Sammy the Seal

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

“What are you doing Sunday, baby?”

In music videos, vinyl on Tuesday, 29 March, 2011 at 19:57

Song: Disco 2000
Artist: Pulp
Album: Different Class

(I couldn’t bring myself to remove the Spanish lyrics, but this is here anyway, in case of link death.)

So, this has been stuck in my head the past 24 hours. Gorgeous, a stomping-ass beat, and, oh…. that chorus. One of the most sparkling and unbelievable I’ve heard in a while. Just try to resist it, I double-dog dare you. The themes of dreaming youth and the nostalgia that hibernates aren’t anything new, yet I was affected by the simple story, the naïve uncertainty of lines like “won’t it be strange when we’ll all fully grown?”, the reflection of “I never knew that you’d get married, I would be living down here on my own on that damp and lonely Thursday years ago”, and the ambiguity of intention at the end: “What are you doing Sunday, baby? Would you like to come and meet me, maybe? You can even bring your baby.” To say nothing of those ooh-ooh’s we’re gifted. If you can resist those too, well, you’re made of fucking stone : )

So, the Spanish subtitles. I just wanted a version that had the album mix, as opposed to the official video, below, which uses a 7″ mix, and it’s one of the only I found. (Besides, “Disco 2000” in Spanish!) I kinda like the song without the video. I guess they both share the overall theme of expectation, anticipation, and uncertainty, but the events of the video, cute as they are, work out a bit too nicely. It’s a fun video, but I actually prefer the bittersweet and unrequited longing, juvenile as it may have been, that I get from the song alone. I feel more weight there. Also, everything sounds much bigger and brighter on the album mix, especially the chorus. After all, it’s the chorus that knocks this one out of the park. Won’t you sing along?

[Edit: Special mention must be made of the totally cheesy “Deborah, Deborah!” at the beginning. Yes!]


Pear pie, first attempt

In delicious on Tuesday, 29 March, 2011 at 5:08

Not bad for a camera phone, the fidelity is comparable. How about that sexy office desk for aesthetic presentation?

Can’t believe I never thought of this one, especially since it’s about as inexpensive as apple, and you can only make both fresh anyway. It was suggested to me quite randomly the other week– “pear pie!”– and, well, as such, decided it was finally time to attempt my own dough. Also, I recently decided to try lattice crusts, and it’s incredibly easy and breaks up the monotony of regular top crust and crumble topping. As this isn’t a cooking blog, but more of a quick hit, I am not at all instructing, just showing how I did it. However, it’s simple enough that if you have a lump on your shoulders, like me, and can read, like me, you could attempt it easily enough, without having every step delineated.

Since I don’t have a big general knowledge cookbook or encyclopædia (ha ha, I like that spelling), I do my research online and this is the crust/dough recipe I chose. When it came to mixing in the butter, I had to do things slightly differently, as I do not have a flat beater nor even a stand-up mixer (those things cost around $200!), so I just did it the old-fashioned way– i.e., using hands. To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult and didn’t take that long, maybe a couple of minutes, and I felt like a pioneer. Well, comparatively. (At the end of that post there is a link on how to roll and bake, though it must be noted that it is for tarts only, as you pre-bake the crust for a tart, but not for a pie.) All in all, I have to say it turned out rather well. I mean, I did not have to knead it too much, it formed, held, and rolled out well. I’m pleased to say I was expecting more frustration that never arrived. The only “mistake” made was I forgot to let the dough “thaw” for a half hour before rolling it, so guess who stayed up an extra 30 minutes? So it goes: thaw 3o minutes if refrigerated, plus an extra day in the fridge first, if frozen.

Now for the filling:

5 ripe d’Anjou pears, sliced ~¼ inch thick
1/2 c brown sugar
3 T cornstarch (or flour)
allspice (not as much as the cinnamon)
1 t vanilla (optional, I added it as a lark, ha ha)

The spices I usually just eye, because I can’t be bothered to break out measuring spoons for spices. After dumping in the filling, and draping the lattice on top, I brushed it with egg white to glaze, and sprinkled some turbinado sugar (best known as, Sugar In The Raw®), just for show, and a little extra sweet. Then came the oven portion of the adventure, which came out to 10 min @ 425, then 30-35 min @ 350.

Honest to a fault, I had always been quick to admit that my pies contained store-bought crusts, but for the first time, I could say I made it myself without having to qualify the statement! I like that the entire thing contains about ten ingredients that one can list easily by memory. In my opinion, the bottom crust tasted a bit, uh, doughy, but maybe I’ll just roll it thinner next time. I just like more filling than crust, I mean, what’s the point of pie, if not the filling, hey? I was completely pleased by how impervious it was to the filling, as ripe pears are extremely juicy, which made slicing them a quite slippery (sorry) endeavor. I did not detect any sog, though I didn’t take a poll from the ten other people who tried it.

But people seemed to be pleased, as was I, especially for two things (pear, my own dough) that I’d never done before, though I’ll wait for butter to go on sale before I do my own crust again. 5/8 of a pound, yikes.

Bloodier than the first photo, but thought I'd include the fresh-out-the-oven shot, for posterity and such.

“Just empty space”

In vinyl on Tuesday, 22 March, 2011 at 2:50

Song: What We Had
Artist: Handsome Furs
Album: Plague Park

For a song as decidedly gloomy, this song has a rather insistent rhythm. This is probably the most toe-tapping melancholy song I know. And those “oh”s at the end sure are fun to sing.

“How are *you* doin’ today?”

In experience, funny ha ha on Monday, 21 March, 2011 at 20:27

Rules for life, cribbed from Katt Williams:

1) Laugh first. Get every laugh you can possibly get.

2) Be in tune with your star player.

3a) Don’t worry about other people, or, “don’t you worry about it, raggedy bitch, figure out how to get that duct tape off your tail light”, and
3b) Live your motherfuckin’ life, get your motherfuckin’ hustle.

“Do you want to go away from here?”

In vinyl on Sunday, 20 March, 2011 at 21:11

Song: Leave the Drummer Out There
Artist: Asobi Seksu
Album: Fluorescence

Okay, I couldn’t resist any longer. Hey, I made it two weeks, not bad. Anyway, this is one of those songs I didn’t think too much of, then heard it live, then listened to it over and over right after the show, which is amazing, as it’s almost seven minutes long. As a general rule, I am skeptical of songs that go more than 5:30 or 6:00. If you can’t make your point in four minutes or so, it had better be a good song, and I know this is subjective, but a good criterion is that a long song never feels that way. (An extreme example would be Wolf Parade’s “Kissing the Beehive” which has got to be the most economical 10:52 I’ve ever heard. I can’t imagine removing one single bar from that song, and every time I listen to it, it’s over before I know it.) If I am ever conscious of the run time on a song, that signals to me that, most likely, some kind of aimlessness and/or wanking around took place. I’m all for exploring outside the box, but that’s what the editing process is for, in any type of writing, even in something like blogging which inherently requires a certain degree of solipsism. (As a rather, uh, loquacious person, the self-editing process takes work, though I have come to realize how necessary it is.)

ANYWAY, this song here, obviously, runs contrary to that rule of mine. For a song almost seven minutes long, it never feels it, and I can’t imagine removing one bit of the song. In fact, the last 120 seconds are so splendid, I really think they could have extended it another 15 or 20 and pushed it over 7:00. Greed/indulgence has nothing to do with it, honestly, it just felt like it ended a mite too soon. Same with “Pink Light”, the final song on the album. The last minute of that song is so stirring and dramatic, I think it could have played itself out over another 30 seconds. And, I’ve said that about “Familiar Light” on Hush, a brisk 3:22 that didn’t feel complete– I would have loved to hear another thirty or forty seconds. I most often lean in favor of songwriting economy, but I thought they should have indulged themselves a little more on those three. Crazy, I never thought I’d hear myself say that : )

Yuck, I feel so clinical and didactic now– the danger of writing about music. So, I will end by saying, again, how grateful I am for Yuki’s vocal performances on this album, I think this is my favorite. Strong, graceful, and comforting. This is the album I didn’t know I was waiting for.

“Keep your head to the sky”

In vinyl on Friday, 18 March, 2011 at 16:36

Song: Liberation
Artist: Outkast ft. Big Rube, Cee-Lo, and Erykah Badu
Album: Aquemini

Thirteen years old and still hot. This is so damn good. Groove. Soul. Love. Fantastic guest stars. Sound advice:
“keep your head to the sky”
“shake that load off”
“can’t worry ’bout what another nigga think, now that’s liberation.”

Straight up.

“That’s not bad, here’s money for you”

In music videos, vinyl on Wednesday, 16 March, 2011 at 11:46

Song: Know Your Chicken
Artist: Cibo Matto
Album: Viva! La Woman

(In case the video link dies. Also, this one is uncensored– it’s only “shit” but still!)

Ah, sorry, another re-direct back to youtube. At least I have the song up now. Anyway, it’s time for more cool Japanese girls. If I had known Cibo Matto back in the 90s, I probably wouldn’t have been capable of “getting” it, but it still would have been fun to see this video on MTV. If I were a couple years older and in college by then, maybe. Oh well. Normally I find this stuff weird for weird’s sake, but somehow I got on board, though it took a few listens, before they suddenly just charmed the hell out of me. The first half of the album is wonderfully odd, and “Sugar Water” is still my favorite, having first heard them on Buffy. (I still remember watching the second season premiere about thirteen years ago, when Willow got all giddy that Cibo Matto was at The Bronze– yes, they guested– and I somehow vaguely knew who they were.) But “Chicken” is good too, not to mention they’re adorable as fucking hell in the video. (Ex.: Their introduction/smile take during the opening credits, Miho’s freakout face near the end, and Yuka doing her nails, oblivious to the video shoot going on.) It’s a nice contrast with this smooooooth jam off their not-as-crazy follow-up. It’s interesting to hear “spare the rod, and spoil the chick, before you go and shit a brick” next to something as sweet (though dangerously close to saccharine) as “Moonchild”, where Miho Hatori auditions for her R&B diva membership. It’s all good, yes, it is.

Song: Moonchild
Artist: Cibo Matto
Album: Stereo Type A

The Dismemberment Plan, Showbox SoDo, Seattle, WA 3/12/11

In vinyl on Sunday, 13 March, 2011 at 6:50

No twelve hour naps, no workdays to stand in my way of blogging this time! And, not too tired yet either. Some full disclosure first: for the two or three days leading up to the show, I wasn’t excited to go. I even contemplated, briefly, trying to sell my ticket. I just wasn’t feeling it. Part of it was still vibing on last week’s shows, part of it was that I’m not a huge fan, and, well, maybe I was just tired. It’s been a long last two or three weeks.

Now, normally, one goes through the openers before going on about the headliners. Except no one said who they were! The first act, I got there a song late, and never during their set did they say who they were. I have to give props to their drummer, though, he looked totally geeky and his overall look, he just didn’t look like someone you’d think is on the kit, and I loved that. The second, well, they were energetic and the songs were sounded dark and sweeping– too bad they didn’t seem to be aware they were in front of a live audience or opening up for The Fucking Plan. At least the first band acknowledged them. The next one, well, like I said, they were into their set, but they seemed to be performing in a vacuum. And we weren’t mean! We, the people, vocalized our approbation for their efforts. If I recall, they didn’t even come out on stage all together, one guy even went behind the drum set. No intro, just pick up and play. It’s a shame, I might have enjoyed them more if they had actually made contact with us. I guess it’s a good thing they were never identified, or I’d feel a li’l guilty saying all this. (Hell, Asobi isn’t too chatty and yet they acknowledged the importance of having an audience.) Plan frontman Travis gave them both props during their set, but he only said their names once, and, uh, it’s a fucking rock show so I couldn’t really hear him, so I don’t know who opened. Oops!

(popcorn and re-hydration break)

So, wow, it’s been a looooooong time since I enjoyed a show like this. First I must make a note of the crowd. For an indie rock show, it was fairly diverse. Sure, you had your tattooed, indie types, but there lots of normal looking people. Example: I don’t think I’ve ever seen athletic wear at this type of show, not to mention lots of caps– forwards, backwards, and tilted. Oh, and the guy wearing a soccer jersey. It was nice to see lots of people who didn’t look like each other. (Contrast the two Asobi Seksu shows from last week.) It’s great to know that the scope of their appeal is that wide, which is only fitting, as, even they’re indie (well, they might have been more well-known, read the story of Emergency & I), they don’t act like it– they seem to live in the real world. It was just surprising to see people you wouldn’t think to find at an indie rock show, much less singing and dancing to all the songs. But, as the next paragraph explains, that contrast in audience types was a good, and essential, thing.

So, yes, there was lots of dancing, and it was fantastic. I had read that back in the day (7-12 years or so), they were known for their ability to get people dancing, which is nearly impossible with an indie rock audience, so I went against my own rule and got my hopes up. And you know what? The reports were right. People danced. We all did. It’s one thing to get me to dance and move a little, but I don’t pogo (yes, I’m self-conscious sometimes), unless there’s lots of people, and they’re doing it too. It’s more fun when you’re not the only one. You can surmise that, for a few songs here and there, I was pogoing, which hasn’t happened in FOREVER. Pogoing! The whole time, everyone around me was dancing, dancing. There were even a couple of instances of moshing, or at least the annoying phenomenon of people pushing back and forth, and you can’t dance because you’re trying to not get pushed over. A necessary evil, though, like smelly people. Believe me, at times it got kinda funky in there, like genuinely unpleasant, but you know what? That’s always a good thing. Funky means sweat means people are dancing means people want to have a good time, like me! Lots of shows, you can’t tell if they want to be there. I just can’t understand people who go to shows and are LIFELESS. Like why are you here, go home and listen to them on your fuckin’ vinyl, you can be cool and detached all by yourself. The last time I was with a crowd this joyous, uninhibited, and engaged was probably a Hold Steady show. (I must admit, I don’t go to all that many shows, but still. I’ve seen enough “Do the Standing Still” audiences.) Thank you, wonderful co-crowd members!

Of course, dancing is the main reason why I don’t get photos or videos. Again, if I remember, I will find links to add, as there were plenty of cameras in attendance. I just get too wrapped up in the show to stop and record or grab a shot. It takes me out of the moment to document an event, it feels clinical, and to be honest, a little “look at me, I was here!” Part of it is also that I know other people will do it. Also, I no have digital camera. And, as The Format has learned us, “pictures only prove you can’t convince.” Special mention must also be made of the Plan’s drummer, who I swear looked just like Conan O’Brien. I can’t be the only one in attendance who thought that. When Conan is your drummer, you get bonus points for that, and your performance is embiggened.

So, twenty-two songs, close to two hours. They were fully interactive, they made with some gab-gab and yuk-yuk, Travis even did a mini-robot dance during an instrumental break in “Girl O’Clock”. Since this was their only show out west, they probably were able to perform so long without fear of hangover, but still, me grateful. Hell, the encore was five songs. I didn’t see it, but someone in the band must’ve motioned for the audience to come on stage, because before they started encore song #1, people started climbing up. (Earlier, Travis invited some random guy to come onstage to dance for just one song.) When I saw it was running out of room, I hopped on to grab my spot. It was awesome. It was one of the pogo songs, too. “The Ice of Boston” is most definitely a song to jump about to. Of course, the staff then instructed the band to instruct us to return. But as we left, I got a hug from some random audience guy who was obviously feeling the love of the entire evening. I hugged him back, of course, I’m no too-cool ogre. See, when you go to a Plan show, we all may look very different, and smell different, and lead different lives, but for that night, we are all one. The Plan has made it so. I am ashamed to admit I started to lose faith at the end. Of course I didn’t know the encore was going to be so long, but I started to believe they weren’t going to the end the show with “Back and Forth”, which would have been utterly senseless. Not until the opening drum fill was I completely relieved. It felt short, but I think it was because I was having a good time, and I knew it was the end. Of course, that’s the only way it could have ended. These are, in fact, the final lines of the song, hopeful yet very slightly tinged with bittersweetness: “I wonder how you been/you’ll always be my hero, even if I never see you again.” Uplifting yet slightly bittersweet, it’s the perfect cap to a song, perfect cap to an album, and perfect cap to a show.

I should mention, if I haven’t, that, on this brief reunion tour, they played some dates on the east coast…. and Seattle. Nowhere in California, and nowhere in between. (Possibly Chicago?) Either we got lucky, or they love it here. Or maybe they were forced. Nonetheless, they were here, and they gave us an outlet to go crazy. Travis did say, in expressing his appreciation, “you’re fun, and we’re fun.” I’m glad we’re on the same page. Thank you, Mr. Morrison– you were a fine MC– and thank you, Plan.

Set list:

A Life of Possibilities
Following Through
Spider in the Snow
The Face of the Earth
If I Don’t Write
What Do You Want Me to Say?
Time Bomb
You Are Invited
Memory Machine
Do the Standing Still
That’s When the Party Started
Ellen and Ben
Girl O’Clock
I Love a Magician
OK Joke’s Over

The Ice of Boston
The City
Come Home
The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich
Back and Forth

“Similar alley, different rats”

In vinyl on Saturday, 12 March, 2011 at 18:38

Song: Spider in the Snow
Artist: The Dismemberment Plan
Album: Emergency & I

What a song. The M.O. of this entire album is uncompromising honesty. If you don’t like looking in the mirror regularly, well, this stuff may not be for you. But if you ever get the chance, read the lyric sheet to this album. (Ideally, you’ve bought the album, too.) If I’m not relating directly to a song, I can definitely remember a time  when I was. And this one? The music is quite atmospheric, relaxed, and melancholy, but it’s possibly the harshest song there, at least lyrically. Because it’s too bitter, it doesn’t encourage lots of repeated listens (save for the masochists), but the hope is that we stop fooling ourselves.

Even though they disbanded almost eight years ago, and I haven’t known them too long, they currently have a small reunion tour going, and the show here is their only west coast date, so why the hell not. Here’s to a surprising show!

The only thing worse than bad memories
is no memories at all
From the ages of 20 to 22 I had five friends
none of whose names I can recall
And as I would walk down K Street to some temping job
as winter froze the life out of fall
Yeah, I must’ve been having a ball

A different scene outside your window now
Same VCR, the same cats
Different people at the very same job
Similar alley, different rats
The trash goes out on a Tuesday now
You got to make a note about that
Yeah, this time you’re where it’s at

You can’t say it but I know that it’s in there
You don’t know it but I know that you’re scared
Obvious and lonely—a spider in the snow

Now you find the very same pit still yawns
deep down within the very same gut
The very same ghosts still seem to haunt you down
down those lines you always tried to cut
You thought you just might need a little change
and now you find you got nothing but
How can a body move the speed of light
and still find itself in such a rut?

You can’t say it but I know that it’s in there
You don’t know it but I know that you’re scared
Obvious and lonely—afraid to not let go
You can’t say it but I know it’s in there
You don’t know it but I know that you’re scared
Obvious and lonely—a spider in the snow

“Uh-uh, baby!”

In funny ha ha on Friday, 11 March, 2011 at 1:02

“That’s all I wanted!” “…And that’s all you gon’ get!”

Tommy Davidson, yo.