Friday, December 31, 2010


I wrote about resolutions last year, over at my now abandoned side project This Mormon Life. I said this.

It's probably bad luck to start a post about your New Year's resolution by referring to a failed project from earlier in the year.

My resolution for this year is seemingly simple and counterintuitive: I'm going to listen to less music.

Counterintuitive, because by most measurable accounts apart from owning vinyls, I am a music person. I'm the kind of person that you might expect to say "I'm going to go to more concerts, try more kinds of music, learn to play the oboe etc." Though not the oboe of course, because even though it's cliche, if I had to learn to play an instrument right now it would be the guitar. Because I'm willing to be a bit cliche to get chicks. But no, my resolution is to listen to less music.

It's not a simple resolution either, because it involves a paradigm shift. And paradigms are not easily shifted.

I feel that I used to be smarter than I now am. And it's not that listening to less music is going to free up a lot of my time to learn more. But it is certainly going to free up a lot of thought.

Back in the day, before the iPod, I used to think more. Back in the day I didn't have my own room, my own office, my own car, each with sound systems set to begin playing the second I entered. Sometimes I had silence. I don't have much of that any more. And in that silence I'd write stories. Rarely on paper, just in my head. I'd make up songs, create theories, have conversations, organize things, set goals, and just generally tinker. I do much less of these kind of things these days.

There are many reasons why I do less of these things, these thinking things. I'm certainly busier, maybe dumber, absolutely sleep deprived. But the music is an extra hurdle. It's an extra distraction, to my already distracting life. And it's a distraction I enjoy and that I'm going to keep, I'm just going to moderate it.

2011: Less music. More thoughts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Doctors without Burros

Which is not really accurate, because I'm pretty sure some of us did have burros.

Back in November we had our first resident retreat. As part of the bonding experience, we needed to ride horses. I don't understand bonding.

So rather than wake up at 7 to go to work, I woke up at 6 to go horseback riding. An hour of sleep is important enough to me that I probably would have preferred work.

I'm not sure where we went, but it was in the desert. After a cowboy breakfast (which is much the same as a homecooked breakfast, only not as well cooked) we hit the dusty trail.

Occasionally when I'm driving I think to myself, isn't it weird that I'm casually moving a little wheel and guiding a large contraption around at 60 mph? I got much the same sensation with the horse. I flip a rein this way or that, and a large beast moves. Most of the time. Anyway, it was odd, and somewhat enjoyable. The last time I rode a horse I was 11 and I got kicked. I didn't get kicked this time, so count it as a success.

The next resident retreat will be in April, and will probably be something I like better than horseback riding. But it doesn't really matter because I'll be in Thailand, which I'm hoping I'll like a lot better than horseback riding.

A bunch of pictures of us on facebook.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guilt free

I don't feel guilty for not writing on you blog. If I had the time to write something substantial this week, I'd use that time to go on a date. Or maybe sleep 8 hours. So I don't feel bad about that.

But here's another quick post, not about me, but about some media.

It's December, the worst time of year for television. It's a barren wasteland from here until February. So I'll help you out a little.

Best show I watched this week: Louie.

I love Louie CK. I don't love him because he's funny, but he is. I love that he says horrible bizarre things that he believes to be true. He talks about, and to some extent does, things that our culture considers wrong and bad. But according to his morals, he's acting correctly. I respect that. Also, he's funny. And this show is funny and actually makes you think.

Best show I watched this week that isn't rated R: Raising Hope.

For whatever reason, I've never been able to get into My Name Is Earl. But this show is kind of similar. Let's laugh at the trailer trash. But where I've never laughed at Earl (and hence, never watched for more than a couple minutes) this one gets me pretty regularly. The protagonist, Lucas Neff, is fine, but kind of run of the mill. But Garret Dillahunt, playing his father, is golden. I've never seen him do comedy before, but he kills it.

If you're jaded, watch Louie.
If you're still a nice person, watch Raising Hope.

You're welcome. Hope you survive until February. You could try making friends instead of watching tv, but I don't really recommend it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

ChrisMix 2010: Roll in the New

Warning, this mix will make you older. Maybe only 80 minutes older, but there is a chance it will prematurely age you with massive doses of retro goodness.

1. Get Down for the Holidays – Jenny O
I know nothing of Jenny O, other than she must be Karen O’s little sister, or possibly her confused little brother. Also, she probably shops at Target, as I found this on their website. It’s a secular little Christmas carol, perhaps befitting Target. The album, The Christmas Gig, is surprisingly good, free, and readily downloadable.

2. Way Down Hadestown – Anais Mitchell
Now that the obligatory Christmas song is out of the way, we plunge into the chronologically themed retro portion of the mix. We start in the 30s with Anais Mitchell. I love this Depression era retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s definitely the best blues/folk opera I’ve ever heard.

3. Polythene Queen – Miss Li
It’s pretty soon for me to show my lack of knowledge of musical history, because I couldn’t give you a decade for this one. Old. A bit of jazz. A bit of soul. I guess the main thing is good, so it doesn’t matter where it’s from.

4. Winter Winds – Mumford and Sons
I wish every band I picked could be a complete surprise, but if you’re an indie kid, I’m sure you’ve already heard of Mumford and Sons. They burst onto the scene this year, are pretty great, and I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss them. My favorite track is Little Lion Man, but this is my favorite non-profane track.

5. Pack Up – Eliza Doolittle
A friend came back from Europe with this recommendation. I very rarely turn down European recommendations. I kind of suspect that Eliza has a team of executives writing this stuff for her, but I’m going to ignore that fact.

6. Umbrella – The Baseballs
This is the last of the truly retro tracks, this time going back to the 50s. It’s also the first of the mixes covers. Rihanna is fine and all, but this rockabilly remix of the song just feels better than the original.

7. Book of Stories – The Drums
I’m a big fan of contrast. This song has an easy-breezy surf rock cadence, overlapped with the lyrics “I thought my life would get easier, instead it’s getting harder/darker/tougher/colder.” Maybe it’s ironic. Maybe it’s a message that even though life gets harder, you don’t have to be sad about it.

8. Stuck – The Heavy
Generally I’m not a huge guitar guy. Sure, it’s the basis for lots of our rock music, but it’s just not my bag. But The Heavy lay their guitar so thick that it’s hard not to take notice. And in my case, love it.

9. Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National
This is probably a bit of a cheat. I heard The National last year. My roommate kept saying I should listen to them, but every time he played them it just didn’t grab me. Then I heard this song and it grabbed me. Maybe because it’s a little autobiographical. Except for the bee part.

10. Bang Pop – Free Energy
I don’t know how talented Free Energy are. This doesn’t sound like that difficult of a song. But it’s an infectious one. You’ll be humming bang bang pop pop as you do your errands this week.

11. Comprachicos – Pendulum
Now we move from the retro flavored music to the future flavored. Admittedly Pendulum is a bit of both. They sound a bit like Prodigy’s slightly mellower sibling. I’m sure this will be many people’s least favorite song on the mix, but I felt I needed some industrial to balance out all the folk.

12. Under the Sheets – Ellie Goulding
I realize it’s a bit of a crutch, but dang it, I like a bit of autotuner. Ellie, like Eliza, may be a product of British corporate trendsetting, but I still like her. In fact, she may be the same person as Eliza for all I know.

13. Citizen – Broken Bells
My normal process for making this mix involves picking albums I like, then winnowing the albums down to my favorite tracks. I had a really hard time picking which BB track I liked best. But this one is kind of a futuristic folk ballad, which seems like it should be a thing.

14. Untrust Us – Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles are kind of post modern. As hip hop and dance have grown more and more reliant on sampling, CC have bypassed the whole process and just make music from samples. The found-sound result is great.

15. Kolnidur – Jonsi
Here’s some post-futurism for you. If this song doesn’t make you want to climb a mountain, slay some Scandanavian tyrant beast and make out with the damsel previously distressed, I don’t know what will. A friend described this album as life affirming, and I think that apropos. Again the indie kids all love Jonsi now, but if you missed the bandwagon, jump on now.

16. Ta douleur – Camille
If you’ve read my blog carefully, you’ll have heard of about half of this year’s picks, including this one, which appeared on SNL of all places. If you listen to this song carefully you’ll hear Camille blowing rasperberries as her own percussion.

17. White Russian Doll – Lucky Soul
For better or worse, timing plays a significant role in whether or not a song makes it on this list. For instance, I found this song last week. Would it still be one of my top 20 songs of the year if I’d heard it in January? Maybe. It’s certainly my favorite doll song since China Doll.

18. Carolina Cannonball – Kinch
Kinch’s music is all available for free on their website, so that’s cool. I discovered them after seeing them live, so that’s cool. They’re from Phoenix, which is, if not cool, at least convenient. I may go see them again next week.

19. Cannibal Queen – Miniature Tigers
Notice how close Cannonball is to Cannibal? Actually it’s a coincidence that I placed them together. I’m not quite neurotic enough to put that much detail into my mix. Here’s one I’ve liked all year, and I still rock out to.

20. Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare – Matt & Kim
Now we enter the orchestral section of the mix. Here Matt and Kim provide the piano and handclaps, two important sections in any orchestra.

21. That’s All – Clare & The Reasons
Clare provides the brass section to the orchestra, as well as a bit of strings. And does so with laid back confidence. Her lilting vocals aren’t too shabby either.

22. The End of the Movie – Stornoway
Stornoway provides a killer cello solo. Stornoway is a bit of a cheat because I found him through the BBC’s Sounds of 2010 list. It’s a great little list of artists that they predict are going to get big every year, and seems to be pretty accurate. So while he didn’t blow up this year, maybe next.

23. Oh Death – Jen Titus
Here, ChrisMix 2010 comes to a close. It’s not exactly a subtle way to go out. But for a song that’s a soliloquy to Death, it’s pretty beautiful. I guess hauntingly beautiful.

24. Where Is My Mind – Maxence Cyrin
Life after death. Maxence closes us out with his stellar cover of a stellar Pixies tune. I don’t know what to say other than I thought it was appropriate heavenly music, and that seemed like a good way to end the year.

So that’s ChrisMix 2010. You’ve got a week left until Christmas, so if you have a music lover on your list, pick one of these 24 groups, pick up their album and pretend that you discovered them all on your lonesome.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ChrisMix 2010: Rock Out the Old

Wonder where those artists from yesteryear have gone? Want that group from a couple years back who didn’t quite make the ChrisMix to get a second chance? How about those artists that barely missed the cut this year? This playlist is for you.

1. United State of Pop 2009 – DJ Earthworm
What better way to look back on music from last year than to mash the top 25 songs on the Billboard chart into one track. It’s a little disappointing that the music is similar enough that it can be mashed together. But that’s why I make these mixes so you won’t rely on Billboard.

2. Superfast Jellyfish – Gorillaz
This was my initial favorite track from Plastic Beach. The stellar Melancholy Hill music video may have pushed this track to number two, but it was my first favorite, and one you probably haven’t heard.

3. This Gigantic Robot Kills – MC Lars
MC Lars is perhaps the nerdiest man on the planet, and I love him for it. Here’s a track celebrating ska and robots. I was never a huge ska fan, but this song actually made me like it more.

4. Neckbrace – Ratatat
Ratatat got pushed off the list a couple years ago. And I was going to see them in concert a couple months ago, but The Pixies were playing the same night. But Ratatat is awesome. And for some reason I imagine a frog singing this song.

5. Private Eyes – The Bird and the Bee
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t love Hall and Oates. I feel like I should, but the love just isn’t there. But when tBatB did a whole album of Hall and Oates covers . . . well, I still didn’t love most of them. But this one is good.

6. Eat That up, It’s Good for You – Two Door Cinema Club
This is a new band, so really shouldn’t be on this mix. But I liked this song and it didn’t make it onto the ChrisMix proper, so I’m giving it a home here.

7. Fall Into Love – Rabbit!
The band has an exclamation point in their name. That kind of tells you about this song. They talk a lot about animals and musical instruments and use some cheesy samples, and you can imagine them in your mind just bobbing up and down to the beat. And if you watch them live, they do in fact bob.

8. Shark in the Water – VV Brown
I loved Crying Blood last year. I love this song even more. It was on a continuous loop in my head for much of the summer. Which explains why I didn’t do much swimming.

9. In the Sun – She & Him
I had a hard time picking a song from Volume Two, because there were a lot of winners. And generally I try to avoid singles as you may have heard them already, but I did end up deciding this was my favorite track from the album. It’s a winner; get it.

10. Friends – Luke Top
Kind of a simple track at first listen, but with both a driving pulse and a relaxed style. Both easy to sing along with, and with a lot of little musical twists going on in the background.

11. Oasis – Amanda Palmer
If you know anything about me, you know I’m firmly in the Blur camp, and have never been wowed by Oasis. But Amanda evidently likes them both. Also, she was raped and had an abortion. But not really, just in the song. Which makes it less horrible, but still a very odd song. But one that is very very catchy.

12. Hollywood – Marina & The Diamonds
Another call back from last year. I had only heard a couple Marina songs before this year, but found that their whole library is pretty satisfying.

13. Turnpike Ghost – Tegan & Sara
T&S is one of those groups that all the indie kids love, but that I’ve never loved. I’ve liked them. This song made me see the light.

14. Electric Twist – A Fine Frenzy
AFF missed the ChrisMix in 2007, but came storming back with this track. I don’t know what she’s singing about, but I don’t care. Her last song that almost made the album was about fish. I can’t say she picks the best subjects, but she plays the heck out of them.

15. Swim Until You Can’t See Land – Frightened Rabbit
I wanted to put this song next to the one by Rabbit!, but they just sounded bad by each other. Rabbit! is all jittery happiness. This track has a bit of happiness to it, which is why it made the album when Frightened Rabbit didn’t make it last year. The last album was too sadsacked, but this one is more hopeful.

16. Black Sheep – Metric
In Scott Pilgrim, this song was played by Clash at Demonhead, the sellout band. Maybe it’s bad that it’s my favorite Metric song. Oh well, take your favorites where you can get them.

17. Romans 10:9 – The Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats are so prolific that I’m sure I could include an awesome MG track on every ChrisMix from here until I go deaf. But at the very least they’re getting one this year. And it’s Sunday music!

18. Song for the Divine Mother Of The Universe – Ben Lee
It’s been a number of years since I’ve sought out a Ben Lee track, and then this one pops up. I’m a sucker for a sing-along. Sure the track would be half as long without the callbacks, but they’re fun.

19. Madder Red – Yeasayer
I was going to pick Rome or Ambling Alp off this great album, but then the music video for Madder Red came out. Kristen Bell makes everything so much better. The song suddenly became a great melancholy track of beautiful imminent doom.

20. Sit Down By the Fire – The Veils
I know nothing about this band. I just really like the escalation of this song.

21. Dead Hearts – Stars
Kind of a morbid title, but really this whole album is morbid. But great. Stars always have a good interplay between the male and female vocals, making the songs conversational and intimate. Even when singing about dead hearts.

22. A Dream Within a Dream – Oren Lavie
A song about Inception? Not really. Oren’s voice kind of puts me to sleep. Which I mean as a compliment. It’s very relaxing and nearly a reading of the poetry rather than the singing of a song.

That’s Rock Out the Old. In theory I’ll post the main event, ChrisMix: Roll In the New tomorrow. In theory.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jim, Kristen and me (ie Heaven)

I saw Jim Gaffigan a couple weeks back. It was awesome. I was going to write a post about how funny he is, but I don’t really know what the point of that would be. He’s funny, so you should give him money to continue to be funny. He’s so funny in fact, that when I show his comedy to people and they don’t like it, I’m tempted to not bother being their friend. It’s not that Jim and I are synonymous, but I just have a hard time imaging the person liking me if they don’t like Jim.

My devotion to Brother Gaffigan is such that I watched Going the Distance the other day. Why is this such a sacrifice? Because GtD has Drew Barrymore in it.

Now I’ll admit, I’ve liked movies with Drew in them. Donnie Darko and The Wedding Singer and Charlie’s Angels come to mind. But in each of these movie there was a factor (creepy rabbits, Billy Idol and Cameron Diaz dancing in her underwear, respectively) offsetting Barrymore’s presence. I don’t think she’s funny, charming, attractive, talented, or any other attribute you’d want in a film star. And she’s got a man’s name.

And I’m no Justin Long fan either. How dare he try to make John Hodgman look foolish. And he was in both Planet 51 and Battle for Terra? Way to do animated science fiction a solid Justin.

But I saw it because it had Jim Gaffigan in it. GtD, not Battle for Terra. And do you know who else it had in it? You could look on IMDB, or read the next sentence. Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston, Rob Riggle, Kristen Schaal and Mike Birbiglia. I’d watch any movie with that cast. I’d watch a Care Bears snuff film with that cast.

Turns out the movie was pretty alright. A bit slow and predictable, but hello, it was a romantic comedy. But the comedy was decent, even though I wanted the 2 main characters to leave so I could just watch everyone else in the movie.

Just as I will watch anything with Jim Gaffigan in it, I will watch anything with Kristen Bell in it, including Burlesque. Sadly, it wasn’t as bad as I hoped it would be. Sure the dialogue is asking for some MST3000 treatment, but it wasn’t as entertainingly bad as it could have been. It wasn’t good either, which would be the other way to go. It was just pretty average. But it had Kristen Bell wearing fetishwear for nearly an hour and Stanley Tucci hit another homerun with his snarky delivery (he was the best part of Easy A earlier this year.) Plus there was sappy emotional stuff with Christina Aguilera and Cher, so I imagine it’s a worthwhile movie for most men and women of the world.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Flashback Friday (early, on Thursday)

Oi. I've been way busy. I'm not even sure with what. I'm not sure whether with what or what with is more correct, and I'm too busy to investigate it at the moment.

If you receive the standard ChrisMix this year, you're going to miss this song, which is on the runner-up CD. But I just watched a year retrospective video, and this will serve as a 2009 retrospective. It's the top 25 songs of 2009 mashed into one song. Hopefully DJ Earworm makes another one for this year.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A test

If you happened to be wondering this morning "Self, how much time have I wasted in my life?" I've got a test for you.

Watch this video.

For every person you recognize, add 3% of your life you've wated. For every person you can name (without looking at the German subtitles) add 10% of your life that you've wasted.