Tag Archives: heaven

Top 40 Albums of 2012 (20-1)

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A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my Top 40 Albums of 2012 (check it out here).  The first half of the list is always easier to compile than the final 20.  With this, the top half of the list, I find myself swapping albums from one spot to the next, trying to refine my list to the perfect order. Of course, this “perfect order” is never truly found. On one day I’d much rather listen to my number 17 than my number 5 and vice versa. I can promise you, all of these albums are fantastic.  In order to come up with a definitive order, I took into account the overall significance of an album, not just which has the best collection of songs, but which is the perfect album – the themes, the order of the songs, the cultural significance. Within those parameters, I had no doubt what would be the number one album of 2012. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

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The Walkmen “Heaven”

The Walkmen

“Heaven”

[Fat Possum / Bella Union; 2012]

Rating: 8.8

Despite what NBC’s Olympic coverage would like you to believe, some of the most amazing feats performed during the 30th Olympiad have been in the Skeet Shooting competitions.  Vincent Hancock’s super human performance, hitting 148 out of 150, was only challenged by Kim Rhodes eliminating 99 of her 100 clay pigeons on the female side. Both were record-setting and unprecedented, yet I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be so close to perfection, with only one or two mis-steps in the way.  You can’t blame them – as humans we are far from infallible.  Even the greatest of athletes can have a moment of weakness (take the once indomitable Michael Phelps for example).

The same can be said for great musicians. Even the best artists have had their failed albums – Neil Young had “Everybody’s Rockin,” The Ramones had “Halfway to Sanity,” and Bob Dylan had “Down in the Groove.” So when I first listened to The Walkmen’s latest “Heaven,” I decided it must be the band’s first mediocre album. After an extraordinary series of five excellent albums (some may argue against “A Hundred Miles Off,” but they’ve probably never listened to it), I was okay with “Heaven” not continuing in the long line of instant classics.

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Road Trip 2008: Day 12-13, Hulk and Kong take on the Hipsters


“Chaos is a friend of mine.”
Bob Dylan

After hiking for a couple hours, we returned to the car and decided to get some lunch. Malcolm suggested Dairy Queen, and we both agreed that ice cream sounded tasty after our day out in the sun.  I ordered up some brownie/caramel mixture, Paul got a burger, and Malcolm ordered a quesadilla to go with his sundae.  I’m telling ya, the guy LOVES tortillas.

With our arteries clogged, we returned to his place for an afternoon nap.  Around five Malcolm headed out for a meeting with an acquaintance who was starting his own weight loss system a la Nutri-System.  He wanted to meet with Malcolm to help create an exercise program to coincide with the meals.  Once he left, Paul continued sleeping, so I tip-toed around the apartment, eventually plopping down at the computer to catch up on the rest of the world.  While reading the latest in the political rumor mill, I came upon an interview with John McCain where he compared himself to Teddy Roosevelt.  The link to this story ironically sat just above a story entitled “McCain says, ‘Drill Now!'”.  Would the Teddy that Paul introduced me to support such a thing?  Can you imagine the King of National Parks backing the destruction of the Artic National Reserve to drill for oil?

Thoroughly annoyed by politics, I turned back to Dharma Bums and read for the next hour.  When Malcolm got back he cooked us some quesadillas (yep…I think you get my point), but I’m not complaining.  They were some of the best quesadillas I’ve ever tasted.  They went great with a side dish of spinach.  After dinner Malcolm’s girlfriend arrived, a cute little, athletic blond with a cheery disposition.  We made small talk for about ten minutes, and then the couple mysteriously disappeared for the remainder of the night.

Paul decided to put in a DVD from Malcolm’s video library that consisted of 15 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and King Kong.  We went with Kong, naturally.  An hour into the movie I began to doze off, and would continue waking up randomly to see Kong throwing raptors, giant bugs, and fighter jets.  Eventually, the eight hour movie came to an end, and I could finally sleep without waking to the sound of a howling ape.

I awoke to the smell of eggs for the second morning straight.  Instead of spinach this time, Malcolm doused our breakfast in salsa, huevos rancheros style.  We of course used tortillas to sop up the spicy goodness.  With it being a Monday, Malcolm had to return to his gym to train old ladies and high schoolers.  We slummed around his place for an hour, and boredom was finally starting to set in (as I’m sure boredom is setting in with this blog you’re reading…).  Staying at Malcolm’s had been a nice, rejuvenating break from our adventures (I would compare it to Bilbo’s stay at Beorn’s in The Hobbit), but I yearned to be back out on the road, exploring mountainsides and sampling new and exotic beers.  To pass the time, Paul re-entered Malcolm’s testosterone fueled DVD library and chose “True Lies” I would have preferred “Kindergarten Cop”, but anything was better than sitting around the apartment in silence.

"Stop whining! You lack discipline!"

I grabbed my book and began reading.  While trying to read, my concentration kept getting interrupted by Paul’s raucous laughter.  Not remembering “True Lies” as a comedy, I began to watch and soon realized that Paul would laugh at anything Tom Arnold said.  Midway through the film he turned to me and said, “Dude, Tom Arnold is my new favorite actor!” and I knew he wasn’t joking.

Soon I joined in on the fun, not laughing at Arnold’s cheesy dialogue, but more at Paul’s complete amusement in Tom’s hacky one-liners. Afterwards, Paul asked, “Did Schwarzenegger and Tom Arnold ever make any other movies together? They were hilarious.”

“Uh, I don’t think so…” I replied.

“Damn dude, I love the Tom Arnold Schwarzenegger connection!”  Paul’s new found affection for early 90s Tom Arnold movies is just an example of what I love about the guy: due to his sheltered childhood he often makes discoveries about commonly known 90s pop culture.  There’s something intriguing about a guy who is an expert about 70s Kraut Rock yet knows nothing about Kriss Kross and Milli Vanilli.

Pleased with his morning film, Paul decided to take another nap.  I grabbed my book and tried reading, but became more and more annoyed that we weren’t out doing something. I wanted to scream, “This is a vacation! A road trip!  Let’s get outta here!” At the same time I felt guilty about my negative thoughts, knowing Paul just wanted to spend some time with his college buddy.  Plus, I knew we would be leaving soon.  That night we had plans to see HEALTH in Denver.  Since I had already seen HEALTH three times at SXSW, I became even more antsy thinking about the upcoming show.

Around four Paul began moving.  We finally escaped the monotony of the day around five, heading north on interstate 83.  While Paul napped, I had mapped out a path for us to hit a few breweries on our way up to the show, a bar crawl meets yellow brick road approach to our evening.

 

The Wizard of Buzz

Our first stop was the Dry Dock in Aurora, a tiny brewery nestled in the middle of a mini-mall.  Inside, the bar was dinky.  The bar and stools took up half the room, allowing little space to move around.  The brewing vats loomed over us from behind a makeshift wall.  We plopped down at the bar.  Despite the meager space, there was still a crowd at five on a Monday.  Everyone seemed to know one another, creating a friendly, “Cheers”-like vibe.

Drydock was "Cheers" meets "The Hunt For Red October"

I ordered a barley wine and Paul got a vanilla porter.  My barley wine tasted ancient, in a good way.  All the distinct flavors nurtured over years of fermentation intertwined on my tongue.  Paul’s porter tasted just as godly, a perfect mix of malt and hops with a smooth hint of vanilla in the aftertaste.  I asked if I could buy a growler of the barley wine so I could share it with friends back home.  Being such an aged relic, the bartender regretfully told me no.  Disappointed, I settled on a growler of the porter.  We stayed for another hour, trying several other tasty beers.  Looking back, I’m still amazed at the quality of the beers in such a little shit hole of a brewery.

Feeling invigorated by the quaint brewery’s quality thirst quenchers, we left in search of Bush and Bull Brewery, a British pub located in down town Denver.  Lost amidst the downtown traffic we somehow found the little brick building with all the British trappings, including a bright red phone booth out front.  The authenticity continued inside with British memorabilia and historical newspaper clippings lining the walls. The wooden planks of the floor were crooked and aged, and behind the bar a wall of over a 100 types of scotch hung proudly.  They even had a party room entitled the “Jury Room” with twelve stools placed neatly around a wooden table.  Later, while taking a pee, I read a USA Today article on the wall that placed Bush and Bull in the top 10 pubs in the United States.

They had 12 micro-brews on tap with a majority of them being kept in un-refrigerated barrels – warm beer, British style. We drank several beers during our visit; all of them were brimming with a strong malty flavor found in most British brews. Paul seemed to love each beer that touched his lips. While I appreciated their faithfulness, I was more in the mood for a American style beer like Dry Dock had to offer.

Since our last meal had been breakfast, we ordered a plate of lamb-chop skewers with a curry dip.  Our plate featured two measly skewers, but no other meal on our trip would taste quite as scrumptious. We thought about sticking around for more lamby goodness, but the HEALTH show started in 30 minutes.  We said “Good day” to the bartender and headed back out into the Denver traffic.

Around nine o’clock, north of down town, we finally found Rhinoceropolis, a tiny art studio in an industrial neighborhood.  At the door we paid five dollars to a new wave looking kid who stunk of body odor.  Once inside, we discovered we were two of ten in attendance.  We sat a while, staring at the empty room, when I finally asked a nearby raver when the bands would start playing.  When he told me HEALTH started at 11, I told Paul we should go check out another brewery and then come back.  He seemed unsure about my idea, but finally agreed.

Breckenridge Brewery, a well known microbrewery sold nationwide, was located right outside Coors Field, an obvious pre/post game drinking hot spot.  Unfortunately, with the All-Star Game in New York that same weekend, the entire baseball district resembled a ghost town.  This included the inside of Breckenridge, the biggest brewery we visited yet, and the most empty.  We bellied up to the pristine bar and ordered a couple beers, both of which were just as lifeless as the bar scene that night.  We both grimaced in pain with each gulp, but continued forcing down the putrid brew.  It irritated me to think their horrid concoctions were sold nationwide while amazing breweries like Madison River remained relatively unknown.

After taking our daily dose of poison, we hurried back to Rhinoceropolis.  When we returned, we found the art studio now packed wall to wall with skinny hipsters, mostly teenagers nodding their heads hypnotically to some noise/metal/art band.  In the cramped room, the heat and humidity enveloped us.  Realizing I wouldn’t survive long, I ran out to the car quick to grab a bottled water to bring back in with me.  I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble; most people inside brought their own beer.  The atmosphere reminded me a lot of little punk rock shows my friends and I used to attend in high school.  Some kid named Jake from Fairmont, Minnesota would somehow get punk bands to play at his house to a bunch of unsupervised teenagers.

Back inside, I listened to the end of some disco/crap band, and then made my way toward the front of the stage to await HEALTH.  The band came out and set up their gear quickly.  It amazes me how a little band like HEALTH can set up their gear in mere minutes, while national stadium touring bands, with roadies and all, take over an hour to prep for a band.

 

The show sharpened me for a bit of the ol' ultra-violence

When the band burst into their first song, “Heaven”, the crowd of teens instantly exploded into a mass of shoving, squishing, and sweating, all combining into a cluster-fuck of mass confusion.  Before I knew it, Paul had disappeared and I was alone up front, fending for myself as the bounding drums toked the flames of fury in the audience.  Chaos.  It’s the only word to describe what I found myself caught up in – and I loved every minute of it.

Soon the mass of swinging arms and falling bodies pushed toward the stage; equipment fell, yet the band went on.  Something in HEALTH’s music brings out the tribal Neanderthal in me, and obviously others. There is nothing quite like a little bit of the ultra-violence. As skinny teens flew toward me, I’d raise my elbow and watch them bounce off like a pinball. My mind began to conjure up my dream images from the night prior of Kong throwing bugs effortlessly in every direction.

The songs continued pushing us forward, even when our energy waned.  I kept wiping the perspiration off my bald head, trying to avoid the inevitable dripping of sweat into my eyes.  At one point I looked down at my hands to find my fingers pruned like I had just spent the day at the swimming pool.  I felt like fainting from exhaustion, yet couldn’t stop moving to the magnetic music.  I soon found I wasn’t alone in my fatigue from the heat when a little hippie girl in front of me ripped her shirt off (no bra) and continued enjoying the music. This wasn’t your usual rock concert “flash” for attention.  This was a girl who was feeling hot and found a solution.  I commend her for her ingenuity.

The band finally brought a close to their passionate performance.  I turned around in search of Paul, but he came running to me first.  When he approached I said, “Great show, eh?”

He began tugging at my shirt, “Dude….we have to get out of here…” With Paul, it’s never a good sign when he rushes up and tells you that you have to leave.  We speed walked out the door and down the sidewalk; the entire way Paul glanced nervously back to see if some mystery hipster gang was chasing us.  Instead of being worried, I became excited knowing another great Paul story awaited me in the car.   We hopped inside the Element and he egged me on, “Go, Go, Go!”

Once blocks away from the Rhinoceropolis, Paul began giggling about what had went down inside, and then commenced telling his tale.  When the crowd got crazy, Paul made an exit to the back where he could see the band without worrying about flying elbows.  While watching the powerful performance, some schmo unexpectedly jumped on his shoulders, attempting to crowd surf, but in the process, aggravating Paul’s past wrestling injury.  This transformed Paul from a calm relaxed guy into an angry monster reminiscent of the Incredible Hulk (I’m sure the booming music also had something to do with the building anger).

When the same back jumper tried moshing into Paul moments later, throwing his elbow into Paul’s sternum, Hulk Paul reacted quickly, pulling back on the guys shoulder and laying down a hard right cross into his face.  The back jumper rolled to the ground and Paul retreated to a different section of the club to reconvene his viewing of the show without any troubles.  Five minutes later a few other guys approached Paul.

“Where you from man?” the kid up front asked.

“Nebraska,” Paul responded, with his Hulkian anger seething just beneath the surface.

“It’s not a good idea to start fights when you’re not from…” and just as he was about to spit out his threat, Hulk returned, pulling the kids legs up in a double leg takedown and raising his fist in a sign that he would strike if necessary.

“Sorry dude! I don’t have a problem man!  Was just wondering!”

Paul jumped off him and quickly disappeared into the crowd, hoping to be able to watch the last bit of the show in peace.  Of course, this didn’t happen. He found himself standing next to a skinny raver wearing a bright green sequenced hat.

As HEALTH played their loud, grinding music, this kid performed boy band-esque dance moves, spinning and performing arm gestures.  He kept looking back at Paul and others, in hopes they were enjoying his dance recital.  Paul wasn’t.  When the kid performed his third spin/hat grab/pose, Hulk Paul reached forward and pushed the raver’s face in disgust.  This occurred right about the time the last song came to a close, at which point Paul searched me out to escape the legions of hipsters in search of revenge.

With Paul’s story finished, we neared Parker where we were going to stay one more night.  We both laughed at our crazy evening, one more chapter in our summer adventure.  I thought about how earlier I yearned to escape Malcolm’s place to exert my pent up energy, and the HEALTH show provided the perfect avenue for the unbridled bedlam I had been searching for.

 

"You won't like me when I'm cranky!"

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