Monthly Archives: November 2011

November Soundtrack: Songs for monsters at the bottom of the ocean

Strindberg

When I was a little girl, we had a swimming pool. I was deathly afraid of being by myself in the water because I thought that there was some sea creature like a great white or an octopus or a crocodile lurking in the deep end, just waiting for everyone to leave so he could come up and eat my legs. It’s sounds silly but it was a very real fear that terrorized me. Now older, I realize that there are no monsters in swimming pools but if I do happen to find myself alone in one, my heart skips a beat and I quickly get out of the water.

On land, I’m not as much on my guard. I trust that I’m not going to encounter a shark when I turn a blind corner. Octopi under the bed don’t particularly spook me when I go to sleep. Color me optimistic, but I just don’t fear running into Moby Dick in the elevator.

But that’s exactly how it happens in water. When you think that you’ll just go and have a nice swim when seemingly out of know where,  a creature grabs a hold of you and you’re gone. If you did expect it, if you felt it coming, then it would be your own fault if it got you, right? Your fault for not running, for not getting out of the way, for getting into the water in the first place.

Yet, water is so inviting. As dangerous as it might be, you still get in, float on your back, let your weight dissolve. The water is so perfect that you let down your guard. You start having a good time, you splish and splash and play Marco Polo. You forget your fears. You go out farther, you dive in deeper and you don’t notice the creature right beneath your treading feet. It’s a stupid mistake.

A couple Tuesdays ago. I was with the man that I, with nothing but affection, call Narcissus. It was nice to see him on a Tuesday. We rarely saw each other during daylight, let alone weeknights. So, it was Tuesday and he was exhausted from work. Maybe that’s why he was too tired to play the game we’d been at for six months. He was suddenly accessible. We were tucked into this booth, drinking bourbon and it wasn’t as hard as it usually was. I let myself speak without measuring my words and he reached across the table to kiss me in the middle of a sentence. We were so close to one another, sharing whispers about nothing of particular importance and before the drinks were dry, he turned to me and said, let’s go home.

For just one moment, I thought that we could save each other. Narcissus would pull Echo out of her cave and Echo would pull Narcissus away from the lake. The curses would be broken.

Then, seemingly out of no where, there was a snap. I lost my legs and I was dragged down to the coldest and darkest place on earth. And I was alone down there. My Narcissus, gone and gotten himself out of the water.

It happened so fast, that I didn’t realize what I done until it was done. I said something stupid, then I repeated it. Twice. Then, I made worse. And then I made it even worse. I had felt so carefree, that I became careless; So victorious, that I became prideful; and then so desperate, that I became a degenerate. My ugly side came out, ran amok and fucked up everything.

It turns out, that this monster that I’ve feared for so long, is not some sea creature, but rather, something I’ve been hosting inside of me for God knows how long. Call it the accumulation of my bad habits. My own personal reservoir of cruelty. It’s that part of my nature that doesn’t play fair and  that is all but willing to take someone down with her just because she can.

I can hardly hold it against the man for lashing out at me. I mean, if a shark is coming after you, punch him in the nose. If someone is bringing you down, you cut yourself loose. React to monsters with a monster. Mine is haughty thoughtlessness. His is cold rage.

Our hearts never had a chance, did they?

I knew that this one was going to be dangerous. I was afraid the whole time, but took comfort in knowing that the end was inevitable, as much as I didn’t want it to be. I was always watching out for it, sure that some siren would appear and enchant him away from me. I was prepared for that. I never considered that it would be my big stupid mouth and my desperate arrogance, that would bring us to past. I’m not so bad, of course. But I can be, and I have been, and I was, that night.

I’ve no conclusion right now. Still in the aftermath, feeling battered and bruised, trying to sleep it off on the cold lonely floor of ocean. I don’t quite feel capable of swimming to the surface, yet. I’m eyeballing this monster and trying to fend off my regrets. I’m so angry myself, that I can’t seem to make a move.

It’s difficult to iron out the fallacy in my thinking. I see myself confusing it all. Harboring memories of hurt and letting them becoming weapons that I use against people. Are we all so crushed by our own gravity and blinded by our vanity? I feel like people are all drifting farther and farther away from one another in the water. We trust that liar, that traitor, rattling his chains in our heads and we deny ourselves the one thing that might save us. People leave us and we act like sore losers. We act like victims. We seek forgetfulness as a cure. Apathy as a state of health.

I will eventually swim up out of this gloom, but I don’t want to forget and I don’t want to not care just so I can feel better. This is getting old and I don’t want to find myself here again.

And so, for the time being, as I cry myself to sleep at the bottom of the sea, these are songs that I’m listening to.

Soundtrack

1. Kurt Vile The Creature

2. DeVotchKa Transliterator

“The homemade weapons you are fashioning are hellbent on doing us both in”

3. U2 So Cruel

“She wears my love like a see-through dress”

4. REM – Half A World Away

5. PJ Harvey – In the Dark Places

6. Radiohead: A Wolf At the Door

7. Sleater-Kinney – One More Hour

8. The Drums: In the Cold

So this is awesome. The Drums don’t post on YouTube, so this video just has some random guy standing in the snow. Please make sure you don’t take your eyes off of him.

9. The Antlers: No Widows

10. Love and Rockets: Haunted When The Minutes Drag

“This is for when we’re feeling happy again.”

11. Future Islands: Give Us the Wind

“Don’t Bless Me”

12. Craig Armstrong & Blue Nile: Let’s Go Out Tonight

Hot Skeleton Action that Pierces At the Heart – “Mourir Aupres de Toi”

“Mourir Aupres de Toi” (To Die By Your Side) epitomizes all that is Skeletons on Escalators – rather all that is “Skeletons-on-Escalators-esque.” Spike Jones collaborated with fashion designer Olympia Le Tan and French filmmaker Simon Cahn to tell this hauntingly lovely allegory about life, death and the triumph of love. It took them six months to animate this masterpiece.

As said before, this is all that Skeletons On Escalators adores –  skeletons in love, old books in dusty bookstores, saucy brunette literary figures that make rude gestures, punching whales, chomping snakes, a dramatic silent movie film score, animated felt and little voices that tell the truth.  Not unlike Orpheus and Euphrates, our heroine is willing to face any danger to be with the man she loves, even the greatest fear of all.  This is all Skeletons on Escalators aspires to, the content of its dreams, the theme of its obsessions, the curse that it is happy to carry to the ends of the earth.

Go to Nowness, a much savvier blog than mine, that also has an interview with the geniuses that made this:

http://www.nowness.com/media/embedvideo?itemid=1640&issueid=1691

Spike Jonze: Mourir Auprès de Toi on Nowness.com.

BONUS TRACK: Stay tune through the credits. Not only will you see hot skeleton action as promised “Hump and Jump” written by Soko. “Even when we are dead, we still have bones to hump and jump.” Oh. So. True.

Dance the Monday Blues away: The Drums at Bowery Ballroom, 11.7.11

I saw The Drums at the Bowery Ballroom at the end of a very long Monday. Patrick Cleandenim opened. Here’s the rundown:

7:00 a.m. I wake up, though had not really slept. Narcissus is as far away as possible from me in my bed.

7:45 a.m. I’m drinking coffee in the kitchen when I hear him cough. I bring him a glass of water. He drinks it and tells me he doesn’t feel well.

8:00 a.m. We leave the apartment. I ask him some question on the way to the subway. He answers, “I don’t know.” We continue in silence until we part ways.

9:45 a.m. Something stupid happens at work that bothers me. A lot.

10:15 a.m. Narcissus sends me an email saying that he just can’t do this anymore. He feels it in his heart. He feels it in his guts.

3:30 p.m.  A meeting goes well. For the first time, in a long time, I don’t feel useless.

5:30 p.m. Finally write back to Narcissus. I tell him I love him, but that I’ll get over it.

6:30 p.m. Late to class. The teacher points out that I have a habit of rolling my eyes.

9:30 p.m. Arrive at the Bowery Ballroom. Drink it off.

So, there I was. The end of the day, at the end of my rope, and it was only Monday. I had to remind myself that this was just the beginning. Day 1 of many days that stretched out before me. This was opening ceremony.

While I’ve heard the exit music before, I feel that this time is the time to let it be over. It sucks and it hurts, but I’m almost glad. Good grief, some relief. No more of that sinking feeling every time I see him. Or don’t see him. Read the writing on the wall. Pack it up and go. Don’t send postcards.

What’s a girl like me to do now? No clue. But I’ll start by going to the show.

10:00 p.m. Patrick Cleandenim

Imagine that it’s a better time – 1969, maybe. Late July and Neil Armstrong has just walked on the moon. The world is a-flutter with excitement.

You’re on vacation. Somewhere warm like the Bahamas or Hawaii or Mexico. Fuck that live like the natives in a grass huts bullshit – you’re staying at a kitschy-glitzy resort that has buffets 24-hours a day. You spend the day on the sand reading magazines and at night, you go to the resort’s “social” to drink rainbow-colored tropical drinks with paper umbrellas and plastic sword skewered fruit. You’ve worn something flirty, showing a lot of skin. The music starts. It’s Patrick Cleandenim and his 12-piece band.

Cleandenim has a non-assuming presence on stage. There’s no ego out there, almost like he’s just been hired to sing and not the namesake of this act. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t command attention. He’s totally invested and interesting. Tambourine in hand, he’s kind of a cross between Cat Stevens and Michael Stipe; he shouldn’t be a rock-star but he is.

The tunes seem like long lost tracks that you discovered in your mother’s record collection in the attic. They inspire nostalgic of a time you probably weren’t alive to remember, but Cleandenim really does make his own sound out of the funky beats and the guitar riffs, the dizzy-jazzy piano and the smooth grooves. His band is tight – musicianship, at long last, and his lyrics are so light-hearted and sweet and genuine – “I want to dance with you.” Patrick Cleandenim equals lots of fun and made me miss summertime.

11:00 pm The Drums

The Drums. The Drums. The goddamn Drums! Jesus Christo, I was not expecting The Drums to be so good. But they were. They were fucking incredible.

I’ve said this a couple times – The more I listen to The Drums, the more I want to listen to The Drums. There’s something infectious about them. Their latest, Portamento, is just brilliant. It’s been twisting my heartstrings for quite some time now.

This was my first time seeing them live and no one ever told me about the weird and wonderful Jonathan Pierce. He’s Captain Captivating. Really can’t take your eyes off of him. And he’s got the best dance moves –like a happy-go-lucky Ian Curtis.

The show took off and never really stopped. No matter how tortuous and bleak their songs can be, The Drums made each one of them into pop – energized, playful, heart-racing pop. While I would have loved to hear “Searching for Heaven” or “In the Cold,” I didn’t really have much time to miss them. I was too busy dancing. As was everyone else – it was a great crowd.

Anyway, the upbeat stuff provides plenty of moments that strike the painfully deep cords within. It’s all about not understanding what happened and how hard someone is making it to love them, how you’d do anything for them in spite of that – Ah, bless. Listening to The Drums reminds us that we are all under the same curse.

Sharp ending to this one. But, I suppose, endings can be like that.

List-o-mania!!!! Top 5 Radiohead Albums

A quick, off-the-cuff response for Luke Lewis. His list is fantastic-o. You can read it here:

http://www.nme.com/blog/index.php?blog=10&title=radiohead_rank_the_albums&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

Here are my favorite Radiohead albums and why:

Let’s go backwards, shall we….
05. Hail to the Thief: Not the most sentimental of Radiohead’s oeuvre, but definitely the most twisted and mind-f*cked. Personal Favorite – the dizzy “A Wolf At the Door.”
04. The Bends: You always remember your first time and this was my first time with Radiohead. I hated “Creep.” All the boys who treated me so badly when I was a teenager loved this song. It was their anthem, their excuse for being “creepy.” Very akin to the way people justify being a downer by celebrating Holden Caulfield. So I never really paid attention to Pablo Honey. The Bends, however…I was crushed out. It was all about “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees.” Years later, my Apollo would sing “Black Star” to me while we were sitting in traffic and I’d fall in love him all over again.


03. OK Computer: I think I’ve had sex to this album more then any other Radiohead albums. There’s reason enough to love it. Plus, “Let Down.” Jesus Christo, that song is dolce.

02. Kid A: This album has great stories. Take the title track, Kid A. It could easily be the tune the Pied Piper is humming under his breath, that he seduces the children with after all the adults refuse to pay his fee. The message, crystallized and sad – when you grow up, the child within disappears into the cave. If it doesn’t disappear, it’s left behind, crippled. Also, Idioteque is KILLER – any song that has the word “scaremongering” in it has my vote.

01.  In Rainbows: Was anyone in the world prepared for how good this album was? Didn’t it come out of no where? And remember how it was for free? In Rainbows affected me in way I never really imaged. It hit a cord, put the needle to the vein. It is dangerously intimate and yet so beautifully universal. I downloaded it for 5 pounds the first day it was available and it’s nibbled on my soul ever since. Weird Fishes and Videotape still have the power to stop me in my tracks and make me want to cry.

BONUS: And I’d just like to quickly do a shout out to Eraser – now, it isn’t Radiohead, but it’s close enough. Atoms for Peace is terribly yummy – “Peel all your layers off, I want to eat your artichoke heart.”

Chillingly beautiful Zambri – Glasslands, 11.3.11

Zambri at Glasslands in Brooklyn 11.3.11

Honestly, I was going to leave.

I’ve been trying to see Autre Ne Veut for a while now. I missed the show at Cameo last month because I was a loser. Tonight, I showed up late. Loser, yet again. We’ll have our day, Autre Ne Veut. I’ll pull it together. Someday. Just you wait.

I’m not sure what compelled me to stay, though I do love Glasslands. It’s one of my favorite places to see shows. For a small venue, it’s got a lot of space and the drinks are at a good price point. There’s usually a good crowd, but it never seems cluster fucked and, of course, there’s that cloud installation, billowing and frozen above the stage. One one hand, it’s whimsical. On the other, it’s kind of groody, like it’s been there too long and is full of dust and mites, once organic but now slowly decaying. It fits the place.

Zambri also fits the place. Chilling and beautiful. Airy and earthy. Goth and Disco, so you can shadow dance and shake your ass. I instantly liked them because they were all in black (except for a pair of red sneakers) and weird. You know, they started up with playing these strange, unidentifiable, cacophonous  sounds and dancing to them with absolute commitment. It was fun to watch, but I wouldn’t have all night.

And then, all of a sudden, there was a really good groove and these voices that gave me spine chills. I was wide awake and I wasn’t leaving.

Cristi Jo & Jessica Zambri (sisters) know how to throw down. I don’t know who’s who. They intertwine their voices – sometimes singing into two microphones fused together, lots of echos. There’s random moments of high-pitched screams and then, all experiments are put aside and it’s just lovely gold and honey harmony. The one with the red sneakers is intense. Dark and striking, she’s the honey, the deeper voice. The other, (I think it might be Jessica?), she’s got the golden lungs. It’s been a long time since I heard someone able to fly their voice that high.

They’re somewhere between sirens or banshees.  Otherworldly is a good word here. It isn’t only their voices. It’s the way they dance, flinging their hair in possession, frantically pressing buttons and twisting knobs. But when they do address the crowd, they are dolce. Absolute, bonafide dolce.  They are unpretentious and gracious, to my mad relief.

At first, I went where anyone who was fourteen in 1992 would go – Shakespeare’s Sister. ( I don’t care what anyone says – I will always love “Stay.”) However, Zambri have a lot going on. Yes, they definitely are Siouxsie Sioux-esque and Kate Bush-ish, which is a very high compliment from me. But I hate making comparisons like that. These two have their own sound which I can only describe at this late hour as a mixture of experiment and ceremony that you can dance to.

They’re releasing an EP on November 8th so look out for that. This song was my personal favorite tonight – From the Starts. It probably one of their more conventional songs, but was so beautiful tonight. What I’ve attached here doesn’t really do it justice. (It’s also just the song – no video)  In fact, none of their recorded tracks do them justice. They aren’t bad – it just isn’t the same as seeing them live. Last note – Zambri also draws a good crowd. People were freaking out over them tonight. I’m glad to join the club before it becomes a mob.

http://zambri.net/

http://kaninerecords.com/zambri

And for those of you who remember this song and love it, as well as those of you who are discovering it for the first time. Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister: