Coming Soon: The Best of 2017

radiohead lift

Thom Yorke is waiting anxiously for my end of year lists

Yep, it’s that time of the year again, where I’m juggling the Day Job, Christmas present purchasing (and wrapping, and mailing), whatever writing project I happen to be working on, posting my year-end review at the writing blog, creating my Best of Year compilation, and posting my Best of Year lists here.

As usual, I’ll hold up until the last week or so of this month before I post those last two, because I like giving December releases a chance at impressing me.  (Like the new U2 album, for instance.)  I will say 2017 has been quite an interesting year musically; it seemed like Nearly Every Single Band Jonc Loves put out an album this year!  And lots of solid career retrospectives.  There were also a lot of new finds that blew my mind as well.  I’m not sure if I can call it a banner year, but it certainly was quite enjoyable tunage-wise.

If anything, listening to music was definitely a highly-welcomed and much-needed escape from the ups and downs of Real Life.  And I’m pretty sure you know what my biggest headache was; the Day Job was the least of my stresses.  I won’t say I’m a pessimist in general, though I know all too often I let myself fall down that rabbit hole.  I kept a distant eye on what was going on, and I had my tunes to keep me sane and slightly distracted so I could stay positive.  And for that I’m eternally grateful.

More to come!

Tis the Season

nichijou santa

I’ll totally admit to having a soft spot for Christmas music, whether it’s pop, alternative, or classical.  Even during my retail and warehouse years, and especially during the HMV years.  I never quite got all that cynical when it came to hearing holiday music.  On the contrary, it usually gets me in a good mood, even when the streets and the malls are packed with far too many people.

Wishing all and sundry the best of the holiday season! Thanks for sticking around Walk in Silence all this time! 🙂

Music On the Go

btdt

been there, done that

Ages ago when I had a long-ass commute halfway across the state of Massachusetts on a daily basis, I’d always have tunage with me.  Mind you, my old Cavalier (and later my Firebird) only had a tape player, so a lot of my traveling music was my older tapes or, more often, my mixtapes.  That kept me sane, made the time pass, and gave me a soundtrack for when I was pondering what I’d do next in my writing.

Nowadays my travel tunage is on two mp3 players.  Much easier to carry, thankfully.  I bring them on vacation for in-flight entertainment or background while I’m working on revision.  I bring them to the gym for something to listen to while I’m on the treadmill.

I’ll switch out what’s on those players every now and again, depending on my mood.  One of them is filled with releases from this year, while the other usually contains an ongoing soundtrack to whatever writing I’m working on.  Since I’m not going anywhere on that treadmill and the view is mostly of the ongoing construction across the street, I’ll let my mind wander so I can think through issues I’ve been having, or play out a scene I’ve been planning to write.  This works out quite nicely, actually.

Lately we’d been looking into buying a new car.  Ours is a 2004 Civic that, while it’s still running strong and has less than 60k on it (thank you SF transit!), I can definitely feel that it’s aging.  It’s getting worn out.  While A has been looking into the specs and whatnot — she’s more knowledgeable about cars than I am, I will admit — my only major request is that it has a decent stereo, and perhaps a USB outlet so I can plug said mp3 players in so we can listen to our own tunage.  Secondary requests, of course, are that I can fit into the car without needing to get into a yoga position, has minimal blocked vision, and that it can climb the hills of this city without significant rollback.  Everything else I can adjust to.

So on Friday, we went shopping, and came home (after some delay and some unexpected shenanigans) with a 2018 Honda Fit.  It definitely hits all my requests and more, and I’m looking forward to getting used to tooling around town in it.  At present we’re just waiting for the dealer to finalize all the DMV paperwork (they’ll take care of the plates/sticker/etc for us), and on Monday we’ll call our insurance guy to update the information.  I love it so far.

Now I just need to make an inaugural mixtape for it. 🙂

Recent Purchases, October Edition

October was a somewhat quieter release month (and my wallet thanks the record industry for that), but these releases were no less awesome. Here’s a few albums I picked up…

Liam Gallagher, As You Were, released 6 October. Yes, I am still willing to admit I’m an Oasis fan (as well as a Blur fan, but that’s another post entirely), and I’ve followed both Gallagher brothers post-breakup. Liam, the snotty kid brother, is no longer recording under the Beady Eye moniker, and it seems he’s finally shed his Beatles/Jam hippie-mod hybrid leanings. The new solo album is strong and confident, much like post-Be Here Now Oasis.

Hans Zimmer, Blade Runner 2049 score, released 6 October. I’ve been getting into scores lately, which is kind of a new thing for me as an avid listener. Zimmer does a fantastic job updating the sound originated by the classic 1982 SF film, providing a bit of warmth to an otherwise dark setting. [For the record, I had a few issues with the film scriptwise but overall I quite enjoyed it.]

The Church, man woman life death infinity, released 6 October. One of my favorite bands from the 80s is still going strong, and still fiercely independent in their sound. This is one of their spookier albums by far.

Beck, Colors, released 13 October. I can always count on Beck to release one of two kinds of albums: either a beautiful heartbreaking serious album (like Sea Change and Morning Phase or an off-kilter weirdo album (like Odelay and this one). I’ve come to really appreciate his musicianship over the years, and “Dreams” is definitely one of my favorite recent singles of his.

St Vincent, Masseduction, released 13 October. St Vincent finally returns with a new album, and it’s even weirder than her last. This one took me a few listens to get into for that reason, but it’s just as solid as her previous work.

Stars, There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light, released 13 October. I can always count on Stars to come out with a laid back alt-rock album with no pretension or bombast, and they write such lovely melodies. One of my favorite albums of this month.

The Sound of Arrows, Stay Free, released 27 October. This Swedish electronic band is a new find for me, but I love them already. They’ve been described as a mix of Pet Shop Boys and M83, and I think that’s spot on. About halfway through my initial listen I realized this could very well be the style of music to listen to for my next writing project.

…More releases coming soon! 🙂

RIP Gord Downie

I remember hearing The Tragically Hip back in my senior year of college, when Fully Completely came out, just a few days before my 22nd birthday. I was the music director for our AM station, WECB, and I always tried to keep the selection eclectic and interesting. I’d heard of the band, having seen their previous three releases in the music bins (1987’s self-titled EP, 1989’s Up to Here and 1991’s Road Apples), but their third album was definitely their breakthrough, at least in Beantown. I loved that they were a mixture that defied description, other than they sounded really cool. I immediately put “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)” in rotation and “Fifty Mission Cap” as an extra play.

A year later, I’m living quite skint in the burbs of Allston and for a brief time my roommate and I have cable, and my then-girlfriend and I start watching Canada’s MuchMusic channel in earnest. It’s where I first hear great Canadian musicians like Moist, Barenaked Ladies, and Sloan in regular rotation instead of just occasionally. I stumble upon The Hip’s classic single “Grace, Too” (from 1995’s Day for Night) when I watch their video, greatly amused and fascinated by its lo-fi genius, using only video feedback, reflection, and a shirtless Gord to play off the boasting lyrics.  It becomes my favorite song of theirs.

A few years later and I’m back home in midwestern Massachusetts, trying to get my life and accounts back in order, and I’m listening to WRSI and WHMP, two Pioneer Valley stations that weren’t afraid to play the same eclectic music that I loved hearing back in my college days. I hear occasional plays of “Ahead by a Century” (from 1996’s Trouble at the Henhouse) but alas, never get around to taping it off the radio.

By 1998 I’ve got a steady job at the record store and expanding my musical tastes with every new and intriguing release that comes in. So much the better if I can get a promo copy for it! The BMG rep hands me a copy of their 1998 album Phantom Power and I immediately fall in love with it, especially the lovely “Bobcaygeon”.

By the end of 2000 I’d be leaving that job, but not before getting another dose of the Hip with that year’s Music@Work album. I find myself amused once more, this time by the fitting title song:

…as well as one if the deeper cuts, “Freak Turbulence.”

In 2002, I’m writing my trilogy down in the basement on a nightly basis, and hitting up Newbury Comics on a weekly basis, and In Violet Light comes out, another excellent Hip album. Oddly enough it’s years before I actually see the hilarious video for my favorite song off it, “The Darkest One”.

I kind of lose track of the band in the mid-2000s due to multiple moves and personal events, but eventually I catch up and pick up the rest of their catalog. I sadly admit that I don’t listen to them nearly as much as I should, and I never got to see them live.

But The Tragically Hip has never really been a band that I wanted to overindulge in. I like the fact that I’ll throw on Live Between Us or Now for Plan A or even Yer Favourites and think…damn, this is one hell of a great band. I like being pleasantly surprised by just how fucking good a band like that can be.

 

Thanks Gord. You were one hell of a great songwriter and humanitarian.

When I left your house this morning,
It was a little after nine
It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves, one star at time

For What It’s Worth

It’s been a busy weekend here in the Bay Area.

We weren’t part of the marches or the protests here, though. Had the one in Crissy Field not been cancelled by the Patriot Prayer group on Saturday, we most likely would have made our way through the Presidio to head down there. So instead we drove down to Half Moon Bay, stopped at the Main Street Grill for brunch, did a bit of shopping at the deli there, and then headed back. We spent the afternoon watching various episodes of Time Team and other things. As it happens, the PP guys’ plans fizzled spectacularly, ending up with an online chat and a pathetic appearance at Crissy Field after all (with the reporters and cameras outnumbering them). The rest of the city, on the other hand, turned it into a party and a love fest.

As for Sunday, we knew better than to head over to the East Bay. They’re a bit more hardcore when it comes to protests, and there’s always that small group of outsiders who stop by just to stir shit up and make the more peaceful protesters look bad. The mood is usually much more tense when there are protests there.

Meanwhile, we kept our eyes out for our friends down in Texas. One of A’s friends was actually not in Houston but elsewhere at a wedding, leaving her husband to hold the fort. They’re both doing okay last I heard. They’re on the outskirts of the city on higher ground. The city itself turned into its own Vienna with streets turning into creeks and rivers. Downtown Houston is quite nice, from what I remember of it, having visited there a few years ago when Worldcon was in San Antonio. It was hot as hell, but I really liked the city.

And during all that, The Fuckwit tweeted about Missouri, a book he really liked, that goddamn wall he’s so obsessed about, and hating NAFTA because Canada and Mexico are being mean to him. He may have tweeted about Houston at some point, but as far as I could tell, it was little more than ‘wow that doesn’t look good’ and went on to the next shiny object.

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

It’s half past four and I’m shifting gears

 

So I ended up buying the new Golden Earring box set, The Complete Studio Recordings, (at a pretty sweet deal — 28 cds for a little over $100, coming out to about $4 a cd) and I’m quite looking forward to giving it a listen.

They’re a band I’ve always wanted to hear more of, especially since their history reaches way back to the early 60s.  Most of you know them from their two US hits “Radar Love” (one of the best 70s bass lines ever) and “Twilight Zone” (one of the most memorable early 80s MTV videos).   I owned their Cut album for a long time and absolutely loved it as a kid.  I never got around to picking up more of their albums though, as they were often hard to find and were never a big draw in the US.

Still, they’re considered the Netherlands’ biggest rock band and what I have heard of their early stuff I quite enjoy.  Including their amazingly ridiculous yet fascinating seventeen-minute prog cover of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”.

It’s going to take me a while to sift through this collection, but I’m looking forward to it!