Try To Breathe As The World Disintegrates

TV On The Radio released a new album today (Monday). I saw them last night (Sunday) at the 9:30 Club, and it was excellent. But let me back up.

I’ve seen TV On The Radio 3 times by my count (as if any other count matters) – once in Boston, once in San Francisco, and now in DC. The Boston show was excellent, but the San Francisco show in 2011 struck me as rather sad. Well, of course it did – the bassist passed away from lung cancer about 20 days before the show, and I couldn’t imagine trying to entertain the SF yuppie crowd after going through THAT. But let me back up.

Sophomore year in high school, some kid gave me Hum’s Downward is Heavenward. This album remains one of my favorite albums of all time, a space-rock epic in which the songs all sound like the future instead of a collection of easily decipherable instruments played in a studio or a garage or whatever. Radiohead then dropped OK Computer and everyone understood that sentence I just wrote. Textures, other-worldly sounds – a huge departure from The Blue Album or The Colour and The Shape.

Fast-forward a couple more years and Zach lightly recommends an LP (not quite an album, but longer than an EP, ugh remember all these terms?) from some band called TV On The Radio. I ignored his recommendation at my own peril. Then 2006 rolls around and Return to Cookie Mountain and all that spaced out future-rock is back, except with a tighter connection to the realities of the human condition.

So, TVoTR was making all this excellent other-worldly beautiful music full of textures and significantly lacking obvious guitar parts, and then their world exploded in April 2011.

And then today their new album comes out, and last night at the 9:30 Club they started their all-around excellent set with … “Young Liars”, track 4 of their 2003 EP that was released before Return To Cookie Mountain, before their first album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, before all of it. And then they ripped into the rest of the set. And then it was fucking amazing.

Let me be clear – I’ve been listening to Seeds on repeat for the last week straight and I am far from tired of it. It is an excellent album from a band that just keeps making excellent albums, full of songs that don’t sound like prototypical songs but are at the same time so very dance-pop. TV On The Radio went away for a few years, for which no one could blame them, and they came back with a fucking epic. And instead of immediately demanding that the DC crowd humor these new songs, they went back to the beginning.

And then they built it all back up right in front of us.

And it was awesome.

Life is what it is – it’s hard but easy, and challenges come up all the time. Sadness fits me like a glove, and so it seems difficult to step past challenges – it is easy to call life hard in a way. Seeing this excellent band come back to form by doing exactly the easy thing in front of them – make a fuckin’ record, make the best goddamn version of the music they already have made – when sadness was easier, when saying the very easiest, most natural thing for this band to do may have been too hard – and then to take this amazing thing they made and remember that it wasn’t some sort of standalone accomplishment but fits naturally within all their accomplishments – well, well-played, TV On The Radio. Well fuckin’ played.

Basically, sometimes shit seems hard. It seems really fuckin’ impossible. But then you see a real good show by this real good band that somehow remained really good through some actual difficulties, and you realize that maybe, just maybe you are making shit harder than it needs to be. Those things you thought were easy actually took more effort than just, you know, enjoying life.

And then you just have to hope it isn’t too late, and maybe you can build it all back up right in front of us. Because, shit, that’s what you’ve been doing this whole time.

Re: The Rocker’s Dilemma

My friend Zach wrote a post about a long quote from Dave Grohl the other day, and I think it is worth responding to. I want to defend Dave Grohl a little bit, which is going to require a little bit of interpreting of his words but bear with me, because I think some subtlety is being blown by and a good point is being missed. First, go read Zach’s post and come back when you’re ready to argue.

Zach doubles as an Internet/basement-based musician, equalszee. equalszee has release two albums and various other tracks to the Internet with little more than Zach teaching himself Logic Pro and BitTorrent. So, I’m pretty sympathetic to the idea that Dave Grohl’s dismissal of needing a computer or the Internet to be a musician strikes Zach as out of touch. Frankly, it is out of touch, but I think Dave (Mr. Grohl? no, fuck that) is conflating two unrelated things and is making a point in a pretty lousy way.

Dave Grohl just wants kids to enjoy the journey and not think there are shortcuts to being superstars. More to the point, there is a massive sense of entitlement with music now – you should be instantly successful, you should be on TV, you should be releasing music online that spreads around the Internet like wildfire (virality woo!) – you should win, immediately, yesterday, no seriously why haven’t you won yet?

This, to me, is what the quote is about. It is about the journey. It is about having fun and trying hard and having fun and not worrying about success. Yeah, Nirvana got lucky and massively famous because a music executive decided to push an entire ethos on a bunch of teenagers, but the quote isn’t about how to become Nirvana. The quote is about the right approach, the right mindset that you should take into making music. You shouldn’t make music to become famous and you shouldn’t go into the entire endeavor with expectations of singing on national TV in front of whoever the hell is still judging American Idol. You should grab whatever you can and have fun with it and if you like it keep doing it and if you don’t go do something that you actually like doing. Maybe you become Nirvana, maybe you don’t – but fuck, at least you are having fun.

Until you become Nirvana and hate all that that entails, I guess. Too soon?

equalszee finally drops a full-length album

my buddy zach, aka equalszee, just dropped his first full-length album.  you can download it for free on his blog.

so, full disclosure: i helped on the mixing of some of this album, mostly technical issues.  i also made the cover art.  and i yelled at zach for most of the two years he was working on the album to keep working on the album.  so i am pretty close to the creative process here, but to counter my disclosure, those of you who know me know that i pretty much have no problem telling people if something they did, are doing, or will do sucks.

all that being said, this album is pretty awesome.  it’s quick, it doesn’t take a track off (except for K over L, suck it zach), and it definitely brings something to the rock-pop conversation.  it’s too bad, because zach isn’t going to put that much effort into getting it out there so it might toil in obscurity, but you can easily help change that.  go download a couple tracks, share with your friends if you like it, and force zach to do something more than just passively put out music every 2 years.

one very good way to show people that the RIAA and its bully tactics have no place in the 21st century is to take advantage of good, free, home-made music and listen to it and share it and find it and promote it.  it’s also a great way to listen to modern rock-pop albums that are soaking in ’90s nostalgia (for example).

later this week i’ll recap sundance 2012, where i am now and where things are AWESOME.

music, new and not so new

a quick list of things that i’m listening to and you should be listening to also (in that i can recommend these things):

male bonding – nothing hurts

i saw the video for “year’s not long” the other day on stereogum. the video is … well, whatever. it degenerates into dudes making out, which i wouldn’t consider noteworthy except for the force with which these dudes make out. this is, of course, the point of the video. and tangential to how awesome i find this noise-pop to be.

paul simon – graceland

talk about being late to the party.

passion pit – manners

late to the party here, but not quite as egregious. it’s slowly grown on me since i first bothered to listen, to the point where i feel obligated to tell people that yes, i am one of those people who likes passion pit.

japandroids – post-nothing

i’ve been pimping this album to anyone i can since i started listening to it, but i guess i never really mentioned it here. maybe because i disappeared from here for a while. regardless, AWESOME. i like all these bands who listened to my bloody valentine but then were like “let’s make it rock”

deftones – diamond eyes

i’ll stop here for now. diamond eyes is the platonic ideal of an album from an established band. the deftones have been around since i was in middle school pumping out awesome, evolving hard rock. they’ve taken a leap with this album, where they combined the best elements of previous works and produced something so awesome that it brings their previous works into a new, better light. let me say that again in a different way – this album makes their past albums sound better. think about how incredible an accomplishment that is and then go listen.

two separate but equal points

1a) the first two seasons of the west wing are latched into my brain.  i love the pacing, i love the writing, i love everything about it, but it always leaves me feeling that i should be doing more, or at least that i should be trying to do more.  which maybe is more than most.  but still not enough.  or something.

2b) i’m starting my music library over.  i would like suggestions on how to organize my music.  now that i’m starting over, i mean.  clean slate.

i mean it’s all very depressing.  this is what happens when i’m left alone for 3 months.

update: i went with letting itunes manage my music.  talk about depressing.