All posts by joemacleod

Joe’s Top 16 of ’16

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Another year, another “Best Of” list. Anyone reading this knows I spend all year listening to as many albums as possible, compiling an ever changing list of all my personal favorites so I can submit a record of history to the internets to inevitably look back on with bewilderment and longing. I take it way too seriously and stress out over it for absolutely no reason what so ever and YET I love doing it and I’ll never stop. I have realized though that the older I get, the less in line I am with Pitchfork and Rolling Stone and various other music publications that provide solid year end lists so as always, “grain of salt”, “personal preference”, yada yada yada. That being said, I am including a mini list of albums everyone else loved this year that I’m just not connecting with for whatever reason because as history has shown, time can put great albums into perspective (Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange) and I might regret not giving certain albums a second or third listen (Solange, Chance the Rapper, Life Of Pablo). Regardless, all 16 of these albums spoke to me on a deep enough level to proclaim to the world how great I think they are and share them with you fine upstanding citizens and degenerates alike. RIP 2016. Smell ya later.

  1. Beyoncé – Lemonade 33238a0dbe6470fde82c5fea51ff69e2-1000x1000x1
  2. Anderson .Paak – Malibu 
  3. David Bowie – Blackstar blackstar
  4. Bon Iver – 22, a Million 
  5. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool radiohead-a-moon-shaped-pool-2lp
  6. Jim James – Eternally Even jim-james-eternally-even-1474657396-1024x1024
  7. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service 
  8. Jack Garratt – Phase 
  9. Savages – Adore Life 
  10. Frank Ocean – Blond ccc0894094b9a3cbb47a45ec0c69b1f0-1000x1000x1
  11. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered 
  12. Phantogram – Three 
  13. Band Of Skulls – By Default bos-4000x4000
  14. Mutemath – Changes 
  15. The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect 
  16. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
  2. Rolling Stones – Blue And Lonesome
  3. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
  4. The Joy Formidable – Hitch
  5. Lake Street Dive – Side Pony

ALBUMS I MAY REGRET OVERLOOKING

  1. Solange – A Seat At The Table
  2. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
  3. Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
  4. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
  5. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
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Joe’s Favorite Albums of 2015

So, yeah, this is a little late and I’m not even sure if anyone out there actually reads these every year BUT, never-the-less, here is my current, ever changing list (seriously, the order probably changed 8 times since I wrote this sentence) of my favorite albums from 2015:

   1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

  

2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit

  

3. Nothing But Thieves – Nothing But Thieves

  

4. Grimes – Art Angels

  

5. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall 

  

6. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

  

7. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

  

8. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats 

  

9. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness

  

10. Foals – What Went Down

  
11. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 

  
12. Mutemath – Vitals

  
13. Half Moon Run – Sun Leads Me On

  
14. Chvrches – Every Open Eye

  
15. The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

  
16. Will Butler – Policy 

  
17. Tame Impala – Currents

  
18. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

  
19. Gary Clark Jr – The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim

  
20. The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily
There you have it! One more yearly list in the can. I’m sure I left off tons of great albums I haven’t heard yet and ordered some albums way higher or lower than I should have but that’s the beauty of my list…it’s mine. Come at me Internet! I love you. 

Dazy Mojo – Games

  

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I’ve been writing so much music lately I’ve completely neglected my blogging duties. Already that first sentence sounds weird and ill formed. That one too. Holy shit. I’ve either already lost what little writing skill I may have possessed at one time or judgement has reared its ugly head once again. I’m 95% sure it’s the latter. That stupid asshole voice in my head that spends all it’s goddamn time yelling how bad everything is. It’s super annoying and way too loud. It’s true, I’ve had a recent explosion of musical creativity as of late resulting in no less than 10 new songs (hopefully the genesis of the debut Dazy Mojo album), but that burst of hyper confidence and admiration for my art is unfortunately followed by the ever inevitable demon monster of self doubt and judgement. Like shitty clockwork it reveals its stupid face and it’s nothing new but it always sucks in subtly different ways just the same. It holds me hostage while my songs somehow simultaneously age with mold and stay frozen in time. My writing suffers, my confidence suffers, and sleep is the only thing that manages to escape it’s filthy clutches. Luckily, I know this cretinous swine’s power is temporary and must not be trusted. Batten the hatches! Ride out the storm! The beast shall indeed be tamed!

Speaking of “taming beasts”, I feel the need to briefly discuss a little victory I’ve experienced recently involving addiction. I’ve gone well over a month without doing something that I deeply enjoy and tend to devote countless hours to on a somewhat daily basis. I quit video games. For anyone who doesn’t self identify as a “gamer” like I do, this may seem like a ridiculously childish thing for a 35 year old to care about but believe me it’s absolutely serious and also an absolutely real addiction. That being said, I’m not going to rant about the evils of video game addiction or weigh in on the negative effects gaming might have on the brain, I’m simply saying for me, it was time to put down the controller. It was really a time management decision more than anything. Without spending countless hours of my day collecting non existent trophies and completing quest after quest for imaginary robots, I’m forced to fill that time doing anything else. Sure a lot of that time is still spent sitting on my couch binge watching Netflix but a big part of it is now also spent sitting at my piano actually producing content instead of just endlessly ingesting it like Jabba The Hutt with a tape worm. I’ll still be a gamer for life and I’m sure my PS3 hasn’t endured its last epic session of dragon slaying or collectible hunting but at least now I’m fully aware of what I’d potentially be sacrificing in it’s place. Progress.
In other news, I’m settling into my part time second life as a poor man’s Sam Malone quite nicely. Working in a bar with people ten years younger than me might have it’s downsides (the fact that some of them may have watched me on TV when they were kids is a whole other story) but work is work and chatting up people all day over drinks is not a bad way to make a living as far as I’m concerned. Plus the cliche has finally been achieved! Like almost every other actor before me, I am now officially also a waiter. My time line may be a little messy but the ritual is complete. Maybe now one day Nicolas Cage will win the lottery and give me half the winnings in lieu of a tip just like that seminal 1990’s true life motion picture classic Face/Off. I still can’t believe how much Bridgette Fonda looked like that guy from Saturday Night Fever. Ah Hollywood magic. And scene.
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JM

Dazy Mojo: Work It

  

Jobs. Work. Both four letter words and for good reason. Doing things for money you wouldn’t normally do for free is kind of a ridiculous concept on many levels but it’s also part of the human experience. Some people are lucky to get to do the thing they love to do and would do regardless of payment, for a living and I fell into that category of magical unicorns for most of my adult working life. Acting was my passion and profession and only source of income for close to 10 years. This, like most fantastic to-good-to-be-true things, did not last. Unfortunately, residual checks and parental financial assistance only goes so far. Then what? “Get a job you hippie”, that’s what. Easier said than done for a plethora of reasons not least of which is a total lack of experience in anything other than professional pretending. Lucky for me, pretending to know how to do something is 80% of everything. Those numbers may be factually inaccurate but because I’m pretty good at pretending to know what I’m talking about, you probably believed me anyway. So, in the spirit of professional pretending (and complete financial disarray) I did what 99% of everyone reading this did at some point and finally got a god damn regular job.


First of all, some clarifications: The job is part time; the job is relatively easy; and most importantly of all, I’m still a working artist. Am I getting paid for my art? Negative. I am however, treating my art like a full time job (when I’m not at my part time job) and have no plans to put acting or music on the back burner…ever. In fact, in light of these new revelations, I’ve finally begun writing music again and am currently experiencing some kind of unimaginable embarrassment of creative riches in the form of nine new completed songs in just under three weeks. It’s super exciting and equally scary as hell but it’s proof of what can happen with a little discipline and focus. Also a trip to New Orleans doesn’t hurt.

So Joe finally get’s a regular job like everyone else in the world. So what? Nothing really. It’s my blog, I’ll say what I want. Full disclosure though, I came incredibly close to quitting after only two days of training. Learning an entirely new job at 35 in an industry lousy with 20 year olds can totally mess with your sense of self and I already have pretty shaky confidence or a “dazy mojo” if you will (Oh you will! #dazymojo). Regardless of all that, I’m sticking it out (for now) and it’s proving to be a positive experience that I most likely desperately needed for a long time, just like everyone and their dog have been telling me for years. 
As far as acting goes, I’m at a bit of a stand still at the moment. It sucks to not be getting opportunities anymore but I’m weirdly not too worried about it. I’ve always shifted focus back and forth between music and acting ever since I can remember so if I’m currently in a fruitful music mentality that could lead to Dazy Mojo releasing an album, touring across the country and ending up on SNL the same week Jim Carrey hosts for the fourth time, I guess I’m OK with that. The important thing is, I’m doing what I should be doing again, creating. Writing, singing, acting, playing, performing. These are all equal parts of who I am and when I’m not actively engaging in at least one of those things at any given moment in time, I’m not accurately representing my true self and the results are nothing short of apocalyptic. Losing sight of who you are is the fastest path to depression and self destruction and while it may not be the only ingredient in the shit stew that is hard times, it’s definitely the overpowering flavor in mine. Thankfully, my world is back on track and hopefully I keep that bastard of a ball spinning in the right direction from now one. Long live the Joeascence!
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Sober City Redux: Epilogue

  

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During my recent (and way-too-short) visit down south, I started writing a new blog post in-between taking countless pictures of the beautifully gothic Louisiana oak trees, and enjoying countless world class musicians and Bourbon Street Bloody Marys. The post was about being yourself and me being Canadian and trying to be American or something like that like, but I decided to shelf that one for now and do a little epilogue to Sober City Redux instead. As I announced in my last post, Sober City is in the process of becoming Dazy Mojo and switching from a blog about me not drinking to a blog about whatever the hell I feel like blogging about. In light of that upcoming (albeit somewhat slight) shift, I feel like a quick recap of my post sobriety-breaking adventure in The Big Easy is in order. Spoiler alert: It was awesome. 

First off, I kept true to my word and held off imbibing until April 1st, which provided me with two full days of vacation sobriety. Vacation Sobriety, as we all know, is the Jar Jar Binks of sobrieties. It’s primarily enjoyed only by children and most people over 20 do everything in their power to forget it even exists. Regardless of this, holding off on the booze for a couple days was easier than I expected. Turns out crawfish boils are just as delicious as I remember even without the frosty Abita Amber cooling the heat. This didn’t really surprise me so much as provide me with a good reminder that booze can be good but it’s not the thing that makes the good. That last sentence was brought to you by Third Graders. Third Graders: “Making write good. Good writing make good.” 
Secondly, once I did have that first drink again after three months, it was no big deal at all. The skies never filled with rain clouds of whiskey, the sea level never rose to Captain Morgan proportions, and I wasn’t visited by the ghost of John Belushi with a never ending bottle of Jack Daniels cascading down his “College” sweatshirt. I had a glass of red wine while reading Tom Robbins in the Louisiana sun, and it was perfectly perfect. That’s it, that’s all.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just have one glass of wine on April 1st, tip my hat to Emily Post and retire to my drawing room in quiet reflection for the evening, but I also didn’t dive face first into Bourbon Street for Hurricanes and Hand Grenades either. Truth be told, I definitely drank more over the course of the trip than I would have had I not been in the greatest city on the planet for live music and world class cuisine, but I definitely didn’t overdo it and I have zero hangovers to prove it. That’s the whole point of it all really. “Have fun. Enjoy life. Don’t get hangovers.” I’m pretty sure Gandhi said that or something. 
Anyways, all is good in the Joe camp and more goodness is coming your way soon if you so choose to keep following along after Sober City is but a speck of dust in the rear view mirror of the Internet. I’m getting pretty excited about DazyMojo.com and I hope it actually materializes into something fun and consistent. I’ll be posting various new songs as Dazy Mojo very soon as well, so get ready to be bombarded with some smooth polka-jazz infusion sprinkled with a hint of death metal. Am I joking? Am I serious? You’ll just have to wait to find out. Until then, I’m joking. They’re just regular old Joe MacLeod songs written in German and sung in Inuit throat singing as always. Top 4040 here I come!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 90 (+1)

  

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90 days. That’s how long I spent on the good old proverbial wagon we all know and hate. Currently I find myself sitting outside a Lafayette hotel with a glass of Merlot and a Tom Robbins book in sun soaked Louisiana. The wine is decent, the book is amazing and the moment is nothing short of perfect. Perhaps the perfection of the moment is the sum of all it’s part or perhaps it’s just the Louisiana sun playing right into my hand. Either way, it’s a good day to be alive. As I type these words into my some what shackled Canadian iPhone, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for me. Sober City has come to an end once again but new life has taken root in this artist’s soul and I’m ready to blossom these buds into a whole new adventure. As I said before, this blog isn’t ending with my sobriety, it’s beginning a new, and I finally decided on how it will proceed. Dazy Mojo. 

Some back story. I used to be in a band called Day Theory (aka the greatest band in the world) when I lived in Vancouver from roughly 2002 to 2004. I’m pretty sure the term “Glory Days” refers directly to a small island tour we did in Nanaimo, BC or maybe one of the countless post gig sessions hanging out at The Roxy Burger on Granville Street. Confidence reigned supreme in the Day Theory realm and faithful followers were in ample supply. It was at some point during this time when Dazy Mojo was born. The band was scheduled to appear on a local TV show and I had this brilliant (read terrible) idea to show up to the studio in character announcing that Day Theory couldn’t make it and we would perform in their place. Nobody knew who we were of course so this plan was flawed from the start. We came up with a fake band name by combining all of our first names (DAve, JesSE, MOrgan, JOe) and taking some creative license with spelling. Thus Dazy Mojo was formed. Luckily we bailed on the idea before they recorded our segment but our ridiculous mismatched persona is forever immortalized in clips on YouTube (link not found). 
The name basically died that day save for some infrequent inside references and what not but I continued to use it in my private life for go to online handles and the like. Recently I started using it more and more and I suddenly realized how personal the name is to me and also how perfect it fits. Dazy Mojo basically means “shaky confidence”. It’s one of my defining struggles that I’m sure I share with a lot (if not all) of you reading this, so what better title for this blog? Welcome to DazyMojo.com
For now I’m just redirecting my wordpress site to that address but a proper website is in development and will be available as soon as I get it presentable. In the meantime, I’m taking this whole Dazy Mojo thing in all directions. In light of my last post pertaining dust on my guitar, I’ve managed to not only start playing again but I wrote 4 new songs with a bunch more in the works. I’m super excited about the direction my music is headed and I’m going to be using Dazy Mojo as my new musical persona as well. All good things. All Dazy Mojo. 
So I bid a fond farewell to Sober City and a generous how do ya do to Dazy Mojo. I’ve written it more than enough times already to burn it into your brains so I’ll leave it where it is and hope you all keep paying attention to the weird things I have to say. Once again, thank you for all the love and support and thank you for indulging me in my wacky nonsense. I’ve got plenty more where that came from. Cheers!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 87

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What is an artist? Who gets to slap that noble age old badge of honor and mystery on their chest and rightfully wear it with pride? Lots of people claim to be artists. Painters, musicians, actors, comedians, writers, singers, dancers, poets, chefs, designers, film makers, architects, woodworkers, photographers, etc, etc. Artistry lives in manual labor and office buildings; in parenting and gardening; in coffee shop lattes and beach front properties. It’s everywhere we look and yet only a small fraction of us would ever consider ourselves actual “artists”. What does it take to justifiably call yourself an artist and own it? I struggle with that question more often than not. Maybe I’m an artist because I struggle with it. The word holds so much weight and power to me. It scares me. It excites me. It fuels me when I truly believe in it and it hurts me when I don’t honor it.  

The other day I picked up my guitar for the first time in a long time and I had to clean dust off of it. Unacceptable. I’m deeply ashamed of and devastated by this and also by the amount of unfinished song ideas on my iPhone. Add to that the fact that I haven’t properly acted in well over 2 years and I have ample reasons to strip the title of artist from my mental biography. These things are scary to artists. Idleness is death to an artist, the shame of the artist. Without creating art the artist isn’t. What’s worse, even when producing and creating, the artist constantly questions his or her self worth and value, often to the point of complete destruction or dismissal of the art itself. Shutting down. Tuning out. Giving up. Sacrilege. This is where I’m at. This is where I’m at 85% of always and yet, this is also why I know I am an artist. 
Every true artist since the beginning of time has questioned their art. I don’t know this because of documented evidence, I know this because I live this. Doubt is part of the process of creating everything. Doubt is important. The artist needs doubt to achieve greatness, to perfect the craft, to constantly evolve and stay honest and true. But doubt is a fickle ally. It’s a false friend. A necessary evil that can easily poison the artist mind and turn the artist against the very art he or she must create, and make no mistake, the artist MUST create. The only choice to be made is whether to share it or not. The artist never stops. Art will creep into the daily life of the most suppressed artist and find a way. Countless people have silenced their art for a plethora of justifiable reasons but art cannot truly be silenced in an artist. It will find a way. It will always find a way.
I find myself in the midst of a rebirth of sorts. A reintroduction to myself, to the self that I lost with my father; to the self that got tarnished by time and trauma; to the self that’s been malnourished and ignored for far too long; to the self that never really left. It’s terrifying and exciting and jarring and absolutely necessary. I am one of many and also entirely unique. We all are. The artist thrives when the artist is alive and being alive is a constant beautiful struggle, a strange dance we all dance in our own way, to our own music, in our own time. I am an artist in recovery, an artist rediscovering but an artist none the less. I am an artist and I must not forget. I am an artist and I fight not to quit. I am an artist crawling back from the dead. I am an artist…and I’m not finished yet. 
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Sober City Redux: Day 85

  

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Blogging is hard. I mean it’s not climbing Mount Everest hard or sitting through an entire Jeff Dunham special without screaming hard but it’s still hard. Mostly because coming up with things to talk about on a semi regular basis in a semi entertaining fashion is tricky. I suppose the more you have to say the easier it becomes but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write enough of anything worthy of posting anywhere. Nevertheless, I press on for that sweet, sweet manufactured sense of productivity blogging inevitably rewards me with every time I hit “publish”. I want it. I want it now.

So…topics. Weight loss? Inspirational reflection? Playground maintenance?  I got nothing. This Starbucks is clearly suppressing my creativity with it’s smooth jazz and limited seating. I should think about writing somewhere else. My couch? That seems as good a place as any. You wouldn’t know this as a reader but two days have passed between “…writing somewhere else,” and “My couch?”. Not even a new paragraph to indicate my change of writing venue and date on the calendar. Smoke and mirrors of blogging in full effect. I’m a god damn writing rebel. I’m also currently incredibly sad and anxious for no legitimate reason what so ever.


It’s like every time I go through a period of feeling awesome and happy and content with my life, I inevitably wake up one day and hate everything all over again. Maybe hate is a strong word but I need a little muscle in my vocabulary from time to time, I haven’t been to the gym in ages. So as I sit in my present state of habitual disarray and anxiety riddled nonsense, I type words with my thumbs into a tiny device meant for communication to communicate things to a community of communion in hopes of a little commonality. Cheap therapy and creative clarity. It’s mostly selfish but not entirely. Sometimes just saying things out loud (or typing them) is all it takes to free yourself from the relentlessly oppressive burdens that poison our minds and encourage our bad habits, getting us that one tiny step closer to inner peace. You get it right? Sure you do. See? I feel 3 percent better already. 
Anyways, this will most likely be my last post for a while as I cut this whole Sober City thing short (or at least put it on pause) at the three month mark. Lessons will be learned, leafs will be turned and life will go on as it tends to have a habit of doing. Thanks for all the likes and comments and thanks for giving me a place to sort out my psyche on a semi regular basis. I’m sure future scholars and anthropologists will one day pour over these blogs and mine them for all the countless gems of wisdom buried within every line to better understand the human experience of the early 21st century. That or you know, watch cat videos. See ya’ll soon!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 70



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I’m kind of shocked at how much a shave and a hair cut can boost the old confidence producing machine. I mean I had all but completely written off my personal confidence machine (patent pending) as of late and chalked it up to shoddy workmanship and out of date software. Turns out all it needed was a little spring cleaning. Too many hairs clogging the drain apparently. Mustachioed ones specifically. Anyway it’s been an exceptionally good week and I have nothing to credit that to except a clean face, a new haircut and a confidence machine that seems to be in working order once again. Granted it’s still running primarily on a 2003 operating system (benchmark year for confidence machines as it turns out) but at least it’s doing something. I know it’s working mostly due to the influx of selfies magically appearing all over my phone and social media. It’s not vanity when you’re still emerging from the primitive muck of depression and self doubt. It’s progress. 

So this is all well and good but I still have a Sober City blog going on for some reason so I suppose I should post something about booze already. After two months sober I can report some minimal weight loss and more than minimal monetary gain. I almost forgot how much money I save not drinking. It’s never not awesome getting the check at the end of the night and almost always needing change back from a twenty. Thanks zero dollar water! That’s a point in the pro sober column for sure. A point in the pro drinking column though? 3 dollar beer at Sneaky Dees on trivia night. Also water is boring. This ties in to one of the biggest issue I have with not drinking actually; It’s boring. That isn’t to say people who don’t drink are boring or that you can’t have fun without alcohol in your system but it just doesn’t personally feel like a part of who I truly am.
Now obviously, drinking every day and getting drunk every weekend isn’t part of who I truly am either and I definitely have a tendency to lean towards that dark side more often than not. I could blame growing up on the East Coast of Canada where drinking is as common as music and seafood; I could blame being raised on the road by my musician parents, hanging out in bars with waitresses before I could talk; or I could simply blame my high alcohol tolerant Scottish blood but the truth of the matter is that none of those things are to blame. I’m super proud and thankful for my past because it made me who I am today and the only thing to blame for any negative behavior or over indulgence is self control and more importantly for me, self confidence. 
See, when that good old self confidence machine is pumping out the goods on a regular basis, alcohol just simply isn’t an issue for me one way or the other. It’s during those shitty terrible times of self doubt and depression that alcohol stops being a part of who I am and starts defining who I am by underlining all the worst in me and diluting all the good. Abstaining from it entirely works for sure and no one is ever going to make a compelling argument in favor of drinking over not drinking but it really doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Not for me. Not right now anyway.
So 70 days sober and still going strong(ish). I get the feeling 3 months is going to end up being the length of this self imposed sabbatical from the adult beverages and hopefully when the time comes I’ll be able to carry on with self respect and a new found perspective on my life. I just gotta make sure I keep that God damn confidence machine upgraded.
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 64





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The mustache is dead and I’ve never felt better. As far as blog headlines go I can’t seem to think of anything better suited to my current state of being than that. It’s exaggerated sure, but there’s definitely some small stream of truth babbling somewhere underneath. Me having a mustache was a terrible sick joke that I let go on way too long and I apologize to all friends and family involved who somehow miraculously managed to put up with and accept this bizarre imposter that was masquerading as their friend/family member. You guys were all troopers. Well done. 

Anyway, now that Evil Joe has been righteously murdered by Cece Chum: The Garrison Barber From Queen Street (no relation to Sweeney), I feel much more like the good old Joe we all know and recognize. So what now? What comes next? Well first of all, I need to give you a proper update to Sober City. My last post was admittedly a little subversive and seemed to put off a fairly negative and somewhat defeatist vibe so I get that I’m well overdue for an actual update. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not apologizing for the last post because it felt honest and necessary but I know I haven’t really properly posted about “Sober City” for over a month now so here it is: I’m bored with the whole thing and I’m 95% sure I’ll be ending the self imposed sobriety in April. There you have it. Alert the media. 

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging. If anything, I’m hoping to ramp up my efforts and start posting more without the restraints of solely focusing on how abstaining from alcohol affects me and how I feel about not drinking. There’s plenty more to blog about than that and I’m still going to have lots of struggles and experiences to discuss (like we all do) whether I’m drinking or not and if people feel like paying attention to what I have to say, I’m more than happy to continue sharing.

Now I know this could be interpreted as a failure on my part and if some of you reading this feel betrayed or let down in any way I’m truly sorry. I know some of you are following my journey while going through your own struggles and I hope you stay strong and keep fighting the good fight regardless of what I decide to do. We all have our own paths we need to take and even though yours may look different than mine, we can still all help each other get to where we need to go. I’m just trying to keep it a hundred over here and right now change for Sober City is definitely on the horizon.
In the meantime, I’m still not drinking and I still feel great but when April rolls around I’ll be heading back down to Louisiana for a much needed break from the punishing frost demons of Toronto and something tells me those crawfish boils and zydeco bands are gonna make me a little thirsty. I will be spending some time on Bourbon street after all so anything is possible. Stay tuned you filthy animals. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 56

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Apparently, I have nothing to say. Blank screens. Blank pages. Out of date blog. My intentions were sound at one point I swear. I’m not sure what happened. Nothing, I suppose. That’s the point I guess. I still haven’t had any alcohol since my last post so there’s that. I don’t feel like I’ve lost any weight in the two months (almost) since I’ve stopped drinking so there’s also that. I’m bored most of the time and feel like writing about all this is becoming an impossible chore that I’ve almost all but completely lost interest in, so there’s also that. What else? I hate my mustache. That’s a fact. There. Stuff to write about. Cue the witty phrasing and clever metaphors about living life and feeling feelings. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just too god damn cold for creativity. All work and no play makes Jack freeze to death in the hedge maze with his family. Spoiler alert. 

I guess all this is normal and expected. I never really assumed I’d have amazing insights and important things to say ever, let alone on any kind of regular basis. I’m just another land mammal flopping around the landscape hoping I don’t get swallowed into the horizon. All a part of the human experience. I’m still here. I’m still living. I’m still figuring it all out. I suppose this isn’t really anything that NEEDS to be written about and posted online but then again, what the hell ever does? One more coffee stained carton of thumb typed words to add to the Internet landfill in the faintest of hopes that one day it’ll be a small part of the inevitable inferno. Burning bright and burning strong, just long enough to matter. We all want the same thing really. We just all have different ways of trying to get it.
I’m sure I have lots more to say and talk about with this blog and hopefully I’ll be back to semi regular posting sooner than later. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and you keep doing what you’re doing. I hear the Internet has lots of cool cat videos. Check it out!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 35

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35 years ago I decided to start living. I know I was eager to do this because I wasn’t suppose to start living outside of the womb for another month or so. I wanted to get the show started so much I was willing to live in an incubator for weeks and stress out my poor mom and dad night and day for the sole purpose of starting my life at that exact moment. This was selfish sure, but I believe it was necessary to fulfill my life’s goal of sharing a birthday with both Oprah Winfrey AND Tom Selleck. Mission accomplished.

This was only the first time I decided to start living however. Somewhere around four years old I proclaimed I was going to be a famous actor. I might not have actually said that in so many words but I knew from a very young age in my heart that I was going to entertain people so I decided I was an actor and started living as such. Years later, the first time I felt like I was really in love, I was inspired to write my first song and shortly after it was received so well I decided to make that a regular part of my life for the rest of my life and I started living again. These moments continued to happen throughout my life on a fairly frequent basis and helped keep me fully engaged with life and in control. Then something terrible happened and I stopped living completely.

Before I get into that though, I should address some things that happened since my last post. My birthday was last Thursday and Sunday was the Super Bowl. Both of these events were my first real “staying sober” challenges. I honestly didn’t think they’d be challenging at all, and in many ways they really weren’t, but sometime during the day of my birthday I decided I was going to have some drinks and I convinced myself it was ok. First of all, it is ok. I know that I’m at a place where drinking once or twice a month for special occasions wouldn’t throw me back into a downward spiral of depression and practicing moderation is something that would probably be more beneficial to me in the long run but for whatever reason the moment just never felt right and I ended up sticking to water both nights. This did however open the door for a new conversation about how to proceed with Sober City in the future and I’m sure I’ll be setting new guidelines for myself eventually. Just not yet.

The second thing that happened had nothing to do with drinking at all but probably more to do with my entire struggle over the past 6 years then everything else combined. Yesterday was my dad’s birthday and I haven’t been able to talk to him for roughly 7 years now. Losing my father shook me to my core. It’s not something I’ve talked about much on here but it needs to be acknowledged. Sometime during the 11 months when dad was in the hospital (with a sever brain injury) and the months following his death, I decided to stop living. After spending 20 some years of engaging with life and “deciding to live” time and time again, for the first time ever I shut down completely. This wasn’t a conscious choice and it wasn’t something that happened overnight but it was a throughly self destructive mindset that took over my entire being and turned me into someone I didn’t recognize at all. Thankfully, I’m through the worst of it and well on the way to recovery but I’d be a fool not to recognize the profound impact it had (and will always have) on my life.

I only bring this up now because yesterday reminded me just how important it is to start living again. I’ve been hiding from life for way too long and it’s the worst thing I could be doing and the last thing dad would ever want me to do. It’s not a simple fix. It’s not a shortcut to happiness, but it is an opportunity to channel my younger self, the person I used to love and nurture, and decide to start living again today and hopefully again and again tomorrow.

Sharing all of these thoughts with everyone might not be necessary or productive (or cool) but it helps put things into perspective and it’s all part of whatever journey this turns out to be. So let’s start living again people! It’s what Oprah would have wanted.
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JM

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

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!

Joe’s Top 20 Albums of 2013

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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER

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I hate this time of year. OK, maybe hate is a little harsh, but I definitely feel ways about this time of year that aren’t exactly pleasant. I’m talking of course about the “best of the year” list season. For the past 4 years or so I’ve taken it upon myself, for whatever reason, to share my list of top ten or twenty (or forty) favorite albums of the year and every year I experience an abnormal amount of stress and pressure to get it absolutely right. This is next to impossible because I keep changing my mind every 2 to 3 hours. This year is no exception. In fact, I find myself 3 weeks into 2014 still contemplating if Arcade Fire should be lower or higher on the list than Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It changes every day. So it’s with this in mind (and the fact that the Grammy’s are on tonight) that I’ve decided to release my list for 2013, as is. I’ve written no explanations for each entry and the order (save for the top 3) will never stop changing, so I submit this as an idea of where my head was at and at the very least a representation of music I think you should listen to or at least be aware of that came out in 2013. Stress is for suckers. Enjoy.

20. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law20140112-155102.jpg

19. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals20140112-155436.jpg

18. Eminem – The Marshal Mathers LP 220140112-155613.jpg

17. MIA – Matangi20140112-155745.jpg

16. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
20140112-154955.jpg

15. Yeah Yeahs Yeahs – Mosquito20140112-160104.jpg

14. Arcade Fire – Reflektor20140112-155859.jpg

13. The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow20140112-160204.jpg

12. Snoop Lion – Reincarnated20140112-160253.jpg

11. Nico Vega – Fury Oh Fury EP20140112-160347.jpg

10. Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork20140112-160444.jpg

9. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow20140112-160532.jpg

8. Savages – Silence Yourself20140112-160826.jpg

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories20140112-160903.jpg

6. HAIM – Days Are Gone20140112-161007.jpg

5. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires In The City20140112-161047.jpg

4. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks20140112-161124.jpg

3. Arctic Monkeys – AM20140112-161205.jpg

2. Kanye West – Yeezus20140112-161244.jpg

1. Lorde – Pure Heroine20140112-161320.jpg