Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cubicle Tunes - Week of January 29, 2008

Remember “The Jerk”, when Steve Martin goes crazy about the new phone books? Well, it’s like that in the Vox Acerbus Cubicle Tunes feature this week, because the new Brian Vander Ark album is here! The new Brian Vander Ark album is here!

(Deep breath)

(Deep breath)

Like Mr. Miyagi told the Karate Kid – breathe in through nose, breathe out through mouth. Show me “sanding floor”!

Now that pulmonary function has been restored, there are 2 other notable releases this week as well, including one by renowned vocalist Sarah Brightman. 2008 is shaping up to be a very good year.

1. Brian Vander Ark – Brian Vander Ark (2008)

The Verve Pipe emeritus returns with his third album and the third time is indeed a charm. “And Then We Fell” has been a favorite since he opened the show with it at the Magic Bag in Ferndale last April, and “Lily White Way” is a perfect suburban lament.

I had the opportunity to interview Brian about the record for my review that will be posted over at Spunkybean when the new site goes live February 4, so be sure to check it out.

2. Symphony – Sarah Brightman (2008)

After her experimentation with world music on her last album Harem (2003), Brightman returns with a broader collection of pop/opera crossover material reminiscent of La Luna (2000) and Eden (1999). Brightman’s voice shines again, with the horrid exception of the misguided duet “I Will Be with You (Where the Lost Ones Go)” with, I kid you not, Paul Stanley of KISS. Yes – it’s as abhorrent as you would imagine.

3. Charmed & Strange – Yoav (2008)

This very innovative folk/dance/world/ambient album has captured my attention. When is a guitar not a guitar? It’s quite the sonic conundrum. In the words of Morpheus – free your mind.

4. A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea – Tyler Ramsey (2008)

A holdover from the last installment, this record still gets frequent air time in the cubicle, the car, at home, on the can, etc. Check out my review of said record over at Spunkybean.

5. Under the Iron Sea – Keane (2006)

I’ve owned this since it was released, but never really gave it due credence until recently, when “Is It Any Wonder?” was played during a lunch at Olga’s and reminded me that I never listened to it. Peasant soup and Keane – a formidable combination, to be certain. This one is more synth heavy than the piano-laden Hopes & Fears (2004), and the end result is an edgier record worthy of a listen.

I’m out-

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cubicle Tunes - Week of January 15, 2008

It really is amazing how much better it is to have your entire collection at your disposal in your cubicle. Until recently, I had 1/3 of my music available, and I was about as diligent in changing the the songs as I am about writing in this blog, so do the math. Now, I'm like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, acting like JoJo the Idiot Circus Boy, playing with my new pet. My iPod is naughty!

Dig on these:

1. A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea - Tyler Ramsey (2008)

In a word - amazing. The amalgamation of sonic ambience and folk is fast becoming one of my favorite genres, and the combination here is groundbreaking. Look for an extensive review over at the Bean very soon. 9 tracks are featured on the media player at the bottom of this page.

2. Tiny Cities - Sun Kil Moon (2005)

Mark Kozalek has a history of recording stunning covers, slowing them down and stripping them bare into vehicles for his own (as well as the listener's) forlorn introspection. Here, he uses that formula on an entire album of Modest Mouse covers. "Ocean Breathes Salty" has never sounded better.

3. Some Devil - Dave Matthews (2003)

Funny story - this one got lost in my iTunes library because it was marked as a "compilation", and I never looked in the "compilation" folder. OK - it wasn't funny at all. It was sad. Big ass iPod - the gift that keeps on giving! "Stay or Leave" is gorgeous, and "Gravedigger" is just cool in every sense of the word.

4. Demolition - Ryan Adams (2002)

My favorite track here is the one that strays the farthest from the rest of the album. "Jesus (Don't Touch My Baby)" is sonic and heavy. The more acoustic "Dear Chicago" and "Tomorrow" are other standouts.

5. Lost & Gone Forever - Guster (1999)

Guster is a long time favorite of Vox Acerbus, which goes against principle, because they aren't bitter at all. Some favorites include "Either Way", "Center of Attention", and "Two Points for Honesty". They are working on new stuff, so there may be a new Guster album on the horizon.

I'm out-

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Brian Vander Ark Album

Anyone who has been reading this thing over the past couple of years knows that I am an uber fan of Brian Vander Ark.

He spent the summer and fall on the Lawn Chairs and Living Rooms tour, where he visited the homes of his fans to play intimate sets of songs that they selected, to finance this new self-titled album that is now available for pre-order.

Brian was gracious enough to spend a few minutes talking to me before and after a few shows this past fall, so I am quite happy to post the banner below in the hopes that a few more fans buy the record and/or discover his music.

Also, be sure to check out his MySpace page to hear a couple of the new songs and, more importantly, check the tour dates, because you don't want miss him if he's in your neighborhood.

I'm out-

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Cubicle Tunes - Week of January 8, 2008

I am pleased to announce that with the new Xmas iPod and this week’s addition of a recycled set of Boston Acoustic BA745 speakers, music is at an all-time premium here in the box.

This week’s set is a little different. Usually, I wait until the album is out and the music is obtainable, but this stuff is soooooooo choice, you need to hear it now.

1. “Lily White Way” and “I Went With the Road” – Brian VanderArk (2008)

The self-titled new album is “in the can”, as they say, and 2 of the songs are now available for listening here. I pre-ordered the album at his show at The Photography Room in December, and should have it any day now. Look for this to be featured again in the coming weeks.

2. "The Silence Between Us" – Bob Mould (2008)

Hear it here. Mould, formerly of Husker Du and Sugar, releases The District Line on February 5. While you’re there, check out “High Fidelity” from the Body of Song album as well. In a word – wow.

3. Some People Have Real Problems – Sia (2008)

This one, to me, is a poppier, less folky/indie version of Feist (not that I would ever label anything), and honestly, the jury is still out on this one. Check out Randall's Spunkybean review here.

4. Richard Butler – Richard Butler (2006)

I always find myself coming back to this surrealistic album by the vocalist of the Psychedelic Furs. It’s so “out there” that I really can’t figure most of it out, and I dig that, man.

5. The Dream Academy – The Dream Academy (1985)

While compiling the cover songs for the Spunkybean article, I revisited this record, which I’ve always considered one of the preeminent synthpop albums ever released. In addition to the wonderous Nick Drake euology, “Life In A Northern Town”, the song “The Edge of Forever” is outstanding, and "In Places on the Run" is one of the most beautiful songs I know.

I'm out-

Monday, January 7, 2008

You Know What You Did . . .

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a good rant.

Below is a list of people who have been getting my goat lately. (You know, as far as figures of speech go, this one’s pretty inaccurate, at least as it applies to me. I don’t want a goat, so if I had one, and someone came and got it, I would actually be quite pleased.)

Without further ado:

1. People in line at the coffee shop. You know what? They already have a menu, and you don’t need to stand there and create a ½ this, ¼ that, double this, triple that so everyone can see the exacting standards you live your life under. If you don’t like the menu, go somewhere else. When they put a drink called Pompous Assuccino on the menu, then you can order whatever you want. Until then, order any one of the other thirty menu offerings and quietly step aside.

2. People at a four-way stop intersection. It never fails. When I have the right-of-way, everyone else tries to go. And when I don’t have it, we all sit there and admire each other’s cars. So, as a public service, I am going to spell this out in simple chapter and verse. At a four-way stop intersection, yield to the driver on the right if you reach the intersection at the same time as another vehicle, and yield to any vehicle that reaches the intersection before you. There it is. Now you can get through that intersection quicker and get back to what's really important - that text message you were writing before you had to stop.

3. People with Bluetooth earpieces. I can appreciate the usefulness of Bluetooth technology. It increases productivity in the business community, and it increases traffic safety for those who insist on using their cell phone while driving. However, I don’t think it offers much at the movie theater on Friday night. Honestly – if you are so vitally important to the function of society that you can’t leave it in the car for a couple of hours, then maybe you shouldn’t be at the movies. I guess it helps when ordering a Pompous Assuccino, though, because the two seem to go hand-in-hand.

4. People who won’t pay at the pump. Face it – gas is liquid gold and you can’t buy it anymore without paying up front. On occasion, I like to get a cup of coffee after I fill the tank, and nothing makes me happier than standing there and waiting while you explain to the cashier that you gave the OTHER cashier a $20 bill to pre-pay on pump #4, but you only pumped $18.74, and now you need your $1.26 in change, and now that you’ve seen me and my steaming cup of coffee, it looks really good to you, so you take the $1.26 and get yourself a cup of coffee, and get in line AGAIN to piss off someone else. It’s a vicious cycle, and like Erasure said, it doesn’t have to be like that. A simple debit card will, in all likelihood, save you from a well-deserved beating somewhere down the road.

5. People with $54.90 in returnable bottles/cans. Really – I love standing behind you with my 30 cans while you pump your 549 through the machine. And since you only rinsed out six of them, I also enjoy walking through the sticky remainder that is oozing out of the two black lawn & leaf size bags in your cart. I also love eavesdropping on your Bluetooth cell phone conversation, which is apparently more important than recycling, as evidenced by the dramatic pause of you holding the can to the point where it’s actually inside the machine, but not letting it go until it’s your turn to talk again.

6. People who empty the communal coffee pot and sneak away. My new(er) job prevents me from doing this, but back in my days at the trash hauling company, whenever I would find an empty coffee pot, I would take it and walk around the building with it until I found someone with a full cup, and then I would hand it to them and thank them for not making any coffee. It worked every time. I have more respect for the guy who walks in, sees an ALMOST empty pot, sets his empty cup down next to the pot, as if to say “Make me some coffee, bitch!” and then comes back later. However, karma steps in, and when I see that cup in the holding pattern, I empty the pot and sneak away.

7. U-SCAN checkouts. I was in a Meijer store recently (yes, I name them by name) that I hadn’t been to in quite some time. When I went to check out, EVERY lane was a U-SCAN lane. I had produce, man – nobody needs that kind of pressure. I put the onion on the scale, and I punched all the buttons to get me to the onion screen. I didn’t know if the onion I grabbed was a sweet onion, a cooking onion, or if it was small, medium, or large, and apparently, that’s key information. So I went with medium cooking onion, all the while waiting for the U-SCAN Overlord to walk over and tell me it was indeed a large sweet onion and that I was being detained until security could come back and ask me a few questions. My question to them, in between blows, would be “How come I have to look at 15 pictures of onions and make a judgment call that you obviously aren’t happy with when there is a sticker on this one with a four digit code on it?”

In any event, don’t be that guy.

I’m out-

Saturday, January 5, 2008

William Fitzsimmons

It has been a very long time since an artist captured my attention and admiration like William Fitzsimmons.

His 24 songs in my iTunes library are making the other 15,498 very jealous. In fact, the last time I synced my iPod, three songs were MISSING, so I'm pretty sure I've got mutiny on my hands.

I implore you to take a moment, check out his site, and give him a listen. Just click the banner below. See, I've already done all the work for you - you have no excuse!

I swear - I carry you people like luggage.

I'm out-

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bowl O' Beans - Cover Songs

Check out my recent article over at Spunkybean, where I wax philosophic about my favorite cover songs.

I'm out-

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bitter Resolutions - 2008

I have never been big on New Year's Resolutions. However, since today is New Year's Day, why the hell not?

Won't it be a laugh riot to see if I succeed or fail (and subsequently praised or ridiculed) in a semi-public forum?

Since I'm a pessimist, I will call this list "Seal My Fate in 2008". How you like them apples?

1. Weight Loss

Ah yes, the time honored tradition of resolving to quit being a fatass. But, since I have a gym membership at a nice gym called Go Workout, and I can see the back door of the gym from my house, I really have no excuse. I've actually had a good deal of success with this before, so once I get it going, it shouldn't be big deal. And, in the interest of public mockery, results will be posted. One of my heroes, author Mike Magnuson, said his motivation was getting naked and riding a bike on the cover of a national magazine. I don't have a national magazine - I have a blog.

Resolution #1 - lose weight and, more importantly, lower body fat percentage. More specific information to follow . . .

2. Soda

I drink a lot of soda, and it ain't the diet version - Mountain Dew in all it's sugary strength and splendor. I really don't like diet soda, so that is not a viable alternative. So, I am cutting it off at the source. Don't buy it - don't drink - don't miss it. Easiest thing in the world.

Resolution #2 = no soda pop for 90 days. (Let's not get stupid, now. A whole year? Please.)

3. Health

I have a few medical maladies. If I disclose my own maladies, do I violate HIPAA? While the Vox Acerbus staff of lawyers is working on that sticky wicket, I'll just stick with a goal of achieving better living through pharmaceuticals!

Resolution #3 - take medications "as instructed" versus "when remembered".

4. Financials

I piss away a lot of money, and since I work in the public sector, I don't make a lot of money to begin with. There's the rub.

Resolution #4 - a 90 day moratorium on discretionary spending while a budget is implemented and put into action.

5. Writing

I have so many story ideas in my head that I can't keep them straight anymore. Like The Beastie Boys puttin' it on wax, I'll be puttin' it on paper.

Resolution #5 - organize ideas and complete one short story by April 1, 2008.

6. Blogging

As you well know, I blog like everything else in my life - inconsistently. I won't blog on a rigid schedule, but a little more regularly wouldn't kill me. However, I submit that the fact that it would make me stronger is a complete misnomer. Now that I have a laptop with wireless capability to use with the network in my house, productivity should improve by default, but we'll see.

Resolution #6 - a modest goal of 2 posts per week for Vox Acerbus and 1 post per week for Spunkybean.

7. Organization

I have a Palm Zire 31, and yet I am always forgetting things.

I forget to put things in my Palm. Ironic, yes? A real Catch-22. Yossarian lives!

Resolution #7 - make life easier through advances in technology (i.e. use the damn thing).

8. Reading

I buy used books faster than I could ever read them. In the spirit of Resolution #4, perhaps I should read more instead of buying more. It's time to get my Faulkner and Updike on.

Resolution #8 - diminish the backlog of classic literature that is taking over my dining room.

Like Semisonic said - this could be my year.

I'm out-