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Top 20 Songs of 2005 So Far

July 21st, 2005 | Comments | Posted in Music

I was inspired by my buddy Wu over at Backfield in Motion to make a list of my favorite twenty songs released so far in 2005. Since I’m too lazy to write something about each one, I chose instead to let part of each song do the talking. Hope you enjoy; click below to see the list.

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Marathon Men

July 20th, 2005 | Comments Off | Posted in Music

One of the main reasons I stopped listening to nothing but punk rock records is that there was simply no place left to go. Many of my favorite punk rock bands kept on releasing record after 30-minute record as I grew up; Screeching Weasel alone released fourteen full length albums over the course of thirteen years, and the Queers and MTX both have similar discographies. The catch is that while I love every single Screeching Weasel record, they all sound largely the same. There’s a clear and important reason for this: punk rock artists (real ones, at least) place intentional constraints on their music. The concept of raging against an establishment is so central to the punk ethos that it translates directly to the sound: strip away all the violins, all the accordions, all the pan-flutes, turn up the three instruments you have left, and irritate the hell out of whoever you can. And while stripping down your sound can be an effective method of exposing the raw, pulsing core of your genre (see: The Black Keys), it’s a double-edged sword. The same constraints that made Screeching Weasel the best snotty Ramones-style punk rock band ever also eternally confined them to being a snotty Ramones-style punk rock band. There’s only so much you can do with three chords, and so I moved on. I started listening to the stuff I used to make fun of, and now I can barely find room to squeeze my SW records in between Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens.

But every now and then, I hear something that makes me see the punk-light again. It happens every time the Soviettes release a higher numbered LP, or when the Lawrence Arms come to town. And this week, it’s a self-titled album from a New York band called Marathon.

I originally stumbled onto their song Painting by Numbers on the compilation that came with last month’s Vice Magazine. After putting that song on permanent repeat for about six days, I figured it was time for more, and I picked up the full record. This album is a masterpiece. Marathon has taken all the parts of punk rock that matter, brought them all together seamlessly, and breathed new life into them; the album is simultaneously catchy, political, funny, sugary, and furious. Painting by Numbers is all you need to hear to understand what I mean: it begins with a metal guitar riff, dripping with distortion and accompanied by a frenzied scream: “Let’s start a war!”. But before you can say Black Flag, the song switches into NOFX mode as the skate-punk double-bass-pedal beat kicks in. While the lead guitar whines away, the vocals start in, and you are suprised once again: harmonies. Real harmonies. And, oh, the words!

We hold the purse, we hold the reins
We can deny these spoiled kids their next allowance
When they start shoving ’round like bullies on the playground
We shake our pockets for more change

Let’s start a war
‘Cause I’m a sucker for a good fight
Let’s start a war

Will we say that we’re not buying any toys for naughty children?
No we’ll just turn away and pass the buck off to the governments who kill off all the dissidents
And let our culpability dissolve out in the acid rain

How many bands can pull off jokes about being charitable by helping homeless bombs find places to explode (without sounding absurd)? And just when you think they’ve gone all preachy and Propoghandi on you and you start to kinda want them to shut the fuck up, they kick into the next song, entitled “I Don’t Have a Dancing Problem”. Are you fucking kidding me?

The album moves on, shifting comfortably from the acoustic Names Have Been Changed (To Protect the Guilty) to the driving thrash of Matchmaker, Matchmaker, and as it moves forward, you just have no idea what to expect next. And when it’s done, you just want it to start all over again.

Bottom line: this album is solid gold, and if these assholes don’t blow through San Francisco soon, I think my head asplode.

Floods and Droughts

July 5th, 2005 | Comments | Posted in Personal

Yama's BBQHappy July 4th, everybody. I had a great weekend and I hope you did too. Somehow, I think this July 4th is particularly important; I feel as if our country is on a precipice, and the decisions we make right now will determine whether we pull back from the edge or fall into a gradual decline. The recent retirement of O’Connor and the important G8 conference coming up have (for me personally) served to harshly juxtapose our country’s place in the world and the problems facing us against an appreciation of the beauty of this place we live in and the freedoms we enjoy. While the title of this post was actually in reference to my record collection (more on that later), I think the phrase has it’s finger on all aspects of life, and this weekend was a flood in pretty much every respect. Whoa, heavy.

Now, on to the good stuff. I’ve uploaded a bunch of new pics to my Flickr photostream. Trevor’s newfound addiction to flickr has only served to reinforce my opinion that it is pretty much the greatest thing ever (here at the Y! I have had a chance to meet those folks and they are a treat). But I digress. The pics are from a few happenings this weekend… Anne and Lauren’s party Friday night, Michelle’s birthday BBQ on Saturday, bar hopping on Saturday night with Laura, Lauren and Eun, and the trip Laura and I took to Muir Woods (and Beach) on Sunday. The photo on the right was taken at the barbeque and since I have been informed that Michelle is my blog’s biggest fan, I figured she deserved some recognition. Plus, I figure plastering cuties on the front page of my web site can’t hurt my rep with the laydays. Ahem.

As a quick side note, Michelle told me she checks the site every day, and from what I gather, lots of people out there also just check the site periodically. Being a proud member of the group that bloggers like to call “influencers” (I believe you normal people call them “nerds”) let me make a techie suggestion and highly highly recommend that you learn a little bit about RSS and start using an RSS reader (such as My Yahoo!) to track this site as well as any other blogs or news sites you read regularly. It’s super easy, and once you try it you’ll never want to go back to hand-checking all your sites again.

As for music, there hase been some freak convergence of mojo going on there (I think Venus aligned with Mars or some shit). For who knows why, I have had the biggest influx of new (well new for me) records that I’ve gotten in a very long time. Here’s the current list of records in rotation (hold on to your friggin hats):

  • Archer PrewittWilderness
  • Art BrutBang Bang Rock And Roll
  • CaribouThe Milk of Human Kindness
  • ChixdiggitPink Razors
  • Clap Your Hands Say YeahS/T LP
  • CommonBe
  • Dressy BessyElectrified
  • EdanBeauty and the Beat
  • EnonHigh Society
  • Lyrics BornSame Shit, Different Day
  • M. WardTransistor Radio
  • Mary TimonyEx Hex
  • Maxïmo ParkA Certain Trigger
  • Sleater-KinneyThe Woods
  • Stephen MalkmusFace the Truth
  • Teenage BottlerocketTotal
  • The Lawrence ArmsCocktails and Dreams
  • The Mountain GoatsAll Hail West Texas
  • The Oranges BandThe World and Everything in It
  • The SoviettesLP III

And almost all of that is in the last week. Plus, there’s a weird resurgence of punk rock in this list: Chixdiggit, The Lawrence Arms, The Soviettes, Teenage Bottlerocket (which is Cody from the Lillingtons’ new band). Enemy You also has a new record out which I plan to get my hands on tonight at their show (they are opening for Lawrence Arms, who I make it a point never to miss).

Once again, happy 4th of July and besh wishes to you all!