Friday, December 28, 2012


Family functions fun, too much good food, the perfect amount of snark and conversation, lack of sleep now attended to, scares of the hope-they're okay kind at 2 in the morning, a crashed computer at the station meant I probably pissed off my sludge loving listeners with ample medieval chantish spooky noochies Christmas music, playing the same Arvo Part and Anonymous 4 CDs in rotation with a dash of Lanegan and Kristin Hersh, no cars on the road, no one called in. My mom asks why I bother because it's so deserted, but it's always deserted at 5 in the morning there.

No regrets on jettisoning epic travels, I've spent the snowy days drinking tea with neighbors and old friends. I have no need to really go anywhere, the hibernating feels good after the masses of people. I come home, listen to tunes, drink more tea, read, repeat. This is a true vacation. There is peace, and it is good.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Of showing up at work on Christmas Eve, of deferring dreams for yet another year, of eating fried fish and breaking wafer-bread, of driving out to the suburbs, of staying up too late, of sleeping in, of remembering to get away and meditate on the creator and created order by wandering through the woods, walking by the lake under aqua sky, wondering what bird's body lays broken on the sand.

A weekend of hanging out with sundry folk, live music, new faces, old friends, so strange how some of us changed between college and almost-30. A subcultural shift of sorts, of identities blossoming far from where we met, the memories we conjure feel so distant to what we are now. There are other people for him to see but thankfully his friends are up for conversation and speak a similar language. I stay later than I thought I would, drive home with the windows down past state troopers looking for pre-holiday drunks.

Downtown was deserted, I haven't slept enough. I haven't figured out the trajectory of the show tomorrow and if I'm going to sleep in or not. In the meantime, listen to Lanegan, dammit.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

christmas music

 Over coffee and super-doomsters Cathedral, we were talking about Christmas music and how most of it sucks, and due to having a more austere approach to the holiday and having already been burned out on winter wonderlands and frosty snowmen and jingle bells and anything involving Santa acting like a CIA spook, especially after several weeks of retail hell in the punkass years.

So my show falls on Christmas morning next week, and while I've always skirted around trying to find holiday music I can stand, (in the past I've always done an annual Joe Strummer tribute show), but this year, I really have to do something a little more of the season. I also have to pick church music for the Sunday before and always debate whether or not I want to go all quasi-medieval and such or play it safe. I also know I'll get no sleep that night, usually opting to duck out of family functions early to get chill at midnight mass in a dark old Clevelandia church with ample amounts of candles.

I really love these songs and their rendition, being all choral and somber in a way that I find missing in the saccharinity of the season. Something about the excess makes me crave more austere sounds. Also, I really hate the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for ruining Carol of the Bells.

My dad had some John Fahey Christmas album that is curiously absent from the interwebs but here's a few clips.

and I've really been loving on this Mark Lanegan Christmas EP. No St. Robert of Dylan schmaltz, no lounge music snake-dance shtick (Scott Weiland you suck). Old-school obscure carols and that voice that Randal so accurately describes as menacing yet inviting. Seriously this is so good that even though I don't listen to much holiday music I've been listening to this obsessively.  Minimal and do I mention that voice again?
So yeah, kind of at a loss otherwise. We had that Harry Simeon Chorale record when I was a kid which I also loved and Catholic neo-troubadour John Michael Talbot's fabulous recordings of old songs with orchestra and boychoir.

And then there's these...
 And then the more absurd...

Randal of course suggested this. 
oh Mike Doughty you scamp
 My aunt had this on a Christmas compilation that also included a song about a dead cat. These chicks are kind of cornball goth, but it's polyphonic and simple so it meets the Duchess' approval.
and of course, because I like spaced out sonics and crushy drone

So my zuckerbookers have weighed in with some I'll definitely be doing (Kristin Hersh, Monster Magnet) and ones probably not so much (nothing affiliated with Colin Meloy or Zooey Deschanel). Your suggestions, of course, are much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

quinta da regaleira

Esoteric straungeness, opulent yet airy architecture, and lush mossy grounds and grottoes, in other words, everything awesome. Dammit, Portugal, why do you have to be so awesome. Oh I want to go here so badly.

Monday, December 17, 2012

yanqui go here

I scuttled plans of Europe tripping post-Christmas due to not liking giant New Year's crowds, everything being priced out and booked up because of said crowds, and that whole financial thing because to travel near holidays is so damn expensive, travel is expensive anyway, and with having a ridiculous car insurance bill (thanks a lot, dude who smashed my window downtown and credit card companies penalizing yours truly for not being a slave yet), having to reconstruct my earlobe at some point (I find myself fingering the two halves when I get restless), and general holiday shenanigans, it just wasn't going to work.

While the Eternal City is no doubt amazing, I'm still kind of wanting to go on a jaunt like this or hit up other roads less traveled. I have my passport now, and know how I like to go, and that sometimes I get sick of being around the same people all day, prefer sleeping on the couch to staying in hotels, and want nothing too fast-paced, just a chance to cut loose and drift as the whim takes me. I think I've conquered the fear of flying at this point, of looking down 30,000 feet onto rolling hills and Maryland mansions, and find that Bulgakov and Pamuk make excellent companions while laid over but I'm in no hurry to do it again in two weeks.

My mom and sister picked me up last night, and I jabbered nonstop about how weird my accent sounded and how it wasn't quite the culture shock I was expecting, given that I have hillbilly roots not too far deep. Atlanta seemed like sprawl to me, the airport labyrinthine. The shuttle bus dropped me off in Athens where I wandered around but somehow didn't take any REM-related photos. Lots of little collegetowny shops and bars. The low battery light was blinking, a quick dig through the bag revealed that my charger didn't make it off the dining room table so I conserved my shots as much as possible.

They live on part of a horse farm, where the houses are set back in acres of land, cows across the street, a church camp up the road. The family up there has 14 kids and a sawmill as well, and the air smelled like pine and cedar. We drove into Athens for the night, ate at an Irish pub, went to a coffeeshop called Hendershot's on the outskirts of town where we watched a night of  good tuneage of the alt-country/bluegrass/roots rock kind, no twang, unpretentious vibe, a former converted gas station-turned-unpretentious swank hangout that I wanted to teleport back north. We drove back and it was so dark that we could see the meteors flying every which way even in the car so we hung out in the yard beneath the multitude of stars unseeable in the city and watched the streaks that hardly felt real they were so clear.
Hung out in the general vicinity the next day on sundry domestic errands, watched MST3K that night. Walked to the home-built campmeeting house buried in the woods, we had dinner at the local barbecue place that was good even though I'm not a big carnivore. Was amused by the "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs that were everywhere despite the manger scene in every small-town square. Despite my own love of The Jesus, I kind of wanted to write KEEP SATURN IN SATURNALIA somewhere but figured that wouldn't go over too well. Coming from ex-Catholic Clevelandia, it's a little strange to see so many little white Baptist churches everywhere with descriptors like "Primitive" "King James" "Deliverance" "Fundamental," and wondering what it's like to grow up skeptical in such a climate.

The next morning we drove to the Georgia Guidestones, erected by some unknown Rosicrucian out of the local granite, with sundry languages chiseled in the sides and astronomical instructions. The other spectator of such straungenesse was a lady with rainbow dreads and Maori facial tattoos who was seeking spiritual insight around the American landscape. I suggested Paradise Gardens (which we didn't get to) but it's possible that might be too close to organized-religion despite its affiliations with David Byrne and copious flying saucer imagery.
From there we headed up to the mountains, as the terrain got steeper, the signs got weirder, "Soft Touch Ministries" eliciting twelve-year-old giggles. Blue mountains appearing in the distance, and we pulled into a state park with a gorge that was hikable and holy crap I think I need more pine forests, crags, and waterfalls in my life. The scenery was so vast and epic, and reminded me of Lord of the Rings or something. Something so cathartic and elemental leaving me so euphoric, even the pain in my woefully underused legs walking up the hundreds of steps back up didn't hurt at all.

From there we got our kitsch on in Helen, known by some as the Redneck Alps for its faux-Bavarian shtick that reminded me of some southern lovechild of Amish Country and Geneva-on-the-Lake. I wonder what Flannery O'Connor would make of this display of crackerdom. I think my mind was pretty much blown at this point with the magic railroad of Charlemagne, the random housebunnies hopping around, the sounds of Sublime wafting past the gables and shops selling redneck wear and delft china.
We had dinner in Dahlonega, and by this time my camera's battery died, but it was a much cuter town, with Christmas lights everywhere, I picked up some agate bookends for sundry Christmas gifts which were super heavy to carry back on the plane but hopefully worth it for the lucky receivers. Went to church and felt a little out of place but people were nice enough, and then the long bus ride to the big crazy airport and home. Ate some late-night cereal, gave my mom the quick lowdown and drove back through familiar streets feeling glad to be back in my rusty city, and already plotting the next escape to parts with deep woods and tall mountains.

bear with me here, or skip this.

quasi-political interjection, skip if you want
So tragedy is numbing to me at this point. We saw it on the news as it unfolded, I find myself more angry than sad, because while it's beyond tragic, I have far greater grief over my complicity in paying taxes that finance drones that kill kids in Pakistan and Yemen and God knows where else than I do for some nutcase with a gun. It's terrible all around, but is a mother's grief in the suburbs worth more than a mother's grief in some village with no running water? I can't imagine the final moments of those little kids, or what their parents are feeling. This has happened in other places too, and I don't have kids, but the proportional outrage involving a crazy guy with a gun compared to the terror that we perpetuate for other kids every day trying to go to school makes my blood boil.

 I ran this by my mom who I disagree with sometimes but who's got a beating heart and a thoughtful soul because I just got blank stares saying this to others, or "well their lives are already hard anyway." It was hard for me to sit in church this weekend (my pastor at the one I go to regularly is Arab so we pray for Palestine and Syria just as much as we pray for our own land) and hear prayers for the families of these children and think about all the other innocent kids (and how angried up does my blood get when even they're regarded as targets?) who die every day thanks to we the people and whose families are constantly troubled by that trauma that continues to repeat itself over and over again to the point where life is impossible to be normal because of the constant zoom of death. Who prays for them here? Even if you see them as your enemy, didn't Jesus tell you to pray for them too?

Maybe it's different for me because in Clevelandia I've met kids who've lost half their cranium to Israeli rockets and have friends who survived civil war in Lebanon and Rwanda who still have flashbacks when they hear fireworks or the airshow and have lost family members to shotguns and machetes. I went to college with a girl who survived Columbine, watched her friends die, but went on to have a beautiful decent life. With our place in the world, it's slightly more possible. It isn't for others.  It hits me in an entirely different place in the gut and it's hard to express that without sounding heartless. I believe that life is sacred and not to be taken lightly, whether that's in the womb or in the next state over or a country across the globe. I don't know what else to say except that I feel so alone in that sentiment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

deluded interluded

Flying down to Georgia, the land of peaches, Outkast, confederate laser light shows, REM, and Flannery O'Connor at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning for a few days with some good friends with whom I share a love of people-watching, punk rock, Norse mythology, and pondering the questions of the universe. They live in the foothills so I'll be flying into Atlanta, taking a bus to Athens, and then hanging out in the mountains for a few days getting my hiking metal punk on. Trips to further places are warranting panic right now so at least this will be happening. Expect pictures and tales in a few days, kids. It's about damn time I had a vacation.

albums of the year or something like that

I can't say which one I like more than the others, hence alphabetical order. I told one of my friends that all the albums I liked are either by bands I've loved for pretty much ever, or stuff that's metal, which means maybe three people care about it or something in real life. It's a dirty word for my hipsteriffic cousins, for sure, and in fairness, the stuff I dig falls outside the usual manic guitar solo djentery and the heavier end of things. Also, I know what I like, but it takes awhile for tuneage to soak in for me...

Alcest - Les Voyages de la'me
More songs about fairies and stuff, or something, since it's in French and I can barely read or speak it. The opener on here's the best song and made it onto a few mix CDs because it's just that good. I was honestly a little underwhelmed at first, but it's continued to grow on me. Strangely enough, I like the ones with the last vestiges of black metal best on here, if for the dynamic shifts and the way the songs take a few more directions.

Ecailles de Lune will always be special, and sometimes I need a little more crunch to my tunes, but this is shimmery and shoegazey in a way that I love and haven't been able to find since the halcyon days of early 90's Brits like Ride. The metal kids seem to be doing it better than the indie kids right now, but no one believes me on this. Also, Fursy's swank art nouveau-inspired design is always lovely.

Corrosion of Conformity - s/t
I got into CoC junior year of high school while still stuck in the morass of progrock wankery and pre-college radio immersion, heard Congratulations Song on WMMS wedged between Staind and Nickelback and got Wiseblood from the library, loved it, tried to share it with lunch table homies who weren't nearly into metallic Southern rock that was smarter than Pantera (Flannery O'Connor references were not gotten until later but hey) and definitely not hip with The Kids then or now. Forgot about them for a bit during the undergrad years, rediscovered said sweetness during esoteric morning coffee rituals.

I also dig 80's hardcore punk for reasons I can't quite explain, but the alt-rock Pepper Keenan incarnation for those vocals alone is still my favorite, and this record would be completely golden if he was singing on here. Still, the songs are great, swampy and murky and ragey and letting out some of that frustration that shit is indeed still fucked up.

Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
so the first time I heard this I felt there was too much synth and rolled my eyes when Brendan was singing about children of the sun with flowers in their hair but then I kept listening and it kept sounding better and better. It sounds more like Spleen and Ideal than Aion, but the songs are there, sufficiently long and beautiful. I wasn't sure how I felt about this on first listen, since I prefer all those dulcimers and strange percussion to the more meditative feel of the earlier work, but I keep coming back to it. Something about the ancientness that it evokes makes it perfect for those nights when I get super-introverted and decide to paint, read, drink pots of tea and burn a lot of incense.

Earth -  Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
More of the same lovely stuff as the first installment, with a little extra jazz perhaps. One of The Kids told me this was too metal but I don't hear that at all and he probably digs Of Montreal or something anyway. Lovely unspooling drone sounds dull to the unititiated, but carries enough weight, and the sonorous cello conquers all. It's like classical music for people who listen to rock and roll, I guess. I guess this year I've either been rocking out or spacing out. Nothing wrong with that.

Elder - Spires Burn EP
A guy I know who loves the Smiths turned me onto this band, go figure. About a month or so later, I paid five dollars cover to watch them rock out muchly at one of the best shows out of many seen this year. I've played the heck out of Dead Roots Stirring and this on my show. It fills that Soundgarden-shaped hole with the long numbers of power-trio psych-sludge goodness that calls to mind Seattle but without the mope or the heroin. Nice guys too. My dad likes it. Go see them if they come through your town. This is on vinyl only, but it's on the Youtubes.

Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street
I don't know why I like this record so much, or why other bands mining similar sonic territory get more press. The songwriting chops are here, the lyrics hover between fantastical-quasi-epic and rage against The Man and forces of gentrification, more technical than punk, less pretentious than prog. It reminds me of if X was a classic metal band that took more from Deep Purple or Queen than the Doors, with the male/female vocal interplay, galloping rhythms, generous keyboard lines, intertwining guitars (Leila's SG-rocking and vocals warmed my heart when I saw them play to six people including me this summer), unvarnished production that keeps it from being overly ponderous. It's driving music in the Corolla and something I keep in regular rotation when I fill in the metal slots.
Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubilees 
A cousin to the Alcest record, especially sharing band members and such. More acoustic, more melodic, heavier at parts, a step up from their stellar debut. I wish I could be as crazy-talented as Fursy. Songs for rainy days, for autumn, for winter, for wanting to be out in the woods and far away from pollution and drama. Words really can't describe here.

Melvins - Freak Puke
This one hasn't completely been absorbed yet, but something about sludge played with some jazztastic drums and upright bass genius via Trevor Dunn is fabulous... and there's strangely sweet harmonies on top of that. Seeing Buzz Osbourne's amazing rock and roll hair bob up and down in front of me has finally been scratched off the nonexistent bucket list. Still don't understand the couple in front of me who spent the whole set making out. Still, so damn good.

Soundgarden - King Animal
so I've been moaning the past few years about how Chris Cornell has sucked massively since Soundgarden called it quits in the mid-90's and I still stand by that.Thankfully the rest of the band does not suck, and the reunion disc isn't the rifftastic cornucopia of sweetness that was Superunknown, the downer-psych thorniness of Down on the Upside, but it really could have been much much worse, but Thayil's one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron are stellar on the rhythm end and Cornell's at least put off shilling for Obama and hitting on younger chicks at the club to put out a disc of songs that could have been way longer and more jammy (there are lots of times when it seems like it's about to cut loose but never seems too) but aren't bad and surprisingly good. It hasn't left my car yet, thanks especially to cuts like Eyelids Mouth, Attrition, and Non-State Actor. It's no Superunknown, but it's a good listen, and those days are long gone.

  Torche - Harmonicraft
Torche is what should be getting played the hell out of by The Kids instead of whatever twee milquetoast represents their generation on the radio. It somehow manages to be catchy as hell in a way that theoretically would have been more radio-ready in days when Jawbox was on a major label, but also bottom-heavy at the same time. Punky raveups, My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of sound, perfect for summer driving and blowing out my old boombox during punkrocksoftball this summer. I missed their gig at the rock hall but loved them opening for CoC. The guy I went with liked them but didn't like the other bands too much. Mike Huckabee likes them even though there's a high amount of gayness lyrically inherent. Snots on the Internet say it's what your girlfriend listens to. They're not wrong.

Worm Ouroboros - Come the Thaw
I described this on first listen to Randal as sounding like if Hildegard Von Bingen or that girl from Portishead started a doom band. I don't know how accurate this is, but it's the only words I have for such cathartic gorgeousness. It may not be as technically brutal but the emotional heft is there in its own right, each instrument has its room to breathe and resonate, and comes together so perfectly. Don't let the name scare you away from such ethereal beauty.


Amadou & Mariam: Dougou Badia
The collab-heavy album doesn't do it for me like previous stellar efforts, but this song is pretty fabulous and about as perky as it gets here in my melancholic world. Santi White knows how to add to a song and not overwhelm it, the hook is catchy as hell even if I don't know what's all being said, and the guitar and harmonica work lovely here.
Corin Tucker Band - Neskowin
Half of this album is fabulous, the other half isn't bad but gets skipped a lot. The lower-profile Sleater-Kinney alumni and band of other oldsters from when indie kind of rocked put out a nice little record. There's a little bit of punky reggae skank in here and some lovely slashy guitar work and girl-power teenage memories.

 Mark Lanegan - St. Louis Elegy
Not my favorite Lanegan outing but this could be a lost Gutter Twins take with the melancholic mood and Greg Dulli's harmonies.

 Witch Mountain - Bloodhound
Haven't quite gotten into the sophomore effort that was Randal's album of the year, but this song is pure heavy awesome from the viola intro to the blistering guitar solo at the end. I've played this on every metal show I fill in on. Also, it's about police brutality, which would make Balko proud.

Monday, December 10, 2012

needles and pins

Knocked out cold from the 24 hour flubug, slept all day, slept all night, woke up feeling reborn, cleaned the apartment, reaffirmed my dislike of certain analysts who read things into what isn't there, knocked out some Christmas shopping, listened to some swank folk sounds thanks to my instructor's band, somehow ended up dancing in a circle all Slavic (something in the blood kicks in what can I say, and when you're joining hands and stomping it's way less hard to do it wrong).

I hear a clank of metal on the floor and realize that I've shed an earring and there's now two little flaps of cartilage where a hole in my ear once was, and knowing that it was only a matter of time because I could feel it dropping lower and lower. Ironic that this happens now and not in the years of tribal gauges and moshpits, but I miss having things hanging there (some combination of vanity and habit) and some quick googling of solutions leads into the murky world of plastic surgeons wanting to nip and tuck and inject. Evidently old women with too much money and too much time in front of the mirror get earlobe surgery to make them look younger and the whole concept of dealing with this kind of thing reminds me of that one Daria episode.

And the specter of addiction hung over this weekend, as it hits hard both in family life and in those I worship with, and while the one is not quite at the same level (alcoholism being a little easier to recover from than heroin), it reverberates through everyone affected. It's hard for me to spout platitudes or make claims of healing and so I pray and I cry and hug and write my phone number on a scrap of paper because I know there's times you just need to call someone and have them listen. It breaks me up to hear the survivors' tales, and the ones who know they have a problem and the ones in my world who can't bring themselves to admit that there's anything wrong.

Friday, December 7, 2012

fever dreams

Obligation trumps feeling, and I thought I'd feel better after puking, but everyone else is out sick and in a few hours so will I. Even the head honcho here told me to go home because I never take off work unless I'm almost dead. Hopefully I'll be all in one piece tomorrow and before I go anywhere.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


A confirmation that what I felt more obligated than anything else to give a chance to now confirmed, I can't say I didn't try, because I believe that love is gradual, a slow burning rather than a quick flameup, and sometimes we just don't spark and that's okay. At least it's evident and not existing in that ambiguous unspoken limbo that in the past was all too familiar. We weren't meant to be, and not for lack of trying, or maybe realizing we weren't trying as hard as we could.

I got together with some friends from India who got married this summer, me and her go way back and there's always that unknown factor of the second half whether or not it fits so well like he's always been there or if he sucks the air out of the room and it's thankfully the former, as we devour biryani  and catch up, talk about God and politics and J's just-now discovering of the awesomeness of Tolkien, and tell stories and I always like hearing what nonamericanskis have to say about how we do things. The time is liquid and the curry hits our system all narcotic and by this time I'd missed 3/4 of that show that Randal went to and I'm trying to stay awake driving to the house of the jungle puppy.

I know my time with them is limited, that it's either Bangalore or Texas in the near future, that this apartment where I've spent so many happy evenings will someday belong to someone else, that all around here everything is changing, that everything is constantly in a state of flux, which is okay and beautiful and bittersweet, a perpetual cycle of loss and gain.

Monday, December 3, 2012

city of dreams

I've never left the country, talked about this much, a Canadian-side Niagara Falls excursion aside, no one in my immediate family has travelled outside the country except the grandparents who fought in World War II and that was kind of different. But my partner in adventures small around Clevelandia floated the idea to me a month ago over late-night diner food since her mom works for a major airline and I'm loath to travel to foreign parts alone. We wanted to go somewhere warmer but not too hot, where there were old things to look at, and options of Israel and Greece were jettisoned due to political upheaval and the Amazon nixed due to getting extra shots and being muggy and buggy and neither of us terribly bilingual.

So long as that passport shows up in the mailbox we're good to go, and a post-Christmas reprieve from the inevitable ensuing intervention drama involving members with substance abuse issues means it might be nice to escape for awhile.

I want to do the Balkans or eastern Europe someday, but Rome is looking pretty damn exciting since there's plenty of cool old stuff there and it's walkable, as we enjoy the process of flaneur in our homeland. Reading reviews of places is like FirstWorldProblems on steroids, and it's overwhelming how much one can see as far as relics from a couple thousand years of history. Where to start, with palazzos and catacombs, cathedrals and museums. I keep thinking something will fall through, I'll believe this when I see it, but I'm kind of crazy excited right now.