Beer and Pavement

2013: What happened?

Posted in Beer, Life, Live, Meta, Mikkeller, Records by SM on December 31, 2013

2013 Calendar from Never Sleeping

I have been absent from this blog and blogging in general. Honestly, I thought I was done with it. Life happened and time became scarce. It was time to move on…

…or so I thought.

Life happened in 2013 and sometimes there’s just no room for such frivolities like keeping a public journal or pretending to be a journalist. This is the year I started a PhD program – part-time, but a PhD nonetheless. It’s also the year we learned that we would be expecting another child around mid-February (2 months to go!). Throw on top of that a promotion to a supervisory role and a major expansion to our organization and you have a pretty busy year.

Normally, this hasn’t stopped me from writing. However, I needed to step back for a bit. This blogging thing gets in the way of living now and again. A break was in order. So, 2013 is pretty lame as far as blogging goes.

So, I’m thinking about doing this all again. Why? I don’t really know. It’s just an itch that needs to be scratched, I guess. I’m promising nothing. I won’t promise a certain quantity or quality of posts. I’m not promising anything in regards to topics. You know what I like. so, you can reasonably expect more of the same… for the most part.

I still listen to music. I have a favorites list for 2013, of course. It felt weird not tow write up a blog post on the subject, so I’ll include a bit about it. First of all, I won’t rank my favorites. I’ll just give you ten records you should check out.

The year was filled with old favorites as well as a running theme in my musical choices. Yo La Tengo released their best record in years with Fade. Especially amazing is the track “I’ll Be Around.” Another year and another Arcade Fire makes my year-end list. Unlike past releases, Reflektor is low on the thematic end, but it’s ueber-fresh. Kurt Vile’s Walkin on a Pretty Daze is my favorite KV record so far. Bill Callahan is Bill Callahan. Dream River is just another addition to what is becoming the best collection of songwriting in the modern indie era or something like that. I saw Thao Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down earlier this year put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in Middle Missouri. Her record We the Common didn’t hurt either. The Chronicles of Marnia by Marnie Stern was a surprising discovery that fulfills my guitar noodling needs for another calendar year.

Then, there’s a list of records that continues a trend in my listening habits of recent years: grrl rock bands that sound like they’re straight out of 1995. Waxahatchee might be my most-listened to record of 2013. It sounds like my entire college years as seen through a small town lesbian. (I have no idea whether or not Katie Crutchfield is gay, nor do I care. I just imagine the main character in her songs to be this angst-ridden lesbian from 1994. It helps with the narrative, but it doesn’t have to be true.) Scout Niblett’s “Gun” was one of those songs I played over and over. The rest of the record isn’t filled with scrubs either. Radical Dads was a surprise find, but pretty aggressive in that 1994 kind of way. Marnie Stern is a one-womyn Van Halen. Lady and the Lamb was a last-second addition to the list, but Ripley Pine is certainly worth your time.

Of course, there are others that won’t make my list, but there always are. There are other lists I could add to this one, but I’ll just conclude with a list of memorable things and events from the year that saw me lose my blogging groove only to find it once more…

  • My beer fandom has faded a bit, but I’ve had some outstanding brews this year. Follow me at Untappd.
  • I went to Copenhagen and spent lots of time drinking my way through Mikkeller‘s lineup.
  • I watched a lot of TV. The League, Walking Dead, and Girls are highlights.
  • I don’t read enough books or watch enough films.
  • I saw Jeff Mangum perform twice, once with the rest of Neutral Milk Hotel and once solo.
  • I don’t remember whether or not I mentioned this, but we found out earlier this year that my partner is pregnant. Child 2 arrives in mid-to-late February.

Here’s to a fruitful 2014. I hope you all are well. Peace.

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Friendly Faces and Bill Callahan

Posted in Life, Live by SM on May 9, 2013

One reason I have blogged for so long (although not very often as of late) is that I enjoy the discussions that occur. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging, some of whom I’ve never met in-person. Hell, I have over 830 friends on Facebook, a high percentage I’ve never talked to face-to-face. I love that I have so many virtual friends. It’s kept me sane in times I felt alone.

Still, it’s nice to see a friendly face now and again, to shake an actual hand. And I was able to do a lot of that at the Bill Callahan show.

As soon as I entered Mojo’s patio preceding the actual venue, I was greeted with friendly faces chilling, enjoying the nice weather. There were friendlies at the merch table and every step between me and the bar. People I usually hang with at another bar were at the end of Mojo’s bar. On my way there, I passed friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. And more pals, acquaintances,  friends-of-friends, etc. poured in from the back as Callahan’s set neared.

You don’t know how meaningful this is for a guy who once penned a blog called “living in misery.” Don’t get me wrong, I long for city-living, but if I have to live in Middle Missouri, I at least want to hang with some good people. It was a nice night to say “hello” and catch up with folks. I suspect the same will happen in the fall when Neutral Milk Hotel(!) stops here.

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Speaking of friendly faces, Bill Callahan started early – which works for working parents like myself. He opened with “Sycamore” and danced around his catalog without moving much for the rest of the night. He brought with him a couple of players – one on guitar and the other on bass – both seated. The crowd was a bit ornery as the drinks flowed, but as soon as anyone realized Callahan was singing again, they politely stopped talking. I’ve never seen anything like it, but maybe all those people really are as nice as I think they are. You know the type: friendly midwesterners. And Bill Callahan was liking it, sneaking in a pleasant smile here and there.

I like friendly faces filling my favorite hangouts and occupying their stages. There’s nothing quite like a familiar smile, warmed with alcohol, and willing to chat. I had a little of this in previous lives, but not quite like this. In adulthood, there’s less transition as folks settle in for the long haul. Sure, people move, but adults know each other for decades. I haven’t lived in Middle Missouri for even one of those, but I already have found a community of friends, pals, acquaintances,  and friends-of-friends to make an enjoyable evening with a wordsmith like Bill Callahan so much more enjoyable.

Damn it, Jim!

Posted in Beer, Challenge, Intersections, Life, Meta by SM on April 15, 2013

Jim wrote a post for the Today Show – his side gig – and now I feel as if I need to write an update since he linked my name back to this blog. People are surely going to click through to this blog and find nothing’s up-to-date. I gotta get current.

I mean, I did promise more posts recently, but my life has been crazy as of late. I’ll start with some bits from an unfinished post and then bring you all up to date. Maybe I’ll kick this thing back into gear soon enough…

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Several weeks ago, I was set to DJ between some great local bands (Coward, Dark Blue Dark Green) for the release of New Tongue‘s excellent and very well received We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For. Had things gone as planned, I surely would have penned a full review of the festivities and what I spun on some borrowed dex. Then, I earned the nickname DJ Blackout.

Before I was set to spin, I was sitting with some guys in a couple of the bands, finding it harder and harder to follow the conversation. Things got cloudy. I started to sweat profusely. I excused myself to get some fresh air. Several steps toward the door and everything went black. Something/someone hit me hard between the eyes.

I woke up on the floor, wondering how I got there. All I could think was that I had planned to stay in that night, but I must have gone on some legendary binge. Someone cold-cocked me… or so I thought. This apparently was not the case.

People were all around me, asking if I was okay. With some help, I stumbled to my feet and located my glasses a couple of feet away. Soon, friends were there to steady me and grab me a chair. Eventually, they moved me to a table with water and orange juice.

I honestly have no idea what happened. Later that night, I insisted my wife take me to the ER just t make sure nothing was wrong. That is not like me. I hate doctors and hospitals. I was still pretty out of it.

The doctors had nothing for me. I wish I could tell you that I blacked out from drinking some crazy high gravity beers or that some unknown rival drugged my drink or that I got in a fight over which Pavement album is best. None of that occurred. The EKG checked out and my heart was in the clear. The doctors finally determined that I was dehydrated and needed to take it easy.

See, I had been training for a marathon (April 7th) and had run 20 miles the previous Sunday but had not done a good job of re-hydrating over the course of the week. I felt lethargic for a few days after, but things seem to be back to normal and I should be able to run that marathon.

As for why I actually passed out, we may never know. My doctor took some blood and ordered some additional tests, but I doubt anything will come up. The ER didn’t give me an IV. So, I suspect they didn’t think I was all that dehydrated.

Who knows?

What the episode did do was make me think that maybe I need to lay off a bit. I’m DJing (periodically), training for a marathon, taking a grad seminar for a PhD program, taking on more responsibilities at work, blogging (sort of), and generally running all over the place.

So, to put it succinctly, I’ve been busy.

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Fast forward a few weeks to said marathon. The weekend arrived and took it easy. My training had picked up a bit since the blackout incident. (BTW, my 4-year-old now know what “passing out” and E.R. are. So, there’s that.) I felt pretty rested. We had a nice dinner – pasta, of course. I planned to drink a low ABV stout or porter, but none was available. It’s April and bars are not serving many of these beers on tap. So, I opted for 4-Hands’ Reprise Centennial Red and Perennial’s Saison de Lis as they were the lower ABV options available on-tap. That and lots of water.

I barely slept that night, waiting for my 5 am wake-up. Once I did, it was canned coffee, a banana, and a Cliff Bar. I drank water from the time I left the hotel room, rode the MetroLink, and found the porta-potties. Then, I found my pacer (4:15) and waited.

So, I ran. There was the early pit stop to unload all those extra liquids (twice, actually). Anheuser-Busch was brewing and it smelled good – much like my kitchen or any brewpub on brew day. I climbed hills like a champ while others struggled. There was all the extra room when the half-marathoners turned to finish. I constantly cursed relay runners who raced by because they hadn’t yet run the 15-16 miles I had put in. Miles 18-20 was where I began to feel the pain and my pace dropped from that point on. Gatorade and those nasty gels made me nauseous. I turned down multiple shots of beer along the way…

I decided to run the final mile all the way to the end no matter what despite interspersed walking over miles 20-25. Motivation was given in the form of race volunteers telling us runners that it was all downhill to the finish. As I ran, I could see the bottom of this really long hill. The crowd was huge and I could make out some sort of line. However, as I approached, it was clear to me that this line was just some sort of shadow and the finish line was further up the next hill. And just before I reached the end of the hill, I realized that the finish was actually at the top of the next hill and that someone was cooking bacon. This all just made me more nauseous.

Still, I pushed forward. I later found out from my partner who was tracking my progress online that I picked up a ton of time on that final stretch. In my mind, I passed 100 or so people when it was maybe 5. Still, I finished strong. My daughter and wife were nearby to cheer me on and I finished within my predicted window of time.

Considering that I trained for maybe 5 months through the winter for my first-ever marathon – losing ~20 pounds in the process – I was pretty happy with a time of 4:22. I didn’t want any food or water or anything at the end, but I felt pretty good accomplishing a goal I set in the fall. Hell, I may even run another someday.

I eventually cleaned up, ate, and headed home with my family. Nothing tasted better than the beer I finally enjoyed hours after the race. It was my Black Francis Imperial Stout, made with cocoa nibs, vanilla bean, and charred oak cubes all soaked in bourbon. The 9.4% ABV nearly knocked me out for the day.

That night, we attended our first Supper Club event. Supper Club is a group of couples who wanted to attend dinner parties where everything was provided by the hosts. Our group was so large that we split it with a rotating schedule to insure that everyone gets an opportunity to host and eat with everyone else in the group. The first night was a success. I hope to report on the dinner we host this summer where I plan to unveil a new beer I still have to brew. Details to come.

Beyond that (and hinted above) I have been taking on a graduate seminar in Human-Computer Interaction. The big project due at the end of the semester is a small study on the subject. We have human subjects and IRB approval. So, shit’s about to get real. And I will have even less time to blog.

Bill Callahan is coming to town and I will be DJing a joint birthday party for 50-year-olds. So, there’s that.

And I’m updated. Hopefully, I’ll have more interesting things to say in future posts.

Just Outside the Top 10 of 2011 (Albums)

Posted in Records by SM on December 13, 2011

Coming up with one’s ten best albums of the year is tough. I’ve done more than that, but narrowing a list to ten is a much more difficult task than simply naming all the albums you bought in a year. Also, I have the terrible habit of proclaiming albums to be the year’s best long before I should. Then, there are all the albums that simply have not been given the time they deserve.

That said, I have narrowed my list to nine. All I need is one more, but the list that follows is what I have left to consider. Sure, I might miss a few when it’s all said and done, but these are albums I’m still considering for one spot. Feel free to comment on what’s here and what isn’t. Keep in mind that I already chose nine to make the final cut. I just need one more…

The Albums I Haven’t Listened to Enough Even Though I’ve Had Them for Awhile: So, I’ve had some of these records almost since they were first released this year, but for whatever reason, I just haven’t had time to give them a proper listen. All of the albums in this group deserve serious consideration as I’ve spent some time over the past couple of weeks trying to get reacquainted.

Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
As I was considering my favorite tracks of the year, I rediscovered “Wake and Be Fine” on another list of top songs. It made me want to rediscover this album just to make sure I didn’t overlook it. I had. While the narratives and poetic flourishes Will Sheff normally demonstrates in his songwriting is somewhat subdued in order to make room for more hooks, the production and instrumental dynamics more than make up for it.

Joan of Arc – Life Like
Honestly, I could write something up that just tells you all I know and/or think about previous JoA records prior to this one and it might be somehow accurate in describing this record. However, I won’t tell you anything. Just know that it’s long overdue a sit-and-git. Maybe I’ll pour a beer also deserving my attention. Either way, I remember loving portions of it, but I never listened to it and it landed on the island of forgotten LP’s.

BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols
The poor man’s Yuck, possibly, deserves more listens. I’ve actually been playing the shit out of it lately, giving it a hard look for the final slot in my list. It’s loaded with all kinds of nods to my heroes and theirs (apparently). The aesthetic reminds me tons of the sort of nineties retro indie that The Soft Pack and Surfer Blood play. It’s good stuff but nothing earth-shattering.

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
What a massively great album this is. Why isn’t it in my top-10 already? I really haven’t listened to it enough to make that decision. Maybe I’d hear that one bit that put it over the edge or make it unworthy of top-10 status. I don’t know. I blame the fact that Sub Pop’s digital download system didn’t work and I never bothered to follow up.

Low – C’mon
I loved this album a lot from the beginning, but I worried that I wasn’t giving it enough distance. Then, I gave it too much distance and nearly forgot. It seemed too perfect of an album to be Low’s and maybe I was missing something. That’s not saying Low doesn’t make great albums. I’m just surprised a Low album could contain so many memorable songs. Albums are their thing, not singles.

The Albums that I, for Whatever Reason, Did Not Purchase This Year: I know these bands are good. I’ve read and heard enough to know that these albums should be considered. Why I still haven’t purchased them is unknown to me. Luckily, there’s Spotify. I’ve been trying to catch up on some material I missed over the year. More than likely, I will own all of these albums by February. Still, they sit collectively just outside my top-10.

War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
I don’t know how one determines Spotify statistics, but I’m sure I’ve played this album more than all others over the past month while at my computer. For whatever reason, I didn’t buy this album, nor did I go see them when they came to town. It makes no sense and this record is pretty good.

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
See above, aside from the not seeing him even though he was in town, because he was not in town this year. I loved his set at Pitchfork last year and loved whichever record I do own. The crime of not owning this record will be rectified soon enough.

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts
I own the other two Moore solo efforts plus a handful of weird records he’s done over the years. I have been loving anything Beck produces as of late – maybe my producer of the year. I am a Sonic Youth fan of like 20 years. So, why don’t I own this record? I have no idea. Now, I’m seeing it pop up on lists and I’m wondering what I’ve missed. Better give it another listen on Spotify.

I Saw These Guys and Was Impressed, So Their Albums Deserve Another Look: The following two acts were among those I saw play live. Somehow, I don’t own either album they were supporting. Upon considering the shows I’ve seen this year, that was an egregious oversight on my part. I’ll rectify it at least by giving them props where props is due.

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
I made sure to see Callahan while in DC earlier this year, but I didn’t buy the record. Even his track “America” made my top tracks list. It’s a crime that I don’t yet own this record.

Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Going to see Jay-Z and Kanye West forced me to play this album a ton on Spotify as a way to prep myself. Typically, I don’t like hip-hop records because they are single-heavy and loaded with filler. This album was different as it was complete from beginning to end. So, it deserves some consideration.

The Bands I’m Just Not Sure About at this Juncture: For various reasons, a few bands fell into this category. Some I loved right away, but I don’t know that it’s a long-lasting love, like for life kind of love. These albums still deserve some consideration, though.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
At one point, I was ready to name this “album of the year”, but something made me reconsider. It may have been seeing so many bros in the Fleet Foxes camp or my general distaste for hippies. I don’t know. It’s still very, very good. I’m just not ready to commit to including it in the top-10, yet.

Beirut – The Rip Tide
This might be the most complete and realized album of Beirut’s string of excellent albums, but I don’t know that it qualifies this year. In year’s past when I’ve had a hard time thinking of ten albums I like, it would have held down a seven spot. However, I have found an embarrassment of riches in this year’s crop. Beirut’s record is good, but it might not be top-10 good.

Destroyer – Kaputt
This was another album I was ready to crown early in the year, but it seems its eighties aesthetic finally rubbed me the wrong way. Bejar writes a pretty awesome song and somehow harnessed bad Casios to sound cool and even contemporary, but I lost my patience for this record over time. Then, I saw it make a few lists of people I respect, causing me to pause for a moment. Should I reconsider Kaputt?

WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
This album popped up on my radar since its June release or sometime shortly before that thanks in large part to their underground marketing schemes online. It’s big, epic, and incoherent in ways I’ve never heard before. That usually means that it goes directly to my top-10 list, but this year’s list is loaded and I only just laid my hands on this record, maybe six months after its release. So, it may still take time to decide on this one.

Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
Bright Eyes has gone down hill, but this album grew on me for a while, especially after seeing the band on its final trip across the country. Also, it’s been receiving some recognition, making me think that I need to revisit. Of all these records, it may have the longest shot, but it’s still a worthwhile album.

Albums by Locals That Were Really Good and Maybe Could Use a Bump from the Coalition: I don’t often hear local releases that

Ptarmigan – The Forest Darling
I said it back in May and I’ll say it again, Ptarmigan put out a great record that stands out locally or beyond. Read what I thought here and I’ll let that stand on its own.

Dubb Nubb – Sunrise Sleepeyed
It’s hard to believe sometimes that Dubb Nubb are so young as their songs demonstrate a wisdom well beyond their years. On top of that, they have an infectious sound that’s hard not to notice. I’m looking forward to seeing them play again at True/False in 2012.

Jerusalem & the Starbaskets – Dost
Dost is getting some good press and deservedly so. Lo-fi and blues revivalism with a touch of country seem to be coming along at just the right time. The band is touring extensively, but I have to believe that their one big opening gig from breaking. People eat this shit up. I do.

That’s not even the final list. As mentioned before, I have nine other albums I love more than these, but I felt they all deserved some mention and the benefit of 100 page views. Which one would you pick to add to my top-10? Did any of these make your list? Comment freely. My top-10 will hit eventually. There will probably be something similar for beer as well.

Twenty Best Songs of 2011

Posted in MoL, Records by SM on December 7, 2011

I don’t always do lists for best song, but I’ve paid particular attention to a few that have drilled holes into my brain and set up permanent residence. Most are the regulars but some might surprise. Also, I’m ranking art, y’all.

1. “Senator” – Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – This, unsurprisingly is a sign of things to come, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why no one is on this bandwagon. Just listen to the song.

2. “Another State” – Dee Bird – Here’s a local song that I haven’t been able to get out of my head all year. It’s simple, lovely, and connected to this past summer’s visit from the cicadas. One-half of the twindie duo Dubb Nubb creates easily my favorite local track in years.

3. “Rubber” – Yuck  – Shoegazing, drugged, grungy, feedback-riddled, slacker rock just makes me feel 18 again. Yuck are great nineties revivalists that have captured the decade of my youth and for that, I am eternally grateful. BTW, the video is NSFW. Also considered “The Wall”

4. “Gangsta” – Tune-Yards – Tune-Yards has masterfully figured out how to make dance-able indie rock, utilizing big beats, emo vocals, and the essential loud-quiet-loud dynamic. Although I came into possession of this album late, the songs have been running in my head all year. “Gangsta” is a standout. Also considered: “Bizness”

5. “Michael Jackson” – Das Racist – I like humor and weirdness in my hip-hop. I also like a hook. “Michael Jackson” has it all. After 3 hours of Jay-Z and Kanye West, all I could hear in my head was this track.

6. “Future Crimes” – Wild Flag – This song is just so full of angst and urgency. It makes me uncomfortable in my skin. It makes me want to dance. For me, this is the highlight of one of the year’s best albums. Also considered: “Romance”

7. “Mother” – Wye Oak (cover) – This one was from the A.V. Club’s Undercover series where bands passing through would record a song from a list of suggestions. Wye Oak eventually released this one as well as their first Undercover appearance playing a Kinks song. Also considered: “Holy Holy”

8. “Go Outside” – Cults – For my money, this was the song of the summer. Isn’t going outside all we want to do when it’s so nice out and we have to sit inside working all day?

9. “Ni**as in Paris” – Jay-Z/Kanye West – This is a pretty wicked song that the duo played like three times to close out their show in Kansas City.  There’s also the perfectly timed and placed sample from Blades of Glory. (NSFW) Also considered “Otis”

10. “Helplessness Blues” – Fleet Foxes – Epic and sprawling, the title track from this year’s Fleet Foxes release all of that and a bag of granola. The sentiment is a bit sappy, but as with most FF tracks, it’s all in the vocal performances. This album faded for me down the stretch, but this track stood strong.

11. “Shell Games” – Bright Eyes – It’s been a long while since I would have ranked a Bright Eyes song so high on a year-end list. The album is really uneven, but when Conor Oberst gets a song right, he really gets it right. The song’s so upbeat for a Bright Eyes track that it’s almost a pop crossover hit.

12. “Ice Cream” – Battles – I can stand Battles in small doses, but those doses are pretty incredible. This song is so bizarre that it appeals to that teenage, indie geek inside me. (NSFW)

13. “Video Games” – Lana Del Ray – OK. Let’s ignore all the hype and debate over her authenticity. This song took the world – indie and otherwise – by storm this year. It’s haunting and beautiful with a highly contemporary narrative. Yes, I’ve fallen for it as well. I probably won’t buy the album, but I’ll listen to this song whenever possible.

14. “America!” – Bill Callahan – I got to see Bill Callahan this summer in Washington, D.C. and this song stuck out. For some reason, I haven’t picked up this record. That may have to be rectified in the coming weeks.

15. “Perth” Bon Iver – Justin Vernon outgrew his cabin in the woods with this one. I mean, there are actual electric guitars in there. Some of his latest effort strayed from the cabin fever he spread across the land his first time out, but even with some electric guitars this track shows Vernon at his atmospheric best.

16. “My Mistakes” – Eleanor Friedberger – This song should describe the conversation I had with Eleanor Friedberger . Nonetheless, this song translates well live, but it doesn’t have to as it’s just a great rock song.

17. “Wake and Be Fine” – Okkervil River – Somehow, I’ve forgotten about this album over the course of the year. Luckily, I remember being pretty excited for its release when this video was released. The big sound played well with the video’s cinematography.

18. “Try to Sleep” – Low – Low really hit it out of the park with this year’s release. “Try to Sleep” was probably the closest they’ll ever come to a hit. It’s sleepy and melodic, much more upbeat than their usual shtick. Also considered “Witches”

19. “For the One” – Waters – Port O’Brien broke up and another narrative was born when Waters was thought up. “For the One” is what Port O’Brien sounded like had they wanted to rock. The Waters album as a whole does not always deliver, but the first single does.

20. “Santa Fe” – Beirut – For several albums, I’ve been curious what Beirut would sound like when not emulating the music and culture of wherever his muse was residing at the time. “Santa Fe” is that song.

As always, what did I forget? What are you favorite songs of 2011?