Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Sister Aloysius: Sister James...

Sister James: What is it, Sister?

Sister Aloysius: [crying] I have doubts. I have such doubts.

These are the last lines in the movie Doubt. They resonated with me, because it was interesting watching the Meryl Streep character admit that she lied in order to get the outcome she wanted. In her mind, there was no doubt that the Priest she worked under was guilty of a crime against one of her students; however, she had no proof and was not helped either by the student or the student's mother. She lied in order to put the Priest in a position where his answer to her inquiries would seal his fate. Once she had her answer, she was plagued by guilt because she lied and broke a commandment and one of her vows, with the end result that, instead of being punished, the Priest was actually commended and promoted to an even greater position of power.

Did the ends justify the means of Sister Aloysius?  Although she is a stern, almost humorless disciplinarian in the movie, I think deep down she really cares about her students and does not wish them harm.  Unfortunately, she lets her religious views remain rigid and unbending and it clouds her judgment.  She does not like the head Priest because he represents the modern world and a more personal clergy; and she is frightened of the changes that he represents.  Although she has him removed from her school and protects her student from the alleged abuse, has she, in effect, made the situation worse because now the Priest is promoted to an even bigger church and even bigger school.  She will not be there to protect those students.

In this instance, the means did not justify the ends.  Sister Aloysius plunges into severe doubt because her sin of lying did not end up punishing the Priest and removing him from similar situations.  The movie ends with no real resolution to the issue, which is true to life.  You are free to imagine what will happen to the characters.  There is no doubt that this is an excellent film and very deserving of the accolades it has received.  If Meryl Streep does not win her third Oscar, there is no justice in the world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Crying Light

Tuesday was an interesting day, what with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's first African American President, and the release of Antony & the Johnson's second cd, The Crying Light. Needless to say, I was extremely excited for both.

Although I have listened to the cd several times, I am still trying to get my arms around it. Unlike I Am A Bird Now, The Crying Light is not as immediate and bracing. It is a more subtle record, unfolding slowly and most times very softly. Both share similiarities, notably the impeccable musical arrangements, Antony's one-of-a-kind vibrato tenor (sounding more and more like a bastard child of Bryan Ferry and Scott Walker), and the stark black and white photo for the cover.

The differences are subtle but telling. I Am A Bird Now was from a band making a "statement" and making their mark. The cd had several songs that I would definitely say are some of my favorite songs ever written: "Hope There's Someone," "You Are My Sister," and "Man Is The Baby." The themes were more individual and insular, regarding personal pain, and gender and sexual confusion. Furthermore, the cd was populated with guest vocalists that ranged from being painfully self aware (Lou Reed), mercifully brief (Rufus Wainwright), to transcendant (shockingly Boy George on the aforementioned "You Are My Sister"). Overall, I Am A Bird Now, which is close to perfect, just missed the mark due to these missteps and some bad pacing.

The Crying Light is from a band that doesn't need to make any statements of purpose. They have the accolades and can now focus on making beautiful music. And indeed they have. I will admit I was less than pleased the first time I listened; there was no brilliant standout like "Hope There's Someone." Instead, the cd has to be listened to as a whole, and not just the indivudual parts. There are no standout songs; each song has a place and forms the entire listening experience. Gone are the superfluous guest vocalists and some of the more over the top orchestrations. It is a meditative album, full of quiet pianos and lilting strings. The preoccupation this time is on the connection between human beings and nature. Almost every song contains references to the earth, soil, sun, wind and rain. How it feeds us, nurtures us, and eventually buries us.

My favorite two songs are some of the most quiet and haunting songs on the album. "Another World" is just Antony and his plaintive piano with some atmospheric woodwinds adding texture and counterpoint. There are multiple meanings to the song, it could be a dying man cataloging the beautiful things in the world he will miss when he passes to the next world, or a man contemplating suicide, to even a person viewing man's destruction of the world. The lyrics are simple and poignant, "I need another world, this one is nearly gone/Still have too many dreams, never seen the light/I need another world, a place where I can go." The final song "Everglade" is a quietly building song that kills me everytime I hear it. His voice soars over the undulating strings and woodwinds singing of a return to nature and how he feels at home again, "Fingers kiss the string/mouth tastes the blade/of everglade."

I understand that Antony is not going to be universally liked and that his voice, as gorgeous as it is, can take some time and persistence to enjoy. Furthermore, it can be said that his music is overly morbid, depressing, and sad. But I find that, though his themes are generally darker than the majority of people, there is a underlying sense of collective optimism, that these are things we experience and that there is nothing out there to fear.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Life at 0 Degrees (Wind Chill That Is)

Woke up this morning to the temperature being a brisk 13 degrees. With the wind chill it was 0 degrees. Here in Atlanta, we are simply not used to this kind of cold. Most of the time we are looking at lows in the 30s highs in the lower 50s. These are perfectly comfortable temperatures necessitating a nice thick jacket on occasion, but not the ten tons of stuff I had to put on this morning to get to work. I had my nice puffy Marmot jacket on (worth every freaking penny I paid for it), scarf, gloves, ski cap, boots, etc.

Usually I would not have to worry about being out in the cold as I have covered parking at my loft and usually park in the garage at my office building which has a nice underground walkway so you needn't take your life in your hands crossing West Peachtree and homocidal Atlanta drivers. And I am only being partly facetitious as there are two people on my floor who have been hit by cars crossing the street. But I digress. I had to park at a street lot this morning because I am not working long enough to get the early bird special at the building garage, and I will be damned if I pay $15 for parking. $3 and a brisk walk is fine with me.

The lot I parked in is only about a block and a half from the building. We call it the Trump lot, since it is a parking lot made in the remnants of the failed Trump Tower condo/hotel/office complex that died a horrid death in the economic crisis of last year. I love the price of this lot (can't beat $3) but it is one where you have to get out of your car first and purchase a ticket then put it on your dashboard. Normally I don't mind, but when it is 0 degrees outside, the less time you have to spend in it the better. There was little to no wind at 6:45am when I got here. And yes, I am a morning person. I never was until I worked at CNN for 6 years doing a 5am to 1pm schedule. You tend to give up fighting it after the second year. Anyway, the walk to the building was not too bad at first. Bracing, but not brutal. About halfway there my face was starting to tingle and my fingers were beginning to tighten up. Still, it didn't feel too bad. About 3/4 of the way there you hit the most godawful wind tunnel between the One Atlantic Center building and the mini-me building across the street from it. It literally felt like someone was picking me up from behind and throwing me backwards. By the time I got to the revolving doors my face was stinging like crazy and I could barely feel my fingers. The wind was so fierce it basically blew me into the building lobby. Suddenly, $3 didn't sound like such a bargain.

I just don't see how people in cold cities, this means you Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, etc., deal with this day in and day out, winter after winter. And in the snow too! Luckily we are not dealing with that yet. That is another story altogether, how Atlanta simply shuts down and its citizens go into severe panic mode anytime there is even a hint of flurries. I guess northern cities deal with the weather like I dealt with my schedule at CNN. After awhile you just have to give into it and deal with it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Textually Frustrated

"Textually Frustrated"

When texting with someone over IM or SMS that takes too long to reply leaving you waiting and frustrated.

"He takes forever; texting with Bill leaves me textually frustrated."


I've become addicted to urbandictionary.com, mainly because most of the people I am currently working with are far younger than me and use so much slang/jargon/internet speak that I feel like I need a translator on hand at times. The word/phrase of the day comes in quite handy at times.

My latest favorite term is "textually frustrated." I find that this comes into play more often with people my age (38 for a couple more weeks) or older who got onto the texting bandwagon far too late and are woefully inadequate at it. I have been dating a few people here and there, two of which are close to 50. Both are fairly savvy when it comes to computers and cell phones, but neither of them is very good at texting. I was attempting to plan a date with one of them and asked him when he would be free. His response was that he was out of town the next couple of weekends. Confused, I asked him if he was not available during the week. He responded that yes he was. So again, resisting the urge to smash the phone, I asked him if he wanted to get together next week. His response: yes. At that point, I was beyond being textually frustrated. After taking a 10 minute break to get my heart rate down, I replied that if he was trying to frustrate me he was doing a great job and that I told him I was available all next week and that the ball was in his court, and if he wanted to see me he could set a date and time. He finally responded with a day and time. Since then, I have avoided texting with him altogether, as it is much easier to just pick up the phone and call him.

The other guy I am dating is even worse. You will be in the midst of a conversation regarding making plans for dinner/movie/etc. and he just stops responding. Even calling him afterwards leads directly to voicemail. Knowing his personality, I just assume he started staring at the phone in disbelief and left it sitting somewhere he didn't have to deal with it, like a crying child.

I think I may have to institute a rule that all potential dates need to pass a simple communication test before proceeding to the first date. It should prevent needless textal frustration.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mapped By What Surrounded Them

Obscure title for a blog. Yes, I am well aware of it. I guess I can provided some reasoning behind it. Or else, I can be cruel and let anyone reading it figure it out on their own.

Ok, I will pass on being cruel. It is the title of a song by a Scottish band called The Twilight Sad. I fell in love with their cd from 2006, Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters. Their music starts off very minimally and then builds to almost unbearable noise, with amazing use of feedback and tons of effects pedals. I would tend to describe them as a more melodic My Bloody Valentine, or a more feedback ladened The National. All of the songs are sung with the most inscrutable Scottish burr.

The song itself is a Gothic horror story about how a young girl's death haunts a large house, with lyrics like "these walls are filled with blame." I realize it is not the most "up" song to name a blog after, but it really had more to do with the tone of the song and how experiences and emotions all build up and surround someone or something and give it meaning. I have experienced lots of changes last year: losing a job, breaking up with my boyfriend of two years, and countless health issues. These experiences have all mapped me and have set me on a new path this year. If I could go back, would I want to change those experiences? Sure, no one likes to experience pain. But you learn so much more from it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

Yesterday was my book club day and we discussed the latest Wally Lamb novel, The Hour I First Believed. I will admit that I did not read his first two novels (I'm sure Oprah would disapprove), She's Come Undone and This Much I Know Is True, so I do not have a full overview of his works to understand if it compares with them at all. My fellow book club members adore the first two and were highly anticipating the new book.

After socializing a bit and eating the requisite pizza, we settled in for the discussion. Bascially there is no true form to the discussion, we tend to go around the group with each member grading the book (A through F) and providing a short opinion as to why, and what they liked/disliked about the book. Afterwards, it becomes a free flow discussion and anyone can bring up anything they wish to talk about. We generally have anywhere from 5 to 12 guys show up at any meeting, this time it was hosted by Clay, with the others being me, Lee, Stephen, Will, Bill, and Joshua.

The novel is about Calem Quirk and his wife Maureen. I will try to provide a brief synopsis, which is difficult considering the length of the novel (750+ pages) and the sheer number of plots, subplots, and asides. Essentially the novel is about this couple's marriage and how is affected by the Columbine tragedy. Both characters were employed at the high school, with Maureen being trapped at the school the day of the massacre. She is so traumatized by the events of that day that the couple moves back to Calem's family farm in Connecticut. Here the novel switches to how Maureen deals with her escalating post traumatic stress disorder and Calem's discovery of old family secrets. This is all tied in with meditations on Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, conditions in women's prisons, the Suffrage movement, Mark Twain, Greek mythology, lesbian poetry, Picasso, murder, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, etc., etc., etc. Did I mention the shear number of plots, subplots, and asides?

The consensus for the evening was definitely disappointment in the novel. I would say the book rated a B-. While we all appreciated the complexity of the themes and the desire for Lamb to tackle such topical stories, in the end the book failed to connect with each of us. It was beautifully written, and never failed to keep our attention, but in the end, so much happened to the characters, with tragedy upon tragedy thrown upon them, that it bordered on the ludicrous. Lee complained that he expected there to be mention of Guantanamo Bay and the tsuanmi in Southeast Asia.

Joshua seemed the most touched by the book and had many scholarly notes taken throughout and mapped in the fly leaves. He even brought copies of a poem that was mentioned frequently and discussed how it related to the overall themes of the novel. It had been awhile since Joshua made it to book club and it was good to have him back for his opinions. He pointed out many things that most of us missed. Of course, it helped that he spent all night the night before reading the book and it was fresh in his memory.

Next up for us is Carrie Fisher's memoir "Wishful Drinking." We determined we wanted something a little more humorous after the last few books we read, which have all been decidedly bleak.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday My Friday

One of the pleasures of doing consulting work is the ability to make your own schedule.  Currently I am working 4 ten hour days which gives me Friday, Saturday, Sunday off.  It is very nice having a three-day weekend every week, though it will be very difficult to return to a normal shift and the usual stresses that go along with a permanent job.  I've enjoyed having limited stress over the past few months without the ridiculous scramble to bill hours.  Unless you have worked for a law firm, it is difficult to understand the billable hour requirement.  You can't just show up to work and be there from 9-5 and expect to make your hours.  My last firm had a 2200 a year requirement, which comes out to over 40 hours of billable time a week.  Of course, there is no way to actually bill 40 hours of time over a typical 40 hour work week.  Usually, you end up actually being in the office close to 60-70 hours a week to make that paltry time up.  In addition, when you take vacation it is not like a law firm credits you 40 hours for the week.  You have to make up the time elsewhere.  It is an archaic practice and is inherently inefficient and prone to mistakes.  Plus, most clients have a conniption each month when they see what time is actually billed to their accounts.  I am so ready to return to a salaried position with regular hours.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Top Music of 2008

Now is the time to put in my two cents and lists for the top cds and singles for the year 2008. Towards the end of the year, I discussed with my fellow music friend Matthew out in San Francisco that 2008 would not go down as one of the best years in music, and that I was having trouble even coming up with 10 cds or singles to list. Oddly enough when I came to make my lists I found I had much more than 10 and expanded my lists to 25. In those lists I struggled to come up with a definitive order because there were so many cds that I really loved and hated having to place lower than they deserved. With that said, here are the lists.

Top 25 CDs of 2008

1. Deerhunter – Microcastle: I'm biased because they are from Atlanta, but aside from that this was the one cd released this year that I honestly listened to more than any other. Bradford Cox and company first came on my radar the year before with the confounding Cryptograms. That cd was split between ambient noodlings and more focused songs. The two sides never seemed to coalesce until the release of the Fluorescent Grey ep when it all made sense. Seen as a tryptic, the middle section bridged the two outer sections. A lightbulb went off. I bought Microcastle digitally before the physical release and unfortunately missed out on the extra cd Weird Era Cont., which apparently has the same effect as Fluorescent Grey, however, in this case, I don't think it is needed. Opening with a brief instrumental call to arms, Microcastle settles into "Agoraphobia" with its pleas to be left alone, either from the perils of fame or from some more personal affliction...the haunting lyrics saying "Come to me, comfort me, cover me..." It signals a more direct sound that doesn't let up over the course of the cd. My friend Matthew, who was more partial to Cryptograms, didn't like the simplicity of the new sound. I think it makes them sound tighter and more focused. The cd does have some faint traces of the ambient sound, but instead of trailing on for 5 minutes or so, they make their point and move on. Deerhunter showcase their new focus on several brilliant songs, "Never Stops," "Nothing Ever Happened," "Saved by Old Times," and "Twilight at Carbon Lake." By resisting the urge to throw in meandering passages, Deerhunter follow a distinct purpose and reinvigorate its sound, and makes it, for me, the best cd of the year.
2. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair: I was not old enough to be around for Studio 54, but listening to this music makes me feel like I would have understood what all the commotion was about. Effortless updating of the disco sound, given heft by the otherworldly voice of Antony Hegarty. From the call to the floor of "Hercules Theme" to the haunting "Blind" through the sinister robo funk of "You Belong," Andy Butler (aside from being adorable) leads his band and us on a wonderful journey.
3. Portishead – Third: The cold, oppressive industrial beats opening lead single "Machine Gun" herald a new Portishead. No longer the avant-salon trip hop of Dummy or the blues from hell of Portishead, Third shows a band in complete control of their sound. "Machine Gun" hits like one. Beth Gibbons vocals wail from the depths of despair. It is frightening yet completely entrancing. Echoing krautrock, afro-pop, psych folk, and industrial music, all within the same song sometime, Portishead reinvent themselves again. Almost ten years passed between the last cd. I am already breathless thinking what will happen next.
4. M83 – Saturdays = Youth: The best pop record of the year. A soundtrack to a lost John Hughes movie. Grand, overwrought, petulant, romantic, starry eyed, and brilliant. Anthony Gonzalez knows what he is doing. Not a note out of place. What might have seemed, in lesser hands, a dated pastiche of 80s synths and drum kits, instead evokes nostalgia while all the while shooting forward to the future. Simply breathtaking.
5. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours: The second best pop record of the year. Taking a simple update of the New Order template and backing it up with killer hooks and melodies, Cut Copy transcended what could have been a bland genre exercise. A lot of credit should go to DFA's Tim Goldsworthy for focusing their sound and making it warmer and more inviting. Guitars sparkle, synths glisten, beats move your feet, and the choruses invite shoutouts. A DJ record that doesn't feel the slightest bit overdone.
6. TV on the Radio – Dear Science: Another TVOTR cd and more and more accolades, ho hum. Most of my friends who have listened to them have said that they are more a band to admire than to love. I could probably have agreed with that had they followed up Return to Cookie Mountain with a more densely produced cd. Instead, producer and band member David Sitek strips away the layers and layers of murk and sound and cleans everything up. Who knew that a cleaner TVOTR could be more immediate, more devastating, sexier, and funkier?
7. Robyn – Robyn: Ok, this cd technically came out three years ago but was never officially released in the US. I have both the import and domestic versions; it's that good and that vital. She richochets from rap, electro, synth pop, r&b, acoustic ballads and back again without taking a breath. My friend Matthew, who resisted her charms for so long, called me one day and told me that the song "With Every Heartbeat" had moved him inexpressibly. Robyn has that way about her.
8. Madonna – Hard Candy: My friend Chris and I were dancing at the Eagle one Saturday night and the music, while good, was not really bringing people to the dancefloor. A new song emerged from the previous song and I recognized the lyrics to "Give it 2 Me." Within seconds the dancefloor was packed and a sense of euphoria flooded the darkened room. I leaned over to Chris and said, "What would we gays do without Madonna?" Chris, as usual replied, "I'm saying!" That is all that needs to be said.
9. Bloc Party – Intimacy: Bloc Party's first cd Silent Alarm was a breath of fresh air a couple of years ago, a modernization of 80s post punk. I had strong expectations for the follow up Weekend in the City, and was surprised at how listless and affected it was. I basically gave up on them. Prior to this cd, they released a single called Flux which hinted at a new, more electronic based sound and it was, while not their best single, an interesting new direction. I had no intentions of purchasing this cd, specifically because of the mixed reviews it received. Something told me to get it and for a week I could not stop playing it. It is dense and oddly, for them, highly personal; a technological breakup record. Whereas before they would turn up the angular guitars, here several songs go by before any guitar makes an appearance. Half the songs seem like the band is hiding behind banks of keyboards and samplers trying to escape from the pain.
10. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles: I had this cd on at home one evening and a friend asked me who was bludgeoning an old nintendo game. The music is very minimal, brutal and confrontational but oddly catchy too. I'm not sure how this sound will translate over multiple releases; it would tend to wear. However, for this, their first release, it is stunning.
11. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles: The most densely programmed and produced electronic release of last year. Difficult and challenging with no real "songs" per se; more a series of moods and textures. You feel this cd coming through your speakers; a guest slithering across the floorboards. This is the type of record that feels effortless but obviously took painstaking time to craft. The type of record that makes you want to buy a synthesizer and sampler and get to work yourself.
12. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend: The most consistent release of 2008; each song is practically perfect. The trite comparision is of course to Graceland era Paul Simon, but it is much more than that. Nerdy, preppy, too educated for their own good, the boys you'd want to beat up on the quad; but their humor would snap the tension and get you smiling. An afro-pop Belle and Sebastian. Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma, indeed!
13. Santogold – Santogold: Remember in the 80s when artists used the long form album to showcase a variety of styles and not just one genre of music? You would go from rocker to ballad to reggae to dance track without blinking an eye. I miss those days. Santogold's first release reminds me of those times. It's not an 80s sound though; Santogold is too smart for that. It is definitely a modern record, but with endless variety.
14. Coldplay – Viva La Vida: Even I am bugged and annoyed by Coldplay, wishing sometimes they would just go away. Could a more wimpy band lay claim to biggest band in the world? Thank God for Brian Eno. Just what these wankers needed to jumpstart their sound. He broadened the sound and made them less insular. And catchier. Who would have thought?
15. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak: Yes, I realize this is probably the most polarizing cd of last year, and it nowhere reaches the brilliance of his first cds, but why did I keep playing it over and over and over? Lyrically it is not challenging and musically it is very minimal, in keeping with his decision to only use the outdated Roland 808 drum machine for the beats. But it is raw and unflinching, and quite honestly the most off the rails cd released last year. It's a train wreck, a car crash, an autopsy. You can't look away. Everything is summed up by the last lines of "Street Lights" in the most trite lyric of the year, but sung with such resignation you can't help but be moved..."Life's just not fair."
16. Lykke Li – Youth Novels: This year's Scandinavian breakout star partners with Peter, Bjorn, and John to create the most eclectic female solo release of the year. She moves effortlessly between kiss off songs such as "I'm Good, I'm Gone" and "Complaint Department" to songs about the pain and weirdness of love like "Little Bit." The music is practically perfect; no extra instrumentation where it's not needed, nothing missing.
17. Autechre – Quaristice: Since Confield, Autechre have drifted towards random, abstract beats. The programming wonders of Tri Repetae++ were left far behind and I wondered whether they would ever be able to grab my attention again. After the relative return to form of Untilted, Autechre returns to amazing form. Replacing the long form songs of past releases with a concise set of songs, few of which pass the 4 minute mark, Autechre revel in making their point and then moving on. Are there really two more gorgeous tracks released this year than the bookend tracks "Altibzz" and "Outh9X"? I think not.
18. Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill: Liz Harris, the lone member of Grouper, creates hazy, Mazzy Star meets This Mortal Coil cum 4AD drone pop. Her earlier releases swallowed the songs in echo and reverb to the point of no return. The haze remains, however, the mix is corrected and allows her gorgeous melodies and ethereal voice to shine through. A lonely, forlorn cd, the music is a perfect accompaniment to a long drive through Pacific Northwest corridors.
19. The Mae Shi – HLLLYH: This cd was the evil cousin to Max Tundra's cd. Replacing British wit and theatrical musicality with American swagger, beat up Casios, and a brio worthy of Barnum and Bailey, Mae Shi finally met the expectations of their previous releases. The cd moves at a quick clip until the middle when, inexplicably, an 11 minute techno megamix of every song on the cd stops the process cold. It is a pure train wreck. But pure Mae Shi. Brilliant.
20. F**k Buttons – Street Horrsing: Many of my friends, upon listening to the majority of my music, dismiss it simply as "noise." Well, yeah, isn't most music just noise? It's what the artists do with that noise that matters. This Bristol, England duo manipulate, expand, contort, each sound and just plain turn up the volume. It reminds me of a more in your face Disco Inferno. One of the most exciting releases of the year, this cd always reveals a new avenue to me upon each listen.
21. Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You: This album is the aural equivalent of a Looney Tunes cartoon. The musicality and wit blind side you at every turn. I will admit the first few listens left me dizzy and with a headache and no idea how to put my arms around it. Once you give in to it and stop fighting the urge to understand it and wrap it up with a nice bow, it envelops you and that smile on your face won't subside.
22. Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel: Bradford Cox, lead singer of my number one cd faves Deerhunter, again shows his chops with his first solo outing. The solo moniker allows him to indulge (and yes the cd is frequently indulgent, but never less than fascinating) in a more personal approach. The music is insular and haunting, and the lyrics frequently touch on expressions of being imprisoned either physically or within the confines of a body. A touching, emotionally frank release.
23. Air France – No Way Down: Light, airy and breezy sundrenched pop/electronica from Sweden. The appropriation of disparate elements into a fresh sound is consistently dazzling, as is the verbatim drawing from artists as diverse as Lisa Stansfield and Happy Mondays.
24. David Byrne/Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today: The one true surprise of last year. Expecting something akin to My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, I was taken immediately by the simplicity and catchiness of this record. Beautiful melodies and wonderful lyrics from Byrne highlight this wonderful release. Try to listen to "Strange Overtones" without singing the chorus at full blast. I dare you.
25. The Bug – London Zoo: Whereas Untrue, my favorite cd of last year from British dubstep artist Burial, was an inner sound world of lonely, dissaffected people facing cold, rainy streets and empty buses and metros, London Zoo is the polar opposite. A brutal, punishing world of tension and danger on every corner. A vital update of dancehall, ragga and dubstep.

Top Singles of 2008

1. Hercules & Love Affair – Blind: As catchy as measles.  A four to the floor masterpiece of energetic neu-disco.  Andy Butler and crew fashion a tight effortless single that would be simply great if not for the other-worldly vocals of Antony Hegarty who shoots the song into the stratosphere.  
2. Portishead – Machine Gun: A cold, relentless single grounded by one of the most intense, spare industrial drumbeats.  Beth Gibbons wails in her unparalleled fashion what appears to be a rant about a lover that has betrayed her, but it also seems to be a political song about a soldier who feels betrayed by his country.  Meaning aside, it is one of the most striking singles I have ever heard.  
3. Deerhunter – Agoraphobia: A haunting song about the need to be away from, most likely in their case, the overwhelming press scrutiny about the band over the past couple of years. A beautiful refrain has the singer begging "comfort me, cover me, come for me" and wishing to be in a 6X6 concrete cell away from his antagonist. The directness of the music is in contrast with previous releases where songs could meander for long stretches with no focus. As striking as when Sonic Youth reeled in their squall.
4. The Rapture – No Sex for Ben: The Rapture are truly subverting their sound at every avenue and turn. Beginning their career as a bland post-punk ripoff, they hooked up with the DFA and added a more dancepunk sound to critical acclaim. Moving even further away at this point, they have hooked up, oddly enough, with Timbaland. Whereas his work with artists like Madonna, Bjork, and Nelly Furtado sounded forced and clinical, his playful beats and percussion and ancient synth sounds mesh perfectly with The Rapture for this one off single. Not sure if they intend to further collaborate, but on the basis of this funky, riveting single, I sure hope so!
5. Crystal Castles – Crimewave: Nintendo electro. Pulling the sounds from audio cards from video games, then fashioning them into the most subversive, aggro music out there. Crimewave was relatively sedate compared to the other songs on Crystal Castles. Taking a similar approach from The Knife, CC pitch shifts and mangles the vocals into almost its own instrument. Another song that makes little to no sense lyrically, it is of little consequence in context of the ending product. Check out the 100s of interpretations of the actual lyrics on songmeanings.net. It becomes truly ludicrous.
6. Cut Copy – Far Away: The catchiest synth pop single of the year, with a driving beat and hooky synth line. Cut Copy were definitely my guilty pleasure of the year. Lyrically, I am not quite sure what they are singing about, but could be about a troubled relationship and whether or not there is enough between the couple to continue on. But who really cares what they are singing about when you have music this catchy.
7. Kanye West – Street Lights: Kanye West went through well documented tragedies last year with the death of his mother and the dissolution of his relationship. Instead of taking time to process these events, he undertook a grueling tour and releasing his most bizarre release ever. This song was a definite highlight from a cd that was dually frustrating and one of the most honest, bare boned expressions of loss and anger. "Street Lights" appears to be Kanye ruminating that he got caught up in his destination and did not take the time to enjoy the journey. He finds himself all alone, realizing his life is passing him by. The final line, sung with such poignant resignation, quietly states "Life's just not fair."
8. David Byrne/Brian Eno - Strange Overtones: By Byrne and Eno's standards, this is melodically the most simple song of either's careers. A song detailing the creative songwriting process, sung with abandon by Byrne. To me this song is about giving into the creative side of yourself and not thinking too much about it, just letting the mood and emotion carry you away. There is not another chorus last year that caused me to sing out at the top of my lungs.
9. M83 – Graveyard Girl: A throw back to new wave 80s pop a la Modern English, Psychedelic Furs, and the Mighty Lemon Drops. M83 provide the hit single to a never released John Hughes movie. A moving chronicle for anyone growing up misunderstood and lonely in their teen years.
10. Lykke Li – Little Bit: A beautiful song about stinging from a breakup and not wanting to get hurt again, but meeting someone else and not being able to resist that pull to fall in love. Lykke's voice is so small and quiet, detailing the pain she is in and giving into her feelings. An exquisite love song.
11. Robyn – Cobrastyle: If you require your songs to make sense, please steer very clear of this one. "I press trigger I don't press people button," "Anytime they ready punahussy start a war." Wah? And her performance of the song on Letterman, with her band members wearing oversized bear heads, gave new meaning to the term Dada.
12. Madonna – Give It 2 Me: Slinky, Neptunes production gives this Madonna single legs. Over the course of last year, I never saw another song bring a crowd to the dancefloor as quickly as this one.
13. Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes: Using a new wave guitar, synth, drum, and bass line as a base, Santi Williams tells the tale of making it in the music business writing songs for others, and losing a sense of herself, and hoping that "it will be worth what I give up." She realizes that she will only be happy making music she wants to make. A beautiful song about finding your voice.
14. TV On The Radio – DLZ: Icy, cold, and sinister as hell. Slowly building from a sultry, trip-hop beginning and building into a swirling mass of drums, synths, organs, doo-wop background vocals, and wailing guitars, TVOTR evoke a world quickly spinning of its axis. A haunting centerpiece to their latest classic Dear Science.
15. Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma: "Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?" I just loved this song the first time I heard it. Poppy, preppy, snotty, and blue collar; the singer bemoans the fact that his girlfriend looks down on him and is embarassed because he is not upperclass like she. He eloquently rips her a new one.
16. Annie – Loco: Label troubles have kept Annie's follow up to Anniemal off the shelves. Annie, being the savvy internet diva she is, dropped several singles last year to whet her fans' appetites. "Loco" was my favorite. Using a "Blue Monday" beat and bassline, the song throbs and pulses while Annie coos about a lover that all of her friends say is too crazy for her, but drives her wild in bed. Just a fun song.
17. Flying Lotus – GNG BNG: Under a combo Indian tabla/Jamaican ragga beat, Flying Lotus weaves a hypnotic pan-international spell of dense beats and intricate electronics. Liquid and fluid you can drop some headphones on and be transported to a head bobbing inner world, or turn it up on the stereo for a booty shaking time. A highpoint on a brilliant electronic release.
18. Killers – Spaceman: Another song with probably multiple meanings. I take it as literally a man talking about being abducted my aliens. The metaphorical meaning, which can be many, is to me, a man who has dreams that seem a little out there and he is being told they are unrealistic and for him to put his feet back on the ground. He goes back to the normal existence but he "hears those voices at night sometimes" and wonders what life would be if he chased those dreams. Wonderful pop song with a great chorus.
19. Lady GaGa – Just Dance: No big meaning to this song. Just a killer hook and the proclamation that whatever your problem "Just dance, gonna be ok."
20. Coldplay – Viva La Vida: As infectious as the common cold. I wanted to hate it, but it kept creeping up on me. Damn you iPod commercials!
21. Bloc Party – Mercury: Featuring a pro-tools cutup of his singing "My Mercury's in retrograde," pummeling Chemical Brothers big beat drums, eerie sampled orchestrations, and a air raid style bass line, "Mercury" signals a new sound for Bloc Party. The lyrics have duel meaning, literally appearing to be a dissection of a new relationship and how astrologically it is not a time to be starting one, but the second more political meaning starts to appear, showing that narrator believes the world is in a state of flux and it is not a time to beginning anything.
22. Hercules & Love Affair – You Belong: Slinky and sexy, with a killer synth bass track. The song could have many meanings. The obvious one being a sexual meaning, that the narrator belongs to his lover and is powerless to overcome his feelings. It also seems to be about a dancer at a club letting himself go and being overtaken by the DJ, giving into the beats, the lights, the heat of the club. "You belong to him tonight. There is nothing I can do."
23. Sam Sparro – Black and Gold: Over a shuffling beat reminescent of "Tainted Heart," Sparro voices a quest for answers to his existence. He questions the existence of God and without proof wants to be black and gold like the stars in the sky and not to have to live life in fear. Sparro's soulful singing, touching lyrics, and minimal instrumentation capture a feeling that most of us have had at one point in our lives; pondering our existence amidst the vastness of it all.
24. Deerhunter – Nothing Ever Happened: The music is fresh and dare I say happy for Deerhunter, which is in direct counterpoint to the lyrics of the song, which appears to detail someone allowing life to pass them by, then something, be it a sudden illness or even sudden death takes them. "I never saw it coming, waiting for something, nothing." Perhaps the music is supposed to represent ignorance is bliss.
25. The Verve – Sit and Wonder: After a long hiatus, The Verve returned with Forth. First song on the cd is "Sit and Wonder" a welcome return to the swirling, shoegaze sound they started with on A Storm in Heaven. Backed by a Stone Roses-esque backbeat and druggy baseline, Nick McCabe sets his guitar effects on stun and lets loose with a bluesy squall. Richard Ashcroft lets his voice growl and swagger, detailing a relationship that is one sided on his part, lamenting that he is "falling into the black hole and I can barely feel the sun." I only wish the rest of Forth held up to the first song. I guess I can hope for the next release.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pilot Blog Post

Not sure what brought me to begin a blog.  I am sure there are plenty of other people out there with far more interesting lives and things to say, but what the heck, if Paris Hilton can blog, there is no reason why I can't.

A little about myself, I am originally from Savannah, Georgia, but currently live in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta.  I have lived in Atlanta for over 15 years and feel it is home.  The only thing missing from the city is being near the ocean.  I moved here back in 1993 to begin work at CNN as a video journalist.  I moved up the ranks to video editor and kept that position for 6 years before deciding to try a different path and get a law degree.  I enrolled in the part-time program at Georgia State and continued to work at CNN while taking 4 years to earn my degree.  

I joined the law firm of Powell Goldstein LLP in 2002 in the intellectual property litigation group.  I later left that firm for Alston & Bird LLP where I switched to trademark prosecution and hanging my litigator hat up for good.  I was then recruited by Greenberg Traurig LLP to practice trademark prosecution for their entertainment law group.  This ended my career in BigLaw for the time being.  It was not a good fit whatsoever and I found myself completely unmotivated for the first time.  Needless to say, my hours suffered, and I was laid off in the spring of 2008.  It was the best thing to happen to me, as I am now free to figure out exactly what I would like to do for the first time in awhile.

Some of my passions include literature, writing, music, and movies.  I'm trying now to find a way to involve at least some of those interests in my next career choice.  This is a first step in looking at my life in a new way.