Favorite New Old Albums Of 2010

After listing my favorite new albums of 2010, I figured I’d also have some fun with a list of records I really dug that I bought this year, but didn’t come out in 2010. I’ve mentioned this before, but I buy a LOT of CDs on the cheap at garage sales, yard sales, flea markets and at stores. I rarely spend more than $7 on something new and get all kinds of deals at those other places, so I’ve been able to acquire lots and lots of music I missed out on in previous years. This list has a whopping 12 records and/or bands on it, but I’ve written about a few of them previously, so I won’t get into too much detail on those. Hit the jump for all the goodness you can handle! Continue reading Favorite New Old Albums Of 2010

Music Musings: How I Got Into Music

Recently, my love of music has been rekindled. I’ve always had an affinity for the medium and have never really left it behind, but for the last year or so, I’ve been decidedly less focused on listening to music in favor of watching movies while I work or listening to podcasts. With my recent work changes, I’ve also changed how I work, which now involves playing the old iPod instead of zoning out with a movie I don’t really care about. I’m still gonna watch some TV and movies during the day, but I’m also going to utilize my time to catch up on the tons of CDs I picked up this summer at flea markets and also revisit some old faves. I’ve also been playing my guitar and bass a lot more often which has been a great stress reliever and a lot of fun. With that in mind, I figured it might be interesting to talk about how I got into listening to music.

I don’t remember much about music before around the 6th grade. I know my mom tended towards the classic, oldies radio stations when we’d drive around and my dad was more into classic rock, so I had a pretty broad base growing up, but it took me a while to go after music on my own aside from asking for MC Hammer tapes for my birthday. I don’t remember exactly when I got my first CD-playing boombox, but I think it was around 1992 because the first three CDs I got to go along with it were Kriss Kross’ Totally Krossed Out, the Aladdin soundtrack and a Disney disc called For Our Children with covers of children’s songs by artists like Little Richard, Bob Dylan and a slew of others. Pretty eclectic. Oddly enough, I don’t have any of those three discs in my collection anymore, having sold Kriss Kross in a garage sale and passed the two Disney discs along to my folks, though I might have to get them back for my kid to listen to. I would have been 9 around that time.

My second discman, Christmas 1998. Age 15, be nice.

My  musical evolution has a few distinct memories from those early days, but mostly a lot of fog. I’ve mentioned going to see KISS with my dad in 1997 and I have very distinct memories of sitting in the back of Mrs. White’s classroom in 7th grade during free time with my friend Jimmy listening to CDs on our Discmen and doodling. I did a lot of doodling back in the day and had great fun coming up with various lists of my favorite bands. During the last few summers of my grade school years, I remember watching MTV even though I wasn’t supposed to and probably did so when I was alone after school as well. I remember having a hard time mapping out the history of rock and roll in my brain because there was just so much going on (and I knew almost nothing about punk or funk, so it would only get bigger and more unwieldy as I got older). Wait, so the Beatles broke up BEFORE John Lennon was killed? How is it possible that Eric Clapton was in SO MANY bands?! Getting a subscription to Guitar World in high school really helped. That mag was like a history book for rock and roll.

The extent of my punk rock knowledge in 1999. So weird...

Jimmy was a pretty big influence on my listening habits. I got into bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alice In Chains thanks to him. We also both dug 70s music because both our dads were into that kinda stuff. I would raid my dad’s CD collection and listen to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and the like. At some point I also got my own turntable and borrowed a bunch of my dad’s vinyl which had a lot of 50s/60s pop records and introduced me one of my favorite bands of all time: The Ventures. Eventually, I’d start hitting up the used CD stores like CD Warehouse to add to my collection. For Christmas one year, my parents bought me a CD player that could hold 51 CDs, like a juke box. You would slide the CD booklets into a book so you’d know which ones were where and could even hit the random button and just let them run wild. Eventually, the CD selector arm stopped working and iPods came into play, but that stereo served me well all the way through college.

First with the help of the boom box and later the stereo, I also started listening to some Toledo and Detroit rock stations. I was pretty anti-rap, pop and country at that point for whatever reason (close mindedness, lack of experience, whatever you want to call it), so it was mostly 104.7 which was classic rock, 106.5 Buzz FM (alternative and classic) and Detroit’s 89X which introduced me to a lot of 90s bands and also played more than just the regular singles. I discovered this in the last few years after giving the missus’ Our Lady Peace records a listen and realizing I knew more songs than I should have.

By the time I got to high school I had seen KISS and Aerosmith with my dad, I’d soon win tickets to see Black Sabbath from one of the aforementioned radio stations and would add a bunch of music enthusiasts to my group of friends who would bolster my fandom and exploration even further. Going to concerts was a fairly regular occurrence with us (I miss those days a lot) and we had a ton of fun. We’d also talk about music more than was probably healthy, but what else are you supposed to talk about at an all guy Catholic high school?My freshman year (1998 or so) a group of us attended our school’s Battle of the Bands and were so inspired that we decided to form a band. Since one friend had a guitar and one a drum set, it came down to me to learn bass. So I did. I rented a black Fender Squier and an amp for a little while, took lessons from a guy named Ed who thought my dad’s first name was mine and eventually bought my own bass at a store’s semi-annual going out of business sale. Eventually, I’d switch teachers and get a really good one named Jason who I would go to for the rest of my high school career. It took awhile and a lot of effort, but we finally put a band together Sophomore that had the friend who was going to play guitar on drums, a different singer, a new friend on guitar and the one who was going to play drums too busy to participate because he was doing musicals. We practiced a lot, went through two lead singers (the musical dude eventually became the singer) and played a few parties, but nothing too fancy. It was a ton of fun. Senior year, we got our shit together, played Battle of the Bands and won. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to convert the VHS tape into YouTube clips to really embarrass everyone.

Bennet band practice.

Between playing music and learning more about it, I had a great time in high school as far as music was concerned. My buddy Chad, who would become the guitar player in the band (it was called The Pen Is Mightier, first, then Bennet after the singer change in case you were wondering) helped me get even further into classic rock, by really introducing me to Pink Floyd and some other bands. The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I started working at Barry’s Bagel Place and would continue to on and off until I moved out to New York to work at Wizard. That was a whole other world of music to get exposed to thanks to all kinds of new people of all different ages with different tastes. That’s where I discovered the Buzzcocks! The bakers got to choose the music played in the back and they had a big effect on what I was listening to as did this dude Matt who I worked up front with. He was a big fan of classic rock. But, the biggest influence on my at that time was working down the strip mall from my beloved Boogie Records, an independent record store that sold new and used CDs, records, DVDs, patches, the whole shebang. I can’t tell you how many laps I did around those racks before the place closed down when I was in college, but I wound up buying all kinds of CDs from them. It wasn’t until well after Kurt Cobain died that I really got into Nirvana. I had picked Nevermind a while before, but at some point I got really into them and went back and bought all their CDs at Boogie and even got a rad interview disc called The Bark Not The Bite that I should give another listen to. My tastes tended towards rock, classic and alternative including the growing pop punk of the day, but not much into metal or the nu-metal that was popping up all around me. While some of my friends got into Korn, I never could. I guess I wasn’t angry enough. Plus. those dudes always seemed like posers to me anyway.

Not my actual hair style in college, the ladies had fun with me then I played pourly, but looked cool.

In college, I had much less money to spend on music, but I did expand my horizons, slowly getting into blues, hip hop, country and jazz thanks to a class I took my senior year. I started with old school hip hop, outlaw country and general blues but I was liking it all. I also dropped my outstanding dislike of pop music, deciding it’s more fun to have fun with crappy pop music than it is to outright hate everything. Sure, there’s bad–really bad–pop music out there, but what’s the point of letting it upset you? Shitty music has always been around, it takes effort to work past that to get to the good stuff. While in college, the whole digital thing started happening, but I was mostly oblivious to it, preferring my CDs and, yes, my mini disc player. It wasn’t until right before I moved to NY and got my Mac that I discovered the joys of ripping all your music to a computer and a year or say later when the glorious iPod entered my life (it’s almost full now, which is kind of sad). Sometime around the end of high school, I decided I wanted a guitar and got a Squier Telecaster start-up pack, which I took with me, along with a bass, to college. I only ever played two gigs/shows/recitals in college but I liked having my gear around to play with. Still do.

Now I find myself with more CDs than I care to count, a small collection of records and an iPod nearly full of music with more to put on. I don’t really spend a lot of money on new music, but usually try new things out that I pick up at flea markets and garage sales. I’m generally cheap, so the idea of being able to get a disc for a few bucks is very appealing and allows me to try a lot of new things (for what it’s worth, I’m against pirating music). I’ve found a TON of 90s hip hop CDs at garage sales. The thing that still blows me away about music is how broad of a topic it can be. I used to think I knew a lot about a lot, but that was mostly all popular music. I know dudes who can talk for hours about bands I’ve never heard of.

So, what’s the point of this post aside from rambling scattershot about my history with music? Well, first off, it’s a way of me telling you that I’m going to be writing more about music on the blog. Music Mondays will now be Music Musings because I’m not sure if posts will always go up on Mondays. I’m also planning on actually doing record reviews on a more regular basis and documenting my exploration of new-to-me music genres like 80s music (to a 90s alternakid, the 80s were one big joke, but there’s obviously a lot of good stuff in there). For a brief period of time I got paid to do this kind of stuff, which was a life long dream. I’m hoping that my newfound enthusiasm for music will combine with this crazy blogging addiction I seem to have and make for some interesting posts. If not, well, I’ll probably just quit doing them and post more music videos or something.

Songs Of Summer “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey

Like a few other entries in Songs Of Summer, I’m not sure if Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” actually came out in the summer or not, but I have a very distinct summer memory of the song. See, after graduating from college I went back to Toledo and spent a few months hanging around with my friends, drinking, playing Halo and working at Barry’s Bagel Shop. My friends had a house that I would go over and hang out at, which meant I spent a lot of time in the car late at night driving from their house back to my parents’ listening to the radio (the car I was driving only had a tape player).

I should probably lose every bit of credibility I’ve ever had for what I’m about to say, but Mariah Carey knows how to sing the shit out of a song and she sure does that on “We Belong Together.” I know the song’s about a break-up and everything, but it still made me think of the future missus who was living in New Hampshire (for the geographically challenged that’s a long ass distance there between NH and Ohio). I’m not sure if there’s anything quite like that feeling of useless craziness between graduating from college and getting your first real job, but I was feeling that pretty intensely for a few months until October when I got the call about an opening at Wizard. Everything changed after that, but this song still reminds me of driving through the after-midnight streets of Toledo, driving past the mall and the flashing yellow street lights, missing my lady. For the record, she still makes fun of me for buying this song on iTunes and knowing all the words, so that’s what sentimentality gets you.

Halloween Scene: Student Bodies (1981)

After watching Slaughter High and linking to it on Facebook, my buddy Harmony from Toledo (we met while working at Barry’s back in the dizzle) recommended I check out Student Bodies. Now, usually when someone suggests a cheesy-sounding horror movie from the 80s, you’re in for some campy nonsense. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Student Bodies isn’t just another slasher flick, but actually a parody in the vein of Scary Movie, but, you know funny! Zing!!!

I really really liked Student Bodies (thanks Harmony!). Not only is it funny, but it also adeptly captures the feel and tropes of the slasher genre and only a year or two after it really kicked off. Actually, as opposed to comparing it to Scary Movie, it’s like a slapsticky Scream. You get a rundown of the rules (the killer only kills people who have had or are just about to have sex). But, in addition to the characters being aware of the rules, we also get treated to on-screen clues like a body count and what not.

There’s a scene early on when this girl and her boyfriend are in her product placement-filled house while her parents are out. The boyfriend hops in the showed and the girl is killed by what looks like a walking trash bag. After he’s done, he jumps into bed with the corpse and says the amazing line “You’re not responding to my maleness.” His delivery is a bit awkward, which I’m going to guess was intentional to mock some of the crummy actors in other slasher flicks. After he gets killed, her parents come home and her mom keeps screaming at all these random things (dishes not done, food eaten, etc.) meanwhile her dad says “I hope she wasn’t murdered in our bed.” It had me rolling.

I highly recommend this movie for any horror fans, especially if you love 80s slasher movies. It nails all the beats and is over the top in a hilarious way. Good stuff. Also, there are scenes that will remind of Pulp Fiction, Home Alone, Wizard of Oz and Toxic Avenger.

Halloween Scene: Smoke and Mirrors (1997)

One of my personal reasons for analog books as opposed to digital ones is that analog ones can go on a journey with me. Sure you can take your Kindle with you, but are you really going to remember where you left off on that digital book you started reading a couples years ago? Will you even have the same Kindle in four years so you can pick it back up and finish where you left off? For me the answer is no, even though it would be better on the Earth as far as the paper use goes. Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that Neil Gaiman’s short story collection Smoke And Mirrors and I have been on our fair share of journeys. I originally bought this book back in September of 2005 when I was waiting in the Detroit airport for my flight to JFK to go in and interview for Wizard. I had been out of college for about four or five months and was wondering what the hell I was going to do with an English degree aside from heading back to the place I interned at (Wizard). I had been working days at Barry’s Bagel Place as a deli worker and spending my nights playing Halo 3 and drinking Sweet Tart Whiskey at the Chad Chad Toth house. Good times, but I felt kind of like a failure. So, when I got word that Wizard was hiring, I jumped at the chance to interview.

It wasn’t the first time I flew on my own, but it was the first time I flew on my own into JFK and then drove myself in a rental car to Nyack where I stayed in a hotel by myself and went in the next day for a job interview. It was also the first time I made a real effort to read a short story book. At this point I had read two books by Gaiman (Good Omens and Neverwhere) and none of his comics. It was a new edition of the stands as the original came out in 1997 and this one in September 2005 because it had a preview of Anansi Boys (a book sitting in my giant pile of books to read along with his next short story collection Fragile Things and a couple of his kids story books).

My interview process went really well and I felt pretty good about it. I also happened to be there for staff writer Rich Ho’s last day and I got to go out for his last day lunch and then met everyone down in Nyack for his last day. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t incredibly nervous the night before. Aside from meeting Rickey and the gang down at Olive’s the night before, I also picked up a small bottle of Jack and a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper to take the edge off. I felt like a total weirdo reading Neil Gaiman and drinking Jack and DP in a shoddy motel room, but it also kind of made me feel like a legit writer. Like, I bet Hemingway did the same thing. He loved DP, right?

Anyway, I got the job and was there for about 4 or 5 years. And, oddly enough, it took me about that long to finally finish this book. I was reading The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon for a few days when I realized it was October and decided to try and finish a horror-ish book for Halloween Scene. I can’t honestly say I remember the short stories I read four years ago or even a year ago, but I read from “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale” to “Snow, Glass, Apple” in the last month or so and I really enjoyed them. I’ll be honest, I didn’t necessarily get the poems (they’re not really my thing), but I did force myself to read through them.

It’s fascinating reading these short stories and what interested Gaiman and how he turned them into stories. “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale” takes assassination and turns it into a business like any other, “Murder Mysteries” takes a look at the very first murder in the city of Angels and “Snow, Glass, Apple” flips the script on the Snow White story, plus it has vampires! If you’ve never read any Gaiman but are interested in what the hype is about, this is a good place to start. Like I mentioned above, I only read Gaiman’s books for a long time. I think I even read American Gods before getting all the way through Sandman (both of which I highly recommend). I can’t remember all of the other comic projects of Gaiman’s I’ve read, but I haven’t been all that into them. Luckily, I started off with his books which have always been of a high quality. I think, next to Elmore Leonard, Roald Dahl, RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Dr. Suess and whoever wrote the Arthur the Aardvark books, he’s one of my most-read authors and I’ve been happy with everything I’ve read (book-wise, I couldn’t get into 1602).

So, this book definitely has sentimental value and will probably never leave my shelf. It’s been from wherever it was made, shipped to Detroit, flew to New York, flew back to Detroit, then drove to Ohio and then drove back from Ohio through Pennsylvania into New York again. It might have even made a few more road trips that I’m not thinking about (I think I took it to Ryan’s wedding in Connecticut last weekend). Anyway, it’s a fun story to tell and, even better, it’s a good book. Wouldn’t it suck if I had all these memories tied up in a book I ended up hating? Whew. Seriously though, Gaiman’s books are amazing and they’re not all “Goth craziness” like people might think thanks to the more vocal Sandman fans (ankhs for everyone!). Check it out!

Still Waiting…for a good follow up to Waiting

Back before I moved out here in 2005, I went with a couple of my friends who also worked at the Bagel Place (which has since been demolished and rebuilt as something…very different)to see Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and Anna Faris. It’s basically a look at a day in the life (though a crazy one) at Shenaniganz, an Applebees-like restaurant. Even though it wasn’t the same kind of restaurant we worked in we could totally relate to hating jerk-hole customers, relating to each other and playing games to make the day go by quicker (though, they didn’t involve balls).

Anyway, I’m a big fan of the movie. I worked with a lot of people during my 7-ish years at the bagel shop just like the people in the movie. Plus it had the above mentioned actors along with John Francis Daley who, like everyone else, I loved in Freaks and Geeks and a bunch of other actors I would eventually come to know and love like Chi McBride, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Lengies (yeah, I like Stick It, deal with it) and even Dane Cook who I like much better as a comedian, but whatever.

I actually get the itch to watch the DVD every time we eat at one of those TGIFriday’s-type (that’s can’t be the way to write that), though I usually don’t ’cause, you know, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to watch. Anyway, when I heard that the sequel, Still Waiting… came out I was cautiously interested. I put it at the top of my Netflix queue and got it the other day.

Well…

It’s not a good movie. The guy who’s supposed to be the Ryan Reynolds-type character just isn’t as good of an actor and can’t play off the lovable jerk character (also, making him kinda racist probably wasn’t the best choice). Overall, the characters just aren’t as real or interesting as the ones written in the original (even the few recurring characters), which is strange because, as far as I can tell, it’s the same guy who wrote the original (Rob McKittrick who also directed that one, but not this one).

I can’t say I’m disappointed or surprised because, hey, it’s a straight-to-DVD sequel to a movie that didn’t do all that well in the first place. I did appreciate the fact that Justin Long popped up in a cameo. Uh, I guess the following counts as a SPOILER, if you care. I like that he came back for this movie, but I’m not sure if I like the scene, where he basically tells the bartender that his life still ended up shitty after quitting at the end of the first movie. He sure gives a hilarious performance though and I was actually thinking “It’d be interesting to write a movie that starts where movies like Waiting and Empire Records end, with the guy leaving his dead end job and seeing how well they actually do with that” and then that essentially happened.

Oh well, I’ve still got the original, which is still rad, so who cares? Anyone else see it or even want to?