When all is said and done, and the robots turn off broadcast television so we’ll be more productive slave-laborers, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will likely end up being one of my favorite shows of all (pre-robot apocalypse) time. It takes the “every single major character is reprehensible” premise that Seinfeld popularized to new and amazingly scummy lows, creating a moral vacuum that’s equal parts hilarious and cathartic. I seriously walk away from each episode thinking, “Thank god those people don’t actually exist in real life,” and by extension, “Thank god I’ll never be that horrible of a person.” There may be no better illustration of what I mean than the scene pictured above — Mac and Dennis dressed in camo, drinking Coors Light in a cardboard box in the middle of a city sidewalk, hunting a homeless man named Cricket. It’s so messed up that it’s absurd… but it’s also really, really funny. And I have no way of proving this, but I have a sneaking suspicion Brooklyn-based band Chairlift saw this episode and took notes, because they’ve damn near written its score. “Sidewalk Safari” paints an unreal picture of exacting vengeance on a pedestrian, starting with the line “All of the bones in your body are in way too many pieces for me. Time to do something about it, if you know what I mean.” It’s totally creepy but extremely well-acted by lead singer Caroline Polachek, and I can’t stop listening to it. I don’t know if I love it so much because of the Always Sunny episode, or because its absurdity provides a similar catharsis, but I applaud Chairlift for making a catchy song that has you bobbing your head while Polachek sings about running someone down with a car, and I dare you not to let a wry smile slip when you check it out below. If you dig “Sidewalk Safari,” you can click here to pre-order their upcoming album Something, which will be released on January 24.
Miracles happen, you guys. Wanna know how I know? OK, besides Tim Tebow. I know they happen because it’s January 11, and I’m still rockin’ and rollin’ with my third New Year’s Reso-tune-tion! In case you missed it, as part of my resolution to start keeping better track of concert and album release dates, I created a special Google Calendar — the YHT Pumped Up Calendar — and made it public so all the interweb could join in on the fun (and… um… keep me honest). Click here to check it out — you’ll see that it’s been filling up with tons of great stuff (the upcoming Reptar and Rodrigo y Gabriela concerts in Charlottesville are two highlights), but yesterday I added what very well may be the most important calendar entry yet: the March 27 release of Justin Townes Earle’s new full-length, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now. I was reminded to add it because Rolling Stone just posted an exclusive download of the album’s title track. I’ve been hearing amazing things about the album from the lucky ducks who managed to score an advance copy (my jealousy of these folks knows no bounds), so getting to download this track is an unexpected thrill, and it confirmed some of the best rumors about the nature of the album. For instance, rumor has it that Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now goes in a Memphis soul direction, which suits me just fine, with plenty of horns, which suits me just super-fine. And yes, I did spend extra time on that last sentence to keep the phrase “rumor has it” intact so I could link to the Adele song. My bizarre obsession with that song also knows no bounds. What were we talking about? Oh yeah — listen to “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now” below and click here to download the track over at Rolling Stone.
If you checked out the series of 3 “New Year’s Reso-tune-tions” that I did last week, you might remember that my first vow was to cheer up a bit, musically speaking. Of course I broke that promise to myself almost immediately by posting a moody but totally beautiful song called “No Room For Doubt” by Lianne La Havas. My bad. I just can’t help it! So many of my favorite songs sound like downers, even when their lyrics are upbeat and inspirational — Gillian Welch’s “Hard Times” really stands out in this respect. But I’m not giving up, and Generationals are helping to push me in the right direction. My big-city friend Coyle sent me two colorfully named Generationals tunes via Spotify late last year – “Black And White” and “Greenleaf” — and the more I listen to them, the more it becomes clear that they offer the inverse of “Hard Times.” Even though they deal with complicated or ambiguous emotions, there’s an unfailing sunniness to both tracks. Take “Greenleaf,” for example. The lyrics have a vaguely indicting tone, but there are two high-pitched piano parts that keep the track feeling light and fun — one that provides constant, driving eighth-notes and a second, even more cheery melodic line that speeds up ever so slightly, as if it’s so happy to be there, it can’t wait for the rest of the music to catch up. See what I mean below, and if you feel as uplifted as I did, you can click here to snag their 2011 album Actor-Caster on iTunes.
Those who know me best are aware that I have a hopelessly damagedone-of-a-kind sense of time. I won’t go into detail, as it would take quite a while (and probably half a box of crayons) to explain exactly how time works in my brain, but suffice it to say things tend to sneak up on me. This is both good and bad. It’s good in that my life is full of surprises — “Oh wow, our vacation in the Outer Banks is next week?!? Awesome!” But it’s bad in that I don’t realize engagements overlap until it’s too late — “If we’re leaving for the Outer Banks on Saturday, that means I can’t go to the Bon Iver concert at the National…” That one stung. But I have a secret weapon that’s going to ensure that forethought somehow squirms its way into my consciousness in 2012: the calendar. OK, before you’re all, “Whoa! Hey! That’s crazy! It’ll never work!”, hear me out. The moment I find out about a concert or album release date that I don’t want to miss, I’m going to add it to a special Google Calendar (aka the YHT Pumped Up Calendar) that I’ve created for this very purpose. Plus, I’m going to make it public, so all you fine people can join in on the fun. To check it out, just click here, or click the calendar that’s sitting with the rest of the social networking links. I’ve already added a bunch of shows and releases, but the one that inspired me to get started was Lianne La Havas’Forget EP. She released a pair of EPs in 2011, one live and one in-studio, and both were fantastic, each one an invitation to fall more and more in love with her graceful voice and warm demeanor. So when she tweeted that a new EP would be coming out on February 13 (fingers crossed that date is for the North American audience as well), I didn’t want to forget. Because I do want Forget.Wait, what? Moving on… If you live across the pond, some of the songs that will be featured on the February 13 physical release are already available on iTunes. Since us ‘mericans aren’t quite as lucky, I invite you to listen below to “No Room for Doubt,” from her Lost & Found EP, and join me in getting excited for her next installment. Now if only I could add a Lianne La Havas concert to the Pumped Up Calendar as well…
Another thing about my top 10 albums from last year stands out in retrospect — I walked down some pretty well-traveled roads in 2011. Awesome roads, but well-traveled ones, nonetheless. I can just feel Robert Frost’s disapproving glare from the afterlife. And even though I refuse to fetishize obscurity and can’t claim to be an expert in any esoteric genre (aside from editing the semiannual Journal of Postmodernism in the Underground Hip Hop of Botswana), I could probably stand to stray a little further from the recommendations of major criticism sources. Besides, finding out about music from friends is way more fun and doesn’t come with arbitrary, distracting and dehumanizing rating systems. My resolution to get by with a little less help from the grid started unofficially on New Year’s Day, when I saw a Facebook post authored by Greg, a fellow writer/musician (we prefer to be called wrisicians — don’t we, Colin Maloy?) who has shared some excellent recommendations in the past. Greg’s post was about an artist named Jesca Hoop (NO, it’s not Jessica. It’s Jesca. Stop being so mainstream), and I couldn’t be more glad I Spotify’d her. Hoop’s album Hunting My Dress offers a staggeringly beautiful mix of darkness and light, with songs that feel tempestuous one moment and fragile the next. As you listen to the full-album stream below, I recommend closing your eyes and imagining yourself lounging in a screened-in porch as a summer thunderstorm passes violently overhead. If you enjoy the ride, click here to buy her album on iTunes; and if you’re interested in submitting a scholarly article for the next issue of Journal of Postmodernism in the Underground Hip Hop of Botswana, please mail a copy of your manuscript to Botswana. I’m sure they’ll find it very interesting, and they… um… actually exist.
Happy New Year, fellow 2012 dwellers! There’s a brand spakin’ new calendar year staring at us like a blank slate — who wants to make a few resolutions? What’s that you say? There’s no point because the Mayans predicted the world would end in 2012? Well, they did, but don’t be ridiculous! That’s not supposed to happen until December 21, so we have a solid 353 days to make good on a few promises to ourselves. Since I’m definitely not making good on any resolutions related to food (Mrs. You Hear That made too much icing for her New Year’s Eve chocolate cake, so naturally we’ve been dolloping the extra icing on each piece we eat), I thought I’d stick to the music-related ones. First up — keep it upbeat. Ahem, let me try that again… KEEP IT UPBEAT!!! Much better! As I was finishing up Part 2 of my top 10 albums post, I took a step back and thought, “Holy shit! What a downer!” So many of the songs that I loved most in 2011 were downbeat or moody or slow, even when the lyrics were conveying an upper of a message. That’s why in the coming year, I resolve to balance my intake of bitter-sweetness with a little more sugary goodness, tooth decay be damned. To get things moving in the right direction, I thought I’d share a song my friend Tex shared with me a few years back that never fails to bring on a feeling of mindless joy, not to mention an urgent desire to dance — the BPA’s “Toe Jam.” The BPA (stands for Brighton Port Authority) was/is a Fatboy Slim-spearheaded project that released a super-fun album in 2009 called We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat. “Toe Jam” includes one the album’s highest-profile collaborators — David Byrne — and screams upbeat optimism in every way. I mean, how can you go wrong with lyrics like “Every day is fucking perfect”? Amiright? Check it out below, click here to buy the album from whence it came, and check back for a few more reso-tune-tions.