch of several months, it seemed like I listened to six songs on Ryan Adams’ Cold Roses on endless loop. It’s probably in my top three albums, with Howl by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Last Broadcast by Doves...“Show Me the Way” reminds me of the first Gulf war, which makes me think about our current situation overseas, which makes me feel less apathetic because I’m thinking about “big issues,” which makes me feel less like I’ve failed myself and my potential as a person...When Vast started playing, Steve looked over and asked if I was doing some head-banging. I was.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Mates of State's new album, re-arrange us, came out last Tuesday. I've barely even listened to it yet, but I knew right away it was a must-buy. Mates of State are an awesome band! Their last album won me over completely: lush, ambient, and unabashed, 2006's Bring It Back is intelligent, original pop music of the highest caliber. It's emotional, too--nearly every song I've heard by the Mates comes across as a love song between keyboardist/wife Kori Gardner and drummer/husband Jason Hammel (yes, they're really married and seem perfectly, innocently, in love). Their song "Think Long" is about a good a song as I've ever heard--seriously.

So now that you know how much I enjoy them, you know how terrible I would feel to post their entire album here for everyone to copy. However, I don't feel bad about spreading the Mates around a little (and perhaps prompting you to go buy the album yourselves!)

So here's the first song off the new album, for your download: "Get Better."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bob Dylan Turns 67 Today!

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan!!!

[Editor's note: I came across the fact that it was Dylan's birthday while cruising for music at the super-excellent, and totally streamable, Minneapolis radio station The Current. They had also posted a forum there for the discussion of favorite Dylan songs. Those of you who know me will know that, of course, I had to weigh in. So the following are the comments I posted there.]

Hi folks!

I'm sure I'm going to write too much here, but this is just too sweet a discussion not to contribute my little thoughts. I love Bob Dylan so much--I'm glad the Current has reminded me that his birthday is here!

I'm pretty anal-retentive about upkeep on my iTunes statistics, so, according to playcount, here are my five favorite Dylan songs of all-time:

1) Lay Lady Lay--from Nashville Skyline, another underrated album. I always laugh at myself for this somewhat cliched choice, but at the same time, an ex-girlfriend and I once shared a deep affinity for this song, and its truly a beautiful song about love, so it makes sense.
2) Time Passes Slowly--again from an underrated disc, New Morning. Also from Biograph. I live in Alaska now, so to hear Dylan singing about the mountains in such a plaintive voice is heavenly.
3) Girl from the North Country--because I'm from North Dakota, neighbors :-)
4) Like a Rolling Stone--my guess is that this is the Dylan song no one says no to.
5) Idiot Wind--from Blood on the Tracks. I just like how mad Bobby D. gets here, rallying against the stupidities of our sad humanity (stupidities for which he too is culpable, the lyrics reveal). I like to scream along sometimes.

There are so many others, though: "It Takes a Lot to Laugh...", "Abandoned Love," "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." I truly believe the man has made a GREAT album in every decade since the 60s, and every single album since Oh Mercy in 1989 has been fantastic. He likes to tour baseball stadiums, hangs out with Victoria's Secret models, and simply seems attuned to the essense of the human condition. For all these reasons I love him.

To weigh in on conversation here a little [Ed: there was a commenter who mentioned that Dylan disliked his Minnesota roots, and arguments back and forth at the original posting site], I too think Dylan likes being from Minnesota, ultimately. His biography doesn't really say anything negative (if I remember correctly), and the song lyrics seem to suggest a fondness, as well. Lately my favorite Dylan discovery has been "Went to See the Gypsy," and the song ends with an elated-sounding Dylan singing, "And that pretty dancing girl / she could not be found. So I watched the sun come rising / from a little Minnesota town / from a little Minnesota town!" It seems a loving sentiment, to me.

My apologies for writing so much! Best to all of you, fellow fans and friends!

[Ed again: I'll try and post links to the above five songs after Memorial Day weekend.]