Sober City Redux: Day 26

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When I was younger the Happy Face (or Smiley Face) was my thing. I mean it was and still is a lot of people’s thing but I adopted it as MY THING. I had happy face paraphernalia everywhere in my room; everyone who knew me bought me absolutely anything with a happy face on it; I incorporated the happy face into my actual signature, and because of the happy face I once got punched in the face giving me a black eye for prom (that’s a story for another blog). Needless to say, it meant a lot to me and it’s not hard to see why. I was always an extremely positive person and I fully believed in the power of positive thinking and manifest destiny and all manner of self help book rhetoric, so the happy face seemed like a pretty natural logo for me to adopt in retrospect. This kind of outlook and thinking served me extremely well and I fully believe it directly influenced a lot of my personal and professional success, so it’s a little disheartening to realize that I now feel completely disconnected from the happy face I used to love so much.

This isn’t to say that I’m depressed. I’m not. I feel pretty great for the most part actually, I just don’t feel a connection to that younger, full of life and promise, happy face guy I used to be. This might not be a bad thing necessarily and it’s more than likely just one of the many things you grow out of as you get older but fuck that! Getting older shouldn’t be about letting go of everything you held dear when you were younger just because time passes. It should be about learning to amplify those things that worked for you and only leave behind all the hot garbage that dragged you down. Apparently I’ve been opting to just lump my wide-eyed-optimistic-fearless-over-confident-anything-is-possible-happy-face persona that made me who I was and brought me nothing but success and happiness into the “Young and Naive” category to wither and die along side “Petty High School Drama” and “Playing Ghost Busters”. It’s ridiculous. Letting go of my happy face obsession is one thing but letting go of what it represented in me is totally unacceptable. When did “growing up” become synonymous with “giving up”? Who decided aging has more to do with changing than adapting? At what point did we all let “getting older” become the opposite of “getting bolder”? I really don’t know but it’s all a pile of horse shit.

The point I’m trying to make (poorly) is that growing up and getting older is a perfectly normal and necessary part of life that benefits everyone in many positive ways and is great and fine and super and ultimately has the potential to chip away all the great parts about ourselves that we used to love while sucking all different kinds of ass and balls. We know this. We know all this yet we let age and fear and jadedness seep their way into our tiny lizard brains and slime the place up with lies and false reasoning. We gotta hold on to the good parts from the past, those good bits of us that helped create and define who we were, who we are. The happy face. My happy face. It worked for me. It inspired me. It lifted me up higher than I had any business going and it’s part of who I was and who I am. Growing up doesn’t mean giving up. Growing up means getting up, again and again and I for one am going to do my damnedest to try and remember that, with or without a thousand happy faces in my apartment.

This post is dangerously close to entering “Sarah Palin bumper sticker ranting” territory so I’ll end it there. As always, feel free to like and share and comment as much you see fit. Every click makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Also Sober City might be going through some changes in the near future so please bear with me as I navigate potentially uncharted territory. Cryptic ominous sentence! Don’t worry. Just stay classy San Diego.
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JM

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Sober City Redux: Day 20

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And here comes the blog delays!

I started writing this on “Blue Monday” which is apparently the most depressing day of the year according to people who have nothing better to do than figure out which day of the year is suppose to suck the most. Lots of days suck already people! No need to point out which one is the worst according to people who have the time to fill out surveys! Those people are probably out of work and depressed enough as it is. I’m surprised they don’t think everyday is a struggle. Seriously. Who even takes these surveys anyway? Whatever. Maybe they’re right. I’m clearly cranky.

None of this matters though because I’m not here to talk about public opinion, I’m here to talk about me. 20 days into Sober City 2 and already I’m feeling the stagnant pangs of redundancy. Like pretty much every movie ever, the sequel just isn’t as good as the original (except Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part 2 of course). The first one was fresh and exciting, exploring uncharted territory with a younger up-and-coming lead who was out to prove something with will power and wit alone. One man’s year long journey into sobriety. Will he make it? Will it change him? Will Wendy finally realize Daniel Stern has been narrating his thoughts the whole time? (Spoiler alert: She never finds out!) The point being, this all made for a relatively exciting blog worthy adventure and now I can’t help but feel like the follow up just doesn’t carry the same weight.

The biggest hurdle I faced doing this last time wasn’t craving alcohol or feeling pressure to drink when I was out with friends, it was boredom. Hands down. I got to the point somewhere around the fall when I had already lost the majority of the weight I wanted to lose and I felt great but I just didn’t really want to keep the experiment going because I was bored with it. The thing that did kept me going was almost entirely the fear of breaking my promise and letting everyone down. I had to see it through to the end to prove to myself that I could do it (even though I already knew I could do it) and I did do it. Good job. Great ending. Bravo Joe MacLeod. The problem I’m facing now is figuring out a way to keep myself excited about doing this for an entire year all over again and to be completely honest with you, I really don’t think I can. I mean I already know I CAN but the question is do I really think I NEED to or do I really even WANT to.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me throwing in the towel. I’m committed to doing this and definitely have no intention of running out and getting drunk anytime soon but I do question my need to abstain completely for an entire year. It just seems like I’m repeating myself. Rehashing the hits for another tour with the same debut album. That being said, I still think staying away from booze completely is the best way to kick start my weight loss and help get me back into shape (both physically and mentally), so I’m definitely sticking with it for a long time to come regardless of all these trepidations. I’m just trying to stay honest with you guys and ultimately with myself. We’ll see where this all ends up together. Blue Monday’s officially over now. Happy Taco Tuesday everybody!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 12

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Excuses are the enemy and I’m their number one arms dealer. I excel at creating them out of extremely thin premises and giving them validity and truth for absolutely no positive reason and it’s extremely damaging. Convincing myself to sleep in an extra hour or two because I “need” the rest; Eating all that extra garbage food on Sunday because football is on; Not joining a new gym because I don’t have the money; These are all lame excuses for shitty behavior and I never seem to run out of them. It’s that voice again. That evil demonic asshole voice who does a masterful job of convincing me these terrible lies are true. Soft whispers of doubt. Loud screams of hate. We all have this voice but some of us do a really good job of ignoring it or even silencing it altogether. I used to be one of the lucky ones. I’ve shut him up plenty. He was a tiny speck in my psyche for so long that when he finally grew loud enough for me to hear, I hardly noticed his influence at all. But it was there. It’s a poison. It’s a cancer. It’s the one thing that has the power to derail the greatest of intentions before thought even becomes action and it never takes a day off. It feeds off of fear and insecurity and in turn cultivates more food for its insatiable appetite, swallowing all that is good and producing nothing but despair.

So what’s to be done? How do we expel this infectious swine from its toxic lair of turmoil and rise victorious in the wake of its destruction? We don’t. We can’t. It’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay because that voice in our head that tells us we’re not good enough or we’re not pretty enough or we’re too fat or too old or not the right color or we love the wrong people or we wear the wrong clothes; that voice is our own voice. Sure it can be strengthened by outside influences and various complicated situations but in the end it’s just our own voice and we have the power to shut it up or give it a megaphone. For me, right now, that evil voice is fronting Metallica with 20 stories of Marshall stacks behind it and the only song it’s playing is “You Suck Joe MacLeod”. Nice. Real nice, you jerk.

I clearly have no answers. I’m just experiencing the same thing everyone experiences when trying to change. The shitty voice is resisting and is beginning to roll out the big guns. It’s not an easy fight and I don’t even know if I’m capable of winning. Making excuses is so much easier and immediately rewarding. Why bother trying to do something when doing nothing is clearly a viable option? Terrible lies from the poisonous voice. I’m still optimistic though, oddly enough, that one day I’ll strengthen that other voice, a new voice. A voice of love and compassion and encouragement but some days, some weeks, some years, that shitty voice is just too loud to ignore and that’s where the real challenge lays. When the negative voice is assuming complete control and shouting really, really loud, I have to find a way to plug in my amp, hook up my mic and start shouting louder. Sounds like a good plan at least. Time to see how many excuses I actually have left.
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 8

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So the one week mark came and went and during that time a lot of people were asking me how I’d been making out without alcohol. Because of this, I feel the need to clarify something on the record for anyone reading this who may not know me on a personal level. I like to drink. I always have. I like the taste and the culture and the buzz and I have a high tolerance so I tend to drink more than some, but I am not an alcoholic. I didn’t drink everyday, I didn’t drink to get drunk, and I definitely didn’t have a problem giving it up for a week. I realize this may sound like text book denial to some of you and if that’s the case then I guess I’m a lost cause because I just don’t see it like that at all. I do however think it’s fair to say that I indeed have issues with drinking from time to time. The simple fact that I feel the need to cut it out completely instead of just cutting back is a good indication of an underlying problem of some sort, I just truly don’t believe it’s alcoholism. But, regardless of what my situation is or isn’t, the important thing is that I’m doing whatever I can to help create a clean and positive mindset to tackle the bigger issues in my life. My weight is one of them but my poor body image is the bigger one. Getting myself back in shape is one of them but getting my self confidence back is the bigger one. Drinking too much is one of them but getting to the issues behind why I let myself give up on truly living in the first place is the biggest one. All of this together is why I’m here.

Also for what it’s worth, I wanted to take a moment to express how grateful I am for everyone reading this and following me on my journey. Making my personal thoughts and struggles public can be a little scary at times so every comment, “like” and share is deeply appreciated. It might seem a little premature to thank you at the beginning of this but I remember how much knowing my words weren’t simply sinking into a void helped keep me motivated and in check last time so thank you, thank you, thank you! You guys are all part of this now whether you know it or not so let’s take this twisted beast by the horns together and ride it until it there’s nothing left!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 6

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I did two things recently that tested however many small shreds of confidence I still manage to cling to after letting myself get to this point. First, I took my new “Before” pictures. This is absolutely an essential part of the whole process as far as I’m concerned and I highly encourage anyone else challenging themselves to a New Years transformation to do so as well but be warned, it sucks all the balls all day long. Any self denial mechanisms I had in place regarding just how far I let myself slip, were singled out and quickly taken down by a pack of rabid reality wolves and torn limb from fat jiggly limb. They died. They were eaten. They will be missed.

Secondly, I went shopping for new jeans. Now the only reason I would even subject myself to such nightmarish torture (right after the holidays no less) was due to complete and utter necessity. My only pairs of pants that even remotely fit anymore were literally falling apart at the seams and I’m told it’s socially frowned upon to leave the house in oversized swimming trunks everyday, so a trip to the mall was unavoidable. Now I’m sure that some of you reading this don’t understand how shopping for clothes could ever be described as “torture” and good for you for having great metabolism or awesome self confidence or whatever form of unimaginable black magic lets you coast through life on a cushion of blissful ignorance but for people like me who deal with the twisted horror show that is weight problems, shopping for jeans when you are (or feel) fatter than usual is nothing short of hell on earth. Bad lighting, skinny sales attendants, 8 million mirrors in a tiny room making sure you see every god damn inch of grossness you’re desperately trying to jam into jeans that are already 2 sizes bigger than they used to be. Some chipper and content person saying something like, “You making out OK in there?” and the only honest response is something like, “Oh yeah! Totally fine! I just slipped into the seventh circle of hell! Only two more levels to go before I reach the epicenter of Satan’s inner sanctum! Do you have this in a size Hammer Pants?” Madness. Total panic. Don’t do it. Buy patches.

So I’m not even a week in and already the mountain seems way too impossibly high to conquer. My commitment and drive is still sound and secure but shame and despair hold a shit load of ground. This may sound negative and whinny but it’s important to talk about. This isn’t easy. This isn’t pretty. This takes time. That’s ok. I’ve got a long road ahead of me but so does everyone. Life is gonna happen regardless of what I do, so I may as well actively do something to steer it in the direction I want it to go instead of complaining about where it’s taking me. The good news is that the simple act of committing to change, while it may not make the journey any easier, does in fact make all the other bullshit a thousand times more manageable and that’s a great place to start. Just stay the fuck away from malls and mirrors.
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JM

Joe’s Top 20 Albums of 2014

****UPDATE****

In honor of The Grammys last night I’m reposting my top 20 albums of 2014 list with an extra 10 albums (in random order) for good measure! Beck’s latest album won rock album of the year (not to mention ALBUM of the year!) and this confuses me to no end. I love me some Beck but Morning Phase bored the shit out of me. Also I’m a fan of what Sam Smith is doing and I’m glad he won a bunch of Grammys but he also didn’t make my list.

****DISCLAIMER****

Beginning on the first Tuesday of the year and continuing for the next 51 Tuesdays, I’ve been going to iTunes and spending a good 20 minutes pouring through new albums to whittle down the major (and minor) releases into my annual year end “best of” list. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now and this year was certainly no exception. I really don’t know what compels me to do this every year but it’s something that is constantly on my mind year round and I put the same level of thought and importance into it as I would if I worked for Rolling Stone. Spoiler Alert: I don’t work for Rolling Stone. I also don’t work for Pitchfork or Spin or Metacritic or any of the million websites that have a whole team of people way more hip and qualified to compile a list than I am. This is important to remember when yelling at my list (as I imagine some of you might do) or passing any judgement beyond personal opinion because this is very much MY list and I’m in no way saying these albums are the best albums of the year over everything else that came out. These are the albums that not only made it on my iPhone but stayed on there in heavy rotation all year and will likely hold a spot on there for some time to come. That’s the criteria for a good album as far as I’m concerned, repeat listen ability and lasting emotional effect. All of these albums either spoke to me on some deep level or moved me physically with their well crafted songs or overall vibe. Most importantly they all held a firm place in scoring my experience of what 2014 was to me. This is also a list of top ALBUMS which I realize is becoming somewhat of a lost art form in terms of listening experience, so while I may have felt certain albums had several great songs on them (Jack White, Alt J, Future Islands, Bahamas, etc) I’m only including albums that I love listening to front to back with little to no exceptions. Again, it’s all subjective, so “grain of salt” and all that.

I’d also like to thank all of the suggestions I’ve gotten from various people throughout the year and even though a lot of highly acclaimed albums didn’t make my list (Caribou, Sam Smith, Mounties, The War On Drugs, Taylor Swift) it’s not because I thought they weren’t good enough it’s just that these albums hit me harder and feel more at home under my name…for the moment anyway.

Now, with that paranoid disclaimer out of the way, here’s what made my list for 2014. Enjoy!

***Only the Top Ten entries have explanations and download suggestions because, you know, laziness.***

20. Charlie XCX – Sucker

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19. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End

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18. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

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17. Mother Mother – Very Good Bad Thing

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16. Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack

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15. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

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14. Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits

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13. Nico Vega – Lead To Light

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12. Sturgill Simson – Metamodern Country Music

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11. Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight

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10. Hozier – Hozier

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7857.jpgBy now, you’ve most likely heard Hozier whether you know it or not. His breakthrough single “Take Me To Church” had been on TV shows, in your doctor’s office, on SNL, and even soundtracking Lebron James returning home in that headphone commercial. If you haven’t, you probably will eventually and this is a good thing because he’s definitely not a one hit wonder. His debut self titled album is full of soulful bluesy folk pop gold and I have a feeling certain gold phonograph statues might be on the horizon for this talented Brit. The fact that he isn’t from the Deep South, (or anywhere in America for that matter) is initially jarring giving the copious amounts of authentic Americana and southern blues present on pretty much every track, but this is a compliment rather than an insult because it never once feels forced or out of place. If anything Hozier is simply carrying on a grand tradition of British musicians taking southern american sounds and making them their own (see Rolling Stones and everybody else) and the results are fantastic.

BOTTOM LINE – Hozier put out a stellar first record that should feel at home in any music lover’s collection

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Take Me To Church, Angel Of The Small Death And The Codeine Scene, Work Song

9. The New Basement Tapes – Lost On The River

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7858.jpgWhen T Bone Burnet came in contact with a plethora of Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967, a lot of terrible things could have come from it. This is not the case with The New Basement Tapes. With full blessing from Bobby D himself, a supergroup of talent was formed. Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Rhiannon Giddens and Elvis Costello, were all brought in on this project to take Bob Dylan’s lyrics and turn them into music. Everyone went off on their own, independent of each other and the results are astounding. Some songs have duplicate versions on the album because of this tactic but more importantly all songs have Dylan soul and this is the overriding theme in all of this. The songs are great and the individual voices are apparent but Dylan is front and center regardless of the vehicle. Whether it’s Rhiannon crooning away in Hidee Hidee Ho or Marcus Mumford breaking character on Kansas City, this collection of songs is one of the greatest things to happen to folk rock since The Band and if you haven’t heard it yet you really should.

BOTTOM LINE – Unheard Bob Dylan lyrics brought to life by great artists. What’s not to love.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
When I Get My Hands On You, Spanish Mary, Quick Like A Flash, Kansas City

8. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7859.pngI’ll be the first to admit that I used to think Lana Del Rey was something completely different. I didn’t get it. I thought she was boring and overhyped and I used to get angry when people would praise her. So needless to say, I was not excited about her new release when it first came out but after hearing the first single (West Coast) I was intrigued enough to finally give her a fair shot and thank god I did. Lana Del Ray’s Ultraviolence is what I imagine heroine would sound like if it was a real person scoring Juliet Lewis in Natural Born Killers. It’s a haunting, moody album that borrows from Portishead as much as 90s grunge and Enya. It’s full of sex and pain and privilege and it all works on some strange excellent level. Even if I don’t consciously want to, I can’t help but be drawn deep into Lana’s sultry opium landscape and I find myself constantly revisiting it time and time again. This is an album to get completely lost in and the disorientation is intoxicating.

BOTTOM LINE – If you’re the type of person who regularly finds yourself walking alone in the rain or laying on your bed awake for hours, this record really is for you. Throw it on next time the mood hits you. Lana gets it.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Shades Of Cool, West Coast, Brooklyn Baby

7. Shakey Graves – And The War Came

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7860.jpgI’m currently obsessed with Shakey Graves and I want everyone else to be too. Anyone who has ever seen his one man (generally) live show knows what I’m talking about and now finally there is a full length album to help sell Shakey Graves to the masses. It’s hard to put into words exactly what sets him apart from other solo artists but impeccable songwriting skills, an honest voice with an underlying sense of urgency and endless replay value isn’t a bad place to start. Evoking old country ethics mixed with American folk sensibility, every song somehow sounds timeless and completely fresh all at the same time. Not to mention Shakey Graves is also a somewhat established actor and manages to live in both worlds separately which I of course always admire. Great stuff all around.

BOTTOM LINE – An amazing first record with lots of great songs. I want to be Shakey Graves when I grow up.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Dearly Departed, Hard Wired, If Not For You

6. Spoon – They Want My Soul

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7861.jpgI have never been a Spoon fan. I never listened to them growing up and I wasn’t even aware they existed until way too recently. I was so unaware of Spoon in fact that when I formed my first band in the mid nighties, we actually called ourselves Spoon for a good 5 months and only changed it later because we wanted a new name and not because it was already taken by a wildly successful indie rock band (Cape Breton was pretty sheltered pre Internet). So needless to say when the band revealed they would be releasing a follow up to 2010’s Transference, I was underwealmed…if that’s a word. I know it’s not cause I looked it up. It’s one of those skills that I learned in my school. (Sloan ladies and gentlemen). I digress but appropriately another influential band from the 90’s makes my list because they put out an exceptional album that is both brilliant now and brilliant in nostalgia land. Spoon represents an era pre social media while still managing to sit firmly in the now with biting commentary about life as we know it without sounding preachy and out of touch. Songs like Rent I Pay and Knock Knock Knock, speak to an aging youth generation without sounding jaded and uninspired while songs like Inside Out prove that Spoon has their fingers firmly on the pulse of humanity in a way that never betrays their age. Front to back, this is a great record and it especially deserves to be on every devise owned by anyone who came up in the 90’s.

BOTTOM LINE – Solid record by a solid band coming into their prime later in the game.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Inside Out, Rainy Taxi, Knock Knock Knock

5. Sia – 1000 Forms Of Fear

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7862.pngSo we’ve all seen the Chandelier video right? Cute little girl interpretive dancing in the platinum blond wig that’s been showcased on Ellen and parodied by Jimmy Kimmel AND Jim Carrey? If somehow you’ve missed it, go watch it now. I’ll wait. Great, right? Well if you liked that song even a little bit, you’ll probably love Sia’s latest full length record. If there’s one thing Sia knows how to do, it’s how to write a damn good pop song, which she’s proven time and time again penning countless songs for artists like Rhianna and Katy Perry, and 1000 Forms Of Fear (Sia’s fourth full length album) is chalk full of them. As much success as SIA has received seeing other people sing her songs, hearing the emotion and sometimes desperation come from her own incredible voice somehow makes all her songs that much better. It’s easy to imagine a song like Big Girls Cry or Elastic Heart gaining more attention if they were sung by more famous artists but after a full listen to this album it will be near impossible to detach Sia’s voice cracking effortless emotion from any of the twelve excellent songs, nor should you want to. It may have been a long time coming but Sia has finally put together a collection of songs that are not only all her own but also far surpass most of her contemporaries.

BOTTOM LINE – Sia put out the best pop record of the year. Period. Sorry T Swift fans. I need a little darkness in my pop.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Chandelier, Free The Animal, Plastic Heart, Eye Of The Needle

4. Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7863.jpgI’m starting to get suspicious and a little bit angry as to why Band Of Skulls aren’t a household name yet making millions of dollars. Ever since their excellent debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey in 2008, they’ve been consistently touring (I’ve seen them 4 times and they were always amazing), selling songs to countless TV shows and commercials and putting out full length albums that somehow managed to each be better than the last. Himalayan is no exception. The British trio pick up pretty much where 2012’s Sweet Sour left off and in this case the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” policy not only works but just helps strengthen their already large catalog of stadium ready rock anthems. The band benefits from trading off lead vocal duties between bassist Emma Richardson and guitarist Russell Marsden which allows them to explore a larger spectrum of perspectives and adds an extra layer to an already deeply layered sound.

BOTTOM LINE – As far as new rock records go any Band Of Skulls is a must own and Himalayan is a fine place to start.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Hootchie Cootchie, Asleep At The Wheel, I Guess I Know You Fairly Well

3. Royal Blood – Royal Blood

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7864.jpgI first found Royal Blood simply browsing iTunes and had absolutely no idea who they were or what they sounded like. After listening to a couple seconds of the first track Out Of The Black, I let out an audible “holy shit!” alone in my apartment and immediately downloaded the entire album. I’m happy to report that it’s all “holy shit” all day long. Royal Blood is what Jack White and Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age) would sound like if they were in a Muse cover band in an alternate universe. It’s hard, it’s catchy, it grooves and the fact that something this big and brash is coming from a duo (Bass and drums only) is nothing short of amazing. In fact I refused to believe they were only a bass and drum duo until I saw them live, which I did and they are. This album is a refreshing reminder that rock is not dead, it’s alive and well and living in London.

BOTTOM LINE – If you like Queens of The Stone Age or Band Of Skulls, you’ll probably like this too.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Out Of The Black, Loose Change, Little Monster

2. Sloan – Commonwealth

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7865.jpgFull disclosure; I’ve been a die hard Sloan fan since I was 15 (which was many moons ago in the 1990s) so my endorsement of their latest effort may seem bias. I assure you it’s not. As much as I love Canada’s Fab Four from the east coast, they haven’t put out a record in the past 10 years so good it couldn’t be ignored…until now. Commonwealth is not only the greatest Sloan record since Navy Blues, it just must be the greatest Sloan record of all time. Sure it’ll never be as immediately satisfying as Twice Removed or as commercially successful as One Chord To Another but Commonwealth might just be the ultimate representation of who Sloan is as a band. This double album is broken up into four parts with each member getting roughly 18 minutes to express themselves. Each member brings their talent to the table, from Jay Ferguson’s pop sensible catchy opening to Andrew Scott’s Brian Willson inspired finale, and it all works perfectly. If you’ve never cared about Sloan before, now is the time to start.

BOTTOM LINE – If you have ever claimed to like Sloan (or The Beatles for that matter) listen to this record front to back. It won’t disappoint.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Concept albums are meant to be heard as a whole so just go ahead and download everything.

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7866.jpgAnnie Clark (St Vincent) has been well known to anyone with their musical finger anywhere near the pulse of popular indie music (or anyone who reads Pitchfork) for years now but it wasn’t until the success of her self titled 4th full length album that she’s become a part of the mainstream conversation and she deserves every bit of praise she receives. Emulating everyone from Prince to Sinead O’conner, St Vincent managed to weave a near perfect 40 minutes of art music that never once feels pretentious or inaccessible. Songs like Digital Witness allow her to muse about our overdosing social media culture accompanied by a funky horn section, while Birth In Reverse allows her to showcase some of her not so subtle guitar skills. It’s fitting that Miss Clark sits atop a throne on the cover of this album because she is absolutely the Queen of indie art music. Long live St Vincent!

BOTTOM LINE – St Vincent should be on everyone’s iPhone, Galaxy, iPod, record collection, tape deck, zoon, whatever. Get it now. Period.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Digital Witness, Birth In Reverse, Bring Me Your Loves

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There you have it! Another year in the books. Let the commenting frenzy commence!

Sober City Redux 2015

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Happy New Year ya filthy animals!

So here’s the thing; I don’t know how to properly use semi colons. Let’s try that again. 4 years ago I wrote a lengthy heartfelt blog post detailing my intentions to give up alcohol for exactly one year. I did this partly because I needed to lose weight, partly because I needed to change my lifestyle and most accurately, because I needed to see if I could actually do it. Most of you know that I did in fact make it to the end of the year booze free and that I lost a total of 50 pounds and generally felt way better than I did before. The experiment was a huge success by all accounts and life resumed for me in a fairly uneventful manner over the next 3 years. Of course life has a funny way of repeating itself from time to time and not always in a good way.

Long story short; I’m back to where I was in 2010 (and I still don’t know how to properly use semi colons). I find myself in the same creative rut, with the same negative patterns and coincidentally at the exact same weight I was in my terrible “before” picture. Things don’t feel right and I’m ready for things to change yet again. So roughly two months ago I made up my mind and committed to revisiting my 2011 Sober City experiment in 2015. Now, I realize I almost did this before with my “Sober City: The Return” posts and “The New Sober City” but those turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking and in retrospect, it’s clear that I just wasn’t ready. Now I am more than ready and I’ve decided to once again share my journey with anyone who will listen. I didn’t come to this decision lightly as I was really worried about what people would think. The idea of blogging about this for a second time seemed tired and potentially open for ridicule but at the end of the day this isn’t about what anybody else thinks, this is about me. If people follow my journey and possibly get inspired or feel motivated because of what I do, great, that’s fantastic, but to be completely honest I’m blogging about this because I need to. Writing helps me work out my struggles and making it public (or at least believing that it’s being read by the public) gives me an added sense of purpose that really helps me in ways I don’t even fully understand.

So with all that preamble, I officially announce my relocation to Sober City for 2015. Like last time, I’ll be updating on a semi-regular basis and following this New Years resolution to it’s full and natural…resolution. If you feel like following along, please do. If you think this is ridiculous and hate what I’m doing, block me from whatever. I’m making a commitment to change my current trajectory and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. Maybe some of you reading this feels the same way. Every day is a new chance to turn it all around and there’s no better time than now. Happy 2015 everyone! CHEERS!