Paperweights

I think I’ve said this about a hundred times but if you’re not listening to Calhoun you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your life.

Calhoun - Lola's 10/20/2013

Their new EP, Paperweights, comes out today and it is phenomenal. I was lucky enough to get my hands on it several months ago thanks to the unending generosity and awesomeness of Tim Locke and it has, as pretty much all of Calhoun’s music does, become a staple of my playlists.

When I saw the official tracklist for Paperweights I was amused and also glad I didn’t write this post earlier, because four out of the six songs’ names have changed. I knew this was the case with “Don’t Look Strange,” previously known as “Shit On My Face” because according to Tim at the show the other night, there were “objections.”

This EP is a definite departure from their previous album, Heavy Sugar, and light-years away from Year That Never Was, and I mean this in the best possible way. With each album, Calhoun’s sound becomes tighter and more focused and evolves in ways that deliver some of the best lyrics and music since David Byrne fronted Talking Heads. Tim Locke likes to call Paperweights a “dance party,” and he’s not wrong. There are plenty of synths and more danceable beats than you can shake a stick at and the combination is sublime.

“Fatal Flaw” and “Paperweights” are my two favorite songs on the album, and they are the opener and closer, respectively. The former has a definite Erasure feel to it, something I first thought when I caught it on the Local Edge, while the latter’s final moments feel like the end of a fireworks show – setting everything off for the grand finale.

Mister E, on the other hand, is firmly in the “Reap/Sow” camp. He has stated on more than one occasion that this is his favorite music by Calhoun because it speaks to him in a way their other stuff hasn’t. He was quick to point out that he likes their other stuff – he seems particularly fond of “Knife Fight” – but Paperweights is it for him.

“Reap/Sow” is their first single off the new EP, so sit back, have a listen, then go buy the album because the rest of it is just as awesome.

I cannot recommend Calhoun and Paperweights strongly enough. You can get it today on iTunes and Amazon, with potential vinyl happening in the future. Go now, and dance on.

2013 Fiesta Fandango Wrap Up

Saturday evening I put on my good sports bra and went downtown for a 2.6 mile fun run called the Fiesta Fandango.SAMSUNG

To be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten that these last two weeks were Fiesta. For those of you not in Texas or Lamesville proper, Fiesta is a two week long party that is fun if you like drinking beer and crowds. I usually spend my time hiding from it because my interests are neither. The only real Fiesta thing I’ve done was volunteer at Oyster Bake, which is exactly what it sounds like and is held on my university’s campus. Need to go to the library? Have fun with that. Want to head to the caf for dinner? Better have remembered your student ID and wristband because they will NOT let you through without them. I am speaking from experience.

But I digress.

The point is that Fiesta and I don’t get on. So I completely forgot that this was a Fiesta event until they told us we were going to be running on the parade route ahead of the Flambeau Night Parade’s vanguard. This meant that Mister E and I were thrilled to pieces about using the runners’ shuttles from Sunken Gardens. Unfortunately Google Maps and a broken-down Fiesta float turned that into a series of adventures that meant we barely got on the bus in time. Actually, separate buses. I was alone in mine so I made a friend. Her name was Cynthia.

There were way more people than I expected, some wearing costumes, some with babies in strollers. The run wasn’t officially timed, it was just for fun, so we all had the same bib number. Some people were lucky and got special black bibs supporting Boston but Cynthia and I missed out. Boo.

This was my first outdoor race (Jailbreak doesn’t count, it was on dirt and grass) and it became clear very quickly that I had made a miscalculation. I was ten minutes into the run when my shin decided it was time to start screaming in pain. I ran another couple of minutes, then had to stop and walk until the pain went away. I spent the rest of the run alternately walking and running, and I managed to suck it up long enough to run the last of the way over the finish line. My time was 35:55, which I think was pretty okay. Honestly, I was just proud of myself for finishing.

SAMSUNG

Once I’d made it over the finish line, it was time for refrescos. I was at the after-party chugging a Gatorade when I realized I had no idea how to find Mister E since we had been on separate buses and I didn’t have my phone. So what did I do? I found some really nice people in Adventure Time costumes and asked the wife to let me use her phone. She let me, I called my husband, and we found each other (and a paleta cart!). Guys. I TALKED TO STRANGERS. This is a huge thing.

When we got back to the car, there was a flyer on it for something called the Shiner Beer Run in November. Mister E’s favorite beer in the world is Shiner so he is insisting that I do it because then he will get free beer. If I can’t manage a 5K by November, it might be time to hang up my shoes.

Next month I might try to do a 5K, run/walking like I did this one.

Doin’ It Gangnam Style

Oh, Pusheen.

Pusheen the Cat

On the off chance you don’t know who the adorable chubby gray cat is, that’s Pusheen. She dances, eats, rides Vespas and all sorts of other things that are all cuter than a baby bunny in a banana leaf. Mostly, she eats. And sometimes she makes reference to internet memes or viral videos and such. This is one of those times.

Perhaps you have not heard of “Gangnam Style.” Perhaps there is a great void in your life that can only be filled by K-Pop and awesome dancing. Perhaps you should fix that.

Gangnam Style is song that has been written and choreographed by a South Korean singer who goes by PSY. Interestingly enough, he went to school at Boston University and Berklee School of Music. The thing about this is that he knows exactly the right way to get you hooked on his music and blow the top of your head right off.

I have long been a fan of J-Pop and J-Punk, but I’d never given K-Pop a try for the simple reason that I cannot understand Korean. This has been sort of inexcusable because we have the internet for a reason and also because I was listening to Persian techno for a little while and I can’t understand that either (though I did have someone make the incredibly racist comment that I was probably listening to terrorist propaganda without knowing it). It turns out I’m a fan of K-Pop, I just didn’t know it.

There are a large number of things I love about this video, from the dancing kid at the beginning, to the humorous dance routines, and the music itself, but one thing that particularly makes me happy is that – as a lot of people have said – PSY isn’t your typical Asian pretty guy singing pre-produced music. He’s odd. He’s chubby. He’s rapping over techno. And it all works in a way that makes me want to start dancing.

Though he would probably never admit it to you, Mister E has been dancing. He loves PSY and Gangnam Style in a way that I would probably say is unhealthy if I didn’t follow the exact same watching pattern with my Persona 4 videos. I am not complaining in any way about his viewing habits, however. I am, in fact, quite pleased. I also downloaded PSY’s newest album (EP) with Gangnam Style on it so that we may watch it when we go on trips. This also pleases Mister E, as he has listened to some of his other music and also loves it.

If you haven’t already watched it, I recommend you watch the Gangnam Style video. Even if you don’t fall in love with it or PSY, I can just about guarantee that you will come away from it feeling like something exploded inside your brain. Good or bad, that’s worth at least one viewing. 74 million people (at the time of writing) cannot be wrong.

Random Spotify Love

Well, I’ve found yet another few reasons to love Spotify and they’re so great that it warrants another post.

I gushed about Spotify once before and all of those reasons are still valid. The beautiful thing about apps these days is that they are able to evolve and improve based on feedback from customers. Spotify has extra reason to evolve because a lot of the people who use it are paying for the privilege and, judging from my own experience and the experiences of my friends around the world who also use the premium version, happily so. With that in mind, these are all new reasons why I love Spotify. Some of them (probably all of them, as it takes me a while to notice these things) are old news by now, but I just figured them out so there you have it.

The best one for me is that it now syncs songs from my computer. This is a jump-in-the-air-happy thing for me because I like a lot of Japanese music that’s not on Spotify and has been ripped from CDs I own. However, in order to listen to it on my phone in the past I’ve had to use Spotify on my computer to add it to the playlist, then send the original to my phone with Dropbox, then make sure they sync (and they didn’t always) onto my phone’s Spotify app. Now I just tell my computer “hey, I want ‘AURORA’ by Shazna on this playlist” and it says “okay.” Then I make sure my phone is hooked up to the same wifi – this is crucial – download the playlist and tell my phone “make it so.” A minute or so later, the Japanese goodness is on my phone to enjoy anywhere I like. My Spotify app does a little bow and I shake my butt.

It also has apps associated with it now, which means that I can post my new Jam from Spotify and I can have lyrics to the songs I’m listening to looked up while they’re playing. It also has Pandora-like streaming “radio” stations that you can listen to with the added bonus that you can save the songs to listen to later.

Also, I was looking for stuff to enjoy and I found two songs I never thought I’d find on there: “Negro y Azul” by Los Cuates de Sinaloa (aka ‘The Ballad of Heisenberg’) from Breaking Bad, and “Cancion del Mariachi” by Antonio Banderas from Desperado. Yes, this is conclusive proof that Spotify rocks out with its stock out (something I used to say about myself when I worked at the health food store) and is worth digging up the change under the couch to pay for every month. If you haven’t checked out Spotify yet, I recommend trying the trial. It, like the songs I posted above, is definitely worth a listen.

Tilly and the What Now?

Guys. Guys. If you haven’t heard  of Tilly and the Wall, there’s probably nothing I can do for you. Okay, maybe there is something I can do for you. It’s called taking your little hand and introducing you to this song. You have been wandering in the dark and this song will show you where the light is.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Tilly and the Wall are a band. They are the only good thing to ever come out of Conor Oberst’s (I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Bright Eyes contingency. Cue Indie McCarthyism…now) supposedly illustrious career. They are five lovely people who came from Omaha and put out their first album, Wild Like Children, in 2004 which was followed by Bottoms of Barrels, O and their forthcoming album Heavy Mood that’s coming out in October.

Tilly is unique for a few reasons. One, they all write the songs and each of them has their own style which means that one song on the album can sound drastically different from another and that is a beautiful thing. And two, they have a tap dancer. Their rhythm section is provided by Jamie Pressnall, whose tapping is filled with more heart and energy than any drum set and who never fails to draw me into the song even when I’m extremely low. They’re a different band, and that makes them an amazing band.

Photo from Team Love Records

It’s kind of funny, Mister E came home recently and said “I heard someone on a podcast say that Tilly and the Wall and Ra Ra Riot are great bands with terrible names.” I patiently explained to him that their name comes from the Leo Lionni story, then explained to him who Leo Lionni was. He said he likes what he’s heard of Tilly (I’ve played him my own version of their greatest hits) and is more than happy to accompany me to the concert in November if I can get my head on straight long enough to go to Austin.

I’ve only seen them live once, and it was at The Abbey in Chicago. I went with S (aka VeganFemme) who is the one who introduced me to Tilly via a pair of CDs sent to me while I was in Wisconsin. She has been responsible over the years for helping me discover a lot of music, so I completely trust her musical judgment. With the exception of Bright Eyes because COME ON. But I love her, so I tried. I tried real hard. It ain’t happening.

Now go watch this video. It’s one of my favorite Tilly songs and you can see Jamie doing her thing pretty well. I can’t wait for Mister E to see this in November. If he liked Steel Train, he’s going to love Tilly.