5.01.2013

Vices I Admire - Fables


Fables cover artIn the past, I've used this space to applaud the amazing work of Denver's Vices I Admire. The band has, in the short time, evolved generations. They are releasing a new EP titled Fables on May 4th, featuring the epic cover art shown above. Vices, as I'll refer to them colloquially from now on, were a post-punk, hard rocking band when I saw them last. What we hear on Fables is a more bare mix, loaded with more creative songwriting, and more complex arrangements. Shades of Jimmy Eat World's debut, and Queens of the Stone Age come to mind, but Vices is also climbing undauntedly toward a confident stadium rock greatness.

With a partially revamped line-up, you can read details below, Vices I Admire now plays for a larger crowd than they had on albums and tracks past. This is a band happily building its audience, but actively seeking the world to hear them. A mellower, more earnest, and direct lyrical style makes Fables a deserving listen. And the catchy, alt-pop hooks and melodies create an experience that both demands dancing and decries the nonchalance associated with tapping your feet to songs about distance, disillusionment and rebirth.


Check out "Come Home" and "Beautiful Fire" for two disparate, unique and enjoyable tastes. You can listen to the album for a limited time here: http://vicesiadmire.bandcamp.com/album/fables.

Tickets for the May 4th CD release show are currently available at moonroomatsummit.com


Vices I Admire is an alternative rock band from Denver, CO. The current lineup is Dave Curtis (vocals, guitar; 2002-present), Dan Battenhouse (bass, vocals; 2009-present) and Alex Simpson (drums, vocals; 2012-present); for performances, a second-guitarist spot is filled by various musicians, the most recent being Tavis Alley (of Speakeasy Tiger) and Scott Uhl (of Glass Delirium).
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3.19.2013

RIP Jason Molina

Yesterday, I was shocked and saddened to read that Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. leader, singer-songwriter-genius Jason Molina, had passed away after a lifelong battle with alcoholism. In many circles, Molina's work, a prolific catalog of sad, dark, folksy, occasionally-uplifting, and always extremely beautiful songs, was and is revered. Molina's voice, a trademark strained caterwaul, was something that many people probably had a hard time connecting with. It was the words, though, that made the biggest impact on me.

My friend and coworker, Sean, led me to Molina's music through our office's shared sound system. Some days, I'll be honest, Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., depressed the hell out of me. Sometimes it was just plain to hard to listen to. Yet, Axxess & Ace sticks with me note for note. I won't say that I can recite the lyrics from memory, or even along with the songs, but goddamn if I can't feel every single thing Molina says and find a parallel in my own history. There was something so incredibly timeless and aware about Molina's work that makes it undeniable.

Like fellow gone-too-soon artist Elliott Smith, Molina was a dark-side poet of life. He didn't write songs about sex or love or happiness or sadness in pop-ready terms. The hooks in his songs, of which there are many, would be unlikely to snare the casual radio listener. The western-classic slide guitar and plucky nature of his arrangements don't drive you to the dance floor or inspire a Journey-esque bar-wide sing-along. Instead, it was always poetry, dark, human, and in brief snapshots.

The Magnolia Electric Co. album by Songs: Ohia, the last before transitioning bands, features a song called "Old Black Hen," sung by vocalist Lawrence Peters in pristine, visceral, glory. That song changed my life. It changes my life every time I listen to it. And the "bad luck lullaby" refrain that strings that song together will always make me think of Jason Molina. He, who was so willing to put his heart on display in his music, to show everyone what he was made of, created so many powerful and potent songs that his short life was a gift to every audiophile.

The tragic nature of his passing will never be at the forefront of my mind because his legacy is as robust and untarnished as any artist in the public eye could ever hope for. Whatever pain and suffering he felt is now done, and he has left us all the great gift of a timeless library of honesty, truth, and impeccable music.

Thank you, Jason. 


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2.10.2013

Petula Clark - Cut Copy Me



Born in 1932, Petula Clark, perhaps best known to Gen Y and Z and whateverthefuck for the song "Downtown," has released a new single. It's called "Cut Copy Me" and it might be the best song of 2013 so far, in any genre, but specifically in a British, downbeat, electronic, love, alt, rock. Keep in mind, that "Downtown" song about "when you're alone and life is treating you lonely... you can always go..." was released back in 1964, when Clark was 32. It was a prime piece of '60s pop elegance, and one of the most, stuck-in-our-heads songs of all time. Clark has clearly grown with the times and continued to write amazing, honest, sweet lyrics. The computer metaphor in "Cut Copy Me" serves to drive the video, but it also speaks to the distance and automation of modern love. The simple request in that title, to be removed from one document or file and placed in another, leaving no trace of the past, is something we've all hoped for at times. But, it's clear here and that Clark sees this as a romantic electronic future dream. The truth is that love is always messy, always complicated, and there's no keyboard macro to end one love and create another. This might be 2013's through-thread song. We'll see.

Regardless. I hope I'm even half this prescient, open and creative when I'm 80. Thank you, Petula Clark.
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1.04.2013

The Amends - What We Could Be

Boulder/Denver-based local rock darlings The Amends are back again. When I first heard them in July of 2011, I was throttled with the potent, catchy nature of their indie-punk-pop-power aesthetic. They released their first full-length album soon thereafter, and once more, I was floored. So no wonder I was so happy to hear that they'd be releasing their second album on January 8th. That album is called What We Could Be. Many bands, on album 2, experience something called a sophomore slump. Usually it is attributed to having less than a lifetime to write a new set of songs, and putting all of one's band eggs into the basket that was most popular from album 1. Luckily, The Amends don't have to worry about that because it's just about impossible to hit a moving target. While the quality, power pop strains of great, memory-grabbing rock music remain, What We Could Be, hits harder into realms of psychedelia, blues rock, Southern rock and garage grunge.

A track like "Big City Way" for instance feels like a Black Keys, The Band, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin massive blow out. The Amends revels in pushing the volume to eleven and grinding out long, beautiful, artistic bridges and instrumentals. Don't get comfy there because the very next track, "More to Give" feels like classic Joe Jackson, though without the glossy production of the '80s. Also, it breaks open like a volcano at the end. Yet, "Make It So" is a bouncy, bass-driven bit of post-Strokes garage rock, with some excellent insights on the distractions of youth and the wastefulness of listlessness. Then "Time Goes On" happens. It's a gorgeous high school dance of a track, sad, plodding and dressed in a careful riff that is both wallowing and ceaselessly hopeful. "Tick Tock" changes the pace again, alternating almost spoken-word verses with fantastic slinky lead guitar work.

So, here's the thing, What We Could Be, is a love letter, a wish, a dirge, a celebration and an apology. But that's just the lyrics. Musically, this is close to the rock heyday stuff of the late '60s and '70s, with style to spare. The Amends dabble in a lot of sub-genres here, and rather than creating a series of pleasant homages, they apply a unique spin that makes each style their own. "It'd Be Nice" appears at surface to be a basic chugging blues-rock track, but incredible vocal style, witty, caustic lyrics and the vibe that this band is really enjoying themselves sets it far apart. If you don't check out this second album, you're a goddamn fool. There I said it. And I won't take it back. You can stream it free at The Amends's bandcamp site starting on January 8. You can also download it for $5, or order up the physical album.

Support local music. These Colorado boys are making good.
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12.23.2012

The 12 Tracks of Christmas

This year, I've pulled back a bit from writing here. It's a combination of time and such and such. There are numerous reasons. None of them excuses, but each excusing me from one post or another. Now, it is the holidays, and since I didn't get around to a Best of 2012 list just yet, I have just this simple gift to bring (parum pum pum pum). In a world where malls and stores and offices have been churning out Christmas and Holiday classics since the week after Thanksgiving, we need a good list, comprising the less-schmaltzy (though I did include Paul McCartney), the less classical (although "Christmastime is Here" is so good it made the list. The holidays in a minor key!? Fuck yes.) and the less irritating (but Kylie Minogue's "Santa Baby" manages to carefully mitigate that weird "little girl" aesthetic normally ascribed to the song so it made the list).

With those exceptions, and more, I present to you The 12 Tracks of Christmas. I hope to have provided you with a delicate, intelligent journey from the brightest childlike aspects of the holiday, to the deeper, sadder implications of a world that's made bright once a year as a tradition, but never kept bright all year long. Also, there's some Jesus stuff in there too. Poor pagans. They were partying on the Winter Solstice for generations and then post-Jesus scribes just had to F with their shit by claiming the Christian savior's b-day was right around then.

Happy holidays and tons of love from me and Gas Lantern Media. Listen to the list, embedded below, or hit the Spotify link.

Love, Nate



http://open.spotify.com/user/1210486318/playlist/1DFU8OdGw4jSmD7JyhhNo3

Image by epiclectic via Flickr. Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.
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12.11.2012

Sufjan Stevens + Various Artists - Chopped & Scrooged

Tired of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and trying to live on the holiday edge through the tired strains of "Jingle Bell Rock"? I know I am. I know a very special person who'd back me up on it too. In the past, indie musicians have provided us with some delightful Christmas albums. She & Him put out one that relies on nostalgia as much as invention. Some of my favorite tracks of all came from Saturday Looks Good to Me, including a great cover of the classic "Blue Christmas." And then there's Sufjan Stevens. His recent 5-disc Christmas release Silver & Gold bounds artistically from melodic beauty to utter drug-trip chaos. Turns out though, Sufjan wasn't done there. Though any fan of Stevens' sprawling career know that he doesn't go long without recording, creating, dramatizing and philosophizing. So, as an early Christmas gift (perhaps a Hanukkah present to Stevens' mensch fanbase?) he has released Chopped & Scrooged, an epically enjoyable mixtape of Christmas themed hip-hop and rap.

The album features the likes of Heems, The Pro Letarians, Kitty Pryde, Electric iLL and DMA and Oreo Jones. What comes to pass are 9 inventive, fucking excellent rap tracks that sometimes related directly to the coming Winter Solstice-turned-Christian-turned-Retail-turned-Tree-related-Sex-Pose holiday. Track 2, The Pro Letarians "Dreamcatcher" is a phenomenal track. And the album hits another powerful high point with "Black Christmas" a song that seems to be half-irony and half-bold statement of the difference between the holiday for the races. The fast-paced "Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling" is a brutal treatise on the shopping season, the economy, and occasionally doing things to Santa with one's balls. "Xmas In The Room" is a playful, boastful sex call to Olde St. Nick featuring a synth-repeated refrain of "come" by New Orleans based rapper Nicky Da B. Kitty Pryde's "Implants and Yankee Candles" is delightfully lo-fi, quippy and quirky. And the beautiful "Blue Baktun" features Stevens most prominently with synthy down beats and slow rhymes by Electric iLL. The closer "Xmas Woes" is excellent too.

If you are tired of the traditional Christmas. If you are tired of the '70s and '80s rock-Christmas of Paul McCartney's "Christmastime" and that shit that Geldof and Band Aid put out there back when it was cool to thank the maker that Ethiopians were starving instead of you, then Chopped & Scrooged is, in fact, for you. Check it out below. Or just download it here. It's free... the way joy and cheer are supposed to be.


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11.10.2012

Hitchcock's 'Rope', Romney, O'Reilly and 21st Century Conservative Rhetoric

After this Tuesday's 2012 presidential election, in which Barack Obama carried both the electoral college and the popular vote, Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly was heard to say:

“The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama's way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things? The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

O'Reilly's assertion that people "feel entitled to things" mirrored Mitt Romney's fateful fundraising dinner video strongly enough that it's impossible to consider this a simple coincidence. It now feels like a piece of the Republican-Far Right-Conservative platform that seems to insinuate: We, Republicans are better people. We are good people and anyone who disagrees doesn't just disagree with our philosophy; they are actually morally-lesser, evil, people. Of course, that's not the official party line, but in the desperation of an election night when all of the conservative forecasts were proven to be grossly incorrect, it was the go-to excuse.

This philosophical belief that a group of people (in this case those who are religious, conservative and Republican) are better than another has a historical partner in Nietzsche's √úbermensch (the idea that an individual would transcend basic humanity to become something greater). Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party once co-opted the concept, applying it to the notion that there was such a thing as a "master race" of better people who deserved to rule and enslave the Untermenschen, or lesser people.

O'Reilly, Romney and Rope

The parallel here is difficult to ignore, given both Romney's and O'Reilly's assertions that a percentage (nearly, or exactly half) of Americans just want the world handed to them. O'Reilly's continuation that the "traditional America" is no more, establishes a hard line on who is better and who is lesser. America is traditionally known as a land of prosperity, a land of freedom, and a land of morality. To so cavalierly declare the death of that concept is to assert that we are descending toward a land of poverty, captivity and immorality. And in turn, that the bad people, the lesser people are destroying the master race.

In 1948, Alfred Hitchcock released Rope, a film about two wealthy, just-out-of-college white men who murder their former classmate in a luxurious Manhattan loft. These young men, both educated and intelligent, carry out their murder because they subscribe to the idea that there are two classes of human being. There are the advanced, better people, and there are those who are lesser, who waste their lives simply by living them. Fueled by that idea, they decide that they're not only right in murdering their classmate, but that murder is an art that can be perfected and undertaken for one's own amusement.

Their former professor, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart, waxes on the idea over dinner, toying with it philosophically, more as a thought exercise than as a prescription for real world behavior, stunning and revolting other guests at the films' dinner party. But, upon discovering what his former students had done, he renounces the concept, and falls into a chair to contemplate the terrible results of espousing it at all.

Do we learn from history?

Rope runs on the very same perception of superiority that lined Mr. Romney's fundraiser comments, and O'Reilly's post-election rant. Whether either man believes their own words in their hearts does not matter because just as Jimmy Stewart's character believed he was only performing a thought exercise, the truth is that there are people who are listening. When men in a position of power, whether a journalist with a large viewership, or as a politician/businessman, or college professor casually note that one half, or 47%, or any number of human beings are of a lesser quality, a lesser class, and are implicitly evil, there is potential for impressionable minds to take those words as truth.

It is one thing to assert one's own views and desire, even demand, that those views be respected. It is another thing to assert that those views are the morally better ones. Rope was a morality play and warning to people in 1948 that while World War II had ended three years before, the cruel, manipulated philosophies of that era would not be put down completely with military force alone. To hear and see remnants and pieces of those disgusting rationalizations alive and breathing in the United States 67 years later is a clear sign that the thought war remains unfinished.

One of the beautiful things about this country is our freedom to hold and espouse our positions and philosophies and beliefs, but we have a responsibility to humanity to learn from ways that mere ideas led to genocides, racism, sexism, and hate. Hopefully, no one takes Mr. O'Reilly or Mr. Romney seriously at their words. Hopefully we are a nation intelligent enough to separate an argument of superiority from the carefully nuanced truths about real human beings. But it's sad to know that in some ways we still haven't learned from history.
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