Update: 10/10/14

I’m writing from the comfort of my bed after surviving a near-heartattack. Two nights ago as I was attempting to be smart about backing up files, I thought I’d back up my iTunes account. Long story much, much shorter, I replaced my entire iTunes Library with a completely empty folder. Bully for me.

I didn’t find out until the next day — yesterday — as I tried to put some music on my phone and found NOTHING in my iTunes library. I was overcome by an intense, gut-wrenching sick feeling. What have I done!?

Thankfully, after several minutes of freaking out, I formed a plan. I have a second external hard drive that had [not-so-recent] backups of the drive I would typically run iTunes from. So I copied all of those files. I’ve also been an iTunes Match (cloud backup of all iTunes files) subscriber for a few years now. Whatever wasn’t backed up on the second drive, I could download from iTunes match.

All that to say, I had quite the scare but (almost) everything is back! I’m now backing up the second drive with the most current library. Just in case. Woof.

—————–

Now for the update on the project.

There isn’t really a whole lot to say. I’ve been dropping the ball, losing focus, listening to other new, exciting music that has been coming out. I unintentionally took a breather of sorts while still half-participating in the project. Despite my lackluster attempts, I’m officially through the D’s.

I’m going to try and step up my listening game. Expect more updates. Hold me accountable.

—————–

iTunes Project Progress:
Current artist/album: Eels – Souljacker
Completed Artists: 173
Completed Albums: 369
Percentage of iTunes Library covered: 36.44%
Total Time: 3 Years, 1 Month

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

This project keeps surprising me in the best ways. And again, it has opened my eyes to something great that I’ve been missing out on. Only this time, instead of discovering an album I somehow acquired and never really knew anything about, it’s a record that has been sitting right under my nose since its release in 2008. That album is Narrow Stairs by Death Cab For Cutie.

Sometimes we take the easy way out, whether we know we are doing it or not. There are little – or big – challenges that confront us daily and we make a choice. “What should I make for breakfast this morning? Man, I’m totally jonzing for a big-ass omelet and bacon. But cereal and toast is WAY easier. I could do that and then I’ve got that much more time for the rest of my day.” I pull that crap all the time. Pistachios, man. Those shells are virtually impenetrable but the payoff is SO sweet. Sometimes ya gotta spend some time on a good challenge. You might just be surprised by the fruits of your labor.

Narrow Stairs was my pistachio. Only I didn’t know the outcome of this record like I know that of the pistachio. I turned and ran from this album after only a few listens. I was like a kid who had already decided that he hated a certain food before even trying it.

I’m a sucker for the lush, thick soundscapes and beautifully processed tones of the two albums preceding Narrow Stairs (2003’s Transatlanticism, 2005’s Plans). Those albums were so beautifully polished and easy to digest. Thick pads, killer harmonies, rich drum tones. Oooof. So one listen to the challengingly raw sound of Narrow Stairs back in 2008 and I decided it was garbage. 

So a few weeks ago when I arrived at the album in my queue, I had already decided that I’d move on after just a few listens. Something happened though – I’m not even sure what it was exactly – that made me hang on the record for a while longer. It took a while to break through, but when I did I realized that there is WAY more to this album than I gathered in subsequent quick half-listens. There is a deep, dark, challenging undertone across the entire record. The lyrical content is much heavier than anything else Gibbard has ever written. The arrangements are deceivingly thick. Listen closely and you’ll notice a lot of subtleties that are easy to miss in a casual listen. I now can NOT stop listening to this. Someone help.

When Gibbard sings, “Ya gotta spend some time, love,” it’s almost as if he’s pleading with you to take a little time to really listen; to try and crack through a challenging shell and uncover the deeply hidden, seemingly unaccessible beauty that lies beneath.

iTunes Project Progress:
Current artist/album: Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
Completed Artists: 147
Completed Albums: 329
Percentage of iTunes Library covered: 34.04%
Total Time: 2 Years, 2 Months

2 Years / Daniel Lanois / Brian Eno

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the beginning of this project. I’m pretty pumped about that and my ability to stick with it. There is one minor downside to the project though: keeping up with new music. Every so often I’ll take a short break and listen to something out of order to try and keep up. That’s helpful except for when loads of albums are coming out by artists I’ve already covered. So for the next week or so, I’m catching myself up. I want YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS. Please. Hook me up with awesome music I’ve missed. I’ve already hit a ton of Brian Blade. The new Civil Wars is also in my queue. What else?

One thing I missed was the newest ambient release by Brian Eno entitled Lux. It reminded me of the Daniel Lanois post that never happened. In place of that post, I want to share a segment of an interview. This interview was done of Brian Eno, BY Daniel Lanois. Radical. The audio is found on the Lanois record, Here Is What Is. The video can be found on the documentary of the same name. I just thought this would be something that could speak to everybody. Eno is the man.

“What would be really interesting to see [in your film] is how beautiful things grow out of shit. Because nobody ever believes that. Everybody thinks that Beethoven had his string quartets completely in his head—they’d somehow appeared there and formed in his head—before he, and all he had to do was write them down and they would kind of be manifest to the world. But I think what’s so interesting, and what would really be a lesson that everybody should learn is that things come out of nothing, things evolve out of nothing.
 
You know, the tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest, and then the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing. And I think this would be important for people to understand, because it gives people confidence in their own lives to know that that’s how things work.
 
If you walk around with the idea that there are some people who are so gifted—they have these wonderful things in their head, but you’re not one of them, you’re just sort of a normal person, you could never do anything like that—then you live a different kind of life. You could have another kind of life, where you can say, ‘well, I know that things come from nothing very much, and start from unpromising beginnings, and I’m an unpromising beginning, and I could start something.’”
 
– Brian Eno (Here Is What Is)

D Update

I realize it’s been a long time since I’ve actually written anything of substance here. It’s been a wild year with a lot of ups and downs and most recently I’ve been CRAZY busy. In fact, I’ve only had 3 days off since the beginning of July. I want to try and post here more often and with deeper content, but today is not one of those days. This will just be a small update on my progress through D. The following are albums about which I’m feeling compelled to say something.

 

– D’Angelo – Voodoo: Duh, right? This is absolutely one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time. I was going to write a big, long post dedicated to this album but I talk about it with so many musicians, I read about it everywhere; I just feel like maybe everything has already been said. It’s a true gem. Beautifully crafted. Everything about it.

– Damien Rice: I know everybody freaks out about him but I couldn’t wait to move on. So boring.

– Dan Rodriguez: Dan is a good, good friend of mine so I feel like I HAVE to say that he’s great. Just kidding. That guy can write a song. For real. He really starts to find his voice and begins to write and sing so effortlessly on his self-titled EP but he really takes off with his newest acoustic album, Roaring Dan. Great work, my friend.

– Dan Wilson – Free Life: Mostly another “duh”. I mean, this guy is talented. A few Grammys, several hit songs, local hero. The songs on his solo record are pretty good but I found myself getting tired of them quickly. I feel like that’s almost blasphemous to say – especially on THE INTERNET – but, I must stay true to my musical heart/mind during this project. Reference: My Britney Spears post.

– Dangerdoom – The Mouse and the Mask: Such a cool record. I’m still toggling between this and the album I am currently listening to. Danger Mouse and MF Doom team up to bring some ultra creative hip hop. The beats are cool, the lyrics are different and artistic, Doom’s style is laid back and buttery, plus, there are cameos from almost the entire cast of Adult Swim cartoon characters.  Super weird, I know, but I can’t get enough.

– Daniel Lanois – Here Is What Is: This might have to be it’s own post eventually. This is the legendary producer’s solo album and it’s packed with hipness. Also, Brian Blade is on drums so that immediately puts this in the “Friggin’ Killer” category.

 

I am exactly one month away from the 2 year anniversary of starting this project. Hopefully I can fix up a neat, little Lanois post before that…

 

iTunes Project Progress:
Current artist/album: Daniel Lanois – Here Is What Is
Completed Artists: 133
Completed Albums: 303
Percentage of iTunes Library covered: 31.6%
Total Time: 1 year, 11 months

Milestone.

You guys. Exactly 6 months ago (8 January, 2013) I started the C’s. Today…I move on. D’s, here we go!

Starting with D’Angelo.

This might take a while.

 

iTunes Project Progress:
Current artist/album: D’Angelo – Brown Sugar
Completed Artists: 127
Completed Albums: 293
Percentage of iTunes Library covered: 30.8%
Total Time: 1 year, 9 months, 25 days

Common and the Power of Positive Thinking

In 2011 when Common was invited to the White House for a poetry reading, Fox News had a field day with it. They labeled him as a “vile” and “controversial rapper.” Any sort of research would find that he’s anything but. Sure, his lyrics may contain a few choice words that some listeners deem explicit. Are those words just cause to look past the broader messages in his songs? One listen to any record of his would reveal a refreshingly positive twist on most popular rappers’ subject matter.

Common steers clear of the typical rhymes about rims, money, drugs, feuds with other rappers, etc.. Inversely, he raps about love, respecting women, respecting elders, making a difference, and being a positive influence on youth. On the cover of his 2005 album Be, he is not shown looking smug or threatening. He isn’t trying to intimidate or frighten. The photo shows his mouth ajar, showcasing his pearly whites, as if mid belly laugh. The content of the album shares a sincere optimism and a belief in change; from beginning to end.

The opening song acts as an account of how he wishes to inspire change.

Bush pushin’ lies
Killers immortalized
We got arms but won’t reach for the skies
Waiting for the Lord to rise
I look into my daughter’s eyes
And realize that I’m gonna learn through her
The Messiah, might even return through her
If I’m gonna do it, I gotta change the world through her
[…]
Never looking back or too far in front of me
The present is a gift
and I just wanna be”

The closing song talks about breaking out of stereotypes and what the world thinks of somebody based on their upbringing; to beat the odds and succeed in a world where others only seem to want to bring you down. After the final chorus, children’s voices take the reins stating their dreams and aspirations:

“I wanna be a pediatrician
I wanna be a governor
I want to be an artist
I wanna be a veterinarian
[…]
I wanna be the first African-American female president
I wanna be a police officer
[…]
I wanna be a captain of a police station
I wanna be a drummer
I wanna be an actress
I wanna be a superstar”

And just when you think that’s the end, you hear yet another voice. This voice, however, is not that of a child. This voice is weathered and wise. This voice speaks a power over its listeners. It inspires and challenges.

“Be, be here, be there, be that, be this
Be grateful for life, be grateful to life
Be gleeful everyday, for being the best swimmer among 500,000
[…]
Be a strong academic student, be an A student in sociology
Be food for thought to the growin mind, be the author of your own horoscope
Be invited, be long-living, be forgiving, be not forgetful
[…]
Be not foolish as temporary king of the mountain top
Be a brilliant soul, sparkling in the galaxy while walking on earth
Be loved by God as much as God loved Gandhi and Martin Luther King
Be… eternal!”

This isn’t a blog post about how Fox News got it wrong. This post isn’t meant to be politically charged. This post is my plea for people to stop judging the inner qualities of a celebrity, a rapper, a singer, a guy at work, that girl at school before you hear what they’re REALLY saying. You may never know how they might help you grow or how their ideas might help shape the world. “No matter how far I’ve come, there’s a long way to go,” Common told Men’s Fitness. “I want to continue to grow as an actor, as a musician, as an artist. And I want to contribute more to the world in positive forms.”

iTunes Project Progress:
Current artist/album: Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Completed albums: 281
Completed artists: 121
Percentage of iTunes Library covered: 29.7%
Next artist: Cory Chisel

Catch up

It’s been a LONG time since my last update on the project; essentially since I started the C’s. I’ve had some writings worked up but just never posted. In their place, I thought I’d write up a quick and easy catch-up post including some of the recent C-Notables.

– Canon Blue – Rumspringa: This album. Whoa. Nashville dude who wrote some beautiful arrangements while on the road with Amiina (Sigur Ros’ string ensemble). To me, it sounds like a mixture of Mute Math, Aqualung, Radiohead, and Sufjan Stevens. So…in other words, it rules. Shout out to Andy Frost for the suggestion.

– I had a big, elaborate post on Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Charlie Haden. It was a little too scatterbrained but all three of these players shaped jazz in very different ways while still being somewhat connected. Kind of interesting to think about.

– Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM: This album really grew on me. She’s got a really interesting style that is really brought out and nurtured by  this album’s producer, Beck. It doesn’t hurt to have James Gadson and Joey Waronker on the 2’s and 4’s.

– Chet Baker: He had such an iconic way about him, it seems he was going to be an influential force no matter what field he entered. But seriously guys, don’t do heroin.

– Chris Koza: One of my favorite local songwriters. He’s always come up with interesting ways to present folks songs. His lyrics are dense and beautiful while still maintaining clear, cutting qualities. I can’t wait to hit Rogue Valley…in a few years…

– Chris Morrissey Quartet – The Morning World: This album is brilliant. It features some of my favorite players including the ever influential Dave King on drums.

– Civil Wars – Barton Hollow: Beautiful songs, voices that blend perfectly together, simple yet effective arrangements. This album brought back the Jr. High feelings that love stories from the movies can actually exist.

– Cloud Cult: This band wasn’t really on my radar until I had the opportunity to play in a band opening up for them a few years back. After that experience, I was totally sold. Knowing the deep, heart-wrenching story that inspires 95% of Craig Minowa’s songs makes the band’s albums intense emotional journeys.

– Coldplay: It’s amazing sometimes, the time-traveling powers that music holds. One listen to Parachutes and it’s a rainy autumn day in 2000 as I drive up to my friend Jeff’s house for band practice. I’m just finishing Viva La Vida right now. I remember liking this record WAY more back in ’08.

I’ll be honest, guys. I’ve been dropping the ball lately on the project because James Blake is owning my soul.