Thirty Years On: Slacker Central, Part III

If I learned anything about filmmaking at Emerson, it’s that I didn’t think I was going to be good at it. In fact, I was kind of terrible! I certainly had the images of what I wanted to see in my head, but there was no way I’d be able to follow through if I’d kept digging at it…especially since I’d also realized that I really wasn’t the best at networking, let alone knowing anyone who’d be interested in following through with my crazy ideas. After an extremely frustrating and unhelpful talk with my student advisor, I stepped back and realized, what is my strength here anyway, if it’s not making film?

Well, duh.

It’s writing.

So for the last couple of semesters at Emerson, I took screenwriting classes, and that was the best damn decision I’d made in my college years. It prepared me for the long haul: this was going to be a solo endeavor, and I’d be starting from the bottom, but it taught me how to get those images in my head on paper in a more coherent way. I finally knew exactly what I wanted to do as a career.

The Cranberries, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, released 1 March 1993. It took me a little while to warm up to this band, but when I did I loved “Linger”. The opening segment of the song to me evokes a kind of waking up. You still hear this and “Dreams” on alternative radio these days.

Living Colour, Stain, released 2 March 1993. This band’s third album before their split didn’t sell as much as the previous two, and I think it’s because this was a bit of a serious record, actually kind of an angry one. However, it’s got some really great tunes on it, well worth listening.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Ska-Core, the Devil and More EP, released 8 March 1993. Our favorite local ska-core boys dropped this record with “Someday I Suppose” as its lead track (it would show up on their new full-length in a few months), which got play on pretty much all the Boston rock stations.

The Beloved, Conscience, released 9 March 1993. This band finally followed up their fantastic debut with an even sleeker beat-driven dance record, and it’s just as lovely. I really dug the single “Sweet Harmony” at the time.

Frank Black, Frank Black, released 9 March 1993. The then-ex-Pixies singer’s debut was part of what seemed to be a giant flourish of new 4AD records (alongside Belly, The Breeders, and more) that featured the label’s newer, fresher sound. Frank is still the consummate weirdo here, just like with his previous band, but there’s also a bit of retro punk to it as well.

311, Music, released 9 March 1993. This was the record that introduced me to this band, and it’s much funkier and jammier than what we’d come to know them by. I had “Freak Out” as a breakout song on the WECB playlist for a while. I’m still a fan to this day.

The Judybats, Pain Makes You Beautiful, released 9 March 1993. This band never quite got the attention it deserved, partly because they didn’t quite fit the popular mold at the time, though WFNX did give them a bit of play during the years they were together. This third record is by far my favorite: it’s got so many gorgeous songs like “Being Simple” balanced by nutty humor like “Incredible Bittersweet”. Bonus points too for being recorded at Long View Farm, which was a studio in North Brookfield MA, just outside of Worcester!

Saint Etienne, So Tough, released 9 March 1993. I knew them from their previous record Foxbase Alpha (which had the groovy cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”), but this one became a favorite of mine partly due to the above song and its amazing ability to perfectly capture retro 60s UK Northern Soul. I still pick up their records, and member Bob Stanley is also an amazing music biographer whose books you should definitely check out.

Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales, released 9 March 1993. I never followed Sting’s solo career all that closely though he did have several singles I liked. This is probably my second favorite album of his (Nothing Like the Sun gets the top spot), and I’ve always liked the above lead single. I did get to see him on this tour later on in the year.

Depeche Mode, Songs of Faith and Devotion, released 22 March 1993. This was such a polarizing album when it came out! It definitely wasn’t Violator, that’s for sure. The obvious theme throughout it is indeed faith and devotion, whether spiritual or personal. It’s a very dense and sometimes angry record, but I fell in love with it immediately.

PM Dawn, The Bliss Album…? (Vibrations of Love and Anger and the Ponderance of Life and Existence), released 23 March 1993. I didn’t pick this one up right away, but I’ve always loved this duo as well. This one proved that they weren’t just a one-hit wonder and could write some amazing stuff.

The Pursuit of Happiness, The Downward Road, released 23 March 1993. This band had fallen into semi-obscurity after 1988’s Love Junk and its silly “I’m an Adult Now”, but I really enjoyed this one.

The London Suede, Suede, released 29 March 1993. This band actually kind of turned me off at first when their first singles dropped — I thought they were a bit too glammy for my tastes — but something told me to pick up this debut record, and it ended up being one of my favorites of the year! While most other Britpop bands of the time wore their 60s inspiration (or their 80s drugs) on their sleeves, this one said ‘we’re going to be the bastard son of 70s Bowie and T Rex’ and pulled it off brilliantly. Highly recommended.

This Mortal Coil, 1983-1991, released 30 March 1993. A collective that deeply inspired my writing over several years. It took me a few months to get around to picking this up, but it was well worth it: a collection of TMC’s three records, plus a fourth disc of the originals they’d covered on them. This box set would get a ton of play over the years until it was finally replaced by the self-titled 2011 box.


Coming up: new sounds, new ideas

Twenty Years On: Songs from the Belfry 2003, Part III

I started the spring of 2003 in the best creative zone I’d ever been in to date. I was six months into writing The Persistence of Memories and was hitting at least a thousand words a night without fail. I was having a hell of a lot of fun planning it during the day and writing it at night. This was a novel that was about the soul growing stronger not just on its own but through connections with others, and in a way that’s what was going on in my life at the time. It remains my favorite of my books to date for those reasons.


The White Stripes, Elephant, released 1 April 2003. After 2001’s breakthrough album White Blood Cells (and its earwormy single “Fell in Love with a Girl” and its Lego-inspired video), the duo’s sound started veering away from the lo-fi blues-garage rock and more towards slick indie production.

Ester Drang, Infinite Keys, released 1 April 2003. I’d heard this one on WAMH — I’d started listening to my once-favorite college radio station during my commutes — and really enjoyed how this band blended their sound between post-rock, slow-core and indie rock. Yet another on the Belfry jukebox.

Front 242, Still and Raw EP, released 8 April 2003. I’d always loved this EDM band but sadly it took me years to finally get around to getting the rest of their discography! This was a new release after many years of live and remix albums, to be followed the next month by a new album.

Yo La Tengo, Summer Sun, released 8 April 2003. A band that’s been around since I was a teenager (and still going strong with a new album this year!), this one was a favorite on college radio, especially the song “Little Eyes”.

Elefant, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, released 8 April 2003. This one got some seriously heavy play in the Belfry at the time! This was an NYC band that sadly kind of came and went, but it’s a hell of a fine record full of glossy, smooth indie rock with a touch of 80s sheen to it. There’s a track on it called “Static on Channel 4” that I swear is a Thomas Dolby song!

Mixtape, Re:Defined 02, created 13 April 2003. The first in this series went down so well for my commutes and writing sessions that I continued make them. This second one is a favorite of mine and contains a lot of songs I really enjoyed at the time.

M83, Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts, released 15 April. Years before the game-changing Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, this band came out with a handful of odd yet fascinating electronic releases that leaned more towards chiptunes and glitchiness.

+/- (Plus/Minus), Holding Patterns EP, released 15 April 2003. This side project of the band Versus could be alternately experimental and full of sugary indie pop, but their song “Trapped Under Ice Floes” nails it with its driving beat, catchy melody and excellent midsong breakdown. Props for their video that’s a direct homage to The Cure’s video for “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”.

Blue Man Group, The Complex, released 22 April 2003. A group known more for their live (and often messy) performances, they would occasionally drop an album of the songs they did for their shows, often with the guest singers that would show up. This record features the vocals of Dave Matthews, Tracy Bonham (who would tour with them for this album), Esthero, and Gavin Rossdale.

Goldfrapp, Black Cherry, released 28 April 2003. After her adventurous and experimental first album, Alison Goldfrapp chose to go sultry, sexy and groovy with this second outing, and absolutely nailed it with a record full of great songs. This one’s a super fun listen!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell, released 29 April 2003. This NYC band had been around for a bit, but this was their official debut album and what a hell of a record it is! I admit it took me a while to get used to it, but once I heard the brilliant track “Maps” it all clicked for me.

Soundtrack, The Matrix Reloaded: The Album, released 29 April 2003. After a four-year wait, the second Matrix film dropped in early May, with the third in the trilogy (The Matrix Revolutions, both filmed at the same time) released that November. The unconventional soundtrack featured both the rock/electronic tracks and the score rather than them being released separately.


Up next: another mixtape, a long-awaited release from an all-time favorite band, and more!

Fly-by: brb, juggling writing and Day Job

Nothing all that new to say today, sorry. This week’s Day Job schedule has been kind of weird and full of mid-shift hours, and I’m trying to make it a new habit not to force myself through blog posts and writing sessions if I don’t have the time or the spoons for it. Being healthy and all that.

In the meantime, please enjoy this new tune from my favorite super-local band. That building on the album cover is about three streets away from my apartment, and I have walked past that red Karmann Ghia many times!

Fly-by: brb, trying to get back to writing work

I’m not entirely sure if it’s my weird work schedule last week that threw me off, or that I’m just trying to avoid doing the hard work needed to get through this frustrating patch, but I’m having trouble focusing on MU4 again lately. And that needs to be fixed. I’ll hopefully have something up on Thursday!

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…?

Twenty Years On: January 2002

Welcome to another series of Twenty Years On, in which I go through a year’s worth of favorite songs, singles and albums that were favorites then and are still favorites now. So where was I at this point back in 2002?

I was most likely down in my parent’s basement — yes, even in the dead of winter, unless it was too cold — working hard on writing A Division of Souls, which I would finish later in the year. By this time I had my daily schedule down to an artform: I’d leave my job at Yankee Candle sometime around 2pm (my shift started at 6am); on Wednesdays I’d drive over to the Amherst/Hadley area and do my comic book and CD runs, and get home in time to watch Tenchi Muyo! on Cartoon Network before dinnertime. After dinner I’d head down to the Belfry (though I don’t think it earned that name until much later in the year) and spend a couple of hours writing and listening to my new cd purchases.

This was an important time in my life in terms of writing, as I’d finally reached a level of quality I was happy with, and that I was hitting at least a thousand words a night. I was also writing consistently, nearly every single day without fail, even weekends. I loved the project I was working on — one that I would plan out during slow times at work to make the actual prose writing flow much faster — and I considered it some of my best work to date.

As for music, I really had no idea what the year would bring me. The previous year did have its share of great records, but it didn’t completely spellbind me. My year-end mixtape felt a bit forced and meandering. But I kept an open mind, armed with my copies of ICE Newsletter and CMJ magazines. January ended up being a pretty good release month considering it was usually a wasteland of small indie releases and leftovers.

bis, Fact 2002 EP, released January 2002. A four-track EP of cover songs original from Factory Records, it’s more of a curio than a collector’s item, but it takes the label’s early dance tracks and makes them even dancier and bloopier. (This is now available on the 2014 deluxe reissue of their Return to Central album.)

Osymyso, “Intro-Inspection”, released January 2002. Mash-ups had been around for a good couple of years by this point, but while most of them had been relegated to white label limited releases and played in the clubs, by the early 2000s they were being uploaded and shared online for everyone to hear and add to their own mp3 collection. This particular track subverts the usual mash-up by mixing the first few bars of a staggering 103 songs in a brisk and mind-blowing twelve minutes. It’s supremely clever and all kinds of fun.

Various Artists, I Am Sam soundtrack, released 8 January 2002. While the Sean Penn film was not a success, the soundtrack, which features all covers of Beatles songs (Penn’s character is a fan) is an intriguing collection featuring bands and musicians such as Rufus Wainwright, Michael Penn, The Vines, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan and more.

Concrete Blonde, Group Therapy, released 15 January 2002. After a seven-year breakup, the original Napolitano-Mankey-Rushakoff trio reunited to release a laid back and boozy album recorded in just ten days. It’s not as punk-infused as their earlier records, but it’s just as strong.

Nine Inch Nails, And All That Could Have Been/Still, released 22 January 2002. A half live, half studio album produced during the tour for 1999’s The Fragile album. Like most of his 90s records, it’s a bit of a tough listen given how raw and chilling most of his songs were at the time, but it’s also a really interesting collection, especially with the Still portion of ‘reconstructed’ versions of many of his best-known songs.

Sneaker Pimps, Bloodsport, released 22 January 2002. The third SP record kind of came and went before anyone noticed (and for the most part was ignored by the US, considering their second record, 1999’s Splinter, didn’t even get released there), but it’s actually a really solid record. They’ve already moved on from their echoey trip-hop sound of 1996’s Becoming X (and dropped former singer Kelli Ali) and become more trippy alternative. They would break up in the next year with lead singer Chris Corner starting IAMX, but in late 2021 they surprised everyone (including me!) by releasing a new album entitled Squaring the Circle.

Violet Indiana, Casino, released 22 January 2002. This was a short-lived but lovely-sounding duo featuring Robin Guthrie (ex-Cocteau Twins) and Siobhan de Maré (ex-Mono, the UK one that did “Life in Mono”), and their brief output of only a few albums and singles provided a lovely backdrop of chanteuse-like balladry and dreamlike pop.

Cornelius, Point, released in the US on 22 January 2002. I know I’ve posted this video many times in the past, and mentioned this record as well, and it’s one of my favorites of this era. This was the Japanese musician’s fourth record but his second readily available in the US, and it’s a wonderful record brimming over with wonderful creativity. It’s an album you should listen to with headphones to get the full stereo experience. This was the first 2002 CD that I had on constant rotation during my Belfry writing sessions.

The Anniversary, Your Majesty, released 22 January 2002. Another example of getting into a band just as they release their last record? Perhaps so, but this was a great indie rock record that reminds me of The New Pornographers. A bit odd but extremely melodic and fun.

Various Artists, The Mothman Prophecies soundtrack, released 25 January 2002. Say what you will, I really enjoyed the spooky Richard Gere monster-conspiracy flick, and unsettling tomandandy score is quite an interesting listen. Low provides the end-credits track “Half Light” that fits the movie’s creepiness perfectly. [tomandandy even borrowed their track “Not That Kind of Girl” from 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire for a recurring theme.]

Chemical Brothers, Come With Us, released 28 January 2002. I don’t think this band has ever quite topped the success of 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole, but that doesn’t really matter when your output is so consistent and consistently creative and clever. This record felt more like a kicking-back, groove-in-your-own-head sort of album and it’s enjoyable from start to finish.


Next up on TYO: February 2002!

Unexpected Inspiration

Me: *relaxing with a bit of YouTubing at the end of the day, watching music videos*

Me: *watches K/DA’s “Villain” once again*

Brain: *poke poke* Oh hey…you know what would be a great villain idea for a sequel to In My Blue World?

Me: Oh COME ON —

Brain: I’m picturing a pirate, a woman with the ability to steal magic from multiple worlds —


Brain: And she’s like, super strong and almost invincible, and Zuze needs Diana’s help in fighting her off —

Me: … *sigh* FINE. *writes 1500-word synopsis*


PSA: Listening to music and being inspired to write yet another novel can be hazardous to your health.