Three Back to School Tracks

September 2, 2008

September’s such a tough month. Things are new, so you’re ignoring that you’re beginning (again) all the shitty school stuff you hate. It’s still warm, so you can sort of convince yourself the crushing depression of cold, bleak fall days is still a way off — even though it’s closer to being here than it isn’t. There’s something about endings mixed with beginnings that sort of fucks with my head.

Today was most likely my last first day of school ever. And, frankly, I don’t give a shit. Here are some tunes I’ve been digging lately, some of which evoke the weird-ass transitional period we’re in:

1. The Firekites – Same Suburb, Different Park

Acoustic pop need not be boring. This is a late-night, late summer jam; a mix of Broken Social Scene, Sam Prekop and the American Analog Set; a stunning, finger-snapping, sort of freak-folkish but totally headphone pop diddy that probably could be as comfortable in a Zach Braff movie as on a collection of Yo La Tengo b-sides (okay, maybe that’s a stretch.) The harmonies: sublime. The unforeseen bassline rise that drops out of nowhere but hits as if you saw it coming a mile away (yes, it’s that perfect): nice. Dammit if I can’t hear mosquitos chirping away in the background as the last embers of the Labor Day barbecue dim and everyone accepts the fact that, yes, tomorrow we’ll get up and summer will be over, and well, fuck everything.

2, 3. The Broken West – Auctioneer and Perfect Games

A lot of blogs describe the Broken West using some or all of these terms: coastal, California, golden-pop. I’m sure all these terms apply, if only to describe the melancholy yet sugary-sweet pop this foursome creates. In truth, it’s so good I had to pick two songs from their upcoming release Heaven or Nowhere: “Auctioneer” opens with piano-driven verses, hand-claps and a jazzy bass line (sophisticated pop, yes) and quickly descends into a crowdpleasing, driving chorus lamenting a mistreating lover. Maybe Beulah? Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin? Take your pick. “Perfect Games” is straightforward pop, but excellent straightforward pop: it’s like Snow Patrol, but so so so much better.


Poolside non-sequitors

August 20, 2008

A lot of stuff has happened over the last few weeks and I really wish I had the motivation to chronicle it all. I saw Radiohead three times, went to New York, threw my brother’s bachelor party, locked down post-graduate employment, saw the Dark Knight, went to Six Flags, etc. 

Now I’m lounging at home at my parents’ house doing just about nothing. At the current moment I am sitting next to the pool in girls’ sunglasses, drinking cold coffee from this morning, listening to the new Walkmen (good), blogging, about to read, and trying to keep Jack from eating the shit he just took. Here are some things I feel like talking about:


  1. It’s really enjoyable to actually buy music. I went to Best Buy about an hour ago, walked in and purchased a physical copy of the new Walkmen album. It felt great. I got in my car, unwrapped it, looked at the cool european-looking artwork, smiled approvingly at the cool placement of the black and white text on the red disc, popped it in. Had never heard it before. Secrets abounded. This is what music used to feel like. Technology is a blessing and a curse.
  2. “Once” is a fantastic movie. There’s a million reasons to hate this movie. But try not to. Man was I a blubbery tear-jerky mess during parts of this. It’s easy to hate the intentional quirks (see: Juno, Garden State, most Wes Andersen movies, the Squid and the Fucking Whale) but sometimes (see: Juno, this movie) it’s easy to fall in love with the substance. The tunes are quite good as well.
  3. New Max Richter: Also makes me want to cry.
  4. Olympics. Meh. China — what a joke.
  5. Law school starts in two weeks. I get to pay $42K for my pointless third year. That’s tuition alone. $21K/semester. For. Classes. That. Don’t. Mean. Shit.
  6. Good news. At least I get to move back to Ann Arbor and live it up for a year. Hoping to leave no less than 24oz of vomit in Rick’s by fall break.
  7. Dark Knight. Hype = completely justified. A bit of a mess with the whole Chinese guy / Hong Kong subplot, otherwise stellar. When Gordon says “The Dark Knight” and the whole thing cascades to a thrilling, epic close, I got such a rush. Fist pump subdued, but yeah, a fucking rush.
  8. Leroi Moore of the DMB died last night. Something about this band really got me back in H.S. Put on some live set this morning out of a sort of homage, I supposed. I turned it off within five minutes. This is a pretty bad band, and I realize it now. Talented, but bad. But they were a fun band to be a fan of, with continuously morphing songs and setlists and sprawling tours and online tape trading communities and what-not. It’s sad to think a bit of my childhood died last night; who knows what the future holds for the Matthews band but it cannot be good.
  9. Viper at Six Flags Great America. One of the best coasters I’ve ever been on. Other great coaster surprise of the summer: Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood. 
  10. I’m eating like shit. Jet’s Pizza. Taco Loco. KFC. My last three meals. Stick a fork in me.

P4K day two

July 29, 2008

  1. Got hit in the head with a thrown webcam during the beginning of Les Savy Fav’s song, but powered through it. Hurt.
  2. M. Ward stole the day unexpectedly.
  3. Spiritualized just doesn’t do it for me.
  4. Bon Iver didn’t translate live.
  5. Cut Copy didn’t really show until quite late.
  6. Spoon is boring from a half a mile away.
  7. I hate hipsters.

I’m tired of indie rock

July 20, 2008

Pitchfork fest day 1 yesterday only served to confirm my suspicions that I am beginning to get old and grey and tired of this overhyped washed up indie rock bullshit. It also served to confirm that occasionally something can hit you so hard at such the right angle that everything that angered you about music, about a genre, about whatever, can be forgotten about.

Namely, the Hold Steady pretty much added four years to my lifespan yesterday. Energetic, sincere, precise. They had more musicality in the opening notes to ‘Sequestered in Memphis’ than !!! and all the other hipster-noodle nonsense have had in their entire careers. Craig Finn opened up and rained true, pretense-free shit on scads of art school fucks and homemade purse-touting Animal Collective fans with pure Adderall-driven glee and sadness, the likes of which made me wish I was drowning in a sea of Jim Beam. I don’t care how you feel about this band on album — hit or miss, sure — but in a day and age where I have to sift through oceans of irony to find something that truly makes me feel something, I’ll take 10,000x more Hold Steady albums before I have to hear another freak-folk schlockfest. Dudes were animals on stage, but endearing animals — they looked like they loved what they did and they wanted us to join them. It’s sad that this essential hallmark of live music — a connection between the artist and the fan — has become so rare.

Contrast this with the infinitely hateable bunch that is Vampire Weekend. Yeah, I like some of their songs, and they were Strokes-esque in their mechanically perfect reproduction of their album on stage. But dudes were some of the most smug, self-aware, shit-eating goons I saw all day, and considering I was at the Pitchfork Music Festival, this was an accomplishment. That being said, none of these comments apply to their drummer,  who looked like he belonged in the Hold Steady and was damn proud to be wearing a Phish shirt.

Fleet Foxes’ all had matching ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ outfits and facial hair, and their lead singer sat in a chair while they performed. No further comment necessary.

Which prompted Dizzee Rascal to rip on them at the opening of his set. “Yo Pitchfork, I see you been listening to some folk shit, doing your little dance. I say, Fuck that SHIT!” Dizzee’s performance was, like the Hold Steady’s, based on actually enjoying himself on stage, and shockingly, it entertained people as well! He closed with the still somehow unknown tour-de-force “Dance Wiv Me,” prompting Alain and I to go absolutely insane and everyone else to go get prime seats for Vampire Weekend.

Caribou was Caribou. I watched about four Animal Collective songs, and actually enjoyed myself quite a bit seeing as the lights were cool and it sort of reminded me of seeing Radiohead, but then we left a bit early to avoid the bum rush on the train.

I’m so sick of all this. I just want people to make and listen to music. I don’t know who performed more yesterday — the bands or the audience. Every outfit was impeccably hipster. Everyone who was everyone in the hipster community was there. I can’t wait until Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav knocks some sense into the crowd today.

So, to steal Alain’s joke, how was Pitchfork Music Festival Day 1?

I don’t know; what did Pitchfork say about it?

Mega sneaky lawyer’s trick

July 6, 2008

This guy isn’t really a lawyer (he’s a defendant stupid enough to defend himself), but nonetheless I’m planning on using the “Fake a Heart Attack” trick if I ever go to Court:

The team

July 2, 2008

CUE: Sports hyperbole

I could cry. I could honestly cry. I love this team so much and days like today just make it that much better.

Yes, the Wings signed Marian Hossa. Yes, it is awesome. No, it does not mean they’ve already locked up a repeat.

What it does mean, actually, is a whole hell of a lot greater. Today proved, once again, that this is one of the most fantastic, well-run and respected franchises in the league, if not all of sports. When I got home from work, I put on my Zetterberg t-shirt and proudly walked the streets of Chicago (not that anyone cared).

Consider the following:

Hossa wants to join the Wings. He had been offered $92M, multi-year deals from other teams. Nonetheless, he calls up Kenny Holland and says he wants to be a Wing, so he’ll sign for one year so we can sign Zetterberg and Franzen next season. Cool. But at what price? Negotiations started way over $8M, and Kenny balks.

Why does Kenny balk?

Because no one on the team makes more than Nick Lidstrom. And no one can.

Why can no one make more than Nick Lidstrom?

Because Nick Lidstrom makes about $2.5-3M less per season than he could if he played for a different team. And he does it because he sets the tone for the rest of the team — you want to win, you need players. And to sign players, you need money. So he sacrifices.

And the Wings, being the classy sons of bitches that they are, look Marian Hossa dead in the eye after he turns down an 8 year, $92M contract and say “Gee, Marian, thanks and all for saying you’d sign a one year deal, but no one on this team can make more than Nick Lidstrom.”

Honestly. That’s what Ken Holland said.

“So here’s what we do,” continued Mr. Holland, who is now my man-crush. “We either break off negotiations now, or you wait for me to call Nick Lidstrom and explain this situation to him. We don’t want him to feel disrespected.”



And Hossa has every right to be miffed. Every right to be irritated. EVERYBODY wanted to sign him.

And you know what he says?

“Listen, don’t even bother calling Nick. Just sign me for whatever he makes and that’s cool.”


And just like that, the Wings scared the living shit out of everybody in the league. Not because on paper they’re better than everyone else (which they are). Not because they added Hossa to a forward corp already good enough to win a Stanley Cup (which they did).

But because, while teams mortgage their futures trying to lure top talent, signing hamburger quality players to filet mignon contracts, the Wings quietly and coyly lured in the top free agent on the market not on term, not on money, but because in June he watched them fight, compete, and win like a team and thought “I want that.”

So this officially makes Marian Hossa a force to be reckoned with. Marian Hossa playing uninspired hockey in Atlanta was still ungodly sick. Marian Hossa playing inspired, determined hockey in Detroit could just be earth-shattering. It wasn’t smart to do what he did; not many people could walk away from $85M and feel very good about it.

But he did it because this is what he wants. And this is where he wants to be.

Talk about your mind-numbing days. You watch a team win a Cup, and then a few weeks later this happens. I’m going to enjoy this. I may never see this again.

That, my friends, is a fucking team, from top to bottom.

Hank Zetterberg = 100% pro

June 16, 2008

Addendum: Best Red Wings YouTube videos

June 14, 2008

Here’s an addendum to my last post — some videos that show off just how awesome these guys are. I hope to God this city embraces these dudes as much as I have.

1. Aaron Downey dancing at the team party

2. Wings bring the Stanley Cup to Cheli’s unannounced to celebrate with fans

3. Lebda drops the f-bomb on Channel 4

4. Drunken Lebda plays reporter

By the way, Lebda was so shitfaced at Cheli’s that he dropped the Cup and they had to get it fixed. Dude’s a bit out of control.

5. Holmstrom doesn’t need this shit

6. Draper’s very young children drink on live TV

7. McCarty will punch you in the mouth

8. Pavel feels good

9. Osgood gives the Drapist a bag tag

10. Osgood and Lidstrom awkwardly visit Jay Leno


June 14, 2008

I don’t even know how to begin this. It’s been a week and a half or so. I’m just finally starting to get a sense of how to package this victory. It’s been, in truth, surreal.

But as I’ve allowed this one to simmer a bit, I’ve come to realize just how much this means to me, now, as a fan of this team.

It’s hard for me to separate my love for this team from my memories of their prior era. When I see the Red Wings logo, the first thing I think of is Joe Louis Arena rocking itself to its core on a warm May night, against the Avs in 1997, with Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov as the top scoring line. I think of the absolute sheer energy that existed in that building in the mid-to-late-1990’s, when I literally couldn’t sleep the night before going to games because it happened so infrequently.

But time has passed. Steve’s gone. Sergei and Brendan are both shadows of their former selves playing for different teams. The Wings were the only show in town in 1997 and 1998, and even 2002; now they have to compete with the Pistons and Tigers, who generate more buzz, more controversy, and more attention than the Wings ever do. People laugh at the Hockeytown moniker. I go to ten or so games a year now, and buy some of my seats on Ticketmaster. When I’m there, I look at rows of empty seats. Where Joe Louis was once a wonderland, a place to be visited once or twice a year, I now see a rotting, old — but still awesome — rink that never gets as loud as it used to.

I had to sit through a lost season, which alienated a fanbase in Detroit and around the world. I have to try to defend the sport rather than celebrate it. I have to watch the games on Versus. I have to try to shoe-horn in hockey talk when out with people, trying to insert some Wings talk amongst endless Flip Saunders and Jim Leyland conversations.

And then, in 2008 — when the Wings on paper didn’t look as ferocious as any of the previous teams; when the national spotlight was elsewhere; when the city was caught in Tigers frenzy; when I read “What’s with the lack of sellouts at the Joe?” articles ad nauseum — they won the Cup.

And what happened? 1.4 million people showed up downtown, the largest parade the Wings have ever had, and the largest Stanley Cup parade since the New York Rangers’ win in 1994 (and, yeah, that’s NYC). People talked hockey for the last week. People smacked me five on the streets of Chicago. People embraced players that some swore couldn’t be embraced because they didn’t speak English, or they weren’t good North American boys (fuck you Don Cherry).

I’ll probably always love 2002 the most, just because it was so special — a great time in my life. And 1997 will always have the charm of being the first.

But there’s something about this one that almost means more. It means that my favorite sport isn’t dead yet in Detroit. It means that my favorite team can change and still succeed. It means that I don’t have to feel like I need to apologize for talking about these guys at a table full of basketballheads anymore.

In truth, this one might be the most special. The previous three were like a hazy dream — this one was like a well-deserved reward.

Fuck Gary Bettman for ruining my favorite sport, and fuck Versus for being representative of just how pathetic the state of hockey has become. Fuck lockouts for making my true sports love a joke. And fuck you Steve Yzerman for retiring (not really).


The car is last night’s game; the bikes + riders are my happiness, my energy, and my joy

June 3, 2008