Monday, June 9, 2008

Scene three

Day 3 in California went like this:

We woke up on Friday already excited. A couple days before Anna and I left to come out here, we purchased tickets to a show being held at the Music Box at the Henry Ford Theater in Hollywood. My favorite rapper, Blu, was opening up for Living Legends. Our plan was to relax during the day, then go to Hollywood, hang out in Amoeba Music, and then enjoy the show.

We started off the day with a trip to Pinkberry. Pinkberry is a chain of yogurt joints in California and New York. It’s not quite frozen yogurt, but it’s not quite regular yogurt either. Alice tells me it started in Hollywood a while back and they expanded because there’d be lines down several blocks.

Anyway, Alice and Lena were very excited to give us our first Pinkberry experience, encouraging us to sample the flavors (regular, green tea, and coffee) and choose our toppings. The exceedingly perky and excited woman at the counter was also quite helpful. I choose a medium sized regular with Cap’n Crunch, Bananas, and…the woman stepped in and chose chocolate chips for me. She said it in such a way that led me to believe I’d be hurting her feelings if I didn’t choose chocolate chips as the final topping, so I obliged. It worked out in the end though, cause that shit was delicious.

After Pinkberry, we got back to the house and decided to go for a hike. The first right turn off of Alice’s road is Big Sky, which, if followed all the way down, will take you to the beautiful Santa Rosa trails. Samir likes to call the Santa Rosa trail the “long trail,” dividing it into the Preamble, Stage One, Stage Two, and Stage Three. In all, it takes about an hour to walk, but it’s completely worth it. Once Anna uploads her pictures, I’ll post some from that walk.

We just kind of hung about after the walk, trying our best to solidify plans with Lena, Paul, and Matt. Eventually, it all worked out and the four of us piled in the car to go pick up Paul and Matt.

We arrived in L.A. shortly after 5 pm and slowly, but surely, made our way over to the parking deck on Sunset Blvd that lives right next to Amoeba Music. Paul and I nerded out about Hip Hop and our favorite Nas songs. Once we walked in, I proceeded to fly around at warp speed trying to find everything I could think of. I walked out with the new M83 record, an out-of-print Medicine album, and a Mellow record I didn’t have. $25 for three CDs. Not bad.

We left Amoeba and went in search of an Armenian eatery called Arax Falafel. Samir told us their sandwiches were really cheap and delicious, so we were game. We arrived at Arax at 7:35. The immediately told us that they were closing at 8, refusing to make Anna a kebab because it “takes fifteen minutes and we’ll be closed by then.” It was obvious they didn’t want us in the restaurant, but we were hungry and didn’t really care what they thought, so we sat and ate our food. It was delicious, but the owners were just awful.
As we made our way back to the Music Box, our excitement grew to the point of frustration. All we wanted was to get into the venue immediately and watch some excellent music. However, the large Russian gentlemen at the entrance weren’t as excited as we were.

“No pens, no markers, no gum,” said the first intimidating looking dude. Anna, Alice, and I walked back to the car and deposited our contraband. The second time we were passing though security, he made Anna throw away her water bottle.

After being patted down and having our legitimacy ensured, we all entered the club and made our way to the stage. The place was pretty cool; there was a big stage at the end of the building, a balcony overlooking the “dance” floor, and a bar beneath the balcony. Lena, Paul, Matt, and I got drinks after standing around for about 20 minutes or so. I bought a seven-ounce beer for seven dollars and Lena got a Crown and coke for ten. I quickly realized I needed to switch to liquor drinks if my spending was going to be worth it.

The first act was a “hip hop violin and DJ” act whose name I can’t remember. They were really cool though, playing the melodies from some famous songs like “T.R.O.Y.” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Next was Blu, though, and I already had it in my mind that no one else was going to impress me as much.

That was absolutely the case. Blu was lighthearted and full of personality. He played all my favorite songs from Below The Heavens, one of the best songs from the Johnson&Jonson album, and he even played his best new song, “GloryUs.” He was funny, animated, and interacted extremely well with the crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better set.

(I will dedicate another post entirely to Blu’s show.)

Living Legends was on next, but I was there for Blu. Paul, Matt, and Lena stayed in the crowd during Living Legends, but I had another drink and bought a Blu shirt. We all left in great moods and slept really well that night.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Califoneyuh Day 1 & 2: Part 2

Day 2 was our first real day in California. I was feeling kind of sick, with symptoms similar to a mild head cold. That was unfair, being that I’m on vacation and all. We decided to venture out anyway in search of adventure and fun. So we went to the Camarillo outlet mall.

Alice and Anna were in pursuit of cute dresses, I in pursuit of jeans. Both pursuits were accomplished at a reasonable price. We then moved on to the American Apparel outlet, where I found a shirt and hoodie to complete an outfit built specifically around a rather silly and loud pair of shoes I bought recently. During our stay at the outlet mall, I saw a man in a Prius speeding through the parking lot and come to a sudden halt in front of a pregnant woman pushing a stroller. He screamed at her to move out of the way, to which she responded with a laugh and a middle finger. I gave her the thumbs up and she smiled.

After our trip to Camarillo, we decided we were hungry. Alice drove us to Café Aroma in Newbury Park, a favorite of ours. I got a turkey and avocado sandwich, Alice got cobb salad, and Anna, true to form, got a bagel with cream cheese.

I took a nap when we got home because I was feeling like utter crap. I listened to a Flying Saucer Attack record to put me to sleep, which, through my half sleep haze, I could hear Alice and Anna ask each other confusedly how I can possibly fall asleep to it. Once, I was listening to that same record at home and Lena came into the room asking me if I was vacuuming.

I woke up, did some reading, some Snooding, and some sitting. We ate a wonderful meal of rice and lentils with cold onions, pita, and salad. After dinner, the four of us youngins went to Westlake to see the Sex and the City movie, which was funny, but not always intentionally. Most of it was cheesy as all hell. Oh, it was long too. Really long. Two and a half hours long.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Califoneyuh days 1 & 2 Part One: Airport and Arrival

It's 9 am on Friday, June 6 as I type this. I've been in California for one night and one day. No, I don't miss Chapel Hill.

The trip over here was relatively horrendous. Anna and I arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before our flight, waved goodbye to her dad, then sailed through security with no problem. After purchasing water and deciding against eating at one of the four or five stomach-destroying "food" establishments, we sat around people watching and taking pictures. Finally, we boarded the plane and set off for Charlotte, NC.

The Charlotte airport is clean. Very clean. It's also really well organized and run, and there's a really decent selection of eateries. Anna and I, however, did not choose well. Seeing as we had a layover that was to last almost three hours, we decided to go to one of the few sit-down restaurants in the airport. We chose the NASCAR-themed, "Stock Car Cafe." Darrell, our server, was very nice. I ordered a beer (not realizing it was $7) and the "Stock Burger." Anna also ordered the burger. We sat and talked and waited for our food, surveying the spectacularly tacky decor. Among the car hoods signed by various famous drivers and then checkered flags, Anna noticed a lithograph of Dale Earnhardt. He looked exactly like my dad.

We devoured our sub-par burgers and fries, all the while remarking on their utter tastelessness. Anna found a fried shrimp mixed in with her fries, which was terribly unfortunate.

Upon leaving the Stock Car Cafe, we decided to wander about. The amount of people in the airport seemed to wax and wane on a 15-20 minute schedule, though our gate remained completely populated the entire time. We settled near the end of concourse B, talked about comics and rude people who stare too much. After being creeped out by a gentleman to Anna's left, we decided to leave that area and go sit closer to our own gate. Anna found an outlet next to some chairs at gate B2 (right across from where we needed to be) and we sat there, people watching a bit more and writing haikus.

The plane ride to LAX was rather miserable. We both had middle seats between two people who did not talk unless they wanted to complain. Anna fell asleep at one point before the plane took off, waking to a hope that she'd slept through most of the flight. This was not the case. The plane hadn't taken off yet. Once it did, however, we were alerted by our captain that the in flight movie would be "Fool's Gold" and that three hours into the trip, we'd hit a bunch of turbulence. Hooray. I drank another beer half way through.

Since we were delayed in leaving, we were delayed in landing. It didn't end there, though. We couldn't taxi in to the terminal area for about 15 minutes after landing. Then there were problems with the jetway, which lasted another 15 minutes. Finally, we stepped foot in the airport an hour after our itinerary indicated. Oh yeah, it took 10 minutes for our bags to appear at baggage claim.

Alice and Lena arrived right after we got our bags, which was lovely. We all decided the best course of action was to find an In-N-Out Burger immediately. There was no In-N-Out to be found around LAX, so we just drove back to Thousand Oaks and ate at the location in Newbury Park. Delicious.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

The troubled, tortured musician is not a new concept. Elliott Smith sang of his inability to overcome both chemical imbalances and chemical addictions, Jeff Buckley elegantly shrieked at something he simply could not stretch far enough to reach, and Jeff Mangum spilled his frustrations and disturbed musings out in a lilting, strained voice. Bradford Cox, frontman of the polarizing band Deerhunter, is next in line.

With Deerhunter, Cox presented his demons to the listening audience in an aggressive, caustic manner. Their songs were filled with morbid imagery, sheets of noise, and an overall sense of dread and disquiet. As Atlas Sound, the name of his solo project, Cox attempts to quietly exorcise these demons.

LTBLTWCSBCF is awash in ghostly static and cavernous reverb, creating a very dreamlike atmosphere designed to both comfort and unsettle in the same moment. His vocals throughout the record are sung in a whispery, sleepy manner, snaking through unidentifiable instrumentation and impenetrable white noise. Each breath taken is left in the vocal track, as is every hard enunciation and offkey slip-up. This does not detract from the force or meaning behind each lyric, rather, it adds a sense of pure emotion lurking beneath the surface, comparable only to Vespertine era Bjork.

Cox uses his unique vocal style to craft songs that capture alienation at its most affecting. After the triple whammy of the first three beautifully fleshed out tunes, "On Guard" appears from the ether as an ambient meditation on awkward social situations. Cox's voice floats between handclaps, tambourines, and bleeps and blips, never really going anywhere, but never quite remaining still. The repeated phrase, "always on guard," pops up out of the haze as a warning to the rest of the sounds, never letting them boil over into cacophony. It's a theme song for those who can never relax but can always appear to be.

Later in the record, the social recluse is given a chance to break through his wall during "Cold As Ice." The sunny guitar loops and jingly percussion are the cocoon breaking open, but something keeps Cox from turning his face into the sunlight. His use of reverb seems quite deliberate, as certain phrases decay forever, and some snap back into reality almost as quickly. Near the end of the song, the decaying vocals create an image of one's breath hanging in the air, freezing and reforming the protective wall.

From this point on, Cox's voice shows up less and less, suggesting that even though he is trying to move on from whatever tortures him so, he cannot move past a certain point. "Ativan" has him retreating farther into the cold background, singing in an almost nonchalant chant about sleeping constantly. The title track finishes the record, painting the soundtrack to the dream Cox has just slipped into and may not rise from. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, fragile with a prickly outer shell.

LTBLTWCSBCF may not have fully exorcised Bradford Cox's demons, but it has successfully trapped them in a haunting, beautifully rendered piece of work. It's a snapshot of a tortured soul in a truly captivating record, not in a trainwreck-you-can't-look-away-from way, but a body-decaying-and-fertilizing-ground-where-flowers-now-grow way.

Monday, October 15, 2007

So much new music to absorb...


There's this new Radiohead record. It's called In Rainbows, and it's pretty amazing. I'd really like to buy the diskbox at some point, but right now it's like eighty bucks. No can do.

Some other stuff that I've been listening to lately:

Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming LP & Random Spirit Lover LP
It's Spencer Krug's (Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes, Swan Lake) other band. Both records are really good.

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum LP
Weird, trippy, electro psych.

Deerhunter - Fluorescent Grey EP
More focused than their amazing album from last year (Cryptograms), it's weird noise rock with shoegaze tendencies.

I haven't been listening to a whole lot of hip hop lately. Maybe soon, something will come out that will hold my attention.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Poo Faux Pas

Well played, opposing team.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007