“2009, 2010, wanna make a record of how I felt then.”

Right, so now each month on Counterforce, at the end of the month as that chapter closes, I find myself looking back on my posts and just wondering about all the puzzle pieces left strewn about. Some things planned, some things decidedly not planned, some accidents, some just flat out mistakes…

Sometimes your blog is both a testament to you and a museum devoted to your mistakes and victories. It can be a lovely display of all those things you loved, or hated, or sometimes a combination of the two, and usually more about yourself than anything else.

I’ll never forget that an ex once told me that “nostalgia is for people who have no future.” I found that to be a rather curious statement and when I pressed her for clarification, she told me that, to her, too many people use the mirror as a reflection on the past and only rarely on the present. I asked her what was wrong with that, in certain doses, and she responded with, “You shouldn’t have time for that. You should be moving so fast that when you pass by the mirror all you see is a blur.”

She said that and then she was gone. I felt like all I got out of that was the blur.

This relationship was a long time ago. It was short, but it felt longer, and it feels like it was longer ago than it was, but it was probably circa the first Arcade Fire album (not the EP). And now they have another album coming out.

If one of the leaked songs had been called “Month Of June” instead “Month Of May” that would’ve been a lot more convenient for my blogging concerns, thank you very much.

from here.

Real quick, two things you should know about me…

The first thing you should know about me: The other day, on twitter of all places, I was self analyzing out loud and wondered if I hold better conversations via the phone or if my stronger quality is my voicemails (which are, quite frankly, amazing)(to the point that, ladies, you would have to hold the phone away from your ear for fear that said voicemails could put you instantly in heat), you know, from the perspective of whoever the fuck it is I’m calling. Honestly… I don’t care.

But that lead me to realize: When I talk on the phone, you can tell if I’m actually active in a conversation not so much by what we’re discussing or who I’m talking to anymore, but what I’m doing physically. I mean, obviously if I’m sitting there watching TV, then I’m not listening to you, but it’s more of a kinetic thing. If I’m up, walking around, pacing, then there I’m there, I’m really a part of the thing, the process, the bullshitting, whatever. My other mode, oddly enough? Staring at myself in the mirror.

It’s weird. You could call me up, we could be having a fascinating conversation and I’ve noticed that, without thinking about it, I might just walk into the bathroom and start looking into the mirror. At myself? No. It’s hardly ever a really conscious thing. Maybe it’s self reflexive, like staring out at the horizon, only in this case, the horizon is my face and it’s a portal to a larger gateway of either the honesty or just flat out sexy bullshit that I’m going to peddle your way.

Or, maybe, by looking at myself, with a certain visually conscious part of myself shut off, I’m actually subconscious recording myself looking at myself looking at myself looking at myself looking at myself as I talk about myself looking at myself looking at myself looking at myself… in some kind infinite loop of recursive blogitude?

The second thing that you should know about me right now, right this very second is that I have every intention of making this song the jam of the summa summa summertime:

I mean, that’s my intention, but as for you? You’re so vain, you probably think that summertime jam is about you, don’t you?

More and more this blog feels like a book to me, in a way. Like you could collect it into a hot mess of an interactive coffee table curio. A book in 12 parts, chronicling the year in which we make contact. But contact with… what? Ourselves? Each other? Slow dancing in the burning hotel room that is the past? Or staring at ourselves in the mirror, reflecting on the future? Or is “the future” just another aspect of right here and now because all times are one (especially on the internet)?

All of those and more, maybe. Maybe not. But, so far, in the section of this starship/book/beast/blog entitled “June” we have so far been subjected to:

The nature of time spent having fun in all these new worlds we inhabit.

Today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and how each day is just another day.

Seeing words everywhere you look, just like a casual synesthete would.

The shape of our heads and of our favorite TV shows to come and return.

…or to leave us, as Peanut noticed, because, sadly, Party Down has apparently been canceled.

A lot of Doctor Who, a show about time and space, and just in time for this (hopefully bullshit) rumor about Johnny Depp starring in an Americanized big screen version in 2012 (of course it would be in 2012).

The oil spill and the music of this year, such as new albums by Stars and the aforementioned Arcade Fire.

Our lovers and our former lovers and the music they inspire. And schemes.

And bombs and explosions and more music.

And this:

And all accumulating to but quite possibly falling way short of a certain sense of… thisness.

But, as we already covered, tomorrow is another day. With a different mirror to look into. And a different version of ourselves reflected back in. Perhaps we’ll start to look more like ourselves as we strangely believe that ourselves should look or perhaps we’ll look like another stranger in a strange land.

“I died so I could haunt you.”

I’m fascinated by these little glimpses into the making of Stars’ new album, The Five Ghosts, which is officially being released June 22, along with The Seance EP. Musically, the band sounds as brilliant as ever, but watching them work and play and laugh and argue and fight in the studio, it’s the kind of thing that just amazes me.

The new Broken Social Scene album was good, but it’s released seemed to kind of come and go with little fanfare. I think I expected more, possibly from the album, which was fine, but also from it’s listeners. It’s hard to explain. Metric was one of those bands that I loved until every moronic asshole started to proclaim their love for, and then my interest started to recede. And the music started to change a little too, as bands do tend to grow and their sounds begin to progress, and so do their listeners (one would hope). And, of course, there’s a natural feeling of resentment that seems to come when a younger audience comes to appreciate “your” music and you feel they don’t “get it,” but eventually you have to let it go. They get it in their own way and it’ll always be different from your way. Music belongs to everyone and it belongs to them differently.

So, as I grew and changed, what their music meant to me changed. Their last album, again, was fine and good, because they are an excellent band, but it probably didn’t leave me as over the moon as it did others.

And yet, Broken Social Scene, was different for me. The Canadian supergroup, which is something that sounds an awful lot like an oxymoron, was the great unifier. The ultimate indie living room party rock. Ryan Gosling could get some drinks and pick up two chicks at a bar set to “Stars And Sons” in Half Nelson while at the same time you and your friends are arguing about the tea party and Republicans and Obama and the oil spill set to “Handjobs For The Holidays.” The music didn’t let me down, but perhaps the potential for conversation did. Will we all sit at a dining room table someday, tapping our fingers along to “All To All” and chatting away our white whines and then smile as we meet the eyes of a pretty stranger across the room? One can only hope.

But somewhere along the way, as I said, I changed. My love for the music of Emily Haines changed and Amy Millan became my power animal. I could and should probably save talking about my appreciation of her music for another time, until we’re all on the same page. Let’s just say for now that I’m excited to see/hear her roar. I’ll leave you with one of my absolute favorite songs by Stars…

List-o-mania, part 1: While you wait for the others.

It’s such a weird time of year, as it starts getting colder in most places, probably especially in our hearts and in our memories, and yet we cast our gaze ever backwards, trying to search our sonic amusements from the past year for value. What was important. What was worthy of being called “the best of” this odd little year that was.

I could wait forever for your answer and you could wait even longer for someone else’s answer, but here’s mine. I hope other members of Counterforce will pipe in at some point with albums/singles/music they valued in the past year, especially as we start cutting up everything of pop culture into lines to put in lists and snort up. But this is my picks, music-wise, albums either released or leaked into the blogosphere and my world this year, split unnumbered into three categories:  The Best Of and Somewhere In The Middle and Albums That Let Me Down This Year. That’s probably about as clear as I can be with categories. Now, let’s take a look back…

THE BEST OF:

Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest.

Broadcast, Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age.

As I’ve seen many people say online, you might like this album if the album title alone attracts your interest. Simply put, this feels like a lovely dream pop/electronica soundtrack to a 60s horror movie about wandering sonic textures hunting down pop songs that I desperately wish was waiting out there for me to discover it.

St. Vincent, Actor.

The best album produced via GarageBand with songs inspired by Woody Allen and Disney movies ever.

Mos Def, The Ecstatic.

Fuck Buttons, Tarot Sport.

Japandroids, Post-Nothing.

Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

Quite frankly, car commercial music has never sounded this good.

mewithoutYou, It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright!

The Raveonettes, In And Out Of Control.

A Place To Bury Strangers, Exploding Head.

Where noise rock, shoegaze, space rock, post punk, and a truckload of dissonance all combine into a giant wall that falls down on you, crushing you. Or, exploding your head, if you will. Not a band for everyone, and definitely not an album for everyone, but if you love sonic death waves, this will be your bag.

Lisa Hannigan, Sea Sew.

I’ve been a huge fan of Hannigan’s work with Damien Rice but always disturbed that she’s been relegated to being in his backing band when her talent has always seemed up and front there with Rice’s own. And honestly, I can only watch/listen to a sad man moaning and keeping a girl down for so long. I hope this is the beginning of Hannigan conquering more and more accolades.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz.

Oh yeah, remember that this came out earlier this year? A solid album, definitely, but not totally compelling in a long term sense, but maybe nothing can be after a mountain like “Maps.” Regardless, I think this album works as a whole and still carries several excellent cuts on it. Silly though it may be, “Soft Shock” is a personal favorite of mine.

The-Dream, Love vs. Money.

Fever Ray, Fever Ray.

Beach House, Teen Dream.

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE: Albums that are solid, but perhaps over hyped a tad. Or, albums that I like but sadly don’t love.

Andrew Bird, Noble Beast.

“Baroque pop” is how Wikipedia describes this album, and I can see it. It’s indie rock, and it’s well done, but it’s not my usual cup of tea. And I think the album reinforces that, actually, by always impressing me, surprising me with it’s mechanical beauty, but never making me feel like I am a part of it.

Mr. Hudson, Straight No Chaser.

The album is not so bad, but “Supernova,” the Kanye-produced (who also guests, of course)(and continuing his quest to either become European or just conquer European music) lead single by this British artist is my pick for what should be one of the songs of the year:

Bat For Lashes, Two Suns.

Dinosaur Jr., Farm.

Girls, Album.

Good, solid music, but not worth the hype. Praise comes too easy to some people who are not gifted with the depth of thought or true judgment.

The XX, xx.

See above, though this album has more going for it than the Girls album, I feel. Years from now, or possibly just months and days (with the way my life is going) I will quite possibly fall in love with this album. It’s simple in a way, understated, clumsy in a practiced way. There’s a nuance to it, but make no mistake: This is a album for the loneliest, horniest of hipster.

Handsome Furs, Face Control.

No longer a side project and now what feels like a good and proper musical collaboration between Dan Broeckner and his wife Alexei Perry. It fascinates me that their reference to New Order got this album delayed while it was cleared legally. There’s a beautiful rhythmic groove hatched in this album.

Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion.

This is, without a doubt, the album to take drugs to and then take your clothes off to of the year. Enjoy it with another person, but it’s still good by yourself too.

Sonic Youth, The Eternal.

La Roux, La Roux.

A shock and a revelation as far as European dance music goes. Bright, shiny, and beautifully off kilter.

Mirah, (A)spera.

…And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, The Century Of Self.

Micachu and the Shapes, Jewellery.

Third Eye Blind, Ursa Major.

Originally entitled “That Hideous Strength,” taking it’s title from C.S. Lewis, this is a nostalgia pick that doesn’t totally betray me but there’s nothing resembling fireworks on this album. I’m probably the biggest fan in the world of their previous album and this one feels exactly like it was: six years late and the product of a long drought of writer’s block, but definitely the work of the same artist. The band will release their own version of Amnesiac, entitled Ursa Minor, at some point.

Atlas Sound, Logos.

Vivian Girls, Everything Goes Wrong.

Mastodon, Crack The Skye.

Art Brut, Art Brut vs. Satan.

It’s a crazy, fun music party until someone has the balls to challenge Satan. And this English/German indie rock band, with beautiful production by Black Francis, who take their name from Jean Dubuffet’s name for outsider art, lose to Satan, of course. But it’s a tight, clean, and highly listenable loss.

Metric, Fantasies.

Amy Millan, Masters Of The Burial.

The Antlers, Hospice.

Florence And The Machine, Lungs.

The album is decent enough, but all you really need to know is the song, “Dog Days Are Over.” Give it a listen and then tell me if I’m wrong.

ALBUMS THAT LET ME DOWN THIS YEAR: Maybe they’re not terrible, maybe they have some strong points, but like I said, they let me down.

Doves, Kingdom Of Rust.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Ashes Grammar.

U2, No Line On The Horizon.

Still the biggest band in the world, no matter how much it upsets your stupid sensibilities. The sad thing about being on the top though is that you can only fall down.

Julian Casablancas, Phrazes For The Young.

I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t expect much from Casablancas. This album isn’t horrible by any means, but never lives up to the possibility you felt in it’s lead off single, “11th Dimension.” The rest of the album, which references Oscar Wilde in it’s title, feels like a few normal rock songs with extra silly production layered onto them by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis. If I was in junior high, or at least floating around somewhere in the first few years of high school, I would probably think this was the greatest thing ever and might request it at a dance or something. And possibly adding insult to injury, I give you the song (which I actually like quite a bit) by Courtney Love that’s about Casablancas:

The Boy Least Likely To, The Law Of The Playground.

Brand New, Daisy.

Better Than Ezra, Paper Empire.

Another nostalgia pick. BTE, actually, used to be my favorite band. It’s a long story, one that started with a girl, but thankfully, at the end of the story I was left with the better of the two: the music. Now I feel like I don’t even have that. For a band that that mines a brand of “cool” and “joy” that is wonderful and easy to inhabit, I would easily recommend this band. Their previous album was slyly wonderful, as were all of their albums before that.

The Mars Volta, Octahedron.

I think I’m just over this. I appreciate music that sounds like you’re on drugs but I have grown to dislike the Mars Volta’s evolving sound into my needing to be drugs to find an appreciation groove in what they do.

Well, this has been my 2009 in music, for the most part. The best of, the solid and entertaining, and the stuff that let me down. There’s some highs and lows in here, as far as music released/leaked this year goes, but these are my peaks and valleys. What do you think? And what was your year in music like?

Look inside your heart and you will find it there.

I want to thank my homie Conrad for another great post yesterday and man, just what a great message. Especially with all the intolerance in the world and every crazy thing out there going on, particularly of late, the situation in Iran. Conrad Noir is going to take it upon himself to just heal the whole fucking world, one internet reader after another, right?

Also, I’d like to share with him one of my favorite tracks by a band, I really like, the Delgados:

The song is called “All You Need Is Hate” off their brilliant album Hate, and you know what? I love it. I happily discovered the Delgados about two years ago, right around the time I was re-discovering Low, and I’m happy to report that while I do love Stars, the Delgados were Stars before Stars were. I just wish that the video for “Hate” was… better. But that won’t stop me from sharing the video for one of my favorite Stars songs with you. Here’s “Window Bird.”

Then, there’s Low, which I mentioned before. I don’t know how to describe Low to you, or not in a level of detail I care to. They’re a literate and somewhat sad to the core (or deeper) type rock band (or slowcore band, more accurately), again similar to Stars in a lot of ways. There album, Things We Lost In The Fire, is essential (and it’s where that Benecio Del Toro and Halle Berry movie got it’s name from), and so is the album, Trust. Since I’ve already preached hate here apparently, I’ll leave you powerfully, poignantly sad here with their song “Point Of Disgust” from the aforementioned Trust. Maybe music will breach the divide between all of us and heal our hard hearts? I sincerely doubt it, but you never know. Enjoy the song and have a nice day.

There’s first and there’s forget it.

If you know me, then you’ve heard this a million times, but you also know that my favorite author is a woman named Amy Hempel. She’s a Rea award winner from the same minimalist school taught by Gordon Lish, but in the same vein as writers like Raymond Carver rather than minimalism’s more fringe writers, like Lish and Chuck Palahniuk.

It’s funny to mention Palahniuk there, since it was through my (long ago) love of his works that I discovered her work, since she is Palahniuk’s favorite writer as well. Good for him, though I’m glad he doesn’t try to emulate her too much, but he did write a very nice essay about her and how she’s affected his work entitled “She Breaks Your Heart.”

If you know me, and more importantly, if I know you, and think that you have good taste in literature, then an Amy Hempel book is typically a present you’ll get from me at some point. Typically on Christmas (or whatever your big end of the year equivalent holiday is), or maybe your birthday. Or Arbor Day, even. It really all depends on which comes first on the calendar.

But that said, I’ve been reminded of the writings of Amy Hempel a lot lately. Mostly by the people I’ve given her to as a gift, but also in that, well, it’s just that time of the year for her. She’s a winter read, really. She’s the literary equivalent of listening to Stars. You’re usually alone, you’re lost in your own head, in a slightly heightened sensitive state of mind. You’re also probably bundled up, cuddling with yourself or the nearest pet, and it’s raining outside. And you’re by a window, constantly looking out it as you ponder the latest passage or verse you’ve absorbed, letting your mind drift with the downpour.

And I don’t know what’s going on wherever you live, but that’s the weather where I am, both inside and out. So, on his quiet, rainy sunday, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite and most simple of short stories…

Weekend

by Amy Hempel

The game was called on account of dogs – Hunter in the infield, Tucker in the infield, Bosco and Boone at first base. First-grader Donald sat down on second base, and Kirsten grabbed her brother’s arm and wouldn’t let him leave third to make his first run.

“Unfair!” her brother screamed, and the dogs, roving umpires, ran to third.

“Good power!” their uncle yelled, when Joy, in a leg cast, swung the bat and missed. “Now put some wood to it.”

And when she did, Joy’s designated runner, Cousin Zeke, ran to first, the ice cubes in his gin and tonic clacking like dog tags in the glass.

And when Kelly broke free from Kirsten and his time came in to make the run, members of the Kelly team made Tucker in the infield dance on his hind legs.

“It’s not who wins-” their coach began, and was shouted down by one of the boys, “There’s first and there’s forget it.”

Then Hunter retrieved a foul ball and carried it off in the direction of the river.

The other dogs followed – barking, mutinous.

Dinner was a simple picnic on the porch, paper plates in laps, the only conversation a debate as to which was the better grip for throwing shoes.

After dinner, the horseshoes were handed out, the post pounded in, the rules reviewed with a new rule added due to falling-down shorts. The new rule: Have attire.

The women smoked on the porch, the smoke repelling mosquitoes, and the men and children played on even after dusk when it got so dark that a candle was rigged to balance on top of the post, and was knocked off and blown out by ever single almost-ringer.

Then the children went to bed, or at least went upstairs, and the men joined the women for a cigarette on the porch, absently picking ticks engorged like grapes off the sleeping dogs. And when the men kissed the women good night, and their weekend whiskers scratched the women’s cheeks, the women did not think shave, they thought: stay.

The story is just a nice slice of what feels like Americana, from what feels like halcyon days long gone, but it helps to show a lot of what I like about Hempel: Through her minimalism, her writing feels like your thoughts. You’re just not just reading a wonderful well written story with her, but feel like you’re sharing in a reunion with a warmer part of yourself that you didn’t know excited. No matter what her stories about, be it heartbreak (most of her stories are about heartbreak), confusion, lust, or physical invasion, they almost take place after the action, when the characters are reflecting and trying to rebuild. They know that comforting part of themselves exists and is quite possibly gone, and they’re trying to meet up with it again.

I want to especially thank Elvira (who brilliantly combined the picture of Obamas with the story) and Lollipop for inspiring and reminding me here, and… Until we meet again, here’s a few short stories to enjoy on your Sunday:

The Harvest” by Amy Hempel.

In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel. This is probably one of the most widely anthologized stories out there by a modern and still living author.

Lust” by Susan Minot.

The Uninvited” by Amy Hempel.

An illustrated version of “On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” by Haruki Murakami.

A Man In The Kitchen” by Donald Antrim.

FuTube” by Warren Ellis.

Offertory” by Amy Hempel.

Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Another Manhattan” by Donald Antrim.

Today Will Be A Quiet Day” by Amy Hempel.

My heart keeps beating like a hammer.

So here I am on a Sunday afternoon, just being lazy and feeling increasingly miserable about myself when I discover this amongst all the various crap youtubery of the world:

Wow. Emily Haines talking about the new Metric album. Awesome. Granted, it’s not til next year, but I’m excited about a new Metric album. It’s time. They were honestly my first entry point into that whole incestuous Canadian music collective with the various Broken Social Scenes and Feists and the Stars and all their crazy ass side projects out there. I think I’ve probably come to love Stars more, mind you, but still… you never forget your first love, yeah?

Though I was over them for a long time because… well, same old story: I discovered them years and years ago in, of all things, a commercial. We shared an intense love affair. It was private and quiet. It was hot and it was heavy. I was protective of it and no one knew. Slowly, I let others into my secret sonic joy there, sharing with those I felt were special and had good taste. And then, unfortunately, all the rest of your assholes found out about them and ruined the shit out of it for me.

But, the time is past, and Emily Haines has gotten her solo bug out of her system for a bit, and the band is back. And I could not be more excited. Like I said, their album won’t drop til sometime next year, but honestly… between now and the end of this year, what is the new music we’re supposed to be looking forward to? Chinese Democracy is already here, as is Kanye, but what’s the next big thing that everyone’s equally awaiting? I somehow feel like the new U2 album is not coming out this year since I’m pretty sure I would’ve heard more about it by now.

I mentioned this curiosity to someone the other day and they reminded me that the new Fall Out Boy album is coming out mid-December. They actually mentioned this to me like it was something I should be excited about. WTF? Instead they got a simple, polite “Fuck off!”

Anyways, Metric is touring starting in January, most likely road testing their new material and here’s the new song, “Help, I’m Alive,” that’ll have to hold us over for a bit:

Fall Out Boy. Ugh. Can you believe that shit?