2012: In Numbers

For whatever reason, I’ve been feeling a little, I don’t know, sentimental, about the new year, so I thought I’d take a minute and jot down some of 2012′s more significant personal moments if only to fabricate some closure for myself before heading into the new year. The previous sentence contains five commas, which is probably three or four too many. It is literally a non-stop party around here.

On the blogging front, 2012 started with a few precious embers of promise, albeit a little forced. That promise quickly faded, and I only made two posts after February, the most recent one in May. WHATEVER. When it’s forced, it sucks. So I stopped forcing it. Here is a short list of things:

397: I started running in earnest in late 2011 and I managed to keep it going through most of 2012, save some dry spells in April, the middle of September, and pretty much all of December. In total, I ran just under 400 miles, and around 490 if you include the tail end of 2011. 400 miles is a hell of a lot more than zero miles or even 100 miles, and I’m proud of that. But 397 miles over the course of a year is fewer than 8 miles per week, which is … not very many miles. I ran three races in 2012, a 5k, a 10k, and a 6k. Adding more races to the calendar will help pile up the miles. I like running.

90: Due largely to Blake’s insatiable appetite for brewing, I brewed 90 gallons of beer this year, far more than any previous year by a large margin. I don’t really feel the need to increase that amount, rather there are some significant improvements to be made–namely fermentation temperature control and possibly a new mash tun design–to make the beer better.

32: In May, Russ and I started a podcast called 1 Beer 1 Song. It started on little more than an impulse, but the underlying motivation was genuine: the mutual desire for a creative outlet. The best decision we made was to just hit Record and worry about everything else later. Write that down. We eventually settled into a weekly schedule and finished the year with 32 episodes published. Shameless plug: Subscribe on iTunes and follow us on Twitter. We also have a page on The Book of Faces.

5: This is my fifth season on the Atlanta Falcons Drumline. It is a quirky gig, and I am likely 10-15 years too old to be in the thick of a gig like this. The reality is I get to play sexy beats with my dude friends 8 or so times a year, which I thought was a done deal when I left college in 1999. So, I’m going to keep after it until they ask me to resign, politely or otherwise.

3: I was able to attend GABF for the third time this year. I can give or take the festival itself, but it is hard to find better craft beer ambiance than GABF week in the Denver metro area.

1: In April I rode one airboat through the Everglades in South Florida. Yes, it was exactly like Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach.

RIP New Releases January 11 – February 28, 2012

Thought I would go ahead and formally close this one out to provide some closure for you. You, of course, meaning Dave.

I stopped doing these new release posts because I realized, at no point in this brief project, did I actually enjoy it. Finding the music was a chore, writing the posts was a chore, and, most importantly, I really didn’t go back to any of the music for any regular listening.

So … different project …

New Releases – February 28, 2012

This stupid weekly release project is SO MUCH easier when there is something to look forward to. This week I’m going to speak very briefly about Painted from Narrows and Fountains Left to Wake by Stonerider.

My affinity for the late, great Botch is no secret. I am on record that this is the funniest video in the world. Botch broke up in 2002. Singer Dave Verellen did an alt-country thing called Roy with his brother Ben (of Harkonen) for a while, which was great despite not being what anyone would have ever expected from either of the Verellen Brothers.

Narrows came together in 2008 with Dave Verellen and members of These Arms Are Snakes, Unbroken, and Some Girls. I heard their first record, New Distances, a little over a year ago and I remember thinking, “Yep, that sounds like the guy from Botch singing for a different band. Pass the beer nuts.” This time around, when I heard Narrows had a new album coming out, I clicked on the link to the streaming single and the experience was much different. When Verellen’s vocals came in, I experienced a comfortable familiarity I wasn’t expecting. I guess what I wasn’t expecting was to be comforted by something this abrasive, but here we are. This isn’t for everyone, but I like it. Here are the two songs from Painted widely available for free streaming:

I hadn’t heard of this next band until today. Atlanta photography celebrity, Blake Tyers, mentioned Stonerider to me with a link to their bandcamp page in an IM about I don’t remember what. Stonerider is also from here in Atlanta and their sound is something I haven’t heard from around here since Chris and Rich Robinson were all pretty little thing let me light your candle, whenever that was, 71 years ago. Stonerider’s album Fountains Left To Wake sounds decidedly Southern but with a little 1970s Rolling Stones mixed in. Note: Musical comparisons are dumb and I am bad at them. You are better off listening for yourself.

The first tune on the record, “When I Was Young,” was the catchiest to me after one listen, so here it is:

New Releases – February 21, 2012

As I noted late last year, I was way late to come across the The Menzingers. They released an album in 2010 called Chamberlain Waits that I found to be extremely enjoyable. Well, lucky for me to have discovered them so late, because they’re already back with a new record. This one is called On The Impossible Past. You can stream the whole thing over at Punknews.org. Below is a link to a song called “The Obituaries.” The good part starts at about 1:43.

Another notable release this week is from the other band from Nebraska: Cursive. I mean, Cursive and 311 are the only bands that have ever come from Nebraska, right? I’m pretty sure I got that question right at trivia once. Oh wait, isn’t Connor Oberst from Nebraska? So, anyway, a third of the bands in Nebraska released a record this week, and that record is called I Am Gemini.

I haven’t listened to Cursive since The Ugly Organ. I’m streaming I Am Gemini for the first time at Rolling Stone as I type this and I am consistently vacillating between “Wow, that is really pretentious and dumb,” and “Actually, that is pretty solid.” This track, “Warmer Warmer”, falls under the latter:

And just for posterity, here is “Red Handed Slight of Hand”, in case you need a reminder of how good Cursive can be.

New Releases – February 14, 2012

This week is about one release: The self-titled debut LP from Classics of Love. Classics of love are important because their singer is Jesse Michaels. Jesse Michaels is important because he was the singer for a band from Berkeley, CA called Operation Ivy. Operation Ivy is important because, according to some, the modern world as we know it would not exist had it not been for them. I am inclined to agree with that sentiment, actually.

I remember the first time I heard Op Ivy. My high school marching band was traveling to Dallas to march in the 1991 Cotton Bowl parade. I asked my friend Bill to make me a tape for the trip. Really I just wanted a copy of the Pixies’ Doolitle, but that left a lot of extra space on my 90-minute, TDK cassette, so Bill filled it up with some extras, including Op Ivy’s Hectic EP.

I distinctly remember flipping the cassette over to side B and hearing “Junkies Runnin’ Dry” for the first time. It was one of those moments where the world got a lot bigger and a lot smaller at the same time. Follow that up with “Here We Go Again” and “Yellin’ In My Ear” and I was pretty much toast.

Junkies Runnin’ Dry:

Sound System:

There were a lot of things about Op Ivy’s sound that can easily be described as iconic, and, even though Michaels’ voice by itself didn’t really break any new ground, hearing his voice on new material is an INSTANT audio field trip back to 1991 and a bus ride from Atlanta to Dallas that took one hundred thousand hours.

Here’s the official video for “Castle in the Sky”:

You can stream the whole album here.

New Releases – February 7, 2012

I will have you know I listened to 16 new releases this week. I won’t go so far as to say they were all terrible–Crusades, Tall Ships, and A Place To Bury Strangers all showed promise–but, as with the past few weeks, it’s been thin out there. There was, however, one highlight: Dr. Dog.

Dr. Dog – Be The Void
Dr. Dog has been around for about a decade. They’ve played Bonaroo and Coachella and Letterman, so I guess they’re huge. I’ve heard them several times, and every time I hear them, I’m like dammit man, you need to remember to listen to more Dr. Dog. Wikipedia bills them as “psychedelic rock” and I can see that. I don’t own any of their albums, and I couldn’t tell you jack shit about them aside from the fact that I’ve enjoyed them when I’ve heard them. They released a new record called Be The Void on 2/7. Here is the video for “That Old Black Hole”:

New Releases – January 31, 2012

Keeping up with this project, albeit barely. I’ve discovered that an ounce of preparation is going to be a major key to success. So I’ll start that next week. Or the week after.

Sonic Avenues – “Television Youth” from Television Youth
I have a kneejerk suspicion about stuff that is intentionally lo-fi or “garagey” because it is almost always more about aesthetic aspirations than about making good music. That said, this has a certain undeniable Undertones innocence that is extremely appealing. I’ve heard this described as a less-snotty Buzzcocks. I could see that. I thought this song was very catchy.

Bleeding Through – “The Devil and Self Doubt” from The Great Fire
Never heard of these guys, but saw their album announced on multiple sites. The easiest way to describe it is Opeth-flavored, proggy black metal (complete with those carnival organs!) mixed with a little Slayer-esque hardcore. Whatever, I nodded along. Not really sure if those are human feet playing double bass at 0:42.

My Ticket Home – “A New Breed” from To Create A Cure
I really wanted to like this. Let me rephrase: At the beginning, I really liked this song. I mean … it is totally blistering. Also, the drummer is wearing a flannel shirt and hat and sitting behind a normal-people drumset while laying down some pretty boss chick-a-boom. And then, at the 0:55 mark, IT ALL GOES TO SHIT. Scroll down and watch the video. I’ll wait.

I KNOW, RIGHT? Did the chipmunk-cheeked guitarist with shark fin hair really just stare down the camera and sing “This is the death of my love”? I’m … I’m actually embarrassed for him. They manage to pull it back together nicely after that chorus, and there’s even a little Sepultura “Roots”-action in the breakdown there, but we aaaaaaaall know what’s coming. At 2:09, it happens again. I’m pretty sure you can see the singer roll his eyes. It’s rare to have a song go from promising to unlistenable so quickly, but there you go.

New Releases – January 24, 2012

I missed last week’s new release update because I was on the road all week, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention. YOU’RE IN GOOD HANDS. Maybe until the end of Q1.

This week (last week) features (featured) one highly anticipated release, one not-highly-anticipated-but-still-hopeful release, and one total surprise that I found looking around online.

The two releases I knew were coming are both from frontmen of other bands I like or have liked: John K. Samson of The Weakerthans (and formerly Propaghandi), and Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids (and later The New Amsterdams).

My Weakerthans fandom is nothing I have ever tried to keep secret. I find Samson’s voice extremely soothing, and his lyrics are pure poetry. I have often found myself wondering how one man could squeeze so much meaning out of a single word. What a jerk! I would easily put The Weakerthans’ Reconstruction Site in my top ten albums of all time, maybe even top five. Anyway, here he is with his first solo full-length (that I’m aware of). I was hoping for a nice, easily-embeddable, online version of Heart of the Continent, but this version of Letter In Icelandic From The Ninette San will do just fine.

I liked The Get Up Kids through Something to Write Home About. Their subsequent releases had their bright spots, but … you know. The Red Letter Day EP is my favorite, so much so that I sometimes find myself searching for covers of Anne Arbour on youtube. ANYWAY, frontman Matt Pryor went on to head up The New Amsterdams in the early 2000s, and then release a solo record. Now he’s around with a second solo record. I haven’t spent much time with this record, and there isn’t a ‘single.’ I like the song below, and at 1:18, Pryor does that thing where he is hollering backing vocals over one of the guitar tracks (or something), which is neat. I like it.

This week’s wild card comes from England’s awesomely-named Pulled Apart By Horses. They should help spice things up a bit after all the folky folk above. The song below, V.E.N.O.M, appears to be some sort of single off their new album, Tough Love. The song itself is fine, it’s the video I like. Specifically, the guy with the double middle finger candles walking around all half-non-chalant, half-I’m-going-to-kill-the-shit-out-of-you is hilarious.

New Releases – January 18, 2012

Any time you start a project, it’s wise to have a target; to borrow a phrase from the conference room, WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE? The only reason I would bother embarking on a project like trying to blog a new music release every week is to expose myself to [a lot] more new music. A secondary goal would be to expose you to some music, but let’s be honest, that’s a pretty distant second. I don’t really care about you.

I’ll get to the point, I originally envisioned posting each week about a release that came out that same week. Seems simple enough, right? Releases [generally] come out on Tuesdays, and I want to listen to more new releases. Two weeks into this, I have encountered two problems: 1. Scouring the internet for records that were released THIS WEEK is hard, and it takes a lot of time. I see myself dropping that ball often. 2. And this is the more important point: What if I can’t find anything I like? Some weeks, like, say, this week and last week, there just aren’t any home runs to speak of (that I have been able to find). It feels lame to write about music I’m not totally stoked about just to meet some arbitrary goal. On the flip, there is SO MUCH music out there, I should be able to find something that doesn’t suck each week.

This is a whole lot of posturing to say that I might not get a brand new release out the door each week, but I will be more than satisfied to simply discover something new to me. And if I miss a week, I’ll post two items the following week, etc.

I like how I have to give myself a fucking pep talk just to listen to music. My children are doomed. Now then.

Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) and Atom Willard (Rocket From the Crypt) released an EP last Thursday under the name theHELL and it is the best thing I can find in the 1/11-1/17 release date range. Skiba has a powerful voice and is capable of really clever lyrics. What I’ve heard of this so far is fun. Alternative Press is streaming one of the tracks here. (scroll down to the little video box).

A co-worker turned me onto And So I Watch You From Afar over the weekend. They released an album called Gangs last year. They fall firmly into the Instrumental Post-rock labor camp, but they are more Hematovore than Caspian if that makes any sense. Below is a studio performance of the song BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION from Start Together Studio in Belfast. I really, really like this.

I am having a hard time finding a resource for good hardcore/metal new releases. To prove how much effort I put into this, I can tell you to avoid the new records from the following three bands (unless you’re into male-led Twilight soundtracks): Attack! Attack!, Famous Last Words, and Secrets. England’s Enter Shikari sort of fit the above scream/melody/scream/melody model with the important exception that they don’t appear to take themselves too seriously. I want to hate this song, and I will probably grow to, but it is a lot of fun the same way Andrew W.K. is a lot of fun. The only reason I mention it at all is that this record came out today.

New Release – January 11, 2012

Yesterday, I tweeted:

Garrett dutifully responded:

Fine, Garrett. FINE.

I found this Maccebees song on NME’s New Releases post for this week. Their album Given to the Wild came out on Monday. I’ve never heard of The Maccabees, which may sound silly, because after a tiny bit of research, it seems they are HUGE. Their facebook page has one of those “Like This Page To Access Content” filters, which are FUCKING BULLSHIT, but whatever. Cheerful, driving indie pop; lots of fun.