Shedding Tears for Affairs

Let's Get Out of This County by Camera Obscura

I don't think that Tracyanne Campbell has ever had difficulty with being understood. When Campbell sings, "Lloyd I'm ready to be heartbroken/'cause I can't see further than my own nose at the moment" any girl anywhere can relate without even knowing Lloyd Cale or having ever been in love.

The immediate accessibility of Let's Get Out of This Country is truly enviable, as I've attempted talking about this album for three days straight and not a single word has been loyal to me. I've been listening to this album for a few years now, but for the majority of those years I brushed off the album as fun for the ears but fluff for the mind. It wasn't until My Maudlin Career, which I was forced to listen to due to the music dry spell I was experiencing, did I have my first brush with Campbell's awkwardly adorable lyrics.

The range of emotions in the album is stunning; these songs aren't just about heartbreak for the sake of heartbreak. The album starts out with "Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken", in which she embraces falling in love, admitting that she is shortsighted and knowing that she will be left heartbroken. The title track "Let's Get Out of This Country" Campbell sings of her discontent in the city, attempting to convince her lover to take her out of the country. In "Come Back Margaret", Campbell sings to her rival, saying that "he wants to adore you" while she has to admit "Darling, you will always be around/Whether my mood's up or if it's down/In dreams I try to take you far away/But you never stay". "The False Contender" and "Dory Previn" both deal with falling out of love, in which Campbell admits "I once had a love, but soon had enough/He was a false contender" and "Sick of the sight of my old lover/Went under sheets and covers to get away from him", asking Dory Previn "Do you think it's time to put it out of my mind" before finally deciding "I think it's time I let my love for him die".

But if you don't feel like being heartbroken, Let's Get Out of This Country is truly just enjoyable to listen to. The songwriting and style has obviously hit its stride, and Camera Obscura isn't out to prove anything. As Campbell says herself in an interview, "I don't really want to turn into some band that tries to do something too off the wall. We're just doing what we can do, what touches us, and what seems right at the time."

I'm Me, What's New, So Now Who the Fuck Are You?

When did I become a stranger to myself?

Can I go back to the days when having fingers run through my hair was the epitome of intimacy. When carving into the wooden furniture was the worst crime I'd ever committed.

I remember playing between our mattresses, I remember your sleep-groggy voice. I remember the wide expanse of your back.

I remember when being small and helpless wasn't a crime.

How did things change, how did my definition of intimacy become so complicated. Was it the internet? Instead of being carried on your back now it's the only thing I see of you, hunched over the computer screen. I used to know your mind, what do I know of it now?

I remember laying next to you on the couch and wanting nothing more than to be the exact same as you, I wanted my heart to beat when yours did, I only breathed when you did. But suddenly I've been banished to being a mirror of you, everything opposite.

I'm thankful now for the insomnia that plagued my childhood; it stretched those black nights I spent by your side into infinity, so that now that I spend my nights alone at least I have the memories. I picture in my mind the days when we played ghost, when you entertained me with such fascinating stories. You were so creative, now all you have is sub-par music to express yourself. It pains me to know how you've changed, to see you become a crippled version of your previously vibrant self. And it pains me even more knowing that you're yourself only when you're not with us.

This can't be how it is. I want nothing more than to throw the television out the window, to break all the computers and lock all the doors. I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want to see all the sharp edges of pain that defines our relationships cutting away at whatever ties we have left.

Please. I'm tired of sending myself out into the world and coming back crushed. And instead of coming home I return to a place of dark strangers. I know you feel it too. But put your pain aside, just for a moment, and remember how you loved us. Using pain to curb pain doesn't work.

Why did we believe in soul mates? Now I only believe in tax benefits. I've punished every relationship I've ever had. I don't want to not be in love. We believed in something, we believed in ourselves. Now we don't even have that. Moving isn't our answer; punishing the people who should care about us isn't going to fix anything.

I can't believe all I have left are the photographs.


Fall Left Me With This Winter So Cold

I've been feeling pretty much up to my eyes in music; I really haven't had much of a chance to listen to music the way I typically do, which is to say, I haven't had time to sit down and listen to an album over and over again. I'm actually craving silence.

Definitely at the top of my list of things to get this year is a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Forget the music, it'd just be nice to not hear anything at all.

The terrible thing here is that I honestly have not been in love with any albums or songs in over a week; I simply can't find a moment of peace. Wide-eyed in bed and the TV filters its way into my room; on the street the tearing of rubber across concrete rips my consciousness and I can't concentrate on listening to music. The constant elbow-to-elbow closeness of the buses and I hear more of their cell phone conversations than I do of jj or Four Tet.

I went back to Magus Bookstore and I bought another two books, this time Nicole Krauss' History of Love and Yann Martel's Life of Pi. I'm still looking for two novels by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Here is a short excerpt of a story within The History of Love. The title for this short story is "The Age of Silence".
The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people's hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.
During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only in sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one's face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one's lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn't go around with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they'd understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I've always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.
Aside from one exception, almost no record exists of this first language. The exception, on which all knowledge of the subject is based, is a collection of seventy-nine fossil gestures, prints of human hands frozen in midsentence and housed in a small museum in Buenos Aires. One holds the gesture for Sometimes when the rain, another for After all these years, another for Was I wrong to love you? They were found in Morocco in 1903 by an Argentine doctor named Antonio Alberto de Biedma. He was hiking in the High Atlas Mountains when he discovered the cave where the seventy-nine gestures were pressed into the shale. He studied them for years without getting any closer to understanding, until one day, already suffering the fever of the dysentery that would kill him, he suddenly found himself able to decipher the meanings of the delicate motions of fists and fingers trapped in stone. Soon afterwards he was taken to a hospital in Fez, and as he lay dying his hands moved like birds forming a thousand gestures, dormant all those years.
If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms -- if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you recognize the foreignness of your own body -- it's because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what's inside and what's outside, was so much less. It's not that we've forgotten the language of gestures entirely. The habit of moving our hands while we speak is left over from it. Clapping, pointing, giving the thumbs-up: all artifacts of ancient gestures. Holding hands, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together. And at night, when it's too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other's bodies to make ourselves understood.
 jj - "Troublemaker (Akon cover)"


The Words We Speak Are Banal

& The Mysterious Production of Eggs by Andrew Bird

This is by no means my first experience with Andrew Bird; "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" had mysteriously slipped its way into my music library, and I was immediately swept away. But strangely, I never enjoyed & The Mysterious Production of Eggs, though I would credit that today to the terrible quality of the mp3s. They might as well have been live versions played underwater and recorded from a distant radio.

Listening to the album for the first time, it's immediately evident that this guy likes his words.

For the most part, the lyrics to the song are less about the meaning and more about the sound; "Fake Palindromes", for example, feature a bunch of lines that are meant to look like palindromes. "Sovay" is a word that supposedly has no meaning, simply a word that had come to Bird during songwriting that he liked.

But if you must look at the lyrics, it's almost a shock that these songs deal with death, psychoanalysis, references to Franz Kafka's The Metamorphasis and ride of the valkyries. With its hushed vocals, fluttery violins, acoustic guitars and whistling, these pop songs seem to speak of anything but "swapping blood with formaldehyde" or "getting set for my accidental suicide". Bird often sings to us, "you really should've died", and ends the album commanding us to sing him happy birthday "like it's going to be your last day".

Aside from the doom and gloom, the album really just feels effortless. It's more enjoyable than the subject matters are unsavory.


They're Going to Wake Up in Institutions

I haven't exactly been on the top of my game, but that is largely because this is boring me just as much as it's boring you! Or maybe it's just boring me, since I know there is no "you" out there reading this.

I hate not being in love with something; I can fall in love with a song and the stars and the sun and green and twigs and absolutely everything, but it's very little in the blank face of the fact that I go home and as soon as the sun goes down and the ceiling covers the stars and I'm away from my ferny friends I'm completely alone.

Though I did listen to Andrew Bird's & The Mysterious Production of Eggs, I am mostly just looking forward to hanging out with a friend and not really in the mood for writing about another album.

Little Joy - "Unattainable"
Only when the goal is unattainable
do I start to feel like I'm losing myself
and this deep secret
that hasn't come out yet
is buried down deep with the rest

I can't coerce you into this one
Jealousy lay all your spells to bed
I'll choose unloved instead

If only songs were sung
to guide the doubtful ones
beyond the rough
where not as much is good enough
Oh, if you find yourself
amongst the lonely ones
I'll be waiting here with open arms

I can't coerce you into this one
Jealousy lay all your spells to bed
I'll choose unloved instead 


Take it On the Chin

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not by Arctic Monkeys

To be honest, there's always been something off-putting to me about hyped up music. In the words of Elliott Smith (since he is much more coherent about this subject than I am): "The only kinds of music that I don't listen to is whatever is popular RIGHT NOW. Even though it might be great, I just don't feel like it. The fact that something is really everything just somehow puts me off. I don't know why that is. I guess being in the music....um, business.... or something is like being in high school where everybody is trying to be cool and you wish that you could just graduate from high school and not have to deal with all the little put-downs that people give each other and everybody trying to be the most popular guy in the school."

Which were my exact sentiments about the Arctic Monkeys. And I don't think that I was mistaken either; listening to the album now, for the first time, I still don't feel like I'm missing out on anything four years later.

Not to say that these songs are trash. The album's subject matter largely takes place on the dance floor, and mostly has to do with hooking up with girls, under age drinking, and cleverly thrown insults on others in the music industry.

Best tracks would be "Fake Tales from San Francisco", "Riot Van" and "Mardy Bum".

Oh, and P.S. I'm boring myself too.



OK Cowboy by Vitalic

It seems that it's difficult for Pitchfork to talk about Vitalic without using murderous imagery, and they're not wrong. Songs on OK Cowboy have such a fierce intensity that you really do feel like you're about to be murdered.

Three of the tracks, "Poney Part 1", "Poney Part 2" and "La Rock 01" were on his previous release, Poney EP, were incredibly successful, yet they function in the album alongside other songs, rather than stick out like sore thumbs.

One thing that is hard to wrap your mind around is that every single sound on this album is made with synths. Those drums? The guitars? The organs? Yep, all synths. In interviews, it's clear why Arbez chose not to have guest vocals or other instruments; every sound on the album was meticulously and arduously created by Arbez himself. Every sound for the single "My Friend Dario", for example, was created with synths, right down to the electronic female vocals.

Oh, and one more thing. Did you know that Pascal Arbez used to like telling people that he was a male prostitute that could only speak Russian? He had aliases Dima and Hustler Pornstar, and when he went on tour people provided him translators because they thought he couldn't speak English. How much cooler can you get?


Ocean, It Swallowed

I'm not exactly the outdoors-y type, but the last two days I've been on a lot of nature walks. That's one great thing about Bellevue; there's parks and trails everywhere. I went on a trail that is supposed to lead from Lake Washington to Lake Sammamish, though I think that that is merely in theory; the trail itself lasts about .7 miles before suddenly ending. When I first found it, I was 10 years old, and the foreboding group of tall evergreens seemed to tell me not to go in too far. But really it's misleading; there is a short copse of evergreen trees, and once you keep travelling on the trail it immediately opens up to overgrown fields and short twiggy trees.

During my walk towards the master garden (a garden that leases space to private owners, but is open to the public for viewing) I was listening to Aziz Ansani's Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, and the combination of comedy and sunshine made it hard not to laugh to myself (though reflecting on it on a walk later that night, I realized just how close to insanity I really am. Take the ipod out of the equation and I have a voice talking to me that no one else can hear). But on the way back I decided to switch to The Books' The Lemon of Pink, and with waves of laughter and looping screams, I decided it was a chance to take my time and fully explore the area.

Which led me to a place that I feel truly privileged for seeing.

There was, to my left, a trail that twisted and turned into a wall of golden grass higher than my head. The turns were so sharp that it was impossible to tell exactly where it led, and I decided to go on it. After about 30 seconds, I already started to have misgivings. The trail twisted so hard that even though I knew I was close to the main trail, I could no longer see it; the solitude kicked my mind into hyperdrive and I soon imagined my dead body tossed to the side and no one ever knowing to find me there. But that feeling didn't last long, as the man-made trail suddenly opened up to the edge of a pond, and the sound of ducks reached my ears. The trail had led to a small pond that very few people must have seen, and these ducks, unlike the ones you see in parks, were not used to humans, and they warily watched me watch them.

The lack of people I let into my life now has opened up moments for me to feel less like an object functioning for others and more like myself. I imagine running into flowers and abandoning the burdens I've been carrying along with me like tiny wounds.

We Built Too Many Walls

The Body, The Blood, The Machine by The Thermals

It's been four years, and most people are familiar with The Body, The Blood, The Machine. It's a hard album to ignore, but somehow I managed. For me, listening to it when it came out, the rough guitars and pounding energy of the album did nothing but grate my ears; I didn't even bother getting into the story. I was just coming out of listening to a plethora of bands from the nineties, and my ears needed a rest. I managed to like "Test Pattern" for its semi-romantic lyrics and moved on to Sigur Ros without looking back.

Today is the first time I've ever sat down and listened to the album. Even if you can't get into the story of "a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians", the songs themselves are still worth listening to. As Pitchforks' Amanda Petrusich aptly claims, "these tracks land like bombs".

From the very first track "Here's Your Future", it's evident right away that The Thermals have something to say. The lyrics reference Noah and the Crucifixion, singing "God said here's your future/It's going to rain/So we're packing our things/We're building a boat/Where God will create the new master race/Cause we're so pure/Oh, we're so pure/So here's your future". By the time we get to "An Ear For Baby", we catch a glimpse of this fascist religious state, with the orders "Pull out your best suit...it's time to groom you for judgement" and "The siren's on/Let the water run, leave the lights on...draw the bridges, dig the ditches steep/We're gonna need a new border". The image of the fascist Christian government is perfected in "Power Doesn't Run on Nothing", with the lines "So give us what we're asking for/Cause either way, we're gonna take it/Our power doesn't run on nothing", later transforming the line to "Cause God is with us, and our god's the richest/Our power doesn't run on nothing/It runs on blood/And blood is easy to obtain when you have no shame".

Two of my new personal favorite tracks would be "A Pillar of Salt" and "Returning to the Fold", merely for their sincerely enjoyable pop hooks. The guitars are sharp and self-assured yet untamed. I enjoy "Returning to the Fold" especially for the lyrics "I regret leaving my mind/I forgot I needed it to think/And maybe to keep me alive/Can't believe I got so far with a head so empty".

The album lasts just over 35 minutes, making it short enough to not be repetitive, and keep each song fresh and uncrowded. Personally the album's first six tracks are the strongest, though "Power Doesn't Run on Nothing" is a pretty solid track. Musically, The Body, The Blood, The Machine isn't just a collection of quotable lyrics. Every song is just as much fun to listen to as it is to figure out the meaning behind it.


Don't Even Sing About It

The Lemon of Pink by The Books

Today I went for a walk in the woods by myself, in a place I had once discovered many years ago. While the curves of the tree trunks and the logs all seemed the same, it also felt smaller, as if the world had shrunk and I was overcrowding it. During the solitary walk to what turned out to be something of a "master garden" (neither nursery nor botanical garden), I took my time to listen to the Books' The Lemon of Pink.

I have never listened to the Books before, and without this project, I probably never would have even had them come up on my radar. The Books largely takes samples of sounds, like voice recordings and song samples, combined with electronic mixed with acoustic folk.

As abstract and experimental as it sounds, the type of music they make is more towards the familiar than the "out-there"; with just a few notes on a violin and the creaking of a door in the background, the songs feel calm, while voices -- screams, laughs, prayers to god and airplane hostesses -- work to create a texture of feelings. "Explanation Mark" doesn't even feature music, but a woman and a man layered over each other, each just making random noises.

There is a patient energy to the album; every sound seems to be comfortably at home in each song (they even title a song "Take Time"! Coincidence? I think not.) "Don't Even Sing About It" is pretty dark, with the lines "Get used to hanging if you hang long enough" repeated over and over, though the next track "The Future, Wouldn't That Be Nice?", features a wave of laughter repeated throughout the song.

It's very easy to simply get lost in the textures of The Lemon of Pink; there are so many samples that it's surprising how they come together in a way that is not only melodious but beautiful.


Explanation Mark

Today I am enjoying the glitches and voice samples that is The Books. I'm not exactly ready to blog about them quite yet, though. I've taken quite a few breaks from the project in the last few days, but I feel that this will be the last break for a while.

The day was spent trekking through the Botanical Gardens. I originally intended on walking from the Lake Hills library to the small botanical garden (or is it a nursery?) that is tucked away that can only be accessed by a trail through a small forest. I haven't been back there in four years, so it's very likely I would not have found it at all. Today I'm just thankful for my friends who make time for me even though I rarely want to crawl out of the house.

I feel that it would be cheating not to share any music yet again, so here are a couple of songs that I have been enjoying lately.

"My My" - Menomena
I specifically enjoy this song for the lyric: "What if I sold everything I own/And ran away from everyone I know/Could I make another place my home?". At the time when I heard it, I was sitting on the bus with my ipod on shuffle, reflecting on how I had decided to push away every single one of my friends, and wondering how far this isolation could take me. Serendipity.

"The Purple Bottle" - Animal Collective
It's hard for me to keep track of all my favorite Animal Collective song, there are just way too many. Nobody does a love song like Animal Collective. The first time I heard it, my favorite lyric was "I wear a coat of feelings and they are loud", but as I listen to it again and again, other lines jump out at me, like "Can I tell you that you are the purple in me?"

"Giving Up the Gun" - Vampire Weekend
Of course I have to put some new music here. I've been listening to Contra too much (almost), and "Giving Up the Guns" immediately caught my attention because of the lines "When I was 17 I had wrists like steel and I felt complete/And now my body fades behind a brass charade and I'm obsolete/But if the chance remained to see those better days I'd cut my cannons down".

"Two weeks of misery/Capture my heart and destroy me/Destroy my mind and my body/And make like a disease/And conquer me". Who can resist that?!

"Wrestlers" - Hot Chip
I just enjoy the fact that they would sing about wrestling.

For the rest of the week I don't think that I will take any breaks from the 365 project. Which means next up will be, The Books' The Lemon of Pink, The Thermals' The Body The Blood The Machine, Vitalic's OK Cowboy and Arctic Monkeys' Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. I have to make quite a few skips because I haven't been able to find quite a few albums on my list.


The Lonely People (Are Getting Lonelier)

The Tired Sounds of the Stars of the Lid by Stars of the Lid

The first time I heard a Stars of the Lid album, I felt like kicking myself for never picking it up sooner. "Ambient-drone" may not sound like the most interesting genre of music because seriously, isn't droning pretty much, well, the same thing over and over again?. And really, who, in their right, un-stoned mind, would consider spending 2 hours of their life listening to music that describes itself as ambient drone anyway?

But listening to their music, it is immediately self-evident why it's considered one of the best albums of the decade.

As the album title might suggest, the music is heavy. With the aid of strings and horns, the depth to the record is amazing. It's a subtle sigh of exhaustion in nearly every form, from mental hospitals, gasfarming and dying mothers to broken harbors, lonely people, distance and love.

Despite its heavy content, the music itself is not dense; it's the sheer expansiveness of it that defines its subtlety and makes it meaningful. Each concept and sound is given as much space and time it needs to develop, which allows for a 2 hour long, two disc experience.


Made in the Dark

Random inspiration has turned my desk once again into a mess; I decided to hand make a CD holder, for what CD is yet to be determined.

I could only scan the front and the back, since the inside kept getting crinkled in my scanner.

It's made of two pieces of paper I tore out of an old sketchbook (since it was the only paper that was thick and closer to cardstock than construction paper). Most of the buildings, animals, trees, etc. were made on regular computer paper, cut out and pasted onto it, and I mainly used a black ink pen and color pencils.

I also made a picture to put in the header. This I used another page from my sketchbook, regular printer paper for the animals, and paper that a friend of mine bought for me at the UW Bookstore.


Be Wild

Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts by M83

Today I am doing my first skip over an album; I simply have not been able to find Song: Ohia's Didn't It Rain, so I plan on waiting until I have a free opportunity to go out and find it on my own. Therefore, the album I'm listening to today is M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts.

The album opens with the track "Birds", featuring, of course, birds, and underneath synths and keyboards that slowly build up, while the words "Sun is shining, birds are singing, flowers are growing, clouds are looming and I am flying" are repeated over and over like an incantation. It then launches into "Unrecorded", and from there we are relentlessly projected into a synesthesia-inducing soundscape.

Particularly amazing about the album is the layering of synths and electronic glitches to create a wall of droning sound, which instead of simply overwhelming the senses, happens to be melodic and warm. Apart from what the album cover would have you believe, the music is far from icy or crushing. It feels immediately familiar, without ever having heard it before.

The only tracks on the album that feature any lyrics would be "Birds", "Run Into Flowers", "America" and "0078". The rest are instrumental, and the album ends with the 14 minute "Beauties Can Die" that eases us back into reality. Actually the absence of lyrics is barely missed; the majority of the lyrics on the album aim to subtly remove us from reality, haunting, but out of context almost meaningless. "America", for example, seems to be about a woman who has fainted and is in the hospital, and talks about how their dead friend is still with them. The track ends with the line "Listen, listen now. There's one who's blind, she's the one that can see"; "Run Into Flowers", on the other hand, repeats the single line "Give me peace and chemicals, I want to run into".

M83's music has always been described as slightly cinematic; it's not so much hearing or even seeing as experiencing.


Lately I've been extremely dissatisfied with everything that I write. And for no particular reason either; the words just seem wrong. One sentence sounds just about right but the punctuation hits me like a hammer and I know it's wrong, or the next sentence is so devastatingly flat that it knocks the wind out of me. And then I delete it and find myself with the same empty box, no matter how many times I try to word it.

I finished reading The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan yesterday, and immediately upon going to bed I opened up The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and began reading. I was so enraptured I stayed up until 4AM, surprisingly, before realizing how late it was and deciding to go to bed. What scares me is the levels of parallelism I find in its pages and my life. I'm almost scared that I feel as if I could relate to Esther Greenwood, though as I wake up five hours later and have a clear mind, I can noticeably count the differences in my head and feel relieved.

This morning I was greeted with a sight I haven't seen in years: birds in my backyard. I counted seven different types, ranging from just tiny to the size of a crow. It felt right to unplug my headphones and listen the pulse and thunder of a group of birds flying together.

I'm still surprisingly burnt out by the last album, Multiply, but today I think that the clear gray light filtering through the window and the abundant number of hours I have will suffice in curing me and allowing me to write about the next album on my list.

But right now...time for breakfast!


I'm a Question Mark

Multiply by Jamie Lidell

I had already posted a review of Multiply, but upon rereading (I am an over-analyzing perfectionist bordering on OCD, which results in my rereading every blog post six or seven times after I've written it) I found so many flaws that I simply could not ignore it anymore.

Motown is really one of the few genres I grew up on that I will actually admit to (if some indie kid asks me what I used to listen to as a kid, I almost die of embarrassment saying P Diddy and Destiny's Child -- believe me, it wasn't my fault! I didn't know any better! And if that doesn't appease you: My sister made me do it!) My dad was the one who introduced us to it; while we waited in the parking lot to pick up my mom from work, he'd turn on the radio to the oldies station (which unfortunately recently has gone off the air). As a child these songs left an indelible mark on my memory; I was a lovesick child waiting for my mom in the middle of the night (in reality only about an hour and a half past my bedtime, but back then it might as well have been midnight), and these songs soundtracked my wait. Not only that: their effortless joy made waiting that much better, the nonsense rhymes and upbeat hand claps and snappy rhythms were all that kept me from becoming an impatient grump.

So later on in life, when I had to digest imitations of my childhood favorites, I found it an altogether scarring experience. There's only so many times you can hear someone mutilate a song before you have pronounced in your mind that the genre is dead -- imitators had taken these songs and instead of breathing new life they had murdered it, buffed it to a disgusting over-produced, marketable sheen and sold it for their own personal profit.

Not that Motown itself was ever a musician's idealist dream; if anything, it would be an artist's worst nightmare. Motown labels took amazingly talented young musicians and had them bang out hit after hit, one meaningless, love-fluff song after the next. Not to mention the rampant plagiarism with copyright laws for songs pretty much nonexistent.

But even despite of this nightmare, we had shining lights, such as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, or Marvin Gaye in the late sixties and early seventies. There is something to be said even of the recording quality; without the interference of technology to make voices sickeningly perfect, singers were necessarily amazing. The emotional levels in most Motown songs isn't something you can autotune, which necessarily makes Motown music something completely different from modern soul groups or modern R&B derivatives of Motown.

When I first listened to Jamie Lidell's album, I was immediately shocked, confused, and bordering on enraged. I thought that someone had played a cruel prank and mislabeled the album, giving me instead some crappy rip off on Motown music. But after checking, and double checking, it turned out that that really was the album. So I tried to listen to it with an open mind.

And I was blown away. Jamie Lidell does an amazing job of not just venerating his antecedents, but also irreverently taking artistic liberties that I would imagine his antecedents had only dreamed of back in the 60s. Prior to the release of Multiply, Lidell had mainly been Warp's "solo laptop artist", working with electronic music and struggling to find his voice. And he found it: several times in the album Lidell finds himself singing, "it's the new me coming through" (in fact, there is a song called "New Me"). It's precisely this genuine embrace of the genre that lends itself to a type of quality that sets it apart from other imitators or people who attempt to resurrect the genre.

Most noticeable is Lidell's free use of electronic glitches, tweaks and looping that begs the question, if Motown's boon had been today, would this be what it sounded like? It's the blurring of these two different musical spheres that Lidell so successfully achieves that makes the album worth listening to. Lidell also does a good job of being true to the genre -- not forcing himself to make a new sound and be sucked into a cliche gimmick. Tracks like "Multiply" and "You Got Me Up" are straightforward, showing that Lidell can be as soulful as the best of them, while "A Little Bit More" and "When I Come Back Around" introduce us to Lidell's artistry.

The album as a whole is surprising; the songs are snappy enough to make you nod your head, but the lyrics are personal and honest enough to connect with. Lidell definitely shows his more vulnerable side, though he is ambiguous enough that the lyrics can be applied to any number of things. Though I will never embrace imitators of Motown music, Lidell's work has eased my past traumatic experiences.


Your Sword's Grown Old and Rusty

Today had some minor successes. I went into the Magus Books store and bought myself three books (believe it or not, only coming to $25!). I chose Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. About a month ago I bought Milan Kundera's Laughable Love. I am probably going to become Magus Books' regular customer, as I seem to have decided to begin to build the book collection of my dreams.

There is something to say about hardcover books. And not just the dime-a-dozen hardcover books you can buy anywhere, but the really beautiful hardcover books you'd find decades ago, with imprints and designs. Anna Karenina came in a wonderful green hard cover, with a protective sleeve whose inside is filled with a list of 365 other classic title. The other two books I found were, unfortunately, not hard cover, but they are beautiful nonetheless.

It's amazing how wonderful it is to be surrounded by books; I've always had a fondness for libraries, but the excitement of possible ownership of any book on any shelf is an entirely different experience (which is probably why I couldn't just stop at one book today).

And I have to say, the self-inflicted isolation is a marvelous break from reality; there is an immense burden that I've alleviated, and it actually allows me to reach out to people I run into much easier than before. I found that my choice to not talk to any friends or force contact with people has only led me to embrace the serendipitous occasions in which I run into someone -- today I found myself gushing to a girl I hadn't talked to since 10th grade. Without constantly checking my cell phone or keeping track of time or people, it's a wonderful release and an opportunity to just be out and about. I'm seriously considering deleting my Facebook and leaving my cell phone at home, and just to get rid of these socially intrusive tools that people use to excuse themselves from really caring about other people (while narcissistically forcing themselves on others with their frivolous status updates).

But at the same time I know that this type of social isolation isn't really a feasible reality. It's impossible to escape interacting with people; after all, I'm in this rat-race-of-a-world too.

Anyways, I am debating whether or not I want to use up another one of my 116 free breaks from this project. This Jamie Lidell album, Multiply, for all its merits, is hard for me to write about, and I don't feel like forcing myself to write something. I am pretty happy about the last two albums I reviewed, but I feel like my project is lacking in a more personal feel; if people were looking for music reviews, it would be more beneficial for them to look at Pitchfork or Popmatters.


Here Comes the Feeling You'd Thought You'd Forgotten

Mount Eerie by the Microphones

It's hard to discuss the Microphones, partially because of my lack of experience with the band. Instead of coming from years of understanding, or even just some prior recognition of Phil Elvrum's work, this marks my first exposure to the Microphones.

And upon first listen, it is immediately clear that this album demands revisiting and space to grow. So while I am reviewing this today, consider this to be the first part in possibly a series, as I will freely admit here that I am bound to be missing the majority of what this album is attempting to achieve.

Mount Eerie is named after the mountain that Elvrum lived by, growing up on Fidalgo Island. The story, succinctly summarized, follows the creation of the world and your birth, and details your ascent up the mountain as death chases you. You reminisce about a girl you once knew, but by the fourth song you are dead, with the vultures picking at your body. However, once you are dead, the universe is revealed to you.

While the story might sound incredibly abstract (honestly bordering on the insincere, and could easily be seen as meaningless), the songs are genuine -- or at the very least, Elvrum's hushed crooning could make you believe it.

It's precisely the music and Elvrum's voice (and perfectly complementing backing vocals) that keeps the story from becoming "a bad Native American tale". The opening track is a daunting 17 minute song, beginning with an almost heartbeat-like throb, slowly evolving into a 10 minute complex drum rhythm and closes with Elvrum bravely singing acapella. From there on Elvrum's hushed, intimately quiet voice rings with sincerity, while his collaborators (Death, vultures, the Universe, and other entities) take their roles seriously, making it more honest and less put-on.

The concept and the honesty of it is admittedly hard to understand. The lyrics border on obsessive on the subject of sight; in "The Sun" Elvrum commands "see me" over and over, though two songs later in "Universe" (the third track) Elvrum questions who is there to see him. In "Mount Eerie", where Elvrum dies, the vultures ask him "Do you see what happens?" as they tear apart his flesh and devour his dead body. And as if in answer, the final track "Universe" (the fifth track) Elvrum finds that "Now that I have disappeared I have my sight".

The album is an unsettling and abstract metaphor of life and loneliness. However it is far from just bizarre or horrifying -- there are moments of hopefulness. The final track is a warm embrace of the universe, with the lines "Oh universe, I see your face looks just like mine/We are wide open". Almost sweetly romantic (but also slightly haunting), "Solar System" expresses a certain type of calm found in reminiscing; Elvrum's loneliness and isolation on the mountain peak is counteracted by the girl's omnipresence in his surrounding, singing "I know you're out there". It's precisely the warmth of the album that makes it ring with sincerity; instead of attempting to create images, it only invites you in to understand.