Archive for November, 2011

Hey Rosetta! covers Wilco

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , on November 30, 2011 by sethdellinger

Even though it seems wildly improbable that anyone who reads my blog will give a hoot about this, I just thought it way too cool and bizarre to not pass up:  only a week after posting my favorite music of 2011 (that entry can be seen here), video has surfaced of Hey Rosetta!’s new encore, which they’ve been playing on a current Australian/ Canadian tour, and it features a song from Wilco, another band on my list this year!  (these two bands seem mildly incompatible, otherwise I certainly wouldn’t blog post it).  The new encore is right below here.  It’s actually a medley, beginning with David Bowie’s “Changes”, then the previously-rare Hey Rosetta! song “The Simplest Thing”, which is actually melded together with the Wilco song “Hummingbird”, and then closing with the song “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople.  Enjoy!

Thinking About the Same Woman for a Decade

Posted in My Poetry with tags , on November 27, 2011 by sethdellinger

Be still.
As if the moon could haul through you
its tremor of light and stone,
as if it could clear you of sound,
plough your mind’s noise until it’s a shine
in the purl of a south-bending river.

Be still, I tell myself.
Think of anything but her.
Think of a tune you hummed standing in a line
ten years ago.  Hum it again, hum through the motes of air
through the stitches of time.  Perhaps your nerves
will find at last a tune to which they will succumb.

Be still.  Be not so heavy hearted
for a moment.  All is not a tomb,
all is not a blind sarcophagus staring dumb,
your thwarted pleasures nailed inside.

These brief, nomadic intervals of stillness
are all you have.

Black Friday in Erie

Posted in Snippet, Uncategorized with tags , , on November 27, 2011 by sethdellinger

Self Portraits in Cities (a tradition I’m starting because I’m terribly vain)

Posted in Photography with tags , , on November 21, 2011 by sethdellinger
Click on a picture, then once it re-loads on a new screen, click it again to be treated to a full-screen version.  Only then will you see why I am the Ansel Adams of urban black-and-white vanity self-portraiture.

Buffalo

Cleveland

Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19, 2011 by sethdellinger

Dear G_d,

I rejoice in the opportunity to clock in early and clock out late;
to be abused by customers and mistreated by bosses;
to delight in my ability to pay off student loans;
to spend my life in serfdom to interest rates I don’t understand;
I take joy in the promise of my own car.

Amen

My Favorite Music of 2011

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2011 by sethdellinger

Yep, it’s that time of year again: time for my self-important yet entirely meaningless year-end lists.  This year will feature three lists: music, movies, and a miscellany list like this one from last year.  We start out with the music list.

Boy-howdy, this was a crowded year of music for me!  I would estimate that well over 50% of musical artists that I am passionate about had a release of some kind this year.  At one point, it actually just seemed like too much.  I wasn’t able to give my full attention to some albums, as they were coming too fast for me to keep up with.  (one casualty of this may have been the new Cold War Kids album, which I did not like, but it was sandwiched between a lot of other releases.  This year marks the first CWK album to not make my list.  Also, The Decemberists released TWO albums this year and I found them both snooze-ville).  There even, unfortunately, remain some releases I’d love to hear but I just don’t have the time or attention span to squeeze them in (new albums from Deer Tick, Tegan and Sara, Arctic Monkeys, and a live Sigur Ros release are among the 2011 recordings that will have to wait until 2012 in the Seth household).  So it is with all this in consideration that I admit to being such a pansy when making this list, I absolutely had to expand my rankings from the 15 slots of last year, to 20 slots this year.  That’s right; not only could I not narrow it down to 10, I couldn’t even narrow it down to 15.  Give me a break.  I don’t get paid for this.

Also new this year, I have included “post rock” bands in my listing.  (for a description of the genre, click the link)  In years past I have left them off my list, as the style only appeals to a small group of people, but the genre has become such a large part of my listening life, I could not in good faith leave them off my lists any longer.  There were two new albums from two of the heaviest hitters in the genre this year, and they’re both fantastic examples of the post rock game (at number 6 and 13 on my list).

As always, a mix disc chronicling my list will be sent out automatically to folks on my “mailing list”.  It will only feature songs from the top 15 on the list, however, due to the inherent limitations of the compact disc.  (if you’re on my mailing list, you know you are.  Although I typically don’t send the mix discs to my parents, who are otherwise on the mailing list.  So, Mom and Dad, if you want one of these, let me know!)  If you are not on the mailing list and would like on it, just let me know via whatever method you and I usually use to communicate.  But if you want in on the mix disc, let me know ASAP, I’ll be mailing them out soon.

Also, bear in mind (to prevent silly mean-spirited arguments that would prove you know nothing about art) this list is meant to represent my favorite music of the year, not my notion of “the best” music of the year.  You cannot argue with what was my “favorite”. And so, without further ado, my top 20 musical releases of calendar year 2011:

20.  Radiohead, The King of Limbs

19.  St. Vincent, Strange Mercy

18.  Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean

17.  Wavves, Life Sux

16.  Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots

15.  Florence + The Machine, Ceremonials
I was slow to the party with this band, but I’m now firmly on Team Florence.  The lead single, “What the Water Gave Me”, will make you happy to be alive.

14.  Young the Giant, Young the Giant
One of the best debut albums I’ve ever heard.  I can’t wait to see where these guys go as they get their artistic feet under them.

13.  Mogwai, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Mogwai has always been further down my list of Post Rock bands than they are for most; I tend to find them too flippant in a genre that is typically super-serious.  But this album blew my socks off; it is harder and more in-your-face than most Post Rock, while maintaining the necessary pretentious artiness that makes my hat fly off.

12.  Indigo Girls, Beauty Queen Sister
I continue to have no idea why the world at large insists Indigo Girls are only for sappy women or butch lesbians.  If perfectly-crafted, heartfelt songs about the most intense mysteries of the human condition (with amazing harmony!) are for butch lesbians, then schedule my appointment with a surgeon.  This album proves the ladies can and will keep making compelling music for much longer than most songwriters are able to.

11.  The Trews, Hope & Ruin
The bar-rock Canadians from my 2009 list make a triumphant return!  This album falls short of the majestic magnificence of 2009’s No Time for Later, but contains at least two songs that made me get out of my seat the first time I heard them (“People of the Deer” is a straight-up Earth-scorcher).

10.  Real Estate, Days

This Jersey quartet is often accused of being a tad “sleepy” or intentionally understated, but ever since I saw them open for Deerhunter last winter, I’ve been a convert to their introspective, trance-like style of shoegaze rock.  Here is the outro to “Wonder Years”, off their superb album from this year, Days:

9.  TV on the Radio,  Nine Types of Light
 
Certainly the most anticipated art rock release of the year, following their spectacular 2008 album Dear Science, many people were afraid we’d never get another TVoTR album after they announced a “hiatus” in 2009.  Then, in early 2011, they announced Nine Types of Light, and almost immediately thereafter, bassist Gerard Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer and promptly died.  Needless to say, the touring and promotion for the album was all quite bittersweet; but in the end, the album is a huge testament to this band’s power: soaring, soulful and at times, relentlessly rocking.

8.  Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues

Nothing brings me closer to full-on hipster status than my affinity for Fleet Foxes.  As my tastes evolve from ultra-modern, hyper rock to a more toned-down, Americana fusion, no band epitomizes my own evolution better than this band.  Stopping short of “country” but straying far from “rock”, the Foxes make me see and smell the Appalachian mountains of back home with every note.  A friend of mine once gave as his reason for disliking Fleet Foxes as “it’s like church songs for hipsters”, and I thought to myself that sounded like exactly why I do like them.  And it doesn’t hurt that on Helplessness Blues,  frontman Robin Pecknold seems to have been singing from inside my own skull.  “So now I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter…what does that say about me?”

7.  The Airborne Toxic Event, All at Once

Just watch this from start to finish and tell me it didn’t change your life:

6.  Explosions in the Sky, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

The other “post rock” band on my list, they could also arguably be called the most commercially successful (they did the theme song for the TV show “Friday Night Lights”, which is one thousand times more mainstream exposure than any other post rock band).  Happily, with their first new album since their profile increased, they did not make simpler, more straight-forward songs for “the masses”.  Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is probably their  most challenging album to date, while maintaining the heightened level of spiritual raw emotion that has always made them impossible to ignore.  The ten minute album closer, “Let Me Back In”, although wordless, is a dirge-like cry of sadness for a lost love, reaching a level of thematic complexity that is new for a band that occasionally relies on bombast.  And if this CD doesn’t win the Grammy for album packaging, there is a serious problem (yes, they give Grammys for that…just not on television).

5.  Wilco, The Whole Love

I’m a relatively new convert to Wilco.  Despite them being constantly talked about in the same breath as a lot of bands I adored, I resisted them because of the label “alt-country”, but it turns out, in the last few years, that label started sounding attractive to me.  So I started trying them out (and it turns out that “alt-country” is totally meaningless, anyway).  Then this year’s The Whole Love came out, and I was totally blown away.  Few albums—of any genre—contain so many varying styles of music and so much depth of feeling and subtextual meaning.  Check this performance on Letterman from this year, of the album’s lead track, “The Art of Almost”:

4.  Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What

Paul Simon has always been one of those songwriters who I knew I loved, but I always stopped short of being an active fan (buying albums, listing him among my favorites, etc).  But when one of his songs came on, I was always rapt. (honestly, I like his solo work about 100 times more than his stuff with Garfunkle).  But this year, as he released an new album, he did a promotional blitz that managed to work perfectly on me.  First, there was this extraordinary appearance on Jimmy Fallon, followed by appearances playing songs from his new album on just about every talk show I tuned into for a week or two.  And I just fell totally in love with these songs.  Musically they are low-key but extremely inventive, and like most Simon songs, they really shine lyrically.  They aren’t the straight-forward, heart-on-sleeve urgent missives that he wrote in his most productive years, but rather, these songs are complex, surprising, bold lyrical poetry that could just as easily be studied in a textbook as played on Jimmy Fallon.  I know that’s not necessarily a ringing endorsement for a lot of people—too much thinking, perhaps—but it seems like magic to me.  Plenty of songwriters at this stage in Simon’s career are just falling back on old formulas (if they’re making new music at all), but Simon is challenging himself and his audience.  “Rewrite” examines the regrets one might have with old age, but through the lens of an artist who can craft how the world views them. It seems like a song Bob Dylan would write if he stopped worrying so much about writing like Bob Dylan.  Album-closer and title song “So Beautiful or So What” poses some of the most complicated questions associated with making art—is something art just because it’s beautiful? Or conversely, does beauty DISQUALIFY something from being art?  And how important is it if art is good, if the artist is enjoying creating it?

3.  My Morning Jacket, Circuital
MMJ continues to be the most mystifying, chameleon-esque, dynamic band out there today. Are they space funk?  Jazz fusion?  Heavy metal?  Even they don’t know.  To be an MMJ fan is to be a fan of rock in general as well as this band’s unusual mystique.  Circuital easily ranks as my second favorite MMJ album (It Still Moves remains firmly in first).  Here is a video from the show I attended on this year’s tour.  I was front row, directly in front of Jim (the singer)…the song is “You Wanna Freak Out”, from Circuital:

2.  Death Cab For Cutie, Codes and Keys

  On first listen, I was afraid Codes and Keys was the album where DCFC had started sucking.  Nothing caught my attention, and the lyrics sounded suspiciously like Ben Gibbard had given in to writing songs specifically to sound “Gibbard-y” (although it is a testament to his songwriting prowess that nobody familiar with his songwriting would fault me for making it an adjective).  But then, a few months after it came out, it clicked.  And then I remembered that is how every Death Cab for Cutie album has always been for me.  They simply do not pop out at you and declare their presence immediately.  It may sound dramatic, but I’m gonna say it like this anyway:  Death Cab songs contain universes, and sometimes these multi-layered, subtle, textured universes reveal themselves slowly, bit-by-bit, and sometimes, over the course of years.  (every year I find myself re-amazed in new ways by their album Plans.  I suspect DCFC fans will know what I mean when I say I just now *got* the song “Summer Skin”).  If there is a criticism to be leveled at the band, it is that these encodings (ha!  see how that applies to this album’s title?) and hidden universes can often obscure a listener’s personal attachment to a song.  I love the DCFC classic “Amputations” because I finally see how it’s looping, counter-acting guitar structure helps to inform the subject matter of lovers who consistently return to a poison relationship that is never going to work.  But I don’t love it, necessarily, because it’s important to me.

But once Codes and Keys clicked for me, it did become important to me.  Still around are the intricate, hidden gems of musical structure and lyrical content so slick it disguises itself as ordinary, but under that veneer are some of the most prescient, precious conceptual leaps in modern rock and roll.  Frontman Ben Gibbard surely knows that each word he writes will be picked over and analyzed by finger-wagging hipsters (on whom he relies for paychecks), yet he’s not scared to write an essentially atheist screed in “St. Paul’s Cathedral”:  “When our hearts stop ticking/ this is the end/ there’s nothing past this.”  I was actually one of the first to put this song up on YouTube.  You can see my little video here.  I also found myself delightedly surprised, upon returning to the album after initially dismissing it, to find that the title track had a nearly-hidden crescendo at the end, in a little bit of musical trickery it somehow hid itself rather cleverly at first.  Now, when I listen to “Codes and Keys” (the song) I am physically and emotionally moved to a point of near-ridiculousness by the final 2 minutes.  Anyone who is trying to get into DCFC, or is skeptical but interested, all I can suggest is that you give it some time to sink in.  No other band will more richly reward a patient listener.

1.  Hey Rosetta!, Seeds

  It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever read my blog that my favoritest band in the world of all time and forever would get the #1 spot this year.  I’ve written nearly ad infinitum about this band, so I won’t waste time going back over why I adore them so much.  If you’re new to my blog, scroll up to the tag cloud on the right and click on the Hey Rosetta! tag, which will take you to a plethora of gushing fanboy raves about them.  Seeds, their third album, for me ranks squarely as their second best album, but it would take, as far as I can calculate, a literal act of God for any artist to top their previous album, Into Your Lungs (and Around in Your Heart and on Through Your Blood).  As far as follow-ups go, Seeds delivers, with enough emotional peaks, insane tempo changes, and heartfelt epiphanies to last two more years, when hopefully the world will have it’s fourth Hey Rosetta! album.

There are many high-points on Seeds, both emotionally and musically, and somehow, nestled in there and almost hidden is the gem “Yer Fall”, which admittedly is not the standout on the album, but after seeing them live in support of this album five times, I can confidently tell you this slow-builder is certainly the live centerpiece (even though it doesn’t get played every show).  I’ve posted a video of it below, and if you watch just one of the videos on this page, I implore you to make it this one.  Please stick with it to the end; after multiple tempo changes, the song builds to an emotional climax that, even now as I was searching for the best video to post of it, makes me weep.  It ends on a stark note, as most of the band sings with Tim, the lead singer,  “My love is dead.  I buried it.”  This video doesn’t even do justice to what I saw on the road this year.  In the small clubs, each member of the band loudly sings the final lines into any microphone they can find; the result was an incredible cacophony of intense raw emotion:

“I Raised an Empire” by Mexico City

Posted in Mexico City Videos, Snippet with tags , , on November 13, 2011 by sethdellinger

Here is my video for “I Raised an Empire” by Mexico City.  Read this post here for an explanation of what the heck I’m doing.

%d bloggers like this: