25 Albums

I wrote this for facebook, but since it took forever I think I’ll share it here too…

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If I understand this right, we’re supposed to list the 25 most important albums in our life, whether or not we are totally embarrassed by them? All right, here goes…in humbling chronological order. (This list is totally predictable, I know!) albums

1. Anne Murray – This was probably a greatest hits album or something, I don’t remember, but I remember loving the song “Even though we ain’t got money, I’m still in love with you honey…” There was a house in my friend’s neighborhood whose mailbox said “Murray” and every time we went by I thought of Anne Murray. About 15 years later I would become friends with one of the Murray girls who lived in that house, and she confirmed that there was, in fact, no relation to Anne.

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Mix it!

Since I’m already unable to decide what the primary focus of this blog is (comics? music? faith? art? yours truly?) I’ve decided to introduce something new.  I’m going to make a monthly mix, with tracks culled primarily from the music blogs I read, and occasionally some gems from my own collection that I think you might need.  I make these mixes anyway, for myself, so I may as well share:

Easel Ain’t Easy mix (to the max!), Volume 1, January 2009

1. Dear Nora – Fargo
2. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
3. Jenny Lewis – Barking at the Moon
4. The Decemberists – Los Angeles, I’m Yours (in honor of my recent L.A. day-trip!)
5. A.C. Newman – Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer
6. Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes (XXXchange mix, ft Movado)
7. Mates of State – My Only Offer
8. The Smiths – Asleep
9. The National – The Thrilling of Claire
10. Bon Iver – Blood Bank
11. Vetiver – Everyday
12. The Acorn – Crooked Legs
13. Andrew Bird – Fitz and Dizzyspells
14. Okkervil River – Lost Coast Lines

Let me know if you want it.

2008 – My Musical Year in Review (but not like a musical revue).

Hey, I agreed that Bon Iver recorded a good album, but I don’t know if I agree with the way that everyone has been gushing about it.  Just about every music blog that I read has to mention him somewhere in their Best of 2008 posts.  If recording something in the middle of a bitter Wisconsin winter is all it takes (because that is the one consistent point that all reviewers bring up) then I’ll plug the mic in tonight – it’s well below zero degrees – and you can tell me where to get in line.  But instead of being a grump about it and taking out a long, frustrating day on poor Bon Iver (it really is a good album) I’m going to make my own Best of 2008 list.  This is based on my very limited exposure to pop and indie culture (compared to the real music bloggers, anyway) and is really just reflective of my own personal experience with music this year. So if that kind of thing interests you, read on!

Deep breath, here goes (in order remembered, no special hierarchy). 

1. Jenny Lewis at Epiphany Church | Chicago, Illinois | September 19, 2008 – This show was partly great because of the adventure that surrounded it, but it was mostly great because Jenny Lewis is great.  I’ll say this item on the list also includes the release of Acid Tongue, but we heard the live versions of all the songs first and the album was a tiny bit pale in comparison (just a tiny bit).  This show also gave my my first taste of new favorite drummer, Barbara Gruska.     …stay for the breakdown!

 

2. Tegan and Sara at State Theater | Minneapolis, Minnesota | October 11, 2008 – Half the fun of this show, as I said in my original “review” was how funny these girls are!  The grow-to-love-it Twin-Rock was pretty great too, I mean, that’s the thing that gets you there.  Lots of songs from The Con which I love.  

3. The Art Table Reunion Show at The Eagles Club | Green Bay, Wisconsin | September 20, 2008 

arttable

– A year in the making, The Art Table finally got together to make gentle the masses still quaking with mourning. This was a fun show, if a bit rough (my crash cymbal stand was stripped and just about useless) and we played a few new songs inluding Door Mat and Break Up River which will possibly someday be recorded.  There is some video from this show that I almost forgot about, which I will put up when I get a chance. 

 The piggy-back to this item is The Art Table mini-show, when Holly and I played a couple songs at Kristin and Nathan’s wedding at The Train Museum.  We both had shiny happy fits of rage…

4. The return of purchasing CDs (forget you, iTunes!  I want album art!) Some of my buys in 2008 included: Jeff Hanson – Madame Owl | Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs | Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago | Nedelle – From the Lion’s Mouth |Dear Nora – 3 States | The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon | Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue.  I would recommend all of them (although I haven’t actually received the Dear Nora discs yet, I pre-recommend them.)  This can also include my list of albums on backorder, The Dears – Missiles | TV on the Radio – Dear Science | She & Him – Volume One | Nicole Atkins – Neptune City.

5. Discovery of old Elliott Smith bootleg.  Increasing love for Quasi.

6. Growing bored of Mates of State, Tilly and the Wall, and Rilo Kiley.  I think this is a significant corner being turned in my musical taste, personally.  Of course it could turn right back just as easily (I’ve been known to fall in and out of love) but for right now the power-pop is a little more grating than it is fun.  Performances like this do not help their case:

Granted I never picked up MoS or TatW’s new albums, and only “acquired” Rilo Kiley’s disappointing Under the Black Light, but the point isn’t that they aren’t still good bands, just that I have started losing interest in them.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Speaking of, check out Milwaukee’s own, our friend Mike Mangione! (I think we saw him at The Cup at some point  in 2008, so he can legitimately be on this list)

7. Threatening to grow bored of Sufjan Stevens… (also here) Of course I will never really give up on Sufjan Stevens, but we had been getting a little antsy for some sign of life.  This was before I knew anything of The Welcome Wagon, though, whose debut Sufjan was busy producing.  Yay, Sufjan!

8. The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon – I really do love this.  I’ve posted enough links to this band by now, but since this IS my exhaustive year-end list I’ll post it just once more.  It’s gospel music!

9. Seeing a free Ra Ra Riot show at The Union | Madison, Wisconsin | I don’t even remember the date.  This just kind of fell into our laps, we had never heard of the band, it was before their ship had taken sail, or at least before The Rhumb Line was released.  It was awesome.  It was totals fun.  The Virgins opened.  

 10. Handel’s Messiah at Christ Presbyterian | Madison, Wisconsin | December 14, 2008.  NOT just because I needed to find a number 10, this really was great!  I’ve always loved the music at this church, and this performance came at a time when I really needed an angel choir to shout praises in my ear.  It’s Advent, y’all!  But ah, I didn’t bring my video camera, so watch some other folks perform it!

Oh, there is one other thing that will make this list (I guess at top 11) but it’s not ready to go up here yet.  Stay tuned.

B-sides and beside myself.

I don’t know what it is about Dear Nora (Katy Davidson).  I just love her.  She’s Northern California, to me.  She’s driving through the Redwoods, through the fog-draped mountains, singing, at the top of my lungs, “It’s so easy to take the blame, when everything I do comes back again.  And I haven’t felt the same, my friend, since you went away.”  Magic Marker is releasing a double disk collection of Dear Nora rarities (something like 57 tracks!) in case you are also a fan.

On the matter of ordering music, my copy of Welcome to the Welcome Wagon, which was released this past Tuesday, still hasn’t arrived.  I know we need to be a little patient with the postal service when the weather is this treacherous, but come on.  I’ve already had two dreams about it.  The Agony!

Focus.

I didn’t mean to complain about being sick. I mean, it’s a drag, but it’s a really small thing in comparison to pretty much anything else happening anywhere, to anyone. I should have kept writing this past week. I should have kept painting, I should have kept reading, I should have kept on, but mostly I just coughed and thought wistfully back on the nights of deep, restful sleep. Apparently this one lasts two weeks, so I’m over halfway through. And that’s the last I’ll write about it, I promise.

It’s difficult to write about much else, though, because in my past week and a half as a zombie I haven’t really experienced anything, or haven’t been alert enough to notice it. I checked out a couple videotapes from the library (if you recall that ancient technology) and I put the finishing touches up at Mother Fool’s (title cards and a wordy artist statement). I found my Dear Nora pin while giving my car a spring cleaning.

I feel like life took a little bit of a dip after Easter. The Church calendar can be a useful thing or not, depending on who you talk to, but I think that this past Lent was maybe a little too useful. That is, I think I was able to work myself into such a concentrated state of reflection on the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s death that when the time came for us to celebrate his life and move forward I haven’t known quite what to do. I had put a lot of emphasis on Lent, this year.

This past Sunday at church we were reminded that, if we are fans of the Church calendar, we actually celebrate Easter for 50 days, right up until the day of Pentecost. When I heard this I was a little bit excited, thinking, “Oh good, another season I can throw myself into!” As if I needed something to replace Lent, something new to focus on. But I think that is where people who are skeptical of the Church calendar would say, “Faith cannot be a focus on events and rituals. It must be a constant focus on God.” Which, of course, is true. But for some people those events and rituals can help us to focus on God. I don’t know. For some reason I haven’t been able to look as clearly upon God in the weeks following Easter. Is it a kind of postpartum phenomenon? Is it simply because I’ve been sick? Faith is an intricate thing, and very complicated. Anyway, I hope to be writing more again, about it, or about anything.

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    Breena Wiederhoeft
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