Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'all hope is blind' dvd is here

should've done this a week or two ago when it was finally finished, but here it is now. i'm going to be including dvd-rs of all of the videos with any 'all hope is blind' lps ordered through the mail. follow the rabbit down the hole- click here

'forever drowning'/'ashes, ashes'

'under the flood'


'paper doves'

'you can choke on your own breath'

'falling stars'

'christmas song, pt. iii'


'4am train'


Sunday, July 17, 2011

pitchfork 7.17.11

Every year when I’ve been to Pitchfork (which would be ’07, ’08 and ’09) I’ve always gone on Sunday and Friday. I’ve never been on what I call ‘pitchfork pet day.’ Think about it, every single one of Pitchfork’s favourite little pet bands plays on Saturday and that is why I’ve never been—Animal Collective (of course they did play on Friday this year), Fleet Foxes (actually I wouldn’t mind seeing them to be honest), Pains of Being Pure at Heart for example. This year I wasn’t able to afford a ticket for Friday with all of the job drama and whatnot. I also didn’t think I could get the time off at my new job, but I could’ve. A shame since catching Neko Case and Thurston Moore would’ve been worth the price of admission alone. Regardless, this year’s Sunday lineup was not to be missed—Fresh & Onlys, Kurt Vile, Ariel Pink, Superchunk and Deerhunter? Yes, please! All bands I’ve missed during their last visits to Chicago, either because of objectionable venue choices (Superchunk, Deerhunter) or just late-to-the-party syndrome (Fresh & Onlys, Ariel Pink).

I was a little nervous when looking at the weather forecast for today. Oppressive heat, stifling crowds, fashion-victim hordes and standing all day inhaling second-hand smoke and trying to enjoy the music over loud talkers and ‘WOO!’ guys. I’m a bit of a curmudgeon in my show-going life these days and an endurance test of this magnitude seems doomed in all probability. I guess the stars must’ve been aligned as perfectly today as the way that the bands were arranged because this year has been the best Pitchfork festival I’ve ever attended! Usually I’m only in for two or three bands, but today I was in for five. Of those five I only flaked on one due to the conditions.

Upon arriving at 12:30 Stefanie and I wandered the grounds before staking out a spot. Arriving for the first band is always a delight as the crowd is very sparse until later in the afternoon, even with the day sold-out. We were already losing steam until the Fresh & Onlys started playing at the green stage at 1. They played a very short but punchy set—a good mix of their earlier garage rock-leanings and their more recent psych-y output. They wisely stuck closely to the excellent ‘Play it Strange’ from last year as well as the newest EP ‘Secret Walls.’ The highlights were ‘Tropical Island Suite’ and ‘Until the End of Time.’ The crowd grew as the set progressed and it’s highly likely they won a few new converts over.

After they were finished we wandered some more in the shaded area by the Washington exit and the blue stage. We snagged a couple of beers and then explored one of the more surreal sights I’ve seen in a while, the Heineken beer tent. After downing some more water we headed back to the green stage to catch Kurt Vile. Of the four times I’ve seen Vile this was probably my favourite set. It was definitely the best time I’ve seen him with his band the Violators (including last year’s set at Subterranean). I’ve seen him in a duo configuration, solo at a record store and twice with the Violators (the last time was when they were touring with a harpist). They opened with a fantastic new song, continued with the tracks that leaned more towards the rocking side from ‘Smoke Ring for my Halo’ and threw in a few from 2009’s ‘Childish Prodigy’ (which I refuse to join the current hate-fest on—the record has some of Vile’s best tracks) and ‘Freeway’ from ‘Constant Hitmaker.’ A lot of my least favourite tracks of his sprang to life in this setting. It was nothing short of riveting even with the sun beating down on us the entire time.

Afterwards we went for food and more water. We also visited our friends at their respective Flatstock tents and then ended up in one of the cooling buses. I’ve never been so happy to be aboard a CTA bus for an hour while guzzling water and shoveling potstickers into my mouth. A group of annoying girls sat down next to us and eventually we became annoyed enough with them that we left. This was probably as good of an indication of us being fully hydrated as we could’ve hoped for. Sadly we lost our mojo to check out Ariel Pink and listened to his set from the shaded area next to the basketball court. The main event for us was Superchunk and Deerhunter, who were playing back-to-back. We were getting worried that we weren’t going to be able to survive three hours straight in the sun, so sadly we sat one of the bands out.

Once five rolled around we headed to the red stage for what we’d been looking forward to from the get-go. Superchunk are always a wonder to behold live and their latest, ‘Majesty Shredding’ is easily one of their best records. A lot of people accuse me of being incapable of enjoying upbeat and fun music. For them I submit my love of Superchunk as indisputable evidence to the contrary. They started with ‘Throwing Things’ which I was hoping they’d play, switched to some of the best tracks from ‘Majesty Shredding’ and from there they alternated between the new record and several of their classics (i.e. ‘The First Part,’ ‘Hyper Enough’ and the obligatory ‘Slack Motherfucker’). They even played a few I wasn’t expecting to hear (i.e. ‘Like a Fool’ and ‘Driveway to Driveway’). For a generous portion of their set the sun was hidden behind a wonderfully tall tree that spread a generous amount of sweet shade over the crowd. While a majority of the crowd in the festival had already staked out their spots for Deerhunter’s set on the green stage, the crowd for Superchunk was a generous size and, as always, incredibly enthusiastic. They are one of those painfully underrated bands with a fanbase that should be bigger, but is obscenely devoted.

Finally, we elbowed our way as far as we were able to get in the massive throng gathered for Deerhunter. Somehow they were able to surpass even my lofty expectations in around an hour. Deerhunter seem to have started taking to constructing their shows the way that Spiritualized does—while they stick to the same set of songs with near religious consistency what they do with the songs changes and evolves over time, making it possible for one to witness them playing the same songs in nearly completely different ways. I was gutted that I missed Deerhunter’s last stop in town at the Metro last October. I was even willing to brave the cavernous sound, oversold crowds and the douche-baggiest staff in town of the Metro to catch them, but the show fell during the weekend when I was out of town for my sister’s wedding. I had to settle for the live recording from the band’s stop at the 9:30 Club in DC that was broadcast live on NPR instead. Even that couldn’t prepare me for how deliriously loud they were, while alternating effortlessly between sharp focus and liquidy dreaminess. Several songs were extended a great deal. Bradford Cox even added a few verses from Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ to ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ (which was the only track from ‘Microcastle’ in their set). From there they went into the beautiful combination of extended versions of both ‘Helicopter’ and ‘He Would Have Laughed’ that ended their set. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


haven't really talked about this here as i haven't been able to do so without the entry devolving into a name-listing and furious rant. a few facts- i was coerced into signing something while groggy, disoriented, confused, upset and on the implied threat i wouldn't receive my desperately needed paycheck if i didn't which was full of fabricated information. amongst the inaccuracies- my firing date may 12, 2011- the day before a wedding i was present at in kansas city. nothing like being fired right when you return from being out of town- it's a good thing we couldn't discuss this whole thing like adults, but that's just not the kind of business my former boss wants to run.
a few nights ago i had an intense dream in which i was wandering the streets in a vaguely suburban-looking location that i wasn't familiar with at all and walked into a house that i had the key to. the person who it belonged to appeared later on and was a regular from my tenure at 'bongs and boners' as i suppose i'll call it now. she was unalarmed by my entry into her house and greeted me warmly and we relaxed on the floor. my former boss appeared, at which point i towered over him ranting and raving and yelling at him about all the ways he'd screwed me over and what a raging, unapologetic dick he was at which point tears began streaming from his eyes. i stopped and said, 'really?! YOU'RE fucking crying right now! let's review- you fired me, completely screwed me over and now YOU'RE crying?!' to which he sniffled, 'yes.' i left in a huff, my anger subsided and promptly woke up.
another fact- stefanie texted my former boss telling him to go fuck himself to which he replied about how 'gracious' everyone had been to me through this whole ordeal. something that should be said- there is nothing gracious about a forced resignation followed by a fabricated, pre-orchestrated, cowardly firing based entirely on outright lies. stefanie just replied, 'whatever you need to tell yourself to get to sleep at night. you fucked tyler over. you fucked me over. if you see one of us walking toward you on the street you'd better turn around and walk the other way.'
another fact- fired on the day before my 32nd birthday. went straight downtown to apply at my current place of work (which i was planning to do once i got back into town anyway). got the job two days later. could've given my two-weeks, not missed a beat monetarily and could've left the place on good terms. also, would've been able to forgive my former boss for all of the childish, disgusting and demeaning things he said to me about my wife on a regular basis and would've been able to see him socially (since we run in the same social circle, this has a fairly good likelihood of occurring now complete with palpable awkwardness for all onlookers and associated parties). also wouldn't have committed these things to print and probably wouldn't have written about the place ever again. i hope these people consider this a victory. personally i'm not entirely sure what they win from this type of behavior apart from a growing list of enemies (i'm not the only one who's been forced out/screwed over in a similar fashion). just a final note- the coffee/coffeeshop world in chicago is a small one, folks and people in this world know what it is you're doing and it doesn't reflect very positively on you. the only people you're screwing are yourselves.

diary 7.7.11- winter dreaming...

yes, it's true- summer is upon me. my coping mechanisms include beer and dreaming of the bliss i feel during the dead of the wintertime. this can include the vain attempts to evoke these feelings by listening to music that i favor during the cold months- nick drake is the oldest signpost present here. 'five leaves left' transports me back to winter 1998 in my crappy one-bedroom apartment in kansas city, ks- my fridge didn't work, was replaced by one that didn't fit in the slot in the kitchen, so sat in the middle of the kitchen floor, complete with massive dent in the front and my kitchen sink didn't drain properly for almost the entire term of my lease only to be fixed early one morning when i was ditching french class by a toothless repair man named tommy who told me 'never put anything in a commode that doesn't belong in a commode!' it was a lovely place. an apt sequel to 'summer of hate.' it's been a rough couple of months to say the least...

song- artist- album

1. introducing the band- suede- 'dog man star'
2. overdriver- astrobrite- 'crush'
3. secret walls- fresh & onlys- 'secret walls'
4. july- low- 'live at eindhoven'
5. suburban dogs- real estate- 's/t'
6. in silver rain with a paper key- thurston moore- 'demolished thoughts'
7. round the bend- beck- 'sea change'
8. river man- nick drake- 'five leaves left'
9. clouds over earthquake- wooden shjips- 'vol. 1'
10. over the mountain- koolaid electric company- 'random noises and organised sounds'
11. war- asteroid #4- 'these flowers of ours'
12. million years- the warlocks- unreleased 2011
13. sunrise drift- clear horizon- 's/t'
14. sway- spiritualized- 'lazer guided melodies'
15. lissie's heart murmur- warpaint- 'the fool'

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ruminations- suede- 'dog man star'

like a lot of people i've been reminded of suede by the sudden appearance of all of their reissued/remastered albums that just came out last month. i remember getting into them when i saw the video for 'metal mickey' on 120 minutes way back in 1992. none of my friends knew who they were, even though i was making mixtapes for my friends constantly and often including one or sometimes two tracks from their self-titled debut. i believe i was partial to the aforementioned 'metal mickey' and also the slower tracks such as 'breakdown' or even 'pantomime horse.' given how huge of a suede fan i was in 1994, when 'dog man star' (aka their towering, ambitious masterpiece of a second album against which all of their output is judged and wilts under the pressure) came out it somehow managed to escape my notice. i never heard anything about it. there was that whole ridiculousness with that american band suing them for rights to the name (sorry, sir, but i still referred to them as 'suede' as i'd never heard of your band and still haven't to this day) and then, of course, the unavoidable elephant-in-the-room of genius guitarist bernard butler's colourful exit. given that i was only 15 and i'd never heard anything off of it and hadn't heard a peep about the album i just assumed it wasn't as good as the debut album and never bothered with it until five years later when i found a used copy at cd warehouse (where i used to buy a lot of music in those days- a bit of an untapped goldmine in kansas city- no one went there and they always had what you were looking for used. a sampling of treasures i acquired there- every pj harvey album up to 'stories from the city...,' 'this is hardcore' by pulp, 'ladies and gentlemen...' by spiritualized and countless cure bootlegs) and brought it up to the counter where the clerk (who i'd become friendly with due to the frequency of my visits) raved to me for several minutes about the astounding brilliance of 'the asphalt world.' somehow, despite all of this and liking several tracks a great deal ('the 2 of us' and 'daddy's speeding' transport me right back to those boy-band wasteland days of 1999) the album never grabbed me as a whole the way that the debut did and the cd sat on the shelves for years. i even thought that the first disc of 'sci-fi lullabies' was better (which, to be fair, is far too good to be any band's b-sides collection).
upon hearing about the reissues i dug 'dog man star' out of the stacks and stacks of untouched cds sitting in the living room and ripped it onto my ipod and have been listening to it steadily ever since. having heard so many people talk it up as an unparalleled masterpiece always seemed a bit overdramatic before, but something clicked with it just recently and now i'm going to transform into one of those obsessives right before your eyes. while it is true that 'dog man star' doesn't have the accessibility and overflowing wealth of singles that the debut has (the only other album that rivals 'suede' for a similar amount of single-worthy material would be 'purple rain' in my mind) it has a fully-realised clarity of vision that the debut barely even hints at. it somehow manages to present worlds and universes of musical possibilities that the band could've taken off to in such an expertly-realised way that such a burden would've caused (and has on multiple occasions- 'the second coming' by the stone roses, anyone?) lesser bands to crack under the pressure. doing what's expected of you on your eagerly anticipated follow-up is dangerous, but sticking to your guns can be even more dangerous in some cases. the orchestral scope of some of these tracks should NOT work (i.e. 'still life' should sound pompous and ridiculous, but doesn't, for example), the varied musical landscape should make the album feel slapped-together with a lack of cohesion, but here it somehow all hangs together perfectly. 'daddy's speeding' gracefully moves through an arrangement that is nothing short of perplexing and brilliant all at the same time. most would have to take a cocktail of drugs that would be lethal to get there and once they did they wouldn't be clear-headed enough to pull such a feat off in under six minutes. there is no rhythm section. at times the mix is left painfully naked with only yawning chasms of reverb left to comfort you. 'introducing the band' is the perfect statement of intent necessary to kick off an album such as this. the mix is thick and viscous as if the music is coming at you through a helmet made out of molasses. considering the sharp, pristine top-heavy sound that they normally favor, here the restraint not to resort to such a sound is nothing short of heroic as such a sound would render 'introducing the band' virtually unlistenable. the bizarre vocal loop alone would be enough to drive someone crazy under such circumstances. what's more the guitars are sharp and cutting enough that they are able to cut through the hazy thickness well-enough as it is. this is to say absolutely nothing of the lyrics, which are probably the most wonderfully strange of all of the wordplay that brett anderson ever attempted. what do the lines mean? they are meant to guide you through the disorientation that the track pulls you in with. they trick you into feeling something without you even knowing what it is. the bass sounds like it was played with a slide- it doesn't even sound real. this is what people mean when they describe a track as 'psychedelic.' or at least they should.
there are also tracks like 'the wild ones,' 'the 2 of us' and 'black or blue' which somehow see brett anderson moving from channeling scott walker to his ungodly-high (yet controlled) falsetto and then to a soothing subtlety sometimes in one fell swoop that you don't even see coming. you can practically hear the singer and the guitarist attempting to one-up each other at every turn- neither one fully succeeding, but only bringing out an evenly matched effort in their respective opponents.
then there is, of course, 'the asphalt world' which sits perfectly as the second-to-last track. one of the things i am looking forward to most once i've ordered these new reissues is hearing the fabled 12-minute version of this song. how can a nine-minute track be considered the 'lean' version? for as long as it is the song never fails to hit me like a tornado- i feel like it hits hard, doesn't let up and is gone before i even know what's happened. i've tried to put it on mixes of every kind before- it refuses to leave its place. the middle section is something worthy of spiritualized- the colorsound wah is on full display, even. i've read many a review calling 'foul' for not ending the album with this gut-wrenching track, claiming that it's unrelenting nature can't help but completely overshadow the gorgeous slow-burn of 'still life.' i am and always have been a huge booster of what i call the 'come down' track and 'still life' falls effortlessly into that tradition. plus, where else are you going to put a song that starts out with nothing but acoustic guitar and vocals and ends with a full-on bombastic orchestra? it's the perfect ending- it lulls you at the beginning and then at the end it compacts something which most would instinctually stretch into an extended centerpiece.
i have a difficult time putting music into some kind of a cultural context because while music can define culture and vice-versa time washes all of it away and renders such attempts meaningless. i had no idea suede were considered part of the 'brit-pop' thing. they came along first and didn't have much in common with any of the heavy-hitters in that scene whether it was musically (it's not difficult to notice how much better they were than pretty much any brit-pop band), stylistically or in the realm of obnoxious preening (ah, blur vs. oasis- how quaint and stupid it all seems now). i'm also pretty sure that this has to do with the fact that when brit-pop was in full swing i was 15 years old and living in kansas so all that really mattered to me in the greater scheme of things was the music. in a lot of ways i find 'dog man star' to be a signpost on the outskirts of the musical wealth of the early nineties. as the decade wore on music of this caliber was hard to come by- it was almost like they were telling us it was all slipping away right then...