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-