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.

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I Have Learned Nothing: The O’s

So Friday was another long ass day at work and I was ready for a little rest and relaxation when I got off at 7:00. Thankfully, my break came courtesy of The O’s and a little venue called 502 Bar.

I did not even know cute little bars/venues like this existed in Lamesville! If I had to compare it to one in Austin I would say that it is like Skinny’s, but a little bigger. They had an extensive drink menu and had Tito’s on special, so I knew what I’d be having. After an epic drunk at the MC Chris show (more on that later) that ended with my stomach returning its contents to the ground from whence it came, I had instituted a one-drink policy for the night.

Best laid plans, y’all.

Anyway, I got my Tito’s and Sprite, picked up at Shiner for Mister E and a couple of shots of Jameson for Taylor and John, better known as The O’s. They’re a little indie band from Dallas that is mighty fine. I met them at The Mohawk in Austin (I have been having quite the concert summer, you see) last month and they are some of the nicest guys you ever want to meet. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since they hang out with the guys from Calhoun on the regular. We even talked about what an asshole Tim Locke is (just kidding, he’s awesome).

First things first, I dropped off the shots and greeted the guys. I said hey to Taylor and introduced him to Mister E, and then he said possibly the greatest thing ever. My favorite song by them is Lighten The Load, which is my go-to “stop worrying, it’ll be fine” songs and I had expressed a wish on Twitter to hear it. He told me they had never played it live but they were gonna do it for me that night. There aren’t enough less-than-threes in the world.

They went up on stage to finish setting up and Mister E and I set up shop at the table right beside the stage. There was this thing on the menu called an Orange Whip that consisted of Ketel Oranje, St. Germain, something else, and an orange wedge. It looked promising so I thought I’d relax the policy while I bought Mister E his very first Moscow Mule and another couple of Jameson shots for the guys.The Orange Whip

They played my song, y’all. They said it was a “very special request” and played the song I listen to every time I’m stressed about dental radiographs, whenever I know I’m gonna get snapped at, whenever the anxiety threatens to overwhelm me. I play it so much Mister E was able to sing along. Taylor thanked me for getting them to play it and I thanked them back. With words and booze.

Lighten The Load

The show was so good! I’ve only seen them live twice but I am constantly fascinated by how John can play the harmonica, the banjo and the tambourine at the same time while Taylor sings, plays guitar and kick drum. Seriously, if you’re not listening to The O’s you are missing out. I don’t like pigeonholing music but I suppose you’d have to call them alt-country or maybe even alt-folk. Just go listen to them, already.

The O's

After the show I picked up another Mule for Mister E, some Jameson for Taylor (John wasn’t finished with his yet) and um, another Tito’s and Sprite for me. SHUT UP I KNOW. According to my practice manager, alcohol is a solution. To what, I’m not sure. Social anxiety?

We had a great time talking to the guys, talking about music, burgers (veggie and otherwise) in Austin and the fact that driving north via 281 is a lot nicer than 35. They’re the kind of guys you could just go hang out with and it’d be cool. They’re so cool I bought them beers. Yeah, more of them.

Finally I just said fuck the policy and picked up two Jameson shots for the guys and a shot of Tito’s straight up for myself, which we used to close out the night. There were hugs and goodbyes, and I staggered out of there with my husband to drive home and pass out in my clothes. Good thing my Bee and Puppycat shirt is so comfy.

If things work out, Mister E and I might be going back to 502 to see Mega Ran very soon.

I plan on recapping the other concerts I’ve seen this summer in the next couple of posts, so look forward to it if you like hearing about these little adventures!

Life’s Like A Jump Rope: Blue October

Yesterday was my day off and I was on Twitter (as usual), when I saw Blue October tweet that they were having a free show at the Barnes and Noble out in Moneyville. As you know, Lamesville isn’t known for its music draw and the chance to see one of my all time favorite bands in my town for free was not to be missed. So once the traffic died down I put on my Yee-haw Kitty Shirt and started the drive.

It did not go smoothly.

First, I missed my exit. Then my GPS refused to reroute it. Then the map server fell off the face of the earth and I found myself circling a fancy-pants area of town called The Rim. After giggling like a 12 year old boy, I stopped a gentleman in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot and asked him where the hell the B&N was. He gave me some circuitous directions and I finally found my way to the “venue” with only about 10 minutes to spare.

Then there was a line. The upper deck where they were having the show was filled to capacity and they weren’t letting us up. I decided I would have to content myself with just hearing the concert. Then the kind manager let the rest of us up and I squeezed myself in with a bunch of other people, all of whom were taller than me. By some amazing stroke of luck, two people moved a certain way and I was able to see Justin from between their heads.

blueoctober

The set was awesome. I finally got to hear songs from their newest album and the story behind Bleed Out made me get teary. Then he had everyone in the store sing Into The Ocean and I really got teary.

Then I found out they were signing CDs. I immediately ran down to the music department, bought a CD and got my group number (I) for the signing line. My plan was to get some Starbucks, grab a manga, and just chill ’til my group was called. Unfortunately when I got back upstairs I discovered I was in hell. I couldn’t get to the manga. It was behind where they were signing. So I made a new friend. Her name was Alex and she was like 20 years old but we bonded over nail colors and Blue October “oldies.”

When I got up to the signing table, I got the VERY LAST poster of the night. They were all “you’re the winner!”  I was all “What did I win?” What was the answer? “The very last poster!” Which they then signed for me.

swayposter

The signing was great and everything, but the real moment of the night (probably the week or possibly the month) for me came when I got to stand in front of Justin and thank him. Thank him for all the times I felt alone in my mania or depression and his words saved me. Thank him for letting me know through his songs that he had been where I was and was still going as best he could. Thank him for giving me the chance to sing along and know that someone, somewhere knew how I felt.

My voice shaking, I told him thank you. I told him I went through some really heavy stuff last year and that his music helped me through and let me know that someone else had the same issues and was keeping going. Justin shook my hand and told me he was glad to be there for me, then he said the one thing that matters to someone like me and to people with mental illness all over the world.

“You’re never alone,” he said.

How I didn’t start crying right then and there is beyond me. I gripped his hand and thanked him again, then moved along so everyone else could have their chance to thank him. I’m crying right now, though. But they’re happy tears this time.

At this time last year, I was still hiding in my house. I was hearing voices and wondering why I was even alive. I was scared all the time. I never would have been able to put on clothes, get in a car and drive myself to see a show, even if it meant meeting one of my heroes. I never would have been able to see a tweet, toss on a pair of shoes and head to Moneyville. Every day, I’m still amazed at how much I’ve been able to do since then. And through all of it, Blue October has been there to tell me that “Life’s like a jump rope.”

Thank you, Justin. More than I can ever say.

On Holiday: The Concert

So for those of you who don’t know, I spent some time away from Lamesville last week. It was beautiful. So beautiful that it can only be expressed through several blog posts. I’ll start with the concert, which was the reason I was to go to Austin in the first place.

The show in question was the Ra Ra Riot show I’ve been looking forward to since they announced it a couple of months ago. I mentioned my desire to see it and RJ said he’d get us tickets for my birthday. Since I still don’t have a job for various reasons, I decided to make a holiday out of it and stay for several days.

After arriving in the midst of rush hour traffic and (my first instance of) getting lost, I was whisked away for a quick dinner before the doors to the Belmont opened up. It was a really nice little venue, with an upper outdoor balcony, a lower teensy part-indoor balcony and a decent outdoor area where the stage was set up. Last time I saw Ra Ra Riot was at Emo’s and let me just say that the Belmont was moving up in the world.

The opening band was one called Pacific Air, and the singer’s voice reminded me of someone else but I can’t place who. The were pretty darn good, which is always a good thing for an opening band because it means you’re not continually looking at your watch wondering when their set is up. I’m actually listening to them on Spotify as I type this. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing them again. Here’s a bit of their music for you to enjoy while you read.

Then they left and everyone who had been milling around the bar taking selfies with their iPhones started pushing toward the stage in preparation for Ra Ra Riot’s set to start. The crowd in the “pit” seemed very young, as evidenced by their little unlined faces, twig-like legs, and the big black X on their hands.

Because we are old, RJ and I stood on the little balcony where it was pleasant and we didn’t have to fight with people to see the stage. There was also a handy rail just beside us where I was able to place the empty glasses from the (several) vodka and Sprites I had. They were just so smooth, you see. Also, RJ was picking up the tab. And if there’s one thing my mother taught me it’s that if someone else is paying for the booze, you should soak it up.

Anyway, I got some great pictures. I can’t remember if this was “Oh, La” or “Is It Too Much.”

The show was awesome, to say the least. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t play much of their old stuff or have rearranged it to not have the cellist, but in a rare moment of the universe smiling on me they seem to have acquired a new cellist. This meant I got to hear pretty much all my favorite songs from all three albums, with the exception of “Kansai.” They never play “Kansai.”

SAMSUNGMy favorite parts were everyone singing and dancing to “Dance With Me” and their encore of “Dying is Fine.” When they played “Ghost Under Rocks” I actually cried because I couldn’t help thinking about my little Bucky. I think that song will forever be linked with him in my mind.

This was the first concert I’ve been to in over a year, and I missed it so much. Someone once told me I wasn’t allowed to say I have social anxiety issues because I love going to concerts, which is really missing the whole point. Live music is an amazing thing because you can be the most awkward, nervous person on the planet, but once the music starts to play you’re not just one person anymore. You’re part of this amazing group who has gathered from all over to dance, sing, laugh and share this vibe between the audience and the band. You’re not alone. And if you dance like an idiot, or spill your drink, or accidentally grab someone’s ass, it’s cool because you probably won’t see them again. It’s better than therapy.

After the encore, we made it back to my car in the spritzing rain and RJ drove because I’d been drinking. We got back to the house at a reasonable time and flopped into bed, where we watched Fawlty Towers until we passed out. It was a great start to my little holiday.

Beta Love

rrrbetalovecoverSo now that it’s been out a little while and I’ve had a chance to listen to it on repeat for a while, add it to every running mix I’ve created, and pick out my favorite songs, I suppose I should tell you how I feel about Ra Ra Riot’s new album, Beta Love. It might come as a shock to you, but I love it.

I wasn’t sure I’d like it, though.

As we have previously established through an exhaustive inspection of my music collection, I tend to go for bands and singers whose music feature strings, such as Blue October and Andrew Bird. When I first heard Ra Ra Riot, it was the string section in their song “Dying is Fine” that caught my attention. So when I heard that Alexandra, their cellist, was leaving the band I was heartbroken and concerned.

However, we have also previously established that I love Ra Ra Riot. Hell, part of my beloved Bucky tattoo are the words “Skin and Claw,” a reference to their song “Ghost Under Rocks.” So even though the article said that their new album was going to be more synth-based, I resolved to give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re one of my all-time favorites. When “Beta Love” was released as a single in November, I gritted my teeth and pressed play.

It was wonderful.

I was immediately hooked and ended up listening to it so many times that I think Mister E even knows the lyrics. Every new single that they released on Spotify was on perma-play. As soon as they put the entire album up on Youtube, I started listening to all of the songs in the same way. I just could not (and cannot) get enough of this album.

The synths and violin work beautifully together, and the frantic beats that populate the majority of the album get into your head and make you want to dance, no matter where you are. I have to remind myself that I’m not allowed to have a dance party on the treadmill when “Dance With Me” comes on. Every. Single. Time. The lyrics are a little different than previous albums; science fiction inspired with a lot of emphasis on artificial intelligence and the capability of machines to feel, but I still get that straight-to-the-heart feeling that gives me goosebumps from them.

Beta Love is an awesome album. Why haven’t you stopped reading yet to go listen to it?

Since I already posted “Dance With Me” yesterday, I’ll put up “Beta Love” so you can get hooked too. Then go buy their album or go to a show, like I will be next week. Trust me, they’re awesome.