Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Best of Music 2005 List (finally!)

Woops. Almost forgot about this. Glad someone reminded me.

Here it is, the list you've all been waiting for, my totally personal, extremely difficult, Best Of The Year List.

1. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

I listened to this album so much for a majority of the year, I pretty much burned out on it. That's why it was hard to pick it for my favorite of the year, but it so dominated my consciousness for so long and, i believe, will stick with me for the long haul, it easily fits into the #1 spot. When i think back of my 2005, the year I really settled in Florida, when I worked at Smart Publishing, and moved to South Beach and began working for The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, I was (very often) listening to Bloc Party's brilliant debut album. (And, as a reward for my devotion, their playing in Ft. Lauderdale in April. Woohoo!)

2. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

Another strange one. My first reactions were cold, weird. It seemed too noisy, too busy, too random of a collection of songs to really work. And yet, I kept coming back to it. Even today, a year after hearing it for the first time, it's one of the most played CD's in my car. It's #2 in my six-CD changer and I think the button is a little worn from all the times I've pressed it. There's a violence in this record that seems to quantify a lot of thoughts and emotions felt during the past year. At the same time, it's a timeless album that seems to predict the future of music. Powerful, emotional, exquisitely Canadian. (Going to see them at Lollapoolza in August, along with 129 other bands and they're the main attraction. Can't wait!)

3. The National - Alligator

Another album that seems to have melded with my life this year and become a kind of smoky mirror for it. Songs on this album mean so much to me, because of their subject matter or because they remind me of certain times and events. The National have a distinctly American sound (a kind of wry cynicism, mixed with pure, dark, New York concrete) that perfectly captures how I think and approach things. For a displaced New Yorker like myself, The National are a much appreciated reminder of home.

4. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary

If the other albums on this list remind me of this past year here in Florida, Apologies brings back to my days of Tool, Metallica, and White Zombie. Metal with an almost literary attitude. Wolf Parade are another Canadian band and there really is something in the water up there because this album has some truly spectacular moments on it. Tempo-changes, grooves, and just beautiful melodies mixed with abundant imagery of snow, cold, and loneliness. A real surprise of an album. Looking forward to more work from these guys!

5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Never got around to writing a review for this album, because, really, what could I say that hasn't been said? These guys are the most talented young musicians around. Definitely cemented that after seeing them live a few weeks ago and listening (wayy tooo much) to a live performance from French radio. Their style is original, strange, seeped in personality, and bubbling with enthusiasm. And they do it all without barely breaking a smile and without the backing of a label. I'm very much a production whore and I can hear the rough edges on this album and that brought it down a notch or two on the list, but this is easily the most impressive and original album I've heard in a long time. From the sound of their live sets, they're working on some great new songs and a "real" debut album should be out soon and will, probably, destroy the world.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Discovering Miami

Despite my continued outbursts against this town, I had some more Miami-based fun this weekend. I volunteered to be a Bus Captain on a guided bus tour of the city called Discover Miami, stopping at six different locations where ethnic-flavored mini-festivals were taking place. It was very interesting. This city, like most American cites, represents a huge tapestry of nations and ethnicities. There were almost twenty buses leaving from all the different festivals and crawling around the city. Each bus had a tour guide and on my bus was a guy named Kevin Wynn who hosts a TV show about Miami. He knew tons of interesting things and was very informative and funny throughout the day.

Our first stop of the day was Little Havana. It was early and sparsely attended, but it was quite nice. Musicians rocked out to Cuban rhythms, art dealers displayed some wonderful paintings and wooden sculptures. I had an empanada. It was delicious.

Next, we headed to Overtown. According to our tour guide, this central area of the city is a harking back to the time of segregation. Back when Miami was first founded, the black people were forced to live in this section of the city. Slowly, over the century, people began to leave, to escape the ghetto and settle in other parts of town. Sometime in the middle of the century, the city of Miami decided to demolish a huge swatch of land in the center of Overtown to build the I-95 right through the center of the city. The neighborhood has never recovered and is definitely one of the slummiest parts of town. Still, the neighborhood is attempting to recover and recently remodeled and redesigned a historic theatre in the center of Overtown. This was our destination, the renovated Lyric Theatre.

There was a choir singing gospel tunes, tables full of African art and sculptures, and a guided tour about black diaspora inside the new section of the theatre. A little underwhelming, but they were setting up for a big show later on.

Next was the Jewish-themed stop, Temple Israel, not far from my job in midtown Miami. An historic synagogue, one of the oldest in South Florida and built right in the center of the city next to quiet streets and a cemetery, it is a beautiful place. The main complex is a classic structure with a gorgeous main sanctuary, huge and impressive from all angles and impressive from the inside. But the most interesting part was a small sanctuary built in the late 60's, designed by Kenneth Treister, who also designed the Holocaust memorial in South Beach. The outside of this small sanctuary looks like a mansion from some weird Star Wars planet. Inside, stained glass and rock-face walls convey a sense of inner light and inner peace.

Outside of the Inner Sanctuary.

Our second-to-last stop was Little Haiti. The smells of food were everywhere here. Roasted corn, big spigots with meat and rice. Women dressed in wild, bright, gold or turquoise dresses. There was a stage set up like all the other locations but the brightly colored reggage-esque band had sound trouble and couldn't get their act together before it was time for the bus to move on again back towards Downtown, our launch point for the day.

Here, there were two festivals set up, a Native American exhibit and the European concert (read: white people). There was also an antique car show going on through one of the main streets. As you can imagine, traffic was a nightmare and I didn't linger after my official "duties" were over. I hopped in my car and tried my best to avoid traffic on my way back home. I got a little lost, ended up in Overtown. I don't know if it had to with the tour or the fact that I'm getting better at the whole driving thing, but I found my way out of Downtown exactly where I wanted to be and then home, safe, sound, and newly appreciative of this strange, spread-out, metropolis.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Flaming Lips Love

or Redundancy Is Only Possible When Not Talking About Great Music.

You want to read something interesting? Go here to check out a song-by-song notes by The Man Himself, Mr. Wayne Coyne about the new Lips album, At War With The Mystics.

Some of the things he mentions are incredible. This goes back to my endless wondering about the definition and direction of indie rock, what makes it "indie," what makes it different. This kind of forethought, pre-planning, and ability to experiment and be completely, unshamefully, radical is the very definition of what it means to be Indie Rock.

Musically, the new Lips album is beyond words. It is picture perfect in terms of instrument placement in sound space (on headphones, it practically glows), every chord and note is nessecary, clear, powerful. Choatic tracks like "The W.A.N.D" make so much sense amidst the aural chaos. Quieter tracks like the sublime "Mr. Ambulance Driver" and the heartbreaking "The Sound of Failure" take on a clean genre-less sensibility, as if the various instruments were played by classical musicians in glass booths in million-dollar Upper East Side studios. And songs like "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals" embrace the gleeful Lips spirit that is unescapable to the listener (especially at a live perfomance).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Peace on Rooftops

If there's one thing I like to do, it's rail against Miami, my home. I cringe to say that, but it's true. I can't run away from it. I've lived here close to two years now. As much as I dislike it most of the year, it's my home.

Yesterday afternoon, amidst a wonderfully breezy, empty, Sunday, while stepping onto my open hall between my apartment and the laundry room, I noticed something strange. Wind. A powerful, lively, breeze blowing through my particular row of buildings. This was strange. While breezes are common near the ocean and in any apartment lucky enough to have a balcony, my apartment is not so lucky. But all is not lost. We have an ill-used roof on my building, accessible through a terrifyingly steep staircase, but accessible nonetheless. I was taken by the weather and leaped up those flimsy metal stairs to my roof.

It was dusk. Reds and yellows played in the sky. Buildings' lights blazed in a bright world. Nearby, a small beautiful white building with red roofs on the balconies. In the distance, huge bright building with twinkling lights and slick-looked glass terraces. Palm trees stretched in all directions. The wind was strong, whipping at my clothes. I closed my eyes, gripped a railing, cherished the moment.

It's a rare thing for me to enjoy something exterior about this town. Occasionally, I'll comment on a nice sunset or a particularly bright day. More often, I question why anyone would want to live here. Yesterday, I knew.

(Note: Added a couple new blogs to the blogroll. Both very clickable. Enjoy!)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Like I always say...

The future will be a wonderful place.

Are you kidding me?!!

So, who's coming to Chicago with me in the summer?

There are three (Yes, three!) exciting, huge, indie, music festivals this summer that happen to be in Chicago. Hmm. I wonder why.

First and possibly best is Pitchfork's first offical festival. Last year, they curated the Intonation Festival and had staple bands like Broken Social Scene, among others. For this one, they have been releasing band names slowly. The first group was enough to make me buy plane tickets (if I could afford them): Ted Leo! Mountain Goats? The National?!! Are you kidding me?? They've got a lot more bands to announce, so they could be saving their big big names.

Next is this year's Intonation Festival. Curated by VICE Records and, oh, my favorite radio station, KEXP. The big name here, so far, is Bloc Party. With many, many, more bands to be announced, this fest may be the smallest of the three, but i'd still go.

Finally, the behemoth. If Indie Rock had a big massive Microsoft-metaphor, it'd be Lollapalooza. I went to Lollapalooza '96 and had an amazing time that I recall vividly to this day. This year is like some big bad Fuck You! year and it seeks to top every other festival of the year and possibly history. Chili Peppers, Flaming Lips, Death Cab, Broken Social Scene!, among others really make this year a standout. 130 bands on eight stages over two days = a fucking awesome time.

I wonder if I can take three vacations over the summer.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Langerado Link-Fest

The New Times has put up their positive, energized, pure-love, hippie-spirit, review of Langerado.'s has a great article/preview for the new Flaming Lips album, At War With The Mystics.'s
way close Lips show recap.

A very cool blog a guy named Andy made to upload pictures he took from the festival: Blogerardo. has a small photo gallery.

A reggae fan's perspective on the fest.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Flaming Fun In The Sun Yeah

Langerado Festival, March 12-13 2006. (with more pics provided, graciously, by Danya.)

Live music in Florida - at least music that I'd like to hear - is a rare and beautiful thing. So imagine my surprise when I heard that one of the best bands ever will be gracing a traditionally hippie-music festival in Sunrise, Florida, which is near Ft. Lauderdale and borders the Everglades. I'd seen The Flaming Lips once before, in the beautiful renovated theater setting of The Warfield in downtown San Francisco, and it was an incredible, memorable, exciting performance. This show was equally fascinating and maybe even more fun.
So, to start off, Shawn, Danya, and I piled into my car and rocked out to some Lips CDs on our way up. It was a gloriously bright, wonderfully free, Saturday, without work or responsibility of any kind. Upon arriving at the Markham Park, we parked amongst the thousands of other cars in a huge, unmarked, grass field. We headed first to the Swamp Tent to see RJD2 impress the hell out of us with his charming, untraditional, DJ set.

Already, five or ten minutes in, we knew we were in a setting populated by foreigners, specifically, hippies. They were everywhere; with their scruffy beards, tie-dye, blatant drug use, and generally relaxed demeanor. Which was all good! There was dancing and smiling and before we knew it, it was time for the main course of the weekend, The Flaming Lips.

It was still bright out in front of the Sunset Stage as the three of us camped out at the closest possible spot to the stage and waited for the show to begin. We smiled and yelled at Wayne Coyne as he supervised the set-up for the show. They brought out a shiny plastic mesh and we knew we were in for a treat.

(*clears throat*)

It seemed like he came out of nowhere. Like a Phoenix rising from all the sweat and heat, Wayne came floating down from the ether of space and walked over the crowd, supernaturally, looking shaggy and beardy like Jesus if he grew up in Oklahoma City (and spent the eighties on acid). We all laughed and cried while the band wailed and Wayne floated above us. Finally, Wayne landed on stage amidst applause like you wouldn't believe and launched into a wild, charismatic, performance of The Soft Bulletin's opening number, "Race For The Prize."

If you didn't know, a Flaming Lips show is like a birthday party, complete with balloons, guys in animal costumes, streamers (and guns that shoot streamers), confetti, fancy lights.. did I mention balloons? Lots and lots of balloons.

Next up was probably the highlight of the performance, a rarity from a band with hundreds of songs to choose from, a cover. A beautiful sing-along cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." A wonderful experience, shared by thousands of loyal young-and-old's. That song is one of those pop culture abnormalities that defies age or gender. Everyone knew the words. Everyone sang along.

Next, a treat! Two new songs, from the forthcoming (and brilliant) new album, At War With The Mystics, the Prince-esque "Free Radicals" and the Drozdy-genius of the first track off the new album, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song." Both of them came off brilliantly live, even with all the weird studio tricks seemingly intact, and a kind of frenzied breathe of newness to the classic Lips set.

Finally, sunset kicked in, darkness overtook the crowd, and the flashlights came out.

Classics followed: "The Gash", "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" (necessary), "Do You Realize??" and even the rarely played first (and only) hit-single in The Lips' 20 year history, "She Don't Use Jelly."

The Flaming Lips show was similar to when I saw them last time. But instead of being up in the nose-bleed section, I was totally close, close enough to almost touch the flying balloons, and get coated with confetti. They put on such a flamboyant, ridiculous, performance, you can't help but have a good time. I built up this performance a lot to my fellow travelers and was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype, but one minute into Bohemian Rhapsody, I knew I didn't have to worry. I'd watch the Lips play everyday if I could. And everyday I would have fun.

We didn't stick around much after that. Unlike the thousands of free-wheelin' hippie s lounging about listening to monotonous grooves about God or whatever, we came specifically to see a handful of bands. So we beat some traffic on the way out and headed home, to do it all again tomorrow.

I woke up the next day with a sneeze. Literally. I don't know what came over me, but I was racked with phlegm the next day. It didn't seem like that big of a deal and so we all loaded onto Danya's jeep and headed up north again, from the cool, bright, buildings of South Beach to the flat emptiness west of the beach. When we got to the park, I was hit again by a wave of allergies that didn't stop ALL DAY. It made me lethargic and uncomfortable and the incredible heat of the day didn't help.

Today, we were destined to see the curious performance by a curious band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. These were five guys from Brooklyn (hmm, that seems familiar), serious about music and themselves (well, maybe not so much themselves), but definitely music. They seemed a little humbled to be there, in the nice shade of the Swamp Tent, in front of a small-ish but respectable group of people. When they started to play, guitar problems were our first impression and an almost five minute intro to a four minute song proceeded. But after that first mishap, it was perfect. Flawless.

We were all wondering if we'd be able to decipher some of the lead singer's words during the performance, as if his mumbley-vocal styling on the album would give way to some clarity, finally. Well, it didn't. It was almost worse. The lead singer has a very unique style, his words come clambering out of his mouth in fast-forward, in a high pitch. Musically, the band was in top form. Their complex, shoe-gazey, motifs would sound like so much noise in the hands of lesser musicians, but these guys proved that they can rock AND roll. There were beautiful crescendos and spastic riffs that played out in crystal-clear notes. They scattered some covers amidst their album tracks, notably "Satan Is My Master" by Black Sabbath, a major hit that had the whole crowd chanting, "satan, satan, satan, satan..."

There is a growing, credible, innovative, music scene in Brooklyn right now, with critical darlings, The National, gaining major notice from their sublime album, Alligator, and TV On The Radio who are set to take over the world with their soon-to-be-released instant classic, Return to Cookie Mountain, among others. CYHSY is one of the most exciting bands of the decade and I hope this is just the first of many performances I will see by them.

Next, already tired from the heat (or one particularly stubborn nose), we sat and relaxed while listening to a competent, but ultimately lifeless, performance by indie pioneers, Wilco. For me, Wilco are a powerful, formative, band. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a springboard I used to uncover more and more indie bands with unique sounds. For some reason, though, maybe it has to do with their lukewarm latest album, they seemed to have lost a punch. Maybe it's just me. I enjoyed their perfomance but I was not wowed like I was with The Lips and Clap Your Hands. Enjoying a performance is great, but being wowed is the ultimate goal. It was a fun time, though, as Shawn, Danya, and I sat back away from the crowd and had more freedom to dance, play, or just lay back and enjoy the dawn.

Again, we left very soon after Wilco ended their set. We got in a long line of fleeing folks and slowly found our way out of the park and back down to civi- uh, Miami.

Overall, a great, surprising, weekend of live music in unexpected places. With Bloc Party, stellarstarr*, and the upcoming Ultra music festival here in Miami, I hope this interesting trend continues.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I got some great news this weekend. The infallible Christopher Rowe had decided to publish my story, "Do What You Desire" for the latest issue of Say... I've wanted to be a part of this wonderful magazine since its inception so I'm thrilled to be a contributor. The theme for this issue is Say... What's the Combination? and I think my weird story about stars and finding meaning in them in a confusing world fits perfectly.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Broken Social Scene did an small perfomance on NPR last night. Unfortantely, not the NPR station down here in South Florida. But I found a link with a listen button. I can't actually listen to it right now cause I don't have speakers at work, but I assume this is the length of the perfomance. (and, is that a new song right there?!?!)


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Best Music of 2005 (Part 5!)

Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

Remember that Conan O'Brien skit, "In the Year 2000" ? I thought that was the funniest thing to hit late night TV since Bill Maher. It seemed like the honest fruit of a bunch of creative people sitting around, throwing out ideas and catching the best, and then futurizing them. That's what the new BSS album sounds like. They should really have called the album, "You ain't ready for this shit yet." But then it might have been mistaken for a hip-hop album.

The second and instant-classic album, You Forgot It In People, contained so much interesting! new! exciting! music, it was almost too much. If that album would have been split, with one half coming out post-Float On, Broken Social Scene would be a household name (well, a cool household anyway). From rockers "Cause = Time" to brilliant subtle tracks like "Looks Just Like the Sun" to the best instrumental ever, "Pacific Theme," this seemed to be an album and a band on the cusp of huge sucess. So it comes as a surprise that the band follows up their classic with a tough, passionate, busy, complicated, self-proclaimed "fucking mess" that still manages to rock beyond a reasonable doubt.

Where YFIIP started with a prickly electronic tinkle, this album wastes no time and launches right into an instrumental frenzy with appreggios that fly high into the air and come back down in equally fast explosions of sound. Second track, "Ibi Dreams of Pavement" is busy and recalls the upbeat power of the faster tracks from the previous album. Lyrics throughout the album are skewed, fuzzy and just-barely-decipherable, so that the words mix in with the music seamlessly to create a single, often confusing, barrage of music. "Shoreline" comes in with the first pure, single track, guitar riff before it gets mixed in with another layer then another and another.

There's so much here. So much anticpation, excitment, and passion in every track, it's overwhelming and inspiring at the same time. Producer Dave Neufeld apparently drove himself to therapy trying to make sense of all these sounds. Somehow, in the time between the two albums, the band added another four or five members (which brings the grand total of members of this supergroup to, what? 32?) and I couldn't imagine what it was like to work with all those different musicians, all coming and going at different times over the course of two years, while trying to create a coherent vision. A vision that is clearly ahead of its time.

Despite the power of every note and musical crevice, the underlying subtelty, the nuiscane pushing the enevelope whenever it can, comes through to my practiced ears. I hear it all over the album. I hear a bass and drum combination with a little tipany and I think, "wow, i never heard that before." There's a zipping chrous line to the song, "Fire-Eyed Boy" that is so quick and so zany, it's unlike out there in modern music. Central track, "Windsurfing Nation" (the ex-title track), is musical collage at its best. Electro-drums and driving guitars give way to a rap solo and a Big Band finale while the next track, "Swimmers," is quiet and grounded in reality, chrous: "If you always get up late, you'll never be on time," a perfect match.

The final tracks are long, dense, and a little self-absorbed. As such, I haven't fully appreciated them. To be honest, I've never actually sat through the length of the 10-minute closing track, although I hear it's pretty awesome. But that's a good thing. I adore this album, adore this band, and there's still a quarter of an album left for me to discover. Broken Social Scene's self-titled album was released in mid-2005 amidst a crowd of deserving and attention-grabbing albums, as such its importance may have been marred. Its lack of inclusion in Pitchfork's final list is a devasting oversight, one they will regret. When people start making lists for the best albums of the decade, they may have to save two spaces for Broken Social Scene.


Wow. Been awhile since I've been here.

Sorry about my silence, blog. I know you've always been there for me, a friend and partner for years. I really am sorry, blog. I doubt you want to hear the same old excuses: work, girlfriend, Olympics.

The truth is, there's someone else. I'm sorry. I didn't plan this. It just happenned. It was going to be just something small, a side project kind of deal, a group work. It's becoming something else.

But don't despair! You're still my thoughts and in my heart. My busy months at work are now offically over and I can focus again on my love of all things Internet. There's tons of music reviews I haven't had time to read and a growing devotion to all things wiki. I will be back.

And I will finish my Best Music of 2005 list!