Featured, Opinion

For the Love of Mixtapes (and CDs)

January 19, 2017

If you’re of a certain age, the answers to the following questions will be obvious yeses…

Have you ever made a mixtape?

Have you ever received a mixtape?

Of course, right? Granted, unless you’re super hip (read: hipster) or cleaning out the room in which you grew up, you probably haven’t come across a mixtape in the past fifteen to twenty years. Mix CDs? Sure, but probably not a mix on a cassette tape.

I really hadn’t thought about mixtapes until a recent conversation with a friend…
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Tony Molina – Confront The Truth

October 28, 2016

I am hard to please. That is me confronting the truth. On one hand, I don’t want to hear an artist make the same sounding album time and time again. However, I also don’t want them to change too much. Basically, I’m the Goldilocks of music fans. For example, as much as I enjoy Bon Iver‘s subsequent albums, For Emma, Forever Ago will forever be my favorite Justin Vernon album. I wanted future Bon Over albums to sound similar. Not the same, but close.

When I pressed play on “Lisa’s Song,” the first track on Tony Molina’s excellent new EP, Confront The Truth, I was surprised to be greeted by a fingerpicked acoustic guitar. It had a similar feel to “See Me Fall,” the first single released from the album. When I heard “See Me Fall,” I expected it to be an outlier on the album. It wasn’t. It quickly became obvious that this wasn’t going to sound the same as his previous work. I began to worry.

The worry wasn’t necessary. Confront The Truth is certainly a departure from Molina’s previous work, but a welcome one. 2014’s Dissed and Dismissed and 2013’s Six Songs EP were chock-full of hardcore-inspired pop songs. There’s nary an electric guitar to be found on Confront The Truth. The songs are still short and sweet – the album contains 8 songs and clocks in at about 10 minutes – but they are much softer and sweeter. Gone is the crunch and distortion of his previous work.

It sounds like Tony Molina listened to a lot of The Beatles while recording Confront The Truth. I hate making that comparison because it sets the bar too high. I have to do it though because the melodies are very Beatles-esque. In fact, when I first heard “See Me Fall,” I was convinced certain licks were taken directly from various Beatles’ songs.

I have a 5 minutes commute to work. Sometimes, it’s hard to even listen to a complete song. Although I wish the album were longer, it’s nice to have an album that I can listen to in its entirety on my way to and from lunch. Confront The Truth meets my high expectations and I’d highly recommend it.


Mix, Music

Fall 2016 Mix – Try To Find New Somethings That Won’t Fade Away In Time

October 20, 2016

Goddamn you, Neil Young.

I asked a few friends to name me songs that “sound” like fall to them. Neil Young was a common response among those whom I asked. Not a particular song, but Neil in general. A no-brainer would certainly be “Harvest Moon.” Coincidentally, it was the first song that I picked for my fall mix…and then I couldn’t include it on the final cut because Neil MP3s-Are-The-Devil Young had to pull his music from Apple Music and Spotify in an attempt to force people into buying his Pono player. I love Neil Young’s music, but seriously? Did he ever listen to an eight track or a cassette tape? No way do MP3s sound worse than those mediums. (Takes long deep breaths into a paper bag.) Moving on.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mixes lately. They’ve been on my mind because I intend to write a post about mixtapes. Actual mixes on cassette tapes, not the rap mixtapes that have become increasingly popular. However, instead of writing about mixes, I have been busy making one.

Of the four seasons, autumn is the one for which I am best equipped to make a mix. Or winter. Summer is tough because most of my collection does not qualify as bangers. I also happen to love autumn the most. Not too hot. Not too cold. The days are neither too long nor too short. The year’s last hurrah before the “long, cold, lonely winter.”

There’s a line in “Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney that goes, “My whole life / was like a picture of a sunny day.” From the first time I heard it, that line has evoked a feeling of pure happiness. For me, that picture of a sunny day would be taken on a 70° fall day in the Northeast United States. It would be taken during the “golden hour,” the last hour before the sun sets. The golden hue accentuating the bright oranges, yellows, pinks, and reds contained in the surrounding hills. Freshly fallen leaves littering the ground.

Rules for the Fall Mix

The first rule of the fall mix is there is no fall mix. There weren’t many rules that I followed. First, the mix had to be under 80 minutes. A nod to my days of burning mixes to CD. Second, no artist could appear more than once. Lastly, every song had to be available on Apple Music and Spotify. I had every intention of sharing this mix and wanted all the songs available to you, the listener. That’s it.

Goddamn you, Neil Young.

Featured, Opinion

What Do You Mean You Don’t Like [Insert Band Here]? Dealing With Musical Blind Spots

October 7, 2016

I don’t wash my legs.

From the knees down, that is. Is this not normal? I had never contemplated this until a recent episode of FX’s You’re The Worst. In the episode, the show’s main protagonists, Jimmy and Gretchen, are worried they don’t know each other as well as they think they do. Upon Jimmy’s urging that she tell him something about herself, Gretchen tells him she doesn’t wash her legs in the shower. Jimmy’s reaction is equal parts shock and disgust.

I immediately paused the show and turned to my girlfriend. “I don’t wash my legs in the shower,” I said. “Is that weird?”¹ She laughed and said that she wasn’t sure. She didn’t say it, but her lack of disgust makes me think she’s not a leg washer either. I really don’t know why I don’t wash my legs below the knee. Laziness? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s as Gretchen responded when pressed by Jimmy, “…what am I? A sucker? … What am I going to do, like, bend down and wash my legs? Who has the time?” Exactly, who has the time? As she and others also point out, the soap runs down your leg. Why wash?

Sometimes we assume certain things about people based on the things that we have direct knowledge of. (Sorry to disappoint those of you who thought I pivoted to personal hygiene.) As far as Jimmy and Gretchen are concerned, Jimmy likes Gretchen and vice versa. In many ways they are similar. Given that body of knowledge, Jimmy assumed Gretchen washed her legs because he washes his legs.

Often times, if someone likes X and Y, we’ll assume the person also likes Z because the majority of people who like X and Y tend to like Z. If you tell my you love Phish, I assume you do drugs. If you tell me you love Katy Perry, I assume you don’t like any of the bands I like. If you tell me you like Trump, I assume you’re… I’ll let you do the assuming on that one. If you tell me you love some form of guitar-based music, I assume you like The Beatles. How can that not be the case? I like guitar-based music and I like The Beatles. So do lots of people I know who have similar tastes in music as I do. That assumption must be accurate, right? But what happens when it’s not?

Musical Blind Spots

By definition, a blind spot is “an area or subject about which one is uninformed, prejudiced, or unappreciative.” Maybe I like X and Y, but don’t care for Z. In this case, if X, Y, and Z were bands, Z is what is known as a musical blind spot. Basically, it is an artist you are aware of, but don’t listen to for one reason or another.

I have a friend who on countless occasions has told me that he “doesn’t get Radiohead.” I get the impression that he feels like he should like them. Everyone else seems to. He knows I love them. Critics fawn over each release. I have made him mixes of the best Radiohead songs, but to no avail. They will forever remain in his musical blind spot. He doesn’t care for their music…and that’s fine, but it’s interesting to me that he wants to because he feels he should like them.
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Keaton Henson – Alright

June 27, 2016

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything that could be described as beautiful, gorgeous, or fragile. I, like many other bloggers, publications, etc., have found myself drifting away from the neo-folk, for lack of a better term, that I had written about so often here over the past few years. As I drifted away from that genre, I found myself drifting back towards rock. Be it indie, alternative, or whatever other modifier you’d like to append to the genre.  Rock music isn’t often described as beautiful, gorgeous, or fragile. “Alright” by Keaton Henson is not a rock song. “Alright” is as tender as they come.

Rock music can often be pummeling, aurally speaking. “Alright” is pummeling, but in an entirely different sense. It’s emotionally pummeling. Keaton Henson’s lyrics, soft vocals, and piano playing affects you in a way that only certain songs can. As a defense mechanism, humans are adept at neatly tucking away their negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy, fear, doubt, and sadness. By tucking these emotions away, we are able to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Every so often, like a forest in need of burning, we need to purge ourselves of those repressed emotions. Songs like Keaton Henson’s “Alright” are vital because they act as that catharsis for us. Disclaimer, I am not overly masculine. However, I am unfamiliar with the feeling of “needing a good cry.” I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or not, but it’s a foreign concept to me. Songs like this are as close as I get.
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Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

May 27, 2016

The other night, in between our daughter’s excited screeches, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “I wish I could feel that level of excitement again.” The excited screeches were in response to Penguins from Madagascar (which was much better than I expected, by the way). Our daughter is now 19 months old and loves watching TV. I’m not sure she knows what’s going on, but that fact does little to diminish her love of it.

Before I had a child of my own, I swore that I wouldn’t let my yet-to-exist-child watch a lot of television…we now watch about 15-30 minutes of television each night with our daughter shortly before she goes to sleep. This is but one thing that I swore I wouldn’t let any child of mine do. In fairness, the TV is never on during the daytime and it’s never more than 30 minutes a day. One of the main reasons I have softened on my previous anti-TV stance (beside her overall cuteness and my inability to say no to her) is her excitement each night when the TV comes on. It’s a level of excitement that I, as a 37 year-old, will probably never experience again in my life. Her birth was as good as it gets, but the hallways of the hospital did not echo with my shouts of exultant joy on the night she was born. Perhaps if I was hanging out with Eddie Vedder my inner-me would feel this way, but I could never express it outwardly like she does. She has an ear-to-ear smile on her face the whole time. Laughs when we laugh. Acts surprised when we gasp. She just loves it so much, who am I to deny her of this joy?

Earlier today, while browsing some music blogs, my girlfriend’s observation about our daughter’s level of excitement popped into my head. While there is plenty of new music that I enjoy, that level of excitement just isn’t there anymore. If I listen to 10 songs, I might really enjoy about 1 or 2 of them. 10 or 15 years ago, that percentage would have been much higher. I could tell myself that it has to do with the music itself. You know, music was better back then, but isn’t that exactly what older people start telling themselves?
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Twin Fires – Two Hands

May 12, 2016

Did I mention that I haven’t been listening to a great deal of new music lately? Thanks Pearl Jam.

Maybe it’s just me…or maybe it’s part of being an adult. Between a full-time job and a family, music has taken a backseat in my life. Regardless of the reason, I really don’t have the time for “growers” anymore. With all the new music available via streaming and limited time, I can’t be bothered with albums that I need to listen to 3+ times to appreciate. A song, album, or band either grabs me instantly or not at all.

“Two Hands” by Aussie band Twin Fires is one such song. It took all of 30 seconds to decide I liked the song and wanted to keep listening. I don’t know much about Twin Fires, seeing as how “Two Hands” is the only song they have officially released so far, but V Music described “Two Hands” as “Kurt Vile crossed with rollicking ’80s Springsteen.” Who wouldn’t like that, right? Rolling Stone Australia described the band’s sound as “referencing the guitar-led, southern-US blues of mid-2000’s indie rock over the electro-laced direction of their current brethren…they delicately flirt with the line of nostalgic charm.” Nostalgia. If you’ve been reading my recent posts, this seems to be an underlying theme. Again, maybe it comes with age, but I have been jonesing for nostalgia lately. If it sounds like it was made between 1991 – 2005, there’s a good chance I’ll like it. I didn’t hear it at first, but after reading Rolling Stone‘s description, I also hear a bit of Kings Of Leon in Twin Fires.

I wish I could tell you when the band’s debut album is going to be released, but I could not find any information on future releases from Twin Fires. Based on “Two Hands,” they are a band I will make it a point to keep checking in on.


Pearl Jam: 25 Years Later…and Still the Best

May 5, 2016

Post-tour blues have set in. Granted, I am seeing Pearl Jam at Fenway in August…but that’s not until August. So far away. Ugh. I haven’t been listening to a lot of new music the past week or two because I’ve been listening to a lot of Pearl Jam. And by a lot, I mean it’s practically the only thing I’ve been listening to. MSG I from 2003. Gorge 2005. Moline 2014. Philly III from 2009 when they played four nights to close down the Spectrum. Granted, I don’t see nearly as many concerts as you’d expect a fan of music to see, but I still feel confident in my opinion that Pearl Jam is one of the top three live acts today.

They are such a great live band that I expect everyone to have the same reaction that this guy had after seeing them at MSG earlier this week, his first time seeing Pearl Jam live. Then again, the wife / girlfriend of the guy sitting next to me and my friend may have disagree. I should also emphasize the sitting part since that is what she did for all but three songs. 25 years in and they still play every show with the passion and intensity of a band playing in a small club. At no point do you get the sense that they are simply going through the motions. Eddie Vedder is running around the stage, dancing, and finishing many of the songs on which he plays guitar with a Pete Townshend-esque jump. Lead guitarist Mike McCready puts on a show all his own. Besides for his dazzling guitar work, McCready is constantly playing with the audience, pointing at audience members, throwing guitar pics, etc. It’s actually exhausting watching him work. Possibly less entertaining to watch, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarist Stone Gossard, and drummer Matt Cameron are all top notch musicians.
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Bleached – Wednesday Night Melody

April 27, 2016

Wednesdays. Ugh. The second worst day of the week. Halfway though the week is still better than the beginning of the week, but it’s still a tough one. Wednesday is a glass half-full, glass half-empty day. When you wake up in the morning, it’s like, “Ugh, it’s only Wednesday.” Then again, it’s like, “Wednesday, halfway home baby!” Perhaps if you were looking forward to singing a catchy melody on Wednesday night, the day wouldn’t be so bad (it still would be). Enter “Wednesday Night Melody” by Bleached. I listened to “Wednesday Night Melody” on my way to work this morning and it already made my Wednesday a little better.
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Sioux Falls – Rot Forever

April 22, 2016

About 6 years ago, my girlfriend and I drove coast to coast to coast. New Jersey to California and back. As much as we reminisce about our favorite places, we spend just as much time talking about the least favorite places we visited. Really, these are places that she disliked. I didn’t mind them all that much. There’s Indiana, where she got a speeding ticket…in a work zone…while located in the middle of a pack of cars all going the same speed. Other than that, Indiana was fine, but she still hates it. There’s Kansas. To this day, I still don’t know why she hates Kansas so much. It’s flat, there are a lot of fields, and not much else. Hardly hatable offenses. Honestly, her opinion was formed at a rest stop. I never asked what happened in the 5 minutes we were inside, but whatever it was, it forever shaped her views of the state as a whole. Then there’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
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