Thursday, May 5, 2011

FAVORITE BANDS #25-13 plus honorable mentions

Welcome to the year-and-a-half late revival of the blog, or the last spark of life before it vanishes for another long span of time. The inspiration for this post is my compulsive list-making, and Allison's belief that the world should know about my top 25 favorite bands of the current stage of my life. The bands I've chosen represent the last eight or nine years that I have actively cared about and searched for interesting music. I should emphasize that the list reflects my current (read: TODAY) feelings about these bands, not their overall impact in my life.

So first of all, the honorable mentions:

29. Hüsker Dü
This is my "rising star" selection, meaning that I only started listening to them a couple weeks ago and while I have been playing their New Day Rising album nonstop since then, it's hard to tell if it's just a puppy crush or true love (same goes for the boy who recommended the album!). Only time will tell, but "Books about UFOs" and "Terms of Psychic Warfare" are pushing me towards the latter.

28. Sum 41
Sum 41 was arguably the first rock band that I liked, and the music that made me realize I was destined to rawk. I have vivid memories of screaming the song "Handle This" in a neighborhood park with my 8th grade bff Maddy. I still put the song "Heart Attack" on mix CDs from time to time. And actually, now that I'm revisiting their songs, I realize I MAY still have the entire All Killer No Filler album memorized. No judgement allowed.

27. Simon & Garfunkel
They are an honorable mention because I am reluctant to classify them as a "band" despite the fact that there are two of them since they play the same instrument, and the focus is on the vocals more than a overall ensemble sound, if that makes sense. "A Poem on the Underground Wall" and "Punky's Dilemma" are probably my two favorite oft-overlooked gems, and I am still searching for somebody who would like to make matching "Citizens for Boysenberry Jam" t-shirts with me.

26. Bright Eyes
Again, not sure if I can call Bright Eyes a band since it's really just one guy. But to all the haters out there (because Bright Eyes has more than a few), I would just like to say that I will defend the brilliance of Conor Oberst's lyrics to the end, and I believe that his imperfect singing voice just helps his words sound more true. So that's that. "Another Travelin' Song" is a wonderfully twangy example of this.

25. Ok Go
Obligatory "I liked them before they were cool" comment, except I am not sure if Ok Go ever got "cool" per se, so I will clarify and say that I was a devoted fan before they ever made that treadmill video. Some of my happiest high school memories involve driving around to their self-titled first album, or driving at top-speed to the record store the day their second album went on sale, or using "Crash the Party" and "It's a Disaster" as swim meet pump-up music. I even had pictures of Damian Kulash taped onto my binders. It was the serious love for a pop rock group that only happens a few times in a blue moon.

24. The Beach Boys
If Sum 41 was my first rock band, The Beach Boys were my first ANYTHING band. That is what childhood sounded like, lots of giddy-up 409, and fun fun fun 'til her daddy takes the T-bird away. I like them because really, NO band sounds like them. Any band that tried to sound like The Beach Boys would end up sounding stupid. Only their special brand of sunny sincerity (and hints of evil below the surface? Hi Charles Manson) can pull off a song like "Be True to Your School," and still have truly awesome songs like "Sloop John B."

23. The Dandy Warhols
I feel almost cruel clocking the Dandys in all the way down at 23 since they were, more than any other band, the group that got me interested in rock and roll--the music as well as the idea of the lifestyle. I got to know them between their third and fourth albums at the beginning of freshman year of high school after a trip to the record store. My friends all joked at the song title "Bohemian Like You," (rightfully so, I suppose) but I was intrigued, so I went home to my little Kazaa program and did a little illegal downloading, shh. But it was pretty much love at first listen, and that love blossomed into buying all their albums, covering my binders with their photos, spending time on message boards talking to other fans, and ultimately, becoming exposed to tons of music I wouldn't have even known existed otherwise. I guess even at 14, indie cred was really important to me because I ignored plenty of quality mainstream music to devote my life to Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Pete Holmstrom, Zia McCabe and Brent deBoer. And yes, they are still the only band where I can name the first and last name of all the members (except The White Stripes because how lazy can you be).

22. The White Strips
Jack and Meg White. See? No, but I actually had them at 22 already, I didn't just move them to be clever. I came to the White Stripes party kind of late, but one day I realized that hey, Detroit has put out an incredibly successful band in my lifetime, and I ONLY know "Seven Nation Army." That ain't right. So I overcame whatever initial block I had against them, thankfully, because it turns out they have a really good range of catchy songs that don't all sound the same! So far I am rocking the most to their self-titled album, but the sound of De Stijl is sucking me in, bit by bit. "Sugar Never Tasted So Good" stands out for me.

21. Stellastarr*
In my music taste, Stellastarr* is tied with My Bloody Valentine for the title of "Best Worst Band Name." The name is seriously bad, and I was reluctant to even listen to them at first (they were one of many recommendations from the Dandy Warhols message boards). But once you experience the catchy gem that is "My Coco," you can't go back, unless you are soulless. ("I sat alone and I didn't care I sat two years in the same old chair I saw three roads and I didn't know which way to GO GO GO GO!") This is one of those bands I feel like I should be ashamed to love but I just CAN'T be because they make me so happy! If you need a visual, picture me and my little Geo with the trilogy in tow, blaring this song and zooming out of the high school parking lot. I felt COOL, ok?!?

20. The National
The National are a fairly recent addition to my favorites. They actually followed a pretty common pattern for me when I start liking music: I put one song by the band on my ipod (in this case, "City Middle,") and then one day it just worms its way into my brain, I keep wanting to sing it and listen to it and getting all the neat little phrases stuck there ("pissing in a sink I think, I have weird memories of you") until I push past the point where one song can satisfy my craving, so I turn to the album as a whole and BOOM! Obsession! My favorite thing about them is that the lyrics can be pretty nonsensical and sometimes I feel like I should be offended by them but I'm not because you can tell where the singer stops and the character begins. Listen to "Karen" and you'll know where I'm coming from, hopefully.

19. Weezer
Weezer probably takes the cake for my "late to the party" bands. I remember this kid named Andrew from freshman year debate class in high school who was the quintessential Weezer fan, black frame glasses and Vans and all that, and wore their t-shirts and things, and me, being far too indie to care about bands that people had heard of, just dismissed it. Why? Why, Hannah? You could have enjoyed some awesome music a full eight years before you actually came around to it, AND you could have shared a common music history with tons of cool alt-rock nerds! At any rate, I am here to assure all you nostalgic Weezer fans that your appreciation is NOT in your heads, is NOT only because they remind you of high school. They're fuckin' good and I frequently feel compelled to listen to "Only In Dreams" on repeat.

18. Cake
We'll all get along as long as you let me sing the trumpet line. And believe me, Cake taught me everything I know about how to rock a short skirt with a long jacket. I also like how you can have the conversation where you say "I love Cake!" and then you get to clarify: "The band AND the food!" I have surprisingly little to say about Cake, I think my love has just burned pretty steadily for them for a long period of time. "Friend is a Four Letter Word" is spectacular.

17. The Flaming Lips
I am almost afraid to touch this one, given Allison's companion list which is sure to sing the praises of The Flaming Lips more than I ever could. My relationship with them is a bit more removed--my high school love was a fan, so I accordingly became a fan. They taught me that if love was the drug and was real cheap, everybody could get some sleep and that you should love yer brain even if it slips down the drain. My favorite song is still "Buggin'" though.

16. Okkervil River
This is band that I distinctly remember disliking at first. I didn't like Will Sheff's voice, and actually got in a drunk argument with somebody about whether or not he was a "good singer." So let this be an example of how good I am at changing my position! I think they won me over with their concept album (I'm a sucker for a concept album) Black Sheep Boy, particularly the single "For Real." Once I paid attention to the words, I appreciated the story, and the wolfishness gnawing at the corners of so many of the songs. The imagery weaves throughout the whole album, and it was so damn impressive that it got me hooked on the rest of their stuff--the song "Westfall" still manages to send shivers down my spine (it's about murder!).

15. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
SPEAKING OF MURDER! Man, that was a perfect segue. But anyway, Nick Cave is the master of my creepy crime-loving soul. I would put him on this list on the strength of one song alone (thankfully I don't need to because he has plenty of brilliance to go around). That song is "The Mercy Seat" and if you've never listened to it STOP! right now and listen to it. And before you try to tell me you've heard the Johnny Cash version, I will say "Yes well that's fine it's a fine cover but NO!" because nobody does murder like Nick Cave.
"I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood."

But honestly, I promise they are not a one-gem band. The entire Henry's Dream album is dazzling, trust me. Madman music of the highest degree, and a madman's appearance to match.

14. Belle and Sebastian
And now for something completely different, let's turn our thoughts to a slew of cheery little songs with titles like "Another Sunny Day" and "There's Too Much Love." Seeing them in concert recently reminded me that it's ok to be twee and cute from time to time (seeing as I can probably pull that off better than TOUGH!EDGY!HARD! anyway) and dance to sweet songs that are not always as cheerful as they appear to be. This is another band that I found through the internet fans of the Dandy Warhols, and the love fell pretty hard from the beginning. I unknowingly started out with their album of b-sides, and my long-standing favorite song is the slow, mellow process of "This is Just a Modern Rock Song." But I need to credit my boy Danush for cluing me into my new favorite: "Dress Up in You" because if I had a second skin, I'd probably dress up in you.

13. The Brian Jonestown Massacre
So of COURSE anybody who was into the Dandy Warhols in the early 2000's knows ALL about their lengthy friendship/rivalry with Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and I was no exception. Once I discovered I could expand my circle of interest, and that all of their many albums are available for free on their website, I dove in with great gusto. In short, the movie Dig! effectively converted me from the church of Dandy to the church of Anton; I wanted to be him and be part of his big druggy rock and roll anti-sellout mess, kicking people in the faces and losing his temper every five minutes. He made me want to strip the polish off of everything I was. He was and is an emblem of NOT being in it for the money, I don't even know what he was in it for. Even if in retrospect, their music and style was more throwback than revolution, they were a revolution to me. I tell ya, I would wear fucking white and come when they call in a damn nanosecond.

Oh and I must include the story of my one encounter with Anton Newcombe: Finally, after years of fanship, they were playing a concert near me. I of course got to the venue incredibly early, and while waiting in the will call line, I SAW HIM! And FREAKED OUT (silently)! Then I realized he was getting in a small tiff with a member of security because they didn't want to let him in. So I moseyed my way over, and was all "Excuse me, are you Anton Newcombe?" and instead of him saying something nice like "Why yes I am, are you a fan? Would you like a picture or autograph?" he shouts "SEE?!" to the security man, "I'm THE FUCKING BAND!" and the guy lets him in and Anton doesn't give me a second look. All my expectations of him were satisfied. <3

Part Two: #12-1 to come soon!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Selections from Things You Think About and Fail to Follow Through

I love being way too late to get on pop culture stuff. Like how I decided on the train ride home that I really like the White Stripes, which I should have realized before because I've never disliked any of their stuff from the radio. So yeah. Detroit pride, son. I also listened to all of the Arcade Fire album Neon Bible which I think I am also very late to care about. Train rides are good for that kind of stuff. That having been said, here is a bit of rambly prose I wrote at 2 or so in the morning, thinking about our lovely blizzardy Saturday night.

When the snow falls and you love your friends, you can toast to warmth and liters of beer and make a not-so-grand speech to a roomful of applause. You can switch seats, you can steal food, you never get sick of shouting SURPRISE! You have other surprises too, long and short hair, stylistic differences but there must be at least seven things you have in common. Writing and drinking are two. You don’t want to think about the darker sides, so you won’t. You’ll just stomp through a half-foot of snow with more coming down, shriek and swear, close the gate behind you, sit in a circle and talk of balloon animals, civil war reenactments. When you almost might float or fall into the ocean, you go back out to those wild Brooklyn drifts. No matter how hard the signs to read or the ice in your eyes, you move through the "air," exhausted & wilding out. So much of New York is waiting for a train. After which the night unwinds and you are on a spool, spun out to your doorstep and your frozen kite tail of keys.

Those writers used compression, oh? I’ll feel perfection when I’ve condensed the world into nothing, ten words, three words, one. I want to create film as a private medium, I like everything to be a private medium, which becomes tricky to execute, and not at all profitable. I want to know your body clock, blow up the tiny pictures of your minds and let the journals be buried with the dead. Let the journals be buried with the dead! Let the letters survive, since we must be so goddamned nosy anyway, to satiate the grave-robbers. Why grace the dead with fame, for what reason? I am contradictory, for I care more about the thoughts of the dead than the living most times. I make things indecipherable so only I can decipher them, not at all profitable I say.

Shopping malls and convenience stores do make me uneasy, yet they are easy.

The obligations of learning vs. the damage you create once you’ve learned. you are ready to tear up the hearts of the dead, but they don’t care, but it’s possible that they do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

only he knows bigger words

I'm going to write about John Ashbery because that is what I am supposed to be doing right now anyway, only in a proper way and using good academic terms. But even though i only have about two point five hours to finish this paper, I still think it will be a better use of my time to get excited about it in an informal fashion than to just do jargon jargon jargon jargon all over the place in this sloppy Word doc. Besides, I already fell asleep three times this morning and that can't happen any more.

“I thought that if I could put it all down, that would be one way. And next the thought came to me that to leave all out would be another, and truer, way.”

Ashbery introduces the idea of filtered experience and fragmented knowledge by proposing the alternatives—everything and nothing—as the ideal forms of truth. Although he includes two examples of leaving out (“clean washed sea” and “The flowers were.”), writing is, by default, a filtered medium of thought. Ashbery uses this discrepancy between the “ideal” form of personal truth, and the actual manifestation of identity through the external self.

(that was copy and paste)

He goes on to say that the empty space will be filled by the self--"It is you who made this, therefore you are true." This places language and the self in a sort of cycle, where one picks up where the other has left off. In order to describe how the self can operate within language, parts of identity must also be brought as close to everything and nothing as possible.

“It may become necessary…to retreat again into the hard, dark recesses of yourself where you know no comfort is to be found, but which are preferable nevertheless to this perilous position on the edge of the flood, looking down awestruck into the coiling waters that sometimes strike out and ensnare a parcel of land that had seemed secure.”


writing papers about things i love is both cruel and totally necessary, because i usually don't manage to love difficult things until something forces me to. too bad i don't get graded on my emotional connection to my paper.

I just don't think I should be an academic. I don't know what I would be instead though. I just want to be able to do the things i like (writing, reading, singing, cooking, etc) without some end goal in mind or a grand purpose or anything.

btw, who here reads webcomics, and which ones? i can't be the only one.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


1. So I changed my password again. And its STILL an awesome dictionary word. So there, I don't care if it's unsafe. Sometimes I don't wear my helmet, either. For the record, last year's was "flotsam."

2. I'm writing one of my final papers about spelling reform. It's probably going to be better than my blog post about spelling reform, so maybe if I get ambitious, I'll post this new one too.

3. School sucks the life out of me and I hope to God the city of dearborn hires me as a park aide so I won't have to think i can just pick up garbage and clean up shit and think about the little green bugs in the parks while i make the world pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

they added "meh" to the dictionary

blog is dead.
not in general, just this one.

i don't think i'm cut out for blogging. i think bloggers are supposed to be opinionated or something.

Monday, September 8, 2008

a brief disjointed return.

a news story:
now that i am having schooling in writing again, i will have more to write and put in here.
the bad part, requiring discipline in order to write is probably a good sign for my imminent failure as a writer.

i would like to take a moment and chat about some super books i read recently, as well as a couple of the mediocre ones i picked up for some reason and decided to finish.

first, my favorite of recent days and the reason i feel inspired all month:
We Love Glenda So Much, a short story collection by Julio Cortazar.
part of my joy for this collection is that i have been trying to know Cortazar for a good 6 months or so and after feeling stupid trying his novels and losing my brain, i'm glad to have finally hit upon his work in my favorite medium, short story. Cortazar has such a crazy mind, i wish i could live in it, but being that i can't, i consider it a joy to read such lovely passages as this:

"The dogs howled again intermittently, from one of the shacks in the dell the shouts of a woman suddenly cut off at their highest point, the silence next door let a murmer of confused alarm pass in the dozing of tourist women too fatigued and out of it to be really interested in what surrounded them. We stayed listening, far removed from sleep. After all, what's the use of sleeping if later on it could be the roar of a cloudburst on the roof or the shrill lovemaking of cats, the preludes to nightmares, dawn, when heads finally flatten pillows and then nothing can get in them until the sun climbs up the palm trees and you have to go back to living."
--Story With Spiders

doesn't it make you want to sigh? i read it and want my own beach cabin or else make myself lie awake in bed to hear my own neighborhood's sounds, the next-door air conditioner and a bird with a very close nest. i realize that real criticism is beyond me, that reading for me is either loving or confusion or boredom or amusement. i usually can't be bothered thinking of where an author failed or what he must have been thinking. what i read is mostly enough.

other highlighted stories include the title story, We Love Glenda So Much, a tale of fan clubs gone awry but told in a sense of the highest glory and ancient quest for perfection; Clone, a confusing fugue or choir of sorts where i can't even get angry that the concept is greater than the plot; and Stories I Tell Myself, which i of course love because dream and daydream and love and adventure roll all together and come out in a dinner party.

ok, end of good book round 1. good book round 2 will be shorter because allison is borrowing my copy and i desperately want it back for comfort.

like so many of my college brethren, i have caught the kerouac bug. however unlike most i have known, it was not On The Road that made me realize my inner beat (or rather name my inner beat as 'beat' because i feel like i'm insulting myself to say i needed a book to tell me what i am. at any rate). so, my book of choice: Desolation Angels.

those of you who feel like scrolling down a bit will find a post where i basically rhapsodize about a passage from this book, and i guess not a lot more needs to be said. there is a blurb on the cover of my copy that talks about how Desolation Angels best captures the place of God in the beat mystique, and i like that. i worry and wonder about God a lot and its easier to think about when presented in such a poetic and honest way as this. i think maybe its too late, too much writing has happened since then to make it acceptable for me to write the way i do, but kerouac tells me its okay to do stream of consciousness if i want even if its not a stream but a lot of blood squirting out instead.

i guess rather than move on to the mediocre books i should just give a rest, i'm getting crazy and i'm not all that deep anyway. there is only so long i can ramble along in my own head without making you all hate me, probably. and i do still care, somewhat, about that.

good night.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

i don't really feel like writing much lately (not in a happy or sad way).