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:: 1.03.2002 ::

(listening to: Radiohead: Amnesiac)

Miss Rodeo America and I were sitting around Saturday afternoon, watching the rain fall and generally keeping busy. We decided that, to celebrate my new fine suede 1970s style jacket, we needed to go out and get ourselves a swanky dinner. Since all of the tapas places we had been to before sucked, we decided to branch out a bit and hit up a “french style” tapas restaurant that happened to be in our neighborhood.

We arrived at the restaurant to find middle-aged women dressed in sweatshirts with bears on them, guys with ponytails and dark silk shirts, and other general yuppie annoyances. Gin & tonic in hand, we scanned the crowd for awhile before we were led to our table for two by the front window. Sitting directly next to us within a couple feet was a group of three yuppies, two girls and a guy. They started looking at their menus, then they started talking about where they’d want to live in New York.

Tattooed Girl Yuppie: I could never live near Chinatown, it’s too smelly.
Guy Yuppie: Yeah, Chinatown in Oakland smells really bad too. What is it with those Chinese and fish? One time on a business dinner, my boss took us to a Chinese food restaurant down there. He was a Thailander and knew this out of the way place. People from Thailand are Thailanders, right?
Girl Yuppie: I think they’re called Thailandese.
Guy Yuppie: Oh, OK. Well, we went to this place, and we walked in and it smelled like a rabbit pen. Do you know what a rabbit pen smells like? Nasty stuff. Then the waiter comes out and shows me this fish, and it was in a pan still alive and in this jelly stuff. What is it with those Chinese and that smelly jelly stuff? I didn't want to see my fish before they cooked it, that was so gross.

Needless to say, Miss Rodeo America and I were silent this whole time, calmly eavesdropping like good little birdies, aghast at the lack of tact at the next table. The food was actually quite tasty, but their wine list was on the pricey side. The yuppies suddenly got up and left, leaving a big full glass of red wine on the table behind them. After quickly scanning the room for lingering wait staff, M.R.A. did what any fine-diner of our caliber would do: switched my empty glass for the full one at the table next to us. A sly table score. Cha-ching! I love dining out.

(3:52 PM) :: (link)

:: 1.02.2002 ::

(listening to: Low: I Could Live In Hope)

I swear, this is the last time I'll talk about music for awhile: To prove I heard more than ten records last year, here's the addendum to my top-ten list. Note that by disappointments, I mean records I thought would be better, not records that are bad. I actually listen to some of those pretty often, but they just weren't up to my expectations.

Also Good:

The Court & Spark: Bless You
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy: Ease Down The Road
The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up: It's Winter Here
Smog: Rain On Lens
Owls: Owls
Ntel: Life Is Full Of Possibilities
For Stars: We Are All Beautiful People
Phoenecia: Brownout

Best Live Record: Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong. Live Recordings.

Best Reissue: George Harrison: All Things Must Pass


Mark Eitzel: The Invisible Man
New Order: Get Ready
Low: Things We Lost In The Fire
Fridge: Happiness
Air: 10,000 Hz Legend
Built To Spill: Ancient Melodies Of The Future
A Silver Mt. Zion: Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward
Fugazi: Argument
Juno: A Future Lived In Past Tense

Happy New Year, ya'll.

(2:27 PM) :: (link)

:: 12.30.2001 ::

#01 //best of 200!

Red House Painters
Old Ramon
MP3: Michigan / Void

"I'm broken down. You caved my karma in."

Most of the music on my top-ten list this year has been not only very personal, but has taken me within its timeframe to a different place. Not that identifying with music is a necessity for it to be good, but the records I listen to most this year and those I seem to deem worthy of special attention have some sort of personal connection. I really liked that record by The Briefs, but after I popped it out of the truck CD player, it was gone and forgotten until I happened upon it in my CD collection at a later date. It's fun, but you won't find it on my top-ten list.

In the past year, the Pulp record had me travelling to England and seeing the lowlife from a distance, The Shins brought me to a dreampop world where the lyrics don't make much sense, but that makes them all the more beautiful. Radiohead's Amnesiac kept my head bobbing, and made me feel like I was one with hundreds of thousands of other people. Papa M brought me into his kitchen studio in Kentucky and let me listen to him play guitar.

Old Ramon is the long, long, long delayed but highly anticipated new album by San Francisco's Red House Painters. Here, producer/singer/songwriter/actor Mark Kozelek expertly displays snapshots of his life. I've been invited into his bedroom, shared a car ride with him, been confided in, and jammed endlessly on guitar with him. For me, what made this record so special was that I found its listening niche, that time where every note sounded perfect. Driving through Sonoma County in California every Wednesday, among the vineyards and forests and the gushing Russian River, right after lunch when my body was calm and decaffeinated, I'd put Old Ramon on and feel the better part of an hour radiantly wash away.

The opener, "Wop-a-din-din," is an ode to his cat, beautifully poignant and only silly if you stop and think about it. "Byrd Joel" rocks steadily and comes to a boiling point three-and-a-half minutes into it, with so much emotion packed in like a dam about to burst. Rolling along for 9+ minutes, perfect for a drive down my favorite stretch of Westside road where the cars disappear and trees become vineyards, "Void" makes me want to park the truck and wander into the fields. The crunchy, rollicking "Between Days" gets sung aloud when I'm driving next to the river, window down, watching the vacationers navigate the paths down to the beach.

During "Cruiser," Kozelek uses descriptions of his girlfriend to describe his experience in Los Angeles while filming for Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous. "So drive me down Sunset Boulevard, I'm feeling nice in your white car, playing Hanoi Rocks and Social D, my sweetest angel set me free" he sings, showing how L.A. not only freed him, but took a part of him as well. I can almost see the purple, smoggy skyline as the sun sets over the Hollywood hills. What little magic Los Angeles has to offer is conveyed here perfectly.

"Michigan" features a pedal-steel guitar line circling in and out of the mix, blending with the strummed acoustic guitar. "River" and "Smokey" describe vacations and dreamlike relationships burned into his brain, unforgettable moments he has shared. Touching and magical, Kozelek's reverb-laden voice becomes one with the ebowed guitar. "You're alive and good, St. John," he sings in "Golden," an homage to his childhood musical hero, John Denver. The closer, "Kavita" releases the pressure built up by the wispy, wandering guitar lines of the previous three songs. Stripped down, Kozelek again speaks volumes about himself by talking about someone else. The lazy drums and the vibrato-heavy guitar circle around and around as he sings "You're all I've got, it's true." Whether all he has is Los Angeles, his cat, a girlfriend, San Francisco, or his band, Kozelek seems to know he has it all.

As the CD ends, I let the sound of the wind rushing past the windows fill the truck. I wait a few minutes to let the feeling linger before I pop another album in. Up ahead is the sleepy river town over the bridge, smoke rising from far off chimneys. This is my afternoon's destination, the same as the Wednesday previous, and the Wednesday before that. The feeling of contentment and calm comes over me as I realize how resplendent a routine can be. A feeling imbedded in every chord of Old Ramon.

(4:22 PM) :: (link)

#02 //best of 200!

Capitol Records
MP3: I Might Be Wrong

There’s no doubt about it: the last year and a half have been all about Radiohead.

Personally, I like Amnesiac a tad more than its predecessor Kid A. Some of the songs rock out a bit more (“Dollars & Cents,” “I Might Be Wrong”), while others continue the experimentation seen in Kid A (“Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box,” “Like Spinning Plates”). But really, what’s not to love about a rock band who challenge their listeners, use record companies to their liking, play energetic and amazing live shows all around the world complete with re-vamped versions of their originals, and generally impress time and time again? Radiohead are the real deal. They tie together music, performance, art, social awareness, and the internet in a way that is mutually beneficial to themselves and to their fans. I can’t think of any other band who so thoroughly explore their own sound while paying homage to their influences.

Despite all the attempts by impersonators, nothing compares to what Radiohead do, and nothing ever will.

(1:24 PM) :: (link)