I Wanna Be…Me

The struggle of acceptance is something we’ve all dealt with either on a micro or macro level. It may be internal or external, but it’s the same nevertheless. I will never quite understand how it is so difficult for some to accept others who live different lifestyles than them. I’m thankful I found punk music at an early age. Not only was it a space for me to feel comfortable being me, I met other people who felt the same way. This struggle we shared was a way to bond.

Songs like “I Wanna Be A Homosexual” by Screeching Weasel exemplify what I love about punk music. It’s offensive to those close minded, but has an important underlying message. Lyrics can be interpreted different, but I feel the song at it’s core isn’t about homosexuality at all. It’s about being brave enough to be the individual you want to be, and a big “fuck you” to those who tell you should be anything else. Here are the lyrics to the song:

“I’ve got a little lisp, and I’ve been working on my limp wrist.
Women are a drag, I think I wanna be a faggot, man.
A mincing ninny, prancing fairy, merry little queen.
A Bruce Labruce wet dream, a Nancy Boy with wings.

I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be

Shock the middle class, take it up your punk rock ass.
You rub your little thing, when you see phony dykes in Penthouse magazine.
So what’s the difference Mr. Cream Rinse, you just need a man.
A beefy leather fag, to take you out in drag oh yeah.

I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be

Call me a faggot, call me a butt loving, fudge packing queer.
But I don’t care ’cause it’s the straight in straight-edge,
that makes me wanna drink a beer and be a pansy, and be a homo.

Shock the middle class, take it up your punk rock ass.
You rub your puny thing, when you see studs with tight jeans pass you on the street.
Who wears short shorts? You wear short shorts.
You’re so full of shit
Why don’t you admit that you don’t have the balls to be a queer.”

The last line resonates the most with me. The hypocrisy of people amazes me. The more people spread the positivity of accepting each other the more it will change over time. Things don’t change immediately, but keeping a positive mental attitude with encourage others to do the same. I know I haven’t said anything groundbreaking, but felt like it needed to be said. Plus the song rocks pretty hard. So listen to it, and give a high five to stranger.

Waxahatcha-what?

Waxahatchee is a band I had heard of years ago but never bothered with. Maybe it was the name. Maybe I just wasn’t a fan on first listen. I was perusing the list of new monthly releases (as I do on a weekly basis) and saw the band name pop up again. Don’t make my mistake. This band is good.

Waxahatchee’s 2015 release of “Ivy Tripp” is full of music. Atmospheric ballads, playful indie pop songs, and in your face rockers. It’s refreshing to hear a diverse album. Every song is different. “Breathless” opens the album with synths laid and Katie Crutchfield’s unique voice over what can only be described as TV static. The song sounds completely different from everything else on the album, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s a perfect introduction to Katie’s voice which I compare to a cross between Natalie Merchant and Alanis Morrisette. It’s immediately unique, but warm and inviting. Her lyrics speak of this feeling of being lost.

“If I was foolish I would chase
A feeling I long ago let fade
And we could be good for days

You take what you want
You wear it out
I’m not trying to be a rose
You see me how
I wish I was
But I’m not trying to be seen”
– “Breathless”

The two following songs, “Under A Rock” and “Poison” are indie rockers that demonstrate what Waxahatchee are best at. “La Loose” is probably my favorite song on the album. Everything just comes together so well. They dial back the guitars and crank up the organ (am I the only one who feel the organ is the most under represented instrument?).

“My thoughtful consort
When the stars are holding court
We will be in another world
Where my clarity’s restored
And this charming picture of
Hysteria in love
It could fade or wrinkle up
I don’t hold faith in much
I know that I feel more than you do
I selfishly want you here to stick to”
– “La Loose”

Katie is the definition of a song writer and comes from a punk background in Plan-It-X Records. This mentality encourages artists create art how they want and simple what will sell. Take a look at the Plan-It-X Records release list sometime and see how many amazing records they were part of. Those records don’t have sales that other artists have, but are just as worthy of your attention. Just because the masses won’t bother with it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on something great. This is really the only reason I write this thing in the first place. Sharing music that I enjoy that effects me and passing it on to someone else who might need it.

“Ivy Tripp” continues on this path of the first four songs. There’s some experimental songs and then some straight indie rock songs that keep the album moving. This album is the equivalent of an exhale after a long day.I went for a walk last night with my wife and my dog while listening to this album. It just sounds so refreshing to listen to from start to finish.

I encourage anyone who appreciates song writing or indie rock in general to check this out.

Bury Your Burdens In the Ground

Folk music. Alright, those you got past those two words pay attention to the next three words. William Elliott Whitmore. This man changed what I thought about folk music. His voice is other worldly. People don’t sing like him anymore. We are talking Sam Cooke level of singing here, but a completely different genre of music. I’ve met William and seen him play live and the way he captures the attention of an entire room is mesmerizing. His 2011 album, “Field Songs” has been in constant rotation since it came out.

I don’t know if his 2015 effort, “Radium Death”, is going to top it, but it’s going to come close. It’s similar in style of modern folk music with soulful vocals, but some of the songs feature a full band. It’s great to hear the songs fleshed out and be all that they can be. I love the intimate nature of acoustic songs, but I’m glad William isn’t pigeonholing himself into a one man band.

“Civilizations” speaks of wanting to live in the moment without distraction. Much of his songs talk of this idealistic lifestyle. As technology advances it has become harder to appreciate what naturally occurs around us. This is part of the reason I think folk music has a sense of magic to it. The working man is something that is taken for granted these days. I have been guilty of it myself. Not appreciating how the things I use and purchase on a daily basis are made.

People often even take for granted how their newspaper gets to them. The struggle newspaper carriers go through to deliver a product in the middle of the night in sometimes absurd conditions. It’s not a job on the same level as mail delivery. Take the time to thank the people who provide you services. Even that cashier giving you that coffee in the morning. It makes a difference, trust me.

“Trouble in Your Heart” follows “Civilizations” and is another subject William often visits. Hardship is something we all experience. There’s probably a million songs about it, and there will be a million more. Love and pain are two things that are easiest to write about in the sense that we feel the emotions all the time. However, when William Elliott Whitmore sings about hardship and encourages the listener to get through theirs, you believe him. He’s not a therapist. There’s not some crazy psychological metaphor in his songs, but there’s a friendly voice telling you it’s going to be alright. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs to make their day a little better. And sometimes, just sometimes, that’s all someone needs to save their life.

If you need an album to relax to or just need to feel a little better. Listen to “Radium Death” or “Field Songs” by William Elliott Whitmore. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “Bury Your Burdens in the Ground” when I get stressed out. I always feel better after listening to just a few of his songs. You can’t help but be entranced by his positivity through the pain he speaks of. He’s a simple man with a simple message. No matter what happens in your life, it will be alright, and you’ll get through it.

I’ll let the music speak for itself.

 

 

Your Life In America

To set the setting, it’s roughly 9 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. The longest I’ve slept in weeks by far. It’s been rough at work as of late with most of my mornings between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning and getting awoken in the few hours that I do finally get time to get some rest. My wife is at the gym. The dog on the floor at my feet. The cats cannot be located, but we all know that cats do not exist in this universe. Rather they drift between multiple parallel universes a la Interstellar. Oh wait, they’ve appeared as I wrote that sentence. They know I’ve outed their secret lives. I may not live through the weekend.

I’ve been feeling kinda down and out as of late. It’s never just one thing, just how life stacks jenga pieces of adversities in front of you. Finding a way to navigate moving these pieces around to succeed without letting them tumble upon you is the very essence of life. Life is a constant surge emotions. Happy ones, sad ones, pleasurable ones, painful ones, etc. People generally feel equal amounts of all of them throughout their life.

So why do I go on about this? Let’s talk about Ceremony’s new album, “The L-Shaped Man.” Lead Singer Ross Farrar recently went through a divorce. This seems to be the soundtrack of him moving that jenga piece out of the way. It’s an honest, heartfelt, cathartic piece of music about loss and regaining one’s composure. Well I made it this far without saying it sounds a lot like Joy Division. I’m not going to dwell on it, but their band name comes from a Joy Division song. I don’t know why everyone is so surprised they really like that band. Ceremony started out as a fast hardcore band that I’ve followed for years. They’ve always implemented new ideas into each new album evolving naturally. They don’t sound like Joy Division. They sound like Ceremony who wanted to make a dark post-punk record.

I’ve noticed they were the hardcore band people listen to if they don’t listen to hardcore. I can tell you I like them so much is because they don’t sound like every other hardcore band. Even in their early days when they wrote 30 second to minute long hardcore bursts, they did it well. There’s subtleties in hardcore music to pick up on if you want to appreciate it.

But they’ve grew into a band I think they’ve wanted to be. Their previous album, “Zoo”, sounded like a band wanting to try something new musically but for some reason didn’t fully commit. I think it suffered because of this, even if it still had some really great songs on it. “The L-Shaped Man” is going to piss off a lot of their fans. But they’ve been doing it for years, so I don’t think it will bother them. I imagine being an artist being constantly told what type of art you should be making would grow tiresome and make you not want to create it anymore. Thankfully, Ceremony said fuck it and made a great album.

“Hibernation” opens up the album as a slurred-sung piano interlude that sounds like the inner monologue of someone. The phrase, “You have to get through this…get through it all” is repeated setting the tone of the album. “Exit Fears” starts out as the first song with a full band. That driving bass lead and softer guitar playing is reminiscent of Joy Division. Ross has always been a very blunt and to the point lyricist, but his delivery adds all the emotion that the words need. When you have a distinct voice like he has, why bother wasting ink? “Bleeder” is so catchy and screaming to be a hit radio single. At least it should be. “The Separation” is a lost hit single from the 80s. The entire album is just hit after hit. If you enjoy post punk music or miss 80s music that wasn’t Journey you’ll enjoy “The L-Shaped Man”.

The album sounds fresh. Ceremony have found their niche. People love Joy Division so much is because they weren’t songs, they were experiences to listen to. As this album grows on me I’m sure I will feel the same way.

End of a Year or Something Infinitely More Creative

Another year has flown by. It started off with the most frigid of winters in which I attempted to deliver newspapers on frozen icy roads. Which could be a fun experience once, but not for three months. Luckily the rest of the year went well for the most part. Went to a few shows, met up with some old friends, and made some new ones along the way. Of course there were a few bumps in the road, but potholes can be filled, and suspensions can be fixed for about $400.

I listened to a lot of music this year. As I do every year. I also listened to a lot of podcasts. Podcasts are like the radio where you know what you’re getting into. I haven’t had time to rank albums. I used to think it was fun trying to figure out what was best to come out in the year, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s time that I could be spending elsewhere. Which is also part of the reason I don’t update as much on here. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but rather putting these ideas in ink hasn’t come to fruition for one reason or another

Regardless, here are some podcasts that I have been coming back to.

One Shot Podcast – One off role-playing campaigns using a different rule set each time.
Turned Out A Punk – Damien Abraham (Fucked Up) talks to guests on how punk music influenced them in the respective career they chose. Damien is very well spoken and a punk music enthusiast. It’s interesting to hear how a genre that helped me realize the thoughts in my head actually made sense. Even if a lot of people still don’t understand I’ve met tons of people who do, and that sense of belonging is the reason this genre is still doing strong
The Angry Chicken – A podcast about the game Hearthstone. It’s such a simple fun game to pick up, but difficult to be good at. I’ve never had so much fun or be as infuriated with this game.
Campaign – A long form narrative role-playing game in the Star Wars Universe. It’s a story worth listening to if you’re a fan of role-playing, Star Wars, or podcasts in general.
Serial – Another story worth listening to. If you’re into audiobooks, then this will be right up your alley.
Overnight Drive – The rantings of two regular dudes are used to be/are in bands. Their life experiences are hilarious, sad, crude, and occasionally heartwarming. They don’t put up episodes as frequently anymore, but there’s quite a backlog you can catch up on.
Anxious and Angry – Ryan Young (Off With Their Heads) talks with guests about mental health and life experiences. He’s an honest dude who wants to better himself and help others who are having problems. Ryan always comes off as honest and sincere. Plus he makes some pretty rad music, and has a tendency to promote other rad music I may or may not have heard of.
The Virzi Effect and The Monday Morning Podcast – Paul Virzi and Bill Burr are two of my favorite comedians going now. If you listen to one podcast you should listen to the other. They are both down to earth guys who aren’t putting on comedy skits on their podcast. It’s more off the cuff rants about things going on around them. They are both likeable guys who are naturally funny.

There are more I listen to, but those will get you started. Now onto some records I’ve been digging all year. The list is not really in any order. They all get my seal of approval and are a worthy listen. I’m sure there’s some I haven’t listened to or will forget to list, but such is life.

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues : Their most important album, and I think an important album for all people to hear.
Protomartyr – Under the Colour of Official Right : If Joy Division and The Hold Steady made a band. I know that’s what I thought to.
Pup – Pup : I just did a review for this album. This band reminds me that young bands can still rock just as hard as any veteran band.
Restorations – LP3 : This band can’t top their last album, but they can come close. It’s raw. It’s epic. It’s everything an album should be.Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else : Cleveland is just churning out good bands. Last year I found out about Harvey Pekar, and this year this band gives me the punky garage rock I need in my life.
Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces : Just a rock album. Front to back.
Dwarves – Invented Rock and Roll : This band is genius. They make you sing along to the dirtiest fucking songs. They can be aggressive, catchy, or just plain weird. And it’s all still effortless to them 20+ years later.
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown : This band is hit or miss with me. This time their channel their inner Converge, and they are all the better for it.
Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt : Not out of left field like Brian Fallon alluded to, which is just fine with me. Everything Brian Fallon touches is gold. This is no exception.
Botanist – VI Flora : This band is just plain weird, but I can’t help but listen to it. They swap out guitars for hammered dulcimers. Heavily distorted lo-fi black metal that is at times the prettiest thing you’ve ever heard and the most volatile. Any band that pushes the limit to a genre is something I can get behind.
Andrew Jackson Jihad – Christmas Island : They’ve finally embraced having a full band. I think they’ve hit their stride. I don’t know if this is my favorite album by them, but I think sonically it might their best.

That’s some of what I’ve been listening to this year. I think only one band appeared on last years list. I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons. As if I don’t consume enough media as it is. As always, see you next time. It could be tomorrow or a month from now. Well probably not tomorrow since I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, but soon. Happy holidays. Stay warm and stay happy wherever you are. If you’re not happy, find something that makes you happy. There’s a lot we can’t control, but you can choose to seek out positive things or dwell on the negatives. Maybe something of the above can help. I know they have for me this past year.

Lionheart

I always say that every year is a great year for music. For every over hyped disappointment of an album, there’s something that goes under your radar that will surprise you. Pup’s self titled album did the latter for me this year. Noisy punk influenced rock music. Imagine if Rivers Cuomo ever pulled the stick out of his pop music ass and just rocked out. If you know me I still love Weezer, but come on guys, what’ve you been doing the past ten years?

I digress, Pup is a Canadian band that absolutely rips. The intro song, “Guilt Trip” is a garage rock gem that encapsulates what this band can do. Fuzzy guitars, shouted/sung vocals, playful guitar solos, and just enough melody to hold it all together. If you like garage rock like Jay Retard, Ty Segall, and Nobunny. This band is up your alley.

“Reservior” follows up “Guilt Trip” in the same vein. Loud guitars and catchy lyrics. “Mabu” is a little change up in the guitar from straight riffage to more intricate poppy melodies. Don’t worry, the rocking doesn’t cease ever on this album. The second half of the album includes gems like, “Lionheart”, “Dark Days”, and “Factories”. At only 10 songs, I’ve named almost all the tracks. This is a worthy listen for anyone who like no frills rock and roll. This is a young band who is only going to go up from here. Get on the train now.

 

Celestial Lineage

I’m not a huge instrumental music guy. I can appreciate the musicianship, but I grew up on fast, loud, three chord punk music. I’ve evolved over time, but in my heart that’s what I love. I love movie sound tracks because the emotion they can create combined with the picture. However, most instrumental music doesn’t have that same effect. I enjoy Explosions in the Sky as a band, but they are not the end be all for instrumental bands. If “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place” by Explosions in the Sky is the sound track to love, then “Celestite” by Wolves in the Throne Room is the sound track to the apocalypse.

Wolves in the Throne Room are said to play black metal on their own terms. Stripped down to the purest form. Black metal is all about atmosphere and aesthetic. I do enjoy some bands that do it, but most of the corpse paint, satanic, bible burning bands just don’t do it for me. It’s all about the music, and this is where this band shines. They are no nonsense musicians, opting for vintage equipment creating a very organic sound. There’s no orchestra and choir music. Just guitars, synthesizers, and a couple creative minds.

Their previous albums incorporate vocals, but their latest album is a companion album to “Celestial Lineage”. “Celestite” takes the sounds of the previous albums and expands on it. It literally sounds like the ending of the world followed by the desolation of being alone in that world. It’s beautiful. There are no vocals or drums on this record. It’s an atmospheric record that is worthy to be put to any movie. Not everyone’s cup of tea, even if you like the bands previous albums, but I believe they are a special band that people need to pay attention to. They are a good starter for getting into heavier music as they ease you into their world, and “Celestite” is the album to understand the type of sound they create.

If you’re looking for something to just put on at night to relax to, put “Celestite” on. Trust me, I wouldn’t let you down.