Sunday, December 12, 2010

New home

The Textbook Committee now lives at Wanted to add streaming mp3s and customize the look more than Blogger would let me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whiskeytown - Pneumonia (Lost Highway, 2001)

Again, I have to wait until I get to Stranger's Almanac to tell my favorite/only Whiskeytown story (some of you already know it, or are tired of it). From reading this 2001 Magnet article about Ryan Adams, you probably don't want to hear this record at all... or maybe you do and can't stand not to. To know the drama that was swirling while they were making this record and then subsequently trying to release it for years later piled on top of the fact that it was an almost different crew than before, after Ryan fired everyone but a few, gives it something unique to me. Still one of the most rotated records in my collection. I remember my brother initially describing Don't be Sad as "nondescript" to which I agreed, but still liked it alongside most of the rest of the tracks. These are still some of the most well-crafted songs to me. The way Bar Lights seemingly falls apart at the end of the song (also signifying the end of the record and the end of Whiskeytown...other than the last steel drum track which is technically the last on the record, I guess) sums it all up pretty well when, at the end, Ryan forgets the words, then laughs, then breaks a string, then screams and then says "alright, im going to the bar, fuck this" after it just sort of... ends...I imagine Caitlin Cary and the rest looking around like "uh, what's he going to do now?"

Interesting liner note - James Iha plays guitar and backing vocals... never would have guessed it or heard it. Still dont know where or what he plays on this.

The Decemberists - Castaways and Cutouts (Hush/Kill Rock Stars, 2002)

Not my first Decemberists record, but one that struck me along with all the others. A little more acoustic in parts than the others, but the stories are all there told by one of the best storytellers, Colin Meloy and the gang. You will definitely hear more from me on this band. Thanks to my friend Jonathon for turning me on to them. Still one of the reasons we want to move to Portland someday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christie Front Drive - Anthology (Caulfield, 1995)

"All of these songs have been previously released on vinyl" is the top line on the back of Anthology, although nowhere on the album does it say Anthology. It was the self-titled Christie Front Drive record to me, but Anthology makes sense too, and at some point every song made it on either my radio show in college or a mix tape for someone. One reason this release was cool to me was since I wasn't hip enough to have all their 7"s or splits, having them all reissued here saved a lot of hunting (although I still like looking in the 7" rack just in case one of them is there). I found out about CFD after hearing the previously mentioned Crank! records mix Don't Forget to Breathe (to be covered in gross detail soon, hopefully). They were among the most credible emo bands and, to me, seemed more of a myth than reality. They toured with many of my favorite bands, but I never got to see them, sadly. I had looked forward to possibly seeing them in Denver, where they hail, when I left for school in Colorado, but they had already ceased touring and were breaking up - par for the course with bands in this era.

There was a lot to love about this band. The landscape they built had a certain hum to it that didn't sound like anyone else to me. I have heard absurd arguments that all emo bands sound alike, indie gets the same ignorant wrap, but no one else had the CFD sound. Each band in this genre, realm, style of music (whatever you wanna call it) was unique to me despite some common threads. I loved how they used their singing as another instrument. I could never actually understand most of what Eric Ricther was singing, which allowed me a little ownership of what I thought the words might be or could be when I would sing along, mostly with unintelligible murmurs to be honest. To this day, I know very few actual CFD lyrics, yet there are clear stories in my head about what all the songs mean... funny how that works. They were the kings of short song titles, like Turn, Dirt, Slide, and an obligatory song title of a number, 4010 (an emo standard). Now I Do was, and still is, one of my favorites and got the most rotation of all the tracks on this record. Below is the "action shot" of the boys in the moment. What I would give to have been in that crowd.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Zookeeper - Becoming All Things (Belle City Pop, 2007)

My wife said it best that if Christopher Simpson pooped in a paper bag and set it on fire on our doorstep, I would call it genius (and be all giddy about the fact he knows where we live). He can do no wrong in my book, and that's usually because he keeps me interested and seems to go through life at the same pace that I am. Mineral was a huge influence when I was in my "the world is crashing down" phase (ok ok, it was my emo phase). When my tastes started maturing and I was realizing the world around me, he was there with me in The Gloria Record. And now that I've started to take life less seriously (or at least try to...) he is Zookeeper (the picture of Simpson on the album cover with a sack on his head says it all really). While Mineral and TGR were full of design, emotional expense and vulnerability, Zookeeper loosens up quite a bit and allows for all kinds of ingredients to be thrown in the pot. Zookeeper really is the most perfect name for this new venture as all the animals at the zoo, er, more like all his musically capable friends, take part. And there doesn't seem to be too much dictation or direction from Simpson, just a basic framework to build upon by whoever wants to take part. A community of musicians-on-the-side seems like such a cool concept to me. 

Becoming All Things, the first Zookeeper full length, swings in a few directions at different points. It's not a single theme kind-of-album, but sort of leaps and hops around a bit, which I dig, of course. The bombastic Snow in Berlin and Ballad of My Friends kick oh so well, while Boy & the Street Choir and On High are whispers where you need whispers. About half of the songs on this album had been made available on Zookeeper's MySpace page for a while, so I had already heard them in heavy rotation, and was a little worried I wouldn't get the full effect. One song turned this around for me and that was the brilliance of the title track, Becoming All Things. The way it built and spun and, well, became all the things I wanted to hear, made me realize that while the structures and environments Simpson works within might have changed, there are consistent themes that still feel like home to me. I anxiously await what's next.

Here's a clip from their last tour featuring an unreleased track that's been in my head since the show. "I want to be the kid whose not. Congratulate the kid whose not."

Jellyfish - Split Milk (Charisma Records, 1993)

My two older brothers and I had been building it up for weeks. We had tickets to the Jellyfish and Dada show at Six Flags and were preparing with a constant rotation of their albums - it was going to be a huge sing along rock opera for the decades. Sadly, rain cancelled the outdoor show and disappointment settled in and I don't think it ever left. I must have been only 13 or 14 years old and this concert, of contemporary bands that I loved, was supposed to be a significant event in my life (technically seeing Heart and the Oak Ridge Boys with my family were my first true concerts, but choosing to see a band is a completely different event).

I was too young to appreciate a band like Queen, but I think the Jellyfish guys took a note or two from them with a pop twist to it. I loved the stories, the theatrics and how they still found room to rock it significantly. Records like Spilt Milk were made by heavily talented musicians who were largely appreciated in the mainstream. Doesn't seem to hold true these days. Classics include New MistakeThe Ghost of Number One and Joining a Fan Club.  


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Brak presents - The Brak Album, starring Brak (Rhino, 2000)

I absolutely take things way too seriously. It's something that probably won't ever change, especially with the type of music I am constantly drawn to. A friend gave me The Brak Album in 2000 partly because I was a big fan of Space Ghost Coast to Coast (SGC2C), but probably more because I needed to lighten up a bit - it was, and still is, just what the doctor ordered when I haven't smiled or laughed in a while. 

If you have never watched Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, you are either a) not a nerd and/or b) had reasons not to be home watching cartoons late at night. SGC2C was comic brilliance to me, taking old Hanna Barbara animated characters, recreating them from the old footage, and pitting them against each other in a talk show format where they hate each other, yet sing so sweetly together. The end result was hilarity of the most stupidest sort, but never left me without milk shooting out my nose. SGC2C was the first of its kind and eventually Cartoon Network made spin offs and similarly designed shows, like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, and, of course, The Brak Show.

A few songs from The Brak Album and a clip from the show I love. 

"Soup on a Stick" from The Brak Album  

"I Like Hubcaps" from The Brak Album

Learning to Talk Italian from SGC2C

Monday, September 13, 2010

Paul Westerberg - Stereo/Mono (Vagrant, 2002)

I just about peed my pants when I found out there were two cds in the case. I had been listening to, and absolutely loving, Paul Westerberg's Stereo for weeks until one day when I noticed the back panel had a slight opening that I hadn't seen before. Out pops another cd labeled Grandpaboy - Mono. It was a whole other album that kicked me even harder than the first. It was like a Double Rainbow all the way!

Westerberg also did me the favor of writing the perfect explanation of each disc:

Stereo - What we have here are songs written and recorded at home over a two-year period that followed a much longer period of performing, traveling, and explaining. Cut mostly live in the middle of the night, no effort was made to fix what some may deem as mistakes; tapes running out, fluffed lyrics, flat notes, extraneous noises, etc. Many were written (or born if you will) as the tape rolled.
Unprofessional? Perhaps. Real? Unquestionably.

Mono - This is rock'n'roll recorded poorly, played in a hurry, with sweaty hands and unsure reason. 

How it sounds
What it says
Who played what
Is irrelevant

It feels right

This is my blood.
There is no denying Westerberg's way with words. It was so refreshing to hear a rock record (two actually) that knew a thing or two about what makes a raw song good. Thank you Paul Westerberg, for so many reasons. Some of my favorites:

Dashboard Confessional - The places you have come to fear the most (Vagrant, 2001)

Ungh, this record is hard to listen to again. It's a complete throwback to times where it felt better to "hear the saddest songs and sit alone and wonder...cuddling close to blankets and sheets." At the time, nothing was better as Christopher Carrabba seemed to be singing directly to me and, honestly, nothing sounded like this that I had heard. It was this horribly guilty pleasure that I would turn down while driving when pulling up at stop lights, but then turn way up after it turned green again (you know what I'm talking about, don't you, whoever you are out there). 

Despite the painful tales of heartache and putting fists through walls over a girl (I swear I almost didn't make it through Bitter Pill without ejecting the cd, but kept it in for the integrity of the Textbook Committee-so far no broken rules), there were a lot of positives on this record. "The places you have come to fear the most" was where I learned what Drop D guitar tuning was and how it could be poured on in the thickest possible way (a tactic I would steal). It was on Vagrant records, a favorite of mine and one that I was a Street Teamer for, so I got free promo copies and tons of posters, stickers and buttons to take to record stores and give out to friends. I found out that Dan Hoerner, from Sunny Day Real Estate (true Godfathers to most of the music I loved then and now), hopped on the DC tour as an additional guitarist adding an instant boost of credibility. Lastly, the whole album clocks in just under 30 minutes, so its over before you know it, quick like a band aid. 

I know I sound like I'm hating on this record, but to me it's a one-of-a-kind record and is actually brilliant in a lot of ways. It just reminds me of a time and a feeling that doesn't need to be relived. I don't own any other DC albums, if that tells you anything. 

A few songs you should hear:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Iron & Wine - Woman King / Pavement - Terror Twilight / Jimmy Eat World - Clarity

Each of these cds represent bands that have stories to me but this particular release just isn't the one I want to talk about. Nevertheless, they have been in my "write about this" pile for a few weeks. So I will at least give a nod to a few of the songs I dig on these records. Nothing fancy. 
Iron & Wine - Woman King (Sub Pop, 2005)

An EP from Samuel Beam's Iron & Wine. Apparently every song features a spiritual female figure with biblical undertones (thanks wikipedia).

Pavement - Terror Twilight (Matador, 1999)

A goodbye record of sorts. You can hear it in a lot of the tracks on Terror Twilight. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Malkmus and the boys dreamed up their music videos. Like when kids get hold of their parents camcorder.  
Jimmy Eat World - Clarity (Capitol, 1999)

Second full length from JEW, still produced by Mark Trombino. A definite maturity from their first release, but not one I'm sure I liked right away. I do remember driving south from Denver with this record turned way up.

Lucky Denver Mint (the knock at the ultimate frisbee geeks is both sad and funny to me)