Archive for February, 2011

Clipfile update and 2008 concert memories.

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

you know when you give someone an apology along with your web link? “Oh, here’s my web site, but it’s horribly out of date.” Yeah, that’s been me for the past three or four years. I’ve got something like 250 articles/reviews that aren’t on my writing page, not to mention hundreds of photos that I haven’t put up yet either. (I started a redesign of my photos page back in 2007. Someday, maybe I’ll finish it.)

So I’m gradually chipping away at the list of writing that’s not yet online; here are six pieces (3 new CD reviews, 3 old concert reviews) that I’ve added up to my online clipfile:
• Concert review: Built to Spill at the 9:30 club, performing Perfect From Now On – 23 September 2008 (the Washington Post)
• Concert review: Jimmy Eat World and Paramore at the American University Bender Arena – 26 April 2008 (the Washington Post)
• Concert review: Rascal Flatts at Nissan Pavilion – 26 July 2008 (the Washington Post)
• CD Review: the Concretes: WYWH (Friendly Fire, 2010)the Washington Post
• CD Review: Eilen Jewell: Butcher Holler: a Tribute to Loretta Lynn (Signature Sounds, 2010)the Washington Post
• CD Review: Sarah McLachlan: Laws of Illusion (Arista, 2010)the Washington Post

Not sure if I’ll update this blog every time I do a clipfile update, but it is kind of cool and weird to go back and read stuff I wrote 3 or 4 years ago.

I remember writing that Rascal Flatts review in the back seat of my car– the parking lot at Nissan Pavilion takes forever to empty out, so it was a way to kill time– and not realizing that the whole parking lot had finally emptied out until a security guard came and knocked on my window to find out what the hell I was still doing, sitting in the back seat of a car in the middle of an empty parking lot. I also remember talking to the mother of the teenager with the Rascal Flatts lyrics tattooed across her back, that I cited in that review.

I remember running into a friend of mine on the way in to that Built to Spill show (someone I don’t think I’ve seen since that night, now that I think about it) and pushing our way up to the very front nook of the balcony at the 9:30 club, which is one of my favorite places to watch a show in that club.

I remember walking to the Bender Arena from the metro– it’s a lot longer of a walk than I’d anticipated, which would’ve been fine except for the rain. And it kinda made me feel like I was in high school again, watching a rock concert in a basketball arena.

Earth (and how I listen to music)

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Today I listened to the new Earth album, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 (Southern Lord, 2011), thanks to the stream over at

But any new Earth album had to start with a visit back to 2008’s outstanding The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord), my #1 record of that year. That album really captures a moment for me; I listened to it over and over when I was living in Los Angeles in January of 2008. It wasn’t the greatest time in my life: After a debilitating breakup, I just wanted to get out of town, so I accepted a couple of projects for my dayjob that sent me travelling for four months continuously, bouncing back and forth between northern Alberta, Canada, and Los Angeles. I thought that the travel would help– a change of scenery, an opportunity to get out of DC and my apartment and not have to see all the things that might stir up bad memories– but it had the opposite effect. I spent those four months completely numb (quite literally so: it was -40 F in northern Canada while I was up there) and disassociated from my friends and life back home. I have some fantastic friends in LA who kept me grounded while I was there, but living out of a suitcase for months at a time is never easy, and it’s certainly not the way to try to heal a bruised heart.

And then there was that Earth record. I listened to it over and over and over again in my little rental car (one does a lot of driving in SoCal, it turns out), and it channeled something for me. I couldn’t put it into words then, and I probably can’t now either, but it captured my attention and it calmed me in a way that nothing else to that point had been able to.

I’ve touched here before about how my listening habits changed when I started writing about music (check how I wrote about Silkworm‘s 2002 album Italian Platinum, here). That 2002-2003 timeframe is when I turned from a music fan into a serious music writer– and therefore, a music consumer– and the changes to my listening habits are huge. Albums released before that time conjure very specific memories: Spoon‘s Girls Can Tell (Merge, 2001) was the soundtrack to my move out of Texas; Britt Daniel might’ve written “Anything You Want” about a woman, but my ears hear my breakup with the city of Austin: I took my half of the beer with me when I moved to DC, and I still get a little choked up thinking about the traffic light on the corner by the (now-defunct) Sound Exchange. Songs: Ohia‘s The Lioness (Secretly Canadian, 2000) reminds me of a weekend spent in NYC with a boy I never dated (but probably should have), Low‘s I Could Live in Hope (Vernon Yard, 1994) got me through countless allnighters in college, and Soul Coughing‘s Ruby Vroom (Warner Brothers, 1994) gave me an escape from a miserable senior year in high school.

But now, I listen to music differently. I don’t get the luxury of listening to one album for weeks at a time; it’s now listen!-react!-moveon!, over and over and over again. I’m constantly asked for my reactions and thoughts on new albums– and I love having those conversations, don’t get me wrong, but keeping up with new music could be a full-time job; most days, I wish it were mine, but it’s not, which means I almost need to make even faster reactions since I don’t get to spend all my time on it.

What all this means, though, is that when I do make connections to albums, they become all the more intense. Back in 2008, even as early as January, there was no question that that Earth record was going to be my #1 album of the year; there may have been better albums released that year, but none was more powerful or meaningful to me than that one– music is all about capturing and evoking emotions, and that’s what that record does. Even when I listen to it now, though, I don’t think about the pain I was feeling at the time; instead, I hear only the calming effect that it had (and still has) on me.

I wish I could say that things have gotten better in the three years since I was living in LA, but this past January reminded me that some demons still cast their long shadows over the bruises that remain. Thank goodness, then, for another Earth record to pull me through the darkness into a calmer place.

January 2011 Concert round-up

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

It always happens: I start every year with concert enthusiasm, then lose it when February rolls around. Still, it does make for a good January, so here’s a rundown of some of the best/worst of the month:

Best way to start the year: Jucifer. First concert of the year in 2009, 2010, and 2011. 11 January @ the Black Cat backstage.

Best percussion: the thunderous force of Kylesa‘s dueling drummers. 20 January @ the Black Cat backstage.

Best cover: Eli “Paperboy” Reed‘s take on “Ace of Spades” [Motörhead]. 15 January @ Rock & Roll Hotel.

Best guest: Victor Griffin of Pentagram joining King Giant for a cover of Skynyrd’s “The Needle and the Spoon” (video here). 29 January @ the State Theatre.

Best tears: I’ll admit it: Lyle Lovett‘s “If You Were To Wake Up” brought me to tears; then I went home and learned to play it on guitar. The friend who came with me to this show forbade me from ever listening to two Lovett songs in a row, for my own mental health (an order I’ve since ignored, by the way). 18 January @ the Birchmere.

Worst crowd: sold-out IOTA for Eilen Jewell. I’m happy IOTA has expanded– don’t get me wrong– but a full house of talking fans sure does make it hard to hear an artist perform. 21 January @ IOTA.

Earliest show: Who would’ve thought a 7-band Saturday night metal lineup at the Ottobar would end by 10 PM? Sorry, kids, totally stinks to have a curfew. 22 January @ the Ottobar.

Cutest Swede: Lisa Milberg of the Concretes. (Perhaps not fair, since there were no other Swedes this month….) 25 January @ the Rock & Roll Hotel.

Favorite local band: Night and the City (and yes, totally cheating, since they’re all friends of mine, but whatever). 17 January @ the Velvet Lounge.