Squirrel At The Acorn Festival

 

These are my friends. I am grateful.

Amy, Me, Kathryn

AMY, ME, KATHRYN – 2015. MY FRIENDS.

Everyone should be so lucky to have such friends. High school graduates of the early/mid-1980s, chums through college years and beyond, most of our relationships date back 35 years – several go back a good deal longer. It had been five years since last we spent time all together, but many of the core group just met up and I was as gleeful as a squirrel at the acorn festival.

My Friends - 2015

MY FRIENDS – 2015. (Photo by P. Palermo, President of Hamburgers).

We lovingly reminded one another of the people we once were. We reminded ourselves of the people that we imagined we once were.

MY FRIENDS - 1987.

MY FRIENDS – 1987.

The pleasure of sharing these memories and imaginations together, in person, is shuddering – more than once as I looked around at the group I was seized with delight, overwhelmed by utter happiness.

GOT MY INVITATION TO THE ACORN FESTIVAL.

GOT MY INVITATION TO THE ACORN FESTIVAL.

Beyond sharing old stories and memories, there is the satisfaction of seeing at first hand the resiliency of this group of extraordinary people in their growth – the people that they have become – because of course, life has hurled its shining joys and passions at each of us individually, but also its punishing losses, illnesses, and cosmic catastrophes.

Music provides me a healing power because one of the things it does is remind me of my friends. I think music is as much a part of our shared memory as anything. Time travel through songs suffices sometimes, but there is no substitute for being able to actually throw your arms around people and feel the smiles radiate and bloom through your whole being.

MY FRIENDS - 2015.

MY FRIENDS – 2015.

These are my friends – my brothers and sisters. I am thankful for them.

Sometimes we feel lost, but we will each always find our way – we have each other as guides, compass points, and celestial poles. Here areJarboe, Gira, and the gang covering Blind Faith.

These are my friends – my brothers and sisters. I am thankful for them.

Sometimes we feel lost, but we will each always find our way – we have each other as guides, compass points, and celestial poles. Here areJarboe, Gira, and the gang covering Blind Faith.

Can’t Find My Way Home by Swans from The Burning World (1989 Uni Records).

Things are always better when my friends are around. They shine like the sun.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, covered beautifully here by Viktor Kraus and Shawn Colvin from Viktor Krauss II (2007 Back Porch/EMI).

“…I can’t see the future, but I know its got big plans for me…all of my old haunts are now haunting me.”

Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood by St. Vincent from Actor (2009 4AD).

Seems Like Old Times by Carmen Lombardo and John Jacob Loeb, performed by Diane Keaton from Annie Hall (1977 MGM).

I Am The Past by Eleanor Friedberger from Personal Record (2013 Merge).

Experience these crystal bowls in person sometime if you can. We did, and it was great!

Crystal Bowls link to ‪Mandala Quartz Crystal Singing Bowl Energy Healing.

4 Sept 2015

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Put on a Happy Face

It turns out that Bradford Cox has a really wonderful smile – the infectious kind that makes others smile, too. His experimental art rock band Deerhunter announced an upcoming full-length release – and that is always a reason to put on a happy face.

Bradford Cox

Bradford Cox

More often associated with a punk sneer borne of contrarianism and mischievousness, Cox’s un-ironic smile is on full display in the new video. He is cute, comfortable, and flirty – front and center in a bohemian bumpkin’s uniform, (he’s pairing the shirtless look with oversized overalls and Pharrell’s Smokey the Bear/ranger hat,) and sharing the screen with a lively puppy dog and a Yorick-like skull.

Hi!

Hi!

Oh, there’s lots of smiling on the front end, paired with Cox’s bluesy, raspy rascal’s intro — “I was born already nailed up to the cross…” — the music is clap-along playful until about three quarters of the way through when it gets gloriously weird and sinister – carefree smiles are traded in for demonic glares.

With its dark lyrical undertones countering the upbeat music, Deerhunter is in the territory staked out by Kurt Weill and his many collaborators, including Bertolt Brecht and Maxwell Anderson. The phrase that describes this trick is andante espressivo, and it is often an appropriate descriptor of Cox’s style. Ira Gershwin , another Weill lyricist, described it as “sound[ing] sweet and simple at times, mysterious and menacing at others.” Check out this fine modern example of andante espressivo – a rocking, funky new tune, called Snakeskin.

Man, I love this band, as well as Cox’s other project Atlas Sound, so it was painful to report that the last Deerhunter record, 2013’s Monomania, was such a disappointment. In fact, I wrote that it was “… a bummer – Bradford Cox is a favorite artist in large part BECAUSE his approach is often willfully provocative and difficult. This record (Monomania) seemed to double back on that difficulty and provocation and fell flat.”

Fading Frontier

Fading Frontier

I probably missed the boat on Monomania – it was a critical success. But I felt let down by a favorite artist, and became eager for the band’s next effort. So, I was met with extra gleeful anticipation today when I learned they finally have a new one coming: Fading Frontier, due out 16 October 2015 on 4AD. According to Pitchfork, “…the album … features members of Broadcast and Stereolab …” Both those bands are ENORMOUS favorites of M is for Music, so it is extra extra exciting to learn of their involvement.

Deerhunter’s artist page on the 4AD label’s Web site notes, “Fading Frontier shows that a decade in, Deerhunter has lost none of its intensity. As the group matures … they have

grown into the most consistent purveyors of art-rock of their generation.” One hopes that assessment will be accurate, and that they can equal the beautiful intensity of earlier efforts like Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (2008) and Halcyon Digest (2010).

4AD is responsible for putting out a great many of the songs posted on this page, and though the new Deerhunter track is not what one would think of as representative of 4AD’s ‘sound’, this label is no stranger to funk. Here, for example, is a great track from a great and funky record that is 20 years old:

Wolfgang PressChristianity by The Wolfgang Press from Funky Little Demons (1995 4AD).

Speaking of glorious collaborations with former Stereolab musicians – here is Cox with Laetitia Sadier in another musical incarnation – what a beauty:

Quick Canal by Atlas Sound from Logos (2009 4AD).

A taste of light and darkness:

Lotte Lenya

Lotte Lenya

Speak Low by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ogden Nash, performed by the absolutely brilliant, incomparable Lotte Lenye, from the Broadway musical, One Touch of Venus (1948).

There is a live performance film by Director John Albrecht called Deerhunter Sunday Redux (link below). It is a marvelous documentary testimonial to the creative, raw power Cox and Deerhunter can have. It was filmed at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln during the band’s 2010 tour. I got to see that concert, and what a wonderful experience it was. It had the perfect effect of making the audience members feel that they were in the exact right place at the exact right time. The opener, Helicopter, is captivating – slow building and patient. We were hearing it, and several other songs that made up Halcyon Digest, months before its release.

A fantastic venue and such a memorable show:

Deerhunter Sunday Redux

Bradford Cox was seriously injured last December when he was hit by a car in Atlanta. With the new album and an extensive tour of Great Britain and Europe planned in support of Fading Frontier, it is good to know he has recovered.

ENJOY!

17 august 2015

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Beach House

Thrilled with anticipation for the new full-length release by one of the most distinctive and innovative American bands in years. Beach House will bring us Depression Cherry, their fifth LP, releasing 28 August 2015 on Sub Pop.

alex scally and victoria legrand - BEACH HOUSE

alex scally and victoria legrand – BEACH HOUSE

Here is the single and the welcome return of the ravishing voice of Queen Victoria:

Sparks by Beach House.

The song has a pervasive disorienting vibe thrown out from Victoria Legrand’s discordant, simple, and raspy keyboard line – but the song patiently finds a resolute balance and deepened beauty. I love the bravery of amassing so many ideas in one song – and Beach House is among very few acts that are able to actually succeed in wrangling such a variety of ideas – perhaps unbeautiful on their own – into a piece of cogent prettiness.

Sparks brings to mind the invigoration of swimming – or even just being around water. Immersion in water necessarily dulls some senses to allow others to sharpen – think of the bewildering shock and chill of jumping in a cold stream and how intensely the sensations of skin pick it all up – and yet the eyes or ears are unfocussed and a-whooshing.

Happy around water, some of my favorite memories include ponds, lakes, pools, and especially rivers and oceans. I have written in this space about spending entire summers delightedly floating in and exploring the Platte River. Pine Creek is perhaps among the happiest two or three places on earth. Big big love of the Oregon coast and its access to the magnificent Pacific is also documented here in a recent piece called

Komorebi.

But water … not so happy for everyone. My mother has been afraid of water most of her life.

She has lots of fears, bless her. Her comfort zone is the size of – well, imagine a little mouse. The mouse has a wee little pen and is writing a letter – a tiny little letter that is going to be sent in a tiny envelope. Imagine our little mouse placing his teensy postage stamp on his tiny envelope. My mother’s comfort zone fits within the stamp’s borders.

Like many of her life tales, the story about the genesis of her terror of water follows a typical path – it begins idyllically and ends fearfully; and it contains common elements – there is family involved, someone unintentionally lets her down; she is affected/tortured by the incident for life.

Her story takes place at Pier Park in Grand Island, Nebraska. There is a lake that occupies several acres on the north end of the park. Ornamental now, it was long ago a recreational swimming pond for the city. It was the mid-1930s, Mom was seven or so, and on a sunny summer day she walked happily to the crowded lake with her outgoing older brother, Lyman, and sister, LaVina – both a bit older, both much beloved. Mom’s voice often catches with pride when talking about her own mom, her dad, and her brother and sister.

At the lake, Mom would mostly stay where she could wade – and could only be persuaded into the pond as long as her brother would stay close by. She would even jump in the deeper area from the banks if Lyman would be there in the water to catch her. And he always was, until one time he got distracted by some friends, and he wasn’t. The episode resolved itself with everyone safely accounted for, and physically unharmed – though some were very much more shaken than others. My mother exited the pond for the day, and she also exited a lifetime of enjoying water.

I think it may have been one of the early stories that she told my dad about herself, and she tells that story still, some eighty years since it happened, with the same unambiguous shudder that she displayed the first time I heard it as a little boy.

Mom and Dad around 1950.

Mom and Dad around 1950.

This story has many companion tales. And as I mentioned – they follow a certain set of rules that, when pieced together, help to explain why my mom is the way she is. Cautious.

Whenever she was around, I heard, “Be careful!” roughly as often as I heard my own name. This had some upside – I am sure that I eschewed doing a lot of stupid things throughout my life that would have got me in some real trouble. It had some downside, too – as I am equally certain that I did not do a lot of stupid things throughout my life that would have been very fun.

But water. Man, I love it, and I am sorry that my mom could not. Pier Park was the site of hundreds of happy hours for me as a kid where the city had put together a complex that included a municipal swimming pool next to the lake where my mother took her last splashing leap.

Lucky me – I get to go back to the Oregon coast to spend a week before this summer ends and I am so ready for a dose of the ocean. Like seasons, vacations sometimes crave a soundtrack. To celebrate the water and the summer, here’s a start:

a rocker:

Ocean Size by Jane’s Addiction from Nothing’s Shocking (1988 Warner Bros Records).

a quiet one:

The Ocean by U2 from Boy (1980 Island Records).

a rocker:

Houses of the Holy

Houses of the Holy

The Ocean by Led Zeppelin from Houses of the Holy (1973 Atlantic).

and this one:

Summer by War from Greatest Hits (1976 United Artists Records).

31 july 2015

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Sun-warmed Skin

Hazy nights, and more great joy – thoughts after a first listen …

Every season needs a soundtrack, and we may have a new one for the hot days ahead. The sparkling new full-length release by Montreal band No Joy is called More Faithful, and it is as welcome as the first day of a long summer vacation. These songs explore all the dazzling excitements of bright summer days as well as the ravishing, hazy thrills of youthful summer nights.

MORE FAITHFUL

MORE FAITHFUL

With fixations on a few memories from young summers – and in the spirit of those days and nights – here are a few time-traveling, summertime stabs at what the new No Joy record sounds and feels like …

July 1975 – A few neighborhood girls and boys in shorts and tank tops. We meet under the streetlamp at the corner after dusk for kick the can. Someone brings a transistor radio, leans it against the lamppost, and quietly tunes in the Top 40 station.

I run through the dark heat to hide, feeling graceful and light-headed and lucky – twilight a cover for my actual clumsiness. There is the chuck-chuck-chucking of sprinklers – I get too close. I find a good spot, and after hiding, struggle to control my panting. There is the summery sting of cold waterdrops drying on my warm skin. Breathing calms a bit and I notice every emerging star in the still darkening sky.

Someone is looking for me. Time slows. I am happy. I want to be found, and not to be “it”.

This one played on the little transistor under the streetlamp a few times in 1975.

I’m Not In Love by 10cc from The Original Soundtrack (1975 Mercury).

Summers of 1985, 86, 87 – Late years of the cold war. We swim in the river or in the lake, turning brown as cigars.

Still in swimming clothes, we lay sleepily on pillows on the soft carpeted floor of the big basement – dark, dry, cool. We watch MTV or classic TV reruns – Bewitched, Jeannie, Don Knotts as Barney Fife.

The surprising, deep heat of Judy’s sun-warmed skin – her bare, copper shoulders – her legs. Time slows. I am happy. Like dreams coming true.

From the mid-80s, this embodies timelessly crazy yearning, intensely fevered passion.

SIGN 'O' THE TIMES

SIGN ‘O’ THE TIMES

“It” by Prince from Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987 Paisley Park/Warner Bros Records).

In Chicago – late-June 1992. It’s been over 90 degrees and the day is ending – now it’s just barely dark – the streetlights have all blinked on.

We are half-full of beer, walking to the Cabaret Metro to see Pale Saints. From the sidewalks, slow waves of heat arise – like stove burners that have recently been shut off. Inside the theatre it is perfect and disorienting – loud and cool. Time slows. I am happy. Guitars sound like they are coming apart and we have the sensation of being at precisely the right place at the exact right time.

Cool, cool, cool.

PALE SAINTS

PALE SAINTS

True Coming Dream by Pale Saints from The Comforts of Madness (1990 4AD).

Ordeal by Pale Saints from In Ribbons (1992 4AD)

The new No Joy record screams “Summer!” They construct sonic walls that feature muscular, rhythmic bricks held together with a sweet mortar of swirling fuzz. This one packs a lot into 2 minutes, and has some wicked time signature shifts that will make your body buzz.

NO JOY

NO JOY

Hollywood Teeth by No Joy from More Faithful (releasing 9 June 2015 on Mexican Summer).

3 june 2015

DON KNOTTS

DON KNOTTS – Bringer of great joy.

For more on No Joy, scroll down for the post Great Joy, fromNovember 2013. 

 

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Fixing to Pounce

There is a landmark birthday looming, and for at least a couple of years I have regularly sprinkled in the phrase “creeping up on fifty” when referring to myself. Now, I am fixing to pounce.

READY TO POUNCE

READY TO POUNCE

I think about age a lot, and not only as a result of myself, (and many of my friends,) having half-century birthdays this year. There are good and bad things about aging. Downside includes slower metabolism, and my knees and hips get angry when I run or play basketball. On the upside, I am slow and rickety, creaky enough that I no longer need to wear a pesky bell on my collar while prowling around the yard.

Mary, a woman who has become as much a sister to me as a dear friend, is writing a book about aging. She has successfully written books on a number of diverse subjects: environmental stewardship; the experiences of immigrants in the United States; the importance of family. She started a national conversation about the complex, changing lives and societal pressures placed upon girls and young women with her book, Reviving Ophelia.

Reviving Ophelia

Reviving Ophelia

She is inspiring. If something interests Mary, she writes an essay, or an op-ed piece, or a good book about it, so I expect her book on aging will be terrific.

Mary and I were taking a walk recently and she was telling me about the interviews she’s been conducting for her book. As I understand it, she is asking mainly retired people to share their thoughts on aging, and some of the questions address the fears that some have of growing old. Not unexpectedly, high on the answer list were the loss of mental and physical capacities – frailty, pain, and dementia. Loneliness too.

My immediate answer would be that I fear irrelevancy.

This pretty simple quote from Mike Sager in a recent issue of Esquire really struck me.

“Aging is an enemy in some ways but a friend in others, and people who rely on their minds should get better and smarter with age – to a point. You don’t start understanding life well until you’re forty.”

I am a wickedly late bloomer in some ways, but in others ways I am old, old, old; and boy, do I rely on my mind.

I often use this space to do just that by reflecting on music as a form of time travel. So, I decided to look back at some of the music that has been most important to me, and most formative, since I was forty, and ostensibly started to understand life well. Here are some quick thoughts on records and artists from the last ten years and why they have been so important to me. Also – some links to a few of their fantastic songs.

By no means a comprehensive selection, I feel the artists featured below deserve more attention. Hopefully you will find something here that is new and loveable.

—Sincerity, ferocity, and commitment can come together to create beauty. Accept drama in art, but not in your life.

Neko CaseFox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006 ANTI-Records).

Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Star Witness

—Lots of great, exciting ideas can fit into a compact space. Accept a little drama in your life, as well as in art.

VIOLENS

VIOLENS

ViolensTrue (2012 Slumberland Records).

Sariza Spring

Every Melting Degree

 

 

—Still be available to rock.

SERENA - MANEESH

SERENA – MANEESH

Serena-ManeeshS-M 2: Abyss in B Minor (2010 4AD).

Ayisha Abyss

I Just Want To See Your Face

 

 

—Also, be available to chill.

DESTROYER

DESTROYER

DestroyerKaputt (2011 Merge Records).

 

 

 

 

—It is okay to hurt, to be sentimental, and to swoon.

Hammock – Raising Your Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo (2006 Darla Records).

Raising Your Voice Trying to Stop an Echo

—Grow up.

Scritti PolittiWhite Bread Black Beer (2006 Rough Trade Records).

Cooking

Mrs. Hughes

—Actually, don’t worry too much about growing up. Things mostly take care of themselves.

American Analog Set – Know By Heart (Tiger Style Records).

Punk as Fuck

19 may 2015

 

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