About Jon Chaisson

Writer, obsessed music listener and collector, okay bassist and guitarist, hoopy frood. Questionable logical circuits, but he gets by.

Fly-by: Returning next week

Oh hi there! Don’t mind me, just listening to the new remaster/reissue of New Order’s 1985 album Low-Life while working out the second chapter of MU4. I’ve been creatively busy these last couple of weeks and I’m happy to report that things are going well so far, at least as far as scrappy first drafts of first chapters are concerned. Exactly where I need to be right now.

I’m planning on returning to the blogosphere next week, so I’ll see you then!

Fly-by: brb, starting a novel

Hey gang! Apologies for the lack of blog entries lately, as I’ve been a bit busy. As of 11 January at 7:04pm PT, I have officially started writing MU4! I’m focusing as much creative energy as I can on it for the time being which means that the blogs and the 750Words entries have gone by the wayside for a little bit.

Which is fine! The important thing is that I am writing a novel again.

The aim here is for me to ensure that I give myself enough time and space to work on this without putting more stress on it than necessary. As much as I love writing these blogs and working on the 750Words exercises, right now I think I’d be wearing myself a little thin by partitioning too much. Once I feel I can handle the extra work, then I will be back. I’ll still post here and at Welcome to Bridgetown now and again…I just won’t make it a priority until then.

See you again soon!

On Returning to Songs from the Eden Cycle

Technically, this next volume of Songs from the Eden Cycle would be volume nine, given that I’d started to make volume eight a few years ago but only got as far as nine tracks before abandoning it. But I digress.

As I start the actual writing of this new version of MU4, I’m thinking about what music I’d like to listen to this time out. As I’d mentioned previously, I’m trying to break out of the habit of hyperfocusing on new releases, so pretty much anything that catches my ear and/or gets me in the mood for the story is fair game. As you may have guessed, I’m currently writing this entry while listening to Wire’s 154, their third album from 1979 and my favorite of their Mark I era. “On Returning” is the first song to officially be added to the SftEC v8 mix.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve purposely done a deep dive into my music library to search for writing session music to this degree, so I’m sure two things will happen: one, I’ll default to some mainstays from the Belfry years (Blue Wonder Power Milk, Sea Change, And You Think You Know What Life’s About, and the usual 1997-2004 albums, soundtracks and compilations) when I can’t think of anything else to listen to…and two, I’ll rediscover some absolute bangers I’d completely forgotten about over the years. Add this to the new release which I promise I won’t obsess over, and I think that soon enough I’ll have myself another official soundtrack list. And maybe I’ll even post a few of them here as they surface…?

Listening Habits, 2023

I don’t necessarily hate it, but it’s annoying: the customer that comes up to the register with their earbuds on and completely ignores me when I say hi or ask if they need bags. It’s kind of rude, to be honest. [And yes, I will admit I was that same person back in my college years.] On the other hand, I am a bit curious as to what they’re listening to. I want to say it’s most likely a podcast or an audiobook, as those tend to be the most popular non-music thing people listen to with headphones. Still…at least pop one of those buds out so you can hear me, yeah?

Anyway…I’m trying to think of the last time I listened to music with headphones, and I’m pretty sure it was our flight to and from New England last year. We haven’t gone to the gym in months (although we have that on our 2023 resolution lists…), and I’m not counting the brief sessions in which I wanted to hear a new release in uninterrupted detail like the Revolver reissue. It’s been quite some time, really.

I mean, I could do what I used to do back in my high school days and listen to my mp3 player on the way to and from work (all of ten minutes) and during breaks, but again…kind of rude to anyone else that comes through the break room and I’m not up for that kind of short-session listening just yet. Maybe at a later time.

Still…I’ve been thinking about how to adjust my listening habits lately, and it’s a lot more to think about than I realize. Not just about headphones, but what I’m listening to (I mean, other than KEXP in the morning when I have a midshift). I’ve talked about missing out on listening deep-dives and connecting with music in general lately and wanting to fix that. And there is of course the fact that I’m about to embark on a Huge Writing Project that will demand a soundtrack mixtape or five.

I’m curious as to what will change in the coming months, if anything. Or if I’ll return to old habits that work. We shall see…

Reviving Drunken Owl

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been playing much guitar or bass these last couple of months partly because I’ve been busy taking care of two extremely precocious young cats and focusing on other creative avenues. But…and I really hate to admit this…I just haven’t been inspired to play lately, which is bothersome.

I’d say over the last year or so, when I do pick up one of my guitars, I end up playing the same four or five songs or riffs over and over again, and that’s boring. I’m out of practice with writing new songs.

So I’ve decided that one of the projects I’d like to start this year is to go through the… *counts the mp3s* …roughly sixty demo riffs I’ve recorded on my phone over the last five years and make something out of them. They range anywhere from thirty seconds to a few minutes in length. I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to find a cheap multi-track software (and one that doesn’t take up much memory as I don’t have all that much space on my PC, unless I put it on my laptop instead) and lay these down just to see what I can do with them. I’ll start small, just going with instrumentals for now until I feel the need to add lyrics. I’ve even assigned myself Saturdays as Music Day on my whiteboard schedule.

The aim here isn’t actually to release or even make any money off them (though if they’re good enough quality I might put them up on Bandcamp for funsies), but to see if I can revive that inspiration. Otherwise these instruments of mine are just gathering dust. And I’d rather not keep doing that, thank you.

Everything Is Fine: The Singles 2022

For your listening enjoyment, here’s my year-end mixtape! As expected, this one’s a bit all over the place and I’m sure I’m missing a few songs I should have put in there, but I think it still came out pretty well.

To be honest, it kind of mirrors my current status in life: all sorts of nonsense going on in the world, most of which is out of my control, but on the other hand I think I’ve managed to control what I can in my life, and that’s what really matters.

The title comes from the Cheekface song “We Need a Bigger Dumpster” which may not have been my top song of the year (that’s Hot Chip’s “Down”, firmly sitting as Track 5 as always), but it fits perfectly considering.

Hope you enjoy!

I’ll admit I didn’t have the time or the inclination to go into super detail with the end-of-year lists this year, so I will at least provide you with my top favorite albums. You can safely assume that nearly all of my favorite songs of 2022 made it to the above playlist, with a few exceptions!

TOP ALBUMS (listed chronologically with top favorite in bold)

Yard Act, The Overload
The Beatles, Get Back: The Rooftop Performance
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Summer at Land’s End
Spoon, Lucifer on the Sofa
White Lies, As I Try Not to Fall Apart
Beach House, Once Twice Melody
Nilüfer Yanya, PAINLESS
Bob Moses, The Silence in Between
PLOSIVS, PLOSIVS
Wet Leg, Wet Leg
Hatchie, Giving the World Away
Warpaint, Radiate Like This
Dubstar, Two
Porcupine Tree, CLOSURE / CONTINUATION
Röyksopp, Profound Mysteries I, II and III
The Beths, Expert in a Dying Field
Alvvays, Blue Rev
PVA, BLUSH
The Beatles, Revolver Super Deluxe Edition
The Cure, Wish 30th Anniversary Edition

*

See you in 2023!

Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022 (Part XII)

December’s releases were mostly rereleases with a few new albums sprinkled here and there, but those reissues weren’t merely cash-grabs but collections worth picking up and checking out. There were a lot of them this year, weren’t there…? Anyway, this one’s going to be a bit short as well because of that.

Voice of the Beehive, Let It Bee (Remastered & Expanded), released 2 December. One of my favorite albums of 1988, it finally sees a major reissue with several b-sides, single versions and live tracks added. It’s a super fun album full of sassy pop gems. [Music trivia: yes, that’s Woody from Madness on drums! Bedders was also part of the band at one point too!]

Robbie Williams, Life Thru a Lens (25th Anniversary), released 2 December. US listeners might know half these songs better as part of his American compilation The Ego Has Landed, but this is the original UK source album. This was his first peak period with hit singles such as the ubiquitous “Angels”. This too has been reissued with numerous b-sides and live tracks.

Hot Hot Heat, Make Up the Breakdown (Deluxe Remastered), released 2 December. Another reissue of a 2002 album that got heavy play in the Belfry during my writing sessions. “Bandages” was one of my favorites of the year as well, and still pops into my head now and again.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Mountain Lake Park, released 2 December. Glenn Donaldson’s output this year has been quite extensive, and with this one — named after a small park here in the Richmond that I’ve walked through many times! — is full of lovely instrumentals recorded around the same time as this year’s Summer at Land’s End (and originally released as a vinyl-only bonus record with that one). And he also dropped a new EP on the 23rd, Dust in the Path of Love.

Paul McCartney, The 7″ Singles box set, released 2 December. A full 159 tracks spanning his entire solo career and containing several rarities such as non-album sides, single edits and international versions. This one’s less about the remixes and all about the original songs.

Leftfield, This Is What We Do, released 2 December. This group sneaks out an album at the end of the year of laid back electropop I love the best: the kind that gets me moving but I can also listen to while chilling out.

The Clockworks, “Blood On the Mind” single 9 December. Yet another single by this great band, this one sounds a bit like early Smiths with its bouncy Johnny Marr-like jangle, but it sounds just as tough as any of their previous singles. I see nothing but success for these lads!

Roger Waters, The Lockdown Sessions, released 9 December. The eternally grumpy Waters released an EP of reworks of his classic songs from both Pink Floyd and solo albums, including an extremely moody reworking of “Comfortably Numb” that gives the original a run for its money.

*

…and that’s it for the year! Come back tomorrow for my year-end mixtape and best-of lists!

Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022 (Part XI)

In true Q4 fashion, November contained some new releases but far more box sets and rereleases: Ride’s 4 EPs, Spice Girls’ Spiceworld, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, The Fall’s 1970s, David Bowie’s Divine Symmetry, Erasure’s Erasure, Sparks’ No 1 in Heaven, and the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots just to name a few. I’ve only mentioned a few here that were of deep personal interest.

SAULT, 11, AIIR, Earth, Today & Tomorrow, and Untitled (God), released 1 November. The mercurial British collective surprises everyone with not just one but five new albums, full of spiritualism, faith and positivity.

Phoenix, Alpha Zulu, released 4 November. I didn’t even know they were coming out with a new record until I heard “Tonight” popping up on satellite radio during our last vacation! I haven’t quite had the time to listen to this too much, but what I have heard I really like.

Seal, Seal [Deluxe Edition], released 4 November. I’ve mentioned this before that this feels more like a Trevor Horn-featuring-Seal album (I prefer his second album to this one), but “Crazy” remains one of my all-time favorite 90s songs. The remaster gives this record a much-needed warmth that was lacking in the original mix.

Fitz & the Tantrums, Let Yourself Free, released 11 November. Another band best heard (and seen) live, they’ve weathered the pandemic and are back with a new and fun album that gets you moving. We’ll be seeing them early next year!

Various Artists, Life Moves Pretty Fast: The John Hughes Mixtapes box set, released 11 November. The most enduring part of nearly every movie Hughes made in the 80s was the eclectic soundtrack. Why lean on big names and commercial sheen when you can introduce your audience to New Order, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Yello, Love and Rockets, Simple Minds, Oingo Boingo and more? His soundtracks were a big part of my youth and introduced me to many ‘college rock’ bands I may not have ever discovered elsewhere. This one’s a surprisingly detailed mix of 74 tracks from eleven different films and worth searching out.

Royksopp, Profound Mysteries III, released 18 November. The electronic band completes the trilogy of introspective thoughts about the unknown. It’s quite the achievement as the albums sound great on their own but also work seamlessly as an extended whole. One of my favorite projects of the year.

bis, Systems Music for Home Defence, released 18 November. This Glaswegian band is still going strong with its unique brand of bubblegummy technopop full of fun and humor.

Soundtrack, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, released 25 November. While most of this record is incidental music by John Murphy, it’s the two Old 97’s tracks that make this one such a treat, full of the same silly humor as the Christmas special.

The Cure, Wish [30th Anniversary Edition], released 25 November. released nearly four years after their previous deluxe edition rerelease (2018’s Mixed Up), my favorite 90s Cure album gets not only an extended review but a fantastic remaster that gives it so much more depth and warmth.

Metallica, “Lux Aeterna” single, released 28 November. The band’s first studio release since 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct album sees them older and more contemplative but still in full-throttle. Written and recorded during the pandemic along with their upcoming album 72 Seasons, the new track feels like a new direction for them.

*

Coming tomorrow: December brings the last few weeks of new music for 2022.

Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022 (Part X)

I did not expect October to be so crammed full of amazing albums that I almost didn’t have time to listen to them all! Here’s a cross-section of some of the great stuff!

WILLOW, <COPINGMECHANISM>, released 7 October. She’s definitely come a long way from “Whip My Hair”, that’s for sure. This is a badass emo album that’s right up there with the best of Paramore and it’s surprisingly tight and blistery.

ALVVAYS, Blue Rev, released 7 October. Each album from this band has been a step in a different direction, and this one leans towards the bright, loud and dreamlike. This one’s also landed on many people’s end of year lists.

Broken Bells, Into the Blue, released 7 October. I’ve loved each of this band’s albums, and I’ve loved that each one lends itself to some kind of retro mood, but I did not expect their new one to go the same way Air did and get all 70s synth space rock! It’s a great sound for them, though, and well worth a listen.

Stray Kids, MAXIDENT, released 7 October. I’m…still not sure what to make of this band. Are they riffing on Disney pop? Are they the K-Pop answer to NSYNC? And the videos are just as mind-bogglingly weird but playful that you can’t not look away.

Bush, The Art of Survival, released 7 October. Another 90s band I’ve always really liked. This one kind of reminds me of the great but underrated The Science of Things, full of hard rocking but without the attempts at commercial poppiness. Really enjoying this one.

The Cult, Under the Midnight Sun, released 7 October. Another classic band returns! I always felt their best work has been when they utilized their dark post-punk-meets-goth sound and this one doesn’t disappoint.

PVA, Blush, released 14 October. Someone’s been listening to their Front 242 albums, because this one’s just full of that chilly, clinical European EBM that I love so much. It’s a wild album and a hell of a lot of fun. This one’s high up on my favorites of the year!

Wild Pink, ILYSM, released 14 October. A curious band with a curious sound…they’ve got that pondering indie rock style that kind of reminds me of Destroyer, but then it suddenly veers into a shoegazey wall-of-sound riff that just knocks me flat. Really love this one.

Knifeplay, Animal Drowning, released 19 October. Dreampop with a darker edge, this is totally something I’d have been listening to back in my teen years. I think KEXP played one of their songs exactly once and I immediately went and put it on my shopping list!

Too Much Joy, All These Fucking Feelings, released 21 October. The gang of goofballs returns once more with a new record recorded over the last year or so and premiered by a year’s worth of singles to promote it! Still dorky and still a lot of fun.

Tegan and Sara, Crybaby, released 21 October. Another album written and recorded during the pandemic, the two sisters came through with an album that sounds surprisingly bright and energetic.

Taylor Swift, Midnights, released 21 October. I’ll admit it right now, I totally love “Anti-Hero” because it’s such a beautifully crafted song despite it being so gloomy. I’ve really come around to her music these last couple of years, especially since her recent re-recording project.

Robyn Hitchcock, Shufflemania!, released 21 October. Ever the oddball, Robyn continues his long and illustrious career with tasty alt-pop goodness combined with his unique brand of strange lyricism with yet another great record.

Sloan, Steady, released 21 October. One of my favorite Canadian bands and another “I will download anything they release” group, this quartet deliver yet another wonderful pop confection.

Arctic Monkeys, The Car, released 21 October. This band has achieved the status of ‘we will record and release anything we damn well please’ and provide us with…lounge jazz? Sure, why not? They can certainly pull it off, that’s for sure. It’s definitely not the album a lot of people expected, but if you give it a shot, you won’t be let down.

a-ha, True North, released 21 October. It’s almost criminal how Morten Harket’s voice still sounds so angelic decades on, isn’t it? Their newest is a wonderful gem, and I’m glad they’re still going strong so many years later.

Sigur Rós, ( ) 2022 Remaster, released 28 October. I had this album on heavy repeat while writing A Division of Souls down in the Belfry back in 2002. The new mix sounds absolutely stunning and it’s still an amazing album.

The Beatles, Revolver Super Deluxe Edition, released 28 October. I mean, of course this one is on my top five best releases of the year! I was extremely curious as to how it was going to sound, considering the limitations of the original. Giles Martin outdid himself here, however, managing to take the song completely apart (with help from Peter Jackson’s magical sound team, doing the same thing they did with the Get Back miniseries) and put it back together in a new way. The album might sound pretty much the same, but the new remix has given each instrument a lot of breathing room, giving each song more life than it already had. As I’d said a while back on Twitter, the original sounds like a black-and-white movie from 1966 while the remix sounds like a movie made today about 1966. Absolutely stunning.

*

Coming up next Tuesday: November tunage! December will follow on Wednesday, followed by a year-end review on Thursday.

Ends in Two: Favorite songs and albums of 2022 (Part IX)

Pretty sure it was about this time that I realized that I had not made or completed any mixtapes this year! There’s just the one that I’d thrown together back in March but never sequenced. Shame on me, considering I had the time to do it, but never got around to it. Not going to kick myself about it, though…I’ll have time to start fresh again in the new year. In the meantime, this month definitely had a bumper crop of great new albums and singles that captured my attention!

Two Door Cinema Club, Keep On Smiling, released 2 September. The band has mellowed out a bit over the years, but they’re still consistent with their infectious pop that’s fun to listen and move to.

The HU, Rumble of Thunder, released 2 September. The Mongolian folk metal band returns with another badass record of songs of both battle and peace. We saw them at last year’s Outside Lands and they put on one hell of a great show!

Codeine, Dessau, released 6 September. I remember this band from my college days in Boston — a NYC slowcore band that frequently played in the area and even occasionally got play on WFNX — and this is what should have been their second album before it was shelved to make way for The White Birch instead.

Preoccupations, Arrangements, released 9 September. This noise-rock band consistently releases great post-punk albums full of thick tension and irritation. The new album is a shorter affair but is no less powerful with its walls of guitars and twitchy beats.

Quivers, “If Only” single, released 9 September. One of my favorite Aussie bands sneaks out a standalone single and it’s a lovely torch song. I’m of course looking forward to hearing more from this band!

Sudan Archives, Natural Born Prom Queen, released 9 September. Kind of weird, kind of funky and definitely an album that captures your attention and refuses to let go. I’ve been seeing this one show up on a lot of music journalists’ end-of-year list, and they’re not wrong.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, When the Lights Go, released 9 September. Known for his work as a producer and numerous guest spots on other electronic acts (such as BRONSON, where I’d first heard him), this is a great album for chilling out and relaxing.

The House of Love, A State of Grace, released 16 September. I’d always felt this band never got their proper due here in the States other than their occasional single like “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”. Great to see they’re still rocking out and still writing great tunes.

Death Cab for Cutie, Asphalt Meadows, released 16 September. Ben Gibbard seems to be returning back to what DCFC did best in the early 00s: brilliant melodies and heartfelt lyrics that never quite fit the pop mold yet still hit you square in the heart. Still, this one’s also a lot more noisy, kind of reminding me of Kintsugi‘s weirder moments.

The London Suede, Autofiction, released 16 September. So glad to see this band has returned after a number of years on hiatus, as they’ve always written such great heartfelt songs with just that slight hint of glam but without ever quite going full T Rex (I mean, aside from that first album way back in ’93…). The new record is a lovely listen.

The Beths, Expert in a Dying Field, released 16 September. One of my favorites from the last few years, they return with another banger of gorgeous guitar pop that just makes you want to bop around. Highly recommended!

Hooverphonic, “Mysterious” single, released 16 September. Oh hey, one of my favorite 90s bands sneaks out a single as well! Sweet! I’ve always loved their brand of symphonic music that would fit easily both on a dance floor and as a movie soundtrack.

The Clockworks, “Advertise Me” single, released 21 September. Damn, this band just keeps coming out with amazing music! A new song just a few months after their debut EP, it features them at their best: angry yet somehow heartfelt at the same time.

Editors, EBM, released 23 September. This band’s career has taken so many interesting turns: the bleakness of Joy Division, the tension of early Interpol, the grimness of goth, and now they’ve entered an entirely new and more electronic-based field with the addition of Blanck Mass as a full-time member. And they pull it off beautifully.

Asian Dub Foundation, RAFI (25th Anniversary Edition), released 23 September. Completely passed over in the late 90s, this group blended drum ‘n bass with reggae and made a number of brilliant records that hardly made a dent here in the States. “Naxalite” was one of my favorite tracks to listen to during the latter half of my HMV years.

Buzzcocks, Sonics in the Soul, released 23 September. Pete Shelley may have passed away a few years back, but he gave Steve Diggle the blessing to keep the band going, and their new record maintains their classic post-punk rage.

Pixies, Doggerel, released 30 September. Good to see this band is still going strong after reuniting some years back. This one definitely reminds me of Bossanova — not as noisy as their other classic albums and maybe a bit more radio friendly, but not without Frank Black bringing in his weird lyrics.

Bjork, Fossora, released 30 September. It’s been a good five years since her last album, but she’s no less weirder, musically and visually. This is her take on the pandemic, full of songs about loss and desolation, but somehow it still comes across as beautiful.

Dropkick Murphys, This Machine Still Kills Fascists, released 30 September. If anyone could revitalize Woody Guthrie’s protest music and give it a much-needed shot in the arm, it’s these guys. Guthrie’s daughter Nora provided them with his lyrics and they put together a great album full of righteous piss and vinegar.

*

Coming up tomorrow: tunes from October!