Monday, December 31, 2012

[An Avenue]'s Best 101 Tracks of 2012

This isn't a beer post.  This post, it's not about beer.

What it is about, is beer's best mate, for there is nary a better time to consume heavily than in the supportive embrace of music.  Its a daily tradition at the offices of [AA] to consummate this bond between beer and tunes every night in large doses by regulation of the Canon Law of St. Augustine the Blessed.  And it gives us something to ruminate about besides the trillionth discussion on hops or farmhouse ales.

Then, at the end of the year, we try to make some ordinal sense of it all.

This is list season!  Oh, how its powers are untold!

Best of!  Top 10!  Editors choice!  Pee drinkers on the internet box offering humorously disturbing reader picks!  I don't care who you are, lists are just addictive by nature.  Our brains love organizational outcomes, neatly packaged next to ascending numerals and made to create order amidst chaos. Who amongst us doesn't love poring over the subjective opinions of total strangers in a manner that makes you fume and writhe when the author isn't even answering the fucking question correctly?

The answer is: none of us.

If somebody in my general proximity is in need of immediate or urgent assistance, they had better hope I didn't just start reading a list of rankings pertaining to just about anything -- food trailers, liberal arts colleges, Bollywood actors under 3 feet, whatever -- because it is an unnatural act to quit on a list before reaching  climax.  Lists are brain sex!  But because there is very little intimacy between the author and the reader, its like college brain sex!  The quickies of the literary world.

Unfortunately for you, pal, this list goes to 101 -- so I'm gonna take my time here and have you think about NBA scoring leaders since 1965.  I think it will be worth your time getting to know it, in an "Oh no, I love you" sort of way, especially because I don't patronize you by ranking anything to do with Jack White or Tame Impala, since I tend not to habituate with utter shit.

Sure, it might not be great, but there's a lot of it.

The 7th Annual [An Avenue] Best 101 (v. 2012) on Spotify

101  All Wash Out | Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
100  Seven Stars | Air
099  Apocalypse Dreams | Tame Impala
098  Do Ya Thing | Gorillaz ft Andre 3000 and James Murphy
097  Heavy Metal | White Rabbits
096  Let's Go | Matt & Kim
095  October | The Helio Sequence
094  Rembihnútur | Sigur Rós
093  Without You | Lana Del Rey
092  Breakdown | Gary Clark Jr.
091  Angels | The XX
090  Primitive Girl | M. Ward

089  Sisterly | Fang Island
088  The House that Heaven Built | Japandroids
087  Noir Blues to Tinnitus | Of Montreal
086  Old Friend | Sea Wolf
085  Fate | Young Man
084  What The Eyeballs Did | Atoms For Peace
083  Under the Westway | Blur
082  Serpents | Sharon Van Etten
081  How Long Have You Known? | DIIV
080  Youth Is Wasted On The Young |  Young Galaxy

079  Baby | Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
078  Fingers Never Bleed | Yeasayer
077  Friends of Friends | Hospitality
076  Spiteful Intervention | Of Montreal
075  Would That Not Be Nice | Divine Fits
074  Octopus | Bloc Party
073  Enjoy Yourself | The Dandy Warhols
072  Petoskey Stone | Dana Falconberry
071  Sweet Life | Frank Ocean
070  Madness | Muse

069  Ruin | Cat Power
068  Everything's Gonna Be Undone | Band of Horses
067  Pretty Girl From Michigan | The Avett Brothers
066  Desperation Breeds... | Andrew Bird
065  Beatcha | Dinosaur Feathers
064  Empty House | Delta Spirit
063  Stay Gold | The Big Pink
062  Deconstruction | Fanfarlo
061  Sleep Alone | Two Door Cinema Club
060  The One | Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chainz & Marsha Ambrosius

059  Let's Go Home | Best Coast
058  1904 | Tallest Man On Earth
057  Parted Ways | Heartless Bastards
056  Lazuli | Beach House
055  Ho Hey | The Lumineers
054  Rubbernecking | The Big Pink
053  Looking Through | Nada Surf
052  Ayla | The Maccabees
051  Sedna | Efterklang

049  Disparate Youth | Santigold
048  Silent My Song | Lykke Li
047  The Wave | Miike Snow
046  This Is Not A Song | Islands
045  I'll Be Alright | Passion Pit
044  Heartbreaker | The Walkmen
043  The Base | Paul Banks
043  Dance For You | Dirty Projectors
042  Applesauce | Animal Collective
041  Motion Sickness | Hot Chip
040  Genesis | Grimes

039  For A Fool | The Shins
038  Call Me Maybe | Carly Rae Jepsen
037  Give It Away | Andrew Bird
036  Flaggin A Ride | Divine Fits
035  I Will Wait | Mumford & Sons
034  Five Seconds | Twin Shadow
033  End Of The Line | Sleigh Bells
032  We Can't Be Beat | The Walkmen
031  Marathon | Heartless Bastards
030  California | Delta Spirit

029  Tuck the Darkness In | Bowerbirds
028  Lucky with Disease | Elbow
027  Nancy from Now On | Father John Misty
026  Lonely Love | Islands
025  Manhattan | Cat Power
024  Kill for Love | Chromatics
023  Brains | Lower Dens
022  Wild | Royal Teeth
021  All Of Me | Tanlines
020  Oblivion | Grimes

019  Take A Walk | Passion Pit
018  God Help This Divorce | Miike Snow
017  Fineshrine | Purity Ring
016  Everything is Embarrasing | Sky Ferreira
015  A Simple Answer | Grizzly Bear
014  Hold On | Alabama Shakes
013  Chum | Earl Sweatshirt
012  We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae) | Fun.
011  Wild | Beach House

010  Time to Run | Lord Huron
009  Feathers | Fanfarlo
008  Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe | Kendrick Lamar
007  Love Out Of Lust | Lykke Li
006  Pique | Menomena
005  Danse Caribe | Andrew Bird
004  My Better Self  | Tennis
003  Heaven | The Walkmen
002  Impregnable Question | Dirty Projectors
001  Myth | Beach House

Friday, November 16, 2012

[Songs My Son Should Know] Gorillaz | On Melancholy Hill

Parenting makes one protective and testy.  The wilds of the world are not at all for small children, and the continuous sniper hunt for things that will attempt to fuck him up is both endless and exhausting.

But having lived an entire year with my son, watching him sprout from a helpless sheath of flesh into a flourishing, albeit, incessant boy has made me realize that he is the most resilient creature I've ever been in close contact with.  And why wouldn't he be?  The absolute improbability of making a living person from a poppy seed into a thriving system of cells, axons, and systems should tell me all I need to know about how humans have an indelible will to thrive.  A small boy whose actions create both humor and concern in his parents with equal measure indicate that it is us who need to be protected.  Exaggerated myths and urban legends were created to scare and preserve the young, but all they actually do is end up frightening the adults.

The absolute delight of watching your child grow is matched in emotion with the dread of his imminent self-realization.  He'll cry because he is forlorn, he'll fidget because he is embarrassed, he'll question morality.  But, as a father, protecting him from those emotions -- against all of my conscientious instincts -- would be denying him from establishing his character.

Yes, it is the guardians who need to be protected.

It reminds of the first verse of Gorillaz Melancholy Hill, which begins with the sort of pace and prose that would suggest an inquiry to a beneficiary from his isolated keeper; sequestered to an imperceptible perch but by faith and conduct.

Up on melancholy hill
There's a plastic tree
Are you here with me?
Just looking out on the day
Of another dream

Which will eventually be my role as a father: imperceptible but nearby, faithful in his autonomy but advocative, willing to observe his struggle but alleviating of his burden.  Just looking out on the day of his dream.

Well you can't get what you want
But you can get me
So let's set up and see
'Cause you are my medicine
When you're close to me
When you're close to me

I am not his medicine.  His father.  I am not his medicine.  But invisible is my perception of impossibility because he is my antidote against mental complacency.  He is my medicine when he's close to me.  

So call in the submarine
'Round the world we'll go
Does anybody know
If we're looking out on the day
Of another dream?

So fuck it, let's quell our fears, let's dream.  Let's conquer things together.  Progress from children's deeds to deeds that children kind-of do, to listening to Otis Redding in a small bar in Bruges toasting our nearly-mutual birthdays with a gueze.  Lovingly heckling mom's record collection for being schmalzy and lame.  Whatever it is that sons and dads do without diminishing that boundary between friends and paternal bonding.

If you can't get what you want
Then you come with me

Up on melancholy hill

Sits a manatee
Just looking out on the day
When you're close to me
When you're close to me

When you're close to me 

Until then, I'll be the living juxtaposition of guarding him closely from a distance.  As inconspicuous as a manatee.  On a hill.  Looking out on the day.

Happy first birthday, son.

Friday, September 21, 2012

[Songs My Son Should Know] Robert Earl Keen | The Road Goes on Forever / Feelin' Good Again

One thing that I am musically assured about is the fact that I have spent a lot of rewarding hours with outlaw country, a raging buzz, and my own thoughts.  There are very important and poignant times when pasty hipster shit just doesn't give you the lemon-up-your-jacksie that outlaw country demands.

To know outlaw country -- to relate to it, to sing it drunkenly to nobody, to commandeer a jukebox with a $10 bill and a Lone Star, to hit repeat on an entire album while sitting on the dark porch -- is to know exactly where you stand with your masculine emotions.  With those, I stand square.

Nobody seems to know exactly what country music actually is, these days.  From what I can tell, the genre was lost in translation somewhere between the transition from the magnificent Texas-redneck-hippies-and-cocaine of the 60s through 80s to the soft-dicked-dilution of Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw in the 1990s.  The genre just devolved into CMT and cross-over music festivals involving trite aberrations like Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flats, which are labeled 'country' for no other reason except having sprung from the trash heap that is Nashville.

Country music is -- and will always live as -- Willie, Waylon, Cash, Hank Jr., Merle, Kris, Guy, Earl, and several of their like-minded counterparts; the rough-and-ready cowboys of the honky tonk.  Subsequent torchbearers, like as Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Cory Morrow are also acceptable as true Texas Country.  And this is what I am talking about here.  Leading the third generation by way of the second.

It is this defiance against the polished, twangy turd of Nashville's glitter and pomp that will allow country music to survive as, not only a genre, but as a culture of sweat, and manual labor, and Gilley's.  Like Darrell Royal opined when faced with a proposal from the administration in the 1960s to adorn UT's iconic football uniforms with stripes and unnecessary orange-y glitz; 'These are work clothes. No need to candy 'em up."

Texas country is work clothes.  Nashville is the Oregon Ducks.

Melissa reminded me the other day of this classic, classic Texas Country sing-along.  You just try not hammering it home if in the company of one or more Texans, and even more so if the assemblage is drinking Shiner Bock by the fists full.  Un-possible.

When Melissa and I took a roadie from Phoenix to San Francisco, then later from Phoenix to Austin, we were serenaded by this song that reminds that road trips across the southwest are no fucking joke.  The road goes on forever.  But as compensation, the party does not cease.  Nope.  Not ever.

Everyone in Texas needs to have a favorite country song.  Its just the way it is, like picking a football team to root for or a favorite Q joint.  Its part of our legacy as Texans.

I would go further than calling this my favorite country song, and without hesitation, call this perfect masterpiece one of my favorite songs of all time.  End of.

As a general rule, I fucking loathe hokey narrative-driven songs.  They remind me of glammy show tunes, which are great in an appropriate setting, like, let's say, the London Palladium -- but absolutely dreadful for my ears and sensibilities in small-speaker format.  Unfortunately, this is a well-known character flaw in most of country music.

But like any steadfast statement, there are generally exceptions.  One is Willie. The other is Robert Earl Keen.  The man can tell a hell of a fucking story through harmony and melody.

Feelin' Good Again is a dewy-eyed vignette that gives a beautifully impressionistic insight into one momentary breath in the life of the protagonist: The bar, the band crooning Otis Redding, the townie surveying the typical rapscallions playing stick, the drunken caballeros outsinging the band, the perennially spatting couple on that temporary upswing, the unexpected $70 of beer money found in an auxiliary pocket, the lady friend on the stair.

The whole setting is painted so magnificently by Keen, that I've pictured the exact same detailed bar room scenario in my own thoughts in each of the countless times I've listened to it over the course of the last 14 years.

They said that David Allen Coe wrote the perfect Country & Western song, and maybe he did.  But Robert Earl Keen has written the formula for keeping Country music relevant.