From The Vault Part 7: Jack Johnson – On And On

jackjohnsononandonAlright, I know I am going to get a lot of shit for this one. Who’s is this asshat who claims to be a fan of indie geniuses like Jared Mees or Nick Caceres or Carissa’s Wierd, mocks John Denver, and then attempts to rationalize this shit? Well, that is me. This is the new Trainwreck’d. Feel free to you let yourselves out. But, seriously, before you do, hear me out, alright?

Jack Johnson has received so much shit over the years, and it’s not entirely unjustified. But, there is something to say about his avid followers and those who look beyond the hipster driven hatred…. They truly don’t give a FUCK. And there is nothing deplorable about this. I mean, we’re not talking about devout followers to despicable things like neo-nazism or religion, just people who love chill music. And Jack Johnson will always be the embodiment of “chill music”. And I can never truly hate anything that is based around the philosophy of “chill”.

So, why am I writing about this album? And why will it never leave my vault of ridiculousness? Basically, you have to remember the times. It was such a strange fucking time when this album came out. Especially for anyone “coming of age”. We were so fucking confused. A few years before we were told that the world was going to end after 11:59:59 on December 31st, 1999. Then “those people” hi-jacked three planes and crashed them right back into our country and left us fucking mortified to even go outside. We were beginning to realize that it was possible to hold communicable devices in our pockets all the time, but weren’t quite following. And let’s not forget that music in the mainstream was fucking awful. Carson Daily was still shamelessly supporting such terrible ear cancer on MTV that was probably the reason the station abandoned music altogether. The best golfer in the world was black, the best rapper was white (thank you, Chris Rock), the world was so damn confusing. And the comes this Jack Johnson character. I truly feel like he saved me in so many ways.

Now, it is important to note that On And On was Jack Johnson’s second album. There was Brushfire Fairytales which was amazing, but only broke the seal of the unpackaging of the King of Chill that would be Jack Johnson. In fact, I had never heard of this cat, until I heard “The Horizon Has Been Defeated” on a popular Portland based radio station and was amazed by now DIFFERENT it was from everything else playing on that shitty dough covered radio playing in the pizza joint I worked at. I remember first hearing it, and at that exact moment, a co-worker came in and instinctively explained to me that “this guy is great”, “he’s so chill” “Dave Matthews, Phish, blah, blah, blah”, “Brushfire Fairytales”. Soon after I went to a record store (think iTunes, but a physical location) in a mall (think Wal Mart, but equally divided), and picked up Brushfire Fairytales, and instantly fell in love with the man who would soon be known as The King of Chill (P.S. Is anyone actually calling him this? Or did I just create something, I seriously don’t know).

JackKim_hifive

I was totally hooked by the time On And On came out into the world. This was what I was searching for. I was a young kid who was engrossed in the world of modern hip hop, which had very few desirable acts to promote, yet I was listening to Bob Dylan daily. I craved some super cool acoustic songs that could simply get my mind right and chill the fuck out. And this album did it. But, despite what most may think of this cat now, Jack Johnson had so much to say on this album. It was political, it was sometimes adorable, it was beautiful in so many ways.

With do justice, I will interrupt myself to note that the stereotypes of Jack Johnson may be entirely justified. Nowadays (and even Brushfire Fairytales) every track feels like it absolutely must be heard on a beach in an exotic land that is only occupied by white tourists. But, not On And On, and I refuse to give this one up. Yes, this is an album that can be comfortably listened to at a swim up bar at a Sandals in Jamaica without worrying about the bodies lying in the streets of Kingston. But, there is some essence to this album. It’s pretty God damned political if you really think about it. “Traffic In The Sky” is about 9/11. Jack Johnson may not think so, or would definitely disagree, but when I hear this track, I think about that day. Even “Dreams Be Dreams” and “Tomorrow Morning” have a bit of that feel to them. Overall, in so many different ways, this is Jack Johnson’s political attack against the “box with the view of the world”. Wanna hear the worst, check out the track for those last quotations, “Fall Line”, which is by far the best track on this album. And this track is 1 minute and 36 seconds of pure ecstasy. And it works as an extreme introduction to the track that follows, known as “Cookie Jar”.

The main thing that I want to leave here is that you can judge Jack Johnson for everything that he has done in his career. Maybe he has done a series of repeating “chill” songs that all sound the same. But, I really want people to realize that On And On is different. Yes, it was the one that probably made him the most famous, and kickstarted his career into a progression of mediocracy. But, dammit, we have this album. And it is fucking fantastic. It is an album that takes a social and political stance without shoving it in your face like a shithead vegan protesting outside of an Outback Steakhouse (does this happen?). I am basically not concerned with the stereotypes of Jack Johnson of today. I am a fan of this man for what he accomplished way back in 2003. And honestly, I enjoyed much of his later work, although I can distinctly remember when I realized that I was no longer the target audience of Jack. And that was when I said a silent goodbye, and took the good memories with me.

I’m not here to say that Jack Johnson needs to be more politically loud in his work, as On And On is not entirely so. I’m simply saying that even if you have formed some sort of opinion about the man, I feel like you really need to listen to this album and discover the fact that this dude had so much to say. The man can write the fuck out of a song, that is undeniable. But, if it substance in a song that worries you, On And On is the album that should definitely prove to you that Jack Johnson is a master storyteller in his own right. You don’t have to appreciate his entire body of work, and you don’t have to love the guy, but this is an album that embodies so much greatness that it is truly maddening to know that it has to be justified. Just listen to the album. Just really listen. You’re going to fucking love it. And if you don’t, well, that’s cool too, man.

From The Vault Part 6: John Denver’s Greatest Hits 1969-1973

johndenverI’m gonna try something different here with this one. I don’t have a long winded story for this one, but I really want to write something about it. This is one that my hilarious father sent me for my birthday a few years ago amongst a a great collection of other albums and books he knew I would love, and I did. But, this one was actually a bit confusing. I can definitely say I have never been a big fan of the guy, but I honestly haven’t really listened to the guy. I still have only heard of 3 of the songs on this album. But, as a testament to my awesome Dad, I thought I would throw this one in the Vault series.

So this is how this will work, I am going to listen to this album straight through, and share my thoughts, in real time. I actually pride myself in the ability to type pretty damn fast, which is probably a weird thing to get cocky about, right? Anyway, we’re gonna try it out. The goal here is not to cram as many words into 3 1/2 minutes or so, but to just express what the song means to be at this very moment. I will probably write less for the songs I haven’t ever heard, as I want to give a legitimate listened to them. And shit, you will have no way to verify that I actually did this, but I will know, and hopefully you will all believe me, and even want to read the work of somebody speed writing about the songs of John Denver. And if you really want to get into it, pay the album along while you read it! You know you have it! And if you don’t, head to your local record shop and spend the 34 cents to play along!

P.S. Wasn’t I just writing about gangster rap the other day? This shit is going off the rails. But, I digress. Here we go……

 

Track 1 – “Take Me Home Country Roads”

So this is one of the one’s I definitely know. And I have to say, I find nothing wrong with this. It’s that sort of old school country and western music that I can get down with. I love the group  Alabama, and this seems right out of their songbooks. Is he saying “stranger to blue waters”, and does this and and is everything he says after saying that this chick doesn’t know how to bathe herself properly? That’s a memorable thing I guess. I like when he belts out Yesterday once again, just to clarify when he should have been there. Oh snap, it’s about West Virginia, this changes everything. But in the end, John Denver has to be the most sane thing to ever come out of that crazy ass state. I wonder what Jesco White has been doing?

 

Track 2 – “Follow Me”

I do know this one, I thought it was an Eagles song. That’s not a compliment, but let’s have a listen. This sounds like a Shel Silverstein poem. I feel like this would be a great karaoke song for people who can’t quite remember lyrics and their little boombox thing is broken because they are definitely singing it alone in their one bedroom apartment. It’s about as simple as it gets. That violin is kicking, though. Who is doing that? Is this from a children’s album? Alright, I’m gonna say it, I’m about 1 1/2 minutes in and I dreading the next 1 1/2 minutes to follow. Next….

 

Track 3 – “Starwood In Aspen”

Oh we got some yodeling going on! I’m sort of digging this one. Seems like the scaled down version of “Rocky Mountain High”. I would also dare say that Colorado is better than L.A. in it’s own right. I’m three songs in and I am still getting confused about whether he is talking about mountains or actual women. Is that the point? Is the earth like a beautiful woman? I have a feeling John might have been hitting the bottle a bit when this was recorded. No real justification for that. But, I can’t deny, this isn’t a bad one. I’ve never been to Aspen.

 

Track 4 – “For Baby (For Bobbie)”

Reminiscent of Peter Paul & Mary or something. Who is Bobbie? This is definitely happy as fuck sounding. Jesus, it is so HAPPY. It’s actually pretty hard to hate. He really loves this Bobbie guy/girl. John Denver could definitely compliment the hell out of a person! Okay, I think I got it, it’s a child, right? Is it his kid? Bob Denver? REALLY? Please tell me he named his kid Bob Denver! That would be amazing!

 

Track 5 – “Rhymes & Reasons”

Oh shit, wait a minute. This is different. Did he write this one? There is a bit of intelligence to this one that I haven’t heard yet. Of course there are mountains and rainbows and shit, but I’m still okay with it. I bet this is about as Emo as John Denver ever got in his life. I feel like there is a real message here, but then comes the children & flowers. Was John Denver considered a hippy? I really should have researched this better.

 

Track 6 – “Leaving On A Jet Plane”

I know this argument has been brought up before somewhere, but why the hell didn’t they teach the astronauts how to drill and send them to space, instead of what they actually did. It definitely seems more logical, right? I mean, I sort of get it. I’m not going to complain too much, I mean, animal crackers are now super sexy. Definitely one of the Top 2 films about meteors to be released in 1998. Steve Buscemi was always hilarious as usual. Bruce made a huge sacrifice for Steven Tyler’s kid. Wait, what just happened?

 

Track 7 – “The Eagle And The Hawk”

Finally some animals in here! We’ve had the mountains and trees and stuff. Wait he’s not jumping into it. That’s some angry guitar there John. Why are you yelling? What is happening! I feel like that Spongebob meme right now. Were they doing peyote when they recorded this? It sort of sounds like that crazy song John C. Reilly made in Walk Hard during his drug crazed Beatles phase. Jesus!

 

Track 8 – “Sunshine On My Shoulders”

Where the hell have I heard the line “Mr. Sunshine On My God Damned Shoulds John Denver”! Was it Denis Leary? Anyway, this song should be the catalyst for calling anything “Denver-esque”, if that term has ever been used. I wonder if he wrote this song in his head wile he was flying a plane. Damn this is a long one, too

Note: It was Farva from Super Troopers who said it. But, Denis Leary said mean things too.

Track 9 – “Goodbye Again”

Oh now, this may actually be the most Emo John Denver we’ve heard. Why do I instantly envision him wearing a polo shirt while he is writing this? It just has to be. Lacoste. I met he wrote this angry as fuck, too. But, not that angry, most likely. I bet he had clean socks on though. Who is this song about? This is like the white guy version of 2pac’s “Run Tha Streets”, haha. Seriously, listen to both of them back to back, and I think you’ll get it.

John-Denver-with-Koalas1

Track 10 – “Poems, Prayers And Promises”

This seems pretty personal. Pretty chill track actually. I love how the term “old lady” was an actual endearing thing to call your wife back in the day. This song was definitely written next to a crackling fire in a lodge. With several pauses for self reflection happening in the process. Oh shit! There’s some pot smoking lyrics in there! Or was it peyote? And then they recorded that other song.

 

Track 11 – “Rocky Mountain High”

Alright, alright. All jokes aside, this isn’t a bad song. It’s probably the most notable John Denver song there is, so it’s pretty easy to make fun of it. But, honestly, this is a good bit of story telling. Van Morrison could have written this exact same song, and you hipster fucks would have said it was “amazeballs” or whatever kids are saying these days. I like the double layered lyrics. Dammit, I like this song a lot. Definitely the best on this collection. John loved his motherfucking mountains, and there was nothing you could do about it! Rain fire on that sky, John!

 

BONUS TRACKS:

Track 12 – “I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado”

Alright, might as well start out with the exact title in the lyrics. This sounds like he is singing about himself living in New York rolling blunts with Simon and/or Garfunkel, right? Or maybe it is about Neil Cassidy? I don’t know, but this is a pretty sweet tune. Very simple, cute little track. I can dig it. Terrible ending though. We already got that John.

 

Track 13 – “Daydream”

Oh Jesus, really? No, this just won’t do. I’m glad they didn’t close with this one. I can only imagine him screaming these words at a frightened young hippy chick. She would also probably be in Colorado instead of getting screamed at by raspy John Denver.

 

Track 14 – “Friends With You”

Okay, not so bad. This could be a good closer. Yeah, not too bad. Little guitar breakdown there, nice. Oh shit, it just became an anthem! And brought back down abruptly, okay, I can do this. Alright, bringing back the anthem sound to bring it on home, and the let it fizzle on out with some harmonica. Yeah, I like this one. This sounds like a happy go lucky song to play at a funeral.

 

Well there you have it folks! 49 minutes of speed writing about the songs of John Denver. You can all go home now, we’ve thought of everything!

 

armageddon

From The Vault Part 5: Jared Mees and the Grown Children – 2010 Tour EP

jaredmeesEP

Cover Art by Santiago Uceda

If you fine readers will allow it, I am about to go full blown obscure on your asses. The album (and show) I am about to tell you about was technically “reviewed” at Fensepost.com way back in 2010. The album is just a touring EP that provided a great sample to one of my favorite albums of all time, Only Good Thoughts Can Stay, which I already covered. And I actually did review the show at Fensepost as well, both of these still live on the Internet. But, with this rejuvenation of TWS, I feel like I need to tell the story in a new way. Also, I am just such a huge fan of Jared Mees and everything he has done in his lifetime that I will use any excuse I can to write about him. So here we go!

So, back in 2010 I went to see one of my favorite bands at a burrito bar. Yes, that is how this story is going to start. Spokane Washington in all of its hopes to be more like a couple of different cities on the other side of the Cascades houses an intentionally tiny bar that is attached to a burrito, both of which are connected to a motel. That’s just how they do things around there. It is what some show goers would call “intimate”. The type of place where you could have 15 people in attendance and it would appear to be a “good turn out”. I honestly and truly loved this venue for this reason alone.

So I arrived at the bar a bit early to grab a burrito and gear up for some great tunes, but not without first taking a quick smoke break. And there he was! Well, I honestly didn’t fully recognize the man I had been listening to consistently for the last two years, until he asked if he could bum a smoke. As I was obliging, that was when it hit me. Jared Fucking Mees was standing right there asking me to aid him in his journey towards lung cancer (Actually, he made a point to let me know that it was just a the occasional drag on tour, but you get the joke). But the hipster king had fooled me gravely when he was without his signature (or so I thought) cluttered and bushy facial hair. I was shocked! Could this be? A musician from Portland, Oregon in 2010 with NO BEARD?? What a revolutionary this guy was!

But in all honesty, this became an amazing experience. We chatted a bit about the other side of the Cascades where I am from and he currently resides. We talked about Spokane and how much potential the city could have if it were better located, but how it makes a great little pit stop on certain tours. He also gave me a tour of their very cool Tender Loving Empire van/mini bus/camper thing and introduced me to the rest of the band and just shared a few laughs and bits of small talk and I was feeling like a fucking Make A Wish Kid meeting Spider Man! Now, I am perfectly aware that the idea of getting amped about meeting a touring indie folk band that was to perform in a tiny burrito with the same excitement one would with hanging out with Keith Richards or something is probably pretentious and/or sad. But, fuck that. I love great music. I’m not concerned with what level an artists is on, if they are creating magic, I am going to worship the shit out of them. And Jared Mees has amassed a damn good following and has managed to be able to remain creative as a profession. Which is

And magic is what they definitely brought! The band rocked the old dried salsa lining the walls of this place. There was not a disappointed face in the crowd (I know, I was searching for one). They played some of the new tracks from their then upcoming album, as well as a great selection from their previous album Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine Money, and I became giddy to hear “Tallest Building In Hell” in person. It was just a down right beautiful experience, and definitely lives on as one of my favorite show going experiences I have ever had. And definitely the best I had experienced in the city of Spokane.

jaredmees

Me and The Man!

And when it was all over, there was a feeling of deep sadness. My show was over, but theirs had to go on. We shook some hands, took a photo, and moved on with our lives. I eventually covered the show as a professional, but there was no real way to convey how important their work was to me and how thrilled I was that this night happened. Therefore I am very excited to be able to finally find the nerve to it now. And when Jared handed me the 2010 Tour EP, I left Cloud 9 and shot up to 11. And I know for a fact (thanks to iTunes) I burned through each of these 5 tracks at 100 times each before Only Good Thoughts Can Stay was finally released. This EP is a complete embodiment of the idea of physical reminders that I have spoken of previously in this series. I will never let this one go. Also, I do have to mention that the version of “Shake” that was used for this EP is a bit stripped down from the one that appeared on the LP, and while I love them both, I find myself a bit more passionate about the stripped down version. But, that’s just my love for acoustic guitar sounds.

 

So there you have it! My bit of geeking for you all! I’m honestly not certain if you can get this EP anywhere, as it was obviously a promotional tool. But, Tender Loving Empire is still alive and thriving in the City of Roses. If you have been following this series, you may recall my writings about Gratitillium, which was a TLE release. And I have covered and loved many other releases they have put out into the world, including the AMAZING group known as Y La Bamba. Seriously can’t say enough great things about them. So, head on over to the Tender Loving Empire website to to check out more!

Oh and check these out! A few shots I took at the show:

jared-mees-spokane-04 jared-mees-spokane-03 jared-mees-spokane-02 jared-mees-spokane-06 jared-mees-spokane-05 jared-mees-spokane-07

 

 

From The Vault Part 4: Tha Dogg Pound – Cali Iz Active

dawgpoundalbumI absolutely love hip hop music. Even more specifically, I love west coast hip hop. I actually many forms of the art that is hip hop, but old school west coast hip hop will always hold a very special place in my heart. As I grow older, I do find myself becoming more immersed in the “alternative hip hop”. In fact, acts that I have covered here at Trainwreck’d Society (Bodi, Cas One, Sleep, Sadistik, etc.) are probably a bit more “conscious” (what the fuck does that really mean, anyway?) than the great Kurupt Young Gotti, Daz Dillinger, and Big Snoop Dogg. But, god dammit if I don’t appreciate them all that they are. This is why I still have a place in my heart for the 2006 one off comeback of Tha Dogg Pound that had me banging in my Toyota Corolla like a motherfucking boss for all of 2006, and is still a staple in the Vault that I don’t believe I will ever be able to let go of any time soon.

West Coast hip hop in the early to mid-90’s definitely reigned supreme during its time. It was just a strange contrast to what everyone typically knew as hip hop. It’s definitely false to say that it was “better”, it was just different. It was a sound that took the smooth flow of a group like De La Soul, but spoke just as rough and raw as a Rakim. It was a sound that felt as soaked in sun as the folks who were putting the music out did. N.W.A. led the way in bringing the reality of the street life to the mainstream, but it was their followers that truly laid the framework for what could be known as the West Coast Hip Hop. I actually like refer to them as Dre’s Kids. When Dr. Dre released The Chronic in 1992, nothing would ever be the same. From that point on we were introduced to the likes of Kurupt, Daz, Nate Dogg, DJ Quick, etc. Also we can’t forget about the associated G Funk Era with folks like Warren G, The Twinz, and The Dove Shack. What a fucking time to be alive, that’s all I’m sayin’. I mean, was like 8 or 9 years old, so I don’t entirely know, but you know what I mean. Although I will say that I was listening to these dynamic records only shortly after they were released, yet were still very relevant and mostly current.

So, it is safe to say that I have always been infatuated with West Coast hip hop, and more specifically, Tha Dogg Pound. And if I really had to get more specific, Kurupt Young Gotti. I have long considered Kurupt to be one of the greatest lyricists. Now, I’m not going to sit here like a fucking MacBook Warrior and say that Kurupt is some kind of poet. Because a poet he is not. But in the world of hip hop, there is so much more that goes into creating and disturbing lyrics. And Kurupt knew (still does actually!) how to fucking RHYME. He may not be Shakespeare, but I do believe he is the Shakespeare of the West Coast Hip Hop sound (which ironically might have something to do with his east coast roots? Maybe). At the very least, he has been pretty under appreciated for what he has given to the world of hip hop. But, that’s another story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So now that I have spent enough time evading actually talking about the album Cali Iz Active itself, I guess I will get into it. In all reality, this album is not that great. It does have some great bars from Kurupt and Daz, and also Snoop is in there every once in a while. You get a bit of that old school feel, but basically not enough. But, you have to remember what hip hop was like around the time that this album was released. It is most obvious when you notice guest appearances from the likes of Paul Wall and David Banner. In the world of hip hop around that time, they were the type to run the show. So, it pretty much made sense that Dawg Pound would feel the need to be somewhat relevant and bring some of these people on board. And an appearance from Diddy might be symbolic reminder that the beef shit has been long and over. But I will have to say with all honesty that these were the low points. Especially in contrast to the high points, whiter there were a few, I promise you. Highlights would have to be the single by the same name “Cali Iz Active” that kicks off the album and was obviously meant to be the highlight. Other less obvious highlights are actually the tracks where they almost bring the whole thing back to the old school. Kurupt is at his best on “Keep It Gangsta”, and dammit was it great to hear Lady Of Rage again! And “It’s All Hood” brought us back to the old school with a great appearance from Ice Cube and what felt like Snoop Dogg doing his best Kurupt impression, which was something entirely different from his normal swagger rap but ultimately enjoyable.

In the end, this was just a fun album that I always want to hold on to. Also a great friend of mine gave it to me for my 21st birthday, which was so unexpected that I remain grateful. And the friend in question was actually a guy who was teaching me all about hip hop in the south, especially the stuff that was all the rage at that time. I will admit that it never real sunk in with me. And at the same time I was trying to legitimize West Coast hip hop to this dude from Atlanta, which I don’t think it really sunk it with him either. But, it was a mutual love and respect. So, it’s not the greatest bit of symbolism, but I like it. And that’s all that matters.

You can buy this album on the internet.

From The Vault Part 3: The Young Immortals – When History Meets Fictions

young immortalsGet ready for story time boys and girls, because this is going to be a good one. Well, I guess good is a subjective descriptor. But, here we go.

The story of how I came across this album has many ups, a few lows, but eventually has a happy ending, I think. And just to forewarn everyone, I don’t actually have much to say about the album itself. It’s not bad. It’s some hardcore press play pop punk that is heavily distorted with somewhat whiny vocals that were probably 6-8 years too late to really have an impact. That’s about all I have to say about the actual content of the album. I do know that I as hear it while I am typing these words, I am reminiscent as fuck, and sometimes that is fun.

I am not entirely certain of how I came across The Young Immortals. But, I clearly remember the time period. It was 2007. I was a 22 year old “up and coming” music blogger. It was the heyday of Myspace, and I was mesmerized by the power of this social media thing that was happening. I was living in Rapid City, South Dakota yet obsessed with my “homeland” of the Pacific Northwest. I feel like I had to have come across this band when I was starting my Myspace page Northwest Flava (yeah, I’m not that proud of that, but I was 22, leave me alone).  I was consistently searching for music from the Portland area. The area was blowing up, and such wonderful things were happening. A few years later an Emmy Award winning sketch show would be based out of there, we should have seen that coming. The whole seen was/is ripe for parody. But, I digress. Somehow I came across The Young Immortals. And via their MySpace page, I found out that they would be in Rapid City. I sort of freaked out. I was only toying around with the idea of writing about music on the interwebs at this point, I hadn’t become the unpaid pretentious dirt bag that I eventually became just yet. So I went to see a band. I went to see The Young Immortals at….I seriously can’t remember. But, I do remember that the place seemed more like a restaurant. I do know that I lived there for 2 more years after this show, and I don’t remember any more shows advertised there outside of Sturgis season. I could definitely be wrong, but this is what I know now.

The energy of these guys really blew me away. They were perfectly loud and melodic, and seemed like a wonderful trio. So, of course, I bought their album at the merch table that everyone seemed to ignore, and this is why I have this album. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I would develop a great friendship with that band’s bass player, a man not unfamiliar to the Children of Mercy and Trainwreck’d Society world, Mr. Mike Phillips. I have developed a great friendship with this cat over the last decade that I am eternally grateful for. Through the positive powers of the internet, I have stayed in touch with this guy for all of these years. He was actually a part of the that PDX based group of contributors I met with for signings that I mentioned in the the last Vault edition, which I know you all read. And with that meeting and another at The Hop & Vine, also in Portland, to see his second band The Fenbi International Superstars (also not a stranger to TWS), it has always felt like we are just old pals meeting up one again, as though we have known each other our whole lives. Basically, the friendship I have with Mike is one of the few success stories of the internet.

And if I were to be perfectly candid, Mike is the only real reason that I simply cannot let this record go. It is a good album, for better or worse, but it’s really just another physical reminder of the beginning of a time that would encapsulate my life up until July of 2015 when I hung up my cap in the music blogging world, after what I felt was just enough.

the young immortals

 

The Young Immortals eventually dissipated in a rather ugly way. There are a lot of details that, out of respect for the great Mike Phillips, I don’t really feel like I should get into. But, I am willing to make one statement that might swirl the right ideas around in your head. The band’s frontman, Jacob Ray has a solo record out there that actually features some of the same tracks that are on When History Meets Fiction. Yet, they are just awful. I could never deny that Ray can write the fuck out of a catchy pop punk song, but the absence of Mike Phillips and drummer Scotty Gervais (Sorry for taking this long to shout you out Scotty, you’re dope too!) is severely missed on that record. And I honestly don’t know what he has been up to since The Young Immortals demised, yet I’m not really that interested in any art he may wish to create that didn’t involved Mike and Scotty. That’s all I will say.

So, where is the happy ending in all of this? Well, I personally have such fond memories that revolve around this brilliant collection of 13 fun and delightfully depressing tracks. And I have a great friend out of the whole deal. Mike is doing great things with his live back in Portland, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. So, yeah, I don’t see myself shoveling this one off to the local pawn shop anytime soon. I may not break it out for a listen that often, but the memories will always be there. And why would I want to lose those?

 

From The Vault Part 2: Gratitillium – Gratitillium

Album art by Nik Ayres

Album art by Nik Ayres

This album will mark the debut of the batch of non-promotional albums in the vault that I am so excited to share with you all. In fact, most of them will be so. I have some damn fine promotional discs that I for one reason or another never got around to writing about as well, mind you, but some of them I want to talk about are simply collecting dust in the vault because I am simply a huge fan of the work.

And Gratitillium’s 2009 self titled debut from the renowned Tender Loving Empire is definitely one of those beautiful little gems that I have never quite been able to part with. I’ve been a fan of Nick Caceres, who is basically the tofurkey and potatoes of Gratitillium for a whole lot of years now, but I’m not certain that I had ever gotten around to talking about him and his amazing work. It was actually a bit of a toss up between writing about this album, or his equally (I might personally say superior, but that doesn’t really matter) impressive 2006 E.P., Hours of Life, which is a beautifully stripped down batch of folk songs that I can still repeat word for word on command. But, there was honestly so much about this album that felt could be discussed. So discuss we shall!

To start with, I can actually clearly recall when I purchased this album, in the Tender Loving Empire store (at it’s original location) in Portland, Oregon. It was early 2011, a couple of years after the album was released, and I was in town doing some Children of Mercy related business with some of the book’s contributors at the Living Room Theatre and few book stores. I had some time to kill so I decided I needed to see TLE in real time, as I had become a massive fan of everything they release/make/conjure from the heavens. I was well aware of Gratitillium and had managed to hear a lot of the album through the power of the world wide web. And I loved it, and had to have the album itself. Now I know you are probably saying to yourself, “Damn man, that is an amazing story!” in your best Jim Halpert sarcastic tone, and you definitely would be right. What I’m really getting at is that this album has always served as a sort of heirloom to a time in my life that was very memorable. I have several items that remind me of this time, but this album is the physical reminder of that beautiful day when I met up with a few of the PDX based contributors to COM to sign some books, watch Marty Mitchell from Soul Distraction show us what it means to be a motherfucking rockstar, and eventually have the best damn sushi I’ll ever have a strip mall in Vancouver with our old friend Chris Eaves and his life mate Jill. As well as the 7 hour drive back to Spokane blaring strange and beautiful animal noises on repeat the entire time.

But, back to the music at hand. This album is a wonderfully crazed whirlwind that weaves in and out between obscurity and melody. There is an undeniably unique bit of experimental noise making happening, but it always swoops its way back into the regular world with the structure of a David Lynch film. With that, it is nearly impossible to choose an individual track to showcase (which is a tool you may notice that I often reach for) because each “track” is simple a piece of the 45 minutes of sound that you really have to listen to in order to truly grasp what is going on on this record. Although there is a break down half way through “Horse Around” to amps things up a bit with heavier guitar riffs and terrific female vocals (by who, I am sorry to state I do not know, but I’d like to!). But as I said, this more of an experience rather than just a track list.

Photo by Rachel LeCrone

Photo by Rachel LeCrone

I remember reading somewhere, probably in regards to this album, that the term gratitillium means “gratitude to animals”. I’m gonna have to pull a Michael Rapport “I don’t fact check” on this one because I honestly don’t know. But, I do know that animals are a very important theme associated with album, so I am willing to go along with the concept. In fact, there are actual animals featured on the record such as frogs from Oaks Bottom and birds from Singapore (Yes, I am literally copying from the liner notes, sue me). But the features I was most excited about is the appearance of two individuals in particular, who would be Mark McIntire and Jared Brannan. The first cat shared some trumpet skills for us on the album, and also happens to be a former member of one of my favorite bands of all time, the long time separated No Go Know, who you may remember as topping my Top 37 1/2 Albums of 2009 list (Or you may not). And the latter is the man I like to refer to as the Dostoevsky of Folk rock. He provides acoustic for a moment on this album and is as stunning as usual. I’ve known Jared a long time, and with each project I hear from this man, I continue to be more and more impressed.

But, the swing it all back around to the man of the hour, Mr. Nick Caceres. As I stated before, I am a fan. Many people are guitar players, songwriters, or instrumentalists. But this man, ladies and gentleman, is damned ARTIST. What he does with sound and lyrics can only be declared as art. He is a mad man of intellect and an overall joy to hear create. This man released a little 7 track E.P. a decade ago that I still can love and enjoy to this day. And oddly enough, he was only getting started. And a few years later he assembled the gem of an album/group that we now know as Gratitillium. I really feel the need to extend a personal thank you to Nick for the joy he has brought to my earholes over the last decade. And I do hope to hear more.

You can still pick up this amazing album at the Tender Loving Empire website.

From The Vault Part 1: Carissa’s Wierd – They Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1995-2003

carissas-wierd

 

I have to preface this piece by stating that this album scared the hell out of me. The reason has absolutely nothing to do with the sound of the Carissa’s Wierd, which is like a more delicate and intricate version of all the mainstays of 90’s alternative rock that we now hear in grocery stores across the country. No, it was the substantialness and underground credibility that the band held, and the fact that I was GIVEN their “best of” album to review by my then boss at Fencepost.com. I didn’t feel ready. It was the summer of 2010, and A Band of Horses was (is) a really big deal. Sera Cahoone was (is) as well. And for those who didn’t know, they are both byproducts of this amazing band, Carissa’s Wierd.

So it was basically my own feeling of insignificance and unworthiness that eventually led me to holding onto this fantastic album from the beautiful label Hardly Art (Tacocat, Bitches!!), letting it slowly collect proverbial and actual dust for the last 6 years. When this album was released, I had just started my “career” as a music blogger and was content with writing features and album reviews for relatively smaller acts that I simply adored. I dare say I was just another pretentious 25 year old asshole who thought this band was not up my alley, but that was definitely untrue. The Seattle based Carissa’s Wierd is exactly up my alley! They were god damned brilliant. Just plain magical. The truth is, as I mentioned before, I was scared to fuck this one up. Which I am still certain I would have done, and unfortunately may be doing right now. But, I’m older and looser these days, which leads to less concern for failure. Therefore, I shall fail on just to finally get to tell you fine folks just how much I love this album, even if it’s 6 years too late, and Hardly Art probably doesn’t give a shit anymore.

cw2

Photo by Brian Marr via hardlyart.com

Carissa’s Wierd was ironically enough a perfect band of it’s time. And I only say ironic, because they were formed in 1995 and probably had no idea how annoying their name would 20 years later in the age of autocorrect. But, hey, I guess people read books back then, right? Anyway, they were perfect when they started, and they were perfect when they ended. Carissa’s Wierd was a band that fell perfectly into the evolution from grunge, to the “The” band era of the early 00’s, right into the explosion of soft indie rock. They spent 8 years evolving into one of the most memorable acts in the world of independent music, and They Only Miss You When Leave is an absolutely brilliant compilation of the magnanimous and astounding fortitude for TRUE music serves as a perfect example of the evolution that the band soared through in their heyday. And in my own humble opinion, there is no better example of this than the track “Ignorant Piece of Shit”. Deriving from their final album, Songs About Leaving, I really believe that this song encapsulates everything they accomplished as a group. It is a moody gem but provides an uplifting sense of rhythm that is undeniably beautiful. It is also one of a handful of songs I have heard with an appropriate use of the violin.

If I can say one last thing about this amazing album, it has to be that this might very well be one of the greatest “best of” albums I have ever heard. Everything is fresh, fun and/or only mildly depressing, and cuts like a knife whether through a fresh piece of gouda or through your own wrist. And I sincerely regret not moving past my fears oh so many years ago and just agreeing to tell the digital world how I felt about this manically enjoyable/depressing collection of an almost decade’s worth of wonderful tunes. And while this album may have been released 6 years ago, and is based around material that was produced as far back as over 20 years ago, it “holds up” as some would say. It is brilliant, fun, and, wait for it, delightfully wEird.

I seriously can not say enough nice things about this beautiful collection of songs, I just wish it hadn’t taken my 6 fucking years to do so. But, here we are. Closure. Closure is good. Carissa’s Wierd is even better.

You can find this album and more from Carissa’s Wierd at the Hardly Art website.