[Editor’s Note: I’m excited and honored to welcome my good friend Brian Gorman back to the blog. Gormie works for an accounting firm, but he’s also one of my favorite writers on the entire planet (his letters to customer service are the stuff of legend). If you’ve been reading for a while, you might have caught his touching piece about listening to B.B. King while getting an MRI. If you didn’t, be sure to check it out here.]
By BRIAN GORMAN
If YHT fans were going to the movies at all back in 1994, they will probably remember a certain iconic film with a floating feather and a moral lesson about a box of chocolates. And if you were like me, you may have been too busy watching your favorite shrimp boat captain bounce his way through the decades with his heart-warming mix of dopey antics and life-affirming optimism to realize that you were also simultaneously listening to one of the great compilation soundtracks of the 1990’s. Think about it, that flick had everything: Elvis, Hank Williams, twang master Duane Eddy — then Forrest grows up and he’s jamming out to Creedence and Jefferson Airplane. But it was more than just a “Greatest Hits” collection for nostalgic Baby Boomers and aging hippies. The music gave that flick a sense of time flow and defined whole periods and settings of American civilization as they passed by. Add to that The Supremes, a very healthy dose of The Doors, and as a final topping, the very memorable original score by composer Alan Silvestri. Memorable is the right word. For the rest of your life you will never see a feather glide to and fro upon the breeze without hearing the title theme come streaming into your head via an invisible piano. All in all, Forrest Gump was almost as good for the ears as it was for the heart.
Almost 20 years later (I know! can you believe it’s been that long?), Silvestri and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis have teamed up again on another great compilation soundtrack.
There are two things in this life that I love overthinking, and those things are music and basketball. So when fellow Richmonder and proprietor of breakout 2012 album Big Inner Matthew E. White posted the following question to Twitter, let’s just say that a few analytical gears started turning…
I didn’t know until I started doing some research, but his query first appeared in “Slam Harder,” a cut from Onyx’s 2002 album Bacdafucup Part II. And while the song and its video (posted above) attempt to provide an answer — a cry of “ONYX” rings out immediately after the question is asked at the beginning of each chorus — we clearly can’t accept such a biased judgement. We’re going to have to dig deeper.
Last fall, in an article lamenting the “lean times” for modern music critics, The Guardian suggested that album reviews have been made unnecessary by the ease and speed of illegal downloading. Who needs a review? “If you want to know what an album’s like before release, you can probably find out for yourself.”
With a blend of chagrin and nostalgia, I’d tend to agree. Grooveshark, Youtube, Pandora, Spotify … take your pick of music purveyors. Hate the ads? Pay the fees, and the end result’s the same: You can have the tunes you want, anytime. All the time.
And yet … Easy access may have granted reviews more power, rendered them more personal. Written well, they’re a friendly introduction, a vouching-for in mafia style. “Dear readers, I’d like you to meet [so-and-so band]. I stamp my approval. I think you’ll agree.”
So it is in this spirit that I introduce you to Molly Wagger, a band of Scots. They got stuck in my head. They’re my most recent crush.
[Editor’s Note: A little while back, I gently asked my friend Travis if he would do a guest post when he hit his much-anticipated 100-concert milestone. I couldn’t be more excited about what he wrote (if the benediction at the end doesn’t leave you a little verklempt, you may want to check your pulse). Without further ado…]
A few years ago, I was trolling through my stack of concert ticket stubs (I’m currently working my way through a mild case of hoardism), nostalgically reminiscing about each concert fondly as I thumbed through. Or in the case of one particular show, where a particular tween high on ecstasy (not as high as whatever this guy is on though – yikes!) kept wanting to incessantly hug me, maybe not so fondly. Out of pure curiosity, I decided to count them. I ended up with 66. Shit, I thought, as I looked at them again, I really haven’t been to that many shows in the past few years (8 shows in a 3 year span??!!). What the hell had happened? Had I lulled myself into some kind of boring and pathetic 9-to-5 routine? Had I stopped participating in one of the pure enjoyments that gave me such great pleasure? Fuck dat, I knew what I had to do. I had to put my thang down, flip it and reverse it. And the only way I knew I could ensure that I actually got back at it was to set myself a firm goal: 100 concerts before I turned 30. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was guaranteed to be a whole whopping load of fun – I’d essentially have to do about a concert a month for the next 3 years, but I was excited like all get out. I didn’t really care about the actual number – the 100 or the 30 – they were just both nice even numbers that my tiny brain could remember easily. Hell, in the past month since show 1-0-0, I’ve been to three more (200 by 40 anyone? Just kidding honey).
Concerts are time capsules of unique musical goodness, snowflakes of the stage – each their own little piece of individuality. Along this journey I’ve learned that attending a show is the epitome of being able to completely immerse yourself in the moment. Something it seems we rarely get to do in this day and age of instant-gratification-need-it-now-no-I-will-not-wait-5-seconds-for-this-to-download culture. For as long as I can remember, music, and more specifically being at a live show, has been my preferred vice when I need/want release from all the worries/concerns/stresses that happen to creep up in the course of everyday life. The band Reptar sums this construct up perfectly with their Twitter bio: “we play music that makes you wanna dance and feel all your emotions.” Like any good vice, it’s a balance – wavering on the edge of an addiction – but that’s a battle I’m more than willing to address when the time comes. Or maybe I’ll just go see a show and leave that worry behind.
Alright, enough with all that mumbo-jumbo, let’s talk about this 100th show.
So I was lucky enough to catch Youth Lagoon on Saturday, March 24, at Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., along with my friend Travis (you might remember him as the pioneer of the Gaga Challenge) and our music-loving wifeys. The following Friday, our better halves proved that the “better” is short for “better judgement,” as both of our spouses decided to rest up in Richmond in preparation for the Monument 10K, while Travis and I espoused certain sleep deprivation and inflated race times by driving west to Charlottesville with my buddy Josh to catch Reptar at the Southern. Both shows were great, and there was something especially cool about seeing one up in Travis’ neck of the woods and one closer to Richmond inside of a week (OK, so Charlottesville isn’t exactly my neck of the woods, but ever since the Jefferson started stealing a sizable percentage of the good central VA shows, it’s starting to feel that way… but I digress). I thought a fun way to report back on this mini concert series would be for Travis and me to do some yearbook-style superlatives, so let’s dive right in…
Well, Greg came up with the awesome idea of trading these types of descriptions back and forth (an idea I promptly militarized*, being a dutiful son of Norfolk, VA) and after we traded a few emails about how fun this would be, the joys of structured creativity and about Spin’s new Twitter reviews, which aim, with no small amount of chutzpah in my opinion, to sum up and rate new albums in 140 characters or fewer, Adjective Battleship was born!
While you won’t find any star-based or scale-of-1-to-10 ratings below, I hope these descriptions, or “unread footnotes to a haiku” as Greg put it, will help you find something in these songs to latch onto and love, as happened for me with “Ritual Union.” Before we get started, here are the rules, as ratified by the two contestants.
RULES FOR PLAYING ADJECTIVE BATTLESHIP
Each player nominates 3 songs.
Each player provides a description comprised of up to 5 words, not all of which actually have to be adjectives, for all 6 songs.
There is no time limit on composing descriptions.
The player who compiles the descriptions for posting purposes cannot look at the other player’s descriptions before finalizing his or her own.
There is no winner, just congratulatory high-fives for a game well played.
As for listening strategies — that’s entirely up to you. Song then description, description then song, song then description then song… do whatever floats your boat. Without further ado, let the battle commence!
[Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes to you via my good friend Brian Gorman, who works for an accounting firm, but is also one of my favorite writers on the entire planet (his letters to customer service are the stuff of legend). I hope you enjoy his heartwarming story as you finish up the work week and get ready for the holiday weekend.]
By BRIAN GORMAN
Ok bear with me YHT readers, like the opening to a Rush song I’m afraid this post requires a rambling introduction before it gets to the point and rocks out.
If you’ve seen Gorman in the last five weeks or so you may have noticed a pathetic and (and yes occasionally comical) limp- I have a busted knee. The origins of this are mysterious and painful so let’s skip that and flash forward to yesterday when I pulled into the parking lot of a VCU Medical Center lab for my scheduled MRI, wincing every time I applied the clutch with my left foot. I was late of course, and in an ironic twist I was so focused on keeping this knee locked and angled correctly while climbing out of the car that I slammed the other one squarely into the door panel and thus ended up shuffling my way into Radiology on two throbbing joints by making little kicks with straightened legs and swinging my arms like a middle-aged power walker. The lady behind the desk watched me come in and blinked wordlessly at me about seven or eight times before handing me the clipboard.
Twenty minutes later I was allowed to limp into the magnetic MRI room. For anyone that has never been in an MRI machine, it’s basically the lamest, most annoying roller coaster ride ever. They lay you down on a little plastic platform and slowly ramp you into this huge machine with a narrow tunnel that makes you feel like Spock’s corpse being rolled through the torpedo bay at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. These things cost like three million dollars each and take high-tech pictures of your flesh using of all things sound waves; as a result the most remarkable thing about them is the horrific noise they surround you with during the 35 minutes or so the imaging takes. Allow me to briefly describe this noise- it’s sort of a turbulent whir accompanied by an uneven ear-splitting clacking sound so it kind of sounds like an amped up combination of a vacuum cleaner on its last legs and a careless garbage truck crew, all of this interrupted intermittently by terrible sounds I can only describe as “screech- beeps.”
Or so I’ve been told. In actuality I only got a faint taste of all this because, as luck would have it, I was busy listening to something else.
(Note: It’s a very exciting day for YHT — my friend and lifetime guru in the ways of hip hop J. Clyde has written the first in a recurring series of guest posts entitled “Original vs. Sample,” where he looks at the origin of samples found in his favorite tunes. Graphic and title subject to change.)
By J. CLYDE
I’ve been thinking about a few things for the guest spot and one of them is my friend/mentor/hero/fellow Norfolk native Nottz. You might not know much about him, but trust me, you’ve heard his music countless times…”Barry Bonds” by Kanye West, anyone? I’ll let the Wikipedia/google/youtube search leave you in awe instead of running down his iconic discography for you here.
Anyway, I just found this sample he used the other day for one of my current favorite jams (“Break Bread” by Nottz & Asher Roth). The word “genius” is thrown around far too loosely these days, but Nottz is a musical genius. Trust me, I have spent many nights watching him work in his studio and he blows me away every single time. He is the only person I have ever known that I truly believe is doing EXACTLY what God put him on Earth to do. I think this example will show you that.