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the allure of the sweater

Monday, 31 October 2011

Images via Twin Peaks, Paris, Texas and Style Sightings

This lovely lady from Style Sightings (centre left) is the perfect mix of Audrey and Donna from Twin Peaks, and reminded me just how sexy a humble woolen jumper can be. 

Songs for the Walking Dead

Last day of Rocktober. Day of loosing evil spirits. Zombies and vampires lurk.
Seems like a perfect day to celebrate the third-most important purpose of modern music: lamenting the Break-Up.

One of the best break-up quotes I’ve ever heard:
“Divorce is like a death in the family where the corpse continues to walk the earth.”

I first heard these sentiments from our former pastor, a man who served as one of many valued mentors in my life, although he was just passing along the quote. An intensely private man, Larry kept most of his personal life to himself, which weirded out most of the AARPies in our congregation, because our church has always been accustomed to extroverted and deceptively open leaders.

This much about him was public: he was divorced and remarried. He had two daughters from his first marriage. The divorce was the beginning of the end of his run at his previous church, and he disappeared from the pulpit for more than half a decade, during which time he remarried.

We were talking about marriage and love and heartbreak and all that jazz when he offered this Divorce = Zombies quote.

For reasons I can’t explain, he shared many additional details about his divorce with me, often while watching football and drinking beer. Maybe he was using this information in a pastoral role as a cautionary tale or a warning of what not to do. Maybe he knew I was more than bitter enough about church to handle anything he shared without my opinion of him or Jesus being at risk. Maybe it’s got to be hell on a pastor, everyone expecting you to be perfect or mostly perfect all the time, especially when you get thrice-punished for a divorce over which you had little control.

Whatever the case, the experience clearly tore a hole in his soul. It didn’t completely crush his spirit, but it broke just about everything else in him. His entire being must have felt like someone who has been in such a devastating wreck that his entire body was in a cast, with several limbs dangling suspended in the hospital bed. He speculated that, were it not for his devotion to and love for his daughters, he might have never healed.

Divorce is the break-up to which all other break-ups aspire. Cute Puppy Love Break-up Demons lick the scraps from the dining room floor of Divorce, their little puppy love tails tucked fearfully under their butts as they whimper under the table, their ribs pushing through their flesh while Divorce sits fat and slobbering and engorged on an overabundance of food.

When it comes to the battlefield of love, I’m like Morgan Freeman in Glory, the dude who walks out into the aftermath and piles up the bodies, except with nary a tenth of his wisdom. I’ve watched lots of good men and women fall on that field, but I’ve barely earned minor battle scars. Yet there's this twisted dark part of me that, in moments of insanity or weakness, wonders what I've missed out on. How screwed up is that??

I’d love to make some argument that we’re so spoiled in contemporary America that we even glamorize the value of break-ups, that the reason the marriage rate has gone down is because it’s more culturally celebrated to break up than it is to stay together, because staying together inevitably means that you choose to put up with entire truckloads of shit and flawed behavior from your significant other.

And I totally want to believe it, too, because it sounds so damn convincing.

Except there’s this whole Romeo & Juliet thing, which is a few decades old, serving as a reminder that we’ve romanticized break-ups since the dawn of the second female.

We may have always and forever romanticized break-ups, but not divorce. I don’t know many normal people who romanticize divorce. Plenty of people pull that D trigger too soon or too often, but they’re usually the ones who pulled the wrong M trigger when they walked down the aisle in the first place. Wrong marriages end in sad divorces. Right marriages end in sadder ones. But all divorces leave corpses walking the earth, some hungrier and more present and dangerous than others.

So, in honor of respecting demons on this Halloween, I pay tribute to the world’s only real zombie-maker: Divorce.

Below are a smidgen of recent favorite break-up songs. Trying to pick a Top 10 would be like trying to pick the 10 hottest women on the planet. It’s foolish to even try, and I’d wake up tomorrow with a totally different opinion anyway.

A Sampler for the Walking Dead:

i want to be like her when i grow up

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Images via Closet Visit

I am really enjoying the emergence of 'what's in your wardrobe' sites that document the inspirations and wardrobes of cool ladies.

Style Like U was one of the pioneers of this kind of website, and I really loved it in the early days. It has gone on to gain huge exposure and much success (including a book deal) for the creators, a sign of just how curious we are about peeping into the lives of others and in learning about the personal style of people through alternate channels to traditional fashion publications. I hate to be one of those people that nostalgically exclaims something was much better before it gained mainstream exposure but in recent times Style Like U has felt a little overwhelming and I've not visited the site for a while. Luckily there are many others popping up, like  Closet Visit and The Coveteur, which take the original idea of Style Like U and add their own twist. 

It's an interesting time for style documentation. We are seemingly obsessed with what other people are wearing, how they are living, what they are eating, where they are travelling. I'm all for this kind of sharing, it allows us to satisfy our voyeuristic desires and to learn about people, places, products and more importantly ideas that we may never have encountered otherwise. But like others I'm also wary of what kinds of images/lifestyles are being presented. Stevie, author of Discotheque Confusion, recently posted a brilliant examination of the evolution of street style which brings up many interesting points particularly about the role of these kinds of sites in perpetuating consumerism and essentially, making us want more stuff. This article written by Chelsea Fagan for Thought Catalog (found via Stop It Right Now) is another great read on the topic, with hilarious yet accurate observations of what much 'street style' has become.  

I suppose with that said, it is still encouraging that thanks to the power of the internet, the established and commercialised street style sites sit alongside the smaller, emerging and niche ones, that they are all out there waiting to be discovered. It is important to ask these questions, to delve beneath the surface of what we read and watch and look at the motives and ideologies behind them. To recognise the purpose of these sites, and then interact with them in our own way.

With all that in mind, it is wonderful that all these resources are available. That I can sit in my living room on a grey Sunday afternoon and admire the styles of women who live on the other side of the world. 


Saturday, 29 October 2011

Arnsdorf SS12 1979 collection modelled by Ann Kelly, styled by Stevie Dance and photographed by Maya Villiger of Turned Out fame is a match made in heaven. Snakeskin, patchwork, metallics, pale denim, lace up necklines and plaits - sounds so wrong and yet it is a wonderful combination. Nostalgic yet still refreshing, I cannot wait for summer.


Friday, 28 October 2011

"The past keeps knock-knock-knockin' on my door,
And I don't want to hear it anymore."

--Lou Reed

At this time of year, one of my favorite things to do is to "troll" on hypem.com to see what cool Halloween songs are out there. I don't know if I'm too early, or if people aren't feeling it this year, or what, but I haven't been having a whole lot of success with that. Instead, I've been involved in a far more laborious process of trying to find the random song here or there that might have some tenuous connection to our most battered holiday.

But labor when searching for music usually equals fun, so I'm not complaining. Trying to build songs around a common theme is yet another way of discovering new music, and if you only have one way of locating new stuff in 2011, you're definitely missing out.

People try to mess with Halloween more than any other holiday, I guess because its roots are essentially not of the world of light. All of that darkness--plus the ghouls, goblins, vampires, demons, werebeasts, black cats, pumpkin people, and men and women dressed as provocative version of same in bars and at costume parties--scares those who are convinced that the world should be a safe place.

Halloween has become a night of unjustified terror for parents. The "trunk or treat" phenomena is the best current example of the fear paranoia that surrounds this holiday. Just tonight, the waitress at our local sports bar, a pretty sleazy place in a lot of ways, was extolling the virtues of "trunk or treat," calling it "a safe alternative, especially for young children." But that would imply that regular trick or treating is somehow unsafe, that urban legends about razor blades in apples and other things are somehow true. They aren't. Shit, the terrors in our neighborhood are the freaky Christian woman who makes children recite a Bible verse in order to get candy and the dentist's house that gives out toothbrushes.

So, if it seems like the wind is out of the Halloween sails this year, that's probably the reason why. Today's parents, the same ones who won't ever let their children's hands get dirty, have co-opted the simple joys of children walking house to house to collect unhealthy food from their neighbors. Heck, even back in the 60's, my parents made us bring the candy home so they could look at it and see what they wanted us to have or didn't. That's just parenting. But to take away the opportunity for children to enter the chaos, the harmless debauchery of Halloween, I don't think that's parenting at all. That's something else.

But, enough of that. I started off thinking about music. I think I found some pretty good stuff, songs that were sent to us, an old Lou Reed favorite, new things from other people's blogs. My thanks, as always, to those other blogs and the discoveries they provide us with whenever I have the time to look around.

Of course, along the way, I was bound to come across some songs that I liked that had nothing to do with Halloween at all, and those are represented here as well.

I hope there's a little something unplanned for your Halloween, a little something that causes a small fright or catches you off guard. And, just for the record, it's not my mix that I'm calling "Halloween-ish," it's the holiday itself, times being what they are.

I hope you enjoy this collection of songs that have everything and nothing to do with Halloween.

Harry Manx and Kevin Breit--"Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep" (mp3)

Laura Stevenson and The Cans--"Halloween, pt. 1 and 2" (mp3)

Monarchy (feat. Britt Love)--"You Don't Want To Dance With Me" (mp3)

Wolf Parade--"Ghost Pressure" (mp3)

Little Hurricane--"Give 'Em Hell" (mp3)

Guided By Voices--"The Unsinkable Fats Domino" (mp3)

Halloween, Alaska--"Empire Waist" (mp3)

Daisy McCrackin--"I Think I'm A Ghost" (mp3)

Nada Surf--"See These Bones" (mp3)

The Boxcar Lilies--"The Ghost Tree" (mp3)

Mighty Moon--"Vampire Plans" (mp3)

Lou Reed--"Halloween Parade" (mp3)


I really love these preview shots from Anywho featuring their latest collaboration. I loved their coats last year so am very excited to see what they have made for this winter. Also as always their styling is perfection. 


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Rusted Wheel - The Belle Brigade (mp3)
At Least I Have You - Mates of State (mp3)
Chances Are - Bob Seger & Martina McBride (mp3)

My single most favorite trend of the past 20 years in music is the surge in male-female musical groups.

Boy-girl duets is nothing new, mind you. Helloooo, Sonny & Cher? Donny & Marie? The history of pop music is replete with duets, from Kiki joining Elton to Rihanna guesting with Eminem or Coldplay.

But the fact is this: You put a male and a female in a song, singing into one another, singing around one another, singing on top of one another, and I’ll give your song five times the chance of success.

The song doesn’t have to be overtly sexual, because the allure of male-female singing goes far deeper than mere genitalia. It follows a rule similar to Jules' explanation of foot massages in "Pulp Fiction." A male-female duet hits me in the same core as bagpipes or African drums; something primal in me is instantly drawn to it.

Trying to name all the current bands on my radar which exploit this weakness is virtually impossible. The Weepies, The Civil Wars, The Rescues, Mates of State, The Belle Brigade, The New Pornographers, Buddy & Julie Miller. Those are all bands who earn chronic rotation in my musical life.

Others include The Ting Tings, Lady Antebellum, Sugarland, Swell Season, Acid House Kings, Sleeper Agent, Black-Eyed Peas, COYOL. These are all without even looking at my iTunes collection. There’s no telling how many I’m missing.

Glee, the entire show, the cultural phenomenon, rocketed into instant success the minute they turned "Don't Stop Believin'" into a male-female duet.

As much as I adore ‘80s music and its place in my heart and history, its male-female combos kinda sucked unless they were one-shot deals. Roxette? Animotion? The Human League? Ace of Base? Just about the only one that comes to mind that earned much respect was Timbuk 3, and that’s a stretch.

The ‘70s and ‘80s seemed better about single-gender combinations, groups where multiple dudes shared singing duties or sang on top of one another. Hall & Oates, Tears for Fears, Wham, Alabama, The Eagles, Flock of Seagulls... the Beatles, even. Almost the only obvious exception that stands out is Fleetwood Mac.

But you sit me down and ask me to start rattling off all the songs from my life I’ve loved that harnessed the power of a male-female duet, and I might never find time to eat a meal again. Here’s what I came up with just on the way home from dinner tonight:
  • “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” - Elton John & Kiki Dee
  • “After All” - Peter Cetera & Cher
  • “The Next Time I Fall” - Peter Cetera & Amy Grant
  • “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” - Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks
  • “Endless Love” - Lionel Richie & Diana Ross
  • “Islands in the Stream” - Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
  • “Kid Fears” - Indigo Girls & Michael Stipe
  • “I Knew You Were Waiting” - Aretha Franklin & George Michael
  • “It’s Only Love” - Bryan Adams & Tina Turner
  • “Up Where We Belong” - Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
  • “Chances Are” - Bob Seger & Martina McBride
  • “U Got the Look” - Prince & Sheena Easton
  • “Summer Nights” (and most of GREASE) - Olivia Newton John & John Travolta
  • “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” - Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
  • “Don’t Know Much” - Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville
  • “Almost Paradise” - Mike Reno & Ann Wilson
These all popped up in 15 minutes or less of driving. I’ve thought of at least several dozen more since then, and I haven’t even Googled “greatest duets ever” or anything yet.

I only made this connection, about my deep instinctive love for male-female songs, because I wrote about both Tina Turner and Bryan Adams. The truth is that I love their duet, “It’s Only Love” as much as if not better than anything the two of them created individually. Which is absurd, by the way. It’s not that great. Which means this is more about my own Kryptonite, my own Achilles’ Heel. But I wouldn’t trade it.

Rap and Hip hop men have always sensed the value of a well-placed woman. We would never know Rob Base or DJ EZ Rock if they didn’t enlist the assistance of a woman to tell us exactly What Took Two. C&C Music Factory never sells 10,000 CDs without a woman belting out that chorus. This continues today with B.O.B.’s “Airplanes” and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” just as examples.

I love all these songs far more than they probably deserve.

I wonder how much longer this trend will last? Or if maybe it’s a longer-term shift in music? Would Oasis even form in 2011 if Noel & Liam didn’t have a cute siren of a sister? Could Hall & Oates have even been born in the 21st Century? Surely they would have had to at least give themselves a different name that dodged emphasizing them as a couple.

Is it coincidence that, as our country and culture gets increasingly comfortable with homosexuality, we increasingly insist that our music resemble Adam & Eve more than Adam & Steve?

What about you, dear readers? Do you have a favorite duet, or a favorite band where the singing duties are shared across gender lines? Give me some names to feed this hunger of mine.

all good in the hood

The styling in Goodhood's AW11 Lookbook is wonderful. It is just right - it isn't too edgy, too scruffy, too slouchy, too matchy-matchy or too tomboy, but combines hints of all these elements to create really clever outfits that look comfortable, practical and still very cool. But not too cool.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Images via one of my new favoutie blogs Pompoon.    
Photos created by Stefanie Maas, Sander Van Den Bosch and Carline Van Oel.

I found these photos today while researching Mae Englegeer blankets and find them not only beautiful but also really interesting in terms of interior design/visual merchandising. I'm now inspired to get to work and finish decorating my own space - something I've been lazy about doing despite moving in months ago. I am now also wishing I could wear an outfit of light neutrals with a splash of fluoro pink and orange.

Bryan's Song

Monday, 24 October 2011

Back to You (live acoustic) - Bryan Adams (mp3)
Summer of '69 (live acoustic) - Bryan Adams (mp3)

Bryan Adams was that slut in your high school no one admitted to bedding.

Words I’ve never heard uttered:
“Bryan Adams is my favorite all-time musician ever ever ever.”

Not once. I checked Snopes.com, and there's no record of anyone ever making this claim. Not male, female, or even a transgendered person in transition.

Recently, I heard a talking head point out that Mitt Romney had only won one single solitary popular election in his entire political career. That one-time victory to lead Massachusetts was the only time he ever won an election.

Bryan Adams is the Mitt Romney of pop rock.

Billboard named him #38 on their “Hot 100 50th Anniversary Charts.” That’s, like, #38 over 50 years of pop and rock and stuff. And you just know there were staffers in that room who saw Bryan Adams landing at #38 and threatened to burn down the building. “Fuck this. This is a joke. Bryan Adams shouldn’t be #338, much less #38 on this stupid list,” they surely said. "Hell will freeze over before we sign off on this." And then, predictably, like the wuss music nerds they were, they threw a Nerf ball at the glass meeting windows with righteous vitriol and accepted that hell would just have to freeze over.

Meanwhile, no one in that room would actually defend him. Everyone would just sit quietly in their Billboard meeting room chairs, shrugging their shoulders and sharing those higher-than-thou looks of disgust. But, in their heads, quietly to themselves, they’d be humming the tune to “This Time" or "Summer of '69."

BA had 5 different albums go Platinum in the U.S. For roughly a decade, Canadians used BA songs instead of their national anthem when TV service was announcing the end of air time*.

If you know your cheesy pop music history, then you’ve already formed a theory on when the BA Train went off the rails, and it’s eight cute little words. You know it’s true. He did it for you. Somehow Morgan Freeman and Alan Rickman get away with participating in this farce, but BA gets forever damned to the fires of sellout hell.

Here’s the real problem with this theory: it assumes that at some point people loved them some Bryan Adams, and to the best of my memory and understanding, this simply isn’t true. He was never loved. People never sat around water coolers asking each other:
“Hey, you pick up that new Bryan Adams album yet?”
“Shit, he’s got a new one?? When’d it come out?”
“Tuesday. There was a hundred of us camped out down at Record Bar Monday night waitin’ for the doors to open. We was so damn pumped.”
“It’s good, huh?”
“Oh man, everything you loved about Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless gets ramped up on this one. It’s just awesome.”
No, that conversation never happened anywhere in the USA. We didn’t brag about it. We didn’t show him off. We carefully and sparsely placed him on mixtapes, more than prepared to act like it was a mock-ironic decision if someone dared question it.

In fairness, this is probably the fate he deserved: popularity sans conviction.

Hell, I was one of his fans, and it’s taken me almost 500 words to even admit it. I buried it down here in the hopes that only a few people will mock me for it later.

It’s not like he was Debbie frappin’ Gibson or Tiffany or some shit. Yet how many rock stars of any stripe would inspire, by the mere mention of his name, another rock star to consistently lose his shit? You woulda thought Ryan Adams was being mocked for being Andy Gibb. BA never aided the Nazis. He never remade “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” as some horrifying ‘70s movie. He just sang poppy rock songs and sold out a few dozen times.

I like Bryan because he made it OK to shout out "Me and my baby in a 69!" at the top of your lungs, and adults didn't seem to mind. I like him because he seemed almost semi-normal in a business (especially in the '80s) when some kind of costumed get-up or big hair or wild makeup or funky fashion statements or massive and obvious drug addictions seemed mandatory to even get your foot in the door. I like him because he crafted a mean damn hook that sold 10 million albums no one will proudly claim.

Like. Not love. Because nobody wants to own up to that level of devotion when it comes to BA.

* -- Yes, kids, there was a time in our world when most television stations signed off the air for a majority of the early morning hours. And yes, I totally made up the part about Canadian TV sign-off song, but it wouldn't surprise me. Canada is funny like that.

october wishlist

Dress by Ganni via Asos, Wigwarm Socks via Goodhood Store, Dress by Cos, Shoes by Dieppa Restrepo via Totokaelo, Cashmere jumper by Lou via La Garconne, Ratzer Twist A Twill Blanket via Wood Wood, Speckle Silk Trousers by Rachel Comey via My Chameleon, Knit Front Sweatshirt by Corell Corell via Stand Up Comedy, Printed Shirt by Rachel Comey via My Chameleon.

I'm really feeling grey, pink, brown and black at the moment, and would love to add some of these beautiful prints and textures to my wardrobe. I am particularly loving the selection of Rachel Comey over at My Chameleon, not to mention the rest of their store which includes some of my other favourites like Dieppa Restrepo, Bodkin, Arnsdorf and Estelle Deve. I can also vouch for their exceptional customer service; I bought an Arnsdorf shirt from them a while back and it arrived with lightning speed. It's starting to get a little chilly here so some chunky socks and knits to throw on over dresses and shirts would be very welcome additions to my wardrobe too.

What are you craving for the coming season?

I'm With Aimee

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Aimee Mann--"4th Of July" (mp3)
Ted Leo--"Freeway (live Aimee Mann cover)" (mp3)

Everyone has their favorite female rocker. Mine is Aimee Mann. Has been for some time. Continues to be.

There's probably a productive sidebar discussion about why we would even need to distinguish the female of the rock species, but, let's face it, comparatively, there just aren't that many women who really rock. And even some of those are women who rock occasionally or who have some uptempo songs.

I mean, Patti Griffin's "Blue Skies" is one of my favorite rock songs, but Patti is a folksinger, not a rocker. Emmy Lou Harris, especially live with Buddy Miller, can really kick it up a notch, or can crack her voice superbly over Daniel Lanios-produced soundscapes, but she sings country, with country sensibilities. I loved Linda Ronstadt's "How Do I Make You" back in the early 80's when she tried to embrace the punk ethic, but that was a convention for one album. I liked Belly, but I've lost track. I loved the Pretenders for about 3 1/2 albums. I liked the Fiery Furnaces when I saw them live a couple of years ago. But the woman who fronts a rock band that is her band that plays her songs, how many of those are still out there?

More likely, Aimee Mann is the female rocker. Not that you're going to bang your head against a wall listening to her. Because, first and foremost, you can't help but actually listen to her and her wonderfully-crafted songs. And she's got a bit of vaudeville, a bit of folkster, a bit of pure songwriter in her. But, primarily, she is a rocker. Here's why she does it for me:

1. Aimee Mann has a highly-developed sense of irony. She will play with every expectation you have, even within the context of a single song. She is well-read, connected, fearless. Who else crafts a song that compares a relationship to the Frankenstein monster? Who else turns a holiday like "4th of July" into a lament and an indictment of a lover who has done her wrong? Who else compares herself to a superball? Who else captures the graphic novel Ghost World in a song? Who else starts a song "You got a lot of money/But you can't afford the Freeway"? and finds a way to justify the lyric with the song?

2. Aimee Mann sings "fuck" and its variations more beautifully than anyone else. She tosses off "fuck" like other songwriters use the word "love." But not gratuitiously; instead, she uses it to cement her jaundiced view of the world and of love. Who else starts off a CD with lines like these:
You fucked it up
You should have quit
'Till circumstances had changed a bit

You fucked it up
You jumped the gun
I swore you off, but you climbed back on

Her last song on the same CD uses the "F-word" in a completely different way, perhaps to even greater effect, as she both celebrates and admonishes the naive:

All you want to do is something good
So get ready to be ridiculed and misunderstood
'Cause don't you know that you're a fucking freak in this world
In which everybody's willing to choose swine over pearls

A listener gets the sense that Aimee Mann does not worry about rules and conventions, that she is one of those very few artists who isn't thinking about how the song will sound on the radio. She is thinking about how the song will sound. And what it will mean. And what are the perfect words to convey that.

3. Aimee loves electic guitar. Her CDs are full of great guitar solos and great guitar sounds. Perhaps there is no band, no bandleader, with the obvious exception of Steely Dan's front men or Jimmy Page, who knows how to use guitar in the context of a song as well. Mann's songs are rife with stunning electric guitar work, but always in the service of the song. The simple reality of rock is that, in 90% of the situations, an electric guitar is the best way to forward a song through a melodic break. Mann knows this. Her sidemen and guest artists add superb touches to her songs.

I first connected with Aimee Mann when her CD, I'm With Stupid, came out. Her near-perfect, hard-to-get-released sophomore solo CD has been one of the most played CDs that I have every owned. A richly-layered songset, it wows you with every song, the word play, the creative melodies, the way themes musical and lyrical return in songs and in between songs, and, most of all, her controlled, nasal singing that is the best vehicle for her beautiful bitterness.

And, though we haven't talked about it specifically, what about her as a songwriter? Over the last 20 years, I'd say she is easily one of the top 5 songwriters in the business. In the rock world, at least, she has not female equal, few male equals. Though it must have felt like a slap in the face to Fiona Apple (who was dating director Paul Anderson at the time), it's not difficult to figure out why Anderson decided to feature Mann's songs almost exclusively in his film, Magnolia. She straddles the fence between intimate, personal statements and universal themes.

If she ever put out a "greatest hits" complilation, not that she has the commercial acceptance to do so, her fans would probably clamor for a 4-CD set. A single set of 12-15 songs could in no way capture her range; it would be a mere cherry pick of her best stuff.

While I don't claim to love every single song that she has ever written, there is no doubt that all of them are extremely well-crafted, that she doesn't toss a few throwaway songs onto a CD. Nope, her stuff is top-notch top to bottom. All of it serves the vision. And the great songs number in the dozens.

One of the great pleasures of Rocktober for me, maybe not for you, is that it forces me to zero in on someone like Aimee Mann, to spend a night listening to her and writing about her, and to realize in that time a greatness that I had probably taken for granted in all those years of adding song after song after song of hers to my understanding of who she is. All artists have peaks. Aimee Mann's string of CDs from Whatever to I'm With Stupid to Batchelorette #2 (and the Magnolia soundtrack) to Lost In Space marks one of the great creative periods of American songwriting that spans the two centuries most of us know. Maybe Steve Earle during those years, maybe Ryan Adams. No one else. And her newer stuff, in some ways even more ambitious, continues to delight, as well.

stine goya girls

Friday, 21 October 2011

Stine Goya team via Anywho

The girls at Stine Goya all look amazing in their tonal, print-clashing outfits. Makes me want to expand my New Balance collection and get some colour matching going on. Just the kind of inspiration I needed at the end of a long week.

Dear Musicians, Agents, and Other Industry Types Who Claim To Read Our Blog:

Thursday, 20 October 2011

We write pieces about whatever we feel like and we post mp3s in support of those pieces. In fact, 98% of the time, there is some connection, however tenuous, between what we have written and what music we have posted.

Right now, we are celebrating "Rocktober," keeping our focus on musical trends and acts, past and present. We understand that you are looking for exposure, for yourself, your band, your client. We are interested in people reading our blog. So, we have a common interest: your music. We would like to use it, if it is appropriate for us. But that is all.

Here's what we are not interested in:

1. Your latest video, wherever it may appear.
2. Your song, available for listening in a way that is not friendly to what I just said (Soundcloud without download and all of that) or difficult to get to. We post mp3s; if you send them to us, we assume that it is because you want us to post them.
3. Your tour dates.
4. Your contests. And please don't tell us how sexy we are in order to get us to listen to your stuff. We already know that.
5. Any other information about you are artist or you as someone who represents an artist. Ok, maybe a little bit of who you are.
6. Any spin, as in who you think you sound like or who your musical heroes are.

We have writing ideas, however feeble those might be sometimes, and we try to use songs that support, illuminate, even ironically undercut those ideas. Sometimes we (especially Billy) will post a whole bunch of the songs that you have sent us. We would not post your song if we did not like it. If we do not post your song, it does not mean that we do not like it. You may have caught us at a bad time. We are amateurs. We have jobs. However, please know that it is your song that we are interested in.

We are not interested in what you look like, though we wish you the best.

We are not interested in your promo package. We probably are not interested in where you are from. We are probably not interested in your tour, unless you are coming to our area (the Southeast) and you would like us to come see your show, preferably for free if you want us to write about it. We will make an effort to do that; Billy has done it. It was weird for him, because we are guys who like to write about everything. We tend to be more social critics than music critics.

Nevertheless, we do have strong opinions about music. We have listened to a lot of music and we continue to listen to music, so we take any "professional" critics with a grain or two of salt. Probably, we have over 70 years of listening seriously and fanatically to popular music. If you send us music (in the form of mp3s), we will do our best to judge it on its own merits. We do not have any particular bias against any particular kind of music.

Our Ipods and Iphones and our computers have a lot of memory and are loaded with many songs, the vast majority of which we have purchased. If we do work for your song, in the form of writing and/or posting, then we may keep a digital copy of your song for our own listening pleasure. That seems like a fair trade; we do not make any money maintaining this blog and it is exhausting to try to sort through all of the mail that we receive, much of it not relevant to what kind of presence we have developed over the last 3 1/2 years.

We do not like to be the victims of mass marketing or junk mail any more than you do.

If you truly are a "fan" of Bottom Of The Glass, as so many of your emails suggest, then you will send us an email with a brief introduction and an mp3 or two attached. You will have sent it because you have checked out our blog and gotten some sense of what kinds of music we like. Rocktober is an especially good time to do that.

That's it. We will do our best from here. Thank you and Happy Rocktober!


Bob and Billy

P.S. It took sifting through well over 100 emails to find this sweet little track:

Chris Cubeta and The Liars' Club--"All We Are" (mp3)

Scotland Uber Alles

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Human Error - We Were Promised Jetpacks (mp3)
Conductor - We Were Promised Jetpacks (mp3)

God I wish I were in Scotland.

My father-in-law hops the pond and lives over there four months out of every year, and the jealousy practically seethes through my skin when he visits us. My Scottish blood wants to push out of my body and attack him like a Scottish badger.

If I were in Scotland, I could wear a kilt. I could slice the throat of any Englishman who mutters the words “Prima Nocta.” I could sit at some sophisticated pub drinking dark delicious slightly warmish beer across from Tilda Swinton and talk about how totally kickass she was. I'm sure she'd totally dig me.

But what I could really do while wearing a kilt and killing Englishmen and drinking and wooing kickass actresses? Tilda and I could be in any music club in the friggin’ country, and odds are there’d be some mega-awesome rock band playing. Scotland has arguably the best collection of rock bands ever to hail from a single teensy country.

Scotland has 5.2 million people. Which is to say, it’s the population of Atlanta... with lots and lots of rocks.

I have at one point or another owned records, cassettes, CDs or mp3 albums of the following Scottish artists: Frightened Rabbit. We Were Promised Jetpacks. Belle & Sebastian. Big Country. The Jesus & Mary Chain. Primal Scream. The Shamen. Simple Minds. Teenage Fanclub. Travis. Texas. Glasvegas. 1990s. Cocteau Twins. The Soup Dragons. The Twilight Sad. Snow Patrol.

To be fair, Scotland is also home to Franz Ferdinand, which goes down in my own history as the most overrated indie band in the last 30 years. But hell, no place with 5 million people can be perfect.

By comparison, Atlanta has given me The Marvelous 3, Indigo Girls, The Black Crowes and maybe Sugarland. I’ll even throw in Cee-lo Green just for the sake of amusement. I’ll be forever grateful for Amy and Emily, one of my all-time favorites no doubt, but the collective army of Scot-Rock tops ‘em and their Atlanta minions handily.

The Onion’s AV Club has a much more erudite breakdown of Scot-Rock, but I happen to think mine is more convincing. Because I make bad kilt jokes.

Anyway, the latest holy musical selection emerging from the crags is In the Pit of the Stomach, the sophomore release from We Were Promised Jetpacks. I’m pretty sure I remember one of our regular commentators -- was it BeckEye or Cinderkeys? -- proclaiming it the best band name of the 21st Century, and dammit it’s gotta be somewhere near the top. Their song “Quiet Little Voices,” off their first album, was easily one of my favorite songs from 2009.

This band is crunchy and sonically explosive and mumbly, and this album definitely kicks those qualities into a higher gear than their first go-round. I’d suspect this has to do with being able to afford better recording equipment or an adrenaline junkie for their producer, but I only know slightly more about music production than I do about Scotland.

I was never a big fan of the Shoegaze Movement in rock, but this band leapfrogs that with their noise. It’s noise with a hook. It’s noise with a hook that gives me this flutter of hope and happiness in my core, and I couldn’t tell you whether that’s the intent of their lyrical direction. Plenty of dark lyrics in these songs to be sure, but something there feels good, feels alive, feels vibrant. Shoegazing never made me very happy. It just pissed me off.

We Were Promised Jetpacks' first album was good. This one is better. If they can stick to alcohol and avoid too many other spoils of success -- other than kilts -- this band should be around and kicking Britpop’s ass for at least a few more albums.

Sylvia Plath

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ryan Adams--"Sylvia Plath (live)" (mp3)
Paul Westerberg--"Crackle and Drag (original take)" (mp3)

Kiss me and you will see how important I am.
--Sylvia Plath

The creative, wild, self-destructive, educated, dangerous, sexual, brilliant, despondent, vulnerable, unrestrained, unsaveable woman. The femme fatale. The woman with a thousand faces. The woman as muse.

That woman, or at least the archetype that she has become, is Sylvia Plath, confessional poet of the 50's and 60's, who died by suicide in 1963.

It might seem strange to be writing about Sylvia Plath during a month devoted to music, but then she is the inspiration for two of my favorite songs of this eleven-year-old century--Ryan Adams' "Sylvia Plath" and Paul Westerberg's "Crackle and Drag."

I am not surprised at all that Plath would become a muse for these two esteemed songwriters. What man doesn't think he could have done something for Sylvia or her equally well-groomed, urbane counterpart, Anne Sexton? I had been looking for a context in which to explore this fascination, which I share, for it is the subject of the songs that attracts me as much as the songs themselves.

The two songs could not be more different.

Ryan Adams' composition is elegaic, comic, and casual, an imagined life, not with Sylvia Plath, but with "a Sylvia Plath." He works the archtype, the woman who is unbound by Earth's rules, who indulges her every whim and fancy and who would take you (him) along for the ride. While he teases her behaviors and his own desires to share in them, his soft, sparse piano accompaniment mourns her absence, as if the worst loss one could possibly have is the one that he never had to begin with--she who would take you way beyond your established boundaries, but safely. His Plath is the passionate creature unconcerned for her own outcome, the woman he might have a fling with, knowing for any number of reasons that it could not possibly last, but knowing that he would indulge anyway:

And she and I would sleep on a boat
And swim in the sea without clothes
With rain falling fast on the sea
While she was swimming away, she'd be winking at me
Telling me it would all be okay
Out on the horizon and fading away
And I'd swim to the boat and I'd laugh
I gotta get me a Sylvia Plath

Westerberg's song is a frenetic rocker with urgent, rising guitar chords and verses that are nearly shouted, built around the details of Plath's squallid death, caring for her children in a cold, London flat before taking care of herself in a different way, using the gas in the oven:

She made a good go for a weeping willow
She closed the windows and made herself a pillow
And took a long deep breath
While her babies slept

Doomed, tragic, neglected by the end, this is the Sylvia Plath who was likely bi-polar, waking in the middle of the night to write stunning, manic poetry that has lasted longer than anything her brief, controlling husband has ever written. The constant repetition that she "made a good go for a weeping willow" suggests an empathy, an understanding on the part of the songwriter that she did the best she could with her mental state and circumstances.

See what I'm doing? I'm subtly making the case that Ted Hughes was never good enough for her, that he wronged her for leaving her with two small children. The woman who started their relationship by ripping the flesh of his cheek at a cocktail party in an act of wanton carnality could never, in our internal narratives, be served by one flawed mortal man. And so we despise him. I do. He is Yoko to her John Lennon, perhaps more talented, but completely unsympathetic and doomed himself to live decades beyond her legend.

Men want to rescue, and they want to rescue the Sylvia Plaths. They want to rescue the doomed, even rescue the unrescuable long after there is any chance of rescue. They want to dream of that rescue, that turning of a strong tide. The very idea enrages our women--those who are strong, stable, balanced, sacrificing in everyday ways without grand gestures, not projecting a victimhood of time, upbringing, or circumstance. But we cannot help it. We are men. We hear her siren song even across the decades. We send out our own songs in return.

Which song is better? There is no comparison, which is to say that the two songs tap into such different parts of the myth that, besides references to the same subject, they share little in common. Adams' makes me feel empty; Westerberg's taps into my own moments of desperation. Listen to both, and then go back to the source.

modern bartering

I discovered Malin Elmlid's blog through her feature on Freunde von Freunden. Having previously worked for Wood Wood she is now a Sales Manager for Levis, but more importantly in her free time she blogs about 'what to do when it is time off' and runs the Bread Exchange, a project in which she bakes amazing sourdough and trades it for anything else (but not money). 

Not only is her bartering project genius, but I also love her approach to life and how she challenges the idea that our day jobs are what determines who we are. It is so inspiring to see someone who places an emphasis on our lives beyond the 9-5 grind, because let's be honest, not everyone can survive as freelance artists/bloggers/consultants and for most, taking on a full-time job is a necessity at some point. Having graduated earlier this year and now properly in the workforce, it has taken me a while to get into the habit of setting aside time for things outside of work. People like Malin remind me to take that time - to go running, take a dance class, cook a new dish, read a book (thanks for all your suggestions in the last post!), start a new project.


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