Mise En Place My Holigays

It is December. I know, right? This means that a quick look/add session with my google calendar this morning caused a miniature anxiety attack. You know, the kind of anxiety attack that is the size of the tiny stars that erupt behind your eyelids when you like press your knuckles against your eye sockets in the face of sheer overwhelmed exhaustion at the thought of one more holiday cookie (not that I could ever feel that way about a cookie, who do you think I am?!).

So, of course, because I’m an intense guy, and like to go about things all wrong – I then spent the next 20 minutes creating two google calendars in the face of my one extremely over taxed one. One is made up of things that I absolutely must show up for, even if I’ve literally chewed off my own hands or something with stress. The other, consists of things that I can miss, grovel to the organizer about, and possibly be forgiven because I was actually princess and the pea-ing out in my bed or something.

Really, if I get all zen about this jam, I should just be damn glad that people like me and want to see my face in The Holidays. I mean, I seriously am. The Holidays (as we know) are a very strange time where everyone wants to be reallycloselikethisclose to each other because that is what we are supposed to want. Also, I have some dear sweet friends who are just about obsessed with this particular winter wonderland of feelings and that shit is contagious. I’m not going to lie, I get a little chipper with some sort of pine-smelling-sweater-wearing-spirit sometimes. Like, the weekend after Thanksgiving when I did my annual duty and spent six icicle filled hours hanging lights, pushing psychedelic light up candy canes into the yard, and making four manic trips to homo depot in the middle of the night with a home owning friend. Halfway through, his elderly neighbor walked across the street (as we took a moment to survey our work and figure out “where the holes in our design” lay) and exclaimed with wonder, “HOLY SHIT!” After she walked away, I thought that she had really just accurately explained my winter feelings. We were so hopped up on caffeine that in order to finally come down, said friend’s amazing wife took pity on us and made us a plate of nachos (thanks again). I got home at nearly one a.m. only to dream about the National Lampoon’s sized twinkle coming from his cul-de-sac. Seriously, its beautiful, and this is what the holigays are all about.

Oh, Santa. I wish I were also in a germ safe bubble of Holiday cheer.

The next two weekends are packed full of teeth chattering cheer with things like snowshoeing, cookie exchange programs, and lots of hot holiday beverages. Last night a buddy and I drank one of my faves (a hot toddy) and had music nerd time. This (though not a necessarily December related activity) brings a particular warmth to my heart. In a few weeks a sweet visitor from Portland and I have a plan to connect in that external-hard-drive-full-of-music way and I cannot wait. “Happy Holigays to me!” I plan on screeching, as I pillage her fantastic collection.

So, on that note. PEACE (and feathered hair) BE WITH YOU.

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300 Conversations About One Thing

I’ve been trying for a minute to suss out what it is I want to write about. I’m still relatively sure that I don’t even now what I’m doing pretending to have like, a blog or whatever this is. It seems, short of discussing my personal life in great detail on the internet (Thanks for teaching me the skillz, Livejournal), I don’t have much experience. But! I’m spastic-ly enthusiastic about it, and so I continue to come back to you, little blog.

Life is still pretty fun and funny over here. The fall is definitely upon us, and yesterday I had to turn on the heat in my drafty apartment and crawl underneath a pile of flannel when I returned home from playing in this queer kickball tournament. After consuming three cups of throat coat tea and watching two episodes of Battlestar Galactica, I passed out at 9pm. Because, that’s how I like to roll in the Autumn, dudes. Other important activities that i’d like to note are: eating peanut butter at three a.m., wearing scarves, having nightmares about pivot tables and bar graphs (thanks, day job!), having not-so-nightmares about slow dancing to R & B hits from the mid-nineties with a pretty lady, and buying flowers for myself at the farmer’s market.

Kickball. Yogaball. Having a ball.

Anyway here’s some other news and things I’m excited about/amused by:

– The folks at The Portland Review put up a few more of my lil’ poems on their rad blog: here, here and here. This one is trending on tumblr now, which sort of freaks me out a little, but hey. Who doesn’t love a rampantly metaphorical emotionally stunted poem about my ex-girlfriend?

– A little story by me about my intense and strange relationship with my mother is going to go up on the Original Plumbing blog sometime in the next few months. So, that’s cool and totally nerve wracking because like, that kind of realness isn’t something that my fam really does on the regular.

– I’m sort of obsessed with St. Vincent, and missed her show in Seattle (doh!) but am somewhat satiated by this hysterical and insightful post from Mr. Boehmer on the Ironing Board Collective blog.

– Have I mentioned that I am in total LIKE with The Ironing Board? Well, I am. This morning I snickered so much while reading this post that I blew a big splash of emergen-c water out through my nose (grody/warranted).

Mix Tape

Hey Y’all. I’ve been a little slacking on the blog-arama lately. After NaPoWriMo sapped away all of my poetic energy, it was my birthday, and so I went on vacation to Texas.

I made a mix for my buddies in Austin. Its called Seattle Sauce. Click the link above to download it.

xox

Snow.

>Last night it snowed in 49 out of 50 states (mine included). It was beautiful and quiet and…freezing. I loved it. I spent my evening putting together a mixed cd for a bi-monthly mix club that I’m in, and eating a big bowl of spicy Thai curry I made. The assignment for Dec – Jan was ‘weather.’ Which is so painfully appropriate for last night that I couldn’t resist working on it. I really love music (which I think I’ve mentioned before), and making a mix is really one of my favorite hobbies. It usually takes me a minimum of 4 hours and up to months to compose for me. I’m working on a few different projects right now, and this one in particular was really fun.

I haven’t created the cover art yet, which will be my project tonight. Then I’ll drop if off. The club is anonymous, so you never know whose mix you’re getting, and my friends who put it together are amazing and send out little bonus gifts with the mix you receive. Also, everything is covered in beautiful art. I love it.

Yesterday I was listening to this episode of the All Songs Considered podcast and actually got kind of full of myself for a minute when I realized that not only did I already own 20 out of the 25 best user picked albums of 2010, but that also, I had been jamming out to some albums on Bob Boilen and Carrie Brownstein’s top 10 lists as well. Its the little things, really.

More than anything, I am overwhelmed by how much music is out there, and frequently excited about how much of it is just so good (in my opinion). Sometimes I feel like because there are so many options its easy to get scatterbrained about it, but, I like anyone else still get obsessive about certain albums, and they go into repeat status for weeks/months. One such album of the last year for me was Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More. Seriously, what a brilliant piece of music. Orchestral, and meaningful and fun. I love that they rep Shakespearean inspired lyrics, romance, and are incredible instrumentalists. Check out, ‘The Cave’.

Anyway, I thought I’d make my own top ten of 2010. For me, this doesn’t mean that the album had to come out in 2010. Sometimes the same album repeats itself as being important to me many years in a row even.

In no particular order:

1. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More (See above).

2. Brooke Brown Saracino – Stranger’s Story Though this album came out in 2008, I was given a copy by a dear friend and musician who’d seen her play recently and couldn’t stop talking about his giant music crush on her. Stranger’s Story is pretty damn beautiful. Brooke has an interesting and earthy voice that doesn’t feel like it has to try too hard to make you swoon, which is somehow all the more enticing. Her lyrics are simple and intense, for a great example of some of my favorite tracks see: ‘How To Speak’ and ,‘Lonely Song’ which will, you know, hit you right in the guts.

3. Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeroes – Up From Below Headed by Alex of Imarobot fame, this orchestra of jingle jangle joy is just what I was missing when I first heard it. Something about the way that everyone loops their sound together in the group makes me feel so good. The record is also just, well, a little weird and fun in all the right ways. Of course everyone loves the first single, “Home” (Take a gander at the most adorable cover ever, here. I find myself tapping my foot to songs like, “Janglin'” and “Come in please.” Plus, clearly the people in the band are high on LSD or some other mind altering substance like, all the time.

4. Florence and the Machine – Lungs Released in 2009, a friend played “Rabbit Heart (Raise it up)” on repeat one afternoon when we were hanging out and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I feel sort of angry at myself for not finding Florence sooner because this album is so damn good. Florence really has such an incredible voice and knack for putting together music that will rock you just enough to dance, but you can also keep on when things are quieter. “My Boy Builds Coffins” manages to seem haunting and sweet all at the same time. Plus, this video of Florence in the park being so awkward and then drumming on a park benches, how can you not love that?

5. The National – High Violet This is probably on a million top ten lists for the year. Heck, its probably number one with a bullet for most. But, here’s what I want to say, on first listen, I wasn’t really into it. I’d (shocking and appalling I know) never heard of The National before this year and didn’t really know what to expect when a DJ friend of mine sent me this disc. Her tastes run a little less folky and more new wave than mine, so I had no idea what I might be getting myself into. After listen one, I put it away for a month. When I confessed to my friend, she told me to start with tracks like, ‘Blood Buzz Ohio’ and ‘Lemonworld’ and work my way into the album from there. Her advice was fantastic, and now, so is my feeling about this record. The lyrics are brilliant without being inaccessible. Bob Boilen talked about how sometimes lyrics are too good and too complicated to successfully sing along, but that this record let’s you. I’d have to say, Bob, I agree wholeheartedly.

6. tUnE-yArDs – Bird Brains Tune-Yards is the project of Merrill Garbus, an Oakland based musician who slapped me upside the head this year with something new and godamn brilliant. Merrill is an over the top person with some sincerely beautiful and weird music. She’s played with the likes of Chris Pureka (which is a strange and wonderful combination), and is signed to a British record label. Each song on the record was recorded by Merrill using a digital voice recorder and mixing software. Between that and the adorable snippets of the little boy she took care of talking about blueberries and Tune-Yards’ unpredictable, delicious singing this record does it for me in every way. Plus, it sort of makes me want to put on a bird costume and dance around on ice skates. This studio session for the song ‘Real Live Flesh’ is incredible.

7. Gregory Alan Isakov – This Empty Northern Hemisphere Credit for this music amazing-ness goes to my rad friend Becky. Becky has impeccable taste, and also told me emphatically (at least 10 times in a kind of tipsy trip home one night that I simply HAD TO get my hands on this album. She was (of course) right. This album breaks my bruised up and battered heart in ways I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, and I love it. Gregory is a phenomenal guitar player, and I love the use of strings on some of the tracks. But really its his gorgeous voice and make you wanna cry lyrics that get me the most. Favorite tracks include, ‘Big Black Car’ and ‘That Moon Song’. This album came out in 2009, and I will definitely be listening to it for many years to come.

8. The XX – xx Hopefully I don’t have to say too much about this album. Just take a listen (if you’ve been in a deep dark hole and have managed to avoid hearing it thus far). Something about the simplicity, and almost disinterested tone of the entire thing, makes me want to wrap this album up in a blanket and cuddle it on the couch forever. Also, after you finish listening to it, go here and download this entire album again, mashed up against Biggie Smalls. Oh yeah, maybe that snuggle on the couch will now get a little dirty.

9. Joni Mitchell – Blue Okay. This album is perfect. Its been perfect for decades and its still perfect today. For some reason it came up and knocked on my door again this year, and I spent a lot of time feeling thoughtful and singing along with Joni. Slow dancing in my living room, crooning along in the car, tea drinking on the couch. Blue is just as meaningful and intimate as ever for me. If I could drink a case of you, honey. I’d Still be on my feet.

10. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride This album spent the entire winter being on repeat in my car. Seriously, John Darnielle, you do it to me every time. One of the best song writers I’ve ever heard, and the warbling washing strongs hold this album up to my ears in the most incredible way. Songs like, ‘Autoclave’, ‘San Bernadino’ and ‘Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident’ are absolutely incredible.

Honorable mentions: Bon Iver – Blood Bank, Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane over the Sea, The Arcade Fire – Suburbs, Olof Arnalds – Innundir Skinni, Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

xoxo

>So, I’m sort of a musicophile. I really, really, love music. Especially a good folk band. I’m always looking for new tunes, and listening to something random, and I feel so fortunate to listen to such great things a lot, and have friends who put up with/encourage this part of my life. I think that going to shows, listening to records, plugging into my headphones, and watching/listening to friends play/sing improves my life in a way that is so incredible I can hardly describe it sometimes. Its sort of like, my version of church, poetry, music, communing with friends. This is as hippy dippy as I get, ya’ll (sort of).

Last night I went to see These amazing folks (Coyote Grace), play with These amazing folks (Girlyman). It was brilliant and wonderful, and I am so glad to know them, and so lucky to have heard their music last night. Seriously, every single time I see Coyote Grace play I get butterflies in my stomach and can’t stop smiling. I loved every second of the show last night, from the uptempo bluegrass jams, to the soft heartbreaking ballads, to Girlyman’s off the hook cover of Father Figure, my socks were rocked off.

I am in music LOVE, and I ain’t ashamed to say it.