Archive for rave

Willis Earl Beal’s Circular Victory

Posted in Prose with tags , , , on September 16, 2017 by sethdellinger

Turn.  Circle.  Sun.  Moon.

These are the four words that comprise the title of the latest collection of songs by Willis Earl Beal.  The title is not only succinct–it also could not be more apt.

(the album doesn’t have a physical release yet but can be purchased for download at this link.)

All four of the words imply a kind of motion, an orbital, cyclical, or circuital movement (in the case of sun and moon, these motions are dependent on the motions of others).  Beal–who professionally wishes you’d call him Nobody–doesn’t choose words (or melodies, or masks) carelessly.

Sonically, these songs–like much of his recent material–consist of rising and falling keyboard dirges that weave in and out of prominence, often cycling back to where they started, but just as often running like a steady current behind Beal’s  plaintive vocals.  Within the framework of this wide-open musical canvas, Beal still manages to find unexpected nooks and crannies to place his vocal rhythms–he’s suddenly jumping out at you from a corner you didn’t even see–or he’s hiding in it.  Add to this a production value of lo-fi immediacy (I often felt like I could hear him change positions in a chair) and the cumulative effect is one of urgency, despite the modest tempo of the tunes, each song still manages to make you feel as though you are in the grip of strong stuff that is racing to an end.

But to “review” this album in any typical way would be like trying to review a cloud, or dirt.  That statement sounds preposterous, I know, but there it is, just the same.  As he continues to evolve as a songwriter and musician, Beal keeps mining material that gets closer and closer to the elemental; this is art like wind, or the subliminal functioning of a gland.  One feels these songs pass through you like quarks.

Beal has often layered the vocals one on top of another, giving the impression that they rotate around one another (like, for instance, the moon around the Earth and the Earth around the Sun); it’s like Beal orbiting Beal, at first the words just one more sonic tool, one more instrument, but eventually the words start to coagulate and meaning attaches to the dirge.

They are songs of loneliness, and love, and helplessness, and yearning.  From the opening song “Stroll”, where we are taken on a midnight constitutional with our narrator contemplating the greater meanings of the universe, to the closing number “Sun & Moon” with it’s sad binary truth (“I am night/ And you are day”), I felt connected to every song; ultimately, they are deeply human.  We experience the resignation to hopelessness, but also perfect hope (again in “Sun & Moon”: ‘But I will see you tomorrow”).  As we continue orbiting and turning, we experience the push and pull of our contrary desires: to be alone, but to be loved.  To be anonymous, but to be great.  When I invested myself in these songs, I felt understood, but also complex.

In “Cowboy”, we are presented with lyrics so brazen, bold, and current as to warrant presenting some without comment: “Passing places through the mall/ Empty faces filling all/ Hear the laughter off the walls/ Birthday presents for you all/ Know resistance while you can/ Avoid incessant clapping hands/ Put your face in garbage cans/ Take the trash do what you can/Recycle all your wasted shit/ There are people trying to quit/ (You’re a cowwwwwwwwboy/Roping all your bulls.)”

In “Release” we are presented with the lyric “You must let go of all the linear victories”, which is a boy-howdy of a line; you could chew on that line for days.  What is a linear victory?  How do we let go of it?  Like the best art, the songs offer some answers, but not all of them.  However, who knows? If you let these quark-songs flow through you enough, maybe the answers will find you.

The art of Willis Earl Beal–Nobody–has been an undercurrent in my life for years now, and this album more than any others before is like a chameleon, a changeling.  As I listen to it it darts away into my peripheral vision and changes shape, form.  It’s hard to hold onto.

Currently, “Turn, Circle, Sun & Moon” does not have a physical release, but can be purchased for download by clicking this link.  If you buy it, it will almost certainly be a linear victory for you–but at the moment, that’s still the only kind I know how to get.

My Favorite Music of 2016

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2016 by sethdellinger

It’s that time of year again, oh friendy friends!  Time for my favorite music of the year blog!  For those who haven’t slogged through these before, allow me to get these perfunctories out of the way:

  1. All music on this list is NEW music that was released in calendar year 2016.
  2. A mix CD of songs from my list can be easily obtained by messaging me and asking.  Those on my “mailing list” will receive one without asking.
  3. I am not saying this was the “best” music of 2016.  I used to say that but people got their undies in a bunch.  I’m just saying it’s my “favorite”.
  4. If you’re interested in lists from years past, they can be found here:
    My Favorite Music of 2009My Favorite Music of 2010My Favorite Music of 2011

    My Favorite Music of 2012

    My Favorite Music of 2013

    My Favorite Music of 2014

My Favorite Music of 2015

And before I proceed with this year’s list, I’d like to address what was probably my biggest disappointment of my music listening life: this year’s Band of Horses release.  When I heard of the album, and learned it’s title, and saw the artwork and read the tracklist, I was perhaps the most excited I’d been for a new release since the height of my Pearl Jam fandom.  I fully anticipated making it the number one album on my list this year.  Instead, it does not even appear.  The reviews were very mixed–some were ecstatic whereas others reacted quite like I did, and many were very neutral.  So obviously it can be heard many ways.  I personally, after listening about ten time during it’s first month of release, may never listen to it again.

I’d also be remiss if I did not mention Prophets of Rage, a supergroup combination of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.  Again, many detested it and many loved it; I loved it and thought it was beyond the bee’s knees.  However, for the most part, it was not new music, and it does not make the list, but it formed a very important part of 2016 for me.  In addition, Neil Young+Promise of the Real released a live album, Earth, that felt as fresh and vibrant as a new studio album and I listened to that thing like crazy, but again: not really new.  Now: my list!

15.  Explosions in the Sky, “The Wilderness”

14.  Ray LaMontagne, “Ouroboros”

13.  Public Enemy, “Man Plans God Laughs”

12.  Kiefer Sutherland, “Down in a Hole”

11.  DJ Shadow, “The Mountain Will Fall”

10.  A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”

The Tribe’s triumphant return was well worth the wait, with lyrics poignantly reflecting the temper of the times and thankfully light on misogyny.  And the beats are dope.

9.  M83, “Junk”

thqjx379jnM83’s new album is a kind of throwback space funk jam-off, like a ride in a technicolor elevator, with purple felt walls.  Impossible to dislike.

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Warpaint, “Heads Up”

Warpaint have now built upon the dark, groovy introspection they created in their first two albums with more intricate jams and a subtle pop sensibility; their musical landscape is now a universe all their own.

7.  Mexico City, “When the Day Goes Dark”

This powerful Australian band hadn’t released any new music for six years.  Their return when-the-day-goes-dark-1-600x600was worth waiting for, as they morphed from terrific bar band into a piledriver of country and blues rock.  A potential classic.

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Jim James, “Eternally Even”

The mastermind behind My Morning Jacket didn’t connect with me on his first solo album a few years back, but this year’s “Eternally Even” tickles my Jacket bone.

5.  Paul Simon, “Stranger to Stranger”

Simon is never bad.  But as he ages, I seem to keep thinking he is getting better and better; his lyrics become more adventurous (from The Werewolf: “The fact is, most obits are mixed paulsimon_strangertostranger_rgb-640x640-e1460038643460reviews./ Life is a lottery, a lotta people lose./ And the winners, the grinners, with money-colored eyes/ they eat all the nuggets, and they order extra fries./  But the werewolf is coming.”), his music more modern, playful, daring.  “Stranger to Stranger” is a delight from start to finish, but especially for those familiar with his full body of work; his evolution is a bewildering achievement.

 

 

4.  Emily Wells, “Promise”

Wells is an astonishing talent, and “Promise” proves she’s an artist worthy of canonization.  Eschewing her previous catchy violin hooks and hip hop undertones, here she digs deep–the level of introspection at times becomes hard to watch.  But ultimately, while not an album of happy, singalong songs, “Promise” proves instead to be a key addition to any music library concerned with–frankly–the meaning of life.

3.  Radiohead, “A Moon Shaped Pool”

What’s still to be said about Radiohead?  They are as good as everyone says, as is this album.  Including a studio version of “True Love Waits” (re-worked for piano) nearly broke me in half.

2.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Skeleton Tree”

Cave’s son died tragically while the band was recording the album, and it can be heard in every sound.  It’s a quiet, low-tempo, mostly spoken-word collection of songs, and it is not for the faint of heart.  It is brave, and it is terrifying, but it does not wallow.

1.  Bon Iver, “22, A Million”

bon-iver-22-a-million

I haven’t said much about this album online, as I grew into it slowly, and it came out shortly after a few albums I’d been talking about at length, so I figured I’d stop clogging up everybody’s feed with my music stuff.  But as I kept listening, and listening, and listening, it became clear this album was not going to go away. It is an album of absolutely confounding elements–it incorporates so many genres, styles, and influences, it’s amazing it is coherent.  And it sometimes approaches unlistenable, as vocalist Justin Vernon simply sings through a synthesizer without any music for long lengths of time.  But ultimately it’s not about being catchy, or easy, or even “artsy”.  The album is a true experience, and one that is deeply felt.

 

Winter Songs #1

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 10, 2014 by sethdellinger

As winter nears, I being to again turn to the songs that I most associate with this most dreadful of seasons.  We all have different ways we experience music, and our own unique ways we have them tied to specific sensory sensations or memories from our own pasts.  Many of “my winter songs” have little to do with winter; I was just listening to them heavily during winters, or maybe even just once during a very winter-specific moment.  Of course, the same goes for “summer songs”, etc.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to post a few of the more prominent of my own winter songs; usually without personal commentary, but sometimes with.  In the process, I’d love to hear about some of your own “winter songs”!

This first one is one I listened to a lot during a winter, but is also thematically about winter.  “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by Arcade Fire is an almost wholly unique song in the rock world, at least lyrically.  It tells the story of two kids (who are next door neighbors) whose town is subjected to an enormous, almost apocalyptic snow storm.  They dig a tunnel from one bedroom to the other, and then escape to the surface (supposedly their houses are actually buried) and they begin a life by themselves in this new winter world, eventually almost forgetting the details of their past, and their “skin gets thicker/ from living out in the snow”.  Using very few words, lyricist Win Butler has crafted a song with layers of intense meaning and emotion that I can only begin to write about in this space.  Interspersed with this tale is the love story of these two kids…and perhaps your love story, with the person you love.  Perhaps YOU are the couple living alone in the barren white world.  For my money, you don’t get a more romantic line than

“You change all the lead
sleepin’ in my head to gold.
As the day grows dim
I hear you sing a golden hymn:
the song I’ve been trying to sing!”

If you watch the video below and really like the song, there is a BADASS live version if you click  here.

 

 

 

And if the snow buries my neighborhood,
and if my parents are crying
then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours.
Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours.

You climb out the chimney
and meet me in the middle of the town,
and since there’s no one else around
we let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know.
Then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow!

You change all the lead
sleepin’ in my head.
As the day grows dim
I hear you sing a golden hymn.

Then we tried to name our babies
but we forgot all the names that,
the names we used to know.
But sometimes we remember our bedrooms
and our parent’s bedrooms and the bedrooms of our friends.
Then we think of our parents.
Well, what ever happened to them?

You change all the lead
sleepin’ in my head to gold.
As the day grows dim
I hear you sing a golden hymn:
the song I’ve been trying to sing!

Purify colors. Purify my mind.
Purify colors. Purify my mind.
Spread the ashes of the colors
in this heart of mine.

 

 

Hoffman Film Fest, Day One

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , on February 3, 2014 by sethdellinger

For the next however-long-it-takes, I’ll be watching a Philip Seymour Hoffman film every day, starting with the ones I own on disc and maybe venturing in to ones available to stream.  I’ll post brief photos and videos here, and maybe a few words on the film.  I’m starting off today with the “biggie”, for me anyway, “Magnolia”, which I talked about at length in yesterday’s blog post.  Watch the clip of Phil in this film below:

004

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , on February 2, 2014 by sethdellinger

Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.

How does one write a blog entry about how the death of an actor is going to cause them to literally mourn without sounding like a cheeseball dweeb?  I’m pretty sure one does not accomplish this.  So here goes.  Prepare for the cheeseball dweeb.

Celebrities and artists die all the time, and I see people getting all verklempt over it and I think they are fools.  Get over it, I think.  You morons.  You had an emotional connection to Paul Walker? I think to myself.  What jibberjabs.

But Philip was different.  Philip was an artist.  He connected.  He was important.

My first exposure to him was in the movie “Magnolia”, which I would watch probably a hundred times during the most desperate years of my alcoholism, and which is probably the most important movie in my own personal history.  “Magnolia” is not a happy movie.  It is not a hopeful movie.  “Magnolia” didn’t help me get sober.  But I learned things from that movie that continue to shape who I am today.  Things like owning my regret and not denying it.  And recognizing when obsession goes too far and finding another place to put your love.  Embracing my inadequacies.  And on and on.  Now I grant you, Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t write this movie, and he didn’t direct it.  But he did act the fuck out of his part in it.  But more importantly, he chose to be in this movie.  That was his true gift: choosing the right projects to be in.  Movies that meant things.  Movies that were high art without being art films.  Movies that could move you without being trite, or saccharine, or unnecessary.

Even Philip’s few “sellout” movies were well chosen.  “Along Came Polly” might be a populist comedy, but his part in it rings true, and gives the movie heart without giving into sentimentality.  Also, in it, his character coins the term shart, which is still floating around our culture.

Philip didn’t just act.  He directed exactly one movie: “Jack Goes Boating”, an adaptation of a Robert Glaudini stage play (Glaudini wrote the film’s script, too) that most people missed, but such is my love for Mr. Hoffman that I saw it in a theater, and own the blu ray disc (not many can say that, I assure you!).  “Jack Goes Boating” touches me deeply—makes me come to terms with uncomfortable truths about myself, such as my depth of selfishness, my fears of commitment, my reasons for pushing others away—and much of that power is owed to Phil’s perfect sense of tone (oh how I wish he’d directed more!), his powerhouse acting performance in the film, and, of course, the fact that he chose the project.  He knew what to choose.  Watch this clip from “Jack Goes Boating”. 

I felt like I knew Mr. Hoffman.  If I’d ran into him on the street, we would have just started talking, I think.  I wouldn’t have been starstruck.  I would have thought, oh, it’s about time we hung out.  Maybe this makes me creepy or weird, but I think it’s just a testament to a man who built an astoundingly successful acting career by putting trust in his audience, and there being an audience out there who wanted desperately to be trusted.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was important to me.

It’s Not Bullshit

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 25, 2012 by sethdellinger

Thirft stores.  Elizabeth Taylor in her prime.  Tapioca.  The Occupy Movement.  Chipping from the rough with a nine iron.  Corduroy.  Bevelled edges.  Public transit.  Micro-loans.  YouTube.  Gay marriage.  Blu-Ray Disc.   Crescendoes.  Mark Twain.  Febreze.  Cork boards.  Roe vs. Wade.   Sun Dials.  Road ID.   Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   The Sierra Club.  The three-camera sitcom.  Glossy paint.  The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.   Welfare.  The GI Bill.  Advil.  Waiting periods for gun purchases.  Boots.  Megabus.  Varnish.  Synchronized Swimming.  Egrets.  Carbon offsets.  Matt Lauer.  Not feeding the Mogwai after midnight.   Net Neutrality.   Mandolin.  Psychoanalysis.  Stiff penalties for illegally downloading and stealing music or movies.  The price of a US postage stamp.  History Detectives.  Comic books.  Actually listening to the voicemail I left.  Attempting to find your own true self.   SETI.   The freakin’ elliptical machine. Crosswalks.  Pierced navels.  Bananas.  Tipping the barista.  Sustainable fishing.  Netflix.  Paisley.  Day-Quil.  Hot dogs.    Geothermal energy.  Wearing a seat belt.  Staycations.  Water parks.  The price of concessions at the movie theater (get over it).  Presidential libraries.  Jazz fusion.  Curling.   Abstract Expressionism.  Craigslist.  Dancing in the rain.   The Large Hadron Collider.

My 77th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags on March 8, 2012 by sethdellinger

Click here to see all previous entries.

…and my 77th favorite song of all-time is:

“In this Light and on This Evening” by Editors

Editors–a British band who have previously gone by the name The Pride and Snowfield—were, for a split second in 2007, the really-hip band of the moment on the indie scene, although their keyboard and reverb-heavy neo-goth approach made them unique on the scene.  However, just about all their newfound rabid fanbase deserted them upon the release of their sophomore album (actually their third album, but their second major release) In  This Light and on This Evening, which was extremely different from their debut; words from “experimental” to “heavy-handed” have been used to describe the album.  So it should come as no surprise that I love the album more than anything else they’ve done.  Especially the title track, which is dense, dark and drenched in sadness, in stark contrast to the two lines that make up all of it’s lyrics, in intense repition:  “I swear to God, I heard the Earth inhale moments before it spat it’s rain down on me.  I swear to God, in this light and on this evening, London’s become the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.”  But please, wait for the ending; there is a major pop that will clip your toenails.

 

 

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