Saturday, January 26, 2008

12 Songs

For a few years now I've considered myself a fan of Neil Diamond, but it's been only recently that I've taken my fandom beyond the superficial level of a 'greatest hits' fan. About a year ago I started buying old vinyls from used book stores and independent record shops. When I started my collection I had no way of playing them; I bought them mostly because I thought old records were cool and it was an inexpensive way of owning a piece of music history. For a while I had access to a record player and it didn't take long before I realized that old vinyls are a great way of discovering new (new to me, at least) music. Synchronicity by The Police is a great example. I bought this album for "Wrapped Around Your Finger", a lesser known hit, but a hit nonetheless, and one of my favorites. After a few listens on the turntable, I realized that I had to own it on CD so I could enjoy in my car and on my iPod. Used vinyls opened a whole new portal for discovering music, and it's a portal that's relatively cheap to step through.
As a result I've started listening to a lot more Neil Diamond. While I do enjoy some of his music from the late 70's and 80's, it never appealed to me as much as songs from his earlier career. For this reason I was hesitant to try out his newest release 12 Songs. (To be honest, I'm thankful for this hesitancy. I don't think I would've appreciated it and enjoyed it if I had heard it 2 years ago when it came out.) I like 12 Songs so much because, like it's title, it's so simple and honest. Just an old man and his guitar. It seems that much of songwriting in popular music today is very impersonal. If a song is written to sell, how likely is it that the artist actually experienced what they are singing about? Pretty slim. (How likely is it that the artist actually even wrote the song? Even slimmer.) Sure, the artist can relate to the song he or she is singing, but it doesn't go any farther than that. 12 Songs is such a convincing album because the songwriting is so genuine and the production is so simple; you get the feeling Neil has actually experienced what he's singing about. In fact, he very well may be in the same room singing it to you.
The bottom line: 12 Songs is an amazing record because it is Neil Diamond.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


The other night I was bored (which is very common when I'm not at work) so I Googled (since when did that become a verb?) "record stores". A small list of stores in the Fremont area came up but the one that most caught my eye was a store called Needle to the Groove, which sells only vinyls. Worried that it might be closed, I hurried to my car and punched the coordinates into my GPS navigator (which I have affectionately named Shilo Desiree, a name derived from two of my favorite Neil Diamond songs). About 10 minutes later I arrived at the shop only to have my worst fears confirmed: it was closed. It's located in one of those small downtown-type areas where everything closes at 5 PM. I made note of their Saturday hours and resolved to return on my day off.

Saturday (yesterday) rolls around and I leave my place around noon, which is when they open. I get to the store only to be met with a new sign on the window, "We will open at 1:00 PM on Saturday." Psh. Not far from the shop I noticed a road called Niles Canyon Road. I had about an hour to kill before I could head back and peruse their vinyls so I decided to try it out. After driving for roughly 10 minutes I came to a town called Sunol (sounds like the title of a Sigur Ros song). I got off the highway and drove through the town. There wasn't much to see so two minutes later I was back on the highway. After a few more minutes of driving, the road forked. I took the smaller of the two roads, Calaveras Road. It wasn't long before the speed limit was reduced to 25 MPH and the two lanes became one. The rest of the road was a series of switchbacks that curved up and down the side of a small hill-like mountain.

I took some pics.

Driving on this road made me feel like I was in a John Steinbeck novel (a lot of his stories are set in California, not too far from here).

I tried getting artistic with the barbed wire. The body of water in the background is Calaveras Resevoir. It's funny, you can always tell when it's a fake lake. Either way, it was still pretty.

The road took me to a town called Milpitas, which is sandwiched between San Jose and Fremont. The part of Milpitas I saw sort of looked like it was in the 70's, which wasn't as cool as it sounds.

I made it back to the record shop. I added Led Zeppelin IV, Rush 2112, and Foreigner Records to my vinyl collection.

Next week: the Forest Moon of Endor.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nothing's coming

It's been over a month since my last post. Probably a couple reasons for that: I spent the last month away from school so I had little to stimulate my brain and we don't have wireless Internet at home so I was unable to use my laptop (I don't like using our home computer for stuff like this for some reason). I've again changed states and now I'm in California, in the Bay Area near Oakland and San Francisco. The past few days have been kinda boring/lonely, but I'm sure that will change soon when I start my internship on Monday.

I wrote a new jam. I recorded it and another and put them up on crapspace ( Here are the lyricals:

Southwestern Hemisphere

Hemispheres and atmospheres
Where the air just isn't quite as clear
Don't waste your breath
Don't say another word
Try to breathe another minute
Try to speak, your heart's not in it
Wasting life or tasting life
Take a trip away from home
A way back home

The memories you thought you'd make
And the promises you'd've had to fake
The curls in her hair
Won't fade
The life that you swore to her
Now buried in that sepulcher
The smile on her face (The taste of her lips)
Won't fade away

Hemispheres and atmospheres
Where the just isn't quite as clear
Wasting life or tasting life
What's the difference?