Today’s Random Song in My Head, “Debra”

I was at work today discussing a project with a customer. After we were done, I said “Well I think I know what to do from here. I’ll get with you later and go over what I found.” From that point on,  the Beck song “Debra” was in my head. If you’re familiar with “Debra”, then you know the chorus of the song is basically him singing “I want to get with you.” Not exactly what I said to the customer, but close enough for my crazy brain to connect the dots to Beck.

I’m not complaining. I love the song and the whole Midnight Vultures album. Beck must have been going through a real Prince phase during the recording of that record. Many of the songs have a Prince-ish sound, but “Debra” is essentially a Prince imitation from start to finish. It’s a slow jam in the vein of “The Purple One’s” falsetto-filled masterpiece “Adore”.  Although, this song has a bit of a twist. It starts out innocently enough, he meets a girl named Jenny at a department store.

I met you at JC Penny
I think your name tag said “Jenny
I cold step to you
With a fresh pack of gum
Somehow I knew you were lookin’ for some
(oh no!)

You might be thinking, “Hey, isn’t the name of the song “Debra”? Why did he meet a girl named Jenny? What’s going on! I’m confused!”  Calm down, we’ll soon find out.  The rest of the song is filled with more not so subtle innuendo about how he wants to “Get with her.”  Well, not just her, as the chorus informs us.

I wanna get with you (Oh girl)
And your sister
I think her name is Debra

That’s right. Beck wants to have a threesome. Boldly, he chose to attempt the most difficult ménage à 3 to pull off…a sister sandwich with Jenny and her sister Debra. Good luck Beck Hansen. You’ll need it.

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MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #80-71

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ 80-71

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

80. De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead

79. The Strokes, Is This It

78. Metallica, Ride the Lightning

77. The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan

76. Washed Out, Within and Without

75. The xx, Coexist

74. Pixies, Doolittle

73. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (2008)

72. The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing

71. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#80: De La Soul, De La Soul Is Dead

De La Soul Is Dead coverI bought my first CD player in 1991. Every time I see a Wal-Mart commercial boasting about its no-interest layaway program, it takes me back 20-some years to the day I went to the LaCrosse, Wis., Best Buy and put down something like $25 on a Sony “boom box” style CD player, one month before I returned with the remainder of the balance due. It was an excruciating 30 days or so of waiting, partly because I’m not a very patient person, but also because I bought a CD the same day I made the initial CD player payment.

That’s right: I stared at my first CD, De La Soul Is Dead, for a month before I actually could play it at home.

De La Soul earned the right to be my first CD purchase for a number of reasons. I decided I would buy something I didn’t already have on cassette, so anything by the Cure was ruled out. The peace-lovin’ hip-hop trio won me over as a fan with its debut, Three Feet High and Rising. The second album came out around the time I decided to buy a CD player, so it was on sale at Best Buy (probably for $7.99 or something reasonable like that). And a lot of the incredible stuff that came out in 1991 either hadn’t been released yet or it wasn’t on my radar yet. So dead daisies won the day.

I was able to pass the time without an actual CD-playing machine by reading the CD booklet, which included a comic book narrative of the numerous skits found on the CD. Not only did I learn the terms “dicksnot” and “buttcrust,” but I also learned the diss “you Arsenio Hall gum having punk” (not sure if I could spot someone with Arsenio gums, but I can see how it would be insulting to be told you have them). I also hit up one of my friends who had a CD player, and had my first listen through his speakers. (“Dicksnot” and “buttcrust” sound almost as funny as they read.)

Once I got my CD player, I spun Is Dead all the time (what else was I going to listen to?), and found a lot of good tunes between the funny skits. The groove was still there, but the album didn’t rely on any sort of “daisy chain”/”peace signs” gimmick to hook the listener. Songs like “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” and “Pass the Plugs” brought a more serious tone, but the band’s sharp humor still reigned on stuff like “Bitties in the BK Lounge” and “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” and good vibes were aplenty on “Keepin’ the Faith” and “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays.'” And Slick Rick was sampled throughout the album explaining why he “can’t be your lover” (it has to do with, um, wrinkles).

I soon started acquiring discs like a madman but De La Soul Is Dead will always hold special memories; you never forget your first. (My first cassette: the Footloose soundtrack!)

#75: The xx, Coexist

Coexist coverThis album only came out a few weeks ago, so it might be a bit rash of me to name it the 75th best album of all time.

Then again, I might very well be selling it short.

I am obsessed with the xx’s music, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a blind (or perhaps I should say “deaf”) worshiper of the band. In fact, it makes me a harsher critic. I did not immediately declare this album a masterpiece; it took me several listens before I started appreciating the entire disc as what is currently my favorite album of 2012.

While the xx’s first album definitely set the tone for the band’s sound, it certainly had tracks that stood apart as songs you could frame as “singles” (“Crystalised,” “VCR,” “Islands,” “Basic Space”) and “deep cuts” (“Infinity,” “Night Time,” “Stars”). The band’s second effort is nearly 40 minutes of singular mood-building. Some people might find this to be monotonous, but to my ears, the shifts are subtle but detectable. Start with Romy’s voice in the spotlight on “Angels,” bring in the back-and-forth vocals on “Chained” (which features a burst of textbook “xx” guitar that is so basic yet beautiful you’re left wondering why your adrenaline is flowing but happy it is), hit some steel drum accents on “Reunion,” enjoy the dance-y but not over the top vibe of “Sunset,” enjoy the in-sync vocals on “Tides,” the heart-aching moans of “Unfold,” a return to the upbeat on “Swept Away,” and the afterglow duet on “Our Song.” See, I’m already thinking this album should be higher on my list.

It is a quieter album than xx. That doesn’t equate with a negative. Some of that might have to do with this album being recorded by a trio rather than the quartet that produced xx. But whether it was done out of necessity or simply out of preference, it works very well within the xx soundscape. (Of course, the booted fourth member, Baria Qureshi, “thanks god she had no involvement” with Coexist. Perhaps the feeling is mutual?)

I look at this album and its relationship to its precedent much like I look at Sigur Ros’ ( ) album and its predecessor, Agaetis Byrjun. Most people who like Sigur Ros/that sort of music consider Agaetis a masterpiece, and while they might think ( ) is a solid album, they might criticize the album for not being as extravagant/for being more “minimal” than Agaetis. If you force them to look at ( ) independently of Agaetis, you’ll find a lauded album. I think Coexist, which received good reviews, will be viewed as an incredible album once people stop comparing it with xx.

P.S.: Go see the xx live. Now.

P.P.S.: I actually like ( ) better than Agaetis Byrjun.

Todd’s 80-71

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

80. Beastie Boys, Ill Communication

79. Tegan and Sara, Sainthood

78. New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

77. Porno for Pyros, Porno for Pyros

76. The Swell Season, Strict Joy

75. Counting Crows, August and Everything After

74. Nick Drake, Pink Moon

73. Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope

72. Love and Rockets, Earth, Sun, Moon

71. Def Leppard, Hysteria

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#78 New Radicals, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

Last night, I sat down to write a blurb about this album and just completely drew a blank.  I had a few things I wanted to mention about the record but had no real personal stories connected to it that would be of any interest to you wonderful readers. Needing a little inspiration, I queued up the album on the Sonos system (still the best present ever, thanks Cory and Jeni), mixed a cocktail, sat back and enjoyed. After a few Barcardi and diets, I was overcome with great ideas. No wonder musicians abuse illegal substances, they truly do help your creativity. Bacardi should be renamed “Inspiration Juice.”

Here is a sample of last night’s work:

…Whoaoooo! This record is freaking great !! Wahtwas I thinkin? This should have been waaaayyy higher in my list!!! Why did they only make one redcord?? That’s just dumba. Why would you stop making music justs whan you have a hit? That’s so stoopid. A musical tragedy. Every song on here should have neeb a top 10 song!!!! The album starts with a chick saying ”Make my nipples hard, Let’s Go!” That alone deserves several grammy awards!!!!!…

Ok, so drunk blogging probably wasn’t the best idea. There are a few points in that mess though:

-They did quit making music right at the peak of their popularity. Most people are probably only familiar with the song “You get What You Give”. It was a modest hit in the late ‘90s. They had an even more modest hit after that, “Someday We’ll Know”, and then disappeared. Too bad? Yes. Tragic? No.

-Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too is a great all around album. I didn’t get the album until the mid-2000s when I ran across it at the local CD Xchange. The price? One dollar. What a bargain! I was happily surprised at how good the other songs were. Freaking great? I think so. Should it have been way higher on my list? No. The list is infallible.

-The album does start with a woman saying ”Make my nipples hard, Let’s Go!” Cool? It think so. Is that sole lyric Grammy worthy? Absolutely. Supposedly,  The Beatles were going to start Sergeant Pepper’s that way but John thought it would have been too weird to go from “Make my nipples hard” to “With A Little Help From My Friends.” So, they came up with the lead track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” instead. That’s the story I heard anyways. May or may not have happened that way.

#73 Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope

Before this record, I’d always been kind of a peripheral fan of Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.) My older brother was a pretty big fan so I heard most of her material growing up. The album Control was kind of cool because she broke out with that record. I was listening to hard rock and metal music when Rhythm Nation came out so that one I sort of missed. The janet. record was nice but came across to me as sort of sweet and sugary much of the time. There were a few hints of things to come with sexier songs like “Any Time, Any Place” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.”

The Velvet Rope was the first album she made that really struck me as something more than pop music. It is much darker and moodier than any of her other releases. She collaborated with Q-tip from A Tribe Called Quest on my favorite song from the album “Got ’til It’s Gone.” She also covered the classic Rod Stewart jam, “Tonight’s the Night.” Odd choice but I think it works.

To be honest, the main reason I love this record is that it came out around the time I started dating my wife. I can’t listen to it without thinking of her. The Velvet Rope is the perfect record to play in the background when you are just “getting to know someone.”  Translation, it is a great record to play when you and your special someone spend large portions of the day attached at the bed.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #90-81

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Slayer, Reign in Blood

89. The Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle

88. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out

87. Ramones, Ramones

86. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

85. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

84. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

83. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema

82. Little Big Town, The Reason Why

81. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#90: Slayer, Reign in Blood

reign in blood coverHow did a seventh grader expand his vocabulary to include “postmortem” and “necrophobic” and learn about Josef Mengele to a blistering backbeat? His cousin slapped all 28 minutes of Slayer’s Reign in Blood on one side of a 90-minute Memorex cassette, that’s how.

(I honestly looked up postmortem and necrophobic in my parents’ dictionary. I wanted to know what those song titles meant! I was the nerdiest faux-Satanist ever.)

I was always very impressed by a number of things in the album opener, “Angel of Death”: the banshee scream unleashed by Tom Araya after the first few riffs, the guitar line that ran throughout the song (and would later be sampled by Public Enemy on “She Watch Channel Zero?!”), and the just-fucking-stupid-awesome bass drum assault toward song’s end. (Click on the sampler above the list, and skip to the 4:15 mark and let it play for about 15 seconds. Yowza.)

As someone who grew up listening to Duran Duran and Culture Club, I have to admit I was a little scared of this album…or at least felt like I was really doing something wrong by listening to it. (Look at that cover image! Funny now, scary then!) As I got older, I realized the lyrical content was pretty much a joke, but found the riffs an absolute go-to when I want to get my thrash on. Plus, nothing beats watching my friend Sam air guitar the shit out of Slayer songs. Kerry King would be impressed!

#82 Little Big Town, The Reason Why

the reason why coverVocal harmonies are great. I love hearing the Mamas and the Papas sing songs like “Creeque Alley.” The Beatles sang well together (and double tracked themselves aplenty). Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl had a nice thing going, and Layne’s and Jerry’s intertwined voices were as great a weapon in the Alice in Chains arsenal as Cantrell’s guitar work or Sean Kinney’s drumming.

Even the country genre can’t turn me off from good two-, three-, and four-part harmonies. And Little Big Town does it so well.

I read an interview with the band at the release of The Reason Why, and the members said they weren’t interested in putting out a two-single, 10-filler album. They set the standard high for inclusion, and it shows. The four voices soar together on “Why Oh Why” and the title track. “Shut Up Train” is a torch song of sorts for the smokin’ Karen Fairchild, and “All the Way Down” is essentially a great pop song with slight twang. And I have to admit that “Little White Church” is one of those songs that makes me smile.

I’ve seen these guys twice, and they were top-notch both times, so I’m sure that influences my thoughts on where this album ranks on my list. Also, a country album that sounds good to my ears is much rarer than being wowed by your typical dream pop or indie-rock or shoegaze or “boy-cry” (as my friend Brittany Jade described the Cure during one of our radio shows) album, so that also certainly provides a bump. But as I said at the beginning, great harmonies, great harmonies, great harmonies.

(And to answer your question: yes, I’m serious about this one.)

Todd’s 90-81

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

90. Dinosaur Jr, Green Mind

89. Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie

88. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

87. Tricky, Maxinquaye

86. Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet

85. Neon Indian, Era Extraña

84. Jeff Buckley, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk

83. Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

82. George Michael, Faith

81. Dave Matthews Band, Crash

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#85 Neon Indian, Era Extraña

Many of our more dedicated MoSS? readers may remember that this was my #2 favorite album of 2011. My #1 choice was M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. What a year in music when these two great records are at the top. So I imagine all you superfans out there must be wondering, “Where is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming going to show up on this list?”

Get ready for a spoiler: It’s not on the list!

That’s right, I may have jumped the gun a bit on crowning M83 #1. Honestly, these year end lists should probably be done three years after the fact so the new album honeymoon period has worn off. Don’t get me wrong. Hurry Up is a great freaking record, but I rarely listen to it in its entirety anymore. I still listen to Era Extraña every couple weeks. If I was judging solely on the artists live shows from last year, then M83 would win hands down. Although, I would have liked to have seen Neon Indian in a proper venue like M83 at The Pageant. What a show! So based on that information (and several very complex algorithms only understood by Matt Damon Good Will Hunting-type mathletes) Era Extraña in… Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming out.

Don’t let these recent findings shake your confidence in this particular list. As Chris stated before, the list is definitive and NOT open to interpretation.

#83 Frank Black, Teenager of the Year

Today, I’m not going to bore you readers with any stories about how much I love The Pixies and Frank Black/ Black Francis. Those stories are coming later. Lucky you. The fact is, Teenager of the Year is widely regarded as his strongest post-Pixies solo effort and would have been way higher on my list had it been half as long. There’s 22 songs on it and about half are great. The other half? Well…they’re songs.

I would like to share this small “fun fact” about Mr. Black’s lyrics. He often uses acrostics to hide messages in his songs. If you are unfamiliar with the term, this is the definition: Acrostic – a number of lines of writing, such as a poem, certain letters of which form a word, proverb, etc.

Here is a sampling of lyrics from the song “Speedy Marie”, it’s also my sample song from the record. Check it out.

Juxtaposed in each moment’s sight
Everything that I ever saw
And my one delight
Nothing can strike me in such awe
Mouth intricate shapes the voice that speaks
Always it will soothe
Rarer none are the precious cheeks
Is the size of each sculpted tooth
Each lip and each eye

Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought
And softest neck where always do i
Lay my clumsy thoughts
She is that most lovely art
Happy are my mind and my soul and my heart

Each line describes a trait about a woman he clearly likes. The first letter of each line spells out the girl’s name, Jean Marie Walsh. If that didn’t get him laid, I don’t know what could.

Previous installments:

#100-91

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MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: October 2012

Side A : Chris’ Picks

1. Tame Impala, “Be Above It”

2. The Avett Brothers, “February Seven”

3. Rhye, “The Fall”

4. The xx, “Sunset”

5. How to Dress Well, “& It Was You”

 

Side B : Todd’s Picks

1. La Sera, “Break My Heart”

2. Cemeteries, “The Wilderness”

3. Echo Lake, “Young Silence”

4. Seapony, “Prove to Me”

5. Young Prisms, “Runner”

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #100-91

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ 100-91

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

100. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking

99. Ice Cube, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted

98. Pet Shop Boys, Please

97. Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela

96. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat

95. Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears

94. Motley Crue, Too Fast for Love

93. Hooray for Earth, True Loves

92. The Cure, Seventeen Seconds

91. Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#95: Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears

blood sweat and tears self-titledIt might seem a bit odd to see this album on my list, ahead of Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking and albums that won’t make my list like Alice in Chains’ Dirt or Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. (That’s right, I couldn’t find room for either of those. Dirt is probably my #101; Mellon Collie needs to be a single disc.) But here it is all the same.

This is a pick of sentimentality. This is the first “real” record I remember listening to as a child. We were living in Eagan, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. I used to dance around like a little banshee to “Spinning Wheel”; my parents might not remember this, but I truly do remember getting scolded for jumping around on my bed during the instrumental breakdown a little over halfway through the song. Good times.

Nowadays it’s one of those “right mood” records, but when I’m in that zone, I love hearing stuff like “Sometimes in Winter” or “More and More” and the aforementioned “Spinning Wheel,” the song that represents the album in my playlist above. Better stop typing before Mom and Dad come in and yell at me…

#91 Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey

cover for the land of rape and honeyI remember first hearing Ministry over at my friend Jeff Perry’s house. He had the 12″ Singles compilation, which features “Everyday Is Halloween” and the unfairly maligned “The Nature of Love” (I still think that song is OK). I thought it was decent synth pop. Flash forward a couple of years: I go golfing with my cousin Mark; he’s wearing combat boots and a Ministry T-shirt that has a skull on it. Same group? Nah, couldn’t be. I don’t ask.

Then one summer, my friend Brian’s cousins roll up to Iowa from San Antonio. One of them, Billy, is armed with Ministry cassettes, including one called The Land of Rape and Honey. We throw it in the Ford Tempo tape deck, and “Stigmata” subsequently blows my mind and scares me a little bit. For weeks (certainly for the rest of Billy’s stay) I find myself annoying people by using my voice to make the guitar riff noise from that song (duh duh duh duh DUNNNNNN!!!).

The rest of the disc is great too. Odd chants, mad drumming, Kevin Dillon samples from Platoon…this album had a little bit of everything. Even my Grandma Clair liked it, coming into the room dancing while I was listening to the powerhouse second track, “The Missing.” I even crashed a car listening to this album. Yep, sounds like the 91st best album of all time.

Todd’s 100-91

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

100. Radiohead, The Bends

99. Hoodoo Gurus, Mars Needs Guitars

98. Michael Jackson, Thriller

97. Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood

96. Bjork, Debut

95. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Evan Sank

94. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

93. The Rolling Stones, Some Girls

92. The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix

91. Eels, Daisies of the Galaxies

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#94 Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

This record is a bit of as sentimental pick for me. It came out in early October 2007, and was on fairly heavy rotation on the alternative satellite radio stations. One day around that time, I was running errands for my very pregnant wife. My daughter, who at the time was 3 years old, was with me. The song “Is There a Ghost?” came on the radio. It’s a pretty simple tune with basically one verse repeated over and over behind slow building guitars.

I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
When I lived alone
Is there a ghost in my house?

Since this was around Halloween and the song had the word ghost in it, my daughter thought it was cool and asked to listen to it again. When we got home I bought the record to play on future car trips with her (anything to get a break from the Annie soundtrack). After a few listens though, I realized the rest of the record was very good too. I generally am not a fan of country rock or down home type rock but this was different. The big reverb filled vocals and sweeping guitars really sucked me in. Band of Horses was a mainstay on my iPod for the next few months.

It was actually playing in the car as I drove my wife to the hospital to deliver my son. So whenever I hear Cease to Begin, I think of both of my kids. Plus, how can you go wrong with a record that has a song titled after former NBA superstar Detlef Schrempf?

#92 The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix

When I started the 9th grade, all I really listened to was hair metal and classic rock music. That was until a friend of mine introduced me to a few albums his older brother brought back from college. It was my first exposure to so-called “College Music” bands like The Cure, HooDoo Gurus, The Connells and many more (some of which you will see on this list). I was hooked right there. I have gotten into other genres of music since then but have never strayed far from “alternative” or  “college” or “indie” or “whatever they are calling it now” music.

Back to #92. One of the records my friend had me listen to was Gold Afternoon Fix by The Church. I couldn’t stop listening to it. Maybe it was the excitement of hearing new type of music. It was all dark and moody and at that age I think sometimes you need to feel dark and moody. Whatever the reason, I thought it was great and this record definitely shaped my future musical tastes.

It wasn’t until later that I found out the band basically hated this release. I read an interview where the lead singer Steve Kilbey called the album lousy, hashed together and hideous.  I would agree that The Church albums before (Starfish) and after (Priest=Aura) are probably better all-around albums but I discovered Gold Afternoon Fix first and it holds a special place in my heart. Lousy? Really? Let’s look at a small sample of lyrics from the song “Metropolis.”

Back in Metropolis, circuses and elephants
Where the oranges grew
Back in Metropolis nothing can ever topple us
When I’m standing with you
Back in Metropolis talk about a holocaust
And then visit the zoo

OK, maybe that is a bit hashed together and lousy. I still love it.

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From the MoSS? Pit: The xx

the xx performing

Up close and personal with Romy, Jamie, and Oliver.

I try to write these in short order after seeing the show, but this one took a little bit longer to get going. Several reasons for this…

I stayed in a $40 hotel in Rochester after the show. You might imagine the sort of room you can get for $40 on a Friday night; I will tell you that whatever image you’ve conjured up in your mind, take it down a notch or two. I rolled in about 2 a.m., went to the front desk to “announce” I was there (I say “announce” because I had to shout over the TV, which had the episode of Family Guy on Adult Swim cranked up to 11), and waited for the clerk (fresh from his role as a zombie on The Walking Dead, if one can judge a book by its cover) to stop talking about his taxidermy habit and offering to have dinner with me in his office before I could just go to my room and shower. (Cue the Bernard Herrmann music.) Eventually I got to my room and crashed for a few hours before hitting the road at 7 a.m.

I left Rochester early not only because I was staying at the Bates Motel, but because I needed to get back to my old stomping grounds to attend a benefit for my good friend Aaron. It was a great day, not only because I was able to see a bunch of good friends, but also to see how well Aaron is doing. Much like Wu-Tang Clan, Guillain-Barre Syndrome ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit’, yet Aaron is already kicking its ass just months after the diagnosis (and that’s with an extended, scary stay in ICU in the interim). A lot of people came out and a good amount of dough was raised for my friend and his family, and I walked away from the live auction portion of the festivities with a gift for Tracy: a hot air balloon ride for two, complete with some bubbly to drink while in the air. Thankfully my dad didn’t follow through with his threat to run up the bid on me…

I also didn’t want to write my thoughts about the show immediately afterward for fear that I would knee-jerk my way through it, saying things like “This is without a doubt the best show I’ve ever seen in my life” or “You know, Romy actually is kinda cute” or anything else filled with hyperbole.

So here I am, nearly 48 hours after the final notes of “Stars” had run their course, and I’m left thinking…

“This is without a doubt the best show I’ve ever seen in my life.”


It would be more accurate to say “This is arguably the best show I’ve ever seen in my life,” because I’ve seen some pretty cool shows, especially lately. M83 at the Pageant earlier this year was killer; Portishead in Chicago last year is the one that might still hold the throne even after this xx spectacle. And there’s the first time I saw Explosions in the Sky, which was pretty special; The Cure on the 2000 Dream Tour was epic, too, going nearly three hours and playing a ton of stuff off Pornography.

But this…this was amazing.

Romy and Jamie

Perhaps more than anything else, consider the nature of the xx’s music. The personal feel, the minimal instrumentation that allows the emotion of the music to expand exponentially. The show was played at First Avenue, which isn’t exactly the largest venue in the world. Also consider that I was able to be right up front, along the rail just in front of Oliver Sim, adding to the intimacy of the moment.

And all my best-laid plans for the show came together. I was flying solo (or with all my friends, right?!) for this one, so I decided I was going to nerd out, drive up to the Cities early, and be the first person in line outside First Ave. I would go in, grab a pint of something from the bar, and then park in front of the stage.

Two other dudes had the same plan, so I was third in line when I got there. The line got longer and longer during the ensuing hour between my arrival and when doors opened, and I soon was bumped to fourth in line when the second guy in line was joined by his daughter. She was wearing red pants and a sweet jacket, which prompted a text message exchange between me and Todd (who was in Florida) in which we reminisced about the girl with red pants and cool jacket at the Gardens & Villa show in Iowa City during last spring’s Mission Creek Festival.* It must be the uniform of choice for cool music girls everywhere. The xx fan girl later asked her dad if she could get a tattoo when she turned 16, but only “if it means something to her.” (He said no.)

(* – Gardens & Villa and the Girl with the Red Pants were the only things we enjoyed about our night out at Mission Creek—Dirty Beaches and The War on Drugs were complete letdowns—so we didn’t write a “From the MoSS Pit?” entry. We should have, though. The funny thing: we were behind Girl with the Red Pants the entire show, so we were all under the impression that no one could rock red pants the way she did AND have it all put together from the front as well. When she finally turned around…boy, were we wrong. Todd’s better half agrees with this sentiment, by the way.)

Some people walked by and glanced at the poster announcing tonight’s lineup. The three college kids behind me in line joined me for a laugh when a passerby uttered to his friend, “Who’s playing—oh, Double X.” This name-bungling was one-upped by a panhandler who, after being rejected in his quest for spare change, asked the guys in front of me, “Who’s playing?” One of them responded, to which the panhandler said, “Who? Ex-Lax?” A shitty thing to say, to be sure. (Ha!)

Oliver and Jamie

Oliver and Jamie during the encore.

Soon enough it was time to go in. I quickly got my pint and grabbed my spot at the rail. Two very nice women, April and Jessica, stood next to me (young Red Pants and her dad also landed on the rail, on the other side of A&J). The floor quickly filled up. Not far from me, I noticed a guy in a Flogging Molly shirt who had been pacing around outside First Avenue begging to buy anyone’s extra tickets. At one point his ladyfriend smelled a clove cigar that was being smoked by someone in line, and she offered to buy one of those. Flogging Molly Shirt comes around the corner and says, “I’m trying to find us tickets, and you’re buying cigarettes!” I later heard that he bought two tickets for $120 apiece; face value with fees was $38, and that included a legal digital download of the Coexist album. (But still a shrewd purchase, if you ask me.)

You know what else ruled about this show? It started 30 minutes EARLY. 2:54 took the stage at 8:30 even though the show was billed as starting at 9:00. And they were great. I thought they sounded a little heavier live than what you get from their recorded material, but that’s not a criticism. (Todd included them on our May mixtape, if you want to hear a sample.) The band was well received, and they kept things moving along by playing an economical six-song set.

2:54

2:54

John Talabot was next. I like his music just fine, but knob tweaking punctuated by the occasional series of crash-cymbal pounding isn’t the most thrilling equation for live music. It was the exact kind of show I feared I might get with M83, to be honest; where M83 succeeds by playing a lot of it live, Talabot and his button-pushing sidekick just sort of stood there. Frankly, the xx could have worked out a deal with Talabot where they said, “Look, how about we just play your music during the stage transition from 2:54 to our set?” and it would have been just as valuable. I will listen to John Talabot again this year, I’m sure, so I’m not ripping on the music (for the most part). It just didn’t work for me as a live act.

John Talabot

John Talabot

Talabot’s was a relatively short set as well, and then it was go time.

Sometimes I prefer it when a band sounds ragged live, so I know I’m getting an experience that differs from “just hitting play.” I’d rather bands like the xx don’t sound that way; I want the perfection, and I want the atmosphere they create on the record to be present in this live setting. But I don’t want an exact carbon copy of the album, either. Can you run through the material as if it’s a perfect take, but not have it sound exactly like the songs I’ve played ad infinitum?

The xx can do that.

Sure, the minimalism of the music allows for better odds in terms of solid reproduction of the sound. But they sounded great, both in voice and in instrument. And Jamie xx is a man on a mission behind his setup, pounding out beats on pads or grabbing drumsticks to beat away on real drums or plinking away at piano work.

To my ears, Coexist just gets better with each listen, and the new songs sounded fantastic here. Scroll back up to watch the opener, “Angels,” and take a look at “Sunset” below.


I really liked the way they reworked a couple of the old songs, particularly “Crystalised”:


And they incorporated one of the best songs from the first album (“Shelter”) within one of my favorite songs on the second album (“Swept Away”) and pulled it off seamlessly.


They played every song from xx, and nearly all of Coexist. The encore was a three-song blast of “Intro,” “Tides,” and “Stars,” and after my chest was pummeled by the last few blasts of bass toward the end of “Stars,” my heart was full.

From the MoSS? Pit: The Avett Brothers

fabulous fox theatre

The Fab Fox before the show.

I thought I’d be writing this post in early 2012, seeing as the Avett Brothers were going to play a show in Iowa City around that time. Since shows at the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge rarely sold out, I waited and waited and waited to buy my ticket and then when I finally thought seriously about getting my ticket…fuck. Sold out.

My beloved Sleigh Bells maybe filled half the room when they played there in April. That’s hyped-as-fuck Sleigh Bells. With $18 tickets. Half-filled ballroom.

The action on the Avett tickets told me a couple of things:

I am lazy, as I waited weeks to take action on those tickets. (I did not make the same mistake with the xx, whom I will see at the sold-out First Avenue show!)

The Avett Brothers must be really good live, if they are selling out a room in Iowa City with little media hype, no SNL appearances, not soundtracking commercials, no new album out, etc., etc.

The first point was simply a reiteration of known fact. The second point was driven home by their performance at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (which is indeed quite fab) in St. Louis.

It was worth the extra drive, if you ask me, for a number of reasons.

t and c

12 years!

First off, the show gave my better half and I the chance to celebrate our anniversary in a way that differed from your typical dinner at the local Biaggi’s or Red Lobster or at home with some Papa Murphy’s. Let’s leave the little fella with my folks, drive a few hours, get a hotel room, enjoy a big city, enjoy some tunes, sleep in the next morning, drop in on some family, and come home to our boy who could hardly stand being away from us those 32 hours or whatever.

(It’s been 12 years as of Sunday. We’ve experienced a lot AND it feels like time has flown, if that makes sense. And with only a few exceptions, she still hates my music. I love her anyway.)

Second, we were able to hang out with our good friends JD and Sondra (the latter of which went to the Sleigh Bells show 30-some weeks pregnant, totally earning the respect of the MoSS? crew), sitting in the outdoor dining area of Kota Wood Fire Grill, drinking drinks and eating eats and enjoying the ambience of an urban arts scene quite different from a typical night in downtown C.R. It was good to get away and yet enjoy the comfort of our friends’ company.

Third, there’s no way standing around the cavernous IMU Main Lounge could hold a candle to sitting in the balcony of the gorgeous Fab Fox, with its ornate touches and outstanding acoustics.

The stage was set for the Avetts to dominate…and dominate they did.

The evening was billed as, um, “An Evening with the Avett Brothers,” which meant no opener. In old guy speak, that also meant we’d get more than two hours of music from the headliner and still be leaving the theater around 10:30. Winning! (Right?!)

The Avetts opened with “Die Die Die” and proceeded to kill it for the next 140 minutes. These guys can do a little bit of everything: raucous romps, slow burns, mournful moments. They criss-crossed through the catalog with ease. They profusely thanked the crowd every two or three songs. They had energy to spare throughout the set.

And if I were to start a “fantasy band” league, I’d have to rank Seth Avett as one of the blue-chip players. That guy can do so much so well. He played his guitar with reckless abandon, he showed great touch when manning the keys, and sang his heart out. And he did his best to propel the beat via stomping the stage at every turn.

Scott’s no slouch either, providing the signature banjo sounds and his own solid vocal work, and Bob Crawford owned the stand-up bass.

Perhaps the greatest moment of the night came just past the halfway point of the show. A single overhead spotlight shone down on Scott and Seth as they sang “Murder in the City,” a song from their 2008 EP The Second Gleam. The brothers stood within the small-diameter circle of light, singing “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name.” The simplicity of the song strips the lyrics bare, and their delivery comes off as sincere rather than hokey.

Then Scott walks off, leaving Seth alone in the spotlight, where the younger brother absolutely stunned the sold-out theater with his rendition of “Souls Like the Wheels” from the same EP. It was nothing short of magical to hear him deliver line after line, punctuated with the last verse:

Souls like the wings
Spreading out away from bad memories
Make us capable of taking off and landing
Alive with understanding
Let me go, let me go, let me go, let me go
Let me go, let me go, let me go, let me go

You could hear a pin drop for a few moments before the room came alive with hoots, hollers, applause, and screams of joy. It was one of those moments where I once again found myself entranced with live music, the kind of moment where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It was also the kind of moment where you might fear the show, or at least the main set, was over. But nah…instead the stage lights come up, the rest of the band takes their places, and Seth says, “OK, I think we’re getting warmed up now.”

I didn’t shoot any video (too scared, as there were venue staff everywhere) but I see someone shot a song from the encore, another intimate affair from the Brothers Avett. Enjoy.

Something about live music in St. Louis. I’ve seen six shows there (The Cure, Jose Gonzalez, Explosions in the Sky, Interpol, M83, the Avetts) and all six were superb. Can’t wait to go back. And hopefully next year I’ll hit the Pygmalion in Champaign-Urbana…