Monday, December 31, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of December 31, 2007

It's the last installment of 2007, so savor the flavor, my friends. All in all, it was a pretty good year. I've done some research, and there are already some highly anticipated releases on the Vox Acerbus radar for 2008.

1. The Long Road Out of Eden - The Eagles (2007)

I have always held the opinion that "Hotel California" is the worst song EVER (and that doesn't change), but for some unexplained reason, I found myself listening to this and even somewhat liking it. I am getting soft in my old age - I can't even keep up a good rail against the establishment anymore.

2. Until When We Are Ghosts - William Fitzsimmons (2005)

2007's Goodnight was so great, I had to go back and check out his debut. I'm glad I did. "Passion Play" is gorgeous, and is the single reason that 2008 becomes the year that I finally learn to play the guitar. Other highlights include "Shattered" (awesome intro) and "My Life Changed".

3. Tom Waits - The Black Rider (1993)

Holly Cole's Temptation album was a collection of Tom Waits songs, and I was floored by the beauty of "The Briar & The Rose". A conversation with my father revealed that he had The Black Rider, and I had to hear the original. Waits is definitely an acquired taste (or sound, as the case may be), but he's well worth the investment.

4. Winter Pays for Summer - Glen Phillips (2005)

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of the splendor of this album from the former front man of Toad the Wet Sprocket. "Clear Eyed", "True" and "Courage" are among the choice cuts, but the entire album is worthy of an hour of your time.

5. Time (The Revelator) - Gillian Welch (2001)

In addition to being a fine album through and through, this record features one of the most epic closing tracks ever - the 14:39 long "I Dream A Highway". Every time it starts, I wonder how long I'll get into it, and every time, I hear the closing notes.

I'm out-

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of Dec. 24, 2007

Great news, boys and girls! Even though I'm bitter and deserved a lump of coal for Xmas, Santa brought me a new iPod and $50 in iTunes gift certificates. So who cares if nobody is working this week - revel in my minstrelsy!

The creation of the Vox Acerbus Best of 2007 brought back some great albums from earlier in the year, before I started this feature, and all of the "best of" albums are back in high rotation.

1. Time on Earth - Crowded House (2007)

Sometimes a band reunites for all the wrong reasons and puts out a record that embarrasses them. Crowded House is not one those bands. This album sounds almost like it could have followed the eponymous offering of 1986, and proves that their long lapse between recordings was indeed a travesty.

2. Home Again, Home Again (EP) - Hem (2007)

Simply stated, I don't think there is band out there as diverse or that can craft a gorgeous melody as well as Hem. Even the short songs like "The Meeting Place" are epic in beauty.

3. Who You Are - Cary Brothers (2007)

These days, an association with Zach Braff is enough to make an album a hit, but Cary Brothers could certainly stand alone. In addition to the awesome cover of the Thompson Twins' "If You Were Here", other standouts include "The Glass Parade", the sonic moods of "Honesty" and "All The Rage", and the lush strings of "The Loneliest Girl in the World". A sad record that makes me happy.

4. Goodnight - William Fitzsimmons (2007)

The electronica of "Please Don't Go" is an anamoly as far as the album is concerned. The rest of Goodnight is acoustic, poetic, mournful, and surprisingly bright given some of the subject matter. The vocals rarely rise above a whisper, in a style similar to Iron & Wine, and Ingrid Michaelson offers some vocal assistance as well.

5. Some Mad Hope - Matt Nathanson (2007)

At first listen, "Wedding Dress" might be a choice for that special first dance at the wedding, but listen closely before you decide to use it. Other standouts include "All We Are" and "Still". While some of the more uptempo tracks suggest a rock or pop slant, the album's strengths are clearly in the slower acoustic numbers.

I'm out-

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spunkybean! A Zesty Pop Culture Stew

I have been asked to become a contributing writer for an exciting site called Spunkybean.

The site is new, but is already chock full o' fresh takes on all things pop culture. If you like music, TV, film, books, sports, rants, sarcasm, and witty repartee, then hit us up and check us out. Leave a comment - good or bad - and tell your friends (if you have any, that is.) If not, tell a stranger. He may thank you for it, or he might punch you in the mouth, but hey, that's what makes life exciting, right? Take a chance!

Go ahead - click the link. You know you want to, and really, who's gonna know?

I'm out-

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vox Acerbus Best of 2007

The premise: every year, I create a compilation CD of my favorite songs from that year.

First - I only include songs from albums that I bought throughout the year. I don’t cull the Internet looking for other lists or guides or anything like that. I simply sort my iTunes library by year and make a play list from it – simple as that.

Second – how did I arrive at an arbitrary number like 18? Aren’t most lists a Top 10 or Top 25? Well, yes, but I operate on the one disc rule – when the disc is full, the list stops.

That being said, here are my 18 best songs of 2007 in no particular order.

1. “Apartment Story” by The National, from Boxer
“stay inside our rosy minded fuzz”

Blissful ignorance is just one way to deal with a harsh reality.

2. “The Limit to Your Love” by Feist, from The Reminder
“I know that only I can save me”

This song, musically and lyrically, alternates between fear and hope, and I think fear wins out in the end.

3. “The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind” by Griffin House, from Flying Upside Down
“. . . I can take a punch, I don’t mind to bleed, as long as afterwards you feel bad for me . . .”

Everyone has a relationship they walked out on and ended up regretting it – a classic case of woeful retrospection.

4. “The Part Where You Let Go” by Hem, from Home Again, Home Again
“I still see you there, on your darkest night”

This song is about those dark moments where the ultimate questions of trust and devotion are asked and answered.

5. “Don’t Stop Now” by Crowded House, from Time on Earth
“Who knows what is right in front of us?”

How many times have you taken the long way around to find you just ended up where you started?

6. “Manhattan Moon” by Lucy Kaplansky, from Over the Hills
“While I’m singing you a lullaby, someone’s waking up on the other side”

Every parent has been questioned by their child about what happens to the moon when the day breaks. This is Lucy’s answer to her daughter.

7. “Car Crash” by Matt Nathanson, from Some Mad Hope
“. . . take me deep out past the lights, where nothing dims these stars”

Sometimes people become so numb and desperate that they’ll accept any type of feeling, even pain, to fill the emptiness.

8. “Stars & Satellites” by Minnie Driver, from Seastories
“If love is the answer you seek, you’re asking the wrong kinds of questions”

The answers are out there if you know where to look and who to ask.

9. “Burgundy Shoes” by Patty Griffin, from Children Running Through
“You’re the most pretty lady in the world . . .”

Think back to your earliest childhood memory where everything was still pure and innocent, before you became jaded and cynical (or is that just me . . .)

10. “Not My Friend” by Norah Jones, from Not Too Late
“You seem really glad that I am sad”

This song is about a refusal to forgive someone, and personally, I see no problem with that.

11. “All I Need” by Radiohead, from In Rainbows
“I only stick with you because there are no others”

At some point in a relationship, one will take the other for granted, and then the whole thing hinges on someone’s willingness (or reluctance) to be forsaken.

12. “Start A War” by The National, from Boxer
“Do you really think you can just put it in a safe behind a painting, lock it up, and leave?”

After much deliberation, I’ve concluded that this song is about the fact that pain and suffering always linger well beyond the finite ends offered by wills or judgments.

13. “Your Parents’ Living Room” by Shout Out Louds, from Our Ill Wills
“Where the attention comes from depends on how much I care”

A simple song of nostalgia versus present day, and wondering why it all can’t just be like it was before . . .

14. “Midnight Coward” by Stars, from In Our Bedroom After the War
“I can always trust as much as you deceive”

This is an ode to an evening’s optimistic uphill climb that leads to a pinnacle of a one-night stand, followed by the inevitable awkward descent the next morning.

15. “Lifeline” by Angels & Airwaves, from I-Empire
“I see panic in those eyes”

I think this guy is in denial, but who am I to shatter someone’s dream? Good luck to you, sir.

16. “Please Don’t Go” by William Fitzsimmons, from Goodnight
“. . . I don’t believe your protest, that you swear you didn’t know . . .”

This is a gut wrenching account of a little boy trying to dispel the simplest of reasons given for his father’s departure, because he’s too young to understand that his father just didn’t want anything to do him.

17. “Oxygen” by Colbie Caillat, from Coco
“and so I found a state of mind where I could be speechless”

Consequences be damned! She is telling it like it is, although I think she’s being a little pushy with the whole empty ring finger reference . . .

18. “If You Were Here” by Cary Brothers, from Who You Are
“If you were here, I could deceive you”

Who would have thought this 80’s synth classic from The Thompson Twins would translate so well into a folk version cover? Well, obviously, I do.

I'm out-

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of November 26, 2007

Finally, some newer releases worthy of note. The last couple of weeks have been pretty sparse.

1. Angels & Airwaves - I-Empire (2007)

I know that Angels & Airwaves should be everything I'm against, but they're not. In fact, I am an unjustifiably huge fan of this band. I hated Blink 182 and The Offspring, of which former members comprise half of A&A. I hate songs with a positive message. I hate jangly guitars. And yet, I listen. Highlights include "Lifeline" and "True Love".

2. Shout Out Louds - Our Ill Wills (2007)

Another iTunes chance-upon that paid off. Think The Cure's "The Head on the Door" recorded in 2007, and there you have it. I was all happy about the great lyric in "You Are Dreaming" where he sings "If you think that I'm still thinking of you, you're dreaming" until I listened further and determined it's more of a defiant denial than a declaration of independence. Farmer Ted said it best when he said "Do you know how many times a week I go without lunch because some bitch borrows my lunch money? Y'know, any halfway decent girl can rob me blind, because I'm too torqued up to say no." Yeah, something like that.

3. One Republic - Dreaming Out Loud (2007)

This one is actually on life support. I heard just enough the first time through to grant it clemency for another listen, but it's fading fast. I was drawn in by the Imogen Heap-esque intro to the opening track "Say Anything (All I Need)", but the rest fails to live up. At least the band's own version of "Apologize" is tolerable, unlike the Timbaland version. How do you seal the fate of a marginal-at-best pop song? Let a hip-hop artist remix it!

4. October Project - October Project (1993)

This album is simply ethereal. The synth-folk arrangements are lush and epic, and the vocals of Mary Gauthier are angelic. If this album was wine, it would be a pinot grigio - light, semi-sweet, and intoxicating.

5. 10,000 Maniacs - Our Time In Eden (1992)

The tracks "Eden" and "Jezebel" are two of the greatest pop songs I've heard. This album was their peak - a bold statement considering the greatness of 1987's "In My Tribe". I liked Natalie Merchant's solo work once she left the band, but I would have much prefered 3 more 10,000 Maniacs albums with her instead of the albums they made without her. They were a legitimately talented band, as chronicled on the MTV Unplugged live album from 1993.

I'm out-

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of November 19, 2007

This week's offering of despair contains a Vox Acerbus first - the inclusion of a podcast. I am so cutting edge, you get paper cuts while you read my blog.

1. The National - NPR Concert Podcast (2007)

If I can't get enough of this amazing band, then neither will you. I found this podcast on iTunes this morning, and it is a pleasant rememberance of the show I attended this fall. You can get the podcast here (if you have iTunes), and it's free. Nice.

2. Shawn Colvin - Cover Girl (1994)

I appreciate her songwriting talent more than anyone, but I also appreciate her interpretations of the music of others. The most notable here is the cover of Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)". Stripped down, it becomes one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

3. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero (2007)

It should come as no surprise that I find NIN to be quite soothing. My favorite track from this album is "In This Twilight". The words are sung in major key and sound quite bright, accompanied by the music that sounds like someone shoved a blade through your ear and is slowly scraping away the inside of your skull.

4. Tori Amos - Tales From A Librarian (2003)

The cool thing about this collection from Tori Amos is that it isn't just a compilation of singles. The songs were selected by Amos, not the label, and in almost all cases, they have been remixed or rerecorded. In most cases, the changes are so subtle that a casual listener wouldn't pick up on them, but trust me - they are there. I have always thought that "Winter" and "Silent All These Years" are gorgeous songs. The dance remix version of "Professional Widow" was a mistake, but the remainder of the album is well worth your while.

5. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin (2007)

Sad to say I missed their 2006 album "Everything All The Time", but not this year, dammit. The opening track, "Is There A Ghost?" sounds like it could open some early 80's anthem rock album before it evolves, and "No One's Gonna Love You" is one of the rare love songs I can get behind because it's written within the realm of reason instead of hollow impossibilities.

I'm out-

Monday, November 19, 2007

And The New Name Is . . . Vox Acerbus

I finally came up with something I consider not only accurate, but borderline clever.

Vox acerbus, loosely translated, is "bitter voice", and who's more bitter than me?

Now, I've been asked on more than one occasion, "why are you so damn bitter?". And the answer is quite simple: it's none of your damn business, and I'll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs.

Not really. I just like to say that. Although, technically, I wrote it, but if you want to argue semantics, then you can just take your ass down the road by clicking the "next blog" link at the top of this page.

Not really. But sometimes, you need to be taken down a notch and be told, straight out, that you are not the cat's ass like you think, and that's what I'm here for. Most of the time, I am right, and you are not.

Not really. But that goes without saying doesn't it? You want to be right? Then write your own blog. You want to be wrong? Then keep reading mine.

Not really. But you keep coming back, right? Why? I'll tell you. Because I am the vinegar in your sugary world. Remember my rant about the coloring books? It's true. Without a little sour, the sweetness becomes to much to bear.

Think of me as your own personal Col. Nathan Jessep. Because my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves boredom. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on this blog. You need me on this blog. And I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very blog that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you take up a blog, and write a post.


I'm out-

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of November 12, 2007

There wasn't much on the new release front this week (at least that I've heard yet) so I am going retro in this week's offering of pain and suffering. Hey - if you are depending on me for the freshest content, than you are just an idiot beyond explanation.

1. Dido - Life for Rent (2003)

I wasn't much on the "White Flag" single at first, but the title track is mesmerizing, and the creepy love song "Don't Leave Home" smacks of unhealthy co-dependency with such heartwarming lines like "So close the blinds and shut the door, you won't need other friends anymore" and "So you won't be leaving, will you?".

Yes, that was all one sentence.

2. Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach - Painted From Memory (1998)

How about lyrical gems like "but now I fill my life up with all that I can to deaden this sensation" from the song "This House is Empty Now"? Or "those eyes I tried to capture, they are lost to me now forever, they smile for someone else" from the title track?

Such sadness. Such misery. Such bliss. (Yep - a paradox. You had better recognize.)

3. Patty Larkin - Red = Luck (2003)

One of the more vivid folk albums I've heard. Lyrical imagery adds a visual aspect to the aural, and the result is amazing. Larkin sings "Inside your painting, I'm cadmium yellow, I'm walking across the green" on the track "Inside Your Painting", and I imagine a canvas. Uncanny. But you know I can't abide an album without lament, so I proffer the following from the song "Italian Shoes", where she crushes you with "You could tell me 'I love you', like that's supposed to mean something. I mean, I could always say 'I love you' too, and it wouldn't mean a thing to me."


4. Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003)

As if the idea of love as an illusion needed reinforcement, "Tiny Vessels" brings such pain as "this is the moment that you know, that you told her that you loved her but you don't" and "so one last touch and then you'll go, and we'll pretend that it meant something so much more".

The song "Title & Registration" takes an automobile-laden motif journey to the same conclusion: "there's no blame for how our love did slowly fade, and now that it's gone it's like it wasn't there at all, and here i rest where disappointment and regret collide".

5. The Cure - Disintegration (1989)

Aside from the fact that this is among the most essential albums of all-time, you must also remember that Robert Smith is the unprecedented Uber Moper. Nothing will cheer you up like the opening track "Plainsong" and this light-hearted line: "and it's so cold, it's like the cold if you were dead, and then you smiled for a second".

And I leave with you this from the song "Untitled" - "another time undone, hopelessly fighting the devil, futility, feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me, feeling him gnawing my heart away hungrily, i'll never lose this pain . . ."

And you thought YOU had it rough.

I'm out-

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of November 6, 2007

OK, so I've had some difficulty with the tunes in my cubicle lately. First, my trusty 3rd Gen 20GB iPod finally bought the farm after 3 1/2 years of daily and constant use. I get the "!" and the file folder on the main screen, and I spent about 2 hours trying everything that said to try, but to no avail. Maybe Santa will bring me a 160GB bad boy for Xmas, but sometimes I get into mischief, so I'm not banking on it.

So, I burned a few MP3 CD's and I run them through Windows Media Player on my laptop. Not very efficient, but better than the Lite Rock 99 WFMK crap from over the wall.

Then, my $20 Computer Associates speakers developed a short in the cable and now the left speaker cuts in and out unless I find the perfect position for the cable and anchor it down. Today it's draped over the phone and looped through a staple remover.

Next week I am going to hire Brian Vander Ark to play my cubicle. Hey - he played backyards and living rooms all summer, so why not a cubicle?

Through all of that adversity, I still have some pretty stellar tunes to report.

1. Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)

In a word - brilliant. I am entranced by "All I Need", and "House of Cards" and "Videotape" are sonic hypnotism.

2. The National - Alligator (2005)

No - I can't let go of The National. This is a different album than this year's "Boxer" that I've been forcing on you recently, but it's just as good. Highlights include "Baby, We'll Be Fine" with the charming lamentation of "I'm so sorry for everything" in the refrain, and "All The Wine", with the matter of fact assertion that "All the wine is all for me".

3. Griffin House - Flying Upside Down (2007)

This was an iTunes impulse buy. I'm glad I'm impulsive. Lyrics are critical, and House had enough lines in the 30 second samples to reel me in, including "I can take a punch and I don't mind to bleed, as long as afterwards you feel bad for me" from the cleverly titled "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind" and "She's out of my league, and that's the kind of girl I need" from the song "Let Me In".

I'm out-

Friday, October 12, 2007

Name This Blog

I have changed the name of this thing many, many times, and I am still not happy with it.

It must be a term that will become synonymous with the site. People at the coffee pot in the office will say "Did you read X last night?", and others will know what they are talking about. It must be a blend of cynicism and sarcasm, because contrary to Ferris Bueller, "isms" in my opinion ARE good. It must be profound and prophetic, rooted in melancholy but capable of a sheepish grin. Above all, it must not mention or give credence to clowns.

It must be a paradox. I love paradoxes. I find them whimsical.

In the coming weeks and months, the posts will become more detailed and touch on an expanded range of topics. So far, the posts are all quickly written in a matter of minutes and posted immediately when they are done. The posts I have been writing at length will soon see the light of day, including a chapter from the book idea I've been knocking around for a year or so. It's a middle chapter, because I don't know how it will start or end. I'm just writing from the center and seeing where I end up.

So, with all that being said, I propose that you, the reader, offer up suggestions to give this page a right and proper moniker. Leave a comment with a few ideas, and we'll see if we can't give this page an identity. A name has eluded me, and opening the page is like a backhand to my ego. A virtual bitch slap, if you will.

Ponder that.

I'm out-

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of October 8, 2007

Here are the sounds wafting from my cubicle for the week of October 8, 2007.

1. Colbie Caillat – Coco (2007)

I am a little tardy on this one (it was released in July), but better late than never. I really like this album. I compare her to Mindy Smith – a soft and pretty voice, good lyrics, and a pop-folk sound. I am transfixed by “Battle”, and I love the lament of “Midnight Bottle”.

2. Minnie Driver – Seastories (2007)

I assure you that this album is not the pointless over-produced drivel of another movie star actress. Driver is the real deal and delivers a stellar folk-pop record. The opening track, “Stars & Satellites”, is the standout here, and features one of my favorite lyrics of the year so far: “If love is the answer you seek, you’re asking the wrong kinds of questions.” Great stuff.

3. Kathleen Edwards – Failer (2003)

I stumbled across this album one day while digging through the used CD’s at Elderly Instruments here in Lansing. I didn’t know anything about her then, but I am a huge fan now. The songs span a range of folk, pop, alt-country, and rock, and there is some really innovative sound experimentation as well. The droning feedback strings at the end of “Sweet Little Duck” are very cool.

4. Kings of Convenience – Riot on an Empty Street (2004)

Kings of Convenience are the Simon & Garfunkel for the 21st century. It’s an album of melancholic acoustic pop. The opener, “Homesick” is gorgeous. “I’d Rather Dance With You” features a brutally honest statement (“I’d rather dance with you than talk with you”), but the standout here is the album closing “The Build Up”, a duet with Canadian pop star Feist, who is now well-known for her song “1,2,3,4” that is featured in the current ad campaign for the video iPod Nano.

5. Leonard Cohen – The Essential Leonard Cohen (2002)

This is a collection that spans the range of his entire career (1967 to 2001), and while the style may have changed over those 30+ years, he remains a poet and prophet who takes the most difficult subjects and breaks them down into the simplest and most miserable form. An icon for folk and pop music alike, and no collection is complete without it.

I'm out-

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Concert Review - The National @ Madison Theater, Covington, KY

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I have been entranced by The National since I bought the Boxer album a few month ago.

On the album, the songs are powerful but controlled, constantly rising and falling but never exceeding their aural capacity. In concert, it was amazing to hear the songs become so intense and be presented on an entirely different level.

I had an uptempo number like "Squalor Victoria" or "Brainy" pegged for the opener, but was surprised with the opening chords of "Start A War". Surprised, but surely not disappointed. It didn't take long for the song to take on its concert persona and test the limits of the room. Apparently, the walls of the Madison Theater weren't up to the task, as lead singer Matt Berninger commented that he couldn't tell if he was singing in time with the drummer or the echo coming from the back wall.

For me, the highlight of the show was "Baby,We'll Be Fine" from the Alligator album, with Berninger screaming the chorus (in perfect pitch) "I'm so sorry for everything" with raw angst as the band built to a fever pitch behind him. It was the perfect example of the great difference between the studio and the stage, and how both versions could be equally appreciated.

Here is the set list:

Start A War
Mistaken For Strangers
Secret Meeting
Baby, We'll Be Fine
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
All the Wine
Racing Like A Pro
Apartment Story
Daughters of the Soho Riots
Fake Empire
About Today
Green Gloves
Mr. November

Here is a photo of the show, courtesy of user chrisglass of

And finally, here is a clip from the show I found on You Tube - check them out playing "Apartment Story" from the Boxer album. The sound isn't great, but it's still pretty cool.

I'm out-

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of October 1, 2007

There have been no cubicle tunes posts in recent weeks. That is because I haven't been in my cubicle in recent weeks. Stands to reason, yes?

Now I'm back, and here is the solid gold that is eminating from my iPod this week.

1. Joni Mitchell - Shine (2007)

I didn't even know this album was coming out, but I found it on iTunes and it is amazing. It has more of a sonic new age feel than her previous work, especially the title track. The remake of "Big Yellow Taxi" is disappointing and out of place, but the remainder of the album is pure bliss.

2. Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War (2007)

Another iTunes experiment that paid off. A great pop record with melancholy sprinkled throughout, especially the somewhat wrenching tale of a personal ad gone wrong in "Personal" or the emotional toll of a one-night stand in "Midnight Coward". I regret not going to see them last month when they played at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

3. Holly Williams - The Ones We Never Knew (2004)

A very sullen and intimate collection of painful songs about human introspection and vulnerability. It's ballad heavy, but the instrumentation is unique and creates a different mood for each song. An absolutely brilliant album worthy of your time and attention.

4. The National - Boxer (2007)

Yes, this album is featured prominently in this series, but that should tell you something. The album has some songs with semi-tempo, but most of it is a slow burn that you keep waiting to explode but never does. Filled with such anti-emotion as "You might need me more than you think you will" and "Do you really think you can put it in a safe behind a painting, lock it up, and leave?", there's plenty of blame and prophecy to go around. It's getting late in the year, and this is my front runner for best album of 2007.

5. Damien Rice - O (2003)

It is only fitting that a painful song like "The Blower's Daughter" would play in the opening scene of the film Closer. Closer evokes a pretty strong emotional response if you've been in that situation, and the song speaks to the throwaway nature of modern relationships. The string arrangements are gorgeous, and the epic "Eskimo" is a folk-opera in itself.

I'm out-


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lyric of the Week - September 24, 2008

It's no secret that I dwell on the melancholy side of music. I find sad songs comforting and real.

One of my favorites is "Solace" by a-ha, from the 2002 album Lifelines.

The true beauty of the song is its utter simplicity. There are no metaphors or underlying notions. The tone is simply this: life is sad, and it is so for everyone. Hope is fleeting, and happiness is an illusion.

Regrets are the real basis of life. Nobody admits to having them, but the truth is, people aren't guided by plans or goals, but by the mistakes they've made and their fear of repeating them.

"Cold stars of the future burn bright in the past,
These moments of solace, they won't last,
They don't last."

People don't live life - they avoid it.

"Your wasting the moment, biding your time,
No one got ahead standing in line"

And finally, the fool's hope that someday it will all be better.

"You're hoping for solace,
Well, just look around,
Everyone here is standing in line."

I'm in line, probably all the way at the back, and I'm guessing you are too.

I'm out-


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lyric of the Week - August 27, 2007

I am also going to move the lyric of the week from the sidebar list into an actual post. Again, it affords an opportunity for you, the reader, to get some insight into why a lyric grabbed my attention. Maybe it will even shed some light on why I am so damn bitter all the time.

This week's emotional beatdown comes courtesy of Canadian folkie Sarah Harmer, from her song "Greeting Card Aisle", featured on the album All Of Our Names (2004). Apparently, our hero has called her, literally, from a greeting card aisle, and offered some store-bought sentiment/apology for his supposed crimes. Suffice it to say, it backfired.

She responds to one of his Hallmark nicknames with the following:

"Well, this Light of Your Life has drawn the blind."

and then, to kick him whilst he's down, she adds:

"The wind from the river will swirl like a scream and wrap itself around you,
There may be a friend somewhere down the road, but from here you have to walk it out alone"

Oh snap.

Not only does he get dumped, he gets a pox placed upon him and ostracized at the same time. I don't really feel that summoning the elements to increase the suffering was warranted, but hey - it's their journey.

The artist and the album

A greeting card aisle, site of the alleged insincerity

I'm out -


Monday, August 27, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of August 27, 2007

I am trying something new with the cubicle tunes list this week. This used to be over on the right side column as a "quick-hitter" type of list. There was no room to explain why a particular album, especially an older one, was getting played. Maybe you're interested, maybe you're not, but I think it relevant.

1. Faithlift - Spirit of the West (1994)

Spirit of the West is a folk-rock band from Canada. I was driving around Detroit and listening to a radio station called The River, and I was shocked (and pleased) to hear "And If Venice is Sinking". I hadn't heard SOTW in a long time, and I quickly loaded the 4 albums I have onto the iPod.

2. Home Again, Home Again (EP) - Hem (2007)

Anyone who reads this with any regularity knows that Hem is one of my favorite bands. "The Part Where You Let Go" is another beautiful Hem track, and is used in the current ad campaign for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

3. St. Vincent - Marry Me (2007)

St. Vincent is multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark. I think of her as a folk version of Kate Bush. I wanted to hear her music because she is opening for The National on their current US tour, and I am seeing them in Cincinnati (well, Covington, KY anyway) on September 23.

4. Brian Vander Ark - Live At Eddie's Attic (2006)

Brian performs with pianist Randy Sly on this outstanding live recording. I saw the pair at the Kraftbrau Brewery in Kalamazoo back in June, and this album is a nice reminder of how great that show was. I've been working on a post about that show for a couple of months now, and I need to get it finished.

5. Shawn Colvin - Fat City (1992)

As you've read before, I never go long between listenings of Colvin's body of work. "Orion in the Sky" is one my all time favorite songs. This album also features the gorgeous and emotionally wrenching "Monopoly". If you knew falling in love would ever do that to you, you'd never do it.

I'm out-


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Comcast Sucks Ass

Comcast is the suckiest company ever.

These bastards owe me a credit of $190, and they've owed it since April of 2006. And now, they say it's been so long, they don't have records that far back.


So now, I will use my blog to openly mock and ridicule them until they get their shit together. How ironic - I use the service they provide to take them down a notch. Kind of like making them eat their own poop. Or, kind of like beating a clown with his own big ass shoe (see, I wasn't kidding in that earlier post, was I?)

Back in June, 2005, I moved into an apartment and transferred service from my previous address. Then they overcharged me $15 a month for 10 months (until April, 2006), at which time I caught on to their shenanigans and called them out on it. To date, not dime one has been credited. So that's the first $150, but it gets better.

I am a pretty patient guy, so I only called them every few months to find out why I hadn't seen the ducats yet. Each time I was told it was "in the notes" and would be processed. And then one day, I come home to find my service disconnected. Apparently, the "notes" people don't get along with the "disconnect" people over there. It was probably because the "notes" people cracked on the "disconnects" mama by calling her a stank ass ho, but that's neither here nor there. I don't care if someone's mama is ho'in' - all I know is I can't watch Wheel of Fortune. Not only that, being $190 in the red, I can't even buy the vowels I need to solve the puzzle "C_mc_st S_cks _ss". Anyway, I called to bitch and they restored the service, but still didn't issue the credit.

And now, the service disconnection has become a monthly ritual. Every month, around the 22nd or so, they shut my service off. And every month, I call and waste 45 minutes chewing some $7/hour punk's ass. Until last month, when I was finally able to talk to a MANAGER. Finally, I thought, some resolution. He goes through my history and tells me the reasons my bills are always high is because I was charged for the "throw ins" I'd been offered whenever I'd threatened to cancel. So apparently, a peace offering at Comcast means charge people for services they never even asked for! So, he summons the managerial power granted to him by Comcast On High and throws me a bone - a $40 "instant credit" to get my service restored - and PRESTO, my service comes back on immediately.

So, today . . . . my service is disconnected again! So I look at my bill. Not only is the $150 credit not there, but neither is the $40 "instant credit". So I pop a Midol (this call occurs monthly now, like a period, so I thought it might take the edge off before I dialed the phone) and dial 1-800-COMCAST. Actually, I didn't dial it. It's on speed dial.

And now I know - the credit hasn't been issued because the "notes" don't go that far back on the system! (Oddly enough, they can still see that pay-per-view porn movie I "accidentally" ordered back in 2002 - go figure.) If I want that credit, I'm told, I have to go to my local Comcast office and "help them find it in the archives". Never mind that NO ONE I have ever talked to has been in my local office. If this information was on a sidewalk on a cold winter's morning, it would be steaming.

So I pay my bill (minus $190, of course, so they can shut me off again next month) to buy some time until I get back to town to visit the local office to do some prospectin' in the archives. But first, I am going to have some Taco Bell and a 6-pack of Pabst. And a Midol - goes without saying, doesn't it? And then, when I get there, I am going to ask to use the rest room. You mess with the bull, you get the horns. They can't find my credit, but I'll bet they know where the plunger is.

Here's the kicker - when I asked why the credit wasn't issued in the first place, I was told that a phone rep probably entered the note but that a manager never "approved" the transaction. So, a Comcast rep can offer the sun, moon, stars, and a night with the "disconnects" mama at a rate substantially below street value, but if the supervisor doesn't approve it later, it just disappears (cue "Dust In The Wind") like it never happened.

So, if they can't produce it, I am paying my next bill in person - with a sock full of quarters. Stay tuned . . .

I'm out-


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Coloring Books

I color in coloring books, and most times I stay all the way inside the lines, but sometimes I go outside the lines, and you know what? I don't apologize for it. Not now. Not ever.

Who gives the coloring book publisher the right to tell me what parts of the page need to be filled in? Your bold black lines can't limit the vision and scope of my imagination. Your sketch is merely a suggestion, and my $0.99 purchase price gives me the inherent if not full legal right to complete the scene as I see fit. What if I want to add busted liquor bottles and spent jimmies to a street scene to represent rampant urban blight and decay? Life isn't always kites and rainbows and flowers. Sometimes, life is busted liquor bottles and spent jimmies.

And you know who else thinks they hold the patent on colorful creativity? Those asshole "color by number" publishers, that's who. Not only do I have to stay in their lines, but I have to color it the way they want it colored? Well, color me "pissed". If the leaves on the tree are marked with a "2" and the guide says "2" is green, but I feel the essence of the drawing is more autumn and I want to use red, orange and yellow, well then sir, I will see you in court.

You can't copyright me.

I'm out-


Monday, August 6, 2007

Fruit at the Bottom, Anger on Top

I enjoy a good yogurt. All kinds, all flavors. It’s nutritious and delicious. And it’s convenient. No preparation necessary. Open the lid, and you are spoon deep in velvety fruit goodness, unless your container is marked fruit-at-the-bottom.

Fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt is an unfinished product. They put the fruit in, they put the yogurt in, and then they quit. Why should I, the consumer, the end-user, have to blend the fruit-at-the-bottom into the rest of the yogurt? Why can’t it be fruit-at-the-top? Then, when I open it, I won’t have to see multiple layers of laziness. I won’t have to throw up a little in my mouth when I see the watery milky slime on the top. I won’t have to question whether I’ve adequately prepared the yogurt after I stir it for 5 minutes and it’s still white. Shouldn’t strawberry yogurt turn pink? Blueberry blue?

I buy yogurt because I DON’T want to make it. In this day and age of highly mechanized food preparation, they can’t mix it up even just a little? The fruit shouldn’t be at the bottom, or the top, or in the middle. It should be “fruit throughout”, and they should put it there – not me. Modern science allows microwavable meals, with MEAT in them, that require NO freezing or refrigeration, and yet I have to imagine my spoon as a little tiny boat oar so I can row myself to my culinary destination? I think not.

I will no longer support this half-ass dairy product.

I’m out –


Saturday, July 28, 2007


I seriously despise clowns. It's not coulrophobia (the official term for fear of clowns), because they don't scare me, and I didn't have a traumatic clown episode as a child. I think they are sinister, have alterior motives, and are hiding behind the wig and makeup and silly clothes, not to mention the shoes. Why do all clowns think that big ass feet are funny? It WOULD be funny, however, if I was giving a clown a beatdown with one of his own big ass shoes (which is on my list of things to do before I die, BTW).

This is what should happen to all clowns.

I'm out-


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Little League Baseball

A short while ago I shot some video of my son Alex playing baseball for his team, Dewitt Grey. He has played 6 games in the last 2 weeks, so that should explain the lack of posting on my part lately. They are 6-0 and Alex is having a pretty decent year at the plate.

Here are a few video clips from his game on June 11, 2007. Bear in mind that I shot these with the video function on my not-so-expensive digital camera, but they still turned out OK.

At bat #1 - Alex lines a base hit to right field

At bat #2 - First pitch base hit

At bat #3 - Alex walks, then scores from first on the next hitter's RBI double

I'm out-


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cubicle Tunes - Week of May 28, 2007

A word about this week's cubicle tunes . . .

I know Brian Vander Ark has been featured already, but I have him in the rotation this week because I am going to see him again on June 2 at the Kraftbrau Brewery in Kalamazoo. I saw him April 5 at the Magic Bag in Ferndale and it was a phenomenal show. Besides, they are tremendous albums and quite worthy of frequent listening anyway.

Admittedly, I never gave much thought to Stephen Stills until I found out he was a primary influence on Ray LaMontagne. I'm glad I went back and found some of his stuff, because it really is great.

I remain completely blown away by the beauty and brilliance of the song "Hymn" by Duncan Sheik, but the White Limousine album as a whole is also worthy of note.

I never go too long without some Shawn Colvin. Nobody should. Whole New You was the album that opened up the whole folk/singer-songwriter genre for me, so the album holds a special place for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Concert Review - Patty Griffin @ Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI

Friday, April 27, 2007 @ Calvin College Fine Arts Center, 9 PM

Contemporary folk artist/singer-songwriter Patty Griffin is a paradox. Petite woman, booming pipes. Smartly attired in a pretty dress and high heeled shoes, but able to stomp around the stage when the tempo carries her away. Angelic voice behind a piano on a softly sung ballad, then commanding the concert hall without a microphone.

One thing I love about her music is that, despite its tremendous beauty, the songs are actually quite melancholy. (Hey! Another paradox!) I love melancholy. Her lyrics paint a very sad picture, and I love a miserable song.

As expected, the set was dominated by songs from her latest album, Children Running Through, highlighted by a stunning rendition of "Burgundy Shoes". Other new album standouts included "No Bad News", featuring guitarist Doug Lancio on the five-gallon plastic bucket, and very spirited performance of "Getting Ready", one of the album's few up tempo numbers.

The set also drew heavily from 2004's Impossible Dream, including the gorgeous ballads "Kite", "Useless Desires", and "When It Don't Come Easy".

Her band was outstanding and, despite a stage appearance of sparse instrumentation, their versatility provided more than enough support. The horn arrangements present on the albums were filled in sonically through Lancio's wizardry, and the cello of Bryn Davies added a moody layer to the ballads. Griffin moved effortlessly between the piano and her guitars.

Griffin has a voice that translates into the mood of the song she is singing. It was playful during the almost spoken "Stay on the Ride", growled during "Getting Ready", and lifted softly during "Burgundy Shoes". Although her voice is powerful, she used it sparingly and perfectly, only letting it go when the song called for it. For her, the voice is an element of the songs as a whole, and not just a crutch to rely on or use to cover for an otherwise average song.

I anxiously await the opportunity to see this remarkable musician perform again.

Below are some pictures from the show, courtesy of

I'm out-

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Notes On The Current Listening for April 30, 2007

This week's current listening is the entire body of work by contemporary folk artist Patty Griffin. I was in the crowd at her AMAZING concert last Friday night (April 27) at the Calvin College Fine Arts Center.

Hearing her live made me want to go back and revisit her earlier stuff, and her entire catalogue has been on a repeated playlist on my iPod since the show.

I will post a review of the show itself in the coming days, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and discover some of her absolutely brilliant music on your own.

I'm out -

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Blog Formerly Known As Blog This!

Welcome to All Things Meaningless, the new home and new name of the blog formerly known as Blog This!. My brother is retiring the websites from his domain (, because we weren't doing anything more over there than we can do on a free site like this one. I say that like I had anything to do with it. He sent me an e-mail with a link to this site and pretty much said "here's your new blog site".

Well. There it is.

The old site,, will remain up for a while as I move content from there into the archives here and people get used to the new address. Yes, people actually read this. You're reading it right now. Dumbass.

It will take me some time to get use to the features and possibilities of this site, so bear with me. Soon I will be ranting, waxing, lamenting, and spewing like always.

I'm out -