My intention has been for SPF to be at best, a semi-regular feature here at Words Matter. If not necessarily a fresh post every Friday, certainly a couple of posts per month on one of my favorite subjects—music—I never intended to drop the ball for three weeks, however.
A lot has happened since I last posted my last SPF. Ironically, my last SPF three weeks ago found me repping the number three, as in Joel Plaskett’s triple record, the triply delightful Three.
Over the past 21 days, I joined a gym, have lost a few more pounds, and I’m not too pleased to mention that my home state decided to dubiously embrace its state motto of Dirigo (means, “I lead”) by becoming the first state to reject a gay-marriage law that was approved by the legislature and signed by our governor—same-sex couples are now second class citizens in our state. Music, as always continues to provide support, inspiration, and a soundtrack by which to navigate this veil of tears.
Poker Rapper-Squeeze Play/10 Card Commandments
Poker Rapper, aka J. Taka, is married to my niece. To me, he’s simply been JT. Little did I know that this always funny, and sometimes retiring member of my extended family was destined to become a poker legend.
By day, he’s a network engineer, IT geek (in the best sense of the word), and all-around good guy, but when the night falls, he’s a poker rapping fool. He now has a new mixtape/CD out, announcing to the world that he knows how to squeeze, stall, and grind with the best of them.
Actually, JT (as I’ll forever know him, blowing up, or not) is no stranger to Maine hip-hop fans, the creator/founder of longtime online hip-hop oasis, Appleton Radio.
I ordered the disc two weeks ago and had it sitting around on my stereo. Two days ago, I threw it into my CD player upstairs and began blasting it during a treadmill session. The 10 tracks got me through my workout and then some.
Bisson obviously knows his stuff, as he recently proved by winning a trip to the Aruba Poker Classic via Ultimate Bet, and having the chance to rap, and also sit at the table with some of the legends (all verified in the best journalistic fashion by asking his wife) of poker.
Pick up the disc (or download from the site) and Bisson will have you talking poker smack like a true champion.
The Hold Steady-Chill Out Tent/Boys and Girls in America
In May 2007, I made a trip back to Indiana, scene of my fundamentalist train wreck some 20 years earlier. I chronicled the “Pleasantville” qualities of my first day, and subsequent observations returning to the land of Hyles.
Tucked into my suitcase were six CDs I had brought with me, one of them being The Hold Steady’s BAGIA, which became the soundtrack for my daily journeys, first exploring NW Indiana’s post-industrial wasteland, and later in the week, when I journeyed across farm country, to Fort Wayne, reconnecting with an old Bible school buddy, now pastoring an inner-city church, while engaged in many interesting entrepreneurial ventures in another post-industrial Midwestern hub.
I’ve written before about the lyrical genius of Craig Finn, and his former band, the legendary Lifter Puller. The Hold Steady, Finn’s current focus, are a band that are destined to be under-appreciated by fickle rock connoisseurs, a band that Pitchfork accurately (in my opinion) characterizes as sounding better “sandwiched between "Born to Run" and "Back in Black" than Illinois and Tigermilk. In other words, the more likely you are to use music as a social lubricant than as a social balm, the more likely you are to enjoy the Hold Steady.” What that means, I think, is that The Hold Steady get shunned by some in the indie scene because they aren’t weird, or quirky, or lack any historical context for their music. Instead, Finn writes literate lyrics that tell stories about people we all know, and the band packs a wallop, equally capable of carrying off their rockmanship in a club setting, or an arena.
‘Tis the nature of today’s fragmented world of rock and roll.
This particular tune, which captures the day in the life of two disparate characters—the college girl from Bowdoin and the working class stiff, who takes the day off, “his first day off in forever, man,” who shows up at the musical festival in “western Mass.,” probably Amherst, and how their two worlds of polar opposites and separate social classes get shoved together when both O.D. during one of the musical sets.
The Bowdoin Girl:
there was a stage and a PA up in western massachuttes,and the kids came from miles around to get messed up on the music.and she drove down from Bowdoin with a carload of girlfriends,to meet some boys and maybe eat some mushroomsand they did and she got sickand now she's pinned and way too shaky.she don't wanna tell the doctor everything she's takenthe paramedics hovered over her like a somber mourning familythey gave her activating charcoal, they flooded her with saline
The Working Class Stiff:
he was rough around the edges:he'd been to school, but never finished,he'd been to jail, but never prison.it was his first day off in forever, manthe festival seemed like a pretty good plan,cruise some chicks and get a sun-tan.and his friend gave him four, but said only take one,but then he got bored and ended up taking all four.ah, so now my man ain't that bored anyways,the paramedics found him: he was shaking on the side of the stage.
And then the chorus:
Him (the boy):"Everything was spinning and I came to in the chillout tent,they gave me oranges and cigarettes."Her (the girl):"I got really hot and then I came to in the chillout tent"Both:"They gave us oranges and cigarettes."
Great, great song, and just one of many Finn masterpieces across a career that will one day be lionized I’m sure, posthumously.
Simon Scott-Spring Stars/Navigare
Simon Scott once drummed for Slowdive, one of those great turn-of-the-90s bands, in the same vein as Galaxy 500, My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, and a host of others that got lumped in as being “shoegazer.”
Slowdive’s Souvlaki, which came out in 1993, was voted by the Guardian as “one of the top 50 albums to hear before you die,” in 2007. Quite heady praise, indeed.
Scott has a new solo record out, and this track, first heard on Irene Trudel’s weekly two hours of wonder on WFMU, features a nice slide guitar carrying the melody, and the song has a textural quality that works well.
I actually found an interesting music site that includes an interesting track-by-track analysis of the record by Scott.
In-Flight Safety-Model Homes/We Are An Empire
In keeping with my Canadian musical fixation of late, In-Flight-Safety gives me no reason to abandon that orientation.
“Model Homes” is possessed by a plaintive, mournful melody that speaks volumes, connecting personally with me to where I’m at, where I’ve come from, and possibly where I’m headed.
Good songwriting has the capacity to speak to people across a variety of experiences, and I think this tune is one of those songs that does that very well. Based in musically fertile Halifax, IFS create atmosphere and textures with their sound.
John Mullane, IFS’s vocalist describes their sound as “cinematic.” Since I love cinema, and I dig their sound, I’d say he’s done a good job with that description.
The band’s been around since 2003 and We Are An Empire indicates that the best is yet to come.
Yo La Tengo-Periodically Double or Triple/Popular Songs
YLT are indie rock royalty. Popular Songs is album #16 for the band over their 25-year career. That’s a lifetime given that most bands outside of rock’s limelight rarely put out a second, or a third record.
It’s rare in underground rock’s fragmented universe of musical schizophrenia, to find a band that consistently produces good to great music every time they come out with a new release. There are few other bands that occupy that rarefied status—possibly Sonic Youth, and maybe Built to Spill—certainly few others with the track record and consistency of YLT.
I can never get enough of Ira Kaplan’s guitar wankery, particularly when it is accompanied by James McNew’s soaring organ. On this one, however, there is a more subdued approach, at least at the beginning. This particular track features McNew’s funk organ swirls on a Motown-influenced groove. The last three tracks ratchet up the noise and allow the trio to stretch out, clocking in at 9:39, 11:25, and the epic closer, “All The Glitter Is Gone,” with a track length of 15:54.
It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago that I first saw the band for free, playing one of the lounges at Bowdoin College. It appears that the band’s lost nothing with over time, continuing to defy the tendency to become a parody, or nostalgia act, a scourge for many of their aging rock peers.