For Your Love's Better Than Wine

I've been feeling defenseless; you wield your well-forged sentences like a gun, those finely premeditated words hitting me like bullets, hitting the core of every insecurity I ever bared to you.

I can't shape my words to make the sentences that will match yours blow for blow. I lower my head, I take the brunt of your words and let you convince me that I am lowly, rotten, worthless. In my mind you are still the sunshine boy that sat on the grass, smiling shyly in my direction, and I simply cannot push him away.

But I remember that no, I am not defenseless. I may be horrible, worthless, treasonous, but I was never defenseless. I inherited the black rage of my drunken ancestors.

Yes, I used my anger as my only defense; when his words barely brushed my deepest insecurity, my arm rose and slapped him across the face. When the sting of his lazy lies lingered in my ears, the irrational desire to push him to the ground overwhelmed my bloodstream. I stored a notebook full of well-sharpened sentences, ready to use against any person.

How can I blame my mother when she slapped me over and over again, until I was on the ground? We are the same person; where our ancestors' anger with their life's disappointments was cut loose with alcohol, our anger is cut free by our love's vicious words. We share moments when the anger in our bloodstream thunders through us like an earthquake bent on bringing our skeleton down, the anger about to destroy us from the inside.

I carry around my wounds in my chest like a tiny baby, and like a mother's protective rage the violence swells in me, to defend the small inner child in me that will not suffer another harsh word. I can understand, and empathize, I have rationalized why my dad hit my head against the washing machine. But I can't bear the burden of this sadness, this type of defense makes as much sense as nuclear warheads.

So I'll take every bullet you sling me. I won't use the words to cut you down, I won't mimic my ancestors with their penchant for brutality. I will be defenseless, because I would rather feel miserable than carry the weight of our mutually assured destruction.


There Are Powerlines in Our Bloodlines

Picaresque by The Decemberists

I was first familiarized with Colin Meloy's love of storytelling in middle school with Castaways And Cutouts. Though enjoyable, the album was largely overshadowed by "A Cautionary Song". Enjoyable and clever as Meloy's songwriting may be (and as theatrically thrilling as the Decemberists' music is), for the majority of my life I enjoyed the more humorous side of the Decemberists. Picaresque derives its name from a type of fiction that depicts the humorous adventures of a roguish hero who lives by his or her wits in a corrupt society, so my interest was definitely piqued.

True to the Spanish roots of the "picaresque", the album opens with the track "The Infanta" which narrates the coronation of a Spanish princess. Meloy immediately showcases his command of words, managing to use "palanquin", "pachyderm", "phalanx", "folderol" and "chaparral". Though Picaresque doesn't tell the story of a single roguish hero, it features several irresistible characters; in "The Bagman's Gambit" a government official narrates his love affair with a spy. "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is a 9 minute tale of, believe it or not, revenge at sea.

But storytelling aside, The Decemberists are easily just as capable of writing love songs, which they do in bounds. "We Both Go Down Together" details the relationship of star-crossed lovers, while "From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)" uses the common "Mr. Postman, do you have a letter for me?". "The Engine Driver" is sweetly insecure, with Meloy finally telling his lover, "And if you don't love me, let me go". As if in a type of answer, "Of Angels and Angles" is a promise to go down together, singing "There's a tough word on your crossword/There's a bed bug nipping a finger/There's a swallow, there's a calm/Here's a hand to lay on your open palm today".



You Must Be An Illusion (Can I See Through You?)

"Human interaction is fucked up".

I try to stay hopeful, I try to stay "beautiful". I try to take comfort in the fact that the words I write touch other people; there's a possibility that someone I've never met may remember me for the words I've left behind.

So what words have I left behind?

Human interaction is fucked up. I've told the man who took care of me he wasn't my father; he told me I was worthless. I've told the woman who created me she treats me as if she found me in a dumpster; she told me she could have abortioned me.

If I could collect every word in my life, I'd rearrange them into an apology. Or perhaps I'd rearrange them into "I love you".

A girl with a backpack, who carries around tissues with giraffes on them, who writes notes to strangers on the bus. The truth is, she is beautiful, I am not. What notes have I been giving out?

I want to take every word in my life and rearrange them into a house for you and me. To protect you, to keep you warm. I'd use my words for firewood (we'd burn "You're worthless", "I hate you", etc), we'd eat "I love you" soup every night. We'll pull blankets of "You're safe with me" over our heads. I'd stitch "I'm sorry" into all of your clothing. Every morning you'll bathe in "You're beautiful" (the soap "Have I ever told you that?").

That I could never utter a cross word again. That human interaction is fucked up, beautifully fucked up.

I know the truth in your words, now. And I am smiling.


Some Firecrackers Blow Up In Your Hand

Night Falls Over Kortedala by Jens Lekman

Sometimes it's hard to be sincere as an artist. The first time I listened to Night Falls Over Kortedala I kind of thought his music was cheesy; the strings, harps, his baritone, and strange lyrics all seemed incongruent (what exactly are "babies of snow"?). But sincerity is something that Jens is not short of, in the least. There is a rare kind of honesty in the way Lekman takes his life and transforms it into music, unabashedly turning his time spent in Kortedala into an album of pop songs.

The album opens with "And I Remember Every Kiss" and "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar", two songs that seem to be of the same thought. In "And I Remember Every Kiss" Jens sings "And I would never kiss anyone/Who doesn't burn me like the sun/And I remember every kiss/Like my first kiss" over a crescendo of strings, horns and timpani. As if a continuation of a thought, in "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar" Lekman sings "Remember your first kiss?/Well how can I forget" but regrets it, singing "I see myself on my deathbed saying/I wish I would have loved less". But after coming to the resolution of sipping on the sweet nectars of his memories, the album launches right into those memories.

The remaining ten songs on the album span a varying range of situations that Jens makes comically endearing and surprisingly relatable. In "The Opposite of Hallelujah" Jens narrates his (failed) struggle to convey his unending sorrow to his sister, while in "A Postcard to Nina" Jens finds himself in Nina's apartment, posing as her boyfriend and having dinner with her Catholic father to hide Nina's secret relationship with her girlfriend. Jens also describes accidentally cutting off his finger in "Your Arms Around Me", singing about "Shirin", a hairdresser from Iraq, vowing silence (and flirting with a deaf girl in sign language) in "It Was A Strange Time in My Life". Though I'd rarely find myself relating to any of these situations, it's hard to not relate to hearing someone say "It's the opposite of being you/You don't know what I'm going through", or to not be seduced by the encouragement of "Don't let anyone stand in your way". The album ends with "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo", a place that Jens worked in for a short period of time (before immediately deciding he'd rather write music than be on hiatus working in a depressing bingo).

There is no shortage of sentimentality, either. In "Into Eternity" Jens unabashedly admits "If I had to choose a moment of time/To take with me into eternity/I'd choose this moment with you in my arms". In "I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You" he admits he's not in love, and sings "I'm so sorry I couldn't love you enough". "Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig" (meaning "Maybe I'm In Love With You") is easily the sweetest song on the album, in which Jens describes his awkwardness in trying to impress a girl he believes he's in love with, finally singing "I think I'm gonna drop my cool now/The best way to touch your heart is to make an ass of myself".

Nights Fall Over Kortedala is fearlessly sentimental, refreshingly honest and bravely adventurous. Musically, Jens blends an extraordinary range of genres and instruments, from doo wop and motown to beach-party disco, using anything from samples to horns. Though its hard to believe that someone can sing "We could start a little farm with little white bunnies/Just cause watching them copulate is very funny", it's hard not to enjoy it.


Morning Music

I wouldn't exactly call these songs a morning playlist, but there are some songs that I keep returning to. This morning I've been listening to these tracks, in order to start my day off correctly.

Beach House - "Real Love" and "Take Care"
Yeasayer - "O.N.E." and "Madder Red"
Hot Chip - "I Feel Better" and "One Life Stand"
Okkervil River - "For Real" and "Song of Our So-Called Friend"
Devendra Banhart - "A Sight to Behold"
Joanna Newsom - "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie"


The System of Strings Tugs on the Tip of My Wings

I buried your memories last night, words whispered into soil. I walked away, and your phantom didn't follow.

Tonight I remembered the beauty of entropy, the knowledge that just because you exist you affect the universe. I'm gaining confidence, that perhaps if I pluck the strings in my heart I will eventually hit the right chord that will resonate with you.

I can't pretend these wounds aren't here; your vicious words still bite. I can't pretend to forget the sight of my scarf around your neck, you around her.

But I remember when I felt whole. I can keep fumbling to keep myself together, I can let go of this hole in my chest.

I can't love you, but I can love the bit of sidewalk where I came to a standstill and began to cry. You can't be here, but I can still sit next to you on the docks, watching the waves crash against the embankment. I can't remove the scars, I can't make your words go back into your mouth. I can't pretend I didn't use a sharp tongue, that I didn't push you away when we needed to be closer. But every sharp word was only an attempt to hit your sympathy strings. Each stab we took at each other was only another misplayed string from our heart, an attempt to flush out the right chord that would suddenly make us resonate, that would remind us we were two violins in the same room, trying to play the same chord.


I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay just to lift your long face

Ys by Joanna Newsom

I'll be honest, I chose to review Ys thinking that the small amount of tracks would make it easier. And then I discovered nearly every word in Ys is wrapped in meaning. The album title itself is based on a myth of a seaside town, swallowed by the sea as punishment for its debauchery and sin.

While there are only five tracks, each is based on real events in Newsom's life, dressed up in poetry, references, and cryptic imagery. Each song is amazingly dense; to read lyrics and attempt to decipher the true meaning would require much more than just one listen and reading from the CD booklet. 

Though Newsom freely admits each song is based on her personal life, their "true" meaning is often masked. In an interview with Pitchfork, she states:
Basically I wanted to undertake the task of writing songs about a particular year of my life. Not the task of telling that story in a linear way, or in any way that would make the story explicitly knowable to a listener, but rather, to tell the story to myself. I was starting to see a lot of connections, and I wanted to make them more substantial to myself, or at least explore them. Writing these songs was a way to organize my brain and organize these events and how they had affected me. There were four very big things that happened in my life in this particular year, and so four of the songs are about these things. The fifth song, "Only Skin", was an effort to talk about the connections between the events.
The album is marked by its obvious dedication to detail; every song is perfectly crafted to remain true to Newsom's personal vision and story.

Though many may view the album as decadent, or the common argument that Joanna Newsom's voice is annoying, there are those who will enjoy attempting to puzzle out the meanings, look up references, and study her poetry.


Burying Pennies Underneath Our Windows

I'm living with phantoms. Every day I kiss your phantom lips, the ghostly shadow of your cheek resting on mine.

But I'm beginning to forget. I forget the feel of your teeth on my neck, I forgot how it felt when you grabbed me too hard. I forget the times when my body loved you so strongly I knew another piece of me was dying, and the tears that flowed down my cheeks were mourning my death, rejoicing in loving you. 

I don't remember why I ached, why my head would spin every time you walked away. I don't know why it was always the same, happy to have another piece of me die to give room to love you more. I don't remember why I'm still living with your ghost.

I don't want you here anymore. Your ghost does nothing for me but make me more like you. I carry you around with me wherever I go, this ghost that does nothing but pull me down, pull me away. How can I ever let anyone in when you're still breathing down my neck? I can't even be happy with your memories, what memories of ours were ever happy?

Why is your phantom still here? You're at the Redmond library, you drag me around Seattle, you walk past my street every night. Don't stain my city, please.

When we were together all I had of you was your phantom.

I pretended you were there with me when I rode the bus, as I walked among the bookshelves you've never seen. It was your hand that pointed out the books that I wanted. When I walked myself home, you were right next to me, guiding me across the street. When the flock of maple seeds transformed into moths, beating violently along the wind, it was you carrying them along to greet me.

Will you come and fetch me?

But alas, you're only in my mind. I live as though I'm not alone; but where are you, really? I can't chase you in dreams, I can't cross this sea.

In your absence I build you up, until you're no longer you. I have to let you go, because you'll only ever be a ghost to me. I don't want to be in love with a phantom. I don't want to turn you into a phantom either (I whisper, "Don't cool off, I like your warmth").

I'll bury pennies underneath your window frame, so that when you tire of this view and tear it down, you'll see how I wished only the best for you.


Dreaming Seamless Dreams

My Maudlin Career by Camera Obscura

I first listened to My Maudlin Career on a bus heading towards the University of Washington; at the time, I was desperately trying to come out of a two year musical dry spell. The person I cared about most (at the time) was on a plane, flying out of my life, and suddenly Campbell was singing "You pull my heart out and then you run away/From Chicago to Cleveland you leave me pain" and my dry spell was over.

My Maudlin Career is a cleaner, slicker follow up to Let's Get Out of This Country, with the same compelling emotion, sentimentality, and enjoyable, awkward sweetness. Campbell's talent for writing so compellingly about heartache is once again a strong point for the album, with a recurring emotion of not being able to control how strongly she loves someone — in "French Navy" Campbell sings, "I wanted to control it/But love, I couldn't hold it", while in "Honey in the Sun" she elaborates, singing "I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew/But it's as warm as saxophones/And honey in the sun for you". Though there is a wide variation in the setting for each song, the emotion is much more specific, narrating Campbell's many struggles to stay out of love. In "The Sweetest Thing", Campbell finds herself "going on a date tonight/To try to fall out of love with you/I know I know this is a crime/But I don't know what else to do".

Nearly every reason Let's Get Out of This Country deserves to be on a best albums of the decade list applies to My Maudlin Career. Aside from some refinement and growth, both albums stand as awkward, sentimental, witty and charming albums.


I Don't Want To Be Sad Again

Most days my words are unfaithful; as much as I would love to be caught up with this project, and not be blowing through all of the day offs I've allowed myself to take, most days I seriously question my ability to write something worth reading. Surrounded by better writers, I feel almost bashful trying to assert that my words are worth reading.

I honestly don't want to use inadequate words to describe possibly life-changing albums.


Dear Sylvia

"...Delight in life. Ahead is a large array of blind alleys. You are half-deliberately, half-desperately, cutting off your grip on creative life. You are becoming a machine. You cannot love, even if you knew how to begin to love. Every thought is a devil, a hell — if you could do a lot of things over again, ah, how differently you would do them! You want to go home, back to the womb. You watch the world bang door after door on your face, numbly. You have forgotten the secret you knew, once, ah, once, of being joyous, of laughing, of opening doors."        — Sylvia Plath

Beginning when I was four, my family used to take annual trips to Eastern Washington to look at the tulip fields. Large plots of land, stretched out along the highway; red, red, yellow, red, yellow, purple. Walking through acres of flowers chosen for the hidden virus in their gene.

We walked side by side, pretending our arms were made of wax. I'd shape your arm and you'd hold your position like a faithful mannequin. You walked ahead of us, his arm wrapped around your waist, stealing the bulb of a tulip that caught your eye.

It's spring soon, and I know we're not going back. The polaroids are gone, tucked away from the sun, tucked away from our eyes. I know you don't remember the gel in his hair, his toothpaste commercial smile; the sunglasses are off, he hasn't shaved in weeks and all you see is the disappointment you've buried for the last ten years. I know you don't look at the bright lipstick, her dainty clothing so carefully picked out, her hair meticulously styled so that not a strand will be out of place; instead there stands a woman whose constant demands you never seem to meet, whose disappointment in you has gotten so tiresome you can't even care anymore.

In my dreams, everything exists on parallel planes. As you sit in that dark, stifled room, straining your eyes to read those stupid numbers, in my mind you're still walking hand in hand. But I know that you're also in your truck on Christmas Day, racing towards Minnesota. I know you're standing at the doorway, watching the cops escort him from our house. The suitcases are being packed twelve different times, on twelve different nights. He's sleeping in four different motels. She's sitting in her too-big armchair, crying until she's nearly blind, too many times to count.

We're trapped in our ways. As a family our love has aged, fermented. The smell of the dirt, the abrasive wind, the slowly dragging hours are all costs too high for the old skeleton of our love to hold up. In my mind the fields are frozen, the bulbs are sleeping. I'll pretend the tulips aren't in bloom, waiting for us to return.


It's Alright, The Camera's Talking

Give Up by the Postal Service

There are certain albums that will forever be linked to sleep with me: Fall of Troy's Doppelganger, The Shins' Chutes Too Narrow and this album here. I don't mean that these albums put me to sleep; rather, there were a particular handful of albums that I enjoyed listening to in detail. Laying in bed, with nothing else to distract me, it was an opportunity to grow with an album, something that feels especially rare considering how disposable songs or albums feel today in this download culture (Ed Droste knows what I'm talking about).

Most people are familiar with the Postal Service's background; a collaboration that produced "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" evolved into a full-fledged album. Tamborello and Gibbard recorded their portions individually, and mailed them back and forth, leading to the name, The Postal Service (and saving this name from later legal trouble by allowing the U.S. Postal Service to use their music for their commercials).

Understandably, this album is necessarily popular for its more romantic lyrics; "Such Great Heights", "Nothing Better" and "Brand New Colony" are obvious heart-warmers. The strongest part of the album, however, is the consistently solid melodies Gibbard provides, and the enjoyable glitches Tamborello contributes. 

And just in case this review is as badly written as I think it is: Pitchfork.


And I really miss what really did exist

Black Sheep Boy by Okkervil River

I've heard of Okkervil River for years, but it was just one of those bands that I knew everyone liked but I personally didn't actually see any need to listen to. After a decade of listening to guitar-heavy music from the 90s, by the mid-Noughties I was ready for something different — primarily anything with less guitars. And so Okkervil River was brushed aside.

And by now, I believe that we're all tired of me complaining about the television, about the everyday sounds of living (perhaps you'd rather live in a mausoleum, Amanda). I think that I've finally accepted the only real solution: stay up all night listening to music. Not that I don't already do this already, but I will have to attempt it with the disadvantage of not being able to look up lyrics or having my friends from Pitchfork, Sputnikmusic, and Popmatters helping me along.

Stay up I did, and thankfully so. I finally laid down and listen to Okkervil River, initially like a paralyzed person with no other choice, but quickly won over by Sheff's concept (about a black sheep boy, surprisingly).

While Black Sheep Boy doesn't read like a storybook or even follow a plot, the concept album nonetheless presents a very compelling character, who is simultaneously dark and sentimental. In "For Real", Sheff angrily sings of his thirst for blood; "In A Radio Song" finds Sheff singing "We're fucked, we're fucked, we're fucked" and commanding us to sing along. Towards the core of the album, however, the black sheep boy reveals his more sentimental side, with songs like "A King and A Queen" and "A Stone", using images of castles and fairytales (though he'll still admit that he's "going fucking insane"). 

I'm not sure how well people would relate to a song about transforming into a ram; however, the sheer humanness of the lyrics makes these songs worth listening. Emotionally Sheff ranges from sheer madness to resignation, sadness, and heartbreak. He writes compellingly of unrequited love, of a girl too preoccupied in loving a "stone" (my favorite depiction of this in the lines: "And I think that I know the bitter dismay of a lover who brought/fresh bouquets every day/when she turned him away/to remember some knave/who once just one rose, one day, years ago"). In "For Real" Sheff explores our insulation from reality and our subsequent fixation with it.

If concept albums aren't really your cup of tea, it's easy enough to love Black Sheep Boy for its beautiful melodies, its heartwarming sentimentality, its invigorating and compelling madness, and above all the joy of a band hitting its stride.



No music today. Not new music, not old music. No music today.

I got a new pair of headphones from Sennheiser, so hearing the music isn't the problem (I'm beginning to understand I'll never escape the Mandarin filtering into this room from the television, or the constant talking that goes on in my house).

There's things you inherit, residual memories, feelings, responses. They aren't yours, but they weigh you down all the same.

Am I ridiculous for admitting that I've inherited my mother's love of being chased? When I ran away that day, I could see her, a mischievous smirk on her face as she ran through that meadow. When I fell, and you weren't there to catch me, I saw her turn around and realize he wasn't chasing her -- at that moment, we both shared the same expression of disappointment, the same sharp pain in the chest.

I know you, you were beautiful. You were ageless.

Now that you're aging, are you the same?


Summer Hymns, You Need Some Luvv

Voice Brother and Sister by Summer Hymns

Really, I don't think I've ever been more thankful that I started this project. Because otherwise I simply never would've known about Summer Hymns, or that I needed to hear them. As the bulk of their good music happened to take place before 2003 (and they haven't released anything new in four years), I might have gone my entire life without ever hearing about them, as I'm sure a lot of other people will.

Summer Hymns, you really need some luvv.

The first half of the album is probably the stronger half, with tracks like "Beginning To See" and "Mr. Brewer (Cackle, Cackle)". "New Underdressment" would be the center of the album, a long 7 minutes of psychedelic folk.

What exactly makes them so good? Really not much. They're just enjoyable; while other psychedelic folk bands focus on making layers upon layers of noise, Summer Hymns doesn't sacrifice happy and warm music for the genre. And if you're really curious, just ask Pitchfork, they've loved Summer Hymn's first three albums.


Heavier Boots

Rounds by Four Tet

I can't remember how Four Tet came to be in my music library, but the why's and how's are not nearly as important as the gratuitous luck that it is in my music library. I honestly can't talk music like other people do. There isn't much that I can actually say about Rounds that someone else couldn't say better. The most basic point: Kieran Hebden makes the warmest, happiest fucking music you'll ever hear made on a computer.

Today I happen to be wearing even heavier boots than yesterday, and Rounds makes them a little bit lighter. The opener, "Hands" is full of happy little percussive tinkles, while "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth" drifts along with its piano twinkles and iron-lung sighs. The opus of Rounds, "Unspoken" lasts a good 9 and a half minutes, and instead of sagging under its own weight, it manages to keep itself from feeling repetitive or boring. "As Serious As Your Life" is not as deadly as it sounds, with the guitar and drums playing a prominent role in the song.

There really isn't much that Four Tet has done that I haven't enjoyed. Of course there's always the fact that he just uses so many different genre styles, so that every album is like rediscovering an old friend and seeing how they've changed. But beyond that, Hebden simply has an uncanny way of feeling immediate rather than spacial; while M83 may feel cinematic, Sigur Ros may induce hallucinations of glaciers and snowy fields, and Air or Radiohead or all manners of other electronic bands may make spacially wonderful but isolating music, Hebden's electronic style always feels acoustic and warm.

Out of the majority of the music that I've forced myself to listen to, or the music that I've enjoyed for moments in time, Four Tet has always been more durable and the most enjoyable.


Heavy Boots

Today I managed to find a first edition of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Other finds were Everything is Illuminated, also by Foer, and a wonderful hardcover book of Through the Looking Glass.

I wish there was something worthwhile I could write, so that I could have an excuse for having heavy boots, not wanting to talk about music, or write at all.

All I can think of is the realization that for the majority of my life I imagined myself a writer; perhaps not as a career, but as a part of me, that I could write was something I always believed in. But I am surrounded by books and music and other people, all of which are better than me. The only reason being, I don't bother to open myself up. And why would I? Opening myself up would be like cutting open a bag full of garbage, the stink and rot pouring out. I can't even figure out if I'm an optimistic or a pessimistic, if I'm a cynic or a realist or an idealist.

It'd be nice to be like Oskar Schell, if only I could travel around the city talking to people, play a tambourine when I'm scared, describe myself as having heavy boots, and invent such beautiful things all the time. It worries me that I aspire to be a 9 year old.


Sweet Confusion, You'll Be My Only Child

Writer's Block by Peter, Bjorn and John

I'll be honest here, you probably won't find Writer's Block on any Top Albums of the Noughties of any established, respected, or professional music lists that were compiled at the tail end of last year. This was a purely selfish add-on made by yours truly, because in the end I just felt like putting a thoroughly enjoyable album on my list. It's the least I get for attempting to listen to Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. (You may hush your boos because no one cares.)

I imagine that today, Peter Bjorn and John must regard "Young Folks" as the song with the whistle they simply cannot escape; in their desire to record songs that would be instant pop classics, they may very well have spawned the pop song from hell, something that was so catchy that the rest of the album (and possibly the rest of their careers) was overshadowed. After the umpteenth time I heard "Young Folks" playing on the intercom of JCPenney, I had basically vowed to swear off Peter Bjorn and John. And yet Writer's Block continued to exist in some far corner of my music library, waiting for me to listen to it. So when I finally did, I almost felt punished by how good it was. The fact that I waited three years before ever hearing "The Chills" or "Up Against the Wall" seemed like a crime.

But let's not wax hyperbolic; the most enjoyable aspect of Writer's Block is mainly the fact that it is one of those few albums that sing about love and pull it off. They manage to capture not only the excitement of new romance, but craft songs of the slow downfall of a relationship with just as much care. (If I may gravitate towards the unhappier side of the album, favoring "Let's Call It Off", "Amsterdam", "The Chills" and "Up Against the Wall", it may simply be because moodier songs are naturally precipitous and more enjoyable for me). 

Ultimately, Writer's Block is one of the most enjoyable pop albums you may hear, without eventually grating your nerves. What makes it a classic is its flexibility, as it almost seems to offer no end to soundtracking the various facets of love.



( ) by Sigur Rós

When ( ) came out, it was met with some extreme criticism; it's hard not to criticize. An album with an unpronounceable title, eight tracks that officially have no actual name, and a twelve-page booklet of blank pages. Lyrics, which would already have only meant gibberish anyways, are basically the exact same throughout the entire album, with only slight variations and breaking down of the syllables (it only deviates from the same "You sigh low" mantra a couple times the entire album), so even that sheds very little illumination. It's hard not to be angry; is their silence an extreme act of self-assurance of the fact that their fans are too busy hallucinating glaciers that they won't care if the band doesn't even try anymore?

But when it comes down to it, with Sigur Rós it really doesn't matter. We've already accepted that we aren't necessarily going to understand what they're really trying to tell us. If anything, ( ) is truly gratuitous for the listener -- if you've ever listened to Sigur Rós, you've already been projecting yourself into their music long before ( ) came out, and with the band's complete silence on meanings or even names, it's a chance for the listener to emote with the music guilt-free.

If there are any true faults with ( ), it may very well be the seventh track. A formidable 13 minutes, its long and arduous build up ends up mostly sputtering and dying, rather than building up to anything. After already sticking it out for 47 minutes (the last 20 of them already spent on tracks with the same build-up/emotional explode formula), the seventh track really does nothing more than grate on the ears. But it's hard to stay angry with Sigur Rós for long, as immediately after we come to the very last track, which is heads above the rest of the album. Possibly one of their liveliest tracks ever, the build up erupts into a frenzy of guitars and drums.

In the end, we all know this to be true: we listen to Sigur Rós to feel what we're already feeling. When we're happy, in love, needing to cry, wanting to feel angry and frustrated, there are very few bands that come close to Sigur Rós when we need to project ourselves into what we listen to. If music is made to touch other people, then these people are legend.


I'll Gamble Away My Time

The Flying Club Cup by Beirut

There are certain bands or musicians you'll always remember. No one forgets the first time they heard music: when a single word, or the twang of a guitar ripped through your previous understanding of "music" and left in its wake something nostalgia may very well transform in your mind as legend. For me, Beirut's The Flying Club Cup may very well be the first album that made me love music all over again. I had spent about two years in a musical dry spell, and when Condon sung "Oh it's been a long time since I've seen you smile" I felt like I had just woken up.

Part of what made the album really reach me was the La Blogotheque videos of each track.