December 31, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things : 2014

Favorite Records of 2014

* The Soundcarriers - ENTROPICALIA (Ghost Box)
* The Cold Beat – OVER ME (Crime on the Moon)
* Austerity Program  BEYOND CALCULATION (Controlled Burn)
* Wreck & Reference WANT (The Flenser)
* Woods of Desolation -AS THE STARS (Northern Silence)
* Bry Webb  FREE WILL ( idée fixe records )
* Indian FROM ALL PURITY (Relapse)

* Treehouse INTERZONE (Vacant Valley)
* Lorelle Meets the Obsolete  CHAMBERS  (Captcha Records)
* Coffinworm IV.I.VIII (Profound Lore)
* Scott Walker + Sunn O)))  SOUSED (4AD)
* Forever Pavot - RHAPSODE (Born Bad Records)
* Andy Stott - FAITH IN STRANGERS (Modern Love/Revolver)
* Thou HEATHEN (Gilead Media)

Best Reissues

* Rowland S. Howard POP CRIMES (Fat Possum)
* Elia y Elizabeth LA ONDA DE DE ELIA Y ELIZABETH (Vampisoul)
* Silkworm LIBERTINE (Comedy Minus One)
* Life Without Buildings ANY OTHER CITY What’s Your Rupture)
* Claude Lombard CLAUDE LOMBARD (MPLS)
* Lee Hazlewood- LOVE AND OTHER CRIMES (1972)
* Cha Cha Guittri – FRENCH SYNTH WAVE (Born Bad Records)
* Channels OPEN EP (Arctic Rodeo)

Best Singles (Shamefully 2014 reflects the least amount of singles I have purchased in a year)

* Deaf Wish - St. Vincent’s (Matador)
* Fleshworld -  A LINE IN WET GRASS (Iron Lung)
* The Gotobeds - NEW YORK’S ALRIGHT  7”(Mind Cure Records)
* Milk ‘N’ Cookies - NOT ENOUGH GIRLS IN THE WORLD 7” (Captured Tracks)
* Kagoule - IT KNOWS IT/ADJUST THE WAY (Earache)
* Boris / Asobi Seksu - FAREWELL / NEU YEARS (Sargent House)
* Gnaw Their Tongues WIR ESSEN SEELEN IN DER NACHT (Self Released)

Best Live Shows

* Moss Icon / Swiz / Soulside (Black Cat, DC)
* Protomartyr (Fall Line Fest RVA)
* Channels (Rock and Roll Hotel, DC)
* Andy / Tim / Joel once member of Silkworm, in Pittsburgh for the Karl Hendricks Fundraiser - We also get the jerk award for not being being able to stay awake long enough to see The Gotobeds that night after our long drive to PA.
* Thou (Empire, RVA)
* Priests (Fall Line Fest, RVA)
* Ancient Sky (Grand Victory Brooklyn)
* J Robbins Solo (Fall Line Fest, RVA)
* Perfect Pussy (Gallery 5, RVA)
* Sundials (Strange Matter, RVA)

Honorable Mentions:

* DAMA/LIBRA - Claw (Northern Spy)
* Goat COMMUNE (Sub Pop)
* Total Control  TYPICAL SYSTEM (Iron Lung)
* Bunny “Striker” Lee FULL UP - reissue (Pressure Sounds)
* Teargas Rock S/T (Little Black Cloud Records)
* Hailu Mergia and the Walias TCHE BELEW - reissue (Awesome tapes from Africa)
* Good Throb FUCK OFF (Sabermetric Records)
* Meatbodies S/T (In the Red)
* Behemoth THE SATANIST (Nuclear Blast)
* Gigi Masin TALK TO THE SEA - reissue (Music from Memory)
* Happy Meals APERO  (Night School Records)
* Lantlos MELTING SUN (Prophecy)
* Planning for Burial - DESIDERATUM (The Flenser)

Best Stuff I Watched on a Small Screen:

* Drunk History
* The Goldbergs
* Lilyhammer
* Bob's Burgers
* Orange is the New Black
* Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I am sadly not on top of film or books enough to compile a proper end of year list for either.

Ramblings : 2014 and Beyond

* Can we stop writing that such and such year was great for women in music? There are women who make amazing music every single year. In this case if a tree falls in the forest and the press chooses to ignore it some years, it doesn't mean that it didn't happen. I repeat, there are inspiring and wildly talented women making music every year. Stop trying to just give us the occasional year a couple of times per decade. Let’s finally move away from the obsession with gender and focus on the art being created.

* Restaurants. I get it. You want to please as many people as people with nonoffensive, familiar music but does it have to be the same stupid 300 songs we have been hearing for the past 50 years. I am so tired of the Billboard charting Rock IE Asia, Toto, Boston as well as the alterna hits like “Tainted Love”, “Melt with You”, and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. There is so much new music each year and I find it so depressing that the dining culture chooses to dumb it down for their clients by streaming the same old crap. Maybe Foreigner goes best with Budweiser or Coors but I can’t take it anymore.

* Cheers to my first grown up tropical vacation that included and bioluminescent bay, a black sand beach, and the opportunity to read multiple books in a week along side my better half. I recommend Vieques to anyone in the U.S. looking for an affordable exotic trip that doesn't require a passport.  

* As nerve wracking as it was to prepare for, we successfully completed a photo shoot of our home for an upcoming Apartment Therapy feature (coming soon).

* One of my favorite things about 2014 was how many amazing people I met through making music as a member of Positive No. Negative Fun Records lives  at the top of that list. We were so honored to be a part of their singles club. If we weren't a part of this collection I would have put it on my singles best of list. Touring in the winter months might have been the worst idea ever but The Safety House in Philly made it all worth while. Also if you find your band on the road between Dec and March, bring a shovel.

Pittsburgh: Great record shopping, people, food, bars / venues. If you like bridges, tunnels, and pierogies - this is your city!  It is also the first time I met Jon Solomon, Karl Hendricks, and had a chance to visit with the Silkworm gentlemen live and in person. So many great human beings squished into a two days visit.

2014 was the year I stepped away from DJing however playing records with Sara (DJ Sister Golden Haze) is always a treat. I am so fortunate to have a friend in town with a passion for French records too. I love that our passion for this niche of music has also turned into an annual tradition of guest DJing on WRIR during DJ Carlito’s If Music Could Talk show together around the time of the French Film Festival week.

I have been slowly writing a short story series about my music obsessed life on my music blog - here! The series is called Tales of a Female Music Enthusiast and as my memory has more and more bad days, I am using my good days to capture what I can.

In grade school I had a friend who was hard of hearing so learned the sign language alphabet to talk to her from across the classroom.  This year I was able to communicate with a deaf neighbor during an emergency situation. A large number of police and rescue people had turned up on our street in search of a missing woman who could be heard ever so faintly yelling for help in the woods by the river. He looked so surprised and relieved that someone could explain to him what was happening and more importantly, the woman was found and she was okay. This was an unforgettable moment of 2014.

Kenny and I have spent so much of the year alternating caregiving for each other. I really hope 2015 means fewer reasons to break out the crutches, use a cane, or visit a hospital. We are ready for a healthy new year to go with our otherwise happy lives.

If the Salinger documentary is correct, 2015 is the year the world will be gifted a new J.D. Salinger book. I really hope there is some truth to that rumor.  

October 22, 2014

Chapter 6: Breaking Up With My Mom : Tales of a Female Music Enthusiast

The hunger for independence happens for most kids somewhere between 8 th grade and sophomore year of high school. It is within this window of time that moody teens decide they only want to be seen alone or with friends. Parents are plucked, no kicked from their social equation all together.

1987 was the year I broke up with my mom. Up to this point she had been nothing but an incredible trooper and friend. She was not only willing to take me to any show I asked to see, she was genuinely excited to see live bands with me – something that I can barely get my adult friends to do with me now. 

Together my mom and I saw:

* Prince – twice (Purple Rain & Parade tour)
* Howard Jones - twice
* UB40 w/ Erasure (to be accurate that took place in 1988 @ Pier 84 in NYC)
* Bryan Adams w/ The Hooters at Madison Square Garden, 1987
* They Might Be Giants – The Ritz , 1986 - (So many men tried to pick up my Mom that night, it was freaky)
* Adam and the Ants w/ Wall of Voodoo – 1985 at Radio City Music Hall (Rabid female fans threw bras and panties at the stage all all night long but especially during "Strip" )
* Squeeze opening for David Bowie on the Spiders from Mars tour in 1987 at Giant’s Stadium
Peter Gabriel - So tour in 1986 at Madison Square Garden
* And while not a band, there was Hands Across America along side 6 and half million other people

But then age 16 happened. Hormones took over and I went through the Jekyll and Hyde change. I transformed from a content sidekick of a parental unit to a brooding teenage turd who preferred to play orphan.
My mom could have handled the change in my attitude with screaming matches or groundings but instead she did something miraculous. She became a willing chauffeur to any and all shows I asked to see, 99% of which were 40 minutes away in New York City. To be clear, the city was not the tourist friendly Disneyland it is today; it was the seedy New York of the late ‘80s . These were the rough and tumble Ed Koch years of NY.

The whole scenario still blows my mind to this day. A handful of my friend’s parents (along with my own) willingly gave their daughters permission to attend a number of concerts in New York parent-free. Not even coolest of cool moms on Gilmore Girls (picture w/ the Bangles below) would have offered that level of privilege and freedom to her daughter. My friends and I were trusted to stay at the show (IE not leave the concert to wander the big, dangerous city alone), behave respectably, and then meet my mom at an arranged pick up location near the venue when the concert was done. We mostly followed the big alternative bands of the day so luckily these shows were held in respectable, large all ages venues that welcomed a gaggle of bridge and tunnel girls with an allowance to burn on expensive cups of soda and band merch.

The concert ritual began months before the actual big event. It all started glued to a telephone with a parent’s credit card; borrowed with permission. Pre- internet you could get concert tickets one of three ways: by calling the ticket agency handling the event, visiting the ticket agency booth (Ticketron/Teletron had a  window at a sporting goods store a few towns away – too much of a distance / time suck to a busy parent or sibling with a car), or the venue located a whole state away. I LOVED the competitive thrill of getting through on the phone (much like trying to be the 100 th caller on a radio station for a prize from Z100), so the phone was my preferred way to buy tickets. I would hope for it to ring after just a few tries but inevitably I would get a busy signal. And then another. And another. Methodically I would dial with the receiver pinned between my shoulder and cheek. With one hand poised over the keypad, I would hang up with the right hand and then re-dial with the left. I always called from my dad’s office. He had the least distracting to a teen room in the house and he ended up with the only phone in the house that had the modern and magical redial button. That was my secret weapon.

Sometimes this ticket buying process took hours - all depending on the size of the band and venue. If and when I managed to get through to a ticket agent, I then had to then scream for my parents who needed to be present just in case the other voice at the end of the telephone questioned my age and asked for a parent’s permission to charge the card. We only had one telephone line in the house so the rest of my poor family was barred from trying to use it until I got through - bless their patient hearts. The coveted tickets would then be mailed to our house and the wait for those tickets was unbearable. They were the tangible proof that we concert bound and on our way to greatness unlike anything we had ever experienced before. Freedom! New York City! Loud music! Flocks of interesting strangers!

In hindsight,  I think the hardest part of this whole process was learning about upcoming concerts in the first place. Collecting this valuable information was a difficult job and without a car or a computer, it took a lot of timely investigative work. I meticulously kept notes while listening to the radio each night. I depended on the word of mouth from friends (who also learned details from their older brother & sisters) . The final piece of the puzzle was scouring my parent’s multiple newspaper subscriptions that featured advertisements for upcoming concerts.

Once tickets were procured, the only really important thing left for me to do was pick something to wear. I had yet to discover thrift stores so most of the items I wore still came from the local Paramus Park Mall. I had transitioned away from preppy jock bookworm but the Bergen County malls still limited me to a sea of popped collars, shoulder pads, and the Miami Vice fallout of never wearing socks. Crazy neon colors had been all the rage with the mainstream culture so I responded by embracing the more Gothic color pallet of black, gray, and cream (super funny knowing how colorful my wardrobe is now). My concert uniform also would include at least one Swatch , a long skirt or pegged pants, bulky sweaters with an even larger shirt underneath it, and multiple silver/ turquoise rings. The bonus reward to going to these concerts was that the more band shirts I purchased at them, the more often I could show the world that not only I was an cool enough to be at this show, but that I had impeccable taste in music overall. I am not ashamed to admit that my band shirt obsession has not diminished since 1986.

We would ride to NYC in my mom’s white Chevy Celebrity listening to mix tapes or if the wind was blowing the right way, the alternative hits of Long Island’s WDRE (“Dare to be different!”). My mom must have had the patience of a saint. We were a carload of high energy girls bouncing around like ping pong balls in oversized cable knits about to be chaperone free at a concert. We had hormones multiplying by the minute. There was the intoxicating prospect of meeting cute boys but the reality was most high school kids were not allowed to go to concerts alone so the members of the opposite sex were all at least college age. That could have spelled after school special stranger danger disaster but the actual number of members of the opposite sex we flirted with at these shows were zero.

The concerts themselves were a blur. Literally. Like most teenage girls, we had trouble sitting still. These concerts were rarely spent in the original seat I had purchased (most of these shows had seating). The game was to hunt for open seats that didn’t look like anyone was showing up to fill. The goal was to find group seating that moved us just that much closer to the stage. We would wiggle and worm our way up towards the stage, often getting within the first 20 rows. The biggest decision of the night would be to risk losing the seat we had hijacked in the name of dancing. We wanted to dance in the isles, by no means common behavior of the adults around us but as painfully enthusiastic girls, it seemed very necessary. The opening acts at these concerts were more often than not unknown to us so we would use that hour to wander the halls, stairways, and theater lobbies (the most gorgeous being Radio City Music Hall’s ornate Art Deco décor. People watching up until this point was limited to our NJ suburban backyards so the alternative show going crowds of a New York City show was as good as it could possibly get. There were the classic new wavers, new-romantics in their pirate blouses, pale looking librarian types in oversized glasses, the impeccably dressed (think Bryan Ferry), and gay people who I had personally only seen once before in Provincetown, MA on a family vacation. The atmosphere was as important and as memorable as the bands themselves. Admittedly my friends and I were an anomaly to be stared back at. We were very young, spirited, and parentless. We were fish out of water suburban brats from one state away. We were also not welcomed by those sitting around us as we squealed and jumped like dolphins in heat, danced like third rate Go-Gos, talked loudly about the world we knew nothing of, and did all of the typical things sheltered teenage girls do. The echo of “Where are their parents?” still ring in my ears.

What amazes me all these years later, besides the deep trust our parents had in us, is that pre-cell phones there was no way of knowing what time a show would be over by. It was all planned and discussed on the car ride into the city. Mom would hang out in the city on her own (bookstores and coffee shops) and when it came time to pick us up, she kept circling in the car until we showed up. Typically our rendezvous point was across the street or on one of the side streets of the theater / venue.  She never seemed stressed or angry if any of the shows that ran a little late. I remember her talking about how she enjoyed the time to herself in a city she once called home after college in the mid ‘60s. These occasional trips gave her an opportunity to revisit her old stomping grounds as well. She was and remained a night owl through her life and was truly dedicated to offering us the unique opportunity to seek culture and art on our own terms.  
The rides back home usually went relatively quickly as the traffic out of the Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge was light after 10 pm. Inevitably one of my friends would fall asleep but it was my job to keep my mom company and awake. There would always be plenty to recap from the night and babble on about in great detail. Who knew that years later this actually would be a valuable touring band member skill to have. I remain an expert at being the high energy front seat passenger who keeps the tour van driver entertained into the wee hours between long drives between shows like Seattle to Denver in 24 hours straight.

On a very special occasion my mom would stop at one of the endless diners along Rt. 17 and we would share disco fries (french fries with gravy and cheese; New Jersey’s version of poutine) and grilled cheese sandwiches. These are among my favorite memories I have of my youth.
These occasional concerts introduced me to New York City as a home away from home. Most teenagers are told to avoid their closest bustling major metropolitan, to fear it, but my experience was the exact opposite. I had gone to hundreds of museums and theater performances there as a kid with my family and was also given the training wheels to explore a little more of NYC without the guidance. This unusual freedom and trust offered a number of things. At my most impressionable age I was given the gift of experiencing live music without the filter of adult supervision. I built up street smarts from a very early age and knew my way around NYC better than most of the parents of my friends. Rather than thinking of the city as a dirty, dangerous, and worthless place, I believed it to be a mecca of culture and endless possibilities. My adult life has been built on this one of a kind foundation and my enthusiasm towards experiencing live music still thrives. City, good. Music, better. That about sums my life up to this day.

From 1986-1988  - the parentless concerts included
* R.E.M. / 10,000 Maniacs -1987 - (Stipe in a dozen shirts that were taken off one by one to reveal a new message)   
* The Replacements - 1987 (I had never seen adults so drunk before in my life)
* Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses tour - 1987
* U2 -Joshua Tree Tour - 1987 - Madison Sq. Garden. ( Bono in a sling)

* Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Ritz - 1988 (Socks in all the right places)
* Big Audio Dynamite - Irving Plaza - 1987 (The closest I ever came to seeing The Clash)
* Grateful Dead - Giant's Stadium - 1987 (Don't ask, I did it for a stupid boy)
* A Conspiracy of Hope / Amnesty International - 1986 - Giant Stadium : Third World, Peter, Paul, & Mary, Little Steven with Darlene Love and John Waite, Bob Geldof, Jackson Browne, Ruben Blades with Fela Kuti and Carlos Santana, Yoko Ono, Miles Davis, The Neville Brothers, Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, The Police, U2, and more. (After this concert I became an active member of Amnesty International and created a chapter in my high school)

*and last but not least, Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! benefit concert in Philly - RFK Stadium - 1988 : Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Sprinsteen & the E Street Band, Tracy Chapman, Youssou N'Dour, and Joan Baez.

July 28, 2014

Chapter 5 : 1986 : Tales of a Female Music Enthusiast

Wandell School is where I spent my kindergarten through 8 th grade and it would be fair to say that 70% of the student body went through all 9 years together. 

It was the golden years of puberty: training bras, awkward growth spurts, and first visits by Aunt Flow. We were a tiny school with just over 30 students in each grade. After a full decade of very close quarters and embarrassing coming of age moments shared, I was desperate for change. We needed a bigger pond, more people to get lost in, and most importantly, fewer kids who knew everything there was to know about you.
Saddle River, N.J. remains an affluent, very upper class community to this day. Our student body in 1986 mirrored this by wearing almost strictly junior country club attire. There were a few exceptions to this rule (thanks to pop culture trends based around Madonna and Michael Jackson) but the general Wandell population was preppy and expensively dressed. To stray from this uniform was the next best thing to wearing a KICK ME sign.

Our grade was too small in size to be divided into the kind of social groups you see stereotyped in the movies and television. There were two: the extroverts and the introverts. With so few of us, it was difficult to be truly divided. By the nature of our wealthy community and just two classrooms per grade (11-15 kids per classroom), we were a ridiculously exclusive group already.

My 8 th grade year was one of many transitions. I was class president. I was the editor of the school paper. I played on nearly every girl’s sport team. I was a slender jock with a growing passion for books and music. I wore dock siders. My favorite clothing came from Banana Republic. I summered at various friends parent’s beach houses up and down the east coast but an internal revolution was taking place. 

The more detached and alone I felt (see chapter 4), the more deeply I explored underground sub culture. I was hungry to shed the uniform of my fellow classmates. The problem was that there was no easy way to evolve into this person I wanted to be; the student who wanted to wear thrift store dresses with combat boots and give the finger to anything to do with activities on a court or field. I was really a brooding writer who worshiped Anne Sexton’s poetry and was tired of delivering mundane school news in article form. I was fast becoming the record collector who wanted to learn the secret language of the Cocteau Twins records and was trying forget that I once had two hermit crabs names Asia and Toto. I was the girl who wanted to date my own offbeat Randy from Valley Girl and not any of the shallow "Val" dudes. 

There was an entire grade of peers who knew me as well as my own family did and like all school kids, they were capable of the harshest of criticisms. They could sniff out change like hound dogs so as we all muddled our way through the clumsy early teen years in sheep’s clothing together. I think many of us future freaks were holding out for high school to butterfly into the new fangled 2.0 version of ourselves.

During this time frame I fell in love for the first time. Matthew was very tall, handsome, and sensitive. His mother was a retired model. He rode horses, bathed in Polo cologne, and had dazzling dimples however if you distilled him down to his true essence, he would be the kind of John Hughes character you would love to hate. Regardless of his wavering interest in me , I ached for him to the point of obsession for several years.
His musical taste was exotic compared to my classmates as he almost exclusively listened to Peter Gabriel, Nik Kershaw, and Marillion. I didn’t know what to call Matthew’s choice of favorite bands at the time but he was the first of many Anglophiles I would meet throughout my life. It never occurred to me at the time that there were people in the world who preferred music from other countries so in the '80s this just added to Matt’s dreamy status.
Peter Gabriel’s So came out in 1986 and it was the perfect palatable mix of quirky meets mainstream for my green ears. “Sledgehammer” had wormed its way into the ears of hit radio listeners but Kate Bush’s duet “Don’t Give Up” and the epic power ballad “Red Rain” made our young hearts swell. “Mercy Street” was an ode to Anne Sexton (SQEEEE!!!) and single-handedly changed my understanding what lyrical content could be inspired by and reflect. Three years later the film Say Anything blasted “In Your Eyes” through a boombox held high over Lloyd Dobler’s head but we understood this to be the ultimate tribute to love and romance three years earlier.

Nik Kershaw was a blip on the 1985 Live Aid roster to most Americans however “Wouldn’t It Be Good” garnered a small bit of attention in the mid ‘80s thanks to MTV. In 1986 a cover version appeared in the much beloved soundtrack to Pretty in Pink but he remained relatively unknown and overshadowed by similar artists like Howard Jones. Nik’s gloomy synth Pop felt like a secret, exclusive club that we were proud to be members of.

Marillion was a hand me down favorite band of one of his older brothers. Musically they perfectly connected a sound that fell somewhere between Genesis and Peter Gabriel but at age 15 they were too theatrical ‘70s prog rock to hold my attention. To come clean, as enamoured with Matt as I was, I still fast forwarded through the Marillion songs on his mix tapes.
Matthew’s taste in music gave him the aura of sophistication however this was only thing about him that set him apart from the average teenage boy with a wandering eye and a disinterest in a serious girlfriend. We went out and broke up several times between 1984 and 1986 but his final attempt to win me back came in the form of a picnic on his family’s horse farm. It was eerily similar to Andie and Blane’s second date of Pretty in Pink and it just so happens that PIP debuted in February of that year.

In the summer of 1986 eighth grade was finally behind me. I was free of the past decade of grade school baggage and Matt was among the first things I wanted to shed. I was still in the baby stages of defining this new me but I was just different enough to instantly sound the alarms to the cocky boy picking me up fresh from prep school looking for a pet poodle to follow him around.  

The date itself was ridiculous. He had packed a bottle of wine and I didn’t drink. I didn’t and still don’t know the first thing about riding a horse. It was an afternoon all about him, his interests, and while it was romantic in theory, I was uncomfortable and bored. The more he talked about himself, the more despondent I became. He didn’t like the music I said I was listening to. He made fun of my over sized art school clothes and grandpa looking shoes. He questioned my favorite books. I struggled to stay upright on a beast that terrified me from the first trot. I was in search of a world outside of the confines of my elitist grade school circle and a future polo matches followed by ivy league school dances turned my stomach. 

It would have been an easy path to follow as I was literally already in the saddle but I asked for an exit from it that very day.
We drove home in near silence. As we pulled into my parents driveway he finally spoke. “I don’t know who you anymore.” I wasn’t sure who I was yet but I was thrilled at the progress made that day. I agreed, smiled, and was gone for good.