Saturday, November 26, 2011

In a former life...

I don't write much here about my former career as a struggling, out-of-work musician, but lately I've been reflecting on some of the good times from my musical past. Sometimes I forget why I chose to move away from the dedication to my musical ambitions, and then I remember the reasons. The multitude of reasons.

For starters, I never really got on well with other musicians. In the early 90's I seemed to move from band to band, each band doing a number of gigs before self-imploding. It was disheartening because each band had its merits and its talented players (a select few of which I've maintained some contact with over the years).

I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for my few friends that have succeeded at sustaining a career in music. It takes some unique skills. One such skill: Being comfortable with ambiguity and a frequent lack of structure. Over the years I have learned that I am most UNcomfortable when there's an absence of structure (for anyone who's curious my Myers-Briggs is INTJ).

Another realization I've had recently is that the music biz of today is FAR different from the biz of the late 80's when I was learning the ropes and paying my dues. Frankly I never felt completely comfortable selling or promoting my own product. I think part of this comes from being Scandinavian/Minnesotan/raised Lutheran, an interesting combination that often mistakes self-confidence for bragging or cockiness, which is a very bad thing if you're a Scan-MN-Luth mix like I was.
I was friends with the members of Words before learning to play, sing, or write. These folks (who happen to be musically inclined) are extended family, which probably explains why we gravitate together every few years to make new music. Since forming in 1986 we've written, recorded & self-produced four full-length cassettes, a CD, a 7" vinyl single, and (my personal favorite) a cover of "Yesterday's Hero" on Men In Plaid, an internationally distributed Bay City Rollers tribute CD that has gone into its 2nd printing on Bullseye Records of Canada.

As much of a thrill creating music has always been for me, I've found my professional niche in Higher Education, where I feel at home. I believe it's where I'm at my best. Working on my PhD, despite its occasional headaches, has been a fantastic opportunity. Turns out that I really get off from being in an intellectual environment, and that the satisfaction of creation is often the same whether it's a song or a research article. It's just the end product that is different.

A few weeks ago Leo and I did a massive re-arrangement of the upstairs floor of our house, and I discovered my old TASCAM Portastudio under the bed covered in a thick layer of dust. Since then I've been sifting through some not-so-dusty tapes (carefully stored away in our basement), shining up some old songs and posting them at my tumblr site.  Through this process I have made very nice peace with the musical past that is very much a part of who I am. I am extremely proud of the music that my mainstay band Words and I have created over the years. It's not all genius stuff, but that doesn't mean it lacks value. For me each song is like an audio time-capsule; the feeling of being transported to a different time via recorded music can be a very powerful thing.

I've provided a few links below in case you're interested in hearing some of the tracks I've posted recently. If you like what you hear, check back from time to time because I'll probably keep posting stuff, as long as this nostalgia trip maintains my interest. :)

Thank you for reading & listening!

Friday, November 25, 2011

RSD Black Friday

Three record stores today but only one RSD purchase. Granted, it was a good 'un, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' fantastic Blood Sugar Sex Magic. Still, having navigated between stores mostly by foot (holiday bus schedule don't you know), I was pretty godamn tired by the time I got home, and with no Beatles singles box. If there's a silver lining I guess I did get a helluva workout, so no worries about all those mashed potatoes from yesterday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The 20 Fanciest LPs of 2011!

  1. The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
  2. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  3. The Bangles - Sweetheart of the Sun
  4. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now 
  5. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  6. The Cars - Move Like This
  7. Lenny Kravitz - Black & White America
  8. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  9. Yes - Fly From Here
  10. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
  11. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  12. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  13. Sloan - Double Cross
  14. Acid House Kings - Music Is Better With You
  15. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  16. Liam Finn - Fomo
  17. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue 
  18. Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom
  19. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  20. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
  21. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Honorable Mentions & Noteworthies:
  • There were some fancy & super sweet re-issues this year worthy of praise, some of them on vinyl for the first time:
    • Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
    • Deltron 3030 (Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Kid Koala, Dan the Automator)
    • Journey - Greatest Hits vol. 2
    • The Monkees HEAD on clear wax (only 500 pressed)
    • Ben Folds Five's first LP
    • Go-Go's Beauty & The Beat 30th anniversary on pink vinyl
    • Paul McCartney McCartney & McCartney II Deluxe 2LP editions with extra tracks
    • Glassjaw - Worship & Tribute on white vinyl 
    • Sugar - Copper Blue
  • The Bangles' Sweetheart of the Sun would probably battle Duran Duran for #3, had it been released on vinyl. It's a fantastic album - their best yet, IMO. UPDATE, 1.31.2012: Sweetheart of the Rodeo DID get a vinyl release, and although it wasn't an easy decision, I concluded that it was slightly better than Duran Duran. So, I updated the list, which is why there's now 21 Fancy LPs for the year.
  • I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a vinyl version of Condensate by The Original 7ven (formerly The Time). When I spoke with Jellybean Johnson at September's fDeluxe show he seemed fairly certain that it would make it onto vinyl. It's a great album, and all great albums deserve to be on wax!
As always, feel free to post your faves of the past year.  Anything you think I missed?  Let me know!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On my turntable: George Harrison - 33 1/3

Well I've done it again, for the second time this week. I was sitting on the couch doing some reading for class and thought to myself, "I've really got a hankerin' to hear 33 1/3." It's always been a strong fall LP for me. After a couple of songs I checked Wikipedia for the album's release date. My heart jumped a little - it was released this week in 1976, on 11.19. Craziness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Move Like This

Without a doubt in my top 10 fave LPs of 2011. Perhaps even Top 5ive.

Best LPs of 2011 (11.15.11 update)

  1. The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
  2. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  3. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now 
  4. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  5. Lenny Kravitz - Black & White America
  6. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  7. Yes - Fly From Here
  8. fDeluxe - gaslight EP
  9. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  10. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  11. Sloan - Double Cross
  12. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  13. Liam Finn - Fomo
  14. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP 
  15. Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom
  16. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  17. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
  18. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Sunday, November 13, 2011

look what I can do

Capture of a still photo in the "All Together Now" documentary, which I then cropped and painted. I like how this one turned out.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On my turntable: John & Yoko - Double Fantasy

It happens to me frequently. I'll gravitate towards a certain LP and then discover that this was either the day or week when the album was released or purchased by me (based on a receipt tucked inside the sleeve). Before making coffee this morning I grabbed Double Fantasy (1980) for the turntable, and after settling in with my java I checked Wikipedia for the album's release date. I bought my first copy of this record 31 years ago this week (it was released on 11.17.80).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Montage: Fall, 2011

With the first signs of snow looming on the horizon I assembled this tiny homage to another beautiful autumn in the Twin Cities...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Best LPs of 2011 (11.9.11 update)

  1. The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
  2. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  3. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
  4. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  5. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  6. Yes - Fly From Here
  7. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  8. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  9. Sloan - Double Cross
  10. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  11. Liam Finn - Fomo
  12. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP
  13. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  14. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
  15. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Monday, November 07, 2011

Best LPs of 2011 (11.7.11 update)

  1. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas
  2. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
  3. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  4. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  5. Yes - Fly From Here
  6. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  7. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  8. Sloan - Double Cross
  9. Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
  10. Liam Finn - Fomo
  11. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP
  12. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  13. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way

Sunday, November 06, 2011

This day in Fancy Blog history

I did a search to see what was happening in this blog space on this date in past years:

The best LPs of 2011 (11.6.2011 update)

  1. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
  2. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
  3. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  4. Yes - Fly From Here
  5. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
  6. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  7. Sloan - Double Cross
  8. Liam Finn - Fomo
  9. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - La Carotte Bleue EP
  10. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  11. The High Llamas - Talahomi Way

Look through my window

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Top LPs of 2011 - in progress

So I'm trying something new in coming up with this year's comprehensive "best of" list. Last night I began listening to 2011 LPs and ranking them based on how I felt they held up against one another. What I plan to do is continue this process until I've gone through all of this year's new vinyl. Shown below is the list as it is right now; I will continue to update and tweak the list over the coming weeks, so what you see now may be very different by the end of the month. Stay tuned!
  1. R.E.M - Collapse Into Now
  2. Blondie - Panic of Girls
  3. Yes - Fly From Here
  4. New York Dolls - Dancing Backward in High Heels
  5. Sloan - Double Cross
  6. Liam Finn - Fomo
  7. Cut Copy - Zonoscope

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Beach Boys SMiLE Sessions Box Set - My 2 Cents

Let me start by saying I doubt there's anything I could add to the discussion about SMiLE that has not already been written ad nauseam. Still, with a legendary and historic release such as this one, the music blogger and fan in me is dying to write something about how incredible this milestone truly is. I already wrote much of my personal history with this music in an entry earlier this year (which you can read HERE), so I won't rehash any of that now (you're welcome).
All settled & cozy in its new home.
My SMiLE Sessions box arrived yesterday at our doorstep via UPS at around 1:30. Like many SMiLE nerds I took pictures, which I'll try to post later (they're in our camera at the moment). I did my best to savor the full experience of unboxing the set; I made the bed and tidied up the bedroom before settling in to open the heavy-duty shipping box (thank you!). As I opened the shipping box I felt like Charlie as he peeled back the wrapper on the Wonka bar to discover the golden ticket -- I saw the white of the SMiLE box and was so excited with anticipation that I actually -no lie- sharted.

The 45s contained in the box set
The box itself is bound to receive a Grammy nomination for best packaging. The 3D SMiLE Shop on the front of the box is so cool. Although I've never much cared for the word "treasure" (along with the words "chunks" and "snack", just so you know), the SMiLE box is literally full of treasures: The assembled SMiLE album on 2LPs in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve, 2 vinyl 45s ("Surf's Up"/"Vegetables" and "Heroes & Villians" Pts I & II) with picture sleeves, a hardcover book packed with incredible detail & recollections from those who starred in SMiLE's history (including new notes from Al, Bruce & Mike), a three-fold binder containing 5 CDs packed full of everything you could imagine (and probably some stuff you wouldn't imagine), a huge SMiLE poster, plus a repro of the booklet that was pressed for the original SMiLE LP that never was.
The coolest of the cool.
All of the music clocks in at well over six hours, and I've not yet listened to all of it. The album itself is in mono as Brian would have mixed it back in '67, but the studio bits and pieces are mostly in stereo, and some of them are breathtaking in their beauty, originality, and in some cases, pure obscurity. Although I've heard most of this material I've not heard it presented in this fashion. As for the bits I've never heard before, they definitely catch me off guard and make me stop to listen. There are also some bits that, even though I've heard them a zillion times, sound so good and fresh on this set that I experience a well of emotion like it's the first time (a perfect example being Dennis singing "My Only Sunshine").

Non Beach Boys fans, or even casual fans, would probably be best off with the 2CD or 2LP versions of this release. The box set, in my opinion, is for the fans who have dreamed and fantasized but never thought they'd actually see such a collection, let alone one presented with such care and respect. Personally, I expect to be digging into this music at least until the end of the year. Thank you to Brian, Van Dyke, Al, Mike, Bruce, Melinda Wilson, audio wiz Mark Linett, and Darian Sahanaja (the unsung hero behind SMiLE's resurrection), and everyone else who was able to this happen. To coin an old phrase, I hope that the smile you've sent out returns to you.

Great quote from the SMiLE Sessions book