December 29, 2018

Best of 2018

Pedro the Lion. Photo by me. More here.
While I have blogged less this year than any year in recent memory (statistically the lowest number of posts since my blog's inception in 2003), my connection to new music remains strong. I continue to love and obsess over whatever music is being released tomorrow, but I have far less time to invest in that discovery process.

When I have written this year, it has been more in long form, and not the short, quick blog posts of years past. Here are the two things I have written in 2018 that I am most proud of, however admittedly they will appeal to very few people:

Thank God I’m Full of Holes; What Scott Hutchison taught me about brokenness, love, God, and community

The Prayer Chain, Dakoda Motor Co., Pedro the Lion, and friendship

Overall my writing has been limited due to a major overseas move and intense personal challenges. Much of my "music journalism" has shifted to visual only through a new Instagram account. That was inspired by being reunited with my record collection after four years. I have already posted three "top-9" year-end lists there:

Top 9 vinyl releases of the year that I own:

Top 9 vinyl reissues of the year:

Top 9 album covers of the year:

A couple things have made this year in music for me different than the last few is seeing shows again with more frequency, and the amount of time I have spent listening to older music. These are interconnected, because all but one of the concerts I went to this year were for artists who were active in the 1990's. Thankfully nostalgia continues to be "in" which is great for me because I am about as nostalgic as a person can be.

Combine nostalgia with vinyl's popularity and the result is tons of reissues. With the number of my favorite 90's albums being put out on vinyl for the first time, my budget for new music is limited. The vinyl reissues are impressive visually, but I am reconnecting to the music again, and many times the songs I knew well sound way better than I have ever heard them before. Some of the songs, despite being 25 years old, have new layers and details I had not heard on my CDs and cassettes of the past.

But, back to the point, this is about new music--the best albums of 2018. The list is shorter and the details fewer, but I am going to push through and stick to my year-end tradition. After the top-3 the order honestly changes day to day, I could definitely foresee radically re-ordering these after a couple more years to mull over them.

Before I get into my top albums of the year, let me first mention my favorite song of 2018. Out of nowhere Mineral released a new song on November 5:

Despite the song only being out for less than two months, I have listened to it more times than any song this year. My walk to work is 10-12 minutes, and I will often listen to this song for the majority of that time. It is beautiful lyrically and musically, and arguably the best song Mineral has ever written.

It is still shocking the song even exists. Mineral broke up in 1998 and then reformed in 2014 for touring, but no one expected them to write together again. I was blessed to see them play in Italy in 2015 (and wrote about that and seeing them in 1997 here). Now they are touring again in January to celebrate 25 years as a band. There is a second new song coming along with a book and 10" record, releasing in January.

If you are looking for a great way to either (1) discover new music from the current year or (2) see what the top-ranked (and mostly overrated) albums of the year are, there is nothing better out there than Rob Mitchum's Google sheet. I have used it and referred to it for years, but sadly had much less time this year to read through it.

This year's mentions include artists from twelve states and six countries.

Top 20 albums of 2018:

1. Neko Case- Hell-On
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 8)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Tacoma, Washington (but has lived all over the place)

I discovered Neko Case sometime in 2004 through her vocal contributions to the New Pornographer's album Electric Version. I checked out the solo stuff she had released up until that point, but I wouldn't have necessarily called myself a Neko fan until the release of 2006' Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, which my wife and I loved. At that point I did go back and purchase 2002's Blacklisted, which we also really enjoyed.

Overall though I have always been a much bigger fan of her work with the New Pornographers than I have her solo work. 2009's Middle Cyclone was OK, but not on par with Fox. 2013 brought her last solo album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, which I dislike and feel lacks direction or cohesion. As a solo artist I had honestly lost interest in her work.

Hell-On changed everything. Five years following Neko's last solo album, a dozen years since what critics agree was her best album, Neko releases what is by far her grandest achievement. Instrumentally, lyrically, vocally--it is all on another level. The textures and arrangements are intricate and complex, and more is revealed on each listen.

The only downside? The AWFUL cover and art. My personal connection of music to visual art is so strong that most of the year, despite how much I loved this album musically, I never thought I would rank it #1.

I highly recommend this episode of the Song Exploder in which Neko Case dissects the song "Last Lion of Albion. Terrific insight into the process for the album as a whole.

2. Cat Power- Wanderer
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 8)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

3. Hop Along- Bark Your Head Off, Dog
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 6, including The Alternative's #1)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

4. mewithoutYou- Untitled
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 1)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl (deluxe ships in early 2019, so I don't yet have it)
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

5. Thrice- Palms
(Number of major music lists ranked on: Zero)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Irvine, California

6. Middle Kids- Lost Friends
(Number of major music lists ranked on: Zero)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Sydney, Australia

7.  Emma Ruth Rundle- On Dark Horses
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 2, including Treble's #7)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

8. Cursive- Vitriola
(Number of major music lists ranked on: Zero)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Cassette
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

9. Lucy Dacus- Historian
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 9, including Paste's #1)
Listen/buy on Matador Records
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia

10. Let's Eat Grandma- I'm All Ears
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 11, including Q's #2)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Norwich, United Kingdom

11. Mastersystem- Dance Music
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 1)
Listen/buy on Amazon
Format purchased: CD
Hometown: Selkirk, Scotland

12. The Innocence Mission- Sun on the Square
(Number of major music lists ranked on: Zero)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

13. The Aces- When My Heart Felt Volcanic
(Number of major music lists ranked on: Zero)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: CD
Hometown: Orem, Utah

14. Snail Mail- Lush
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 16, including five top-10's)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

15. The Decemberists- I'll Be Your Girl
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 1)
Listen/buy on Amazon
Format purchased: CD
Hometown: Portland, Oregon

16. Wye Oak- The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 1)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

17. Wild Pink- Yolk In the Fur
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 4)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: New York, New York

18. Soccer Mommy- Clean
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 12, including Paste's #4)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

19. Say Sue Me- Where We Were Together
(Number of major music lists ranked on: Zero)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Busan, South Korea

20. Death Cab for Cutie- Thank You For Today
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 1)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Top 5 EPs of 2018:

1. boygenius- boygenius
(Number of major music lists ranked on: 11, Paste's #7. Shouldn't have been ranked anywhere due to it being a six-song EP; was incorrectly classified as an LP at some point in the release/review process)
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Various

2. Hatchie- Sugar and Spice
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Brisbane, Australia

3. mewithoutYou- Untitled E.P.
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

4. Waxahatchee- Great Thunder
Listen/buy on Bandcamp
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

5. Tess Wiley- Femme Sole
Listen/buy on Amazon
Format purchased: Digital
Hometown: Giessen, Germany

Final mention: Manchester Orchestra- I Know How to Speak and various other singles and covers
Listen/buy on Amazon
Format purchased: Vinyl
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

While Manchester Orchestra's last album came out in 2017, they released a new song on average every other month in 2018, all of which are great. The most notable is the single "I Know How to Speak", but they also released the following:
"Blizzard of '77" (Nada Surf Cover)
"Bad Things to Such Good People" (Pedro the Lion cover with Julien Baker)
"The Gold" (alternate version of album track with Pheobe Bridgers on vocals)
"No Hard Feelings" (Avett Brothers cover)
"My Backwards Walk" (Frightened Rabbit cover)
"Allentown" (with the Front Bottoms)

YouTube playlist of all the songs Manchester Orchestra released this year:

Most disappointing album of 2018:

Chvrches- Love is Dead
It's not that album is terrible--it is fine--but the digression in Chvrches' creativity is bizarre. It's as if the band intentionally watered-down the edge they had. Had I discovered the band today, I would assume this was their debut, and that their actual debut was their third album. Love is Dead is Chvrches-lite.

Concerts attended this year:

Nada Surf in Strasbourg, France
Waxahatchee in Detroit
Dakoda Motor Co. in Nashville
The Prayer Chain in Nashville
Pedro the Lion in Detroit
Over the Rhine in Ann Arbor

October 19, 2018

My faith and how it is impacted by Scott Hutchison

If you are reading this, it means I finally published my essay on Scott Hutchison. Writing about Scott and his death has been an arduous process.

I have been sitting on the "finished" essay for quite some time, but have hesitated to publish it for the obvious reasons. It took me months to write, and I could have published it in early September, but I finally clicked "make public" on October 19.

Thank God I’m Full of Holes; What Scott Hutchison taught me about brokenness, love, God, and community

Before we get into more details, if you are new to Scott Hutchison and his band Frightened Rabbit, here is a YouTube playlist of the songs used and lyrics quoted in my essay:

Besides the obvious difficult topics of suicide and faith, the primary reason I hesitated to share the essay with the world--and most importantly my family and friends--is because of the apostasy. Not that I have renounced my faith in Jesus; because that is faith is stronger than ever. However, it is clear that that the renunciation of the traditional Christian view on the afterlife could lead those who know me to become upset or confused.

If you are upset with me, or worried for me, I hope you take comfort that--in spite of abandoning certain beliefs and theology--I feel closer to Jesus than I ever have at any point in my life. And that my faith and spirituality is far deeper--and honestly real and deep for the first time--after I renounced eternal hell.

Recently Dustin Kensrue (lead singer of Thrice and outspoken Christ-follower) expressed his doubts about eternal hell and other traditional Christian beliefs in a long Twitter thread. While I considered embedding them here, I don't want to shift the focus too much from Scott and myself, so I'll only give a link (read the whole thread, not just the first Tweet). I bring this up because the dozens of responses were shocking--well, sort of. The responses should be shocking, but honestly they are typical. People are worried that Dustin has lost his salvation or faith, when in fact, the things he brings up demonstrate that he is thinking deeper than he has ever done before.

I don't blame people for responding the way they did, because five to ten years ago, I would have responded the same way. I would have assumed Dustin was no longer a Christian. However, this demonstrates the flawed nature of this perspective; somehow the belief in eternal hell has become a requirement for salvation in certain churches. But the entire nature of Christianity should be that it doesn't matter what one says, does, or thinks--it all hinges on Jesus' forgiveness. As outlined in the essay, I was liberated when I discovered that my beliefs on the afterlife--along with a whole slew of other beliefs and theology--had no bearing on my relationship with God.

It may important for me to restate my belief that Jesus is God, and that while my view of scripture/the Bible has changed (inspired but not infallible), I strongly confirm both the Nicene Creed and Apostles' Creed. The concepts of heaven, hell, judgement, and forgiveness are mentioned in these creeds, but in ways that point me towards God's love and forgiveness for of all his creation.

I have a hard time explaining any of my "theology" any longer, and what I used to attempt to make systematic I now view as mysterious. If I have to give it a label, I would now say I am a "Christian Universalist."

My view on heaven and hell shifted after much contemplation, thought, and prayer--and what I feel was leading from the Holy Spirit. I then read a few books on the subject that confirmed my thoughts and feelings. I recommend both of these highly:

"Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem" by Bradley Jersak

"The Evangelical Universalist: The Biblical Hope That God's Love Will Save Us All" by Gregory MacDonald

September 16, 2018

Poor Old Lu Kickstarter; pledge now!

Poor Old Lu is half-way through their Kickstarter campaign to release their debut album Mindsize--celebrating its 25th anniversary--on vinyl and deluxe CD. If funded, this includes never-before heard demos, photos, artwork, etc.

136 people have pledged at the time I write this, and 300 or so are needed. Pledge now! If you are a fan, then your participation is essential, and if you are not, now's the time to become one. Many Lu fans might prefer their later work, and desire it more on vinyl, but in order for those reissues to come, this one needs to be successful.

Poor Old Lu was an essential member of the 1990's Seattle underground scene, and close friends and collaborators of Jeremy Enigk. They existed during the rise of grunge and emo, but were neither. They may be the most unclassifiable band I am aware of.

The most thorough post I have ever done on the band is What if Lu had Lived? Poor Old Lu's top 25 songs.

Here is one of the few videos of Poor Old Lu in their early years, and one of the best songs on Mindsize:

August 9, 2018

The Prayer Chain, Dakoda Motor Co., Pedro the Lion, and friendship

A couple days ago I was in Lansing, Michigan and bought the Sleigh Bells album Jessica Rabbit at The Record Lounge. I was having a conversation with the owner of the store, and we began talking about Sleigh Bells. I told her how my appreciation for the band increased dramatically last week after I listened to a podcast with singer Alexis Krauss. The podcast barely mentioned music; it was about Krauss' work as a teacher--first as a NYC public school teacher and now in outdoor education. After that podcast and during a long drive I listened to all five Sleigh Bells albums in a row. I have a radically different understanding and appreciation for the band now that I understand more about Krauss. She is not only a musician, but also a compassionate, thoughtful educator.

The owner of The Record Lounge gave me a discount on the album, probably because we had the conversation. Next time I am in Lansing I will definitely be back.

My opinions about the store and about Sleigh Bells are now formed in relationship. Not that I am friends with the owner or Krauss, but I now know them at least a little and have a connection to who they are, not just what they do. (Final comment on Sleigh Bells for this post: I bought the LP not just because I enjoy the music, but I love the bad-ass album cover and artwork.)

This brings me to the actual topic, the fact that I saw Dakoda Motor Co. and the Prayer Chain in concert. IN 2018. The show was wonderful of course as I have been a fan of both of these bands for 25 years. The show was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign the Prayer Chain ran earlier this year to press the album Shawl on vinyl for its 25th anniversary. I pledged to the campaign for the vinyl only back in January. The only planned show was in California at the time, and I of course was living in Germany and had no idea where I would be come summer.

At the conclusion of the successful campaign in February a Nashville date was added. I still had no idea where I would be living on August 4, but considering I am from Nashville and have family in the area, I gave it a shot and hoped.

It wasn't until last week I finally decided to go. Thankfully I had some credit card miles built up to get my plane tickets and I was on my way from Detroit to Pittsburgh to Nashville and back. Not only did I go for the music, I also went because it is the closest I will ever get to time travel. But the main reason I made the trip was because of friendship.

Being at the show was surreal. In many ways it felt like I was back in the mid-90's. Dakoda Motor Co. was my first favorite band back when I was 16, and the Prayer Chain was in my top 5 favorite bands for all of the 90's. I'll included some facts about the show itself, but the heart of the experience and my writing will be the people I saw and had conversations with.

When I finally committed to attend the show, I reached out to my friend DC. DC and I went to Samford together for a couple years in the 90's, and then he transferred to Auburn. I think we talked about the Prayer Chain the first time we met, and his email address was sunstoned@_____. Some of my favorite memories with DC are going to shows and Auburn Football games, including the 1997 Iron Bowl.

From a music perspective, DC and I bonded when we drove from Birmingham to Atlanta in Fall of 1995 to see Starflyer 59 and Morella's Forest play at the Pterodactyl. I had seen them both play the night before at the Crush Warehouse, but he missed it so I insisted we must go again the following night. Not only did those two bands play again, Joe Christmas was also on the bill. The highlight of the night though was a surprise appearance from Luxury. I have written about this experience on my blog numerous times before. It was Luxury's first performance since their horrible van crash (documentary about that and the band releasing soon). Lee Bozeman walked on to the stage, said, "Hello, we're Starflyer 59," and Luxury launched into "Solid Gold."

I hadn't seen DC since the late 90's, but we have been in touch off and on over the years. It was terrific to connect, and just as the Prayer Chain was the first thing we might have ever talked about, the band brought us together 23 years later.

Speaking of Birmingham and the Crush Warehouse, the next friend I saw was JW. He and I first met as he worked in the music department at LifeWay Christian bookstore in Birmingham. I bought countless CDs from him over the years, including The Prayer Chain's Antarctica. We also attended numerous Crush Warehouse shows together.

JW eventually moved to Nashville and I reconnected with him at Grimey's, where he has now worked for a long time. He posts frequently on Instagram of the albums he is spinning and is a fun follow. JW helped me arrange pre-show dinner at the Peg Leg Porker, and he, myself, DC, KP, AH, and two other guys all ate and hung out.

The final Birmingham connection of the night was GH, who I had actually never met in person until Saturday. However, we later realized he and I had attended countless shows together, but had just never met. The most notable mutual concert experience was the Prayer Chain's 1995 show at the Crush Warehouse, in which I worked the merch table. That show was much more significant to him, as it was his first date with his wife!

GH and I have chatted online a lot over the years, and at the show he let me know what led him to first become aware of me as a "music writer": In 2002 I and another crazy friend wrote a LONG letter to the editor of HM magazine. Surprisingly for us, they published it in full! I am not sure if it is still on the HM website, but a few years ago I put it up on my blog for posterity sake.

My brother KP came to the dinner and show as well. He and I of course have countless musical memories, but I'll focus on one. When I was 16 and he was 14 we listened to a radio show called the A-Zone in Nashville, hosted by deejays Dr. Tony Shore and KC Jones. And guess what, KC Jones was at the show on Saturday.

I went to talk to KC to remind him of the memory with my brother. KP called into the A-Zone in 1994 and won a contest. The prize was a copy of the Prayer Chain's Shawl. KC and Dr. Tony had promised to mail it to Keith, but forgot for months. Well, in January of 1995 KP and I were at a Fleming and John and Hoi Polloi concert in the basement of a Vanderbilt frat house. In between bands, we went outside to a payphone and called into the A-Zone, which was being aired live at the time. The hosts were of course jealous. A couple weeks later we visited the radio studio on a Saturday night and KP got his Shawl cassette. And we were able to give KC and Dr. Tony a Fleming and John demo cassette (this was before the initial release of Delusions of Grandeur).

The other three guys at the dinner I had never met before, but one, AH, I had also been aware of for quite some time. Number one, he is the owner of Theory 8 Records, who in the past couple years has put out stuff from Idle Bloom, Bully, and others. But most notably for me, he put out the 2003 Forget Cassettes album Instruments of Action, one of my all-time favs. (My brother, KP, also eventually played keyboards in Forget Cassettes a decade later). AH's most notable discovery is probably the band Copeland, but as he told me on Saturday, he never got much credit for that one.

I also started following AH on Instagram a few years ago, and have been fascinated by his restoration of vintage audio gear. We discussed my recent re-acquisition of my dad's old Marantz receiver which a friend had refurbished for me.

Most of my friends I found and connected with before or after the show, but one found me in the middle of it: CB. CB and I met at Beach Project in Panama City in 1996. We also connected about the Prayer Chain quickly, and CB's high school band opened for them in Memphis. CB and I both had radio shows at Samford, which were the best things WVSU had going for it. I also hadn't seen CB since the Samford days in the late 90's.

Dakoda Motor Co.

(Video is actually from the California show; haven't found a good one from the Nashville show yet.)

Setlist (which was honestly nearly perfect):
"Wind an' Sea"
"Need a Love"
"Grey Clouds"
"Rockin' in the Mall"
"Stand Up"
"Ooh, That Girl"
"All Good Generals"
"Trip to Pain"

Song they didn't need to play: "Rockin' in the Mall"; fun live, but not one of their better songs.

Biggest omission: Would have loved to hear "Ocean Seems".

I am thankful I got to see Dakoda Motor Co. back in 1995, but that was with Melissa on vocals, as Davia had left the band at that point. Seeing them with Davia was terrific (and once again, surreal).

The Choir
Honestly not much of a Choir fan. I like their better songs, but the majority of their catalog bores me. The Choir did sound good, and they had Steve Mason from Jars of Clay on guitar and Wayne Everett on percussion. I had a bad The Choir experience at Cornerstone one year that was moderately relived last Saturday night. I got to tell the story a couple times as well:

Midnight shows were a common thing at Cornerstone. One year, when I didn't attend a midnight show, and instead went to bed, I had trouble sleeping because of an especially noisy show. You are probably thinking some hardcore show or something and that I was just outside the tent. Nope, it was The Choir, and they were playing the song "Circle Slide"; and I was camped far away in an area we called "the shire". My memory is that Dan Michael's saxophone solo lasted hours, and I was having nightmares about it. Anyway, The Choir did play the same song again with Michaels on sax. I am not sure how long the solo was for, but it was too long for me.

GH's wife described them in this way: "The Choir a bit bland and bloated."

The Prayer Chain

I shot that video, but this one (below) is better, and also includes Jyro! So cool that Jyro sang with them in California, and sad but understandable he didn't make it to Nashville.

"Dig Dug"
"Like I Was"
"The Hollow"
"Never Enough"
"Big Wheel"
(sorry no Wayne poem in French)
"Sky High"

Song they didn't need to play: "Chalk"
I have nothing against the song, but it took four takes for them to play the song.

Biggest omission: This is different for everyone, but I would have replaced "Chalk" with another Antarctica song, "Friend or Foe". Thrilled that they played no pre-Shawl songs.

I had seen the Prayer Chain two other times: 1995 in Birmingham and 2003 at Flevo Festival in the Netherlands. It is hard to compare because of the huge time gaps in between those, but this show was really special. As I was explaining to Andy Prickett after the show, this one was different because all the guys in the band were happy. Andy himself admitted that in 1995 they were "grumpy". Understandably so for any band touring in those conditions, but the Prayer Chain itself was full of tension at that point and they broke up just a few months later.

I have also had a great relationship with Prickett over the years. We first connected on the Northern Records message boards, which is by far the most involved in an online music community I have ever been. Northern launched their boards around the time the first Cush album was released in 2000, and then I became a pretty dedicated member there in 2002 or so. I think the boards lasted until 2005 or 2006, and I have continued to email with and engage on social media with many people I met on there.

That included RL, who I met for the first time Saturday night. He volunteered to work the Prayer Chain's merch table, and it was fun to connect in person for the first time after 16 years of digital communication. The Northern boards were unique in that everyone was kind, interesting, and the level of discussion, while obviously mostly about music, went to deeper levels. What also made them unique is how many musicians took part in the message board such as Andy and Eric and how much insight they shared about the Prayer Chain and Cush's music. I have been emailing with Andy Prickett now for 15 years, and we had good conversation at Flevo in 2003 and then this week in Nashville.

Back in the early 2000's I created a MySpace for Dakoda Motor Co. because they were not active. And MySpace was essential. ;) In 2007 when they reformed for shows and a few recordings (only one of which was released), I got in touch with bass player Derik Toy and turned the page over to him. He and I emailed off and on, and then we met in person for the first time Saturday night. I also talked to Dakoda Motor Co. members Chuck Cummings and Eliot Chenault. I was telling them how Dakoda Motor Co. was my first favorite band, and Eliot shared those sentiments. He talked about how surreal it was for him to join his favorite band after their first album. The next day I saw Eliot in the Nashville airport and we chatted again briefly.

The final example I'll share about relationship in music is how I have related to David Bazan over the last two decades. I began writing this post just before seeing Pedro the Lion play Tuesday night in Ferndale (near Detroit), and I am now finishing it a couple days later.

When I first began listening to Pedro the Lion in 1997, and then began seeing Bazan in concert in 1998, I connected to him on many levels. Not only did I enjoy his music, but we shared the same religious beliefs, and we were similar in many ways. When he began to question his faith, I didn't know what to make of it, and it led to me becoming less interested in his music (When Achilles Heel and Headphones were released, my connection to him was severed and was honestly put off by much of those albums).

I wrote about this in a lengthy blog post in 2015, but over the years I once again began to relate to him more. Not because we believed the same things, but because he is an honest, intelligent, transparent guy. And as someone who still follows Jesus, I also am disillusioned and sometimes angry with the Western Christian church. I also relate to him as a husband and father trying to support a family in this screwed up world.

On a musical level, while enjoying his more recent solo work, I only really listened to him over the last few years because I like him as a person, connect to his lyrics, and appreciate his perspective. I saw him play a solo show two years ago in Atlanta and found it enjoyable, but thought his best work was behind him.

But then on Tuesday night, the three-piece rock band Pedro the Lion rocked me to my core. As I shared on Twitter, it was the loudest show I have been to in a really long time, and was utterly stunned with how powerful the hour and a half performance was. The set was broken into three-song medleys in which the songs were thematically related and the sound never stopped (the songs overlapped or blended into one another). The best of these was when they played "Magazine," "Second Best," and "A Mind of Her Own" consecutively. I thankfully got that last song on video (below). While I without a doubt would still like Pedro the Lion with no backstory; having a "relationship" with Bazan for 20 years gave me a deep, spiritual connection to the show.

May 16, 2018


This post is a little delayed, but the circumstances are unique. I was in Detroit April 18-22 for a job interview. It was a fun time, but I hesitated to share the experience because there was a strong reality I would not get the job. However, I did get the job after all and am moving to Detroit in July!

There are lots of different angles to this trip, but for the purpose of this blog I will of course stick to music. It was a fun time to be in Detroit, and it was clear music is a huge part of the city.

To start, I picked out some songs to listen to in advance. The first has been one of my favorite songs for about 15 years, and a fun love song. Here is a live version from The Anniversary's reunion tour in 2016:

And then of course Sufjan Stevens has an entire album about the state of Michigan, including this song about the city of Detroit:

Sufjan definitely wrote that song when Detroit was near its worst, and thankfully it has come a long way in restoration since these lyrics:
Once a great place. Now a prison. 
All I can say. All I can do. 
People Mover: Bad Decision. 
From suburban. Now a prison. 
All I can say. All I can do. 

From the trembling walls. It’s a great idea! 
Everything you want. It’s a great idea! 

One of the first things I do when I visit a city is check concert listings. I was thrilled to discover Waxahatchee was playing at Saint Andrews Hall next to my hotel the night after my interview! Seeing Katie and Allison Crutchfield play for the first time could not have come at a better time. I shot this video:

I called 2017 "The year of the Crutchfield sisters", so to see them perform together was terrific. I wasn't sure if Allison always plays in Katie's band, so I was glad she was there to sing harmonies and play guitar and keys. I also took these photos:

Created with flickr slideshow.

I also happened to be present for Record Store Day in Detroit. Amazingly, I bought no records! It was fascinating to see the assortment of stores though, and visited a bunch: Rock City Records (didn't go inside, but drove past), Third Man Records (Jack White's place), People's Records, Hello Records, Primavera Sound, and Ripe Records Detroit (brand new, was actually grand opening). My first observation is that I didn't see a single RSD exclusive release for sale. I didn't get to any of the stores until after 3, so maybe they were all sold out, but I think a better observation is that most of these stores weren't even selling them.

These stores were 95% used records, which is cool, and shows just how important old Motown music still is. I do want to know where I would buy new indie records when I move there. I loved the inside of People's Records specifically:

Third Man Records was packed, and had a terrible, live in-store performance. The highlight of going there was the ability to see the vinyl pressing plant and machinery. But not being a Jack White fan, the selection was poor. Mostly the store sells shirts, mugs, etc. all with the Third Man logo. Definitely more a tourist place rather than a true record store:

Finally, I listened to satellite radio exclusively during my stay and had a few observations:
1. The sound quality was HORRIBLE. I learned later this could have had more to due with the crappy car stereo rather than satellite radio itself, but it sounded like 28kbps.

2. The playlists are incredibly repetitive. I listened to SiriusXMU and Lithium the most, and heard so many repeat songs! I wasn't even in the car that much. Probably should have spent more time on Pearl Jam radio; at least then I hear interesting live versions of songs I know. Overall I am reminded at why I have never enjoyed listening to the radio (thus the title of this blog).

3. One of the songs I heard multiple times stuck with me, and I was glad to finally discover who it was a couple weeks later and a few days ago:

The song "Mistake" is catchy, and the whole album is great. I would expect it to wind up in my top 10 of 2018.