Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Numerically Speaking

Pearl JamRemember being in grade school and learning how time signatures worked? Mathrock is apparently music based solely on using funny time signatures.

I mention this because Jean told me the other day that Outkast's "Hey Ya" is in 22/4 time. You and I never noticed this because it's an even number which means you can still dance to it without suddenly finding yourself offbeat. The conversation reminded me of feeling like I'd discovered some hidden secret message when I realized that one of my favorite Soundgarden songs - "The Day I Tried To Live" - is in 15/16. Anyway...

Speaking of Soundgarden, I saw their excellent former drummer Matt Cameron play with Pearl Jam the other night at the Verizon Center. I'm not much for stadium rock and they had a bit of mid-tempo lull early on that dragged, but once they recovered, they rocked. Kudos to Eddie Vedder for trying to explain U.S. oil-drilling policy to 25,000 people in the middle of a rock show. I'm still not about to go buy all their music, but I had a good time. And more importantly, I didn't get that distinct feeling that I was seeing a band that was a caricature of its former self. May we all age so energetically and well.

Not much live music other than that. Caught the Waco Brothers a few weeks ago and they were a rollicking good time as always. Hope to make it to Pitchfork next month - not sure I'll get to see Public Enemy perform, but I'm looking forward to seeing them talk.

New releases I've been meaning to get: Orchestra Baobab's Made in Dakar and My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges.

New releases I'm curious about: Al Green's Lay It Down (with ?uestlove producing) and Joan as Policewoman's To Survive.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


The Electric CompanyAn ex once told me that I was the object in motion that stayed in motion until I finally became the object at rest that stayed at rest until I finally became the object in motion etc, etc. I always found that characterization amusing and spot on...except during the summer.

I don't function at my normal speed in the summer. I move more slowly, I want to do less and have more of it be of the escapist variety of entertainment. I find myself spending weekend afternoons lost in a book and then wandering off to watch a few innings of baseball en route to something else that doesn't require lots of energy. I even want my music to be paced to a stroll rather than a run. During the last DC episode of swampiness, I found the right musical waystation in a couple of soundtracks. Soundtracks are often a crapshoot, but the Dianne Reeves soundtrack to Good Night, and Good Luck and the soundtrack to Robert Altman's The Company along with a stack of Jack Teagarden's old big band tunes, the new Goldfrapp album, and my friend Craig Klein's solo trombone release have all finally got me out of my Depeche Mode jag.

I'm going to have to find a way to break out of my mental relaxation mode though since this summer promises to be brisk at work. To prep for that, I'm getting ready to start hiring again. Arg. Didn't I just finished looking at bad resumes? Observation: the people who applied for the unpaid intern position were overwhelmingly more likely to follow the directions than the people who applied for the paid position. When I say directions, I mean that they sent the resume, cover letter and writing sample that we asked for. Is it that the people who want an unpaid internship self-select so only the more conscientious people apply whereas everyone needs to make money? Or are college students more used to following directions because they're still in college? Hmm.

I leave you with this inspired little couplet my ipod shuffled together the other day:
"Off the Grid" by Beastie Boys from The Mix Up
"Kilometer" by Sebastien Tellier from Sexuality
"Your Ex-Lover is Dead" by Stars from Set Yourself On Fire
I'd happily post a mini "mixtape" except I'm not entirely sure how to do it legally...which is a whole 'nother post.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Candlepin Anyone?

XI've been reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, an extensive look at social capital in the US and why there's a marked decrease from the 1950s and 60s in the strength and breadth of civic engagement and social connectedness in the US. According to Putnam, less social capital correlates with or increases the chances of everything from infant morality to obesity to not stopping at stop lights. For instance, if you smoked cigarettes and lived in Mississippi - which ranks at the bottom of much of everything in Bowling Alone - and continued to smoke but moved to North Dakota - which is at the top of most every heap - the effects would be akin to your having quit smoking.

In the way that you often find synchronicity when you start exploring a topic, I've been thinking a lot about social capital lately. When I moved to DC I was told that it takes at least a year after you move to a place for you to start feeling comfortable. I only stopped feeling like I was living on an alien planet once I made some friends, met some people in the neighborhood, and was able to leave my apartment on weekends without looking at a map. Having a number of friends that are relative newcomers here, we can all attest that even then, it's not easy: where to go, how to meet people, how to be a part of a place when you don't feel of it. All that sure takes the naive romance out of "reinventing yourself" in a new place.

I'm not sure how much I buy all of the book's arguments especially since they're about 8 years old now. For instance, the Internet has certainly added a dimension to how we keep in touch and a case could be made that this year's political theater has increased active participation in politics. I'd definitely be curious to read an update. (For you non-New Englanders, here's the explanation on candlepin bowling.)

Still, I'm glad I waded through the book...which I did in between a couple of shows that renewed my faith in live music: X and Cut Copy. I've seen X a couple of times now and they never disappoint. Their show certainly isn't new since they haven't released new music in years, but everything's played with gobs of punky, head-banging attitude and energy and they obviously have a fabulous time. Cut Copy was a lean, tight, dance machine and I can't wait to see them again. I think I may have actually jumped up and down on command. Wow. (Arf?)

And yes, finding the rock clubs in DC went a long way to making me feel like I belonged more!