Bishop Allen

The other day I was writing a friend about music. I was reminded of a time about 10 years ago when my therapist at the time asked me if I ever thought that perhaps the music I loved made me depressed. At the time I told her that if anything music saved me from being even more depressed! I told her about how I kind of maybe thought that Joy Division were a bad scene for me so I put them away for about 5 years, but other than that I thought music served me instead of abused me. I've often felt like I don't fully connect to some music until I listen when depressed. Something Madonna once said has always stuck with me - something to the effect of when she was happy she didn't sit down to note it. She was too busy being happy! However, when depressed or upset or whatever, well, that's when the writing floodgates tend to open. I still don't think that music depressed me. However, I will concede that a great emotional song can really do me in.

In the last 3 years there haven't been very many songs that have just absolutely floored me on first listen. When me and my girlfriend first started dating we would listen to random records that she had that I had been curious about. One of those records was Bishop Allen's Charm School. If I recall, I became more curious after seeing the film Mutual Appreciation in which Justin Rice (from Bishop Allen) starred. I thought it was a cute and fun little record and enjoyed it. The sort of band that you have no real idea what might come next. Then, their monthly ep project got onto my radar and I checked out the newer stuff. I was surprised by the growth of the songwriting. The April release contains the song responsible for knocking me on my ass due to the imagery and beauty involved. It also happens to be a song that can put me into a severe bum out mode. None of this is helped by the fact that I temped at Rockefeller Center at x-mas time (not recommended unless you wish to be homicidal) AND am so susceptible to lyrics that I did recite my times tables the next time I was landing at JFK.
Flight 180
I must add that I find this to be a much better version that the version they re-recorded for their next full length. I don't know why, but I do tend to like the first version of a song before a band over thinks and tinkers with it to death.

They released their second record, The Broken String, to a good amount of blog press. Some songs from the ep project were re-recorded and there were some brand new ones. Overall, the record is much more "mature" than their first. The lyrical content, production, and musicianship had all grown. I like the record quite a bit. To me, all I ask of a band is to move forward. Evolve a little. So how could I not like the second record? It was slightly difficult for me to pick a song from the record but finally decided on this one for no other reason than we're expecting some here tonight as I'm writing this on 9/25.

My favorite song from their first record can be heard in the commercial for that new movie with Michael Cera. Apparently Bishop Allen are in the film?



I do this for free - meaning, I don't pay for bandwidth to host music. My free bandwidth won't reset for another 5 days. This is fine though because I'm going to get some posts in the pipeline. We just moved and while unpacking cds I found stuff that I didn't remember having which is pretty exciting. So, in a few days there will be music posts again! Hold tight.


No Songs, Just Words

I just read that Richard Wright of Pink Floyd has died. This may be a terribly unhip thing to say but Pink Floyd meant a lot to me when I was a kid. I think that when you're a damaged kid you find something to fill in the blanks. For me, it was music. For a lot of my friends as well. A band that made a concept record about putting walls up around yourself to protect your emotional state should be required listening for angsty 13 year olds. I will say this - what me and my friends went through was more than run of the mill teenage angst. All of us had emotional problems, troubled homes, some of us were developing drug/alcohol problems. We certainly weren't the sheltered rich kids that we were growing up around. We couldn't relate to their trivial top 40 music. We had to go deeper and darker. So we did. Metal was big among us, classic rock, and a few of us liked college radio and punk. Anything that felt real, I guess.

Anyway, Pink Floyd. Me and my best friend (a guy named Chasz) spent a lot of time hanging out together listening to music. We had very similar lives and problems. So much so that we were in the same counseling group for children of alcoholics together at school. We loved our counselor so much... I'm sure that some of that had to do with the fact that she was into Pink Floyd! She really understood where we were coming from with our obsession, and unlike most adults she didn't look down on us for finding comfort in music. Chasz and I used to pool our money and go to the record store and buy records to share. On our way there our favorite song to sing was Pink Floyd's Time which, looking back, seems quite fitting for two 13 year olds with a lot on their plates. We ended up buying everything from Pink Floyd and even got into the solo Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour stuff. I think about Chasz a lot. We were each others lifelines for a couple of years. It all ended because of a stupid fight when we were 15. Thankfully, we ran into each other a couple of years later and made amends. I always wondered what happened to him but then I found out about 5 years ago that he died. I had high hopes for him but he never made it out of the shit that tried to keep us down. I miss him.

I sincerely hope that I'm not the only one who made it out. I feel a responsibility to tell the stories of my friends. If you were going through anything real as a teenager and had just one friend I'm willing to bet that you've never found another friend like them. We grow up and become jaded and closed off. It's not as easy to let people in yet it's easier to cast them aside when the going gets rough. Maybe it's easier to find our own way ultimately. Not sure. Whatever it is, I just know that I've never said so little with people yet we all said so much. We just said it through song lyrics. It's still my preferred medium for communication. Recently I've been listening to Dark Side Of The Moon again. It may be a terribly unhip thing to say but Pink Floyd still mean a lot.


The Magnetic Fields

Another band with so much to choose from! It took me awhile to warm up to The Magnetic Fields - it wasn't until 69 Love Songs that I became obsessed. I had liked songs prior to that but something about the scope of that project really got to me. Some of my favorite songs ever come from those records. Seeing the band live is probably the best way to experience the music just because it's completely different than the recorded versions and of course the cranky Mr. Merritt and the personable Ms. Gonson somehow balancing each other out. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they're touring again for the latest record. You can find dates at the end of this post.

This is my preferred version of this classic song. An extremely clever song. Definitely ranks as one of the best songs Stephin Merritt has ever written. No easy feat!
I Don't Believe You

My current favorite song from the 69 Love Songs record. I love the interplay between Claudia and Stephin's voices and the hilarity of the lyrics.
Yeah! Oh, Yeah!

A bonus song from the latest record, Distortion, which I enjoyed even more in a live setting. Especially this song. Stephin took the lead vocal with Claudia and Shirley singing the backing parts. It was brilliant and funny and sad, just like so many of their songs.
The Nuns Litany

Tour Dates:

Oct 10 Minneapolis, MN
Oct 11 Madison, WI
Oct 13 Dallas, TX
Oct 14 Austin, TX
Oct 15 Boulder, CO
Oct 17 Atlanta, GA
Oct 18 Raleigh, NC
Oct 23 Jersey City, NJ
Oct 24 Columbus, OH
Oct 25 Philadelphia, PA
Oct 26 Washington, DC


Beat Happening

I've never met anyone who feels neutral about Beat Happening - you either love them or hate them, right? I remember when I used to play Beat Happening records in the store and most people had an immediate reaction. Unfortunately it was almost always a negative one. The primary complaint was Calvin's voice (followed by their seeming lack of skill at their instruments) and I do understand that it's not for everyone. Neither is free jazz or field recordings or grindcore, no? Whatever, to each their own. (I must say, following up Beat Happening with The Shaggs would have probably sent people over the edge but The Shaggs stuff hadn't been re-issued yet. Unfortunate.)

Anyway, the most charming thing to me about Beat Happening was the fact that it was amateurish. It was empowering to hear music that seemed within reach to make. The lyrics were always sweet even in the more sexual songs. I feel like Calvin pulled off the highly sexual sweet boy very well. Heather's songs were always winners and brought something extra special to the band. Her voice was more traditional so I always felt that her songs were a good way to dip a potential fans toes into the Beat Happening waters.

It was nearly impossible for me to pick just two songs. My favorites change all the time. (At one point back in the mid 90s I had made a Beat Happening mix and every song on it was my favorite. It was right after a break up and some days it could nearly send me to tears.) I feel like these songs are very good introductions to the band. If you can spring for the box set I highly recommend it.

Look Around


Juxtapoz Magazine - Current Issue

Juxtapoz Magazine has an issue on stands right now that is blowing my mind. It's about nyc graffiti. I'm a huge fan of graffiti art and love going to Europe to see it where it seems much more appreciated as an art form. In fact, many of the artists in this issue show regularly at galleries overseas and are highly respected artists over there. I live in the South Bronx where a lot of the dudes featured in this issue came from. A lot of them still have strong ties here - tattoo shops, art studios, etc. The building I currently live in is owned by Sharp, and Daze has a studio here, as does John Ahearn who is a sculptor. Hell, for all I know some of the other dudes in this issue have studios here...

I highly recommend picking this issue up. The interviews/profiles are totally fascinating. A glimpse into the city as it used to be through the eyes of people who were active in the scene. I'm glad that these artists have found a way to continue doing what they should be doing - creating. I have no artistic talent myself but I haven't felt this inspired to dick around with paint and pens in a long time. (If you happen to live in nyc you can pick this issue up for 40% off at Kim's by Columbia University as they are closing that location and selling shit off. We bought some rad stuff at a considerable discount on Monday.)