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Posts Tagged ‘Shit I Love’

My favorite Canadian supergroup has a new album entitled “Forgiveness Rocks Record” coming out May 4th, and since my favorite Canadian supergroup is also my favorite musical act on the planet, here, there, anywhere, anytime, I am delirious.

This is, for me, the greatest news on the planet. It makes my year. There are years where no BSS records come out; those are eh. Then there are years when they do: and they are super. They are years when you invite friends over to listen to those albums all night and pass out on your floor at 5 am. They are years when you take off work to go drive to get the album and listen to it all over creation. It’s a year that is perfect. I’ve already listened to “World Sick”, which you can get from their website, and maybe I’m biased, but yeah, I’m in love all over again (I missed them so). So May 4th is kinda like a big deal for me. To celebrate, here are some pictures with no rhyme or reason to them. Bless ’em all.

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Wheat, Boom Boom, Wheat

I’m disappointed in myself. Wheat has had a new album out for over six months and I’ve been clueless about this. But before I start this, I should clarify:

I am, and have been for many years now, madly passionately adoringly in love with Wheat.


Wheat. A band so deserving, and so perpetually on the outskirts. A band discovered after each album, by new and old adorers alike. Ever since my sister played them for me so many years ago, I’ve gone through a phase with each of their albums, a phase which usually lasts for a bubbly month of hopping around and spacing out and creating excuses to postpone going home; it ends in me planning to move somewhere or do something else drastic.

It’s pop music. It’s brilliant pop music that’s been made in a decade that has repeated stale, horrifying dribble on the radio over and over and over. Who cares what the corporate Grammys do with themselves, but do all these corporate-owned radio stations have to assault my ears whenever I have the audacity to run into Giant to pick up some milk and garlic (vampires, you know…)? I beg whoever is choosing the playlist I’ll be forced to zombie-walk to in my grocery store to just consider Wheat. Let’s start with Per Second, Per Second, Per Second…Every Second.


It’s Wheat’s most accessible album. It’s pop-pop-pop, it’s driving on a summer evening when you’re twenty. It’s picking a pen out from under the pile of books and clothes in your backseat and scrawling something on your wrist and walking out to everything else with a fucking huge grin. It’s “The Beginner” being played over and over for years on evenings after long days of work, be it at the rodeo or picking children up at the playground or showing up on a dimly lit, snowy street early in the morning to look for a lost someone. Or “This Rough Magic” with all its gorgeous something-ness and beyond-ness: “and carrying counts for something / when you can give it all away …. and I hope god will mend / the little things I break and bend / and equal it to the love I made”.  It’s endearingly pretentious wanna-be music critic friends saying when they hear ‘These Are Things’ that it’s ‘movie music’, as if you will bow to their intelligence now that they’ve insulted you ( or schooled you in their wisdom, they think ) thoughtlessly. You smile, because fuck, even Pitchfork got over themselves to swoon just a bit before this album. Then, two years later, self-declared music-critic-genius friends are declaring they’ve discovered Hope and Adams, and you have to laugh because you’ve been listening to the heartbreakingly beautiful precursor to Per Second for years, but you stifle that laugh because you won’t deny anyone the joy of Wheat simply in order to feel vindicated.

When we talk of Hope and Adams, let us not raise our voices. Let us wait till late twilight, and then open the blinds to watch the blue, and we’ll just listen to the album, rather than argue. It’s all we can do, I suppose. Was it an album written for May? For June? Just as much September, I think, all blues at night, and green and white during the day. It’s “Body Talk” (one or two) in the evening. “Raised Ranch Revolution” driving somewhere far away. “Who’s The One” early in the morning, I’m talking four or five am, driving back (or to) someplace. When you are feeling absolutely yourself and finding you absolutely belong to the universe, you have to put on “Off the Pedestal” and start jumping all over as you go along with Scott Levesque : “I never seem to get these feet beneath my legs to land up like a cat who’s taken back his lives for one that’s not going right.” More than anything, though, it’s that too-croony-to-be-corny classic which made it out of the shadows, “Don’t I Hold You”. Oh, “Don’t I Hold You”. Whosoever hears you can’t help but be enchanted by all your pounds of air, and rolling right off the road into something-lovely-ness.

Then there is Wheat’s four-year afterthought to Per Second, a strange little album entitled Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy and Made a One-Inch Square. Well, honestly, I don’t know what that means to them, but I love it. It sounds a bit like meaningful nonsense, with a listener finding the meaning one day and losing it the next. There’s “Saint In Law” which is as strange and pretty and halting as the first time I heard it. “Closeness” takes me right back to “Raised Ranch Revolution” on Hope and Adams, and frankly, I love it. Other songs like “To, As In Addressing the Grave”, “Move = Move” and “Little White Dove” give those whole exercise an ethereal, caught-between worlds feel. “An Exhausted Fixer” I find to be running even with KC Accidental’s “Tired Hands” for loveliest song title. The whole album, as I’ve found it, is something which sounds sad and beautiful and happy and worn out, and perhaps a little surprised at finding itself older as it look laughingly back upon itself. I guess I sort of love it too.

So this is the album I have been whomping myself over the head about all evening, or at least I would be whomping if I was a whomper. But I am a lover and a peaceful one, so I decided to do penitence by putting my love into words and sending it out into space. Anyway. I am all about the occasional song which comes along and is sort of reassuring. It’s why I love their earlier song “These Are Things” because, honestly, it would be an unhappy world if you can’t have a tough year and jump up and down in the car in the new spring and shout out “these are things I did for my love” over and over. On White Ink, Black Ink Wheat has a few more of these, though with a little less swooping choruses. “My Warning Song (Everything is Gonna Be Alright)” has none of the obvious charisma of “These Are Things”, but its off-the-beaten-path-but-still-trumpeting-on-the-way-and-so-is-perhaps-a-bit-more-grown-up-and-should-probably-have-gotten-past-hyphens-charm is all its own, and I’m in love. They have songs which twinkle. They have songs called “If Everything Falls Together”. I have to say, after a few go-throughs, this album makes me feel young and again. It’s the Wheat album I’ve wanted for years, with all the dreaminess of Hope and Adams, the excitement and on-the-edge feeling of Per Second, the strange precision of Everyday I Said A Prayer. And, for the true Wheat lovers, it also has all the upstart daring-ness of Medeiros. White Ink, Black Ink is young and old at the same time. I think that might be one of the nicest things I’ve said about anything, ever. In my mind, it’s quite a compliment.

One of the young-old-brimming songs on this album is called “Changes Is”. It’s the sort of song to have a lyric which I can’t help but, you know, adore, that goes “Boom Boom / I’m getting out of here”. Well, yeah. That’s Everything, isn’t it?

Who knows where Wheat will end up in the pantheon of music history. As for me, I’m grateful I’ve handed over moments of my life to their music many, many times. I wish I could hear I remember in twenty minutes that I have no food and this calls for a crawl over to the grocery store. This would be what I’d like to hear when I walk in at 11:30 at night into the 24-hour Giant and smile at the cashiers and pick up a few magazines to take home and read in the snowy night. This would make us all feel good about everything.

I like, when thinking about them, going back to one of their very first songs, the rousing “Death Car”. When it starts swelling up and being feisty, I think about those sleepy-looking fellows who occasionally gaze into the camera, but are usually off looking or focusing on someone else entirely. Maybe that’s why I love their music. It holds and suggests more than itself.

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Un Conte de Noël

I love winter. Yes, the mid-Atlantic currently seems to bear more in common with Scandinavia right now… but I am loving it. Of course, I wouldn’t tell that to anyone’s face, and I have my empathetic “I know, right?” face ready whenever some poor schmuck is complaining about the cold to me.

But enough! If we don’t have to sleep on the streets, if we have someplace warm to go at night, then we really shouldn’t complain. Winter might sort of be the perfect time for gratitude, actually. To stay inside, roast tomatoes in the oven, open a bottle of red wine, and watch and re-watch Arnaud Desplechin’s lovely, rich, wintery Un Conte de Noël.

This is the kind of movie that I just put on and walk around the house doing stuff. Yeah, they’re speaking french, and yeah, I can’t really understand it. Who cares! It’s seriously the most pleasant movie to just have on in the background, and then I remember “Oh! Someone is going to get all feisty and french!” and I run over and laugh and laugh. Then I decide to stop reading or cooking and we open a bottle of wine and sit down and that’s it, we have to watch the whole thing.

Un Conte de Noël is like a holiday (ha!) from the world. I’m wary of upper middle-class people sitting around bitching about their problems. So I don’t really know why I like this, but I cannot stop watching it. Maybe it’s because it’s beautiful. Maybe because Catherine Deneuve is not the kind of person who lets you turn a movie off. Maybe it’s because I’m strangely sympathetic to some of the characters, especially the real bastards among them. Maybe it’s because when they get feisty and bitchy, it’s endearingly neurotic and sweet. That all probably has something to do with it. But really, it’s like an excellent novel: just overflowing with life, with people, with vignettes thrown in all over the place that give it that brimming feeling. I keep going back to it because it’s impossible not to go back to something so life-affirming and enchanting and strange and warm in the middle of winter.

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Man oh man, I’m wild about Julian of Noriwch.

Julian is the best. We were first introduced when one of the characters in Iris Murdoch’s lovely The Black Prince informed a character (named Julian) that she was named after the great Blessed Julian. I’ve read her little masterpiece, The Revelations of Divine Love, several times, and it is one of the kindest religious texts I’ve yet found.

Julian was an anchoress in medieval England, living her life out in a small cell attached to her church. The 14th and 15th centuries were quite a time for female mystics, and for more on it I highly recommend Visions and Longings, a compiliation of their writings put together by Monica Furlong. Julian herself might have passed from history without a sound, but she became sick when she was 30 and believed she was shown visions. They occured again later in her life. These visions brought her out of the narrow, infidel-hating religion of her times and gave her a sense of universal love and salvation. Her religious ideas after these visions give the impression that all people will be saved, that everything is for the best and it’s only our being caught up in the flux of things that prevents us from feeling that with all our souls.

It might seem like to wishful thinking to some, but to read Julian herself is to be given the feeling that every atom of the universe is precious and accounted for. Here are some of the things she herself wrote:

Love was without beginning, is, and shall be without ending.”

He that made all things for love, by the same love keepeth them, and shall keep them without end.

God willeth that we endlessly hate the sin, and endlessly love the soul, as God loveth it.”

All this was to make us glad and merry in love.”

Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God.”

In her visions, Julian was shown a hazelnut. And what an important little thing it was! For the hazelnut shows the reader what we all are, how small, and how loved:

[Jesus] shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazelnut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marveled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for a little. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.”

And she continues, ostensibly about the hazelnut, but really about everyone:

In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it.”

Julian and the Hazelnut

Finally, there is everyone’s favorite:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Love her.

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I love Houston. I never thought I would go to Houston in my life. I certainly didn’t think I would love it. To be fair, many of the awful stereotypes I had heard about Houston were true. If I hadn’t known people there, who also had lots of spare time that year, I may have just seen an over-grown vapid wasteland of concrete and metal sprawling over the hot clay into more nothingness. But there are silly things everywhere, and bad things everywhere, and there’s also something to love in everyone and everywhere. As for me, when I think of Houston, I think of waking up at night and seeing the Transco tower’s searchlight shining through my blinds like a lighthouse.

The Transco Tower is actually called the Williams Tower, but blah blah blah who cares. I don’t normally go in for skyscrapers. The Houston skyline is very impressive (and it goes on and on and on), but the only building I adore is the Transco Tower. Well, that’s not quite true. I love how all the buildings line their roofs with lights in December. But what I love about the Transco Tower is how it stands out (there’s nothing nearly so tall near it since it’s in Midtown) and the searchlight. It’s like a fucking lighthouse! In a city!

This statue was near where I first lived in Houston. I would see it at night pulling into my driveway, and it being Texas, I assumed it was a statue of Jesus. Nope! It’s an enormous, enormous statue of Quan Am, a Buddhist goddess of compassion. The Vietnamese temple there is by a long, nearly-empty road with lots of tall grass and a dance hall with the old-fashioned light bulbs circling the sign and blinking. At night, it’s very perfect.

Fiesta. God, I love Fiesta, the international supermarket. Specifically, I love the Fiesta by Bellaire. When you go there, here are some things you can get: Cotton Candy. Corn in a cup. An enormous towel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Kumquats. Every chile pepper on earth. The most perfect avocadoes. Cowboy boots. Cowboy hats. Any type of tea from anywhere on Earth. A candle that says: “Law! Stay Away!” and a candle that says: “Are you being controlled?” An aerosol spray to keep away Death. Every possible kind of curry. A mix for borscht soup. A mix for sponge cake. Rosehip tea. Basil seed drinks. When I walk through Fiesta, with all the families getting treats for their children and putting piles of plaintains in their cart, I feel like the happiest person on the planet.

The Byzantine Fresco Chapel is part of the Menil Gallery complex. When you walk in you are immediately overpowered. The light of the world disappears and all that’s left is the fine, sheer glass, the heavy stone walls, and the beautiful, ancient frescoes of Jesus. I believe they are the only intact Byzantine frescoes in the western hemisphere. The Chapel automatically brought to mind one word: Sanctuary.

The Rothko Chapel is right next to the Byzantine Chapel. Both are part of the Menil Collection, a lovely museum complex downtown. It’s meant to be used, and they have all sorts of religious texts from an enormous variety of religions. You can see people praying and meditating at any hour of the day, and the whole place has managed to keep a sense of the sacred while at the same time being unlike any chapel you’ve ever seen.

Vietnam Coast is the greatest restaurant in Texas. Maybe in the world? I don’t know. Whatever. The tofu with vietnamese garlic sauce is my favorite food, even when my boyfriend has gotten it for me three days earlier and had to carry it back in a plane. Everything else on the menu I’ve tried is incredible. Since I first walked in there years ago the place seems to have gotten some recognition and is always fairly crowded, but it’s the same three people I see working there and they’re as smiley as ever. Everyone I’ve dragged there has loved it, and I love it, and damn you DC for having such overpriced restaurants and no decent Vietnamese food.

Live Oaks. God, they’re like beautiful monsters. One day you’re in the North and everything is cold and stark and lovely, and then you’re in Texas or Louisiana, and it’s January but there are these enormous trees still carrying their leaves. They’re as big as buildings, they’re older than our nation, and they’re sprawling and majestic and uncontrollable. Let every other tree go to sleep, who needs them when you have a live oak!

To look at the blue ferris wheel at the aquarium lit up at night when you’re driving on Memorial into downtown is glorious. Glorious, I tell you!

Okay, so that is not what New Years Eve looked like. But whatever. We were outside the city limits on 290, and starting around 9 o’clock every 30 seconds or so you’d hear a firework go off. As it got more and more frequent we went outside to look around. Nearly everyone was outside setting them off, and you could see them shooting up miles away. Children were lighting off roman candles and running down the street. At midnight it was as loud and bright as any organized fireworks display I’ve ever seen, with all sorts of families waving hello and hugging and lighting sparklers. It was also nicer than any organized fireworks display, because absolutely everyone was setting things off. It was lovely.

If you’ve never seen Texas in April, no words or pictures could describe the bluebonnets. Adjectives are suddenly paltry. All I can say is lots of wonderful things have happened in my life, but sitting in a field of bluebonnets with people you love on a misty April evening with low fogs and stone staircases that don’t go anywhere, well, there’s nothing more beautiful I’ve ever seen. My friend and I have gone out to see them several years, and sometimes we would just stop the car and start laughing. You hop over a fence and run through them, and the only thing that can bum you out is knowing no one will believe how heavenly it is until they see for themselves.

There’s a million other things I love about Houston (which my friend and I were nearly weeping about as we sat in a bar called Bubba’s near Galveston and tried to convince my boyfriend why we should all move back to Texas, though he was too busy playing with his stick-on mustache to pay much attention). I love the rodeo and corn in a cup, I love The Marquis bar on a Tuesday night, I love the jukebox at the Volcano, the bartender at Warren’s, the music at The Big Easy. I love sitting at Agora and having a beer on the wooden balcony overlooking the live oaks in April. I love the Houston Rodeo. I love getting a potato and cheese tacquito and fries at three o’clock in the morning from Whataburger, a late night decision no one anywhere could ever regret. I love the people, the enormous Vietnamese community, the bartenders who will chat with you for hours, the incredible Mexican-American culture, the poker dealers who never sleep, the men with cowboy hats still wanting to dance at the end of the night, the strangers who will come up to you and start talking and never stop and it’s wonderful.

Houston! Let’s hang out again soon, please.

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Sheeeeeeeeee-lia

Atlas Sound!

bradford cox

Listen, all you really need to know is Bradford Cox of the band Deerhunter has made two of the most gorgeous albums of the past few years. I speak the truth here. Mr. Cox is an interesting gentleman, and his life story is all fascinating, but that’s not what I’m trying to say here.

What I want to say, clearly, is “Sheila” is an incredible song. Dear God, it is a lush piece of work. “Walkabout” is what I think it would be like to skip along ten feet across the ground. Think of all the things you’d see! Logos is, in my mind, easily going to be one of the very, very best albums of the year. Maybe it’s cos I like really spacey thick stuff, but this is seriously good. His album from last year, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, was also most excellent. All, I don’t know, starry or fireworks-ish.

blue!

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say about that. I don’t want to describe or review genius, I want to enjoy it. Time to go listen to “Small Horror” and “Ready Set Glow” and shoot off like a rocket to the moon. Times that are fun!

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor being vague, or, you know, something like it

Godspeed You! Black Emperor being vague, or, you know, something like it

Without a doubt, the greatest 57 seconds in music is “Attention Mon Ami Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La (55-St. Laurent)”, with 57 being arbitrary, since the piece is actually 1:18, and that piece is actually just a fragment of “She Dreamt She Was A Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone In An Empty Field,” which is, in turn, just one of the movements in “Anthems,” the fourth song on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s eternally something else album, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Said album also has the greatest introduction to any album anywhere ever,  “Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven…”

There’s no real point to this, but I just want to put it out there. I was listening to Do Make Say Think’s new album Other Truths, and all of a sudden I was very much, dude, I need something epic-and-more. Something which is going to not just space me out, but speak to all the nuttiness I feel after Capitalism. I loved Lift Your Skinny Fists when I was a young lass, and I can’t say my feelings of it have changed in the slightest. Ultimate point being, there can’t really be a way (I hope) for a human being to hear “Attention Mon Ami Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La (55-St. Laurent)” and not just feel something fucking huge.

Levez Vos Skinny Fists Comme Antennas to Heaven

Levez Vos Skinny Fists Comme Antennas to Heaven

On a side note, Godspeed You! Black Emperor is one of the few bands where I’d like to meet the whole crew, though they haven’t recorded in ages and probably won’t in the foreseeable future. Still, there are not many other groups I’d really want to sit down and just listen to them bullshit or rant and rave. It’s not like I’d particularly like to pick their mind about the songs, but I just sorta like what they say (and don’t) and the explanations they give (or avoid giving at all). Plus, they named themselves after a Japanese documentary about bikers entitled God Speed You! Black Emperor. I don’t know, them, they just make sense to me. Yeah, that’s it.

from the film which gave the band the name which made all the songs which are super neat

from the film which gave the band the name which made all the songs which are super neat

And if I haven’t mentioned they have one of, if not The, greatest names for a band ever, let me say it: Godspeed You! Black Emperor has one of the greatest, if not The Greatest, name for a band. Ever.

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