Monday, October 30, 2006

Most dangerous my ass!

Hey kids!

I am happy to report that Richmond is no longer in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the U.S. And we almost made it out of the top 15! And we're not even the highest Richmond on the list. Richmond, CA pulls in at #11. Take that you hippies!!

More on the new Shins album.
Brad, I am convinced that you did indeed get a different copy of the album than I did, because I can't see how you don't think this thing is the shit. Granted, there was no way they were gonna make a better pop album than Chutes Too Narrow. That album stands as one of the crowning achievements in music over the past ten years. It is impeccable.
Wincing the Night Away, however, is lush, adventurous, playful, and genuine. It is just different enough from the first two albums to matter and just similar enough to invite you in. So now, indulge me my readers, for I am going to make the case for the album. If you're not Brad I give you permission to skip this section.

1. "Sleeping Lessons" - As cool of an opening track as one could ask for (sorry about the preposition ender, but I'm feeling gramatically lazy today). Granted, it has a lot of production sheen on top of it, but it works with the song. It's a gradual builder, and they never compromise the pace of the song for the sake of the production. The vocals get a little lost during the climax of the song, but it kind of adds something to the song. It makes you work to understand the lyrics.
2. "Australia" - As strong a song as I've heard from The Shins, or any band for that matter. It reminds me of "Saint Simon," which I thought was the best track off of Chutes. The production is fantastic, the banjo is inspired, and James Mercer's vocal performance is perfect.
3. "Pam Berry" - Terrible and unnecessary. F.
4. "Phantom Limb" - Much more reminiscent of the first album, with its meandering vocals and understated guitar. It's nice and lilting, a great way to recover after Pam Berry. And you can't fuck with that "Whoa-oh" bridge.
5. "Sea Legs" - Starts off great with a nice, percussive guitar line. And then the flutey synth comes in. I'm in heaven. What's not to love? It loses itself towards the end but doesn't drop the ball completely. The synth canoodling does get a bit tiresome though.
6. "Red Rabbits" - "The Past and Pending," Part II. Not the best track on the album, but certainly up to snuff. Typically introspective yet mysterious lyrics. Easy pacing. Xylophones. Yup, it's a Shins song.
7. "Turn on Me" - Not to be confused with "Take On Me". This is a great song, very reminiscent of "Mine's Not a High Horse". Tight, rollicking, and catchy as hell.
8. "Black Wave" - Boring and unnecessary. A little hiccup in the flow.
9. "Split Needles" - My vote for best track on the album. Perfect interplay between guitar and keyboards. Wonderful vocal performance. Tight rhythm section. The "Pink Bullets" of this album.
10. "Girl Sailor" - A good, middle-of-the-road track. Nice way to segue between the two stronger tracks on either side of it without being showy about it.
11. "A Comet Appears" - Simply beautiful. If you doubted the presence of melody, this song's got enough for an entire album.

So that's my analysis. It does have a couple of weak tracks, but overall it's an outstandingly strong album for a group that had to follow Chutes Too Narrow. Well done.

And now, the first in a line of advertising slogans using the names of my readers that I will post in the coming days. If I have left you out, let me know!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

New Shins album

I found the new Shins album on the Interweb.

Despite the opinion of my good friend Brad, I am thoroughly enjoying it. The second track, Australia, is one of their best songs yet, and the rest of the album is sonically adventurous without being pretentious or losing their impecable sense of melody. Its arrival in all of your record collections should be imminent.

In other news, I carved a pumpkin tonight. The one on the left is mine, and I think it looks more sinister than Becca's. Although hers is more technically superior. She is a designer, after all. And hers is making a noise. He goes, "AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH." Or so she says.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The name of my blog

Just wanted to clarify for everyone what my blog name means.

The Gowanus Expressway runs through Brooklyn and into Long Island.

The traffic reports in NYC always refer to the "Inbound Gowanus" and the "Outbound Gowanus".

I always thought this was funny.

And it expresses my desire to get back to New York City soon.

I post this because my aunt looked at my blog address last night.

She only saw the words "inbound", "go", and "anus".

I don't think anyone else has made this mistake.

But just wanted to clear that up. Yeah.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Failure is a good thing

From NPR's This I Believe. Written by Jon Carroll, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Last week, my granddaughter started kindergarten, and, as is conventional, I wished her success. I was lying. What I actually wish for her is failure. I believe in the power of failure.

Success is boring. Success is proving that you can do something that you already know you can do, or doing something correctly the first time, which can often be a problematical victory. First-time success is usually a fluke. First-time failure, by contrast, is expected; it is the natural order of things.

Failure is how we learn. I have been told of an African phrase describing a good cook as "she who has broken many pots." If you've spent enough time in the kitchen to have broken a lot of pots, probably you know a fair amount about cooking. I once had a late dinner with a group of chefs, and they spent time comparing knife wounds and burn scars. They knew how much credibility their failures gave them.

I earn my living by writing a daily newspaper column. Each week I am aware that one column is going to be the worst column of the week. I don't set out to write it; I try my best every day. Still, every week, one column is inferior to the others, sometimes spectacularly so.

I have learned to cherish that column. A successful column usually means that I am treading on familiar ground, going with the tricks that work, preaching to the choir or dressing up popular sentiments in fancy words. Often in my inferior columns, I am trying to pull off something I've never done before, something I'm not even sure can be done.

My younger daughter is a trapeze artist. She spent three years putting together an act. She did it successfully for years with the Cirque du Soleil. There was no reason for her to change the act -- but she did anyway. She said she was no longer learning anything new and she was bored; and if she was bored, there was no point in subjecting her body to all that stress. So she changed the act. She risked failure and profound public embarrassment in order to feed her soul. And if she can do that 15 feet in the air, we all should be able to do it.

My granddaughter is a perfectionist, probably too much of one. She will feel her failures, and I will want to comfort her. But I will also, I hope, remind her of what she learned, and how she can do whatever it is better next time. I probably won't tell her that failure is a good thing, because that's not a lesson you can learn when you're five. I hope I can tell her, though, that it's not the end of the world. Indeed, with luck, it is the beginning."

Monday, October 16, 2006

More posts!!

I know I've said this in the past, but I'm going to start posting more. I've been turned on recently to the power of blogs through several school projects, and I want to continue being a part of it. So all of you loyal readers, get on my ass if I don't live up to that promise.

-Here are the people I go to school with.

-Things I've been listening to recently:
The Thermals - The Body The Blood The Machine - This is a brilliant punk record, embodying everything that I love about punk and almost none of what I hate about punk. It's raw, real, and best listened to very loud. It's also incredibly literate, asking questions about faith, death, and America that are mind-blowing in their simplicity. Ultimately the album is about God and the relationships that people have with It. So it goes well with my own current fascination with all things religious.
Best track: Returning to the Fold
M.I.A. & Diplo - Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1 - My running album of choice. M.I.A. is making the most exciting hip-hop around nowadays. The only exciting hip-hop in my opinion.
Best track: Galangatron
Rogue Wave - Descended Like Vultures - Great melodic pop songs, much in the vein of Nada Surf. Good fall music.
Best track: Publish My Love
M. Ward - Post-War - An ambitious assessment of our cultural mentality as only M. Ward could do it. He's got such an engaging voice and songwriting style that you can really get lost in his albums. And if you get the chance to see him live, do it. You won't be disappointed.
Best track: Chinese Translation
Lucero - Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers - Great rock band from Memphis. They have really expanded their sound on this one, and while it lacks the immediacy and sheer passion of Tennessee, it's a good direction for them to go.
Best track: I Don't Wanna Be The One
Joanna Newsom - Ys - BEWARE: Ms. Newsom's music is an acquired taste. You will not like it at first. It does not reward you if you put it in the background. It does not reward you if you have set ideas of vocal beauty. But it is beautiful, profound stuff that makes you feel wonderful about being human.
Best track: Sawdust & Diamonds
Jason Collett - Idols of Exile - A sometime member of Broken Social Scene and one hell of a writer of sunny melodies, Collett is the real deal. I saw him open up for Rogue Wave last month, and he absolutely stole the show. If you like what's coming out of Canada these days, get this album.
Best track: Fire
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America - A lot of people get compared to Bruce Springsteen. Few deserve it. The Hold Steady is one of the few that does. They pick up right where Born to Run left off, telling tales of kids, drugs, and sex. Not as dynamic as Springsteen, but then who is?
Best track: First Night
The Decemberists - The Crane Wife - Wow. Definitely a giant leap forward. Kudos to them for having the balls to throw prog in the mix. More kudos for making it work as well as it does. They've never sounded tighter or more focused, and it makes for a cinematic and engaging album.
Best track: Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)

-Ted gave me some great pictures from Labor Day weekend. Here's a few to round off the post: