Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: m4ts (Page 1 of 15)

*tap* *tap* Is This Thing On?

Looks a little different, doesn’t it?

Having finally gotten fed up with Tumblr and its infinite bugginess, I bit the bullet this month and moved the site over to WordPress. Over the next few months, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on what I hope will be a new long-term home for the blog. Expect things here to be in motion for a while as I learn WordPress, slap some metaphorical paint on the metaphorical walls, fix and update my clips, and generally move this place into the present.

I’ll have (some form of) my usual year-end content coming up soon. My hope is that, following that, M4TS will once again become a place to fire off hot takes, work out thoughts on things that might later become published pieces, and maybe publish some things I’ve been wanting to write but don’t anticipate finding a home for. I know, I’ve made that promise before, but now I’ve got a spiffy new laptop and a spiffy new blog platform, so let’s make it happen, shall we?

In the meantime, if you see something is broken… well, that’s to be expected, I suppose, but do feel free to let me know so I can make sure it gets checked off the list when the time comes.

Here goes nothing!

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2015 Mix

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2015 Mix

A third of this year’s Makeup For The Silence – Best Of mix (the sixth* edition running!) is made up of no-brainer inclusions – singles that blew my socks off from the first listen and held up across the year. The second third was simply a matter of figuring out which of a number of great tracks from the same artists would slot in best. That third third, though… It was an ugly process this year, attempting to sort through the remaining 170-or-so songs in my Top Tracks Of 2015 longlist** – most of which were of roughly equivalent awesomeness – and arrive at something that both encapsulates what 2015 sounded like to me*** and finds some sort of flow.

As a result, this year’s mix would have been very different had I gone down any number of different paths. The mix that I settled on is one that’s a little harder to pin down than in years past. It’s more of a bummer than last year; while that mix had a lot of righteous anger, this one spends more time toying with melancholia. It leans  groove-heavy, like 2013′s mix; but that album was more sunny than this year’s downer disco. It’s sillier than one of these has been in a while, but more ruminative too.

Ultimately, it feels very true to a year where the big highs were nearly matched by big lows, with the two connected by a lot of unsettling space between – both personally, and on a societal level. Plus, not only does it make for a great front-to-back listen, it answers important questions, like: What if the ‘00s premier big dumb hair-metal revivalists set their sites on the sounds brainier heshers like The Cult? What if David Gilmour had been backed by Crazy Horse instead of Pink Floyd? What happens when a largely forgotten college rock fave gets a hold of Ryan Adams’ cast-offs? And, if you grind a man’s rib in a centrifuge, mix it with cardamom and cloves and then microwave it on the “popcorn” setting, what do you get?

Ok, enough blah, blah, blah.. Less talk, more rock I say! The Best Of 2015 is here. Download, listen, enjoy!

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2015

1. Heavydirtysoul – Twenty One Pilots
2. Give Thanks (Get Lost) – Pet Symmetry
3. Laughing In The Sugar Bowl – Veruca Salt
4. Beck And Call – Sundressed
5. The Shade – Metric
6. Black Heart – Carly Rae Jepsen
7. Valkyrie – Battle Tapes
8. Collect My Love (feat. Alex Newell) – The Knocks
9. Thank God For Girls – Weezer
10. Song Of The Sparrow – SayWeCanFly
11. Open Fire – The Darkness
12. Universe-sized Arms – Chris Stamey
13. Revelator Eyes – The Paper Kites
14. In The Clouds – Diamond Youth
15. Shock The Money – Local H
16. Hollow – Mayday Parade
17. Drag Scene – See Through Dresses
18. Dresser Drawer – Better Off
19. The Biggest Bar Night Of The Year – Baggage
20. English Girls – The Maine
21. Baby Love – Petite Meller
22. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) – Elder Brother

click image to download****

Stay tuned, The yearly Top Ten will begin tomorrow soon*****.

*You can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.


**I’ve archived my 2015 list and rolled my 2016 one right on top, so if you were subscribed, you should be following 2016 now. If not, follow along right here.

***As always, my “no big pop hits” rule applies – and this time out, be thankful, or else you’d basically have a whole disc of nothing but Drake, Fetty Wap, The Weeknd and Kanye.

****Or stream (most) of it on Spotify here

*****Between caring for an infant, studying for the FL bar exam and some job-related things that are in the works, the timing of this year’s Top Ten may be a little erratic. That said, if all goes as planned, we start counting down… tomorrow!

Simple Math 2015: Simple Math Is Dead; Long Live The Gospel According To Saint Me

Simple Math 2015: Simple Math Is Dead; Long Live The Gospel According To Saint Me

Veruca Salt – The Gospel According To Saint Me

In October, a catastrophic hard drive failure cost me my entire iTunes library – more than 85,000 songs collected over just shy of two decades. (Really! I started building my digital library way back in 1996, with live Husker Du bootlegs acquired from online trading communities and handfuls of punk and ska rarities downloaded off of sketchy FTP servers.) It doesn’t seem recoverable, not without a small fortune, and very possibly not with one either. I haven’t quite decided if I intend to try and rebuild or not. The real value of the collection was the stuff that can’t be found online anymore (or ever); the parts I could replace are the parts that it might not be worth replacing rather than just resigning myself to streaming from now on instead of ownership. Fortunately, my life has been far too busy to spend time worrying about, or even contemplating, what to do.

Not that iTunes would have been much use for my tallying this year’s Simple Math anyway – over the last few years, it’s largely become an archive of non-digitally-accessible tracks and a repository of star ratings, something to track what I’ve listened to and whether I’ve liked it, but not how much I’ve listened to it. And the one thing it was most useful for – keeping track of which albums I listened to over the course of the year – fell by the wayside when I ceased to add albums to my library post-crash. Meanwhile, my Spotify “Year In Music” feature didn’t, so far as I can tell, include anything I played offline, and certainly doesn’t include anything I loaded onto my account locally. And my, by dint of not scrobbling Spotify plays on mobile, is essentially useless in providing any kind of accurate stats about my listening this year.

Even if I were able to get accurate stats, I’m not entirely sure what I’d find – this year has been one of change and upheaval, and my listening habits have been as chaotic as the rest of my life. The latter half of 2015 saw the bittersweet end of PropertyOfZack; a relocation from the urban hum of New York City to suburban south Florida; a farewell to six years of steady employment and a hello to a whole lot of question marks; and, six weeks ago, the birth of the most beautiful baby boy in the whole world*. Heck, truth be told, I’ve probably listened to more lullabies – played via Lionel’s sleep machine, by way of a decade-old iPod – in the last month than music the rest of the year combined.

The bottom line is that, after a four year run, the yearly tabulation post I’ve been dubbing Simple Math is, for all practical purposes, dead.

That said, Makeup For The Silence has, from the start, been about music and storytelling and the places where those intersect. And if 2015 is the year I stop quantifying the music side of the equation, it is also the perfect year to shine a light on the storytelling I’ve done. While 2015 marked the end of PropertyOfZack, it also saw me making my presence felt more than ever at Alternative Press, as well as opening up new doors at Myspace and the Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. And though things are currently a little to busy to focus on pitching elsewhere, I’m hoping that 2016 sees my writing finding its way into even more new spaces.

But it wasn’t just my reach that grew this year – I think I’m more proud of the writing I did in 2015 than any year prior. So, instead of recapping my musical stats, I thought I’d instead share some of the highlights of my year behind the keyboard. Welcome to The Gospel According To Saint Me. It’s gonna get loud; it’s gonna get heavy.

It Just Isn’t Like The Old Days Anymore – Mayday Parade [Alternative Press Magazine 328 / November 2015]

My first cover story for a national publication would have been the highlight of my year in any year. Mayday Parade, pop-punk’s ultimate play-it-safe band, bucked all expectations by growing darker and more daring at the exact time when most career-minded bands would have dialed back on the Risk-O-Meter. I suppose the jury is still out commercially – though it’s hard to imagine the band’s camp wasn’t disappointed by the precipitous fall-off in album-over-album sales, the band’s first in three outings – but Black Lines is an artistic triumph, and I think I did justice to the story of the album’s genesis.

Sting, Bon Jovi And More Help Celebrate 80 Years Of Overtown Legend Sam Moore [Miami New Times]

Writing for the New Times might not come with the paycheck or the prestige of other publications, but the access it’s granted me to big-name artists from across the pop spectrum is priceless. This year I had the good fortune to chat with everyone from piano-pop legend Ben Folds, to Emily Haines of Canadian indie heavyweights Metric, to up-and-coming tropical house DJ Bakermat. But none topped interviewing Sam Moore, one half of Sam & Dave, the voices behind “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and a dozen more hits that defined the sound of Memphis Soul at the turn of the ‘70s. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, chatting with a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would have been near the top.

Crawling Towards the Sun: The Hush Sound’s Bob Morris Starts Again, Again [PropertyofZack]

It’s easy to forget that 90% of the hot new buzz bands you’ll have served to you on a platter this year will be the ones flipping the metaphorical, and often literal, burgers a decade from now – talent (and, often, fanbase) be damned. Morris is back with a new project, Le Swish, but he’s also got a new outlook on life and some new ideas on where and how music should fit into it. His story isn’t unique, but you might think it was for how rarely it gets told.

SXSW Wrap-Up: These Things Happened. These Things Mattered. [PropertyOfZack]

South By South West is a strange chimaera, a beast of many looks that serves many masters, but it often only gets photographed from its “good” side. Truth is, there’s a lot more than happens at the industry’s yearly bacchanal than the anointment of next big things and the grousing of never-will-bes. There are other stories to be told and, while they’re not sexy, they’re frighteningly easy to find. But when the hype-makers are the ones charged with creating the official record, they develop a nasty habit of only recording what’s hyped. SXSW is so much more than anyone seems to talk about, and it deserves better treatment. With what will be a 3-month-old son, I’ll be missing out on SXSW 2016, but you can be sure my heart will be there, in all the corners the cool kids aren’t.

Andrew W.K. Isn’t Partying Hard Anymore, He’s Got Too Much Else Going On [Myspace]

Conversing with Andrew W.K. was everything I could have imagined it would be; the man is a whip-smart deep thinker and a master of introspection, and better yet, he uses his powers for good. It felt almost criminal to have to edit down Wilkes-Krier’s soliloquies on art, feeling and life into interview-sized snippets.

Start Today: Bad Religion [PropertyofZack]

Bad Religion aren’t only foundational figures in SoCal punk and stalwarts of the current scene, they’re a remarkably consistent machine that’s churned out excellent album after excellent album for more than 30 years. That voluminous output makes their catalog as intimidating as it is deep, and made them the perfect candidates with which to launch our Start Today feature.

Matisyahu Spent The Past Five Years Discovering His True Self [Broward-Palm Beach & Miami New Times]

When your bizarre musical schtick is just a reflection of your unusual real life, what becomes of your career when that life drastically changes? It’s a question to which Matisyahu’s fanbase is still working out the answer, even if the man himself seems more certain than ever of who he’s supposed to be.

10 Things You Should Know About Phoebe Ryan [Myspace]

Pop singer/songwriter Ryan’s star is on the rise, but with only an EP to her name to date, it doesn’t seem that anyone has really plumbed her backstory yet. There’s nothing groundbreaking in our conversation, just some fun and revealing anecdotes that I haven’t seen told elsewhere – and really, isn’t that what this is supposed to be about? Sometimes the workaday pieces are the ones you’re happiest with.

Matter Of Time: A Chroma Q&A With Cartel’s Will Pugh [PropertyOfZack]

I first saw Cartel live in 2004, opening for Brandtson and the Rocket Summer in support of their debut EP. The full length they were writing at the time, Chroma, would top my very first Yearly Top Ten list in 2005. I’ve interviewed Will before, but sitting down with him before the band played that album in full, on occasion of its 10 year anniversary, felt especially significant. What followed was a marvelously candid discussion of not just the album’s stratospheric rise, but the band’s slow and steady descent over the decade that followed – one that’s landed them at a true career crossroads today.

Links to everything else I wrote this year after the cut.




Live Performance Previews:

Other Music Writing:

If you enjoy these, as always, you can find a complete archive of everything I’ve written on the Clips page.

*every new parent says this about their child. All of them are correct.

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2014 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2014 Mixtape

It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been doing this as long as I have, and yet here we are for the fifth year in a row* with the annual Makeup For The Silence Mixtape.

The 2014 edition of my yearly mixtape feels darker, tetchier and more ruminative than last year’s compilation. Partly that’s deceptive: this year’s picks are angrier in their loudest, brightest moments, and more quiet when soft and sweet. Indeed, 2014 was my most blissful in recent memory, full of both personal joy (getting married) and professional success (my first print features in a decade), But as they say, energy flows where attention goes, and the tracks here that demand the most attention rage loudly enough to nearly eclipse the more subtle sweetness in between.

Only nearly, though. Part of the challenge of making the yearly mixtape is in the curation – there were more than 200 songs that made my running Top Tracks Of 2014 longlist**, and paring them down is some combination of making a CD-length document that actually flows as a well-sequenced album would without excluding anything absolutely essential to the year. I spend far more time than any human should working toward hitting the sweet spot each time out; hopefully, I managed it here.

The “no big radio hits” rule wasn’t really an issue this year (sorry Taylor); while I felt like 2014 was much more of a singles year than an albums year for me personally (more on that soon), it wasn’t because of anything on pop radio, which had a seriously down year compared to 2013. I feel like we’re headed toward an interesting intersection – it’s clear to me that the pop-EDM bubble has burst, and there’s definitely renewed interest in music made with traditional instruments, but nobody seems to quite know what to do with them yet (other than sample saxophones, ubiquitously). In the past that’s led to tremendously interesting and diverse years for pop music (think 90-91), but for some reason this year’s casting-about turned up little in the way of interesting experiments – at least not in the Top 40.

And yet the 23 tracks here barely tap the surface; there was tremendous breadth, if not depth, just below. This year’s mix features a pair of refugees from collapsed bands, each digging out of the rubble and starting anew in their own way; two tracks from the best band in the world you’ve never heard of; four minutes of guts-searing #emorevival; and four more of glorious, gossamer #softshread. It’s all in there, Frankensteined together into one rather dapper monster, if I do say so myself.

Enough talk. Download***, listen, enjoy.

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2014

  1. Free – Brent Walsh
  2. Royals (Remix) – T-Pain ft. Young Cash
  3. Tongue Talk – The Holidays
  4. Canyon Moon – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  5. Coming Of Age – Foster the People
  6. Unconditional Love – Against Me!
  7. Queen of Hearts – Darlia
  8. Don’t Die in Yr Hometown – Antarctigo Vespucci
  9. American Beauty / American Psycho – Fall Out Boy
  10. Exclusive Coupe – MYRONE
  11. Long Night – Guster
  12. Nervous Kids – Tigers Jaw
  13. Brutal Truth – Foxy Shazam
  14. Your Deep Rest – The Hotelier
  15. Dear Diary – Darlia
  16. Giving Up – Allison Weiss
  17. I Told You So – Dazy (The Girl) ft. Derek Sanders
  18. Tear The House Up (Edit) – Herve & Zebra Katz
  19. Digital Witness – St. Vincent
  20. Eyeshadow – No Devotion
  21. Erosion – Cymbals
  22. Come Alive – Rachel Taylor
  23. XO – Roy English

click image to download

Stay tuned, The yearly Top Ten will begin in just a few days!

*you can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.

**if you’d like to get a headstart on 2015, feel free to follow my running Top Tracks Of 2015 So Far playlist on Spotify. It’s barren right now but that won’t last long.

***just like the past two years, there’s a Spotify version of 2014’s mix available, but also like those years, there are a handful of tracks on the mix which aren’t currently available on the service. I love Spotify’s convenience, but I recommend downloading if you want the real deal – otherwise, you miss out on a few great songs, and also the sequencing. If you’re a Spotify user, it’s easy to import downloaded files into Spotify, I promise.

Simple Math 2014: Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck).

Run The Jewels – Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck) (feat. Zack de la Rocha)

At the end of each of the past three years, I ran a piece titled Simple Math here which collected all of my “music stats” for the year prior.This year that all went to hell. Count to fuck, indeed.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a particularly statistically-minded guy. I’ve gobbled down advanced baseball stats like they were the latest diet craze since before I could catch a fly ball. I spent years grinding at poker tables and studying charts until I could intuit the odds of almost anything happening. And, for over a decade, I’ve been tracking (im)precisely what I’ve listened to each year on both AudioScrobbler / Last.FM and via iTunes.

That all changed in 2014. This was the year I got on board (almost fully) with the cloud. I’ve gotten miles of mileage out of my Spotify subscription, supplementing that which can’t be found on their service with mp3s. The problem is that Spotify is very inconsistent with its scrobbling, or, more precisely, it consistently doesn’t scrobble when either listening via iPhone or in offline mode. Unfortunately, that’s 90% of how I consume music.

Additionally, Spotify doesn’t play well with iTunes. I’ve made a consistent effort to add to my iTunes library anything that I’ve listened to on Spotify (or YouTube, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, etc) but there are certainly unaccounted for tracks, especially singles which would have received a sub-3 star rating. And this year, I spent far more time listening to individual songs than I did to full albums.

The end result is that, for the first time in a long time, I don’t have concrete data on what I’ve listened to, or how much I’ve listened to it. Indeed, I don’t even have marginally useful data from which to extrapolate. Last.FM tells me that “Tongue Talk” by the Holidays is my most-played new track of 2014, with nineteen spins. The true number is something like five times that, if I had to guesstimate. Meanwhile, the track doesn’t have a single play in iTunes.

In the end, I’ve decided that convenience (such as it were) outweighs my desire to number-crunch. It’s a choice that pays off 11.5 months of the year, and then bums me out for two weeks. Unfortunately, this is those two weeks.

So which parts of my musical year are still quantifiable? Well, as of December 31, 2014:

  • By my count, over the course of the year, I listened to 107 LPs, EPs, 7″s, splits or compilations released in 2014.
  • There were 1,236 songs released in 2014 added to my iTunes library this year.
  • I attended 48 individual shows this year, along with 43 sets over days at SXSW; 8 sets at 1 day of Warped Tour; 29 sets over 3 days at Riot Fest Chicago; and sets over days of CMJ.
  • In total, that makes for 189 sets at 63 shows.
  • I wrote track review (along with lighthearted holiday song reviews for the annual PropertyOfZack Xmas Review Extravaganza); published 28 interviews, including a 4-part interview with Rob Rowe (Whitewaits / Cause & Effect) and a 2-part interview with Derek Sanders (Mayday Parade) & Lauren Wilhelm (Dazy The Girl); wrote part or all of 15 feature pieces, including missives from SXSW; contributed to 7 PropertyOfZack staff playlists; and, best of all, had pieces published in print, both feature pieces for Alternative Press.

The full list of albums and EPs from 2014 that I’ve listened to this year, alphabetical by artist, is after the cut.

  1. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  2. Alburn – Mouthful of Glass
  3. Allison Weiss – Remember When
  4. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – s/t
  5. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
  6. Angels & Airwaves – The Dream Walker
  7. Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion
  8. Antarctigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff
  9. Antarctigo Vespucci – I’m So Tethered
  10. Anthony Green – Winter Songs
  11. Ariana Grande – My Everything
  12. Basement – Further Sky
  13. Beach Slang – Cheap Thrills On a Dead End Street
  14. Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken
  15. Being As An Ocean – How We Both Wondrously Perish
  16. Betty Who – Slow Dancing
  17. Betty Who – Take Me When You Go
  18. Big Data – 1.0
  19. Bleachers – Strange Desire
  20. Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin
  21. The Cab – Lock Me Up
  22. Candy Hearts – All The Ways You Let Me Down
  23. Charli XCX – Sucker
  24. The Cloudy Mountain Band – Demos
  25. Copeland – Ixora
  26. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Voodoo
  27. Dads – I’ll Be The Tornado
  28. Darlia – Candyman
  29. Darlia – Knock Knock
  30. The Downtown Fiction – Losers & Kings
  31. Dum Dum Girls – Too True
  32. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
  33. Four Year Strong – Go Down In History
  34. Foxy Shazam – Gonzo
  35. Frnkiero andthe Cellabration – Stomachaches
  36. The Front Bottoms – Rose
  37. Future Islands – Singles
  38. Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien
  39. Have Mercy – A Place Of Our Own
  40. The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace Is There
  41. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell
  42. Information Society – _Hello World
  43. Onelinedrawing – Me & You Are Two
  44. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
  45. Kitten – Kitten
  46. Knuckle Puck – While I Stay Secluded
  47. La Dispute – Rooms Of The House
  48. Live – The Turn
  49. Masked Intruder – M. I.
  50. Michael Jackson – Xcape
  51. Mikey Mo – All I Have
  52. Moden Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
  53. Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde
  54. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time
  56. Mystery Skulls – Forever
  57. No Devotion – Stay / Eyeshadow
  58. No Somos Marineros – Lomas Verdes
  59. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up
  60. Owl City – Ultraviolet
  61. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love
  62. Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You
  63. PUP – PUP
  64. Pvris – White Noise
  65. Rachel Taylor – Come Alive
  66. Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is The Same & We’re Just Changing
  67. Restorations – LP3
  68. Royksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  69. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
  70. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  71. Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour
  72. Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only
  73. Set It Off – Duality
  74. Sir Sly – You Haunt Me
  75. Sledding With Tigers – A Necessary Bummer
  76. Somos – Temple Of Plenty
  77. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
  78. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
  79. take nothing, leave everything – winter
  80. Taylor Swift – 1989
  81. This Wild Life – Clouded
  82. Tiger’s Jaw – Charmer
  83. Tiny Moving Parts – Pleasant Living
  84. Toby McAllister – Christmas Bedroom Demos
  85. Transit – Joyride
  86. Twin Forks – Twin Forks
  87. Unicorn Kid – Brain Wash
  88. Vacationer – Relief
  89. Veruca Salt – MMXIV
  90. Warpaint – Warpaint
  91. We Are The In Crowd – Weird Kids
  92. White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  93. Whitewaits – Island
  94. Wild Adriatic – Big Suspicious
  95. Xerxes – Collision Blonde
  96. You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing
  97. You Blew It! – You Blue It
  98. You + Me – Rose Avenue
  99. 5 Seconds of Summer – She Looks So Perfect
  100. VA – Adventures / Pity Sex
  101. VA – Death To False Music Vol. 1
  102. VA – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary
  103. VA – In Utero, In Tribute, In Entirety
  104. VA – Punk Goes 90’s Vol. 2
  105. VA – Spitback / Power Wrench
  106. VA – Whirr / Nothing
  107. VA – Mat Kerekes / Chris Kerekes Winter Split


Cause & Effect – “Inside Out” from Trip

Toward the end of our conversation, Rob Rowe managed to flip the script, and somehow we wound up with a short interview of me. Don’t expect any Whitewaits or Cause & Effect content below, but if you want to know a little more about the guy behind the keyboard over here, read on!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Alright, I think that’s really about everything that I’ve got. Is there anything you can think of that you wanted to talk about that I didn’t mention?

Ahh, not that I can think of. I’m really out of practice with all this stuff, talking about things. What kind of law do you practice?

It’s corporate stuff, I oversee a document review team. It’s discovery work, if you know anything about how the legal process works.

I know some. My brother-in-law is a corporate lawyer.

Let me give you the short version. Say two big companies sue each other, or the federal government is investigating a company or something. There’s a process called “discovery,” where both sides have to turn over all their paperwork related to whatever the matter is in question. And when you’re talking large companies, that can be literally millions upon millions of emails, spreadsheets, marketing documents. Everything you can think of. Right now, the project I’ve been on the last two years, is I’m working for an insurance company that’s suing a bank. I’ve spent two years overseeing a team of ten-ish people who are going through everything we had to turn over, to figure out what we needed to turn over and what was privileged or whatever else, and then looking through everything that’s been turned over to our side to figure out what’s important.

Oh I see. Wow.

So that’s what I do during the day.

Like needles-in-haystacks kind of stuff.

Yeah, it really is. But those needles are what cases get built out of, and what billions of dollars swing on, somehow.

Right, right. How long have you been in New York?

Seven years.

You like it?

I do, I do. I like it here a lot. You know, it’s New York, what is there to say? You know, everything’s here. It’s funny, I actually moved here originally because I wanted to be closer to my family. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and then I lived out west for a while, and then moved back this way to be close to my family. And now my brother and my sister and my parents have all moved away again, so I’m the only one left out here!

Where did they go?

My brother is out in San Francisco. My sister moved to South Carolina. My parents did the “snowbird” thing and moved down to Florida. So I’m here by myself now, with my fiancee.

Did you take that personally?

[Laughs] no. But yeah, I’ve lived a bunch of places, in the US at least, and I could see myself moving again. I feel like anywhere I’ve been I’ve found something interesting and valuable. I lived in Boston for a while, I lived in San Diego for a while, I was in Las Vegas for a couple years. America is a cool place and I like seeing it.

Yeah, but New York is pretty cool.

It is. That’s one of the nice parts about New York, is that so much is just here, and so much comes here, that you kind of get the best of all those other places. But it’s also really expensive to live here.

Exactly. We have friends who live up in Harlem, we’ll go visit once every year, once every couple of years. My wife and I will walk around, I’m like “man, I could totally live here. Look at that place, we could live there.” She’s like “mmhmm, we won’t be living there. That’s probably ten million dollars.” [Laughs].

Yeah, exactly. It’s funny, I’m getting married in a couple months, and so my fiancee and I, we want to start a family, have kids and all that, and so we’re starting to talk about, maybe we need to start thinking about moving out of the city somewhere, where it’s affordable to do that. I’m in Astoria, in Queens, I’m not even in Manhattan, and I’m still playing $1,400 for 400 square feet.

But it’s 400 square feet in probably one of the best cities in the world.

Oh exactly! Exactly. I do the music writing thing, so I get to shows three or four nights a week, and I always have three or four to pick from each night. Great food. Broadway shows. I can go see my Yankees anytime I want.

Oh you’re a Yankees fan. So is my wife. I wasn’t into baseball when we met. One of our early dates, I went over to her apartment. I called her that day, “what are you doing tonight?” She’s like “well we can go out later but you’ve got to come over because there’s this playoff game.” And I’m like “playoff game for what?” She’s like “it’s baseball. It’s the Yankees.” So I’m like “uh, OK.” “So why don’t you come over, and then after the game we’ll go out.” So this would have been… 2001? So this would have been the game, I can’t remember who they’re playing, but I’m sitting there on the couch with her, and she’s going nuts because they’re losing. And I’m just baffled, because I’d never dated a sports fan. Like, “you care so much!” It was so bizarre. But since then, through osmosis, I’ve totally gotten into baseball, and I’ll pretty much root for the Yankees and everyone else I don’t really care about.

That’s cool. Baseball and music are my two nerd passions, the things I really geek out over. I’m in a super serious fantasy baseball league, and watch every Yankee game I can.

Are you bummed about the Jeter thing?

Uhh, I mean, I knew it had to be coming soon. If it wasn’t this year, it was next year.

Yeah, it seemed like it was coming.

And nobody’s really sure he can play anymore anyway, so maybe it’s time. I don’t want to see terrible Derek Jeter hanging on three years longer than he should. So I’m a little bummed out about it, but I’ve gotten to see him win a bunch of World Series for them. I’ve watched his whole career. I’m happy with that. And I’m looking forward to seeing him play this year a couple more times.

So if you’re from Pennsylvania, how did you end up a Yankee fan?

Yeah its funny, because all my friends are Phillies fans. My parents are both from Connecticut, and my dad is a lifelong Yankee fan and his dad was a lifelong Yankee fan. I was raised in the tradition! Starting from when I was four or five years old, every year my dad and I and my brother was a little bit older, when he was old enough to join us, every year we’d have a “guys day out” at Yankee Stadium. And I remember watching games sitting on his knee on the couch when I was like three years old. It’s in my blood. And it’s funny, I grew up in the one era when the Yankees kind of sucked. The mid-80’s to the early 90’s was a real bad time for the Yankees. Everybody assumes “oh, you’re a Yankee fan, you hopped on the bandwagon, you love winning and that’s it.” When I was growing up, they weren’t good! I loved them anyway! And I’m not going to stop loving them just because they got good again.

If you’ve got five minutes, this is a great story. Reese is a Yankee fan because her dad is a huge Yankees fan. Her dad is in his mid-80’s. He grew up in Boston. They live in Washington, DC now. Corporate lawyers. When he was a kid, his dad took him to see Boston play the Yankees, and I don’t know how old he was – this was, like, the ‘30s, this was serious Yankee history time, right? His grandfather is obviously a Red Sox fan. They watched the game, and the Yankees won, and her dad was like “I like those guys!” His dad is clutching his heart. He said “alright, OK, but if you’re going to be a Yankee fan, I want you to learn all the players’ names, I want you to know all the stats. If you’re going to be a true fan you’ve got to know all the stuff.” And so he did! He went away and he studied. And the next game they went to, he knew all the stats, all the players names. And so the family’s been Yankee fans since the ‘30s!

That’s pretty awesome!

She gets a lot of shit for it.

I’m jealous of him, he got to see all the greats!

Yeah, isn’t that crazy?

Well that’s all I’ve got, but thank you very much for doing this!

If you have any other things, or if I think of anything, I can just email you or something.

Sounds good. And I know you were talking about touring just the west coast, but I hope you maybe make it to at least to New York at some point!

That would be cool, that would be cool. We’ve played there a few times. On the Sunrise tour we played out there, it was really fun. But again, financially it’s just so hard.

Yeah, the economics just don’t make sense for a lot of folks anymore.

It’s such a big country, especially if you’re driving, you know?

Yeah, I think gas prices have done as much to kill the touring industry as anything else.

I definitely feel it up here in Seattle. We get a lot of the tours through here, but there are some that definitely skip Seattle because it’s so far north, it’s too much of a diversion.

Too much of a drive for one or two shows up that way.

Yeah, exactly. But anyway, enjoy your Saturday!

I will, enjoy the rest of yours!

And when are you getting married?

In June! June 29th. That’s kind of taken over my life right now, wedding planning.

My wife’s in wedding planning, she runs a couple venues where weddings happen.

We’re right in the thick of things. We sent out our Save The Dates this week and we’re trying to book everything.

Are you doing it in New York?

Yeah, we’re doing it here in New York, in Brooklyn. We found this place, it’s really neat, it’s called reBar. It’s a bar and restaurant during the week, but they exclusively do weddings on the weekend. It’s kind of become a wedding destination. It’s in an old tea factory, so it’s got all this incredible stonework, old brickwork and iron gates and stuff inside, it’s a really cool looking venue, we’re kind of stoked about it.

Nice, that’s really cool.

Yeah, so hopefully it all comes together.

You might not even remember the day anyway. Our wedding was like, “did I eat? I don’t remember anything.” It was a big, big blur. Good luck with that.

I’m excited about it. Thank you! Thanks for chatting with me!

James O’Brien and Karaugh Brown: Live Performance at Cholmondeley’s

There’s something special about Chumley’s.   The little coffeehouse plays host to its fair share of student performances, and most of us have been by there for a scoop of ice cream and a cup of hot chocolate at some point.  But over the years, Chums has also welcomed some of the best and brightest performers in the folk world, a distinction that all to often goes unmentioned and unnoticed by the undergrad population.  Witness this Friday night, where before an appreciative crowd of 20 or 30 singer-songwriter James O’Brien offered up and hour and a half of caustic + Add New Category agony, resilient hope and some of the purest emotion I’ve ever seen grace a stage.

O’Brien is as much a shaman or a channeler as he is a folk singer – he summons forth the demons in his head and lets them speak their peace, wrestling to keep them under the harness of his powerful yawl, blasting them forth from an acoustic guitar with the power of a jackhammer and the precision of a jigsaw.  Shearing through his set with a punk-rock intensity, O’Brien nonetheless manages the perfect phrasing of a man who seems to know exactly what he wants to say and how to say it.

O’Brien is a master of control.  Vocally, he slides from a voluminous boom to a brittle falsetto with grace.  Instrumentally he does the same, deftly hopping from a gentle finger-picked introduction to a searing chorus, straining to contain the massive burst of energy flowing through his skinny frame.  It’s a radiant, contagious energy, the kind that jumps from the stage to the audience and sets a kinetic buzz about the room, one that was impossible not to pick up on in the cozy confines of Friday night’s show.

Opener Karaugh Brown played the stereotypical folk-waif – her 45 minute set adhered to all the conventions of the genre: complex lyrics, pretty but complicated melodies, weak choruses and little vocal range.  All well executed, Brown didn’t lack for talent, but for originality.  Still, the audience sopped it up, calling her back for one of those rare, unplanned encores.

originally written 4/29/01

Islam Awareness Week Event at Usdan Student Center’s International Lounge

In the first major event of this month’s Islam Awareness Week, attendees were treated to the art of Islam in its diversity.  On Monday night in the Usdan Student Center’s International Lounge, an audience of around sixty Brandeis students and friends had the opportunity to experience the modern expression of Muslim tradition through the physical art of Abdul Badi Abdul-Musawwir, the delectable delicacies of Turkish gourmet, and the rousing Muslim Sufi ear-stravaganza of members of the Cambridge Turkish Music Group.

Following a brief prayer session for the observant Muslims in attendance, artist Abdul-Musawwir took the floor.  Abdul-Musawwir introduced his work by introducing himself: the son of a half Cherokee/half African-American father and a mother of Dutch ancestry, he converted to Islam at 16 after a spiritually transformative vision of the word Allah while reading a Christian text.  Though he left art for 25 years (he spent much of that time as a counselor, including 10 years as the resident Imam of Walpole State Prison), he experienced a personal renaissance during a visit to the United Arab Emirates three years ago.

Abdul-Musawwir’s works are dually informed by his ken for modern art – during his talk, he cited Jackson Pollock and Modigliani, among others, as crucial influences – and his devotion to the Muslim faith.  Asserting that he strives to portray “humanity in its diversity and its unity at the same time” through his art, Abdul-Musawwir proceeded to unveil a series of slides of his work, primarily paintings and mixed-media compositions featuring pastels.

Much of the work he displayed focused on similar thematics, involving Islamic symbolism (both through traditional Muslim architecture and the different stylized forms of Arabic calligraphy) interweaved with modernist technique.  Most of the pieces displayed featured portions of text from the Koran and other holy Islamic works; generally, the work itself symbolically highlighted the themes of the textual inclusion.  Though it revealed itself most prominently in a work featuring the Arabic text “all praise be to Allah, the lord of all the worlds,” with the jagged lightning-strikes of text screaming towards the heavens in stark black and white, this type of symbolism pervaded much of Abdul-Musawwir’s work.

Other pieces required more explanation; one truly exquisite work (and oddly enough, his first) envisioning an abstracted mosque fronted with a funeral ground was explained as “the mosque is calling loudly; the graves are calling softly; can anybody hear me?”  Though his overweening use of monotones and the occasionally hodge-podge nature of a few of the selections presented detracted somewhat from the overall affect, Abdul-Musawwir’s art served well to further the religio-cultural dialogue.  Indeed, a question-and-answer session following the presentation turned into a short primer on the basic tenets of Islam.

Following a delicious catered dinner of traditional Turkish food including some perfectly sweet desserts, four members of the Cambridge Turkish Music Group (plus a Brandeis student who chose to join in the fun) presented a brief showcase of traditional Sufi Muslim music.  Featuring the steady propulsion of darbouka drums and the tortuous maneuverings on the fretboard of standout Turgay Erturk’s oud (musically, a cross between a guitar and a sitar; physically, a likely precursor to both) backing lyrics derived from the great Muslim spiritual poets Rumi and Yunnus Emre, the group took the audience through three pieces.

Aside from a few short introductory taksim (brief improvisory introductions to musical works), the focus of the music Monday night was on concentrated groupwork, the steady synchronization of drums and vocals amongst the members.  The resulting performance drew its power from its rigid focus as much as it’s liturgical theme.

Throughout the night, there was a clear cultural exchange – the crowd, seemingly about half Muslim and half not (if the earlier discussion was any evidence), took the opportunity to engage in their own discussions on religious pluralism and multiculturalism, during dinner and beyond.  As an art exhibition, Monday night’s program was a clear success; as a fundament to Islam Awareness Week, it was even more so.

originally written 4/03/01

Garageland – “Do What You Want”

Garageland hail from New Zealand.  Geography isn’t usually the best way to start off a review, but when it comes to Kiwis, there’s just no escaping it.  Perhaps it’s the distance; maybe it’s simply the isolation.  But whatever it is, New Zealand pop-rock (as well as the same from neighboring Australia) has a distinctive sound that can only be quantified as “Down Under-ness.”  It’s the kind of quirky sound that might escape from an alternate universe where the Replacements and Pavement were million-sellers and Kurt Cobain never got around to offing himself.  And it’s something Garageland deals in spades.

On “Do What You Want,” the band’s second release (and first with major stateside distribution), it’s a boon and a curse; the Kiwi sound is pretty unique, but to untrained American ears they sound like pretty much every other band from the land of sheep and more sheep.  Like Blur’s Damon Albarn on a bender, lead singer/songwriter Jeremy Eade moans and yowls his way through 13 tracks of droll, self-aware lyrical pap, while his schizophrenic backing band can’t remember when to crunch like Nirvana and when to prog-squeek like Radiohead.

Everything about Garageland screams “critic’s darlings.”  Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be that critic.  Garageland make the kind of conventional indie-rock you can hear wafting out of a thousand midwestern basements, none of it particularly inspired or interesting.  Apparently in New Zealand it makes for top twenty hits, but we’ll have none of that here thank you very much.

originally written 3/24/01

Judicial Revue 3 (Louis Magazine Fundraiser) – Live Performance at Schwartz Auditorium

(feat. track – “The Moon Got Broken” from No Love Lost by Kate Schutt)

Eclectic can be a good thing.  It’s nice to expose people to diversity, to let them know what’s really out there in the range of possibilities.  But sometimes eclectic doesn’t quite work.  Witness Saturday night’s Judicial Revue 3 fundraiser for Louis Magazine.

Perhaps it was that Culture X, Pachanga, and VoiceMale’s ICCA competition (among other events) were all scheduled for the same night.  But it seemed that while each performer drew a crowd of fans, none were interested in sticking around to see what else was going on.  The result: a lot of in-and-out traffic, a half-empty Schwartz auditorium, and a lot of people standing around waiting for their band of choice to take the stage.

The night’s slow start didn’t help.  While the night’s first two acts, The Royal We and Good Question turned in the requisite effort, both could use a little more work (and in the case of Good Question, a drummer certainly wouldn’t hurt).  Still, on a campus that’s rapidly becoming devoid of a music scene, every little bit helps.

Chappie and Pals faired far better in their semi-acoustic set.  Though it took a couple tracks to get into sync (especially with Matt DiCarlo ‘02, filling in on congas for the night), things hit their groove for the band with cover of 99 Red Balloons featuring a balloon drop over the crowd.  As entertaining for their antics as for their music, the band pulled out all the stops for their set –at one point, Mark Hopkins ’03 took out Josh Chappie ’03 with a flying tackle mid-song, and the entire band bared their chests at sets close.

Following Chappie were two Boston-based ska-core acts, Formula 1 (who leaned heavier towards the ska end of the spectrum) and Dow Jones and the Industrials (who took the “core” end head-on).  Both bands brought their own crowds with them, which was fortunate because by that point in the night the Brandeis contingent had abandoned Schwartz Auditorium almost entirely.  But for those who stuck around, both bands turned out excellent, energetic sets.

Still, by 1:00 a.m. the Brandeis audience had come back, in time for folk-punk Kate Schutt’s triumphant return to campus.  Schutt, recently off a tour plugging her just-released Brokenwingtrick, has built up quite a following here on campus, and from her set on Saturday night it was obvious as to why.  Schutt’s burning intensity absolutely explodes off the stage, and it kept the awestruck crowd dead silent for nearly her entire set.  Judicial Revue 3  was a long, late night by all accounts, but as seems to be an increasingly common event at Brandeis, Kate Schutt made it all worthwhile.

originally written 3/18/01

Ed note: I could not find any contemporaneous music from any of the artists referenced, so I opted for a track from Schutt’s 2007 release.

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