Acoustic Music on Youtube: Imagine Dragons and Three Years Later

It has been a full year since the first time I heard “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons. And although part of me wants to reject the band because of their popularity (and, yes, that is the less mature part of me, I think) I can’t stop liking the song or enjoying different renditions of it.  A great deal of this has to do with the new memories I have gained in conjunction with this song. And most of this has to do with whom the memories surround

My three-year old daughter keeps asking for this song. Even a year after she first heard it, she loves it–especially this acoustic version. And a few weeks ago, while listening to the lyrics and watching her and my son sing along, I was completely undone. Because, you know, its the undoing time of year.

I don’t want to be the guy who spends the same night (or series of nights) every year tipping back drinks in honor of what has been lost.  I don’t want the end of January to be a black hole on the calender. I want to fill the year with new memories, to graft skin over the scar tissue in some pathetic search for normalcy. But, the scar tissue is never truly gone, is it?

This isn’t going to be another maudlin entry about what it has been like to pass another year without our father.  I have accomplished that far too many times. The people we live with and then without are the ghosts who accompany us to our own graves. We see them in our faces in the mirror, in furniture and objects around the room, in the simple action of turning over the soil from winter for the new spring. The act of living needs death for its meaning(s). But, as my brother said today, it is through living well that we honor the dead.

Yes, another year has past since the untimely death of our infuriating, irascible, inimitable, and beloved father. This year I did my best to be somewhere different (Washington, DC) doing different things. But as the day and the week goes by, he’ll be in my thoughts. He is almost every time I look into his grandchildren’s faces.

And this is the way of things.

Top Songs of (my) Year 2013

FatherTimeSomehow, another year has turned (as the Greeks would put it) and I find myself already contemplating writing retrospective and best of the year reviews. My sense of awe and disbelief derives not from actual disbelief since I can distinctly remember my life last year and where I was when I wrote the restrospectives of a year ago. No, my surprise comes from how fast it has all gone .

The alacrity of our passing years is in part perspective (the more you do something the fast it seems to go; objectively speaking, time itself has not been altered). And yet, in addition, the rapid transit of time is still accelerated more by our myriad modern distractions (I’m talking to you, 24 news cycle, twitter, social networks, etc.) and the busyness of my time of life—early career, young children, somewhat lame blog…

Is the enjoyment of life necessarily limited by speed and quantity? My suspicion is that the answer is yes. But the fact is that I don’t really want to contemplate the answer, because the only solution is to give stuff up. And I wouldn’t know where to begin. The fullness of my life is a blessing more than a curse.

Today isn’t about the busyness or the blog. I want to celebrate the fact that I still take time to enjoy music and that another year has brought me another group of songs I will always love. So, here are the ten songs I will most associate this year with in no particular order.

“New Distributor Cap”, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities

Some how I missed this alt-folk band years back. When I discovered it when I was writing a review of the Breeders’ Last Splash, I fell into one of those “wish I had been a different person reveries”. This song is sweet, and true. The central conceit—that the singer will fix the car for the girl he likes—is just so simple and universal as to be adorable. The fact that the music and recording is low-fi only brings into relief the greatness of the song even more.

(And this made me promise myself that I’d finally get around to writing about Small Rock. Just next year)

 “Best of Friends,” Palma Violets

I wrote about this song earlier. I listened to it every day for two weeks. Hell, I’m listening to it now. It is one of those songs that makes the rest of the album pale in comparison. It made me rethink Rancid. (And I’ll write about that next year.) It would be higher on the list if I had convinced my wife and children to like it.

“Dreams of Cannibalism”, Typhoon

When The Only D called me out on Typhoon and predicted I would like it, I was skeptical, but that crazy guy knows me too well. I love the album White Lighter. I love this song because it is so characteristic of how creative, dynamic and just damn musical this artist is. His songs are heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.

I have shed a tear listening to this music while running in the wee hours of the mourning. Thankfully, it was always in the dark.

Late March, Death March,” Frightened Rabbit

I am going to cheat on this one and add in two more songs. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”, and “Twist”. Earlier in the year I wrote how it would be impossible for me to write about Frightened Rabbit. I haven’t changed my opinion, but I have grown to love this band even more. The group’s most recent release (Pedestrian Verse) isn’t their best, but it is still pretty damn good.  I have gone days with the line “like mother said, less heart more head” from this song bouncing around in my head. It is now nearly a mantra.

“It’s Time,” Imagine Dragons

Yeah, I wrote about this song. Then, my children fell in love with it. Then it exploded and Imagine Dragons turned up everywhere. (I still don’t believe that LeBron James listens to the band.) My kids call this the “clapping song”. When my daughter sings along with the last line “I’m never changing who I am”, it chokes me up. I won’t lie.

“Super Bon Bon.” Mike Doughty (from the release, Circles)

I never thought I would get so excited about Mike Doughty again, but I was really interested to listen to this release of Soul Coughing ‘covers’. When my children heard it, they loved it and were at first perplexed by the fact that there was another “Super Bon Bon” that sounded different. They named the original recording “Drum Super Bon Bon” and this one “Small Super Bon Bon.” I play whichever they ask for. So, Mike Doughty, you made the list.

“Closer,” Tegan and Sara

When Tegan and Sara released their new album I did my usual contrarian thing and reviewed what I hold to be their best album (The Con) instead. But this song has grown on me enoguh that I listen to it a few times a week. I love these artists. I will probably buy every recording they ever make.

“Let’s Go,” Matt and Kim

Matt and Kim have always been a bit of a curiosity for me. I think that they are maknig dance music but I really like to run to it. It is memorable but not always that deep. This song is a little more complex than some of their numbers. The real reason it made it to the list is that I have ehard the song 20 times in the past five days. My daughter fell in love with it and I cannot resist when she asks for a song.

“Some Nights”, Night Riot (Used to be PK)

I grew obsessed with the song “Berelain” which I discovered just around the time I finshed the final book of the Wheel of Time series. I actually like this song more. How did it end up as the penultimate song to this list? Every time I hear it, I think, hey, I like this song. And, every time, it seems like a new revelation. That’s a pretty neat thing in a time when repetition kills everything.

“Every Time she Turns Around it’s her Birthday”, Caribou

I have written about this song a few times. I love it. But that’s not enough. No, the progressive and somewhat unstructured music is not just entertaining but it is also transformative. I haven’t heard a song that makes me feel like my state is altered in a long time. This one makes me feel, well, different. Listen.

Happy new year. May next year be even better.

Bad Band Names (and good ones?)

The subject I am about to touch upon–and don’t be distracted by the brevity with which I treat it–is one that is close to my heart because I was in two bands for nearly four years each and both  had rather terrible names. How do I know that the names were bad? When people ask me what the names of my bands were, I am too embarrassed by them to even utter them. In fact, I often find myself saying a silent prayer of thanks for the fact that both of my bands disappeared before the full rise of the internet. It is very, very hard to connect my proper name with those terrible, awful names.

This band has some pretty good beats and a rather tough sound for some ladies. Where are they now? While a rose by any other name still sounds as sweet, words have intrinsic attractiveness based on their sound and that sound’s relationship to the language at large. If a thorned flower were called ‘turd’, would we have bands named the Stone Turds and Guns N’ Turds? The sound matters.

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Old Friends, New Friends and New Music

So, one of the interesting things that has happened since I started telling people about this blog (which I have done only sparingly and sometimes with trepidation) is that many have almost immediately asked me about bands they love. It is nice to witness people get so voluble and eager to talk about music.

This volubility comes, I think, from an honest desire to share something with someone else that each of us has found dear—by making a connection with music and seeing someone else make a similar connection (even if the content is different) we triangulate and make connections with other people (and not just the music).

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Current Events:Three Quick Notes

First off, in response to my brotherls post about Mumford and Sons the other day, I may have been a little preemptive in my assessment. I had read how one of the members had come from a lot of money and I did exactly what my brother said and judged them on it. I have a reason which is certainly not an excuse. We were raised in a society where rich people were scorned, ultimately because I think most people are cash poor in rural areas and are thus jealous of those they perceive to have more than them. Jealous isn’t the right word but it will work; my point is, one thinks money will solve all your problems and we all know that is not how it works.

As for Mumford and Sons, my brother gave a pretty awesome description  of why they are so good. They are also making a stop here this weekend on their very short North American tour so I have been hearing their music a lot lately.  I really like “Little Lion Man” and its funny because the slide player in my band now played it for me right before we went to Mountain Jam 2010 which is where we also saw Jerry Douglas. I hadn’t seen my buddy who is now the slide player since high school and it was two years later that we started playing music together. We did both groove on Jerry Douglas , the most amazing dobro player ever, when he played with Alison Krause and Union Station. So, it works out nicely that my favorite song that involves the Mumford crowd is their cover of “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel on Jerry Douglas’s new album. It also features Paul Simon himself on guitar so those boys must be on cloud nine right now. I wish them all the best.  Here is one of the illest things we saw Jerry do. It’s a cover of “Little Martha” by the Allman Brothers, one of the last things Duane ever recorded. Enjoy.

In strange news of my own life, I’ve mentioned in my post on procrastination that I am landscaping this summer in an upscale neighborhood in the same town that is hosting the big “Gentlemen of the Road” tour stop with headliners Mumford and Sons. I was cutting back hemlocks this morning and suddenly three cops pop up in front of me with their hands on their guns. One has a fucking machine gun strapped to his chest! I may work in a city, but it’s one that averages less then five murders a year so this sight is not a common one. I drop my rake and they ask if I had seen anyone with a shotgun walking by. I said absolutely not and that maybe someone thought my shears was a gun or something.  I do wear an orange hat so most people know me in the neighborhood, but you never know. We joked a little and then they left the house but it was startling. Why didn’t I hear them coming up? I was listening to the shitty studio version of the song “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons which sounds cool live in the video below. I love the lyric “the path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell”. It hits me.

Last, but certainly not least, it was my man Jerry “Dawg” Garcia’s birthday yesterday and I needed to at least mention this to whoever might actually read this blog. I love the Dead as I have mentioned before in posts like the one about unrealistic shows. They represent a certain time and vibe from college and I think I will always love them a little bit. My brother also mentioned seeing Jerry back before died and I am forever jealous. I hope my dad met up with Jerry in the great gig in the sky and they chilled out. Jerry was into way heavier shit than my dad would ever dream of but I am sure they would find an even philosophical ground. Anyway, Happy Birthday Jerry, keep on jamming.