Everyone says it was a terrible year, and maybe it was, but here’s some proof it wasn’t all bad. Gratitude to the artists who put so much heart and soul into this beautiful music.
It’s almost that time of year again, so I thought I’d share this original song for the winter solstice. It may not be a genius composition, but it’s fun to sing around the bonfire with family and friend. Try it! And by all means make up your own lyrics. You can certainly do better than us.
Below you’ll find an audio snippet from our 2015 rendition, to give you an idea of the melody, as well as a copy of the lyrics suitable for printing.
There’s so much good music coming out these days it’s stunning. Don’t believe me? Give this a listen. It was almost painful putting this mix together because I left so much out, but what’s left just feels absolutely essential to me. Further more I’d wager that you haven’t heard of virtually any of these artists. And I know y’all could put together a stunning mix of artists that I’ve never heard. That’s what a rich time we live in. Happy new year.
Listening notes: This mix is about two hours long and tends toward mellow and bittersweet, but there is enough pop and rock to keep you awake and maybe even something to make you laugh buried in there somewhere.
As if breaking into the print medium wasn’t enough, I’m on the radio too. More specifically, the inestimable Brian Turner played some of my stuff on WFMU a couple weeks ago. Check the playlist and see (or listen) for yourself. Yeah, there was a little confusion regarding the name of the artist (Editor B) and the name of the album (A vs. B) but I’m not complaining because he did indeed plug the site. This might be a good time to remind the world that A vs B can still be had free despite its questionable legal status. Get it now before the Man shuts it down!
I’ve just published my second album on Bandcamp. It’s called “A vs B” and it’s available free.
It has to be free, I think, because I didn’t generate any of the source material myself. I used audio from diverse sources to create something new. Most of these mashups are of the simplest sort, two tracks played simultaneously: A versus B. The bulk of these tracks were constructed in 2008, with the remainder coming in dribs and drabs over the next six years.
It’s about that time. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about: the equinox. No, not that equinox — the other one.
I thought I had little or nothing to say about the subject. As is so often the case, once I got to writing, I discovered how wrong I was. The result is a column so monstrously large, it had to be split in two.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also put together a mix of autumnal equinox music.
A fresh mix for that most obscure of holidays. You should listen to this sometime in the next week or so, preferably whilst fashioning corn dollies, baking bread or imbibing your favorite malted barley beverage.
I rented a car and drove west. All by myself. I drove and drove and drove until I got to Austin, Texas. And I thought to myself, how uncharacteristic. I felt like I hadn’t done anything like this before, at least not for a very long time.
There was a reason for this pilgrimage, of course. Over thirty years ago, a woman named Lisa and a man named Brendan began a musical collaboration in Melbourne, Australia. Later they moved to London. For the better part of two decades they made amazing music together under the name Dead Can Dance. Then they broke up in 1998. During all that time, I never heard them, never even knew of them. They got back together for a world tour in 2005, but I was still entirely ignorant. I only discovered them around the time my daughter was born. To say I found their music transformative would be an understatement. They’re the only act in recent memory that I would actually want to see live — and they aren’t even together anymore.
Except now they are. When they announced a new album and a new tour, I bought tickets at the first opportunity. The closest they got to New Orleans was Atlanta. I opted for Austin, which is almost as close, but home to many more friends, even some relatives.
That was some six months ago. Xy thought I was crazy and vehemently disapproved. If Hurricane Isaac had come a week later, we might have evacuated to Austin and everything would have worked out nicely. As it was, we were just getting back to normal and it didn’t feel quite right to run off. I mailed my tickets to PJ in Austin. Then I talked to Xy; she’d had a change of heart and wanted me to go, with her blessing.
So I went. PJ came to see the show with me.
And the show was really good.
After the show we stopped to see some of PJ’s friends and jammed until the wee hours of the morning.
I spent the night at PJ’s house. It was great to see Andrea and the kids.
The next day I drove back home. In total I was only gone 32 hours, I think. I felt bad about burning all that gas just to move my body a thousand miles. If I’d had my act together I might have car-pooled with some other fans. But I’m glad I made the trip.
I was mighty excited to see the Transit of Venus this past Tuesday. I set up a tiny mirror on a tripod in our back yard, which reflected the image of the sun through our kitchen and down a short hall into my darkened office.
This is called the reflected pinhole method, which is a safe and simple way to observe solar events.
So there’s another year gone. This was sure an interesting one from the planetary perspective, what with all the the revolutions and the Occupy movement. I remain skeptical, but also cautiously hopeful, that anything will come of all this foment in the long run. We desperately need revolutions, but are these the revolutions we need?
I will also remember 2011 as the year of Project Conversion, “twelve months of spiritual promiscuity” by a guy named Andrew Bowen. Simple concept, one new religion each month, lived and embraced with a genuine desire to understand. I first mentioned PC at the halfway point, six months ago; now it’s complete, and I feel like I’ve learned and grown from it. I found his journey inspiring, and it has influenced my own. By way of expressing my gratitude, I put together a tribute mix, featuring one track for each of the twelve religions Andrew explored.
It was a holy chore chasing down some of those tracks but I am happy with how it came out. I tried to aim for toward traditional sounds rather than contemporary stuff.
I think finding the Zoroastrian track was the hardest. Also, a quirk of 8tracks is that it will only let each listener hear the tracks in the specified order the first time. This is for convoluted legal reasons. Which is a shame because in this case the order will matter to anyone who’s been following PC for the past year.
And because I’m in New Orleans, the first and last tracks are from local artists. Strange but true.
(As a bonus, I threw together a little Gregorian Chant mix in honor of the final month, Catholicism.)
But as a rule I’m not particularly focused on new music. Who cares if it was released in the last year or not? And so, I offer the personal discoveries from 2011 which excited me the most. Among them: Exuma (thanks to the American Zombie), Fikret Kızılok (thanks to Ghost Capital) and of course the late great Damien Tavis Toman (visit The Memorial Society).
Enjoy, and by all means let me know what you think.
You are forty-three months old today.
You’ve just completed your first full month of school. Every day you are coming home full of songs and dances, art and ideas. You learned a new favorite phrase there too: “Everyone makes mistakes; that’s how they learn.” I had to point out that your mother learns a lot.
The only real sticking point has been lunch time. One day you wouldn’t eat the pasta that was served in the cafeteria. “It’s not Tuesday, and I only eat pasta on Tuesdays.” Since then the situation has deteriorated. You rarely eat much of your cafeteria lunch. It seems most of the three-year-olds are in the same boat. I’ve been offering you stickers as a reward — stickers are like gold to you — but so far no dice. If you don’t start chowing down soon we’ll have to start packing a lunch for you.
Speaking of mealtime, one evening at dinner I stretched to pick something off your plate, and you were amazed. “I didn’t know you could reach all the way across the table!” Out of sheer curiosity we got out the measuring tape. My arms are still more than twice as long as yours: 17″ vs 36″. That bears out the general principle that armspan is roughly equal to height. I’m 6’4″ while you are just half an inch shy of three feet.
Also on the topic of eating, one evening at bedtime you told me that “I don’t want to eat and drink anymore because I’m tired of going potty.” Fortunately you forgot about that resolution by the time breakfast rolled around.
One morning you ended up sleeping in our bed. I noted at one moment you were sound asleep, and then the next thing you were smiling and giggling. But your eyes were still closed. You were having a dream. You were laughing so loud I had to wake you up and ask what the dream was about before your forgot. You told me you were dreaming of a chipmunk. The funny part? Her name was Pencil.
You still love singing nonsense songs. You also like speaking in your own special language. You tried to pass this off as Spanish at first, but you’re actually learning Spanish at school, and this is distinct from that.
You’ve also started inventing your own exclamations. The first one I heard you say was “Oh, suckers!” But you’re happy to incorporate anything in your line of sight. “Oh, bicycles!”
Your favorite game right now is, without question, pretending to be lost. This follows a pretty strict formula. You’ll hide somewhere, under the table or in the bathtub usually, and start calling, “Help! Help! I’m lost.” When your mother or I come to your rescue, you’ll explain that you left your old home because your mother was mean. That’s standard fairy tale stuff — lots of mean mothers in those old stories. We offer to take you in and let you live with us. In your scenario, I’m a fisherman and Xy is the fisherman’s wife. I think you got that from the myth of Perseus.
You had a day off school recently, but Xy did not, so I took the day off work. We made a picnic lunch and took it to City Park. That was great fun. While we were eating, I saw an animal climbing in one of the huge live oak trees. I thought it was an anteater at first, but I didn’t say anything. I just pointed to it. When you saw it you exclaimed, “It’s an anteater!” Of course, it wasn’t. But it sure looked like an anteater, or else we have a shared congenital propensity to misrecognize raccoons.
Later, you asked me to tell everyone that you’re brave. “I’m not afraid of coyotes or werewolves or African wild dogs.” You are aware that I use my phone to send messages “to everyone,” i.e. the public internet, i.e. Twitter. So I posted that on your behalf. My network was very impressed.
After lunch, we went to the playground and you frolicked with some other children. You seemed to have a great time, but on the bike ride home you told me one of the girls shushed you. Apparently you’d made a loud noise that scared away the pigeons. “She said shhh!” You kept repeating this story. I asked how it made you feel. “Rotten,” you replied. It’s the first instance of social anxiety I’ve seen from you. There will probably be a lot more of that in your future if I know girls.
One day I got home from work, walked in the door and announced, “I’m home!” Your immediate reply: “Thanks for the warning.” I laughed pretty hard at that one. This could well be your first expression of sarcasm, though I’m not sure you really understood what you were saying. You might have just been repeating something you’d heard at school. Nonetheless it’s heartening. We have a friend who calls you “sassy,” and though she means it in a good way, it reminds me of how often I got called out for “sassy backtalk” as a kid. I honestly never understood why I was getting in trouble. I don’t think “talking back” will ever bother me. In fact I encourage it. The challenge for you will be to understand that not everyone feels the way I do.
Mix for Lee.
Update: Figured I might as well stick all my related Tropical Storm Lee observations here.
On Friday, as I prepared to ride home through a gentle sprinkle, I was approached by a pair of slightly nervous students. “Are you from around here?” They were not. They wanted to know what to expect from this tropical storm business. I told them it looked like street flooding would be the biggest problem, so prepare to hunker down. You might have some trouble getting from Point A to Point B.
Early Saturday morning we work to wind and rain coming in bands. Persephone was mildly peeved that cartoons were preempted, but I was impressed that the paper arrived. The garbage was collected. The mail was delivered. Our house sprung a couple of minor leaks. But we did not lose power.
By midday we were catching plenty of sunny breaks. I made a run to the grocery. They had wild caught salmon at a great price, but you had to buy the whole fish. I ended up with farm-raised filets. That evening I found myself grilling in a heavy downpour. It’s easy if you lack all common sense.
That night Persephone put on a necklace “because I have to be very pretty for Tropical Lee.” Here’s her forecast:
Today, Sunday, was more of the same. During a break in the weather Persephone and I went for a walk around the ‘hood. We saw lots of downed branches, but they were all very small.
Our street never flooded, and we never lost power, so this whole storm is looking like no big deal for us. (It’s been a very big deal for other people in other places.) That leak in the kitchen is the only real problem. Perhaps insurance will help.
Gin & tonics seem to go pretty well with tropical storms.
As I write this, shortly after sunset Sunday, we’re getting another lashing of rain, but I think the worst has passed.
Twelve tracks about the streets of New Orleans. One song about a street in New York, but the singers are from New Orleans. A field recording of some high school students rehearsing in the street right in front of my house. Including music by Earl King, Montezuma’s Revenge and Johnny Vidacovich.
Not new music, but music that’s new to me. You’ve probably heard it all before. Or have you?
These are the ten tracks I’ve been digging the most over the last couple weeks or so, including music by Henry Mancini, Damien Tavis Toman, and Devo. I love these with an insane passion. I had to share that love.
Actually there is one 2011 release here. See if you can spot it.
In other 8tracks news, my Study mix has now hit 100 plays and 62 likes. That’s almost double where it was just two months ago, which is interesting considering it’s been online for almost two years now. My other mixes are languishing in obscurity, but “Study” is picking up steam.
This mix might put you to sleep. This is what we listen to here when trying to get our three-year-old daughter to lie down and take a nap.
So yesterday I was over at Dr. Tim T’s office in the music building, helping the good doctor sort through some video issues. Midway through our session it started to rain, and Dr. T and I both agreed that it was nice to be back in the pattern of afternoon showers here in the summer. Last summer these never materialized and the southeastern states have been in a drought ever since, or so it seems to me.
But soon the rain was really coming down hard and heavy, with thunder and lightning. Then a guy from the film crew shooting upstairs popped in the office and said water was gushing into the recital hall. We ran upstairs and saw indeed that rainwater was pouring down in two places. The way the place is configured it was hard to see exactly how the water was getting in, but we surmised there was roof damage. I called Physical Plant to report the issue.
The rain continued. I made my way back to my own office by dodging from building to building but I still got pretty wet. A couple hours later it was still raining when I rode my bike home. I got wet again, but of course it stopped raining as soon as I got home.
That night, Xy and I watched the third disk in the second season of Treme. We were done at midnight. I stepped outside in my robe and noted some activity at Banks Street Bar, and then I remembered: Creepy Fest! It was kicking off at Banks Street Bar, and I was missing it. I ran back inside, pulled on some shorts and an undershirt, and made my way to the bar just in time to see Nick Name & The Valmonts take the stage with a blistering cover of “C’mon Everybody.” I was drawn right up to the stage and was soon surrounded by a small crowd. Here’s a video of them doing a Sonics cover at another local bar last month.
They played that last night too, and a bunch of others like “Louie Louie” and “Surfin Bird” and “Maybeline” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up,” all in the same intense and incredibly loud amped-up punk rock style. The singer (Nick Name) was wearing a shirt that said “Rock ‘n Fucking Roll” which would seem to sum up their philosophy pretty well. The audience broke into slam dancing at one point, and I hauled my 44-year-old bones out of harm’s way right quick. There was a time when I would have been an avid participant in such shenanigans but I guess those days are gone. Besides which I was still wearing my damn Birks which I use as house slippers. Not exactly prime gear for the mosh pit.
But I loved the show these guys put on, and I was digging the crowd. I saw a young African-American man wearing an Eyehategod cap. I saw passionate and playful public displays of affection amongst beautiful people of the same sex. I saw a mohawk spiked up a good twelve inches. There was a full moon shining outside. I felt that my life was complete.
And I had a brief moment of revelation. I felt there was some deep connection between the scene unfolding around me and the thunderstorm earlier in the day. It was so clear and so interesting I resolved to write it all down.
Now, of course, I can’t remember what I was thinking.
Then The Unnaturals started to play. I guess they wiped my mind clean. From what I can tell they’ve been around for years but I’d never seen them before.
Amazing. Mostly instrumental, surfy, amazingly huge sound for a three-piece. I especially liked a grungy bluesy number wherein the barefoot bass player put down her instrument and sang. I liked her bass playing too, but appreciated the change-up. And the sounds coming out of that silver guitar refreshed my soul.
They got done about 2:00 AM.
My ears are still ringing. My soul was not feeling so fresh this morning, but that’s another story.
Later: Now that I’ve had some time to mull it over, I’m prepared to take a guess at the parallel between the rain and the rock, which I glimpsed briefly and then forgot. Perhaps it was this. I felt a comfort at returning to an old familiar pattern. The summer afternoon rainstorm, the late night punk rock show, both are old familiar patterns which I have missed. The rain reminded me of summers past here in New Orleans. The show took me back further in time, and to another place, to Second Story or Uncle Sparky’s basement in Bloomington. I remember one night counting no fewer than sixty people in the crowd whom I knew on a first-name basis. At Banks Street Thursday night, I knew no one — not a soul. Yet the vibe was much the same.
Here’s a mix to enliven your Fourth of July.
When my in-laws asked what time we should leave, I said 7AM, and they laughed, and my father-in-law suggested 9AM. Then it was my turn to laugh, quietly, to myself. In my mind I thought 10AM, but I didn’t take that too seriously either. When facing up to a long journey, I like to get an early start. If left to my own devices, I would probably leave at dawn. But fortunately or otherwise I am not left to my own devices. I am subject to the devices of others. Years of experience have taught me that fixating on an departure time is a losing proposition, unless there’s a plane to catch.
In the end we rolled out at 9:45AM which was fine by me. All five of us fit into our Ford Escape Hybrid. As soon as we got on the highway we determined that Xy had indeed forgotten the Scrabble game, but we didn’t turn back. Soon we were crossing the twin spans. Soon we were driving through Mississippi. Soon we were plowing through that cool tunnel beneath Mobile, Alabama. Soon we were in the Florida panhandle.
And did we drive on in stony silence? We did not. We were rocking out to a mix of cover songs I’d thrown together. Here is a sampling of the music we enjoyed, ten tracks including tunes by Caetano Veloso, Cash Nexus, and My Summer as a Salvation Soldier. They are all covers.
We went 440 miles that first day. That landed us in the quaint burg of Madison, Florida. Actually I’m only guessing at its quaintness. In point of fact we never actually set foot in the town proper. We stayed at the Best Western, conveniently located near the interstate exit.
Since there were five of us in one vehicle, we made an effort to travel light. I did not pack, for example, any booze. It should therefore come as no surprise that Madison County is one of only five “dry” counties in the state of Florida. I always thought “dry” meant no alcohol whatsoever, but in this case beer and wine were legal. We were able to run to the truckstop across the way and pick up as much beer as we could possibly want. I noticed they had beverages with Smirnoff and Bacardi and other famous spirits, but upon closer examination, these all seemed to be malt beverages — in other words, flavored beer without a trace of vodka or rum. Weird. I made the highly questionable decision to pick up a big can of Sparks and an even bigger can of Tilt.
Man — chilling poolside at a hotel in a dry county in the Deep South drinking a damn Sparks. If you haven’t done this, you should try it some time. It really puts things in some kind of perspective.
Sparks and Tilt are examples of a beverage category of which I had been blissfully ignorant. They’re called alcopops, “malt beverages to which various fruit juices or other flavorings have been added.” In retrospect, I wish I’d remained ignorant. Those things were nasty. I also regret that we didn’t at least take a curiosity cruise through Madison. That hotel by the interstate is exactly the kind of non-place that I so intensely despise with every fiber of my being. The only cool thing about being there was the cow pasture out back. Persephone had just remarked a few days earlier that she’d never seen a cow in real life, so she was fascinated.
And the next morning, when we went out to visit the cows again, we got a special treat.
Yes, it’s an ostrich. Or at least I think it is. A big flightless bird anyway.
We were joined at the fence by another hotel guest, a farmer from one of the Carolinas. It had rained on Friday night, but he wondered if Florida was suffering from the same dry spell as they’d been having in his neck of the woods. He observed the quality of the grass, and the low level of water in a pond in the cow pasture, and he concluded that indeed they were having a drought here, just as we’d been having in New Orleans.
After breakfast at the hotel, we got on the road again. Only 300 miles to Vero. The drive was uneventful, except for one thing. We were on the Florida Turnpike, a toll highway with limited access; we were going to make a pit stop at a service plaza but I missed the exit. So we took the next next exit, which landed us right in the middle of Orlando. (The Mall at Millenia to be precise.) We ended up eating lunch at one of the most upscale McDonald’s I’ve seen. I was impressed by the sanitary door openers in the restrooms. These were little hooks that allowed you to open the door with your wrist so you didn’t have to touch the knob with your hand. Fancy. It’s always interesting to see how the other half lives.