Entries tagged with “Music”.


Though I’m not dwelling on anyone at the moment, this song speaks in language I can absolutely relate to… Oh, yes indeed.

Half Moon Run: Dark Eyes

“If you breathe in, I’ll breathe in…”

Music streaming on the internet has changed dramatically in the last several years. A whole host of options have begun competing for bandwidth and market share with a variety of gimmicks. I decided some time ago it was worth $10 a month to have a more or less limitless supply of music on demand. I try not to think too deeply on how many records or CD’s I could have afforded with the roughly $360 I’ve spent over the years, but I digress…

 My streaming service of choice is Rhapsody, which allows me to search for and download music with considerable scope of catalog. I’m generally pretty happy with it – though it uses an appalling amount of data when streaming so I use it exclusively over wifi and download anything I want to listen to away from home. However, one area where it lacks somewhat is in it’s algorithm to suggest music I might like. I do use the “similar artists” feature to some success, but it is rather a cumbersome process sorting through albums, tracks, and lists of bands to find something I might enjoy. I have discovered a considerable amount of new music I really like using this method, but it’s much more labor and attention intensive than the alternative.

The alternative being Pandora. The original internet music radio remains far and away the most reliable source of new music suggestions. Last week it popped out with something I loved immediately and have been proselytizing the hearing of ever since.

 Canadian band Half Moon Run at first blush is very much in the vein of Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, and The National. This Is A Good Thing. Lush thoughtful harmonies and deft echoing guitars drew me instantly, but what kept me listening was the surprising depth beyond these initial similarities.

 The album manages to encompass a variety of musical styles without seeming disjointed or uneven; considering the contrast between some of the tracks this is a considerable feat of musicianship. Opening with “Full Circle” a straight up rocker, the record also offers dreamy, soulful “Need It” which earned an immediate and coveted place on my sex playlist. “Judgement” is a seething revenge track, “Give Up” has a decidedly Radiohead vibe about it, while “Nerve” echoes of disco in the way that Daft Punk and Broken Bells captured so compellingly in recent memory.

While I make all of these comparisons, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Half Moon Run manages to sound like itself alone. They have a sense of humor, edginess, and vulnerability all in one that is profoundly unique and deeply compelling. It’s rare for me to feel both lulled and lit up by the same record, and their capacity to do so is impressive. It has kept me singing under my breath, listening on repeat, and telling anyone who will sit still long enough how much they need to listen to it too.


Sufjan Stevens once made a joke about how he was going to write an album for every state in the union. That he then followed this by writing both about Illinois and Michigan seemed to imply it wasn’t one. For those holding out hope it might still happen, his latest record is probably quite the tease.

Having lived here my whole life, I forget that Oregon isn’t really like other places. I mean, it’s like Washington of course, but most of our country is not made up of places that have ocean coastline, mountain ranges, high desert, temperate rain forest, and prairie all within a few hour’s drive of each other. It has for some people achieved somewhat mythical status and stands out as remarkably well-represented as a mecca for nature-lovers, adventurers, and seekers of peace alike.

What brought Sufjan Stevens to Oregon wasn’t nearly so romantic or whimsical. Reunited with his estranged mother through the efforts of her second husband, Stevens spent time here in fits a spurts as a child until the relationship once again deteriorated. “Carrie & Lowell” recalls that time and place while simultaneously probing his grief in the face of Carrie availing herself of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. There is a candid intimacy to this music that conveys a sense of emotional and visceral locus more powerfully than almost any I have ever encountered.

Such A Long Time Ago

I concede, my own degree of susceptibility to this record might be fairly apparent. The aching eloquent lament of a grown person with mommy-issues recalling a dappled Oregon childhood has some pretty obvious resonance for me. That truth notwithstanding my daughter, who isn’t burdened with these same concerns, also found the album all but irresistible. We listened to it on our way to Bend last weekend and she was humming one of my favorite tracks for the better part of the following day until she asked if we could listen to the entire record again on the way home.

It is, as all my favorite albums are, a suite of music. Each song is deliberately linked in melody, theme, and tone to every other. It has the feeling of a progression through a landscape both internal and peripheral. Stevens’ characteristically gentle guitar and vocals perfectly evoke the longing, sorrow, and grief he explicitly acknowledges inspired his songwriting. That being said, it is patently not a sad record. The melodies and message are both infused with a certain weightlessness that rarely accompanies music about death, loss, and regret. When he says “we’re all gonna die,” over and over, it feels not like a condemnation, but a reassuring statement of fact.

The music rambles all over its vast setting. From the Tillamook burn to the Sea Lion Caves. From Cottage Grove to The Dalles, each song speaks to some corner of Oregon and of Stevens’ memory in concert. In doing, it never forfeits a sense of connectedness within that scope. Much like the state in which it is set, varied though the conditions might be, it remains bound together by shared inevitabilities, circumstances, and space. Though I’m still convinced he has no intention of completing the task of an album for every state, Sufjan Stevens has rendered a beautifully realized offering for Oregon, nevertheless.

Highly recommended.

I live in a town with approximately 12783 really great places to eat. Most of them are comfortable, reasonably-priced, and apart from the occasional line-around-the-block-for-brunch scenario, they are welcoming and easy to access.  Even with all that being true, I tend to eat at one of the same dozen or so restaurants over and over and over.

I suppose it could be said I am a creature of habit, though I bridle at classifying myself that way since it seems to imply I am a stick in the mud with no sense of adventure. More, I think it is that by the time I want something to eat, my adventurousness is eclipsed by my need to be sure that what I am about to consume will be tasty and satisfying. This impulse can and is frequently overridden at the urging of almost any dining companion apart from my child who is even worse than I am when it comes to new food ideas.

It occurs to me that the best way to overcome this tendency is to schedule into my restaurant circuit the introduction of at least one new option per month. Considering how often I eat out, this would still represent a small fraction of the opportunities I could be taking. And though I think about doing this pretty regularly, it happens most often that I leave the house with good intentions, see the Casa Del Matador come into view and think, “Fuck it, I’m getting some flautas.”

This is also the pose I tend to adopt most when it comes to music. Though I know that both as a lover of the medium and an artist I should be listening to new material in the service of broadening my experience and inspiring my craft. For the first time in years, I can listen to music at work, which means I have hours every day where I can access streaming music in several formats. Not only do I function better with a melody in the background, I am afforded a huge swath of time in which I may now experiment with hearing new artists at my leisure. The trick here is not to get sucked into the Simon & Garfunkel vortex that is my Pandora…

To that end, last week I plugged The Head & The Heart into the algorithm to see what it would come up with. To the discovery of TH&TH – and many other favorites besides – I am forever indebted to friend Les. As much as her direct recommendations, the benefit of lazy post-run mornings at Naramore Acres listening to “College Rock” on her Direct TV feed has yielded a wealth of recent discoveries; Broods, Beach House, Goshen97, and James Bay to name just a few. I could just follow her around and discover new music with near constant success, but she is inconveniently located for such and I must content myself instead with a semi-monthly inundation instead.

Pandora, when presented with the morsel of my favorite band in recent memory, produced some stellar things in response. First to the plate was The Lone Bellow, which is perfectly characterized by the band as “Brooklyn Country” Though I’m vaguely irritated by their hipstertorian affectations, I have always been a fan of the kind of vocally driven, melodically opulent and emotive style they embrace. I was at first completely convinced that the vocalist was the lead singer from The Black Keys, but apparently he’s in The National (who I also love) instead. I probably listened to their track “Marietta” on repeat for about 4 days straight. Poor Hodie.


Why isn’t SHE wearing a vest?


Next in the mix was a band I had heard recommended on NPR, but failed to follow up on; a pair who performed under the name The Civil Wars. Her voice, utterly luminous coupled with lyrics that found an echoing place in my heart to take up residence. His musical presence lending foundation and nuance to places she could only light. Together they created some of the most compelling music I have heard in as long as I can recall. That they are no longer making music together is poignant in the way that only discovering a band after it has broken up can be. So much the better to cherish what is there to enjoy, I suppose.


If we never look at each other, maybe we can keep the band together a little longer…


Their EP “Bare Bones” is one of the most singularly nourishing experiences I have had musically in a good long time. Stripped down to acoustic essentials, this records is truly bare. Speaking for myself, it settled in under my skin. This music feels resonant and familiar and mine. Hozier had a similar effect on me, but what The Civil Wars made is so much exactly the kind of music I do and want to make I think it’s impact is naturally more profound.

Clementine came with me to Bend, and though I was so completely without my voice I wasn’t able to do the kind of songwriting I’ve felt inspired to, holding her in my hands and simply playing other music that touches me seems to have an electric effect. By opening myself to something out of the routine, I am confronted by new horizons within.

Too bad there isn’t a Pandora for restaurants…

It was recently brought to my attention that all the links on my music page lead   nowhere…

But I fixed it 

You can find it HERE

“This is the story of the boys who loved you
Who love you now and loved you then
And some were sweet, some were cold and snuffed you
And some just laid around in bed.

Some had crumbled you straight to your knees
Did it cruel, did it tenderly
Some had crawled their way into your heart
To rend your ventricles apart
This is the story of the boys who loved you
This is the story of your red right ankle.”

From Red Right Ankle Her Majesty The Decemberists

for i am feeling rent, and crumbled.

to what i was saying yesterday about being unable to pick up my guitar, i’ve decided to start trolling for gigs. i’m hoping that as long as i:

  • a) am not trying to write anything
  • b) avoid those songs that make me want to sob until my eyeballs wash away
  • c) do not invite disaster (or certain people) to the venue

i might be motivated by a show for which i must prepare. it worked reasonably well last time. maybe it will work again.

plus this time, i’ll have CD’s to schill!! awesome.