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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Area codes

In a time when I didn't have a cell phone on me all the time (eleven years ago, to be exact), I remembered a lot of people's phone numbers. Even when we had to start dialing the area codes, it was easy because all of my friends lived in the 281-area.

Speed dial slowly came into my life, as did cell phones, and now I'm here with the following situation: I know my office's number, the Traffic Tip Hotline, various dispatchers' numbers, and my parents' home number off the top of my head. In regards to my friends, co-workers, sister, and the rest of my family, I don't have a clue what their digits are. Why? Because they're all stored in my speed dial on my cell phone.

There was a certain flow to remembering people's seven- or nine-digit number. That flow could be annoying at times, but if there was an emergency, I'd know exactly what to do. Now I'd be up a creek if my cell phone went dead. It's strange how much faith we put into these small electronic devices.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A whimper, or the best possible choice?

A local band I have truly admired for the last five years is about to call it quits. I've seen them play well over thirty times and have never been let down. I'm not going to say their name here. Rather, I wanted to focus on a deeper issue: how this band chose to put out their final album.

Most of the songs from this final album have been played live many, many times before. The recording of this record has been over a few years, and was finished well before it was released a few weeks ago. From a distant perspective, this record looks to be coming out on a whimper. All these years later and they're self-releasing this on CD-Rs and basically giving the record away? What's going on here?

Some backstory: the band's previous album was released on a local label, and thanks to a good publicity push, got some nice writeups in the national press, including Entertainment Weekly. There was something surreal about seeing this band written up in EW, even though it was a very, very small blurb. Surreal in the sense that I could point to my aunt, an EW subscriber who doesn't follow modern music, and say, "I know these guys personally," and she'd be impressed.

Fast forward to now and the band is a few weeks away from calling it quits (a key member is moving out of state). Circumstances make the nature of self-releasing understandable: why should a label invest time and money in promoting a record by a defunct band? Since the record's master tapes are owned by the band, they're doing what they want to do. But I can understand people who don't understand the band's situation who think this is a cop-out. I can relate to that thought as a fan, but I can also relate as somebody who wants to control how something I've done gets out there.

I know of someone who was a little sad to hear that I was planning on self-publishing Post. Meaning, the sadness was over how this book might just wallow in obscurity that way. Well, I'm pretty sure this person didn't know that the company I'm working with has great distribution and the book has a very good chance to find an audience outside of my friends and family. The idea of self-releasing is about the only main correlation to this band's situation. Post will hopefully not be my only book. I just want to release it how I see fit, just like my friends are with their record.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All I wanted was to be a mariachi

I wanted to finish Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew before I shared these thoughts. Now that I'm done with it, let the floodgates open.

Even after all these years since El Mariachi debuted theatrically in 1993, I find Rodriguez's story still inspiring. I don't often come across people that driven to do something. And I don't mean people who are ambitious in becoming famous. I mean people who have a desire to do something with low overhead and levelheaded ambitions. I mean, El Mariachi was originally made for the Spanish home movie market in hopes that Rodriguez could gradually move onto bigger-budgeted films down the line. Fate changed that, as plenty of people know, but Rodriguez has never forgotten his Mariachi way of doing things. That's a great reminder to those who are struggling to make something; whether it's a film, book, or record.

I still don't have any ambitions to make a film, but I like hearing stories about how drive and naivety make for a worthwhile learning experience. This desire was what led Kevin Smith to make Clerks, David Lynch to make Eraserhead, and so on. Other people can make light of how these low/no-budget directors who made great films inspired legions of wannabe directors to make crappy films, but there's something beyond all of that to me.

I'm all too aware of people who have desires to do something beyond the normal routine, but get sidetracked for whatever understandable reasons they have. Motivation, or a lack of motivation, prevents plenty from making an idea into a tangible thing. Believe you me, if I knew all the hoops I'd have to go through to get Post made before I wrote it, I'd reconsider writing the darn thing. But still, no matter how crappy things would get from time to time, I never wanted to give up. I guess that's the key: if you really want to do something, don't give up because there might be some roadblocks.

Reading Rodriguez's book about how he made El Mariachi with only $7,000 and no crew rung true for me even I kind of knew his story already. He simply took into consideration what he had available to him and made what he could. That's Do-It-Yourself 101 right there. But why more people don't do what he did goes all back to a motivation to do things and finish them. I'm still amazed when I meet people or read about people who have this attitude. So many people just want to complain and settle for a crappy look at life. I struggle, for sure. But I think there's always room to improve your life. Being creative is probably the best way for me and plenty of others. From time to time, it's nice to have a reminder of that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It Still Moves

As I watched My Morning Jacket play for nearly three hours Saturday night, I got to thinking. Not only was I blown away by the band's performance, but I was proud by how the band has stuck around and remained relevant and refreshing all these years later. That might sound all syrupy and cheesy, but I've seen one too many promising bands get derailed in their ascent. I think it's important to single out the ones that don't unravel.

The last time I saw the band live was in 2002 when they opened for Guided by Voices. As odd a pairing as My Morning Jacket and GBV was, I didn't mind. My Morning Jacket was one of those pleasant surprise opening acts, up there with the experiences of seeing Red Animal War and Moonlight Towers for the first time.

My Morning Jacket hasn't gotten screwed by a bad record deal, a bad manager, or a decline in interest by a large audience. Hell, they even overcame the loss of two key members a few years back. Their latest record, Evil Urges, has turned some heads and left some with a bad taste in their mouths, but all of the songs they played from it sounded great and were pretty well-received at the show. I think it's bold for a band to play their latest record in its entirety mixed with fan favorites. Even doing an encore with Erykah Badu on her anthem, "Tyrone," was a risk, but it brought the house down.

I've seen one-too-many promising bands decline in popularity because of a polarizing record. I've never understood the "meh" mindset that usually leads to a complete disowning of a band. Given the rather harsh words about Evil Urges in the press by critics and fans, I was afraid that the savages were closing in on the band. Well, given how well the new songs fit with the older songs, I don't have any doubts about the band's longevity.

When I saw the band back in 2002, they seemed destined for a bigger audience. Something about their unique sound -- blending country and rock in a non-Uncle Tupelo direction -- spoke to me. For whatever reason I skipped out on seeing them live since then (maybe it's because I didn't want to stand on my tippy-toes at the Gypsy Tea Room in hopes I could see the band), but I was glad I went to this show. Definitely one to remember.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jerry Finn follow-up

With the recent passing of Jerry Finn, Will over at Popdose put together a great MP3 sampler of Finn's work as an engineer. Definitely worth checking out, especially the tracks by Kara's Flowers, Superdrag, Morrissey, and blink-182.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Just minutes away . . .

Well, I still don't have a firm release date for Post, but I have some great news. Today I received and approved the final corrections made to the manuscript and cover. The whole thing looks really good and professional. And I like how my basic design in Word has turned into something better-looking than anything I could have imagined.

As far as timeline goes, copies of the book should be available in the next three or four weeks. I don't know if any stores will carry this right away, but you will be able to order copies from Amazon, as well as Barnes & Noble's and Books-A-Million's online store. I don't know about pre-orders just yet. I will post links as soon as they're online.

Currently, there are no plans for a book release party or in-store signing. I'm up for doing them, but I'd prefer to wait and hold a copy of the book in my hand before I do anything more. Review copies will be sent out to a number of writers that I have talked to over the last four and a half years. I've been in contact with these writers not in hopes that I will get a glowing review or any review at all. If anything, I just wanted to show these people that I finished the book and it's out there. Plus, I want these people to read it because it's up their alley. On top of that (and most importantly), a lot of these people I consider friends and want to remain friends with them whether they love the book or hate it.

I don't know when the next book update will be, but hopefully it will be soon. Until then, it's brainstorming more stuff for Book #2.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rodeo Jones

While we all sit tight to hear about a release date for Post, here's some little fun tidbits to check out:

--MTV has three live performances of the original Sunny Day Real Estate lineup. All three songs were taped for the band's 120 Minutes performance, which have been floating around YouTube for quite some time. (Gracias, Punknews.org for the heads-up.) The video quality is superb, as are the performances. Now if they could only upload that incredible live version of "Seven" from the Jon Stewart Show on the MTV site . . .

--Kyle did a lengthy post on Fuel -- and no, not the Fuel that did "Shimmer" and "Bad Day" and wanted Chris Daughtry to join their band. This Fuel was a band I never saw back in the day or heard on record. I remember watching a live clip of the Promise Ring and seeing Dan Didier wear a Fuel shirt. Fuel is briefly mentioned in the epilogue of Post.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Information Travels Faster

Something I've wondered about for the last year or so is, will music journalists who have made a career out of writing for magazines and newspapers still be relevant in the digital age? I asked this to a writer I've been reading since the mid-nineties and his answer really made me think. He said without any fear or resignation in his voice that, from here on out, more people will read his stuff online than in print. He didn't fear for his job; he just understood how people read his stuff these days.

Another writer whose work I've admired since the nineties recently wrote about this topic, and I've had some more thoughts on the topic.

I still clearly remember a time when Rolling Stone, Spin, Guitar World, and the Houston Chronicle were the main ways I read about music. When I found a copy of the Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, I thought I had found something extraordinary. Reading all of these entries pointed me towards even more records and bands.

But these days, how I read about music goes beyond just a few sources. It's not just reading Rolling Stone and prowling message boards. Maybe it comes from having a larger worldview, I don't know. I think it's just understanding there have always been a variety of opinions out there; the Internet just makes them even more noticeable.

As much as I trust the opinions of blog friends like Eric and Jeff, the opinions of writers I've been reading since the nineties carry as much (or even more) weight now. Even when I completely disagree with their opinions, I respect what they have to say. I'm just glad they're still writing and their material is easy to find on the Internet. The fact that most of them have made the transition to online writing is a major plus.

And not to paint all MP3 bloggers or message board posters like this, but I present the following scenario. I trust the opinion of someone who really takes some time to listen to a record or a song way more than somebody who posts a highly-dismissive/superficial comment on a message board after he or she listens to a song or half of a record only once. There's a familiarity with the writers I regularly read; not so much so with someone who hides behind a screen name.

On top of all this, my favorite writers shouldn't worry that bloggers are leveling off their opinions, taking their readers away, and making their future in writing doubtful. I'll just speak for myself here: I'm very well aware of the difficulties in making a career out of writing. I'm not betting the farm that my blogging or book-writing will turn into some sort of career. Writing is just something that I have to do. I like sharing my writing with the people that want to read my stuff. I have the drive and free time to do all this (and I love doing it), so why not?

All Through the Night

Remember when I blogged about all those Raspberries songs with "night" in the lyrics? Well, it was recently posted on ericcarmen.com and there were a few responses. Now, not to be a jerk, but I thought it would be fun to respond to some of the comments. I take it most of these comments were lighthearted, so I hope my responses come across as lighthearted.

The guy obviously never heard "Sunrise"!

Nope. Never heard that song. All I have is Overnight Sensation: The Very Best of the Raspberries and "Sunrise" is not on it. Again, I just couldn't help notice that the first half of that greatest hits collection features "night," "tonight," or "overnight" in the lyrics.

Obviously this guy doesn't get that "nights" are much more romantic than mornings and afternoons. Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" would sound silly as "Are you Lonesome This Morning?" "Nights in White Satin" would sound pretty silly as "Afternoons in White Satin."

I don't understand romance, period. Day or night. Oops, the secret's out!

Maybe this guy's favorite song is "It's Four O'Clock in the Morning" or "Cruising Down The River on a Sunday Afternoon."

Actually, it's "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." I've never heard "It's Four O'Clock in the Morning" or "Cruising Down the River on a Sunday Afternoon."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

To all the songs I've massacred

Last Friday I met up with Todd for a night of karaoke. I had not done karaoke in at least a year; I think the last time I did it was a rather melodramatic version of Bonnie Tyler's melodramatic song, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." I think I ripped up my voice when I did it, so I wanted to take things easy this time.

Going with the rather safe choice (for me) of Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," I didn't rip up my voice. I had fun and plenty of people danced. Plenty of others who weren't dancing took pictures of my rather amusing dance moves during the extended conga break.

Not every run at karaoke has been fun, and whenever I botch a song, it kind of taints it for me for a while. Here's a rundown, along with witnesses to back up my claims:

"Fooled Around and Fell In Love" by Elvin Bishop
Witness(es)? Matt, Chris, and Tim.
How bad was it? Really bad. Shortly into it, I realized Mickey Thomas's vocals were way out of my range. The usually melodic, bluesy chorus got a major slaughtering.

"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.
Witnesses? Matt, Chris, and Tim
How bad was it? Not really bad, but I did go to the chorus too soon after the first verse. I didn't make the same mistake the next time I did the song. It was the beginning of the tipoff that I do better with songs where I talk more than sing. I usually look for this song in the list, along with Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."

"Daydream Believer" by the Monkees
Witness(es)? Nick
How bad was it? Well, it wasn't really karaoke, but it was goofing around at a frat party. I fudged some of the lyrics and couldn't carry a tune. It was a tipoff that I can't sing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hall of Shame

Reading Keith's post about the Burger King employee who took a bath in his workplace's sink and uploaded footage from it onto his MySpace profile got me thinking. Moreover, thinking about the time in 1994 when some of my fellow ninth-graders decided to film themselves blowing up mailboxes and setting fire to air conditioning units around Kingwood.

(If you're thinking this is a far-flung connection, let me explain: Keith found the article while reading through his hometown's paper, the Dayton Daily News. Reading the post this morning, along hearing about the story on the radio and TV, I thought about another case of stupidity caught on tape, but from my hometown.)

The specifics are hazy now (and details are kind of hard to find on the Internet), but a few Kingwood high-schoolers got into some major trouble after a tape of them vandalizing neighborhood houses came into the possession of local police. Keep in mind, this was 1994, the time when Beavis and Butt-head was on MTV, and really popular. So seeing some teenagers commit such B&B-like things was an outrage to some locals. To me, seeing those guys willfully incriminating themselves was kind of funny and stupid.

The memory that does stick out for me is seeing the Hard Copy van drive up one afternoon. Apparently they interviewed a bunch of students about the incident, but all that ended up in the final piece was a five-second bit about how the guys that did the acts were much more popular now. That's where I said "Hold it." I had never heard of the guys who did this, didn't recognize them, and did not hear about them being popular after the tape got played on the local and national news. As much as I was an invisible guy in high school, I couldn't avoid hearing about the popular and the infamous. I never heard anything more about these guys. Now I wonder what these guys are up to now.

Jerry Finn

Some really sad news about Jerry Finn, the producer/mixer behind a number of great records that still sound great today.


Producer Jerry Finn Taken Off Life Support
August 12, 2008 , 3:25 PM ET
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

Blink-182 and Morrissey producer Jerry Finn has been taken off life support after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage last month. According to a post on the Prosoundweb forum reprinted on Morrissey-Solo.com, Finn's family made the decision on Saturday.

Read the rest of the article here.

The number of albums he worked on is long and quite impressive: Green Day's Dookie and Insomniac, Sparta's Wiretap Scars, Superdrag's Head Trip in Every Key, almost all of blink-182's major label albums, Jawbreaker's Dear You, AFI's Sing the Sorrow, and Rancid's . . . And Out Come the Wolves.

Finn, along with Rob Cavallo, Chris Lord-Alge, and Tom Lord-Alge, pretty much created the sound of big and punchy pop-punk and emo primed for radio airplay. While that might sound like a bad thing, I think Finn's records still sound incredible to this day. Truly a sad loss.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I used to let rumors do my work

Not to start rumors or make promises, but it looks like copies of Post will be available for sale by the end of this month. Oh yes, you've been forewarned.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The mind of a self-deprecating man

"Watching Spaced is kinda like watching a Kevin Smith film if Kevin Smith had any real talent."

--Kevin Smith

Seeing this quote on the back of the Region 1 box set of Spaced reminded me of something I've heard plenty from Kevin (and have experienced in my own ways in my life): self-deprecation. I don't exactly know what compels people to be so down on themselves, but I have some observations.

There's something that naysayers want (and is something that we all want): to be heard. It's why we speak up, right? We want to be acknowledged, yes? Well, acknowledging that gripe, even if you disagree with the gripe, at your own expense can be a way of saying you're not oblivious to your limits. Limits can be seen as flaws, but they can also be boundaries that you're most comfortable with.

A phrase Kevin has often used when explaining his self-deprecation is to "steal the thunder" from his worst critics. Whether or not that makes his worst critics think harder about something worse to say, I don't know. I do know this: people will still complain about something. Complaining is easy, and on the Internet, it's very easy to say mean things anonymously and not be reprimanded for them.

In a roundabout way, taking the piss out of yourself is a way to automatically gain sympathy from others. But I've often found it causes people to say you're way too hard on yourself. In my eyes, I'd rather talk down about my stuff than to think too highly of it. It's like I think highly of my work, but I try not to let it overshadow everything else I do, hence the occasional piss-taking. I'd rather joke about how my next book will be my own Mallrats rather than say it will be my own Days of Heaven.

What's even more strange is that when you've been so self-deprecating for so long, it's like you look forward to harsh words. You fool yourself into thinking that negative stuff is a more real way of being accepted. Well, too many people think general honesty means being brutal and harsh instead of being complimentary and tactful. It can become your own cage and bum you out.

All this said, there are reasons why a lot of people stay on their creative path, naysayers be damned. Dealing with the negative is a part of the process while so many other parts are positive and fulfilling. It's enough to say the good outways the bad, so you stick with what makes you happy. Isn't that what we all in life?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Adapting

Borrowing Nick's copy of Adaptation this week, I'm reminded of my trepidation towards Blu-Ray DVDs. No, it's not like I tried to watch a Blu-Ray DVD on my regular DVD player. Rather, it was a reminder of short-lived attempts to make higher quality DVDs.

I watched Adaptation in Superbit, a format that stripped away supplemental features for a better-looking picture. Not many DVDs were produced in this format, and the format was discontinued. Frankly, I didn't notice a spectacular difference between my other DVDs. I wondered if this was only really noticeable on high-end DVD players and TVs. Even after all these years, I still think my Monster cables make my DVDs look great.

This leads me to my current thoughts on Blu-Ray. As amazing as they look on the TVs I see at Best Buy, I'm yet to be convinced I should replace my regular DVD collection with Blu-Rays. I doubt I will replace my entire collection when I eventually purchase a Blu-Ray (and Region-free) player. It just doesn't make sense to me right now.

I'm happy to hear that most Blu-Ray players make regular DVDs look better. It's not like regular DVDs are being discontinued. On top of that, it's not like the difference between VHS and DVD. DVD had way more advantages than VHS. Not only were the movies in widescreen, you could skip around chapters, and you didn't have to rewind anything when you were done watching a movie.

Granted, Blu-Ray has more promise than Superbit or even DivX, but still, it's a little too much of a risk in my head for the time being.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Shortcomings

A follow-up to my earlier open call for comic suggestions. Donna came through with some great suggestions, as well as some others, so I did some shopping last weekend. Here's an inventory:

I picked up Pyongyang, A Journey in North Korea for a number of reasons. The artwork is easy on the eyes and the book looked like a pretty easy read. I decided to read this one first and read half of it in a day. There's a lighthearted nature in this book based in a setting that is rather terrifying in some ways.

The epic Blankets, which Noel called, "like an epic-length comic book version of an emo song," was also picked up. Whether I like it or not, I'm a late nineties post-hardcore/emo geek, and that's perfectly fine. There's a difference between those who still wear old Promise Ring or Get Up Kids shirts that they bought at a small show back in the day and those that wear guyliner and think My Chemical Romance invented emo. I'm guessing Blankets is more my alley than say, the storyline for the video for the All-American Rejects' "Swing Swing."

Adam recommended Persepolis, and I remembered when Julie recommended the book and movie, so I got that one as well. Once again, the artwork really struck me, plus the general storyline being about growing up in a foreign country.

Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings caught my eye as I browsed through the "Amazon.com users also bought" category. The cleanly-drawn artwork and the book's description seemed right in line with what I'm interested in.

Finally, there was Phonogram, the trade paperback which collects all six issues of Rue Britannia. I vaguely remember seeing its This is Hardcore-like cover in an A.V. Club Comic Panel writeup, but was quite interested in reading it when I saw it on the shelf. The first page I saw mentioned the Manics' "Motown Junk." I was sold.

So, I'm very happy to say that this search has been really helpful. I don't plan on hitting up the comics store every week, but I have at least regained an interest in finding comics that speak to me. I can't read band biographies and moviemaking books all the time, you know.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

To all the bands I didn't form

I've been playing in bands since 1996. I've always enjoyed playing in them, but these days, I like a slower pace of things. No multiple practices in one week where we play songs over and over and over again and still screw them up live. Nope. I just like playing shows here and there and playing with people I like to play with.

It's rare that I've played with more than one band at a time. Probably the heaviest workload was playing full-time with Voigt and the 11:30s. Building up and tearing down a drum kit a few times a week can be taxing on the body.

Despite all this, I've thought about forming bands over the years, but they never came to fruition for various reasons. Here's a list:

A melodic post-hardcore/hardcore band
The story?
When I moved to Fort Worth in 1998, I was in love with Lifetime's Hello Bastards and Jersey's Best Dancers. Coupled with my love of Jimmy Eat World's Static Prevails and Braid's Frame & Canvas, I wanted to start a band that pooled those influences. I posted an ad on a related music site and got a response from a guy named Jeremy. He didn't play anything, but he recommended a friend of his to me. We jammed once, but it didn't work out. I did stay in touch with Jeremy and we still see each other at shows here and there.

Why didn't the band happen?
Not finding anybody to jam with, I let the idea go.

Regrets in not forming the band?
Not at all. I think the lack of regret came once I heard Saves the Day's first album/blatant Lifetime knockoff, Can't Slow Down.

A melodically-tinged, 60s sunshine-pop rock band
The story?
From summer 2001 until about a year later, I listened to both Nuggets box sets religiously. I leaned more towards Nuggets II as I liked the more melodically-tinged stuff over the bluesy garage stuff. Coupled with Elliott Smith's Kill Rock Stars-era material and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, I wanted to do a record where I played all of the instruments.

Why didn't the band happen?
None of the stuff I wrote really worked once I started singing. After all these years, I have resigned myself to being a good riff writer, arranger, and drummer and not a good singer.

Regrets in not forming the band?
Nope, mainly because of the flood of Flaming Lips/Brian Wilson-worshipping bands in the last few years.

A rock band with post-hardcore influences
The story?
After Voigt let me go and the 11:30s dissolved, I wanted to start a new band from the ground up. I posted an ad on a local musician site, listing bands that I really liked, plus I knew would not be well-known to the average Guitar Center customer. Unfortunately, I got a lot of responses from people that obviously did not read anything beyond "rock drummer." Sorry, I'm not interested in playing 3 Doors Down covers or playing in a band that's like Radiohead meets the Deftones.

Why didn't the band happen?
Though I traded e-mails with a few interested people, it never got going. Right around this time, I got in touch with Jason through a mutual friend. Ashburne Glen needed a new drummer and I joined.

Regrets in not forming the band?
To a degree, yes. I still want to start a band like this from the ground up with influences as wide as possible.

A one-man, drums-with-some-keyboards project
The story?
A few months ago, after seeing and reading about a number of rock bands without a key component in their lineup (bass or guitar, most notably), I had a funny idea. What if the "band" was just a drummer who sang, had some keyboards, but who mostly sang with a drum kit? Ha ha, No Age, Times New Viking, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Death from Above 1979, right?

Why didn't the band happen?
Funny ideas don't often turn into something serious.

Regrets in not forming the band?
Nope. Other than the other reasons mentioned, I can't sing at all.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

8/19/08

Once again, I'm holding my tongue wondering when I will be finished with the final book proofs. This afternoon I received .pdfs of what appears to be the final book layout. At this stage, I can't change anything other than mistakes made by the design department. And there is plenty to change. Most notably, anytime there's a word with "fl" or "fi," there's a small square box in place of the letters. Fun!

I have until the 19th of this month to submit the changes, and I think that's plenty of time. I think these changes will take less time than the previous ones. I believe these errors were made converting font and format, so it's not like an issue of blaming one person or thing.

I'm not trying to talk smack about my publisher here. I think it's great they're actually letting me see what they're sending to the printer. I just hope this is the final, final, final round of changes.

UPDATE: Turns out my Adobe Acrobat reader is a little old. The proofs look fine on another computer I use, which has the latest version of Acrobat. No boxes or anything are in the manuscript. Still, I need to run through the whole thing to fix any small bugs.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Thank You Too!

I've been a fan of My Morning Jacket ever since I saw them open for Guided By Voices back in 2002. Something about the combination of country, space rock, and southern twang really blew me away, even though I was there to see a headliner with a sixty-song set of two-minute pop rock jams.

I've followed MMJ's recorded output since that day while poking around with some of their early material as well. It's still a toss-up between It Still Moves and Z for me with my absolute favorite as both records are pretty different from one another. I don't know where I'd place this year's Evil Urges yet, as I wanted to address something about this record.

For understandable reasons, Evil Urges has been characterized by longtime fans and critics as an experiment gone wrong. A couple of songs early into the record are vastly removed from anything the band has ever done before. The atonal, R&B stomp of "Highly Suspicious" is probably the biggest offender. And it's track three on a fourteen-track album. No wonder it's overshadowed the rest of the record for a lot of people.

I have a recommendation: since we live in a world where, if we don't like an entire album on MP3, we can just simply delete the whole thing from our hard drive. Instead of completely abandoning a great band because of a different and disjointed record, why not make a non-disjointed record out of the fourteen tracks by trimming a few songs off the tracklist?

To me, "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 1" and "Highly Suspicious" are like two B-sides that, instead of being placed at the end of the album as bonus tracks for a future re-release, are placed right up in the frontline. Jumping from track one, the title track, to track four, "I'm Amazed," feels like a smooth transition. From then on out, it's pretty smooth sailing.

Listening to this abbreviated playlist, I hear an album that feels more influenced by 70s AM pop rather than 70s classic rock, and I mean that in the best of ways. The melodies jump right to the point and the song structures are rather basic. Poppy melodies are at the center instead of bendy guitar leads this time out. So, in those ways, Evil Urges sounds like the very logical follow-up to Z.

Yet it's like the damage has been done for certain fans. For those that don't want to try out this experiment, I say check out Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut on Sub Pop. It's a pretty gorgeous record, but there are several instances where I think, "Did My Morning Jacket record this a few years ago, scrap this, and some indie rock Maurice Starr assemble a group of young'uns to promote this?"