Saturday, October 23, 2010

Songs of the Week #2 (Tame Impala, Carissa’s Weird, Black Keys, Big Pink, and Lady of the Sunshine)

1) Tame Impala - “Solitude is Bliss”

2) Carissa’s Weird - “The Color That Your Eyes Changed with the Color of Your Hair”

3) Black Keys - “Never Gonna Give You Up”

4) Big Pink - “Love in Vain”

5) Lady of the Sunshine - “Silver Revolver”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Music Review: Jimmy Eat World - “Invented”

jew ★1/2

A couple weeks ago, when I was excitingly putting Jimmy Eat World in the cd player for another listen right after this new album was finally released, my wife challenged me. She asked me how I could make fun of Nickelback and love Jimmy Eat World so much when to her they weren’t that different. On a side note, I found this sexy. She rarely expresses opinions on music beyond how much she loves Mumford & Sons and how good looking the lead singer of King of Leon is, and now she was straight up challenging my burning passion for all things Jimmy Eat World. To her Jimmy Eat World sang pop rock music about emotional scenarios, which is pretty much what Nickelback does. I was taken aback at first. It was like a musical punch in the face. I have two responses to this: first, unlike Nickelback, Jimmy Eat World doesn’t pretend to be hardcore then bask in the phoniness of overwrought guitar, booze, chicks, long hair, and growly voices while singing lyrics better left to Taylor Swift. Jimmy Eat World is emo in its original form before it became a cultural thing marked by dark makeup and terminal depression. They sing emotionally charged songs for the nostalgic, sentimental college-to-30 year old fans. If you’re like me, Jimmy Eat World’s “Bleed American” was THE song when you were 16, you made long trips home to see the girl you were trying to get to marry you set to sounds of “23”, “Polaris”, and “The World You Love”, and you ventured into the “real world” for the first time while blasting “Dizzy” and “Here it Goes” on your first commutes to work. For me, Jimmy Eat World has not just produced good albums, they’ve produced albums that have defined periods of my life. Which leads me to my second point: I don’t care. In my quest to stop being a music snob and be more of a music recommender for the normal, non-pretentious person I have no problem admitting that Jimmy Eat World is not indie. They aren’t even really alternative rock. They are probably pop rock, with bent towards alt rock. But they are the best at it, and I am probably more sentimentally attached to Jimmy Eat World than any band on this planet, and like most of you more than me, I don’t give a darn what the critics think of them (they think they’re decidedly average at worst and pretty good at best, by the way). To me “Dizzy” and “23” are two of the best songs ever written. Honestly, that’s true.

Essay aside, I try to review this album without bias, however impossible that may be. So when I tell you that out of the last four albums that this is their weakest effort, I mean only to tell you that compared to three helpings of filet mignon this is a heaping portion of juicy ribeye. That’s probably because I love everything Jimmy Eat World does (except letting the “other guy” sing…I thought we got passed that a while ago guys!). On “Heart is Hard to Find”, you get vintage Jimmy Eat World, with acoustic guitars rhythmically bouncing around with hand claps, submitting to strings and Jim Adkins’ soaring vocals. This gives way to “My Best Theory”, a song that gets better the louder it gets. It’s more than just a sing along, it’s a yell along. Indeed, it’s a throwback to the days of “Bleed American”, and would probably be a favorite of those who didn’t realize Jimmy Eat World was still making music since you last hear them sing “The Middle” in 2001. Other top notch tracks here include the pulsating “Higher Devotion”, marked by the signature electric guitar, the growing up tale of “Coffee and Cigarettes”, the wooooah-oooh laden “Movielike”, the soft-spoken “Cut”, and the building “Mixtape”. The best of the bunch is “Littlething”, which builds and swarms and knocks you out. It’s a track so good that it almost feels like it must be the last track on the album, and maybe it should have been. Misteps? A couple, admittedly. Perhaps the band is just embracing their place in the music world and is just having fun now, allowing them to give Tom Linton another shot at the vocals on the worst-of-the-bunch “Action Needs and Audience”. Also, songs like “Invented” and “Evidence” come off as being completely forgettable, save for a portion for the patient near the five minute mark in “Invented”. But in reality, this is just three tracks, and filler for Jimmy Eat World trumps the work most bands put on their whole albums.

Did some of you forget that Jimmy Eat World existed? I know many must have, seeing that their only real hit is now 9 years old. But they’ve been here ever since then, providing the world and my collection with some of its best music. If you’d like to hear some great music, maybe it’s time for a little rediscovery.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Washington State Voter Initiative Recommendations

Just spent a significant amount of time researching my ballot for the upcoming election in Washington, where I keep my permanent residency while the military shifts me around the country. Initiatives can be confusing things, and both sides usually do a very good job wording each side of their debate to make it seem like voting their way is the only possible way a sane person could vote. Want to decrease taxes? You must hate children! Want to raise taxes? You must be a socialist! So take this for what it’s worth. Here is what I’m voting in the upcoming election, initiative-wise, and why. If you disagree with my reasons, then I suppose you should vote the opposite way, but if you agree, here’s how you should vote in November.

Initiative 1053 – YES

This would require a two-thirds vote by the legislature or a majority of the public’s vote to raise your taxes. Voting yes keeps more money in your wallet and takes power away from the government, both of which are good things.

Initiative 1082 – YES

The entire premise of voting yes on 1082 is a belief that competition is a good thing and reduces cost. This allows for private competition in workers compensation insurance.

Initiative 1098 – NO

This is the biggest “NO” of them all. One of the greatest things Washington has going for it is the lack of state income tax. This tax proposal is worse than simple class warfare against the “rich”. The worst part is there is no requirement keeping the legislature from expanding the bracket. Believe you me, if you vote for an income tax for the “rich” now, in a few years it will be expanded and expanded until we all pay it. Vote no emphatically.

Initiative 1100 – YES / Initiative 1105 - NO

State run liquor business? Since when should the state run liquor sales? Is the state a retail business? Put it back where it belongs and allow for private competition. Did you know the state marks up the price 51.9%? No matter how you feel about alcohol, vote with your political principles and get the state out of the retail business.

Initiative 1107 - YES

Gets rid of taxes on bottled water, candy, and soda. The people who support this initiative are the people who believe that government should be able to tell you where and how much to eat instead of leaving it up to you.

Referendum 52 – NO

Borrows (borrows! key word!) $505 million to pay for “green” initiatives in schools. Here is a great thought from the usually liberal Seattle Times:

The Seattle Times favors projects like that. We have one of our own to install modern fluorescents. We also have to pay for it, which is an incentive for us to make sure it will work.

The "Hans Bonds" proposal does not have such an incentive. The schools and colleges spend the state's money and do not have to pay it back. They will have to say their projects will save energy, but no one will hold them to it.

Senate Joint Resolution 8225 – NO

This resolution allows for an increase in the constitutional debt limit for the state. I’m not voting on anything that allows for us to borrow MORE money and go into MORE debt.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Songs of the Week

Presenting five new songs to give a listen to if you’re looking for some new music. Let me know what you thinks!

1) Jimmy Eat World - “Littlething”

2) Deerhunter - “Helicopter”

3) Yeasayer - “Wait for Summer”

4) Great Lake Swimmers - “Palmistry”

5) Stars - “Dead Hearts”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Technology is a Good Thing

How many times have you heard people long for the good old days when people weren’t so connected that they became, effectively, disconnected from world? Movie critic Peter Travers recently wrote that the current generation can very much relate to the image of someone sitting in front of a glowing computer screen pretending not to be alone. An article from the UK cited a study that showed that Facebook “is a haven for narcissistic people because they can establish a large number of hollow 'friendships' without having to establish a real relationship”.

Being anti-technology seems to be a trendy thing. The self-righteous techno-haters throw out their favorite comments: “I don’t watch TV…I read books”, “If I need to get a hold of them I’ll call them, I don’t need to text”, or the ol’ “kids these days and their (insert device here)”.

I once met someone who surprised me very much. He was a professor in one my international relations classes my senior year. He also happened to be pretty old. He once told our class about how his peers—the educated elderly you could say—looked down so much on the youth and technology, and how it ruined the world and made it so we don’t even talk to each other anymore. Nonsense, he argued! We can talk to each other from the other side of the world instantaneously. We can keep in touch with people who we would possibly have never talked to after becoming geographically separated. We can access and share information quicker and more effectively than ever before. And how is this a bad thing?

It is highly difficult to truly keep in touch with people. I’m in the military. Trust me. I know what it’s like to meet people and move. In the last four years I’ve lived in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Ohio. How many people would I have lost touch with if all I had was a home phone? Instead I can write on Nikola's wall, text Dustin, and call Kristen on my way home from work. It is most definitely inferior to spending quality time with someone. Given the choice between going to see the Pacific Ocean with Brie vs. commenting on her status, it’s not even close (I choose ocean). But the point is that given the choice between commenting on her status and not talking to her at all as she does her thing in Washington and I do my thing in Ohio, I’m gonna comment on her status.

I can hardly count the ways that technology has made things better. Communicating with my family is so much easier. In the last few days I have talked with my sister while I drove home from Cincinnati and she took a ferry in Seattle, I’ve exchanged e-mails with my dad, I’ve chatted online with David, I’ve gone back and forth on facebook with my mom, and I’ve texted with Ryan. Oh yes (heavy sarcasm), technology detaches us. I haven’t even touched on the other wonders, such as how when I wanted Thai food today I typed the name of the place into my phone at the gym, found the number online, called in my order, and picked it up 10 minutes later. Think about it, that’s amazing!

I suppose it’s only fair that I touch on whether or not there is some detachment. Are there people who exchange “real” relationships for harmful cyber ones? I suppose so. But to the lonely kid who feels socially disconnected, is finding folks online with common interests so harmful? What is the alternative? Detachment is hardly the real problem, which I argue is probably the anonymity that online relationships provide, leading to issues like trolling and bullying.

I conclude with this: Just a little while back I went to a golf tournament with my dad and brothers in Seattle. Golf tournaments, as you might know, are decidedly anti-cell phone. This led to interesting problems. Where do we meet? How do we find each other? The old fashioned “meet in place x at time time y” made us even realize that we can’t even tell time without our cell phones.

Technology doesn’t lead to detachment (it leads to dependency), so save me your anti-techno superiority and dive freely into a world where you can chat on GMail with your brother in Kyrgyzstan, e-mail your wife in Romania, text your dad about pending no-hitters, and plan road trips with friends in Arkansas. When my dad used to go out onto ships in the Navy communication with my mom was sparse. Now I can share new music with Bob and John in Afghanistan. This is not a bad thing.