Archive for February, 2012

Mixtape #2 – 29

Click here for the previous installment.

February is a month that usually rocks. For the bands that are willing to brave the cold and come play to us, it’s always a great time to get out and see some music. The shows start to fill up a little bit more, so much so that the coat check is very much appreciated. Summer is so fun, but there’s so much competition between the outdoors, travel, lakes, all that. In the dead of winter, it’s never too hard to convince people to head indoors where the only thing that’s cold is the drinks and enjoy some good live music. It’s no March or April, but we’ll get there when we get there. It’s the last month for a while where that’s not the case. April has so many great shows, but also, the start of baseball season, for one. Conveniently, the Entry is mere blocks from Target Field, and if you’re like me, you may hit up a game and follow it up with a show (and bike home). But that, that is still a few months away.

It’s also a time when bands are really starting to get their new songs and new releases out there. Everyone’s gotta have something to sell on that tour before or after SXSW, so it seems like everyone’s got a 7″ or a tape, a preview or a stop gap in some cases, and many bands are finally getting those full-lengths out there for you to hear. And there’s still a little time to check out the best stuff from last year in person or on record, but not much. The onslaught is coming. Boy Friend is currently the band that’s mostly taken over my turntable, and I’ll get to find out if it’s all what it stacks up to be tomorrow. Meanwhile, big ups to the fine people at Hell Yes! for the wonderful record deal for Egyptian Wrinkle, including (sadly, can’t find it online) a stellar cover of “Careless Whisper” by Wham. But that, that is March, and it’s not quite here yet.

In the meantime, here’s some of my favorite tracks that have started to hit the web, or just some damn fine music from some bands I’ve seen in the past few weeks. Or in a couple cases, a couple older songs that have just resonated with me recently. There were a lot of great shows in February like Heartless Bastards, Veronica Falls, YACHT. But you can say that about most months. As to the mix itself, it wouldn’t be a good mix without a little Moon Glyph representation, this time in the form of FWY! (if you like that song, check out more at their music here). It’s a bit of a strange mix, with a jumble of possible sleepers until the summer on the front end and songs that definitely remind me of winter at the back end. But it’s a strange month, with its brevity every year and its extra day periodically. There were way too many things to include this month, some that I couldn’t track down in time in a digital format or that I just plain forgot. But that’s what next month’s for. So take a bit of a look back, a bit of a look forward, and get ready for March. It opens with 4 shows in 4 nights for me and it ends with a sold-out Cloud Nothings show in DC. Hope you have something fun planned too.

FWY! – Marina Del Ray 6PM
Superhumanoids – Geri
YACHT – Utopia
Veronica Falls – Come On Over
Bleached – Searching Through The Past
Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless
Wild Nothing – Wait
Boy Friend – The False Cross
Beach Fossils – Shallow
Tiger Waves – I Hope You’ll Feel Alright
Dreamers Of The Ghetto – Connection
Heartless Bastards – The Mountain
Cate Le Bon – Disappear
Birds Of Passage – Away With The Night
Russell M Harmon – Tragedy Fractures
The Dirtbombs – La Fin Du Monde

How Completely Wrong You Can Be

Suggested listening:
Losing Haringey by The Clientele (and the lyrics too)
The Past Is A Grotesque Animal by Of Montreal (well, most of the song anyway)

Last night, as I was walking from one gathering to another, I had occasion to do something that I had not done in years. I walked through the majority of Uptown. Especially the end of Uptown I was on (22nd and Hennepin to 29th and Aldrich). On the way, I walked by two of my former residences. I also managed to walk by or pop my head in a number of institutions that I just don’t see much of anymore, from the windowless glory of Liquor Lyle’s (which I actually had a drink in) to the CC, and as I walked, I thought longingly to the time that I lived walking distance from those institutions and so many others. Not that I still don’t live in an urban area. I can still walk to a number of bars, restaurants, entertainment establishments, museums, etc. living in downtown Saint Paul. But my association with them is totally different. Not that I won’t have the same feeling should I some day leave Saint Paul. It’s the same feeling that I have at times in Ames, though I never really strongly developed it in Virginia. It’s nostalgia. And it’s fucking dangerous.

It’s in the nature of most of us to have fits where we long for simpler times. Times when we had less responsibility. Times when we lived our lives ways that we either no longer can afford to (due to numerous factors). It’s convenient and easy to forget that we stop living those ways because of other choices we make (marriage, kids, those are big examples, but getting a better-paying job or moving for different amenities or just not wanting to live that way anymore). For me, specifically, I was captured in a period just over 5 years ago. I lived in a sweet up and down duplex at 27th and Aldrich. I could walk out my back door to the Sunny Side Up Cafe. The CC was two blocks away, and if I pushed it straight west, I could be at a lake in about 10 blocks. I had finally gotten my first real job (albeit as a temp) and was actually starting to make money. There were a lot of great things about that time, and that residence. Someone was even having a party in it, which made me think of the Minnesota birthday (which is why I own my Bemidji shirt) and the Tetris tournament that the cops broke up (not because of the Tetris, because of Kelly Clarkson).

Those moments are also tied to people, though. In many cases, people I don’t speak with anymore. Because while all of the above was true and there were some great points, there were also some low points. I have several friends that I no longer speak with, and those relationships, particularly with my roommate, were disintegrating. I was in a band that I was in the process of being kicked out of. I had a rather messy relationship with an ex that took another year to truly work out. 5 years ago, I was having some of the last beers, dinners and shows that I would enjoy with some people, though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. With so many others, I was finally at a point where I was willing to let people in and tell them what was going on in my personal life. I was full of excitement, but also a lot of fear and trepidation as I was finally trying to lay the groundwork for transitioning.

It’s problematic to try and remember events and times accurately, though. Not that we don’t try as individuals. We write, take pictures, take videos, and constantly retell our tales. But no matter how perfect the medium, we just can’t capture everything about that moment. I’m sure all of us can hold onto a few moments in our lives with perfect clarity, but it’s still individual interpretations of events, and that’s all mutable. Things we do by ourselves, we can choose to remember them how we want to, even if we aren’t trying. And things we do with others, well, there’s just that many other interpretations of those events. Nostalgia is, of course, the positive remembrance of those times, places, activities. We just as easily hold onto the negative remembrance, too. We avoid places, people, activities because of those negative associates, won’t go back to those restaurants because that’s where we broke up with someone or we just simply had a bad experience. But it’s a rare and difficult to hold onto a holistic view of the events in our past.

Last night I was particularly caught up in the positive side, remember great conversations and foosball in disrepair on that 2nd level porch, shared beers where we talked about how huge and great our band would be, picking up people at the bars of Uptown. It feels a lot better than dwelling on the isolation of good friends in response to my transition, of shitty roommates who didn’t necessarily care about what I as going through, or of dwelling on how shitty a roommate I was in just the same regard. One can quickly become maudlin, and I’d already had a few drinks, it’s always a danger. It’s certainly convenient to think of the good times when I want a positive high or dwell on the bad ones when I feel like beating myself up. And when I’m in the presence of all those locations that define my past, it’s especially easy. But I wasn’t walking through five years ago. I was walking through last night. The Sunny Side Up is closed, someone else lives at that up and down duplex, and I was in Uptown splitting my time between two gatherings that mostly featured people that I hadn’t even met 5 years prior. Good people, good friends. I was in the process of potentially having an evening that in 5 years I would be in danger of remembering just as nostalgically.

And that’s it. As I walked with an international welcoming fruit tucked under one arm, I was not moving through the past. I was moving through the present thinking of the past. But I got in my car, I put down my pineapple, and I took a couple deep breaths. That time is not coming back, and I don’t want it to, really. I had a party to get to, I had new people to meet, including a long discussion of music with this guy (seriously, robot instruments!); I had people to catch up with friends that I only see once every few months, because I’m an adult, and that’s how adult living goes sometimes (or most of the time when we’re being honest with ourselves). All after playing bingo and meeting people in the presence of good food and good drinks. Last night certainly wasn’t about making plans for the future (though you never know what can come out of a good day) any more than it was about remembering the past. I took a couple seconds to pull myself together and I started the engine. Because I had someplace ahead of me to get to.

Why Your Life Is A Lot Like The Weather

Life is all about making the best decisions with incomplete information (some day I’ll talk about how poker helped me with this, but that’s for another time). There are so many things we can never know with certainty, the greatest among them being what would happen if we took the other path. There’s a reason that’s a popular contemplative idea, from the simple and frequently misunderstood elegance of “The Road Not Taken” to the importance of minutiae in Sliding Doors. Frequently paired with that concept, we see the importance of those decisions and actions in the past, whether it’s saving a nurse or your father (seriously, alternate history has a strong bias that people who should do have to die) or just something as simple as missing the train like Helen did. Maybe it’s just how we make sense of all of it or justify the decisions that we made or the things that happened in our lives.

Even in our own lives, it is much easier to look back in retrospect and ascribe importance to events so simple as deciding to walk down 6th instead of 5th or missing the bus we normally take or deciding to interject in a conversation with a stranger who will later become a best friend or a spouse. The thing about that bias, though, is that we are making those kinds of decisions all the time. Whether to respond to a stranger when they say something at a bar or a show, whether to initiate that conversation, what drink to order, which line to stand in. And of course all those things make a big difference. Maybe we don’t get caught up in the small decisions as much because they feel small (even though they can be just as important in retrospect), but we do tend to get caught up in the big decisions. College, marriage, homes, jobs, those sorts of things. Or maybe we don’t want to think that there’s basically equal weight to a lot of the things that go on in our lives (that is to say, not much) and that some decisions tend to rise above in our own minds.

I used to be the kind of person who got caught up in all of those branches. Not to say that one shouldn’t plan, but I liked to look too many moves ahead. This was especially paralyzing just prior to transitioning as I spent far too much time forecasting how it would go when I told certain people I was transitioning and what effect that would have on my life. I was doing all of that because I was trying to maintain some modicum of control over what might happen. The more possibilities I explored, the more I could think about how to best structure what I was going to say or do to minimize outcomes that I did not want. Not to say that we as individuals shouldn’t be mindful of the impact of what we say or do to each other, but it can rather quickly become a mindtrap. I wanted so bad for everything to work out perfectly when I told someone what was happening with me. And I quickly learned that it’s impossible. You can guess what impact the things you say and do might have on others, but you just can’t truly predict it.

I am thinking about this all again because I stand at a point where there’s a lot of big decisions. The paths just keep splitting and splitting and in some cases overlapping. Professionally, I’m trying to figure out what my next job is. Is that within Wells or not? In the Twin Cities or not? Because that affects whether I rent or buy. And what I do with my money. I just got this First Avenue membership, so do I really want to leave here? What about all the other sunk costs that are secretly sitting around my apartment and elsewhere in the Twin Cities? And I have quite a life here, and a lot of friends. But going too far down those branching paths is no way to live. That isn’t to say that when I see a job posting in a place like Billings or Portland I don’t spend a few minutes learning a bit more about the city, from the amenities to the potential cost of rent. It’s just not getting caught up in it. It’s worth taking a look of course, but it’s not like I have a place to live picked out in a city just if I move there.

We have to make informed decisions, but we are always, as I stated at the start, working with incomplete information. There’s just no one way to now the outcome of the decisions we make in totality other than looking back and seeing what happened. But we can’t use that to extrapolate what would have happened had we decided the other way because we lack the definiteness gained from having lived through something. And that isn’t even getting into the fact that the next opportunity might not have even occurred had we decided to turn left instead of going right. It’s all just a lot of guess-work. And in that way, we are all like weather forecasters. They run tons of models to try and give us an accurate idea of what the temperature will be, what the precipitation will be like, and we use that to try and figure out whether to grab a coat, an umbrella, or sometimes in some cases whether to take the day off. But no matter how many models they run, at the end of it all, the moment you step out the door, it’s a life of possibilities. And what weather you encounter? Well, you will just find out.

I have no offers on the table currently. I am not trying to decide whether I want to spend a few years in Billings in anything more than the abstract, any more than I’m trying to decide if I want to stay here for the next few. I’m thinking about both just a little bit, but not too much. Because right now, both are possibilities, but right now I just don’t know. I’ll figure it out as I get there. What I decide is the important factor in a year or two may not seem in any way significant right now. I just have to be flexible and open to all the potential wonderful branches that life has to offer. They are all opportunities; we all have to take risks sometimes. Moving to Billings would be more of one than staying right where I am, at least from a simple surface look. It certainly feels that way when contemplating moving someplace where you have no roots. But I doubt if it logically is any more of a risk. And like I said, there’s just no reason to worry yet. I still have to wait to see what the respective hiring managers out there think of my resume. I think I’m qualified and I certainly know I’m ready to take on whatever challenges await, irrelevant of what I decide. And there’s not much more I can do but what for them to come up. And maybe do a touch of Googling.

Take A Chance On…

And so it begins in earnest. Not that I’ve exactly been sitting on my hands, but most of the shows that I saw so far this year were shows I was curious about, but not adamant on seeing (with the exception of Jeff Mangum). And there were a lot of local bands. Not to say local music is bad, we have a great scene here. It’s just easy to say to yourself, oh, I’ll catch Buffalo Moon the next time they play when you have a pretty good shot of there being a next time. That sort of procrastination is a topic for another time. For now, as itineraries fill out, my schedule starts to fill up with bands where the next time could be a year or two, or it could be never at all. See, half the reason to go see a band is because the unique nature of what makes band makes music also frequently destroys them. It’s those tensions, the pushing and pulling, the crazy life events, all those sorts of things that produces a lot of that good music. Bands could break up under that pressure. Or some members could acquiesce and that tension could seep out. Or they could just plain be out of good music, only having had one great work in them in that iteration. Really, there’s a lot of ways it can go, but mostly, it’s safe to say that most artists that produce good to great recorded music year after year are exceptions instead of rules. As music fans, this gives us constant fodder, endless debates about what magic combinations make things best on record, and on stage. Can a band even pull of those songs live? You never quite know what you are going to see. It’s the value of the unique experience, where each show, even if the same setlist is used over and over, contains moments that are inherent only to that iteration. With that in mind, I want to take a little bit of time to highlight in more depth what’s coming up. Because a list doesn’t explain why I made the choices I made in an evening, especially when there’s 3-4 good shows in a single night like last Friday for example. With that in mind, here’s my can’t miss shows for the next month. See you there:

Poliça record release with Brute Heart in the Main Room – 02/14/12

Okay, so you probably won’t have any luck getting into this show unless you already have a ticket. This baby is sold-out. For a band that has yet to release a record yet, that’s fairly impressive. Certainly Channy’s previous band was well-loved (Roma Di Luna…though not by me) and she has a voice that just goes on and on and on, but if there’s a better band that’s an example of being in the right time or place this side of Howler, I don’t know who it is. Not every band debuts a video on Life + Times after all. Obviously we’ve all heard our share of Auto-tune, but it’s actually kind of nice to hear someone who can sing playing with that kind of vocal manipulation. Add to that the pummeling and percussive line-up of 2 drummers and a bassist, and you have a nice set up where the main melodic force is that voice, over the programmed backdrops and bass. It’s a show that’s best felt. So go feel something. Don’t sleep on Brute Heart, either. It’s definitely a show that’s worth showing up early for.

Lay Your Cards Out by Poliça
Blindfolded by Brute Heart

YACHT at the Entry – 02/16/12

A lot of parts Portland, a healthy dose of LA, and a dash of West Texas, YACHT is a study in contrasts. I’ll be curious to see if they maintain the black/white dichotomy in their mode of dress as they did the last two times I saw them. I say yes. One show was to a half-empty Triple Rock that they energized; the other was to a decent crowd at FYF Fest and they played each as if it was the most important show they were ever going to play. It’s just as much music as it is showmanship, with infectious songs full of slinky, danceable fun. And if you aren’t having fun and you aren’t moving, then you aren’t trying. Go shake your moneymaker with 200 other people at the Entry. It’ll be a hot, sweaty, glorious mess. Which I think is exactly what they are going for. If you can’t enjoy yourself at a show like this, I’m sorry.

Psychic City by YACHT
Dystopia by YACHT

Veronica Falls, Bleached, and Cate Le Bon at the Entry – 02/17/12

Veronica Falls are most definitely English. I’m not sure when they’re from, though. Riding in on the C86/Sarah revival wave, they’ve been pumping out good 7” releases since 2009, but they didn’t see a proper LP release until last year. What it showed was a more confident band who worked in stronger arrangements of already strong songs like “Found Love In A Graveyard” and “Beachy Head” that brought the vocals a little more forward. Back now for their first headlining tour, see what they’ve learned by touring our country. They just dropped a new tune they recorded on a boat on the Thames in freezing weather. If that doesn’t exemplify their Britishness, I don’t know what does. As for the openers, they’ve both dropped tunes and albums which are starting to generate a little bit of buzz in the music blogs. So it’s looking like another good night to get there early and say you saw them before they were even headlining the Entry like they will be next time.

Found Love In A Graveyard by Veronica Falls

Young Prisms with Boy Friend, Prissy Clerks at the Entry– 03/01/12

I’ve seen Young Prisms. They are only okay, so let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on one of my greatest musical crushes that never quite came to fruition. I envisioned a world where all three members of Sleep ∞ Over would continue to make great music forever that places like Altered Zones (rest in peace until Ad Hoc rises to take your mantle (go do your part now)) described as “Beach House recorded in a graveyard” if memory serves. Between the straight to tape quality of production, there was something greater, something waiting to be unearthed beneath the fuzz and that was the great voices, harmonies, and sweet arrangements. It all came together on the Outer Limits 7”, but then Sleep ∞ Over was no more, or rather, 2/3rds of it had moved on. I got the Sleep ∞ Over record last year, and it contains some good songs, but something was lost when the other two left. That something is the music of Boy Friend. I’ve picked sides, and that’s who I’m with. The newly christened, impossible to Google band is definitely the one. I pre-ordered their record. From Europe. And while you’re at it, make sure you show up in time for Prissy Clerks, another fine example of the great things that are happening right here in your own town (if you live here).

No Sir by Prissy Clerks

Memoryhouse with Food Pyramid, Phantom Vibration at the Turf – 03/03/12

Again, one of the more interesting things about the modern age is how plugged in any listener can be to the growth of a band prior to that first major release. We are judging bands based on essentially demo tapes (if such a concept still exists, it is called Soundcloud now) and that can go a long way. The underground sites are culling literally the very first thing that many of these bands produce. And you never really know how that’s going to go. I fell in love with Memoryhouse’s EP The Years well before it was rearranged for the Sub-Pop release, back when it was far more programmed and sequenced. Between the EP’s digital release and its later physical and digital reworking, those sequenced and programmed keys were replaced by things like grand piano and a lot more use of space, making it a little more haunting and beautiful. But the switch was still on, as slowly guitars were worked into the mix until we get to what we get to now, a fuller, more varied sound that can range from that still haunting and beautiful sparseness of their Suicide Squeeze 7″ (look, they’ve got a Bleached 7″…funny how that works) to a much more full-sounding mid-tempo rock. And don’t sleep on the opener. I’ll be talking about them more in the future, I’m sure, but Food Pyramid is an experience that everyone should have. I heard the first song they released of their new album, and it’s definitely more house-sounding than they were in the past. But show some love of my favorite local band. Good things are coming for them. If challenging electronic music is your thing, make sure you take the time to get there for them.

Lately by Memoryhouse

EMA at The Entry – 03/08/12

I didn’t do a year-end list. They’re a mugs game anyway. I agree with Mike Sniper (though I can’t find the precise interview right now) when he mentioned that what we think of as the most important record from a year will be totally different in 10-15 years and we probably haven’t even heard it now. A bit extreme, but the point taken is that our tastes and even views of a year change over time. While in one sense it’s nice to have a permanent record of what I thought was great at that exact time, it is also liable to change at any moment. But had I done one, Past Life Martyred Saints would have been on there. And I don’t see it changing any time soon. A South Dakota girl gone LA, she originally played in a sadly defunct band called Gowns. But that had run its course and she still had music to make. EMA is a vehicle for her, from long dirges and meditations on prairie life to the aggressive West Coast punk that more bands ought to do better but just don’t. Sadly, I was a little pre-occupied during the last show she was here for, even though I had a ticket, and it didn’t quite come together for me. But this time, I’ll be right up front. Certainly not a show for someone who doesn’t like an edge to their music. But that’s certainly not me.

California by EMA
Milkman by EMA

Grimes at The Entry – 03/13/12

Oh Canada. How you keep producing bands I love. For a nation of only 34 million or so, they certainly seem to produce a lot of talented individuals. Grimes sings pop. She has a pop voice. And she is waiting for a world that is ready to accept that pop. Maybe it’s too weird for most people, but I’m willing to accept that if enough people can come around on the whole Robyn phenomenon, there’s hope for Grimes. I first heard her on the excellent Darkbloom split that she did last year with d’Eon (may the 12″ 45 live forever) and was entranced by her vocals, specifically on “Vanessa”. And how quickly she has moved past that to amass an even-more pop focused song. 2012 is gonna be a big year for Grimes. And you should come find out why.

Vanessa by Grimes
Genesis by Grimes


One of my favorite parts of my favorite Brust novel (at least in the Taltos series, but probably overall, debate for another time) is a brief discussion between Vlad and Teldra about courtesy, its built-in nature in respect to language. I say please, you say thank you. Or danke and bitte. Continue ad nauseum. Language has reflexive reactions that are indicators and while the point of the discussion that Vlad and Teldra were having was a bit different, the overall conclusion is that the basis for learning is familiarity. And how to react appropriately in a variety of situations, and whether those reactions are right, or if not right, at least called for. Those sorts of things are the basis for courtesy unto itself. As individuals, many of us are taught of the courteous reactions to the myriad things we face in our day-to-day, from when and how we should hold a door to how we should greet customers should we be in a service position at some point in our lives. It is obvious that those mores change throughout time, even within our lives on many bases, but the institution of what is courteous and polite does not, at its base, change that much. There are agreed upon societal rules that state what is or is not appropriate given multifarious factors, and at least those of us that are well-groomed or trying to pretend take it upon ourselves to be aware of those rules. And in that regard, I feel disrespected by courtesy frequently.

English, for all of its peculiarities, is at least not a grammatically gendered language most of the time. Though there are words that men use almost exclusively, that women tend to avoid, that are the province of children, etc, discounting the jargon of various fields and trades. Think about it for a second in the context of the language you use with a child. While there may be gaps in understanding, there’s also simply an unspoken marker that codes a lot of words. You would never ask an adult if they have to go potty for example. At least not sincerely like you might with a child. And if you know what’s good for you, you don’t use a word like moist around women. Unless that’s what your going for. As you can see, with knowledge of the effects attributed to words, you can also use them to have opposite effects. And most of us, even if we’re not conscious of it, have that ability; all of us as native speakers, at least. And many non-native speakers strive to constantly master those sorts of enigmas built into the language.

Of course, there is a class of words that does have a built-in gender like a synthetic language. They may be innocuous to you, but pronouns are a tricky thing once you start slipping around the gender spectrum. And then there are classes of words that aren’t gendered in that sense, but are, like sir, ma’am, and so on. Many people probably don’t even consciously think about the use of those sorts of terms most of the time, but they nonetheless utilize them when speaking in an effort to be polite. In fact, by the number of times an average employee in a service position like a restaurant calls me sir, I’d say most people don’t think about them at all. When we ascribe things like pronouns and other inherently gendered words, we use clues. Modes of dress, styles of hair, voice pitch, general build, all those sorts of things are being unconsciously cataloged by all of our brains all the time, and we are using those things to make determinations about what would be appropriate in a given situation.

I have been pondering all this as I have been ebbing back into a phase where I am being far more corrective when incorrect pronouns or gendered words are used in regard to me. It never happens with my core friends anymore, but start meeting new people, and you’re bound to go through it. Unless you just pass flawlessly. But I don’t. I am perfectly comfortable with who I am, but I have no real control over how other people think of me or view me. And it’s obvious that I’m not coded as female in the minds of a lot of people I interact with. Or at least not enough. It’s obviously a complex subject, one that unfortunately has to be broken down one situation at a time over and over. I get that I’m throwing some odd gender markers at you occasionally, but you, for your part, also have to try. That’s the part I can’t teach and can’t really affect. But I’ve just reached one of those periods where I’m sick of it, where I’m willing to make myself an educator even when I don’t want to be, or where I know I’m just going to sleep better at night if I choose to say something.

See, and here’s the funny thing about it all. Pronouns, there’s not much of an inherent degree of politeness built into them, but when it comes to a word like sir, they are trying to be polite. Failing miserably, but trying nonetheless. And I’m not going to make every opportunity to say something into a lesson. But when you say sir to me 6 times in about 2 minutes when I’m there to get a burrito, yeah, you are going to get a brief lesson. And like Vlad, I hope that Teldra would also tell me that I know the proper way to act, when to react with a threat, when to bluff, when to get indignant, when to just take it. Because like Vlad, I’m slightly apart from the society in which I live, even if it’s all I know and I grew up in it. So sometimes the right reaction is to just take it when someone screws up over and over, because that someone just doesn’t matter. Because the other people around, the ones that matter, will internalize it, and for just a second maybe think about how it must feel to repeatedly get referred to as James or he or sir or whatever makes someone feel like they are being courteous with me when they are in fact doing the opposite. Sometimes the right reaction is to politely point they are wrong. Sometimes the right reaction is to tell them fuck you. Or have a goddamn hissy-cow (never underestimate the power of a hissy-cow). I have to make the decision all the time, every day, sometimes seemingly without end. And hopefully like Vlad, I always, or almost always, make the right decision.

Hyperbole Is Killing Me (Now That I Have Your Attention)

Hyperbole : extravagant exaggeration (as “mile-high ice-cream cones”) via Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Certainly hyperbole is not just a feature of the modern age. It is, after all, a time-honored oratorical device in the same lineage as synecdoche (those Greeks were clever people) and my first real introduction to the concept as a tool of persuasion was in Latin Class. But is hyperbole too common in the modern age? Are we now dulled to it because of its overuse or does it make us actually follow up on things to find out what kind of truth lies beyond the headline? I’ve had cause to ponder this recently, thanks to a few different articles that a friend posted on Facebook, and just some more general thoughts that have been bubbling on the subject thanks to the nature of modern reading.

See, what we see now are headlines, soundbites, whatever short bursts are out there in the static. The soundbites, the bottom crawl, 140 characters of tweets, whatever those are, they have the difficult mission of conveying as much information as possible in as few words and characters as they can. Headlines have the opposite goal of trying to pique readers just enough to make them click on the link, follow the jump, etc. In the backdrop that is the deafening roar of information in the modern world, we as individuals are tasked with selecting what is or isn’t important out of all of that, what deserves follow up and what we simply catalog as information based on the small amounts of information we are seeing. But right now, I’m not as interested in the overall Twitter affect (though I believe that started well before Twitter) in terms of condensing information. I’m curious about the effects of headlines and what we do or do not follow up on.

The long form certainly isn’t dead. Individual access in terms of creating the long form is better than ever, and plenty of great, literary individuals at a variety of publications are doing their part in creating great pieces just like we used to get from our hard-copy magazines (unless, of course, you still do get them from magazines. Good for you). Articles, ideas, extrapolations of thought processes that show definite care are still being “[written] out into the abyss” (yes, it’s lonely). And they can accomplish aims that a status update or tweet, for all its pithiness, cannot. The terminology may be changing, or even the media that it’s being created on, but our ability to create long form pieces and distribute them, whether via YouTube, a podcast, or just plain old words stacked up next to each other on the page, that remains. The question remains, though, whether using Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr, or whatever, how do we get individuals to look at and read, watch, listen to what’s out there?

Thus the purpose of a headline. These days, they are a mutable thing (I’m not sure that’s so good) for even a hard-copy institution. Watch the headline on a major story of a newspaper over the course of a day, and you may see the language change a couple times, in search of better specificity (or maybe better readership). Sites I frequent like The Washington Post, Slate, The Huffington Post, many of those headlines tend to be crafted by individuals who did not actually write the stories, though I’m sure the lines are blurring a little bit in that regard. And I frequently have to make decisions based on the minimal amount of information presented to see whether I want to take more time to learn. So I have to see things in those headlines or small tags that pique my interest or lead me to want to know more about the subject. This isn’t just true of a major news article. This is just as necessary on something as simple as a link shared by a friend on Facebook.

Google may be able to tell you what it thinks is your age and gender, but personally, I’d be more curious to see what kind of information Facebook collects about the outbound links I click on and what they say about me. Though it is not absolute, I will click on most things trans-related that skitter across my feed, because, well, selfishly, I like to know what’s out there. One of my friends (who is practically an aggregator unto himself) posted a link that piqued my interest immediately with the following headline: Transgender People are Completely Banned From Boarding Airplanes in Canada. The article goes on to talk at some length about a change in Canada’s regulations last year that potentially make it much more difficult for gender-variant individuals to fly. It is a strongly written post that contains a lot of good information. Not that I have any plans to fly in Canada any time soon, but you never know…here’s the thing, though. I can fly in Canada. I may still need to get my passport updated (haven’t gotten around to that but I’d have to to go to Canada), but it will most certainly say Female and Jane when I finally get to that because I have all the paperwork for that. Which means that the gender on my legal identification does match the gender I identify as. Which means I can fly. This isn’t to say that I don’t think the regulation is bullshit. It is. I remain dubious of the motivation, though I have not done extensive research personally to see what the motivation behind it may be. It strikes me as totally unnecessary discrimination under the guise of transportation safety. But to say that I’m completely banned from flying in Canada? It just isn’t true. Now the headline succeeded. I read and learned more, and were I Canadian, maybe I would have written my MP. Maybe more people looked because it said completely banned. But what of the people that didn’t? They are now armed with misinformation in that regard. Because like I said, I can fly in Canada based on that regulation. I am by no means the normative judge of trans people and how they should be in society, but where I fall, that law does not actually affect me (well, it affects me, but just go with this for a bit). Had I not read the entire post, I may have believed otherwise. In turn, I may have disseminated inaccurate information based on that attempted draw for my readership that failed.

Another example, this time in regard to something that I have less personal interest in. Same friend (see, I told you he should be an aggregator) posted a blog post with the following headline” Educating those outside the gun culture who’ve been defrauded. It’s a post about the fact that many statistics sited by the anti-gun lobby are inaccurate and not based on much of anything. But defrauded? We had a discussion of this on my friend’s wall, in which he pulled out the Merriam-Webster definition of defraud. Frankly, it all struck me as a bit of a stretch. This is nothing against the information an opinions contained within said post. It really doesn’t matter if you agree or not; defraud is not an accurate word to describe what’s happening to people outside of gun culture. Of course it’s already a charged topic, but to say that someone’s ability to get a firearm in this country has been deprived by a statistic sited by individuals who are anti-gun is an exaggeration. It conflates a much more complex situation, one that frankly would require far more space than I wish to devote at this time. But the individuals have most certainly not been defrauded. There are many more reasons beyond simple statistics that might account for why one doesn’t own a gun, and I personally find it hard to believe that the laws are that much of a deterrent given that, at least in the United States, it’s not that hard to get a gun. Maybe the kind of gun one can own is restricted, and maybe the amount of work it takes is a more than some individuals think it should be, to say that one is deprived of that right in this country by statistical misinformation? Seems like a pot kettle black sort of situation to me. Of course the author never says that all people outside of gun culture have been defrauded. I’m taking my own assumptions into it as well, but I don’t assume that he means that. I just think it’s a poor choice of words.

There are a lot of assumptions carried just simply by the words that we as individuals choose to describe the situations and events that comprise our lives. Don’t get me wrong, English is certainly a clever language. We as speakers are constantly refashioning it, and one of its strengths is its malleability. Not that every language isn’t malleable, but there is no particularly strong descpritive organization in English like there is, say, in French. But I feel we would be less desensitized to hyperbole if we were not subjected to it so much. I still click on the link, but I am carrying the tacit assumption that the hyperbole is inaccurate at best and malicious at worst. We are constantly arming each other with misinformation in our society, and it seems that piling on more misinformation just to get someone to look at what you said isn’t the answer. But I am just as guilty in the headline I wrote. Did you get far enough to discover that nice little touch of hypocrisy?

Mixtape #1 – January Thaw

I am going to try and do this every month. But you don’t have to hold me to it or anything. I’m just gonna try. It’s a good exercise. And if you really do want a tape, I’ll work on it

January is usually a slow month musically; bands are gearing up for bigger things in February and March especially as they crisscross the country on their SXSW itineraries, and April stays strong with the start of festival season due to Coachella. Of course these days, anyone can release just about anything at any time, so new music trickles out at a much more even pace throughout the year. Still, like December (because it’s too close to the end), January can be an easily neglected month when it comes to releases and shows, with the inevitable barrage that’s yet to come in spring, summer, and fall. Or maybe it’s just a function of where I live. After all, who wants to plot a winter tour through the Twin Cities? Not hard to convince a Swedish band or two, but nobody from Atlanta or LA is exactly going to be loving a swing through here in January.

What January can excel at, though, is providing excellent opportunity for great local bills. Whereas a band might just get added as the second opener in April due to a busy schedule at The Entry, December, January, it seems anyone can be a headliner. I caught 12 shows in the past 2 months. 10 of them featured all local (at least as local as Minnesota) line-ups. But the calendar’s picking up. Don’t believe me? Take a look. I’m going to be a busy girl, and something gives me a feeling I’ll get my money’s worth out of my First Ave membership.

As for all the advance tracks that are starting to hit the web, they hint of possible tours, and in many cases, tours that have already been announced. Bands like Memoryhouse, Grimes, and for good measure, a nice non-Canadian band like Bear In Heaven (who are currently in the process of streaming their album once until it comes out, in stretched form. Of course, you can also find single tracks in less esoteric forms (though probably not less esoteric forums). But music, like the winter-less landscape of Minnesota, is starting to come alive. It’s always a fun time.

And through it all, there’s the always older bands to discover. Thanks to great reissues like the Captured Tracks Shoegaze Archive to just the general curiosity that leads me to listening to The Field Mice’s Snowball pretty much every day for the past few weeks because it’s amazing, who can say? The point is, there’s so much good music out there, and I’m just doing my best to codify it for my own purposes. And if it’s useful to you, that’s great. Really, it is, I’m being honest. Sometimes I buy albums that I don’t even get to for years (here’s to you, non-singles on New Miserable Experience. After all, there’s a lot of music to find. I don’t feel like it’s hyperbole to say more than ever (which it usually is). But maybe it’s not that there’s more music (there’s always been a lot), but our means of transmitting it to each other is vastly improved. In the olden days of my youth, I would have had to taken all of these songs, recorded them off of records or the radio or something, and given it to you. Hell, maybe I’ll do that when I finally get around to picking up a cassette deck. But in the meantime, I can take what I’ve been listening to, put it together in a nice easily transmittable streaming (or downloadable) format, and let you enjoy it. So go do that. I promise next time I exercise my desire to want to be a polymath (though I never will be) and write about something a bit different, like identity theft. And you can listen to this while you read that.


Breathe Salt – Should
Please Be My Third Eye – La Sera
The Kids Were Wrong – Memoryhouse
Genesis – Grimes
Know Me – Frankie Rose
Headlights – Night Moves
Look At You Now (You’re Crying) – The Comet Gain
Another Bed – The Twilight Sad
Brains – Lower Dens
Moses Baby – Buffalo Moon
Brothers – Tanlines
Lesbian Seagull – Food Pyramid
The Reflection Of You – Bear In Heaven
Wandering Star – Poliça
Letting Go – The Field Mice
Nothing But Heart – Low

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