Review: Emma Wilson – As We Go

I got in trouble at work today and for a good reason. It’s not like I was framed or something. I was an ass, and needed someone to tell me I was an ass. The reality of the situation is much smoother than how I reacted mentally. A normal person would’ve probably just nodded and moved on with their life. I, however, got super sad and sulked over at Zombie Burger and made my server very uncomfortable. That was not the appropriate response. I should not make service industry workers feel awkward because I am sulking over beer. The appropriate response would’ve been to accept what I had been told and then change my behavior, which I probably totally will.

Here’s what happened. I have been late pretty much every day for the last month. I was asked very politely by my boss to not do that anymore. He at no point made me feel bad about my malfeasance, and provided context as to why my actions were harming the company and other employees. It was a mature and honest statement made towards an employee who was behaving poorly. For some reason, it really upset me. I have always behaved a little like a dog who peed on the carpet whenever I do wrong and get caught. I remember a specific incident in fifth grade where we all stole Skittles from our teacher’s jar, and I got detention and I cried in class. I totally stole the Skittles, and I deserved to be punished, but I still cried. That outburst followed me for a while as I was relentlessly picked on, (but not cleverly as most people just called me crybaby, which isn’t witty at all. You’d think that those jerk fifth graders would’ve been smarter. That’s the thing about bullies, they’re never witty. Just dicks. That’s the biggest issue I have with bullying is it is never a really biting, except when they actually bite, I guess. But I digress). So yeah, when I screw up and get a talking to, I kind of turtle. Even though I knew I had been doing something stupid, and was calmly and maturely spoken to about it, I still felt upset by it.

There are lots of reasons why I behave this way, I’m sure. A weird desire to be known as a “good boy” so I will be loved? Eh, who knows? I’m sure there is a deep seeded and underlying reason, but I don’t have time for that. Let’s instead just focus on the issue at hand and maybe I can stay out of trouble.

So, I’m not sure why I am late everyday, I guess. But, I have a few theories:

1) Winter has fucked up my routine.

I work very early most of the time and I don’t sleep very well, so I try to get as much sleep as possible. I usually wake up about thirty minutes before I am supposed to be at work, even though it takes me thirteen minutes to drive there. I have my morning routine down to a science: a hurricane blitz of a shower where I somehow manage to shave, shampoo, condition and soap in roughly eight minutes, it would be four minutes if I didn’t sit down on the floor of the tub in a daze with water pelting me in the face (again, I wake up very early). Next come contacts, tooth brushing and deodorant, sometimes all done at once if it takes me longer than eight minutes in the shower. Then I get dressed and I race out the door. However, it has been cold lately so I have to factor in the extra five or so minutes of letting my car warm up and thaw. Thus, my tardiness. This is a simple problem with a simple solution. I should just wake up earlier. I know this. Yet, I choose to ignore it. And thus, here we are. Being late and getting scolded.

2) I am acting out in a very childish attempt to get attention.

A few months back I had a chance at a promotion and was passed up. This sucked. I’m not really angry for my personal glory so much as I am looking for more money because at this point in my life money is the only reason I still do this job. I used to have a bunch of friends and pride. Now, I have one friend and no pride. I have accepted now that I am destined for a slight cost of living increase each year and nothing more. No matter what I do, I will receive a very modest raise. I work my ass off? Modest raise. I do an acceptable and perhaps, boring job? Modest raise. I go into a closet and take a nap for an hour or so each day? Modest raise. This is dumb. Maybe I am just testing my limits and seeing how far I can get. Or maybe, I am saying, “Oh yeah? You think I suck at this? You haven’t seen anything yet.” This is a dumb way to behave, so I hope this isn’t it.

3) Much like my toddler, I am just seeing how much I can get away with.

It is always good to know your boundaries. I just went past mine and got called out because of it.

4) I am lazy and sleep too late and am kind of an asshole, but I don’t want people to know I’m an asshole, so I get upset when people catch on that I’m an asshole.

This is a probable cause, but much less abstract than I like. I want to get into the whys. Why do I sleep so late? Why am I lazy? Why do I not like stuff? Why am I an asshole? Boredom>? Yeah, it’s boredom.

So, to get my mind off my weird sadness, I decided to go through my backlog and randomly take a stab at an album. I actually like writing and don’t really do it to please anyone but myself, so this is an easy cure, most of the time. It may not seem like it due to my sporadic nature, but it brightens my day just scribbling down my thoughts or whatever about whatever. I also had really good luck because the album I randomly picked is just adorable.

Emma Wilson is a singer and songwriter. This is about all I know about her. Some slight internet stalking tells me she lives in Des Moines and knows some people I know. She plays the ukulele and sings in an adorable accent that seems slightly British at times and simply childlike at others. Her voice is whimsical and sweet. So sweet that I may have type-2 diabetes just from listening to this a few times. I’m not sure if she’s from Des Moines, or if I am just mis-hearing the accent, but the way she sings is unique and pretty.

This album is really cute. That makes it sound derogatory, but cute things are awesome. This is sort of the recorded version of that sneezing panda video. Even when she says “fuck”, it is enunciated in a way that kind of makes me giggle, even though in this context it is used as a verb and that usually makes me a little uncomfortable. But this isn’t just fluff for the sake of fluff. There are some very personal, yet relatable, stories told over a singular and somewhat unique instrument.

What I also like about this album is that most of the songs aren’t done in a traditional pop song verse-chorus-verse style. They kind of just tell their story and then move on. There are verses and chorus, but the structures are generally a little more loose. Tracks like “Little Loves” and “This Town” are somewhat universally understood odes, while “Stuck Right There” comes across much more specific and personal. Oh, and there is a track about tofu and the five-second rule. I think most people would have some familiarity with that.

I think there is going to be a certain portion of the population that will hate this. They will think it is just too damned cuddly. Pessimists and people who hate Zooey Deschanel probably wouldn’t like As We Go but I liked it. It is a pleasant diversion and easy to listen to. It is a hot fudge sundae in an upside down baseball helmet. Cute, sweet and easily digestible.

This Week @ Des Moines Is Not Boring

I reviewed the new compilation from Max Ames Records. It is all songs inspired by Iowa City.

Okay, here is the thing. I had a little bit to drink when I wrote this, and sorta forgot to edit properly. There should be a sentenece in there right after the first one that would say:

“That friend seems to think it is uncool to be a Hawkeye fan without, you know, ever actually going to The University of Iowa.”

As is, that paragraph is just a jumbly mess of Rumchata fueled nonsense. Anyway, click the banner and then click the article and read from paragraph two on. Thanks much.

Album Review: Diamonds For Eyes – Catacomb Fires

Click the pic to purchase the album, please.

Last year, Des Moines band Diamonds For Eyes released a little under the radar album called The Era of Our Ways that I really liked (I reviewed it here). What I liked best about that album is the way it would seamlessly introduce a different genre almost on a track by track basis. The musical schizophrenia was almost a plus that made the album more interesting than what a normal dirty pop-rock album would normally sound like.

On their newest album, Catacomb Fires, Diamonds For Eyes loses a bit of the schizophrenia, but what they lack in genre jumping, they make up for in a focused, well made and oddly fun album to listen to. And while I don’t like it in the same way I liked Era, I do like it very much. It is a little more of a early classic rock album, on occasion even classic country. The focused sound helps with the whiplash effect and kind of soothes the listen a bit more than their previous. However, the vocals, which I think make for the most interesting part of both albums, haven’t changed much.

Lead Singer Josh Putney has a very Tom Morello is The Nightwatchman voice; baritone, deep and gruff. Sometimes, it can seem mean and unwelcoming. Almost with a sense of doom. Even when the track doesn’t need to be foreboding or threatening. Sometimes, it comes across a bit somber, almost like an 80’s goth crooner. A good kind of depressing. What his voice never is, though is boring. Even on a track like “Honesty”, which sounds a little bit like an 80’s rock anthem like Toto or The Cars, his voice is haunting where it could be jaunty. It is an interesting choice and adds for a cool uniqueness.

The big addition to this album is the guitar work of Conrad Bascom. Formerly of The Chatty Cathys, Bascom adds a lead guitar that really shows the new focus of the band and what they can do and helps punctuate their sound.

I liked this album, but I also really like their last one. I may have to listen to both a few more times to really decide which one I liked more, but a more focused Diamonds For Eyes definitely created a gem.

Album Review: Trouble Lights – The Endless Prom

I want to show y’all something, if I may:

Lollapalooza 2007

Click that. Then click the lineup. Then scroll down to the bottom. See way down there, past Iggy and The Stooges and Pearl Jam and Cold War Kids. Even past Chin Up Chin Up and past Ludo (Whoa, I liked Ludo! I wonder what they’re up to). On one of the bottom rows way past all the name bands and the popular DJs and such, there is an awfully familiar name. No, not Cage the Elephant. Before them.

Lady Gaga.

In 2007, Lady Gaga was just a talented woman performing clubs in New York and not an international pop sensation with a somewhat unique persona and insane live performances. She performed on the BMI stage, which, for those unfamiliar with the Grant Park festival’s setup, is a tiny ass stage stuck in some trees with Lake Shore Drive as a backdrop. It is usually where they stick lesser known acts and up and comers. Three years later, she came back to Lollapalooza and headlined the damned thing.

It seems weird to think that someone like Lady Gaga wasn’t always filling up stadiums and arenas and such. There are times when she seems like a pre-fab pop star that just happened to catch the right break, when the reality is she worked her way up the circuit like a lot of performers and is actually really damn good. She just had (and has) something about her that caught people’s eye and has propelled past being the weird lady who sings “Poker Face”. And now, she’s Mother Monster and a global phenomenon. Big enough to fill arenas and stadiums and headline festivals and even be protested against wherever she goes.

Listening to The Endless Prom, it isn’t just an astonishing pop album (though it is an astonishing pop album), it feels like being on the ground floor to greatness. It feels like the beginning of some sort of cultural phenomenon. It feels like a case where in three years, a lot of us are going to look back and go, I saw them perform at Mews or The Space for Ames or in an old classroom re-commissioned into an art show or whatever venue that seems entirely too small for a group this talented. In a world overrun by the pre-fab irony of Rebecca Black or the one hit wonder catchiness of “Call Me, Maybe” and “Gangnam Style” (and c’mon that shit is catchy as fuck), this album has catchy and danceable beats galore. The tracks “Hunting”, “Safe With Me” and “Ready” (see the video above) all have an undeniable beat that seems to burrow into your head and get stuck there. Even a guy like me, who isn’t all that far removed from the John Lithgow character in Footloose, can’t help but tap my foot and, if I’ve had a couple of drinks, actually maybe even sway side to side and do a little shoegaze head bop. Sometimes, I even do little uppercuts. It is exhilarating. But it is a testament to what the music makes me do more than it is an overriding need to dance.

What this album doesn’t suffer from is pre-fabrication or phoniness. It isn’t gimmicky or studio butchered. It feels real and it feels important. For as much as I actually like Carly Rae Jepsen (I do! Seriously!), she seems less a burgeoning pop goddess and more an answer to a trivia question in fifteen years. This album feels real and feels different. I know it is tough to actually quantify that, but the difference between friendly, single serving, throw away pop sensations and Trouble Lights is startling. Even with all of its amazing beats and danceable mixes and hypnotic vocals, sometimes all I can see is dollar signs. While this is one of my favorite albums this year to listen to, it is truly a rare breed where I somehow stare beyond the artistic merit of the album and just say, “Yeah, this is going to be huge,” and start to wonder about the impact on the industry as a whole. I thought it from the first time I heard them back in the spring, I’ve thought it with each live show I’ve seen and I thought it as I listened to the finished product. Each step they take, they seem to re-affirm that thought. Sometimes you just know when something is special. It is a feeling rather than a precise breakdown of the notes and beats and lyrics. And this, this is special.

Hey, Let’s Talk About Why I Ain’t Talking About Music For a Second And When I Plan On Talking About Music Again

Hey, it’s my kiddo’s 3rd birthday today. (Pic by the incredible Jami Graves and taken with her cellphone because she is awesome and does cool shit like that.)

So, yeah. My hiatus went on a little longer than I expected. After getting settled from my move and waiting for my Wi-Fi, I got roughly a whole day of uninterrupted internet goodness, which I decided to use on Fantasy Football and Netflix and pictures of cats and not on writing. Less than 24 hours later, my computer thought it would be just the greatest peachiest keen idea in the whole gosh darned world to allow its motherboard to fail. I assume that computers have enough AI to do shit like this on purpose. I have been lead to believe, thanks to the good people at Pixar, that my inanimate objects are sentient beings capable of their own thoughts and actions. My computer, just happens to be a computer anthropomorphized into a complete dick. Like, my Gateway laptop went “Yo. Fuck this guy. Hey, TV antenna (who I assume is the computer’s best friend), watch this!” and then electronically jumped off a bridge, holding up a middle finger the entire time before it crashed into a virtual bay. I know that my old computer did this on purpose. Just violently and angrily failed just to spite me. It wasn’t so much that the motherboard failed, it spent a couple of days tricking me into thinking that it would work. Fun stuff, like popping up a dialogue box that told me that simply my battery was wearing out and working well enough to start a draft on some stuff (yeah, sometimes I have drafts, it ain’t all just stream of conscious and stick figure pictures all of the time) then just shutting the hell off out of nowhere. So, yeah, it was almost like it received a ton of CPR and would slightly resuscitate and then called it a life and died. There may be a Viking funeral, mostly so I can set it on fire.

I, however, refused to accept there was anything wrong. I was only on the denial stage of grief, so I figured I could just get it fixed, and for cheap, too. Stupid computer un-savvy me waltzed into Best Buy, with ol’ Gateway’s corpse in my backpack, and told them I needed a new battery at which point they looked at my computer, heard the symptoms and then punched me directly in the stomach and threw salt into my eyes. My computer, which I paid $415 for, needed $670 worth of repairs. How do you fathom that shit? It doesn’t even have $670 worth of parts and labor in it, right? So, yeah, I figured new computer was necessary, but I am poor, so I can’t just point at a new device and write a check like I’m a damned Rockefeller. So I knew what my next step was credit. I was awesomely informed that I couldn’t get financing because, of course, I had lived in my new place for less than 30 days. Oh, and also, my credit score is higher than my IQ, but just barely. According to one report, it is actually less. Oh, and then, my cat peed on our couch and now we have a shower curtain covering it until we can get it cleaned, which is unrelated, but also sucks. What an exciting time I live in.

So, anyway, long story short I got some help from my mother and step-father (which isn’t embarrassing at all; being 32 and having to turn to mommy), got a sweet ass new Windows 8 computer (it’s a Toshiba, so you know its good) and now I am back. How back? How’s about every freaking day*, that’s how back I am.

*For the next four days.

I have a slight back log of albums I want to review so I will probably do a review a day for the next week. How lucky are you? Eh, lucky enough, I suppose. If there is anyone who still wants to read what I have to say after so much delay. But yeah, barring some sort of stupid spite filled outburst from my new friend Toshiba, this blog will be back on the reg. I might also have some previews and maybe some other stuff. But for sure a review a day, starting Tuesday afternoon.