Rock N Roll

Best of 2014: Music & Film

Another year, another best-of list. One of these days, when I’m old and gray, I’m going to show these lists to my grandkids and prove to them that I was at, one time, relevant with pop culture. They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” I’ll say, “What?” They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” And I’ll say, “What?”

You get the idea.

As for now, I’m happy to report that I still have my hearing and that I am loving 2014 music and film. Up first: here are some of my favorite albums and tracks from the year. Some you probably know, maybe a few you don’t? Give them a listen and let me know if any resonate with you.

Music

Kevin Morby-Still Life

Kevin Morby is my new favorite singer-songwriter. I’ve been obsessed with Still Life, his latest effort, for a few weeks now. The range of this record is amazing. From minimalist acoustic/drum tracks (see below), to fuzzy reverb layers, to clean 70’s pop, to indie folk, this album has a bit of everything, and it executes it well.

In reviews, I try to stay away from easy artist comparisons. Hardworking musicians, like Morby, deserve complex criticisms. That said, Kevin Morby is the brilliant lovechild of Nick Cave and David Bazan, though was raised by his god parents in the 90’s in a sailboat off Santa Monica by Beck and Lou Reed. That’s what he sounds like. Got it?

SBTRKT-Wonder Where We Land (more…)

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Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: Cleveland, OH

You know Cleveland. Don’t you? The setting for The Drew Carey Show, a rival city for Liz Lemon in 30 Rock, Ted’s hometown from How I Met Your Mother? Yeah, that one. Don’t be fooled, Cleveland is more than a plot device and setting for network TV sitcoms; it is a real town, albeit slightly magical, tucked away in the Midwest (Midwest? Is that what you call it?) on a Great Lake.

Fantastic food, clean city, friendly people, three sports stadiums (in town) and blocks away from each other. Cleveland is wonderful. In fact, it may be one of my favorite cities in America. There, I said it.

Last weekend, my wife, my visiting brother in law, and I traveled to Cleveland for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. I was initially scheduled to run the half marathon with my wife, but my knee decided to be a bastard on me. Since, I have played the role of supporting spouse for my wife who thrashed the Hell out of that half-marathon. Boom! I couldn’t be prouder of her. She was great. Running a half-marathon is hard enough, but doing it by yourself is something I’m not sure I would have the wherewithal to do. Three cheers for my wife!

Among my favorite highlights:

  • The sketchy and delicious Greek food place in the Arcade.
  • Seeing Johnny Cash’s tour bus (see pictures)
  • Losing $5 playing an Airplane (the movie) themed slot machine
  • Morning coffee at Erie Island Coffee Co., a small cafe near the Corner Alley
  • Room service dessert
  • The marathon starting with the theme song from The Drew Carey Show.

(more…)

Memoirs of a Music Fanatic

We saw mewithoutYou last night. They’ve been a favorite band of mine for eight years now (geez). My fifth time seeing them and probably my last considering the average lifespan of indie-bands, I was reminded, during the show, of a time when life was simpler, when good music was the priority and everything else was dreck.

mewithoutMe

It started in high school. My afternoons were spent visiting record shops and my weekends spent seeing concerts. It wasn’t just about consumption; no, the music-life was about discovery. I was a California 49er searching for gold—staying hip and ahead of the curve—perusing the used and new-release bins for the unknowns and the yet-to-be-discovereds, old-favorites and new.

When a good group traveled through town I’d buy tickets and request time-off in a second-natured trance. The live-show, you see, completed it all.

What I realized last night, while watching the opening acts (in a dark smelly club I’ve never been to before, and yet, have been to so many times), was that almost all of my favorite groups from the last ten years have gone away. They’ve just left. Soon, I’m sure mewithoutYou will sail into the fog too.

I’ve noticed it before. I mean, I get it. Groups come and go; not everyone’s favorite band gets to be The Rolling Stones.

But what strikes me is the perspectival meaninglessness. Does it all just boil down to a ticket stub in a scrap book, a CD case on the shelf? Is that good enough? I used to pretend it meant something more, the music, the experience, but now, when another favorite band bites the dust, I’m surprised at how little it affects me.

The lead singers, the drummers, the guitar players I foolishly idolized—I’m curious if these days they wonder about me more than I do them.

Diskney 

On the second shelf of my bookcase, here in Rochester, lies two stacks of CDs. There’s maybe thirty albums total, “Quintessential,” I guess. If a fire burned my building tomorrow and I lost them all, I’d be sad, but I’d move on. Sometimes, I wonder if holding on to them keeps me from moving forward.

When we were preparing to move across country, we sold and gave away just about everything that wouldn’t fit in the car. Included was a box of maybe a hundred CDs, a box I had been meaning to donate to the local public radio station but never could.

Finally the day came to move, and they had to go, so I dropped them off. I wanted the moment to be something bigger than it was, a Toy Story 3-esq ending where a young, inexperienced music lover discovers my box of give-aways, presses play and falls in love. With courage, I’d drive away and wave, “Goodbye, pals.”

But that didn’t happen. Instead, a grubby, uninterested hipster threw them in the corner and probably the trash after I left: “You want a receipt?”

Getting older is weird.

mewithoutMe Part 2

Thoughts of meta-meaninglessness and perspective aging filled my brain between every set and song last night, more distracting than a young couple making-out in the front row. Finally, mewithoutYou came on stage and tore into “The Dryness and the Rain,” one of my favorites. At this point the crowd moved, and so was I, remembering—if only for a moment—the key to it all. Music doesn’t need to make sense. It just needs to have feeling.

Maybe that’s a good enough reason for spending a life chasing it.

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“The fish swims in the sea, while the sea is in a certain sense, contained within the fish! Oh, what am I to think of the writing of a thousand lifetimes could not explain if all the forest trees were pens and all the oceans ink?” –mewithoutYou