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If you’re new to my blogs, welcome!  Some of you may have popped up via Googling my name after checking out my book A Division of Souls.  In case you haven’t noticed, I run two blogs.  This one, Walk in Silence, is primarily my music blog, wherein I blather on obsessively about non-writing things such as new music releases, favorite albums of yore, and tunage wot I found on college radio, just to name a few subjects.  I try to keep it enjoyable here, so if you happen to be a big music nerd like I am, I hope you enjoy my posts!

If you are looking for my writing blog, you can click on this link here, and it will take you to it:

Welcome to Bridgetown

My writing blog, as you will have assumed, is where I have been talking about my budding career as a writer…well, more like my long, often slow but never uninteresting backstage work as a writer while attempting to make it into a legitimate career.  The blog contains all kinds of commentaries, including thoughts about the writing process, things I’ve learned as a self-published author so far, and a lot of background info about the stories I’m writing.

Never a dull moment here, folks!

Movement

You know, it dawned on me that I don’t think I’ve gone to a nightclub venue since…well, probably since before I moved down to New Jersey in 2005, come to think of it.  I used to head to various shows in Boston all the time back when I was in Massachusetts, and didn’t think twice about driving that seventy miles, hanging out int some smoky basement dive with too-loud music, and having to leave a tad early so I could make the last Red Line train out to Alewife where I was parked.

Over the years since we’ve been here, our showgoing has pretty much remained with the San Francisco Symphony and the SF Opera.  It just sort of happened naturally, as they were well-known ensembles we were looking forward to checking out when we moved out here a decade ago.  And over those last ten years, I’ve really come to appreciate classical music a lot more than I ever have in my life.

I won’t lie, for years the extent of my classical knowledge was pretty much tied in with Warner Bros cartoons such as What’s Opera, Doc?The Rabbit of SevilleLong Haired Hare and so on.  There’s also the 80s Hollywood movie such as Platoon (Barber’s Adagio for Strings), Apocalypse Now (Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (R. Strauss’ ‘Morning’ from Also Sprach Zarathustra).

I wasn’t completely ignorant of classical music; it was just a genre that I didn’t follow as closely as I did others.  This of course has changed over the years; I used to really like Copland back in my college years but find his work kind of thin nowadays…I now find Tchaikovsky one of my biggest favorite composers.

There are certain pieces that I find absolutely stunning and will try to get to a performance if the SF Symphony is playing them.  Such as:


Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’ completely blows me away every time I hear it, whether it’s the orchestral version or the original string quartet version.  I love when music has a deliberate flow to it — each melodic phrase is given time to complete itself without hurry.  It’s like breathing.


Maurice Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ is so much fun!  It starts off so quietly and unassumingly, and yet by the end, every single instrument in the house is bleating, banging and barking so loudly that the entire audience whoops with cheers when it finishes.  A silly Italian movie called Allegro non Troppo (a self-professed “low-budget” homage to Disney’s Fantasia) got me hooked on this piece in college with its unique take on planetary evolution.


Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony (‘Pathetique’) is probably my favorite piece of all right now. I was thinking of it the other day when I was watching David Bowie’s final video, “Lazarus”…one kind of got the feeling that David knew the end was coming, and had decided to go out on a final creative note — a denouement letting us know how much he’d enjoyed his time in this world.  I feel the same whenever I hear the Pathetique because it was Tchaikovsky’s last piece in much the same manner…I think he’d finally come to terms with his life as well as his mortality.  This is also why I love the way the ‘big finish’ in this piece is actually in the 3rd movement and not the final; the final 4th movement ends up being more of an exhalation, a release.


Mason Bates’ The B-Sides is a relatively new piece — written by a composer six years younger than myself, I should add — and I can totally see the future of classical music heading in this direction, with a mix of analog, digital, and found sounds (check the ‘instrument’ used about three and a half minutes in!).  Bates is somewhat of a local hero here, as he’s both a nightclub DJ (as DJ Masonic) and a composer of a large number of wonderfully creative pieces that he often performs with the SFS.  Bates also recently released an album with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project called Mothership, which I highly recommend.  I have high hopes for this one!

Où sont tes héros aux corps d’athlètes?

I’ve been listening to Air over the past few days…the band just popped into my head unbidden, and I’ve been searching for a good, laid-back soundtrack for my extended editing sessions lately, so it was a perfect fit.  Their debut Moon Safari was released on this day back in 1998 (which puts it right in the middle of my HMV years), but it’s so retro in its sound that you swear it came out in 1972 on some budget label and got played at K-Mart when you were a kid.  It of course ended up on heavy rotation during my writing sessions down in the basement.

In 2000 they released the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, based on the Jeffrey Eugenides book.  That too got heavy rotation for me, with its spooky, dark passages.  [Trivia: I didn’t know this until many years later that the singer for “Playground Love” is none other than the singer for Phoenix, going under the name Gordon Tracks.]  It kind of fit the mood I was in at the time as well, considering I’d just been shuffled out of the HMV job and wasn’t exactly sure where my next step was going to be.

They may have lost me a bit on album two (three?), 10,000 Hz Legend, but I think that’s because they’d chosen to update their sound a bit, bring the melodies forward a decade or two.  It took me a few years to get used to this one, and it’s got some great tracks on it, including a cameo vocal from Beck on “The Vagabond”.

Now the next album, Talkie Walkie, is probably my favorite of theirs, even over Moon Safari.  They hit their stride here, balancing their retro-synth sound perfectly with some lovely modern melodies.  They also provided an absolutely gorgeous track called “Alone in Kyoto” for Sofia Coppola’s next film Lost in Translation:

I’m still trying to get used to the next couple of albums (2007’s Pocket Symphony and 2009’s Love 2), most likely because my mind was elsewhere at the time, adjusting to our lives here in SF.  Eventually they’ll come to me.  Their most recent album, Le Voyage Dans la Lune from 2012, is fascinating in that it’s a soundtrack for Georges Méliès’ 1902 film of the same name.  And Nicolas Godin (the fair-haired one of the duo) just released a solo album of Bach-inspired songs called Contrepoint, which I’m hoping will eventually see release stateside sometime this year.

Fly-By: Slow music week

Yeah, as always, the first couple of weeks of the new year are always scant when it comes to new releases.  I’ve been busy doing a lot of book editing, so instead I’ve been listening to random things here and there.   Not much to report on, sadly.

However, I did notice that my birthday (next Friday) will contain releases by Chairlift, Savages, Shearwater, Steven Wilson, Suede, Tortoise and Tricky, so there may be a bit of mp3 purchasing and stream listening going on this coming week.

Hopefully I shall have more to report by then!

I should, however, share this absoutely darling three-piece that I found on NoiseTrade the other week called (appropriately) The Feels:

Until next time!

 

[Of course, I could comment on the passing of Lemmy and David Bowie.  I sort of knew about Motorhead, and that they appeared on a quite hilarious episode of The Young Ones singing “Ace of Spades”, and I have all kinds of fond memories watching David Bowie’s videos back in the day.  I was actually quite a passive fan, liking many of his singles but never quite getting around to buying the albums until 1997’s Earthling.  (For a while I also had a lingering dislike of Hunky Dory due to my freshman year roommate in college listening to it on endless repeat, much to my severe annoyance.)  Still, I definitely appreciate all that both men have given to the music field.  They will be sadly missed.]

Lush: Chorus

I’d been a fan of the 4AD label since probably 1986 when I first heard This Mortal Coil’s cover of Bill Ogan’s “I Want to Live” (from the Filigree and Shadow album) on WMUA one dark night.  I’d fallen in love with the dark moods the label’s bands evoked; not the dark of violence or depression, but the dark as in the absence of light.  To me, the sound of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance always made the most sense to me at one in the morning, when the rest of the world was asleep.  Yes, even the stark punk crunch of Pixies in 1988 evoked darkness for me; their music sounded like a band that had just gotten into the studio at 2am after playing a blistering show and channeling that chaotic energy into the wee hours.

So when I first heard Lush in late 1989 via their first EP, Scar, and soon after with their follow-up EP Mad Love (both timed perfectly with my entry into college), I was completely taken in by how bright their music was.  The same amount of reverb was there, but it was all made of sparkling beads of light and autumn afternoon breezes.  The rainy excitement of “Scarlet” and the tripping evolution of “De-Luxe” were my entryway into the brighter realm of Britpop, at a time when the American alternative sound was veering into the metallic sludge of northwestern grunge.  When Lush released the stunning “Sweetness and Light” single in late 1990, I was completely hooked.  Its freeing energy and gorgeous simplicity created, to me, a perfect pop song.  To this day it’s extremely high on my list of absolute favorite songs.

Their first album proper, Spooky, came out just days after my 21st birthday, and I remember going to Tower with what little money I had at the time to buy it.  I didn’t embrace it right away, but that was more due to some personal issues I was having at the time than the music.  By that summer I had it on repeat on my Walkman, especially the single “Nothing Natural”.  I loved Steve Rippon’s off-kilter, questioning bass line, and especially loved the back end of the song where it completely drops away, leaving the rest of the song soaring for a good few moments before crashing back down for its final measures before finally fading out.

I equally loved Split, even though it felt like a much darker affair (again, I think this was more due to my personal mindset at the time), but after years of listening to Lush, it’s become my favorite album of theirs.  I feel it’s where they hit their peak musically, even despite the producing issues they had at the time.  It contains my other favorite song of theirs, “Desire Lines”.  It’s a slow, plodding song, but deliberately so (and an extremely courageous choice for a single), and it’s probably the first song where I finally grokked to the mathematics of song construction.  One can sense its novel-like format, coming in unobtrusive and steady, ebbing and flowing with increasing energy until it finally builds to its middle eight, hitting a shimmering climactic peak before dropping back down to the denouement.

Their next album, Lovelife from early 1996, was a bit of a leftfield surprise for me, as I hadn’t expected a more economic and poppier sound from them, but it was yet another album that got quite a bit of play for me, thanks to it being released just months before I started my job at HMV (I would often play this one and the Gala in the back room while prepping stock for the floor).  The track “Ladykillers” was on heavy rotation on WFNX at the time, so I’d hear it almost every day on the way to and from work.  And the goofy definitely-not-a-love song “Ciao!” — a brilliant duet with Miki Berenyi and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, and probably the best British musical odd couple since Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl.

I would return to Lush’s catalogue over the years, especially during certain writing sessions for the trilogy where I needed some kind of music that was ambient and dreamlike but also upbeat (otherwise I’d have gone for my regular go-to of Global Communication’s 76:14).  Their Ciao! Best of Lush album came out in early 2001 and I’m pretty sure it was in my writing soundtrack bin well until 2003 or so.  And now they’ve just released a lovely box set called Chorus, of nearly everything they recorded (it’s currently quite hard to find, but you might want to check their official online store here, that’s where I got it).

I remember Lush being hard to pin down for a lot of alt.rock listeners in the 90s in the northeastern US…they were either too dreampoppy for grunge tastes, or they were too noisy for the fans of the classic chamberpop 4AD sound, but they seemed to fit right in with those other stunning (in sound and in volume) shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver and Ride.  It’s been years since they broke up in the late 90s, but thanks to reunions of bands like MBV and Ride, brilliant music documentaries like Beautiful Noise and Live Forever, as especially new noisepop bands like WarpaintTamaryn and Wolf Alice carrying the torch, Lush is now fondly remembered as one of the best bands of their time and highly influential.

 

Lush has recently reunited and are playing a few gigs in the UK soon; they may also be releasing an EP of new songs later this year.

Let’s Play This One for Laughs

As mentioned in my year-end overview, I was particularly enamored of the recent reissue of some early titles from The Comsat Angels.  I hadn’t listened to them in ages (I used to have a few of their albums on vinyl oh so long ago) and was surprised at how well they’ve held up.  Their first album, Waiting for a Miracle, was released in 1980, and it sounds fantastic.  At this point they’re kind of a cross between 154-era Wire, a bit of Unknown Pleasures Joy Division, with a pinch of Chameleons and Abecedarians thrown in.

The above song, “Home Is the Range”, which wasn’t on the first album (it’s on the reissue) but a pre-album EP, has been stuck in my head for the past week and a half, and I can’t seem to get it to leave.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  It’s a hell of a great track.

The Singles 2015

…and as promised, here’s my 2015 Best of compilation!  A quirky mix to be sure.  Alternative, indie, pop, techno, and even alt-metal this time out.  I stayed with the format I’ve been using for the past couple of years: playlists of roughly ninety minutes which can be split into two forty-five minute ‘sides’, just like the end of year compilations I used to make back in the day.

Hope you enjoy!

TAPE ONE, Side 1:
1. Big Data, “The Business of Emotion”
2. The Decemberists, “Make You Better”
3. Guster, “Simple Machine”
4. Beck, “Dreams”
5. Best Coast, “California Nights”
6. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “In the Heat of the Moment”
7. Public Service Broadcasting, “Go!”
8. Frank Turner, “Get Better”
9. The Vaccines, “Handsome”
10. Jamie xx, “Loud Places”
11. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”

TAPE ONE, Side 2:
1. Failure, “Hot Traveler”
2. Wire, “Joust & Jostle”
3. MS MR, “Painted”
4. Wolf Alice, “Moaning Lisa Smile”
5. Death Cab for Cutie, “Black Sun”
6. Young Empires, “The Gates”
7. The Arcs, “Outta My Mind”
8. Stereophonics, “I Wanna Get Lost with You”
9. Robert DeLong, “Don’t Wait Up”
10. Editors, “Marching Orders”
11. The King Khan & BBQ Show, “Alone Again”

TAPE TWO, Side 1:
1. Foals, “What Went Down”
2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Ballad of the Mighty I”
3. Blur, “Go Out”
4. Dog Party, “Peanut Butter Dream”
5. The Helio Sequence, “Stoic Resemblance”
6. Wolf Alice, “Bros”
7. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”
8. Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”
9. Silversun Pickups, “Nightflight”
10. Best Coast, “Heaven Sent”
11. Editors, “No Harm”

TAPE TWO, Side 2:
1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Ur Life One Night”
2. Kurt Vile, “Pretty Pimpin”
3. Sleater-Kinney, “Surface Envy”
4. A Silent Film, “Paralysed”
5. Steven Wilson, “Perfect Life”
6. AWOLNATION, “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”
7. Nothing But Thieves, “Trip Switch”
8. Cayucas, “Hella”
9. Failure, “Mulholland Dr.”
10. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, “S.O.B.”
11. Mikal Cronin, “Ready”

TAPE THREE, Side 1:
1. Public Service Broadcasting, “Gagarin”
2. Veruca Salt, “The Sound of Leaving”
3. Belle and Sebastian, “Perfect Couples”
4. Motion City Soundtrack, “Lose Control”
5. Caspian, “Arcs of Command”
6. The Verve Pipe, “If I Could Make You Feel”
7. Django Django, “Giant”
8. FFS, “Johnny Delusional”
9. Brandi Carlile, “Alibi”
10. Low, “No Comprende”

TAPE THREE, Side 2:
1. Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk”
2. Toro y Moi, “Empty Nesters”
3. Panda Bear, “Boys Latin”
4. Blur, “There Are Too Many of Us”
5. Chvrches, “Never Ending Circles”
6. American Wrestlers, “Kelly”
7. New Order, “Restless”
8. Wire, “Harpooned”
9. Hot Chip, “Dancing in the Dark”

*EDIT: The Spotify playlists didn’t seem to be working, so I took them away.  Sorry about that.  The YouTube video links are now up and ready to go!

 

Jonc’s Best of 2015 List!

Hey Kids!  Check it out:  My favorite albums, tracks and other musical whatnot from 2015.  This year’s grouping came radio stations in multiple corners of the country, terrestrial and digital, from RadioBDC to Sirius XM to KUSP to KSCU.  And one band (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) discovered while in London!  In the process, the list is all over the place, from obscure indie to commercial alternative.   Enjoy!

2015 Songs

20: The King Khan & BBQ Show, “Alone Again”
19: Mikal Cronin, “Ready”
18: A Silent Film, “Paralysed”
17: Caspian, “Arcs of Command”
16: The Helio Sequence, “Stoic Remembrance”
15: Cayucas, “Hella”
14: Steven Wilson, “Perfect Life”
13: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “In the Heat of the Moment”
12: Blur, “Go Out”
11: Public Service Broadcasting, “Go!”
10: Foals, “What Went Down”
9: Young Empires, “The Gates”
8: Jamie XX, “Loud Places”
7: Wolf Alice, “Moaning Lisa Smile”
6: Editors, “No Harm”
5: Failure, “Hot Traveler”
4: The Vaccines, “Handsome”
3: Beck, “Dreams”
2: Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk”
1: Best Coast, “California Nights

2015 Albums

20: Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi
19: JR Richards, Honore et Amore
18: The Helio Sequence, The Helio Sequence
17: Foals, What Went Down
16: Public Service Broadcasting, The Race for Space
15: Wire, Wire
14: New Order, Music Complete
13: Veruca Salt, Ghost Notes
12: Dog Party, Vol 4
11: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Chasing Yesterday
10: The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
9: Chvrches, Every Open Eye
8: Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
7: Editors, In Dream
6: Low, Ones and Sixes
5: Best Coast, California Nights
4: Failure, The Heart Is a Monster
3: Wolf Alice, My Love Is Cool
2: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love
1: Blur, The Magic Whip

Favorite Earworms:  Songs most stuck in my head in 2015
The Vaccines, “Handsome”
The King Khan & BBQ Show, “Alone Again”
Jamie XX, “Loud Places”
The Arcs, “Outta My Mind”

Unexpected Delights: Albums I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than I expected to:
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
Best Coast, California Nights
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love

Many Welcome Returns: Great releases from bands we haven’t seen in quite some time
Failure, The Heart Is a Monster
Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Alone in the Universe
Swervedriver, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You
New Order, Music Complete
The Chills, Silver Bullets

Best Reissues:  I have them already, but did I go and buy them again?  Maaaaybe?
The Beatles, 1+
Garbage, Garbage (20th Anniversary Reissue)
The Specials, Specials/More Specials/In the Studio
Catatonia, Way Beyond Blue/International Velvet/Equally Cursed and Blessed/Paper Scissors Stone
The Comsat Angels, Waiting for a Miracle/Sleep No More/Fiction/Chasing Shadows/Fire On the Moon
Jellyfish, Bellybutton/Spilt Milk
Lush, Chorus

Local Color:  Favorite 2015 songs about and/or by locals
Best Coast, “California Nights”
Cayucas, “Hella”
Geographer, “Age of Consent”