Monday, September 25, 2017

Simpsons reference?

John K. Samson has written some lonely songs, and while they all tend to dally with an existentialism-at-arms-length (he'd probably hate that), they do tend to typify his unique perspective, and rarely reflect the more common romantic tropes. This song is a miserable happy medium - my heart has been broken, so what does that make me?

I'd been thinking about his academia-oriented songs, when I heard this song mentioning an 'ampersand.' Knowing his knowledge of literature and his expertise with language, I looked up the lyrics, finding a story - and then, looking at the comments, I found an explanation.

"So, I'm the first one in again,
With the quiet and the window growing snow,
When I hear the furnace rouse itself
From its slumber, somehow suddenly I know,
As my eye stops on one curled up in my lesson plan
That I'm just your little ampersand.
When your voice springs from the intercom
With announcements, and reminders, and a prayer,
I remember how you made me feel,
I was funny, I was thoughtful, I was rare,
But like the jokes about my figure
Kids think that I don't understand
I know I'm just your little ampersand
After Christmas holiday
You never asked to drive me home again
Sometimes in the staff room I
Catch your eye with "why'd it have to end,"
But I know from how you worry at your wedding band
That I'm just your little ampersand
At the last conjunction after every other and
I was just your little ampersand"

From user HellionChild:
"When playing this live John said it's about an elementary school teacher who falls in love with her principal. After writing it he wondered what inspired him and then realized it was the Simpsons. Edna Crabapple and Principal Skinner. Only this is set in small-town Manitoba, Canada."

Monday, August 28, 2017

New old favorites? Old new favorites?

Mid-'90s "hardcore" (read: "rock") band Painted Thin has recently become one of my new old favorites.  At times sounding like the pop-punk bands that defined the Fat Wreck scene, and other times sounding like the early '00s Promise Ring set*, these guys had a couple of pretty solid, peppy albums.  And by the way, do you like The Weakerthans?  This band had most of them.  Whoa!

There's nothing fancy or mind-blowing here, but man, "I Hold My Breath" (track 4) and "These Unremarkable First Ten Years of Life" (track 7) are such sweet '90s boil-overs.  Really, the middle of this album, say tracks 4 to 8 or so, are just one great song after another.  Short, under-produced, crackle-voiced and off-key, super-emotive exploratory pop songs for the 35 year-old nostalgia set.  Just hook it to my fuckin' veins!

This band is a good personal reminder of why I never delete music.  I've had one of their albums on my computer for, what, 10 years?  Never really gave it much of a thought until a shuffle adventure brought them to my attention.  Now I can't get enough.  Nicely timed after a nostalgic Weakerthans love affair some months ago, too.

*So what if my knowledge of music pretty much covers only the outcasts of the 1994-2003 era?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


It was always really hard picking out ringtones.  Remember?  Back in, like, 2005, when the technology finally arrived to PUT A SONG ON YOUR PHONE, it was the most amazing thing.  Hipster nerds like me suffered existentially about what type of person we wanted to project ourselves to be.  I was nervous about putting the cool indie song, because I didn't want to be seen as trying too hard.

Cut to maybe 8 or 9 years ago, when I settled on two songs that I've used ever since.  I switch between them when I need something new.

The first is the Jon Brion track 'Phone Call' from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack/score.  I like to tell myself there's something Kaufmann-esque about using this track as the sound my phone makes when it rings.  It's not, but it's a thought that validates my belief that I, you know, "get" Charlie Kaufmann's movies.  I don't.  Nobody does.  He's better than us.  Nevertheless, this is the perfect track - it's filled with doubt and phone angst, but love.  Complicated emotions happen every time my phone rings, so why not illustrate that with a song reminder of that complicated emotions movie?  That crackle of nostalgia, that anxiety coming from each repetition, the warmth tying it all together?  Ok, phone company, I'll pay my bill.  <3 p="">

The second is 'Ceremony' by New Order, likely the last new Joy Division song before Ian Curtis died.  I knew this really well as a kid, in that somewhat truncated form on the 'Still' album, but didn't know until I was much older that New Order had formally recorded it.  It's, I don't know, a touching song?  Also filled with complex emotions, but there's a strength - a diving-in quality that's just lovely, given my phone angst.  'Fuck it, I'll just answer it,' I'll say.  Thanks, Ian?

I think these are both really solid picks for a fragile hipster douche like myself.  I hope strangers think I'm cool.

I mean, I would hope that, but usually I have my phone on vibrate.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Don't try to understand

Since moving to Seattle, I haven't really done the whole "Seattle music" scene.  What can I say?  I've been busy.  I'm an adult person and a grad student - and going to shows is a pain in the ass in this city.

We've seen the "Sound Garden" and the "Black Hole Sun" and Kurt Cobain's house and childhood home, and we lived about a long block from Layne Staley's place of death, but I haven't really invested in exploring the actual music that Seattle was known for.

Now that I'm (hopefully) a year out from leaving Seattle, it's starting to creep up a bit.  After this year, I'll have lived in Seattle longer than any other place I've ever lived.  That's nuts, right?  Only 6 years?

Jesus, where the hell am I even from?

The internet, clearly.

Anyway, in my thinking about Seattle music, I recalled the 'Home Alive' compilation from the mid-90s.  The compilation (and self-defense organization) came about after the rape and murder of Mia Zapata, singer of the (awesome) band the Gits.

After rediscovering this comp, I listened to this song and was instantly taken back to 1995.  I was 14, liked the catchier grunge songs and was on the verge of sinking deeply into a flannel-wrapped depression cocoon, only to emerge as a punk rock butterfly a year later.  I listened to a lot of music like this - we all remember Soul Asylum, right?

Although I'd remembered this song really well, I'd never listened to more from the band.  But now that I'm predicting future nostalgic feelings about Seattle, I need a soundtrack for them.  What better way than by digging back into the kind of sounds that I loved when I was 14?  Come to find out that this band was pretty solid.  I mean, I get why they're not famous, but it certainly sounds like a bunch of mid-90s indie film soundtracks.

It's so solidly early 90s, capturing everything great about that era.  I love it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What up?

I haven't posted in nearly 5 months.  Bigger things?

 - Politics has consumed my life.  Morning, noon, and night.
 - Moving is awful and I have a very angry story to tell about a shitty Seattle landlord douchebag motherfucker goddamn.  He took our home from us like some kind of 1950s Jimmy Stewart movie villain.  Who grows up to be that guy?
 - The new At the Drive-In is kinda balls, but also nostalgic.  Conflicted.
 - Jawbreaker is reuniting?  And I'm poor?  Man, rough year here in purgatory.
 - Getting prepared to dissertate for the next year, go on the job market, become some sort of academic elite like the TV keeps warning you about.
 - Working on multiple childhood trauma papers.  Light fare.
 - Might be teaching a poverty class in the fall?  Nice change from teaching research methods.
 - It's June and it's raining.  C'mon Seattle, get with the summer program.
 - Need working music suggestions.  I've run through my catalogue.  Usually prefer subtle, light... Cliff Martinez, Dixie Dirt, Six Parts Seven, or gentle songwriters... Malcolm Middleton, Eric Bachmann, Jason Molina.  I'd say Bon Iver but that new one is an acid trip on mushrooms.

 - I've been kind of obsessed with this John K. Samson song:

Friday, January 27, 2017


After this trainwreck of a week, thought I'd look back to the march last Saturday.  Multiple times I had to hold back tears, seeing men and women of all ages and backgrounds united in support of one another.  Durkheim had a phrase for this: "collective effervescence."  Yeah, it was almost spiritual - and it represented the best of humanity.  We are our best when we unite to support one another.

While I'll participate in as many of these as possible, please also consider all the marches that we should have, but won't.  Don't forget your many diverse neighbors who may need reassurance.

For now, I'm going to let the powerful feelings of unity from last week continue to propel me forward.  Go out and do good work, people.

March in Seattle, 2017/01/21

*For the record, I went to protest Milo Yiannopolous at UW.  Feelings of unity, not so much.  Someone took a bullet.  Hard to paint a pretty picture about that.