Monday, March 30, 2009

Cory Schmitz: Boy Genius Designer

Cory Schmitz is a young designer, and he is totally awesome. Check out his site here. I love this piece so much, I can't even tell you.

This Too Is Funny

This is hilarious - it's not mine unfortunately, but it makes me laugh really hard.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Woman A Man Walk By Is Haunting

Many of my favorite albums encompass a sense of atmosphere – a unique presence of place that can remove you from wherever you are and quite literally take you somewhere else. At their best, PJ Harvey owns a strange darkness on her albums, a darkness that is palpable in her live performances. Live she becomes a dominant, unnerving, and terrible force, one that is both intimidating and surreal. In short, Ms. Harvey is a force of nature, and a force to be reckoned with.

Longtime producer John Parish, who previously collaborated with Harvey on 1996's Dance Hall at Louse Point and produced 1995’s To Bring You My Love through 2007’s White Chalk works with Harvey here as a full partnership. The new album A Man A Woman Walked By is a full collaboration between Parish and Harvey, with Parish providing the music and Harvey the lyrics and vocals.

The results of this collaboration are a bit uneven, yet often produce stunning results. Opener (and best song on the album) “Black Hearted Love” rips open big, sickly, quivering distorted guitars, and sounds very much like “Woke Up In A Strange Place” by Jeff Buckley (when I say it sounds very much like, I mean almost identically - at least the riff anyway). This is the high point of the album, a spectral beauty that sweeps through with all the mystery, clout, and just plain darkness as other Harvey classics like “Angelene”, “Horses In My Dreams” or “I Can Hardly Wait”. This is the “worth the price of admission” track that makes the album worth purchasing. I include the lyrics here because I think they can say it better than I can:

I think I saw you in the shadows

I move in closer beneath your windows

Who would suspect me of this rapture?

And who but my black hearted love

And who but my black hearted love

When you call out my name in rapture

I volunteer my soul for murder
I wish this moment here forever

And you are my black hearted love

And you are my black hearted love

In the rain, in the evening
I will come again
I'd like to take you
I'd like to take you to a place
I know
My black hearted

Other noteworthy moments are the haunting stomp of the title track; the broken blues of "Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen", and the magnificent closer "Cracks in the Canvas" are all excellent as well.

This isn’t the best PJ Harvey record, but it sure is an interesting side jaunt.

The Verdict: (a very solid) 2.5 out of 5 stars.

PS - OK, I tried to only include a link to this video, but I can't. So here it is:

Away We Go Looks Good

Away We Go has a cool poster, and the trailer looks good too. Check it out here.

Glasvegas Take Atlanta, America

Anyone who knows me, or has read my blog in the past 6 months, knows that I am crazy about Glasvegas. You may remember me posting about them here or here or here or here or here. Again, Glasvegas are from Glasgow, Scotland (Glasgow + Las Vegas = Glasvegas) and are currently my favorite band in the world. Or as my brother in law would say it – “they are my favorite band in the world - flat out”.

Last week we went down to Atlanta to see them at The Loft. The Loft is a pretty cool split level venue, where three separate bars are stacked on top of one another, allowing three distinct bands to play simultaneously – while we were there for Glasvegas, Josh Ritter and Gomez were also playing – it would be great if you could buy a split ticket, because I would pay to see all three of them. Anyway, The Loft is very small and intimate, allowing you to be within eye contact with whomever is on stage from anywhere in the place. Awesome.

The Atlanta show was only the third show of the tour – they have played NYC several times, opening for Echo & the Bunnymen for their epic Ocean Rain gigs at Radio City Music Hall, but this is only their third “solo” show as a headliner in the US. Glasvegas had just come off their triumphant performance at the prestigious and all important SXSW gigs, where they were voted the best live performance of the entire festival. Pretty hefty accolades all around. I’ve watched them on YouTube a million times (and seen their power live), but never been witness to them in person – needless to say I was pretty excited.

After half paying attention to opener Ida Maria (more on them later) we made our way up to the front of the stage. The lights went black, and the familiar sounds of the “Where The Streets Have No Name”-ish organ filled the space. Lights flashed all around, and the crowd lit up as Glasvegas walked on stage – all in black, James Allen wearing his now trademark Wayfarers, as cool as cool gets.

The opening chords of “Geraldine” tore through the space, and off we went, with the roar of a jet plane we collectively took off. With beauty and ferocity they ripped through most of their one and only debut, in a set list that went:

Lonesome Swan
It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
Polmont On My Mind
F U It’s Over

SAD Light
Ice Cream Van
Flowers And Football Tops
Go Square Go
Please Come Back Home
Daddy’s Gone

The entire set was fantastic, a few highlights: SAD Light, which James took his guitar off and sang with abandon, veins bulging out of his neck, Boss-style; album throwaway Ice Cream Van became transformed live into a U2-sized epic, full of huge crescendos and whisper-to-a-scream theatrics; Flowers and Football Tops was exactly the stadium worthy anthem I expected it to be; the rush of singing with the crowd on Go Square Go; the swell of tears welling up in my eyes as James and Rab alone under blue lights for encore Please Come Back Home; and finally the cathartic wave of closer Daddy’s Gone. So, so many highlights for a set of only 11 songs.

For a band with only one album and EP, this was a heroic set – nearly every song would serve as an excellent encore. The performances from the band were incendiary from the moment they took the stage. Rab (lead guitar) and Paul (bass) were like two bulls in a ring, stomping towards each other, heads down, guitar necks swinging. Drummer Caroline stands up the entire show, pounding the toms with the force of a sledgehammer, while James fronts the whole thing like a true frontman, all Cash meets Strummer meets Springsteen meets Bono intensity. This band means it - every note, every word is delivered like their lives depend on it.

When the set ended James shook the hand of every guy and kissed every girl in the front row. It was a sincere gesture from a band that truly appreciated the support of its fans. Shortly after the set ended, we met Caroline at the merchandise table, who posed for a picture and couldn’t be nicer to us, thanking us for coming multiple times. We wound up outside, hanging out with a bunch of very, very cool Scottish and English people who had flown to America to see Glasvegas in a small venue, as in the UK they couldn’t see them anywhere under an 8,000 person arena. After waiting for a time, the lead singer of Ida Maria came out, and the pair of Scottish guys rushed after her, asking if she would pose for a picture. She snarled at them, turned up her nose and walked off. Wow, OK, I’m going to say it outright – Ida Maria sucks.

Suddenly Paul (the bass player) popped out the side door, so cool in his Beatle-boots and Elvis-pompadour. He was so friendly and wound up standing out on the sidewalk and talking to us for over an hour. I mentioned to him that I thought James looks like Ian McCulloch from Echo & The Bunnymen, and he told me that he had never thought of that, but that seeing the Bunnymen at SXSW was the highlight of his SXSW experience. So awesome.

A while later Rab came out, a big, hulking Scotsmen. Again, so friendly and disarmingly nice. But James was the best – so effortlessly charismatic. He came down and hung out with all of us, thanking us sincerely for coming, telling me he’s going away to write demos later in the year, talking about how odd it is to see an audience of Americans singing Daddy’s Gone in unison. After hanging out for a while, the tour manager came over to give him the hook, dragging him away. Before leaving he gave each of us a hug, kissed my wife’s cheek, and off he went into the night. It was one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had. I loved this band before, but now I feel like I know them, like I am even more connected to the music. They have my eternal loyalty. Enjoy the live vids, as you can hear me singing my head off in the background of them! Buy the record, you won’t be sorry.

PS - they are on Jimmy Fallon tomorrow, Monday the 30th. Check them out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Project Lodge - Good Art For Good People

One of the best independent gallery's in Madison, WI is The Project Lodge. As the title suggests, this is a good gallery operated by good people. My friend Melanie Kehoss and I had a show there last year, and the space was wonderful. Check it out when you have the chance.

Vandiver Gallery Artist Lecture Monday

Next Monday at 5:00 there will be an artist lecture by myself, Jo Carol Mitchell-Rogers, Nathan Cox, and many others. The lecture will be held in the Vandiver Gallery, (in the library) at Anderson University. Come one come all!

UPDATED: Satisfaction Town Exhibition/SGC Chicago

The Satisfaction Town multi-media exhibition is taking place this weekend in Chicago, in conjunction with SGC (Southern Graphics Conference). I have a video piece (Intervention) in the show, as do many of my past friends and colleagues. Here's the breakdown:

Satisfaction Town Location: Columbia College, Conaway Center, 1104 South Wabash Ave, ground floor Date: Friday, March 27 Time: 5 - 8 pm

Satisfaction Town
consists of the new breed of printmakers, artists, musicians, performers, poets, activists, and makers. We plan to create an interactive collaborative print environment with a parade of dimensional and flat prints. Traditionally in museum and gallery settings, art is put on a pedestal or framed under glass, removing it from the audience. Our approach for Satisfaction Town will be interactive. We will bring the art directly to the viewer, to distance the work from this hierarchical standard. We will create an active live print space with collaborative teams handing off prints to each other and to audience members.

Featuring: Midwest Pressed (Tim Dooley/Aaron Wilson), Howling Print Studio (Dennis McNett), Peripheral Media Projects, Actual Size Artworks (Gail Simpson/Aristotle Georgiades), Satan's Camaro (Lenore Thomas/Justin Strom), The Amazing Hancock Brothers, Derrick Buisch (202c), Vitamin DD girl on girl collaboration (Jess Wilson, Erin Lee Jones, Tara Mathison, Kassie Teng and Jenny San Martin), The Scavengers (Jason Ruhl/Amy Newell), Fresh Hot Press, Mess Hall Press, Bikini Press International, Bastards of Print Society VS. Dirty Printmakers of America (organized by: Jon Goebel, Brandon Gardner, Meghan O”Connor, Nick Alley), Reptile Worship, beskoniste', Marwin Begaye, Curtis Jones, Nick Alley, Dusty Herbig, Erin O'Connor, Michael Rae/Joseph Velasquez, Joe Leroux, Imin Yeh, David Raine, Amze Emmons, David Teng Olsen, Emerson Stone III, Tim Speaker, Tyanna Buie, Mike McMann, Chris daCRe™, Mark Hosford, Jonas Angelet, Morgan Sims, Steven Hixon, Amanda Knowles, Tom Jones, Keith Lemley, Matt Bindert, Chinn Wang, Justin Maes, Alex Pena, Lloyd W. Patterson Jr. and selected prints by The Frans Masereel Centrum Belgium.

Lots more information can be found here and here. Wish I could be there for it, but I hear that it's going great. I would love to see what my piece looked like projected on the side of a warehouse - that would be amazing. I just could not get away right now....ugh.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jacques Auriac: Genius

Saw this stuff over at the awesome Grain Edit and was totally knocked out. Head over there and check it out here.

Where The Wild Things Are Trailer Is WONDERFUL

When I was young, my favorite book in the whole world was Where The Wild Things Are. Now they made a movie, which at first freaked me out, but once I saw the name Spike Jonze and watched the soundtrack featuring Arcade Fire, I am nothing but excited. Seriously, watch it, it looks amazing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Card Observer Is A Wealth of Informaton

The site Card Observer is so inspirational for designers - there are dozens of the most interesting and beautiful business card/identity designs to peruse. Check them out here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pepsi Rebrand: Not So Much

Pepsi recently spent 1.2 billion dollars to have a complete rebrand. However, there was a critical and consumer backlash against the redo, and Pepsi have decided to take not just a step backward, but a huge step back - they now are using their "retro" logo. The whole thing is kind of sad. Anyway, here it is. Take a look at their site for more information.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Detroit's Beautiful Decline

As many of you already know, I'm crazy about Detroit. Time Magazine just featured a photo essay about Detroit by two French artists. Check out the small gallery here, it's beautiful. Even more on their website here. From the Marchand & Meffre website concerning the Ruins of Detroit project:

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the city of Detroit
developed rapidly thanks to the automobile industry.

Until the 50's, its population rose to almost 2 million people.
Detroit was the 4th most important city in the United States.

It was the dazzling symbol of the American Dream City with its monumental skyscrapers and fancy neighborhoods.

Increasing of segregation and deindustrialization caused violent riots in 1967. The white middle-class exodus from the city accelerated and the suburbs grew. Firms and factories began to close or move to lower-wage states. Slowly, but inexorably downtown high-rise buildings emptied.

Since the 50's, "Motor City" lost more than half of its population.

Nowadays, its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great civilization.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway is Amazing

I know I am breaking away from the usual topics of this blog, but I've been on the road alot of late and I wanted to touch base on some of it.

My wife and I drove up to Brevard,NC yesterday. Brevard is a hip little mountain town in the middle of some of the most spectacularly beautiful country in the world. We wound up driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is about 100 miles of driving up, down, around and through the Smoky Mountains. Completely amazing, but I became very altitude sick at about 6000 feet. I have been developing a sinus infection, and once we hit the high altitude, it was like getting hit in the sinuses with a brick. I just wanted to go to sleep so badly. It was the oddest feeling I have ever had.

The point of all this is that the drive is breathtaking, and a must do if you are in this part of the country. I took this picture at about 5000 feet. Unbelievable.

CAA 2009: A Report From The Front Lines

Recently I attended the College Art Association Conference in Los Angeles, and I have been meaning to report on it here, but haven't had the chance. So here is just a couple short notes about the conference.

First off, L.A. is a city I've only been too twice, and both times were for short periods. I went out to California when I was 17 and only went to L.A. for a night, trekked the Walk of Fame, went to Groman's Chinese Theatre, etc. This time I really wanted to spend some time there, go to the Viper Room, etc. - especially after my Uncle Jim told me a bunch of stories about being out on Sunset Strip in the early 80's with Nikki Sixx and Arnold Schwartzenegger. No, really.

Anyway, it seemed that all we did was go back and forth from the conference to the hotel, the hotel to the conference, ad nauseum. Really didn't have time for much else. Drove up to Charlotte, NC, flew to Memphis, TN, then on to L.A. which really whiped me out - even a few hours of jetlag really knock you out. I really am interested in L.A. - it's a city that I haven't really explored, and really would like to get to the heart of. The return trip was just as chaotic; we were picked up at the hotel at 3:30 in the morning, then a flight to
Minneapolis, then to Charlotte, then drive back down to Greenville where I had to be at a design awards ceremony. Crazy…OK, back to the conference.

Upon entering the large interview hall, I was shocked to find that there were perhaps 1/3 of the typical tables present. There are just so few jobs out there right now in academia, that I feel bad for people who are working hard to get a position. However, there were significantly less job seekers too. Maybe ½ of what is normal. Perhaps it was because it was on the West Coast, as the trip West would be prohibitively high in cost for most artists. Any way you look at it, it seems that the economy is now hitting the arts community really hard. This is such a disheartening trend, as I think now more than ever we need the beauty and resilience that having an artistic voice gives us as a culture.

This is just a plea to all readers: support the arts, buy local art from local artists!

BTW - the image above was shot out my hotel window at 5 am.

New Black Friday Poster

This is a poster for the band Black Friday. I just knocked it out, and I'm fairly pleased with it. Here it is. Enjoy.

Speak Takes America

Writing about my recent trip to L.A. got me thinking about the American cities that I love, and the one's I could do without. I want to ask my reader's not to be offended by these lists, as they are based solely on my personal experiences, many of which were absolutely brief.

9 Favorite American Cities (Not Including South Bend,IN):
1. New York City, NY - It can take you years, as it is like a big 5 headed monster with all of the Burroughs, with so many new and exciting avenues to explore every time I am there, but I feel like I "get" it - I think I understand NYC's heart. I've got a handle on the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, but there is so much more to explore. Always been #1, always will be.
2. Milwaukee, WI - It is very, very underrated - I thought Milwaukee would be like Detroit because I knew Miller and Harley were there, but it's clean and beautiful, like a mini-Chicago but without all the hipsters.
3. La Jolla, CA - Great Californian city between San Diego (which is cool too) and Tijuana (which I wanted to move to permanently when I was 18). Laid back surfer culture with some of the most spectacular beaches in the US.
4. Madison, WI - I lived there for nearly 5 years, and they were the best years of my life. Great combination of things; culture, nightlife, safety, geographic beauty, and cool people. Tough to beat in a city that size.
5. Omaha, NE - Totally awesome, big city literally in the middle of nowhere. Great downtown art scene with funky little side districts full of great bars and restaurants. So cool I can't even tell you.
6. Detroit, MI - America's only inhabited ruin. An entire supercity crumbling, rusting, and decaying - to these eyes it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. God I love it. Didn't know where to place it on this list because I love it so much deep in my soul.
7. Baltimore, MD - As ancient as America gets. I love American Gothic cities, and this is the one. The waterfront area has been revitalised and is packed with great restaurants and shops.
8. Kalamazoo, MI - Never a bad time there, been there hundreds of times and still batting a thousand. Rocketstar Cafe, Fourth Coast, Water St. - home of great coffeehouses.
9. Provincetown, RI - One of the original artist colonies. Tons of great artwork, food, etc. Not for the faint of heart.

5 Cities I've Been To But Want To Get To Know Better:
1. Los Angeles, CA - see above.
2. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN - Everybody, and I mean everybody it seems, loves The Cities. Never heard anything bad about them. Simple as that.
3. Atlanta, GA - Been a few times, but haven't gotten to the Belly of the Beast.
4. Boston, MA - Been through a few times, but never for long. Going to Fenway is on my life's goals list.
5. Savannah, GA - One of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. Reminded me a lot of Europe.

9 Cities I'm Kinda Done With
1. Miami, FL - I really, really hate Miami. It's extremely humid, every person you see appears to be actually (as well as metaphorically I suppose) made from plastic, and people get angry at you if you don't speak Spanish (I was actually yelled at for this in a store). No desire to ever return.
2. Dallas, TX - Actually I'm pretty much done with Texas.
3. Providence, RI - After I had been there, I really couldn't tell you why anyone would want to go there. Snobby people, bad weather, enough said.
4. Cleveland, OH - The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is kinda cool, as are the Flats, but really that's it.
5. Chicago, IL - I used to love to go to Chicago, but now it just kinda feels like a big hassle - but I get it, I totally get Chicago. It sounds harsh because I still really like Chicago, I just feel like I've seen what I want to see of it for awhile.
6. Norman, OK - It is so desolate it literally scared me half to death.
7. Kansas City, MS - Ugh. Horrifyingly ugly. I expect murders are happening there in the most gruesome of ways.
8. Cincinnati, OH - Actually, Ohio, like Texas, is dead to me.
9. Philadelphia, PA - People always tell me it's awesome, so I'm willing to give it another chance. When I was there (in the mid-nineties) it was filthy, cops chased us, etc. Based on the words of people I respect, I am totally willing to give it another shot though.

7 Cities I've Never Been To But Want To Go:
1. New Orleans, LA - I'm already in love with it and haven't been there. 2. Seattle, WA - Always wanted to, but haven't been yet.
3. San Francisco, CA - I'm very interested in Northern California. I haven't really been much north of Hollywood.
4. Asheville, NC - It seems like everyone is in love with it. Thought I was going there a couple of weeks ago, but didn't make it.
5. Austin, TX
- I would like to go to Austin though (I thought I was going there this spring for a conference, but it didn't work out). Dying to go to SXSW, so maybe I can test Texas out one last time.
6. Pittsburgh, PA - As a confirmed Warhol nut, I'm dying to go to the Warhol museum.
7. Portland, OR - Another city I've hears so much about I feel sheepish for never having been to.

On a side note: The entire state of Wyoming is totally underrated, the Dakotas are too. I'm not a fan of Kentucky, but only because I've almost died there a couple of times. Driving through Memphis and Knoxville are not cool either.

50 Designers' Current Favourite Typefaces

The awesome Create/Reject has put together a great book of the current favorite typefaces by 50 of the greatest designers in the world. Too cool. Check out the whole site here, it's totally worth it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Now This Is Beautiful

Seriously, this is so beautiful I can't even stand it....look at that typography! Wow...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Irishmen

In celebration of the best holiday ever, St. Patrick's Day, I give you a pair of Irish tales, about a pair of great Irishmen, and with them a pair of videos.

First Up: out of the gritty backstreets of that Dirty Old Town, Dublin, we have the great, great (and one of my personal heroes) Shane MacGowan. MacGowan fought his way through the original punk wars of the late seventies in London, and eventually formed his own band, The Pogues. The Pogues drew on traditional Irish music fused with the energy and unabashed attack of punk. MacGowan himself instantly positioned himself as one of the greatest lyricists of all time upon their first release. From Wikipedia:

MacGowan drew on his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the U.S., and London life in general. MacGowan has often cited the 19th-century Irish poet James Clarence Mangan and playwright Brendan Behan as influences.

Above is his best loved song, Fairytale of New York. And though technically a Christmas song (and in my opinion the greatest Christmas song ever written), it sure feels good to sing on St. Patty's Day.

Bonus: watch this performance by The Pogues and the Dubliners. Amazing.

Second Up: Out of the mean streets of South Jersey, came Irishman Raghib "Rocket" Ismail. Ismail was known as the Rocket due to his blazing speed, which he wielded as a weapon. From the second he stepped on campus at the University of Notre Dame The Rocket was a force to be reckoned with. From Wikipedia:

Ismail was known as a tremendous game breaker who could turn a game around with his unmatched hustle. During the 1989 regular season game against the University of Michigan, Ismail returned two kickoffs for touchdowns sealing the Wolverines' downfall. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, and received numerous awards, including All-American status. In the 1991 Orange Bowl, he returned a punt return 91 yards for a touchdown that would have sealed the game for Notre Dame and stopped Colorado from winning a split of the National Championship, however the play was later called back on a phantom (ed.) clipping call and Notre Dame eventually lost 10-9.

Watch this too, it's totally worth spending a few minutes on. So awesome.

So sit back and enjoy this Tale of Two Irishmen on this beautiful St. Patty's Day.

Hey Designer, Sick of Skulls Yet?

Skulls have been the de rigeur in design for the past several years. I really haven't had a problem with it because I personally really like skulls and other rock iconography. However, once you start to be concious of it, you find that they really are everywhere, and it becomes obvious that the whole emo thing has really got to go. Whether on a Motorhead T shirt or in terrible, vile movies (Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull), they are everywhere. Anyway, AIGA has a great article over at their site called Forever Skull concerning this whole phenomenom. From the article:

The skull is an elastic symbol, but it expresses a frustrated desire: we will never see our own skulls. The impossibility of this self-knowledge maddens and tempts us. So we flatten our skulls, misshape them, adorn and prettify them, wrap them in thorns and set them afire, make them scary, funny, silly, slick, put them everywhere, on everything, for whatever excuse comes to mind. On and on, we are doomed to representations, teasing ourselves with reminders of the limits of our perceptions. We will never see our own skulls. But we will always want to.

Go read the entire album, it's really fascinating.

BTW - the you should check out Damien Hirst's controversial piece "Diamond Encrusted Skull". Dig it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mark Weaver Design Is Good Stuff

Lots of good stuff here. Mark Weaver has a great logo too, but his work for Paste Magazine is quite good too. Have a looksee.

The Perfect Sunday Morning Soundtrack

Woke up early this morning, and put on some old, old Tom Waits stuff. As the rain rolls down the windows out of these grey skies, I sit back with my coffee and put on Rain Dogs, my favorite Tom Waits record of all time, and the memories come flooding back. I remember long nights sitting up with my good friend Thad, talking and laughing as the sun comes up over the dilapitated skyline of Old Town Saginaw. I can recall the way you rub your bloodshot eyes after staying up all night, throat sore from talking, face tired from laughing and crying (depending on the conversation), standing on a street corner leaning against the streetsign, as the bums ramble through the garbage cans. Driving home half asleep, sun pouring all over everything, warm and alien on my arm hanging out the window, as I glide down hushed backstreets. I haven't thought about this in a long time, but it's perfect here in South Carolina on a cold rainy Sunday morning, thinking of the rusted, glorious Saginaw morning streets. I'll put on another Tom Waits record, and pour another coffee, and wish Thad was here to see the morning light, drifting in through closed windows.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Music Video of the Week: Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star
were a really interesting mid-late nineties band. I really got into them for awhile, getting alittle too obsessed at times. I remember when So Tonight That I Might See came out, and one summer I listened to Fade Into You on repeat for about a month. My bedroom was right above my parents, and my Mom wanted to kill me. The best invention for me when I was growing up was the repeat button. That allowed me to climb extremely deep into a song, and totally get lost in immersion. Fade Into You was one of those songs (I once listened to Kashmir by Led Zeppelin for an entire summer - over 3 months on repeat, without stopping the cd player - but that's another level of obsession all together).

Truly a unique and interesting band, made up of songwriter and auteur David Roback and the hauntingly beautiful Hope Sandoval. Mazzy Star made only three albums in their brief lifetime, though each one featured several fantastic tracks. So Tonight That I Might See was easily their most commercially successful album, and was also their most complete. Besides Fade Into You, Five String Seranade, Blue Light, Bells Ring, and the devastating Into Dust were all great songs. Their final album, Among My Swan, featured my favorite song in their repertoire, Roseblood, as well as the excellent Take Everything, Disappear, Rhymes of an Hour, and Look On Down From the Bridge.

Listening to them tonight is bringing back all kinds of memories. Lots of strange memories I haven't thought about in years. Well enjoy.

Cool Letterpress Demo

As the title says, this is a cool letterpress demo. Watch the entire thing, it's awesome.

Kyle White Design Is Awesome

There isn't anything on this entire page that isn't cool. Seriously, it's all really, really good. Check it out.

Szpajdel: Belgium For Evil Design

Interview with Christophe Szpajdel over at Vice Magazine site. You can read it here, but even better scroll through the evil black metal logos. Ca-razy.

Nice Illustration, and Content

I like this illustration alot...a couple of good things here, but some not so good things too. Check it out and make up yer own mind. Also, I really like Antony & the Johnsons new record. Good performance here. On second thought, I'll just post their live performance from Letterman on Feb. 19 here too. He's awesome, and weird, and awesome. Enjoy.

More Funny Stuff

Sorry all my loyal readers, I've been so busy lately....but this is really funny and made me laugh openly! Check it out.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Periodic Table of Awesome the coolest....thing....ever....(thanks Wellington for posting this)....take a good look, it's awesome!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Anderson Students Take Addy's By Storm

The annual ADDY Awards are a big deal, especially in this region of the country. From the official press release:

Anderson University Graphic Design Students Take Top ADDY Awards

ANDERSON, S.C. – Six Anderson University senior graphic design students took top student awards at the annual 2009 ADDY Awards on February 28, including the “Best of Show” and “Judge’s Choice” awards. The students won a total of 10 out of the 20 awards, more than any other competing university. The ADDYs, which are sponsored by the American Advertising Federation of Greenville (AAF Greenville), honor excellence in advertising in an effort to cultivate high creative standards in the industry. Faculty advisors for the students include Professor Tim Speaker, assistant professor of art and event coordinator for AU students, Dr. Jo Carol Mitchell-Rogers, professor of art and chair of art department, and Professor Jason Smith, adjunct professor and art director at Erwin Penland in Greenville.

Pretty cool. The students did a great job, and I'm very proud of them!

Nubby Twiglet: Always Full of Cool

One of my favorite daily addictions is Nubby Twiglet. Nubby is like the cool kid in school that always has the best music and the hippest shoes. She always has amazing links, and I've linked to her before. Anyway, these moleskins are the coolest ones yet. Get them here. And check out the place I found them here. Too cool.

Giulia Santopadre: Italian For Great Design

Love all this stuff over at Giulia Santopadre. Beautiful work that is worth spending time with. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Since about 1998 I have been attempting to see in concert one of my favorite musical artists of all time - Morrissey. Three times I have purchased tickets, three times something has stopped me from going to the show, and three times I had to eat the ticket - no money back, no refund, nothing.

When I bought tickets for the March 9th show in Asheville, NC back in December, I was so happy that finally, after all these years and attempts, I was going to finally see the Moz. We thought about going to the Myrtle Beach, SC show, but instead decided to go to Asheville because it was on the night of my wife's birthday. I took this as a really good omen - this would finally be my chance!

Since then, Morrissey has stated in the press that he is planning on retiring in the next five years, and that this could possibly be his last tour. I felt so relieved - finally I would get to see Mozzer, and on his last tour ever! Wow, just in lucky...

I've been making the joke for the last several weeks that I wouldn't really believe that I was going to see Morrissey until I was actually there, with him in front of me. This was a joke of course. So on Monday, I was so excited driving into work playing his magnificent new album, Years of Refusal. A couple hours later I found out - the show was cancelled. I felt like this must be an elaborate joke, but there it was, blinking in big red capital letters on the website - CANCELLED. Unbelievable. I still am shocked and stunned, I still can't believe it. So it appears that I am just fated to not see Morrissey. I give up. It sucks, and I have officially given up all hope.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

No Line On The Horizon Is Epic

Every U2 album since the vastly underrated Zooropa has suffered from a lack of cohesive direction, or rather, a Big Idea. Pop, while having a Big Idea felt (and in fact was) fragmentary and undercooked. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was a bit bare bones and trite in some areas, and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb slightly “surface-y”. The last two albums (All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb) have had some authentically spectacular moments – “Beautiful Day”, “Kite”, “City of Blinding Lights”, “Miracle Drug” – but have occasionally felt like U2 Lite. To put a finer point on it; while one of the enormous strengths of earlier U2 albums had been in the prose of Bono’s lyrics, on All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb the lyrics seemed somewhat forced, arbitrary and painted in broad strokes. The focus (at least lyrically) appeared to be outward, concerned with world issues, while classics like Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree were unmistakably pointed inward. No Line On the Horizon then, is clearly the finest set of U2 lyrics penned since Achtung Baby.

Self-titled opener “No Line On The Horizon” melds the riff from “The Fly” with the glide and bounce of “Zooropa”. The entire record in fact, has a sort of “hover and soar” feeling to it. Musically it is shimmery and ethereal, while vocally Bono quickly reasserts himself as THE PREMIERE VOCALIST IN ROCK N ROLL. I’ve often said that Bono could make you cry by singing the listings in the phonebook, and this album (and title track) boldly reassert this claim. The song itself features an odd sort of hovering feeling that U2 previously dipped into on the (vastly underrated) Passengers Soundtrack Vol. 1. and again, Zooropa. This is territory that U2 has treaded before, but never quite in this way – it really establishes the thematic regions of the entire album.

Magnificent” follows, and feels like a leftover from War (and I mean that in a good way). The Edge has not jangled like this since the early eighties, dusting off a particular color in his palette that he alone owns, and the result is thrilling. The application of said jangle has seemed to unlock 1982 Bono as well, as he has not sang this open throated since taking his first vocal lessons post-Unforgettable Fire. (I swear I was wiping the rain off my forehead from Red Rocks just listening to this). It is at this point that Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton truly begin to impress – surely there is no better rhythm section in rock. Their interplay is sexy without being cheesy, a genuine push and pull, back and forth. The bass line itself sounds like Clayton left it behind in 1983 and rediscovered it only now, adding the “swing” to it that he has mastered in the years between. But it is the little things that make this a justly illustrious album, and one of those little things is the particular off beat on the bass drum that Mullen Jr. stomps here; an emotional thud of emphasis, as impactful as any lyric or melody. This has to be the only rhythm section in rock that can put a lump in your throat. Needless to say, this is intensely strong, strong stuff.

Moment of Surrender” clocks in at almost seven and a half minutes, and sweeps through unidentified territory, both musically and lyrically. However, this is the first evidence (often repeated throughout the album) of an original and innovative interaction amongst band members – often it sounds as not only the Edge and Bono are singing together, but perhaps Clayton, Mullen, Lanois, and Eno are all singing in unison, and the effect is startling. It almost feels like gospel (surely an Eno influence) in a genuine sense, as opposed to the blue eyed soul of say, “Stuck In A Moment”). The song was composed in one long, spur of the moment improvisation (like “Elvis Presley and America”, one of my favorite tracks in the U2 canon), but never feels like it. It also recalls “Heaven and Hell”, an unreleased track from the Achtung Baby sessions.

This gospel effect truly becomes manifest in the “Dear Prudence-ish” “Unknown Caller”. The Edge jangles away again, but the group singing moves into awe-inspiring terrain. It also features the first proper solo by The Edge in a very long time, and brightly recalls George Harrison in its lucidity and mysticism (not often can you describe a solo as “spiritual”, but this one unmistakably is). The first time I heard this song I was driving down the highway, and it affected me so profoundly I could feel the tears well up in my eyes, and I didn’t even know why exactly. This is what U2 does – they move you, they make you swoon. Often U2 (sometimes appropriately) are criticized for being bombastic or self-important, but the bottom line is that whatever their methodology, it works. I can think of no other band (save Sigur Ros, but that is a horse of a different color) that can affect a listener, or an audience like U2 can.

Previous to hearing the album I was a bit worried about the song “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” due to the awful, awful name. However, the song is tremendous, and very Achtung Baby. The Edge’s playing here, and on the entire album for that matter, seems drawn from the same well that produced “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where The Streets Have No Name”. There is a sort of tribal, transcendent feeling to the entire album, yet in a distinctive way than previous territories of enlightenment U2 have mined before.

A couple of semi-straight ahead rock songs follow in current single “Get On Your Boots” and “Stand Up Comedy”. Both songs make sense in the context of the album, taking on spirituality, sex, and terrorism (now who else would have the guts to do that?). While “Get On Your Boots” features an awesomely crunchy garage riff, the song seems a bit thin in comparison to the rest of the album. Perhaps these two will grow on me more, but for now they are clearly the weakest links here (though again, when listened to as part of the whole album, feel totally necessary and correct).

Fez – Being Born” is all over the place; huge musical/melodic shifts occur several times. Yet the “float” is again present, a sort of musical “highness” that Coldplay would kill starving villagers to achieve; yet U2 do it with the appearance of effortlessness. The song is beautiful, and (here’s that word again) is truly transcendent. This is thrilling stuff to any longtime U2 fan. “White As Snow” is sparse, with odd production (atmospherics lofting about while crudely mic-ed guitar sit beside one another – it just occurred to me that this is an easy way to describe the Eno/Lanois partnership). Gorgeous, and unlike anything U2 has done before.

Breathe” stomps in, a glam-rock monster. It’s thrillingly huge U2 as only they can be. However, in the past Bono might have used a big rock song such as this as an opportunity to put together comic book style, over the top lyrics, but here, it is emotionally heartbreaking and staggeringly moving.

The album features a palpable sense of spirituality, and importantly, mystery. These are the most “mysterious” songs as a set since Zooropa, and certainly since “If You Wear That Velvet Dress” from over a decade ago. Densely atmospheric, this is one of the finest produced U2 albums ever, a fact that is remarkable considering the album sessions began with Rick Rubin and were completed with mainstays Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Steve Lillywhite. The production here is magnificent, be it the intimate mix of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” which recalls the colourful desperation in past classics such as “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” or “So Cruel”. It’s the atmospheric mix that moves this album into distinctive territory, and instantly brings into focus what has been missing from the last few albums; Bono’s voice in particular has been mixed, as a pop singer would be, sitting directly on top of the music, smoothed out and easily palatable. But on No Line On The Horizon Bono’s vocal seems raw, very “dry”, and honest, and serve as a reminder of his inimitable vocal prowess.

Evidently U2 have tuned into an exclusive wavelength here, some strange frequency that they have never discovered before. I am bewitched (bewitched is the correct term, as the album plainly works some peculiar enchantment on the listener) by this record, as I did not expect it (or any album, by anyone) to reach the heights it so effortlessly soars to. There is an unusual magic to No Line On The Horizon, a reverent sense of spirituality and transcendence that a band as old a U2 have no earthly right being able to conjure at this late hour in their career. The expanded, lengthy sessions employed to create No Line On The Horizon now make sense as clearly a strange breeze has swept U2 in it’s wake, taking them to undiscovered territories. The fact that U2 were intelligent enough to follow this feeling (as Bono described in “Mysterious Ways”) rather than attempt to direct the flow of the river into more radio friendly units is astonishing, and laudable of admiration in itself.

None of these songs sound like hits, but make no mistake No Line On The Horizon is U2’s third masterpiece. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I agree wholeheartedly with Rolling Stone. This is a startlingly gorgeous and unique album that is an equal to The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby in it’s scope, quality of songwriting, and sheer ability to move the listener. Though not in need of accolades or confirmation of status, No Line On The Horizon firmly positions U2 in a nearly peerless position in the history of rock and roll. An instant classic.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. (Ed. Note - this post has been updated 8/12/09)

PS - Of course Pitchfork hates it - they are too interested in being cool to really care about good music. I do not include a link to their review because they don't deserve the traffic.