I picked up Wild Mountain Nation in 2007 on a whim, and ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I thought Blitzen Trapper was a great mid-level underling band in the tropes of amazing acts hailing from the northwest. The most immediate reaction I had was that they sounded a bit like a more melodic-based Modest Mouse. With their Destroyer of the Void, Blitzen Trapper left Mouse behind entirely and became one of those bands I listen to a lot but never give enough credit to in conversation.
So let me tell you today, folks, that American Goldwing is a fantastic record that will take you back to the 70′s in an instant and fill your mind and heart with memories of the first time you heard those southern rock/country bands of the era. There’s way more going on with this album than anything the “Mississippi Queen” authors Mountain ever gave us, but I find it a apt comparison. There’s also quite a bit of Bowie, Dylan and The Band, and even a little Zeppelin.
That Zeppelin reference comes early in a little guitar riff on the opener, “You Might Find It Cheap.” It’s a bit “Hey Hey What Can I Do?” and a lot of fun. And if I had to pick one word to sum up this record, it would be fun. I’ve literally listened to American Goldwing six times already today. It’s just got that undefineable quality that makes me want to hit repeat as soon as it’s over. If Double Deuce from Road House were a real bar, this is the music they would play after Jeff Healey died.
Every song is a breath of fresh air, and they’re all quite wordy. It strikes me as odd, because a lot of these songs I could see just turning into jam sessions in a live setting, but here they’re expertly constructed and they all tell a good story. My favorite of these is “Astronaut.” Easily the most Elton John-ish of this collection, it’s got a great, catchy piano riff, and they lyrics are delivered perfectly by Eric Earley:
So if you’re gunna play your games with me
Better use some real chicery
Better get smart cuz that lock on your heart
It aint as heavy as it used to be
In the land without no gravity
In this windless place on the edge of space
Where the saints and the sinners have passed
With the dead satellites and the trash
In my spacesuit hopin that this woman would call me at last
Cuz I’m an astronaut on the shores of this grand illusion
And I’m fallin down at the sound of this beating heart
And that’s my favorite on an album with ten other songs that make that decision really hard. Other standouts are “Girl In A Coat,” “Love The Way You Walk Away,” and “Stranger In A Strange Land.” You can’t go wrong just hitting play on a random song, though. There’s something for everyone on American Goldwing, and I hope you pick it up at your earliest convenience.
I don’t intend to get political in this forum often. Mainly because it can turn ugly very quick, and I’m not here to spread any hate toward anyone-with the exception of Michelle Bachmann. After she announced she would be running for President of the United States of America, Colin Meloy offered her the use of “Calamity Song” by his band The Decemberists, to use as her campaign song. That got me thinking ,what other good tracks should be blasting from her camper as she stumps across the country? Here is a list of 10 songs she could use, along with a quote from Bachmann that relates to the song I’ve chosen.
1. Scissor Sisters-”Take Your Mama“
Bachmann quote: “And what a bizarre time we’re in, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.”
2. Thomas Dolby-”She Blinded Me With Science“
Bachmann quote: “There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.”
3. Elton John-”This Song Has No Title“
Bachmann quote: “Normalization [of gayness] through desensitization. Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders is take a picture of ‘The Lion King for instance, and a teacher might say, ‘Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?’ The message is: ‘I’m better at what I do, because I’m gay.’”
Bachmann quote: “It is a brand new, billion-dollar high speed train that is going to go from Disneyland up to Las Vegas…Harry Reid, the Senator from Nevada, was behind this measure, and it makes us wonder, is he more interested in making sure kids start gambling at younger ages?”
5. Barenaked Ladies-”If I Had A Million Dollars”
Bachmann quote: “I don’t know where they’re going to get all this money because we’re running out of rich people in this country.”
6. The Antlers-”Shiva“
Bachmann quote: “A woman was healthy. There was brain damage, there was no question. But from a health point of view, she was not terminally ill.” (about Terri Schiavo)
7. Dire Straits-”Money For Nothin’“
Bachmann quote: “If we took away minimum wage-if conceivably it was gone-we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
8. Bright Eyes-”When The President Talks To God“
Bachmann quote: “I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize that I am not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I’m not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I am not a scientist.”
9. John Mellencamp-”Pink Houses“
Bachmann quote: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?”
10. Airborne Toxic Event-”The Kids Are Ready To Die“
Bachmann quote: “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
If you can think of any others, please feel free to share them in the comments section. I could talk about or hear other people talk about how insane Michelle Bachmann is all day.
When I think of pop music, there are few names that come to mind as people who got it right. Guys like McCartney, Cat Stevens, Elton John (with much of the credit going to Bernie Taupin). They understand the basics of writing a pop song and making it great.
What Shawn Fogel has delivered, under the moniker Golden Bloom, is a reminder that pop music can still be a thoughtful form of artistic expression.
Much of this EP you have probably heard before. Three of the five tracks were included in the fantastic split Daytrotter session with The Motion Sick and their joint venture Neutral Uke Hotel. I feel like these three, “Rhyme The Reason” and “You Go On (& On)” have been around forever (EP opener “In The Beginning” is not credited on Daytrotter, but acts as the intro to “Rhyme The Reason”). They’re a part of me now. I’ve heard them so many times I doubt I could ever forget them.
Golden Bloom’s credits go something like this: All songs written by Shawn Fogel. All instruments played by Shawn Fogel. Vocals Shawn Fogel. It would be easy for a record made this way to delve into self-indulgence, but it doesn’t. Even the last track, which is a synth-based reprise of “Rhyme The Reason,” comes off well. When that final song started playing, I was like, “What?” But after about ten seconds I started getting into it. I think the song actually plays as a great cherry on top.
Let’s get back to my original point about pop music for a second. Here’s what radio stations around the country think todays musiclovers should be hearing:
I’m talkin pedicure on our toes toes
Tryin on all our clothes clothes
Boys blowin’ up our phones phones
Pretty deep right? Ke$ha might actually be a step below Rebecca Black as far as intelligent lyrics go. Now here’s a sample lyric from March To The Drums third track, “You Go On (& On)”:
Today you see it in front of you
On the verge and you don’t know what to do
are you fightin fears that you feel inside
are you looking for truth or a place to hide?
It’s not only pop music that is suffering, either. A few years ago, maybe a decade now, there was some genius who coined the term indie-pop. Supposedly this was pop for the more intelligent crowd. Bands like Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, and a bunch of others have all been unfairly collected under this umbrella. But now it seems like industry types just label everything indie-pop in order to seem appealing to a certain demographic. I’m sorry, but Owl City isn’t indie-pop (shit-pop maybe). And my fear is that Golden Bloom get categorized as being indie-pop (or STARBUCKS-pop). This EP, and previous effort Fan The Flames, is so much more than that.
Diatribe over, and back to the record now. Shawn has a perfect voice for the kind of music he writes. When he hits the highs, he really nails them. And when he goes for a more resonant tone, he pulls that off as well. When I saw Golden Bloom perform earlier this year at Schubas, there was a full band present. They played the songs off this EP and some off of the last record, and the guitar player was amazing. I can’t remember his name now, but he was just shredding the hell out of the stage. Without the help of a group, I wondered how the EP would sound before I got my copy. Needless to say, my doubtful nature was laid to rest as Shawn easily packs a punch of his own on guitar, drums, keys, bass, and synths.
Technically this EP doesn’t drop until August (but you can buy the digital version on Bandcamp). I got an early copy for being a nice guy (I don’t know how many other copies are out there, but I assume it’s a pretty decent number). And yes, my opinion of Golden Bloom may be biased becuase of my deep love for Neutral Uke Hotel and anyone associated with it. That doesn’t change the fact that March To The Drums is better than 99% of the music you’ll hear this year.
I may run another piece closer to the release date that isn’t so angry at the current state of pop music (but I doubt my anger will subside by then).
I stayed up way too late last night, watching the news waiting for the inevitable end to this thing we call life (or depending on what you believe at least this world we call Earth). I went to bed at 1:05 Chicago time (6:05pm Auckland) ensured that life would go on for at least another 19 months.
So now I’m a little tired, maybe from staying up, maybe because taking inventory where I work is about as exciting as an episode of Real Housewives of Akron. The rapture talk got me thinking about what kind of music I would want to listen to as I knew I was about to die. They touched on this subject a little in the underrated sci-fi flick Logan’s Run, though very briefly. My friends Chaperone did a podcast (informative and entertaining) about songs they want played at their individual funerals, but that’s a completely different topic as that would be reflective of your life and what you want others to hear (I would force people to listen to some future cover of “Party in the USA” by whoever the next Yuck happens to be-hopefully not the current Yuck).
I think if I knew I was going to die in the next hour or so, I would want to listen to something that wasn’t too heavy. But I would want it to be music that made one pause and reflect on all the good things in life. Here, now, is my playlist for the end of the world-one hour of music to send your spirit to heaven, before the nothingness that lies ahead of us all. Feel free to change up the tracklisting to fit your own personal wishes:
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band-”Backstreets”
“We swore we’d live forever on the backstreets we take it together”
It took me a long time to admit to myself and others that I like Bruce. Years went by where I would deride the man as a cheap Dylan knockoff. But as I got older, probably around the age The Boss was when he started writing pieces of Born to Run, my feelings toward him changed. His influences came from the same place Dylan’s did, Guthrie and Seeger, and Bruce put his own blue-collar spin on things. “Backstreets” has always been my favorite song of his, and I think when I come to my end perhaps I will be just another tramp crying tears of faithlessness.
Bright Eyes-”At The Bottom Of Everything” (the live Motion Sickness version)
“Death will give us back to God, just like the setting sun is returned to the lonesome ocean”
There was a night, many years ago now, when Kari and I were sitting in the apartment of our good friend Jeremy. What we were doing I don’t remember exactly, but I’ll assume video games were involved. Our other friend Jon was there, and he was playing this song on his guitar. This occured after our band Tax Evasion had broken up, but he and I would sometimes play really terrible music together (he on guitar, me on harmonica and vocals) at his house or anywhere with very little chance of interruption or people hearing us.
Anyway, a couple years after that night, Jon passed away unexpectedly. I was sitting in an Applebee’s when I got the call, and it hit me, but I don’t think I fully realized the gravity of what had happened. Not then.
Skip ahead to the following year, and I’m driving our car up to Minnesota to visit some people I didn’t know. Kari and a friend of hers were already there, so I had to make the trip alone. My iPod was on shuffle and I was about 40 or so miles north of Des Moines when “At The Bottom of Everything” came on. It started as normal and I was singing along with the first verse and then sometime around the line “We must set fire to the preacher who is promising us hell,” came on, I got the weirdest feeling.
I just started crying uncontrollably. Enough so that I thought that maybe I should pull over to the curb and settle down for a minute. I didn’t, though. I just let the feeling wash over me and accepted the fact that my friend’s death hit me harder than I thought it had. There are maybe two or three people in the universe that have heard this story (all of them also friends of Jon). Thinking about the end of humankind brought me to thoughts of him, and this song. I’ve heard it a million times since that day and it has had no effect, but in that one singular instance the idea that I would never see him again finally dawned on me.
The Thermals-”Pillar of Salt”
Because the chosen ones who survive God’s wrath will need an anthem! And what better way to celebrate your survival than by screaming out “We were born to sin?” I really do think that if the rapture ever happens, The Thermals should be spared (despite some less than great albums since this one) for writing such a great song.
The Doors-”Riders On The Storm”
I used to be a huge Doors fan, but now I’m in the “whatever” realm. However, this song has always stood out to me as the one to beat as far as Morrison-penned songs. It isn’t the most lyrically challenging song, but I think it fits in great with this piece.
Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Dire Straits-”Walk of Life”
Brothers In Arms is one of the most overlooked albums of all-time. It’s a crime how many people don’t consider it a great album.
And after all the violence and double talk
There’s just a song in all the trouble and the strife
You do the walk, you do the walk of life
Crosby Stills Nash and Young-”Everybody I Love You”
Because in the end, it’s all that really matters.
Though your heart is an answer
I need your love to get through
When I tell you I love you
You can believe that it’s true
This one is more of a personal choice, I suppose. You could switch it out with a lot of Wilco songs. “Ashes of American Flags” or “Jesus, etc” would be good choices as well. That last part of the song with the “music is my savior” line made it my pick.
For all the leaves will burn
In autumn fires and then return
For all the fires we burn
All will return
Music is my savior
I was maimed by rock and roll
I was maimed by rock and roll
I was tamed by rock and roll
I got my name from rock and roll
REM-”It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”
The most obvious choice ever! But, when you’re dealing with these sorts of things, why not go with the song that begins so accurately-”That’s great it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes an airplanes”
Stevie Wonder-”The Joy Inside My Tears”
Honestly, if I had over an hour, I may just listen to all of Songs In The Key Of Life. The album is a true testament to Stevie’s talent as a songwriter and performer. This song in particular is one of my favorites.
I feel that lasting moments are coming fr and few between
So I should tell you of the happiness that you bring
Baby, baby it’s you – you – you
Made life’s his-to-ry
Oh baby, you’ve brought some joy inside my tears
Elton John-”Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”
Because with Elton, the rapture will be the second hottest flame in your ears.
The end of the world should be a party. Especially for those of us who don’t believe in such ridiculous things.
That brings my set to 58:26. With my remaining 1:34 I would hum “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as any patriotic American should.
How would your last hour on Earth sound?
I remember way back in 2002 the idea entered my head for the first time to purchase a record player. Napster had hit it’s peak in popularity among people my age, and now sites like Limewire and Kazaa were overtaking the originator of P2P file sharing. There was something about that particular time and place that made getting an old, antiquated piece of machinery seem like the right thing to do.
We’d gone to the Trinity Mission Thrift Store a bunch of times. Thrift Store’s that offer student discounts are a great thing. Instead of paying a dollar for a piece of crap I’d never use, I only had to pay 85 cents! There was never much for me to buy in a place like this; old sofas that were pink and stained, John Grisham and Stephen King novels that someone had bought but never read, clothes. The clothes were always the item I was most hesitant about. For some reason I’m convinced that anything in a thrift store is a shirt or jacket that someone died in. Even the kids stuff. Like, maybe when Jimmy rode his bike out into the street and got hit by a car, he was wearing this Farmington Fruit Bats t-shirt. Irrational, I know.
There was always one item that caught my eye. A 1959 Sears brand Hi-Fi. It stood upright with a cabinet on the bottom for storage and a upward-opening top to get to the turntable. The original owner had added a 8-track player to the fold, but it did not work. Made of a deep mahogany with ornate trimming along the top and nice hardware on the cabinet doors, it must have cost the owner a pretty penny.
On student discount day, it cost me $33. It’s a heavy son of a bitch, so I had to call my friend Ian to help me pick it up and get it into my roommate’s truck. After getting it into our apartment I realized that I had failed to get any records to play on my new treasure. So I got back into the vehicle and drove back to the Trinity to get some old, cheap records.
The record bins at thrift stores might be the saddest place on Earth. It seems like everyone of a certain age listened to all the same records. I literally had to stop counting the Ray Coniff Singers albums for fear that I would be there the rest of my life. There are some hidden gems in with all the schlock, though. On that first day I picked up copies of: Elton John-Madman Across the Water, Bill Cosby-Himself, Bruce Springsteen-Born In The USA, and The Monkees self-titled debut.
And with that, a record collection was born. I’d hit up the Trinity a couple more times, but I started going to Von’s record store on the main campus strip where there was a much greater selection-and much higher prices. I made a few purchases here on my no-shoe-strings budget. The most controversial pick was Justified by Justin Timberlake. I took a lot of crap for that one. I make no apologies though. Justified is a great record, and Justin Timberlake is one of the most talented guys out there right now.
When we moved to Buffalo I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were at least 5 record stores that were decent within a short drive of where we lived in Delaware Park. I picked up albums like Kick Out The Jams by MC5, Jets To Brazil’s Perfecting Loneliness, and every REM album I could find. It was a grand time. I’m not sure how much money I spent on records in that one year, but I’m glad I had a decent paying job to support my habit.
And now we live in Chicago and I can’t spit without hitting a record store. The music gods have been shining on us for sure. I haven’t hit all of them, of course, but the ones that I have been to have all seemed like nice places. I really enjoyed Saki when I went. Especially after going to a place like Reckless Records, which is just huge. Saki is just the right size for me, even though I have to go to Logan Square to visit.
Record Store Day is only two short days away. Tomorrow I’ll have a little preview of the records I’m excited to check out. What are you guys looking forward to? Comment below if you’d like and tell us all about your favorite record store memories.
Mine is from when I lived in Buffalo and I was at a store getting the Strokes album Room On Fire. I reached for it, and at the same time the lead singer from The Tragically Hip tried to take the last copy. So I punched him in the throat, kneed him in the groin, and then ran out of the store. As I ran past the cashier I threw a 20 at him and reached for my keys. I knew from doing research for a book about The Tragically Hip that Gordon Downie is a eunuch, so a knee to the groin wouldn’t keep him down for long.
Some of the above isn’t true, but I’ll leave that to you, the audience, to figure out.