Sammy the Seal

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

“Under lights, we’re all unsure”

In vinyl on Sunday, 31 July, 2011 at 23:59


Song: Home
Artist:  LCD Soundsystem
Album: This Is Happening

I don’t feel like writing much right now. Part lazy, but the music and especially the many, many lyrics are quite capable of speaking for themselves. One thing though, I remember reading an interview with Mr. Murphy wherein he briefly touches on the concept of melody. He’s actually referring to “All My Friends” in the following quote, but he says, “I didn’t realize what emotional impact melody has on people. I always think about lyrics and what they actually mean and then I realised the energy I respond to physically people respond to emotionally.” Lesson learned there, nearly perfected here. Could this be better than “All My Friends”? On those terms at least, it very well may be. They’re both great, but as “Home” is the final track on their final album, you can’t deny it holds a little more sway, so I think I’ll give it the nod.
Home (x6)

Take me home

Just do it right, make it perfect and real
because it’s everything, though “everything” was never the deal
So grab your things, and stumble into the night
so we can shut the door and shut the door on terrible times

So do it right, and head again into space
so you can carry on and carry on and fall all over the place
This is the trick: forget a terrible year
then we can break the laws until it gets weird

And this is what you waited for
but under lights, we’re all unsure
and so tell me:
what would make you feel better?
As night has such a local ring
and love and rock are fickle things
and you know it
yeah you know it
yeah you know

(ah-ahh)

take it in

Forget your past– this is your last chance now
and we can break the rules like nothing will last
You might forget, forget the sound of a voice
Still you should not forget, yeah don’t forget the things that we laughed about
And after rolling on the floor
and thankfully a few make sure
that you get home
and you stay home
and you’d better

‘Cause you’re afraid of what you need
Yeah you’re afraid of what you need
If you weren’t, if you weren’t, I don’t know what we’d talk about

(ah-ahh)

Yeah no one ever knows what you’re talking about
so I guess you’re already there
and no one opens up when you scream and shout
but it’s time to make a couple things clear
If you’re afraid of what you need,
if you’re afraid of what you need,
look around you
you’re surrounded
it won’t get any better

So good night

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“Once…..”

In vinyl on Friday, 29 July, 2011 at 11:47


Song: Big Dipper
Artist: Built to Spill
Album: There’s Nothing Wrong With Love

Early Built to Spill, in all their ragged, shambolic (though not really) glory. The song could have easily been two-and-a-half or three minutes long and been just fine, but fortunately, Doug and the boys let the instrumentals stew sloppily for a full minute before bringing in the last verse. Lots to love here:

  • 0:00
  • the way “when I was little” sets up and informs the light-hearted, almost innocent tone of the song
  • the languid vocal style
  • Doug Martsch realizing that one “that” was not enough in the “Jack thought it twice” line
  • the small, poignant insight: “some brains just work that way, that’s what chemicals can do”
  • Doug repping for Idaho (sort of) with the Albertson’s stir-fry dinner
  • the screeching at the end of the last verse
  • the tiny instrumental tics, twitches, and flourishes that give this relatively easy-going song a slightly nervous, unconventional energy, and also its heart
  • the simplicity of the song

Man, that’s some brilliant fucking feel-good. Sometimes making an indie pop classic is as simple as an uncomplicated melody that bores itself into your head and extends its claws.

Happy Friday

Chocolate scone, chocolate glaze

In delicious on Thursday, 28 July, 2011 at 11:31

Just one step towards getting rid of my cocoa, since I’m not big on chocolate. This one is exactly like the last one, but done with cocoa, and chocolate chips in place of cranberries, and without cinnamon or orange juice. Everything was halved except for the amount of chocolate chips, which remained at just over ½ cup, with a handful of them chopped and the rest whole. I wasn’t in the mood to do a choco glaze, but, having tried one plain, it didn’t taste chocolatey enough, so I added it after all. It was:

a little over 1 c powdered sugar
a little over ¼ cocoa powder
2.5 T milk

Whisk good, this one took longer than the usual 45 seconds, likely because the cocoa added extra bulk. It was probably also the reason it only made enough glaze for a half batch (fortunately for me), so double this if you make a full batch of scones (i.e., the one that uses three cups of flour).

plain choco scone

Di-rect from the oven, unadorned. Why is it blurry? Damn, just noticed. Well, too late for a re-take.

choco scone pair

choco scone pile

“One drop of blood on immaculate Keds”

In vinyl on Wednesday, 27 July, 2011 at 11:50


Song: One for the Cutters
Artist: The Hold Steady
Album: Stay Positive

So, who in their right mind doesn‘t love some good harpsichord? Highly underrated song this is (by me, anyway). Following the opening two-headed behemoth of  “Constructive Summer” and “Sequestered in Memphis”, it can be a little jarring to hear such life-affirming, monstrous rock followed by delicate harpsichord, but change of pace is always a good thing. It’s not totally rockin’ like most of The Hold Steady’s best stuff, but this is still quintessential HS: strong songwriting and pinpoint storytelling, with touches of grandeur and epic-ness. The minor key of the song does a nice job underscoring the seediness of the story, and make no mistake: despite the harpsichord, this is definitely a rock song. If you follow the lyrics, it seems like a simple enough story, but those surges of guitar that peek out at the end of the each verse hint to you at something deeper, and as they become more prominent later in the song, they carve out the wider, deeper spaces for the revelations of the story to take place in.

Granted, I have no idea about the lifestyle in the song, but it’s still a compelling story. It’s been nice to get re-acquainted with you, song. It’s been a while.
When there weren’t any parties, she’d park by the quarry,
walk into the woods until she came to a clearing
where townies would gather and drink until blackout,
smoke cigs until they’re sick, pack bowls, and then pass out
Windows wide open to let the hard rock in
Theirs was a rage that didn’t need much convincing
The girls gave her glares, but the boys were quite pleasant
To be totally honest, they didn’t seem much different

When there weren’t any parties, sometimes she’d party with townies

Out on the parkways, after the parties,
it was always arousing when they’d rev up their engines
It’s hard to describe, so she kept it a secret
The girls that she lived with, they knew nothing about it
The night with the fight and the butterfly knife
was the first night she spent with that one guy she liked
She gave him a ride to some kid’s house in Cleveland,
he stayed there for two weeks, the cops finally found him

He didn’t seem that different, except for the blood on his jacket
He didn’t seem that different, except for maybe his haircut
He didn’t seem much different
They didn’t seem that different up,
until this one little incident
They didn’t seem much different

Now the cops want to question everyone present
They parade every townie in town through the station
But no one says nothing, and they can’t find the weapon
The girl takes the stand, and she swears she was with him
Her father’s lawyers do most of the talking

She’s sick of the questions, sick of the concept of justice and fairness
“Who the hell cares who gets caught in the middle?”
She smokes and she ponders this riddle:
When one townie falls in the forest, can anyone hear it?
When one townie falls
When one townie falls in the forest, does anyone notice?

One drop of blood on immaculate Keds
Mom, do you know where your girl is?
Sophomore accomplice in a turtleneck sweater
Dad, do you know where your kids are?
Sniffing at crystal in cute little cars,
getting nailed against dumpsters behind townie bars
It’s a cute little town, boutiques and cafes
Her friends all seemed nice, she was getting good grades,
but when she came home for Christmas, she just seemed distant and different

Magic orange cranberry scones

In delicious, vinyl on Tuesday, 26 July, 2011 at 13:58


Song: Magic Spells
Artist: Crystal Castles
Album: Crystal Castles (I)

Believe it or not, Crystal Castles can actually be relaxing. It was this or “Violent Dreams”, another song with vocals buried enough in the mix so as to be almost non-existent, leaving me nothing to quote. So, what better to go with a song with no true lyrics, than food? Research and slight tinkering led me to this rather simple concoction. It’s not much work, yet the endpoint still brings a feeling of accomplishment. It’s not at all time-consuming, either, about half an hour total. Note: as you can see by the three cups of flour, this yields a lot, about 15 decently-sized scones, so halve it if you’re afraid of having too much.

3 c flour
½ c sugar (white, not brown)
5 t baking powder
½ t salt
cinnamon
a little over ½ c dried cranberries, chopped
¾ c butter (1.5 sticks), cold
1 egg, beaten
½ c milk
⅓ – ⅔ c orange juice

Combine all dry ingredients, including cranberries, mix well. Then cut in the butter about ¼ – ½ inch hunks thick. Out of necessity, but also preference, I pressed the butter into the flour mix with my fingers. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, and juice. Gradually add the wet mixture to the dry mixture until moistened. You shouldn’t be adding it all, you just want to get it to a moist enough consistency where you can roll it out like dough. Then, on a floured surface, roll out the dough about ½ inch thick. Cut into wedges, or whatever shape. Bake at 400 for 15-17 minutes, or longer if you want a deeper golden brown. If adding a glaze, prepare it just before you apply it.

Glaze (optional):
2 T orange juice (or whatever flavor you want)
1 c powdered sugar

Whisk, whisk, whisk.

Then you eat them. Pretty good, no complaints, not even from me.

orange cranberry scones

Group photo: the mountain.

orange cranberry scones 2

Group photo, emphasis on geometry.

orange cranberry scones 3

And finally, a close-up of the happy couple.

“Give me sound, give me something real”

In music videos, vinyl on Monday, 25 July, 2011 at 17:00


Songs: Bury Me Standing; What About Us?
Artist: Handsome Furs
Album: Sound Kapital

As promised, songs from the show: one “surprise” (in the sense that I wasn’t necessarily looking out for it), and one I was going to post soon anyway. I liked “Bury Me” enough before, but it’s moved near the front of the line now that I’ve had to sold to me live. It certainly helps that it’s one of the more energetic, upbeat songs there, but now it has fun memories attached to it. As for “What About Us?”, the first half is not at all bad, but rather, I bet that what you remember most about the song is the second half. It’s pretty obvious (and at the exact midpoint, 2:39), it’s when it gets all pretty and haunting. Almost to the point of preciousness, but it’s still moving. A comforting listen for when you feel “under control from forces impossibly remote.” The melody on the part is sticky enough that, in the last two days, I’ve caught myself singing and humming it under my breath while talking to someone.

Let’s sing along with the unpopular song(s): “on, off, on, off, on, off, on, off, on, off… never stop!”  “I’ve been living life so long…”  “Let’s stay in this evil little world”

And, from the same guy who brought you Wolf Parade’s “Yulia”:


I don’t really understand it, but the music does create a sense of intimacy that would belie the series of ostensibly prurient, titillating images. And hey, look, the album cover’s in there too!

“Such fuckin’ sweethearts”

In vinyl on Sunday, 24 July, 2011 at 21:00

Entertaining, but strangely lonesome at times. That was my Saturday. Fun was had, to be sure, but I must admit, about halfway through, it got a little lonesome. I don’t mind crowds so much, so I think it must have been the solitude, which seems strange, as I’m quite used to going to shows alone. The Capitol Hill Block Party isn’t all that big– just four different stages– but, I’ve only been to one other music festival in my life, and I had company that time. I think I was also missing someone, so it was probably as much longing (oh Sam, you’re such a clingy sap) as much as it was being at a music festival, albeit a small one, by myself.

That being said, I did enjoy me some music. There were three acts of note for me: Lovers, Handsome Furs, TV on the Radio. There could have been more, but I did get there close to 5pm, four hours into the day. I’m not sure why I bother with set lists, jotting down titles or lyrics to songs to look up later, though I can be sort of a completist, so that must be why. Since I had no idea who they were, I can’t say too much about Lovers, especially since I only caught 15-20 of their 30-minute set. From what I can tell, much of it was from their album from last year, Dark Light. I don’t like to do comparisons, as I feel they’re unfair, but a couple of songs from the end, I thought the vocals became reminiscent of Tegan and Sara, which is not too surprising, given the similarity of subject matter. (The band name can help you in figure out what it often is, from the songs I heard, at least.) I’m not sure how I mean that, and I’m not sure why I even said it, though I should say that over time, I started to become impatient with the subject matter of T&S. From what I’ve heard, a story about two or three albums back involved someone from their label asking if they could throw in a few songs not about love. So there. Emotions are fine and all, but it can quickly become an exercise in solipsism (or worse, narcissism) if you’re not careful. Despite that criticism, I quite liked Carolyn Berk’s voice, and they did score instant “line of the day” honors, with the wonderfully desperate melodrama of “don’t you want my love, or do you know someone who does?” from the song “Don’t You Want It?” Kind of overwrought, but to the point that I almost felt like that lyric was winking, aware of the boundary it was flirting with.

It must be said that Handsome Furs are the main reason why I went to this thing in the first place. Checking for tour dates following the release of the new album last month, this is the only thing I could find nearby until autumn. Having just missed them when Face Control came out three years ago (a damn shame), I really had no choice, even if I prefer clubs to festival crowds. I have to say, I was a little disappointed, only in the sense that their set was but eight songs and forty minutes. Still a good time though. Very appreciative we were, as were Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry, the husband-wife team that comprise the group. Dan, clean-shaven and looking very young, seemed like a kid as well, as opposed to a tour veteran, graciously thanking us for being “such fuckin’ sweethearts”, to say nothing of wife Alexei smiling all the time and crossing her heart. She really is a big part of the show, having only seen videos of performances before. I hate to sound like a dork, but she was so cool! The leg antics might seem calculated sometimes, like where she hops on one leg, with the other stretched behind her and her hands still working the knobs, but damn it, it looks like she’s having so much fun! I’m also surprised her legs aren’t bigger and beefier, given all the stomping and hopping she does at her keyboards. They should have been busting out those odd tie-dye-ish leggings. The way they play to each other during breaks in the vocals, you can tell they’re absolutely in love, even when Dan spit either water or booze on her during one song. Sentimental, doe-eyed gazes are okay, if that’s what signifies love to you, but to me, the direct, shared enthusiasm and energy speaks far more more about their relationship. It wasn’t an apocalyptically great show (there are only two of them on stage, after all), but the way they were into each other and the crowd helped the show immeasurably (compare: the next band I saw after them, which shall remain nameless– no hate, I just don’t like being negative), which ends up underscoring my lament that the show was too short. And also, it was one of the earlier shows, though it would’ve been fun to end on them. Ah well, here’s hoping for a small headlining show in the future. The should’ve-been-longer set:

When I Get Back
All We Want, Baby, Is Everything
Memories of the Future
Bury Me Standing
What About Us?
Repatriated
Radio Kaliningrad
Serve the People

Being the far bigger band, it makes sense that TV on the Radio did close out the night. I must say up front, that I usually have to be in a mood to listen to their music. I know they’re critically acclaimed and sound like no one else and all that, but they’re not usually something I can just throw on and instantly enjoy. I don’t know, maybe if I were better acquainted with the music. That being said, their shows go a long way toward selling their music. Having gotten there too close to show time, and the fact that they were headlining (not just the day, but the festival altogether), I ended up a good 70-80 feet from the stage, and yet during their best numbers, the people way back with me and behind me, were moving around but good, which I have never seen in a crowd, let alone a crowd that size. So kudos to them. Special mention for “Staring at the Sun”, which, on record, contains almost no rhythm section, but was a turned into a rave-up that had everyone I could see bouncing, and “Blues From Down Here”, one of the late tracks on Return to Cookie Mountain that takes a backseat to the immaculate first half of the record, but was a very nice surprise to hear live. I haven’t heard much of the latest record, which comprised half of the sixteen-song set, but from what I heard, it, like most of their stuff, sounds way better live. Of the material I didn’t know, “Repetition” stood out, especially when compared to the recorded version which I just listened to. Indeed, the last eight was announced by Kyp Malone (I think– second lead vocalist, the one with the beard, right? ) as the point where the band would now try to keep the rest of the show danceable, as he remarked that, behind the scenes, event promoters qualify acts by how they anticipate the crowds to be, and he said they were in the “moderately danceable” category which sort of frightened him. Hence, his proclamation. Not my favorite band, but an impressive show. I didn’t know their following was so strong, I just figured it was a lot of hip and cool followers.

Halfway Home
Wrong Way
Caffeinated Consciousness
Blues From Down Here
Will Do
New Cannonball Blues
Young Liars
Keep Your Heart
Red Dress
DLZ
Staring at the Sun
Repetition
Wolf Like Me
Dancing Choose
Satellite [I think]
[I have no idea, it was likely off the new album]

“Drive it straight into the wall, build it back up from the floor”

In vinyl on Friday, 22 July, 2011 at 5:40


Song: Crying
Artist: TV on the Radio
Album: Dear Science

All hail falsettos and wailing vocals, co-existing in perfect harmony. This funky cut was the first thing to fill my empty head upon waking early morning, having slipped off to sleep slightly prematurely. Pretty good, subconscious brain.

“Move your idiot body ’round”

In vinyl on Wednesday, 20 July, 2011 at 20:38


Song: Idiot Heart
Artist: Sunset Rubdown
Album: Dragonslayer

I like the song and all, but honestly, what sold me on this for choice of song was the falsetto, yodel-type noise Spencer makes at the end (reminiscent of Raising Arizona?). I love that! Way more rock and featuring much more guitar than normal for them, but… well, one wouldn’t normally call Sunset Rubdown “fun” but you could almost use that word here, especially on that closing bit. By far, one of their most energetic songs, but with the requisite amount of weird and esoteric to qualify as Sunset Rubdown.

Allegedly, at 4:00, you can hear “Q-Chord”, an 80-second instrumental piece, from Shut Up I Am Dreaming. After a few listens, I couldn’t tell exactly which part they sampled, or else they used a Q-chord, and not the song. Check for yourself:


Song: Q-Chord
Album: Shut Up I Am Dreaming

I remember the one time I saw them live, one guy in the audience shouted out “play Q-Chord!” which I thought was pretty funny. But then, Asobi Seksu twice played “Risky and Pretty”, a 45-second instrumental piece, just before “In the Sky”, which is how they’re sequenced on Hush. As “Q-Chord” directly precedes the greatness of “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Place Where Lovers Have Wings” on the album, I always thought of it as an intro track myself. So, it wasn’t so crazy for random guy to suggest. Alas, they played neither.

“Weasel, weasel, weasel!”

In celluloid, funny ha ha on Tuesday, 19 July, 2011 at 17:05

Good lord, how I love this. It’s Eddie talking about learning a musical instrument as a child. So many good beats and lines made it difficult to settle on a subject line, so of course, I won’t even bother quoting anything here, either. Just have a listen, and gander. Taken from one of his mid-90s concert films, Definite Article.