What’s Up? (12/21/13)

Rocking “Beat Connection” by LCD Soundsytem right now, wrapped up in the blankets of my bed, yet again. I have spent an incredibly disproportionate amount of time here in my bed, compared to time spent anywhere else. I bet it’s something like, a 60-40 split, considering all the time I spend sleeping, lazily browsing the internet, making music, and listening to music. So what’s up?

I listened to Queens of The Stone Age’s “…Like Clockwork” (2013) for the first time yesterday, so a review of that album is coming soon, which leaves just three more albums to review from my mad-dash music review rush list. Now I’ve started listening to “Yr City’s A Sucker” by LCD Soundsystem, which according to my iPod is my most-played track by the band, which is cool. I’m planning on seeing “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” tomorrow; I’m one of those select few who still have not seen the film. On Tuesday I’m going to get a second dose of Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” which looks like a fantastic film.

I’m very tired. I could use a day where I sleep until 2:00 PM. Everything in my house is so comfortable, I could sleep anywhere. As I speak, the blankets pull me deeper, I slump from sitting upright to laying down. The synths of LCD Soundsystem lull me to bed. Had a dream about girl, I’d like to have that dream again.

What’s Up? (10/22/13)

Today I got pizza for lunch, and for the second week in a row, I was underwhelmed by the experience. It didn’t feel right, and I felt crummy during and after eating it. Today I went to the gym, I walked ten minutes uphill in the cold wearing nothing but my gym shorts and a t-shirt, and I felt great afterwards. Today a friend posted two pictures, one from two years ago, and one today, showing incredible weight loss.

That I’m not obese is some sort of miracle. I eat like crap, or so I think at least. A few times every year I get myself into exercise-heavy patterns, and I start thinking about dieting. I rarely go through with, or stick to diets, but I enjoy exercise, and I stick with it. Today though, I mean to really, really stick to a diet. Not so much a “I will only eat this” diet, but a “I will stop myself from eating this” diet. I can’t believe that I’m not a heavier person than I am, but at the rate I’m going in life, I don’t see how I won’t end up heavier down the road. That’s not what I want. I don’t want to be cut, with muscles and all, maybe just a little skinnier than I am now, less fat under my chin, less gut to my gut.

I’m not going to lay out guidelines, or weigh myself and post updates here, but I do want to put this out there and make it public, as a means of pressuring myself into doing this. But as of now, just fifteen minutes into October 23rd 2013, I really mean to change the way I eat. Less crap, more stuff that I make at home, more exercise, less sitting around. I promise myself to do this.

Nine Inch Nails: Tension 2013

The Peterson Events Center is familiar to me; hundreds of lunches and gym sessions have been had there since I arrived at the University of Pittsburgh, though tonight it feels very different. I get in line with the black-attired masses there to see Nine Inch Nails tonight. There are girls in black skirts, black leggings, black jeans, and boys in black leather jackets, black trench coats, black vests, blue jeans all around. Green military caps, pink mohawks, raver goggles, lip piercings, finger-less leather gloves. I’m wearing a Pretty Hate Machine T-shirt I purchased in High School from a Hot Topic, and a pair of white cargo shorts. I’ve never looked the part of a Nine Inch Nails fan I suppose, but I don’t feel like I have to. Nobody here can judge another; if you’re here to see Nine Inch Nails, you ‘get it’ even if you don’t look like it.

I get settled on the floor, centered with the stage and as close as I can get without squirming my way closer. The opening band comes on stage with incredible punctuality, about 7:30 sharp just like the ticket says. “It’s kind of hard to explain who we are… we’re Explosions in the Sky, we’re a band from Texas.” They start off well enough, loud and pretty. I put in my ear plugs to deafen some of the noise, choosing to preserve the quality of my hearing for the main attraction. Explosions in the Sky is an instrumental band, consisting of three guitarists, a bassists, and a drummer. Their music was beautiful, songs were gapless, band members seemed deeply concentrated, and audience members were less then enthused. I understood that Explosions wasn’t a bad band by any means, but I felt the boredom and frustration that some Nine Inch Nails fans voiced. “Sing some words!” One shouted.

Explosions in the Sky disappear, and a big black curtain is raised in front of the stage. The music played during the intermission between bands is creepy, most notably John Carpenter’s Halloween Theme. I wondered for a moment if bands had control over what songs were played during their intermission, as I wouldn’t put it past Trent Reznor to choose unsettling music in order to reinforce the tour’s “Tension 2013” name.

The big black curtain falls, revealing deceivingly simple series of 3×3 grids. They dangle not far overhead of the band members as they make their way onstage, and shine a bright white light down upon them. The opening song, “Copy of a” pulses moodily at first, building momentum and energy. The 3×3 light grids show off their capabilities, tilting the light focused on the band into the audience. The individual squares of the grids can rotate independently, and the illusion of a dome is created when the series coordinate elevation, tilt, and rotation.  This is already a far more complex light show than I’ve previously seen Nine Inch Nails use on their NIN/JA and Wave Goodbye Tours, and the best has yet to come.

After I belt out the final words to “Terrible Lie,” the third song of the set, I can feel my voice already going. I was expecting a bit more kinetic energy in the crowd though, three songs in and I have yet to be pushed, shoved or… oh wait… those drums… “March of the Pigs” was coming, and I braced myself. Pushed body to body, we held on to one another, in the space between mosh pits, and in the direction of the crowd rush. I used to hate this type of energy, but now I wouldn’t want to experience some concerts without it.

“Piggy” gave me some time to catch my breath, and was followed by “All Time Low,” one of my favorites from Nine Inch Nails’ new album, Hesitation Marks (2013). During “All Time Low,” they pulled out the big guns, visually. Curtains made of thousands of LEDs descended from above, shrouding the band in images of Aurora Borealis as Trent Reznor was joined by two chorus signers in a beautifully delivered chorus. “Stretch across the sky…” took on a new meaning as the rainbow colors of northern lights literally stretched across the stage. While the LED curtains displayed pretty imagery during “All Time Low” they showed their true ability during another song from Hesitation Marks, “Disappointments.”  The club-like drum machine of the track was complimented by green bars that pulsed across the screens (screens, plural). One LED curtain hanged in front of the band, one behind it, and another in between the two. The resulting effect was an incredible 3D light show, thematically in tune with the track. “Disappointed, disappear” Trent sings, as all LED curtains go bright at once, hiding the band from sight. The green pulsating bars return after each “disappear” noisier and distorted, eventually forming the shape of a rectangular prism that rotated around the band. It’s hard to describe, but this LED curtain was visually compelling stuff.

At some point during “Satellite,” another track from Hesitation Marks that I absolutely love, two men breakdance in a pit that looks cleared for moshing. The song has a deep pumping bass, with very a very moving drum track, so this break dancing isn’t entirely without rhythmic merit – though at odds with the privacy paranoia themes of the song. One girl appropriately exclaims “I can’t believe I just saw that happen at a Nine Inch Nails concert!”

After the very soothing “A Warm Place,” Nine Inch Nails went full throttle with the last four tracks in the setlist proper. “Somewhat Damaged,” one of the few songs I’m familiar with from the band’s 1999 release, The Fragile, started this last burst of energy on the right foot. “Broken, bruised, forgotten, sore, Too fucked up to care anymore!” I went red screaming to this chorus. It was the first song I heard on their Wave Goodbye tour, and I had loved the song since. “Wish” renewed the type of moshing, crowd rushing energy last seen during “March of the Pigs,” and you better believe everybody shouted “Fist fuck!” right on time.

“The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole” went back to back, the pair of god-damning songs reminded me exactly why I belonged there. “God Money let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised.” Nine Inch Nails is the ultimate venue to vent all of these pent up feelings about faith, a therapeutic “fuck you, God” that we can all use once in a while.

The band disappears, and the LED curtains display a giant “NIN” logo. A few people start to leave, and I wonder if they’ve ever been to a concert before… “There’s going to be an encore!” I want to say. Sure enough, the band comes back and plays a song that, I personally don’t know, but drives some people absolutely insane. This song turned out to be “The Day the World Went Away,” a song not been played on this tour yet, and apparently a fairly rare song to hear live. I was more excited for “While I’m Still Here” and “Black Noise,” the final songs of Hesitation Marks. I’m sure there were some old-school fans upset to hear so much new material, but I was incredibly into it. “While I’m Still Here” is my favorite song on the album; slow, groovy, and diverse. The floating slides of a telecaster, the noise of broken electronics, pulsing beats, rumbling basses, and my favorite of all, a tenor sax; all the elements from the album track translated perfectly to the stage.

“Hurt” closes the show with haunting imagery, and acoustic instruments (a rarity in my experience with Nine Inch Nails concerts). When “Hurt” came to an end, and the house lights came on, I was incredibly, utterly fulfilled, overflowing with happiness, in awe. I wandered home, probably grinning like an idiot, and my legs were sore. Each of them cramped that night around 2-3AM.

Nine Inch Nails is a great band. I can listen to most of their albums without having to get in the mindset for it, they’ve got something that’s appropriate for however I’m feeling, and if I’m not feeling anything, they’ll give me something to feel. When this diverse, spanning emotional range is condensed into the better part of a two-hour concert, it’s very cathartic. And that’s what makes Nine Inch Nails an even better live band.


2013 Is A Crazy Year For Music

Looking back at 2013, and I’m realizing how many new albums came out this year that I cared about.

Deadmau5, Daft Punk, Vampire Weekend, Nine Inch Nails

and MIA, Franz Ferdinand, and The Fratellis have albums coming out soon too!

So, I’m writing this little blurb right now just as a personal reminded that I need to listen to the new NIN album, and a commitment of sorts to try and review some of the albums that have came out in 2013.

Also coming out this year: new Beck music, new Arcade Fire, new Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr, new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and new Queens of the Stoneage.

You understand? This is the year my iPod explodes.

What’s Up? (9/25/13)

Nearly  every single time I write one of these entries, I have to double check and see how I write the dates. Do I use (9/25/2013) or simply just (9/25/13)? You’d think after doing this for months I’d know the answer, but I don’t.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Michel Legrand’s very pleasant “I Love Paris” (1954) on vinyl. By the way I own a record player now. I’m not the type of guy that’s going to tell you that you need a record player because it sounds so much better than digital music; no, the real reason to get a record player is so you can experience new music. I would have never listened to Michel Legrand if it wasn’t for the sheer fact that it was a dollar in Jerry’s Records bargain bin, and it had a rendition of “La Vie En Rose” on it.  Buying things I’ve never heard of because the album looks cool, or because I knew a song, or the artist, it’s great. This isn’t special to records, as I’ve bought bargain bin CD’s for the same reasons – but there’s just weirder records out there than CD’s. If you don’t have the means to sift through a local record store’s bargain albums; and could only buy new records, I might be a little colder on the “you should get a record player” thing. I love my records, but I can’t take Michel Legrand with me wherever I go (even though the Crosley Cruiser record player I got is arguably portable) and as such digital music is still pretty awesome. I don’t know if people draw lines in the sand between the two mediums, but that’s what I have to say… both are cool.

Which reminds me, I need to buy Nine Inch Nails new album… I’m seeing them in two weeks and I really should familiarize myself with the new stuff.

Anyways, the real reason I’m writing this post is to say this: I write because I like to write. I know that… practically nobody reads this, but writing is therapeutic. If I were to tragically die tomorrow, then there’s this big whole log of most everything I think and encounter during my life here. In this Journalism class I’m taking, we had to listen to an interview with Esquire/ESPN’s Chris Jones who said something along the lines of “People who say they just write for art, that’s wanky bullshit.” Maybe if my living depended on writing, I’d agree with him, maybe I’d see the truth in a lot of the things he talks about, like how journalism is a competitive business and it’s all about being the best. But this is these are the same reasons I’m not lining up to use my art talents for a living; I love making art, but if making art for a living is all about doing what someone else demands, being competitive, doing it for the paycheck and not the satisfaction of creation, then screw that. And if Chris Jones’ view of journalism is how it really is, then I’m glad I’m not an English major thinking about going into journalism. I’m an English major because I love to write, and I’m going to put my honed writing skills to use i whatever I do for a living – but I’ll never sacrifice writing for the art of it.

Roses’ “Roses EP” (2013)

Roses is a self-described “Romantic Rock’n’Roll Synthpop Band,” and while my experience with Synthpop may be limited I totally understand what they mean by Romantic Rock’n’Roll. Roses’ EP is a braid of soft keyboards, pulsing sin waves, clean guitars, and modestly pretty voices. The band has a particular way of describing painfully obsessive love.  The third track, So Very Wild asks the question “How can I love you when you’re so very wild?” with a sense of romantic honesty that reminds me of Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” (2013). Sometimes words fail us, and Roses doesn’t shy away from occasional non-linguistic chorus of “la’s” or “oh’s,” not unlike the The Fratellis’ sing-along-bar songs, if that particular bar was a little bit quieter and somber. My favorite thing about Roses’ EP is how they let songs step in both Romantic Rock’n’Roll and Synthpop. It’s not like they sat down and arbitrarily decided one song would be Rock and one song would be Synthpop, each song has a little bit of both and it makes for a dynamic and interesting listen on top of being catchy and pleasant.

What’s Up? (8/27/13)

So my first two days of class this semester have been pretty good. English Literature’s “Forms of Prose” actually seems really interesting, as we’ll be reading lots of memoirs and stuff – and English Writing’s “Intermediate Nonfiction” seems to be more of the interview, longform nonfiction I’ve been writing for over a year now. The Communication classes I’ve had today were “Media and Consumer Culture” and “Small Group Communications.” The “Consumer Culture” class is taught by this British Doctor who seems pretty awesome (he knew what made The Terminator a robot and Robocop a cyborg) and the teacher for “Small Group Comm” looks a little bit like Tom Hanks.

These first two days though have made me feel a little upset at how apprehensive I am about talking to old classmates. I’ve ran into a few over the last two days and I’ve just found myself unable to do anything more than a little “Hello” wave, when what I really want to do is say hello and keep a conversation going.

You know what though? I’m only two days deep, and I shouldn’t be kicking myself already… I tell you what though, seeing all of these college kids in pink and blue twill shorts is driving me crazy. I’d look good in a pair! My shirts combined with those shorts would kick the crap out of those other kid’s shirt-short combos. Gah! Why don’t I have a pair? I might buy a pair, and get a haircut this weekend. Conformity ensues.