Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Intake

What follows are the movies, television shows, and books I've been consuming this spring, hopefully to the betterment of my overall self. I watched a lot more television this spring than I have at any other time. I once heard it described that the 'television show is to the movie' as the 'novel is to the short story.' I've found this to be true and have learned to enjoy the meta-narratives present in television shows such as Dexter, The Sopranos, and Mad Men. As far as literal literature goes, I finished a couple of elongated classics (The Brothers Karamazov & Augustine's Confessions) while also experiencing some fresh, current voices as well (Dave Eggers, Chuck Paluhniuk, Reif Larsen). It's been a good time as far as media goes and I look forward to enjoying a few more months of peace before the fury of grad school hits this fall.

movies/television mad men [season 3], dexter [season 4], food, inc., sugar, youth in revolt, the sopranos [season 1], moon, the hurt locker, star trek, avatar, the sopranos [season 2], scrubs [season 1], an education, the sopranos [season 3], crazy heart, paranormal activity, scrubs [season 2], the road, scrubs [season 3], a serious man, scrubs [season 4], gomorrah, pushing daisies [season 1], alice in wonderland, scrubs [season 5], the informant, sorority row, the blind side, precious, how to train your dragon, doctor zhivago, scrubs [season 6], scrubs [season 7], the brothers bloom, in the loop, pushing daisies [season 2], the sopranos [season 4], scrubs [season 8], community [season 1], the office [season 6], 30 rock [season 4], sherlock holmes, bored to death [season 1], lost [season 6], 24 [season 8]
books pilgrim at tinker creek .. annie dillard, the selected works of t.s. spivet .. reif larsen, not for sale .. david batstone, the brothers karamazov .. fyodor dostoevsky, suite francais .. irene nemirovsky, confessions .. st. augustine, the moon is down .. john steinbeck, choke .. chuck paluhniuk, survivor .. chuck paluhniuk, the wild things .. dave eggers

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Summer Music

The mention of summer can elicit a number of feelings. For some, it can simply mean a break from always using your brain. For others, it can mean riding around in the car with the windows down and sunglasses on. And for still others, especially those in post-college days, it can simply mean a few warmer months and a couple of pool parties.

Whatever the case, a new season, especially one as distinct as summer, deserves some music recommendations. While every season has it's unique characteristics with appropriate music accompaniment (i.e. winter's isolated feeling coupled with Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago), summer can best be described by it's 'who-cares?' attitude coupled with music that is catchy and easy to sing along to. While Jack Johnson or Bob Marley may provide some classic examples of this 'genre' of music, I'd like to make three suggestions on recent albums releases.

First up, Vampire Weekend rules the summer. A couple years ago they stormed onto the music scene with their simple pop melodies and afro-beat sounds backed by their ivy league lyrical references/persona. A few months back, they released a stellar sophomore album, Contra, that is as carefree and catchy as the first album while adding a few more electronica touches. And Cousins may be my favorite song of theirs:

Next, the Brooklyn based band, Sleigh Bells, just released their first album, Treats, a couple weeks ago. They are crazy. They are also crazy catchy and perfect for listening to really loud in your car. Their song Rill Rill creates such a great vibe:

And finally, Surfer Blood is a band based out of West Palm Beach, Florida and comprised of some young, college guys. Naturally, living on the beach and being 20 is going to give you some "summer music" cred and when you add in their infectious vocals and guitar hooks, you get their perfect summer album, Astro Coast. Here's their single, Swim:

Alright, so there you have some of my summer picks. Any comments on your favorite current summer album or classic all-time favorite?

Happy summer and happy listening.

Monday, May 17, 2010

AROUND THE WORLD wide web: PART TWO

About a month and a half ago, I began a series called AROUND THE WORLD, click here for a fuller explanation of what it is.

After a weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Matt and Jess's wedding (congrats!), I now have enough info to fill an AROUND THE WORLD blog (or at least an "around the country" posting). Here's what's going on:
  • Paste Magazine's chief editor, Josh Jackson, writes on the central characters of 24 and Dexter (as well as on the character of our centers).
  • Twitterers worth following: fake tips for proper writing, inside Christian jokes, the guy that created Freaks & Geeks.
  • Best online comic strip? (beware: occasionally R-rated)
  • Tony and Peggy Campolo talk about their various opinions of homosexuals in the church.
  • 10 new songs (often times awesome remixes), 5 times a week, free downloads, and free music advice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Local Natives (w/Suckers): A Concert Review

Percussion and vocals.

These are two things that can turn a concert from enjoyable to transcendent. While listening to NPR's All Songs Considered (NPR's music podcast) coverage of the recent South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, I noticed that they kept commenting on how this year's festival was really strong due to these two elements. So I'm going to agree with NPR (like any good, young progressive should and would) and reiterate that great percussion and vocals make for a great concert.

With that said, Kenan and I (above) attended a Local Natives concert at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor on Monday night. Luckily, great percussion and vocals were present as well.

The opening band were the Brooklynites, Suckers. I didn't bother checking out their music beforehand but these guys put on a really great opening act. Their set included a lot of energy and their lead vocalist (while reminding me of little of Jack Black) had a lot of character to his voice. I was also impressed by how multi-instrumental these guys were (as were Local Natives). There were times when the lead singer was strumming his guitar, banging a drum, and alternately whistling and singing, all at the same time. And everyone in the band did this to some degree or another. All this to say, they were really fun and their music, while foreign to just about everyone in the crowd, was very engaging.

Now onto Local Natives. After multiple recommendations of this band, I finally checked them out a couple weeks ago and, after a couple listens, I was hooked. Amidst other admirable attributes, they have great harmonies that beckon the listener to sing along, forcing me to fall in love with them. I also saw that they were playing the Blind Pig and my brother had been a mega-fan of their song, Airplanes since MySpace was cool/used, so we bought tickets to the show.

The show eventually sold out, making for a crowded standing area but which also made for a very energetic crowd. Going back to the opening line of this blog... this band knows how to sing. And not only that, they know how to get everyone in on the singing. The band had 4 of its 5 members mic'ed, adding to the group mentality of the vocals and they often had at least two members singing, even during the verses. This also encouraged the enthusiastic crowd to sing along with all of the choruses. The following is the shaky (I had to groove!) video of their crowd favorite, Airplanes:
video
I'm a sucker for great drums as well. So when I see that a band has a drummer plus someone else on another drum/cymbal, I know there's going to be some great beats. And I was certainly satisfied with the percussion the Local Natives provided. They often just went to town on the drums and this, coupled with the vocals, made for some incredible moments. The drum solo later on in the song Who Knows, Who Cares is one of my favorite moments on the album and, although I don't think I caught it on tape, here's part of that song:
video
The band played all the songs I was hoping for (not surprising considering they only have one album) but it was a good length of a concert. They repositioned themselves for a few songs in the middle (showcasing their ability to play any instrument), slowing it down a little bit, only to pick it up at the end with the song above and then an encore performance of Sun Hands.

OK, enough of my blabbing about my concert going experience. My final verdict: if at all possible, see this band live.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Relevant Confessions

I've been reading through St. Augustine's Confessions for the last year or so. It's been a slow read due to it's brainy nature but every once in a while there'll be a passage like the following that will give me reason to pause. So here's ol' Gus, giving relevant commentary on the relationship scripture has with truth:

When, therefore, someone says, ‘Moses meant what I understand by this passage,’ and someone else says, ‘No, he meant what I understand by it,’ I think I show more proper caution in saying: Why not both, if both are true? And if someone sees a third meaning in these words, or a fourth, or any truth at all, why should we not believe that Moses, through whom the one God tempered the Holy Scriptures to the minds of the many readers who would see various truths in them, himself saw them all? For my part, I am bold to avow that my own attitude is thus: if I were to write something of Scriptural authority, I would rather write in such a way that whatever truth one could comprehend about those matters, it would be echoed in my words, rather than write one true opinion so plainly as to exclude other opinions whose falsity could not offend me. I am reluctant, therefore, my God, to rush into believing that Moses did not receive a similar gift from you. In writing these words, Moses perceived and considered every truth that we have been able to find in them and every truth we have not been able to find, or have not yet been able to find but which nevertheless can be found in them.