Neutral Milk Hotel, Ghost

Lindsay turned me onto these guys a couple of years ago, and I really liked the cut she sent, The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1. But, I sort of forgot about the band and while I was Xmas shopping on Amazon, up the band Neutral Milk Hotel appeared along with that wonderful, “people who bought this also bought nnnnn” where “n” is the variable for what you bought or are buying.

So, I dropped the album on my Spotify playlist and it is kind of fun: Every once in a while a song from the album pops up, like this really nice cut, Ghost.

I like these guys. And, it is fun to have some new shit to listen too. I am a cranky old man: so hard to please.

Give Me Spotify, or Give Me Death?

whiteI recently initiated my own hashtag: #iambecomingabesimpson.

Mind you, it is not that I desire to become the sometimes senile, emotionally bankrupt, confused denture wearing sire of Homer Jay Simpson, it is just that I am getting old.

My next birthday, my family will be able to sing When I’m 64 to me, and while it is true I am aging, I am trying to adapt.

I do have an IPhone 6, and I score my golf on it, do my banking, retrieve my boarding passes, text a lot, do Twitter (@lawrmichaels in case you are interested) but in some ways I am not so much resisting aspects of the future and technology that have already run amok it seems. It is more, I am just not interested.

For example, I have an MFA in literature with a specialty in 19th Century British authors. That means I know a lot of George Eliot, Charles Dickens, the Brontes, and for sure Jane Austen.

So, when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released last week, all I can do is shake my head, cupped in both hands, and wonder why the fuck someone would even try such a thing let alone how it could possibly be any good? (And, if they were thinking, they might have considered Austen’s first novel, Northanger Abbey, which holds literary vehicles from the Gothic novel, in that there are castles and mysterious hallways and personages, all perfect for bloodsucking.)

More to the point: How did we seem to run out of story ideas?

But, I digress.

I do have this IPhone, but Lindsay (and her sister Kelly) always give me gentle shit because I have 116,000 un-deleted emails (my baseball mates here on the site will probably attest to the amount of stupid industry spam and such we get), or I cannot figure out how to turn the horizontal view on the phone off.

But, Lindsay is my music mate in the family, and she has been on me to to get Spotify for over a year now, and this last Saturday, I kind of relented. That is, I downloaded the app, made an initial favorites list (The Who, The Kinks, Mick Ronson, Richard Thompson, Yo La Tengo, and Wilco) and streamed on my way to the golf course. Mind you, no money has exchanged hands as of yet, for I get the free service, with commercials.

My conundrum is I am not sure just how much to commit to Spotify.

For one thing, I really like listening to the radio. I love two stations–KTKE, and KEXP–both off the wall independent ones just like I love listening to baseball on the radio. It is something I grew up doing, and somehow the commercials (I can so hear Vin Scully talking up “Farmer John’s sausages”) don’t bother a lick within those contexts.

Another thing, though, is I started buying albums in 1963 (Surfin’ USA) and did so until the 70’s when 8-track, and cassettes burst onto the scene. In the end, though, the tapes were not reliable, so most of the stuff I bought on tape I wound up repurchasing on vinyl.

And, then came CDs, meaning now 25 years into their existence I have about 800 albums and 800 CDs, and probably 15% I cross own. For example, I think of the Beatles White Album.

I bought that on regular vinyl when it came out, and then again in the late 70’s when re-issued on white vinyl. But, I also bought it on cassette so I could listen to my player on my headphones at night when I went to sleep. Needless to say, I also own the White Album on CD, meaning I have purchased the rights to listen to Dear Prudence no less than four times.

And, now, in order to stream the White Album on Spotify, I have to pay a fee to listen again?

OK, so you could say the music moguls saw me coming, and it is not that I am against streaming or using my IPhone as such.

My old IPhone 4 had 1300 songs on it from all over the map, and that made for some killer streaming, but when I upgraded to the IPhone 6, I lost three-fourths of what was on my playlist for one technical reason, or another (never that I had not purchased the rights: more like I am too lazy to put the album information in anywhere).

But, I also have TuneIn radio, and stream KTKE and KEXP so I can listen to what I want when I want.

Lindsay, however, says all this will be wrapped into one nifty package–sans commercials–and that we can share playlists and songs without having to burn anything.

OK, that sounds like fun, but, how long till I have to switch when something falls out of favor (Napster or MySpace, anyone)?

I probably will wind up subscribing just to make life easier, and well, I love the fact that in Lindsay I simply have someone in the family who loves music as much as I do, so this is a small price for sharing something so wondrous.

Also, though I am getting older, it is not like I don’t want to grow or change, or stay open. After all, when I returned to the golf links after a 40-year layoff, I played in high top cons for over six months. My friends all said I should get some cleats, but I waved that off as such an affectation.

“When the grass is wet,” I was cautioned, you will see.

Sure enough, one fall morning I hit a tee shot on a par 3 into one of the bunkers guarding the green. It had rained a little, and the bunker was muddy, and as I stepped in to get ready to make my shot, I slipped.

I was able to catch my balance, and did not fall, but my planted left hip and leg, which was anchored, got tweaked and bothered me for two weeks.

The next day I bought cleats, and when Diane asked me why, suddenly, I said “I am getting older. I understand at my age if you break your hip in public, they just shoot you in the head where you are and leave you there.”

As Elvis Costello said:  “Don’t bury me cos I’m not dead yet.”

It’s Been A While

So I haven’t been on here in a while. That’s for sure. And since I last posted, my music tastes have gone in a new direction heading towards soul, R&B, and hip hop. Thought I’d share a few of the songs that have stuck with me lately:

I found Leon Bridges when I was looking into Outside Lands artists to study up before the festival. All of his music is great in my opinion, although he doesn’t have a whole lot out yet. Can’t wait to hear what he does next!

I am generally partial towards male singers, but Alice Smith is definitely an exception to that. As Lawr might say, she can really wail. This entire album (called She) is wonderful. This is actually a (better) cover of a Cee Lo Green song.

And then there’s D’Angelo who has got this whole other thing going on. His music is so interesting and fresh. I dig it.

And on the off chance anybody is steal reading/ listening, I thought I’d throw in this guy. He has a very unique sound. Interesting music and good lyrics. You can’t go wrong!

These are a few of my latest favorites. All of them but Alice Smith will be at Outside Lands. Unfortunately, I can no longer attend, but I was still exposed to all kinds of great music from the lineup!

Bad Music: Stewie Griffin (aka Bryan Adams), “Everything I Do”

OK, my love for Family Guy is widely known. I know, too much barf, too many farts, and sometimes there are routines and the producers simply cannot let go (Syrup of Ipecac barfing, Peter fighting the chicken, eg), but when they nail it, Family Guy nails it better than anyone. As in up there with Mad Magazine, The National Lampoon, Monty Python, SNL, you name it.

This particular selection is Stewie’s love video for Susie Swanson.

It’s awful (so is the song).

OTOH, these guys so nail sappy crappy MTV songs and videos in animated form, that what can I say?

Judge for yourself (keep the Syrup of Ipecac hand, however).

Night Music: The Clash, “Stay Free”

Though Complete Control is my favorite song by The Clash, Give Em Enough Rope is by far my favorite album by the band, as well as my favorite phase of theirs.

Rope was followed by London Calling, but by then the rawness of Complete Control became a little too polished for my taste. London Calling was ok, but for me Rope was the perfect mix of attitude and sonics and rawness.

I saw The Clash a couple of times when they toured behind Rope, and I still remember them opening once with Safe European Home, and the first chords just blasting out, and just grinning from ear-to-ear because it was soooo fucking good.

Well, when I was making Lindsay’s holiday disc, this Clash tune is another I stuck on the playlist. I had not heard it for a while, but Stay Free is just great, just like the album. Rope is now on my car’s computer, and also on my iPhone.

BTW, check out Strummer’s furious rhythm playing on this live track.


Afternoon Snack: Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Hold Her Down”

Lindsay and I burn CD’s for one another on birthdays and XMAS.

I think these are what we would call “mix-tapes” in the “cassette High Fidelity” vernacular.

The whole process is fun: she digs for stuff she thinks I would like and not know (like Neutral Milk Hotel and Atmosphere, whom I shall comment on soon) and I try to do the same, digging for Billie Holiday and Dylan bootlegs along with odds and sods from hither and yon.

So, part of the process for me is simply staring at the wall of CDs in the music room, and trying to pluck out some nuggets accordingly. This time through, the great Toad the Wet Sprocket song Hold Her Down jumped out at me, and made it.

Aside from I love where the band got their name (Monty Python), Toad is a pretty good and versatile band (I saw them at a BFD many years back) and Hold Her Down is a great driving and lyrically powerful cut (listen carefully: it is a vehemently anti-rape song).

So, for my first entry of the new year, rock out.

There’s a party in my head, and no one is invited

It’s been a while since my last post. I know you’ve missed me and my young people music. The band I want to share with you all today is Tame Impala. When my friend first showed them to me about 4 years ago, he described their sound as “psychedelic Beatles.” I could definitely hear that in their music, though it is much more modern with use of synthesizers and such on top of their instruments. What I like most about them is probably the lyrics, though the music sounds really good to me as well.

Pretty cool video, too.

Concert: Jake Bugg and Black Keys

As Lawr mentioned in an earlier post, I saw The Black Keys with opener Jake Bugg last week in Sacramento. This was a rare occasion when I saw a show where I love both the opener and the headliner. Bugg is about my age, but his age is apparent only in his appearance, not in his ability. His stage presence, though not riveting, was impressive for such a young guy in a huge venue. Both acts put on a great show. Though the Keys were more of a spectacle than they needed to be, there’s no doubt they know how to please a crowd.

Here was my favorite that Bugg played, and a favorite off the Keys’ new album that they played in the encore.

Lunch Break: The Black Keys, “Little Black Submarines”

The Black Keys are another band that has generated very little attention here, so I want to fix that.

I really love the band, who in so many ways seem so unlikely (they certainly don’t look like rock stars, yet they totally rock).

One trouble I have with them is though I own three of the bands albums, I have no clue what any of the songs are called. Of course, I never knew the name of Steely Dan’s tunes either, and I still like them a lot, so apparently that does not account for much.

I know Lindsay saw the Keys with Jake Bugg last week, and she said it was a great show. So, I am hoping she posts about it.

In the interim, here is a fix.