Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Power Rankings


I love superlatives.  Whenever I like something I call it the best ever, even when I know better.  I don't know why I do it, it's just one of those things. 

But the best songwriter of the past 10 years is Ryan Adams.  While this is a superlative, it isn't along the same lines of my usual "best ever" antics -- e.g. Pauly Shore is the most underrated comedian EVER!!!.*

*I have never actually said or thought this.

In 2000, Adams left Whiskeytown -- an incredibly good alt-country band -- to pursue a solo career.  That year he released "Heartbreaker," his first, and widely considered his best album to date. 

While it is an amazing album, Adam's talent as a song writer grew incredibly during the next 10 years.  He's prolific too.  Since 2000, he has released 13 studio albums and countless collections of B-sides.

From everything I know about Adams, he's an intemperate dude who I probably would not get along with.  Most people that I know who are into music look at Ryan Adams with disdain because of his personality.  I think they just don't get it, but of course they'll argue the same thing about my viewpoint.  

A couple years ago I went to his show and he played for like 45 minutes and then walked off stage.  

It really pissed me off, but he's such a good songwriter that I woke up the day tickets went on sale for his upcoming show so I could get close up seat.  Maybe I'm just a sucker.

It's football season so I'm going to offer up a power rankings of sorts and rank each Ryan Adams album with an explanation on why it's ranked where it is.*

*I am not going to include "Orion," which is his heavy metal album.  Although it's very good and exhibits his diverse talents as a songwriter, it is a sci-fi heavy metal concept album that doesn't really fit within his catalog of mainstream record releases.  It's for die-hards, but I definitely recommend it anyway for, if nothing else the best song titles I have ever seen: "Imminent Galactic War," "Disappyramid," "Ghorgon Master of War," "Electro Snake," etc... 

Without further ado:

#12 "Demolition

Say you took four random songs from the first three Elvis Costello albums and released it as an album.  Sure it'd be good, but it'd be a disjointed mess.  This the problem that plagues "Demolition."






The worst thing about "Demolition" is that it is a franken-album.  It draws from his unreleased albums "The Suicide Handbook," "48 Hours," and "The Pinkheart Sessions."  All of these are pretty good individually.  If "The Suicide Handbook" were an official album release, it may be one of finest official albums.  Instead we're left with "Demolition," which is good, just a strange collection of songs that have no business being grouped together.   




Songs like "Hallelujah" and "Tennessee Sucks" are good stuff, but they don't belong on the same album.  I hate saying this is the worst Ryan Adams album, but it is and it has nothing to do with the songs -- although most selections aren't even among the best tracks from the unreleased albums have to offer.  


Now that we're officially in the Internet age, it's easier, and more worth it, to find bootlegs of the unreleased albums that it draws from.


Both songs I have linked to are not found on "Demolition," because whoever was in charge of picking the songs from "48 Hours" and "The Suicide Handbook" had no clue what they were doing.  Since you can't find them "Demolition," I thought it only fair to include them here.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Firecracker or Welcome to Fabulous Kanrocksas



I don't have a favorite holiday, but when I'm asked I say the Fourth of July.  In a way that's true, but it's easier than explaining that I see summer as a holiday in itself and that it is my favorite holiday.

Picking my favorite day of the summer can be a little trickier.  Some years there are a whole bunch of options, like deciding between camping at lake or some road trip.  This year's choice was easy considering how much I disliked this summer.

On August 5 I went to Kanrocksas.  For those of you who might not know, it's this huge music festival that runs the same weekend as Lollapalooza -- mainly because it's easier to round up a ton of big name acts this way.  Being a two-day festival, most bands just alternate days between Kanrocksas and Lollapalooza.

I should mention that I went to Kanrocksas with a girl who I will call "Scot."  That's not her real name, but it was my nickname for her -- she hated it.  I won't get into her background too much because she's pretty much irrelevant to this story, but I mention her because there is a "we" throughout.

We go to the concert grounds around 9:30 a.m. and it was pouring down rain and cold, at least by August standards, but the rain was supposed to go away by early afternoon and leave us with not just 100 degree temperatures, but a terrible humidity as well. 

The grounds were on a Nascar speedway and they allowed camping on the grass parking lot outside.  We set up the tent in the rain and I loved it.  I drank vodka, she drank beer and it felt like tailgating at a football game. 

The rain left sooner than I imagined and the heat came even quicker.  After only being there for maybe an hour or less, the temperature had risen to around 90 degrees.

But we drank.  I think Scot read or something and I slept in the tent while we waited for the gates to open, which I think was around noon.  I woke up and spent eight dollars on a 20 pound bag of ice, which melted inside our cooler within a couple hours.  

We eventually made our way in to the concert.  It was a huge place.  There were three stages and walking from one end to the other took over 10 minutes.  We checked out -- and made fun of -- all the vendor tents and what not, which were basically just hippies and gypsy-looking people selling flags with marijuana leaves on them.

We ate some terrible carnival-like food and listened to some decent music.  Problem was, the heat was getting to the point where the festival was no longer fun.  Around midday we were watching the Arctic Monkeys put on a good set, but it was hard to enjoy because it was just miserable. 

Scot was feeling it too I'm sure, and I was worried it was straining our already tension-filled relationship.  But we soldiered on -- past 3 p.m. and somehow past 4 p.m. too.  Water was $6 for a tiny bottle so it was starting to get expensive too.  Plus, we had to camp here and then do it all over again the next day.

The concert allowed reentry so I made the call to head back to the car so we could drink some cheap liquor and eat something. 

I told Scot to start the car and turn up the air conditioning.  She did and I grabbed the alcohol and we drank in the car.  The day so far had sucked and I had had such high hopes for the festival.  There were so many bands I wanted to see, and also I hoped it would be what would bring Scot and me closer together. 

The night before she told me that we would probably fight a bunch at Kanrocksas, but that I shouldn't take it personally if we did.  That was the coolest thing anyone has ever said to me.

So we're sitting in the car and she puts on A Perfect Circle.  We're drinking, the sun's finally starting its descent, and the air conditioner is really kicking in.  I start to realize that this is the moment, that this is summer.  It starts to make me sad, because I know this is going to be the memory I will take from the $300 concert (In full disclosure, Scot paid for my ticket.  Thanks!)

But I'm not sad for long, or maybe the sadness begins to turn into a celebration of sorts.  We're sitting in a car and I'm hoping to god that it will work out with her, even though I know that it won't.  I'm know we're doomed, but I don't care because this will be our swan song.

It doesn't matter though.  I'm not worried about it ending, I'm just happy that it happened.  I'm drunk in a Ford listening to A Perfect Circle and looking over acres and acres of parking lot and the thousands of people walking around. 

She makes a joke, "You're doing it wrong!" 

I don't remember what she was referring to but I remember we laughed for a long time about it.  She plays a song by Grace Potter, a singer who will be performing the next night, and I try and explain how awesome the guitar riff in the song is.  I'm sure I came across like a complete tool for doing that, but I don't care.  I was beyond judgment.  Maybe she never judged me in the first place.

Doesn't matter now and really it didnt't matter then because the air conditioning is on and it's so hot outside these windows and all I get excited that it's going to be night soon and that all the good bands will be playing when we go back in.

Scot, rightly so, makes fun of me for drinking back to back vodka and Red Bulls, but it's all good natured in the car at Kanrocksas.  It's our camp site.  It's like the first six hours of the day never happened.  We start talking about the bands playing tomorrow and she starts going through her iPod to play them for me and tells me everything about them.

Damn, she's beautiful too and it sucks because I know it will never work out.  It sucks, but I'm happy.  I'm happy when she kisses me in the car and tastes like Leinenkugel summer shandy.  I'm happy when she starts comparing a song by A Perfect Circle and Tool, both of which are about the singer's mother dying.  I love that she cares so much about music, but what the fuck is she talking about?  I don't care, I'm just happy.  I'm happy for everything.  The future doesn't exist in this car, only alcohol and the realization that in twenty years this moment will be my only memory of the summer of 2011.

Why can't it work out between Scot and me?  You already know why and you've known why from the beginning. But you pretend and so does she -- I mean, pretending's fun, just not sustainable.  In the end, of course, nothing is, but you at least hope to get a solid memory like this.  You love her in a way, but it's not her you love.  You love that she's a catalyst for all these reactions. 

You think about charging your phone in the cigarette charger, but you don't really care.  I mean, you don't need to talk to anyone tonight.  That phone has the names of so many people more important than her in it, but you will forget most of them sooner or later and she will live on.  You hate that.  You hate that this good memory will always be associated with her but what can you do, except make the moment more real by thinking about how beautiful she is and how smart she is and how she's more polite than you've ever give her credit for -- she ate that weird and disgusting chicken/spaghetti thing you made for her. 

But she forgave you for making bad food, never having enough money, and for being a douche who explains the intricacies of certain guitar riffs.  Don't hate her.  By putting up with your bullshit she earned the right to be forever in your memory of summer 2011.

In the car you and her will always be together -- trapped and disconnected from the outside world together behind the glass, metal, and poly-plastics.  The two of you may as well be encased underwater, forever living in a world of isolation.  Sitting in a car in suburban Kansas City will be your joint grave.  It's how you will define her.  It's who she will be forever.

This memory of her flipping through her iPod and talking about Maynard Keenan.  Who the fuck is this person?  Scot, that is.  You know who Maynard Keenan is.  It doesn't matter.  You love her, but no, you don't love her.  You never will. 

You're so drunk right now and why the fuck did you spend eight dollars on ice that has already melted?  Is this what your life will always be, a series of memories with people you will only know for a couple months?

You're happy though.  You're happy in this car.  You're happy because the night is going to be amazing.  It's like that summer in Muskegon, Michigan when you were 8 years old and your parents were getting a divorce.  You stayed with some family friends while your parents sorted things out.  That Fourth of July that weird family, who's name's you will never remember (of course you won't remember them, you were never drunk in a car with them!), took you to Lake Michigan for a fireworks show.  You were so happy then.  You remember that happiness.  It feels just like this moment. 

Then a song ends and you look at your watch and realize that we have to go back in so we don't miss anything.  She and I stumble out of the car.  I think she stops by a first aid tent to get some aspirin or something.

The night's a blur, but I remember dancing and sitting on an embankment of the racetrack for a little while.  The night air feels so good.  Nothing feels sweeter than the summer night night air.

I think we head back to our campsite around midnight.  Who knows.  I can't remember if I even slept that night.  But in the morning when we woke up I knew it was over between us.  


I was happy it was over between us.  I don't even remember who she is anymore, and I can live the rest of my life never caring about who she is, or who she has become.  I remember that the sweet summer air though. That night air never felt better than it did in 2011.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Power Rankings


I love superlatives.  Whenever I like something I call it the best ever, even when I know better.  I don't know why I do it, it's just one of those things. 

But the best songwriter of the past 10 years is Ryan Adams.  While this is a superlative, it isn't along the same lines of my usual "best ever" antics -- e.g. Pauly Shore is the most underrated comedian EVER!!!.*

*I have never actually said or thought this.

In 2000, Adams left Whiskeytown -- an incredibly good alt-country band -- to pursue a solo career.  That year he released "Heartbreaker," his first, and widely considered his best album to date. 

While it is an amazing album, Adam's talent as a song writer grew incredibly during the next 10 years.  He's prolific too.  Since 2000, he has released 13 studio albums and countless collections of B-sides.

From everything I know about Adams, he's an intemperate dude who I probably would not get along with.  Most people that I know who are into music look at Ryan Adams with disdain because of his personality.  I think they just don't get it, but of course they'll argue the same thing about my viewpoint.  

A couple years ago I went to his show and he played for like 45 minutes and then walked off stage.  

It really pissed me off, but he's such a good songwriter that I woke up the day tickets went on sale for his upcoming show so I could get close up seat.  Maybe I'm just a sucker.

It's football season so I'm going to offer up a power rankings of sorts and rank each Ryan Adams album with an explanation on why it's ranked where it is.*

*I am not going to include "Orion," which is his heavy metal album.  Although it's very good and exhibits his diverse talents as a songwriter, it is a sci-fi heavy metal concept album that doesn't really fit within his catalog of mainstream record releases.  It's for die-hards, but I definitely recommend it anyway for, if nothing else the best song titles I have ever seen: "Imminent Galactic War," "Disappyramid," "Ghorgon Master of War," "Electro Snake," etc... 

Without further ado:

#12 "Demolition

Say you took four random songs from the first three Elvis Costello albums and released it as an album.  Sure it'd be good, but it'd be a disjointed mess.  This the problem that plagues "Demolition."






The worst thing about "Demolition" is that it is a franken-album.  It draws from his unreleased albums "The Suicide Handbook," "48 Hours," and "The Pinkheart Sessions."  All of these are pretty good individually.  If "The Suicide Handbook" were an official album release, it may be one of finest official albums.  Instead we're left with "Demolition," which is good, just a strange collection of songs that have no business being grouped together.   




Songs like "Hallelujah" and "Tennessee Sucks" are good stuff, but they don't belong on the same album.  I hate saying this is the worst Ryan Adams album, but it is and it has nothing to do with the songs -- although most selections aren't even among the best tracks from the unreleased albums have to offer.  


Now that we're officially in the Internet age, it's easier, and more worth it, to find bootlegs of the unreleased albums that it draws from.


Both songs I have linked to are not found on "Demolition," because whoever was in charge of picking the songs from "48 Hours" and "The Suicide Handbook" had no clue what they were doing.  Since you can't find them "Demolition," I thought it only fair to include them here.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Firecracker or Welcome to Fabulous Kanrocksas



I don't have a favorite holiday, but when I'm asked I say the Fourth of July.  In a way that's true, but it's easier than explaining that I see summer as a holiday in itself and that it is my favorite holiday.

Picking my favorite day of the summer can be a little trickier.  Some years there are a whole bunch of options, like deciding between camping at lake or some road trip.  This year's choice was easy considering how much I disliked this summer.

On August 5 I went to Kanrocksas.  For those of you who might not know, it's this huge music festival that runs the same weekend as Lollapalooza -- mainly because it's easier to round up a ton of big name acts this way.  Being a two-day festival, most bands just alternate days between Kanrocksas and Lollapalooza.

I should mention that I went to Kanrocksas with a girl who I will call "Scot."  That's not her real name, but it was my nickname for her -- she hated it.  I won't get into her background too much because she's pretty much irrelevant to this story, but I mention her because there is a "we" throughout.

We go to the concert grounds around 9:30 a.m. and it was pouring down rain and cold, at least by August standards, but the rain was supposed to go away by early afternoon and leave us with not just 100 degree temperatures, but a terrible humidity as well. 

The grounds were on a Nascar speedway and they allowed camping on the grass parking lot outside.  We set up the tent in the rain and I loved it.  I drank vodka, she drank beer and it felt like tailgating at a football game. 

The rain left sooner than I imagined and the heat came even quicker.  After only being there for maybe an hour or less, the temperature had risen to around 90 degrees.

But we drank.  I think Scot read or something and I slept in the tent while we waited for the gates to open, which I think was around noon.  I woke up and spent eight dollars on a 20 pound bag of ice, which melted inside our cooler within a couple hours.  

We eventually made our way in to the concert.  It was a huge place.  There were three stages and walking from one end to the other took over 10 minutes.  We checked out -- and made fun of -- all the vendor tents and what not, which were basically just hippies and gypsy-looking people selling flags with marijuana leaves on them.

We ate some terrible carnival-like food and listened to some decent music.  Problem was, the heat was getting to the point where the festival was no longer fun.  Around midday we were watching the Arctic Monkeys put on a good set, but it was hard to enjoy because it was just miserable. 

Scot was feeling it too I'm sure, and I was worried it was straining our already tension-filled relationship.  But we soldiered on -- past 3 p.m. and somehow past 4 p.m. too.  Water was $6 for a tiny bottle so it was starting to get expensive too.  Plus, we had to camp here and then do it all over again the next day.

The concert allowed reentry so I made the call to head back to the car so we could drink some cheap liquor and eat something. 

I told Scot to start the car and turn up the air conditioning.  She did and I grabbed the alcohol and we drank in the car.  The day so far had sucked and I had had such high hopes for the festival.  There were so many bands I wanted to see, and also I hoped it would be what would bring Scot and me closer together. 

The night before she told me that we would probably fight a bunch at Kanrocksas, but that I shouldn't take it personally if we did.  That was the coolest thing anyone has ever said to me.

So we're sitting in the car and she puts on A Perfect Circle.  We're drinking, the sun's finally starting its descent, and the air conditioner is really kicking in.  I start to realize that this is the moment, that this is summer.  It starts to make me sad, because I know this is going to be the memory I will take from the $300 concert (In full disclosure, Scot paid for my ticket.  Thanks!)

But I'm not sad for long, or maybe the sadness begins to turn into a celebration of sorts.  We're sitting in a car and I'm hoping to god that it will work out with her, even though I know that it won't.  I'm know we're doomed, but I don't care because this will be our swan song.

It doesn't matter though.  I'm not worried about it ending, I'm just happy that it happened.  I'm drunk in a Ford listening to A Perfect Circle and looking over acres and acres of parking lot and the thousands of people walking around. 

She makes a joke, "You're doing it wrong!" 

I don't remember what she was referring to but I remember we laughed for a long time about it.  She plays a song by Grace Potter, a singer who will be performing the next night, and I try and explain how awesome the guitar riff in the song is.  I'm sure I came across like a complete tool for doing that, but I don't care.  I was beyond judgment.  Maybe she never judged me in the first place.

Doesn't matter now and really it didnt't matter then because the air conditioning is on and it's so hot outside these windows and all I get excited that it's going to be night soon and that all the good bands will be playing when we go back in.

Scot, rightly so, makes fun of me for drinking back to back vodka and Red Bulls, but it's all good natured in the car at Kanrocksas.  It's our camp site.  It's like the first six hours of the day never happened.  We start talking about the bands playing tomorrow and she starts going through her iPod to play them for me and tells me everything about them.

Damn, she's beautiful too and it sucks because I know it will never work out.  It sucks, but I'm happy.  I'm happy when she kisses me in the car and tastes like Leinenkugel summer shandy.  I'm happy when she starts comparing a song by A Perfect Circle and Tool, both of which are about the singer's mother dying.  I love that she cares so much about music, but what the fuck is she talking about?  I don't care, I'm just happy.  I'm happy for everything.  The future doesn't exist in this car, only alcohol and the realization that in twenty years this moment will be my only memory of the summer of 2011.

Why can't it work out between Scot and me?  You already know why and you've known why from the beginning. But you pretend and so does she -- I mean, pretending's fun, just not sustainable.  In the end, of course, nothing is, but you at least hope to get a solid memory like this.  You love her in a way, but it's not her you love.  You love that she's a catalyst for all these reactions. 

You think about charging your phone in the cigarette charger, but you don't really care.  I mean, you don't need to talk to anyone tonight.  That phone has the names of so many people more important than her in it, but you will forget most of them sooner or later and she will live on.  You hate that.  You hate that this good memory will always be associated with her but what can you do, except make the moment more real by thinking about how beautiful she is and how smart she is and how she's more polite than you've ever give her credit for -- she ate that weird and disgusting chicken/spaghetti thing you made for her. 

But she forgave you for making bad food, never having enough money, and for being a douche who explains the intricacies of certain guitar riffs.  Don't hate her.  By putting up with your bullshit she earned the right to be forever in your memory of summer 2011.

In the car you and her will always be together -- trapped and disconnected from the outside world together behind the glass, metal, and poly-plastics.  The two of you may as well be encased underwater, forever living in a world of isolation.  Sitting in a car in suburban Kansas City will be your joint grave.  It's how you will define her.  It's who she will be forever.

This memory of her flipping through her iPod and talking about Maynard Keenan.  Who the fuck is this person?  Scot, that is.  You know who Maynard Keenan is.  It doesn't matter.  You love her, but no, you don't love her.  You never will. 

You're so drunk right now and why the fuck did you spend eight dollars on ice that has already melted?  Is this what your life will always be, a series of memories with people you will only know for a couple months?

You're happy though.  You're happy in this car.  You're happy because the night is going to be amazing.  It's like that summer in Muskegon, Michigan when you were 8 years old and your parents were getting a divorce.  You stayed with some family friends while your parents sorted things out.  That Fourth of July that weird family, who's name's you will never remember (of course you won't remember them, you were never drunk in a car with them!), took you to Lake Michigan for a fireworks show.  You were so happy then.  You remember that happiness.  It feels just like this moment. 

Then a song ends and you look at your watch and realize that we have to go back in so we don't miss anything.  She and I stumble out of the car.  I think she stops by a first aid tent to get some aspirin or something.

The night's a blur, but I remember dancing and sitting on an embankment of the racetrack for a little while.  The night air feels so good.  Nothing feels sweeter than the summer night night air.

I think we head back to our campsite around midnight.  Who knows.  I can't remember if I even slept that night.  But in the morning when we woke up I knew it was over between us.  


I was happy it was over between us.  I don't even remember who she is anymore, and I can live the rest of my life never caring about who she is, or who she has become.  I remember that the sweet summer air though. That night air never felt better than it did in 2011.