Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009


So, I live with this really awesome married couple. They have two equally awesome kids. Anyway, today Curtis (the man of the house) asked a simple question: "What is your favorite?" Not what is your favorite book, what is your favorite band, what is your favorite color, what is your favorite gladiator movie; simply, what is your favorite?

I responded, "My favorite is the Flaming Lips." Ever since purchasing The Soft Bulletin last April my hunger for The Flaming Lips has gone unstated. I'm in luck, because when a band has been around since 1983 like the Lips have, there is plenty of music to catch up on. (Putting things in context, 1983 was the year The Police broke up, the year Journey released "Faithfully" and "Separate Ways," and the year the original Star Wars trilogy was completed with Return of the Jedi.)

Around the same time (that is, last spring, not 1983) I was delighted to learn that the Flaming Lips were in the studio recording a new album.

In August, the Lips released a digital EP featuring three tracks from their then forth-coming Embryonic. A drastic change from the Bulletin-Yoshimi-Mystics pop trilogy, at first I found these tracks hard to listen to. Sure, minor keys and less-than-discernible lyrics aren't unheard of when it comes to the Flaming Lips, but they've never really been the norm, at least not in this decade. While I wasn't disillusioned, I didn't expect much from Embryonic.

I would've liked to have been more excited for this album but I just wasn't. When October rolled around, I nevertheless dutifully purchased Embryonic on its release date. After the first two listens I was largely uninterested; I found the digital EP tracks to be a fair representation of the rest of the album.

But I knew I couldn't give up on Embryonic, not yet. After all, didn't it take me over six months to finally fall in love with Yoshimi?

Around the fourth listen I don't know what happened. In the past I've tried to explain why I like or love someone or something. Recently I've learned (took me long enough) that often love needs reason or explanation.

And so it is with Embryonic.

Earlier, I mentioned that the Flaming Lips have been around since 1983. Having said that, for a band to experiment and reinvent themselves the way Lips have with Embryonic is really something rare. I feel like they could have produced an album in the vein of Bulletin-Yoshimi-Mystics -- all of which, for the most part, are smart, quirky pop albums -- and still have made a great record. It speaks to their musical integrity to take a step in the dark toward the dark; a step toward a tone that is somewhat less accessible while still maintaining their style. And this makes me glad. Because when a band seeks to redefine themselves -- in their 27th year, even -- it tells me they're going to be around for quite some time. I can't get enough of The Flaming Lips.

On a side note, remember how I mentioned that the couple I live with is really awesome? Well, here's proof:

They have not one, but two DeLoreans (for the time being anyway; they're both up for sale I believe). They set this one up for their Christmas card photo and were kind enough to let me pose in front of it because, well, who wouldn't want a picture with a DeLorean?

P.S. What is your favorite?

Monday, December 14, 2009

up and up I keep on climbling

So at the end of every year, all the indie/hipster/I'm-cooler-than-you website/magazines make all these "best of" lists. Most of the stuff I disagree with or I've never heard. I guess I'm not that cool -- which I'm totally cool with -- but at least I'm not so conceited as to claim that my favorite tunes from this year that are "the best."

So here they are, my favorite songs of Make it Mine, 2009:

11. "Blood Bank" from Blood Bank EP by Bon Iver -- Heart wrenching never felt so good.

10. "Mind Idea" from OK Bear by Jeremy Enigk -- This song takes the weird off-keyness of Return of the Frog Queen and combines it with the pristine production of World Waits -- a perfect synthesis.

9. "Song of Remembering" from Songs About Time: Chapter One: The Story of A Thousand Seasons Past by The Rentals -- Sounds like old school Rentals minus the Moog sounds -- Return of Return of the Rentals.

8. "Song About an Angel" from Diary (Reissue) by Sunny Day Real Estate -- OK, so this track debuted in 1994, but I thought it only fitting to include my favorite song from the 2009 reissue of SDRE's seminal debut.

7. "Ambulance" from The Fire Kite EP by Eisley -- I'm not the hugest Eisley fan but when it comes to this song I'm phased.

6. "Possibility" from New Moon by Lykke Li -- The New Moon soundtrack: medium-quality songs from high-quality bands. With a few exceptions. This track is one of them.

5. "Watching the Planets" from Embryonic by The Flaming Lips -- I can't get enough of Wayne Coyne and company. It's nice to know I can always count on the Lips.

4. "Introducing Palace Players" from No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away by Mew -- The name of Mew's latest album is longer than this comment: The best guitar song of the year.

3. "Little Secrets" from Manners by Passion Pit -- I was ever so pleasantly surprised by this band. This song pumps me up with every listen.

2. "A Diamond and a Tether" from The Open Door EP by Death Cab For Cutie -- Why bother articulating my feelings when Mr. Gibbard does it so well for me?

1. "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" from Raditude by Weezer -- "El Scorcho" for the new millennium. I feel like I'm in eighth grade again.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

je me souviens

So eight years ago today I began a strange albeit rewarding and defining period of my life. It seems like I don't talk or think about my mission much these days. (It's funny how I can mention something so vague as a "mission" and most of you, if not all, will know exactly what I'm talking about. I can't help but assume that those not in the loop would think I was part of some exposed/failed top secret government project and that I now only refer to in an ambiguous manner.)

I spent roughly two years in a country called Canada -- to be precise, in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. When I arrived in Montreal on February 12, 2002, (I'm an accountant, I'm allowed to be good at precise dates without coming across as overly-sentimental, weird, or self-important) it looked something like this:

(I didn't take this picture, nor will I be posting any pictures that I took during my mission; digital photography was beyond my means at the time. And to prove what a procrastinator I am, after six years of being home I still haven't scanned any photos I took as a missionary.)

Of course, my mission still crosses my mind and it comes up in conversations regularly (at one point or another, almost any new LDS friend you make will ask you where you served), and I even talk with a few of my companions (again, a term that might come across as strange to an 'outsider') from time to time, but it's not something I ponder on too often or talk too deeply about. Not on a regular basis anyway. I've been reflecting on it lately because Christmastime was the time of year I started and (two years later) finished my mission... but mostly, it's been on my mind because my youngest brother returns home from his mission in Australia in mere weeks.

(August 2004: In French "fleuve" means "giant river that flows into the ocean." Or something like that. This piece of artwork in Lachine, Quebec, is appropriately placed in front of the fleuve Saint-Laurent, or the Saint Lawrence River as us anglophones might say. This was taken during a trip to Canada with my folks the summer after I got home.)

It's not a bad thing that I don't think or talk about my mission that much anymore. Because I've had just as many (more?) rewarding and life-defining experiences since leaving my mission on December 17, 2003 (again, accountant here, not being overly-sentimental/ dramatic). It would be silly -- and sad -- to assume that such experiences would only occur during such a brief period and, furthermore, that such experiences would be at their best or greatest during that short -- in a strange way fleeting -- span of time.

So here's to me, eight years ago, six years ago, today. (Now, if I weren't so lazy, here I'd have a photo of me toasting, well, myself (in a mirror perhaps?) with a bottle of Spruce Beer or a glass of Red Champagne in hand (don't worry, both are non-alcoholic).)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the table and the light

Right now, a lucky few hundred in Phoenix are about to enjoy something special:

While a live Reuben's Accomplice performance is rare and certainly special, it's the 'special guests' that really excite me. The following tweet (wow, that just sounds so dumb) was hyperlinked on Modified Arts' website in reference to these special guests:

Jimmy Eat World for $5 at Modified? What is this, 1999? Because that was the last time I saw JEW at that price and at such an intimate venue.

The current temperature of -1°F is one thing to deal with but missing this is another indeed.

On the bright side, Jimmy Eat World has been working with Mark Trombino -- who produced Static Prevails, Clarity, Bleed American and Stay On My Side Tonight -- on a set of new songs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

seven! seven cookies! ah! ah! ah! ah!

My brother suggested Dracula probably a year ago but I finally got around to reading in October. And I finished it two nights before Halloween. How fitting.

Honestly, Dracula freaked me out. More than once I was slightly scared to turn off the lights for bed after reading this book. More than once I expected to look up and see Dracula's pasty face, sadistic eyes and red lips hovering over me as I slept. The dude is pure evil.

That said, I totally enjoyed this book. I don't necessarily enjoy being terrified, nor am I a horror fan, but I do enjoy a classic good-versus-evil tale. Furthermore, there's something to be said for any book that can evoke a certain feeling or emotion; this one does terror quite well.

Today though, that vampiric sense of terror seems to have vanished. Instead we're stuck with this:

The contrast is laughable*.

Of course, that's not to say that nothing good has come from the Twilight series. I give you three examples:

"Meet Me on the Equinox" by Death Cab for Cutie. I kind of like the fact that this is a mediocre Death Cab song. As if they didn't want to 'waste' their best material on the New Moon soundtrack.

"Hearing Damage" by Thom Yorke. I might start liking Radiohead. Not that I've ever disliked Radiohead, I've just never taken the time to get into them.

"Possibility" by Lykke Li. I was totally surprised by this track. Not the first time I've heard Lykke Li but probably the first time I've given her an honest listen (I guess my taste in music is somewhat sexist). I also thought this song fit well in Bella's emo montage in the movie. My favorite track from New Moon.

*Speaking of laughable, as I was perusing Amazon.com for reviews on Dracula I unearthed this gem:

Me being the avid vampire fan that I am, I'm always willing to read new vampire fiction. The librarian suggested this one to me so I thought I'd give it a shot.

What a terrible read. I couldn't stand it for long, so I started skimming through the thing. Turns out the vampire in this book is an old guy, and he lives in a castle! What?! Any vampire fan knows that vampires roam the streets of upper middle class suburbia and high schools. Whoever this Bram Stoker guy is, it's quite clear that he doesn't know a thing on vampires, and his attempt to cash in on the vampire craze is indeed a failure.

I'll be returning this on my next trip to the library and sticking to the teen reading section for finding my next vampire novel.

(New Moon comes out November 20th, woooooo!)