Monday, May 10, 2010

Pure joy.

My niece in a recent giggle fit. This is the kind of pure joy that makes life beautiful. Her smile erases every worry in my head...and makes me feel confident that there's a lot of good around us. I had to share.

Excuse the poor video quality. I filmed it on my phone while we waited for take-out :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One more thing for now: Rock your socks off (because it's sandal weather anyway)!

Allow me some ceremony with this. Humor me.

I offer you my official "anticipation of the full-blown summer" playlist. Now, now, of course I won't be looping these fifteen songs over and over again for the next month (though my most recent roommate would argue that I very well might). But it's a perfect sampling of the stuff that has rejuvenated me lately. These are the songs I've belted out in my car, to the chagrin of both my passengers and, this past weekend, fellow drivers along the I-20 corridor. Some of it's new-ish, some just new to me, and a few are shameless throw-backs.

I recommend all of these full albums, so Paste Magazine-search them, or itunes-them up for further research. Here's what I got:

1) Broken Bells, "Your Head is On Fire" (Broken Bells); This may be one of the first occasions in MY music history that I've caught on to a great new band just as they're strikin' it up pretty "indie big." The whole album is delicious, but I love how this song breaks down/re-starts at 00:41. They're on tour right now; Athens folks, they're at the 40 Watt on June 11th (have an ice cold PBR Tall Boy for me, puhlease).

2) Band of Horses, "Our Swords" (Everything all the Time); This is a song from their first full-length album four years ago, so yep, it's kinda old news. But I saw them play a couple of weeks ago, the show was excellent, and this song surprised me live because I never cared about it on the album. Lyrics are a bit morbid (no big shock there), but in that peppy way that BOH gets away with. Of note: They are on tour, obviously, and they're promoting a new album, Infinite Arms (out this month)!

3) MGMT, "It's Working" (Congratulations); This album has been uber- and over- reviewed already, so I won't say much is odd! The ambient-push is a bit overdone (one song is even called "Brian Eno"), but the surfer/mildly psychedelic asthetic is, overall, really pleasing and pleasantly different. The whole damn thing feels like an ocean wave settling over you while you're a little lethargic. I had the good furtune to see them on tour last year, and I loved how elegant they seem in person. Their performance was calm and confident, reaching crescendos at just the right moments. Can punk-y be elegant? Yes.

4) The Whigs, "Automatic" (In the Dark); My dear friend Frances (Franny) and I are no less than obsessed with these Athens rock darlin's; we've followed them around Athens, as well as lamented because now they're doing well enough to NOT play in Athens as much. This is off their new album, which we saw them introduce at the 40 Watt in April. Believe this: their stuff is good, but it's even better live. See them if you can; you'll be at a real-live, limbs-flailing rock show.

5) 22-20s, "Ocean" (EP--Latest Heartbreak); British band that opened for The Whigs in April. Franny and I had perfected NOT arriving at le 40 Watt until 11pm; hardly any headliners take the stage there pre-midnight (which has, historically, made for some hungover Fridays). We missed the 22-20s play, but luckily we ran into them outside during a cig break (or, "fag break"); Franny must have a radar for British accents. These guys were so jovial, and just so damn nice! We took copies of the EP. It's wonderfully solid, a smooth rock sound, with some bittersweet lyrics enlivened by killer vocals. This is my favorite song so far; "waves of words, waves of sound"...who wouldn't love that. Their full-length album, Shake, Shiver, and Moan drops in June, I think, and they're on tour in the US through the first part of the summer (check their website), mostly in the West and Midwest.

6) Laura Marling, "Rambling Man" (I Speak Because I Can); Brit theme going here I guess! I randomly ran across a song of Marling's a while back and, quite honestly, paid little attention. I remember thinking it was too morose. I guess I heard the wrong one. Also, apparently she was originally in the line-up of Noah and the Whale, a band I've very recently grown to love. What scares me is that Marling is only effing twenty years old! The lyrics on the this album are mature and maybe even a bit haunting (in this song, take this gem to chew over: "and the weak need to be lead/and the tender i'll carry to their bed"), but her voice is young and hopeful.

7) Neutral Milk Hotel, "The King of Carrot Flowers (Pt. 1)" (In the Aeroplane Over the Sea); Here's a shameless throwback. This band is infamous for basically disappearing a few years back; I won't go into all the conspiracy theories. My lovely friend Brittney introduced me to this album a few years ago because she knew I needed a musical education. Turns out, these guys were originally from Ruston, Louisiana (where I went to college; sleepy town at best), before re-forming-up in Athens. I feel this weird connection to them, and I just love this song.

8) Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, "Anthem of Our Discovery" (self-titled debut album); This hails from 2005, but Kellogg has been brand new to me over the last month (a joyful thanks to my roomie Brian for introducing me). Most of his stuff is perfect for hot summer afternoons and rolling the window down. This song has a catchy melody; it's pop, I want to say, but the gut-wrenching honestly of its lyrics aren't lost in chords at all. I latched on to this one over the past week, replaying it in my car as I floated down I-20; it's about a woman leaving, I think, so maybe my brain connected it to the bittersweet feelings I had about leaving Athens.

9) The Tallest Man on Earth, "Kids on the Run" (The Wild Hunt); The name is a moniker for the folk musician Kristian Matsson, who's 27 and hails from Sweden. This particular album just debuted, but from what I can tell, this guy's had a following for awhile in the states. His voice is gravelly, lovely, ancient-sounding. You have to hear it to understand. Sometimes it reminds me of Delta blues music, and sometimes it sounds like nothing I've ever heard before. I would give mah right arm to hear him play live.

10) Josh Rouse, "Summertime" (Subtitulo); Enough said. Short little song, great beat, makes you wanna drink some lemonade and be nostalgic. Rouse is a new favorite of mine; to note, he's got a brand new album out right now (El Turista).

11) The Morning Benders, "Excuses" (Big Echo); The third album on this list that either has a picture of an ocean ON its cover or references some kind of wave or ocean. Obvi I need to get to the beach. Amalfi Coast in two weeks? Score. Every one of my music guru-y friends in Athens has recommended this album over the past few weeks. Love this track. "We'll still be friends/when it all turns to dust," and, even better: "We are so smooth now."

12) Modern Skirts, "Soft Pedals" (All of Us in Our Night); This song is a little dirty, not gonna lie. It's about makin' some love. It also happens to be the top staple at their live shows. I've seen these dudes at least half a dozen times now, and they never disappoint. This album could be my ultimate Athens playlist just in itself.

13) Kings of Leon, "I Want You" (Only by the Night); Alright, so I know this band sorta sold themselves out this past year. Arena show? Questionable at best, and trust me, I went to one of them. Franny and I paid a bunch of money to see them, then spent even more on over-priced Bud Light (yuck). Their songs are better enjoyed with a (reasonably-priced) brew in a darker, sweatier venue. At least to me. I'll never stop loving them no matter what they do. Anthony Followill's voice is an oozing of lust and sex and everything raw. This song reminds me of how languid summertime can be, and also how confusing our desires can be.

14) Madeleine Peyroux, "Dance Me to the End of Love" (Careless Love); jazz singer born guessed it, Athens, Georgia! But that's neither here nor there for this. I recently discovered this album very randomly and fell in love with her. It's dance-able, or....even perfect for cooking dinner to. While you shimmy.

15) Bob Dylan, "I Want You" (off Dylan and the Dead); This mix needed a classic. I've never heard a more honest, sweet, energetic Dylan song.

[Above is a view of the Amalfi Coast...where dear Catherine and I will be lounging in a couple weeks' time. I am REALLY thankful, and beyond excited. xoxo]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hauling and bawling.

The thing is done.

On Sunday morning, I bawled my ever-lovin' eyes out as I watched the stocky Athens skyline disappear in my rearview mirror. I was, very appropriately, listening to a Modern Skirts album (plug: for they are the BEST local band that still PLAYS locally on a regular basis). And it wasn't the kind of farewell that you let completely shake you to the bones, because Lord knows I'll be back for visits. My dissertation will require such. But it was the realization that it won't be quite the same anymore. I don't live there now. I won't be driving back headed home anymore.

None of my friends allowed me to get too emotional about them, thank goodness. They're smart folks, who touched my shoulders and reminded me that I'll see them soon, talk to them often. So that became my motto, stolen from a Stephen Kellogg song I blogged about a couple of weeks ago: "See you later, see you soon." I wish I could have let go a little more with them, though; no one wanted me to, but alone on my porch...I did. While packing as well. The crying might have been heightened by the amount of pollen in the air, but as I threw my suitcase and shoeboxes in the car, I randomly bent over in a near-convulsion. I needed a catharsis, and so I took it however I could. I can only hope that those people who mean the most to me know it. I think they do. I will miss everyone. And there are a couple of people who I will miss so much that it may ache. Just because I'm so used to seeing them in my life, each day, so easily.

Leaves? I had to turn you over.

I woke up this morning, though, feeling rather renewed. All of my belongings are streamlined, organized. How often does that happen? Score! I'm in Shreveport temporarily as I transition, and within a day of arriving, I made a new friend and heard from some old ones I love. I've started writing, both on my dissertation and on some fun new stuff. On Mother's Day, I'll be with BOTH of my sisters (and both are brand new mothers). My Italian adventure is two weeks away. And on the other side of that...a new chapter. Life as a Texan. So blogging will probably go on hiatus until June. And this page might even get a facelift (I hate that metaphor...why did I just use it?). Is Texas the South? Is Austin a bunch of mini-Athens strung together? I don't know yet, but I think I'm gonna find out.