Tag Archives: Times New Viking

Top Tracks of 2011 (60-31)

You are about to read through what I deem the top 60 tracks of 2011. Yes, 60. For some reason, lists need to fit within the confines of the top 100, top 50, top 40, Top 20, or Top 10. Any other number seems arbitrary. I had the same uncertainty with the number 60. When I first assembled my list it consisted of 87 songs. I had a decision to make: force 13 more songs onto the list and create another monolith like I did last year (it was a lot of work by the way), or attempt to whittle the list down to 50. I went with the latter, but when finished, I found I still had 67 songs. I struggled and struggled and eventually had it to the number we have now: 60. At this point, I couldn’t remove one more song. None of these songs could be tossed aside, each holding a special meaning, memory, or melody that helped me through another year. 

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Top 20 Albums of 2011 (So Far…): 20-11

Around this time last year I posted the “Top 20 Summer Albums of 2010.” I understand this may sound like an awkward, convoluted list, but it essentially consisted of 20 albums that had been released to that point in the year, all featuring upbeat, summer-y songs. Readers generally enjoyed the list, and now in 2011, I feel I should follow it up with a sophomore effort. Yet I can’t.

At this point last year, dozens of upbeat albums filled my shelves (Vampire Weekend, Fang Island, Surfer Blood, etc). I had so many “summer albums” to list that several great releases didn’t even make the cut.  But this year? Nothing. Setting out to write the summer list, I struggled to even make a top 10 list, let alone a top 20. For those that care, here’s what it would have looked like:

1.    Toro Y Moi “Underneath the Pine”
2.    Beastie Boys “Hot Sauce Committee Part II
3.    Go! Team “Rolling Blackouts”
4.    Ponytail “Do Whatever You Want All the Time”
5.    Akron/Family “The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT”
6.    Dirty Beaches “Badlands”
7.    Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues”
8.    Danielson “Best of Gloucester County”
9.    Davila 666 “Tan Bajo”
10. Cloud Nothings “S/T”

Even though I’m able to come up with this list, writing it would probably be painful simply because few of the albums are as near and dear to me as the ones that made up my list last year (although two of the albums above did make the list that I’m about to unleash on you…).

Don’t worry though. My love for great albums hasn’t waned. There are many albums that have already hit a chord with me, so much so that I feel I must write about them so that others can share in my joy.  I’ve come up with a much more logical mid-year list: “The Top Albums of 2011 (So Far…)”.   This will not only serve as a mid-term report on the year’s best, but it will also bring forward some great albums that probably won’t make the final cut on my year-end list (it pains me to leave wonderful albums out every December).

The rankings for this list are not to be treated as the end-all-be-all (I just don’t want to be held accountable if an album is 17th on this list and ends up in the top five at the end of the year).  As you know, our experience with an album ebbs and flows; sometimes our adoration grows with time while in other cases, the thrill is gone after a month.  Enough of this babbling. Time to get down to business.

20. BOAT

“Dress Like Your Idols”

[Magic Marker; 2011]

The cover to “Dress Like Your Idols” says it all: a collection of album cover parodies,  mostly focused on albums of the 90s.  Yes, there is an homage to the Ramones and Velvet Underground, but you don’t have to go beyond the 90s to find BOAT’s biggest influences.  A quick listen to BOAT’s music and the first band to come to mind for most is Pavement due to Crane’s everyday lyrics and straight-forward, disaffected vocal approach.  If he needs to pay his electricity bill, he sings about it.  If he is walking past a convenience store, he sings about it.  If he’s listening to his walkman, he sings about it.  But within these tales of commonplace, everyday occurrences, he weaves in heartfelt themes of isolation, helplessness, and loneliness. Instead of going full-emo, Crane uses humor to defuse the sadness of his stories, in turn, creating intelligent power pop that is immediate and reassuring.

There are other 90s elements at play here, whether it be the guitar squeals of Built to Spill or the quaint jangle of Folk Implosion, but I can’t simply tag BOAT as a 90s rehash. A band like Yuck! would better fit that category (as much as I love their music, their borrowing from Dinosaur Jr and Superchunk borders on criminal). BOAT on the other hand have learned from the music of their youth, and taken it into the 21st century, bringing their own fresh, slacker take on the new millennium.

“Landlocked,” just one of many slacker tales of seclusion:

19. Twilight Singers

“Dynamite Steps”

[SubPop; 2011]

The Twilight Singers frontman Gregg Dulli is the epitome of the anti-auto-tune. No, his voice is not always perfectly on key, it is prone to crack, and at times he strains for notes that are just out of reach. Despite these deficiencies, he remains one of the best vocalists of the past 20 years due to his soulful approach, his shouts and howls that resound with anger, pain, and bitterness.  His mistakes always further the vulnerability of his narrative, adding the forlorn character found within the tattered, frail city of “Dynamite Steps.”

While other voices of the 90s have faded, Dulli’s has only strengthened over the years. He has been keeping busy since the break-up of Afghan Whigs with the Twilight Singers, his solo work, and his collaboration with Mark Lanegan, the Gutter Twins. Despite this mass of music production, “Dynamite Steps” is the closest Dulli’s dipped back into the world of the Afghan Whigs in a while, more specifically, “Black Love” and “1965” era Whigs.  These songs are just as funky, emotional, and dark as Afghan classics.  Even the story on “Dynamite Steps,” lovers held back by the confines of their decrepit city, is eerily similar to the one found in “Black Love.”  The only difference is that their answer isn’t to burn it all down as Dulli once suggested on “Going To Town”; instead, from what I can gather, he kills his lover so he can see her in his dreams where everything is beautiful again. So yeah, I guess you could say Dulli has matured.

Singing off-key has never sounded better than on “Last Night In Town”:

18. Times New Viking

“Dancer Equired”

[Merge; 2011]

I’ve been saying it for years now, “If only Times New Viking would clean up their production value…”  Well, with the slow move away from the lo-fi movement, TNV finally granted my wish with “Dancer Equired.”  Not to say that the production value is pristine, but the band has wiped away a bit of the fuzz to allow the listener a step closer into their pop palace.

TNV has always written infectious pop melodies, and finally they allowed the songs to be the centerpiece of an album.  No longer is it about how bad we can make a great song sound, rather “Here’s a great song. Take it as you will.”  One may suggest that the band has sold out by moving away from lo-fi, but they still keep their cred with most of “Dancer Equired” sounding like it was all recorded in one day.  And really, that’s what makes TNV so great. In the past TNV’s songs were in your face: either the hook caught you or you got lost in the noise.  On “Dancer Equired,” with much of the lo-fi trappings gone, the band takes time to unreel songs that aren’t as instantaneous. Instead, they allow their organ riffs and energetic shouts grow on you with each listen.  I never want to hear a polished TNV album, but “Dancer Equired” has just enough shimmer to allow the melodies to shine their brightest.

This song is called “Fuck Her Tears”; I don’t think we need to worry about TNV selling out:

17. Panda Bear


[Pawtracks; 2011]

For those that have followed my blog over the years, seeing a Panda Bear album this low on a best of list (let alone a mid-year list) is probably a bit alarming.  “Person Pitch” is one of my all-time favorite albums, and I’ve conveyed my admiration of both Panda Bear and Animal Collective fervently over the years.  So “Tomboy” at #17 might be a strange site on BDWPS, but then again, “Tomboy” is a pretty strange album. The first half is filled with the types of Beach Boy style melodies we’ve grown to love, all filtered through Panda Bears arsenal of squeaks and echos.  Songs like “You Can Count On Me” and “Slow Motion” are just as enjoyable listens as anything on “Person Pitch.” I could listen to side A of “Tomboy” again and again (and I have).

Then there is side two. It’s far from bad, but the album definitely takes a peculiar turn.  To this day I can’t comprehend exactly what is happening on side two, and part of me really likes that about this album.  The alien approach makes it a challenge to figure out exactly what Panda Bear was trying to accomplish. It’s ominous, desolate, and almost frozen melodically.  With each listen, I feel myself slowly cracking the surface of what Panda Bear is doing, and this slow and steady process of discovery is the reason “Tomboy” snuck onto this list.  If all of “Tomboy” were like the first half, you’d probably find this album in the top 10, if not at number one, but as of now, I’m still familiarizing myself with the unexplainable hum of side two, with its obtuse offerings like “Scheherazade,” “Friendship Bracelet,” and “Afterburner.” Who knows, by year-end I might be singing a different tune (or chanting it like a Panda Bear monk).

“You Can Count On Me” is familiar territory from side one:

16. Thurston Moore

“Demolished Thoughts”

[Matador; 2011]

Kim Gordan is one lucky gal. Seriously, she’s married to Thurston Moore.  How cool is that? Sure, she’s an indie goddess in her own right, but Thurston Moore! Thirst N’ More!!! Not only are his contributions to the indie scene immensely significant, but based off the songs on his solo album “Demolished Thoughts,” he makes a pretty loving husband.  With exposed lyrics like “whisper I love you my darling” and “you stole his heart away,” Thurston holds back nothing when it comes to his gal Kim. I personally hate love songs, but with something this honest and forthcoming, I can’t help but feel an admiration for what this power indie couple has held together all these years (what is it now, 25 years?!).

While “Demolished Thoughts” sounds very similar to Thurston’s last solo album “Trees Outside the Academy,” both featuring an enchanting combination of acoustic guitar and strings, “Demolished Thoughts” has a production value that is far beyond his prior effort.  Beck produced this album, and it is easy to figure out that he took his prowess from “Sea Changes” and implemented it here.  The back-and-forth of the guitar and strings harken back to the sweet sounds of Nick Drake.  But Drake’s guitars never sounded this clear, this personal, this serene. You won’t hear a better sounding acoustic guitar in 2011, and I doubt you will hear a more honest, charming album of love songs.

Just one listen to the guitars on “Benediction” and you’ll fall in  love too:

15. Six Organs of Admittance

“Asleep On the Floodplain”

[Drag City; 2011]

A few years back, my friend SongsSuck burnt  me a book full of CDs, mostly bands I’d never heard before.  When presented with 200 new albums, it can be a bit daunting to trek your way through them.  One of the albums in the multitude of CD-Rs was Six Organs of Admittance’s “Dark Noontide,” and although I enjoyed it, the album got lost in the mix over time.  Upon seeing Six Organs had a new album this year, I jumped at the chance to revisit the band long forgotten. The problem is I didn’t recall what they sounded like, and for some reason, I got them confused with Godspeed You! Black Emperor (probably the long names caused my mistake). You can imagine my surprise when Organs experimental folk ramblings sounded nothing like GY!BE’s hypnotic chamber rock.  As much as I enjoy GYBE, my rediscovery of Six Organs was a stirring experience.

On the droning, 12-minute “S/Word Leviathan” Six Organs could have been confused with GY!BE, but the rest of the album is folk meandering at its finest.  You never know where Ben Chasny’s guitar will take you, but you know it is a warm and inviting place.  While some might describe Six Organs as psychedelic folk, I feel it is the style of folk that John Fahey finger-picked long ago.  This is an ancient journey, roaming about the fret board while staying grounded in Americana.  Songs stop and start without warning, but the voyage never really ends.  And when Chasny decides to offer up a traditional folk song with verses and a chorus, he shows that he could settle down if he wanted to. He just doesn’t want to (and that’s a good thing).

An acoustic guitar has never sounded as unpredictable as it does on “Above a Desert I’ve Never Seen”:

14. Dirty Beaches


[Zoo; 2011]

Have you ever noticed how every Michael Moore film starts the same: the 1950s and 60s, American Dream, cheap health care, zero violence or poverty, and a booming auto industry? I enjoy Moore’s films as much as the next tree-hugger, but it does seem to be both an overused motif and an inaccurate portrayal of the time.  Anyone who has watched “Mad Men” or read On the Road knows that life wasn’t necessarily all picket fences and apple pie back then (although Sal Paradise does intake massive amounts of apple pie en route to Denver). The Dirty Beaches “Badlands” is just another artistic take on how the innocent 50s is all a sham.

“Badlands” is all about its lo-fi production –  unassuming drum, and mechanical bass lines that all fit within the 1950s musical mold. If you were to play a song off this album to someone and said it was a “golden oldie” they would undoubtedly believe you. But Dirty Beaches aren’t simply a warm nostalgia trip down better times lane. These songs feature a darker tone than those that they are borrowing from. The vocals are cloaked in reverb, yet you can still discern the baritone croon that will make you wonder if Nick Cave found a time machine.  These are not songs of love and joy; they are songs of lust and despair. By the time the final two tracks arrive, “Black Nylon” and “Hotel,” there is little doubt that a film noir murder has taken place, although I doubt even Detective Samuel Spade could handle the dark depths of “Badlands” homicide scene.

“Horses” reminds me of Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing”, except Isaak wasn’t nearly as convincingly sinister:

13. Low


[Sub Pop; 2011]

Fans of old school Low might not like “C’Mon.” Not that it doesn’t resemble Low, but much of what made albums like “Long Division” and “I Could Live In Hope” popular are all but gone. The haunting spaces have been filled with sound, the instruments are no longer hiding in the shadows, and the self-loathing has turned slightly toward optimism. But the biggest difference are the vocals. In the past, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker were ghostly figures, a part of the atmosphere,. On “C’Mon” their voices are up front and center thanks in part to the lush production of Matt Beckley.  Not until first hearing this album did I realize what incredible vocalists the duo are.  Sparhawk’s baritone is thick and hearty, and Mimi puts forth the best female singing I’ve heard this year with her dark lullabies that somehow lull the listener into a comforting dream.

Low still ventures into the dark tones of the past, but it all seems more dramatic, more ambitious and persistent.  I’m not dogging on that slow core sound that the band mastered decades ago; I’m just celebrating a band who has found a way to continue thriving, evolving all the while.

Although it contradicts my portrayal of the album as a positive venture, “Majesty/Magic” is one of the most incredible tracks of the year thus far. Try not to get chills:

12. True Widow

“As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth”

[Kemado, 2011]

Don’t worry about slow core dying with Low my friends; others are now carrying the torch.  On first listen, the trio of True Widow may not resemble Low and others of the slow core variety, but upon closer look you’ll find the same wall of ethereal droning as the back-bone of True Widow’s sound.  True Widow refer to themselves as a “stonegaze” band, yet the approach is the same.  Like a slow, dismal march through a storm, “As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth” trounces from track to track at a steady pace, always teetering on the verge of a distorted explosion that never comes. This is what makes this album so great; it works like a Henry Ford era machine, constantly turning and grinding away with Nikki Estill’s angelic voice countering the crunching sludge of Dan Phillip’s guitar work.  The combination is both terrifying and rousing, causing one to feel both depressed and inspired at the same moment.

Last year I couldn’t get enough of Quest For Fire’s “Lights From Paradise,” and in 2011 True Widow have continued this obsession with this plodding sound. Maybe I’m just going through a stone-gaze-phase and this album isn’t nearly as incredible as I find it, but I doubt it.

“Skull Eyes”- always on the verge of an eruption that never comes:


11. Colin Stetson

“New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges”

[Constellation; 2011]

The fact that I loved “New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges” before even seeing Colin Stetson’s incredible live show assures me that my judgment wasn’t blinded by the experience. Probably because “New History” contains some pretty magical, innovative stuff.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything like what Stetson does here. I don’t even need to focus on the difficulty found in his abilities to play a saxophone riff endlessly without taking a proper breath AND singing with his howling vocal chords at the same time.  Impressive, yes, but Stetson also writes some brilliant songs, both mystifying and enlightening.

The album was recorded with dozens of microphones, located in various parts of the room and on different parts of his sax (including the innards). As a result, you are brought into an atmosphere never explored in music (to my knowledge): the belly of the beast; the heart of the saxophone.  The bass saxophone echoes and squeaks from within as the pads pound out a slurpy beat (spit valves are for wimps) while Colin’s constant circular breathing blows through the cavern like a chilling wind. This is an album for any kid in beginner band who ever wondered what it sounds like inside their instrument. The answer? Remarkable.

“Clothed In the Skin of the Dead” is just a taste of life inside a saxophone:

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Video Clip of the Week: Arcade Fire wins Album of the Year

Well, it happened. Arcade Fire “Suburbs”: album of the year.  Wow.  Who would have thought?

And despite giving the Grammys a thrashing last week,  I watched the last bit of the ceremonies, and my alibi is that I was waiting to see Arcade Fire’s performance. But I have to admit there was some curiosity as to if Arcade Fire could pull it off.  And they did. And I cheered like the Spurs had just won the NBA Championship.  I’m not sure exactly why. As discussed in my last blog, Grammys are a joke, yet it was exciting to see a band I’ve loved for years actually get recognized. Maybe this is a sign, or maybe it was just a one year fluke (probably the latter), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

My favorite part is that instead of giving a lengthy, self-congratulatory speech, the band simply wanted to play another song:

The otherwise torturous Grammys were made much more tolerable thanks to Tweets by fellow artists that came up throughout the night. Here are some of their reactions:

@mountain_goatsThe Mountain Goats

Hear furious scribbling. Pretty sure cat is downstairs journaling about the Arcade Fire straight up winning a Grammy

@leftfordamian Damian Abraham (lead singer of Fucked Up)

Shout out to the good folks @arcadefire for adding a bit of credibility to the Grammy’s.

@owenpallettOwen Pallett

Damn I lost $50


Good. Does that mean there is actual hope for music?

@arcadefireArcade Fire



Congrats Arcade Fire!

@jonwurster Jon Wurster (drummer from Superchunk)

I’m happy for the Arcade Fire but now I’m worried Superchunk will get dropped from Merge.

@timesnewvikingTimes New Viking


@kanyewest: KanyeWest

Arcade fire!!!!!!!!!! There is hope!!! I feel like we all won when something like this happens! FUCKING AWESOME!

@SPINmagazineSPIN Magazine

Win Butler just casually placed a Grammy on top of his amp. Then started playing the best song he ever wrote.

@SurferBloodSurfer Blood

Okay…that fucking rules.

@ACNewmanCarl Newman

I love that Arcade Fire winning album of the year is greeted with controversy, yet no one ever questioned Starland Vocal Band’s win.

@okkervilriverOkkervil River

“Never heard of ’em!” is such a bullshit insult. It just means you’re ignorant.

And here’s a page that has compiled Tweets from  ignorant douche bags who are upset about Arcade Fire’s win:



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9. Road Trip 2008, day 6 and 7: Terrorists and the Race Against Time

“Is the glass half full, or half empty? It depends on whether you’re pouring, or drinking.”

Bill Cosby

The hike down was pretty uneventful. This was okay with me. We already had enough adventures: climbing snowy mountain walls and fording rivers.  As we neared the end of the trail, I came upon a sturdy wooden bridge over the stream. I stopped and gave Paul a look of disgust. Bridges are for pussies.

Bridges? We don't need no stinkin' BRIDGES!

When we finally came out of the trees to the relieving sight of the Element, I checked the time to see our hike down had only taken four hours – just as we had been told.  Back at the car we didn’t say much, unpacking our bags, peeling off our soggy socks, and emptying our stinky shoes of pebbles.  Once we had everything somewhat organized, we headed back to Ennis with one thing in mind: must eat now!  A diet of jerky and granola can only hold you for so long.

After scouring the streets for a barbeque joint, we settled on a mom and pop café nestled in downtown. I had a giant chicken fried steak and Paul had a buffalo burger.  We ate in sleepy silence.  At one point the waitress came over and asked if we were all right.  She said we looked like zombies.  I wanted to explain that we had been hiking for two days straight, but lacked the energy to produce any words other than “eh”.

Back on 287 with our stomachs full, we had a dilemma before us. We both were exhausted and in desperate need of rest, but we disagreed on where we should stay for the night. I thought we should drive into Yellowstone National Park and camp there.  Paul disagreed, thinking this would cost us money and we would have to deal with tourists in RVs.  He wanted to stay by a pond about 15 miles north of the park.  We argued for about five minutes; I really wanted to stay at Yellowstone just because, heck, it’s Yellowstone. Paul contended it wouldn’t be like I expected and would cost money.

When we finally reached the pond, my drowsiness conceded to his plan and I pulled into the gravel drive.  We wordlessly walked up the passageway, finally setting up the tent in the first decent area we came upon.  I was inside sleeping before Paul had even started the fire.

We rested late into the next morning, letting our replenished bodies rest for just a little bit longer.  Eventually, we got up and began tearing down camp, stiff joints and all.  My body hasn’t ached like that since two-a-days in high school football.

On the way to Yellowstone, we refilled our ice, and I grabbed a much needed coffee. I perused the beer aisle again, and discovered a couple six packs from a brewery in Victor, Idaho.  In the car I checked the map and found that Victor wouldn’t be too far out of the way if we had enough time that evening.

Back on the road, we began seeing signs saying “Yellowstone National Park Ahead”.  My excitement began bubbling; I’d never been to the famous park and looked forward to seeing more of nature’s beauty.  A few minutes later we came upon the entrance and paid our 25 dollar fee.  Upon entering, we quickly came to a complete stop – cars, cars, and more cars.  It looked like big city traffic jam; just replace the trucks with RVs and mini-vans.  Slowly inching our way down the road, we both wondered how there could be traffic in a park.  I hoped and prayed that an obese tourist would step too close to a grizzly and get clawed to death.

After driving 10 minutes and only moving about 10 feet, a guy suddenly flew down past the line of cars, driving in the wrong lane.

“Where the hell does that guy think he’s going?”  Right as I said this I noticed him suddenly swerving back into our lane and flying off over the hillside…it didn’t make sense. Then, I realized what was happening just ahead of us.

“Dude! We are at a stop because some dumb ass up there is holding everyone up!” Paul screamed.  Others in the line also noticed this, and began passing the road squatter. When we reached the silver Uplander, I saw what they were stopped for.  A bald eagle sat perched on the top of a roadside tree.  As we passed them, I goose-necked and took a picture of the bird.  I examined my photo as Paul picked up speed – It didn’t look like much more than a brown blur.  I couldn’t believe these idiots held up traffic for 10 minutes just to take a picture of what may have been an eagle.

Could be a vulture turd for all we know.

Further up the road we noticed people parked roadside like the eagle loving morons from earlier should have done.  When I looked to see the sight-seeing occasion, I spotted a prairie of tall grass with a family of elk roaming in the distance.  We stopped and joined the tourists, taking pictures.  That’s when I noticed the backdrop of the scene: dead trees stood all around them, and the hillside in the distance was scattered with blackened logs.  I knew the park got devastated by a fire in 88′ but didn’t expect to see the causalities still strewn across the land.


"Hey, where can an elk go to find some shade around this place?"

I figured the massacre’s remains would just be seen in one area, but the entire park would end up featuring a landscape of burnt trees. Looking over the land, I mentioned to Paul that this is what the Desolation of Smaug might have looked like (last “Hobbit” reference, I promise).  The drive that I expected to be a highlight of the trip, slowly turned into a depressing ride through a tree cemetery.  I could still see traces of the beauty that once graced the land.  It was a lot like listening to a Times New Viking CD – you think you might be hearing some amazing pop songs, but it’s hard to tell beneath the carnage caused by the shitty recording quality.


“I don’t wanna die in Yellowstone!

We only stopped a few more times to look at waterfalls and a few geysers from a distance.  Neither of us wanted to deal with the tourists that ran amuck.  We pulled into the area where you could go watch Old Faithful, but decided against it when we saw the stream of people walking toward the bleachers.  Yes, there are bleachers.  When I noticed a guy pushing a stroller, I became annoyed.

“Why would you bring a baby to Yellowstone? God damn terrorist.”

Paul sat quiet for a second, then said, “Uh, did you say terrorist?”  I looked at him, realizing my word slip-up. I went with it anyways.

“Yeah, fucking terrorists. They’re terrorizing nature maaaaan!” We both laughed and kept using “terrorists” the remainder of the day to describe the sightseers bothering nature.

Disgusted with the entire Yellowstone experience, we sped through the last leg of the drive.  Paul put in some 70s metal band called Cirith Ungol (named after a location in Middle Earth…I know, I know, I already broke my promise).   When track two came on, a song called “I’m Alive”, Paul screamed along to the chorus of, you guessed it, “I’m ALIVE!”  The second verse seemed fitting for our exit from the land of the dead:

I roamed the world in search of life

Death followed in my wake
I searched for truth, I want the truth
And learned more than I could take
I’ve walked the roads of mystery
And it’s aged me much too soon
I’ve pied the piper and I’ve pied him well
But he still calls the tune

Soon after our exit from the park, we began seeing the outlines of an intimidating mountain range – The Grand Tetons.  We began stopping every two minutes to soak in the grandeur of the Tetons; it was almost like we couldn’t resist stopping to stare.  Back in the car, we would both look off at the distant peaks.  Occasionally one of us would break the silence singing the opening lyric to the Modest Mouse song “Blame It On the Tetons”.

We stopped when we reached a lake that sat at the foot of the mountain range.  We got out of the car and rested on the shore for a while, wishing we had a canoe to row out to the mountain’s edge.  In Bozeman we saw brochures advertising a kayak trip out to the Tetons for the low price of 95 dollars. We passed, but wished the remainder of the trip that we had the foresight to bring a boat of some kind.


We'll be back Tetons...

After about 20 minutes, I suggested we get going or our goal of reaching Pinedale, Wyoming by sun down would never happen.  Before heading to Pinedale though, we wanted to make a quick stop in Jackson Hole to visit Snake River Brewing.  Downtown Jackson Hole bustled with activity, people walking up and down the streets visiting the multitude of ski shops and mock saloons. As we drove through town in search of the brewery, I remembered that my brother Alex proposed to his wife while visiting here on a ski trip.  The streets they walked down as young lovers, the bars they perused, and the restaurant where my brother proposed: I felt like I was visiting a historic site, the birthplace of their lifelong relationship.

We parked the car on a side street and walked over to Snake River Brewing, a modern building with a wall of windows out front.  The crowd of people sitting on the patio stared at us like we were homeless.  They were partly right. The only shower we had taken on our road trip occurred in a mountain stream, which we happened to lightly splash across our faces and armpits.  Regardless, I didn’t feel welcome at the brewery.  Even the bartender acted rude toward us, throwing his nose in the air when we told him we didn’t want food, just beer.  I began noticing all the patrons shooting dirty looks at us. What I thought to be a hippie town quickly turned into yuppie-ville.

Even though the walls were lined with world beer awards, none of brews impressed us.  I don’t know how it’s possible, but maybe the snooty atmosphere affected our taste buds.  Every other brewery we visited had a welcoming, down home feel, while Snake River’s ambiance reeked of pretension.  We ignored the asses and began discussing our plans for the night.

“If we leave right now, I think we could get to Victor to try some of that Teton beer.  If we only stay there like an hour, we would be able to get to Pinedale in time to visit Bottom’s Up. What do ya think?”

Maybe the snob beer was stronger than I thought, but I didn’t hesitate. “Let’s do it.” I raised the remainder of my brown ale and chugged it down. Paul smiled and did the same. We had better things to do than hang around this uppity joint.

Paul made a quick phone call to the Grand Teton’s Brewery and the guy told him they would be open until 10.   On the map the drive to Victor looked like a straight shot from Jackson Hole.  Swerving around the mountains, we soon realized it was anything but straight.  The drive took us 10 minutes longer than we had accounted for, so we made it a necessity to make our brew stop quick.

Rolling into the outskirts of Victor, Paul noticed a large white barn to our right with a sign that said Grand Teton Brewing.  I almost missed the turn.  As we approached the building, two horses could be seen strolling near the entrance.  I could already tell that it would be a much more welcoming experiences that Snake River.

Around the back we found a door and rang the bell.  When no one answered, I stuck my head in.  A young earth-child of a woman walked out of the back room with a surprised look on her face.

“Uh…how may I help you?”

“We’re here for a tasting….” She looked confused. “We called a bit ago…some guy said you’d be open.”

"We'll leave the light on for ya!"

“Um…well, we close at eight…but come on in guys,” she said.  Although surprised, she already seemed welcoming to the two smelly strangers. Being the only patrons, she served us every beer on their roster, and as we sipped each she’d give us a detailed description of how the beer was brewed and what we should taste.  She seemed to know every minute detail of the beers.  She gave us the most attention we received at any brewery which amazed me considering she was supposed to be off work.

Soon we moved beyond beers. We told her about our trip and she informed us of her gypsy life that lead her from South Carolina, to Texas, to Washington, and eventually Victor, Idaho.  With the congenial conversation flowing, she told us she had a special treat for us and went to the back room.  While gone, Paul and I whispered in excitement with how cool she had been.  We decided we’d give her an enormous tip. It’s the least we could do.

She returned with a non-labeled bottle saying, “You have to try the stout. We don’t make it anymore, which is a shame.”  She poured us each a shot and we all raised our glasses.  She assessed the beer perfectly.  Best stout I’ve ever tasted, hands down.  Creamy texture, a hint of chocolate sweetness, and an irresistible coffee finish.

“Ah…love the coffee taste,” I commented.

“Yes! I actually mix it with my espresso in the morning.”  We laughed at her Johnny Cash lifestyle of having a beer for breakfast.

Soon we realized we hung out at the brewery far longer than an hour and had to get a moving.  We both bought a couple 12 packs, specialty aged editions of their anniversary beers, and we each left her with a 20 dollar tip.  It’s not everyday you meet such a laid back, chill person. We thanked her about a dozen times and finally hit the road.

We had a problem.  Pinedale laid 90 miles away and the clock in the car read 8:30.

“I don’t think we can make it to Bottom’s Up before closing,” Paul said.

“Dude, the brewmaster at Madison River said we had to stop there. Now, you don’t want to let him down, do you?”

Paul grinned and asked, “What do you want to listen to?”

I told him to pick something that would pump me up. Something that would encourage a lead foot. He didn’t disappoint. When the opening guitar strums of the new Titus Andronicus album “The Airing of Grievances” came out the speakers, I buried the pedal and prepared for the windy road ahead.  We had a race against time on our hands.

The pounding beat kept my heart on pace as we swerved around the peaks. I felt like a 12-year-old again playing “Need For Speed” on my brother’s 3DO, flying through the mountainside at a ridiculous rate.  I’m not saying it was the smartest moment of my life, but it was definitely the most exhilarating drive I’d ever taken.


Like "Need For Speed" on 3DO minus the slow motion crash sequences.

In Wyoming we flew through the Manger mountain range, dancing with the Snake River, passing over it every few turns.  Around 9:30 we passed Bondurant, so I asked Paul how close we were.  He informed me that we had probably another 40 miles to go…the bar closed at 10.  I ignored the imminent truth, and continued my high-speed journey for Bottom’s Up beer.

At 10:15 we finally reached Pinedale with Titus Andronicus coming to a close. Perfect timing. We drove down Main Street feeling unsure of whether the race had been worth the effort.  To our right we could see a sign for the brewery and noticed cars in the lot. Maybe we still had a chance.  I parked the car abruptly and we jogged into the bar.

“We’re closed boys,” a frumpy woman with a raspy voice said as she lifted a chair and put it on top of a freshly cleaned table.

“Can we just have one beer,” Paul blurted out.  She looked at the two of us, looking disheveled and hopeful.

“Eh…just one and your out of here guys.” She said with a scowl.

I exhaled.  We had reached another brewery just in the nick of time.  Paul ordered a porter, and I scoured the menu for the perfect beer to finish off our long day of driving.  Mungo Mango Wheat? I’d never heard of such a thing. It sounded kind of gross, but I thought I’d give it a try.

As the bartenders cleaned the bar and continued placing chairs up on tables, Paul and I sipped our beers in satisfaction.  The mango beer tasted refreshing and of course tutti-fruity.  I knew this would probably be the last mango beer I’d ever drink, so I relished every drop (even with the bartenders glaring at us).

Looking at my half empty pint, I thought about how our road trip was already half over. We’d already done so much and the days flew by so quickly.  I raised the glass to my mouth, ready to delight in what my next drink had in store.

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Times New Viking “Born Again Revisited”

Times New Viking
“Born Again Revisited”
Matador Records

Rating: 7

If you listen to most of the music on popular radio (yes, the ancient technology of radio isn’t extinct just yet), you are likely to hear songs caked in reverb and manipulated beyond recognition, hiding the artist’s flaws behind glossy over-production.  Times New Viking have always opted to go the opposite route, burying their catchy songs beneath a lo-fi production of filth that requires you to listen closely for the hook, drowning amidst the ear piercing squeals, crackles, and hisses.  Even when they joined powerhouse indie label Matador, they still opted for the “mix-tape run-over by a car” sound.

 Being a prominent leader of the lo-fi sound’s resurrection, it was surprising to read that their latest album “Born Again Revisited” would be a step toward a cleaner sound (to be exact, they claimed it was “25%” cleaner).  And they did clean it up…kind of.  The album is still noisy as hell, but on “Born Again Revisited” they rely more upon the growl created by their guitars than the buzz of a 1980’s tape recorder.  Having seen the band live several times, “Born Again Revisited” is the closest they’ve come to capturing their live sound. Don’t get me wrong, the album is still not up to 21st century recording standards, but in this case, it’s a good thing.  “Born Again Revisited” sounds a lot more accessible than past albums, yet it retains its lo-fi groove. Basically, it sounds more like a Guided by Voices album than anything they’ve attempted before.

 Of course, running TMV through the rinse cycle has its draw backs.  Now their flaws, which once were hidden, are up front and center.  For starters, the vocals of Adam Elliott and Beth Murphy seem generic, lacking any distinct definition.  While other lo-fi groups like Blank Dogs and Thee Oh Sees have found a unique vocal niche, TMV continue their ho-hum reliance on massive reverb.   The album’s 15 song noise marathon also lacks the same amount of pop gems that were more evident on their past offerings, leading you to wish they’d go back and give classics like “Teenage Lust!” and “Mean God” a quick remastering tune-up.  

Don’t get me wrong – there are some great songs on this album.  “City On Drugs” sounds like a cleaned up classic that would just sound messy through the “Rip It Up” filter, and “These Days” shows a slower, softer side to the band.  If they had trimmed the fat off the album, cutting out sludgy tunes like “I Smell Bubblegum”, “Half Day in Hell”, and “Hustler, Psycho, Son”, this could have been a short, sweet, treasure chest of memorable pop songs.  “2/11 Don’t Forget” is the album’s highlight, sounding like a 1991 Superchunk concert bootleg.  Hearing hints of Mack beneath the still evident hissing makes you wish the band would drop the lo-fi gimmick all together. If only they’d go for 50%, I’d be happy like a fool.

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SXSW 2007

“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re too old to go to South by Southwest.  People back home in Midland think we are crazy because we once drove 400 miles to see Rod Stewart, but we absolutely adore his music.  If it’s something you love, don’t let anyone stop you from enjoying it.”

old lady at hotel in Waco talking to us over a continental breakfast of Fruity Pebbles

Using the same categories as last year and a few new ones, my best of SXSW list triumphantly returns! I also got all high tech and fancy, allowing you to click on the artists’ names to check out their music while reading this drivel.


Times New Viking

When I heard TNV’s CD I enjoyed the charming, low-fi pop punk sound but it didn’t go further beyond that.  This opinion changed once setting foot in the Exodus last Friday night, as the trio unrelentingly pounded their way through two minute songs as chaos broke out in the audience.  Before I knew it, Paul and I were amidst the insanity, bouncing through the throng of fans as the band passionately performed.  It may have been the day long free beer binge, or the free energy drink chugged down only an hour earlier, but Times New Viking brought the best out the both of us.  Amy Phillips, a blogger at Pitchforkmedia.com, even mentioned us dozen or so fans at the front of the stage saying: “Ohio’s Times New Viking recently signed to Matador, but they already have a committed fan base. There was quite a bit of slam-dancing and general hysteria in the first few rows of the crowd as the trio slammed out high-energy, melodic noise-punk, and keyboardist Beth Murphy pumping her fist in the air and showing off her luxurious armpit hair. By the time their Matador debut is out, that excitement will probably have spread far enough to fill up a room.” She even included this picture, that features Paul and I with our mouths gaping in excitement:

I understand the lo-fi recording style gives an album an authentic, recorded in a garage sound, but when your band sounds this much better live, aren’t you doing your music fans outside of Ohio a disservice?  Hopefully Matador can clean these kids up (they can shave her pits while they’re at it) and send them out to take over the world.



I wanted to like this band; I really did.  I talked to one of them while waiting for the restroom and he told me about how they moved from Venezuela to New York in hopes of making it big.  He told me all about them recently making connections, and when asked what they sounded like by another guy in line he responded, “It’s hard to describe, you’ll have to see it for yourself.” He was a friendly guy and peaked my interest with his band description.

As the band set up I became even more excited when Paul pointed out a cute blond girl with a keytar strapped around her neck.  A Venezuelan band with a keytar player: could they NOT be good?

Well, the answer is yes.  They were miserable. So bad that we had to leave due to Paul’s inability to stop laughing.  Think early 90s dance music minus any semblance of melody.  Poor kids.


Bill Callahan

As Saturday unfolded, I slowly became more and more sick with a chest cold. By six o’clock I was not in the mood to see anymore bands and took a nap in the car while Paul went off to see the Kill Rock Stars showcase.  Two hours later I awoke, slightly refreshed, and ventured back out onto the streets ofAustin alone.  A few blocks up the street I came upon a Presbyterian church where Smog front man Bill Callaghan was performing a solo gig.  As I entered the church he was just beginning his first song, with a violinist at his side and Joanna Newsome tucked behind the piano (you know I love!).  Since the church was completely filled, I squeezed into a space in the back pew and soon found myself absorbed by Bill’s croaking, baritone voice and vibrant guitar.  I’m not a big fan of the whole church thing, but this venue provided the most ambient, soothing sound of the week.  The guy next to me soon entered into some type of Zen like state, several people sped out during songs with their faces drench in tears, and a few left their pews and sat in the aisle up front.  I sat cursing the fact that Paul was missing possibly the best show of the week, when lo and behold, St. Paul appeared in the doorway.  Once the song was finished he motioned that he was going up front and I followed him as we sat at the feet of Bill like little Sunday School kids waiting for the weekly children’s message.  He even played “Cold Blooded Old Times”, a shared favorite by Paul and me.



This douche isn’t really worth discussing.  He pushed play on his computer and proceeded dancing around a la Napoleon Dynamite while singing karaoke style.  At first it was funny in a “He’s making an ass of himself” kind of way, but when the dancing act continued throughout the remainder of the show I had to side with Paul that he was just plain miserable.


Old Time Relijun

Paul played me their CD on the long drive south, and I enjoyed what I heard.  It was bluesy, howling, folk rock with a twang.  I agreed to go see them with Paul thinking of it as a nice littler filler before going to the big shows in the night ahead.  I completely underestimated what I was about to see, with the raucous band bounding about the stage fervently as singer Arrington de Dionyso  spit out lyrics in a voice resembling David Byrne.  Imagine a southern gospel blues band being possessed by demons hopped up on crack and Pop Rocks: it’s that good.


Marisa Nadler

Paul has recently been on a metal binge, gobbling up any new metal bands he can find.  I, not being so much the metal fan, found myself sitting at several less than stellar shows (Oxbow just scared me). One of said shows contained Zoroaster and Boris.  Sandwiched between these two acts was Marissa Nadler, a Massachusetts folk artist preoccupied with death.  Her voice matched her ghost-like appearance, performing like a spirit in an Edgar Allan Poe poem.  While Paul roamed to the other stage inside to see more metal, I sat cross-legged amidst drunken metal heads and listened to her tales of gloom.



I’ve been hearing about this band for a while now from several people but had yet to actually hear them.  Some say they are Japanese Metal, others Japanese Psychedelic Rock, while even others will claim they are a Japanese Jam Band.  I guess one thing they all agree on is that they are Japanese. Whatever the case, I anticipated what was about to be seen on stage as they set up a giant gong.  Once the waif of a guitar player, who Paul claimed was amazing, took the stage, Boris commenced playing a 45 minute set.  Within this set they played one song…one 45 minute song.  It was neither metal, nor psychedelic, nor even jam band for that matter: Boris was just boring.


The Walkmen

I’ve been digging on the new Walkmen album big time over the past few weeks but feared what they may sound like live.  On their albums singer Hamilton Leithauser’s voice sounds like a hybrid of Bob Dylan and Roger Daltry, a perfect combination.  I didn’t know how this would translate on the stage, but I soon found I was foolish for being a doubter.  He sounded BETTER than he does on album.  He’s also a true rockstar, spending a night in jail during the week at SXSW this year.



It has become a yearly tradition for us to see Frog Eyes perform at SXSW.  With only a day left of shows, we decided to try making it to Poke-E-Jo’s in time to catch our beloved Frog Eyes.

The paper said it was on 5th street, which meant it wasn’t very far away from 6th streeet, at least in our eyes.  What soon followed was a 20 block walk up 5th street with me bitching about not getting a bus the entire way.  When we finally found Poke-E-Jo’s, we felt like Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail. The stage was set up at the end of a sand volleyball court with picnic tables dispersed throughout the area.  Since the show was free and located so far from the SXSW hub-bub of downtown, the majority in attendance were Austinites out looking for free happy hour beer and some good music.  This gave the show a more relaxed, down-home feel.  With free Shiner beer a flowing, we sat and enjoyed yet another great set by Frog Eyes.  They sounded better than ever, although singer Carey Mercer didn’t seem to be hopped up on speed like usual.  I guess it’s okay to sacrifice showmanship for sound quality.  When they were finished the Absolutely Kosher party was over, yet the bartenders continued filling our cups with Shiner.  Before we knew it, some friendly Austinites were loading us into their car and taking us to see Public Enemy, which leads me too…


Dew Music Festival Town Lake Stage

SXSW always caters to the locals, offering free shows for the entire family to come enjoy.  This is where the Town Lake Stage comes into play, an outdoor stadium-type stage at a park near downtown. When we arrived at Public Enemy we were surrounded by families pushing strollers and drunken frat boys screaming “Flava Flav!!!”  We quickly approached the stage, but soon found we couldn’t even get close to Chuck D and the gang.  We stayed for handful of songs, and finally left due to disappointment.  The whole point of SXSW is seeing great bands in smaller venues.  Seeing a band in a stadium or festival setting is just not satisfying anymore.  There’s no connection there; there’s no feeling that anything could happen next.  It’s so protected with guard rails and bouncers.  If I want to watch Flava Flav on a screen, I’ll flip to VH1 for one of their many “Flavor of Love” marathons.  Does that make me a snobby ass? So be it.


This is very random, but I thought the new guitarist for the Rosebuds looked like my JV basketball coach Jared Cecil, who I fondly remember making us run marathons everyday in practice.  Maybe I just have Cecil on the brain since he coached his girls’ basketball team to a State Title a week ago.


Frenchkiss Records Showcase

The show began with a guaranteed great performance by The Fatal Flying Guillotines.  At a show in an abandoned Mexican church a few years earlier, we saw them play wearing Girl Scout uniforms while spitting on and kicking audience members mercilessly.  By the end of the show a girl attacked one of the guitarists, beating him with her purse.  After the beat down he approached the mike saying, “I’m sorry we’re not Franz Ferdinand” and then spit at her friends as they broke into another song. As expected, they were chased out the back door of the church.

FFG didn’t disappoint this year, continuing their habit of spitting, jumping up on speakers, and leaning onto the crowd randomly in a psychological game of trust.  At various points one of the guys would attempt to walk on people’s shoulders and heads without warning, as if he was Christ walking on water.  As you’d expect, most people would cave under the pressure of a man walking upon their heads.  At various points, one of the members would just stop playing, and glare with piercing eyes at a random person in the audience. Then suddenly he would dive at said person and attempt to reach them as if he wanted blood.  Eventually he’d return to the stage and find someone else to glare at.  At one point one of the more timid guitar players said, “Come on now, you promised no fights tonight.”  I’m guessing what we saw at the Mexican church wasn’t a one time occurrence.  Believe me; everyone in the bar’s attention was fully upon the band, knowing if they lost focus they’d get a lugie or foot to the head.  I loved every tension filled minute of it.

Next up was Thunderbirds are Now!, a safer, poppier, more user friendly Les Savy Fav.  They put on a great show also, although lacking in the lugie department.  What made the show even more interesting was The Fatal Flying Guilloteens attempting to throw bottles at the band or trying to disconnect their equipment.  Thunderbirds played composed and seemed to find humor in the drunken Guillotines. They were finally forced to put up police tape in hopes of stopping the ruckus, which of course just heightened the violence.  The Thunderbirds were more than just a performance piece though; I will definitely be buying some of their music very soon.

The final act of the night was the most anticipated of the week, Les Savy Fav.  I’ve read about Harrington’s crazy behavior during shows, including a tryst with mud wrestlers and kissing random audience members, but had yet to see the crazed maniac in person.  Before starting, FrenchKiss Record’s head man, Seth Jabour, pointed out that it was next to impossible to one up The Fatal Flying Guillotines, but I felt he said this as a challenge to Harrington, who didn’t disappoint.

Harrington started the show in jeans and a pink polo shirt, undressed to completely nude, tucked his junk a la “Silence of the Lambs”, and finally put on a full body spandex jumper with Speedos over top. He then donned a pleather coat, shades, and a graduation cap.

By the end of the show he would be nude again at one point, and would finish the show wearing only red Speedos, a hilarious, cringe inducing sight considering he’s an overweight, red headed bald man with a mad scientist beard.

Other crazy antics: he crawled along the curtain rod on one side of the stage, almost ripping the curtain down.

Later he ran across the bar making one of the frat boy looking bartenders sing a song.

He spilled beer all over himself and then abducted a man from the crowd, rode him like a horse while singing a ditty.

And finally, in a move I’ve never seen before, he stuck the mic in his Speedos and thrust it in an adoring fans face who screamed the lyrics into his crotch.  (No pictures of this for obvious reasons)

My favorite part of all though had to be when he sat down on the monitor speaker and began caressing Paul’s beard, singing to him.  Classic.  Watch the shitty quality video in my heroes section that someone put up on YouTube.  About a minute and fifteen seconds he leans down out of the shot to feel Paul’s face.  A fat naked man petting Paul: most hilarious SXSW moment ever.

I could keep going on and on and on.  Most freaked out, shock inducing, laugh out loud, pump my fist concert experience ever.  Unfortunately, this was the first show we saw all week, making most of the remainder of the week a let down.  Anytime a singer jumped into the crowd I got douche chills knowing he wouldn’t commit and stick his balls in someone’s face. What a shame.

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